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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monica_Furlong

Illiteracy Weekly Newsletter

…. I wish I’d started this homework assignment earlier instead of 3 hours before it was due… it was A LOT of fun, and I’d love to have put more time and energy into it! I wish the content was better… but I guess it’s funnier if it’s NOT! 😉

If you can’t read the tiny text, no big deal… it’s mostly about articles we had to read for class.

This is what the ‘inspirational’ photo says, in case you can’t read it.  😉
(It’s in the rotation of backgrounds on my laptop)

WORDS, WORDS, powerful WORDS!

“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!!?

WORDCEPTION.

Home Is Where Your Butt Is

“Home is where the heart is.”
“Home is wherever I’m with you.”
“There’s no place like home.”
“I need you in my house, ‘cause you’re my home.”
“Home sweet home.”
“I wish I was homeward bound.”


Home is a term that is often used without really having a consistently agreed on or recognized definition – While there is no universal definition, the concept of home is still a universal theme – the idea of ‘home’ may be different for every person, but it is always important. A home SHOULD be a safe and nurturing environment, both physically and emotionally, but it is unfortunately not always so.  Even people lucky enough to have four walls and a roof may not feel safe, secure, or nurtured there – sure safe from rain probably, but that isn’t the only thing that makes a home.  And I don’t think a home needs to be a house, necessarily, although physical safety and protection are still a contributing component.

The idea of home and one’s role there is extremely prevalent in children’s literature. I recently read Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting, a children’s picture book that is about a boy and his father who are homeless and live in an airport.  While it seems that they have a pretty nurturing and safe environment both physically (with the exception of the danger of being caught and thrown out) and emotionally (they have a good relationship, friends, a support system), they are still saving up for a ‘real’ home.  At first glance it seems like it is communicating a positive message about overcoming obstacles and making a better life, but it places value on only one definition of ‘home,’ and portrays an exclusionary perspective about the homeless.

For me, I believe that a significant factor in the concept of home is the ability to be at home with oneself, within oneself, at peace and comfortable and safe.  That is a big part of my definition or interpretation of the word home.  But everyone has their own interpretation and definition, and those are constantly changing and evolving as the associated ideas and terms grow and develop.

The term ‘relationship’ isn’t often connected to a physical place.  However, relationships with places can have a significant impact on people. People usually feel the strongest relationship with the place they call home.  The home can play an essential role in an individual’s growth and development, and it is through a safe and nurturing relationship with your home you can build safe and nurturing relationships with yourself and others.

“Just know you’re not alone 
‘Cause I’m going to make this place your home”


Totes what my home/hood is like:

 

What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?

What IS the use of stories that aren’t even true?


The oft-asked question in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is, “What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?”

While Rushdie’s book is described as an example of a more comical and light subdivision of the fantasy genre, each form of fantasy contains within it a variety of aspects that resonate within additional fantastical categories. Rushdie’s question can be applied to and answered through any genre of fantasy.

There is truth in every fictional story, and the uses of fictional stories, while dependent to some extent upon author intent and reader response, are, in fact, infinite.

If fictional stories had no use, why would anyone write fiction or fantasy? 

Storytellers may not be aware of their subtexts, attitudes, or perspectives about the purpose or benefit of their words and stories, but that does not mean they are not present.  While ideas about use may vary and differ, each author must believe that their storytelling will be put to some use or another.  These uses are often subjective, multifaceted, and numerous.  Just as an author may communicate many different ideas, meanings, and uses, readers may also interpret or superimpose many different ideas, meanings, and uses.  C.S. Lewis communicated tenants of Christian theology through many of his works, but he also reiterated the use of fantasy as a way for readers to address real-life issues, through a fantasy world to explore “emotional dilemmas (they) feel faced by in their everyday lives” (Rustin, 1987, p. 40).  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is clearly representative of the important use of fantasy as a tool to address cultural, societal, emotional, and psychological needs, understanding, and development – a prevalent perspective about fantasy’s value and use.

The primary, overarching importance of the use of children’s fantasy literature is the idea that the genre addresses and fulfills vital “psychological, cultural and aesthetic needs which are disregarded by most other forms of contemporary literature” (Oziewicz, 2008, p. 66). 

