Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Before There Were Dueling Fairy Tale Shows on Prime Time, There was a Series About Young Fairy Tale Detective. Sisters Grimm Author Michael Buckley (Who is Coming to Shorewood Public Library on April 30, 6:30 pm).

By some ugly, strange, and perhaps enchanted coincidence, this current television season offered the premiere of not one but two series based on fairy tales. The ABC show, Once Upon a Time, is a creature somewhere between Lost and (insert contemporary character drama here), with a classic fairy tale storyline twisted with a contemporary one set in Storybrooke, Maine. The daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming is the only fairy creature that has been saved from a terrible curse, and the prophecy is that this will happen on her 28th birthday, which is when she takes her long-lost son back with her to Storybrooke.

On the other hand, NBC's Grimm is more of a police procedural. A detective finds out he is descended from a long line of supernatural hunters. Each week Nick Burkhardt investigates a crime that may be from the Grimm world.  Apparently Nick's creature Monroe is now the reformed Big Bad Wolf. On first description, this reminds me a bit of that old series, The Night Stalker.

But on second thought, each of these series seems to be descended from a series of novels that started in 2005, The Sisters Grimm. As is the case on Once Upon a Time, it turns out that fairy tales are real, and the characters have been enchanted and sent to a small town, in this case, Ferryport Landing in the Hudson Valley. In this new town, they have taken jobs like mayor (Prince Charming), police (The Three Pigs) and sales clerk at the big 'n' tall shop (Jack the Giant Killer).

And like Grimm, descendents of the Grimm family have learned that they have a calling, which is to solve fairytale crimes, only not ones as gruesome as on Grimm. This is a middle-grade series, after all. So our detectives are young Sabrina and Daphne, who are reunited with their mysterious Granny Zelda after living in a series of foster homes and orphanages.

In The Sisters Grimm Volume One: The Fairy-Tale Detectives, the girls are reunited with their Grandmother (Daphne with enthusiasm, but Sabrina skeptical) only to have her and Mr. Canis kidnapped by a giant. Is Prince Charming responsible? He might have a scheme to buy up all the land in town and rebuild his kingdom. You may have heard that he lost most of his fortune on the way to Ferryport Landing when one of his ships filled with treasures sunk. A series of bad investments, including a diamond mine partnership with the seven dwarves, squandered the rest.

Or perhaps Puck, the sprite from A Midsummer Night's Dream, has a hand in things. He's rather mischievous and strikes me as untrustworthy. And what about Jack (of Beanstalk fame)? Will his skills in defeating giants and stealing things like the Golden Goose help them now, what with Jack in jail.

Not just Grimm's fairy tales, but many classic magical stories are woven into Michael Buckley's mythology of The Sisters Grimm, including Alice in Wonderland, King Arthur, and The Wizard of Oz. No Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings though--it turns out the time of enchantment ends in 1923, the year that copyright law goes into effect. Interestingly enough, Grimm probably faces the same problem, but Once Upon a Time, being as it is under the auspices of a Disney subsidiary, weaves in references to Disney product such as the names of the seven dwarves, and 101 Dalmations.

Just another example of how the expanded copyright laws constrict creativity for the benefit of corporations whose owners were not even alive at the time of its creation. But I digress. In any case, I want to set the record straight that if you think Buckley's series is borrowing from these two current television shows, his first book in the series came out in 2005.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to read finish nine volumes of The Sisters Grimm before Michael Buckley visits the Shorewood Public Library on Monday, April 30, 6:30 pm (3920 North Murray Avenue) in an event co-sponsored by Boswell Book Company, but I'm hoping to get through at least one more volume. Here's a checklist of the entire series:

1. The Fairy-Tale Detectives
2. The Unsual Suspects
3. The Problem Child
4. Once Upon a Crime
5. Magic and Other Misdemeanors
6. Tales from the Hood
7. The Ever After War
8. The Inside Story
9. The Council of Mirrors, which will be brand new in hardcover for our event.

If you can't come, we can get a copy signed for you. Just order and request one. Personalize copies must be prepaid by credit card. And if you need some help sorting out the series, Amulet has published A Very Grimm Guide, which is quite helpful, with character profiles, maps, a directory of found objects, and helpful facts.

Hey, fans of NERDS, you should come too. The Sisters Grimm series is just as silly, and can tide you over until the release of #4 in the series, The Villain Virus, which goes on sale this coming September. Plus I'm sure Mr. Buckley will answer your questions about how exactly eating paste can turn you into a superhero.

Other upcoming kids' events co-sponsored by Boswell:
Thursday, April 12, 7 pm: Trenton Lee Stewart at Boswell, 2559 N Downer Ave
Tuesday, April 17, 7 pm: Kate Di Camillo at Centennial Hall, 733 N. Eighth St.
Thursday, April 19, 6:30 pm: Herman Parish at Greenfield Library, 5310 W. Layton Ave.

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