Monday, January 14, 2013

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

This novel brings Grimms' fairy tales to a new audience with just a touch of humor.

The narrator finds the fairy tales of today boring, the original Grimms' tales "awesome." With that established, the narrator goes about telling the story of Hansel and Gretel, starting for their parent's beginnings all the way to the end. The twins' tale centers around them trying to find a home after their parents "kill" them for the sake of a faithful servant. Feeling that's no way parents should treat their children, they run away and try to find a new place in the world, only to encounter multiple obstacles along the way. The well known story of the witch and the candy house is merely a chapter in their long tale. There are multiple stories (that all connect) and include such interesting situations as beheading that don't end in death, children eating witches, boys turned into birds, creatures that were once human, dragons, the devil and more interesting encounters as Hansel and Gretel try to find a place in the world. As their tale is told, the narrator interrupts multiple times with either reflections of what's happening or warnings about what is to come (especially warning that upcoming events are too horrific for small children).

This novel is interesting in terms of the extended tale of Hansel and Gretel. I only know of the witch who tried to eat them, so it was enlightening to read what else has happened to them. This book peaked my interest in the original stories - as in how true did he stick to the original tales in his retelling. The narrator of the novel (the one who pops in and out during the tales) was both a good addition and a bad one. In the beginning it was cute and quirky. The constant reminders to put the children to bed because it was too scary, however, became a tiresome warning, especially since the scenes were not all that horrific (by today's standards). Towards the end, when the tales really picked up, the narrator - who had disappeared for a bit - seemed like an interruption to the story. I understand how the narrator is adding humor, but in my opinion, it killed the mood of the story - although I'm sure the mood was meant to be more lighthearted than how I read it. Sometimes, though, it just fell a little flat.

The way this novel is told, with the humorous narrator, will appeal to younger audiences who are not familiar with Grimms' fairy tales. With or without the narrator, this was an enjoyable read.

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