Fantasy allows the fears and worries of society to be addressed and explored, as well as providing a great deal of “potential as an emotional survival strategy” (Bharat, 2015, p. 305).  In addition, “stories can be a cohesive force in constructing a community” (Mukherjee, 1998, p. 175), a force that allows communities to overcome obstacles and experience positive growth and development.  Lloyd Alexander’s “The Grammar of Story” emphasizes this importance by detailing the ways in which words and storytelling can work magic.  Rushdie’s narrative in Haroun and the Sea of Stories provides valuable political and cultural implications about the intrinsic value and power of words and stories. This is just one narrative that articulates the importance of stories and storytelling and the ways in which they can be applied to resisting terror and oppression by conquering fears through living life instead of through grand, cosmic acts of courage.

Through the creation of a fantasy narrative such as this, an author can invent their own logic and use and incorporated it into each aspect of the story, so it has a sturdy base: “We don’t dig the foundation after the house is built” (Alexander, 1981, p. 10), and the fantasy world must have “identifiable and workable laws underpinning it” (Yolen, 1996, p. 173).  While each work of fantasy is unique, they are all bonded by their structure and interconnected in their capacity to encourage imaginative exploration and address very real concepts, dilemmas, and threats, such as the “tyranny of fear” (Bharat, 2015, p. 304).  New fears are constantly arising, and all types of fantasy literature can help to confront and explore these fears through large societal battles of terrorism and oppression as well as smaller, but no less important, battles of personal conflict, growth, and development.

Conflict is the dynamic element of any story, and the fate of the world can be affected by cosmic, mythopoeic quest and conflict as well as by the conflict-response behavior of a single person, as revealed through interactions with themselves, others, and the world around them.

While each fantasy story may be categorized according to a general consensus of its overall purpose, use, or tone, each fantasy story is an amalgam of diverse components that draw on a variety of ideas about the truth of untrue stories.  “What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?”  The use of Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is to answer this very question, and in many ways, this is the use of every work of fantasy literature.  Storytellers create illusions, and the truth in that illusion is “how thoroughly it convinces us of its reality; how strongly it resonates in our emotions; how deeply it moves us to new feelings and new insights.” (Alexander, 1981, p. 4).

Truth is not always convincing, and a fantasy story can help a reader to recognize and understand the truth in the world around them.

‘Untrue’ fantasy stories are incredibly valuable in an infinite number of ways.  Each fantasy genre, and each fantasy story, has unique and distinctive qualities.  In mythopoeic fantasy, adventure has momentous scale and consequences. However, while lighter fantasy genres may seem to lack cosmic battles of good versus evil, the adventures and battles still have consequences that are momentous to the characters experiencing them.

While mythopoeic fantasy suggests big answers to big questions, small answers to small questions are just as substantially cosmic to those affected by them.

A child can have an adult adventure that articulates hope for all humanity by the simple act of articulating the hope of one human. 

One human is a part of humanity, and the truth is that one child can change the world.


References

Alexander, Lloyd. (1981). The grammar of story. In Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye (Eds), Celebrating children’s books: Essays on children’s literature in honor of Zena Sutherland. (pp. 3-13). New York: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books.

Bharat, Meenakshi. (2015). Creative fear in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and Luka: The ‘safe house’ of children’s literature. In Marvels & tales. (pp. 304-323).

Lewis, C.S. (1950). The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. New York: Harper Collins.

Mukherjee, Meenakshi. (1998). Politics and children’s literature: a Reading of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In Ariel: a Review of international English literature. (pp. 163-177).

Oziewicz, Marek. (2008). One earth, one people: The Mythopoeic fantasy series of Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander, Madeline L’Engle, and Orson Scott Card. New York: Simon Pulse.

Rowling, J.K. (1999). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic.

Rushdie, Salman. (1990). Haroun and the sea of stories. New York: Penguin.

Rustin, Margaret and Michael. (1987). Narnia: an Imaginary land as container for moral and emotional adventure. In Narratives of love and loss: Studies in modern children’s fiction. (pp. 40-58). New York: Verso.

Strimel, Courtney B. (2004). The politics of terror: Rereading Harry Potter,” In Children’s literature in education. (pp. 35-52).

Yolen, Jane. (1996). Turtles all the way down. In Sheila Egoff et al. (Eds) Only connect: Readings on children’s literature. (pp. 164-174). New York: Oxford University Press.

Identity, Assumptions, and Hope – OH MY!

Identity, Assumptions, and Hope – OH MY!


