The Land of Stories: A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Land of Stories: A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales Book Poster Image
Retold classics provide origin story for blockbuster series.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Colfer notes the original from which he adapted each tale (some more freely than others, but nothing compared with Disney's adaptation of The Little Mermaid). He also gives the authors a brief introduction at the end of the book, so it's easy for those who love a particular story to check out other versions.

Positive Messages

From happily-ever-after to scary cautionary tales, these stories usually come with a lesson. Sometimes they're close to the traditional versions; sometimes, true to Colfer's style, they go a bit overboard in humor-tinged new-agey self-helpiness: "The magic beans gave Jack all of his heart's greatest desires. But the true magic was inside Jack. Had he not been so certain about what he wanted out of life, the beans would have never known what to do. Jack's story taught a great lesson to everyone who heard it: When life hands you beans, grow a beanstalk." Sometimes a character's experiences are used to deliver a message; for example, the Ugly Duckling suffers from bullying.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the tales are cautionary (protagonist does stupid or bad things and gets eaten), but others serve as examples of virtue: Beauty returning to the beast, the elves rewarding the shoemaker's kindness, the Billy Goats Gruff's clever use of teamwork.

Violence

Good and evil characters are gobbled up, shoved into burning ovens, thrown from high towers, blinded, and otherwise ill-treated. The Sea Witch cuts out the Little Mermaid's tongue. There's more than one wicked stepmother, including one who wants to murder her stepchildren. Some characters are bullied. Good sometimes saves the day, as when the Little Mermaid refuses to save herself by killing the prince.

Sex

Quite a few couples get married and live happily ever after. Numerous characters have their spells or curses lifted by a kiss. The prince's visits to Rapunzel in the tower result first in a kiss, then in a pair of twins; in the original, the couple was married, at least in their own minds, but Colfer makes no mention of it.

Language
Consumerism

This book's publication coincides with the release of the Land of Stories box set of the first five volumes. Many references to how this was the book that started it all, mostly in the introduction and parting comments from the Fairy Godmother, an important character.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Land of Stories: A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales, by Chris Colfer (Land of Stores series) retells some beloved classics, from "Cinderella" to "Pinocchio," as well as some time-tested Mother Goose rhymes. It's also, allegedly, the book that started Land of Stories protagonists Conner and Alex on their many adventures. But aside from brief mentions by the Fairy Godmother in the introduction and afterword, this isn't about them or Colfer's wacky versions of the fairy tale characters. Instead, he stays fairly true to the source material -- which calls for a heads-up to parents whose kids know these stories only from their sanitized, upbeat Disney versions. Expect a sea hag who cuts out the Little Mermaid's tongue, misguided characters who get gobbled up, wicked stepmothers galore, and a Rapunzel whose meetings with the prince result in twins.

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Kid, 11 years old November 29, 2017

THE LAND OF STORIES REVIEW

Must read! An amazing story and educational. To bad they haven’t made a movie about this! Do not look on the last page of the book because it spoils everything

What's the story?

Conveniently coinciding with the box-set release of the first five Land of Stories volumes, THE LAND OF STORIES: A TREASURY OF CLASSIC FAIRY TALES is a lushly produced, lavishly illustrated origin story in that it claims to be the very same collection of classic fairy tales into which Conner and Alex first tumbled in The Wishing Spell: Land of Stories, Book 1. Many of the series characters, from Red Riding Hood to the Frog Prince, appear in their original stories, but don't expect Red or Froggy here, as Colfer stays close to the source material most of the time. 

Is it any good?

This collection of classic fairy tales is an engaging addition to your child's library, and author Chris Colfer's selection of stories is spot on. But it needn't replace the versions you may have. The adaptations in The Land of Stories: A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales are closer to their originals than the Disney versions, so expect more gore and darkness, but there's also plenty of virtue rewarded and happily-ever-after. Colfer shows respect by including short biographies of the authors whose stories he's retold, making it easy to read the other versions. Brandon Dorman's colorful illustrations add appeal to the characters. There's also a lot of wisdom in the Survival Guide in the appendix, applicable in this world as well as the fairy tale universe.

Sometimes the editorializing, ham-fisted moralizing, and cartoonish views of complex issues detract from a lively narrative, such as this from the Fairy Godmother describing her arrival in the Middle Ages: "It was a period consumed with poverty, plague, and war ... However, it wasn't interaction your world needed, it was inspiration. In a world dominated by ruthless kings and warlords, the ideas of self-worth and self-empowerment were unheard of. So I started telling stories about my world to entertain and raise spirits ... The stories taught many lessons, but most important, they taught the world how to dream ... Families passed the stories from generation to generation, and over the years I watched their courage and compassion change the world."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the enduring appeal of the tales in The Land of Stories: A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales. Why have they been popular for centuries? Is it because they're about magic things that would never happen in our world -- or because the characters are a lot like us?

  • Sometimes stories -- "The Little Mermaid," for example -- get changed beyond recognition from the original to make them appeal to a different audience or to promote a different moral. Is it acceptable creative license, or should people write their own original stories?

  • How do you think this collection compares with the adventures in Chris Colfer's Land of Stories series? Does it give you a better appreciation of the characters and their issues?

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