I recently finished reading a MG book which I bought at our school book fair called, A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. It is a funny, gruesome, imaginative take on some of the old Grimm fairytales.
Shortly after I put the book back on my shelves, one of my 7th graders picked it up and started reading it and came in every day to tell me what part she had just read and what disgusting, horrifying, completely engaging thing took place. Now, I will admit that this book is not for the faint of heart, which really makes it perfect for middle schoolers.
The author uses Hansel and Gretel as his hero and heroine throughout the tale, weaving them into a myriad of other Grimm tales. Gidwitz does something quite unique in this novel; he talks directly to the reader – and it’s really humorous, which helps to take away some of the horror of the tales themselves.
He tells us that the story of Hansel and Gretel that we know is only part of their actual story. There is far more to tell and it involves beheadings, and dragons, and serial killers – really disgusting stuff! But he melds it so expertly with humor that it enthralls us, rather than scares us. At least, that was the case for my student and me.
Gidwitz even warns us before a particularly gory scene by telling us, the readers, to take small children out of the room as we read the next part.
Gidwitz also manages to insert morals into the story – a fundamental element of every true folk tale, but he isn’t cloyingly obvious about it. He, again, adds humor and even prompts the reader to think a bit.
I recommend this book to students who love fairy tales – but are old enough to hear the true versions, as opposed to the Disney version. As I said before, if a child is easily frightened, then it might be one to wait a bit on. But having said that, my student is still talking about the book to her friends. The best recommendation you can get about a MG book is from a middle grader themselves, isn’t it?