A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Strange the Dreamer, a 2018 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, is the first in a two-book fantasy series by the acclaimed author of Lips Touch Three Times and the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. As in Laini Taylor's other books for teens, she doesn't shy away from mature subject matter. Here, there's talk of slaughtered babies and girls who, years before the story begins, had been abducted, raped, forced to have children, and returned home after their memories were erased. The main character is treated harshly as a young orphan; he's beaten with switches and sent to sleep in a crypt when he misbehaves. One character dies by falling and getting impaled by a fence. Sexual content is also mature. One couple has sex, with a few details of the experience described. The messages here will resonate with a more mature audience ready to contemplate the nature and cause of discrimination and hate. Main characters work toward compassion and understanding while others remain committed to violence.
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What's the story?
In STRANGE THE DREAMER, a boy named Lazlo Strange first gets his Dreamer nickname as an orphan in an abbey. He's caught too many times skipping out on his duties to play make-believe and often listens with rapt attention to stories from one of the bedridden, senile residents, Brother Cyrus. Brother Cyrus' stories introduce Lazlo to a magical and mysterious city called Weep on the other side of a vast desert. For years traders came from Weep with tales of its magnificence that foreigners were never permitted to see -- they were killed on sight. Then, 200 years ago, the traders just stopped coming. Lazlo is captivated by the stories, and when he's sent to the city's library on an errand and sees all the books he hopes hold more amazing mysteries, he begs to stay. As a junior librarian, Lazlo discovers a dusty basement full of works the other librarians discard as simple fairy tales. He knows better and begins to translate them and learn a new language. It's a language he hears spoken for the first time when foreign soldiers march into town begging for help. They're looking for the best scientists and scholars to accompany them back across the desert to Weep on a secret assignment. As a simple junior librarian, Lazlo knows he doesn't qualify, but it's his dream and he'll do anything to get there.
Is it any good?
Here's every fantasy lover's dream: a fiercely imaginative, lushly told story with fantastic and complex characters full of yearning. The biggest success of many in Strange the Dreamer is how palpable main character Lazlo Strange's yearning is -- for knowledge, for adventure, for connection, for a foreign land he has never really seen. His yearning is so palpable that when he works up the courage to make his dreams a reality, to find a way to visit the fabled city of Weep, you can't help but cheer out loud. (Maybe don't read that part in public if you embarrass easily.)
From there the story is still full of surprises we won't spoil here. Taylor even keeps the foreign adventurers in the dark about what they will find on the other side of the desert and why they are summoned to help the city of Weep. It builds some fabulous tension and is far from the last surprise of this story. As readers reach the twisty ending, they'll be full of yearning for the sequel.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Author: Laini Taylor
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Bugs, Fairy Tales, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: March 28, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 15 - 18
- Number of pages: 544
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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