A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jules Verne's science fiction novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, originally published in 1864, leads readers on an epic subterranean expedition. The story is narrated by Axel, the nephew and research assistant of Otto Lidenbrock, a curmudgeonly but endlessly curious geology professor. Lidenbrock discovers an encrypted message in an old Icelandic book: secret directions through volcanic tubes leading to a world below the earth's surface. This book is heavier on the science than on the fiction, with loads of real and fictional scientific detail and discussions between uncle and nephew about what they observe and how to determine the best path. There's a fair amount of suspense as well, and just a little blood (nothing of concern for readers at this level). Attitudes toward women -- who figure very little in this novel -- are understandably dated. Characters drink gin in a few scenes, but there's no drunkenness. Journey to the Center of the Earth has been made into multiple films, including a very good 1959 version starring James Mason, and an enjoyable more modern version starring Brendan Fraser (2008). It's also worth nothing that the Audible edition of the book, read by Tim Curry, is a delight.
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What's the story?
In Jules Verne's JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, a geology professor, Otto Lidenbrock, and his nephew Axel discover and decode an ancient document that purports to show that a dormant volcano holds a secret entrance to a series of caverns leading to a subterranean world at the earth's center. In the name of scientific discovery, they follow the instructions and undertake a hazardous journey deep within the earth, where they find creatures and plants from earlier epochs. In the end, their journey back to the surface of the earth is just as harrowing as the trip down.
Is it any good?
This science fiction classic from one of the fathers of the genre has stood the test of time. It's exciting and inventive, even visionary. However, note the book title: This novel is about the journey more than the destination. Author Jules Verne takes his time leading the reader through lengthy descriptions and long treks, where the characters experience challenging conditions: Rations run low, they suffer from dehydration when water runs out, and they lose their way in dark tunnels. Readers are more than halfway through the novel before they see any of those dinosaurs that the film versions highlight. Appreciating this novel requires a lot of scientific curiosity and some advanced vocabulary.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Journey to the Center of the Earth continues to fascinate readers more than 150 years after it was published. What makes it exciting?
What aspects of the story seem believable to you?
How does this novel compare to more recent science fiction books you've read?
If you've seen any of the film versions, how do you think the book compares?
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