Disenchanted: Tired Tropes.

Disenchanted: Adaptation Issues & Tired Tropes. 

The movie is fun, kids will enjoy it, but I found the plot setup tired. 

A film discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

Disney’s Enchanted, the beloved film that brought the charming Giselle to our screens, came out in 2007, so it is safe to say that Disenchanted is a long-awaited sequel. If a sequel was needed at all is a different question altogether.

Before diving into what I liked, and what I didn’t like about Disenchanted, first I’d like to express why I’ve been disappointed with some of the latest Disney releases. 

I have made it no secret that I have felt let down by Disney sequels and adaptations recently. 

I feel as though something is always missing and the films just don’t hit the mark the way I want them too. Some may argue that I am looking back at the originals with nostalgic, rose-tinted glasses, and while I am the first to admit that the films I grew up watching are not perfect, I feel that there was a sense of overcoming adversity and actually triumphing over evil that is missing from the sequels and adaptations that we see today. Villains are just not villains anymore. They’re either completely watered down, or they’re changed completely. The “villain is not actually a villain because of their tragic backstory” trope is becoming all too common and while yes, backstories can lead to someone becoming a villain, I don’t want every story to be a villain redemption tale. Sometimes we just need a bad guy, and the stakes need to feel real. That is my main problem with some of these newer releases, the stakes just don’t feel real. 

I also find that there is a need to correct and modernise the fairy tales of the past, as they’re often dubbed outdated and sexist. I won’t pretend that some of the fairy tales that are called classics are not not outdated and/or sexist in some way, shape, or form. Many of them express ideas about people and about roles in society that are outdated today, but I do think that context is important, and it is important to remember the times in which these stories were written. Thankfully attitudes have changed along with the times, but I still think context is important when reading old fairy tales in modern day, because while one can still dislike and critique the outdated ideas, it is still important to remember that they were written in a different time.

 In my opinion, it is too easy to call a female protagonist weak. It is too easy to say “this character waited to be saved.” I think critiques like this too often ignore the fact that these stories were often written in a time where women did not have personal agency. They were not allowed to. They could not just do as they pleased, when they pleased. It is an uncomfortable fact, but a fact nonetheless, that there was a time when women were considered property. There was a time when women were not allowed to vote, and there was a time when a woman had to leave her job if she got married, and of course stories written in this time will reflect those attitudes, this includes fairy tales. 

Many fairy tale heroines do the best they can within the situations they find themselves in, and this reality of making the best of a situation that you had no control over would have been very relatable to women existing in those times. Women having personal agency and control over their own lives, and their own minds, and their own autonomy is a battle that is still being fought today in 2022. Some people are of the opinion that they can decide what a woman can and cannot do with her own body. It is frightening to see what is happening in different parts of the world, but the point I am making is that even though times have changed, the idea of people being limited by societal rules is an idea that still exists today, and so to dismiss the outside factors that limit a heroine’s choices and simply say she is weak and has no agency at all is unfair. 

This leads me to the issue with modern retellings or sequels trying to “correct” the mistakes of the past fairy tales. There is a huge attempt made to give female characters more agency, to prove they don’t need a man, to prove that “love at first sight” is a notion to be forgotten, and while I am all in favour of giving female characters agency, and portraying more realistic relationships, and of course I want stories that are empower young viewers, I still think it is important to pay attention to the details, otherwise you have stories that contradict the point they are trying to make. 

Take the 2015 live-action adaptation of Cinderella as an example. This version wanted to correct the mistake of having Cinderella and the prince fall in love with each other after just one night at the ball – now there are countless versions of Cinderella, many of which involve several meetings, and this adaptation wants to highlight this idea, so the film has Ella and Kit meet in the woods. He meets her as an “honest country girl” instead of as a princess at the ball. He is smitten by her even though she is wearing her rags and has soot on her face so see! He loves her for her! He fell in love with her. Great. Another idea this adaptation had was to give Ella some “spunk.” The shock on her stepsisters’ faces when she answers them in fluent French after they teased her for being unable to speak French is comical. See! This adaptation gives audiences a Cinderella who does not blindly do as her stepfamily says. She’s got spunk. She showed them, except she didn’t, because the rest of the film has her obediently trying to please them. She does not understand why they’re so cruel to her, and despite it all she does her best to be kind. 

Disclaimer – I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the story of Cinderella and I have always interpreted it as a story about a girl who survives being trapped in an abusive household, so even in the story’s original form, I have never thought of Cinderella as a weak character who has no agency. I’ve always considered her to be incredibly brave and strong. Strength comes in many forms, and it does not always involve being permanently sarcastic and rejecting authority. 

