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“I look at the group before me. A pirate, an ogre, a witch, a fairy, a royal, and me. These aren’t good odds, but maybe Father and Maxine are right: together, we can do anything,” said Gillian Cobbler. –Charmed
Fairy Tale Reform School # 2
by Jen Calonita
AR Test, Strong Female Character
The second book in the Fairy Tale Reform School Series revisits Gilly Cobbler and her friends following their triumph against the evil queen Harlow. Now that Gilly has been named a hero by all of Enchantasia, she experiences the praise she has never received before. Plus, her father’s glass slipper making business is booming and everything seems to be going her way.
Just as all is going well, the evil fairy Alva strikes again, breaking Harlow out of the Fairy Tale Reform School (FTRS) and leaving behind a manifesto that leads many reformed students back to villainy. Gilly decides to defend her status as a hero, taking Alva down all alone. Gilly sets off to uncover the identity of a mole at the school who is helping with Alva’s takeover. As Gilly will discover, the path to victory is more complicated than she believes. The lines between good and evil are blurred, and Gilly might just lose herself in the process without the help of her friends.
Charmed engages readers and explores what it means to be a hero. Gilly thinks she can handle Alva on her own, so she abandons the friends who helped her last time. Plus, she becomes overly confident due to the praise she is given. Eventually, Gilly comes to realize that she needs humility and the help of those who truly know and care about her. As her father says, “Sometimes being a hero means being brave. Other times it means knowing when you need help.”
In addition to working with friends, Gilly has to become more open-minded. She must confront her own prejudices about people like the Royal Ladies in Waiting. While she perceives them as evil and silly, she quickly learns that people are not so simple. Gilly must also confront her own behavior. While she sees herself as a hero, she is also capable of doing bad things. She says, “I’m still a little bit bad, a lot good, and a whole lot of other things too. Just as it should be.”
In Charmed the “villains” are given second chances. Even Gilly is misguided at times, and she must learn how to face her own misgivings and the guilt that accompanies them. Charmed allows readers to dive deeper into the overarching theme of recognizing that people are not rigidly good or bad; they are capable of both. Calonita continues to establish the message that people can change. Readers will appreciate how Gilly stumbles but is able to pick herself back up. Gilly learns and grows which leaves readers curious as to what will come next. While the ending is entirely satisfying in itself, the book ends with an open-ended letter from Gilly’s friend, Jax. The letter introduces the conflict for the third book in the series, Tricked, without compromising the characters’ victory.
Gilly leads readers through the story with help from the occasional “Happily Ever After Scroll,” a sort of daily newspaper that provides context for events throughout the story as well as introduces characters. The scrolls allow readers who have not read the first book in the series to easily follow the plot of this installment. Readers who enjoyed the film series Descendents will also enjoy taking a journey into the lives of the students at Fairy Tale Reform School. The high stakes and magical showdowns are captivating from the first page and readers will also be excited to see familiar faces from classic fairy tales.
- A professor at the school is said to know “plenty of [sea shanties]” which the Happily Ever After Scrolls take as possible confirmation for former flings with pirates.
- The Pirate Blackbeard says, “I’ve been swayed by a bonny lass before.”
- When Gilly goes to a meeting in a dress and with a new hairstyle, Jax, comments on how well she “cleans up.” Gilly is nervous when “Jax touches my pink sash and the pink ribbon wrapped around my uniform waist.”
- Jax later tells Gilly he misses his “partner in crime” to which she blushes. These moments seem to imply a budding romantic connection between the two characters.
- Gilly watches Professor Blackbeard put “an arm around” Madame Cleo and then she squeals. Gilly calls this “gross.”
- Alva’s goal is to recruit “an army to help her take over the kingdom of Enchantasia.”
- At the FTRS, the students celebrate “Wand What You Want hour” in which they can cast spells on borrowed wands. When she got her wand, Gilly says her wand looked “like it’s seen a few battles.” Her classmates are using spells. One student turns someone into an ice sculpture. She hears “kids . . . cheering and fighting”.
- When Gilly and Jax try to leave the school on a magic carpet they are “stunned by an invisible wall” that prevents students from leaving without permission.
- The students are in FTRS due to their histories as criminals. Gilly and some of her friends were caught stealing, which warrants their sentence in the reform school.
- On Wand What You Want day, Gilly worries “about what [Kayla] could zap next.” There seems to be a history of harmful accidents with the wands, which is why the students are not permitted to use them regularly. Gilly narrates, “every time someone screws up by zapping off their pinkie or growing their nose to three times its size.”
