A Tale Dark and Grimm
By Adam Gidwitz
Dutton Children's Book, 2010
A Tale Dark and Grimm is a retelling of a selection of Grimm's Fairy Tales for modern children -- although not very young children. It is perhaps best for middle schoolers and up, as it is quite gruesome at times.
This is supposedly the tale of Hansel and Gretel, although in order to make a full chapter book out of their tale a number of other Grimm's fairy tales have been modified to include the protagonists. The book starts with the story of Faithful John (modified so that the king has a son and a daughter, rather than two sons), and moves on to Hansel and Gretel, The Seven Ravens, Fitcher's Bird, The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs, and a number of others. In each story either Hansel or Gretel or both deal with an evil sorcerer, an enchanted quest, kings both good and evil, and even the devil himself.
Being a modern children's book, there is also a snide, openly unreliable narrator, with a slightly hackneyed sense of humor. The narrator's only real job is to fill the spaces between the stories with dire warnings of how horrible the coming chapters are. And he's right... these are dire tales indeed. In addition to the obvious issues of cannibalism, torture, and infanticide, the author has modernized the tales to the extent of making the characters human -- which means that the reader actually cares when a character is hacked to pieces. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this book is that it highlights how alienating Grimm's tales are, when we hear about people being transformed, killed, and eaten, and we hardly even pause to think "how horrible!" before moving on to the next tale.
Overall, I'm not certain that I liked this book... for the most part, it combined familiar stories with slightly hackneyed writing with generally unsavory adventures. It also mixes a narrator's voice clearly meant to be amusing to younger children with tales that might well give those younger reader nightmares. But I certainly would recommend it to anyone who likes traditional fairy tales (and preferably, children's literature), as it does an excellent job of making them relatable to the point of satire. And, I should add, a lot of kids seem to really like it, which is probably a quite a bit more relevant than my opinion.
Accelerated Reader: 6.0