Goodreads: A Tale Dark and Grimm
Summary: Hansel and Gretel were raised in a palace, but decide to run away the day they realize their parents do not really love them. Travelling through the wide world, they encounter danger and deception—and grow up a little in the process. Even as they begin to understand their parents, however, a new threat arises to their happiness. Only by defeating a dragon will they be able to return home and start their family anew.
Review: Gidwitz writes with the premise that children understand and are familiar with danger and darkness, and thus does not purge from his retelling of “Hansel and Gretel” the violence and gore present in the original Grimm tales. The result may shock some parents and educators, but will probably not faze most younger readers. Youth expects, after all, that the world will be full of obstacles and that villains will find their just punishment; violence and death do not surprise them. Concerned parents should note, however, that Gidwitz does his best to lighten the mood, often interjecting his own humorous commentary on the story and always warning of impending unhappiness.
The book is obviously intended to resonate with children familiar with tragedy in their own lives. They will relate with Hansel and Gretel, who strike out into the world on their own after becoming disillusioned with the capability and wisdom of adults. Gidwitz, however, does not allow himself merely to empathize with his readers. He attempts to guide them, using the story to illustrate that, though grown-ups may sometimes fail in their duties, that does not make them unworthy or unlovable. The plot, which integrates a series of lesser-known fairy tales, clearly means to teach children that, as much as they think they may have matured, they always need to come home. Family and love make life worthwhile.
Gidwitz does not interweave the moral subtly, and its presence sometimes mars what otherwise proves an interesting and action-packed tale. It seems a bit strange that the author trusted children to handle violence in the story, but did not trust them to have enough intelligence to pick up on the themes without having the narrator voice announce them periodically. Despite the fairy tale format, however, which lends itself naturally to messages symbolic and sometimes almost allegorical in nature, the plot fails to illustrate the moral sufficiently. The inclusion of heavy-handed explanations thus proves necessary. Perhaps this inclusion also helps assuage parents’ worries about the effects of this story on their children.
Ultimately, readers will find A Tale Dark and Grimm a refreshing addition to the retold fairy tales currently on the market. The attempt to return to the feel of the originals makes the book original and will please all those who believe fairy tales should not be whitewashed. Concerned parents may want to read the book before passing it on to their children. However, Gidwitz does an excellent job of demonstrating that fairy tales truly are for all ages—with or without the gore.
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