The Hobbit

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Hobbit Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Brilliantly written, inventive pre-LOTR tale.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 31 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 125 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Dig deeper into J.R.R. Tolkien's world, and readers will find out more about his made-up languages and runes, as well as art inspired by this book and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Younger readers will also build up their vocabulary, so keep a dictionary handy. Words like "flummoxed" should be looked up so kids get the full enjoyment out of Tolkien's beautiful writing.

Positive Messages

Shows how greed for riches can blind you and that peace is more important than shiny possessions. Also, that giving up the comforts of home is worth it for adventure, but it's always nice to find home again. Throughout the book, a big value is placed on bravery, friendship, and using brains over brawn.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bilbo is hired as a thief and does do some stealing from enemies, but mostly he shows bravery, cunning, and loyalty to his group of travelers while helping them get out of a number of sticky situations. Most heroically, he takes a stand against Thorin, hoping to show him that his greed for gold isn't worth spilling blood over. Gandalf is a mentor for the dwarves and Bilbo, advising them on how to reach their goal and avoid danger but also imparting much wisdom along the way.


Fights with a dragon, trolls, giant spiders, wood elves, goblins, and evil wolves. The dwarves and Bilbo are captured a few times, whipped once, almost cooked once, and strung upside down to be eaten later. Swords and arrows kill in a big battle that includes some sad deaths. There's talk of how a dragon destroyed whole towns of men and dwarves around his hoard. Bilbo has a creepy encounter in the dark with Gollum, who keeps thinking about how he'd like to eat him. Few truly gory details except a goblin head and a wolf skin propped up on a gate.


"Hell" (spelled "'ell") and "curse it!"

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of tobacco smoking with pipes -- trying to get big rings and magically float them. Drinking, too, by dwarves, elves, and Gandalf. Two elves fall asleep drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, of J.R.R. Tolkien's many excellent books, The Hobbit is the better choice for tweens. It makes a great read-aloud for kids 8 and up and read-alone for 10 or 11 and up. Kids younger than 8 will probably have a tough time with both the vocabulary and some of the violence. Of particular note for bedtime readers: scary scenes in the pitch-blackness when Bilbo the hobbit is threatened by goblins and trolls in caves, and a very creepy scene with Gollum, who keeps thinking about how he'd like to eat Bilbo. The dwarves and Bilbo are captured a few times, whipped once, almost cooked once, and strung upside down to be eaten later. Swords and arrows kill in a big battle that includes some sad deaths. Few truly gory details except a goblin head and a wolf skin propped up on a gate. And there are fights with big spiders and evil wolves. Dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo love their drink and making smoke rings from their pipes.  This classic adventure brings out the best in the little hobbit at its center: bravery, loyalty, cunning, and the guts to take a stand against friends blinded by greed so he can help bring about peace. Rob Inglis reads the audiobook version.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6-year-old Written byRhino Dad December 15, 2009
I started reading this to my six year old daughter a test to see what kind of books would keep her interested and now she will not let me put her to bed without... Continue reading
Parent of a 4, 6, and 9-year-old Written bygonzi May 1, 2013

The story that all the other fantasy novels followed!

I just finished reading this to my 9yo daughter. She loved it. Needed to pause sometimes to discuss the old fashioned speech -particularly in the last part whe... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byelizabeththemus... May 22, 2020

Don’t Read This Too Early In Life

I read this book in fifth grade because I needed the AR points. It changed my life. I credit this book with my love for reading, as it showed me that there is m... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bypalkpreet19 December 6, 2017


I think that this book does not interest me at all. I know other people made this book seem horrible but I personally don’t disagree with them at all. The plot... Continue reading

What's the story?

Bilbo Baggins, a simple Hobbit, never asked for adventure. It literally came knocking on his door -- 13 dwarves (Tolkien's spelling with the \"v\") and Gandalf the wizard show up to tea to hire Bilbo as a thief in their quest to reclaim a hoard of treasure. It's stashed far away and guarded by a fierce dragon, Smaug. Bilbo will have to cross the Misty Mountains -- troll and goblin country -- and the untamed wilds of Mirkwood, where straying from the path can be deadly. In exchange, he gets an even share of the treasure and quite a story to tell. But is one little hobbit really up for such a big adventure?

Is it any good?

There are few worlds more richly imagined than Tolkien's Middle Earth. Readers would get caught up just in his exquisitely imaginative details if it weren't for the nonstop adventure; it's a perfect balance. Add to that a wonderful main character -- the hairy-footed little hobbit who truly triumphs -- and you have the perfect fantasy-adventure. This is how it's done.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Bilbo changes over the course of the book. Why is he reluctant to have an adventure at first? Would you choose a comfy hobbit-hole over a meeting with a dragon (and riches), or would you face adversity and adventure head-on?


  • For those reading as a family, what parts are the best to read aloud? Is it easier to get through the scary scenes with company? What other books appeal to readers of many ages?

  • Can you see why the fimmakers decided to break the movie version of The Hobbit into three installments?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

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