In Gregor the Overlander I learned there was a mysterious subterranean land under New York City. Now it turns out there’s an enchanted town a little ways up the Hudson, full of Everafters (characters from your favorite fairy tales) who must assimilate into normal human life because of a curse that won’t let them leave town. I’ve been reading The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley. In this series, two orphaned girls, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, go to live with their grandmother in Fairyport Landing and soon discover that they are descendants of the famous Brothers Grimm.
When you’ve got a town full of trapped Everafters, some bad and mysterious things are bound to happen with all that pent-up magic. Granny Relda Grimm involves herself with all of these mysteries, and soon Sabrina and Daphne get caught up in the detective work, too.
The mysteries of the books are entertaining and action-packed, and very, very meta. Prince Charming is the town’s mayor. Puck, the Trickster King, is their reluctant housemate. One of the three little pigs is sheriff. Snow White teaches at the school where the Pied Piper is principal. You really have to have a good handle on your fairy tales to fully enjoy these books. References range from Rumpelstiltskin to Jack and the Beanstalk to the Wizard of Oz to Pinocchio to Alice in Wonderland to the Frog Prince. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine talking about books like Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (as told from the wolf’s perspective). These books rely heavily on a knowledge of fairy tales to really enjoy, but how well do kids know these fairy tales? It has set me on a mission to introduce Olive to more of these classic stories.
My only beef with The Sisters Grimm is with the illustrations. Don’t get me wrong, the illustrations by Peter Ferguson are moody and cool. My problem is with the story moments they’ve chosen to illustrate. The book has set up Sabrina and Daphne as these defiant, brave girls who aren’t afraid to get in the action and go after the bad guy. The illustrations, however, mostly show the girls running scared or being saved by someone else. The illustrations delight more in Puck’s antics and bad guy scowls. It is the girls who are at the heart of the action, and the pics should show it. OK, rant over – these books are great. Go read them.