Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Review - A Tale Dark and Grimm

Author: Adam Gidwitz
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (October 28, 2010)
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
Brooklyn schoolteacher Adam Gidwitz offers imaginative new slants on children's classics in this new collection inspired by nine Grimm Brothers fairy tales. Never before have Hansel and Gretel had an adventure like this!

The Brothers Grimm have met their modern day rival in Adam Gidwitz.  His debut book, A TALE DARK AND GRIMM, weaves the tale of Hansel and Gretel into various other Grimm fairy tales creating a new and inspired look at some old favorites.  I truly believe that Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, famous for stories such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, would have approved of Gidwitz's twist on their stories.  
However, as the narrator of A TALE DARK AND GRIMM cautions "if there are little kids...why don't you go hire a babysitter.." Gidwitz does not hold back in his version of the classic folk/fairy tale. This tale is not one for the faint of heart. There is a cannibalistic old woman, and a moon that would like nothing more than to eat the tender flesh of a child, and the hacking off of various body parts.  

For those who want to protest that children would be frightened by Gidwitz's rendition of Hansel and Gretel, may I remind you of the popularity of books such as R.L. Stine's Goosebumps or the clamor of children around a campfire or at a sleepover for a scary story to be shared.  Children love scary stories. And they love stories with happy endings and where children turn out to be the heroes.  

A TALE DARK AND GRIMM begins with the narrator who sets the stage for what will be revealed and at various points in the story he interjects himself into the book to warn or explain to the audience what has happened or what will be happening.  Then he takes a step back and begins with the time shortly before Hansel and Gretel are born.  This movement backwards is critical for it sets the stage for what is to come and provides the parameters for the tale.  

As I read through the book, I loved the pacing of the story and how Gidwitz would throw in a "The End" and in turning the page a "Not really".  Hansel and Gretel evolve from very young and frivolous to young and wise.  The things that they have seen and experienced provide a foundation for this growth and teaches them important lessons along the way.  Part of their quest is to find parents who would be loving and kind and caring and not do cruel things to their children and yet they learn over and over again how hard that is to find or even be.  As well as what it means to forgive and to "under-stand".  

If you are in doubt about this book, I would encourage you to check out Gidwitz's Frequently Asked Questions (click here).  He does a much better job of explaining the reason and purpose for the blood and gore.  

For me, I will book talk it and get it into the hands of children who I know will love it.  Understanding that for some children, it might be better if they wait some before attempting to read this book.

I am excited to have discovered Adam Gidwitz's debut novel and I look forward to future books from this talented writer.