Redwall by Brian Jaques

What My Kids Read Review of Redwall by Brian Jaques Redwall is the first of many books in the Redwall series, twenty-two books in all. The series is not really chronological, so you can read all of the other books in whatever order you choose, but Redwall sets the stage for understanding the rest of the series. The plotline is about the same in most of the books in this series: Redwall Abbey is attacked, a group of woodland animals go on adventures, and it all ties together in a win for Redwall. Certain types of animals have an accent that might be challenging for young readers. If you read it out loud, you should be able to figure out what they are saying, and the two dialects are not in the majority of the book. Also, the descriptions of food in these books are amazing. If your kids read this series, they will probably request delicious sounding meat pies and cobblers.

There is a Redwall cookbook, a graphic novel, a television show (I think we found most of it on YouTube), a cd of songs from Redwall, and even an opera. You can find all of it here, if you are curious.

My Mom-Meter gives this particular book an overall safety rating of 3 (Caution) for ages 8 and up. Be aware that there is a lot language and violence.

Wikipedia has a good plot summary here.

Here are the potential moral issues parents might wish to talk with their kids about:

Anthropomorphism/Personification:

  • All of the characters are animals. There are no humans in the entire series.

Drugs/Alcohol References:

  • Peach and Elderberry brandy
  • Some mice smoke a “pipe of old bracken twist.”
  • Nutbrown ale.
  • A hedgehog “licked his lips at the thought of barrels of nutbrown ale, strong cider, creamy stout, and the little kegs…full of elderberry wine, mulberry brandy, blackcurrant port, and wild grape sherry.”
  • Wine is mentioned.
  • Being “tipsy” is mentioned once.
  • October nutbrown ale is mentioned several times.
  • Barley wine is mentioned.
  • Apple brandy is mentioned.
  • A wagon is described as leaning “drunkenly.”

Language:

  • Buffoon
  • “Twisters!”
  • Cluny says “By the teeth of hell,” “by the claws of hellthunder,” and “hellfire!”
  • Cluny’s minions say, “Hell’s teeth!” and Hell’s whiskers!”
  • “What the devil” is said several times.
  • Cluny says, “Tell the devil Cluny sent you, Skullface.”
  • Some one asks, “What in heaven was it?” Someone else answers “What in hell, more like.”
  • Cluny is described as looking like “the Devil himself.”
  • Cluny calls his crew “Stupid fools!”
  • “By the tripes!”
  • “Empty-headed ninnies!”
  • “Idiot” and “idiotic” are both used frequently.
  • “Like a bat out of hell.”
  • Cluny “cursed aloud at his leaden limbs” and “ranted and swore.”
  • “Stupid” is used often.
  • Someone swears “By the fang.”
  • “Shut up” and “Shut your mouth” are used multiple times.
  • “Fool” is said many times.
  • “Satan’s nose” is said once.
  • “By Satan’s whiskers” is said once.
  • “Damned guts” and “Damn” are both said once.
  • “Blast!” is said once.
  • “Dreaded name of the divvil [Devil] himself.”
  • “Accursed” walls
  • “Where in heaven’s name” is said once.
  • “Blockhead” is used twice.
  • Two rats say “Bungling buffoon” and “fat idle carcass.”
  • An old monk calls Matthias “you young booby!”
  • Someone utters a “stream of curses.” Someone else says “gruff oaths.”
  • Someone is called a “young hussy.”
  • Cluny calls his crew “lily-livered scum,” “idle devils,” “morons,” “nincompoops”
  • “Stupid” used several times.
  • “By golly” is said once.
  • Basil calls King Bull Sparra a “silly ass.”
  • Basil calls someone a “blighter.”
  • An owl tells Matthias that he will be “deader than an icicle in hell.”
  • Matthias jokes “Oh shut up, you noisy little devil!”

