Wednesday, December 10, 2008


by Joan Holub
illustrated by Michael Slack
Chronicle Books, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

This is a very punny book. It lives to pun. Study the cover carefully to get an idea of what you're in for when you open the book: Handsel and Gretel, Handerella, Thumbelina, and Nose White. Yes, these characters are what their names imply: hands, a thumb and a nose.

In this version of Hansel and Gretel, the two children are a couple of unlikeable, misbehaving knuckleheads. They get what they deserve when they're sent by the fed-up coach to beyond the outfield to play catch. In the midst of their arguing about whose fault it is that they are lost, Handsel and Gretel bump into a house made of finger food ("Free Finger Tip: Never Nibble a Stranger's House"). In the house lives an evil witch who escapes from the hand of the law and disguises herself in the next story as Handerella's stepmother. Yes, STEPmother and STEPsisters. They aren't hands, they are feet. (Are you groaning yet?) I'll skip all the details, but true to form, Handerella gets the prints in the end (Finger Prints) and they ride off into the sunset together while the witch makes her way into Thumbelina's story: "Thumbelina was short. And so is her story." In the last story, the witch's mirror finally cracks under pressure and admits that Nose White is the most beautiful in the land. The queen tries to get the hired hand to punch Nose White out, but he is peaceful and just lets her go in the forest. Nose White meets a one-hand band and becomes their lead singer. The witch finds out that Nose White's still the most beautiful, tries to get revenge with dandelion fluff, is foiled by a handsome prince with a handkerchief, and winds up climbing out the window in the back cover of the book to find a new story.

Adults may or may not like this book; it is one of those books whose true test will be in the hands of children. I'll check back in to let you know what my 9 and 10 year-old beginning punsters make of it today.

Joan Holub's website (she's the author and/or illustrator of over 100 children's books!)


  1. This sounds cute! Can't wait to see what your little ones think of it!

  2. I gotta find this one. Thanks for the reminder.


  3. this looks like fun, kind of a new take on the idea of fractured fairy tales.

  4. Mary Lee,

    I love puns! I must admit to being an inveterate punster. I also enjoy takeoffs of fairy tales. I'll have to get a copy of this book.

  5. Anonymous11:22 AM

    I haven't seen this one in person yet, but the illustrations and silly tone are striking me as very Laurie Keller-esque. If that's the case, I'm in. Looking forward to reading this - thanks for the review and book trailer!


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