Brontë, my lovely seven year old, is a kooky girl.
From the time she was wee, she's been a talented artist, and her greatest influence, then and now,...moreBrontë, my lovely seven year old, is a kooky girl.
From the time she was wee, she's been a talented artist, and her greatest influence, then and now, was Tim Burton. One of her greatest pictures, "The Dark Queen" will someday be a tattoo on my left thigh.
But that's not all ,,, Brontë loves Zombies (they scare the shit out of her, btu she loves them. in fact, putting on The Walking Dead, no matter when I put it on, is the flame that draws my little moth into the room. She can be asleep, and she'll still turn up. But she suffers for it later, even the tiny bit she catches -- as do I). Brontë loves anything that has to do with Frankenstein. Her favourite role in Hamlet (a role she is currently playing as we perform Stoppard's 15 Minute Hamlet) is Hamlet's Ghost. If it's supernatural, Brontë loves it with the same intensity she fears it, and she pursues it with passion.
Most of the little girls she knows look at her askance. They don't get her. Sometimes it makes her sad, but other times it makes her proud. I hope that the latter will always weigh heavier in her estimation, and I think that Jim Benton's Franny K. Stein books may tip the scales in that direction.
Franny, like her namesake, is a mad scientist. She makes lunch meat monsters, transformation potions, analyzes everythimg critically, rejects PB&J and Barbies, yet wants very badly to have friends, so badly that she tries to change her ways to achieve their love. In the end, in kid book style, she learns that being herself is enough, and that she can have friends, truer friends, by being true to herself. I don't know that I buy it, at least not entirely, but I see it impacting the way Brontë sees herself, and that impact is positive.
So that's good enough for me. Smart girls, quirky girls, strong girls rule! And kooky girls rule most of all. You do rule, Të. Maybe tonight we can make another cayenne pepper infused potion. As usual, I will be your test subject. I promise.(less)
It isn't bad. It really isn't, but it is not great either. It's nowhere near great. I wish I could say I was baffled by how this became the worldwide sensation it became, but that would be a lie. On stage and on film, The Wizard of Oz has become THE go-to kids entertainment of the last 80-odd years. It is so pervasive as to be a sort of children's propaganda entertainment, indoctrinating our children into the wickedness of ugly witches, the goodness of pretty witches, the innocence of naive young girls, the importance of home, and the need to accept that who we are and how we are is just good enough.
Not all of these indoctrinations are necessarily bad; in fact, some of them can be quite beneficial given the right circumstances, but in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz the presentation of these ideas is always coupled with a quite frightening lack of thought.
None of the characters ask questions...about anything...ever (with the exception of "Can I have brains, a heart, courage, or go home?"). They accept things as they are, blindly agree with whatever they are told, make snap judgments about the good or evil of whomever they meet and act accordingly, and their answer to every antagonistic situation is to kill. Dorothy kills, the Lion kills, the Tin Woodman kills, even the Scarecrow kills, and there is never a hint of regret or guilt from any of them -- even mister big heart in the hollow body. They want what they want, and if they have to kill to get it then so be it.
I have been reading some Wonderful Wizard of Oz criticism as I've been reading the book, and many critics see Baum's opening book as a political and social satire. I tried hard to see it, I wanted to see it, but what I saw was a book that sells familiar myths to people who want the familiar. It is a myth of "goodness," a myth of class distinction, a myth of meritocracy, a myth of "evil," and worst of all a myth of benevolent and righteous violence.
Yet, for all its problems, it is compellingly fun to read, especially if you have occasion to read it out loud to your children and discuss the behaviour of the characters. Even if your children are young (mine are both five), they should leave The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with a touch more self-awareness and a healthier view of the big entertainment versions of Baum's story.
And there is, for me, one truly redeeming quality in this classic: I appreciate the genius of Gregory Maguire's Wicked all the more. I see now why China Mieville chose it as one of the 50 books all socialists must read. I've read Wicked once before, long before I read Baum, but I'll be reading it again...and soon.
I happened to be reading this with my daughter at the same time I was rereading the Culture novel Consider Phlebas and I couldn't keep the two separat...moreI happened to be reading this with my daughter at the same time I was rereading the Culture novel Consider Phlebas and I couldn't keep the two separate. Pippi just seems like the perfect member of the Culture, decent, headstrong, hedonistic, in love with her post-scarcity living, and a bit too flaky for her own good. All that led to this:
9. Pippi Goes Aboard*
Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking closed the door to her cabin aboard General Contact Unit Villa Villekulla and hung her red ribbon from her custom door stud for the last time; then she lifted the horse drone down from its pedestal. It was completely capable of using its anti-gravity forcefield, but it preferred to have Pippi set him down –- so for the last time she lifted him down off his pedestal. The primate shaped drone, Mr. Nilsson, already hovered over her shoulder, projecting simultaneous auras of importance and annoyance. He understood that something special was going to happen.
