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Book Review: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

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Many of us grew up reading fairy tales but do any of us really know the true stories behind them?  Our parents were fond of telling us that they were only stories, that they weren’t real, but deep down we always suspected that the truth was far more sinister.  Author Anthony Gidwitz knew this too and he has rewritten the famous Brothers Grimm tale Hansel and Gretel from a more frightening, bloody, yet truthful perspective.

A Tale Dark and Grimm is aimed at the ages 9 to 11 age group.  It is a dark, gory tale and it really is a lot of fun.  The back cover of the book contains a warning.  “Reader: Beware!”, it says and goes on to warn of the sorcerers with their dark spells and other terrifying characters contained within the book.  Readers are warned that the book is not for the faint of heart and that unlike many of the stories they might know, this one is true.

It is just the type of warning that will make young readers want to dive right in and devour this dark and irreverent book.  Even though the book is set in the fairy tales of the distant past, there is a decidedly modern tone to A Tale Dark and Grimm which will appeal to the most cynical of readers.  I knew that the author and I were going to get along just fine from the opening line of the book: “Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome”.

Gidwitz has a witty, cheeky style of writing and he appeals directly to young readers, taking them in to his confidence and leading them along on an exciting adventure.  A Tale Dark and Grimm is, in fact, made up of ten shorter stories that chronicle Hansel and Gretel’s adventures from the time they flee their home and enter the woods, to the time they return home in more or less one piece.  The book does feature a rather batty old lady who tries to eat the children but it also stars a soul-stealing warlock, the Devil and the realms of Hell, and a dragon borne of a father’s grief. 

Published by Andersen Press, A Tale Dark and Grimm is just the sort of book to buy for children for Halloween.  It is well-written and entertaining but carries a strong moral code throughout.  It is sufficiently dark and grisly to make children squeal with glee and has the perfect mix of fantasy and irreverence to set their imaginations free.

I would wholeheartedly recommend A Tale Dark and Grimm and rate it four out of five stars.

Author Adam Gidwitz is a teacher in Brooklyn, New York. Inspired by the tales of the Brothers Grimm, he began telling stories to his pupils and was encouraged to write them down. Of course, Adam insists that he always writes about things that have happened to him personally but notes that if you’ve ever had a childhood, then these dark and grim things have probably happened to you too.

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About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is a blogger, serial expat and eternal tourist living and working in London. Aside from writing at Blogcritics, she blogs about travel and London at Emm in London, entertainment and media at Addicted to Media and war crimes, genocide and social justice over at A Passion to Understand.