Wednesday, February 2, 2011
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
8 out of 10: A Tale Dark and Grimm takes the story of Hansel and Gretel and expands it, weaving the siblings in and out of various Grimm tales. I do have to admit that I am not well-versed in Grimm's tales as a whole. If one of Gidwitz's goals is to get more people interested in the original tales, he succeeded. I already have two collections of Grimm's stories on hold at my library.
When I read anything that would be considered juvenile fiction, I judge it by whether I end up seeing the book as one I want Brayden to read once he's at the appropriate age. I cannot wait to introduce this book to him. The most important reason is one I already mentioned. I have the faith it will get him interested in the Brothers Grimm, just like it did for me. Especially since Albert Einstein is rumored to have said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.”
The second reason I want Brayden to read it is because of its subversive lessons for children. Yes, I want my child to learn to question authority, even when that authority is me. Hansel and Gretel learn the hard lesson of their parents' fallibility. And then they learn it over and over again when adult after adult fails to help and protect them. As the author/narrator writes, "It is the story of two children striving, and failing, and then not failing. It is the story of two children finding out the meaning of things."
A book where they have fun reading, learn about the amazing literature and history of the Grimm's brothers, and learn important life lessons all at the same time? I'm already sold. But if you want to know my favorite thing about this book, it's that author/narrator I just quoted. Not many authors take on the challenge of inserting themselves into the story as a narrator, but Gidwitz did it and he did it well. Children will love him too, because he makes them feel all sorts of special with quotes like this peppered throughout the book:
"Are there any small children in the room? If so, it
would be best if we just let them think this really is the end
of the story and hurried them off to bed. Because this is where
things start to get, well... awesome.
But in a horrible, bloody kind of way."
Finally, I'd like to end with the parenting lessons this book taught me. Yes, I learned about parenting from a juvenile fiction book. I've learned to trust Brayden more. I'm not going to introduce this to him until the right time, but I think after reading this book, I'll be introducing things considered classics like fairy and folk tales sooner rather than later. The author admits in his acknowledgements that he only wrote this book after learning that exact lesson from a co-worker. He was a second grade teacher and co-worker read The Seven Ravens to his class. He learned from this co-worker "to trust that children can handle it. no matter what "it" is."
I'll end with one last quote. After Hansel and Gretel return to their parents and save the kingdom, their father states that "there is a wisdom in children, a kind of knowing, a kind of believing, that we, as adults, do not have."
I'll say it again. This is exactly the sort of book I want my son to read.