Ella in the 2015 adaptation has one “spunky” moment as the film wanted to correct previous critiques of the story, by showing an Ella who can speak back. My issue with this is that she only does it once, and it really serves no purpose at all. The frustrating thing is that this film still faced the same critiques. Audiences still called Ella passive, especially because she chooses to forgive her stepmother at the end. I’ve always watched this scene differently, I viewed it as a gracious act. Ella is stating that she forgives her stepmother as she heads off to a happy life with Kit. She will not suffer due to her stepmother anymore, she is free of her, whereas her stepmother who is now banished, will likely think about Ella forevermore. 

What is even more frustrating is that the deleted scenes show that the film originally was going to have Ella write a letter to Kit, telling him who she really is. She manages to sneak out, and get the letter to the palace, only for it to be intercepted and thrown into the fire by the Duke. 

I still don’t understand why a film that was trying to give Cinderella more agency would cut out that scene. It would have been far more impactful than the French speaking scene. Imagine if audiences could have seen Ella decide to take ownership of the fact that she has feelings for Kit. Imagine how exciting it would have been to watch her boldly decide to act on her desire, because she has decided she deserves to, and write a letter to the man she loves telling him the truth. We could have then watched her sneak out of her abusive home and gallop on her horse to the palace, and the Duke intercepting the letter and throwing it into the fire would have been far more infuriating, because we would have seen all of the effort Ella went to, to try and get to Kit. We would have been rooting for her. Instead that entire section was cut and I will always be disappointed by that. Details are important, and if you want to update a story, or modernise it, you can but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. 

This point very nicely brings me to Disenchanted as this sequel became Cinderella for a while, despite the film clearly trying to nod to all fairy tales, another point that I will talk about because while nods to other movies are fun, there is still a way to go about doing them. 

Adam Shankman directed the 2022 film Disenchanted. The film follows a disheartened Giselle who is struggling with the stress and realities of everyday life. Giselle misses the ease of her life before New York, and so she wishes for a “fairy tale” life, but her wish goes horribly wrong. 

Soon the town becomes a fairy tale, but it is not what Giselle pictured. She is a stepmother now and in traditional fairy tales, stepmothers are evil so now Giselle must fill that archetypal role whether she wants to or not. There is only so much time for the spell to be undone, for if it is not reversed then it will become permanent, and Andalasia will cease to exist for Giselle will have taken all the magic from her hometown and brought it to her new world. 

I’m going to start off by discussing all of the things that I would have changed, and while it may seem like I am nit-picking, I really felt like this film had great ideas, but the execution was sloppy. 

 I think that details are important. Following that, I will talk about what I enjoyed, because despite not being 100% wowed by the film, I did have fun, and while I will always be honest and express my opinions, I don’t want my thoughts to only be somewhat negative, because there is no nuance in that. 

I want to talk about the setup. I did not like it. Specifically, I don’t like how the film moves us to Giselle being desperate enough to make her wish. The biggest issue I have is the way the film treats Morgan. 

A pet peeve of mine is when stories treat teenagers as if they are just difficult, impossible to understand beings by default. “You know how they are at this age.” “That’s teenagers for you.” 

I can’t stand it. Adolescence is a time that is filled with changes and pressures. Puberty, relationships, school pressures, exams, college decisions, job decisions. It can be a difficult, and embarrassing, and stressful time, and yes, mood swings can occur, but it bothers me in stories (and in real life) when a group of grown adults can’t seem to extend any empathy or ask what is going on, instead they roll their eyes and proclaim “Teenagers! They’re miserable!” 

Even worse, when adults do ask what is going on, but dismiss the answer as “not that serious.” 

The beginning of Disenchanted places Morgan in the stereotypical, miserable teenager role, and I was very disappointed by this. I understand why the writers did this, as it does tie into the movie’s ending, a point that I will get to later. 

Warning – there will be spoilers. 

Having some tension between Giselle and Morgan was needed for what the writers wanted to do, however I wish they had gone about it in a different way. I feel like the “awful teenager” narrative is overdone and at this point, I find it lazy. 

The plot is centred around Giselle and her feelings. She is dismayed because life is harder than she imagined it would be. As in fairy tales, finding your happily ever after is the hardest part. 

Now Giselle is in the real world, she is married to Robert, they have a new baby. She is exhausted, and her relationship with Morgan is becoming more difficult to navigate. So Giselle is certain that moving house will solve all her woes. There is nothing better than a fresh start after all.

