This is one for the kiddies… it is for beginning chapter book readers. The Spell Thief by Tom Percival looks like the first in a series (the ARC I got has a little from book 2 as a preview). While is isn’t complicated and doesn’t have the heft of something like Harry Potter for character development, dialogue or plot, if you keep in mind that it is aimed a very beginning readers, it is delightful. The story if of a little boy, Jack of Jack-in-the-beanstalk fame, and his fellow young friends: Red (yes, Little Red Riding Hood), Rapunzel and Hansel & Gretel. They live in a little town with a delightful tree that records their stories. They are at war with trolls and Jack’s father is off mining moonstone, which keep trolls at bay. One day, a ship from a far away land arrives with another little boy, Anansi. Jack catches him talking to a troll and sets out on a quest to find out if Anansi is a troll spy. He meets a young saw witch named Lily and tries to get her help.
In the end, I think it will be something that will be super fun for my little guy to read once he is old enough. A tiny bit of exposure to the characters would add in on the fun, as it would be easier to understand why Rapunzel has such long hair or why Hansel & Gretel are always finishing each others sentences. But, hard core knowledge of the fairy tales they come from isn’t necessary. Again, it is important to remember the target audience for this; if you picked it up expecting an adaption like Wicked or some other “fractured fairy tale” (which is apparently new lingo), this isn’t that. Instead, the characters and their story are merely a delightful device to explain what they have in common and where they all come from. There is a little bit of magic to keep things interesting and to, hopefully, spark an interest in reading things more magical and more complicated.
It has messages of friendship and the value of listening as well as a few others. The little illustrations are cute enough to keep my 3-year old looking at the page while I read and I loved the way Lily was drawn. I certainly will look forward to other installments. The Spell Thief cast a delightful, albeit simple, spell.