Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Tale Dark and Grimm vs. Stuck on Earth

When I finished reading my second book over the holiday, I kept thinking back to my first round from last year. Last year, I started out by reading When You Reach Me, the book I thought I would not like as much, and saved Fever Crumb for the holiday, and ended up being disappointed. I just did a book talk for When You Reach Me today and I was quite excited to share it with students. This all makes me think about using these books in the near future.
So this year, I switched things up and read the one that caught my eye first: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. The book trailer is cool and the reference to fairy tales was both interesting seemed readily applicable to a Fractured Fairy Tales unit I already do. The book begins with a teaser, warning, “Read on if you dare” and cautions the reader to make sure that the little children are all in bed because the story we are about to read is a dark one. The story begins, “Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.” The narrator laments that the original Grimms’ fairy tales have been watered down, and insists that the original, bloody, gory, nasty stories were better (and who would argue?). This new tale takes the original Grimms’ Hansel and Gretel and spins out their tale to follow them on a journey through eight other fairy tales (on the premise that Hansel and Gretel are really the characters in other tales). What is really engaging about this book, though, is the narrator’s voice. He (or she?) is the one who warns us to put the little kids to bed and reminds us that fairy tales are awesome. He interjects frequently to warn us about upcoming gore and to give us comments on the action. The narrator’s voice is what makes this story fun to read. I think kids will like it a lot, too. I read it quickly because I didn’t want to put it down, but I certainly did not read it out loud to my three-year-old. Junior High students may also enjoy the fact that Hansel and Gretel are definitely the heroes and the adults are largely flawed. This book is my winner for this round.
If you’re still interested in knowing about Stuck on Earth, I’ll let you know that I was much more impressed with it than my second book from last year’s round one. However, unlike the narrator in the Grimm book, I found the narrator in Stuck on Earth to be annoying. I had reservations to begin with. The story is about an alien who comes to earth to determine whether humans have redeeming qualities or if we should all be blown up. The narrator is Ketchvar III, a snail-like alien come to earth to inhabit an earthling’s body to investigate our species. He crawls up fourteen-year-old Tom Filber’s nose to get into his brain and banishes Tom’s consciousness to his colon. I am always leery of books with jokes about snot and poop. I was further annoyed by the tone of the narrator. Some parts of the book were meant to be his correspondence with the mother ship, but the voice falters as he explains things to his commanders in a way that he wouldn’t have to. It’s just there to explain things to the reader. The tone falls apart distractingly. However, I have to admit that, about halfway through, when the mother ship isn’t responding and he has an identity crisis and begins to wonder if he’s really an alien, or if he’s really Tom Filber, going crazy, it gets a bit interesting. The story is fairly predictable, but I think some students might enjoy it. If I was doing an environmental theme, I might recommend it or read it to kids. It was certainly not as bad as Fever Crumb, but not as good as A Tale Dark and Grimm. So, I’ve weeded it out of competition for you. You’re welcome. Send me something good for round two in return, please!


  1. I'm okay with the snot and poop so I might check that one out...but I was cheering on Tales. We are using that as grade seven selection for our You Decide Reading program and the kids love it.

  2. Well, like I said, the middle gets a bit interesting. But I am glad that Tales is holding up to kid testing!