The Familiars

Common Sense Media says

Magical animal adventures for kids not ready for Potter.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
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15
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Not much for kids to learn directly, but when the wizards-in-training go on a field trip, it's a great example of how their hard work and studying can pay off. They have to combine their knowledge of the natural world with magical learning and bravery. And, of course, so do the animals when they take off on their quest.

Positive messages

Bravery and loyalty are the most important qualities. And that heroism comes in many forms (page 118), especially small furry, feathery, and scaly forms.

Positive role models

Aldwyn may not be honest about who he is and his abilities, but his cunning and street smarts come to the rescue many times -- he's the bravest of the three familiars. Skylar is both very bright and very proud. Gilbert feels inadequate but still tries hard to help the other familiars.

Violence & scariness

A sad death (hole through the chest), a fire, and a kidnapping of three young wizards at the beginning set the story in motion. Action scenes show animals in lots of magical danger. They are chased by a bounty hunter and fall down a waterfall (Skylar breaks a wing), almost thrown into a boiling pot by huge tentacles, attacked by a giant beast in a cave and lots of leeches, and beset by a very menacing hydra -- each head is deadly in a different way. Talk of past wizard battles involves beheadings and something called the Dead Army Uprising. Aldwyn has dreams about when his parents abandoned him to fend for himself in the city.

Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Familiars is the first book in a magic-filled fantasy series of the same name that shows three animals -- a cat, a bird, and a frog -- as the heroes. There's plenty of fantasy action and nail-biting moments -- especially in the final scene with the deadly hydra -- but the animal-filled illustrations lighten things up just enough so even skittish fantasy fans shouldn't find the story too menacing to handle. Still, there's a sad death near the beginning and reminders that Aldwyn the cat was abandoned by his parents as a kitten (though the reasons why may become clear later in the series).

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Aldwyn the alley cat thinks he's caught a real break when a chase through the city by a bounty hunter (Stop! Fish thief!) ends with him hiding in a mysterious and magical pet shop. Masquerading as one of the animals for sale, he's mistakenly picked out by young wizard-in-training, Jack, as his new \"familiar,\" or magical animal companion. The pair and Jack's wizard teacher, Kalstaff, head back to the country, where Jack studies with young students Dalton and Marianne and their familiars, Skylar the blue jay and Gilbert the frog. Aldwyn is excited about his new home but wonders when to tell them that he's not the magical beast they think he is. But there's no time for that when the three young wizards are kidnapped and Kalstaff dies protecting them. Suddenly it's up to Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert to rescue them.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE FAMILIARS does sound quite familiar. Magic students and their animals -- hello Harry and Hedwig. A magical journey -- starting with The Odyssey, there are too many to count. But familiar doesn't make it any less fun. The animals are adorable, especially when seen doing magic in the illustrations throughout. They're also brave in many an adventure. The authors (TV and movie writing friends) know how to write some exciting action sequences that will keep kids glued to the pages. The Familiars is a good introduction to fantasy series for kids not yet ready for Potter and beyond.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Aldwyn's decision not to tell his new friends that he's really an alley cat from the city. Why does he want to belong so much? How does he make up for not using magic during their adventures?

  • Will you keep reading this series? Why or why not? What are your favorite fantasy series? Why?

  • If you had a familiar, what animal would it be? What magical talents would you like it to have?

Book details

Authors:Adam Jay Epstein, Andrew Jacobson
Illustrators:Kei Acedera, Peter Chan
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Cats, dogs, and mice
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harper
Publication date:September 7, 2010
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:8 - 12
Read alone:8 - 12
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle, Nook, Paperback

This review of The Familiars was written by

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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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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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, okay 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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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 9 years old April 4, 2013
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Read This Book!

It is kid friendly and one of my favorite books because it combines cool magic abilities with funny characters.
What other families should know
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old January 12, 2014
AGE
9
QUALITY
 

A really good book

I read this book and really liked it. I loved the entire series (there are four books)! It is a great book for children of all ages and is very entertaining. I think anybody who likes Harry Potter might like this book series as well.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Parent of a 10 year old Written byMommacat13 April 12, 2014
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Fantastic series for animal lovers and adventurers

I bought these for my daughter based on the cover, knowing she loved talking animal stories and magic/fantasy. She devoured the books in a week, so I read them too. The series is a wonderful journey three animals that become friends, the human companions they bond with, and the strength of friendship and courage in the face of adversity. For young readers that are not yet ready for Harry Potter, this is a wonderful place to start. I feel there is an educational value because ANY book that sparks a joy of reading in a child is educational. In addition, there is allegedly an animated film of the books in production!!!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

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