- Gilly recognizes that her life consists of “villains . . . trying to kill” her. Gilly and her friends have “kept [their] school from burning down,” thwarting Alva’s plans.
- Gilly and Jocelyn, who is a witch, fight using magic. Gilly casts a spell at Jocelyn’s dress, leaving “a burn mark” on her “butt” which hurts. Gilly considers what else she could do, including “turn [Jocelyn] into a toad” and locking “her in a tower.” Instead, after more arguing, Gilly drops a pie on Jocelyn’s head. Jocelyn returns the favor, magically throwing “a piece of pudding pie into [Gilly’s] face” with a “Smack”. The food fight expands when Ollie steps in and gets “a wall of dead fish” smacked in his face, which leaves a slimy trail”. Kayla gets welts when “radishes hit [her] in the head.”
- Interrupting the fun at Wand What You Want day, the students hear a loud “KABOOM.” Both Gilly and Jocelyn rush to the site of the explosion. When Gilly makes it to the school and jumps through the magically changing hallways, she lands “right on top of Jocelyn.” The students “drop to the ground just in time to see a cannonball whiz past [their] heads.”
- Kayla’s backstory includes being blackmailed into helping the villainous Alva. Kayla’s “whole family was cursed by Alva and turned into a group of trees.”
- The Pirates arrive on a ship with flags featuring skull and crossbones. Their ship is damaged from cannon fire after “racing away from the Royal Navy after pillaging the gold taxes the navy had collected from a port.” When they dock, the “pirates begin disembarking, swinging their swords menacingly in the air.” They are carrying “chests full of weapons.”
- Jocelyn threatens Gilly with a “small swirl of purple smoke.” As the girls argue, a “fireball hits a pirate on the gangplank” who “yelps” after being struck.
- As punishment for their fighting, Professor Blackbeard “grabs Jocelyn and [Gilly] by the backs of [their] uniforms.” He decides to set Gilly and Jocelyn against each other in an in-class duel to “get this aggression out.”
- While the students are on the ship, they realize that the pirates are not responsible for the cannon fire when “another cannonball comes whirling toward” them. Alva is behind the attack and she brings her gargoyles with her. The gargoyles surround the ship. Ollie defends the students by “hurling radishes in the air.”
- When Gilly and Jocelyn dash for the school, Gilly uses a magic pocket watch to paralyze Jocelyn temporarily. Gilly watches as “a light bursts from the watch and sends Jocelyn flying backward.” While Gilly is analyzing Jocelyn’s new state, another explosion happens “sending rocks and debris raining down on” them. This causes Gilly’s “right leg [to be] pinned under a piece of wall” and Jocelyn to be “stuck under a fallen wooden door.”
- When trying to read the manifesto left by Alva, students are “pushing and conjuring spells to move others out of the way.”
- Gilly watches a group of students “in full armor starting dragon training against a mechanical dragon that shoots real fire.”
- Blackbeard says his “former occupation” was pillaging and plundering. To be more menacing, he also used to tie “fuses to his hair so they’d give off smoke.”
- Gilly and Jocelyn are forced to duel. Blackbeard hands them swords, and Gilly thinks “the sheen of the blade” and “the clinking noise” tells her that “those babies are real.” The other students in the room encourage the violence against Jocelyn, saying, “Pummel the witch!” Jocelyn uses magic to send Gilly’s “body [flying] backward, smacking into a pixie and knocking her into Maxine’s hands.” After that, Jocelyn “raises her sword to strike” Gilly, but Gilly rolls out of the way. The fight turns into “the old-fashioned way . . . with name-calling and hair-pulling.” Blackbeard ends it by mummifying them in a sail. The fight is described over 11 pages.
- Princess Rose says one of her hobbies includes hunting because “it keeps [her] focused.”
- Kayla relays the information, “There’s been an attack on Royal manor. . . Alva sent her gargoyles to tear things up.” The people survived, but Princess Rapunzel “got knocked out when she tried to fight the gargoyles off.”
- Gilly explains that “the silver turrets of Royal Manor blind anyone who dares look at them too long.”
- Ollie ends up stealing pastries in the village, causing a police chase. He escapes by using a “smoke bomb.” Gilly helps distract the police by sending a Pegasi in the direction of a police officer. Gilly puts an apple cart in the street and the police officer is thrown from his horse. Gilly thinks, “I watch him land on a bag of apples and wince.“
- When they return to the school, Gilly says she and her friends “are lined up like [they’re] about to be sent to the gallows.” Gilly thinks, “Blackbeard’s sword looks particularly menacing hanging from his scabbard.” Blackbeard suggests a “walk on the plank” for the rule-breakers. He adds that they could “put a few sharks in the waters” to encourage better behavior.
