Introducing a collaboration between the Fairy and the Dragon

You heard right, I’m introducing a collaboration with a Fairy.

Or, specifically, Tammy from The Book Fairy’s Haven.

You will find a link to my guest post on her blog. Hopefully, we can look forward to more guests posts on both blogs in the future.

(Warning: It seems that there were quite a few typos, more than usual ;), in translation. Please show us mercy!)

http://bookfairyhaven.blogspot.co.za/2016/08/guest-post-crossover-genres-in-ya.html

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The Many Faces of Cinderella

I guess I’m in a fairy tale kind of mood this week. My favorite fairy tale has to be Beauty and the Beast…but Cinderella has to be in the top five. I recently came into ownership of three different books based on this beloved fairy tale. I was surprised at the vast difference between these books, so I thought it would be fun to read them all at once and take a look at them side by side. For fun, I’m going to throw in some popular movie renditions of this story as well. I will be comparing these books and movies to the original fairy tale:

1. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

2. Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

3. Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley

4. Ever After starring Drew Barrymore

5. Disney’s Cinderella

6. The TV movie Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister 

***Here’s your warning: you’re going to get indepth summaries and spoilers for all of these. If you think that you might enjoy reading or watching one of these for the first time, don’t read this post.***

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In case you need a refresher, here is the original tale: 

A rich man’s wife dies when her daughter is young. The girl is close to her mother, but not close to her father. She tells her daughter before dying that she needs to remain good and pious.

After a time, the girl’s father marries a woman who has two daughters. All three are characterized as possessing beauty and black hearts. They treat the girl cruelly and turn her into a servant. The girl’s father does nothing to defend her.

The girl’s stepsister gave her the nickname Cinderella, because she starts sleeping next to the dirty kitchen hearth.

Cinderella visits her mother’s gave every day to cry and pray. One day, her father visits the fair.  Her stepsisters ask for dresses and jewels, but Cinderella wants the first twig that brushes his hat. She plants that twig on her mother’s grave and a hazel tree.

Enter magic: a white bird rested on the tree. It had the power to give Cinderella anything she wished for.

The king invites all of the beautiful girls in the land to a three-day festival. He wishes to find a bride for his son. Cinderella is called upon to help her stepsisters get ready for the ball, hoping that she will be allowed to attend.

Her stepmother tells her that if she picks up all of the lentils out of the hearth, she will be allowed to go. Twice, Cinderella is forced to perform this task. Twice, she calls upon pigeons to help her. Her stepmother still refuses to let her go to the ball, because she doesn’t have anything to wear and she doesn’t know how to dance.

Cinderella runs to her mother’s grave and asks the bird to give her a gold and silver dress and shoes. She walks into the ball alone. Her step family does not recognize her, but the Prince is entranced by her. He refuses to dance with anyone else.

The Prince offers to escort Cinderella home at the end of the night, but she runs away and hides in a pigeon coop. Cinderella’s father comes by and the Prince tells her what happened. He wonders if the girl could be his daughter, but they find no one in the coop.

The same thing happens again on the next night. Cinderella eludes the Prince and her father by climbing a pear tree. On the third night, Cinderella tried to run away. However, the Prince had poured pitch on the stairs to trap her. She pulls free, but leaves a golden slipper behind.

The next morning, the Prince takes the golden shoe to Cinderella’s father, who had tried to help him find the mysterious maiden before, and explains that he will only wed the girl whose foot fits the slipper.

The stepmother tries to trick him into taking one of her daughters. She cuts off the toes of her first daughter, but the birds perching in Cinderella’s hazel tree warn the Prince. The next stepsister has her heel cut off, but the birds warn the Prince again.

When the Prince returns to Cinderella’s father, he admits that there is one more girl in the house. However, he describes her as his “deformed little Cinderella.” His wife also tries to dissuade the Prince.

However, the Prince insists on seeing her and the shoe fits! He whisks her off to the palace to become his bride. The birds in Cinderella’s hazel tree sing joyfully as they ride past.

Cinderella’s stepsisters wish to prosper from her marriage. They show up at the church on the wedding day, but pigeons peck out their eyes. The tale ends by explaining that everything was set right after they were punished for their wickedness.

And Cinderella and her Prince live happily ever after!

Okay, so let’s take a look at these renditions:

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Okay, so let’s take a look at these renditions: 

THE MANY FACES OF CINDERELLA RENDITIONS

Each of these stories draws on the original Cinderella tale, and yet each are different in their own right. The author’s imaginations bring them alive in new and interesting ways, and I love each and every one of them!

