A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Christopher Healy's The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw is the final installment of the Hero's Guide trilogy. It brings the tale of the four Princes Charming to a satisfying close, with upbeat messages on loyalty, friendship, kindness, developing a spine, and the strange way someone's peculiar qualities turn out to be just what's needed to save the day. As you might expect after reading first two books, The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom and The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle, the hefty (528 pages) finale is a nonstop barrage of cartoonish mayhem, inspired silliness, dramatic reversals, and romantic comedy. Assorted villains are bent on killing the four Princes Charming and their (usually far more competent) female counterparts, and some characters (human and otherwise) come to violent ends. But it's hard to take the cartoonish hack-and-slash too seriously, especially since Rapunzel's tears heal the wounded and many of the dead have trouble staying that way. Note: Author Healy reviews video games for Common Sense Media.
What's the story?
Our heroes Princes Gustav ("Angry Man"), Duncan ("Pipsqueak"), Frederic ("Tassels") and Liam ("Capey") and heroines (Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella and Princess Lila) have scarcely caught their breath after the events of Book 2 when--surprise!--more peril looms. Liam may have escaped an unwanted marriage with Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty), but now he and his friends are the prime suspects in her murder. And as if it's not bad enough to be pursued through 13 kingdoms by bounty hunters, our heroes soon discover that all those kingdoms have been taken over by mind-controlling sinister forces. Encounters with monsters, pirates, dungeon-keepers, witches, giants, beasts of prey, and heavily armed soldiers ensue. Will the League of Princes and the Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters survive? Will they live happily ever after? Will it be worth the trouble?
Is it any good?
THE HERO'S GUIDE TO BEING AN OUTLAW careens through 500-plus thoroughly engaging pages of madcap, slapstick perils and wisecracks. By that time, Christopher Healy's three-volume saga has jumped not only the shark but the giant mongoose, the brain-melting beetle, and the shape-shifting snake. Don't expect things to make a whole lot of sense; do expect many charming moments as various characters fall in love, display courage when it counts, and save the day in reliably oddball fashion.
Aside from the mostly cartoonish violence, there's little problematical content and much entertainment value. The story's an excellent read-aloud choice, but adult readers-aloud are warned that author Healy tosses off the occasional cultural in-joke that will go right by little ones and have grown-ups in giggles, as when a character named Val Jeanval joins the entourage. Some allusions only Baby Boomer grandparents might recognize, like when ditzy Duncan calls a sea monster "Cecil."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why new stories about traditional fairy-tale characters are so popular. Do you see the original stories differently after you've experienced the modern updates?
What do our often bumbling heroes have in common with the heroes in other adventure tales? How are they different?
Do you prefer inspiring adventure stories with larger-than-life heroes, or something on the sillier side? Do you think it's possible to be both brave and silly?
- Author: Christopher Healy
- Illustrator: Todd Harris
- Genre: Fairy Tale
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Adventures, Book characters, Fairy tales, Friendship, Pirates
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Walden Pond Press
- Publication date: April 29, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 528
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, 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.