My niece is a big reader. One of my favorite things to do is to talk about books with her. The Land of Stories might be the most enthusiastic recommendation she’s ever made to me. She went on about how much she loved the book, and she was so excited that there were sequels to the story. A few weeks later I was in a hotel in San Francisco, when I overheard a girl, about the same age as Emma, telling her grandmother about a great book she was reading. She was so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help interrupting and asking her what book she was talking about. You’ve got it. It was The Land of Stories.
I ordered the book for my kindle the next night and began reading the book. I see what they saw in the book. The Land of Stories falls in the fairy tale fantasy genre for middle readers. There have been a lot of these books published lately. Luckily, they are not cookie cutter. Each is clever and has its own merits. My particular favorites are this book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, A Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom and Rump. I’m terribly behind on reading the Sisters Grimm (incredibly behind, really, given that the series now has 9 books) but plan to read that book as well. After reading it, I put it on my 4th and 5th Grade Fiction Book Club list. My students raved about this book as well.
The Land of Stories is terrific. Two great characters go on a quest – but not just any quest. This quest combines humor, mystery, adventure and lots of familiar fairy tale characters who are probably quite a bit different than you might remember.
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell pulls you right in. It begins as Queen Snow White enters a dark dungeon to speak with her step-mother, the Evil Queen. Snow White begs the former queen to tell her why she never loved Snow White. The Evil Queen tells Snow White that “a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.”
The book then turns to two characters, Alex and Conner Bailey, 12 year old twins who live with their mother. They live in a small house, having had to sell their old house after their father passes away in a car accident. Life is difficult for the twins. Their mother, trying to pay the bills, has to work double shifts as a nurse. They rarely see their mother, and Conner is struggling in school. Their grandmother is a light in their life. When she arrives for the twins’ birthday, she leaves them with her most prized possession, an old story book called, The Land of Stories.
The old story book turns out to be more than just a book of stories. It vibrates and hums. It keeps Alex, normally a top student, up at night. While not many people would think to try to drop a book into the pages of a humming storybook, Alex is just the kind of kid that does. She drops in several books and a pencil and then, a little predictably, is sucked into the book herself. Her twin, Conner, horrified as he watches her disappear, jumps right in after his sister. What do you do when you fall into a book? You meet a magical creature – not a faun, as might happen if you’ve fallen through the back of a wardrobe – but a big frog who offers you tea with flies (if you like). The only way to leave the enchanted land? Fulfill the requirements of the Wishing Spell.
I don’t want to give away too much, because this book is truly worth your time. You’ll learn the truth about Goldilocks (a villain on the run), Little Red Riding Hood, Jack in the Beanstalk and that Evil Queen and whether she actually is a victim. You’ll also learn whether Alex and Conner ever find their way home.
Honestly, it would not surprise me if this book won an award. Please don’t miss this wonderful book. I’m launching a fantasy book club, and my students have already asked me to put book two of this series on the list. Hmmm. They might have to just borrow that book from my library shelves – so many more great fantasy books and series to explore!