Magic/Supernatural:

  • Cluny is called “God of War” one time.
  • There is a “vanishing-shell trick.” “Was it magic? Of course it was.”
  • Matthias describes Cluny as looking like “some horrible monster.”
  • Someone else suggests Cluny was just a “bogey.”
  • Omens are mentioned once. “Cluny had never been one to put his faith in omens…”
  • Martin the Warrior, long dead, “speaks” through Cornflower. Matthias asks a question of Martin the Warrior, and then Cornflower walks in and answers the question.
  • Cluny is described as looking “like some satanic minister.”
  • Cluny describes Martin the Warrior as “some sort of angel.”
  • Cluny and Matthias both have prophetic dreams about Martin the Warrior.
  • A black rat is described as a “wraith.”
  • Asmodeus, the adder, is described as hypnotizing with his eyes. Someone says “The adder has magic in his eye.” Asmodeus promises the “kiss of eternal sleep.”
  • A ferret says, “I’ll go as fast as if the divvil [Devil] himself was chasin’ me.”
  • Martin the Warrior’s poem prophesies of Matthias by name and said that the spirit of Martin the Warrior would carry on in Matthias.
  • A fox, who is good with medicine, mutters “charms and spells” and pretends to use “magic herbs,” just to enhance her reputation.
  • The badger jokes “Is something supposed to happen then? Some magic or a miracle?”
  • Matthias compliments Methuselah by telling him “You’re a magician!”
  • “Good fortune go with you.”
  • Someone is called “spawn of darkness.”
  • The weather is described as being “as hot as hell’s furnace.”
  • A “soothsayer” is mentioned once.

Romance:

  • There is a very small hint of romance in this book.
  • Matthias thinks Cornflower is very pretty.
  • Matthias feels “a gentle paw [of Cornflower] intertwining his own.”
  • Cornflower winks at Matthias a couple of times.
  • Several friends observe a special friendship developing between Matthias and Cornflower, but Matthias is a novice at the Abbey.
  • It is said that Matthias and Cornflower did get married and had a baby.

Violence:

  • Cluny the Scourge has a poison tip on the end of his tail. He uses his tail as a whip or a “scourge.” He has a cloak “made of batwings and fastened at the throat with a mole skull.”
  • A ferret skull is on the top of Cluny’s standard.
  • One of Cluny’s minions is named “Skullface.”
  • Skullface jumps onto a horse’s back to scare it into moving. Skullface falls off of the horse and is run over by the cart’s wheels. There is a graphic description of him being crushed.
  • If any animal refuses to join Cluny’s army, they are to be killed immediately.
  • Mentions an entire litter of piglets eaten alive by rats.
  • Cluny dreams of killing in battle.
  • There is a lot of bloody combat throughout the siege.
  • “Cluny bashed their heads together.”
  • Some animals “had been press-ganged by a savage beating from Frogblood, coupled with the threat of horrible death.”
  • A black rat stabs Cornflower’s father before the rat falls to his death.
  • There is a siege on Redwall with many casualties.
  • There are graphic descriptions of three different victims of being attacked by a snake.
  • Cheesethief the rat murders Scragg, the weasel, by stepping on his neck.
  • Cluny has a nightmare with a “rat skeleton” and dreams he is being choked and stabbed with a sword.
  • Basil gives a young squirrel a dagger to use as a sword.
  • Redtooth threatens Fangburn “I’ll chop your tongue out with my cutlass!” Fangburn says “I’ll spear your gizzard!”
  • A badger threatens to snap a rat’s neck “like a dry twig.”
  • A sparrow is threatened “I’ll spike you on this dagger.”
  • Cluny threatens to have someone tortured and roasted three times.
  • Warbeak, a sparrow, theatens Matthias that the king sparrow will “kill him twice, cut him up, and drop him from a tree for worms to eat.”
  • Some were to be executed with spears.
  • A dead body is described with “eyes glazed over in death.”
  • The shrews suggest punishment for Matthias “Break his paws. Skin him alive. Chop off his nose. Hang him by the tail.”
  • A barrel of hornets kill several of Cluny’s men.
  • The Redwall defenders pour boiling water into a tunnel, collapse the tunnel, and kill many of Cluny’s army.

