Dark and Grim, Indeed

Tale Dark and GrimmI think my reasons for reading A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz should be fairly self-evident in the title…Brothers Grimm-inspired, and dark and spooky for Readers Imbibing Peril!

The premise is very clever, promising to tell the true story of Hansel and Gretel, and then setting off through several Grimm fairy tales.  When Hansel and Gretel’s father learns that his faithful servant, previously turned to stone in his service, can be restored if he chops his children’s heads off…he goes ahead and does it.  Hansel and Gretel are restored to life, but (quite understandably) decide it’s time to run away from home.  They encounter the wicked witch with her candy house, but also go on adventures through other fairy tales, struggling against dangerous magic and frightening or fantastically irresponsible adults.

With the exception of the original Hansel and Gretel story, these are not the best-known Grimm fairy tales, like Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella.  I recognized most of the stories, but I’ve read a good bit of the original Grimms…and considering my audience here, you might recognize them too!

There’s definitely constant excitement in this novel, with a new twist and villain at every turn.  It actually didn’t feel as episodic as you might expect, though.  With the constant thread of Hansel and Gretel as the main characters, the different tales wove together surprisingly well.  There’s also an amusing narrator who occasionally stops the action to make remarks to the reader about the story.  I might have liked a little more subtlety in weaving the narrator into the story…but that’s a choice, and once I got used to the narrator, the device worked well.

For all that’s good here, I do have one BIG reservation–I really don’t know who the target audience is meant to be.  The style of the writing is clearly juvenile.  There’s a simplicity to the language, Hansel and Gretel seem to be about 10 or 12, and there’s just a very strong juvenile feel to the book.  However–there is a LOT of blood.

I feel a little strange pointing that out, because the narrator points it out too, in a very sarcastic, tongue in cheek kind of way.  Early on, he keeps advising that little kids should be kept out of the room because they’ll be disturbed by upcoming sections.  Those remarks read like jokes…but they’re true!  The blood and the violence are told in the matter-of-fact style of the original Brothers Grimm, and there’s probably nothing here that wasn’t there…which still leaves you with blood, beheadings, dismemberment, two (unrelated) severed fingers, and all in all quite a bit of nastiness.

As far as I can tell from Gidwitz’s website, the blood is supposed to be a large part of the appeal.  All the same, I haven’t the slightest doubt that if I had read this when I was actually the target age suggested by the writing style, I would have been thoroughly disturbed.  There’s a bit in here about skinning a monster that I find slightly disturbing now.  Conclusion: although I liked aspects of this, apparently I’m not the target reader.

So…I guess the natural reader is either a kid who doesn’t mind gore (and I’m sure there are ones less squeamish than I was), or an adult who doesn’t mind a simplistic writing style.  If you pick it up, there’s plenty that’s well-done, but be warned that this really is inspired by the Brothers Grimm, not Walt Disney!

Author’s Site: http://www.adamgidwitz.com/

Other reviews:
Here There Be Books
Rex Robot Reviews
The Mountains of Instead
Anyone else?

Buy it here: A Tale Dark and Grimm

6 thoughts on “Dark and Grim, Indeed

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. I recall a bit of a buzz about it when it first came out, but never got to the point of buying it. I have been enjoying lately, though, the “new” version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Phillip Pullman. I found the introduction particularly fascinating with its brief exploration of the mechanics of the genre.

  2. dianem57

    Maybe it’s just a sign of the times that modern young readers are more inured to blood and violence than young readers of earlier generations were. There is certainly more of that on television and in the movies than in times past.

  3. I work in a school library (K-5) and we have this book on the shelves. I started reading it and thought the same thing, that it was very gory! We don’t have many kids check this book out, but if a kid brought it up to me, I might mention to them that it is pretty scary.

  4. Interesting thoughts on the target audience. I wonder how much that has to do with the author being male? I know that when I was growing up, the boys around me seemed more interested than repulsed by finding dead animals in the woods, dissecting frogs, and that sort of thing. Since I’m more aligned with your sentiments, I think maybe I’ll pass on this one!

  5. I’ve avoided reading this, which would otherwise be right up my alley, just because of so much blood. But Charlotte said she found the second book much better, and thought it could be read without the first one, so I might read just the second one instead.

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s