“Well, I guess that’s all,” said Pippi.
“Tommy and Annika nodded. “Yes, I guess it is.”
“It’s still early,” said Pippi. “Let’s walk; that will take longer.”
Tommy and Annika nodded again, but they didn’t say anything. Then they started walking toward the town, toward the harbour, toward the Cliff Class Superlifter Hoptoad. The horse, forced to use his anti-gravity now, floated along slowly behind them.
Pippi glanced over her shoulder at her cabin door. “Nice little place,” she said. “No bugs, clean and comfortable, and that’s probably more than you can say about the hovels where I’ll be living in the future.”
Tommy and Annika said nothing.
“If there are an awful lot of bugs in my Drezen hovel,” continued Pippi, “I’ll train them and keep them in a box and play Run, Medjel, Run with them at night. I’ll tie little bows around their antennae, and the two most faithful and affectionate I will call Tommy and Annika, and they shall sleep with me at night.”
Not even this could make Tommy and Annika more talkative.
“What on earth is wrong with you? asked Pippi irritably. I tell you it is dangerous to keep quiet too long. Tongues dry up if you don’t use them. On Vavatch I once knew an Eater who never said a word. And once when he wanted to say to me, ‘You look yummy, dear Pippi, come let me eat you,’ he opened his mouth and can you guess what he said? First he made some horrible faces, for his teeth had fallen out and he needed metal ones, and then a sound came out: ‘U buy uye muy.’ I looked in his mouth, and, imagine! there lay his tongue like a little wilted leaf, and as long as he lived, which wasn’t long I admit, that Eater could never say anything but ‘U buy uye muy.’ It would be awful if the same thing should happen to you. Let me see if you can say this better than the Eater did: ‘You look yummy, dear Pippi, come let me eat you,’ or at least, ‘have a nice mission, Pippi.’ Go on, try it.”
“Have a nice mission, dear Pippi, and thanks for your visit,” said Tommy and Annika obediently.
There was the Smallbay; there lay the Hoptoad. Captain Efraim stood near the ramp, shouting his commands, the drones hovered back and forth to make everything ready for departure. All the people on the GCU had crowded into the Smallbay to wave good-by to Pippi, and here she came with Tommy and Annika and the horse and Mr. Nilsson.
Pippi nodded and smiled to the left and the right. Then she took up the horse, who obediently shut down his force fields and carried him up the ramp. The poor old drone cast a suspicious aura, for old drones don’t care very much for Contact missions.
“Well, here you are, my beloved operative!” called Captain Efraim. He folded her in his arms, and they hugged each other with all the power that their hyperactive adrenals could muster. They nearly cracked each other’s ribs -- captain and operative -- and it took a moment to catch their breath. That was when Pippi noticed Annika’s tears and Tommy’s frustration.
Pippi came running down the ramp and rushed over to them. She took their hands in hers. “Ten minutes left,” she said.
Then Annika threw herself against the force field of Mr. Nilsson and cried as if her heart would break. Tommy clenched his teeth and looked murderous. He would not cry for anything.
All the people of GCU Villa Villekulla gathered around Pippi. They took out their bird whistles, manufactured by the GCU for the occasion, and blew the farewell tune the GCU had composed for her. It sounded sad beyond words, for it was a very, very mournful tune. Annika was crying so hard she could hardly catch her breath, and Tommy was so tense he had to think to engage his endorphins just so he could calm down.
The people crowded in from all directions to say good-by to Pippi. She raised her hand and asked them to be quiet.
“Hereafter,” she said, “I’ll only have little Drezeni savages to play with. I don’t know how we will amuse ourselves; perhaps I’ll actually have do some work. Perhaps I will teach them some pluttification. I suppose we’ll manage to pass the time some way.” Pippi paused. Both Tommy and Annika felt that they hated those Drezeni Pippi would know in the future.
“But,” continued Pippi, “Perhaps a day will come when their planet is a part of the Culture, a long dreary century from now, when I will have taught them all to pluttify, and then I could come back here, to the GCU Villa Villekulla and everything can be just like it is now all over again.”
The people blew a still sadder tune on their bird whistles.
