Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Am Becoming a Middle-Grade Fantasy Fiend (I can't make every blog about my son's new publishing contract - can I?)

By now, a number of you know that I made a deal with Hannah, an 11-year old family friend, at Thanksgiving.  If she reads book 1 of Alina Sayre's The Voyages of the Legend (The Illuminator's Gift), then I would read book 1 of Chris Colfer's (yes, that Chris Colfer, with 2.49M followers!) The Land of Stories (The Wishing Spell).  Both series are middle-grade fantasies.  The trigger was when Hannah started The Illuminator's Gift.  And she did.  So, I finished what I was reading and started on The Wishing Spell.  I mean, after all, I didn't want to look like a flake.  My book-reading, family friend-loving reputation was at stake!  Bottom line?  The book was really good.

A very quick story line, because the plot is mostly secondary.  Conner and Alex, 12-year old boy and girl twins (soon thereafter turned 13), get a fairy tale book from their grandmother.  One thing leads to another (as these things often do), and they both end up falling into the book, which acts as a portal to a fairy tale land.  And they encounter every imaginable fairy tale character - from Cinderella to Little Red Riding Hood to Goldilocks to the Evil Queen and her Huntsman and on and on.  And many of these fairy tale icons are not as we all remember them.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

Let me now say this:  The Wishing Spell is extremely clever.  Not only are the multiple story lines so creative, there are a whole mess of laugh-out-loud lines; countless, in fact. Here are just a few of Colfer's bon mots:

1.  The first "person" they meet is a talking, walking frog.  When he offers Alex and Conner tea, he asks them:  "Do either of you take flies with your tea?"  Conner replies:  "No thanks.  Trying to quit."
2.  Alex and Conner are walking through the forest (one of many) and talking about their situation.  Conner says:  "I wonder if there's a support group for people like us?  You know, people who accidentally travel into other dimensions and whatnot."
3.  When Alex and Conner are taken by the witch in the Hansel and Gretel gingerbread house, Alex convinces the witch that Conner gets one wish before she eats them. Conner says:  "I wish you would become a vegetarian!" C'mon, that's funny.
4.  Red Riding Hood (known as Red) says to Conner:  "So, tell me, what's new with you?" Conner says:  "Same old, same old."  I'm laughing all over again.

There were many parts of The Wishing Spell that I related to other books and even movies.  A few examples:

1.  When Alex puts her fingertips into the book to see what will happen, it reminded me of Field of Dreams (maybe my favorite movie of all time!), when James Earl Jones puts his hand and arm into the corn in centerfield to see what would happen.
2.  Of course, the kids going through a portal brings to mind C.S. Lewis' classic series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  In fact, I love the quote from Lewis right at the beginning of this book:  "Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
3.  Toward the end of the book (don't worry - it's not a spoiler alert), Goldilocks slaps Red Riding Hood and says:  "Now we're even."  Remember in Major League, after the Indians win the pennant?  They are celebrating, and Corbin Bernson slugs Charlie Sheen because of something Sheen had done to Bernson.  Then they start hugging and celebrating again.

Bottom line is that Colfer combines a lot of the present-day with classic fairy tales.  The result is a very entertaining book.  As you know, I try to read book 1 of the most popular series.  And then I'm done.  I read The Hunger Games and really liked it.  But didn't read 2 or 3.  That was my intention here too.  However, I have offered Hannah another deal.  If she reads book 2 of The Voyages of the Legend (The Illuminator's Test), then I will read book 2 of The Land of Stories (The Enchantress Returns).  Seems fair, right?



  1. I'm thrilled that Hannah is reading The Illuminator's Gift, and I'm glad you liked The Wishing Spell! I may have to go check that one out.

  2. You find such great ways to promote reading. Keep up the good work :)

    1. Thanks, Stacy. Coming from you, that means a lot to me.