Search This Blog

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Sisters Grimm Book One (R.I.P. #5)

Buckley, Michael. The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives. Written for very young readers (grades 4-6), The Sisters Grimm feature two young sisters whose parents have disappeared. After spending over a year in and out of foster care, Sabrina and Daphne are placed with a grandmother they did not know they had. Sabrina is suspicious of Granny Relda and plans on making an escape. The girls, however, find themselves in the town of Ferryport Landing where humans and characters from fairy tales exist side by side, and they are quickly required to solve a mystery and locate their Granny Relda before it is too late.

I'm of two minds on this book: first, I think it would appeal to very young readers. On the other hand, I'm one of those who doesn't really care for watered down fairy tales. The book takes a humorous approach, but I find the altered personalities of some of the characters disconcerting.

Fairy tales-- the very scary and often very sad kind-- were a part of my early childhood. I read and cried over The Little Match Girl, too many times to count. I found Hansel and Gretel terrifying--what father would obey a stepmother and lead his children into the woods in order to abandon them? Fairy tales made me grieve, they frightened me, and they made me think. I knew no stepmother could ever change my father's love, but what about those children whose parents didn't seem as committed to each other or to their children as my parents? My imagination moved events back and forth from the fairy tale world to the real one.

Memories of one leather-bound set that I loved are as clear as anything in my childhood. That set belonged to my aunt, and my cousins (all boys) were not interested in them, but I loved the embossed and gilded leather of those books and remember turning over and over to certain volumes and certain stories. Aunt Janice treasured those books from her childhood, and so did I. What ever happened to them, I wonder. I can still conjure up the images I formed then, as well as the sense of right and wrong that evolved as I judged the tales and the characters. The original Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen told the fairy tales I loved, feared, delighted in, not Disney.

I don't think the modern, tidy, sanitized versions hold up as well because they skim the surface and avoid the depths; children deserve more credit.

So... what do I think of The Sisters Grimm? It's fine if you want pancakes, but if you want meat and potatoes, the book will not quite satisfy. Or maybe I'm just too old to make a contemporary judgment... I loved Nancy Drew when I was young, not exactly thought-provoking, but thoroughly entertaining. We all want pancakes some of the time. Then, as now, I was an indiscriminate reader, bouncing from adult novels to children's books and from fiction to nonfiction without blinking an eye. Remember the biographies for young readers? And the books about wasps and ants?

I ordered the second in the series, The Unusual Suspects, at the same time and will read it as well. The series may grow on me. I do love the covers!

This site has a great atmospheric piece of music and other info on The Sisters Grimm series.

Fiction. Young reader/ mystery/ fairy tale. 2007. 284 pages.


  1. I enjoy the series, but I think I understand what you're saying. I loved the site. And I especially loved the music. It stays with you. At least, I often get it in my head. I think you may enjoy some of the other titles more. I've found that I really love some more than others. Depending on what 'fairy/folk' creatures appear. I think it was the second one that I loved so much.

  2. What is it about The Little Match Girl? I read it many times as a girl; it really is a tear-jerker.

  3. I don't think the modern, tidy, sanitized versions hold up as well because they skim the surface and avoid the depths; children deserve more credit.

    I so agree with that statement. When I find my childhood fairy tale book (which is, unfortunately, in pieces), I'll have to photograph it. The illustrations are stunning. Fairy tales were definitely uncomfortable stories to read, weren't they? And, yet, I reread my book of fairy tales so many times it would be impossible to count. I still have visual images of deer stamping and sending a spray of jewels into the air, little children following a trail of bread crumbs with such innocence. They were wonderful.

  4. This reminded me of how much I loved fairy tales as a child. It made me go and look for my copy of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales. It was actually my mother's book and like Bookfool's book it's falling to pieces. I also loved Grimm's fairy stories, but sadly no longer have the book.

  5. Becky --The music is so pleasantly eerie, isn't it? The second book may be better as the characters begin to develop a personality; I've found that to be true for other series.

    Jill -- Oh, yeah. Maybe it was a catharsis thing, but I couldn't even think about "The Little Match Girl" or "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" without tears.

    Bookfool -- I love the illustrations in the older books! Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, Gustave Dore, Jesse Wilcox Smith, and more. Not that there aren't marvelous illustrators today -- Terry Windling is a favorite, and the illustrators she highlights on Endicott Redux.

    Booksplease -- Those books of fairy tales that have been passed down are even better!

  6. What a great review!! I'm really impressed with the things you had to say about this! I don't like the water-down versions either!

  7. I couldn't agree more Jenclair. I think it's ridiculous to try and sanitize these much-loved fairy tales, sure, some of them were scary and made my heart thump a bit when I read them as a little girl, but all in a good way. It definitely fired up the imagination and made us so thankful for loving moms and dads (I'm thinking of the numerous stories with wicked stepmothers as I type this!). My grandchildren, if and when I have them, will get my set of Grimms Fairy Tales (my mom's keeping them for me).

  8. Stephanie -- This book is such a re-interpretation of fairy tales, but I can see that it would appeal to children. The originals, though-- now, there are stories to lodge in the memory palaces of one's brain!

    Lotus -- Another treasured set to pass down. At least these scary stories are fantasy, unlike what we see on television and in the paper.

  9. Wonderful review. Thanks for sharing your memories of fairy tales when you were younger. I remember being disturbed when the father led his children into the woods. I look forward to seeing how you like the next in this series.

  10. framed -- Fairy tales are more influential than we realize. When people begin reflecting on fairy tales, they are often surprised at how many of the stories have stayed with them and at how many details and images have remained. I will get back to the Grimm sisters soon. :)

  11. I love the sisters Grimm! It's full of wonder and fantasy. I hate when people talk bad about it! Sabrina is alot like me! I would do anything for mylittle brother. Except it's a sister she's protecting. Sisters Grimm rules!