Monday, December 24, 2012

REVIEW: A Tale Dark & Grimm (Don't miss this one!)

Gidwitz, A.  (2010).  A Take Dark and Grimm.  New York:  Dutton Children's Books.

249 Pages.

Appetizer:  This expansion of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale features a pushy narrator who uses a lot of false endings (see the pictures below) and who weaves together multiple stories inspired by some of the Grimm originals to share the siblings' complete adventure of betrayal and forgiveness.

The story begins before the birth of the twins Hansel and Gretel to a king and queen.  You see, the king and queen were only able to marry due to the help of a servant named Johannes who helped them to avoid three potential curses upon their wedding by sacrificing himself.

The only way to free Johannes is to behead Hansel and Gretel.

Understandingly upset about their beheadings, Hansel and Gretel decide to leave their parents and the kingdom of Grimm to find parents who will treat them better.  What follows is a journey that will involve sacrifice and a whole lot of courage.

Returning some of the violence and icky-bits to fairy tales, there are passages of A Tale Dark & Grimm that live up to the title and made me cringe.  But the narrator always provided proper/humorous warning to get wee-readers out of the room for those parts, thereby properly preparing any and all older readers for the gruesome bits.

That pushy narrator reminded me strongly of the narrator from The Tale of Despereaux.  I think the books would be wonderful to pair together since the themes of forgiveness and yearning for family run through both books.

What is more, since each chapter of A Tale Dark & Grimm could be read as its own individual fairy tale (beginning with "Once upon a time...," of course), each chapter would lend itself to a read aloud thereby allowing a teacher or parent to help kids manage the ickier passages.

Having taken multiple folklore classes, I thought Gidwitz captured some of the essential elements of traditional folktales:  The pushy narrator help the reader to feel as though he or she is being told this story.  There is a lot of repetition of three's in terms of the structure and events of the story.

A Tale Dark & Grimm also serves as a powerful allegory for trust and forgiveness within a family.  I found that Hansel and Gretel's adventure could be traced onto the experience of children having to go into foster care and being shuffled from place to place, trying to find a sense of home and forgiveness of what their parents had done.

The book itself avoids trying to answer why bad things happen, but still totes the power and capabilities of children.

Dinner Conversation:

"Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.  I know, I know.  You don't believe me.  I don't blame you.  A little while ago, I wouldn't have believed it myself.  Little girls in red caps skipping around the forest?  Awesome?  I don't think so.
But then I started to read them.  The real, Grimm ones.  Very few little girls in red caps in those.
Well, there's one.  But she gets eaten." (p. 1)

"You see, there is another story in Grimm's Fairy Tales.  A story that winds all throughout the moldy, mysterious tome--like a trail of bread crumbs winding through a forest.  It appears in tales you may never have heard, like Faithful Johannes and Brother and Sister.  And in some that you have--Hansel and Gretel, for instance.
It is the story of two children--a girl named Gretel and a boy named Hansel--traveling though a magical and terrifying world.  It is the story of two children striving, and failing, and then not failing.  It is the story of two children finding out the meaning of things."  (pp. 2-3)

"Once upon a time, in a kingdom called Grimm, an old king lay on his deathbed.  He was Hansel and Gretel's grandfather--but he didn't know that, for neither Hansel nor Gretel had been born yet.
No hold on a minute.
I know what you're thinking.
I am well aware that nobody want to hear a story that happens before the main characters show up.  Stories like that are boring, because they all end exactly the same way.  With the main characters showing up.
But don't worry.  This story is like no story you've ever heard." (p. 5)

"Once upon a time, two children left their home and walked out into the wide, wild world.
The land was dark as Hansel and Gretel made their way across the level turf beyond the palace moat.  They had never left the palace by themselves before, and they knew little of the great world beyond its walls." (p. 39)

"For, as you well, know, the baker woman was planning to eat them.
But she wasn't a witch.  The Brothers Grimm call her a witch, but nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact she was just a regular woman who had discovered, sometime around the birth of her second child, that while she liked chicken and she liked beef and she liked pork, what she really, really, liked was child.
I bet you can figure out how this happened." (p. 43)

Tasty Rating:  !!!!!

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