Other possible offenses:

  • Cluny’s army has “heavy tattooed arms.”
  • Basil says he is “fagged out,” meaning tired out.

Potential Discussion Points:

  • Although Redwall is an abbey, with an Abbot and monks called “Brother,” there is no mention of God in the entire book. Here is an example of the “grace” spoken before a meal:

    “Fur and whisker, tooth and claw,
    All who enter by our door.
    Nuts and herbs, leaves and fruits,
    Berries, tubers, plants and roots,
    Silver fish whose life we take
    Only for a meal to make.”

  • The vow of Redwall Abbey is to “never harm another living creature, unless it was an enemy that sought to harm our Order by violence. They vowed to heal the sick, care for the injured and give aid to the wretched and impoverished.” Constance the badger says “we are here to defend, not to attack or kill.” The law of Cluny is “kill, kill, kill,” but the defenders of Redwall Abbey do not fire on or attack an enemy in retreat. Potential Discussion Point: There is quite a difference between how those who live in Redwall treat their enemies and how Cluny treats his enemies. How do you think we should treat our enemies?
  • Matthias thinks he needs to the sword to conquer Cluny. Julian the cat says “Maybe the sword does possess some magic. Personally, I think it’s the warrior who wields it.” Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that Matthias could have conquered Cluny with another sword? Maybe his adventures just showed him that he was already brave?
  • Plumpen the dormouse betrayed Redwall Abbey to Cluny in order to save his family. After Cluny leaves Plumpen for dead, he ends up helping the sparrows save Redwall. Potential Discussion Point: Was Plumpen wise to trust Cluny to keep his word? Did Plumpen do the right thing to protect his family? Even though Plumpen helped the sparrows, several animals died because Plumpen let Cluny in. You might want to talk to your kids about how consequences can still happen even after we apologize and try to make things right.

From a ten-year old’s perspective: I really, really enjoy this series because of the adventure, excitement, and puzzles that are in each story. Kid that like talking animals, adventure, and quests will enjoy this series.

Interested in purchasing this book? Please buy through this link to help us keep posting! Thanks!

 

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is the first of a new series by Stephan Pastis. The second book will be released early next year. The style is similar to the Wimpy Kid series, with a sarcastic humor reminiscent of the Calvin and Hobbs comic strip. It is the case book of Timmy Failure, an aspiring detective who happens to still be in middle school and happens to have a polar bear as a pet (it’s not clear to me if the polar bear is real or imaginary). The book is full of drawings and scribbles to capture the feeling of reading Timmy’s actual case book. It is an entertaining book, with a larger-than-the-average-kid-book vocabulary and references to things that only adults would catch (one of the chapters is called “It Ain’t Me, Gabe”).

Although I am sure my kids would really enjoy this book, as a mom, I felt like Timmy’s negative view of his mother and his friends was more than I want my kids to identify with. It might work better as a read-aloud, so you would be ready to address any issues as you read about them.

My Mom-Meter gives this particular book an overall safety rating of 3 (Caution) for ages 8 and up.

I could not find a plot summary, so I will try to sum it up for you. Timmy Failure lives with his mother and a (possibly imaginary) polar bear named Total. Timmy and Total run the “Total Failure, Inc.” detective agency. Timmy believes he is on the brink of greatness with his business, but he is obviously wrong in all the cases he “solves.” Timmy’s friend, Rollo, who is very smart, usually has the solution to the case, but Timmy thinks he is an “idiot” and never agrees with him, but Rollo remains loyal. Timmy does not do well in school, and he intentionally flunks group tests just to get even with a girl who has a rival detective agency. Her name is Corrina Corrina, but he refers to her as the Beast or the Evil One (or the Weevil Bun). Timmy loses his mother’s off-limits Segway, and is convinced it was stolen. He has Rollo sneak into a bank, where Corrina Corrina has her detective agency, to see if she stole the Segway. Rollo ends up getting locked in the bank overnight, but Timmy is mostly disappointed because Rollo didn’t have an information when he got out. Timmy then has to lie to his mother to hide that he lost her Segway, so he tells her that he loaned it to a girl for a school play. The girl, Molly, turns out to have a crush on Timmy, and Timmy falsely concludes that Molly is responsible for all the cases he has been working on. Timmy has flunked too many tests, so he will have to repeat his grade again. A new teacher starts in Timmy’s class, and he gives Timmy assignments, but makes Timmy think they’re secret cases, and Timmy’s grade improve. Timmy’s mother has a boyfriend, Crispin, who has a Cadillac. Timmy pretends to drive the Cadillac into the house he thinks Corrina Corrina lives in, but then, thanks to Crispin, Timmy accidentally does drive the car into the house. In the end, Timmy finds the Segway had been towed by the police for parking in the wrong spot.

