Harold Ogle's Reviews > The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet

The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet by Tony Abbott
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's review
May 05, 2013

it was ok
bookshelves: children, fantasy, dimension-travel
Read in May, 2012

Quite a few people knocked the Spiderwick Chronicles series of children's books for splitting what was ostensibly one novel into multiple volumes, but as you know from my reviews, I think it was a good choice in that it broke the story up into smaller chunks for more junior readers. Tony Abbott has completely trumped that with The Secrets of Droon series, which is spread across forty-four volumes. Each one is about sixty pages long (not counting illustrations), and tells the story of three kids who discover an entrance to an alternative universe. The gate to the world opens at times of great need, forming a rainbow staircase leading down into a world/kingdom called Droon, which is perpetually locked in a battle between good (in the form of the benign magical rulers) and evil (in the form of a dark wizard Lord Sparr). In each story, the kids - none of whom, refreshingly, are either orphans or children of divorced parents - arrive in each story to discover the nature of the problem, assist in the solution of the problem in some way, and then return to our universe again. This structure is both good and bad, depending on your outlook in the moment. It's good, because it very closely resembles the way that young kids create their own stories when playing together: the stories are fantastical, there's scary stuff but the threat of violence is rarely realized (and often defeated by kids' methods, such as throwing snowballs), and the resolution comes very quickly. The flip side of it is that it's bad, because the stories can feel very contrived in a 22-minute-TV-episode way: the story starts, develops and resolves so quickly it beggars belief. Why do they have to return home at the end of every story? Maybe they don't in later stories - at this point I've only read the first five - but with my adult hat on, it's problematic. But seeing it from the kids' point of view, it is very reassuring that there's no significant or long-lasting character development: the trips to Droon are like trips to Mr. Rogers' "Land of Make Believe" (or any recurring setting when children "play pretend").

This first book introduces us to the characters: Eric (the primary protagonist, portrayed with glasses), Neal (the goofy kid), Julie (the sporty girl), Princess Keeah (presumably pronounced Kia - the beautiful and magically gifted daughter of King Zello, rightful ruler of Droon), Galen Longbeard (what else could he be but a Gandalf character?), Max (another comic relief character: a troll doll with the body of a spider, Galen's dogsbody), the Ninns (orange-skinned orcs), and Lord Sparr (evil wizard bent on conquering Droon). Here's what happens: (view spoiler)

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message 1: by Jaina (new)

Jaina Nice review, and I used to LOVE those books! The only thing is you might want to mark the second paragraph with some sort of spoiler alert. I knew what happens anyway, but some eight-year-old looking for reviews before reading might not. Sorry to sound nit-picky, I just don't want to spoil it. You summarized it really well, though!

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