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 School for Good and Evil is a fresh take on fairy tale devices and clichés, upending the expectations most readers have about princesses and villains. The language is very mild (nothing worse than "ass"). Would-be princesses and princes flirt with each other, and there's one kissing scene and a couple of mildly bawdy sword jokes. As in most fairy tales, violence and the threat of it are fairly constant, but most characters escape actual harm, at least until the climactic battle sequence. The body count there is rather high, and one of the main characters is killed (though seemingly revived later on).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When best friends Sophie and Agatha are stolen away from their village and end up at the THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, the girls assume that their roles in life will remain as they always have predicted. With her blond hair, pink dresses, and penchant for doing good deeds, Sophie will be trained to be a storybook princess. Black-clad and antisocial Agatha has all the makings of a first-class villainess. At the school, however, the girls find themselves exactly where they don't want to be. Sophie is the one to take Uglification lessons and consort with future witches and their nefarious assistants, while Agatha must learn about makeup and the proper etiquette for attracting a Prince Charming. To get back home, Agatha and Sophie must solve a riddle that seems to threaten the very existence of the school.
Is it any good?
The School for Good and Evil is no run-of-the-mill fairy tale spin-off. Author Soman Chainani has clearly done his homework in folklore and mass media, and he manipulates the clichés of fantasy and folklore with a great deal of wit and insight. This opening volume to the series feels a little long, however. Agatha and Sophie attempt new trials, pass or fail in unexpected ways, and then move on to the next contest. The repetition of this pattern grows burdensome across nearly 500 pages. Still, there's a lot of narrative meat here, served up with flair by Chainani and complemented by Iacopo Bruno's black-and-white illustrations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about portrayals of fairy tale characters in The School for Good and Evil. How do fairy tale characters in modern media differ from their original, folkloric versions? Why do you think these stories remain so powerful and compelling?
Do you ever make judgments about people based on how they look or dress? Can you tell if someone is "good" or "bad" just by looking at them?
Do you ever feel as if other people -- family, friends or teachers -- have expectations of you that you can't possibly meet? How do you handle those expectations?
- Author: Soman Chainani
- Illustrator: Iacopo Bruno
- Genre: Fairy Tale
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Fairy Tales, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: May 14, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 17
- Number of pages: 496
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 28, 2020
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