The Book of Wonders

Common Sense Media says

Exciting adventure with girl hero and Arabian Nights flavor.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Though Zardi's full name is Scheherazade and Sinbad the Sailor plays a major role in her adventures, this is a re-imagining of The Arabian Nights rather than a retelling. Still, the fictional setting of Arribitha is definitely inspired by the medieval Middle East, and the presence of djinnis, pirates, and mythical beasts may inspire readers to explore classic Arabian myths and stories.

Positive messages

Standing by family and friends and striving for social justice are the prominent themes.

Positive role models

Zardi is a brave and loyal girl who puts the safety and happiness of her family and friends first. Her best friend Rhidan strives to do the same but is occasionally distracted by his own needs. One of their companions is jealous and betrays them, but ultimately realizes the error of his ways.

Violence & scariness

Zardi and her friend are abducted by pirates but then befriend the crew. When the group gets stranded on an island, they are attacked by a monstrous brass knight, Rocs (the mythical birds of prey), and giant snakes. Some crew members die violent deaths. Zardi's sister is chosen to be the sultan's next wife, which, according to his tradition, means that he will kill her after 90 days.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book may at first appear to be a retelling of The Arabian Nights, but isn't. Elements of the tales are there, however, including an evil sultan who kills his wives. Though Zardi and her friends are often placed in dangerous situations and some of her shipmates actually die, the danger to Zardi never seems too threatening because she is so resourceful and successful at solving problems. Kids who like adventures that are action-filled but reassuringly easy to get out of will enjoy this book.

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What's the story?

Zardi has always longed for adventure, but she loves her family too much to leave them. This changes when an evil sultan picks her sister to be his next wife, which means that in 90 days she will die. It is up to Zardi and her best friend Rhidan to find the magical amulet that can help them overthrow the sultan. When they join Sinbad the Sailor's crew, it seems their path to success is a sure thing … until the ship gets stranded on a mysterious island filled with monsters and magical beings including, if Zardi can find her, a djinni. But the adventures don't end there -- even if Zardi finds the djinni, she must somehow get back home to rescue her sister before the sultan kills her.

Is it any good?


THE BOOK OF WONDERS has many elements of a classic adventure, starting with a brave heroine on a quest to find a magic talisman to help her save the day. During Zardi's journey she is challenged by a Cyclops, the queen of the snakes, and an evil wizard, and only through her bravery, intelligence, and loyalty can she emerge triumphant. Zardi is likable, spunky. and virtually perfect -- her only fault is feeling guilty when she doesn't help others enough. Obstacles are overcome easily, such as when she and her friends are attacked by Rocs (the mythical birds of prey), and Zardi suddenly discovers she can understand animal language. This may frustrate some readers but comfort others, especially those in the younger age range.

The action occasionally gets bogged down by flat dialogue and a distracting variety of dialogue attributes (characters whisper, warble, growl, and grind out their words). Still, for a reader who can't get enough swashbuckling action in exotic locales, this will serve nicely. A sequel is a given.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether they recognize any of the characters from other books or from cartoons or movies. Which ones? How are they different in this book?

  • Is Sinbad the Sailor a good guy or a villain? When in the story do you know for sure?

  • Why do you think Rhidan's magic keeps appearing and disappearing? Do you think he'll find the answer himself in the next book?

Book details

Author:Jasmine Richards
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:January 17, 2012
Number of pages:416
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12

This review of The Book of Wonders was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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