Morgan, naturally, is upset about the move. She is leaving her home, her school, and all of her friends, but none of her feelings are valid, of course not. She is a teenager, and therefore she is moody for no reason. It has nothing to do with her entire life being upended. Not at all. 

Morgan has grown up. She is no longer a little girl, and while she still loves Giselle, she finds her constant reference to fairy tale life a bit exhausting, and honestly, I don’t blame her. 

A running gag in this movie is the fact that Giselle has no idea what sarcasm is or how it works. This is another reason why she finds Morgan’s teenage years so difficult. She looks back to the days when Morgan was little, when she would ask for princess stories every night. She says it was so easy then. Everyone tries to reassure her that it is just a phase, this is just how teenagers are, and I became quite frustrated by this line. This is not “just how teenagers are.” The fact is that Morgan is not six anymore. She is a young woman, in highschool, so of course her interests have changed. It is unfair for anyone to expect Morgan to be exactly the same as she was when she was a little girl. 

I think the scene that I disliked the most was the scene where Giselle sets up a cupcake stall to encourage Morgan’s new school peers to vote for Morgan to be princess of the festival. Giselle has good intentions, but I was still bothered that Giselle could not see why Morgan would not want this. Morgan does not want to be a princess. She just wants to fit in at her new school and make some friends after having to leave her old school and her old friends behind, something that the always chirpy, always singing Giselle does not make any easier. Morgan is laughed at by everyone, but again her feelings are dismissed because “Giselle was just trying to help.” 

I think the problem is that the character of Giselle was beloved in the first movie. She is iconic. She was naive, charming, and romantic. She was a real-life princess. This worked so well because the plot was that she got literally shoved from her fairy tale life into New York. She had no idea how anything worked. She was fascinated by everything, and her openness and genuine nature allowed Robert to break out of his cynical box. Naturally Disney wanted to bring that Giselle back to our screens, the Giselle that everyone knows and loves. The problem is that this Giselle does not work anymore. It was as though Giselle did not change one bit despite all the time that has passed. She has lived in New York for years, she has built a life there, but we are still expected to believe that she understands nothing about how the “real” world works. 

There is a difference between a teenager being unreasonably snarky, and Morgan being frustrated because her mother has uprooted her entire life, and opened her up to endless ridicule from her new classmates. Morgan is the new kid in town, and the new kid in school, which is hard enough as it is, but Giselle makes this even harder, and then she gets upset when Morgan does not react the way she did when she was little. It was frustrating to watch.  

This tension with Morgan, alongside the troubles they face in their new home, is what prompts Giselle to make a wish for a fairy tale life. Her wish gets complicated however, when she turns into an evil stepmother. This was clever, if a little on the nose. In archetypal fairy tales, stepmothers are traditionally cruel. Giselle is Morgan’s stepmother. So when she wishes for a fairy tale life, Giselle unknowingly gives herself the role of the villain, because as time passes, she takes on more stereotypical stepmother traits. 

The plot becomes Cinderella for a while. Giselle destroys Morgan’s dress, she locks her in the attic, she forbids her from attending the festival, and she even quotes the famous stepmother speech from the 1950s animation. I enjoyed the nod, but I felt that the plot was messy because it was not clear who the protagonist was. It should have been Morgan, but it wasn’t. Giselle was sort of the protagonist, but the movie wanted a twist so they made her the antagonist, as well as having another villain. So we had two villains, battling to see who could be the most wicked. 

I would have preferred it if Morgan was the true protagonist. I would have preferred more screen time with her, as she tries to figure out what is happening, what is going on, why is everyone around her, including her becoming more and more of a storybook caricature? 

Funnily enough, despite modern movies trying to stray away from the “damsel” critiques, Giselle’s wish takes away all of Morgan’s bad feelings about the move, and she becomes a permanently smiling, singing, ideal storybook fair maiden who is trying her very best to gain her stepmother’s approval. I’m not critiquing Morgan, I enjoyed her scenes, and I enjoyed her singing, but I just think it is ironic that Disney placed her in the role that so many adaptations constantly try to “correct.” 

Before anyone says I’ve taken the movie too seriously, I am aware it is a Disney movie. I am aware that it is for children, however I still think the plot was messy, and that kids deserve plots that are well developed. While I was irritated, I did not completely hate this movie. I just wish it was better. 

Let’s talk about the positives. 

I enjoyed the songs. It was very bright. The costumes were beautiful, everyone looked as though they jumped out of a storybook, as they should. I absolutely loved seeing the Irish locations. 

