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Escape From the Isle of the Lost: Descendants, Book 4

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Escape From the Isle of the Lost: Descendants, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Fun, upbeat villain-kids romp sets up movie finale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

One of the plot threads involves the fact that most of the kids are graduating from Auradon Prep, so there's a look at quite a few career options, from college to professional sports to fashion design. Sophisticated vocabulary words include "snaggletoothed," "insouciance," "beignet."

Positive Messages

Strong messages about friendship, kindness, courage, resourcefulness, teammwork, appreciation for everyone's talents and viewpoints.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The four villain kids appreciate their good fortune, especially their now-strong friendship and their bright futures -- and rather than trying to hoard it for themselves, work hard so other villain kids can have the same opportunities. King Ben is serious and responsible, while once-evil Mal is settling into her new role helping him care for the kingdom. Evie's fashion-design business is so successful she's able to buy her own place, despite her (successful) struggles to be smiling and polite no matter how rude the customer is. Assorted villain kids on the Isle have the chance to make good or bad choices as the plot unfolds.

Violence & Scariness

Villains Hades and Uma cast a lot of spells (often causing characters to not be in their right minds, and thus behave as they normally wouldn't) and wreak a lot of temporary havoc. Epic battle between Mal (sometimes transformed into a dragon) and Uma (in her octopus guise).

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, like other books in the series, Melissa de la Cruz's Escape From the Isle of the Lost is an extended prequel to a Disney Channel Descendants movie (in this case, series finale Descendants 3) in which, once again, nearly every Disney property ever produced makes a cameo appearance and the last page refers readers to the movie to learn what happens after the mini-cliffhanger ending. Along the way there are plenty of entertaining moments for those who've grown fond of Mal, Evie, Jay, Carlos, and their Auradon pals, some comic moments of villainy foiled, and quite a few positive messages of responsibility, friendship, and inclusion as the formerly evildoing teens seek to extend their good fortune to other villain kids. Once again, the characters are much older than the target audience, and not at all complex, but they are, after all, cartoon characters, and their adventures make for good, positive fun.

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What's the story?

As once-villainous Mal, Jay, and Evie look forward to graduating from Auradon Prep, and pal Carlos looks forward to throwing them an epic party, their thoughts turn to other villain kids from their old life, and how they might share their good fortune by offering those kids an ESCAPE FROM THE ISLE OF THE LOST. Specifically, recruiting a few more villain kids to attend Auradon Prep, a project that soon has all four returning (some with more confidence than others) to their old hometown. But not everything goes according to plan, thanks in large part to villains Hades and Uma, smarting from past defeats and seeking revenge.

Is it any good?

Fun, lightweight, and stuffed with Disney characters, this prequel/promo for the final Descendants movie finds the villain kids about to graduate and take on new challenges. The plot, characters, and action in Escape from the Isle of the Lost are all cartoonish, of course, but along the way there's a lot of celebration of friendship, teamwork, loyalty, doing your best, and reaching out to others who could use your help.

"Being a student here at Auradon Prep, I I learned that good is better than evil. I learned to make friends. I learned to love. I learned I don't have to be a certain kind of person because I was born in a certain part of the world. I can be anyone I want to be. I can be strong, and I can be weird, and I can be myself. That's what I learned in Auradon -- that I can change for the better. We all can. Change is good. Because we are all in this together, and only together can we change the world and make it a better place."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Escape From the Isle of the Lost leads up to the finale of the Descendants film series, Descendants 3, after numerous books, apps, and other spin-offs. Do you have a favorite of the Descendants stories? What do you like about them?

  • If you've been following the story from the beginning, you know the villain kids have grown and changed along the way. Do you like the direction they've gone in, or do you wish they'd turned out differently?

  • The character Hades is pretty ancient and wasn't always a blue-haired cartoon. What other stories do you know where he appears? How do they compare to this version?

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