I recently reread A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz when my teen book club chose to discuss it. The book is an adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, whom we all know, but continues their story by placing them in several lesser-known Grimm fairytales, such as “Faithful Johannes”, “The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs” and “The Robber Bridegroom” (renamed “A Smile as Red as Blood” in this retelling). And the reason these tales are probably lesser known is because these are the bloody, gruesome tales that you don’t want to be reading to your toddler. But while Gidwitz recreates a dark and often frightening fairytale world, he interjects a lot of humor, mystery and suspense into a really great coming of age story that is so captivating that I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Originally, most of the Grimm fairytales were very dark and “downright cannibalistic” as Dea Anne accurately describes in her recent blog post, but so many of them have been watered down over the years. And while I wouldn’t say I particularly love blood and guts, this retelling definitely has sent me on a mission to get my hands on some of the less insipid tellings. Currently, I am reading The Juniper Tree selected by Lore Segal which is much more child friendly, but has a great selection of tales and is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. But I am eagerly anticipating Philip Pullman’s new collection, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version, which promises to be a bit more mature. Also, check out Dea Anne’s post for more recommendations.
Gidwitz recently published the companion novel In a Glass Grimmly which follows the adventures of the nursery rhyme characters Jack and Jill, again weaving Grimm fairytales and this time Hans Christian Andersen’s tales as well. I haven’t read it yet, but if you can get your hands on it, I am sure it will not disappoint!
And in case you were wondering if A Tale Dark and Grimm is too violent for kids? Well, when I asked the kids in my book club if they liked it, I was met with a resounding “YES!” While they did think parts of it were gross, it’s what made the book even better. The author, it seems is asked this quite frequently, and has a great explanation on his website here that you can check out.