A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Gidwitz fills his dark tale with warnings to remove young children, no really, do it now. And despite the light, joking tone, he is not kidding in the least. What follows is one of the most violent fairy tale retellings I’ve ever encountered. Maintaining that he’s simply being to true to the original interesting tales, rather than the boring dull new versions, Gidwitz packs his book with just about as much gore as he can imagine. Cleverly weaving the tale of Hansel and Gretel in a way that unifies multiple Grimm Tales, his approach is interesting although incredibly sinister. With my own bias against having children read violent books I probably wouldn’t recommend this to anyone below Grade 4. I believe it could be easily understood by students in Grade 4 and up. Whether or not it would give them nightmares is a different issue entirely.
Good for: Gretel is no pushover, taking on sinister murders and vicious dragons without a single simper or swoon. This will appeal to girls and boys who like their violence explicit and their fairy tales dark.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – There’s a marriage. One family tried to have a daughter and didn’t succeed. Gretel (a girl) falls in love with a man, which is a pretty uncomfortable dynamic.
Profanity – “shut up,” “stupid,” “Good God,” “damned,” “hell/ish,” “blast it,”
Death, Violence and Gore – Characters get their heads cut off. A man turns to stone. A king dies. A princess has children despite knowing that a fate worse then death awaits them. Possible ills that could befall a married couple are that a horse could throw them to their deaths, they could be consumed by fire. A man is instructed to bite someone’s lip and suck three drops of blood. A horse’s neck is slit and his coat is set on fire. A sympathetic character is tied atop a pile of wood waiting to be lit like a torch in order to burn to death. A statue is smeared with blood. Children fear they’ll be murdered by their parents. A woman is a cannibal. She tries to roast a child. The child roasts her. Boys turn to birds. A character cuts off her own finger to use the bone as a key (this is accompanied by a warning to kids not to try that at home). A character is overcome with the love of killing things and hunts and kills almost every animal in the forest, becoming part beast in the process. A character’s head is hit with a branch. A man rips girls’ souls from their bodies and then hacks their bodies to pieces for dinner. During one such dismemberment, a finger flies into another character’s lap. A character licks human blood from his or her fingers. You can get rid of a warlock by cooking him in a cauldron with snakes. The skin of a beast is cut off revealing a boy. The flesh comes away in clumps. This is one of the goriest parts of the book. A character ventures into Hell and sees sinners writhing being tortured by demons. The head of a kitten is bronzed. There is a chair made of human skin and a couch made of human hair and utensils made of human bones. The devil eats fingers of sinners. There is a taxidermied child. Body parts are carried around. There are dead animals in a street, stiffening with bloated bellies and flies walking on their eyeballs. A dragon bites down eating half of a woman. The dragon removes a man’s internal organs. There are many dead bodies. A woman’s chest is caved in. Someone is crushed beyond recognition.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Men buy each other drinks. People gamble at an ale house. Part of a scheme to beat the dragon means getting the dragon drunk.
Frightening or Intense Things – The moon is described as cold and creepy and possibly interested in eating child flesh.