I’m biassed of course, but I am Irish, and I think that Ireland is beautiful, so it was great to see a movie that takes advantage of Ireland’s natural beauty. The cast were fantastic. I love Amy Adams. It is clear that she loves this role, and despite my frustrations with this sequel, I do love her in this role. No one else could play Giselle, however this time around, Giselle’s character didn’t impress me the way she did the first time. 

I do want to talk about the final scene between Giselle and Morgan, because despite my issues with the movie’s setup, I really loved this moment and I feel like it is a really heartwarming, and important scene. When it all comes down to it, Morgan is the only one who can undo Giselle’s wish. Morgan fears she won’t be able to, for the magic states that only a “true daughter” can use the wand. Morgan fears all hope is lost. She is not from Andalasia. She is not from a magical world. She can’t use the want. Giselle tells her that yes she can use the wand, she can do it, because she is a true daughter. “You’re my daughter Morgan.” 

This is a beautiful moment, and it is an important one. The movie talks about how bonds don’t have to be biological to be strong. In a time where many children have stepparents, I felt that this theme was a very poignant and significant one. Morgan did feel insecure about not being a “true daughter of Andalasia.” She did feel insecure when her father and Giselle had a child of their own. I feel like this would be a very realistic thing, especially when the age gap is so big. Babies get doted on naturally, but this can add to insecurities when the relationship changes in your teenage years. Giselle raised Morgan, she has always been there for Morgan. She loves Morgan. Morgan is her daughter. Their bond is true, and loving, and valid, and Morgan needed to know that. She needed to hear that. All parents need to reassess their relationships with their children as they get older, because as a child grows, they change, and this does not automatically have to be a bad thing. I loved this scene, and I understand why the writers chose to lead up to this moment the way they did, I understand why they created friction, I just wish it was done a bit differently. Very differently. 

My ideal version of this sequel would have removed the tired “teenagers, ugh” trope. 

I would have had Giselle feel homesick, because having a new baby is tiring, it is hard. 

The move could have still taken place, and Morgan still could have felt sad about leaving her friends and school, because those are valid feelings. Robert having to adjust to commuting could have stayed, because that is a realistic stress factor. I would have removed Giselle trying to get everyone to vote for Morgan as festival princess, but left in the other kids scoffing at Morgan and not being overly kind to the new kid, because again, that is realistic. 

All of these combined would have still led to Giselle yearning for the ease of Andalasia, because things just are not working out how she expected them to. As for the tension between Giselle and Morgan, I would have removed the constant badmouthing of Morgan and instead, I’d have had her naturally not being as interested in Giselle’s fairytale stories. I would have had Robert reassuring Giselle that Morgan loves her, but it is natural for kids to want to do their own thing more as they get older. Giselle could have still struggled with this change, as that is realistic. It is normal for parents to have to adapt when their kids are getting older. The relationship changes because it has to, so that distance between Giselle and Morgan would still have been there, but it would have been done in a way that was not tired, overdone, and frankly unfair. 

After Giselle’s wish goes wrong, I would have had Morgan be the clear protagonist. 

I would have liked to see her trying to figure out what was going on, and how to fix it, and this way Giselle could have been the clear antagonist as the curse would have made her more and more wicked as time passed. I feel this would have been really fun, and the clarity of who is the protagonist, and what they are trying to overcome would have made the stakes and triumphs much more satisfying. 

Overall I think that Disenchanted was fun. It is clear that the cast had a ball. The songs were great, it was bright and lively. The movie was filled with references to other fairy tales so Disney lovers will appreciate all of these moments. I’m sure kids will enjoy this movie, I just wish it had been written slightly differently. I would have loved to see a tad more nuance, and some fresh stories instead of repeating tired tropes that I’m really getting sick of seeing. 

Know who your protagonist is. Know who your antagonist is. Be clearer about everyone’s motivations, and allow characters to mature. 

Sometimes movies should be left alone, as a sequel is not really needed, but that is a discussion for another time.

Beauty & The Beast.

Beauty & The Beast.

A #theatretrip discussion by Kate O’Brien.

December is finally here. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I kicked off my festive season early last week as I went to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre to see the spectacular musical Beauty & The Beast. 

I’ve been very fortunate as this year I was able to attend the theatre quite a lot. I have thoroughly enjoyed every musical that I’ve had the chance to see, however this #theatretrip was particularly magical.

