Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Tale Dark And Grimm

by Adam Gidwitz

An amalgamation of Grimm tales, using Hansel and Gretel as the protagonist for nearly all. The brother and sister, here the children of a king a queen, run away from home after discovering their parents have committed a crime against them (though they don’t know the whole story). They arrive at the well-known candy house of the child-eating witch, but when that story ends, their adventures continue, in adaptations of “Brother And Sister” (in which the brother turns into a beast of the forest), “The Devil And His Grandmother,” “The Seven Ravens,” and others. Throughout, Gidwitz inserts his authorical voice to comment, using an ironically exaggerated concerned tone for “little kids” and their delicate sensibilities, warning of gory sections in the book; he also breaks into the story to lecture about bravery and forgiveness and coming through troubles as a better person.

It’s a well-done conceit, this consolidation of several Grimm tales into one shakily linear plot with an over-arching challenge and a resolution. Gidwitz reshapes the stories into suspenseful tales, in which both girl and boy are heroic and brave. I do think he over-uses the third-wall narrative device a bit, but older kids probably enjoy being addressed directly as if over the heads of younger ones. I read this to see if it could be a read-aloud in my class; the answer is unequivocally no. The author is a teacher of first and second graders and seems to think his tales are appropriate for them; I might even give a pass on the gore and violence (some of which is directed at children), but there’s a couple of rather creepy scenes – an evil, charismatic man whom Gretel has a crush on sucks the blood off of her head wound, for example. Yes, so I wouldn’t read this to fourth graders in a school. For older kids and adults, though, it’s a pretty clever horror/morality tale.

four stars

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