book review: a tale dark and grimm

Alex Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm is a retelling of a bunch of Grimm’s fairy tales, but pulled together into a single narrative about Hansel and Gretel, who are siblings who have to deal with a great number of terrible parental figures. It’s written for a modern audience and doesn’t shy away from the violence in these stories (Hansel and Gretel get their heads cut off in the first chapter to bring their father’s faithful servant back to life).

One of the best parts about the story is the narrator, who helpfully tells you when the really little kids should leave the room, and gives them a good number of false happy endings (much like Emily Gravett’s Wolves picturebook). The narrator also talks about when we’ve reached the sad part of the book and tells the reader how to pronounce names and commiserates with the readers about the sometimes inexplicable things that happen (like when Gretel has to cut off her finger to open a door because they lost the key).

The narrator is like a built in commentary for reading the book aloud to a kid. It’s the kind of stuff I’d like to be able to extemporize when reading fairy tales, but having it actually written makes it much more clever (and less repetitive than I’d be).

So yes, this is an excellent fairy-tale retelling. Bloody and heroic and filled with the agency of children. Great stuff.

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