Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Age Level are the Fairy Tale Novels for?

An email from a reader asks me a question I've fielded before, so I thought I'd post the answer here. Blog readers, feel free to give me your response in the comments boxes below:

Hi Regina,

I found out about your books and I'm interested in them for my 12 yr old...
are the elements in your books too adult for her? What would you consider to be the appropriate age level for the books? Are some more mature than others? I was thinking of Waking Rose as
Catholic Faith & Family magazine mentioned that it was like a 'Catholic Nancy Drew' which my daughter loves (ND). Does it "go no further" than the romance of the Barbie or Disney movies? I want to make an informed decision before I purchase them for her.

My response:

Although the books were described by the reviewer as a "Catholic Nancy Drew", I believe that makes the books sound as though they are intended for a younger audience, which they're not. I would say the books are definitely for teenagers, and they definitely do go beyond the romance of the Barbie/Disney movies: not because the main characters behave unchastely (no way!) but because there are darker elements and threats in the stories that make them more "high school" than anything else.

I will say that all of these issues are deliberately dealt with in a very ambiguous manner, so that most of it will go over the heads of readers innocent of these issues. But my teenage heroes and heroines do fight real dragons that are out there in society today. In my books, I don't do the dragons the favor of describing their horrific actions in graphic detail, but some of the manifestations of dragonish thinking and actions are there: the threat of date rape (Book 1), the danger of young men being seduced by immoral older women (Book 2), and sexual violence and brokenness (Book 3). Also, although only one person (a villain) dies in the course of all three books, the threat of death is very near and the suspense can be at quite a high level.

For longer reviews of the books by Catholic moms that you might find helpful, I would check out these sites:

http://www.catholicexchange.com/node/66450

http://lily-maiden.blogspot.com/2007/10/waking-rose.html

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/10/enchantment.html

Given your concern, I would say that Waking Rose is too old for your daughter to start with. I would suggest purchasing The Shadow of the Bear first. Aside from the violent brushes with death at the end, the "difficult" chapter is Chapter 13, where one heroine, Rose, is conned into going into a bedroom with a boy that she's on a date with. Nothing transpires, and she gets out of the situation in a very clever way, but that would be the chapter that I, as the parent of a 12-year-old myself, would be concerned with. I would say, read that chapter, and if you are comfortable with that chapter, the rest of the book will be fine. Some families who have read the book aloud to their entire families have simply skipped that chapter or parts of that chapter.

The Shadow of the Bear is also an audio drama, currently airing on Ave Maria Radio in Michigan at 7 AM on Saturday mornings. Even if you are not in Michigan, you can listen to an episode during the morning hour from their website, http://www.avemariaradio.net/catholic-online-radio.php. I can say that my children *have* listened to the audio drama, and the scene in question pretty much goes over their heads.

You also might want to check out the comments of readers in the comments boxes of my blog, http://www.reginadoman.blogspot.com/, where a lot of readers shared what they liked best about the books.

I hope this helps! Let me know what you decide to do: it will help me in knowing what to tell other moms with similar concerns!

Peace and good
Regina

14 comments:

"Lady Rose" said...

Thank you so much for this post! I have been arguing on this point with my younger sister (11) that she really should wait until she is 13/14. (My friends have too.) I am glad to see that you agree as to why non-teens should wait, I've told her almost the exact same thing; "content is too mature for you", "you will understand it and thus enjoy it much more if you wait". Now I can tell her that "Regina Doman said..." (she might listen to you more readily, I can't convince her that I DO know what is best... most of the time.)

God Bless!

Ps. I was wondering myself what you thought on the subject.

veronica (aka, miss fish) said...

