Nancy O'Toole's Reviews > A Tale Dark & Grimm

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
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May 25, 11

bookshelves: fantasy, library, maine-student-book-awards, middle-grade
Read from May 18 to 20, 2011

Everyone knows the story of Hansel and Gretel, the two children that were lured into a gingerbread house and then fattened up for dinner. Only that's not the whole story, or even the beginning. A Tale Dark and Grimm tells it all, from how their parents (the King and Queen of Grimm) first met, to their many adventures though the Kingdom of Grimm. Along the way they will die, be brought back to life, trick the devil, punish a wicked young man, and eventually return home where they must face their largest challenge yet, their parents.

The idea of retelling Grimm fairy tales with their darker roots intact isn't exactly something new in fantasy literature (even one of the books I read earlier this month, The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines, embraces this concept), but I've never seen such a grim retelling of fairy tales with such a young audience in mind (middle readers). Adam Gidwitz, the author, manages to soften the blow somewhat by introducing an omniscient narrator that will often interrupt the story to warn of horrible events coming up, letting the reader know that younger children should possibly leave the room. This is mostly an effective tool, although by the end of the novel I found myself wishing that the narrator could just quiet down and let me finish the story.

A Tale Dark and Grimm is a unique and satisfying reading experience. The first half of the book feels more like a short story collection, as each chapter retells an individual fairy tale, while the second half breaks free of that format to tell a larger story involving Hansel, Gretel, and their parents. I found I enjoyed this, as it allowed the reader to become exposed to a lot of fairy tales, while still feeling like a novel. I was also happy to see that A Tale Dark and Grimm doesn't only tell well known fairy tales (such as "Hansel and Gretel"), but also more unappreciated ones such as “Brother and Sister” and “The Three Golden Hairs.” These may be well known by fairy tale enthusiasts but not the everyday reader. Gidwitz does a good job of putting his own spin on these original fairy tales. Many of the tales retold here, are retooled to fit Hansel and Gretel's story, and I think it works well.

I picked up A Tale Dark & Grimm because it was on this years Maine Student Book Award list. As a Maine librarian I feel compelled to make an effort to read many titles from the list. I'm glad that I picked it up, as I really do enjoy fairy tale retellings, and feel that Gidwitz did a good job of making his stand out. It's true that the narrator gets on my nerves, but I found the rest of the book to be quite enjoyable.
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Reading Progress

05/18/2011 page 62
23.0% "Maine Student Book Award selection. So far, this is a lot of fun!"
05/20/2011 page 162
60.0% "Ah. I can see where this is going."
05/20/2011 page 272
100.0% "Just finished up this one. I thought it was a fun read, although the narrator got a little annoying at times. Review coming soon."

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