Nevinsbuzz

Engaging Methuen Readers


Leave a comment

When Children’s Fantasy Became A Reality

Fantasy isn’t new. The Brothers Grimm recorded fantastical stories back in the 19th century, and prior to that time, tales of dragons and warriors of stunning prowess dominated ancient literature and mythology. Originally, however, there was no distinction between fantasy for adults and fantasy for children. In fact, when the Grimms originally published the fairy and folk tales they collected from the hardworking people of far-flung corners of Europe, they were stunned to realize that well-off city people were reading them to their children. These were dark, gory tales, replete with violence and rape, that expressed complicated adult topics in metaphorical language. The Grimms had never dreamed that people would try to use them as bedtime stories.

Needless to say, they hastily printed a more kid-friendly “small edition” of their fairy tales, filing down some of the grittier details and adding a lot of pictures and Christian imagery.

The whole idea of kid-friendly stories was relatively new to the 1800s. Prior to that, kids were, at best, little adults. At worst, they could be put to work on a farm or in a factory. Childhood wasn’t considered a special time until industrialization generated a middle class, which then advocated against child labor and for education. We have an 1800s reform movement, which arose in reaction to the Industrial Revolution, to thank for the idea that people should spend their early years being educated.

Once people decided to start teaching kids instead of exploiting them, they quickly realized the value of letting kids read. Already, public libraries had caught on as a way to improve the masses and make them content in their social stations, although the reality of libraries often skewed toward entertaining the masses and making them question the status quo.

Thus it was with the development of children’s fantasy. Brothers Grimm stories painted over with Christian morality paved the way for Victorian fables like Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, an 1863 morality story so mawkish and racist that it’s a little shocking that it was ever considered a mainstay of children’s literature. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining way to force moral and social education down the throats of children. Speaking Likenesses by Christina Rosetti (1874) fell along the same moral themes. Even Oscar Wilde’s fables usually imparted a lesson of some kind. However, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published just two years after The Water Babies, moved away from moral education and proved much more enduringly popular with both adults and children. Despite its wacky, nonsensical veneer, Alice was essentially about growing up in a world that often seemed distressingly random and absurd.

Subsequent fantasies for children, like J.M. Barrie’s early 20th-century novelization of his popular play, Peter Pan, explored territory that the Grimms might have recognized. Barrie’s titular hero, Peter, wore dead leaves, kidnapped children, never aged, and flew – all traits of a ghost in a story that grappled with mortality. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, which debuted in 1900, also opted to entertain rather than preach and tapped themes of responsibility and friendship.

The 20th century would see a boom in children’s fantasy literature. In 1950, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe sought to revive the Christian allegory couched in an entertaining fantasy novel for children, while The Fellowship of the Ring generated a British mythology in 1954. Children’s fantasy continued to flourish in the 1960s, when books by Madeline L’Engle would follow in the religiously overt footsteps of C.S. Lewis, while others by Ursula LeGuin would seek to express more primal, mythologically inspired themes.

Since the 1960s, children’s fantasy has burgeoned to include works as diverse as Roald Dahl’s Matilda and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. They run the gamut of themes and serve a vast array of audiences. Recently, fantasy for children has begun to focus on authors and characters of marginalized demographics, who haven’t generally historically experienced a great deal of representation in this genre. Female authors, authors of color, and LGBTQ authors are all experiencing an increase in representation among children’s fantasy.

As children’s fantasy continues to grow in popularity, it will continue to evolve to suit new generations of reading children. Where it goes next is anybody’s guess. However, wherever that is, both kids and adults will avidly follow.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

One Minute Book Review: Warriors by Erin Hunter

Cover image for Into the WildAs a child, I’ve grown up reading Warriors since the third grade. I’m now in my second year of college, and I continue to keep updated with the series. I just can’t bear to leave these characters and their intricate plots behind. In my opinion, Warriors may be simply written but the ideas and the themes are definitely complex. After all, what’s so childish about politics, murder, and forbidden love?
Characters are pushed to their breaking point, and if the series were written for an older audience, I think we would see even more turmoil. However, as it’s marketed for children, most scenes are limited to the true gore and turmoil it could’ve portrayed. The authors could’ve gone further and beyond if they targeted an older audience. Personally, I believe targeting the books to an older audience would have allowed the authors freedom to expand their horizons on more “adult” topics. And as the series carries on, it loses the edge and spunk that the first mini-series held.  Are the ideas underdeveloped? Yes, truthfully, they are. Is Warriors worth the read then? It definitely still is.

                                                                                                                                     ∼ Samm, Library Page
Warriors Series by Erin Hunter
(first title in series:  Warriors:  Into the Wild)
New York : HarperCollins, 2003


Leave a comment

I Hate Fairyland

AKA “F**k Fairyland,” this obscenity-laced (well, fake obscenity-laced) gorefest is a shoo-in for fans of Deadpool and Tank Girl.

