Thursday, October 13, 2011
The Sisters Grimm: The Fairytale Detectives, Book 1, by Michael Buckley (Amulet, 2007)
Sisters Daphne and Sabrina have been shuttled from foster home to foster home since their parents disappeared, so when a woman claiming to be their grandmother contacts the orphanage to claim them, Sabrina is suspicious; their parents told the girls that their grandmother was dead.
Not only is their grandmother very much alive, the girls learn that they are descended from the famous Grimm brothers and that their "fairy tales" were actually case studies - magical creatures are very real, and they're stuck in Ferryport Landing, New York, with a Grimm to act as the guardian.
As Grandma Relda and her friend Mr. Canis are investigating a mystery involving a giant, Mayor Charming and a house crushed flat, they are kidnapped by a giant and Sabrina and Daphne must find a way to rescue them. But can they trust Jack the Giant Killer, who offers to help them? What magical creatures are there to help them or hurt them - and how can they tell the difference?
This first adventure in the 7-book series is great fun for kids and adults alike - it's a great bridge between a fun, action-adventure story and the fairy tales we all grew up with. The dialogue is well-paced and smartly written, never talking down to its audience, and the characters are likable and provide a good mix of fantasy and reality. These are children who miss their parents and who fell into the cracks of a child protective system that fails to do its job. Even when they find their fantasy grandmother to love them and connect them back to their family, they face surreal dangers and have to figure out who they can trust. This is a great book for a family book group discussion, providing many ideas to talk about and delve deeper into between parents and kids. The publisher's website provides a readers' guide for this purpose (geared at librarians and teachers, but parents can build on this). The site also offers a fairy tale "regurgitator" that helps visitors create their own fairy tales.