This is the first in a series of middle-grade books following two girls, Valerie and Samantha. The girls are best friends, but they are total opposites. Sam is fashion-conscious while Val is not, for example. But their opposites make them good friends, and even Val’s mother shakes her head at the creative games they come up with. In this book, the two girls sneak out to the barn in search of a mysterious possum Val’s mother has been talking about. They follow the possum through a mirror that had been covered in a tarp and find themselves in a mysterious world—the world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. (I won’t explain the possum; you’ll find out at the end.)
The girls recognize some of the things they encounter, such as a girl named Snow (as in Snow White) and other familiar elements from fairy tales with which Val is familiar. Befriending Snow and some other helpful characters, the girls must navigate the world (and the villains) of fairy tales. It’s definitely a book primarily for girls, as both protagonists are female, and the story focuses on the fairy tales having to do with evil stepmothers and marriages. It’s a clever mix of modern storyline and classic fairy tale, and the author mixes it up enough that it never feels stale. The reader is also kept in suspense during the times when Val and Sam cannot remember certain elements of the tales—remembering them would have helped them solve the problems they encounter much more quickly. This suspense will keep the reader turning the pages. I could see myself having enjoyed these books when I was a girl Val and Sam’s age.
The narrator is kept a mystery for the first chapter or so, until we learn the narrator is actually the garden gnome that stands watch in Val’s parents’ garden. At times, the narrator’s personality came through, which I found enjoyable. At other times, the narrator’s personality faded into the tale, which disappointed me because I found the gnome’s voice and tone humorous, adding to the story.
Val’s mother also plays an important role in the story. She’s the one who points out the possum in the barn, and she’s been writing a story (that she knows Val and Sam are reading) about Valerie and Samantha going on adventures. It’s even hinted at that the whole tale might be the result of reading Val’s mother’s manuscript and letting their imaginations go wild—though the girls agree that it was all too real to have been simply imagiation.
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I’m reviewing the other two books as part of a blog tour, so stay tuned for more!