Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-tale Detectives

Buckley, Michael. 2005. The Sisters Grimm: The fairy-tale detectives. New York: Amulet. ISBN: 9780810959255.

This is an older book, but it has recently been reissued. It is NJ's choice for One Book NJ 2008 for children. I had reviewed it previously and posted it to a wiki, but I will add it here. I am trying to keep everything in one place. (although I am a big LibraryThing fan and keep my books there as well)

Daphne, age 7, and Sabrina, almost 12, have been shuffled from one dismal foster home to another since their parents disappeared almost a year ago. Now that they have been claimed by a grandmother they thought was dead, Daphne is delighted to have found a real home. Sabrina, however, is not so sure. There’s something peculiar about Granny Grimm and her home in Ferryport, New York. She cooks black spaghetti with bright orange sauce and green meatballs. She talks to her house and secures it like a fortress. She has a mysterious locked room from which voices can be heard, and a steadfast companion, the creepy, Mr. Canis.

Granny Relda Grimm, and the girls themselves, it appears, are descendants of the famous Brothers Grimm – destined to keep order in a world inhabited by fairy tale characters. Daphne swallows the whole story – along with the green meatballs, but Sabrina remains skeptical – that is, until Granny Grimm and Mr. Canis are whisked away by a giant! Now the girls must rely on themselves, fairy tale books, and the “Everafters” themselves (Jack, Prince Charming, Puck, pixies, the three little pigs and more!) to sort out this fairy-tale detective story.

This first in a series of The Sisters Grimm: Fairy-Tale Detectives, is delightfully, though sparsely, illustrated in black and white sketches by Peter Ferguson. The action is swift and the story moves along rapidly. The foreshadowing is a bit too obvious at times - the three little pigs appear to have an unusual dislike for Mr. Canis, the mayor’s name is Charming and he’s planning a ball. Younger children, however, will likely enjoy figuring out the “clues.”

Dialogue is plentiful and appropriate for two young sisters, however, it sometimes reads like a vocabulary lesson when Daphne stops the conversation to have a word explained. “Daphne was poring over a large book entitled Anatomy of a Giant. ‘I don’t know what this word is,’ she said. ‘How is it spelled?’ ‘A-L-L-I-A-N-C-E-S.’ ‘It’s alliances, it means to team up or join a group,’ Sabrina explained.”

An overwhelming number of “everafters” make an appearance in the story. Many will be familiar to young readers, Glinda the Good Witch, the Queen of Hearts, Momma Bear, King Arthur, Prince Charming. Many of them, however, will not – Puck, Morgan Le Fay, Frau Pfefferkuchenhaus. In any case, The Sisters Grimm offers young readers a glimpse into part of our cultural heritage in a thoroughly modern and entertaining manner.
Review Excerpts:

The October 2005, issue of Kirkus Reviews, notes " this tongue-in-cheek frolic features both a pair of memorable young sleuths and a madcap plot with plenty of leads into future episodes."

Charles De Lint writes, “…older readers will get a kick out of seeing the characters in new guises, but the writing, characterization, and plot are definitely aimed at the younger reader. …It’s fast-paced and fun, simple, but not simplistic.” (Fantasy & Science Fiction Sep 2006)

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