Read Into It: Wise Child and Juniper

Wise Child and Juniper

by Monica Furlong

Wise Child by Monica Furlong takes place in a small Scottish village, with some magic thrown in for good measure.  Personally, I really enjoy it when fantasy is grounded in a historical(ish) fiction. Wise Child (yes – that’s her name) never knew her mother, and after her father mysteriously vanishes, she goes to live with Juniper, a semi-ostracized woman living on the outskirts of town, who the townsfolk fear is a sorceress. There, although initially resistant and scared, she learns about nature, herbology, healing, and developing her innate talents for more supernatural powers.  Wise Child herself is reluctant to do this and is generally spoiled and whiny at the beginning of the book. But she grows into a competent young woman who has to make some tough choices about loyalty and helps to conquer the challenges, both physical, and emotional, of living with a witch (essentially) as her guardian.  A major puzzle in this book was about Juniper’s own backstory, particularly in regards to how she knew Wise Child’s father, Finbar, and from where Maeve the enchantress’s animosity towards Juniper came.  Fortunately, many enlightening details were added in the prequel, Juniper.


Juniper is the prequel to Wise Child, also by Monica Furlong. The character of Juniper is introduced in Wise Child as the village herbalist/outcast/witch.  But through the eyes of Wise Child, the reader sees the truth about Juniper – that she is a kind, patient, wise women who teaches Wise Child how to be doran, a powerful woman adept in natural and beneficial white magic. While Wise Child covers the story of Juniper’s pupil, Wise Child (yes- that’s still her name), the prequel, Juniper, covers Juniper’s origin story and her own experiences training to be a doran, in a unique and heroic coming-of-age story.  Juniper was a substantially different girl than Wise Child. Wise Child seemed portrayed as a more selfish, and ungrateful character who actually had it pretty easy as Juniper’s student.  Juniper, on the other hand,  although a typical child in many ways, was a much more grounded, kind and dedicated child while her own teacher, Euny, was almost shockingly strict and harsh towards her than she later was towards Wise Child.  It was especially interesting to read Juniper after Wise Child.  Juniper was published a couple years after Wise Child and really allowed for some fun introspection and insight into Juniper’s character and backstory. I would definitely recommend these books, as they are so interesting and realistic.  Personally, I would read Wise Child first, then Juniper, then Wise Child AGAIN for the best experience with the most depth of meaning!

Both books explore similar meanings, concepts and themes: The mother-daughter relationship, the teacher-student relationship, respect for nature, the dangers of judging based on appearance, and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Ultimately, the stories are both inspiring and encouraging portrayals of young women growing into powerful women in similar, yet original ways.  Their stories follow a similar structure and pattern, but they follow that pattern in unique ways specific to their own individual personalities and characteristics.  I love these books because they effectively communicate that a girl can grow into a strong woman in a variety of different ways, and while the paths to get there may be in the same direction, there are many paths, and not everyone’s path is the same.

awwwwwwww <3


“Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.”
-Hamza Yusuf

Words are powerful.  And they are especially powerful in influencing and impacting young children, who have often not fully developed discerning critical thinking skills and are easily convinced that Santa is real, or eating carrots will make them see in the dark. Prevalent themes and topics in children’s literature are constantly changing – How these themes develop and change over time and how authors adapt to this transformation can be observed both in the progression of their individual works, as well as the progression of all literary works. The words about these themes and topics have the power to significantly influence people, not only about things trivial, or specific opinions, but also about beliefs, ideas, ways of thinking and how to be a human.

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
-Pearl Strachan Hurd

Some consistently common topics and themes are those of obedience and questioning the traditional, looking beyond appearances, and envisioning and exploring the possibility of a better future.  While these overarching ideas have remained fairly stable in their appearance, associated opinions and perspectives regarding these portrayals are always in flux. With the power of words, the authors of children’s literature can spread awareness of current issues, encourage and develop new and modern viewpoints, and impact readers in a variety of ways.

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Historically, viewpoints on obedience and tradition have been more positive and encouraging of these values.  Today, strict obedience is more and more frequently depicted as undesirable, and the questioning and challenging of the traditional is depicted as more acceptable -thank goodness! We need a little healthy rebellion in our lives every now and then in order to fight for the creation and development of positive advances and an altogether better world. Literary characters question their reality by choosing alternative paths and practice critical thinking about the world around them, especially in regards to appearances. Frequently, characters that look beautiful, are, in fact, villains, and those with physical or emotional differences or defects prove to be heroes or redeemably praiseworthy. Even words can be misjudged based on their appearance. Interpretation is already subjective, and even when an author’s intent seems clear, language exists in such a way that they may actually be saying something entirely different!