One of the papers for my fantasy literature class detailing the ways fantasy can offer new perspectives, help people cope with trauma and problems, and encourage critical thinking.


A common thread found in fantasy literature is the transposition of societal issues into fantastical forms to use perspective to better comprehend and process these issues. This transposition distances the reader from reality and abstracts the issues, allowing them to be more easily explained and understood through metaphorical connections.  Contentious and significant issues such as racism, classism, terrorism, power, identity, discrimination and stereotypes can often be explored through fantasy literature parallels and reflections.  Critical thinking concepts and overarching values of humanity can also be presented and investigated to great effect though fantasy. There is no end to the range of societal issues fantasy literature can introduce and examine to reach beneficial comprehension and valuable meaning.

Fantasy is so valuable because it “invokes the possibility of living under different terms and conditions” (Whitley, 2000, p. 175), and “can engage seriously with key issues within contemporary culture” (Whitley, 2000, p. 182).  J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Nancy Farmer’s the House of the Scorpion are both excellent examples of demonstrating engagement with key contemporary cultural issues through living under different conditions.  Each book presents a narrative that challenges basic assumptions about identity, ambiguity, and power dynamics as well as encourages that the reader think more critically about and observe more carefully the interactions and interpretations around them.

Mistaken assumptions or interpretations and engrained stereotypes are present in each of these fantasy books.  In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is told that Sirius Black is evil and wants him dead, and he believes it is the truth.  He hears this well-established interpretation from people he trusts and people in power, and they are all wrong.  Assumptions were made and cemented, which led to a flawed communal perception. This radical example of the promotion of misinformation encourages the reader to ask questions and think more critically. An information source may purposefully and knowingly promote a false perception, but a source may just be ignorant of the truth.  Even if a source is trusted, the truth may be vastly different from society’s common perception.

Society’s common perception in Nancy Farmer’s book is one that clones are unintelligent beasts.  Certain viewpoints are taught about clones and identity that are false.  Matt proves many assumptions wrong when he meets people who hold the entrenched negative opinions regarding clones.  His characteristics are inconsistent with their pre-conceived assumptions.  Those in power actively choose to spread these assumptions about clones to take advantage of them.  In Rowling’s book, there are also people in power who knowingly endorse fictitious or deceptive explanations to their own benefit.

Such conscious misinformation emphasizes the inherent ambiguity within the nature of humanity, which becomes tangled and complex in both books.  The characters are often ambiguous and contradictory within both their true and their perceived identities.  The identity can be a fragile thing.  It can be shaped by, or discovered by observing negative assumptions and prejudices.  Matt’s identity was shaped by the negative limited perspectives to which he had access.  Because of the marginalization he experiences, his perspectives are impacted. Being a clone in his world is to be inferior and unclean.  In Harry Potter’s world, some believe that being a muggle, or muggle-born is to be inferior and unclean.  However, appearances can be deceiving, and appearance doesn’t always mean physical appearance, it can also mean identity or perceived identity. Hermione is harassed for her muggle-born status, Hagrid is discriminated against for being a half-giant with a (wrongful) criminal record, and Remus Lupin is treated with unfair prejudice and disgust for being a werewolf.  Humanity is not always simple, nor is it always reflective of outward appearance or commonly-held beliefs about identities.  Rowling’s books force children “to consider characterizations of goodness and badness” (Strimel, 2004, p. 45), and the consequences and implications of these characterizations.  The ambiguity inherent in the characterizations presents another opportunity to think critically about people and events, both real, and imaginary.

In each of these books, the impact of the fantastical transposition is amplified due to solid foundations in real issues. Fantasy literature needs to have substantiality to be most effective in exploring society’s problems and possibilities.  The wish-fulfilment that fantasy literature offers “needs to be grounded in something substantial if it is to become fully satisfying” (Whitley, 2000, p. 175). Farmer bases her story on circumstances and prejudices that already exist between differing peoples, and scientific advances that are already happening.  Science fiction such as this presents a unique opportunity to explore the ramifications of future societal issues and problems.  By looking to the hypothetical potential good and bad of the future, it is helpful to “open our minds to all possibilities” (Greenfield, 2003, p. 9).  Rowling also presents a wide range of hypothetical situations and possibilities, as well as utilizes widespread prejudice in which to base her world. In addition, her fantasy is grounded in reality through common mythological, religious, and cultural viewpoints and archetypes that are relatable and familiar.

