The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

45490267Lynn: Lovers of fairy-tale twists and library-related stories – have we got a book for you! The Grimm Legacy (Penguin/Putnam 2010) is the sort of clever charming book perfectly designed to curl up with at the end of a long frustrating day. It is balm for a battered soul. If only I could distill and bottle the way this book made me feel, I’d be a wealthy woman and could give up this nonsense of working for a living.

Elizabeth is lonely at her new school. Her best friend has moved away and her widowed father doesn’t seem to have time for her since he has married again. Can you say evil stepmother New York style? She has a crush on a guy who doesn’t even notice her. Then her favorite teacher recommends her for a part-time job as a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository. This is no ordinary library lending out books, magazines and DVD’s! Instead they loan objects – everything from fondue pots to piccolos to Marie Antoinette’s wig! It’s also the home of a very special collection – the Grimm Legacy – available to only a select few because the magic is real! Here borrowers can find seven league boots, invisibility cloaks and the twelve dancing princesses’ worn out slippers. Elizabeth loves her job, makes new friends and even works with the most handsome boy at her new school. But something is afoot (beside the seven league boots) and items from the Grimm collection start to disappear. Elizabeth and her new friends decide to solve the mystery and save the collection.

This inventive romp is pure fun from beginning to end and I can’t wait to snuggle in on the next rainy day and read it all over again. Shulman has obviously had tremendous fun playing with fairy tales and it is a treat to spot the references within the story. There’s even a sweet romance, some pretty good action and a happy ending of course. The real star of the book though is The New York Circulating Materials Repository. I know it isn’t real but oh how I wish it was! I’d borrow the Table-Be-Set every night!

Cindy: I feel like I must have traded in my sense of fun for the privelege of checking out a magical item from the Grimm Collection. I liked this story, I did, but not nearly as much as I expected to, or as much as Lynn. I’m a huge fan of folktale retellings and obviously I like books with libraries, especially ones that loan out Seven League Boots and mermaid combs. I adored Shulman’s earlier book, Enthusiasm, a modern take on Pride and Prejudice, in which a girl who enthuses over one obsession after another crosses a line when she targets her best friend’s love of Jane Austen and Pride. The premise of this new one sucked me in. I did enjoy the descriptions of the odd library and the chapter leads that show an artifact on loan with Dewey number. The characterization and plotting were slightly weaker elements and lessened my enjoyment. Puzzling out the allusions to various tales was fun and this will find a ready audience among upper elementary and middle school fairy tale fans. If I were granted one circ, though, I’d go for a reread of a Grimm Collection. I feel like an intractable evil step-sister, but there you have it.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

2 Comments on "The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman"

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  1. mj@byu.edu' Mark says:

    Due to an inside relationship with the librarians at our local library, this was put on hold for me site unseen, so I went in with no expectations. The book started out great as the premise was laid out. However, by the end I felt flat and actually warned others away from it. The real problem here is that the premise is SO GREAT and Shulman wasted it making it into an extremely juvenile romance. The lead character, Elizabeth, is first introduced as a responsible, smart, etc. girl. She lands this unbelievably great job because of that, then proceeds to act in incredibly stupid and unbelievable ways. To top it off, everything turns out well for her in the end despite her dishonesty, lying, and stupidity. I’d love to see Shulman set another story in this particular library. The library and the Grimm Collection were beautifully imagined and written. The characters were cardboard cutouts that acted irrationally and spoiled what could have been a great book or even series.

  2. melaniefeyerherm@gmail.com' Melanie says:

    I agree with Cindy and Mark. I loved this book at first but the farther into it I got, the less interested I got. I would have loved more of the magic and mystery and less of the juvenile romance. I’m definitely interested in checking out Enthusiasm though!

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