What’s your favorite fairy tale and/or rendition? Do you prefer the original Cinderella story or a modern rendition?

 

 

Fairy Tales

I’d like to take a look at how much fairy tales have changed since they were first canonized. When I say fairy tales, I don’t mean fantasy, children’s stories, or anything else that’s out there today. I  want to talk about the evolution of how fairy tales are portrayed.

Everyone knows that traditional fairy tales were used as cautionary children’s tales. Little Red Riding Hood is an obvious example of this. It is a cautionary tale about a child who wandered too far from home, off the forest path. In the original story, the wolf succeeds in delaying the child’s journey. While she is off picking flowers, the wolf goes to her grandmother’s house, eats the old woman, and then waits there and eats the child when she arrives. A huntsman soon comes along and rescues the two by cutting the wolf’s stomach open. Then they throw stones into its stomach and drown it.

Do you remember that part? When I was a child, that kind of image was deemed “graphic.” I remember being told that the wolf was vanquished before he was able to eat anyone.

Even if you remember that ending, I bet you don’t remember this next part…

The next time that Red Riding Hood goes to visit her grandmother, another wolf tries to call her off the path. She doesn’t let him. When she arrives safely at her grandmother’s house, they bar the door. The grandmother had been cooking sausages earlier that day. The child throws the cooking water into the trough. The smell attracts the wolf, who is on the roof waiting for Little Red Riding Hood to exit. When he bends down to take a long whiff of sausages, he slips and drowns in the water. Red Riding Hood went home safely later that day and no one ever bothered her again.

So what could children learn from this frightening tale? To follow their parent’s instructions. To not leave the path. To not talk to strangers. To not dawdle when they have a task to do. To be ever vigilant.

Those are good things to teach children. I was able to deduce that from the story when I was a child, but I never heard about any of this “eating people alive” or “cutting open and drowning wolves” business. My childhood was full of happy endings without all that gore…In short, a Disney childhood. Those stories spoke to me.

I miss that.

Not everyone sees the morals in happy-ending-for-all type children’s stories. These stories are still full of good morals: kindness, caution, bravery, etc. However, unlike the original Brothers Grimm tales, they don’t use terror to drive their message home. Instead, they reflect the joy of childhood back at their readers and watchers. They are full of light and love and good magic. I think that childhood has its own type of magic. Wouldn’t you agree? There is nothing wrong with stories that are full of it.

Sadly, though, I see the golden age of my childhood vanishing from children’s book shelves. Now they are full other messages, like feminism. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against strong women who can stand on their own two feet and rescue themselves. I just see a little too much focus on that in children’s literature and films, and in the media that surround them.

Does anyone else have thoughts on this? Which do you prefer: the original fairy tales or modern renditions? Where do you think these tales are going now? What is your favorite fairy tale and, if you care to dig a little deeper, why? What does it mean to you?

Harry Potter Book #8…Um, no

 

I refused to let myself rush through this book or reviewing it. Also, I tried to keep myself away from big spoilers to try to keep my mind focused in the present. I need to warn you that there will be a lot of spoilers in this review. Now here are my thoughts…

I don’t agree with everyone who has tried reading and rating J.K. Rowling’s latest published work as a book.

As a story, regardless of its format, I would give “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” a 9!

I’m very fortunate that my first thought when I start reading a book is that I need to read out loud. I don’t know when I started to read books out loud, but it has given me a new appreciation of the art of crafting a novel.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” only makes sense to me when I read it out loud, because that’s how it is meant to be enjoyed. If you didn’t enjoy it the first time you read it, try reading it again in a quiet place where you can give voice to the characters. 

Also, I didn’t start reading “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” because I wanted an eight Harry Potter book, and I’m so glad that it isn’t. The 7th Harry Potter book marked the end of an era. No matter what else J.K. Rowling might add to the Wizarding World (and I hope she does keep returning to it), that story line is done. Finished. Complete.

You will not be able to appreciate this latest installment in J.K. Rowling’s world if you look to it as a new ending to Harry Potter’s story. This is not Harry’s story. It is Albus’ and Scorpius’. Yes, Harry’s struggles as a parent are featured, but he’s not the same character that you remember.

Putting that all aside, I found myself drawn into this new story. I would say that the one thing I would have changed is the absence of certain beloved characters. I would really have liked to see more of the Weasleys, especially Molly and George, or at least know where they are now. I felt the absence of Teddy Lupin very prominently. You know who I also missed terribly, but who I’ve heard no one include in this list: Hagrid!