From terrorism to depression, from identity to religion, fantasy is constantly offering new perspectives and the hope to overcome the perpetration of harmful perspectives, opinions, and stereotypes.  Both Rowling’s and Farmer’s fantasy books emphasize the misleading potential of a limited viewpoint.  Hope exists, and with a little knowledge, creativity, and guidance, perhaps fantasy literature can help lead society into tolerance, acceptance, and open-mindedness.


References

Cohen, Signe. (2016). A postmodern wizard: The religious bricolage of the Harry Potter series In Journal of religion and popular culture.  (pp. 54-66).

Crew, Hilary S. (2004). Not so brave a world: The representation of human cloning in science fiction for young adults, In The lion and the unicorn. (pp. 203-221.)

Farmer, Nancy. (2004). The house of the scorpion. New York: Simon Pulse.

Greenfield, Susan. (2003). The future: What is the problem? In Tomorrow’s people: How 21st century technology is changing the way we think and feel. (pp. 1-9). London: Allen Lane.

Rowling, J.K. (1999). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic.

Strimel, Courtney B. (2004). The politics of terror: Rereading Harry Potter,” In Children’s literature in education. (pp. 35-52).

Whitley, D. (2000). Fantasy narratives and growing up. In Eve Bearne and Victor Watson (Eds), Where texts and children meet. (pp. 172-182.) New York: Routledge Press.

Yolen, Jane. (1996). Turtles all the way down.” In Sheila Egoff et al. (Eds) Only connect: Readings on children’s literature. (pp. 164-174). New York: Oxford University Press.

Read into It: The Dragon Tamers

The Dragon Tamers:

by Edith Nesbit

If you like reading fantasy, and want to know how to tame a dragon, this is the story for you! Also – cats.

I came across this children’s story in the ‘Sleep Stories’ section of my “Calm” meditation app.  If you have the “Calm” app on your phone or tablet, you can listen to a 39 minute soothing rendition read by Aurora De Blas with music by Ophylia Wispling. She does the voices and there is accompanying music – it’s very well done.

Because Edith Nesbit’s works were published over 100 years ago, they are now in public domain and you can also listen to or read the entire story online for free:

 

Here’s how it begins:

“There was once an old, old castle–it was so old that its walls and towers and turrets and gateways and arches had crumbled to ruins, and of all its old splendor there were only two little rooms left; and it was here that John the blacksmith had set up his forge.
He was too poor to live in a proper house, and no one asked any rent for the rooms in the ruin, because all the lords of the castle were dead and gone this many a year. So there John blew his bellows and hammered his iron and did all the work which came his way. This was not much, because most of the trade went to the mayor of the town, who was also a blacksmith in quite a large way of business, and had his huge forge facing the square of the town, and had twelve apprentices, all hammering like a nest of woodpeckers, and twelve journeymen to order the apprentices about, and a patent forge and a self-acting hammer and electric bellows, and all things handsome about him. So of course the townspeople, whenever they wanted a horse shod or a shaft mended, went to the mayor.
John the blacksmith struggled on as best he could, with a few odd jobs from travelers and strangers who did not know what a superior forge the mayor’s was. The two rooms were warm and weather-tight, but not very large; so the blacksmith got into the way of keeping his old iron, his odds and ends, his fagots, and his twopence worth of coal in the great dungeon down under the castle.
It was a very fine dungeon indeed, with a handsome vaulted roof and big iron rings whose staples were built into the wall, very strong and convenient for tying captives to, and at one end was a broken flight of wide steps leading down no one knew where. Even the lords of the castle in the good old times had never known where those steps led to, but every now and then they would kick a prisoner down the steps in their lighthearted, hopeful way, and sure enough, the prisoners never came back.
The blacksmith had never dared to go beyond the seventh step, and no more have I–so I know no more than he did what was at the bottom of those stairs.”

You can read the rest here:   http://www.online-literature.com/edith-nesbit/book-of-dragons/6/


Edith Nesbit is actually really interesting, and I bought her more recent out of print biography a while back … apparently she is considered to have invented the children’s adventure story and to be the first modern writer for children, as she was writing specifically for children when that wasn’t even a thing. -YAY!

Edith Nesbit’s biography is subtitled: A Woman of Passion.  Not only did she know a bunch of other literary coolios, such as George Bernard Shaw (as a luvah), and H.G. Wells, she married her first husband when she was 7 months pregnant, and I guess her husband cheated on her with her friend and then Edith adopted the baby…? whaaaaaaaaaa!?

