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A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind
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A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  356 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The Harry Potter series of books and movies are wildly popular. Many Christians see the books as largely if not entirely harmless. Others regard them as dangerous and misleading. In his book A Landscape with Dragons, Harry Potter critic Michael O'Brien examines contemporary children's literature and finds it spiritually and morally wanting. His analysis, written before the ...more
Paperback, 125 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by Ignatius Press (first published November 28th 1994)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Thomas Saywell
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very well-written, clearly presented book, which deals with a difficult topic.
First thing that needs to be said: reading this book without having a Christian perspective on the world would be very difficult. A lot of O'Brien says could seem hasty or unfounded. But if you read it as a Christian (or at least, with an acceptance of the Christian point-of-view), his explanations and evidence become grounded.

Michael O'Brien manages to walk the thin line between two common groups in Christia
Adam Ross
There are good moments in the book, but ultimately his analysis of certain fantasies breaks down. His discussions of Lloyd Alexander, Terry Brooks, and Stephen R. Lawhead contain no content, mere condemnations without reasons.
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sara by: Christy
Great book! He talks about why new trends in literature are dangerous to the mind- and soul- of the child. He has a lot of great insight and is good at explaining concretely exactly things why things that "felt wrong" to me are. I wish he'd make a new edition- I don't know off-hand when this was written but obviously well before Harry Potter and the vampire trend. He talks about movies, too- I'd love to hear his analysis of recent ones, like Pixar. Love the discussion on Tolkien and CS Lewis- bu ...more
Nov 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, education
When you are reading a book do you think about "world view"? The same applies to film, columns, and even conversation. World view is the "salt in the stew", so to speak. We don't see it, nor even taste it (unless it's overdone). But there it is, flavoring the experience, or drawing out the other flavors.

The four world views I look for are...
Cosmic Humanist
Secular Humanist
Judeo / Christian
Marxist / Leninist
... as described in Understanding the Times by David Noebel.

A number of years ago my t'ween
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books, and one that I have re-read and recommended a number of times. Unhappily with a provocative title with that currently fashionable "Title Subtitle" structure that sounds like a pitch for some TV soft-news show. But authors rarely if ever have anything to do with the titles or covers of their books, so let's be generous.

O'Brien asserts that children both desire and require stories with clear delineations of good-guys and bad-guys. There isn't a toddler who doesn't interr
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good analysis of the kinds of literature our kids are consuming. O'Brien's Catholicism comes through frequently. He is especially wary of the modern glorification of dragons which were considered a universal symbol of evil in theistic cultures. O'Brien includes extensive lists of recommended titles broken down by age group.
Jul 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
In my opinion, this book had a moot point and bad arguments.
Richard Bicknase
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thought the book did a good job of doing what it set out to do. I especially appreciated its discussions on symbology, Gnosticism, and neopaganism. If you haven't read a book like this on literary discernment before, this book would be a good place to start. It provides good background on why the topic is important, and provides plenty of examples in discussing specific books to model what it looks like to employ a discerning eye to literature or storytelling in general in movies or other medi ...more
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think this is an important book for parents who care about the kind of material their children read and are exposed to.
Well written and I appreciate the part where suggested books are listed. The author does not claim to know everything, but rather gives parents important words of advice.
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Heady text detailing neopaganism and the weight of symbols in literature, but excellent. He appears even to me to be a bit "over the top," but he warns of real danger. Includes a long book list.

Review source unknown: O'Brien has issued a wake-up call to conscientious parents in his latest book. We cannot take it for granted anymore that the entertainment aimed at our children is worthy of their attention. In fact, it may be harmful. The classic stories which teach us about good and evil (fairy t
Greg Bittner
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant and profound analysis. This is the third time I read this book and I get more out of it every time. The first time, I had no knowledge of George MacDonald, but have since read seven of his books, so I understood O'Brien's analysis of MacDonald much better, though his critique of "Phantastes" still floored me. ("*That's* what the book was about?") His explanation of "At the Back of the North Wind" surprised me too. Maybe it's time I try "Lilith" again and see if I can finish it. C.S. Le ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short, thought provoking (though imperfect) read

This quick read (I read it in under two hours) is aimed at Christians, but that doesn't mean that those who aren't should pass this by. While I don't believe everything he says is accurate, his heart & observations are worth considering as he makes several good points.

