A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Tale of Magic is the first book in a series by Chris Colfer, illustrated by Brandon Dorman, that serves as a prequel/origin story to their blockbuster Land of Stories series. More reliant on good storytelling and plot coherence, and shorter on the wisecracks and slapstick than the earlier stories, the tale retains lots of classic Colfer touches: He satirically skewers hypocrisy, politics, religion, gender stereotypes, and more, while frequently bursting into cheerleader-like inspirational speeches. It's a compelling, fast-moving tale with well developed characters, many of them "fairies," magical beings fleeing oppression and murder, often at the hands of their own families. There's a lot of violence, magical and otherwise, including a vivid description of a family instantly frozen to death in mid-dinner, and a kid whose magical powers have gone out of control and caused massive destruction tries to commit suicide. One character bursts into flame a lot. Amid the mayhem, there are strong messages of kindness, teamwork, inclusion, and being the best you can be.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A TALE OF MAGIC finds 14-year-old Brystal Evergreen chafing at the limitations of her country's culture, which forbids girls to read and anyone to practice magic. Aided by her kind brother, Brystal's been sneaking books for some time before her secret compulsion leads her to volunteer as a maid at the library, while not being exactly truthful with her parents about what she's doing. Before long, she discovers a secret room full of banned books ("History and Other Lies," "The War on Women," "Losing Faith in Faith," and more) and soon devours them all. Of course, it doesn't take long till she's caught. Will she be sentenced to death like so many before her, or is this just the beginning of her adventures?
Is it any good?
Chris Colfer's in fine form in this lively origin story about characters who, later in life, play significant roles in The Land of Stories series. Especially 14-year-old Brystal Evergreen, whose determination, brains, and kind heart pit her against prejudice, ignorance, and cruelty. The fast-moving tale is more tightly written and less slapstick-silly than the original series. Both Colfer and his audience have matured a bit since the first series launched in 2012. A Tale of Magic's characters are complex, relatable, and often deal with their own tragedies as they face many perils in trying to make the world safe for people like them. Punctuating it all, encouraging pep talks like this from Brystal:
"We're all just a couple of mistakes away from becoming the people we despise. So don't think worse of yourself, let this change how you think of yourself. Start valuing who you are, more than what you are. Prove you're better than most people by showing more acceptance and empathy. And fuel your pride with what you earn and create, instead of what you're born with."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how A Tale of Magic fits in with The Land of Stories? Do you think reading about the characters as they appear here gives you a better understanding of their older selves in the original series? Or, if you haven't read the original books yet, does this make you want to read more?
As you look around your own community and school, do you see rules and customs that make no sense to you? Do you just live with them, or try to change them?
Have you ever figured you were the only person who thought a certain way about something, and then you met someone who felt the same? Did anything change in your life because of it?
- Author: Chris Colfer
- Illustrator: Brandon Dorman
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Activism, Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 1, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 448
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: January 7, 2021
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