The book trailer definitely captures Timmy Failure.

If your kids enjoy the book, there is a website with some games, videos, and activities to continue enjoying Timmy Failure. Click here to check it out.

Here are the potential moral issues parents might wish to talk with their kids about:

Disrespectful/disobedient attitudes:

  • Timmy lists obstacles to his greatness: “my mother, my school, my idiot best friend, my polar bear.”
  • One of the founding principles of Total Failure, Inc. is “Keep Mom in the dark.” It is modified to “Keep Mom in the dark, but don’t be an idiot about it.” The second founding principle is “Don’t be like Rollo.” (Rollo is his best friend)
  • Calls his teacher “Old Man Crocus.”
  • Teacher calls Timmy Captain Thickhead.
  • Tommy hides the fact that he uses his mother’s Segway.
  • Timmy says the teacher “yaps.”
  • Timmy plans to lie about the missing Segway.
  • Timmy “really, really” hates Corrina Corrina.
  • Timmy called Rollo’s mom and lied, saying Rollo was spending the night with Timmy, when he was actually locked in a bank vault.
  • Crispin has an earring.
  • Timmy steals Corrina’s Detective Log.
  • Timmy talks about his “hypocritical mother.”

Dangerous behavior:

  • Timmy kicks open the car door and runs away from Crispin, who looks for Timmy for 2 hours.
  • Timmy steers a car while Crispin works the pedals.
  • Timmy pretends to steal Crispin’s car and drive it into the house he thinks is Corrina’s house. At first, the reader thinks he did.
  • Timmy sits in the car and revs the engine. Crispin encourages Timmy to rev the engine and put the car in drive to squeal the tires.
  • Timmy ends up actually driving right into his old teacher’s living room.

Drugs/Alcohol:

  • One mention of “Scotch.”

Gambling:

  • Timmy says he “played the odds.”

Language:

  • Timmy calls Rollo “my idiot best friend.”
  • There are many instances of someone being called an “idiot.”
  • Someone is called “the slob.”
  • Rollo is called “rotund,” “fat bear,”
  • Timmy writes a story for Total the polar bear that begins “The fat, juicy seal sat on the edge of the iceberg, stupid and unaware.”
  • Someone is called “asinine.”
  • Timmy calls Corrina “the Beast” and the “Evil One.”
  • Timmy says “Rollo is a big, stupid traitor.”
  • A chapter title is “Happiness is not a dumb blanket.”
  • Timmy calls his mother “Furious Rage.”
  • Someone says “lousy play.”
  • Timmy says Molly has “bizarrely mismatched pupils.”
  • Timmy says Rollo is “dull as sand.”
  • Timmy says Corrina is a “butt kisser.”
  • Rollo says “stupid plans” and “I look stupid” (when dressed as a Shasta daisy). Timmy says FLO doesn’t answer “stupid questions.” Timmy says “stupid schoolbooks,” “stupid bowling scores,” and “stupid picnic.” Timmy’s mom says “stupid car.”
  • Timmy calls Rollo a “moronic amateur.”
  • One use of “heck.”
  • Timmy addresses letters to Corrina Corrina as “Where Evil Resides.”
  • One of the chapters is titled “Raisin Heck.”
  • Timmy calls his mother’s boyfriend “the bowling turkey” throughout the book.
  • Timmy tells Crispin, his mother’s boyfriend, to shut his mouth.
  • Corrina calls Timmy a “weird kid.” The new teacher tells Timmy he thinks he is “kind of a weirdo.” Crispin calls Timmy a “weirdo.”
  • Someone is called a “lunkhead.”
  • Timmy cries out “What the heck is that thing?”
  • Someone is called an “ignoramus.”
  • “Imbecile” is used twice.
  • Crispin says “Why you rude little ___”

