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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Eleanor's Secret is a 2010 French animated family treat that will enchant kids with its reverence for fairy tales and emphasis on the importance of make-believe. The action begins after the death of a beloved aunt who read stories aloud. Her absence means that characters from the world's great children's literature she loved so much face the possibility of disappearing. Her young nephew Nat, who struggles with reading aloud, is anointed "The Great Reader" by his aunt, charged with saving the stories. A wicked witch shrinks him to the size of his books' illustrations, and, from that disadvantage, he must evade such terrors as a normal-sized toddler's grabby hands, a crab's pincers, and other magnified perils as he labors to save the fairy tales.
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What's the story?
Nat's beloved great-aunt Eleanor has died and left the family her beach house. Nat cherished listening to her read stories to him, so it's no surprise that her final gift to him is the house's locked library, "ELEANOR'S SECRET," filled with valuable first edition fairy tales and children's books. The family doesn't know their value, and, needing money to make repairs, they agree to sell the books for a pittance to a canny junk dealer expecting to make a killing on the resale. At the same time, the books' characters explain to Nat that he has been selected to be Eleanor's successor as the new Great Reader, champion of the stories. The catch is that first he must read aloud the magic sentence that will keep them alive, a challenge since Nat still can't read aloud.
Is it any good?
This charming celebration of the imagination is a visual and emotional gem. The delightful animation in Eleanor's Secret is quirky and reminiscent of the vivid drawings of the Stinky Cheese Man illustrator Lane Smith. Although an ogre, a wicked witch, and mildly perilous adventures may worry smaller children, the idea that fictional characters from different stories are all friends who band together to save themselves so that more kids may enjoy them is something most kids can happily root for.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Nat's struggle to read aloud in Eleanor's Secret. Did you believe that Nat would be able to overcome his fear of reading aloud? How do you handle reading aloud?
Does Nat believe the fairy tale characters are real? Can book characters be make-believe but also real inside your imagination?
How is this French animated tale similar to and different from American movies for kids?
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