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Book Review

This fantasy novel written by Michael Buckley is the second in " The Sisters Grimm" series and is published by Amulet Books.

The Unusual Suspects is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Having been sent to live with their eccentric grandmother (Granny Relda) in tiny Ferryport Landing, N.Y., orphans Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are now enrolled in school. On their first day at Ferryport Landing Elementary, 7-year-old Daphne learns she has Snow White as a teacher. She loves school, and her positive, carefree attitude endears her to her fellow students. Eleven-year-old Sabrina isn't so lucky; her teacher is Mr. Grumpner, a crabby, abusive man, who seems to hate everyone, especially children.

The Grimms are descended from one of the famous Brothers Grimm. They are the caretakers of the town and peacekeepers between the Everafters, characters from classic fairy tales and stories, such as Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, the three pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. A spell put on the town creates an invisible barrier around it so the Everafters cannot leave as long as a Grimm is alive.

The three Grimm females, along with Puck, whom Granny Relda has adopted, are thrust into another mystery when Sabrina and Daphne find Mr. Grumpner dead. The teacher is hanging from the ceiling of his classroom in what looks like a huge spider's web.

On the second day of school, Sabrina is given detention, and she persuades Daphne to do something to be assigned detention, too. As they enter the detention room after school, they stumble on a horrifying scene: Charlie the janitor is lying dead on the floor. His overalls cover his skeletal remains.

The girls notice Wendell Hamelin, the principal's son, escaping out of the room's window. He runs into the woods beyond the school. Along with Puck, who has been sent to school by Granny Relda as the girls' bodyguard, they give chase. They discover Wendell in the forest, but when he learns they doubt his innocence, he blows on his harmonica and hundreds of rabbits attack the trio. (Wendell's father is the Pied Piper, and Wendell shares his dad's Everafter magical powers.) Puck, who can sprout wings, saves the girls by picking them up and flying them out of the woods. Later that night, the three of them and Granny Relda go back in the woods and rescue Wendell.

The next day at school, the sisters, Puck and Wendell, who now fancies himself a detective, search for clues to the mystery by trying to sneak into the boiler room, which is locked. They drink a magic potion from Alice in Wonderland and shrink so that they can sneak under the locked door. While inside, they overhear an ominous conversation between Principal Hamelin and another man about a major event that will happen that night.

The girls tell Granny Relda what they've heard. Since they'd disobeyed her by sneaking into the boiler room, she makes the girls stay home with Snow White as their baby sitter. Meanwhile, Granny and Mr. Canis, her chauffer who is also the Big Bad Wolf, head back to the school. The girls find more clues about what might be happening at the school in journals and stories that they read and convince Snow White to take them there.

Sabrina figures out that Rumplestiltskin is behind everything. He has convinced the Pied Piper to use his magical powers to hypnotize the schoolchildren into digging a tunnel that leads from the school's boiler room and underneath the river so they can escape Ferryport Landing. The spell around the town preventing the Everafters from leaving is not nearly as strong underground.

The Grimms realize, however, that Rumplestiltskin's plan won't work. The end result will be the tunnel caving in and burying everyone who is in it. After a long and scary fight in the tunnel — between the Grimms, Puck, and several monsters — Rumplestiltskin is apprehended and the plan is averted.

At the very end of the book Sabrina enters a magic portal, which leads into the room where her kidnapped parents lie sleeping on a bed. A creepy, sadistic young girl wearing a red cloak confronts her. Puck enters the portal to bring Sabrina back, but the portal's opening closes before either of them can return to Ferryport Landing.

Christian Beliefs

None, although during a scary scene, Sabrina is searching for her missing loved ones, and she prays that they are still alive.

Other Belief Systems

The Everafters are immortal and are able to perform magic. For example, Sabrina receives a gift of two matches from the Little Match Girl. When they are struck, they open a magic portal to wherever the person with the matches wants to go.

Authority Roles

Granny Relda is a wonderful grandmother: She is loving, kind, fun, full of adventure, a great cook and fiercely loyal. She also believes in disciplining her grandchildren and instilling them with good character qualities. Snow White is, of course, the best elementary teacher a child could want. She truly cares for her students. She even teaches a self-defense class and knows karate.

Mr. Grumpner is the worst possible teacher imaginable. He is foul and seems to hate children, calling them names and ridiculing them in front of the class. Principal Hamelin is at heart a good guy, but Rumplestiltskin has blackmailed him into using his magical powers in a destructive manner.

Mr. Sheepshank, the guidance counselor, seems at first like a good guy who cares about Sabrina's feelings when she is sent to talk to him. However, he is really Rumplestiltskin, a depraved maniac who feeds off of the negative emotions of others and who has set a devious plan in motion so he can escape from Ferryport Landing.


Characters, both adults and children, often call each other names.

Sabrina punches a girl in the face who is bullying her in the cafeteria. Sabrina and Daphne find Mr. Grumpner's dead, purple body hanging from the ceiling of his classroom in a spider's web. A half girl, half frog monster attacks Sabrina, Daphne and Granny Relda. During the ensuing fight, Daphne stabs the monster's tongue with a protractor.

Sabrina and Daphne enter the detention room after school and find Charlie the janitor lying dead on the floor. Just his skeleton remains inside his overalls. Later in the story, Snow White, who was in the room at the time, describes what happened in more detail.

The principal's son, Wendell, describes how Mr. Grumpner died. A giant spider killed him and wrapped him in the web. A giant mouse chases Sabrina, Daphne, Puck and Wendell through the school. Upon arriving at the school to foil Rumplestiltskin's plan, the sisters, Puck, Mayor Charming and Snow White are attacked by a werewolf monster/girl. A frog monster/girl stabs Principal Hamelin with a knife, and he lies on the ground in a pool of his blood. Sabrina whacks the monster on the head with a shovel. Rumplestiltskin and his three monster "children" attack Sabrina and almost kill her.

The group of detectives finds Wendell in a cobweb seemingly dead. The Pied Piper blows on Wendell's harmonica, which causes thousands of bugs to attack Rumplestiltskin and his three kids. The Pied Piper picks up Rumplestiltskin and throws him against the wall. Mr. Canis turns into the Big Bad Wolf and attacks everyone. He almost kills Rumplestiltskin.


Snow White kisses Mayor Charming after finding out he could have escaped from Ferryport Landing but stayed because she was there. Principal Hamelin gives Snow White a big kiss on the mouth after she resuscitates Wendell, whom everyone thought was dead.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Interspecies breeding: Three of the children/monsters in the book are the offspring of a human and an animal. For instance, one of them is the child of Beauty and the Beast. Another is the child of Ms. Muffett and a giant spider. In on odd scene, all three sets of parents talk (or grunt, in the case of the giant spider) about their children, who were taken as babies by Rumplestiltskin.

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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