*Deep breaths*

However, I wasn’t upset that Albus and Scorpius stole most of the spotlight. I think their story was worth telling.

**********WARNING: Spoilers from this point on!!!**********

As a lifelong Harry Potter lover, here is the summary I would give to other fans:

Almost two decades after Harry defeats Voldemort, he is struggling with a new problem: how to be a good father. His second son, Albus, is having a hard time shouldering the celebrityhood that being Harry Potter’s son gives him, especially since he doesn’t see anything special in himself. However, he finds companionship in the most unlikely of places when he meets Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy.

Being Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy’s sons gives Albus and Scorpius a different perspective on their father’s accomplishments. Both young Slytherins just want a chance to be appreciated for who they are. When Albus gets the chance to try to right a wrong that he blames on his father – the death of Cedric Diggory – he takes it. Along with best friend, he travels back in time to make his own mistakes and a name for himself.

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The love I felt when I saw grownup Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny stand together was real, and nothing can ever replace that image in my heart. However, I was surprised by the equally strong feeling of love that I felt when I saw a Potter and a Malfoy stand together. I never thought I would see that day. They’re friendship is marvelous.

I love the spin that J.K. Rowling and the other script writers put on the Wizarding World that I thought I knew too well. I really want to know what idea they started with. Was it the image of Albus standing next to his dad or a young Malfoy redeeming the family name, or was it perhaps Cedric Diggory alive or a future ruled by Voldemort. Which idea sparked everything and what was the one idea that never changed. I know from experience that initial ideas change as the story continues, but there is usually one scene that everything revolves around.

I think the answer might shock us all.

The scene transitions were a little hard to follow, even reading out loud, but I didn’t need them to sense the story coming to a climax. When the trio ended up in Godric’s Hollow…*chills*. I just can’t talk about that night. I was right there with Harry. I couldn’t believe that we all had to relieve that.

And the ending was perfect. No, everything wasn’t fine right away…but a promise of “better” was left hanging in the air.

I’d also like to take the time to applaud J.K. Rowling’s character development once again. I didn’t feel any surprise when I met the older Harry Potter and his friends, but what I did see was better than I could have imagined: Hermione using her knowledge for good; Ron is still a loyal goofball and he puts his wife and family about everything else; Harry isn’t a perfect father, or Auror, but he is never willing to give up; Ginny hasn’t lost any of her fire and keeps her family in check; Malfoy has continued to have a hard life but he does everything he can to protect his son and put his past behind him; McGonagall has kept her promise to protect the children at Hogwarts, even against their own parents; AND Dumbledore is still trying to help advise Harry.

The young protégés in this story were even more well developed. They each deserve to be seen in their own light, however, I couldn’t help but pick up on the similarities that they shared with the group as a whole.

Scorpius is a talented nerd (no offense, power to the nerds) like Hermione but he shares characteristics with Ron, namely the fact that he’s a klutz and naturally cautious.

Rose is redoubtably her mother’s girl, but her quidditch prowess does suggest some other personality influences. As hard as it is, I would also like to point out that her self-righteous, prideful behavior in the beginning resembles a young Draco.

Delphi is charming and deceptive like her father…I guess I don’t really see much else there. 

What can I say about Albus? I would venture to say that he’s more like his father than even his own parents can admit. He has a tendency for getting himself and others into trouble, but he also goes to extreme lengths to protect others. Yes, he might have taken the fate of the entire world on his own shoulders, but he shouldered them well. Ginny’s fire and determination also reside within him. Yep 🙂 . Albus is the perfect combination of Harry and Ginny! You might not see it at first, but believe me, you’ll get there.

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Most shocking reveal: The trolley witch…I mean, honestly, what in the world were they thinking?! I’m not going to ruin this scene if you haven’t read “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Just be prepared to learn the truth about the sweet, old, jolly trolly witch.

One scene I could do with: I think that I wouldn’t mind too much if Dumbledore (in painting form) hadn’t have made an appearance. For some reason, I really didn’t enjoy the scenes where Dumbledore and Harry talk, but I might feel differently if I could see that meltdown scene in person.

Favorite new character: It’s a tough choice, but I have to go with Scorpius. He’s so smart, and yet invisible. Everyone at least knew Hermione was the one to beat. I don’t think people even know how talented Scorpius is. That, coupled with his klutzy attempts to talk to Rose and his unfaltering loyalty to his best friend have endeared me to him.

What I missed the most: Still Hagrid! How, seriously how, could JK. Rowling have let us return to Hogwarts and not have let us see meet an older Hagrid. Am I the only one who can picture Albus and Scorpius drinking tea around Hagrid’s kitchen table? I know that he wasn’t entirely forgotten, but flashbacks just aren’t the same thing.

