A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Reading books, learning from them, and living in their worlds are essential to the story and character development. The Never After tales are fantasy fiction, but along the way they deliver a good deal of vocabulary, like "veritable," "investigate," "commotion," "compensate," "initiative," "misdirection," "hideous," "everything about her is the pinnacle of pulchritude and perfection." Its theme, of telling the true, very different version of popular fairy tales invites some interesting comparisons.
Strong messages of friendship, family, teamwork, helping each other out, empathy. Also courage and perseverance, even when things look hopeless. Resourcefulness, creative thinking, and a determination to seek the truth (and spread the word) play a strong role.
Positive Role Models
Filomena and her friends are loyal, courageous, resourceful, and determined as they try to save Never After and its people -- especially their queen-- from the ogres, who have been spreading terror, misery, and death ever since they arrived. And also to set the story straight in the human world, where Filomena lives most of the time. Her (adoptive) parents are offstage for most of the action, but their unwavering love and support sustain her, and other adult characters in both worlds are strong allies and protectors.
Lots of girl power in this story, as female characters (good and evil) take the lead most of the time. Filomena's adoptive dad is Korean American, her mom's English. Important characters are Black and Korean; Korean dress, food, and customs come up frequently.
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Violence & Scariness
In the past, assorted characters have been murdered, and the killers are still at it. Ogres massacre and murder characters in the course of their quest for world domination. Lots of swordplay, shooting with arrows, stabbing, bludgeoning, forcing into ovens, etc., sometimes fatal, although not all the dead characters stay dead. Characters are imprisoned by ogres and monsters, and expect to be devoured by them. A character has been transformed by a curse.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen characters are in love and eventually marry. One of them says, "We've been exclusive since we started seeing each other. If he's been talking to other girls I swear I'll --" Tween characters have a strong, romantically tinged attraction, but have more pressing crises to deal with. Filomena's mom writes passionate romance novels, which Filomena, 12, is not allowed to read but does anyway.
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"MOM! YOU MORON!" screeches a villain, who refers to a deceased older lady as a "wench."
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Products & Purchases
Occasional mention of real-life products, such as English Kit-Kat bars, which Filomena strongly prefers to the the U.S. version.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The kids find themselves in a house made of delicious candy of all kinds, and before long find themselves captured, enslaved, degraded, and mentally impaired by their addiction to the stuff.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Stolen Slippers is the second book in Melissa de la Cruz's Never After series featuring imaginative, adventurous reinventions of well-known fairy tales. Bookish, bullied, 12-year-old adoptee Filomena Jefferson-Cho of North Pasadena, who's always taken comfort in a fantasy series set in the land of Never After, found herself transported there in Book 1. And while there, she discovered that her relationship with the stories, the place, and the characters went well beyond fangirl. In this episode, we learn along with Filomena that everything we know about Cinderella is wrong, wrong, wrong. Not only is she a spoiled brat, but also her so-called wicked stepsisters are the perfectly delightful cousins of Filomena's friend Gretel (of "Hansel and..."), and one of them is the rightful owner of the glass slippers, made by Gretel's uncle. It's complicated, but long story short, if the version of the Cinderella story we all know is allowed to unfold, the ogre conquest of Never After will be complete. Also true loves will be lost. There's a lot of hacking, slashing, stabbing, swordplay, devouring, and other mayhem. In one scene, Filomena and friends, including Gretel, stuff the ogre who was planning to roast them into the oven instead. Characters are killed -- and often return to life. Friendship, family, teamwork, loyalty, and creative thinking are strong themes. The cast is diverse, with girls and women (good and evil) dominating the action; important characters are Black and Korean; and there's a lot of detail about Korean food and culture. Along the way, readers get vocabulary-building phrases like "pinnacle of pulchritude and perfection."
Is It Any Good?
It's complicated but never dull as 12-year-old Filomena finds that very little of what she knows about Cinderella -- or Beauty and the Beast -- is exactly correct, and takes on the job of setting the story straight. As she and her pals rush to restore The Stolen Slippers to their rightful owner -- who isn't Cinderella -- things are often not what they seem, or what we're led to believe. With ogres bent on finishing their gory conquest of the once-happy Never After, it's a dangerous, treacherous, and funny adventure -- which wraps up just long enough to set up the next installment.
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.