Cammy has a soft spot for children’s and young adult literature. I do not share this particular weakness. Maybe it’s because I’m not as much a fan of kids? I dunno. There are a few like Harry Potter which have drawn me in. A lot I can appreciate the value of and a few for which I have fond nostalgic memories (Babysitter’s Club!). So when I was recently assigned to read a children’s book for one of my classes, Cammy was much more excited than I was.
Yeah. She didn’t have to read it.
*Warning: This review will contain spoilers. If you’re concerned about having young adult fiction spoiled for you, stop reading.*
The book in question was the first book in Michael Buckley’s The Sister’s Grimm series, The Fairy-tale Detectives. Now before I go any further, I have to say, it’s not terrible. It’s not offensive. I would give this to my niece and not worry about how it was damaging her. Or that it was poorly written. It is overall, mediocre. And as such, I have an easier time saying what’s bad about it than what’s good.
The book tells the story of two sisters, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, whose parents mysteriously disappeared. Having bounced around painfully in the foster system the girls are sent to live with their Granny Relda who they believed to be dead. They then discover that they are descendants of the Brothers Grimm, that all fairy tales/legends/random fantasy fictions are real and that the characters from said tales have been resettled in a small town in New York called Ferryport Landing (get it? Ferryport=Fairy Port! Very original). Oh yeah, and Granny’s a crime fighter. And Prince Charming is mean and trying to replace democracy with monarchy. Oh also, there’s a giant on the loose. Wackiness ensues but just like a Disney movie things all get worked out in the end.
The good: Like most geeks, I like the idea of a world where fairy tales are real. And it’s fun to see all those characters interacting in the modern world. Um… yeah, that’s about it.
The bad: Said concept is also not very original. I’ve seen it done plenty of times, usually better. If you can’t be original, you should at least be good at being unoriginal.
Dull characters. I’m not big on most kids, but these are particularly annoying. Sabrina who is the more central character really needs a couple smacks in the mouth. Granny Relda never quite makes it to lovable eccentric, she’s just the old lady who cooks strange food and fails to give her granddaughters information they really need to have.
Call me a prude, but I was bothered by Sabrina killing the giant at the end. Particularly seeing as by that point the audience has been told that the giant is just a tool, not the criminal mastermind. It just seemed… inappropriate to have an eleven year old killing someone in such a causal manner. Then there’s a moral issue with the entire premise. We are to understand that essentially all the characters from the fairy tales we know and love are being kept in what is essentially a Gulag. And the Grimms put them there. But the Grimms are the good guys. Um… what?
And this might be the folklorist in me, but the fairy tale incorporation is lackluster. First, Buckley’s definition of fairy tale is extremely broad (The Wizard of Oz, really?). Add to that he apparently found inspiration in the lesser known elements of these tales and yet, what he uses are essentially the Disney versions. And after tons of prose about all the source material Granny Relda has on fairy tales, none of that turns out to be important in solving the case. It seems like a lot of lost opportunity.
Again, I need to reiterate, it’s not a terrible book. It’s just a lot easier for me to find what’s wrong with it than what’s right with it. Apparently others have not, as the series is now on book eight, so it would seem someone wants to keep reading them. I will not be one of those people.