“The pen is mightier than the sword”
– Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The protagonist of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series, Lyra, is often disobedient and rebellious, and grows to be suspicious of beautiful and/or powerful people, but these behavior patterns are not depicted as inherently negative, and are actually regularly rewarded.  Many of Ursula Le Guin’s characters rebel in similar way against traditional societal behaviors, those of their constructed literary world, as well as those of the world outside the books.  The dragons even reject gender at all! Fantastic! Let us all be more open-minded, like dragons! Through these consistent rebellions and questions, (now) standard fantasy characters develop unique identities and supply valuable contributions to develop and enrich their worlds. In this way, authors can influence readers to aspire to similar identity development and enriching contributions. Powerful. And hopeful.

“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
– Rumi

It was initially a bit disheartening to read Ursula Le Guin’s intro of ‘Earthsea Revisited,’ just because it is sadly still so relevant that “women are seen in relation to heroes: as mother, wife, seducer, beloved, victim, or rescuable maiden” (1). She wrote this in 1999, and even today it is depressingly very applicable to the majority of ‘heroes’ in literature, film, and REAL LIFE!  It was really interesting to see how Le Guin herself was aware of society’s impact on her own writing choices in terms of female roles and limitations: “I simply lacked the courage to make my heroine doubly Other” (2).  Even when she included powerful female characters, they were not necessarily defined as typical heroes.  While Earthsea has a male-dominated society and emphasis, her series seems to develop over time in complexity and grow more organically inclusive.

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
– Albus Dumbledore

Through the convincing and compelling enrichments of fantasy worlds, the outside world can be enriched simultaneously through new developments and insights.  The words used in the exploration of possible peaceful and harmonious futures can encourage peaceful and harmonious futures for modern society.  Even exploring dismal futures can inspire change, also encouraging a future of peace and harmony. Le Guin’s dominating theme of her first trilogy was “the quest for inner harmony and personal wholeness” (Marek Oziewicz, Rediscovering harmony: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea sequence”), a thematic quest idea that is congruent with the search for a better future.  “Le Guin’s vision is neither Utopian nor dystopian, but rather what may be called ‘melioristic,’ meaning tending to betterment through human effort – or maybe through the opening of human hearts.” (Lenz, 2001, pp.77) Through the encouragement of the development of personal peace and harmony, in literary works as well as reflections upon those works, perhaps a future of real peace and harmony can be achieved.

That’d be hella sweet.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– John Keating

I dunno… he’s telling me with words…. should I believe him?

… wait… I’m using words… Am I influencing YOU? Do I mean what I am saying? What message am I even communicating!!?


It’s Simpler To Be a Sim

Pretending to be a sim is a great way to assess your mood when you feel like crap, but are having a hard time figuring out why. You know those needs bars in the game the Sims?  When you get really overwhelmed, think of those and how you would deal with them in the Sims.  You evaluate where you are in each category – are you in the green?  Or is the bar red with that arrow to the left?  Identify the problem areas and fix them in order of easiest-hardest.

S – Self-scan :

Think of each need category and assess your level.  It helps to ask yourself questions more like; “When did I last eat” rather than, “Am I hungry.”  Sometimes you don’t know why you feel the way you feel, or what needs the most attention.

I – Itemize improvements:

Think of how you can fix each problem area and then organize your plans to get back in the green in a way that makes sense to you.  Usually that’s easiest to hardest, but sometimes you start with the category that is the MOST RED.  Sure, you might be in the kitchen with a snack on your way to your mouth, but if you’re about to pee your pants, do that first. (please).

M – Manage momentum:

I guess that’s a fancy way of saying just do it.

