Category Archives: Fantasy

Steampunk September: 30 before 30 Roundup

Another thing about my “read 3 books with a theme” is simply this: I have books on my shelf I haven’t gotten around to reading, and I want to make a dent in that pile. Beyond the fact that NPR non-fiction was 2/3 pretty heavy, I wanted to lighten it up a bit.  (And BTW, putting NPR in your blog title spikes up people visiting your site. I don’t like that! I just want a quiet corner of the web!) So, I went steampunk.

And… it turns out, a good steampunk novel is hard to find. Then again, a good steampunk DEFINITION is hard to find.  For the time being, I will say MOSTLY it’s an alternate version of Victorian England, with a bit more technology and automatons.

Take it from here,  Steampunk.com:  

It’s “a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that includes social or technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) usually with some deconstruction of, reimagining of, or rebellion against parts of it (the punk). Unfortunately, it is a poorly defined subgenre, with plenty of disagreement about what is and is not included. For example, steampunk stories may:

  • Take place in the Victorian era but include advanced machines based on 19th century technology (e.g. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling);
  • Include the supernatural as well (e.g. The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger);
  • Include the supernatural and forego the technology (e.g. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, one of the works that inspired the term ‘steampunk’);
  • Include the advanced machines, but take place later than the Victorian period, thereby assuming that the predomination by electricity and petroleum never happens (e.g. The Peshawar Lancers by S. M. Stirling); or
  • Take place in an another world altogether, but featuring Victorian-like technology (e.g. Mainspring by Jay Lake).”

Well, now I feel better.   Check out the Saturday Steam feature on Epbot.com for the aesthetic look of steampunk.

Now, why did I say, “A good steampunk novel is hard to find?” I haven’t had much good luck this month.  One was from an author I knew and liked (Gail Carriger, see below).  I read a freebie novella, and it was crap.  (Basically, it was a supernatural mystery that had the mystery part wrapped up in five pages. BUT IT HAD A DIRIGIBLE!) I had one from the book fair but got bored seven chapters in, so we’ll see if I finish that.  I did read Cinder  and  Scarlet  by Meyer, but it’s borderline steampunk and doesn’t quite fit the descriptions above.  Oh, I tried to read one book where they ended up on a pirate ship, but I gave up on that pretty quickly.  I did find two more that were worthy to be blogged, even if it was B-B+ work.

First up, one of my favorite steampunk writers (because so far she’s been the best steampunk writer I’ve read so far) Gail Carriger, who wrote The Parasol Protectorate series (Soulless, etc), has wandered into YA fiction.  Etiquette and Espionage takes place in the same world as Parasol Protectorate. However, this is in a floating finishing school for young ladies/spies.  Sophrona was recruited (without really knowing what the school is about) and on her way to school, her carriage is attacked by flywaymen looking for a prototype. The recruiter faints and Sophrona has to save the day. Much of the book’s plot is about finding out where the prototype is and how to survive school.

This was a fun book, and it has potential. Is it the same level as Protectorate? Maybe not.  Part of the appeal of the Protectorate was the supernatural emphasis and the romance. I’m an adult that was reading about a world I previously visited (ya know, I went on a word journey).

My next book was slow-going at first, but came together by the end. The Affinity Bridge by George Mann has a Sherlock Holmes feel to it, which, hey, alternate Victorian universe,  why not have an alternate Sherlock? Anyway, Sir Maurice Newbury and his new assistant Veronica Hobbes are helping Scotland Yard on a bizarre case where a phantom constable has been seeking revenge on those who killed him. They are distracted by an airship crash, which Queen Victoria prioritized after her Dutch cousin was on the ship. When the automaton piloting the ship is missing from the wreckage, they question whether the automatons are at fault.  Big ol’ mystery.

Reading other reviews, I discovered a few other people thought it was uneven. Normally, I have to be forced to put a book down.  It felt like it took a while to get into, and to establish three different mysteries was a hard way to start the book. Yes, they weaved together after a while, but it took a long while.  Good little story, but debatable whether I’ll re-read it or go into more books in this series.

Magic under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore WAS one I read in one sitting. AND it wasn’t a mystery (although it was mysterious). AND it didn’t take place in London, but a rather imaginary place.  So, Nimira is hired  by a rich sorcerer, Hollin Parry,  to sing with his  piano-playing automaton. (Automatons seem to be the biggest steampunk theme, as far as I can tell.)  When she winds the automaton, she discovers that it has a soul and needs to communicate with her.  There’s a lot of dark magic going on, and only she can stop it. 

Overall, cool book. Unpredictable and had a lot going for it.

I haven’t done the grading thing in a while. I’m just going to give these books the same general grade because they’re about on the same level. 

Grades: MAYBE high 7th and up for all of these books.

Grade: Solid B’s. I’m punked out for the moment. 

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Filed under 30 Before 30 (Themed Monthly Updates), Fantasy

Conversations with my Co-workers, RE: Harry Potter quirks

I go into the work lounge to get something, who knows what. My friend Chrysalis is reading Chamber of Secrets. The second I walk in, she lights up.

C: Hey Amber…  house elves can’t be given clothes, right? Because then they’re free?
A: Yeah.
C:  So, how do rich wizards do their laundry? Can you imagine Lucius Malfoy doing his own laundry?
A: Nice…. (successful high five.*)
C: What I’ve decided is that they have a laundry chute that’s actually a portkey, and this portkey takes it to a laundry service or dry-cleaners, wait for it to come back in plastic bags, neatly folded and hung up accordingly. The portkey doors could also take laundry to a second hand robe shop, the shop owner then washed and sold the clothing however he saw fit. We know that people shop second hand shops since the Weasleys wear “gently worn” robes often. Wealthy wizards just don’t rewear robes (or at least the Malfoys might not, the snobs). **

A: You know what I always wondered? The Weasleys are strapped for money and all, and they buy used books. But don’t they have a whole collection of their own used books?
C: Well, they had to buy all the Lockhart books.
A: I don’t mean like, Defense against the Dark Arts since their teacher and book changes every year. But like, Book of Common Spells, Grade 1. Buy one for Bill/Charlie***, pass it down?
C:  They would have had to buy another one for Fred and George.
A: True, and I bet they can do a number on books.
C:   Besides, you know how editions of books change. Always bugged me in college when I couldn’t buy off a friend.
A:  How often can common spells change?
C: Still, interesting to think about.  I’m just glad I have someone here who’d appreciate these random thoughts!
A: Oh yeah!

I’m sorry, but I have the best co-workers ever. Who thinks of these things , wishes to tell someone who’d appreciate it, then realizes, “one of the other four HP fanatics just walked in!”

Now that I’ve had time to process that information, here’s what I’m pondering:

  • I love the portkey idea. We know the Malfoys do not do their own laundry. But it’s not as though Molly Weasley is actually knitting their jumpers or scrubbing the wash. “Scourgify” a bucket with soapy water to get it to do the dirty work.  It would be like a magical washing machine…
    • This is more of Chrysalis’s theory on house elves and getting laundry done: “if giving Dobby a book with a sock that belonged to someone else without any knowledge of its presence inside said book can free him, sending laundry must be tricky.unless there is a clause in the house elf binding magic that allows clothing to be handed over as long as its for washing purposes…”
  • Bill/Charlie probably got a used book to begin with, as Ginny can remember wanting to go to Hogwarts when her eldest brother began. ***(continued)  So, passing a book down for seven kids may be a bit much.
    • Really, it wouldn’t be fair because of the nature of the kids. I think Bill and Charlie would be fine sharing books, but Percy strikes me as the type to want to buy new books, keep them forever in tip-top condition, and never let anyone else touch it.  Fred and George do quite a bit of damage to everything else, I suppose books wouldn’t hold up. Either that, or the books wouldn’t be opened. If the latter, Ron & Ginny now have books! If the former, Ron & Ginny can share.
    • But SERIOUSLY… if Harry can use the same book Snape and presumably his father would have used in book 6 for Potions, I think the one or two year gap between kids could work out.

