A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is intended for adult readers, not kids. However, three of its four novellas became big movies (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, and Apt Pupil), and because King's storytelling is often irresistible even to reluctant readers, his work is often found on high school and even middle school library shelves, so it's a good bet your kids may gravitate to this one. Be aware that sex, violence, and foul language abound, and the concentration-camp rape scene (for example) in the very dark Apt Pupil is seriously disturbing.
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What's the story?
DIFFERENT SEASONS is a collection of four Stephen King novellas: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, a wrongfully convicted man's quest for justice; The Body, in which four 12-year-old boys set off in search of another boy's corpse in the countryside; Apt Pupil, the story of an all-American boy's descent into evil with the help of a Nazi war criminal; and The Breathing Method, a postwar tale of a remarkable birth with supernatural overtones.
Is it any good?
There's great stuff here, but it calls for judgment. King is so successful because he's a very good storyteller. He's also somewhat noted for a tendency to write long (or indeed multi-volume) books, so these four tales are a good introduction to his work. Apt Pupil is so dark that parents should really read it before their kids do (and Shawshank has its very intense moments), while The Body (adapted for the 1986 film Stand By Me) has become a beloved, if gritty, coming-of-age tale. As King says in the afterword, he doesn't mind being typecast in the horror genre a bit, and if horror is not your thing, you may find the underlying creepiness and frequent outright violence too much. But there are also wonderful, almost laugh-out-loud moments of virtue triumphant that might be worth it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Stephen King's stories are so popular. Is it fun to be scared, or is there something else going on?
If you were the victim of a big injustice, like being sent to prison for a crime you didn't commit, how would you deal with it? How would you try to make things right and not go crazy in the meantime?
One of the important conversations in The Body is about how important your friends are, yet they can drag you down. How can friends be a positive or a negative force in your life?
How do the stories compare with the movie versions, if you've seen those?
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