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Far Far Away
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Far Far Away takes place in the present but has the feel of a classic fairy tale. It opens with foreshadowing that something awful will happen, which gives the novel a creepy tone throughout. Main character Jeremy has been ostracized by his classmates because of his strangeness, but he doesn't let the teasing change who he is. Three teens are held captive by a man who has appeared harmless and friendly for most of the story. They are starved and mentally tortured, and eventually the man tries to kill them. Main character Jeremy is teased by his classmates because of his strangeness, but he doesn't let it change who he is.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In the small village of Never Better, Jeremy Johnson Johnson has been haunted by the ghost of Jacob Grimm since he was a boy. The two have become close friends, but because Jeremy apparently talks to himself and often blurts out strange bits of information, his classmates and the villagers ridicule him. Jeremy's life changes the day wild and beautiful Ginger decides to befriend him. When Ginger invites Jeremy to join her in playing a prank on the town baker, their bond is cemented and Jeremy begins to veer from the careful path of solemn study that Jacob has laid out for him. Ginger comes up with a plan to help Jeremy save his family's bookstore, which launches the two of them on an adventure that may help them solve the mystery of the village's disappearing children -- or lead to their own deaths.
Is it any good?
Though the story takes place in a modern American village, it evokes the feel of a classic fairy tale, the kind where truly horrible things may indeed happen along the way to happily ever after. Woven throughout is a rich respect for stories and storytelling, but the real strengths of this book lie in its creepy undertones and its cast of complex characters who are always more than what they appear to be: Bullies have deep emotions, loving parents are neglectful, and a well meaning ghost sworn to protect offers misguided advice. Author McNeal deftly plants hints of the very real dangers to come as villagers vaguely wonder why so many children are disappearing, all the while munching on the town baker's delicious Prince cakes.
Jeremy is an instantly likable hero readers will root for despite -- or maybe because of -- his initially humble appearance. As his unlikely friendship with the daring Ginger blossoms and their lives take a distinctly Hansel-and-Gretel turn, the courage and cleverness they inspire in each other is worthy of any of the old tales.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fairy tales. How have Disney movies have changed the perception of what a fairy tale is, compared with the original tales collected by the Grimm brothers and others in the 19th century?
Why do you think Disney movies leave out some of the more gruesome aspects of the old tales? Do you think this makes them better?
How does the ghost of Jacob Grimm compare with other ghosts you've read about or seen in movies? In what way is he a typical ghost? In what ways is he different?
- Author: Tom McNeal
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Knopf
- Publication date: June 11, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
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