Have you ever seen lots of little kids all smushed together in a bouncy house that looks too small, and there’s no room to bounce? Take that, and make all the babies middle schoolers. And the bouncy house turns into a small fitness center. Got that? That’s what it was like. There were kids everywhere. Somehow, Ms. Hicks got us all to quiet down. She gave us a very detailed summary of Adam Gidwitz’s life. Then he walked in. He looked ordinary. Most of us were bored. But when he spoke, we hung on to his words. Suddenly, there was enough space.
His first words were, “Before I start talking, I want to teach you something. When you’re listening to me, keep your fingers right next to your ears. If you hear something bloody, or terrifying, or gross, put your fingers in your ears until it’s over.” Of course, now we clung to every word, praying to hear an example. But about a third or so of us had read his books. And me, I think I was the only one prepared. Me, I think I was the only one (besides Gidwitz) who had read 20 or more Grimm fairytales. So of course, I liked him at first sight. He began to tell us about fairytales.
“Who here has heard of Red Riding Hood?” Some of the kids put their hands up.
“Cinderella? Snow White? Jack and the Beanstalk? Hansel and Gretel?”
“You know these stories… you also don’t know them. You don’t know the original Grimm.” He began to tell us about the brothers Grimm.
The greatest thing about him was that he always joked around. For example, he said, “They liked stories they got from moms and dads, but really liked ones from nannies [be]cause the parents don’t scare the kids. But the nannies aren’t afraid to scare the pants off them, then say, goodnight!” He started to tell us the story of Cinderella. Summed up, it was about Ashputtle (Cinderella), who wanted to go to the ball. There’s no fairy godmother, though. Ashputtle cried on the tree beneath which was buried her original mother, and the tree gave her the dress. Fast-forward to the prince coming around with the shoe. They come to Ashputtle’s house. They try it on the first daughter (who’s no witch, she’s pretty) and she cuts off her toe to make it fit. They ride to the castle when some doves tell the truth, and he comes back. Fast-forward again to Ashputtle’s wedding. The sisters walk next to Ashputtle, and doves peck the sisters’ eyes out.
This was a man who had power to create a story good and bloody enough to keep an audience of sixth and seventh graders interested. We asked questions, and then he left. I was amazed. Then I ran after him. I caught up. I asked him questions. I got an impression that this was the type of man who knew what he was doing from the start to the finish.
So, for anybody who’s looking for a good book to read, or a way to give your 5-year-old siblings nightmares for the rest of the month, try out A Tale Dark and Grimm. When done, go to In A Glass Grimmly. Finally, travel to The Grimm Conclusion. I promise, they’re good. And remember, enjoy the nightmares.
by Zachary Larson
Middle School Class 602
Photo credit to John Mancia
Cover art courtesy of the author