A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that An Author's Odyssey, Chris Colfer's fifth installment in the best-selling and planned nine-volume Land of Stories series, offers more of what we've come to expect from previous books: a crazy mix of high adventure, gory violence, self-doubt, moral crisis, family drama, and a lot of wacky humor in questionable taste -- with, in this case, pirates (often gross in appearance), mummies (ditto), monstrous insects, and space aliens. There's some romantic tension between two adult characters, but it doesn't get beyond a brief mention of a "passionate kiss" before the narrator's moved on to something else. Several characters are married, and one of them gives birth in a played-for-laughs scene. Through it all, now 15-year-old protagonists Conner and Alex, torn between (at least) two worlds, struggle to do the right thing and help their loved ones as their quest takes them to a colossal cliffhanger ending. As in previous books, Colfer is somewhat mocking of religion while elevating storytelling in general and fairy tales in particular to quasi-religious status in giving people something to believe in; this may spark some discussion.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
AN AUTHOR'S ODYSSEY finds twins Conner and Alex Bailey turning 15, although it's no time for celebration. Their friends in the fairy tale world are imprisoned and about to be killed by an army of villains conjured from storybooks in Book 4. But Conner has a plan: Come to the rescue with an army of his own, made up of the characters in the stories he wrote in elementary school. Soon he and Alex are visiting the worlds Conner created, recruiting pirates, space aliens, mummies, and superheroes to the cause while dodging murderous villains and colossal insects.
Is it any good?
Chris Colfer fans will be right at home in this frenetic mishmash of (apparently) whatever pops into the author's head next, but he may be piling it on a bit too much this time around. The author's "odyssey" into the grade school fiction of Colfer's alter ego, Conner, offers danger, laughs, and character insights -- along with a whole lot of inside-baseball philosophizing about the life of a writer: how you may write a story but it takes on its own life; how the way you're feeling a particular day influences what you write, with fateful consequences; and so on.
Most familiar series characters appear only briefly in The Author's Odyssey, while mummies, pirates, superheroes, and space aliens join the party in droves. It's a lot to keep track of, what with Colfer's barrage-of-random-bits narrative style, leading to a cliffhanger ending that leaves the door open for many, many future installments.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about An Author's Odyssey and how it fits into the Land of Stories series. Do you like the direction the story's taken, or would you have taken a different approach to the problems Book 4 left behind?
In Chris Colfer's books, you get barrages of tender moments, slapstick humor, sibling squabbles, and plentiful gore, often on the same page. Do you like this approach to storytelling? Does it work well for some kinds of stories and not others?
Do reinvented fairy tales make you go back and reread the originals? Do you see different things in them now?
- Author: Chris Colfer
- Illustrator: Brandon Dorman
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: July 12, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 464
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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