Down the Mysterly River

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Down the Mysterly River Book Poster Image
Clever fantasy adventure a great choice for middle graders.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The main character is an enthusiastic member of the Boy Scouts, and he demonstrates a number of survival tips during the course of his quest.

Positive Messages

Max the Wolf finds himself in a confusing, dangerous situation, but through the use of learned skills, deductive reasoning, and empathy, he is able to survive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The four main characters demonstrate the value of bravery and loyalty. Despite their differences, they work together in the face of great obstacles and respect one another's talents.


Supporting characters, human and animal, are wounded during the course of the story, either stabbed or shot with an arrow. Although the descriptions are in no way graphic, the seriousness of these injuries is made clear. One character dies from his battle wounds, although not until he has lived happily for a number of years.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Down the Mysterly River is a clever, compelling fantasy adventure that will especially appeal to younger readers who are not yet ready for the author's hugely popular and critically acclaimed comics series, Fables.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMHOLL June 17, 2016

Great Read and Some Profanity

My 12-year-old is currently reading this book and he loves it. He's not a "reader" so that's saying a lot! But, we have been surprised by so... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byTripFoot October 1, 2012

Really good fantasy book

This is a very good fantasy, not very violent, and very exciting. It is funny too, and has some great characters. The ending is great. However, the only thing t... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 21, 2011

A good fantasy; bordering on violence levels

Down the Mysterly River is a fun fantasy for older readers. Max "the Wolf" is intelligent and brave, putting his boy scout and detective skills to go... Continue reading

What's the story?

A boy who calls himself Max the Wolf suddenly finds himself in an unfamiliar woods, without any memory of how he arrived there. Pursued by a pack of mysterious hunters and accompanied by a badger, a feral cat, and a bear, Max heads down river, seeking sanctuary in the castle of a wizard. As he and his companions fight for survival, Max begins to suspect that a terrible secret lies at the heart of his existence.

Is it any good?

DOWN THE MYSTERLY RIVER is a compelling fantasy adventure with a twist, an homage to books filled with talking animals, magical artifacts, and brave boys with well-honed detecting skills. Willingham employs the same rich sense of wonder that fuels Fables, his acclaimed comics series for older readers, but with a gentleness and good humor more appropriate for a younger audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts prepare young people for safety in the wilderness. If you were suddenly lost in the woods, would you know the best methods for being rescued?

  • Max considers himself a master of detection. What are some of the methods that can be used to solve a mystery or puzzle (deduction, induction, etc.)?

  • The villains use magic swords to cut away what makes their victims unique. Why do some people prefer conformity over individuality?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

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