Isle of the Lost: The Graphic Novel

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Isle of the Lost: The Graphic Novel Book Poster Image
Disney villain-kids tale gets fast-paced graphic revamp.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Ben praises books: "They're kingdoms. They're worlds. They're perspectives and opinions I can't offer, from lives I haven't lived." Carlos has a talent for technology. Otherwise, there's little educational content here -- but some interesting reworking of legacy Disney content.

Positive Messages

Amid cartoon shenanigans, there's a strong theme of emotionally abused teens discovering escape from truly horrid parents in their growing friendship and mutual support, as everyone's particular traits, talents prove helpful. Unspoken messages of diversity, gender equality: male and female heroes and villains and supporting characters represent a variety of skin tones, style preferences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Prince Ben (son of Beauty and the Beast) is determined to be a good king, makes a bad decision because he lacks wisdom, but quickly learns and makes things right. The villain kids, raised to follow in the ways of their thieving, vain, or otherwise rotten parents, begin to chart a new and better path for themselves as they become friends.

Violence & Scariness

Their quest puts the teen characters through several near-fatal challenges, including being nearly buried alive until one of them answers a riddle. Other scary but cartoonish dangers, like the bear traps in Cruella's coat closet.

Language

"Hell" comes up a lot, between Cruella's house being Hell Hall and Mal's torturing Evie with Seven Minutes In Hell (in theory, party game). Occasional "crap," "poop," "this blows."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Isle of the Lost: The Graphic Novel is part of Disney's lucrative, multi-platform Descendants franchise (books! TV movies! apps! karaoke!), featuring spun-off characters from legacy Disney franchises. But it has a lot of what made Disney great in the first place, as Robert Venditti's spare dialogue and Kat Fajardo's lively artwork cut to the essentials of Melissa de la Cruz's Isle of the Lost story, a fast-moving one of teens browbeaten by their villainous parents who stumble into friendship and better possibilities. There are many positive messages along the way about teamwork, honesty, friendship, and learning from your mistakes, presented with a light touch and humor.

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What's the story?

Years ago, all the villains of the Disney world were exiled to THE ISLE OF THE LOST, enclosed with a magic bubble to keep them away from the good people of Auradon. With dark surroundings and worse parental role models, Mal (daughter of Maleficent), Jay (son of Jafar), Carlos (son of Cruella de Vil), and Evie (daughter of Evil Queen) are fine with being bad. It's expected. But somehow they're never as evil, thieving, self-absorbed, or vain as their parents want them to be, either. Mal's mean trick on Evie launches a series of events that could help restore evil to world domination, and also win their parents' approval.

Is it any good?

This addition to Disney's villain-kids franchise may be the best yet, with spare, cut-to-the-chase dialogue, vivid, engaging art, and not a lot of padding or nonsense on the side. The transition to the graphic novel genre is a natural for The Isle of the Lost, and this book is a great intro for first-timers to the series and loads of fun for longtime fans. More volumes are sure to come.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Isle of the Lost: The Graphic Novel fits in to the Descendants series. How is this format well-suited to the storytelling? What do you think of creating new characters and stories based on old ones? 

  • Why are quests such a popular theme in storytelling? How does making villains the main characters, as Isle of the Lost does, affect the nature of the quest? 

  • Do you know any kids who have to deal with a bad situation at home -- maybe not villain parents, but something heavy going on? How does it affect them?

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