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The Problem Child (Sisters Grimm #3), by Michael Buckley

Updated on March 20, 2016

Before Reading

I know where this book is going, since I've read the series before. I also know one thing that will drive me absolutely batty about this volume of the series. I wonder if I can get a bag full of superballs somewhere so that I have something safe and cathartic to throw whenever the-thing-that-bothers-me comes up.

After Reading

(author's note: I never did find the superballs. I did, however, find some nice hefty buttons in the craft department of my store. And yes, it was cathartic to throw them).

When we left the world of the Sisters Grimm, Sabrina and Puck had traveled through the magic portal created by the Little Match Girl's last magic match -- I don't even know where to start with this diversion from the original Andersen tale so I'll put it off until later -- in order to travel to where Veronica and Henry are.

Sabrina and Puck find Henry and Veronica, all right. They also find a maniacally cackling little girl in a red cloak accompanied by a horrible monster. While escaping from the horrible monster, Sabrina breaks her arm, which leads to the next mystery that the girls have to deal with, when Sabrina gets flowers signed by an "Uncle Jake."

We find out that Boarman and Swineheart, who used to be half of the Ferryport Landing police force have gone back into the construction business. They have not included Hamstead in their business because they want to concentrate on wood and brick construction, and Hamstead was the Little Pig who built his home from straw. The first construction project they work on is a new school for the town, to replace the one that Rumplestiltskin wrecked in "The Unusual Suspects."

While the Grimms are at the dedication for the school, the Queen of Hearts arrives and declares that she will be running for Mayor and that the Sheriff of Nottingham will be running for Sheriff.

Later the girls discover that they do, in fact, have an Uncle Jake -- Jacob Grimm, their father's younger brother. Jacob arrives and tells the girls that the horrible monster that attacked Sabrina and Puck is the Jabberwock. Okay, he tells them that it is a "Jabberwocky," and everyone, including the narrator, continue to use that term throughout the book. Look, the monster is the "Jabberwock." That is clear from the poem. Never once does Carroll refer to it as a "Jabberwock'" or a "Jabberwock*" or anything else that would indicate that there is a final "y" that has been elided. Since he doesn't do this, the word "Jabberwock" must end with that final "k." Why, yes, this is the issue that makes me want to throw things.

So, anyway, as anyone familiar with the poem knows, there is only one weapon that can defeat the Jabberwock* and that weapon has been broken into three parts. One is still in the possession of the Grimms and the other two have been given to others for safekeeping. And once they have the pieces, there is only one force that can join them; the same force that turned a puppet into a living boy; the Blue Fairy. Unfortunately, the Blue Fairy has gone incognito and no one knows who among the residents of Ferryport Landing she is.

Other important events occur during this book. The girls hear the story of how their grandfather Basil died. Puck's character gets more development. And we find out the outcome of the election.

"The Problem Child" is a meditation on power and its uses. Jake wants power in part because it's fun, though there are deeper reasons behind it as well. Sabrina wants power because it can help her protect her family. And the Blue Fairy, of course, is trying to hide hers, lest someone finds a way to exploit it. Because, as both she and Relda know, power, particularly magical power, comes with a price.

As for the liberty that Buckley takes with "The Little Match Girl," remember the original story where the girl eventually dies of hypothermia. If the matches had actually been magic and had transported her to the places she saw, she would have been able to warm up and would not have died. Additionally, the matches that Sabrina uses do not transport her back to her point of origin when they burn out, which the matches in the original story would have had to have done, based on the fact that, if the matches truly had transported her, she would have gone from sitting under the Christmas tree back to the outdoor corner without moving a muscle. So, it's a great idea for this book, but not exactly true to the original.

"The Problem Child" is the first of the books where the activity of the actual book spills over into the following volume. From this point on, there will be a plot contained in each book, but the overall storyline will continue unbroken from one book to the next.

Despite some of the details making me a bit twitchy, there is a lot to recommend this book, including the development of both Sabrina and Jake. We get to spend time with some old friends and a number of details in this book, as always, play right into the overall plot of the series.


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