Monday, September 17, 2012


(companion to A TALE DARK AND GRIMM, review based on an advance reading copy)

I loved Gidwitz's first book, A TALE DARK AND GRIMM, and the second more than lives up to expectations. For those unaware, each chapter of A TALE DARK AND GRIMM twists a particular Grimm fairy tale while the children Hansel and Gretel link all the stories with an overarching narrative. Very well executed! The companion book, IN A GLASS GRIMMLY follows a less straightforward, though similar, structure. We still have numerous recognizable tales woven into one intricate plot, but they're not all from the Grimm brothers this time, each chapter isn't an entire twisted tale, and Gidwitz takes a little more license with molding the original stories. In some cases, he merely references well-known stories rather than entirely retelling them. (For anyone interested, at the end of the book there's a note from the author specifying his influences.) However, Gidwitz still connects each sub-story with a bigger plot following another boy and girl, this time Jack and Jill.

Another trend between both books is, of course, the tone. Gidwitz’s belief that children don't require nearly as much sheltering or coddling as adults assume really makes his work stand out. Therefore, he tells the real Grimm fairy tales. Twists, yes, but I mean he doesn't edit out the morbid parts. He does, however, make the narrator yet another character and this narrator cuts into the story every now and then, oftentimes right before the scary parts to provide a warning or right after to offer some insight or comic relief. Intrusive narrators can be difficult since sometimes they're simply too, yup, intrusive, but Gidwitz masters this tool, making the narrator one of the book's greatest strengths.

For those sick of fairy tale retellings I would still encourage you to try these books. The task with retellings is changing enough so that it’s a new story and Gidwitz certainly does that. The book surprised me again and again, even though I sometimes attempted guesses about what's ahead based on my knowledge of fairy tales, fables, and folklore. The wonderful unpredictability of IN A GLASS GRIMMLY made it surprisingly "unguessable” for a twisted fairy tale!

The book absorbed me throughout, but the ending in particular glows with a heartfelt and well-delivered message as vital for adults as for children. Not a message inherited from one of its parent stories, either. IN A GLASS GRIMMLY boasts a beautiful ending all its own.

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