Once upon a time in a land far, far away….Oh, wait. Did you think we were reading fairy tales today? Oh, my. No. So sorry to disappoint. But, if it makes you feel better, we will be discussing them! Or to be more specific,  I’ll be weighing in on The School of Good and Evil trilogy. Tsk, Tsk. And you thought fairy tales were only for those very young at heart.

The idea of Good vs. Evil is as old as time itself, and addressed in Genesis of the Bible.  

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4-5

But despite four years of Catholic high school and mandatory religion classes, we are not here to discuss theology. We are here to discuss a trilogy written by Soman Chainani. More particularly, the first book in the series The School for Good and Evil. As I read through the chapters, I must say my Kindle got a workout as I highlighted text after text to create notes. For me that is a sign of a good book. I’ll be sure to share some of my favorites, but first let’s look at the book’s specifics.

Book Details

School GoodTitle:  The School for Good and Evil
Series:  The School for Good and Evil
Author:  Soman Chainani
Illustrator:  Iacopo Bruno
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Review Format:  Kindle
Age Level:  8-12 | Grade Level:  3-7
Price:  $12.01 Hardcover | $4.99 Kindle | $6.07 Paperback | $12.48 Paperback Box Set

Summary: “With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.” Source:  Amazon

The question is, is it really that easy to tell the difference between good and evil? When the story presents itself you see the fair-haired, beautiful “would-be” princess devote herself to the town’s dark-haired, some what less-than-perfect, teenage witch that is ostracized by the townspeople. Yet, from the beginning the princess is ready to forsake everyone in hopes of being kidnapped by the shadow that lurks in the night. Meanwhile, the solitary, unkempt witch is ready to sacrifice herself to protect the young princess. And so the story unfolds…

Points to ponder when reading

If you read closely, you will find many things in which to reflect upon and ponder about social issues that surround us today. Concepts that go beyond that of a mere fairy tale but exist in the world of reality. Some are obvious, some less discernible. However, Chainani’s gift of bringing to light these issues in this thought-provoking story is to be commended.

“Princes must be so confused when they see you,” said Dot. “Most villains don’t look like princesses.”

“A princess and a Reader,” Hester said. “The two worst things a human can be.”

“In this School for Good, where everyone was supposed to be kind and loving, she had still ended up alone and despised.”

“But a friend wasn’t enough for Sophie. Sophie had always wanted more. Sophie wanted a prince.”

“A boy can choose to be alone if he wants. But if a girl ends up alone…she might as well be dead.”

“No wonder princesses were so impotent in fairy tales, she thought. If all they could do was smile, stand straight, and speak to squirrels, then what choice did they have but to wait for a boy to rescue them?”

The princess vs. the villain

When you first begin reading, you are led upon a path in which one character is easily identified as the princess and the other the villain. But the thing about paths is sometimes the road is not made clear and soon you find yourself lost. You will begin questioning which of the two main characters is the princess and which is villain. Their stories are not easy ones. The mere fact that we are human means that we often have conflicting feelings. We are neither all good nor all bad.

So who is the true serpent in this story? The real temptation? Aw, it would be easy for me to give you that answer but that is your job as the Reader to determine. For only you can decide. After all, fairy tales are up to interpretation. Which shall you choose, Good or Evil? And, who’s to say which is which?

As I read, I found myself smiling over the many subtle messages this book contained and the opportunity for parents and tweens to discuss the aspect of these social issues. Although, in truth, I would have wished the age of the characters to  have been older. It would have made more sense to me. However, this aside, it is well-known that I enjoy a book that can teach our youth in an imaginative way. Which is why I believe this is a good read for middle-graders as it, hopefully, will encourage the reader to understand the importance of going beyond skin-deep appearances and looking at the heart of their peers. With all the cruelty in today’s world, we need a few heroes. And in this story, the outcome may surprise you. Because as you will learn, true friendship is the greatest beauty of all.

Until next week,

K. Lamb