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So, as a whole, I loved “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” I think it’s a combination of J.K. Rowling’s imaginations, the visions of her collaborators, and the hope/love of Rowling’s steadfast fan base. This glimpse into the Wizarding World after Voldemort is defeated, as well as the new perspective into the events in the original Harry Potter series and Harry’s childhood. There’s no doubt that, as a lot of people have said, this story is something different entirely. It’s a play, which means that it’s built on character interaction and dialogue rather than the superior foreshadowing, plot development, world building, etc. that J.K. Rowling built up over her seven book series.

And yet I’m okay with that. It’s not the eight book in the series! It’s a play set nineteen years in the future. Of course it doesn’t read just like the books. As I said at the beginning, I realized that a long time ago. I don’t care. It’s still good!

My heart still resides with the Wizarding World of my own childhood, but Albus, Scorpius, and even Rose have weaseled their way in, too. Now we’re all one big happy family 🙂 .

I just hope there’s room for a certain Newt as well!

The Pilgrim’s Progress: Revisited

Steven James’ “Quest for Celestia” is a wonderfully imaginative re-imagined version of John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”

The hero, Kadin, aka the new Christian, sets out on a quest for the salvation and new life that can be found in the kingdom of Celeste, aka Heaven. It is an allegorical story of the journey or struggle that Christians take throughout their lives.

The great thing about James’ book is that it comes across as a fantasy story. I would not have made the connection with “The Pilgrim’s Progress” on my own. Knowing that allegorical meaning behind the story adds another layer on top, but the story stands by itself.

It was hard for me to get through the first few chapters before Kadin set out on his quest. It might have been the stiff, formal POV or the pacing. However, I knew that everything would probably pick up once the Hero accepted the Call to Adventure.

And boy was I right! I couldn’t seem to put this book down. Every turn was filled with a new adventure: from a swamp that tried to swallow Kadin whole,  to huntsmen that tried to trap the new believer and a dragon that stood in his path. Despite everything that was happening externally, I knew that the most change was happening internally. The doubts, sins, and hangups that the main characters had to deal with were so real.

If I had to stop to think about it, I could see allegorical cliches start to pop up. That was what the original Pilgrim’s Progess was all about, after all. Just because I felt an emotional connection to Kadin’s journey doesn’t mean I believe everyone will. When taken as a whole though, the protagonist’s adventures blends together into one nice, neat quest for freedom that can be interpreted on several different levels. With this understanding in mind, James didn’t have to work hard to keep me interested. The characters took on a life of their own and I found myself fighting for freedom alongside them.

I would be remiss to not mention that my need for romance did not go unfulfilled. I assume that James added Kadin’s female traveling companion and counterpart, as a way to modernize the tale and reach our to female readers. I don’t care. It was a good move. When the two finally reach the City of Celeste and the King smiles as they dance together in his presence…*FEELS.* I’m not talking romantic comedy butterflies. I’m talking tingles in the heart that almost hurt and make me stop to contemplate the covenant, aka marriage, that I recently entered into in a new light.

Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was deeply meaningful, but definitely higher-end. I didn’t read it for fun, but for perspective. I would venture to say that “Quest for Celestia” is also meaningful and a good substitute for young readers who can’t quite follow the original tale…or those who are truly young at heart. Take this book with a grain of salt, knowing that you will have to view it on different levels to truly find value in it. If you’re not willing to do the work, then you probably won’t enjoy either work of allegory.

“Quest for Celestia” isn’t for everyone. However, if I had young readers in my family, this would be on the list of books that I share with them and then discuss. I think of this as a Ted Dekker novel for young children. In that respect, it’s top notch.

I give this book 7 stars!

 

Reader’s Question: How do you choose which book you’re going to read next?

Wow,this question is almost as hard to answer as “What’s your favorite book?” (Only ask me that if you’ve got a couple of hours.)

How do I choose my next read?…Hmmmm…

I’m going to be difficult and ask another question: Do you mean how do you choose which books to add to your to-read list, how do I choose which book to pick up next from my nightstand/check out from my to-do list, or how do I choose a random book from a library shelf?

I would really like to just say, “I don’t know.” But let me give it my best shot by answering each of these questions and providing tips based on what I’ve found helpful.

can't beat book addictoin

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How do you choose which books to add to your to-read list?