Magic/Supernatural:

  • “Kitty Heaven” is referenced.
  • Halloween candy is mentioned.
  • Timmy references works of art: “goddess rising from the sea” and “Adam touching the hand of God.”
  • An elf is mentioned as a joke.

Romance:

  • Molly Moskins like Timmy, so she hides her shoes and socks and pretends they’re stolen to get his attention.
  • Molly wants to hug Timmy. she tells him “I adore you” twice.
  • Molly tells Timmy “You love me too!!!” and he is “smothered by kisses.”
  • Total, the polar bear, is in love with Staci, another polar bear at the zoo. He stares at her, but she ignores him.
  • Molly Moskins throws Hershey Kisses at Timmy, and says “kisses for my love.”

Violence:

  • Timmy wears a sumo suit, planning to tackle Corrina Corrina.
  • Timmy wishes his mother would throw papers, kick over a chair, and set fire to a desk.
  • Timmy mentions “Being surrounded by dingoes” and “buried alive” as preferably to facing his angry mom.
  • Timmy thinks that FLO the librarian (a tough looking man) is really tough. He thinks Flo stands for “Misshelf my book and the blood may FLOw.” Timmy says he heard rumors of “Fingers lost in card-catalogue drawers.” “Word is he reads books on how to kill things. And how to dispose of dead bodies. And how to crush things with your fist.” (He was reading Emily Dickinson and “To Kill A Mockingbird.”)
  • Timmy “checks for bombs.”

Potential Discussion Points:

  • One of the founding principles of Total Failure, Inc. is “Keep Mom in the dark.” It is modified to “Keep Mom in the dark, but don’t be an idiot about it.” Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that is a good principle to live by? Did it work out for Timmy?
  • The second founding principle of Total Failure, Inc. is “Don’t be like Rollo.” (Rollo is his best friend) Potential Discussion Point: Considering the fact that Rollo is usually right, is that a good principle for Timmy to live by?
  • Timmy hides the fact that he uses his mother’s Segway and then plans to lie to hide the fact that he lost the Segway. His plan is to “lie, lie, lie.” Potential Discussion Point: How did that plan work for Timmy? Is it ever a good idea to lie to cover up disobedience or a mistake?
  • Timmy calls his friends lots of mean names like “idiot” and “imbecile.” His teachers and his mom’s boyfriend call him names like “weirdo.” Potential Discussion Point: Why do you think Timmy calls everyone mean names? Do you think it helps him make friends?
If you are interested in buying the books we talk about, or anything else on Amazon, please click through this link! It doesn’t cost you any extra, and it helps us. Thanks so much!

Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy Illustrated by Carson Ellis This is the second book of a new series called “The Wildwood Chronicles,” written by Colin Meloy. You can read my review of the first book here. Under Wildwood is definitely darker than the first book in this series. There is more violence and language than the first book. The author uses an extensive vocabulary, which makes for an easy way for readers to pick up new words, but I think I had to look up 4 or 5 myself, so kids might be needing a dictionary handy for this book. It also does not seem like a book that could stand alone. The story does not resolve by the end of the book, so you might want to wait until the third book, Wildwood Imperium, is released in February, 2014.

My Mom-Meter gives this particular book an over-all safety rating of 3 (Caution) for ages 9 and up.

Wikipedia has a decent summary of the book here.