Alright, here’s my two cents… I don’t think that they are a “Catholic Nancy Drew” at all! Sure, they both deal with mystery and suspense, but a complete different kind. Nancy Drew is completely secular. The Shadow of the Bear, Black as Night, and Waking Rose are full of spiritual mystery and suspense and MUCH deeper meaning and purpose.
My sisters wouldn't let me read the books (even the first one) until I was 14, because that was the age that Bethlehem had put on it. I think that 14 or 15 is the best age, but it really depends on the maturity of the reader. I believe that 13 is too young for the second two (Black as Night and Waking Rose) and maybe even the first book (The Shadow of the Bear) Although, like I said it really depends on the reader. As I told my friend’s 11 year old sister, "You will enjoy them much better when you are 14 or 15”
Even though I didn’t like it before; I thank my sisters now for making me wait, because I enjoyed them much better as a teen/young adult than I would have as a young reader. There are really many reasons for this, but, First, for the wonderful literary work that they are, and secondly I understood them better than I would have. But, there are really a lot more reasons as well. I believe that I enjoyed them better than I would have from all aspects. I really appreciated them more than I would have as a younger reader.
Actually though, my ten year old brother has listened to the audio drama, and loved it! I think that it is correct in saying that certain things (the Rob and Rose scene, for instance) just “went over his head” when listening. But, I believe that the case would probably be different if he was reading it, I still think that he should wait until teen years to read the book.
If there were audio dramas for the next two, I would recommend that my parents have him wait to listen to those though, not because they aren’t as good as the first one, but, because they deal with much deeper issues.
Well, that turned out being quite a long two cents; hopefully, it all makes sense (no pun meant there)!

Elizabeth said...

I too have been wondering about when to let my sister read the series...I'm really strict with her because I ran into some stuff when I was younger that was not good at all, and I want to protect her from it. I was planning to make her wait another year or so for these books, but then I realized that she's already read some things at least at this level, and not from such a strong christain worldview. So I figure when I get the rest of the books for Christmas (as I'm hoping for!) she'll be ready to read them then...she'll be 13 and she's pretty mature for her age. Plus I keep telling her about them, and I can only go so long without having someone to talk to about them...

Anonymous said...

I actually read "Snow White and Rose Red" when I was 11. I had no problem with it, but I was an unusually mature reader even in my own family of book addicts. Honestly, the Rob/Rose scene did not bother me, partly because it was handeled with a more sensitive hand than other stuff I ran into not long after, and partly because although I knew Rob was an utter and absolute jerk, I was not wholly aware of what was going on thanks to the way it was written. When reread at an older age, the scene was a bit more serious. I can only thank you tremendously for writing the way that you do. It is very true that the serious and dark matters really do "go over" the younger kids' heads even while they still understand that something important and dangerous is happening. And when reread it takes on as much depth as the reader brings to it. (If that makes sense.)

Also, my younger sister has been clamoring to read the trilogy and I keep telling her to wait a little while. She will appreciate them more then. I ran into a lot of nasty stuff when I was younger through the library and I got really sick of books for awhile. I was positive that there were no good books still being written and that I was going to be stuck reading authors from 1910 and earlier for the rest of my life...until I found your books. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That's interesting that someone mentioned that review of WR in Faith & Family. It just so happens that my mom writes for that magazine, and the lady who wrpte the review of WR is a family friend.

I was FURIOUS when I read the comparison of ND to WR. The books are just about as different as can be and WR (although I LOVE ND!) SOARS past ND with flying colors. There can be no comparison in the characters, writing, and CERTAINLY not the types of books. Or, of course, as Miss Doman said, the "adult content."

*I have now finished my rant.*

Anonymous said...

The reviewer said "A catholic nancy drew, only she possesses more edge and excitement." Edge meaning with more adult content. I myself read the book, I'm 12 and I found nothing that was above my reading level. Also the book was reviewed in the "Teen" section.

regina doman said...

BTW for any parent who wants to rate the content of the books, the blog Carpe Fabulam! has a very detailed review of The Shadow of the Bear up at

http://carpefabulam.blogspot.com/

Warning: there are spoilers, of course (it gives away most of the content of the book) and like most of the hyper-careful reviews of this type, the book can sound far worse than it actually is. But if any parent wants to be clear on the type of material that is presented in the book, this would be a great resource.