The book is not focused on dragons, though they are a frequent example, but on the use of classic symbols in literature. He does state that dragons themselves (if they exist) aren't
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book has given me a lot to think about in regards to what I want to read to my daughter. I agree with him that Gnosticism has become too prevalent in children's literature (and this was published before Harry Potter became a hit!) and that we need to find silence in this "Noisy Age" we live in (again, would you believe this was published before the rise of MySpace and Facebook?), but I think he was a little too harsh on C. S. Lewis mixing mythological creatures in with Christian allegory. O ...more
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great book about the importance of proper books for Children that give them a true understanding of good and evil and instill in them a yearning toward the "good." Kind of heady book but worth the read.
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Overall, this is a good book for the Biblically discerning Christian. The author's insight into the movie "Dragon Heart" was interesting. Most important, was learning to be aware of or to discern falsehoods, counterfeits, and indoctrination in the media.
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book for understanding the underlying messages in seemingly innocuous literature while teaching children the fitting use of imagination so as to be able to discern junk from fine literature, while enjoying the better.
Rhea Steel
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great reading, especially if you are concerned about what your children read and watch. Even if they are teens now and close to leaving home, this is a great book to read and pass on to your children.
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Talks about the pagan invasion of children's culture and how parents can combat it.
Jed Park
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great starting point for picking literature for children. It was a touch legalistic for me, but overall really strong.
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a good book. I wish that it contained a bit more practical guidance on how to select wholesome fiction to read with my kids
Matthew Livermore
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book will challenge many readers like myself, who grew up loving all kinds of fantasy literature, from J R R Tolkien through Susan Cooper and Alan Garner, to Ursula Le Guin and C S Lewis. The author makes the case for an invasion of fantasy stories by a modern 'paganism' which relativises good and evil, or worse, actually subverts traditional symbols of good and evil. This then has a deleterious effect on the young minds reading them. The damage that is done by, for instance, encountering f ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read by Michael O'Brien, and even though I was predisposed to like it, since I know the author personally, I was amazing by the writing style and engaging ideas. In fact, I could not put this book down!

Although written in the late 90s, A Landscape with Dragons is still relevant. The author really forsaw the issues that are relevant even now in children's literature and the culture at large.

I thought he did a great job of discussing the battle for Christian ideas and
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A handy guide to the religious/philosophical pitfalls of literature aimed at children.
Like most religious-based books that are "guides for living" without explicit Biblical references, this book does go a little too far in some areas. However, that should not deter you from reading it, if only to be made a little more aware of some of the more anti-Christian undercurrents of certain books, including those that try to appeal to Christians and "religious/spiritual" people (and, of course, their ch
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
The foreward and introduction intrigued me as I could certainly see the validity in the author's concern for children's literature, especially in our ever- increasing secular society. However, I didn't think the book's argument flowed well. O'Brien brought up interesting points (timeless and cross-culture symbol of dragons always representing evil) and hard examples of movies and books in pop culture (esp. Disney) that twist truths and plant seeds of doubt, confusion and gnosticism. Although he ...more
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sensible critical theory as well as deep philosophical insight into various religious moral stances. O’Brien invites readers to look deeply into children’s literature and media for overt and subtle moral messages that may or may not conflict with one’s own. He charts Disney’s de-Christianizing effects on classic Christian tales (e.g. The Little Mermaid, Hunchback of Notre Dame) and discusses the psychological effects it has on a child’s sense of good and evil. He explains the difference between ...more
Jesse Melton
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
1.5 stars for content, 0.5 star for clever marketing.

There are a few interesting observations, but overall it’s more personal critiques of certain authors from a person who has read a LOT of fiction. He’s got a few favorite whipping boys that never really seem to have done anything wrong, except maybe end their stories in ways the author didn’t like. The complaints and criticisms don’t go anywhere and seem more like well developed nagging than anything else.

The book is targeted at parents who
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book that has stimulated lots of thoughts for me to think on. I loved reading the author’s thoughts on Tolkien’s, C. S. Lewis’, and George MacDonald’s works. I appreciate the way the author grapples with the spiritual reality of life — a difficult thing to do — how images and archetypes reflect spiritual realities, how fairy tales speak to the human understanding that we live in a spiritual world. Children pick up on this spiritual reality quite readily, but adults tend to be more skep ...more
Matthew Richey
Short book arguing for the importance of maintaining distinct lines between good and evil in the use of symbolism in children's literature. Dragons are personifications of evil and are bad - they cannot be tamed. The "good guys" ought not to use evil methods to accomplish "good ends." He is critical of L'engle's books and mostly positive about Lewis, MacDonald, and Tolkien (though with some caveats). A bit alarmist at times but thought-provoking and interesting.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Like his Harry Potter book, this was a liiiitle intense, like I'm not sure I would agree 100% with him, but maybe about 98%. He really is well read and a huge literature buff, so I trust that about him, but I wonder if some of this is just a tiny bit scrupulous?? Anyway, the recommended reading in the back will certainly help supplement our library, and it's good to have a Catholic book like this out there.
The "Recommended Family Reading" section at the end of this book is like what Hunt does in Honey for a Child's Heart (see also Best Books for kindergarten through high school). This section has subsections on picture books, easy readers, short chapter books, books for intermediate readers, and adult titles.
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Michael D. O'Brien is a Roman Catholic author, artist, and frequent essayist and lecturer on faith and culture, living in Combermere, Ontario, Canada.

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