  • Bladder
    • Easiest fix. GO POTTY!
  • Hunger
    • Eat something. Too hard to decide or to make something? Fruit and string cheese are my go-tos.  Just stick it in your mouth.  It’s also handy to prepare by stocking up on super easy meals for hunger emergencies.  My emergency meal is Yakitori chicken and fried rice from Costco.  It’s yummy, hot, and takes three minutes in the microwave.
  • Hygiene
    • Take a shower – you stink! Too hard to stand up? Sit down in the shower.  No rule says you can’t.  (I call it a shather). Or take a bath.  Still too much work?  Wash your face.  Brush your teeth or hair.  Invest in those make-up removal wipes for when even that is too hard. Been wearing the same clothes for three days? Change ’em!
  •  Energy
  • Fun
    • Do something you have fun (or used to have fun doing).  See a movie, hang out with friends, play laser tag. If you’re thinking, “Ugh… FUN. What even is that?”  Just take baby steps. Youtube ‘unlikely animal friendships,’ or ‘kitten derp.’ Play your favorite cheerful song.  Just take three minutes and listen to it. Or if you feel able and spritely, move your body WHILE you listen to it! Dance parties are high energy, but you can handle it for ONE song maybe, right?  It might be helpful to make a note whenever something you do makes you even a little happy.  Then you can refer to it when your fun meter is especially low.
      • This is one that helps me:
  • Social
    • Yeah, yeah interact with someone.  (This is especially tough if you are an introvert, like I am.) You may hate the idea of it, but your hate will probably lessen if you are actually doing something with someone else.  Hang out with friends, go to an event, talk to someone for just 5 minutes.  You don’t really want to see any of your friends?  Okay, just leave the house and have a random positive interaction with someone – anyone.   The best way to do this is with someone in customer service – it is LITERALLY part of their job to try to connect and be nice to you.  Go grab a coffee and remember to smile at your barista and say hello, please, and thank you.  If that’s too long of an interaction, then try complimenting someone on something.  It doesn’t really matter what (well, don’t be offensive).  You don’t even have to particularly believe it.  As you’re passing a stranger, just pick something about them, and then say you like it.  Like, “Hey – cute shoes!” It takes three words.  Two if you leave out, “hey.” Minimal effort, you make someone else feel good, which will in turn make you feel good, and LOOK you had a social interaction! Congratulations!  Your bar is moving towards the green! If even leaving the house is unthinkable, invite someone over.  Specify that you might be in your pajamas. Can’t even bear the thought of being in the company of another human? Cuddle up to your pet or hug a stuffed animal.  Reach out to people you care about via facebook, email, chat, whatever.  Send someone a text letting them know you’re thinking about them.  Even something that small can cheer you up. Try not to neglect your important relationships.
  • Comfort
    • Here’s where naps can come in handy yet again. Find your softest blanket and warmest slippers and snuggle on the couch with some mac & cheese and your favorite book.  Pretend you’re a human burrito.  Take a hot bubble bath and use that special body wash.   Treat yo’ self to a mini-spa experience!  If you’re like me (and many other ladies), you have mysteriously accumulated a ton of miscellaneous body lotion.  Get rid of it – slather it on your body.  Paint your nails while watching a silly rom-com.  IDK… what comforts YOU? Do THAT.
      • *but be careful with eating TOO much food, or relying as food as your primary comfort tool.  This can often backfire and make you feel worse, guilty, and bloated.  After you eat some comfort food, and you find yourself wanting more, try to ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Then wait 20 minutes before getting more.
  • Environment
    • Where are you?  Or where do you go often?  Is it pretty? Calming? Comforting? Or…is it a source of anxiety, annoyance, and distress?  Make some changes. Ok, so you can’t afford to move to a better apartment or quit your job.  But you can move furniture, clean, paint walls, and declutter! Can you spruce up your office space in any way?  Add a cheerful plant or cozy seat cushion? What can you do?  LOTS! But… Baby steps again. Think about what specifically you don’t like about your environment and start there.  Start small.  For example, my bathroom had looked the same since we moved here, and I was tired of it.  I didn’t want to go in there.  To me, it was just a boring reminder of how stupid the past was. It was uncomfortable, crowded, and boring.  I thought the shower curtain was ugly.  So I bought a new shower curtain.  I changed those cabinet knobs that I hated – from functional and boring to FUNctional and pretty! I even bought a special, very soft bath mat because I hated stepping on the cold tiles!   (It was THIS and I LOVE IT! SO SQUISHY AND BEAUTIFUL!) But you don’t have to spend money to change your environment – use what you have! I hung up art that was cheerful and fun.  I got rid of clutter and moved things I didn’t use everyday to some decorative storage bins.  I fixed the broken shelf and folded the towels.  Each small thing you do to improve an environment you’re not happy with is a step in the right direction.  Even if your environment problem seems too big to solve, try doing just one small thing that makes it a little bit better.  You wish it were sunnier in Washington?  TOO BAD – haha! But you can get a light therapy lamp, take vitamin D, plan vacations to sunnier climes, make sure you get outside every day, move heavy furniture away from your windows, get stronger lightbulbs, find things you love about the rain.  Appreciate and make the most of each blue sky!

Just beware of swimming in pools with no ladders!