A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fire and Ice is the fourth book in a multimedia, multi-author series from Scholastic, similar to its 39 Clues and Infinity Ring series. There's a website where young readers can choose their own spirit animal and character identity and enter codes from the books they read to unlock prizes and whatnot. Aimed at animal-loving tween readers just digging into fantasy tales, each book since the series debut in September 2013 -- Wild Born, by Brandon Mull -- is written by a different, seasoned children's author with new installments appearing every few months. Kids may recognize this author, Shannon Hale, from the Newbery onor book Princess Academy. The four diverse 11-year-old characters at the center of the story, all with their own cool spirit animals, continue to fight against an evil cobra called the Devourer. The cobra eats people in the beginning chapter, and his followers stage a big battle near the end; many bad guys die from fire, swords, knives, and arrows. The rest of the story follows the foursome north, where the harsh elements nearly cause frostbite and starvation, and there are multiple rescues from falls into crevasses. Although the four characters mostly suffer minor injuries, two deal with the loss of close family -- one from battle -- and another has a painful parting from a family member who deserted him as a young child due to mental illness.
What's the story?
After fighting for the Slate Elephant's talisman in the steaming jungle, narrowly escaping the Devourer and his evil followers in Book 3, the four chosen and their special spirit animals can't wait to escape the oppressive heat. Heading to Artica in the very far north of Erdas may have been taking that wish a little too far. But that's where the Great Beast with the next talisman is hidden, so off they go. Their last stop before braving the endless ice fields filled with dangerous hidden crevasses is a remote village sacred to the Great Beast. Here they're hoping for directions, but something smells a little fishy. The villagers don't like visitors or the idea of someone after their sacred animal. And why does everyone in the village look so young? Just when they're about to gain their trust, some of the Devourer's followers barge in.
Is it any good?
The Spirit Animals series is definitely built on a solid foundation. The four 11-year-old characters are great, and there's a big adventurous journey in each installment, with bad guys always on their tails for that jolt of excitement. In FIRE AND ICE, Rollan faces some painful decisions when he reunites with the mother who abandoned him. This is handled poignantly by author Shannon Hale and adds a nice depth to the story.
Once again, the baddest bad guy of the series -- the Devourer -- barely makes a cameo, and very little is revealed about the bigger story here. Another disappointment: There's a fantastic moment where characters think all is lost -- they've been tricked and may die on the ice. The tension stops there, though, and the problem is resolved in two pages. Luckily, Fire and Ice makes up for that in the final, nail-biter battle scenes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they like about this series. Do you most like the friendship part, the adventure-laden travels, or the action?
Do you only read the Spirit Animals books, or do you visit the website, too? Is it more fun to read a series when it comes with a website?
What would your spirit animal be, and why? What special powers would it give you?
- Author: Shannon Hale
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: June 24, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 192
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.