For a perfect combination of both fairytales and adventure without getting TOO carried away into fantasy, check out The Grimm Legacy, by Polly Shulman. It tells the story of one Elizabeth Rew, a teenager in NYC to gets offered an after-school job at the New York Circulating Material Repository – a combination of a museum and a library, where you can actually check out items in the collection like Marie Antoinette’s wig, or a fondue set from the 1920’s.
For Elizabeth (not Eliza, Beth, Betsy, or Lizzie), it’s perfect fit. Especially when she gains admission to the Repository’s special collections, the Grimm Collection in particular. There, magical items from the two brothers’ legendary stories rest in safekeeping: the shoes belonging to the 12 dancing princesses, the mirror from Snow White, seven league boots, and a cape of invisibility (if anyone can ever find it). But when some of the items start disappearing, followed by members of the Repository staff, Elizabeth and her fellow pages must race to figure out just what’s going on.
Elizabeth is an engaging narrator, if a little clueless at times. But even as she’s battling a monster or flying in winged sandals, she’s still trying to deal with the same problems as every other girl. What to do when your gorgeous best friend has the attention of the boy you like. How it’s impossible not to have a crush on the hott basketball star, even if he’s kind of a jerk. Jealousy, misunderstandings, secrets, and general confusion abound – aka the hallmarks of my teenage years. But Elizabeth wrangles her way through it all with humor instead of angst or whining, which is what keeps this book rolling along.
Shulman gives her full attention to the darker side of fairytales – not all of the Grimm’s stories end happily ever after, and as Elizabeth herself remarks, “the heroes were just as likely to be boiling people in oil.” Still, this book is great for middle-grade readers who love a good yarn, and enjoy books like the Percy Jackson series. Lots of lovely myth-knowledge woven in!