This fantasy book in the "Inkheart Trilogy" by Cornelia Funke is published by The Chicken House, Ltd., an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. and is written for kids ages 10 years and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Twelve-year-old Meggie hasn't seen her mother in nine years and wonders why she must live such a secret, transient life with her father, Mo. When a strange man named Dustfinger appears at their house one stormy night, Mo is forced to reveal his many secrets, beginning with the fact that he can "read" characters into and out of books. Dustfinger, Meggie learns, is a character out of a fairy tale called Inkheart. Nine years earlier, Mo accidentally read him out of the book — as well as a villain named Capricorn and his henchmen — and read Meggie's mother into the story. Now Capricorn stalks Mo, trying to force him to use his reading powers for evil. Meggie and her father, along with a long lost aunt named Elinor and Inkheart's author, Fenoglio, must free themselves from Capricorn's clutches and determine how to return the villain to the world he came from.
Meggie mentions a time she went with Mo to visit a pastor or priest. Since Mo restores old books, he presumably went to the priest's house to fix the bindings on books the man owned.
Although Meggie trusts her father, she learns that he tells a lot of lies, even to her. He involves her in his deceit when he asks her to tell lies so she can miss school. He is generally portrayed as a loving, devoted father who tries to shelter his daughter from a terrible secret. The fairy tale villain, Capricorn, instills fear in the hearts of others, making them feel insignificant. He likes to "play God or the devil as the fancy takes him." Aunt Elinor — who idolizes her books — dislikes children and curses a lot (according to Meggie). She initially shows disdain for her great niece; by the end, Elinor grows fond and protective of Meggie.
Mo teaches Meggie that "human beings invented the devil." Several characters (especially Capricorn's head thug, Basta) are superstitious. They fear bad luck, ghosts, demons and more. Dustfinger tells Basta he (Dustfinger) is putting a curse on him [Basta]. Mo and Meggie have the magical ability to "read" characters out of books. Fairies, trolls and other enchanted creatures are read out of a book in the final chapters of Inkheart. One of the quotes at the beginning of a chapter comes from a book called The Satanic Mill.
Characters use h--- and d--n and take God's name in vain a number of times. Capricorn's thugs frequently threaten violence and hold weapons on their prisoners.
The book contains no overt sexuality. The text briefly mentions that some of Capricorn's men have the women they fancy move in with them. Since Capricorn likes one maiden, he has her help him get dressed.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
Mo and Fenoglio drink a bottle of red wine between them.
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