 Here are the potential moral issues parents might wish to talk with their kids about:
  • A coachman yells “Better luck next time, suckers!” “Darn it!” is said twice. “Oh my God” is said twice, and someone uses God’s name in vain once. A boy is described as chubby. “Flipping” is used twice (as in, “The flipping map”), “screwed up” is said twice, someone says “a quiet oath,” “godforsaken” is used by a boy (use of another profanity is implied but not stated). A boy boasts that they live in a place where there are “No rules. Do what you like… Tell dirty jokes…Let loose a curse word.” Someone in battle calls his foe a “cretin,” someone is called an “idiot,” and a villain is called a “creep.”
  • “Farted” is used to describe the sounds a machinery, someone mentions “butt” once, “pee” once, “puking” once, and “load of crap” once. A mole wets his pants in fear.
  • Prue is skipping school to go look at Wildwood. Potential Discussion Point: Is Prue right to skip school? Why do you think she isn’t telling her parents about it?
  • Curtis’ absence is hurting his family. Potential Discussion Point: Why does Curtis’ family miss him? Did you know that every member of a family is important? What are things that we would miss about each other if we could not be together?
  • Curtis’ parents think Curtis is in Turkey, so they put his sisters in an orphanage for safe keeping while they fly to Turkey to look for Curtis. Potential Discussion Point: Do you think it was a difficult decision for Curtis’ parents to leave their daughters at the orphanage? How would you handle it if you were Elsie?
  • Cigarettes, “poppy beer,”  are mentioned in passing. There is a drunk wolf who sells information for alcohol, he calls it “that demon liquid), a drunk tank is mentioned once, dive bars are mentioned once, a villain requests a “spritzer,” and someone promises “champagne on tap.” A father-figure smokes a pipe and a boy smokes a pipe with tobacco throughout his part in the story. He is proud of it and does not want to stop. The children see an empty container of chewing tobacco, something made of cigar tins, find a beer bottle “Pabst Blue Ribbon.” Prue and Curtis see someone who works at a bar in Portland picking up more beer, and he tells them that the are too young to be in a bar. Prue remembers stories of drunken sailors being abducted.
  • Orphanage uses child labor. Potential Discussion Point: Although the book only treat child labor like it is treated in a Dickens’ novel, you might want to talk about what child slavery looks like today and what we can do to change it.
  • Someone mentions that kids at the orphanage are playing poker.
  • Elsie has to work at a machine that will chop off her hand if she does not work fast.
  • There is a lot of violence. Plants attack and kill two shape-shifting (Kisune) assassins to protect the Mystics. Blood is mentioned seeping from nostrils, blood being spilled, etc. An assassin Kisune falls to her death, and the book mentions her as “lifeless.” Prue and Curtis remember a story of a spelunker who gets lost and dies in a cave. Infanticide is mentioned once. Curtis references the movie “Conan” in which James Earl Jones turns into a “giant toothy snake.” While in the dark, a mole makes so much noise that Curtis “envisioned some eldritch creature, all tentacles and glistening eyeballs, carrying… an ax maybe.” There is a brief, graphic description of a battleground – crying baby mole, blood splattered dress, crying over a fallen soldier. Prue learns that the Dowager Governess had chopped off the hands of a craftsman and poked out the eyes of the other craftsman. Someone mentions that the Dowager Governess was swallowed by ivy (as told in the first book). The kids at the “orphanage” riot, throwing foot lockers out of windows, breaking glass, and set fire to the machine shop. Prue stabs Kisune and there is a graphic description of their struggle.
  • Prue can hear plants communicate with her. Prue encourages a plant to slap a girl who is showing off.