Thank you to my fellow nerds at work, especially Chrysalis.

*Yes, I know it’s ridiculous to specify that it was a successful high-five. I have awesome co-workers, but dang, we are awful at high-fives.
** Chrysalis saw this discussion before I published this, and the description of how the portkeys work was in her words. Thank you for your contribution!
***I can never remember if Bill or Charlie is older, though I’m leaning towards Bill.  I can barely figure out ages of the Weasleys.  {Edit, Bill is older, but I’m amused at my post so it will remain as is.}

(*** cont. )Here’s a brief chart of Weasley ages (according to my reasoning with Chamber of Secrets)!
Bill: at least 3 years out of school (20?)
Charlie: at least 2 years out of school (19?)– was not in school when Harry & Ron started, so at least 3 years older than Percy.
Percy:  year 6 (16)
Fred & George: year 4 (14)
Ron:    year 2 (12)
Ginny:  year 1 (11)

It takes seven years for a Hogwarts education. 11-7=4; 4-3=1… Ginny may be exaggerating when she claims her desire to be at Hogwarts at a young age. Or Ginny didn’t realize they had already been in a year. (Shrug!)

Always fun to analyze and over-analyze our favorite fiction…  🙂 If we have any more fun conversations, I may repeat them here. Feel free to comment away!

P.S. Happy Birthday JKR and Harry! You are endless entertainment. I can always find something new in your story, and usually, your story speaks to me in a way that helps me understand life better.  Thank you.

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Going Bovine, Libba Bray

This book is geared for a bit older than what I’ve been reading lately.

Synopsis, and spoilers ahead: Cameron is a reject among rejects. He has no interests, is clumsy, awkward, in general a disappointment. As of late, he’s going crazy: he hallucinates and loses control of his body. His parents take him to a doctor when they witness him attempting to fight the toaster, and he’s diagnosed with mad cow. While in St. Jude’s, he is given a mission by a punky angel Dulcie: find Dr. X; save the world. He must follow coincidences to find him. He’s instructed to take a friend, Gonzo (a hypochondriac midget), and is given an E-pass for Disney World, which will keep him healthy for two weeks. His “disease” helps him see what’s truly there that others can’t see.

His journey is friggin’ crazy. He goes to New Orleans (Mardi Gras), and is involved in a “Devil went down to Georgia” kind of bet with a trumpet player. He gets stuck in a “happy commune,” which he brings madness to. He rescues a garden gnome/Norse god, Balder, and takes him along. He ends up on Youth America’s Spring Break, and gets laid. He goes to Disney World and finds Dr. X in Tomorrowland.  He learns that the whole point of the journey was to teach him to live.  He wakes up in the hospital with it all in his head, and he dies knowing that the last two weeks he truly lived.

Bookworm’s Commentary:

  • Well-written, but hesitant to say I liked or disliked it. Libba Bray is like that.
  • The coincidences Cameron follows are INSANE.  To name a few, Wil E. Coyote, Disney World, feathers, and jazz music.
  • Kelly Link (on the back of the book) describes this as the alternative Phantom Tollbooth if Holden Caulfield hit Milo over the head, stole the token, car, and tollbooth. I agree.
  • Throw in Wizard of Oz while we’re at it. Goes on a great adventure and it’s all in your head. But as Dumbledore says, “Of course it’s in your head, but who says it isn’t real?” (Dumbledore may have a quote for everything.)
  • Cameron is a pain. He’s the sloth kid that has no interests except drugs, masturbation, and the occasional vinyl record. His passive aggressive parents do not help.
  • Moral of the story: Live your life! Don’t whine about it!
  • Long rant: I have always loved the name Cameron. But between Going Bovine and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, I’m seriously questioning that name for future child. I mean, it’s like the child would be destined to never take a chance. I mean, Bovine Cameron won’t try recommended music for crying out loud. I suppose I could teach future Cameron how to speak French to pick up chicks (10 things I hate about you),or hope that he/she will be born blonde & with the ability to have a beach body (Cameron Diaz), although genetics would probably fight against both.  So far though, I haven’t had a student named Cameron, so on the teacher-front, I’m okay. Literary front, questionable.

Class Stuff:
Grades: High school, 10th & above.
It’s got language. There’s sex and drugs.  It’s really trippy.
Grade: B. I read it in a day, and it’s a huge book.  Libba Bray is one of those authors that you can’t stop reading, but afterwards you’re ambivalent about what you just read. The alternative kids would like it pretty well. I’m giving it the B for the effort and the writing. And it got a Printz award for 2010. Yay awards!

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Filed under Adventure, Fantasy, High school, Scary

The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins: If I were to create a trailer

Book Trailer:

In a world where the United States is distant memory, twenty-four names are chosen. Each of the twelve districts must send in two of their own children to remind the country of the uprising, when District 13 was obliterated.  The names picked must fight to the death in the Hunger Games.

It isn’t right, to make mere teenagers pawns in this sick game. But there is no choice…

Until Katniss Everdeen makes one.  And it will change the game forever.

5 second summary: It’s like Survivor, but to the death.

Commentary:

The series is awesome, but  these books are still catching on. (They’re definitely popular but I know plenty of people who still have it on their “to read” list.) So I didn’t want to ruin it. And, I was a little bored with my format, so the above trailer would be how I’d sell it to someone that  I’m imagining this conversation with:
“Nothing interests me.  Reading sucks.”
“How about this one? It’s like Survivor but people die.”
“Oh, sweet!”

But, there’s more to it than that. I remembered the line from Dumbledore in the movie version of Goblet of Fire, where he tells the contestants that in the maze, the biggest obstacle is keeping yourself. In a way, that’s exactly what this book is about. You have no choice but to play the game, but you can play it without losing yourself. Our heroine, Katniss, and the other “tribute” from her district, Peeta, are defiant in this. They insist on playing it their way. And that way inspires others to rebel against what they already know isn’t right.

Other thoughts:

  • Panem is North America in a few hundred years, after the apocalypse or nuclear war or global warming destroyed everything else.  Katniss tells us she lives in what used to be called Appalachia, and they are coal miners. I wonder what specific part of Appalachia. I really want a map of Panem. It would be very helpful.
  • {Spoiler Alert} The book series is also about self-sacrifice.   Katniss’s sister’s name was drawn, but Katniss went in her place. Peeta has been in love with Katniss for ages without her knowledge, so he does everything in his power to keep her alive.  This protectiveness becomes mutual later.
  • I think this book would be good for both genders. Strong female protagonist. Strong (but compassionate) male protagonist.  The setting, a dystopian North America, can appeal to the darker natures of both genders. And there’s sports and a love story.

Class stuff:
Grades: 7th & up
Grade: A-. It’s an addicting story, and I can see why it’s so popular.
I will say this, which is the reason for the minus:  I had one of my grammar buddies dislike Collins’s writing style. However, when I had two books that I couldn’t decide which to read first, he immediately said “Mockingjay” (the third in the series). The story trumps the style.

Hunger Games is the strongest of the series, Catching Fire is definitely a transitional book that sets up Mockingjay and while you could probably just read Hunger Games without the sequels, if you read Catching Fire you almost have to read the last. (I had another friend say he didn’t like the second, did the third redeem it? It completes it at any rate. You have to have closure.)

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Filed under Action, Adventure, Fantasy, High school, Middle school (6-8), Scary

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

Synopsis: In England, Lucy and Edmund are stuck at their Aunt Augusta’s house while their parents and Susan are in America (and Peter is studying at the Professor’s new, smaller house).  Lucy, Edmund, and their obnoxious cousin Eustace get pulled into a painting of a Narnian ship, and end up in Narnian waters. King Caspian’s ship pulls them up to safety, and they are voyaging to find seven of Caspian’s father’s supporters who sailed off to the east.

The stops include:

  • An island heavily involved in the slave trade, where a governor is treating his people cruelly and isn’t showing respect for Narnia’s overlordship. So, he gets replaced by one of the lords Caspian was looking for.
  • They hit a storm and land on the first island they see. No one is on it. Eustace explores and finds a dead dragon. He takes the dragon’s bracelet, and turns into a dragon. He’s a dragon for a while, and Aslan comes to him to help him take off his skin. Eustace becomes a decent kid after that. They realize the armband Eustace had as a dragon belonged to one of the lords.
  • They land on an island where they discover water that turns things into gold. There’s a statue at the bottom, which they decide was  a lord. Edmund and Caspian are sorely tempted by this treasure, and almost duel. Lucy and Reepicheep snap them out of it. They dub the land “Deathwater.”
  • They arrive in a land where there are invisible people. The invisible people need Lucy to read from the Magic Book to turn them visible. The Magic Book has lots of interesting spells, including one to make the reader the most beautiful person in the world (tempting) and one to know what your friends really think of you (does this with regret). She reads the Dufflepuds/Monopods into visibility. They’re pretty funny looking dwarfs with one foot. She meets the Magician and sees Aslan as well.
  • They come close to the Island of Dreams. A terrified man (Lord Rhoop) swims to them to be rescued. The Island of Dreams makes all your dreams come true— not daydreams, but dreams.  They get out of there ASAP.
  • They finally land on an island with three sleeping men and the most beautiful woman they’ve ever seen, who turns out to be a star. She tells them that these men were the last three lords, and they’ve been enchanted so they would stop fighting. The only way to break the sleep is to leave one of their party in Aslan’s country.  Caspian promises to come back (to marry the girl).

Reepicheep makes it to Aslan’s country, and Edmund and Lucy are told they are not coming back to Narnia.  Aslan says he will be with them in England, under a different name.

Bookworm’s Commentary:

  • I said in my last post, you know someone’s “bad”  in Chronicles of Narnia if they don’t drink or smoke. Eustace’s family has another point against them: they’re vegetarians.  I can totally see Lewis’s point that nonsmokers, teetotalers, and vegetarians aren’t much fun.  It’s not that they won’t partake, it’s that they make others feel guilty for partaking. Let’s face it… no matter what our feelings are about smoking, drinking, and eating meat,  being self-righteous about it doesn’t make friends.
  • Caspian seriously wouldn’t consider marrying a girl because she had freckles and squinted. Good job being superficial, Caspian.
  • Oh yeah, speaking of superficial, Susan got to go to America with the parents because she was the pretty one.  Peter was studying, and since Susan was bad at school it wouldn’t effect her marks if she was gone. Shouldn’t “she’s bad at school” make you want to keep her in school?… If the reason were, “she’s second oldest and Peter didn’t want to go,” fine.  But really, the reason they state is that she’s the prettiest so she’ll get more out of the trip. I could go on for a while about how this reasoning doesn’t make sense…
  • Lewis makes comments about certain sorts of knowledge. Yes, you need facts. But you also need fiction and fantasy to balance it out. Otherwise Eustace wouldn’t have been dumb enough to put dragon treasure on his arm.
  • It’s interesting to see Lucy being held back by Susan even though she’s not there. It’s hard to be a little sister…

Book vs. Movie:  Spoilers ahead!
Overall, better than Prince Caspian, but not as good as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

  • Most of the incidents in the movie happened in the book, but out of order, and on occasion the events happen over a longer period of time in the film (Eustace as a dragon lasted a week in the book, but lasted long enough for him to go to at least two more islands as a dragon.)
  • Lucy says the spell to turn her beautiful, and she turns into Susan and Lucy no longer exists. Aslan comes by to show her how being her is just right.
  • Although not in the book, I appreciated a theme that they added to the movie:  “the evil.”  You see green mist in various places where our heroes are going to be tempted: the magician’s house where Lucy wishes to be beautiful, the golden waters that almost turn Edmund and Caspian against each other, and of course, the home of the green mist is the Island of Dreams.
  • However, what’s with the White Witch? Again? I realize this book’s main conflict is man vs. self, and that’s not very good for film.  I realize when she shows up, they’re in the Island of Dreams (where nightmares come true).  They’re actually told not to even think what they fear, and Edmund is the first to accidentally think of something. But he thought of a sea monster, not the witch.
  • Andrew Adamson was the director for the first two and a producer for this one. Take a guess from this line what other movie he worked on:
    Eustace: (in disbelief about Reepicheep) It can talk!
    Caspian: Yes, it’s getting him to shut up that’s the trick!

    • Line directly from Shrek.  Congrats on riding the gravy train as long as possible.
  • Thinking of Caspian, thank goodness they picked an accent!

Class Stuff:
Grades: 3-6
Grade: B+
It’s more of a series of short stories instead of a big story, but I like the variety of settings and lessons learned. The introduction of Eustace is good to help continue the story.

Aside: I wonder if they’ll continue this as a movie series. If they were to do so, I’d imagine The Silver Chair and The Last Battle would be the main ones to be made.  Eustace shows up in The Silver Chair, and everyone except Susan comes back to The Last Battle. Gotta crank them out while they’re young, if you can.  The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and his Boy are a little outside of that realm and don’t have that urgency to be made.

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Filed under Adventure, Book vs. film, Fantasy, Upper elementary

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

Synopsis: During the children’s evacuation of London during WWII, the Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) are sent to a very historical house owned by a Professor.  While exploring, Lucy can’t resist looking into a wardrobe. It turns out she finds another world, Narnia.

The first creature she meets is a faun, Mr. Tumnus, who promptly invites her to tea at his house.  He tells her that he was going to kidnap her for the White Witch, but realizes that she’s so sweet how can she possibly do that? So, she goes back through the wardrobe safely. She’s been gone hours, but the others didn’t even notice her absence because it was only minutes in their time.  Edmund makes fun of her relentlessly. He follows her during hide and seek into the wardrobe, where he goes to Narnia and meets the White Witch (but she calls herself Queen). He spills that he has a brother and two sisters, that Lucy had been there before and talked to a faun, and he eats tons of her enchanted Turkish Delight. She tells Edmund to bring his family to Narnia and she’ll make him King.  Lucy finds him there, and is excited he knows about Narnia. But when she tells the others about Narnia, Edmund plays it off.  Lucy gets really upset, and Peter and Susan try to make Ed be kinder to her.

The housekeeper gives historical tours of the house to visitors, and the kids have to keep out of the way.  One fateful day, as she’s giving a tour that they weren’t expecting, they are pretty much chased into the wardrobe.

The older ones apologize to Lucy and basically think Edmund’s a prat for lying to them about being here before. Soon, they discover Mr. Tumnus has been taken away for fraternizing with enemies– Lucy. They decide to try and help Tumnus. They meet Beaver, who explains why the White Witch was after two Daughters of Eve and two Sons of Adam. A prophecy tells of four humans taking thrones in Narnia and overthrowing the Witch.  They are told of Aslan, the King of the Wood, and they all get warm, fuzzy feelings– except for Edmund, who feels kind of sick. Aslan has returned, and the Pevensies’ arrival, means that the 100-year winter will finally be over. At some point, Edmund sneaks out to go to the Witch. Once Mr. and Mrs. Beaver discover this, they (and the rest of the kids) high-tail it to the Stone Table, where they are to meet Aslan.  In the meantime, Edmund tells the Queen all that he’s heard, and she takes him as prisoner.

“It’s always winter, never Christmas” with the White Witch. But on their journey, they meet none other than Father Christmas, who tells the children the White Witch’s power is breaking, and he gives them tools for the upcoming battle.  Spring is here. They make it to Aslan, who is disappointed that they don’t have Edmund. They manage to get an apologetic Edmund back, but the Witch calls for his blood, because all traitors belong to her.  Unknown to his followers, Aslan makes a deal with the Witch and takes Edmund’s place.

Susan and Lucy can’t sleep and they join Aslan, who tells them they can walk a ways but must go back when he says so. Instead, they watch as the Witch ties Aslan up, shaves him, and kills him. After she’s gone, they mourn beside him. They cry until they can’t cry any more. Field mice chew his ropes loose. As dawn occurs, the stone table is broken, and Aslan has reversed death. When someone who has done no wrong dies instead of a traitor, the Deep Magic that the Witch thought would defeat Aslan worked against her.

So, Aslan frees stone creatures the Witch had turned, and they join the battle that Peter and Edmund had been fighting. With the Witch defeated, they are crowned Kings and Queens of Narnia.  They grow up, and Narnia is in their Golden Age under their rule.  They chase a stag into the wood, and they go back through the wardrobe and become young again.

Bookworm’s Commentary:

  • Fun Fact:  C.S. Lewis wrote with the group “the Inklings,”  which included Tolkien as a buddy to bounce ideas off of.  Tolkien complained that he mixed too much mythology together.  Lots of Greek and Roman creatures, Father Christmas, and also, Tolkien wasn’t too fond of allegories.  And, there are plenty of Christian allegories to go around.
  • One of my friends recently said that if Aslan was what Jesus is supposed to be like,  there was no need to be scared of him.   Because even though “He’s not a tame lion,”  he is very good.
  • This really is a good book to read for fun around Christmas time, especially during a winter like this, where it’s already been so miserable.

Book vs. Film (2005 version)

This may be the best film adaptation ever. And I realize this high praise five years later is a bit ridiculous, but I didn’t have a book blog then. I’ve also been picking apart Harry Potter for the past month, so it’s extra impressive to me that EVERYTHING was true to the book.

The movie, of course, expanded on the book. They upped the scary factor, to be sure. But movies have a beautiful ability to go back and forth between storylines without it being confusing: for example, the movie shows that the wolves almost catch them at Beaver’s house.  They aren’t that close in the book, but Mrs. Beaver does slow them down a bit, and they may have a fifteen minute head-start.  The scenes with Edmund in the palace were not in the book with such detail, especially the conversation with Tumnus, but it adds to the sense that Edmund deeply regrets his decision to go to the Witch. But even little throw-away details in the book, like Tumnus having a picture of his father, become significant in the movie.

Lewis originally didn’t want his works adapted to film because of the strong likelihood they’d look stupid. Fortunately, technology has evolved since the 1960’s and the CGI is very well done in the film. Lewis’ stepson, Doug Gresham, was co-producer of this movie.  I’m sure this had something to do with the amount of loyalty they had to the book. The movie came out while I was taking a C.S. Lewis fiction course, and I won’t swear to this, but my professor’s  main complaint was Lucy was too friggin’ adorable. (In the book, she isn’t noted for being cute. We’ll see this come up later.)

Class Stuff:
Grades: 3-6
While it’s ageless and timeless, third would be where I’d start putting it on the shelf. It’s short, and simply written. 
Grade:  A
It’s beautifully written, it’s a book that even the most conservative parent wouldn’t blink at, but it speaks to the goodness of life. He has inspired countless writers.  Even though it is a Christian message, I remember reading it and being clueless about its meaning for a long time. Those who know it’s a Christian message will recognize it immediately, even if it takes the others a little while to understand.

Merry Christmas.

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Filed under Adventure, Book vs. film, Fantasy, Upper elementary

Bookworm Gushing on Lewis Carroll

Hi, everyone. Haven’t done this in a while (blogging or gushing), but Alice in Wonderland has been a recent theme in my life:  I was involved in a Wonderland-themed fundraising gala that took over my life this week. The husband is reading the book on his brand-new smartphone, as the book is a freebie.  One of my facebook games I’m ashamed to be addicted to had a Mad Hatter theme this past week.   I’ve always loved Alice in Wonderland. I almost did that as a theme to my wedding (topsy turvy cakes… when done well, can be flat out amazing looking).  As far as movies go, I enjoy the animated version and I liked the Tim Burton movie after getting used to the concept. (I saw it at home; I would have hated it in 3D.)

Why is Alice so timeless? Why is it so beloved? I realize this is just my gushing session and everyone, from my preschoolers to the goth kids, love Wonderland a great deal.

  • Bucking the system.  Carroll wrote Alice in the Victorian age. Everything about the Victorian Era is prim and proper.  It’s not exactly a kid-friendly place. Carroll created a world where everything proper is on its head. Even references that 21st century folks don’t get (the rhymes and poetry especially) is a satire of the culture at the time.
    • Seriously, if you haven’t read the book, you should at least look up the poems. Especially the parody, “You are Old, Father William.” If you compare the original and the satire, the original is so stilted and blah. The satire is so child-like and hilarious. Bottom line: the Victorians needed to loosen up.
  • How many memorable characters are in this book? How could we possibly forget the tardy White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and March Hare, the devious Queen of Hearts and her card soldiers, the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, and my personal favorite, the Cheshire Cat? In fact, correct me if I’m wrong, but Alice in Wonderland may be the most represented in Disney World.
  • The dialogue is hilariously ridiculous. Carroll also includes asides that make me smile. My favorite aside: “Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so surprised that for the moment she quite forgot to speak good English).
    • Husband: “I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed this hard reading a book!”
  • This book is really a series of mini-adventures.  It’s a style that a lot of books I adore follow (Phantom Tollbooth being a prime example). You don’t necessarily have to follow the entire story, it’s just a journey and snapshots of the crazy people she meets there.
  • Why my preschoolers love the story of Alice: It’s utterly fun and absolute nonsense.
  • Why the teenagers love it: the hookah smoking Caterpillar. It’s all psychedelic, man. (I think the vibrancy of the Disney movie AND the book is way ahead of its time.)
  • Why adults continue to turn to it when they need a party theme: the vibrancy of the story makes it a colorful and memorable theme; the nonsense of the story makes it fun;  plus, the idea of Wonderland brings us back to an innocence where we would drink something just because it isn’t labeled poison.

Not going to do a lot, but here’s some “Class stuff”: I can’t put a label on the book, but my class will have this in there. I may use it as a read-aloud if I need a time-filler.  While I can’t specifically remember when I first read the book,  I bought it at an airport bookstore when I was in high school. (So, I was a bit older when I actually read it, but I grew up loving the movie.) I think if younger readers want to tackle it, they can. They may have to be patient with the language and the jokes, but it’s okay. If they’re familiar with the cartoon (since Burton’s movie is a bit of a re-imagining) I think they’d be able to imagine the book a little better.  It may be one of those books that is written from a child’s perspective but adults appreciate it more. (I’ve heard that said about Phantom Tollbooth, so it wouldn’t surprise me if its inspiration is the same.)
When you are in the mood for stuff and nonsense, a satirical book that reminds you that we’re ALL mad here, Alice is a good book to go to.  I’m going to give it an A for the book that still has devout followers almost  a century and a half later.

Ed. note: Said Wonderland-themed gala was last night, and I’m tired. I am certain I left out reasons to love on Alice. If you have a reason you love Alice, a favorite line or character, be it from the book or movie, let’s hear it!  I’ve had “Painting the roses red” stuck in my head most of the night & some of today… I need some other scenes!

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Filed under Adventure, Fantasy, Just gushing!