Monday, 14 May 2012

Book of the week; Hansel and Gretel

The classic tale of Hansel and Gretel retold by Derek McCulloch, or “Uncle Mac” of the BBC. Derek McCulloch was a high profile children's entertainer, broadcaster and author during the 1950s. He wrote some of the first factual books for Ladybird, and lent his name to several "Uncle Mac" storybooks. Hansel and Gretel is one of a series of fairy stories retold by Uncle Mac, published by Sampson Low and illustrated by Barbara C Freeman.

Detail from the front cover

Hansel and Gretel at home with their father and stepmother

Hansel imprisoned by the witch

I love the detail in this illustration

The little house had walls of real gingerbread, with slabs of sultana cake for tiles on the little roof. The windows were glazed with sugar candy, and raisins and nuts made criss-cross patterns on the gingerbread walls. There were even sugar plums and sweet dates on the front door.  

Do you remember listening to “Uncle Mac” on the radio?  Or maybe you remember some of the songs from that era. Do you have a favourite?

These are in my top ten - the runaway train, when you come to the end of a lollipop, the big rock candy mountain, how much is that doggy in the window, the yellow rose of Texas, little white duck, a four-legged friend, the deadwood stage, Puff the magic dragon and Nellie the elephant.

Did you ever see such sweet little pigs? Illustration by Barbara C Freeman from the Jack and Jill All Colour Gift Book, 1952.


  1. Megan @ Storybook Love Affair14 May 2012 at 11:20

    I love the story of Hansel and Gretel. A house made of gingerbread sounds like a dream come true :) Beautiful images.

  2. These illustrations are really beautiful, for a story I always found to be scary. Barbara J. Freeman has a real talent for making even the witch look good, and animals very endearing. And I know the words to some of the songs you mention because we used to sing them on the bus during school trips somewhere. Haven't thought of them in years.

  3. GardenOfDaisies14 May 2012 at 13:48

    Hansel and Gretel is one of my favorite fairy tales!! I love these illustrations. The lebkuchen walls of the house look quite real.

  4. C. Lee McKenzie14 May 2012 at 16:42

    These illustrations are such a lovely style. Even the witch is enchanting. When I was little, I thought Hansel and Gretel was the spookiest of fairy tales. I never got over how the old witch was shoved into the oven.

  5. This is such a beautiful version of the story - I love the animals in the illustrations. I was fascinated by this story as a child and it always lends itself to marvellous artwork. I don't know Uncle Mac but I do remember all the songs! (I loved the big rock candy mountain)

    Thanks for leaving me another comment about the online mag. That's the 2nd time you have come across one of my posts in something like that. You must bring me good luck!

  6. I am not familiar with Uncle Mac- but he sounds great. Puff the Magic Dragon was a song I sang all the time as a kid. I love the illustrations for this version of Hansel and Gretel. So beautiful!

  7. I love the tale of Hansel and Gretel. It's always been one of my favorites. I love these illustrations. The witch's cottage is the best one I've seen.

  8. barbaraannefisher15 May 2012 at 12:24

    Hi Megan, I agree...gingerbread is yummy. Thanks for calling in.

  9. barbaraannefisher15 May 2012 at 12:31

    Hello Alex, I hadn't thought about school trips in years – but reading your comment just rekindled lots of memories – some good, some not so great! I think Barbara Freeman is a really talented artist and don’t understand why her work isn’t as collected as other artists from the same period. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  10. barbaraannefisher15 May 2012 at 12:36

    Hi there, thanks for calling in and leaving a message. I like Hansel and Gretel too although the witch terrified me when I was a child. I’ve just looked up lebkuchen (German biscuit similar to gingerbread) because I’d not heard the word before. It’s amazing the things I’m learning through blogging. Thank you.

  11. barbaraannefisher15 May 2012 at 12:45

    Hello Sharon, I had a feeling you would like the artwork it reminded me of some of the things you feature on your blog. I’ve been a fan of Barbara C Freeman for a long time and like you, I love the animals. While reading your comment, I found myself singing the big rock candy mountain!
    I don’t think its luck. I think it’s because your blog posts are interesting (and pretty and nostalgic) and therefore, people want to share them.

  12. barbaraannefisher15 May 2012 at 12:49

    I know just what you mean. The bit about the oven is pretty terrifying, but I somehow managed to gloss over that when I was a child. The story that really frightened me was Little Red Riding Hood.

  13. barbaraannefisher15 May 2012 at 12:55

    Puff the magic dragon is wonderful – they don’t make songs like that any more! Sharon mentioned the big rock candy mountain in her comment, so I’ve been singing that, but I'm on to Puff the magic dragon now – Terry will be pleased!

  14. barbaraannefisher15 May 2012 at 12:57

    Hello Donna, it is a beautiful illustration - it looks good enough to eat!

  15. Wonderful illustrations!

    I've found out some of my old Ladybird books for my niece and Mum grabbed some that were being given away at the school she works at.

    I dont' remember "Uncle Mac"... Too young maybe? :)

  16. barbaraannefisher15 May 2012 at 21:37

    Hello Nikki-ann, it might be nice to hang on to some of the Ladybird books from your childhood, or ask you niece to take good care of them for you. The early ones are very collectable, and I’m sure some of the newer ones will be one day. Glad you liked the illustrations.

  17. Darlene Foster16 May 2012 at 05:53

    What an adorable edition of this classic. The drawings are exquisite. The only two of your favourite songs I am familiar with are How much is that doggy in the window, and the yellow rose of Texas. Most of my childhood songs were cowboy songs as I was rasied on a ranch in the Canadian prairies. One of my favourites was You are my Sunshine as my Dad always sang it to me.

  18. barbaraannefisher16 May 2012 at 08:51

    Hello Darlene, I had forgotten the yellow rose of Texas, and you are my sunshine, but as I read your comment, the memories came flooding back. Typing that just reminded me of two more - hang down your head Tom Dooley and Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do. Great songs and happy memories.

  19. I don't know of Uncle Mac but I can remember being a bit frightened of the Hansel & Gretal story when I was young but wished I could eat the ginger bread house. I didn't know it had sultana cake for tiles, yummy.
    The illustrations are really lovely and those little piggies are adorable.

  20. barbaraannefisher17 May 2012 at 11:35

    Hey Michelle, I’m glad you mentioned the little pigs the illustrations are so sweet! I think a lot of children find the story of Hansel and Gretel frightening – and it is when you think about it.

  21. I remember reading Hansel & Gretel gave me a conflicting time: first I was so excited by the candy house, then I got spooked by Hansel being fattened up to be eaten by the witch. The traditional illustrations in this edition look very pretty!

  22. barbaraannefisher17 May 2012 at 15:52

    It is a scary story, but it does have a happy ending and the pictures in this edition are all very gentle – even the scary ones!

  23. I LOVE these illustrations! The colors are so rich and lovely.

  24. barbaraannefisher17 May 2012 at 21:04

    Hi Angela, I agree! They are quite special.

  25. I still have that 1952 Jack and Jill Book, I loved Timothy, Thomas and Little Boy Joe, and Phyllida Phoebe - who kept pigs in the wood.

  26. barbaraannefisher1 September 2012 at 22:12

    Hi Lynda It's such a great book! It was one of my favourites when I was little but like most of my books, it was given away or lost over the years. It took me ages to find another (battered) copy, and I love it! Thanks for calling in and leaving a comment.

  27. ONe of my favorite tales. What wonderful illustrations in this version has.

    1. It's one of my favourites too and I agree about the illustrations. Thanks for your visit.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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