Title: In a Glass Grimmly
Author: Adam Gidwitz
2017 Book Challenge Entry: A book that has been on your TBR list for way too long
Thoughts: Story time.
In another life, when I was in school getting my education degree, I took a class on Children’s Literature. The professor was amazing. Having taught elementary school herself for a couple decades before becoming a principal for yet another couple decades, she really knew her stuff. She knew what a lot of teachers don’t know.
There are no children who don’t like to read. There are only children who haven’t found the right book yet.
Her first assignment was for us to go to the public library of our choosing and browse. Go familiarize ourselves with what books are in a collection. Pick something random out and read it. She told us, you cannot recommend books for children or teach them about literature if you don’t know what is out there. So, I went.
I chose the Plaza location of the Kansas City Public library which has, in my opinion, one of the best children and young adult collections anywhere in the midwest. I found this book called A Tale Dark and Grimm and within five minutes of reading it, I was in love. Many other people in my class chose books for primary students. Not me. I don’t do primary. I’m an upper elementary kind of girl. I chose a book for a 5th or 6th grader who thought they didn’t like reading. I knew this would be the book for someone that turned them into a voracious reader. It was so different and kind of scary, but still comforting because fairy tales. Way up my alley.
Not long after that, I stumbled upon another book by the same author. In a Glass Grimmly is labeled as a companion to A Tale Dark and Grimm. It is not a sequel, and it is not necessary to read one before the other. They go together nicely though. I bought a copy and it sat unopened for probably two years. It found a home on my nightstand at the bottom of a pile of books, then migrated to a bookshelf, then moved to a new place all without me cracking the cover. I was in school and reading lots of other things. Maybe I was nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as the first one. Maybe I was going through a phase where I told myself I have to read “grown up” books. Whatever the reason, I just…couldn’t start it.
So I finally did.
And it was worth the wait.
In both books, Gidwitz takes well known characters, Jack and Jill, and turns their story on its head. Literally in a couple instances. Like, Jack does fall down. He does break open his crown. It just isn’t in the way you knew. In In a Glass Grimmly, Jack and Jill are cousins. They are cast out of their homes for reasons that will not be disclosed here and seek out each other for comfort through this trying time. Pretty quickly upon finding one another, they happen upon an old woman who promises them everything they could ever want if they just…get this precious item for her. No big, right?
Let the adventure begin.
Gidwitz’s writing style is exciting and fun. He has a dark sense of humor that lends itself well to the original dark and twisted tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. While he uses these famous characters to take us through the adventures of Jack and Jill, he still manages to make it feel fresh and modern.
I’ve never quite read anything like it. At least, nothing that takes this idea and delivers it this well. This book is fantastic. Some authors find a thing and they do it well for one book, but when they try and reproduce it, the thing falls flat. Everyone says, “Oh their first book is amazing, but then the style got kind of repetitive and boring. The tropes they used and the world they were creating just stopped being interesting.”
Not the case here.
By making In a Glass Grimmly a companion instead of a sequel, he frees himself to do whatever he likes with the characters. He doesn’t have to stick to one story line or a continuous emotional arch. They can evolve in new ways. It is very clever.
He also does this thing where he breaks the fourth wall and writes directly to the reader. He stops the narration to warn us things are about to get gory, scary or that Jack or Jill are about to make a regrettable decision. This voice is different from his narration voice and the fact that he is able to pull both voices off, sometimes on the same page, and not lose the reader, is impressive and fun.
I honestly think this might be the most enjoyable book I’ve read this year so far. It made me laugh, cry and sometimes cry from laughter. The main characters are flawed and have a lot of growing up to do and because of that, they are relatable. The fact that their adventures are so fantastical and yet the characters feel real is a credit to the writer and the environment he created. I would recommend this to pretty much anyone. There is something here for everyone. There is a third book in this group and I can’t wait to dive in. If it is anything like this one, I won’t be able to put it down.