Fairy Tales in the News

I’ve been very irritated lately at the articles surfacing in the news and in the “blogosphere”.

A recent study looked at a number of female victims of domestic violence and discovered that most of them identified with passive female fairy tale heroines and believed that, like the fairy tale heroines, they could change their partners if they only loved them enough. The article, of course, implies that this has more to do with the images in the fairy tales than anything else and that perhaps it is dangerous to read fairy tales to girls. I *hate* when I read this kind of thing. It is so backwards. It isn’t the fairy tales’ fault that women delude themselves like that. If girls are read classic fairy tales (a variety of them, not just twenty versions of Cinderella), the picture they get from them should be much more healthy and well-rounded. I think that if women are getting the wrong ideas from fairy tales than it has more to do with our attitudes and thinking about fairy tales than it does with the stories themselves. Read Bettelheim if you need further arguements about that, he is much more qualified to discuss it and eloquent about the subject than I will ever be.

Fairy tales are not the problem and studies that say they are need to dig deeper. It’s more complicated – a lot more complicated.

This article reminded me of another article on fairy tales that also made me angry. This one has many of the same problems the domestic abuse study does, and made me just as angry when I first read it. It states that fairy tales mess up women’s value systems when it comes to physical appearance. It also misses the point.

Fairy tales are not bad. Read your kids fairy tales. Read the articles, but think about them as well. They are not looking at the big picture, just a little thing they can track. Lesson 1 in fourth grade science is that just because when “A” happens, so does “B” it does not mean that “B” is caused by “A”. These studies totally missed that day, it seems.

Book: The Boys of Winter

The Boys of Winter
Wayne Coffey
2005

I had a blast reading this book. It has a really clever structure and the writing is excellent. Both combine to give the book a great flow. The book is about the men who coached, assisted and played on the 1980 Olympic hockey team (the “miracle” team). The book focuses on the game against the USSR, the game Team USA was never supposed to be able to win. It was a moment that made history, but even though I grew up knowing one of the players from that team (Mark Johnson), I never knew that much about the team itself.

The book is divided up like a hockey game: three periods, two intermissions and a post-game wrap up. The narrative is strung together with an account of the game, almost play by play. As important things (or not so important things) happen, Coffey breaks out of the narrative of the game to focus on one member of the team. For each man he tells us about his family, hometown, background, personality and ambitions. He seems to have interviewed nearly everyone ever connected to that team (including the Olympic Zamboni driver!). He uses illustrative stories, quotes from the men and from their teammates, friends and families, and facts from their backgrounds to give the reader of who each man was as a person. Each player, coach and important support staff member discussed only has five pages or so devoted to him, but each player becomes more of a real person in those five pages than they ever seemed to be from the videos of them playing that I (and many other people) have watched. I loved getting to hear about the players’ hopes and dreams, communities and lives after the Olympics.

My father met Coffey at some point in the writing of this book (presumably when he was here to meet Mark Johnson). The project really interested my dad and he ended up talking to Coffey a good deal and helping him track down tapes, interesting stories and whatever else he had access to that Coffey may not have. I totally understand why this book was so interesting to him. It was a wonderful read and I was excited about it as I read it! I read very few books that have to do with sports in any way because they usually kind of bore me, but this one was a gem. I had more fun reading this than I ever would have expected to! I laughed out loud and came close to tears a number of times while reading it. It didn’t feel like a sports book, it felt like a joint biography of about twenty-three people or so. It was great.

I loved this book. I definitely recommend it. Even if you normally don’t read sports books, this is a great read. It’s uplifting, optimistic, and fun. It takes a group of people that have become legendary and made them real. I would have no qualms about recommending this to everyone. So go read it!

My Birthday!

Yay! It’s my twenty-fourth birthday today! I’m going to hang out with my friends this evening and it should be lots of fun! And I got totally awesome presents from my family and Michael and his mom! Yay! And the puppy is staying with us today! I’m very happy! :D

Book: Goose Chase

Goose Chase
Patrice Kindl
2001

This was a fun fairy tale inspired novel by a great author. Kindl wrote the book Owl in Love, which is amazing. Goose Chase didn’t live up to Owl, but it was a fun read anyway. I loved the clever way she wove together bits and pieces from various fairy tales (some lifted whole-cloth and other merely inspired). The main character was witty and fun to read, if a little dense sometimes.

The writing was as polished and fun to read as it was in any of her other books. The first-person narrative flowed quickly and smoothly and seemed very natural, even when the narrator was speaking formalized fairy tale language. I couldn’t help but like the characters and the interactions between them, they were so well painted. Even in slow parts of the story, it was always fun to read.

This was a fun book and I would certainly recommend it. It’s a fun, quick read and Kindl is a great author.

Books: Notebook for Fantastical Observations

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Notebook for Fantastical Observations
Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
2005

I liked this book, it was cute and unique. It is set up with a picture of a fairy creature, a short quote about them, a story from a child who encountered one written in their own handwriting, a comment from the authors about the creature, and a section of fill-in pages with interesting and amusing questions that may or may not have to do with the creature discussed. It’s a very cute set up and the questions are really funny. They are such cute questions that I may start making up answers to them myself!

The illustrations are wonderful, as DiTerlizzi’s always are. They are very interesting pictures. I love the sketchy feel that gives them the impression of having been drawn into the book. The book really does feel like a set of notes about each creature and the sketches go a long way in reinforcing that impression.

This is a cute book. I can’t wait for the Spiderwick field guide to come out, but this was a great read in the meantime! Now I have to go figure out what my dream fairy baseball team would be! Check the book out, it’s a lot of fun. And if you haven’t read the “Spiderwick Chronicles”, go read them! They are funny and fresh. I hope to see more from these authors!