“Pippi, it’s time to come aboard,” called Captain Efraim.
“Aye, aye, captain,” called Pippi. She turned to Tommy and Annika. She looked at them.
“Close the ramp, Fridolf” cried Captain Efraim to his knife-missile. Fridolf did. The Hoptoad was ready for her mission of Contact.
Then -- “No, Captain Efraim,” cried Pippi, watching the crowd in the Smallbay -- watching Tommy and Annika -- through the viewscreen, “I can’t do it, I just can’t bear to do it!”
“What is it you can’t bear to do?” asked Captain Efraim.
“I can’t bear to see anyone in the Culture crying and being sorry on account of me -- least of all Tommy and Annika. Put down the ramp again. I’m staying on Villa Villekulla.
Captain Efraim stood silent for a minute. “Do as you like,” he said at last. “You always have done that. And so you should too.”
Pippi nodded. “Yes, I’ve always done that,” she said quietly. “You know, Papa, Efraim? I think it’s best to live on a decent GCU and not disrupt my comfort on some stinky, backwater planet -- don’t you think so too?”
“You’re right, as always, Pippi,” answered Captain Efraim. “It is certain that you live a more ordered life on GCU Villa Villekulla, and that is probably best for you. Fridolf anticipated your decision, and your replacement is already onboard.”
“Just so then,” said Pippi. “It’s surely best for me to live and orderly life, especially since I can’t order it myself.
Pippi said goodbye to the drones on the Hoptoad and hugged Captain Efraim once more. Then she lifted her still grounded horse and carried him down the ramp. Mr. Nilsson floated along beside her with a content aura. The Hoptoad was cut off by a force field generated by the GCU and vented out of the Smallbay, leaving Pippi with the people of Villa Villekulla where she would always be happy.
Now, you see, my little Scoutie Kat loves Harold and the Purple Crayon, and I think it is because I finally figured out the voice for reading aloud. One night last month we were sitting around, and I was exhausted, so rather than try to muster energy and liven up proceedings, I simply went with my exhaustion, put in a pseudo-mid-western accent and languidly set off on Harold's journey.
Turns out that languid is a big hit -- at least with Scoutie. Slow and steady and soothing is the voice she likes, and I discovered, much to my surprise, that I liked the story more than I ever had before. I think I'd always been reading it wrong, trying to make it into an adventure, rather than a journey to sleep. Silly me.
I have it now, though, and I'll never read it another way again.
(p.s. Until today I had it ranked at three stars, but I've added another now. Harold deserves it.)(less)
Hell, I am even more likely to read the Seuss-lite Go Dog. Go than One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. But if my kids grab it, and Scoutie's been doing that a lot lately, I'll gladly traverse the bizaare landscape of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Of all Seuss's book, this is the least cohesive. It's just an excuse to rhyme. Nothing more than that. Mr. Brown makes an odd appearance. There's whiny Ned in his too small bed. Yet there's that great line: "From there to here, from here to there funny things are everywhere," and it's some of Seuss's best art. It's a good book. the kids love it, and Scoutie can't get enough.
Honestly, I love it too. But I never reach for it and probably never will, which is okay ... it always winds up in my hands somehow.(less)
The art is beautiful, GIRLS can be Pirates (how's that for crazy?!), the writing is perfectly suited to oral delivery, and there is NO violence. The closest we come is a big, bad Pirate Master threatening to sic his Mom on those who take his treasure.
It is wonderful. Read it to your kids, then have them read it to you. I guarantee (figuratively) that you will love it. (less)
I am not sure I can see why Peter Pan is such a beloved "classic." J.M. Barrie's story of the boy who wouldn't grow up just didn't reach me. And I rea...moreI am not sure I can see why Peter Pan is such a beloved "classic." J.M. Barrie's story of the boy who wouldn't grow up just didn't reach me. And I read it aloud to 4 year old boy-girl twins.
Oh, they enjoyed it, and I may have bred a love for the story in them that will last (which could be exactly why the story has endured -- parental readings), but no matter how much they liked Peter Pan I could not see the appeal.
Wendy drove me crazy; Peter grew increasingly annoying; Hook bored me stiff; there was too much violence; Barrie's narrative interjections grew to be too intrusive; and I generally felt a distinct lack of fun. About the only thing I liked about the book, besides it ending, was Tinkerbell. Her snooty fairy arrogance always made me smile.
I know I will incur the wrath of many when I say this, but I actually prefer the Disney version. Walt brought some real joy to the story, and while I will never read Peter Pan again, I will watch the movie. Probably tomorrow.
