On this month's Nightstand post I mentioned that I had picked up a copy of The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell and was hoping to get to it this month. At the strong suggestion of one reader (heh) I went ahead and picked this one up first.
The premise of The Wishing Spell is awesome. It tells us the story of twins Alex (female) and Conner whose grandmother gives them a very special family heirloom: a book of fairy tales. Alex and Conner have grown up being read these stories and they are delighted to be in possession of this book of treasures themselves. However, they are greatly surprised when the book seems to come to life and, ultimately, sucks them into the pages (quite literally) and into a fairytale world. The Wishing Spell is the first book in a series of "Land of Stories" books, all of which I assume chronicle the adventures of Alex and Conner as they navigate their way through fairyland on a quest to return back home.
You'll note that I said I assumed that all the rest of the books in this series tell of us Alex and Conner's quest. I wouldn't know for certain and I have no intentions of finding out for myself. I couldn't quite finish this first book.
As I mentioned in my Nightstand post, I picked up this book series at Barnes & Noble on a whim. It was in the middle grade fiction section and I thought I'd give it a chance. The book's description most definitely caught my attention and Middle Grade fiction is, I've found, usually clean, good fun. As you are generally talking about ages 8-12 I can't think why this classification of fiction should be anything but clean, good fun. If The Land of Stories spells the future of middle grade fiction, I'm inclined to be quite hesitant to purchase any new works of it. My hackles are definitely up.
The story started off fine. The twins' dad dies and that sets the scene for grief and a desire to escape into a different world. Then they arrive in the fairyland and begin meeting all sorts of fun magical creatures and famous characters we are all familiar with: Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Jack of Bean Stalk Fame, etc. I didn't think the writing was that great but I did think the idea for the story was so I was inclined to read to the end. Then came a couple of descriptions which I did not care for one little iota.
The twins are looking around Red Riding Hood's castle for the room where she keeps all of her baskets. There are portraits of Red Riding Hood (who is quite the vain character) lining the walls.
"Let's find the entrance and retrace our steps to the throne room - " Alex began, but Conner interrupted her.
"No need. The baskets are in there," he said, and pointed to the door beside them.
"How do you know?" Alex asked him.
"Because I remember that portrait of Red being next to the basket room, "Conner said, and pointed to a portrait where Red Riding Hood was barely clothed, with only a wolf-skin to cover her.
Alex gave Conner a really dirty look.
"What?" Conner asked with a smirk. "It's memorable."
Yes. Yes, it most certainly is. Question: why do we want our eight to twelve year olds remembering it? But that was only the first thing I found (on pages 226-227). I grimaced, but hoped that would be the end of it. Unfortunately, Chris Colfer couldn't resist from writing such descriptions for our young people and publisher Little Brown didn't seem to see the need to clean it up. What is the harm in allow our young people to remain innocently imaginative beyond the ripe, old mature age of seven? Is that the new cut off age for childhood innocence?
The second instance had me howling at the moon and vowing that if this new series marks the future of middle grade fiction, we will stick with classic stories of which there are - thankfully - plenty to choose from and fully enjoy. In the Land of Stories, Jack of the Beanstalk and Goldilocks are in love but some event happened which has caused Goldilocks to become a fugitive from the law. Jack is desperate to be with her but she is keeping herself away from him in order to protect him. The following interchange takes place between the two who are standing on opposite sides of a gate:
"I love you," Jack said. "And I know you love me. You don't have to say it back. I just know.
"I'm a criminal, and you're a hero," Goldilocks said with teary eyes. "A flame may love a snowflake, but they can never be together without harming the other."
"Then let me melt," Jack said. He reached through the gate and pulled Goldilocks close to him, and they kissed. It was passionate, pure, and long overdue." (p. 234)
And then I was done. Aside from the fact that the "let me melt" line is eye-rolling and cheesy, I find it - along with the passionate kissing - completely inappropriate for the age group this story is marketed to. No thank you, Little Brown. No thank you. If this is what you intend to dole out to my kids and others, then we'll ignore your future works and stick to older tales which leave off the half clothed females and love making. That's completely unnecessary in the telling of a good story for adults and the idea that you would think this is descriptively good for our children is ridiculous.
If you think I'm going to quietly purchase this fiction and feed it to my kids without thinking about the implications then I have a smirk to throw back your way.
Think again please, Little Brown.
In case anyone is wondering, I regrettably purchased this book for myself. I'm linking to the publisher because I think it should be noted who intends to peddle this stuff off to the young reading public.