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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Set in Chicago, The Legend of Greg offers a lot of detail on local sights, sounds, and attractions.
Family, friendship, and loyalty are strong themes, as is kindness, which often has positive and unexpected rewards. Also, be careful of magical weapons, which may solve your problem now but will come back to get you later.
Positive Role Models
Greg's discovery that he's a Dwarf is the start of some life-changing character developments, like newfound courage and optimism (however ill-founded). Wiser readers will have a "what could possibly go wrong?" moment as Greg succumbs to the siren call of the Bloodletter, a famous weapon that solves all your problems now and comes back to get you later. But Greg is driven by devotion to his kidnapped father, as well as friendship with his new Dwarven friends. Greg's father is kindly, odd, and a good deal more than he first appears. Other adult characters are strange but kind mentors.
Violence & Scariness
Some characters perish in cosmic conflicts. Dwarves and Elves have committed many atrocities against each other over the centuries (and probably made others up). Greg's father is wounded and captured. Greg takes on a bully who's tormenting one of his classmates and magically breaks the bully's hand. One of the Dwarven characters really wants to smash Elves. Animals hate Dwarves and attack them whenever possible.
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Greg exclaims "Holy crap!" on receiving a gift. Gross-out and bathroom humor aplenty, with poop, pee, farts, butts, and unspeakable toilets. Greg's school, the Isaacson Preparatory Empowerment Establishment, is known as I-PEE. Elven characters use an insulting racist term for Dwarves. Dwarves do the same for Elves.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Legend of Greg is the first book in a new series by Chris Rylander, involving a 13-year-old Chicago boy whose drab, boring life changes dramatically when he learns that he's a Dwarf (like in Middle Earth) and his father is carried off by a monster. Also that his best (and only) friend's family, who, it turns out, are Elves (also like in Middle Earth), are very likely behind the whole thing, and cosmic forces are in play that are about to change everything. Grossout humor, especially pee, poop, and farts, is a constant amid the magic weapons, world-building, and wisecracks. Beards and mustaches are considered signs of beauty among Dwarven women. Much of the story deals with brewing hatred and distrust among groups with a long history of disliking one another, which resonates a good deal with current events. Kindness pays off, as do creative thinking and teamwork, but dark forces are in play and things aren't always what they seem. Real-life consumer products (such as iPhone, Dr Pepper) are part of the scene-setting.
Is It Any Good?
Author Chris Rylander brings the Dwarves and Elves of Middle Earth, along with cosmic conflict, middle-school bullies, and bathroom humor, to modern-day Chicago, where mayhem quickly ensues. There are also some relatable moments as The Legend of Greg unfolds, and its unlikely hero has unexpected moments of triumph. Many of the story elements seem a bit half-baked, possibly signaling a long, chaotic story arc to come.
"I was sitting in an underground cavern where kids were crafting weapons, brewing potions, and spelunking just for fun. That made it easier to simply nod and go along with everything. I still wasn't sure how much I really believed any of this. But it surprised me how much I wanted to. Suddenly I was kind of excited about possibly being a part of something huge and cool -- knowing that I wasn't just some kid from a loser family so cursed that we all accepted our bad luck with big, dumb smiles on our faces. Here was a whole new world for me to explore, a world where I'd finally belong, and it apparently came with built-in (potential) friends."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.