Fairy tale re-makes abound these days. Here’s one that captured the attention of almost my entire sixth grade class this past summer. Although they all loved it, the first warning they gave me was, “It’s bloody!” So I figured it’s perfect for Halloween.
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Age group: older middle grade/early YA
Summary: This is the extended story of Hansel and Gretel that you’ve never heard before. You’ll hear about how their grandfather died, how his death impacted the way their father was raised, and how their parents met. All of this leads up to Hansel and Gretel having a very messed up childhood. One that goes way beyond the witch with the candy house. Warning: this story is not for the faint of heart. A witch who eats children is the least of Hansel and Gretel’s concerns.
To me, the best part of this novel was the writer’s voice. The narrator keeps “breaking the fourth wall” (to use an old theater term) by interrupting the story and speaking directly to the audience to rather comical effects. For example, every time a bloody scene is about to happen, the narrator jumps in and warns the reader to remove any young children from the room.
I’ll be honest and say that the violence in the book is so fantastical that you simply can’t take it seriously. To me, these books are actually much less scary than those that are more realistic. People get their heads cut off and then come back to life. I think the narrator interruptions also help to keep the book from becoming too nightmarish. All the violence just seems silly in a sort of Grimm fairytale sort of way (which is why the title makes so much sense).
So what can I say? It might not be quite my cup of tea, but it’s extremely popular with the kids, especially those who enjoy books with a darker edge to them.