The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns

By Chris Colfer

From the back cover

ENTER THE LAND OF STORIES
WHERE FAIRYTALES ARE REAL

The evil Enchantress, who cursed Sleeping Beauty, is back with a vengeance. Can Alex and Conner Bailey save the fairy-tale world from the greatest threat it’s ever faced?

My thoughts…

Did they really live “happily ever after”?
Alex and Conner manage to escape into the world of fairytales a second time and catch up with many characters we’ve read about during our childhoods. They find that The Enchantress has returned and begun casting spells on different kingdoms in order to take over both worlds, the fairytale world and our world.

Since this book is a continuation of the fairytale stories of characters like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Repunzal, Jack (from Jack and the beanstalk), and some more, parents should note that some kissing between male and female characters occur as well as romantic relationships and jealousy leading to tremendously evil deeds are carried out.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

  • Alex and Conner’s mother has a boyfriend. She receives a bouquet of red roses with a card saying “Happy six months, xoxo” from her boyfriend. The kids read it and ask their mother about it where she admits that she had been dating him for six months. Bob, the twin’s mother’s boyfriend tells them that he wants to propose to their mother and talks to them about how much he loves her and that he’d never been happy before meeting her.
  • Mother Goose tells the twins that her and Leonardo Da Vinci had a “fling” and that they dated.
  • Chapter 2: The twins’ mother says that she fell in love with their father and dated for 2 months before they got married. Conner then wonders if it would be awkward for both his dad and his mom’s boyfriend to be all together in heaven.
  • A villain tells a story of a girl that became pregnant out of wedlock and agreed to give her baby away for money.
  • Chapter 11: while the kids are in fairytale land, one of the characters tells them that he’s in a romantic relationship with Red Riding Hood and they’re living together. He talks about her ex and how she still has emotions for him but doesn’t doubt her affection towards him.
  • Red Riding Hood goes through an emotional turmoil after going on an adventure with her boyfriend and ex at the same time.
  • Chapter 13: The Enchantress recounts the stories of 5 men she either fell in love with or had fallen for her. These stories of broken hearts are what changed her into a villain. She began hating helping others and looking for vengeance.
  • Chapter 21: two characters (male and female) share a long intimate goodbye kiss.
  • Chapter 26: Red kisses the Frog and it is sated that she was not repulsed by his slimy lips.

Violence

  • The Enchantress sends vines around a Kingdom and tortures characters with them. She creates fires that consume villages.
  • Some polar bears attack the main characters but they escaped. A polar bear falls into ice water.
  • The Enchantress floods the village of the Trolls while some characters are under ground and escape death.
  • A mother is threatened that her baby will be thrown into the fire if the king does not surrender his land to The Enchantress.
  • The Enchantress disintegrates at the end.

 

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

  • Mother Goose gets drunk on the first night she arrives at the twins’ house leading Conner to exclaim that she’s his favourite fairytale character for getting drunk. She also offers the drink to the twins but they refuse saying they’re not legally allowed.
  • Mother Goose continues getting drunk with some soldiers every night.
  • Mother Goose tells the kids that Humpty Dumpty had a great fall because he couldn’t hold his gin.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • The story includes magic, fairies, and immortal beings.
  • The characters in Fairyland live eternally. Only Allah lives eternally.
  • In chapter 7: Mother goose sings drunkenly “I haven’t had this much fun since I was so very young, and used to rub-a-dub-dub with the three men in the tub”.
  • Mother Goose keeps getting drunk and makes some inappropriate references.
  • Mother Goose gambled and won the giant goose she rides on.
  • The Enchantress has the ability of collecting souls and placing this inside glass jars.
  • Two main characters boast about stealing.
  • The Snow Queen controls the weather and tells prophecies.
  • Chapter 19: A character proclaims “what in the name of Mother Goose is going on?”
  • A statement describing severe winds and thunder “it was as if Mother Nature was mourning”.
  • The villain has to master the “seven deadly sins of this world and conquer its past, present, and future” to take over the fairytale world as well as our world. In Islam, it is believed that communicating with jinn and receiving aid from them requires committing a number of great sins as well, including some demonic rituals. Is the author blending “Fairytale world” with what we know as the world of the jinns? The fairytale characters have superpowers, live long lives (sometimes immortally), and some of them can travel to our world and be seen by humans.
  • A story is narrated about a character that was born out of wedlock.

Positive messages

The twins love their mother and go to great lengths to save her. Their mother also works hard to take care of them on her own after their father’s death. The children protect and take care of each other. They also remember their late father fondly.
The book also displays the extremes to which jealousy may lead. And finally, that the villain is always destroyed at the end.

