Review: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

“You see, the land of Grimm can be a harrowing pace.  But it is worth exploring.  For, in life, it is in the darkest zones one finds the brightest beauty and the most luminous wisdom.

And, of course, the most blood.”

A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz

There’s this wonderful little bookstore my daughter and I love to visit whenever we’re in Madison, IN.  If you ever make it to that tiny little town, you should drop in.  It’s called Village Lights Bookstore, and it’s one of those adorable spots with a fun nook under the stairs for kids to play and read in while parents browse new and used books.  There is art on the walls and a grand piano in the back room.  It’s a happy place.  It’s also where I found this book, which is just one more point in its favor.

I saw it on the shelf, and its cover intrigued me.

It reminds me of this awesome illustrated Jabberwocky my husband bought me a while back.  Love.

I picked it up and read the back, the first few pages.  I instantly bought it.  Because an adaptation of Grimm’s fairy tales with a sense of humor and lots of blood?  Yes, please.

My daughter stole it and read it first.  “Super weird, but good,” was her ringing endorsement.  Note: she read it in two days.  That doesn’t happen with just any book.

When she finally put it down, I got to read it myself.  Five days later, I’m still smiling.

Gidwitz takes real fairy tales from the brothers Grimm.  He doesn’t clean them up.  So, yeah, ick.  And also, awesome.  Then he weaves them together to tell one big tale, in this case starring Hansel and Gretel.  I won’t give much away about the story, except to say that it IS weird.  Because Grimm’s fairy tales are bizarre.

This isn’t for everyone.  It’s bloody and it involves the cutting off of fingers and the murder of children and a visit to hell.  Thanks, Grimm boys.  So if you like to keep those kinds of things away from your kids, I won’t blame you for passing.  But if you want to know why I allow, and even encourage, my kids to read such things, see the quote at the top.

The beauty of this book is that in spite of the bloody contents, it is terrifically warm.  Every moment of the retelling is infused with his humorous but also strangely loving voice.  And from time to time, the author breaks into his own story with asides that are full of profoundly hilarious wisdom (the kind that isn’t annoying).

This book is about real children, about their courage and their selfishness.  It deals with the devotion of siblings, but even more importantly with the facing of your own mistakes and with the awesomely complicated relationship between flawed parents and their flawed children.  It has things to say about the true process of repentance and forgiveness that blew me away.  No kid gloves.  No platitudes.  No irritating preachiness.  Just brutal honesty of the smartest and most mature kind.

So.  Read it.  Please.  If you think it’s not right for your kids, then read it yourself.  We all have enough darkness in our lives to need a reminder of how to find the luminous wisdom in it all.

And we can also probably all use a reminder of the dangers of eating too much chocolate cake.

 P.S.  There’s a sequel, In a Glass Grimmly. The true tale of Jack and Jill, apparently.  I can’t wait for my copy to arrive.

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