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What's the story?
When Kendra and Seth are sent to stay with their grandfather while their parents take a vacation, they are sternly warned not to go into the woods. Seth does anyway, and discovers a witch, from whom he has to escape. Soon the children discover that their grandfather's lands house many creatures of myth and fairytale, both good and evil.
Warned not to mess with the creatures, Seth captures a fairy, which unleashes a retributive attack on him, and damages the alliance between his grandfather and the fairies. Warned not to open his window on Midsummer's Eve, Seth does anyway, which brings about the kidnapping of his grandfather, the unleashing of an evil and powerful monster, and the collapse of the covenants protecting humans.
Is it any good?
An old subgenre of backyard fantasy is getting a second life these days, and Brandon Mull's variation has moments of real excitement and suspense, and a few original touches. Unfortunately, Mull resorts to some of the hoariest, and most didactic and annoying, tricks in the writer's bag to get the plot moving.
His primary action-inducer is having Seth repeatedly disobey his grandfather, with predictably terrifying and life-threatening results -- from which he seems to learn nothing. Worse is the stereotyping of the two children: Seth is a boys-will-be-boys type who is not only disobedient and mischievous but also blockheaded, while Kendra is good and virtuous and clever, which enables her to save the day after Seth has messed everything up. Let's hope that in the next volume Mull has gotten the stupid-kid tricks out of his system, and can focus on developing the clever aspects of his premise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of a hidden world in our own backyards. Why is this idea so popular right now?
Is it possible? Have you ever seen anything you couldn't explain?
Also, why do some authors use foolish, disobedient kids to drive the plot?
Can you think of any other ways to get the action moving in this story?
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