  • Prue realizes that she is calling on the plants to murder Darla, the Kisune assassin. The books says “While that seemed like the right outcome, considering her own life was ver much in danger, it still gave her pause.”
  • Some children say they are setting off to set wire snares to catch animals, presumably to eat.
  • There are Mystics, people who have visions and can talk to trees. One of the Mystics assumes the lotus position before being killed. The “netherworld” and “underworld” are mentioned. Unicorns are mentioned in passing once. “Incantation” is mentioned once. Someone references Charles Dickens “Ghost of Christmas future.” Someone is in a “trancelike” state and someone snaps out of a “trance,” not meaning a true trance. Prue is sarcastically called an oracle. People who have ancestors from the Impassible Wilderness are said to have “Woods Magic” in them. A villain says “It is believed that we are descended of the trees themselves.” The moles mistake Prue, Curtis, and Septimus the rat for gods of the Overworld, and the children and rat play along as “demi-gods.” There are wooden dragon heads on a pagoda that are described as looking “wise to the ages.” There are Intuits who listen to the trees. Joffrey Unthank is compared to Hephaetus, the blacksmith to the gods in Greek mythology. “The God of Judeo-Christian beliefs had created the universe himself… God had seven days to make the universe; Unthank had been given five.” Someone is called a seer. There is a mole called a prophetess, or a sibyl. There is a reference to a “magic sigil” and “kismet.” Poltergeists are mentioned once. The children in the orphanage are compared to “furies released from the deep.”
  • As Prue struggled to stop the moles’ battle, her feet crushed parts of the mole city. “She decided that it was all for the good of peace.” Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that Prue made the right decision? How do we sometimes make decision that mess up something in order to create something better?
  • The Sibyl Gwendolyn says that she does not believe in the afterlife even though she is a prophetess. She says that she speak religious things for tradition. She says, “Faith. It’s an awfully beautiful idea, isn’t it? I’m fond of the poetry of it. As long as it’s not doing anyone any harm, I don’t see the reason for pulling the veil away….” Potential Discussion Point: Many people believe that religion is simply a lovely idea, irrelevant and nice as long as it doesn’t infringe on others. What does your family believe?
  • The Unadoptable kids lived in a place where they never age a day. Potential Discussion Point: If you had the chance to live there, would you? Why do you think we were created to age?
  • Prue feels the tree’s calling on her life eclipses everything else, including her family. She wonders if that feeling is the beginning of being an adult. Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that adults or kids focus on one thing and care more about that than anything else? Do you think that Prue is acting like an adult to forget about her family? How is she different from Mr. Unthank?
  • Joffrey Unthank is obsessed with the Impassable Wilderness, and he sacrifices everything to learn how to get into it. The book calls it “monomania.” Potential Discussion Point: Is it ever okay to sacrifice everything to get one thing? Do you think that Mr. Unthank will ever be satisfied?
  • Martha, an orphan, sacrifices her life to let Elsie and Rachel escape from Mr. Unthank, knowing that she and Carol, the blind father-figure craftsman, would be captured. Potential Discussion Point: Why did Martha take the girls’ place by Carol’s side? You might want to talk about stories of brave people who took another’s place during the Holocaust and other times.
  • The bear, Esben, had refused to help Prue save Wildwood, but he then appears in time to save Prue from being killed. He explains his change of heart as this. “A city of moles saved my life once; it occurred to me I had a calling to do the same for someone else.” Potential Discussion Point: How would you feel if you were about to die and someone saved your life? How would that change how you live your life now?