Book: Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter and the Starcatchers
Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Illustrator: Greg Call
2004

Warning: Major Spoilers!!

Peter and the Starcatchers is intended to be a prequel to J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. It is written by two American writers (yes, it is that Dave Barry) and published by an American publishing house (Hyperion Books for Children) with Disney’s blessing. The story explains how Peter and the lost boys and the pirates and the mermaids and Tinkerbell came to live on the island called Neverland. There are a great number of other characters in the book that are not present in Peter and Wendy, and thus have to leave by the end of the book. The story follows the adventures of a pair of ships transporting five orphan boys from London, one wilful little girl, and a large box full of “starstuff” (magic dust that falls to earth in shooting stars). The book is long, but reads quickly. The writing is funny and generally enjoyable to read, but it doesn’t save the story.

I really didn’t like this book very much. The plot makes little sense and feels rather forced. It feels like something made up by adults to explain something that fundamentally can’t be really understood and accepted by anyone but children. They give explanations of things that directly contradict the explanations given by Barrie in the original book and play. Barry and Pearson’s vision of events removes much of the magic and fun from Neverland. Peter grows up in an orphanage in London; he has no reason in particular to want to remain a little boy. In fact, his life as a little boy totally sucks. To explain Peter not growing up, they use the “magic” starstuff.

The starstuff explains everything from the mermaids to Tinkerbell, to why the pirates are on the island, to why Peter can fly. And it leaves giant holes in the story. The starstuff is removed from the island, so why can other people fly later? Without exposure to starstuff, how do Wendy and her brothers learn to fly? Where are all the other fairies if Tinkerbell was the only one made? Why didn’t the pirates ever just repair their ship (which shouldn’t have been much damaged in the first place) and leave the island? Why does Peter not remember what a kiss is when he meets Wendy when he thinks a lot about it in this book? It doesn’t make sense. And Peter isn’t terribly likable. He’s stubborn and a show-off and doesn’t seem to care a whole lot for anyone else. Peter is supposed to be likable, if slightly frustrating.

The pictures are nice. I like the rough black and white style. It reminds me of carved clay sometimes. The problem is that it too lacks magic and often doesn’t match the text. The ships look cool, but the characters seem wrong and the world seems boring and real rather than exciting and magical. The pictures are very pretty, but I’m not sure they match this book.

Perhaps one of my biggest concerns with this book was the utter dependence on adults. Peter and Molly are important in moving the plot forward, but they always turn to the adults for guidance and protection. The children seem to be always just trying to stabilize the situation until some adult they trust can come along and take over for them. They need an adult to help with their plans, to protect them from danger, and to deal with the mess that is made of the situation on the island. And yet they have ample evidence that the adults have no idea what they are doing and are rather unhelpful. Until Molly’s father comes. He fixes everything as if by magic. And the only reason that the boys don’t leave the island with him and Molly is that Peter doesn’t want to be ostracized in London for never growing up and his friends don’t want to go back without him (to a horrible orphanage). Why the pirates stick around after the starstuff is gone, I have no idea. Peter is supposed to be a strong, self-reliant and independent character. He is none of those things in this book.

This book lacked cohesion, flow and the feeling of magic that it promised. It didn’t feel like a child’s fantasy at all. It felt like an adults explanation of a child’s fantasy so that it doesn’t seem stupid to them anymore. Except that it wasn’t stupid to begin with. It was wonderful. I wouldn’t recommend this book. Read the original, Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie, which is a genuine masterpiece, and forget that this book ever existed.

Inspiring

I just read this article on the NYT website. I’ve been really in need of something inspiring and uplifting that could help renew some of my faith in people lately. This article totally accomplished that. It’s a very inspiring piece about a woman in Africa who has a third grade education but is a sergeon for women who otherwise get totally ostrasized by their societies. She took what was a horrible experience and used it to help her become someone very generous, talented and awe-inspiring. Read the article. It’s amazing.

Cool Link

Go check out The Monster Engine. It has really cool works of art made from children’s drawings. There are some really cool pictures and it’s a really cool idea! Check it out!

New Favorite First Sentence

On Dreamer’s Plain, the gathering of delegations from the Twelve Crowns of Raine for the coronation of the Queen of Raine looked like an invading army.
- Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip

Book: Wedding Goddess

Wedding Goddess: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss
Laurie Sue Brockway
2005

I really liked this book. It was useful to me. It is written by a non-denominational minister from New York who recently got married herself. The book discusses how to deal with engagement, wedding planning, family squabbles, and the ceremony itself. The book has quotes from other women who were recently married, advice on many different elements of weddings, and “goddess” exercises to help with planning and maintaining emotional health throughout the process. I particularly liked that while the book did spend a great deal of time on actual, practical advice and ceremonies and traditions from various religions and cultures, it also kept it’s primary focus on surviving through the process still healthy and still as in love with your partner as ever.

This book totally didn’t fit in with the “bridal industry” focused books that fill shelves in book stores. It doesn’t discuss what you absolutely have to have or not, it doesn’t pass judgement on anything, it doesn’t stress the importance of buy etiquette guides or having bridesmaids wear shoes dyed to match their dresses. It focuses on the important things. It understands that the wedding is very important, but ultimately not as important as the marriage that follows. It understands that it can be really hard to maintain a healthy relationship throughout the wedding process and that it is more important to have that relationship remain strong than to have perfect centrepieces. It also discusses dealing with family and friendships throughout the process (when they will be very very very strained). I liked that these things were the focus and that the book did make me feel special, like I could very easily be a “wedding goddess” on my wedding day.

I liked this book a lot and certainly do recommend it to anyone (bride or groom) who is getting married.

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