I really really enjoyed the journey into and out of the dark dark woods that is this book by a new comer of the Children’s books scene. To be honest, because I love and respect traditional fairy tales (mostly Grimms, Jacobs, with some Norse, Arabian Nights, and Russian tales thrown in) to such a degree, I get very suspicious and highly critical when it comes to authors playing with and retelling these tales.
I especially resent the ones that make light of these grim and dark and powerful tales and turn them into cutesy products.
That is not the case with Gidwitz’s offering. It is slated to be published in November and I simply can’t wait to report on it! The frame story, using Hansel and Greta, substituting them as protagonists in several Grimms fairy tales, works brilliantly. As the story progresses, the resemblance to the original versions of the tales is reduced: they are more and more fractured and eventually, you are offered a few original short tales by the current author — but the Faerie, unsettling, and dark tone of the fairy tales tradition remains. As the story follows less and less the constrain of the original tales, the readers who know these tales sense the strength of the two children, rebelling against a cage that tries to tie them down.
For readers who are not familiar with the original tales, they can still vividly experience the growth, physically, emotionally, and worldly of these two characters.
This is not a simple construct, stringing a bunch of fairy tales together, but a successful novel that has a lot to offer to its young readers.
I can’t wait to share the tales — the new and the old — with my students in the fall!