The Wishing Spell: The Land of Stories, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Wishing Spell: The Land of Stories, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Captivating, imaginative story of kids in fairy-tale world.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 80 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers will learn the roots of some classic fairy tales. One of Alex's pet peeves is the modern tendency to sugar-coat the fairy-tale stories and radically change them, adding cuteness, sunshine, and butterflies and losing whatever lesson the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen were trying to teach. The twins here learn and apply the fairy tales' lessons in their quest.

Positive Messages

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell offers strong messages about how family members love and support one another, despite their differences, and how those differences and special qualities help the kids confront new situations. Different characters come to the rescue in unexpected and ingenious ways.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Conner and Alex are believable kids with their own strengths and weaknesses and positive role models in their support of each other, as well as in the bravery and creativity with which they solve problems. Their mother's and grandmother's strong, loving support and their late father's bond with his children are solid and sustaining. Characters they meet along the way, notably Froggy (the giant spellbound amphibian who comes to their rescue), also show courage and helpfulness.

Violence & Scariness

The kids are sometimes in peril, comic and otherwise, in encounters with assorted monsters and villains, including wolves, trolls, and the Evil Queen and her henchmen. While the kids don't suffer any real harm, many of their enemies come to a violent end in mishaps or combat.

A few instances of "damn." Some name calling, including "jerk," "mental," "bimbo," "crappy," "stupid."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Wishing Spell, by Glee's Chris Colfer (who plays Kurt Hummel), is the first book in the six-volume The Land of Stories series. It's warm, heartfelt, and imaginative. Twins Alex and Conner are transported to the world of fairy tales, in which they meet such characters as Goldilocks, Cinderella, and Snow White, all living new lives and playing a role in helping the kids get home. There's some fleeting danger to the kids at the hands of assorted villains, from wolves to the Evil Queen, and a number of wicked characters come to a violent but not graphically described end. There are a few a few instances of mild flirting. And in one episode, a hideous troll princess offers to let the the twins go if she can kiss Conner. There are a few instances of "damn" and some name calling (including "jerk," "bimbo," "crappy," "stupid"). The audiobook is narrated by author-actor Colfer. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byMdunbar July 1, 2018

Fun story idea, terribly written

As an educator, I would not recommend this book as an example of quality writing. The plot is a good idea, yet the lack of quality vocabulary, dialogue, and se... Continue reading
Parent Written byEllen Beth P. May 19, 2018


I think this is the best book ever. When I got it I thought it would be babyish, but now I have read every book in the series, investigated all I can about it,... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 9, 2019


Ok so I admit I only started reading this book because Chris Colfer wrote itbut i knew that meant it was going to be good. However it was better then i expecte... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byguineagirl2005 June 8, 2018

must read!

great series! Enjoyed the humor and the characters!

What's the story?

Life has been hard for brainiac social outcast Alex and popular slacker Conner Bailey, sixth-grade twins, since the death of their beloved father. They've lost their home, and their mother has to work long hours to support them. Their grandmother visits when she can and leaves granddaughter Alex the family's heirloom book of fairy tales. One day, Alex and Conner fall into a scene in the book and find themselves in the land of fairy tales. The landscape is strangely familiar from their father's stories, but they must deal with a giant frog, trolls, and wolves, as well as many princes, princesses, heroes, and villains, in their quest to get home again. There are also revelations about well-known characters and how they're coping with their lives -- for example, it wasn't so easy for Cinderella, as a non-princess, to fit in at the palace, and there's a romantic tragedy in the Evil Queen's past.

Is it any good?

There's a real, heartfelt warmth to this book's characters and their situations, as well as the strong sensibility of an adult who hasn't forgotten the joys and the terrors of childhood.

Books that imagine fairy-tale characters outside the bounds of their own traditional stories are popular these days; The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and Storybound come to mind. But author Chris Colfer says that the story lines and characters in THE LAND OF STORIES have been evolving in his mind since he was 10 years old, and it shows -- in a good way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why authors keep returning to the characters in fairy tales for new stories. What makes them so compelling?

  • What do you think of the situations that Colfer places his fairy-tale characters in after their happily-ever-after endings? Are they believable?

  • If a fairy tale is supposed to teach a lesson, what lesson do you think this one teaches?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fairy tales and fantasy

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate