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)

More About Dragons

Edith Nesbit is one of the authors whose works testify to the eternal flexibility of light fantasy. It was just recently that I became familiar with her work and her influence on children’s literature. I came across the story “The Dragon Tamers” through a sleep and meditation app on my phone, called “Calm.”  The app provides a variety of stories, fiction and non-fiction, read in soothing voices to help people fall asleep.  I listened to the reading of “The Dragon Tamers,” and stayed awake for the whole story, and I’m glad I did, as it quickly became a favorite.  This story is a perfect example of creative light fantasy.

This is a story about a dragon that the poor blacksmith John discovers in his dungeon, and over time, the dragon is actually the character who grows, changes and exhibits the most character development. John and his family’s various interactions with the dragon are what really drives the story and moves it forward. There are many unexpected twists and turns as well as fun Dr. Seuss-like word play, rhymes, and alliteration.

After becoming so interested in and taken with this story, I wanted to know more about Edith Nesbit, so I bought her biography, which says she is considered to be the first modern writer for children and to have basically invented the children’s adventure story, which is amazing.  It was so surprising to learn that this particular story had been published over 100 years ago. I would never have guessed that! This story really demonstrates the timelessness of fantasy and fantasy themes. If you want to know how to get your baby stop crying, apparently a dragon is extremely helpful, and you should be careful about what you feed your cat if you want your cat to stay a cat, and not turn into the beginning of dragons.

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

 

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!

Read Into It: Blackthorn and Grim

Reading is always a way to escape reality for a little while into a different universe.

Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors.  I love and re-read almost all of her books.  She deals primarily in historical fantasy – mostly for adults, and some for young adults.

Blackthorn and Grim:

The Blackthorn and Grim trilogy consists of Dreamers Pool, Tower of Thorns, and Den of Wolves.

This particular series touches on some very serious issues, such as PTSD, trust-building, growth, recovery, how helping others can help yourself, and how to rebuild your life after you have suffered from extreme trauma.  PLUS: medieval Ireland, unconventional heroes, and mysterious MAGIC!

Here is part of the description of the first book: 

“What if you were locked up awaiting execution and a stranger offered you a bargain that would set you free?  What if accepting bound you to certain rules of behaviour for seven years, rules you knew you were likely to break within days? And what if the penalty for breaking them was to find yourself back where you started, eaten up with bitterness and waiting to die?

Blackthorn chooses life, even though she must promise not to seek vengeance against her arch-enemy, Lord Mathuin. In company with a cell-mate, the hulking, silent Grim, the one-time healer and wise woman flees north to Winterfalls, where she settles on the fringe of the mysterious Dreamer’s Wood.  Blackthorn has promised her benefactor, the fey nobleman Conmael, that she will use her gifts only for good. But she and Grim are both scarred by the past, and the embittered healer finds her promise increasingly hard to keep.”

Read more about these great books on Juliet’s website: julietmarillier.com!

Aren’t these covers beautiful?