Tuesday, February 1, 2011

REVIEW: The Sisters Grimm Book One: The Fairy-Tale Detectives Funsies! Like Percy Jackson. But with fairy tale characters instead of Greek gods.

Hello, few but dear readers!  I'm sorry for the lack of posts recently.  I keep going through phases were I do incredible amounts of work on my dissertation, then I slack in front of the TV for two days.  AND NO READING GETS DONE IN EITHER PHASE.  Maybe I'll improve.  Maybe I won't.  We'll see.

Any-hoo, Review!

Buckley, M.  (2007).  The Sisters Grimm:  The Fairy-Tale Detectives.  New York:  Amulet Books.

284 pages.

Appetizer:  Ever since their parents mysteriously disappeared, eleven-year-old Sabrina and seven-year-old Daphne have bounced from horrible foster home to horrible foster home.  But now, a woman is claiming to be their grandmother and has requested the sisters come to her home in Ferryport Landing, New York.  While Daphne is excited, Sabrina has her doubts.  Mostly because her father had always said the girls' grandmother was dead.

Soon after the girls arrive, they learn that their Granny Relda Grimm isn't like most other grandmas and the town isn't like most oth...you get the idea.  Ferryport Landing is home to all the creatures and characters of fairy tales that you can think of.  Wilhelm Grimm (of The Brothers Grimm) brought them to America.  All of the fairy tale creatures have been cursed to remain within the town.  As long as a Grimm family member is alive and living in the town, the creatures are stuck in town too.  The only way to bring down the barrier is to get rid of the Grimms and the longer Sabrina and Daphne stay in town, the more they realize a lot of the fairy tale characters would like to be free.  And to make matters worse, it would seem a giant is on the loose and has taken Granny Relda before the girls can really get to know her.

This series really is the fairy tale equivalent of the Percy Jackson series which includes the gods of Greek myth.  The Fairy-Tale Detectives is action-packed and fun.  But having said that, I had trouble getting into it.  I really liked Sabrina's emotional characterization as she resists getting to know her grandmother, but still longs for a family and deals with being responsible for her litter sister.  It took be almost the entire book to figure out what my problem was.  A lot of the action seemed too rushed.  I didn't really feel any tension or threat.  Even with my problem getting into the story, I'll probably go on to read more of the series at some point.  (There are some subtle implications about nationalism and America and the series is just *asking* to be compared to rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series.  I can't help myself.)

I actually decided to assign this novel to my undergrads.  My students seemed to really enjoy it.  Some found it to be completely fast-paced, which puts my complaints down the drain.  What do I know, huh?  They also thought it would be a good movie and several wanted to continue with the series.  Most of my students thought it might be hard to get male readers to engage with the series (even though it seems the Puck character, introduced mid-book, is there just for that purpose).  But I was excited when one of my students, who seems like a bit of a reluctant reader, asked to borrow the first book in Buckley's other series, NERDS, which seems more boy-welcoming.

For the week's readings, I decided to include it with several different versions of The Three Little Pigs:

The contrasts were a lot of fun.

Dinner Conversation:

"I'm going to die of boredom here, Sabrina Grimm thought as she looked out the train window at Ferryport Landing, New York.
The little town in the distance seemed to be mostly hills and trees next tot he cold, gray Hudson River.  A few two- and three-story brownstone buildings huddled around what appeared to be the town's only street.  Beyond it were endless acres of evergreen forest.  Sabrina could see no movie theaters, malls, or museums, and felt using the word town to describe Ferryport Landing was a bit of a stretch."  (p. 1)

"Sabrina was sure it was Ms. Smirt's personal mission to get the girls out of the orphanage and into a foster home.  So far she had failed miserably.  She'd sent them to live with people who were usually mean and occasionally crazy, and who had used them as maids, house sitters, or just plain ignored them.  But this time Ms. Smirt was sending them to live with a dead woman.
"I hope you don't bother your grandmother with all these ridiculous questions!" Ms. Smirt said curtly, which was how she said most things to Sabrina and Daphne.  "She is old and cannot handle a lot of trouble."
"She's dead!  I've already told you a million times, our grandmother is dead!" said Sabrina." (p. 3).

"And, with a couple of exceptions, things have been pretty peaceful in Ferryport Landing between humans and Everafters.  But just a look through Jacob and Wilhelm's book, and the books of Hans Christian Andersen, Andrew Lang, Lewis Carroll, Jonathan Swift, and countless other chronicles of Everafters shows you how fragile the peace is, and the trouble could be right around the corner.  So, like Wilhelm, we have the responsibility of keeping this pot from boiling over.  We watch the town, investigate anything strange or criminal, and document what we see, so that when we are gone our children will know what we went through.  Think of us as detectives."  (pp. 69-70)

"Daphne, that mosnter was real.  We can't fight that by ourselves.  Even if we knew where he carried them off to, I don't think we could get them back.  What are a seven-year0old and an eleven-year-old going to do about a giant?"
"You're almost twelve," Daphne said, wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her fuzzy orange shirt.  "Besides, you heard Granny Relda.  We're Grimms and this is what Grimms do.  We take care of fairy-tale problems.  We'll find a way to save Granny and Mr. Canis."  (pp. 106-107)

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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