My stepmother killed me, my father devoured me
We are living through a strange era. Fairy tales, long a source of folktelling splendor, are currently being pillaged for their movie rights like never before. There are, for example, THREE different Snow White retellings in the works as we speak, as well as that Red Riding Hood coming out in theaters and many many more. Meanwhile in the book world we’re seeing things like Sleeping Beauty, Vampire Slayer and Cinderella, Ninja Warrior.
Yet it was last year’s A Tale Dark and Grimm that proved to be the most interesting fairy tale adaptation. Adam Gidwitz saw these stories for what they really were: awesome. And he cleverly plumbed the depths of the stranger ones for his tales.
He’s hardly the first person to do so, of course. Books like Grimm’s Grimmest have been coming out for years. Still, one can’t help but think how much more interesting the fairy tale adaptation movement would be if someone were to turn The Juniper Tree or The Robber Bridegroom into a film.
All this has been on the tippy top part of my brain today since my husband brought home 1999’s The Big Book of Grimm. There are distinct advantages to dwelling with a mate who knows a classic comic source when he sees it. Part of the “Big Book” comic series, over 50 comic artists were nabbed to adapt some of the Grimm Brothers’ stranger tales. Some of the folks here may be familiar to you. The Girl With No Hands has been adapted by none other than Randy DuBurke (best known to our community now for his work on G. Neri’s Yummy). You may have loved the work of Charles Vess on Neil Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl, but you should also check out his take on old Snow White (red hot dancing shoes and all). And while the name James Kochalka is probably lodged in your frontal lobe as the creator of the adorable Johnny Boo, you ain’t lived till you’ve see what he does with that old chestnut Dog and Sparrow.
It’s an utterly faithful arrangement of some of the creepiest stories imaginable. Naturally, I love it. Jonathan Vankin is the man behind the collection, and actually offers some fairly incisive, albeit brief, commentary. For example, at one point he wonders if the use of the stepmother rather than mother in these tales was an act of self-censorship on the part of the Grimms. Personally, I was fascinated by some of the stories dealing with class. I hadn’t read The Poor Man and the Rich Man or Godfather Death before but both stories take an interesting view of how God regards the rich.
Something to keep an eye out for, then. Classic tales, lots of body parts being flung about, and some of the best comic artists working (Dean Haspiel, Sergio Aragones, etc.). Eat up!
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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