Unlucky Charms: The Cold Cereal Saga, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Unlucky Charms: The Cold Cereal Saga, Book 2 Book Poster Image
More magic and mayhem as comic Cold Cereal epic continues.

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

Educational Value

The story's take on the legend of King Arthur varies quite a bit from the more standard Round Table epics; a grounding in other versions of the story adds to the appreciation of the creative wackiness. Other references, such as Reggie Dwight (born John Doe but inspired to take Elton John's birth name for the stage) enlisting the aid of Richard Starkey, will have parents laughing and kids demanding to know what the joke is. Esoteric subjects -- ancient British history, time travel, theatrical superstitions -- invite further exploration.

Positive Messages

Silliness and heroism often intertwine here. There are positive relationships between people (and mythical beings) who look out for each other, and estranged characters who at least begin to make up after reaching a better understanding. Lots of clever resourcefulness, learning from your mistakes, and opportunities for each hero's particular talents to shine, often improbably.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Siblings Scott/Polly and Emily/Erno show resourcefulness and bravery in dealing with the challenges of their mission, from bad guys who want to kidnap them to coming to grips with parent issues. Scott and Polly's dad, John Doe, aka rock star Sir Reggie Dwight, tries to fulfill his knightly responsibilities while mending fences with his estranged children. Merle Lynn, aka Merlin, is on a mission to save the world, and assorted beings including the tiny fire-breathing bird Finchbriton come along to help.

Violence & Scariness

The kids, their dad, and their assorted non-human friends spend the entire book on the run from agents of a cereal manufacturer, who's working to enslave children by putting strange substances in their food. There were more gory details about weird experiments in series opener Cold Cereal, but there are still potentially scary, if often comic, moments here, including swordplay, deadly spells, and the sudden disappearance of a mom into thin air. A crucial incident in Cold Cereal, in which Reggie Dwight punches the Queen of England, remains important here.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Unlucky Charms, the sequel to Adam Rex's Cold Cerealcontinues in the same vein, with lots of wacky mayhem, wordplay, mythology, time travel, and pop culture references. Some moments may unnerve more sensitive kids -- such as when a mom suddenly vanishes (though there turns out to be a benign explanation) or when some of the characters are trapped in an alternate world. Occasional mild sexual innuendo will go right past some younger kids and possibly draw questions from others (e.g. a remark that two intertwined, thrashing dragons aren't fighting).

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What's the story?

Picking up where Cold Cereal left off, UNLUCKY CHARMS starts with the sudden disappearance into thin air of scientist Samantha Doe, whose kids Scott and Polly, along with their friends Erno and Emily and long-absent father John, had many mad adventures in the series opener. A crazy roller-coaster of a plot ensues, complete with frequent flashbacks giving the back story on some characters and even more frequent leaps from country to country. Once again, Arthurian-era nymph Nimue is bent on taking over the human world for the fairies, time-traveling accountant/wizard Merle Lynn is out to foil the plot, and it's all connected to pink dragons, weird food additives, the Queen of England, and the Goodco Cereal Company. A cliffhanger ending sets up the series finale.

Is it any good?

Those who haven't read Cold Cereal may find themselves at sea with the roster of quirky characters behaving strangely, as well as much world-building in the first book that's essential here. Author Rex is clever, funny, and inclined to throw everything but the kitchen sink -- including time shifts, wisecracks, family drama, mythology, and more wisecracks -- at the reader, which might not be every kid's dish but will have others in heaven. Rex's black-and-white illustrations help bring the characters and their predicaments to life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between fairies and humans in Unlucky Charms. What other books have you read that involve interaction between the fairy and the human worlds?

  • Do you see any similarities in how Goodco Cereal Company develops and markets doctored food to achieve world domination and other real-life products and advertising?

  • Have you ever had an experience like the Doe kids -- of someone returning after being gone a long time? What was great about it, and what was hard?

Book details

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For kids who love humor and fantasy

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