“The Sister’s Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives” by Michael Buckley

The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  Daphne and Sabrina have bounced among foster homes for the past few years ever since their parents passed away.  Their latest foster mother is an eccentric old woman calling herself Mrs. Grimm and claiming to be the girls’s grandmother.  She takes the girls to her old house stocked with eccentric items and, in time, strongly hints that the girls are part of an old family tradition of keeping fairy tale characters–known as everafters–in line and out of sight.  The girls are mostly skeptical until the grandmother and her chauffeur are kidnapped by a giant.  It’s up to Daphne and Sabrina to track down their grandmother, solve the mystery of why this giant is terrorizing the town, and live up to their family name of Grimm.

My Take:  This light hearted romp featuring a cast of characters from well known fairy tales and children’s literature is a good choice for children looking for a fun read.  Buckley manages to balance the right amount of realism and zaniness so that even when the book incorporates darker elements, it never takes itself too seriously.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to his website, Michael Buckley attempted to be a stand up comedian and lead singer of a punk rock band before going to college.

“Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin” by Liesl Shurtliff

rumpThe Story in 5 Sentences Or Less:  Rump lives with his Gran in a village in the mountains where people pass their miserable days working the gold mines to receive their weekly food rations from the town Miller.  Rump’s life changes when he salvages a spinning wheel that was once his mothers and soon discovers that he has the power to spin straw into gold.  At first, the greedy Miller demands all of the gold that Rump spins, but soon the King wants his cut too and mistakenly kidnaps the Miller’s daughter, Opal, thinking that she is the one performing the magic alchemy.

My Take:  I found this book to be an interesting take on the old Grimm’s fairy tale.  Shurtliff presents Rump as an unlikely hero on a journey of adventure and self discovery.  Despite the use of well worn juvenile fantasy elements, (castles, trolls, witches, etc.), I found myself pulled along by the character of Rump.  I was with him all the way as he grappled to control his power and unearthed more secrets about his past.  I would recommend this book for kids grades 3 and above who like fairy tales and fantasy.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to her website, Shurtliff grew up in Utah with 7 brothers and sisters.  The license plate on the family van was “8SGREAT.”



Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde



Genre: Fairytale Fiction


Series? No


Audience Age: 7-11


Rating (1-5):  2 


The story in no more than five sentences: Princess Imogene Eustacia Wellington meets a talking frog near a pond who claims that he is a prince who has been turned into a frog by a witch.  When Imogene kisses him, the spell reverses by turning her into a frog instead!  Imogene tracks down the witch who takes responsibility for the spell but refuses to help her.  A group of traveling players then kidnaps the Princess frog.  After several abominable productions around the kingdom, Imogene escapes, is reunited with her family, and eventually casts off the spell by kissing a frog.

The best part of the book in 1 sentence:   The best part of this book is the convincing characterization of Imogene, who is not too sweet, not too cynical as she tries cast off the spell without inflicting it upon someone else.


The worst part of the book in 1 sentence:   I found the middle part of the book in which she is traveling with a group of players tedious after awhile.  

1 interesting note about the author:  The name Vivian Vande Velde is a mouthful!  You may hear her pronounce her name here at teachingbooks.net

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

 The monster comes just after midnight for thirteen year old Connor O’Malley.  The yew tree in the church yard across from his house folds itself into the shape of a large man and lowers its eye to Connor’s window.  It demands his attention.

But that isn’t the scariest thing in Connor’s life right now: his mother is dying from cancer.  She scarcely has the strength to make it out of bed these days and the new treatments don’t seem to be working.  His grandmother, abrupt and not inclined towards sweetness, has begun visiting more frequently to help out and make Connor’s days more unbearable.  His father, who lives in America, has also made plans to come see him through this difficult time.

Things are also going terribly at school.  The local bullies, sensing his sorrow, have made a target of him.  But perhaps their attention is almost better than being ignored by the rest of his classmates.

And then there is the monster.  It says that it will tell him 3 tales.  And then Connor must tell it the 4th.  These stories, through their confusion and harsh realities, disrupt him even further and put him face to face with his most dreaded nightmare of all.

I loved this book, but felt that it was really an adult novel.  It wasn’t the language or content, but rather the theme of death and sorrow that makes it more inclined towards older readers.  This is a sad tale, but I found it cathartic.

Ages 13+ Young Adult Fiction

“A Tale Dark & Grimm” by Adam Gidwitz

  This is a bloody good book.  Literally.  Hansel and Gretel are the main characters, but their story is not confined to just meeting the witch with the candy house in the forest.  Rather, Gidwitz mines the complete collection of the Grimm’s Fairytales and has the brother and sister show up in stories with which younger readers will probably be unfamiliar.  Along the way, heads are cut off, fingers are severed, and people are cooked.  Because of this reason, this book may be too much to handle for younger readers (in fact, the narrator pops in and out warning the reader to keep the younger kids away).   I would definitely recommend A Tale Dark and Grimm to older readers looking for updated fairytales with a lot of blood.  Grades 5+

The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowan

 A wonderful, modern twist on Hansel and Gretel.  Sol and Connie have moved with their father and stepmother to a new town.  The neighbor next door, Ms. Holaderry, seems a bit funny, especially when Sol realizes that her dog has been gnawing on a human femur!   After a few visits to their local public library (!!), the children surmise that she is indeed an evil witch.

I truly enjoyed this book.  McGowan is able to preserve the simplicity of the old tale while also updating it for a modern audience.  For such a quick read, the book still manages to build the characters so that the reader becomes invested in them.   One especially strong point of the book is the old lady at the local curiosity shop.  She is the “good witch” of the story who is able to indirectly aid the children in their attempts to evade Ms. Holaderry.  I truly enjoyed this delightful fairy tale.  Ages 9-11