First of all, we have Gertrude. When Gert was six, she made a thoughtless wish and was instantly (and traumatically) transported to Fairyland, where the colors are brighter, the queen is made of clouds, and the only way out is an unfindable key. Which, of course, Gert is supposed to find. After 27 years of this nonsense, Gert has had enough. Maybe she never developed anger management skills. Maybe the diet of constant sugar has worn her personality down to a blackened nub. Maybe 27 years of being a six-year-old would drive anyone crazy. Regardless of the reason, Gert has become an unchecked homicidal terror who slaughters the fair folk with gleeful abandon. The queen is desperate to be rid of her…by any means necessary.

This book is a simple joy. It is also critically important to the safety of every living human. Every American should be given a copy on the day of their birth. It should be required reading in elementary, middle and high schools. College courses should be taught. Degrees should be given. This book is the blueprint for surviving a trip to a magical land. Not The Chronicles of Narnia. Not Harry Potter. This.

Allow me to explain.

Since time out of memory, fairies, which are amoral, shapeshifting beings made of pure magic, have been tricking humans. Sometimes, they have done this for fun, as you’ll see in the case of a sprite like Puck of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Other times, they settle for profit or political gain, as you’ll see in the case of Morgana le Fey of the Arthurian legends. But to a fairy, they’re fickle and easily distracted.

Except when they really, really want to get something done.

Remember, these are beings of 100% magic we’re talking about. They have no reason to care about cash because they can magic it up out of thin air. Human lifespans are blinks to them. When they’re even remotely interested in something that happens in the mortal world, that means there’s something up. Since we humans aren’t beings of pure magic, odds are decent that we have no idea what the hell is really going on. In the case of I Hate Fairyland, everyone in the magical kingdom wants Gert to find the key and return to the human world…but why?

Why bring a little human girl to Fairyland in the first place? To open the door to Earth, of course! Why can’t a fairy find the key and open the door themselves? Because they are magically inhibited from doing so, obvs. Why is that?

They lost a war. To us.

Look around you. Notice the lack of talking flies and capering fauns. Yet they feature prominently in our literature and, according to this invaluable tome, know nearly everything about Earth. Once, they were familiar with human society, enough to adopt sartorial traditions, lingustic foibles, and a taste for refined sugar. Now, they are gone without a trace. So is all their mischief: very little magically-enhanced gold-hiding, boot-switching or baby-stealing happens these days. As the world became increasingly wealthy, shod and conscious of child safety, even small mischiefs would have become a hitch in the system. That is why humanity defeated fairykind and locked them up in the disgustingly, ironically, maddeningly cute and harmless Fairyland. Fierce fairy warriors? Reduced to a stoner punchline. Their noble queen? Going stir-crazy. Their denizens? Confined. Jailed. Limited…to muffin-chomping Fairyland. And only a human can free them.

Free them to wreak their sweet, sweet revenge on the species that trapped them in Hell.

Gertie may seem awful. She may seem out of control. But by dramatically failing in her quest time and time again, she has saved humanity from a neon rainbow nightmare. By causing the doom of hundreds of fairies, Gert has cut down on the army that waits for a single gullible child to open the way. By distracting the queen with sheer hatred, she has once again saved us all. Gert is a hero.

Let’s treat her as such.

Also Read:

Image of item

Tank Girl, Book One by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin

She drives a tank and does not care about your pain. She’s Tank Girl! From terrorizing her kangaroo boyfriend to blowing up your mom, she’s the best action the Outback has seen since the Apocalypse.

 

 

 

Image of item

 

Deadpool v. 1 by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn

The Merc with a Mouth is back again…and again…and again! Let’s amend that: the unkillable Merc with a Mouth is back to drive you crazy, win your heart, and make the chimichangas.

 

 


Leave a comment

Review: The Princess in Black

The Princess in Black by Shannon & Dean Hale

Princesses do not wear black. Princesses do not run. And princesses certainly do not fight monsters. Princess Magnolia, however, does all of these things.

While dining with Duchess Wigtower, Princess Magnolia’s monster alarm goes off. She has to sneak away from the Duchess to stuff a monster back down the Monster Hole or he is going to start eating goats left and right. She manages the task, but while she is gone the Duchess has been snooping through the palace. Will Princess Magnolia’s secret be discovered?

The theme of The Princess in Black is what I love so much about this book. Princess Magnolia can be a princess, but she can also be a superhero. While it is potentially problematic that she cannot show people that she is also a superhero, the message to the reader is that she is good at being both. She even maintains the tiara while she is doing her superhero duties which indicates that her personality overlaps between the two jobs. This is a strong heroine who doesn’t have to choose between being a princess or being a superhero because she is great at being both.

This chapter book is ideal for children 2nd-4th grade who are interested in princesses. It is heavily illustrated and contains short chapters. This is definitely a princess book, but one with pizzazz that shows the strength of the female lead. She needs no rescuing, she will rescue you.


