The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
(borrowed from the Camden County Library System)
I requested this book from the library after seeing it come up in book recommendations on goodreads. I had no idea that the author was the actor from the television show Glee. I decided to give it a try anyway, and I'm glad that I did. I'm not a fan of Glee. I watched a few episodes and can say that the only character I actually liked was Colfer's.
Alex and Connor Bailey are twins. Their father died and now their mother is trying very hard to keep the family going. When their grandmother comes to visit she leaves them with the book of stories that she always read to them.
In the twin's lives, fairy tales are what they know. As opposed to the Sisters Grimm, whose father did everything in his power to keep his children from knowing anything about fairy tales and fairy tale characters, the Baileys have treasured and embraced the stories. When Alex wishes on the book and it starts to change, she tries to keep it secret. Connor knows something is up and when Alex finally tells him everything, the two wind up plunging into the book and discovering that the stories are all real. However, it turns out that getting into the book was as easy as falling, getting back home is a different matter entirely.
Colfer takes on all the stories that we all know and love. The promise of a spell that can grant their wish to return home sets the children on a tour of all of the kingdoms of this new (to them) world. They meet the heroes and villains of the Grimm and Anderson stories. They gather magical objects in a race to find their way home. But, it's not all princesses and magic charms. There are real dangers for the twins and they aren't the only one trying to find the objects needed for the spell. Plus, it turns out that it can only be used twice and the diary they are using to find the objects, was written by the first person to use it, and he just happened to be their father.
Problems and crises arise and are quickly resolved here. The simplistic approach taken really makes the story move. While I found things wrapped up a bit too easily, I think middle grade readers would be better able to process and enjoy the story this way. I could imagine a child finding the tale more accessible and less frightening, but possibly less exciting. In Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series, the girls are often in peril and have to really learn from their mistakes and take risks to save themselves and the people they care about. Colfer's siblings have a lot less danger to contend with, as the solutions to their problems appear almost instantly.
If you have kids who love books like Buckley's or Lemony Snicket's they may find this a bit too easy and safe of an adventure. On the other hand, this is a sweet story. The twins needed some quality time and they made some very interesting friends and learned a lot about themselves and their family. It won't keep you on the edge of your seat, but it will transport you to the world of characters you grew up with and shows the importance of those stories and all there is to gain from them.