Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Tale Dark and Grimm - Adam Gidwitz

Title: A Tale Dark and Grimm
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books (Penguin), 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 251 pages
Genre: Children's Fairy Tale/Fantasy
Started: June 5, 2011
Finished: June 7, 2011

From the author's website:
Reader, beware.

Warlocks with dark spells, hunters with deadly aim, and bakers with ovens retro-fitted for baking children lurk within these pages.

But if you dare,

Follow Hansel and Gretel as they walk out of their own story and into the wilds—where magic, terror, and a little bit of humor shine like white pebbles lighting the way.

Come on in. It may be frightening, and it’s certainly bloody, but, unlike those other fairy tales you know, this one is true.

Once upon a time, you see, fairy tales were awesome.

I liked the sound of this book when I heard about it just recently, and immediately fell in love with it once I started reading. It's a wonderfully creative concept: the author takes several separate Brothers Grimm fairy tales (plus some extra added on that are Grimm-inspired), and connects them into one larger overarching story. Since so many fairy tales use similar elements, and the children included in them rarely have names, the author connects everything to Hansel and Gretel, and everything fits together pretty seamlessly.

The tales are the original versions too, not the sugar-coated versions we tell the kiddies, so there's lots of violence and blood (but the fairy tale kind, not the gory horror movie kind). The author actually remarks on that numerous times, using a Princess Bride-like special author narrative where he addresses the reader and frequently warns them about the upcoming violence (in a funny kind of "I'm warning you but you're gonna read it anyway"), and to warn them to shoo any small children out of the room if they're reading this out loud. I know some people who read this didn't like the tone of the author-narrator's voice and the interjections in general, but since I'm a teacher and I look at kids books from the point of view of a 10-year-old, I think kids would eat this up, the tactic where you warn them what's coming to the point where they're just sitting on the edge of their seat in anticipation waiting for the bloody parts.

The story itself reads very well, and I finished it quickly since it was very engaging and it just screams "keep reading!". The author interjections are hilarious, and the nature of the book makes it the prefect book for boys and kids in general that just love good ol' kid-appropriate violent stories.

A perfect fairy tale book for modern kids that like their stories with some edge. Traditional but not sugar-coated. There is violence and blood here like the author warns, but nothing your average 8-year-old couldn't handle (but might be a tad scary for the preschool set, so best to save this for the middle grade readers). I would use this as a read-aloud book for that age range in a heartbeat, and it's going on my "to-keep" list for our future kids.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like it. The characters and animals done in silhouettes/outlines against a night scene with very little colour other than blue and black really bring out the feel of the story (spooky in the kid-friendly way). I love how the dragon wraps around the cover from front to back.

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