A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's little of concern here, beyond a few moments of sexism, but the world of 19th-century Europe was definitely a man's world.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Professor Lindenbrock and his nephew Axel discover an old document that purports to show the entrance in an extinct volcano to a series of caverns leading to the Earth's center. Following the instructions, they undertake a hazardous journey deep within the Earth, where they find an underground world complete with ocean, and flora and fauna left from an earlier epoch.
Is it any good?
This classic work of imaginative fiction from one of the fathers of the science-fiction genre has lasted for nearly 150 years for a reason -- it's exciting and brilliantly inventive, even visionary. It has been made into numerous movie versions (imdb.com lists 13), including the Classic with James Mason. With each new version, viewers may be interested in reading the book it was based on. Normally you'd be glad to pass along the unabridged original (in one of its several translations from the original French) of a classic to your child, but in this case all but the most experienced readers are going to find it very heavy going. Pushing something like this on children before they are ready for it can often spoil it for them forever.
Verne was writing in an earlier era for a mostly adult audience, presumed, if they were literate enough to be reading novels for pleasure, to be very well educated. The vocabulary is advanced, the descriptions lengthy, and the scientific and literary references removed from the experience of most young readers. Experienced teens will enjoy it, and younger experienced listeners may enjoy hearing it read by an adult with the patience to stop often for explanations. Younger readers will do better to look for one of the many adaptations: illustrated, comic, and graphic novel versions (see the other choices section below for a free online version), retellings, condensed, abridged, and edited versions, and movie novelizations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether or not you think this story could be possible. Could there be vast caverns under the Earth, possibly with hidden civilizations? Could there be a giant ocean? Could plants and creatures from a previous epoch have survived down there? What does modern science know for sure about the interior of the planet?