Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

These retold fairytales are as dark as the original German tales... except with smarty-pants authorial asides and warnings:

"Are there any young children in the room? If so, it would be best if we just let them think this really is the end of the story and hurried them off to bed. Because this is where things start to get, well... awesome. But in a horrible, bloody kind of way."

Comments like this will help young readers to process the scary parts, reminding them that it is "only a story" and allowing them to brace for goriness ahead. There are toes chopped off, fingers chopped off and even children's heads chopped off. Parents cannot be relied upon to treat their offspring well. Dangerous men and women masquerade as kindly helpers. Hansel and Gretel learn to rely on their own wit and courage over the course of their adventures through nine different stories.

I was transported to my own childhood, when I was about 7 or 8 and read through bound collections of fairytales that I found under a bed at my grandmother's house. Some of the books actually were supporting the bed, which had only three legs. I spent many hours lost in them, shivering over the gruesome parts, weeping for poor maidens and delighting in the coloured plate illustrations. I remember water babies and crystal mountains. Wicked ice queens and cruelty of every kind. White pebbles forming a shining path in the moonlight. Ants assisting with impossible tasks. Brothers turning into swans and trees giving advice.

A Tale Dark & Grimm will appeal to readers from Grade 3 and up who have bloodthirsty tastes and appreciate dark, Lemony-Snicket-type humour. This would also work well as a family read-aloud.

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