Hansel and Diesel
Written and illustrated by David Gordon
Laura Geringer, 32 pp.
$15.99, ISBN: 0060581220
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
With its delightfully modern take on one of Grimm’s famous fairy tales, David Gordon’s Hansel and Diesel is sure to charm many little boys (and many of their sisters). The hungry young pick-up trucks overhear their parents talking one night about how fuel is so low, they’re not sure how the family will face the looming winter. The two come up with a plan — Diesel decides the two little trucks will go for help, while Hansel collects a bucket of bolts from the garage for the back of his truck, so that the travelers can find their way back home.
Hansel and Diesel set out through the dark and snowy junkyard, Hansel bumping out bolts along the way that are soon buried in the snow. Traveling far, they find themselves overjoyed to see a brightly lit gas station in the distance, and are thrilled to think they’ve succeeded in their quest. Unfortunately, poor Hansel and Diesel never bargained on running into a wicked winch, keen to trick the little trucks into trusting her and then shredding them in her garage. Unknown to Hansel and Diesel, as they’re attempting to make an escape, their parents begin searching for them. The reuniting of parents and children has terrible consequences for the evil winch, resulting in a dramatic and emotionally-charged finish to this short picture book.
Older kids may immediately recognize this retelling of Hansel and Gretel, while younger ones may simply take the story at face value. The contemporary set-up of the book is charming, but Gordon (The Three Little Rigs, The Ugly Truckling) does maintain a great deal of the darkness that pervades the original tale. While not overly frightening, some kids may be anxious at the idea of being shredded; not to worry too much though, all the shredding takes place off the page. David Gordon’s application of automotive and truck terms to his story is quite effective at supporting the setting he’s chosen for the book.
The book’s conclusion wraps up rather quickly, with a "happily ever after" sort of ending that feels a bit slapped on. The little trucks’ father’s admonishment never to run off like that again is quite forceful compared to the rest of the book– it doesn’t quite fit, but kids will likely understand where it’s coming from (as they’ve probably heard it themselves at least once before…).
Gordon also illustrated his book, and has done a wonderful job with artwork that really adds to the dark and dangerous feel of the story. Hansel and Diesel must negotiate their way through towers of stacked tires as the gray snow falls heavily; twisted remains of scrap metal border the path the kids travel; the bright and candy-colored gas station all but jumps off the page, surprising young readers as much as Hansel and Diesel might be surprised.
While Hansel and Diesel may be a bit too intense for some very young readers or those who might frighten easily, the book can be a great find for parents with reluctant readers at home, especially boys who are into trucks.