- In the process of being disciplined by the teachers, Gilly and Jocelyn begin to argue again. Gilly narrates, “Jocelyn lunges for me, and Blackbeard extends his sword to keep us both apart.”
- Gilly trips over a watermelon, landing on her face and smashing the watermelon with her fall. When Jocelyn laughs, Gilly pulls “on Jocelyn’s skirt and [takes] her down. . . Then I take a piece of watermelon and chuck it at her.”
- When the girls leave the hall from which they were spying on Flora, they “smack” into Princess Rose, sending her “flying backward where she lands on her butt.”
- Alva’s forces “burned half the village to the ground . . . Villagers were able to get everyone to safety.” Alva left behind another message which says, “Join me or perish.”
- A final battle between Gilly and her friends and Alva. Several people are paralyzed by magic, and the gargoyles carry off others. The castle crumbles, raining debris on the students and guests.
- Alva uses her ability to transform into an unkillable Wyvern. “Fire engulfs [Alva] completely. Through the flames, I see one leathery green wing, then another, and a spike-covered tail that whips around so fast that it knocks one gargoyle into a wall and squeezes another ’til it shrieks.”
- Gilly is burned. She thinks, “I hear the fire before I smell it. The scent of rotting flesh.” She is ultimately okay. The battle is described over 24 pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- While the fruit punch at the RLW meetings is not actually laced with mind-altering drugs, Jax jokingly implies that it may be when he asks Gilly, “How much pink fruit punch have you had at these meetings?”
- Several people use gingerroot to magically paralyze someone else. For example, Gilly is given gingerroot and her “legs feel like they’re on fire.”
- The students frequently wonder if they or their friends have gone crazy.
- The characters occasionally use exclamations including: geez, holy shipwreck, holy gingerbread, thank goodness, fiddlesticks, for the love of fairies, duh, flapjacks, my heavens, and what the gingerbread.
- After Jocelyn insults Gilly for her family’s previous inability to “afford pudding,” Gilly makes a pointed statement meant to harm Jocelyn. Gilly says, “. . . you’re an orphan with an evil sister in lockup.”
- Blackbeard refers to a woman as a wench.
- Harlow calls the students brats.
- One student’s mother lovingly calls him Porridge Bottom.
- Often, characters call each other names such as liar, silly princess wannabes, peasant, thief, wicked, goons, and a pill.
- Gilly tells Jocelyn she’s “as crazy as [her] sister.”
- Gilly asks herself if the RLWs are “missing a screw.”
- Jocelyn calls Gilly “as pigheaded as the Three Little Pigs.”
- Jocelyn tells Gilly, “Don’t act like Humpty Dumpty!”
- The book is based on the existence of magic, fairytales, and magical creatures. Many of the characters are magical creatures such as fairies, witches, ogres, living gargoyles, and dwarves.
- The students are watched over by a magic mirror, which acts as a looking glass to see people in different locations as well as being alive itself with a voice and personality.
- The school has magic hallways that change throughout the day, making the floorplan of the school variable.
- The school is also surrounded by a magical barrier that prevents students from escaping.
- The headmistress makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that magically protects the school grounds, though not the students that reside on it.
- The characters frequently use or encounter spells in their journey to stop the evil fairy, Alva. Often magic is represented with the sound effect of a quick “zap” followed by the spell’s effects. Jocelyn’s magic appears as purple glow before she uses it. One spell that is used most often is the ability to paralyze other people.
- Jocelyn places an irreversible curse on Gilly which turns a strip of her hair purple.
- One variation of the paralyzing spell uses a magical pocket watch and the incantation “Houratiempo”.
- The students occasionally have access to magic wands which are said to have preprogrammed spells in them. The wands allow the students to do things like conjure food, change outfits, and fly on magic carpets.
- Pegasi exist within the text and are frequently ridden by the students. These creatures are said to have the ability to read minds, which is how Gilly is able to calm Macho the Pegasus without saying a word allowed.
- The RLW sashes act as mind control tools in the final battle. Everyone who wears one becomes a mindless servant.
- Alva has the ability to transform into other creatures. In the final battle, she becomes an unkillable, fire-breathing Wyvern.
by Jennaly Nolan