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June 2023

This is the most powerful and most horrifying account of World War II that I have ever read. I am hesitant to recommend this book, as the violence is so personal and so graphic. And yet, the story is so powerful, it is one that should be read. Although classified as a Young Adult novel, I would advise caution for readers younger than 16, and for classroom teachers of children of all ages. The war violence is quite gruesome, and there is some explicit sexual content as well. Some parents would object to their children reading this book even in high school.

Murphy takes the classic story of Hansel and Gretel, and retells it during the setting of World War II Poland. A father and stepmother are forced to send their children into the forest to protect them from Nazi hunters. Taking on the new names of Hansel and Gretel, the children make their way through the forest until they are taken in by the village recluse, Magda. Just as the children find relative safety with Magda, a new German Oberfuhrer comes to town with a horrifying agenda for the residents of the small village.

Murphy’s characters are amazing. She tells her story not only through the eyes of Hansel and Gretel, but also though Magda, the father, the stepmother, villagers, partisans, and the Germans. Throughout the story run the themes of survival, sacrifice, and remembering your true self, in spite of the horror around you.