Fairy Tales don’t always end with a happily every after; case in point, Little Red Riding Hood. A version of this story does indeed have Little Red Riding Hood escaping from the wolf thanks to a hunter, but her grandmother isn’t so lucky. When the hunter takes her back to town to find her parents they seem to have disappeared as well. This series of events causes Red Riding Hood to lose touch with reality. So what do you do with a deranged Fairy Tale creature? Lock them away with a spell in an asylum to keep them safe. But of course no asylum story can be complete without an escaped mental patient, and this one is looking to replace her lost family.
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In Michael Buckley’s Problem Child, the third installment in the Sisters Grimm saga, 11 year old Sabrina and 7 year old Daphne Grimm are out to capture Little Red Riding Hood, the person they believe responsible for the disappearance of their parents 1 ½ years ago. It doesn’t seem like it would be difficult to stop a little girl, no bigger than Daphne, but Red has a “kitty;” the monstrous Jabberwocky that seems unstoppable. Together with their grandmother, Relda, her constant companion, Mr. Canis and family friend Puck the girls hope Little Red Riding Hood will lead them to their parents.
The Sisters Grimm series has gone from mildly intense, to slightly frightening to downright creepy with Problem Child. The black and white sketches depict Red Riding Hood with a maniacal look on her face and even the youngest reader will be able to ascertain her departure from reality, and reading her part aloud with a deranged voice only adds to the creepy factor. Yet the book is not too intense for its target age range of 9-12.
My 8 year old daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed Problem Child. The book picks up right where the cliff hanger from the second book, The Unusual Suspects , left us, with the girls fighting off the attacking Jabberwocky and the disturbing Red Riding Hood looking on. A lot happens at breakneck speed during Problem Child, this is by far the fastest paced book of the series so far. So much happens that at times the story seems a little unfocused, but Buckley manages to keep the various threads together without going for the neat wrap up at the end.
Magic plays a much larger role in Problem Child than in the previous books, which means less problem solving and more reliance on the quick fix. This is quite purposeful as Buckley becomes preachy with characters often repeating that the use of magic always has a price. Sabrina, through whose eyes we see the story, needs to be hit over the head with this fact, several times, before it seems to start to sink in; not unlike the children reading this book.
So far, Problem Child is the best book of the series. Its quick pace will keep readers begging for time to read just one more chapter. While a summary of the story to date is integrated into this book, I would definitely recommend reading the first two books first to better understand the characters.
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