The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, published from 20015-2012 by Amulet Books and illustrated by Peter Ferguson.
The entire award-winning, New York Times Best-selling series:
- The Fairy-Tale Detectives
- The Unusual Suspects
- The Problem Child
- Once Upon a Crime
- Magic and Other Misdemeanors
- Tales From the Hood
- The Everafter War
- The Inside Story
- The Council of Mirrors
My nine year old (since she was eight) is in love with these books. She is now reading Harry Potter, has enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia and American Girls, but these are by far her favorite. Now, looking back on my own childhood reading choices (among my love for Madeleine L’Engle and The Wheel on the School stood my imposing thirst for The Babysitters’ Club), I realize that children can be a terrible gauge for literature, unless you are measuring profitability or popularity. In that case, my daughter has fallen in to line. These books are both popular and profitable and she has both fingers crossed waiting for a movie deal.
And here is the caveat: not spectacular writing. For an adult looking at the series (or even a pretty smart kid), the similes are broken, the plot is often obvious, the style mediocre (and roughly borrowed from Lemony Snickett), the characters sometimes flat (not to mention cliche)… It’s just not great. It’s not terrible, either. From a nine-year-old girl’s perspective, though, I imagine it is the fun swirling of all the familiar fairy tales and stories together and also the (mostly) compelling plot. And I have to admit, the series bettered as it went, and Puck made me LOL. You’ve got romance, you’ve got danger, you’ve got family… All mashed together with this popular kids’ black humor thing.
And you’ve got a seven and twelve year old? The youngest, especially, was distractingly young for the plot. Every time Buckley reminded me of her pigtails and overalls I felt lost. It’s fantasy, I know. For me, their ages just didn’t work, especially since the older one is hit with a pretty complicated, extended romance. Even Rowling waited until Harry was something like fifteen. And it forced a delayed ending, too (you know, “12 Years Later”), which was just a tad less than satisfying.
Plus, I find the action and fight scenes (which are prolific) to be holey. It reminds me of the advice that when writing an action scene you pull your spouse and kids into the room and make them act it out. The Grimm series is fond of creating these mental chasms in the otherwise fast-moving action scenes, and I as a reader slipped a gear in my interest-traction. Now, how could she hit HIM if she was just over there?!? Careful, there, writers.
My only other negative thing to say: the series gets suddenly witchy in the last book. I mean, like flesh-eating and frog innards and covens and whatnot. (And these are the good guys.) I guess you might see it coming, but considering that it wasn’t there before book Nine makes me want to warn you especially. If you have issues with witches and the occult over that fine line of fantasy, you’re going to be really disturbed in the last book.
I would recommend these books, with the last caveat I gave above. Of course, for kids and preteens, especially girls, but also for adults who enjoy Middle Grades fiction and want an easy, enjoyable read. Like maybe for a trip, especially to the beach. Some of the characters do fill out more as the series continues. It grows up a little, becomes more complex. And what is at first slightly unimpressive becomes reader-candy, increasingly hard to put down.