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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 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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- 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
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.