A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Melissa de la Cruz's Return to the Isle of the Lost, follow-up to Isle of the Lost, is the latest installment in Disney's relentlessly promoted, multiplatform (books! Movies! Apps! Games! Etc.!) Descendants franchise. It's lightweight and cartoonish and should probably be seen as another chance to spend a moment with well-loved characters rather than a stand-alone story. While the lead characters are in their teens, they're meant to appeal to a much younger audience, and this episode in what promises to be a long-running series allows each of them moments in the spotlight and bits of character development. Aside from nonstop promotion of Disney character -- nearly every one to come out of the Magic Kingdom makes at least a cameo appearance -- there's not much to worry about here. Even the brief violence, including a scene in which a character is thrown to the crocodiles and quickly rescued -- is cartoonish, and despite many threats of evil taking over the world, nothing really bad happens. Along the way there are lots of positive messages about friendship, loyalty, bravery, finding yourself -- and not letting bad circumstances, like, say, being the child of an arch-villain, define you.
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What's the story?
Following the events of Book 1, the villain kids -- Mal, daughter of Maleficent; Carlos, son of Cruella; Jay, son of Jafar; and Evie, daughter of Evil Queen -- have escaped the Isle of the Lost (where all the Disney villains are imprisoned) and are enjoying their unfamiliar roles as heroes. Thanks to newly crowned King Ben, son of Belle and Beast and boyfriend of Mal, they're living in the kingdom of Auradon and enjoying normal teen life at Auradon Prep, with sports, dances, fashion, and lots of friends (all of them the children of Disney cartoon characters). But trouble looms: Earthquakes rattle the land, strange weather wreaks havoc, and people in the countryside report sightings of a purple dragon. Or was it a snake? The kids suspect their supposedly imprisoned evil parents have something to do with the mayhem, and after each of them gets a mysterious message, they decide they'd better RETURN TO THE ISLE OF THE LOST to investigate.
Is it any good?
The Descendants series' premise -- Disney villains' kids discovering they like being heroes -- is brilliant, and this cartoonish visit with its now-beloved characters is harmless, positive fun. Characters are in their teens, but their concerns and interactions reflect those of much younger kids, and there's nothing age-inappropriate for the tween crowd. It's an entertaining, if millimeter-deep vehicle for a lot of positive messages about friendship, loyalty, kindness, doing the right thing, being considerate of others, and being true to yourself. Author Melissa de la Cruz also loads the text with big words likely to improve younger readers' vocabularies.
This installment is also almost hilariously marketing-driven. In addition to the lead characters, someone from Disney cartoons and references to events on their plot threads appear on practically every page. If your kid somehow missed one of these stories, expect to hear about it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories of heroes, villains, and villains trying to be heroes. What's the appeal of this theme? Do you have any favorite examples?
What do you think of crossover stories that bring together characters from unrelated tales? Does it make the story better to mix things up like this, or does it just get weird?
Do you know anyone who has a difficult life but is a good, kind person anyway? How might you make things easier for that person?
- Author: Melissa de la Cruz
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: May 31, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 306
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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