This is perhaps the hardest question to answer, because my to-read list seems to grow longer every week. I don’t really have one method to choose books. I like searching Goodreads.com for the latest YA or Fantasy books. It also allows me to keep track of my favorite authors and build online libraries. I’ve recently discovered another useful site called whatshouldireadnext.com. It provides dozens of suggestions based on books, series, and authors. I like to go to these sites first before going to anyone else, because it lets me search for recommendations based on my own preferences. I’ve learned over the years that no one knows what I like to read better than me. If you go on these site, don’t worry so much about whether you’re going to find any books you like or which ones to check out first. Just save any books that look interesting to you.

However, other people can be good resources. If you have family members or friends who like the same kinds of books that you do, don’t hesitate to ask them what you should add to your to-do list. I’m sure they’d love to give you a few recommendations. Unfortunately, most people in my social circle have different tastes when it comes to books. I was so lucky that I had the chance to work in a library during college, and I still walk into libraries often and strike up conversations with librarians about books.

Bookstore employees are also good resources when it comes to building a to-read list. Perusing bookstores is a great way to add new books to your to-read list, and the people who work there are often very well read. I would have missed out on some great reads if I hadn’t gone straight to the professionals. Never be too afraid to strike up conversations about books with people who work with books!

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How do you choose which book from your to-read pile/list to read next?

I don’t just check out one book when I visit the library. Two-four books per library visit is usually a standard for me. I do have a system for what I’m going to check out next. I always try to make sure that I know my priorities before I walk into a room full of books.

1. Any new books that I think are worth buying automatically jump to the top of the list. I usually try to find them in a library before I buy them, especially if I’ve never read anything by that author before.

2. New releases by my favorite authors are also priority. This was my favorite perk when I was a library worker. I got to request new releases first. This rule is really a no brainer!

3. Other than that, I try hard to make sure that books don’t stay on my to-read list for years. If you haven’t already, I would recommend that you search your local libraries for the books on your to-read list before you leave your house. I found this out after only a couple of visits to the library where I showed up with a long to-read list and high hopes…and left with nothing. By finding out which books are available, you can divide your to-read list into four mini-lists: available, put on hold, inter-library loan, and find somewhere else. I am never afraid to request a loan if I know that another library has a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time.

One final note: Allow yourself some flexibility every time your visit the library. If something you wanted to check out isn’t there, put it on hold and check out something else. You don’t have to keep a rigid 1,2,3 list.

I have a far less scientific approach when it comes to picking a book from the pile of books on my nightstand. Sometimes I open the book that least interests me first so that I can return it to the library and get another one if I don’t like it. Sometimes I can’t wait to open the book that interests me the most. And sometimes I just have to close my eyes and point to a book. Either way, I know that I’ve done the research and have a good selection of books to choose from. You might have to find your own method for choosing your next read if you are a “to-read pile” kind of person.

Huge TBR pile

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How do you choose which next random book you’re going to check out from the library?

I always like to leave myself room to check out at least one random book. That way I can let the books that catch my eye actually get a chance to make it from my to-read list to my check out pile sometime soon. Because, let’s be honest, my real to-read list is over twenty pages long.

If you’ve never walked around the library and just pulled random books off the shelf, then you’ve never had a proper trip to the library. Give yourself time to look at whatever book catches your eye. Remember, you know your reading style best.

The first thing that catches my eye is usually a book’s cover. That’s what draws me in. It’s usually pretty easy to see if a book is going to interest me or not. For me, dragons, magic lamps, and swirly writing are all good signs that a book might interest me. I’ve checked out books on this criteria alone many times. 

It might be something entirely different for you. Pull out whatever book that you think might interest you and read a few pages. This is actually something really smart to do with books from your to-read list, too. If you start to snooze, put it back. No harm, no foul. But you might pick up something that you really love. Don’t be afraid to just pick a book off a shelf. Most libraries have recommendations and new release selections that are updated often. Look them over, even if you know none of them are on your to-read list.

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I know that wasn’t super detailed. The truth is, I don’t have a foolproof inner radar that points me towards my next favorite book. It’s honestly just a combination of an ever-growing to-read list, a good relationship with Goodreads and my local librarians, and a finely-tuned reader’s sense. Reader’s sense is what I call the feeling that a book lover has inside that tells them what they do and do not like in a book. If I haven’t said it enough, this should be your first and last resource for deciding which book to read next, which books you should add to your to-read list, and which books you shouldn’t even check out.

I hope, in some sense, this answered your question. I promise that I will do my best to answer any other questions that come my way. You keep asking and I’ll keep babbling on and on until I reach a conclusion! 🙂