Final Verdict

The plot is interesting and funny at times. Children would find joy in reading a continuation to the stories of their favourite characters from their childhood. However, like most, if not all, fairytales, some of this story’s main themes is love, relationships (including kissing), magic, and maliciously evil characters

The Scorpions of Zahir

By Christine Brodien

From the back cover

Zagora Pym has always wanted to be a desert explorer. Her father, Charlie Pym, is exactly that, and she’s always loved to look over his maps of far away exotic places. One day she’s be trekking through the deserts of Africa and China, discovering hidden treasures from lost tribes. But Zagora would never have guessed that her chance to prove herself would come so soon. Like most adventures, it starts with a mysterious letter. The question is, how will this adventure end?

Zagora’s dreams of desert exploration are about to come true, but are she and her father and brother being followed? And will they ever make it back to civilization?

My thoughts…

A seemingly harmless trip to Morocco to return a stone turns out to be a very dangerous one for Zagora and her brother Duncan. Young readers will follow the young duo along with their father into the mysteries of the Moroccan desert while learning about Bedouin culture and Moroccan food. Parents should note, however, that the story contains magic, some mentions of omens, and a magic stone that possesses unworldly powers.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Zagora meets a Moroccan boy that she gets close to but only as platonic friends. A hug between the two is portrayed but only to show gratefulness for helping her.

Violence

The characters fight giant scorpions across the dessert.
A snake wraps around one of the characters feet in preparation for attack but gets swept away before harming anyone.
A villain gets stung by scorpions to find her demise.
Hyenas attack some characters but they manage to flee without harm.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • The kids’ mother is dead. Not much mention of her, but Zagora seems to be fond of her. The father does not remarry.
  • The father is regarded highly by the children although he seems to be too distracted by his work away from his children.
  • There are several mentions of good and bad omens.
  • Among Zagora’s description of nomads she states that they know spells that give you bad luck for the rest of your life.
  • Zagora mentions that one days she’ll get a tattoo of Arabic letters intermingled.
  • There are mentions of sorcery, magic spells, and prophecies.
  • Zagora performs some acts behind her father’s back but realizes they are wrong and apologizes to her father thereafter. Some of those acts include:
    • She takes a valuable stone and wears it without her father’s permission.
    • She hid her father’s book because she found it fascinating and wanted to read it but kept quiet when her father started searching for it.
    • She decides to strolls around Marrakech secretly on her own because she was growing too curious to wait for her father to give her a tour.
  • A mention of a “desert prophet” is portrayed a number of times. Sometimes in reference to the Azimuth King in the book – as Zagora looks through some old glyphs on a cave wall she sees a picture drawn of a man with long flowing hair and a braided beard “exactly the way she [Zagora] imagined a desert prophet” is written.
  • The magic stone has the ability of bringing extinct creatures back to life.

Positive messages

The author is obviously fascinated by the desert and Arabic culture. Zagora and her father are passionate about the desert and it’s people. I think Muslim readers would be delighted by all the positive messages sent about the desert life and Bedouins. All the Arabic characters are harmless and very helpful at times; contradictory to what we see in the mainstream media nowadays. Zagora and her father love the sound of the Arabic language and the author’s description of Arabic writing makes the reader fall in love with the language all over again.

Final Verdict

Both, Zagora and her brother Duncan have high regards for their father. The book takes the reader on an exciting journey along the Moroccan deserts on a mission of restoring peace to a long lost city. Arabic culture is portrayed in a beautiful manner along with the heroism of some of the Moroccan children present in the book. References to magic and omens are present.

The Baby-sitters Club: Mary Anne saves the day

By Raina Telgemeier

From the back cover

When The Baby-sitters Club gets into a huge fight, Mary Anne is left to her own devices. She has to eat by herself in the school cafeteria, figure out how to make new friends, and deal with her overprotective father. But the worst happens when she finds herself in a baby-sitting emergency and can’t turn to her friends for help. Will Mary Anne solve her problems and save The Baby-sitters Club from falling apart?

My thoughts…

This is the third book in the graphic series The Baby-sitters Club. A fight strikes between the girls of the baby sitters club resulting in a near collapse of their business. Mary Anne starts questioning her father’s strict parenting from the way he makes her wear her hair to how late he allows her to stay out on weeknights and weekends. At the end of the book, Mary Anne and her new friend from school discover that their parents used to be high school sweethearts.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Mary Anne’s father has been a widower since Mary Anne was 2 years old, and Dawn’s mother has been recently divorced. The girls discover that their respective parents used to be high school sweethearts and start speaking to each other about how “dreamy eyed” their parents get when they mention one another. Towards the end of the book Mary Anne’s father asks Dawn’s mother out on a date and she accepts, their daughters get excited.

Violence

There’s a mention of one of the character’s mothers to have died when the girl was 2 years old.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • A girl from the babysitters club fights with her father and raises her voice at him for being too strict with her (not allowing her to stay at babysitting jobs until 10 PM like her friends and watching over her clothes and hair style). She states that she feels bad for treating her father this way but does not apologize. Her father comes to terms with the fact that his daughter has grown up at the end of the book and gives her some leeway.
  • A woman hopes the groundhog sees his shadow referencing a prediction to an early start to spring.
  • The girls toast with pizza at the end of the story.

