A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes is a humorous adventure-fantasy with a minority girl character (described as having dark brown skin) -- an orphan named Anne -- who heads up a quest to find her roots and claim a kingdom. The violence is relatively low with two characters falling to their possible deaths (though they turn to smoke on the way down so they may not have been alive to begin with). The main character is stabbed with a sword then healed and her arm is almost cut off. Large iron knights, a pack of wolves, a swarm of mechanical dragonflies, and zombie sharks give chase. A big explosion causes only minor injuries, a fall from a drawbridge into a moat leaves a girl unconscious, and, as the title implies, the team of explorers is captured, imprisoned, and then escapes. They use a mix of bravery, teamwork, and resourcefulness to stay ahead of the bad guys.
What's the story?
In THE ADVENTURER'S GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL ESCAPES, Anne can't wait to leave St. Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children on her 13th birthday. All she needs is a ticket for the yearly ferry and she's free. But when the Matron's iron knight hands out the tickets to all 13-year-olds, Anne is left out. She knows she must find a way to escape, and, with a little help from a magic book she "borrowed" from the orphanage's boarded-up library, she finds a way. A woman appears in a fireball as she runs from St. Lupins and offers her a gauntlet and a place at her quest academy. Once she's had years of careful training at the academy, she and her best friend Penelope from the orphanage can travel the world, taking on dangerous quests just as she's always wanted. But there's one major problem: in the Matron's office Anne's magical gauntlet attracted an equally magical medallion triggering a quest to begin immediately. No training, no nothing, and four days to solve a riddle and finish the quest or she's locked away in prison forever.
Is it any good?
This adventure-fantasy offers plenty of wit and lots of creative world-building, but is marred by hurried storytelling. There's lots to love in a world with magical books, dragons that carry people via fireballs, and orphans finally getting a chance at real adventure, but wow does freshman author Wade Albert White hurry through all of it. Yes, the characters are in a hurry to complete the quest in four days or else, but it doesn't mean the storytelling has to rush-rush-rush. White barely introduces characters -- especially Hiro, the third member of the quest -- barely explains how the magic or the magical council governing everything works, and barely describes the various tiered worlds the kids rush off to in order to finish the quest.
He also barely explores the inner worlds of his characters -- a big disappointment since we have such a great hero in Anne. Minority characters rarely get to head up quests in kids adventure-fantasies, so it would have been wonderful to give her thoughts a much bigger presence. Perhaps if a sequel is in order, readers who stick with Anne and friends will get to learn more about everything missing in this book.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the magical book in The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes. What hints does it give Anne, Penelope, and Hiro about how to complete their quest?
Before each chapter the author includes excerpts from books, student evaluation forms, etc. Besides providing lots of humor, how do these add to your sense of this magical world?
Would you go on another quest with Ann and friends? Why or why not?
- Author: Wade Albert White
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Misfits and Underdogs, Robots
- Book type: Fiction
- Publishers: Little, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: September 13, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 1, 2017
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