The Railway Children, her most famous work has NEVER been out of print.  100+years. whaaaaa!!?!

More about Edith:
http://www.edithnesbit.co.uk/biography.php

 

Apps for Naps

Apps for Naps:

THESE ARE ALL FREE (with options to upgrade, cause that’s how apps work)

Calm: The only app I actually paid for. This app has tons of music, meditations, and sleep stories to help with insomnia. I believe the free version had three or four sleep stories, and some basic meditations as well as “The 7 days of calm,” a week-long series of guided meditations focused on relaxation.  It keeps track of your statistics and has a variety of background moving images with sounds you can choose to activate or not. I tried the free app for about a month and really loved it! It quickly became an integral part of my night-time sleep ritual.  Finally, I made an investment in my well-being and bought a year-long subscription.  Totally worth it. The meditations are organized into categories such as ‘relationships,’ ‘calming anxiety,’ ‘forgiveness,’ and ‘deep sleep,’ then time, and most of them are guided – great for a beginner like me!  They also have many 7-day programs on different topics: ‘7 days of managing stress,’ 7 days of gratitude,’ ‘7 days of self-esteem,’ and more!  The sleep stories are awesome! They have a variety of readers reading a variety of types of stories of variety of lengths in soothing voices.

My favorite non-fictions are “Blue Gold,” a story read by Stephen Fry about harvesting lavender in France, “Scotland’s Hidden Hideaways,” a history of the bothies (free adapted shelters for hikers and travelers) of Scotland read by May Charters (yes, she has an accent!), and ‘The Sequoia,’ a nature essay about the Sequoia tree written by John Muir!  My favorite fiction sleep stories are many! They have Greek myths, childhood favorites, fairy tales and more! The Dragon Tamers by Edith Nesbit is my favorite new story!  I even bought her biography! But I am almost too into the sleep story to be able to fall asleep! Fortunately, the app provides a vast range in level of monotony.  There’s one story that is just the British shipping forecast.  “Dr. Orma’s Sleep Science” is also a great non-fiction one to listen to when your especially frustrated about sleep – it reassures you and dispels common myths about insomnia.  This app really makes me feel better about the time I spend in bed, not sleeping.  Because I am meditating during that time, I can see that I am accomplishing SOMETHING.

Relax Melodies – This app has a free 5 day meditation program to help you manage your sleep better and stay asleep longer so you wake up well rested and energized.  It teaches you about the benefits of meditation and each 10-minute meditation is designed to guide you to sleep.  There are a couple other meditation programs on this app that provide you with the first few free as well.  You can create your own custom combination of relaxing sounds to lull you to sleep and set them on a timer length of your choosing.  I didn’t know there were types of noise other than ‘white noise,’ but apparently there exists ‘pink noise’ as well as ‘brown noise?’ (Sounds gross…lol)  The melodies included are fairly simple and repetitive, but they get the job done.  They also include isochronic tones and binaural beats if you’re into that.

Atmosphere – An app to customize your atmosphere, this helpful tool provides a variety of sound options organized by environment.  So you can choose to hear rain as it sounds on the beach, in the forest, in the city, etc. You can also import your own sounds, program favorite combinations, and set the timer for whenever you want.  Like Relax Melodies, this app also includes binaural and isochronic sounds that are supposed to help reduce stress and anxiety and stimulate creativity and mental clarity.  There are some unusual sounds – who wants to fall asleep to the sound of construction, sirens, or a rooster? But hey – whatever floats your boat!

Sweet Sleep – This is another free app for your phone and/or tablet that plays soothing sounds and music. My favorite is ‘lullaby of the forest’ combined with ‘gentle rain’ and ‘morning beach.’  You can customize melody/nature sound combinations, adjust the volume of each one in your mix, and set them on a timer.  This app has somewhat more variety in music choices, which is nice.  And they are less repetitive as well in addition also too.

