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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Land of Stories” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Alex Bailey, a bright and inquisitive student, couldn’t be more excited to write an essay about the lesson learned from a traditional fairy tale. Her twin brother, Conner, is less than enthusiastic. He doesn’t have his sister’s love of school, but he is able to make and keep friends better than she can.

As they discuss their homework on the walk from school, they see that their old house has been sold, reminding them of the death of their father the previous year, a few days before their 11th birthday. Since then they’ve had to move to a much smaller home, and their mother has had to work double shifts as a nurse in order to make ends meet. When she’s forced to work on the twins’ 12th birthday, she invites their grandmother over to help them celebrate.

Grandma gives the twins several gifts, but the most special is the storybook she used to read to them when they were younger, The Land of Stories. That night, as Alex peruses the pictures, she wishes she could live in a fairy-tale world like the one found in the book. She is awakened by a humming noise that fills her room and is stunned to see that the book is glowing.

Over the next few days, Alex keeps the book’s behavior a secret, but experiments with it. When she drops small items, such as pencils and dirty socks, onto a picture, they disappear into the book. She finally admits to Conner that she thinks the book may be some kind of portal to another world.

Conner urges her to get rid of the book, but Alex is reluctant. He suspects she may want to escape into the book. When he surprises her experimenting with just how far she can put her hand inside the pages, she accidently falls through to another world. Conner jumps in after her and the two end up inside The Land of Stories.

The children come upon a man with a frog’s head and green skin. The creature speaks their language and is friendly. He invites the children to his house to keep them safe from the wolves prowling the woods. Froggy, as Conner names him, admits he was cursed a long time ago. He explains that they are in the Dwarf Forests, a dangerous place full of criminals.

He shows them a map of the other kingdoms in his world, which are named, and ruled by, various fairy-tale characters. He also tells them that the Evil Queen, who had tried to kill Snow White, has escaped from prison. No one knows what she’ll do, but he warns the children to be careful.

Finally, Froggy explains to them about the Wishing Spell. He came across it in a journal of a man from the Charming Kingdom who wished to be reunited with a woman from another world. The man collected the items needed to perform the spell, but the journal ended after he found the last one. The journal is supposed to provide the children with details as to where each item is hidden. This spell might help them go home.

The following morning they set out to find the ingredients to the Wishing Spell. Conner wants to follow the journal and get out as soon as possible, but Alex wants to do some sight-seeing. They barely escape being eaten by a witch in a gingerbread house, and then meet Goldilocks as she battles large, talking wolves. She gives the twins a silver dagger for their help in the fight.

The children travel to Rapunzel’s tower where they finally read the journal Froggy gave them. After explaining how he came to buy it, the writer gives a series of riddles that must be solved in order to obtain the items needed for the spell. One of them is a lock of Rapunzel’s hair. Conner finds one in the floorboards. He carefully wraps it in tissue to save it.

Meanwhile, the Evil Queen enlists the aid of the Huntsman and his daughter to retrieve the ingredients for the Wishing Spell herself. She vows to take care of Alex and Conner when she learns from her Magic Mirror that they also want to use the spell. This spell can only be used one more time.

The children manage to get inside Cinderella’s castle and are treated to a tour by one of her guards. They enter the queen’s special room where she keeps some of her treasures, including her glass slippers. Cinderella is also in the room. She explains the room’s contents to the children, even letting them hold one of her slippers. The children need a slipper for the Wishing Spell, but decide to come back for it as she and the guard have been so nice. Later, as they ride in a wagon to Red Riding Hood Kingdom, Alex mysteriously finds one of the glass slippers in her bag.

Alex and Conner jump over the wall to Red Riding Hood Kingdom and land safely in a haystack. They meet Jack, of beanstalk fame, and follow him to Red Riding Hood’s castle. She is in love with Jack, but his heart belongs to someone else.

That night, the children sneak back into the castle to steal a piece of Red’s basket. Someone else takes a piece of the basket first, and then sets the room on fire. Alex and Conner barely escape.

They come upon Jack in a clandestine meeting with Goldilocks. It is obvious the two are in love but can’t be together because Goldilocks has been named an outlaw and Jack is still considered a hero.

The Troll and Goblin Kings take Alex and Conner as their prisoners. A troll princess offers to free them if Conner will kiss her, which he does. Once out of their cell, Alex imprisons the troll princess and sets the other inmates free. As they escape, Conner manages to steal the kings’ shared crown, another of the ingredients they need for the Wishing Spell.

Soon after this, they find a crying fairy and capture one of her tears to use for the spell. In the Sleeping Kingdom they learn that the kingdom is falling into disrepair because the people can’t seem to wake up, even though their curse was broken. Queen Sleeping Beauty is a kind ruler who desperately wants to help her subjects’ lead normal lives again. Conner suggests to the queen that she provide them with rubber bands to place on their wrists so they can snap them before they fall asleep. She is thankful and agrees to let the children borrow her spindle for the Wishing Spell.

Alex and Conner travel to the Northern Kingdom and speak with its ruler, Snow White. They tell her they need a jewel from her coffin. Unfortunately it no longer rests in the kingdom. She gave it to the Dwarves, who keep it in their mines. She warns them that if the Evil Queen is after the same items, she will stop at nothing to retrieve all the items for the spell.

As the children travel to the Dwarf Mines, they are shocked to see the Curvy Tree. They believed their father had made up the story about the tree, but seeing it, they realize he must have been from the Land of Stories. In the mines, the children find Snow White’s coffin and pry a jewel from it. The Big Bad Wolf pack, which is working for the Evil Queen, finds them.

Using a mine cart, the twins hurtle down the tracks, which leads to a dead end. The cart flies through a wall of rock, and they find themselves outside of the mountain. Unfortunately, the same trolls who’d captured them earlier, attack them. The trolls plan on taking them back to their kingdom to stand trial for stealing the kings’ crown. Alex breaks Cinderella’s glass slipper and uses a shard to cut through their bonds. The Big Bad Wolf pack attack the trolls. While the trolls and wolves are busy, the children escape by jumping off a cliff into Mermaid Bay.

The Sea Foam Spirit, the rejuvenated soul of the Little Mermaid, saves them. She explains that she gave her dagger, another item for the spell, to the man who wrote the journal. He was supposed to destroy it but instead threw it into the Thornbush Pit, a dangerous place. The Spirit gives them necklaces to wear so the thorns won’t hurt them when they search for the dagger. The shells work as promised, and the twins are able to find the last item.

A branch rips Conner’s shell off of him as he climbs out of the pit. It falls. When it shatters, Alex’s shatters, too. The thorns and vines attack the children, dragging them back into the pit. Their old friend, Froggy, happens to be nearby and manages to pull them out at the last minute.

Although the children want to assemble the items for the Wishing Spell immediately, they agree to go with Froggy to see the Fairy Godmother. She’s promised to turn Froggy back into a human if he does. Before they can leave, Goldilocks rides in with Queen Red Riding Hood in tow.

Goldilocks has learned from the Evil Queen that it was Red who set her up all those years ago. Red wrote a note, pretending to be Jack, asking her to meet him in the bears’ cottage. Red had hoped Goldilocks would leave before the bears returned home, heartbroken and mad that Jack never came. The bears accused Goldilocks of theft, and she’s been on the run ever since. Goldilocks wants to throw Red Riding Hood into the Thornbush Pit as her revenge for never telling the kingdoms the truth.

The whole group is attacked by the Big Bad Wolf pack. The Huntsman’s daughter grabs Red Riding Hood, and the Big Bad Wolf pack takes Goldilocks and the twins to the Evil Queen. Only Froggy escapes and runs for help.

The Evil Queen places all the objects necessary for the Wishing Spell on a table as Conner, Alex, Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood are tied to chairs. Before the Queen can drop the fairy’s tear onto the items, Conner manages to knock it from her hands. It breaks, and the tear is lost.

The Magic Mirror tells them that Froggy is leading Jack and an army to attack the castle. There’s not enough time to get another fairy tear. The Queen orders Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood to be put into cells, and then she tells the twins her story.

Her mother died in childbirth, and loving parents raised her. She fell in love with a boy named Mira who wrote her poetry. They planned on marrying, but an evil Enchantress took her prisoner. The Enchantress placed a curse on Mira so he was encased inside a mirror.

The Evil Queen eventually learned a curse that killed the Enchantress, but she could never free Mira. Fearing her heart would break, she found a woman who could turn her heart to stone. She then set about marrying the king of the Northern Kingdom hoping that as queen she would have enough power to free Mira.

As the years went by, Mira forgot whom she was, even though she tried everything she could to look like the woman with whom he’d once fallen in love. Her subjects, not knowing her history, thought she was vain. Her stepdaughter, Snow White, became the object of Mira’s affection, driving the Evil Queen into a jealous rage. She believed Mira would remember her again if Snow White were dead, but it was too late; Mira had forgotten her.

The twins are moved by the story and try to convince the Evil Queen that she can go back to being the kind girl, Evly, she had once been. Alex sheds a tear that falls onto the items on the table. They begin to glow. The glow surrounds the queen, and she wishes for Mira to be released. Tragically, Mira dies when he leaves the mirror.

Froggy, Jack and Snow White’s army attack the castle. Froggy seeks to rescue Red Riding Hood and the twins while Jack tries to free Goldilocks. He accidently kills the Huntsman. The Huntsman’s daughter stabs Jack in retaliation. She and Goldilocks fight, but the Huntress escapes. Froggy saves Red Riding Hood just before the leader of the wolves is about to eat her. She kisses him for his heroism. Froggy then saves the twins as the army destroys the castle.

The Magic Mirror falls onto Evly and Mira, swallowing them inside before shattering on the ground. Alex picks up the pieces of the Wishing Spell, along with the Evil Queen’s stone heart, and escapes the castle with the others. Even Goldilocks manages to escape with the help of Froggy.

Although pardoned by Red Riding Hood for her crimes, Goldilocks is taken prisoner by Snow White’s army for her crimes in the Northern Kingdom. Red Riding Hood helps her escape and is emotionally crushed when Jack insists on living as a fugitive with Goldilocks. Froggy counsels Red to move on and try and become a better queen.

Snow White confesses to the twins that she helped the Evil Queen escape after she learned her stepmother’s true story. Froggy promises to help the children find another way home, but first, they are all invited to meet Cinderella’s new baby girl. In the Charming Kingdom, Cinderella’s fairy Godmother insists on meeting the twins.

They are shocked to discover that she is their grandmother. She explains how she came to live in both worlds and that their father was the man who wrote the journal. They are the first children to come from both worlds.

Grandma releases Froggy from his curse, and he is reunited with his brothers, all the King Charmings. Red Riding Hood is thrilled with the thought that the long-lost Prince Charlie Charming saved her life. Grandma opens a doorway for the twins to return home, but Alex has the feeling they will come back one day.

Christian Beliefs

The children’s father died the previous year, and his funeral was held in a church. Conner says a prayer before turning in a test at school. In the Northern Kingdom, ruled by Snow White, the apple motif appears. Alex compares it to a cross being used in a church. Conner believes the fall from the cliff into Mermaid Bay must have killed him and his sister, and he thinks they’re in heaven. He thinks the mermaids he sees are angels.

Other Belief Systems

The story revolves around the idea that all the characters from fairy tales exist in a world filled with magic. The Sea Foam Spirit is the rejuvenated soul of The Little Mermaid. The Evil Queen tells Snow White that her soul died long ago. In her paper about Cinderella, Alex says the story is really about karma—how being a good person and doing good things will eventually mean good things will happen to you.

Authority Roles

The children’s father was a man of patience and love. He took the time to talk with each of them about their feelings and tell them stories that helped them feel better about themselves. Their mother is self-sacrificing, working two jobs in order to support them. She obviously cares a great deal for them. In the Land of Stories, the children are left to go on their quest alone. The adults warn them of dangers, but none offer to help them on their journey.


The Huntsman curses the world for being cruel to the Evil Queen. D--n is spoken. God’s name is used with thank as well as the phrase Good heavens. Other mild objectionable words are heck and jeez.

A witch in a gingerbread house wants to eat the children. She grows larger as she considers her meal, even getting large jagged teeth, but the children trick her into letting them go. Goldilocks uses a sword to drive away large talking wolves that want to eat her. The wolves are later seen munching on the remains of a wagon filled with geese and their driver.

The Big Bad Wolf pack talk of eating the childrens’ limbs. Alex kicks a lantern at one of them, setting him on fire. A wolf scratches Conner, and Alex kicks another in the snout. The Evil Queen strikes Conner across the face. The Huntsman fires arrows at Jack, who throws one back. It ends up killing the Huntsman. His daughter stabs Jack. She and Goldilocks duel. Jack fires a cannonball that causes a Huntswoman to fall to her death. Goldilocks slaps Red Riding Hood.


The golden harp tells the children that Georgie Porgie has had a number of affairs. The children overhear Red Riding Hood talking in her sleep about Jack’s strong arms and soft lips. Jack and Goldilocks share passionate kisses. Conner kisses the troll princess in order to be set free from prison. Red Riding Hood kisses Froggy when he saves her from being crushed by the castle.

Red Riding Hood, when she is with the children and wearing a pink corset, shows a lot of skin. When she leans forward, more of her chest is revealed. In a portrait, Red Riding Hood wears only a coat made from wolf skin, which makes one of the boys smirk.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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