Adam Gidwitz Gets Playfully Grimm

“Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.”

So begins Adam Gidwitz’s new book, A Tale Dark & Grimm , in which he intertwines several of the Grimm brothers’ lesser known stories and invents a few of his own.  What makes fairy tales awesome in the narrator’s opinion are the horrific and often gruesome details that exist in the original Grimm stories.  He laments how these things have been edited out to protect the fragile psyches  of today’s children and seeks restore the stories to their former, gory glory.  Parents, don’t throw your hand across your children’s eyes quite yet; this book gives you Grimm with safety glasses.

At the center of all Gidwitz’s tales stand Hansel and Gretel, about whose history we are given a full account: their birth, how they really came to that candy house, and what they encountered after their escape–a warlock, the devil, and a dragon to name a few.  Is there violence? Yes.  Magic? Absolutely.  There is also a kindly narrator who continuously interjects his thoughts and “spoilers” into the stories and gives warnings to get any little kids out of the room  if blood is not their thing.  The effect is to dispel mounting tensions and prepare the reader for the horrors that confront Hansel and Gretel.

I like what Adam Gidwitz has done in this book because he does not underestimate the abilities of his young readers, citing in his acknowledgments that a friend “…taught me, and still does teach me, to trust that children can handle it.  No matter what ‘it’ is.”  I think this is something that is too often forgotten.  Children should not be cheated of a good story because we chose not to tell it rather than to explain it to them. Gidwitz understands this and employs a playful tone to make the stories less dreadful to a young audience without depriving them of the true content of the tales; and he does, in fact, remain fairly true to the “original” stories, making few alterations to give Hansel and Gretel roles within them.

All in all, I think A Tale Dark & Grimm a success, particularly for any Lemony Snicket fans.  It’s filled with adventure, wonder, and danger and most importantly, it proclaims the wisdom and courage of children.


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