Forest – Not specifically for napping, but if one of your sleep-related obstacles is your phone, this can definitely help. Basically this app helps you reduce the wasting time on your phone, keeping you focused and in the present..  I tend to just browse or play games on my phone at night when I should be trying to sleep.  And we all know electronic devices are supposed to be a no-no at bedtime! With this app, you choose an amount of time to commit to being phone-free and you plant a ‘tree.’ As long as you leave your phone alone during this time the tree grows and flourishes.  But if you interact with your phone, your tree dies 🙁 and your forest is ugly. With your rewards you can buy fun trees shaped like octopi, or made out of candy, or with awesome treehouses in them.  ALSO, If you plant enough trees in your forests, the app is partnered with a tree planting organization that will plant a real tree! (Alas, I’m not focused enough for that yet…) But it is also a great way to commit to focusing on getting daily tasks done, studying more efficiently, working, etc.!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

Ella Enchanted and Being an Ordinary Hero

One of my ultimate favorite fantasy books as a child, and still today, is the reworked fairy tale, “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine.  It retells the classic literary fairy tale of Cinderella with some new twists: Ella is, in fact, under a fairy’s gift (curse) to always be obedient.  The tale is a familiar one, but provides more depth and detail about the protagonist and her own journey to discover herself and break the curse herself.  In addition, it answers that question that was always infuriating to me about the size of Cinderella’s feet – surely there was more than one girl in the kingdom whose feet could fit the glass slipper!  Well, in this story, Ella has fairy ancestry, and fairies have significantly smaller-than-average sized feet, so THERE!  Levine’s attention to details such as these really grounded the story and made it more believable to me – it was definitely logical and made sense within the framework she created and expanded upon. While it certainly shares many patterns and characteristics with both more traditional fairy tales as well as reworked fairy tales, this is by far my favorite retelling of Cinderella.  I like that it addresses the real-life issues of the importance of being strong by making your own decisions, standing up for what you believe in, and the worth of sacrifice in relation to love and the protection of those you love.

“Ella Enchanted” provides a universe that is similar to one children have already experienced, but includes a great deal more in the way of explanations, possibilities and self-driven opportunity.  It is a great example of a way to challenge a reader to see beyond more simplistic explanations and search for new perspectives and explanations.  A retold fairy tale is a great example of this, because the concrete universe has already been established, and by telling the same tale from a new perspective, new questions can be unearthed, alternate mindsets discovered, and previously unconsidered horizons can be expanded.  This particular retelling is also consistent with the idea of concepts carrying over from the fantastical worlds to the real ones.  In “Ella Enchanted,” Ella is a real girl with a flaw that she has to work to overcome.  This is certainly a concept that is applicable to many people.  While Ella may not fit the traditional archetype of ‘hero,’ she is still heroic.  She becomes, through her own strength of will, her own knight in shining armor – in the process, saving herself, her prince, and the entire kingdom.  If someone as seemingly average and insignificant as Ella can create such a vast and positive impact, surely this will inspire those who read about her to feel hope and optimism that they, too, can overcome significant challenges and obstacles to create a positive impact on themselves and the world around them.

Fairy tales have been around for a long time.  And with each retelling, they have continued to change and grow ever since their inception.  “Ella Enchanted” is a distinctive example of 21st century fantasy with an alternate world that is still attached to a familiar and long-standing one.  While it may lack the grandeur of Tolkien, or the epic tragedy of Rowling, it is accessible in its realism and its message – one that, while not political or catastrophic, speaks to the more personal internal battles that still must be fought and are no less important than those larger-than-life clashes between good and evil.  “Ella Enchanted” has no evil villain to be abolished or grand quest to be completed.  There are good characters and bad characters, but the main struggle is simply one between a girl and the unwarranted chance restrictions and conditions to which she finds herself bound.  Ella is ordinary, but she is strong.  And it is that kind of inner strength and conviction that is an amazing resource in struggling through such challenges as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Read it.  Or else.

(If you were Ella, you’d HAVE to obey me, but as it is, you have the freedom of choosing.)

I’ve had this copy for NINETEEN YEARS! I think it looks pretty good considering how many times I’ve read it!

I’m Excited To Do Homework? School Can Be Fun!

Well, I DID IT!!!  

I completed the first class of my graduate certificate program in Children’s Literature!!!

It was called “The Art of the Picturebook,” and I never knew that school could be so interesting and fun!!  I’ve enjoyed some classes throughout my college career, but none so much as this! I was actually excited to do homework! WHUUUUT!?? weird…  I never really felt like I fit in in any of the other classes or programs I took in the past.  I guess I just needed to find the right program.  And books have always been important to me.  And now I can explore that further! Yaaaaayyyy!!!

http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/childrens-literature-certificate/overview

This is how I feel about this program!