In a Glass Grimmly, by Adam Gidwitz (Dutton Juvenile, Sept. 27, 2012, middle grade)
In A Tale Dark and Grimm (2010), Gidwitz fractured the story of Hansel and Gretel into a quest that was a conglomeration of several fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. In a Glass Grimmly is a companion to that story, again drawing on several desperate tales to make a surprisingly coherent narrative about the trials and tribulations that befall royal children Jill and Jack. As in the first book, there are frequent intrusions from the narrator, a considerable helping of danger, and some really unpleasant moments. But there's also humor, and hope, and character growth to balance off the less cozy aspects of the tale....
Both Jack and Jill are leading lives that are somewhat twisted--Jack longs to be accepted by the village boys, and Jill longs to be as beautiful as her beautiful mother, so as to win attention from her. But when the tailor responsible for the Emperor's New Clothes comes to town, Jill finds herself the victim of his cruelty....and runs off the village where Jack lives. Jack has his own problems--he's just traded a cow for a bean. And these happenings set in motion a journey that will take the children on a quest of a mirror that will tell the truth to whoever looks into it...if they can deliver the mirror to the mysterious woman who asked them to find it, they'll get their hearts desire. If they don't get it, they've agreed their lives are forfeit. It's the sort of quest that involves dangers from goblins, giants, evil mermaids, and finally a face to face encounter with a massive, very fiery salamander.
And it's the sort of quest where, when all the pieces fall into place, Jill and Jack have changed so much that what they thought they wanted--validation from others--has changed as well....
Comic relief along the way is provided by a three-legged frog (throwing a frog against a wall doesn't actually turn a frog into a prince, you know. It just hurts him). And the pluck of the two kids, and their quick wits adds zest to the story. So all in all, I found it a very diverting read, one I preferred to the first book. I'm not quite sure why that last is so--perhaps this book had a more hopeful, interior oriented character arc, perhaps the authorial intrusions were intruded with a more practiced hand, perhaps I just found Jack and Jill more interesting...perhaps it's because I liked the frog.
In short, although A Tale Dark and Grimm didn't work for me, this one did, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to kids from fourth grade on up (yeah, it's dark, but so is Harry Potter). I know lots of people loved ATDAG--I'd love to hear from any of you who did about whether this one worked as well for you!
And as a final aside--there's no need to have read the first book before picking this one up, and there's no real need to know the fairy tales, although it adds considerably to the interest.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher