A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Through the narrator's asides, readers will learn a bit about the evolution of fairy tales. More important, A Tale Dark and Grimm has an unusual story structure that deepens in complexity with each chapter. Its initial simplicity and the conversational tone of the narrator will draw readers in, while the continuing action and unraveling mysteries will keep them reading as the story becomes more layered and nuanced, providing a unique and rich reading experience.
Wrapped in a fairy tale adventure, A Tale Dark and Grimm includes serious themes of forgiveness and trust, specifically on the part of Hansel and Gretel, who have been betrayed and deeply hurt (including having their heads cut off) by their parents. Despite the satirical tone of his second-person narration, author Gidwitz doesn't pull any punches. When your parents some day ask you for forgiveness, he warns, "you will probably not want to forgive them." However, he stresses (in a non-preachy way) that it's important to work through the problem. Despite the fantastical elements of Hansel and Gretel's tale, readers will come to understand that forgiveness, trust, and love are ultimately worth the hard work they require.
Positive Role Models
Hansel and Gretel go through plenty of hard times, but, except for one incident when Hansel's spirit is overcome by the spirit of a magical forest and he turns beastly, they have their priorities straight: Because the siblings were hurt so deeply by their parents, they are loyal to each other above all. This loyalty and their love for each other let them overcome their hardships and give them the wisdom to help solve other people's problems, as well.
Violence & Scariness
As Gidwitz explains in one of his comments about the nature of fairy tales, it's only by going through the dark that one can fully appreciate the light. Thus, A Tale Dark and Grimm runs the gamut of classic fairy tale violence, starting with Hansel and Gretel's parents cutting their heads off. When that get fixed (through magic, of course), Hansel and Gretel encounter a mother who ate her children and wants to eat Hansel and Gretel. Gretel later cuts off her own finger and meets a man who steals the souls of young girls and turns their bodies into doves. Hansel turns into a beast and is hunted down and killed, then travels through hell and sees people being tortured. It's awful stuff, but the narrator's asides make it bearable, and it's totally worth the payoff, when -- you guessed it -- everyone lives happily ever after.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that when author/narrator Adam Gidwitz warns readers that Grimm's stories are violent and bloody, and that "if such things bother you, we should probably stop right now," he's not kidding: A Tale Dark and Grimm is violent and bloody. However, in his funny asides, Gidwitz walks the reader through the tough parts, instructing them to take any little children out of the room and pointing out parts you might want to skip if you're squeamish. Many readers will take these warnings as a challenge to read on, and they will not be disappointed: This story of Hansel and Gretel brings the brother and sister alive in a way that few readers will have experienced.
Is It Any Good?
In A Tale Dark and Grimm, author Adam Gidwitz does what fairy tales have always done: He tells important truths by wrapping them in the metaphor of an exciting story. Unlike some of the more Disneyfied takes, however, he makes sure not to leave out any of the darkness on the road to happily ever after. That's what makes this book, as Gidwitz says, "Awesome ... in a horrible, bloody kind of way." Readers familiar with the classic tale of "Hansel and Gretel" will finally understand why the children decide to return home even after their parents abandon them, as they are fully fleshed out characters with whom readers will empathize. Gidwitz's own asides add humor and help make the book an excellent family read-aloud.
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