Leave a comment

Let’s Do The Time Warp

download

Theoretically, time travel is within the reach of modern technology. All you need is a pretty fast spaceship and some luck! Failing that, you could fall through the years loosey-goosey as a result of a family curse, a set of magic standing stones, or a genetic condition. Get your time travel groove on with these once and future classics!

 

610063

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

In 1940, a bomb exploded a Victorian travesty of art and taste called the bishop’s bird stump (don’t ask.) Though most people might consider this piece of history rightly lost, unfortunate temporal historian Ned Henry is tasked with traveling through time to study it for a historical restoration of Coventry Cathedral. But when one of his colleagues accidentally changes history, Ned has to keep two would-be star-crossed lovers apart…for the sake of the future! A comedy of manners with a science fiction twist, this is a great pick for fans of Downton Abbey.

 

Gabaldon_outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

What would this list be without Outlander? In 1945, nurse Claire Randall walks through a set of standing stones in Scotland and emerges in the year 1743. There, a young laird steals her heart and challenges her fidelity to her husband. Meanwhile, her modern-era medical skills may yet brand her a witch…and she may not be the only time traveler in 18th-century Scotland. Fans of the TV show will adore this sweeping, epic love story in its original format!

 

1294280.jpg

11/22/63 by Stephen King

If you could change one thing about history, what would it be? Would you kill Hitler? Save the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand? What about the life of John F. Kennedy? When modern-day Jake Epping finds himself in 1958, he realizes that, in a decade, he’ll have the chance to stop the death of a President. But time resists change…

 

902823

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Like most of us, Clare lives her life from the past into the future. But her husband, Michael, is displaced in time and randomly disappears and reappears at moments of emotional import. Though this strains their relationship, their love transcends time. This isn’t as much of a science fiction book as it is a drama with a clever theme. In other words, it’s perfect for the non-scifi fan!

 

 

1069276

Kindred by Octavia Butler

The year is 1973. Dana has just turned 26 when she is wrenched from California back to antebellum Maryland, where she saves a white slaveholder from drowning. Then, just before she is captured and enslaved herself, she returns abruptly to her own present. Time and time again, Dana finds herself back in Maryland, trapped in a land of slavery and pain, often forced into servitude, compelled to rescue the man who would become her great-great-grandfather. Butler herself called this “grim fantasy.” It’s heavy and thought-provoking, but it easily ranks among the great science fiction – and historical fiction – books of all time.

 

1605050

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

An alien abduction leaves Billy Pilgrim unstuck in time, traveling back and forth through his life to experience and re-experience, again and again, its most significant and mundane events. But Pilgrim is trapped within the events of his own life: Dresden, where he’s a prisoner of war during World War II; his time of the alien planet Tralfamadore; the death of his wife. The book is a powerful statement about war and what people do when they’re at the mercy of forces more powerful than they are.

Book Cover: Saving Lucas Biggs


Leave a comment

Book Review: Saving Lucas Biggs

The married children’s authors Marisa de los Santos and David Teague have teamed up to create Saving Lucas Biggs. This compelling story follows the journey of Margaret, a young girl whose father was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit by the cruel Judge Biggs. The family lives in a small mining town in Arizona and Judge Biggs is swayed by corporate interests in his conviction of Margaret’s father. The young girl has a special power, but it is one which she is forbidden to use. Her family is able to time travel, but “history resists” and they have all taken part in a promise to never use their powers. Never–but Margeret can’t stand the thought of losing her father. When her best friend’s grandfather explains that he once knew a member of her family who went against that promise and lived to tell the tale, Margaret decides to take the chance and attempt to change Lucas Biggs and keep him from ever becoming corrupt in the first place. Will she be able to make it back to her family safely though?

De los Santos and Teague make an incredible team in this novel which is perfect for 5th-6th grade students. The themes seem very heavy, but this dynamic duo deals with the issues of death and corruption in very poignant ways. Opening up the eyes of children to the possibility of corruption, while also making clear that it can be changed with perseverance and goodness, is a refreshing end to this fast-paced novel. Lovers of fantasy as well as realistic fiction will find this read pleasurable.


1 Comment

A Dance Through Time by Lynn Kurland

In A Dance Through Time, Elizabeth Smith falls asleep in Gramercy Park, NYC in 1996 thinking of 14th century Scotland and the Laird of the MacLeod Clan only to find herself thrust backward in time and into handsome Laird Jamie’s arms. Humor pervades the story in both the romantic, saucy banter between Elizabeth and Jamie, and the “fish out of water” scenario which each experiences in their due time. The author also takes care to add some wonderful, and at times odoriferous, historical details to remind the reader which time period they are in, but they do not distract from the easy flow of the story. The theme of family and belonging, whether it be blood kin or clansmen, runs throughout the book and contributes to a feeling of warmth and inclusion. This will be an entertaining read for someone who likes their romance and fantasy on the light side.