This review is hot off the press! Check back to read Liam’s review next week.

Interested in purchasing this book? Please click through this link to help us keep posting! Thanks!

The Key to the Indian by Lynne Reid Banks

The Key to the Indian by Lynne Reid Banks The Key to the Indian by Lynne Reid Banks This is the fifth (and final) book in The Indian in the Cupboard series. Overall, this book was really disappointing. It felt like the author just pulled together another book. There were several stretches of belief in the way Omri’s parents acted. The message of the books as a series is that it is dangerous to have power over another person’s life, and that our actions can dramatically affect future generations. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here, the third book here, and the fourth book here.

My Mom-Meter safety rating for this particular book is a 3 (Caution) for ages 9 and up.

Wikipedia has thorough plot summaries of the books in this series here.

Here are the potential moral issues parents might wish to talk with their kids about:

  • Little Bear convinces Omri and his father to use their knowledge of what happened historically to Little Bear’s tribe to counsel Little Bear in how to lead his village. Potential discussion point: Was it wise to use history to change history?
  • Omri’s father learns about and explains to Omri just how terribly the Native American tribes were treated. Potential discussion point: Kids might be interested in learning about the history of Native Americans.
  • In this book, Omri’s father seems to be even less responsible with the power of the cupboard than when only Omri and Patrick knew about it. Potential discussion point: Is it true that sometimes kids are more responsible than their parents?
  • Omri’s father decides to keep the truth about the cupboard and key from Omri’s mother and brothers. Potential discussion point: Did Omri’s father make a good decision to keep the truth from the rest of the family?
  • Omri and his brother are accidently sent to India as marionette puppets during their great-grandfather’s time, and they get a glimpse of how poorly slaves were treated during that time. Potential discussion point: Parents might want to talk about slavery and how “good” people in history had slaves.
  • They also experience a snake charmer “hypnotizing” them, and they find themselves dancing whether they want to or not. Potential discussion point: Parents might want to discuss what they believe about hypnotism.
  • Omri and his father manage to transport themselves as wooden dolls to Little Bear’s village and witness an attack on the village. Very intense scenes are described, and some of the the attackers came after the women of the village.
  • Omri and his father are bathed (as wooden dolls) by Little Bear’s wife. Omri’s father says that he enjoyed it, but Omri is uncomfortable.
  • Omri and his father are used to help the women avoid the attackers, but the scene is very intense.
  • Omri’s father says damn during these scenes.
  • While Omri and his father are with Little Bear, Patrick brings back Boone and his wife and, through a series of accidents, nearly kills them in the bathtub. Potential discussion point: Did Patrick treat Boone and his wife like real people or like toys?
  • At the end of the book, Omri discovers that his mother knew all about the cupboard the whole time and that she shares his psychic powers. Potential discussion point: If you were Omri’s mom, would you have acted the way she did?

From a kid’s perspective: “I think this book was the worst of the series. Maybe kids 12 and up, who like  cowboys, Indians, magic, and time travel, will like it. I give it 1 star out of 5 stars.”

Interested in purchasing this book? Please click through this link to help us keep posting! Thanks!  

The Mystery of the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

The Mystery of the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks This is the fourth book in The Indian in the Cupboard series. It is a little darker than the previous three books. There are heavy themes of jealousy, theft, and the implications of changing history (via time travel). The overall message of this particular book seems to be that there is more than one side to a story. The message of the books as a series is that it is dangerous to have power over another person’s life, and that our actions can dramatically affect future generations. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here, the third book here, and the fifth book here.

My Mom-Meter safety rating for this particular book is a 3 (Caution) for ages 9 and up.

Wikipedia has thorough plot summaries of the books in this series here.

Here are the potential moral issues parents might wish to talk with their kids about:

  • There’s mention of Tarot cards, crystal balls, etc., but only lead divination and second sight (psychic abilities) are taken seriously.
  • Omri learns that the key was made by Jessica Charlotte D, his great-great-aunt, in anger. She made it to steal a pair of earrings from her sister. Her theft started a chain of events that ruined her sister’s (Omri’s great-grandmother) life. Potential discussion point: How did Jessica’s anger and jealousy affect those she loved?
  • Jessica Charlotte has a son out of wedlock. It is referenced as scandalous, but not dwelt upon in detail.
  • Jessica Charlotte’s son was controlled by bitterness toward the plastic industry, and made the cupboard to hold in all his anger. Potential discussion point: Did his anger have any consequences?
  • Jessica Charlotte discovered the cupboard and key’s unique properties, and brought back several people from other times to visit. One girl, Jenny, had such a hard life in her real time, that she pleaded to stay always in modern day. She lived 30 years longer, and then she was apparently taken off of life support in her time, and so died in modern times. Potential discussion points: Was it wise to keep Jenny in the modern world? What did she potentially miss out on by escaping her own time period? Was it kind of Jessica (and, later, Tom) to keep her as company?
  • At the end of the book, Omri is forced to tell his father, who agrees not to tell anyone. Potential discussion point: Why do you think Omri’s father agrees not to tell anyone?

From a kid’s perspective: “I think kids 9-13 who like  cowboys, Indians, magic, and time travel will like it. I give it 3 stars out of 5 stars.”

Interested in purchasing this book? Please click through this link to help us keep posting! Thanks!