A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Very occasional mild innuendo, e.g. the terse statement that two writhing, intertwined dragons were not fighting.
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Products & Purchases
The evils of mass-market campaigns and their potential abuses are a core theme of the Cold Cereal trilogy, in which the Goodco Cereal Company stands in for any number of real-life corporate villains, and its over-the-top mission of promoting a world takeover might lead to some interesting discussions of what's behind some other marketing campaigns. There's the occasional real product mentioned for descriptive terms (e.g. Mylar), but not as an endorsement; the book's title and occasional visuals are a clear allusion to the cereal Lucky Charms. In the thread involving Richard Starkey, author Rex goes to comical lengths to avoid mentioning the name of Starkey's more famous band (The Beatles) and refers to him as the drummer for The Quarrymen.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Aside from the occasional potion, this isn't an issue.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Unlucky Charms, the sequel to Adam Rex's Cold Cereal, continues 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).
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.
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.