A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

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A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: These are fairy tales as we imagine they used to be, full of blood and gore and dire warnings about treacherous adults. But in this version, there's one difference: the hero and heroine of all the tales are the same two children, Hansel and Gretel. Find out why they fled from their family, and their struggles to find happiness in a world full of witches, dragons and a bunch of apologetic ravens.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Andersen
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1849393706

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Not many books begin with the hero and heroine losing their heads (literally) before page thirty. And that's not the only misfortune to befall Hansel and his sister. No sooner are their heads and necks reunited, and they've fled their murderous parents, than the two children find themselves in front of an edible house. And we all know what happens if you eat people's homes, don't we? Well, maybe.

This is a book which is going to provoke strong feelings. Firstly, there's the issue of the violence and bloodshed. No details are spared, no quarter given in the description of precisely what happens to the two unfortunate children on their travels. On the other hand, these are fairy tales, where all manner of horrible things regularly occur. Besides, the reader is given fair warning before each bloody scene, and told to send the frail and the delicate away before proceeding. And that leads to the other issue. The author frequently addresses us directly, in a sarcastic, nudging sort of way which recalls the strident advice of Lemony Snicket, and which thereby implicates the reader in the horror. It's your own fault, it seems to say: you chose to read this bit, so don't complain if it makes you sick or stops you sleeping. Of course, the violence is never quite as bad as you expect, and in no way rivals the truly sadistic punishments meted out in the average cartoon on TV. Still, many children will love to be in on the joke, to be allowed to enjoy something others may not, even though the arch tone and oft-repeated effects (like pages with only a couple of words on them) may grate on some. You either love it or you hate it.

The warnings themselves are skilfully done, as the alternative activities proposed for small children become more and more ghastly in themselves, and therefore more funny, especially to those who suffer the trials and tribulations of a younger brother or sister. Add to that the overall message that adults, even parents, might not be completely perfect in every way, and the reader is immediately in solidarity with the author against the world. Of course, the world described is so extreme and so fantastic that it bears no relation to the ordinary world of homework and breakfast cereal and bike-rides . . .

The way the stories are combined, and the role Hansel and Gretel play in each one is a tour de force of imagination. One of the most striking is Red Riding Hood: not the adorable little girl in a red hood, skipping through the forest to take fairy cakes to her grandmother, which the author assures us would make any self-respecting reader pass out on the floor with boredom, but an altogether more sinister interpretation. And watching the Devil help his grandmother set the table for dinner in a later story is sure to provoke giggles. The premise is clever, and the plot well-constructed; the fact that there are layers and layers of complexity in the message need not trouble the young reader overmuch if all he or she wants is a funny, frightening and rather gross story. If you accept this book on its own terms, and not trouble yourself overmuch about character development or stylistic devices, you will probably love it. Just be careful what you eat beforehand.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: A deservedly famous retelling of an old tale is The Sword in the Stone by T H White. If you only know this in the film version, it's time to read the funny, exciting original. And for another mix of fairy tales, but without the yuck factor, try The Wide-Awake Princess by E D Baker.

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Buy A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz at Amazon.com.


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