If there wasn't a successful play of Pan I would put the longevity of Barrie's story on the head of Disney. Too bad I can't, but then he's been blamed for enough over the years, hasn't he?(less)
Say! I love Green Eggs and Ham. I do! I love it Seuss-I-am.
So I will read it with Miloš Or he will read it cause he's precoš. And I will read it with...moreSay! I love Green Eggs and Ham. I do! I love it Seuss-I-am.
So I will read it with Miloš Or he will read it cause he's precoš. And I will read it with my Të And we will read it night and day. And I will read it to my Scout And she will love it, I have no doubt. And I will read it in the rain. And I will read it on the train. And I will read it in my socks. And I will read it with a fox. And I will read it in the shower. And I will read it every hour. And I will read it doing dishes. And I will read it with the fishes. I will read it here or there. Say! I will read it ANYWHERE!
The Sneetches is my absolute favourite Seuss story. The rhythm trumps all other Seuss stories, and when I am reading this out loud to my kids I joyful...moreThe Sneetches is my absolute favourite Seuss story. The rhythm trumps all other Seuss stories, and when I am reading this out loud to my kids I joyfully shift from Star-belly Sneetch voices to Plain-belly Sneetch voices to Sylvester McMonkey McBean's voice without even a hint of having to think about the shift. Seuss's rhythm invites that. I can speed up to warp, I can slow down and leave an octo-pregnant pause, and still the rhythm is flawless. Plus, the story's pretty meaningful too. This is the perfect mix of fun, readability and content. Me loves it.
The Zax is a damn fine follow up, and the fact that it has two of Seuss's crabbiest, most stubborn characters, characters who bring themselves to a permanent halt while the world moves on around them (a cautionary tale for all those who believe unswervingly in their chosen dogma) makes it more than a match for The Sneetches moral strength.
Too Many Daves is just plain fun. Super fun. All I can say is "Zanzibar Buck Buck McFate!" If we have another boy, I am going to do everything I can to convince Erika to name hm ZBBMcF. Or at least Zanzibar.
What Was I Scared Of? is the only weak link in The Sneetches, but that's not a bad thing to be when the stories are so strong. It's cute. It delivers a good message, teaching us how silly it is to be afraid of the dark. But it remains, at least around here at our house, the least read of the four stories. We finish Too Many Daves and we close the book.
I think I will start there next time. What Was I Scared Of? deserves a little more love.(less)
I have been slowly reading a stack of children's classics to my twins (thus far to combat the poor movie adaptations that are out there), but I have b...moreI have been slowly reading a stack of children's classics to my twins (thus far to combat the poor movie adaptations that are out there), but I have been less than impressed.
Even though I had been slightly disabused of my belief that Pinnochio would be overly moralistic by The Old Trouts' brilliant stage adaptation (they're a Canadian puppet theatre company based out of Calgary), and despite the fact that Disney's Classic adaptation maintains most of the creepier elements from Collodi's classic, I approached Pinnochio with serious doubt and attitude.
I almost dared it to be good.
And shock of shocks it actually was. Yes there's a talking cricket, but his name isn't Jiminy and he doesn't sit on Pinnochio's shoulder and act as his conscience. Yes there is a thread of moralism running through the book, and yes some of the things Collodi teaches, such as his focus on one's duty to obey one's parents, run contrary to what I believe, the book actually steers clear of preachiness and simply lets a fun story unfold in a fun way with a couple of decent lessons cropping up here and there.
Playland (known as Pleasure Island in Disney parlance) is almost as creepy as Walt's uber-spooky version, particularly the slimy man who rounds up the kiddies and turns them into donkeys. Monstro is a gigantic, mile long Shark-with-no-name, rather than a massive whale. The blue haired fairy is a huge character, far more important than the talking cricket, and she can change shape into a goat at will. And if these elements weren't enough fun there are times when Pinnochio is collared and tied to a dog house to watch hens, hanged from a tree to die in the forest, nearly used as kindling, has his donkey flesh eaten away by nasty little fish, and is even thrown in prison by a Judge who happens to be a talking Ape.
E. Harden's translation seems superb and is eminently readable (although my friend Manny might no better how accurate a translation it is), and even though the book comes in at a pretty steep 200+ pages (impressive for a kids' book) it never tires its reader or his listeners. My kids wanted more every time we stopped for the night, and if Collodi leaves the kids wanting more that has to be a good thing.
Our next stop is Alice in Wonderland, but I may hunt down some more Collodi. He deserves to be read. (less)