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 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.
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?
- Author: Chris Colfer
- Illustrator: Brandon Dorman
- Genre: Fairy Tale
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Fairy Tales
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 18, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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