The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book, the first in the Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, has a clever premise - that fairy tales are real and that after years of tension and persecution from humans, fairy tale creatures, (or Everafters, as the fairy tale creatures refer to themselves), have left their homelands and moved to America. Settling here hundreds of years ago when America was still relatively unpopulated, tensions between Everafters and humans once again flare as civilization impinges on their new home. The series is centered around Sabrina and Daphne Grimm and their grandmother Relda who is in charge of solving any mysteries that arise involving the Everafters. And yes, they are supposed to be descendants of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the original "fairy-tale guys." My first thought when I began reading this book was that it was nothing but a kid-friendly rip-off of "Fables," the long running graphic novel series by the talented Bill Willingham. The premise in "Fables" is very similar - characters in fairy tales are real, they have been persecuted and forced into exile in our world where they must learn to live in hiding among humans. “Fables” made its debut in 2002. The Sisters Grimm series began in 2005, so it's very possible that author Michael Buckley was aware of it. Now, the new ABC TV series "Once Upon a Time" has a similar premise, so I guess this is one of those ideas, that once out there, is picked up and 'borrowed' by others. Since all of these fairy tale characters are in the public domain, I guess they're fair game for authors to use in any way they want. If you want to trace this trend back even further, I suppose you could make the case that author Gregory Maguire popularized the idea when he wrote his best-selling novel, "Wicked" that gave us the backstory to the Wicked Witch of the West and allowed us to see the events from "The Wizard of Oz," from the 'villains' point of view. Anyway, I suppose authors borrow from one another all of the time. Although "Fables" and "Wicked" are definitely for adults, this is the first time I've seen the premise adapted for kids. I did enjoy this book quite a bit, it’s well written, the story moves along quickly and the three main characters are nicely developed. In the beginning of the book the two girls are orphans being shuttled from foster home to foster home. When they finally end up with Relda Grimm, the younger girl, Daphne, is delighted by the woman’s eccentricities but her older sister Sabrina doubts the woman’s stories and, since they were told they had no living relatives, believes the woman to be a liar. Buckley does a good job of dramatizing the tension between the two girls and in portraying Sabrina’s doubts and her later remorse when she finally is shown proof that Relda is what she claims to be. The plot revolves around the destructive appearance of a giant in the town of Ferryport Landing, a strange occurrence considering that all of the beanstalks had been destroyed and all of the magic beans confiscated, cutting the giants off from contact with the other Everafters. Who has helped the giants return to our world? Can the Grimms gain control of the situation before word spreads outside of Ferryport Landing? When Relda and her friend Mr. Canis are kidnapped by the giant, it’s up to the two young Grimm sisters to solve the mystery and save their grandmother. Along the way we get to meet Mayor Charming (the former Prince Charming), Jack (of Jack and the beanstalk fame), Puck (from ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream), the Magic Mirror (from Snow White) and several other familiar fairy tale characters. The book is a fun read, and Buckley does a great job of bringing childhood favorites into the ‘real’ world. Sure to appeal to fans of magical stories, especially those that enjoy an element of mystery. The atmospheric illustrations by Peter Ferguson are an additional treat!
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