Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Tale Dark and Grimm

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. (Grades 4-8.) Dutton, 2010. 256 pages. Review copy provided by publisher for Young Hoosier Book Award. (This review reflects only my own opinion, not the opinion of the commitee!)

You think fairy tales are kind of lame? Well, obviously that's because you haven't read the true versions. Fairy tales are awesome. And Adam Gidwitz proves it in A Tale Dark and Grimm, a retelling of Hansel and Gretel with all the good, gory bits left in. This fairy tale is NOT for little kids. In fact, if there are any little kids hanging around while you're reading this book, you should probably get a babysitter for them or at least make them hide under the bed.

Even the trailer's awesome:

Okay, besides the gruesome bits (which are awesome if you like that kind of thing), here's what I loved about A Tale Dark and Grimm:

1. The humor. Yes, even in a tale very dark and grim there is a good deal of humor. A narrator appears throughout the story, adding commentary and warning readers whenever particularly gory parts are coming up. I love this technique because it adds humor and it also tempers the violence a little. It's not quite as disturbing if you've been warned that it's coming up and you'd better get small children out of the room. Even though the story's definitely a dark one, the narrative voice lightens the tone.

2. The rich language. Oh, the wealth of wonderful words contained within this book... Succulent, perfunctory, modicum, magnanimous... Yes, it's because I'm reading this book for the YHBA Committee that I'm noticing particular words. It's obvious that Adam Gidwitz is an author who believes that kids can rise to understand challenging words while still enjoying a story.

3. Showing, not telling. The language used in the story is beautiful and rich, but the book is not over-written. Mr. Gidwitz manages to employ the perfect amount of description to let your imagination bring forth a picture in your mind. I flagged this particular passage describing a village:

... ringed by trees that... had just slipped into their golden robes of autumn. Laughter was in the air, as was the smell of wood burning in fireplaces and apple cider frothing with cinnamon." (Page 86)

This book is a masterful combination of literary merit and kid appeal and I sorely hope this year's Cybils committee will stand up and take notice!

Now, it's not going to be for every kid. There is quite a bit of blood and guts. People die. Children kill people. Children are killed. Hansel even goes to Hell. For some kids, this is going to be a field day of fun, but for some kids this is going to be too much. Know your audience with this one, is what I'm saying.

I'd try it on any kids interested in the original, bloody Grimm stories (Betsy recommends Grimm's Grimmest) or fans of The Boneshaker by Kate Milford or possibly even Lemony Snickett (although A Tale Dark and Grimm is more graphic than A Series of Unfortunate Events).

Check out more reviews at Biblio File, Book Nut, Eva's Book Addiction, A Fuse #8 ProductionGreenBean TeenQueen, The LibrariYAn, and A Patchwork of Books.

A Tale Dark and Grimm is on shelves now!