The Book of Mysteries by Fran Orenstein
(Summary taken from an email from the publisher) "Enter The Book of Mysteries at your own risk with Tyler and his best friend, Zack who live in an apartment house in New York City. Tyler’s uncle, a scientist and explorer, sends Tyler to a find a disappearing bookstore, an ancient bookseller, and The Book of Mysteries, where exciting and danger-filled adventures await them. In The Wizard’s Revenge, they enter the strange world of Balara. The boys, with the help of a Balaran girl and a dragon-slayer giant, must un-mask and force a wizard to release a fire-breathing dragon from a deadly spell. There is mutual attraction between Tyler and Esmara, a Balaran girl who helps them, and sometimes Tyler forgets that she is just a character in a story. In The Gargoyles of Gothica, Tyler and Zack face marauding gargoyles, when they must retrieve the king’s magic scepter stolen by his evil stepmother. Without the scepter, the countryside of Gothica will wither and die. Aided by identical twin Goth Princesses, Lily and Ivy, the boys cannot return until the quest is fulfilled. The third book, The Centaurs of Spyr, pits our heroes against armies of mythical beasts at war. They must save the colony of helpless humans and their guardians, the talking trees. Zack finds first love and Tyler becomes a hero, but this could be their last adventure, for they may not be able to go home, unless the Centaurs agree to broker peace and the bookstore hasn’t disappeared."
I love the premise of these books. That's why we read, right??? So we can become a part of a story. I love that the boys are able to pick a story, jump in, and live in the story land. I can't tell you how many stories I've read in my lifetime that I wish I could be a part of. The premise of these books relates to every reader. The main characters Zach and Tyler are cute boys. They are 13 and act like it. They're a little forgetful, they act tough but are really scared, they try and impress the girls and yet they get tongue-tied when they try to talk to the girls. I could just see my 12 year-old and his friends. I thought each of the stories were well thought out and were fun. There was just enough action and suspense to make it good, but not over the top. Each story had lessons to be taught, and the reader learns them while the boys do. Friendship, working together, working hard, thinking things through before acting, and helping others are only a few of the lessons taught. Every 13 year-old needs to be reminded of these things (don't we all sometimes???). The magic of reading is also an underlying theme. Just by opening a book we are transported to places we could never imagine. I liked the characters in the different lands, and thought they interacted well with the boys. I liked that each story had a candy store, book store, and pharmacy, especially the candy store. I thought it was funny that the boys needed chocolate.....sounds a little too much like me.
I think overall the story would be great for fourth graders and up.......except the author did something that irritates me to no end (and this is the reason I started my blog to begin with). She put two or three lines in each book that make it completely inappropriate for the younger readers. Even though the story is written for the younger readers, and they would love it, they shouldn't read it. In the first story, Revenge of the Wizard, on page two, the uncle is talking to Tyler and says they need to have a discussion. Tyler says he's already had that discussion and the uncle says, "I'm not talking about SEX." And then there is a point where one of the boys says something like (sorry, I can't find it so I'm summarizing), "Why do you always think about sex?" Then, book two The Gargoyles of Gothica starts with Tyler looking at porn on his laptop. It never actually says that, it is just heavily implied because his dad walks in and he slams the computer shut and hopes his father didn't see what he was looking at. Sex is also mentioned again later in the story. Book three is ok, as far as I can remember. Why? Why do authors need to add those things? They had nothing to do with the story and actually didn't fit at all. They seemed very out of place in this story. The rest of it was clean except for a few swear words. There were only a few. So, why add those first few instances?? Ugh. It really irritates me. Obviously, you wouldn't want your child to read this unless you've had "the talk." I talked about it a lot with my husband and we decided we will let our 12 year-old read it because he's had "the talk." I don't think he'll understand the porn scene, but I will discuss it with him before he starts. I will not be letting my 5th grader read it because he hasn't had "the talk" yet. Why make a book inappropriate and thus cut your readers in half? I still hesitate with my 12 year-old reading it, but we will discuss it with him, and let him know that we don't think or talk like that in this family. Now, I know I'm a lot more strict with books and media than other people are. If you are comfortable with a younger child reading about sex and porn then the rest of it is fine for him.
I did really like the stories and think the kids will enjoy them. I hope if the author prints another edition that she will take those few sentences out because it ruins the rest of it. Other than that, I liked the stories and think the kids will enjoy them.
Rating: PG-13 (A few swear words, boys talking about sex, a boy looking at porn)
Recommendation: After you've had "the talk." I would say 12 and up. I guess I do know kids who have discussed it with their parents at age 11. It will be different for each kid, and the parents should read it first to see if it is appropriate for their child.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.