The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 22, 2011

Jeana Gockley, book review: Retelling of fairy tales shocking, exciting

By Jeana Gockley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — "A Tale Dark and Grimm"

By Adam Gidwitz

Grades 4-8

I had been waiting to read this book for almost a month, and it was worth the wait.

I first saw it at Judy Freeman's "What to Read Next" workshop, but had to wait for the library's copy to arrive. I started it one day at lunch and finished it the same night.

It's rare that I finish a book in one day, so that should give you some indication of how much I liked it.

Debut author Adam Gidwitz combines original Grimm's fairy tales with twin main characters, Hansel and Gretel, to take readers on a bloody and terrifying, yet magical, adventure.

But consider yourself warned: This book is not for the faint of heart or young children. Gidwitz stresses this throughout the book by periodically stopping the narrative to offer his two cents.

For example, in the introduction, he writes, "Before I go on, a word of warning: Grimm's stories -- the ones that weren't changed for little kids -- are violent and bloody. And what you're going to hear now, the one true tale in The Tales of Grimm, is as violent and bloody as you can imagine. Really. So if such things bother you, we should probably stop right now."

Gidwitz spares no bloody, gory detail, which may give parents pause, but most children (recommended age range is fourth grade and above) will not be able to put this one down.

When I first started reading it, my mouth was probably hanging open, especially because Hansel and Gretel are beheaded (and thankfully, reheaded) in the first chapter. But honestly, it only makes sense.

Grimm's fairy tales are ghastly affairs that center around greed, envy, jealousy, lust, cowardice, and most importantly in this tale, bad parenting. Children will be entranced by Gidwitz's use of Grimm's stories to weave a new one about Hansel and Gretel.

The cover is also impressive. Can it get any better than evil, glowing-eyed parents, a bloodstained sword, a dragon and three fierce ravens? I think not.

Another positive about this book: It will make readers seek out and read the original Grimm stories. Or at least it did me. The entire time I was reading this book, I kept thinking: I cannot wait to read the original tales and find others that Gidwitz did not include in the book.


Jeana Gockley is the children's librarian for the Joplin Public Library.