Tales From the Hood, Michael Buckley

Tales from the Hood, Michael BuckleyTales From the Hood by Michael Buckley
Illustrated by  Peter Ferguson

First Published: 2008
Pages: 274 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The Sisters Grimm #6

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

In Ferryport Landing, everyone gets a day in court – even the Big Bad Wolf. Mr, Canis is put on trial for past crimes, and Mayor Heart’s kangaroo court is determined to find him guilty. It’s up to the Grimms to uncover evidence to save their friend, though Sabrina starts to wonder whether they would all be safer with the Wolf in jail. Despite her misgivings, Sabrina and her sister, Daphne, investigate what actually happened in the Big Bad Wolf’s most famous tale – and the real story will shock you!

I’ve given all the previous books in this series four stars but that’s a bit misleading, although I really enjoy them that is despite a lot of issues present throughout the series – but that came to a bit of a head for me in this book. The overarching plot is very drawn out with some of the books (2, 4, and 6 so far) failing to do anything much to advance it, Sabrina’s character development keeps going two step forwards in each book only to be followed by one step back in the next,  and the writing is often a bit clumsy. Buckley’s method of opening each book in medias res with a snippet from the climax before going back a few days to start the story again at the beginning has always bothered me. Rather than adding to anticipation or tension, I find it detracts from it and tends to make the climaxes anti-climactic. What I have given the previous books four stars for is primarily good ideas and ‘fun factor’ over their actual execution. This book had those good ideas, but I didn’t find it anywhere near so fun.

And the primary reason for that was something that first cropped up to a lesser extent in the third book. Red Riding Hood’s portrayal and the way the characters view and describe her is horribly, horribly ableist. Sure, in book three she was the primary villain and set a Jaberwocky lose on the Grimms. But she’s also assumed to be suffering from PTSD and the language used about her was something I found genuinely jawdroppingly ignorant and offensive. ‘The little lunatic was probably having another delusion‘ ‘Not the nutcase‘ ‘She’s what we in the medical profession call a loopty loop‘ – the first two of these are from the heroines, Sabrina’s internal monologue and Daphne’s dialogue respectively, the last is from Red’s nurse. It’s all sorts of problematic and made worse by the fact that it is never called out or portrayed as a problem in the book. Only Robin Hood out of all the heroic characters registers any sort of concern for her treatment or outrage at the response that she isn’t getting any.  Sabrina, who has been consistently told off for her rudeness and bigotry since book one and spends a lot of this book getting punished for saying ‘if Mr. Canis is turning into a bloodthirsty monster, maybe it’s better we don’t set him lose’ is never once told off for her use of ablest language about Red. Nobody in the book seems to have a problem with her being described as ‘crazy’ ‘nutcase’ ‘lunatic’ ‘disturbed’ or ‘delusional’. And the plot of the book pretty much revolves around her mental illness!

It’s…eugh. If reading this series to or with a child I would strongly recommend a long talk about mental health, PTSD, and what is and is not acceptable language.

But away from the bits that made this a less fun than the previous books and onto the story! The last book ended with Mr Canis being arrested for crimes committed against Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother. In this book he goes to trial, with the Mad Hatter sitting as judge and half the jury members of the Red Hand determined to find him guilty. The Grimm family employ Robin Hood and his Merry Men (litigation lawyers who sue from the rich to give to the poor) to defend him. But with the trial so prejudiced against Mr Canis, they have to do their own detective work to find out what really happened to Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.

Meanwhile Uncle Jacob is trying to track down Goldilocks, the only person who can break the sleeping spell on Sabrina and Daphne’s parents. With the help of Hans Christian Anderson’s travelling chest, the chase takes him and the girls from Venice to Paris.

But really, this book doesn’t advance the ‘main plot’ at all until the very final page. The hellish vision of a future ruled by the Red Hand is never mentioned, Prince Charming becoming a member of the red hand in the last book is resolved in this without it ever serving any particular purpose, and the villainous Sherrif of Nottingham seems to act as the plot dictates, ignoring and flouting the law most of the time but then following it when the author wants the Grimm family to get off. It’s weird.

So yeah… this book is a lot more tied into the main plot than a couple of other books in the series (book 2 and particularly book 4 are very much ‘breather episodes’ from the main plot) but things are still very slow to move, and the way mental health is addressed meant that I couldn’t enjoy it as much as previous books. (Though Robin Hood as a sexy redhead gets my approval – I’ve been a big fan of sexy redheads ever since the Weasleys.)

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