 

Positive Messages

  • Mary Anne introduces the reader to her friend Stacy where she states that Stacy is so “glamorous, she even manages her diabetes in style”. This statement could possibly impact kids with diabetes in a positive manner, helping them realize that it is possible to manage such disease and live your life normally.
  • Mary Anne and her father say a prayer before dinner and pray for Mary Anne’s dead mother. Mary Anne mentions that her father prays for her mother before every meal.

 

Final Verdict

This may be a fun read among pre-teens. The idea of forming a babysitting club may give some inspiration for hard work and entrepreneurship. Two of the characters’ parents (now single) reconnect after many years of separation and agree to go on a date to rekindle their old love relationship. This part of the story is not the main theme but it is however emphasized on several occasions.

Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin

By Sophie Cleverly

From the back cover

Ivy,
I pray that it’s you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you’re the new me… You must keep this a secret from everyone. It’s just acting, like we always said we would do, only you’ll be playing my part.
Don’t pay too much attention in class. Don’t wear your uniform too neatly. Stay away from Penny. Don’t get on the wrong side of the Fox… You don’t know what she’s capable of. Don’t be as shy as you usually are – just look in the mirror. Remember you’re trying to be me.
And, Ivy, I give you full permission to read my diary – in fact, you MUST!

My thoughts…

Although this is a very interesting page-turner, I would advise great caution when passing this book to a Muslim child to read due to the following:

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None.

Violence

-A twin is said to have died from a fever.
-A student disappears.
-Ivy’s grief over her sister’s loss is heartbreaking at moments.
-Severe cases of bullying is present at the school: girls kick and bruise each other, a girl dumps food down another girl’s dress, a girl cuts another girl’s hair so short out of revenge, a girl pushes another girl down the stairs, another one pushes a girl into a swimming pool and laughs at her…etc. Some of these actions go unpunished while others are punished for by caning from a school staff.
-School punishes students by caning which results in sever bruising around the body and bleeding of the knuckles.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

-The school cab driver smokes a cigar.
-Some girls walk into a wine cellar and call it a treat for the teachers.
-When the twins left their home to live away from their father, he merely waved them off with a glass of whisky in his hand.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

-Chapter 1: Ivy says “I didn’t understand why God, if he was up there, would give me a twin only to take her away again”. Although complete patience and acceptance is difficult to ask of a child, however, questioning Allah’s existence and His Qadar is Haram and such belief-rendering ideologies must not be portrayed to young children.
– A story of a school staff is revealed that she became pregnant from an unlawful relationship at a young age and gave her daughter up for adoption.
-The twins’ father and stepmother send them away because taking care of them became too much of a burden on the stepmother. Scarlet is sent to boarding school while her twin, Ivy, stays wither her aunt for not passing the school’s entrance exam.
-Ivy’s stepmother informs her of her twin’s death coldly and lacking in empathy by simply stating to her the “she died from a high fever or flu they couldn’t cure”. Without much details or concern to her feelings.
-The stepmother is suspected to have planned to replace the perceived dead twin with her living sister, Ivy.
-There is a quick mention of Theseus and Minotaur
-The school holds Sunday sermons.
-Reference to Allah as “Father” once.

Final Verdict

Please read the above points carefully and judge the book accordingly.

The Great Shelby Holmes

By Elizabeth Eulberg 

 

From the back cover

As we rounded another corner, Shelby’s eyes go big. She looked like a little kid on Christmas morning. There, parked outside a deli on the opposite side of the street was a cop car with its lights flashing.
Shelby clapped her hands together excitedly. “Watson, I’ve got work to do”.

My thoughts…

John Watson’s mother finally settles with her son in New York City after years of moving around the United States serving at different military bases. Being new to the city, Watson finds himself shadowing his peculiar, yet interesting, neighbor Shelby Holmes: a self-proclaimed best detective in NYC. Watson not only helps his neighbour solve her new case, but also gains a friend along the way.
This book would attract to many young readers for its mysterious plot line and the kids’ impressive detective skills.
The book contains platonic relationship between John Watson and Shelby Holmes.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

– John Watson’s parents are going through a divorce. Not much details are given.
– Platonic relationship between John and Shelby
– In chapter 14, Shelby acts awkwardly around one of the male characters. She speaks nicely with him, which she never does with anyone, and she takes hold of his hand. John suggests she is flirting with him however, at the end of the book it is revealed that what was perceived as “flirtation” was only Shelby collecting clues to solve her case.

Violence

None.

Profanity

None.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

– John’s parents are going though a divorce where his mother takes him and settles to New York and the father moves elsewhere. Throughout the book, John remembers his father and wishes he was with them. John’s father does not call when he promises to call throughout the story until the end of the book where the father-son relationship seems to heal upon his father’s call.

Final Verdict

This book contains interesting details about detective work and shows Shelby’s plausible abilities at collecting clues and solving mysteries around the city. John is very respectful of his parents and does not keep secrets from his mother. John and Shelby are engaged in an innocent platonic relationship.