Monday, March 4, 2013

A Tale Dark and Grimm (by Adam Gidwitz)

Summary of A Tale Dark and Grimm (by Adam Gidwitz):
Hansel and Gretel are two of the most unlucky children.  This innovative work of fiction interweaves nine Grimm’s Brother tales into a single narrative about the unfortunate childhood.    The tale of Faithful Johannes gives the background for their parent’s courtship and the children’s cause for running away.  The next tales is the traditional story of them coming upon a cottage made of sweets.  As they eventually flee from there they go on other adventures and become part of several Grimm’s tales (most of which are lesser known).  After meeting the devil, battling a dragon, and facing a serial killer, Hansel and Gretel come to “under-stand” their parents and their motivations.   The children are finally able to reconcile with their parents and to take on their new role as rulers of the kingdom. 

The storytelling is brilliant.  Adam Gidwitz expertly crafts and intertwines the tales.  Additionally, he has created a narrator who adds humor and lightness to the story, which is much needed to temper the tone and content. 

The characterization is well-done.  He makes normally 2-dimensional fairy tale characters into to fully fledged, multi-dimensional protagonists.  Hansel and Gretel are both strong, wise, and resourceful.  They persevere through great obstacles and hardships.  The siblings are loyal and loving toward one another.  The one down-side on characterizations is that nearly all the adults fail the children.  They either attempt to hurt them in some way/act in a selfish way that prompts their affliction or they are unable to protect and care for them when they need it.  

I feel mixed about the violent content.  Ok. I get that the original tales are violent.  We live in a violent world.  Our entertainment is highly violent.  Children are probably far less sensitive to violence than I give them credit for.  It begs the question:  Does that make it right?  Good?   I have no problem with action violence, especially when there is minimal blood.   However, A Tale Dark and Grimm would be rated “R” if made into a movie.  There is torture in Hell that made me squirm.  A serial killer chops up his victim in front of Gretel and commands him mother to put the parts in a pot to cook.  Hansel is presumed dead and then skinned.  The parents cut their children’s heads off.  It makes me wonder if it is all too much for middle grade readers. 

As an adult, I appreciate this well-written and creative fractured fairy tale.  I am just not sure the violence content is optimal for youngsters.  I would recommend this book for ages 13 and up.  


  1. I've seen this book reviewed before, but this is the first time I've read so much detail about the violent content! Wow! Rated R if it was a movie doesn't sound like a MG novel.

    Now I'm wondering if I want to read it at all. Thanks for the heads up. Yes, of course the original tales were violent. My personal theory is that life was harder and rougher back then. But that doesn't mean we should expose children to so much gore today. We can't protect them forever, but we don't need to push it on them at age 8!

  2. I agree with you on the violence sentiment. It is worth reading...just not a good fit (in my most humble opinion) for middle graders.


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