Essays & Articles

Mary Harris Russell, The Chicago Tribune

Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome. I know, I know. You don’t believe me…Little girls in red caps skipping around the forest? Awesome? I don’t think so.” In a book where all nine chapters begin with “Once upon a time,” author Adam Gidwitz is obviously taking on this genre directly. His narrator offers us the back-story, if you will, of Hansel and Gretel, as well as their life after the happy-ever-after ending. Along the way he re-processes many less than familiar fairy-tales, like “The Robber Bridegroom” or “The Seven Ravens.” What he achieves, however, isn’t a send-up. It’s a probing look at those profound realities of fairy-tale narratives – parents who aren’t perfect, landscapes that are loaded and happy endings that aren’t always happy. The narrator’s tone is crisp and direct: “The children thanked the tree, because it is always best to thank talking trees.” Thanks as well to Adam Gidwitz, who’s put on paper a thoughtful re-visioning of this storied world.

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