A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Release Date: October 2010
Age Group: Children’s Middle Grade
Source: Borrowed from Library
Series: A Tale Dark& Grimm (#1)
Other Titles in the Series: In a Glass Grimmly (#2), The Grimm Conclusion (#3)
Summary (goodreads.com): In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.
Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.
I wasn’t sure at first what to think about this book. Other than the cleverly written story of Hansel and Gretel’s “real” story, the narrator is the most fascinating aspect of the novel. The narrator comes in to warn readers that the action will become quite graphic and that if there are children listening to presumably the adult reading the story out loud that they should leave. I think that this is at once brilliant and highly confusing because A Tale Dark & Grimm is a children’s book. The narrator is quite right to butt in with these warnings, however, because the story does get very graphic at times, so much so that I was getting grossed out and I’m 21. At first the combination of the violence and the warnings confused me. Why write a children’s book that you tell children not to read?
I have this habit of reading the author’s acknowledgements halfway through reading the novel because at that point in most novels I become curious about the life behind the person whose imagination the novel sprung from and it was in Gidwitz’s acknowledgements that the reason behind the narrator clicked. He said “to trust that children can handle it. No matter what ‘it’ is.” And then a light bulb went off inside my head and it all made sense, at least to me it did, it’s probably obvious to anyone else who reads it. The whole point of this story is to tell the “real” versions of fairy tales, not the toned down lesson teaching Disney versions that are so popular today (not the Grimm versions either, actually, but not because they’re violent, but because there was more to them as this book suggests). It’s dumb to assume that children can’t handle violence. Should they personally be subjected to the horrors of the novel? Absolutely not, but there is no real harm in exposing them to the violence in fairy tales. At most they have a few nightmares, but at least they know a little about the world and with fairy tales there’s also the added bonus of being able to also expose children to moral lessons that can only be learned after violence. I should mention that on the back cover of the novel the suggested age is 10+ which I think is far. My nephew is ten and he was exposed to way more violent things than this novel long ago through TV and video games. I think it all depends on the kid reading the book.
As for the story that the narrator frequently intrudes upon I really liked it. I liked how instead of just taking the traditional story of Hansel and Gretel and making it his own, Gidwitz took those characters and weaved them though other tales as well. It is an utterly original redo of Grimm’s fairy tales. It has an equal balance of being horrific and humorous. Hansel and Gretel are characters that a kid (or an adult) will love to root for! I recommend this book to everyone who likes fairy tales!