Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book Review: The Problem Child by Michael Buckley (Sisters Grimm #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Imaginative, fun, fast paced, great character development
Cons: Weak ending
The Bottom Line:
Third entry is great
Ending is the only flaw
Small flaw overall




You'll Definitely Want to Meet the Problem Child

The great thing about fairy tales is that they can be used and adapted to tell all kinds of stories.  And that's what makes The Sisters Grimm such a great series.  It puts all those classic characters in modern New York StateThe Problem Child is the third book in the series, and my favorite to date.

As the series opened, preteen Sabrina Grimm and her younger sister Daphne were wards of the state after the disappearance of their parents.  That changed when they discovered they had one relative they never knew about - a grandmother living in the town of Ferryport Landing.  It was there they learned they were the descendents of the Brothers Grimm, who were actually historians, recording the events of real life magical people.  All of the fairy tale characters now live in the town of Ferryport Landing, where it is the Grimm family's responsibility to keep them from running amuck.

This book opens with good news and bad news.  The good news is that Sabrina has found her parents.  The bad news is that they are in an enchanted sleep and being held captive by Little Red Riding Hood and her pet Jabberwocky.

Sabrina hardly has time to process this news when her uncle Jake shows up in town.  Sabrina and Daphne have never heard of him before, but that's not as big a surprise as finding out that the other residents of Ferryport Landing don't remember him either.  What secret might he and Granny be hiding?  Will that secret get back the girls' parents?

As much as I have enjoyed the previous books in the series, I have felt that the first half moved a little slowly.  That certainly wasn't the case here.  The story picks up with the cliffhanger from the last book in the series.  There is enough information that if you haven't read either of the previous books, you could jump in here.  Frankly, I was glad for a bit of a refresher since it had been a few months since I finish the second book.

Anyway, the story never really slowed down.  It introduced characters without slowing things down at all.  I was turning pages as quickly as I could and only put it down reluctantly.  There were several nice surprises and twists before the climax.  Honestly, the climax was my only complaint about the book.  It felt like a cheat in many ways, like the author had written himself into a corner and didn't quite know how else to end things.

I've also had problems with Sabrina in previous books.  She's headstrong and more than a bit rebellious.  While that was still the case here, I felt like she was softening quite a bit.  She's still willing to go after what she wants, but she isn't as reckless and actually does listen to others (usually before doing what she wants anyway).  I could definitely see her character evolving even further during this book, and hope the change continues in the next entry.

Since Sabrina is the main character, she gets the most development, but the other characters are also well developed.  Puck, a magical character, goes through a bit of a change himself here that I found funny.  And speaking of funny, some of my favorite scenes involved Daphne.  She's also been strong, but her new self-defense was rather funny.

Since the book is aimed at late elementary school, I had no problem reading it.  I can't imagine anyone in the target age group stumbling over it took much.  There are a few pencil illustrations (about 11) in the book that are beautiful.

The Problem Child builds on the previous two books and really steps up the story telling in the series.  While you could jump in here, to fully appreciate this book, I do recommend starting with the first in the series.

As the series progresses, it becomes more important to read the Sisters Grimm Series in order.

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