A year ago, one of my daughter's picked up the first Land of Stories novel by Chris Colfer. I have to admit that it was a book about fairy tale characters and so I wasn't too concerned about it. My oldest daughter had some concerns about it, but my younger daughter enjoyed it and wanted to read more books of the series. I feel that I toe a fine line between wanting to protect my kids, but also realizing that they have to grow up and be exposed to certain ideas about the world so that they can process through them. So, when my oldest daughter had a few concerns, I listened to her specific concerns, but didn't have a huge red flag come up for me. Now I know that I should have.
Today I sat down with the Land of Stories because my younger daughter wanted to check out the rest of the series from the library. I opened it up to the middle and began reading... Within a few pages of reading this book, I realized how many adult concepts are inserted into the text! Honestly, I'm pretty floored. Interestingly, none of the other negative reviews that I read on Amazon mention this facet of the book.
Here are a few examples from when Alex and Connor visit Red Riding Hood's castle...
1. She is wearing a pink corset while sitting on the throne and showing way too much skin (almost word for word the author's description). Then she leans over as far as she can without falling out of the throne.
Really??? Why does she need to do this in a kids' book for 4th-6th graders? Adults will realize what she's doing (showing her bust), but most kids don't. But, some kids will realize what Red Riding Hood is doing...
2. Connor smirks and identifies the basket room by remembering the portrait on the wall next to it--a portrait of Red Riding Hood wearing barely any clothing except for a wolf skin coat... Again, Really???
And of course, it goes on...
My oldest daughter didn't like a lot of the attitudes that Connor and Alex give each other. She didn't enjoy how they related to each other. My younger daughter loves fairy tale books--I just wish I had realized sooner that these books were a waste of her time. There are much better fairy tale books out their for her to read.
I had an interesting discussion with my girls this morning after I read part of the book. I know that
both of my girls have a weakness that often inadvertently protects them--which has happened in the case of this book. They read so quickly that they often skip words and don't grasp adult innuendos that have been inserted into children's books. But, I felt strongly that I needed to alert them to what was in the book.
I began by explaining that authors often have a different worldview than we hold as Christians. While this is okay, it can sometimes make a difference in what a children's author feels is okay subject matter and details for kids. That is the case with this book. I explained the two examples I mention above to my girls (but not to my youngest son) because I knew that they had missed them. They were floored when they realized this was in the book and understood why I didn't want them reading the books. I also pointed out to them that the Brian Selznik, author of Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret has a different worldview than our family does, but that I don't have concerns about those two books at all. There is one aspect of Wonderstruck which we discussed when they read it--that the mom of the boy didn't want to get married but just wanted to have a child, so she did. We discussed marriage at the time and God's design for people to be married before they have kids.
In the end, I'm thankful for the teachable moment. I'm thankful that my kids listen to what I have to say and respect me. It is a huge blessing!
If you're looking for good fantasy books for your 4th-6th grader to read, I'd definitely pass on this series. I'd recommend Gail Carson Levine's fairy tales instead, or George MacDonald's Light Princess, or his Princess and the Goblin books, or the Castle Glower series by Jessica Day George.