Monday, October 10, 2011

Playing at Princess

I remember wanting to be a princess, of sorts.

When I was a kid, and twirling around to the Beauty and Beast soundtrack in my favorite dance-class tutu, I'm sure I would have wanted nothing more in this world than to be a real princess. However, as you get older, you begin to realize something about princesses: They always need to maintain total control. Over themselves, over their appearance, it's a cool, calm composure at all times. Not very fun for someone who can't even manage to get her hair to turn out the same two days in a row. Also, when it comes to those old medieval princesses, it isn't what you thought when you were a kid, either: sure, there may have been a joust in your honor at some point, but it was far more likely that you were married off at the age of twelve to someone twice your age whom you'd never met. Besides, there were plenty of those revolutions and beheadings and ill-tempered husbands (hello, Henry VIII) to look out for. Doesn't seem too grand to me.

Being a reasonable child, I learned to resign myself early on to living vicariously through the heriones in my favorite books. Also, helped along by the fact that my mother kept a very strict eye on what us kids watched (meaning only G-Rated, besides The Prince of Egypt and Harry Potter before I turned 11), I cultivated a deep love for all things Disney, a love that continues on to this day. Due to these terms of escape, I avoided the typical, Pink-Sparkles-and-Unicorns Barbie-princess route, and instead chose to veer off into the untamed lands of classic children's literature and world folklore fairy stories. This is, essentially, why I am now INCREDIBLY picky about how people treat them these days.

(For instance, despite my burning, passionate love for all things Disney, I hated Tangled the first time I saw it. This personality defect on my part has since been remedied.)

Anyways, whenever I see a new fractured fairy tale or "book about books" hitting the shelves, I'm a little skeptical. The Once Upon a Time collection (from various authors), for instance, was something I initially approached with trepidation, but quickly grew to love. Same goes for Alex Flinn's books, as well as Jasper Fforde's. Geek Charming and Cindy Ella from Robin Palmer, not so much. However, these are all young adult novels.

The true test of whether a fairy-tale-based book is okay, is whether kids will read it and love it, and if adults can read it and get it. Fairy tales were designed with kids in mind, so they should be able to understand and enjoy it, but if that same happiness translates to older people, who've spent way more time with these characters, then you've got it on lock. The spell is complete, you've captured your audience. And with Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series, about two young girls who discover they're the descendants of the famous Brothers Grimm, there's plenty of pixie dust to go around.

It's a testament to my lack of willpower, that, on the car ride home from buying my youngest sister a new book to read, that I flipped open the cover of the first novel, The Fairy Tale Detectives, and proceeded to keep it from her until I finished about an hour later. What can I say? It's a really good book, and a great series. One that I felt no guilt about hoarding from my sibling until I had already gone through. The best part, for me, was that they were equal-opportunity in their fairy tale characters - while some are direct from the all-star Disney team, they also feature familiar folklore favorites, and even a Shakespearean hero (or villian, as he wants you to believe).

And you can tell that the resurgence of fairy-tale popularity is making it's mark on the mainstream: two versions of Snow White's story are being produced with major names headlining, and the storybooks are even scrambling on to the small screen (speaking of which, once you get into this book series, you may start raising your eyebrow at the premise for the new show Grimm, premiering on NBC soon. Suspicious, suspicious...). At any rate, if there's any time to be jumping on the fairy tale bandwagon, it's now, and if your sibling is complaining about not having anything good to read, it's this book that will solve your problems.

#5. Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm: Fairy Tale Detectives.

#6. Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects.

#7. Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child.

#8. Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm: Once Upon a Crime.

(Yes, I reread four of them. I'm entering into the College App death zone, okay?)

(Oh, and if you're wondering about the big, sparkly crown? It's there because now, technically, I am a princess - I won our school's Daffodil Princess pageant! Woo hoo! Now onto the bigger part of Pierce County, and who knows? Maybe I'll end up as Queen of the entire Royal Court? :) )

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