A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
From Arthurian legend to showbiz in-jokes, Shakespeare to science fiction, mad genius Rex dishes up plenty of interesting stuff for those who care to pursue it, including the theatrical convention of referring to Macbeth only as "the Scottish play." Who knows how many young readers may take an early interest in Shakespeare as a result?
Cold Cereal is longer on general wackiness than messages, and many characters' relationship with the straight and narrow is a bit vague. That said, while the tale brings forth some fairly odd friendships and family structures -- including Scott's as well as Erno and Emily's -- the quirky bonds are also strong ones, often turning the tide when things look direst.
Positive Role Models
As kids thrown into a surreal world not of their own making and certainly not under their control, Scott, Erno, and Emily are appealing in their various vulnerabilities and in the determination with which they look out for each other. Virtually without exception, the adult characters can be counted upon to be not quite what they seem, as the kids gradually discover.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of danger to the kids and their friends, though most of it is magical, cartoonish, and/or averted in the nick of time. For example, a friend's home is torched by bad guys in an attempt to kill them all, and Erno and Emily are the experimental objects of what seems to be some very creepy research. Scott's father, a famous actor, causes great consternation when he punches the Queen of England. Other mayhem from slapstick to slightly scary.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Scott's mom has just broken up with a boyfriend before moving the kids to a new town for her job with the cereal company.
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Products & Purchases
Consumerism is more skewered than promoted here: A global cereal conglomerate and its insidious product development and marketing campaigns are portrayed as part of a villainous campaign for world domination by serious, if comical, forces of evil.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There's only the issue of what's really in the cereal, as well as the weird pink medication that Emily's been dosed with all her life. Scott takes prescription medication as needed for his migraines.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Cold Cereal is the first book in a trilogy by popular children's author Adam Rex, whose hits include The True Meaning of Smekday and Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. It's full of humor, wordplay, and mayhem that ranges from slapstick to slightly scary, including arson, creepy experiments on children, and an evil plot by cereal manufacturers bent on world domination to insert something in their product for the purpose of mind control.
Is It Any Good?
Adam Rex is a very funny and imaginative writer, but he may tend to get a bit carried away for the taste of some readers who'd prefer a faster-moving plot with fewer diversions. COLD CEREAL is full of in-jokes, particularly from the show-business world, that will go right over the head of most young readers. For example, the protagonist is named Scottish Play Doe, a punny mashup of Macbeth and the childhood sculpting material, and his father, born John Doe, chose as his stage name Reginald Dwight -- Elton John's birth name. Wordplay like this might give the reading-aloud parent the giggles at odd moments.
Being the first book in a trilogy, Cold Cereal must introduce a fairly complex cosmology and quite a few characters, with frequent romps across the time-space continuum, so it's easy for readers to get a bit lost. Still, it does all come together in the end, and there are many delightful moments en route to setting up the next installment.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.