Through the Skylight

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Through the Skylight Book Poster Image
Suspenseful time-travel tale explores rich culture, history.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Real information is blended with the plot's fantastical facts, but Through the Skylight still teaches readers a great deal about the geography, history, lifestyle, and culture of Venice, Italy, as well as several Italian and Latin words. Kids will also learn about the Crusades, and the worldview that led Europeans to fight "holy wars."

Positive Messages

Early in the novel, Jared and his sisters think their dad's focus on history and art is pretty boring, but their adventures teach them that the past offers everyone essential lessons. Loyalty and keeping promises to friends are also an important, and recurring themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Whether Jared, Shireen, and Miranda realize it or not, their dad is a powerful role model, as his "dull" fascination with art and history reveals key information they'll need to fight their enemies. The kids are also inspired by the magical animals who serve them loyally, and the kids from history -- Rashid, Maria, and Francesca -- who selflessly protect many other captive children.

Violence

Most of the book's suspenseful situations don't result in injury, but a couple of scenes involving fantastical creatures are bloody. In one, a dragon is injured and bleeds from his mouth. In another, a living cadaver attacks the dragon. Kids are manhandled and imprisoned, but violence against humans isn't shown, except for once when the kids encounter an injured old man after he was hurt.

Sex

Silvio, the faun, uses some bawdy language, referring to "buxom wenches." A character is pregnant, but there's no talk about where babies come from.

Language

No foul or bigoted language is used, but some characters talk about Jews and Muslims in a way that shows they're considered inferior to Christians.

Consumerism

A boy wonders how his real-life adventures could be played out as an X-box game.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sylvio the faun (a fantastical creature) smokes a pipe and drinks wine to excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Through the Skylight is a time-travel novel that blends fantastical adventures with real facts about Venice's art, history, and geography. Author Ian Baucom sets a realistic modern family -- a mom and dad with two adopted Indian children and one biological daughter -- in a place rich in historical and cultural significance, and teaches his characters, and his readers, much about this magnificent city. Plot points involving the Crusades expose readers to harsh prejudice against Jews and Muslims, but also show the commonality between people of different beliefs and backgrounds. A few violent scenes involving fantasy creatures are bloody, and one chapter is particularly frightening. A wine-swilling faun offers comic relief.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bydragonsrule April 14, 2013

A fun plot, without much depth in characters

Through the Skylight was slightly disappointing. The story, overall, wasn't that original, and the characters didn't have much depth. I really would... Continue reading

What's the story?

While living temporarily in Venice with their parents, siblings Jared, Shireen, and Miranda visit a bookshop, where they are given three \"treasures\" with magical powers, and an old book that holds secrets to the adventures that the treasures will unlock. The kids have to learn quickly how to control their newfound powers, because it turns out they have a mission -- to fight evil forces unleashed centuries ago.

Is it any good?

THROUGH THE SKYLIGHT is a suspenseful adventure story full of culturally and historically rich detail. Without being too heavy-handed, the book also addresses ideas of prejudice vs. commonality between people from different faiths, nationalities, and even time periods. This is a very complicated fantasy book, however, where new plot twists, rules, and obstacles are being added up to the every end, to the point where the plot can seem awkward and difficult to follow.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Through the Skylight blends fantasy and history. Can you think of some other books you've read that do this?

  • What similarities are there between the modern kids and the ones from the Middle Ages? What do the kids from these different times learn from each other? 

  • Miranda writes a story she hopes her family will add to. Try playing this game with friends or family: Write the beginning of a story and let someone else continue ...

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love fantasy and history

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