A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
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).
Is It Any Good?
THE FAMILIARS does sound quite familiar -- but that 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.