The author of the blog really likes the book, and says some very kind things about it at the beginning and end of her exhaustive review. It definitely makes it clear that the books are for teen readers.

Anonymous said...

My Mom read the first two books to me when I was 10 and I thought they were great, but she did have to explain a bit about drugs and law and stuff like that. I read Waking Rose myself and at that time I was 12.
But I'v always read books that were harder.

Anonymous said...

I picked up The Shadow of the Bear at my local Catholic bookstore when I was 11, and I didn't know it's intended reader age. However, I do agree that it was written in an ambiguous manner. Reading the "difficult" Rose/Rob scene in TSOTB, I recongnized part of the problem (I knew that Rob wanted sex, and Rose didn't), but I didn't see *quite* how serious it was (near date rape) until I reread it at thirteen. I read BaN when I was twelve and WR at thirteen. I think I understood everything pretty well, though I have to wonder if I would have appreciated it more had I been older... Still, I thoroughly enjoyed all three books and am eagerly anticipating the fourth!

Melody the Incorrigible said...

I began reading these books around 15 or 16 with SotB, and my little sister read it at the age of 11. I haven't allowed her to read BaN or WR yet, even though she's a very mature girl. It's partly becuase she's so mature for her age that I don't want her to read these books yet. She's only 12 and growing fast. Few things go over her head anymore, and some things that don't go over shouldn't go in yet either.
None of these books glorify evil or leave the sin factor in a grey area. They do not fudge on evil, nor are they filled with fluffy ideas of holiness. So parents don't have to worry about the impression their children come away with. That will always be sound.
The good thing about the books in this trilogy is that every one is re-readable. I have read BaN 5+ times, each time gleening more insight and understanding. So for those who put off reading these books purely in order to 'get it' better later, repeated readings may be more beneficial.
After all this rant, the best way to read these books is to have one given to you by a friend, older sibling, or parent who has read it. That person knows you and can see if you're ready for the content or not.

Mariel Rose said...

I just want to let you know that a neighbor of ours started reading "The Lord of the Rings" when she was seven! I kept begging my mom to let me read it because I was (at the time) eleven and I felt a little humiliated telling this seven-year-old my mother wants me to wait because she doesn't think I'm ready for them. Well time passed quite quickly and now that I've started reading them I'm very glad my mom made me wait because when you look hard enough there are many Catholic themes in them that I would not have picked up, if she not had wait a few years. As for the Catholic themes, there is a book published on J.R.R. Tolkein's letters that he wrote to his nephew about his thoughts while writing the books. For example, Galadriel, Awein, and Arwin are the "marian figures" in the story, and Frodo (carrying the ring) is Christ carrying the cross. I'm not sure of the exact title of the book, so I'll look it up then post it here later.

So I do believe in making people wait to read The Fairytale Novels. I myself have a reading level that's far above my age, but even so my mom wanted me to wait for the LOTR Trilogy and I'm glad she did.

P.S. Sorry, Regina. It turned out to be a lot longer then I expected. God bless you.

P.P.S. Anyone, feel free to debate with me.

Jen said...

My daughter is going to comment on Snow White and Rose Red. She's almost 12:

I love the book Snow White and Rose Red.I love love stories and Mysteries.I am on chapter 14 I just got over the prom.I am going to read all of the other books you wrote when I am older.I love to read.

Mariel Rose said...

I just found out the name of the book. It's called "Letters from J.R.R. Tolkein".

God Bless!

Kristyn said...

Hello Regina,
So here I am posting a comment a gazillion years after this post, but I have a further question and hope you might email me with a reply when you have time.

I have recently read the Fairy Tale Novels (as a 30-something mom of 6) and I am wondering why Waking Rose is considered appropriate for 14+ and The Midnight Dancers for 16+. I felt my 13 year old could read TMD, but Fish's struggles in WR would totally be too much for her. (Almost for me, too!) Fish is the best character, but I cried for him.

Anyway, feel free to email me. I am hoping to review your books and give them another push on my blog soon.

God bless,
Kristyn Hall
kristynhall@gmail.com