A Box of Gargoyles

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
A Box of Gargoyles Book Poster Image
Friendship and family in Paris in exciting, creepy sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn a lot about Parisian attractions and the history that goes with them, not to mention some useful phrases in French. They'll also pick up some Bulgarian language and culture from Maya's friend Valko and his family.

Positive Messages

Bravery, the wisdom to make hard choices, and love and loyalty to family and friends are the themes that run throughout, and they're delivered effectively.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Under pressure from forces she doesn't understand, Maya tries her best to do the right thing, even when it's hard to figure out what that is. Her BFF Valko and newfound pal Pauline are brave and creative in supporting her, and she returns the favor. Some adult characters, notably Maya's mom and Valko's terrifying grandmother, show a good deal of love and wisdom.

Violence

Sinister forces are taking over Paris and causing strange occurrences. Besides the fact that Maya's uncle is trying to kill her, Maya and Valko are chased by crazed, spellbound women: the Maenads of Dionysus. One dramatic scene has dancing bones conjured from their graves.

Sex

An adult character is pregnant.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Box of Gargoyles, sequel to The Cabinet of Earths, continues the Parisian adventures of Maya Davidson, who discovered in the first book that she comes from a long line of women with extraordinary powers. Once again, some of the story's creepier aspects -- for instance, the fact that Maya's evil uncle, vanquished in the first volume, is trying to restore his powers by killing her, as well as a scene of bones emerging from their graves to dance to Danse Macabre -- will delight some kids and give others nightmares. But along the way, readers will also get a stellar kid's-eye view of Parisian sights and sounds, as well as appealing, thoughtful looks at real-life issues from sibling rivalry to parents' mortality. Although this is a sequel, enough context is provided that it also works as a stand-alone story.

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What's the story?

With the events of The Cabinet of Earths behind her, Berkeley kid Maya Davidson is finally starting to settle into her family's new life in Paris. Unfortunately, things don't stay peaceful for long: Strange things are happening around the city, starting with the unexplained hole that appears in the wall of her friend Valko's home, the Bulgarian embassy, and the sudden arrival of a pair of gargoyles and their beautiful egg. On her 13th birthday, Maya receives a mysterious letter suggesting that her supposedly vanquished evil uncle has put her under a spell to restore his life at the cost of her own. Adding to the grief, Valko's terrifying grandmother is about to take him back to live in Bulgaria to get in touch with his roots. And Maya's mother, a cancer survivor, keeps getting sick.

Is it any good?

With most of the world-building dealt with in the first book, this one gets on with the story, with a fast-moving tale that's sometimes funny, sometimes scary, and always emotionally real. The characters and their problems are engaging, surprising plot developments abound, and frequent forays into the attractions of Paris will whet the appetites of many future travelers. This is a textured, exciting venture.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about magic and fantasy. Why do you think stories of magical forces in today's world are so popular? How do Maya's adventures compare with other stories you've read?

  • Have you been to Paris or Bulgaria? Does reading this story make you want to visit those places?

  • Maya spends a lot of time worrying about her mother's health. Do you know any kids whose parents are seriously ill? How does this affect the kids?

  • Do you think Maya makes the right choice about using her powers?

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