I’m slightly biased as I have been a fan of Beauty & The Beast since I was a little girl, and I was even in an amateur production of the musical when I was in school and studying drama. The score is beautiful, the story is magical, and Belle is a protagonist who will always hold a special place in my heart.

I know that fairy tales often face criticism, and this story is no exception, however I’ve always appreciated the story. A spoiled, cruel prince is cursed to look as beastly on the outside as he behaves on the inside. Belle is a beautiful girl, but she is shunned by her village because she does not conform to their narrow expectations. Gaston is handsome (in a cartoonishly, conventional sense), he is a town hero, but he is vain, and cruel, and dangerous when he does not get his way.

It is a simple story really. It is an elaborate metaphor. The prince learns that he cannot be cruel, and in order to make connections with others and find love, he must be a kind, caring person who treats others with kindness and respect. Belle does not judge books by their covers. She does not judge the beast because of his beastly appearance, she rebukes his rude behaviour and mean attitude, and it is only when he begins to reflect and change his ways, does she begin to like him. Belle never conforms to what the villagers want from her. She does not sacrifice her independence, or her love of reading, she stays true to herself, and she meets someone who loves her for the person that she is. She stands up for her father, and for herself, and for everything that she believes in.

The entire story is told on a beautiful, bright stage, accompanied by lively dance numbers, and absolutely beautiful music. The score is fun, upbeat, and filled with so much love.

If you’re like me then I’d say you will laugh, and cry if you’re in the audience.

The music of Alan Menken pulls on the heartstrings, and the score is perfectly made up of the classic songs that we all know and love from the Disney animation, alongside some stunning numbers for the stage.

I want to mention three numbers in particular, but I am not exaggerating when I say that I really love the entire score, the overture alone fills me with excitement.

I have to mention Be Our Guest, If I Can’t Love Her, and A Change in Me.

In my opinion, these three songs are stand out moments in this magical show.

Be Our Guest seems like it would be an obvious stand out, but the number is truly fantastic. It is bright, it is joyous, it is an explosion of life, dancing, glittering costumes, and magic on the stage. Alyn Hawke was a spectacular Lumiere. He was funny, he was witty, he was engaging, and he brought this number to life. Be Our Guest is Lumiere’s big moment, and it is a song that everyone in the audience has high expectations for. Hawke delivers, as does the entire ensemble. If I had to use one word to describe this number, I’d call it effervescent. It was wonderful.

If I Can’t Love Her is one of my favourite songs from any musical. Ever. Full stop. It is absolutely beautiful. Hearing this song played live by the fantastic musicians made me cry, and Shaq Taylor was phenomenal as the beast. This song is about the beast losing hope, because the beast is questioning who can he love if he does not love Belle? She is a symbol of hope. She is someone whom he could have a wonderful connection with, but he fears she will never return his feelings. So he sings, he asks “If can’t love her, then who?”

It is a stunning song. It closes act one. It is a rousing piece of music. It is a song that builds, and builds, and that last note is so beautiful, it is sustained and then the stage plummets into darkness. It is one of the only moments in the entire show when the beast is on the stage by himself, and we as the audience are invited into his thoughts. He expresses himself so clearly in this song, and it is actually incredibly poignant. I adored this moment, and I wish I could see it again.

A Change in Me takes place in act two. It is a song that Belle sings. She is very self-reflective in this song. It almost mirrors If I Can’t Love Her as this song is like a musical monologue for Belle. She is talking about herself, and about how much she has changed since leaving the village. Her entire outlook has changed, she has matured, she has learned things about herself, and about what she wants. It is a song fuelled by self-belief and I consider it to be a song that highlights Belle’s agency. She knows who she is, and she knows what she wants, and she goes for it. Courtney Stapleton was a beautiful and charming Belle. She was passionate and full of life. Her voice was stunning, and I enjoyed her performance throughout the entire show, but this song made me say “Wow.”

Courtney Stapleton sang this song brilliantly. Her voice was smooth, and strong, and the notes she hit gave me goosebumps.

Honourable mentions – Beauty and the Beast (Tale As Old As Time)  and The Mob Song.

I don’t think any moment is more magical than when Belle descends the staircase in her gorgeous, golden gown. She is glittering and dazzling, and I think everyone in the audience audibly gasped. The song Beauty and the Beast is simply charming, it is beloved, and hearing it sung so beautifully by Sam Bailey was particularly special, especially since the legendary Angela Lansbury has sadly recently passed. This song will always be a tribute to her. It was a magical moment. I felt like I was seven again.

The Mob Song is a fantastic song, as villain songs often are. It is steady, it is catchy, it is a perfect combination of very quick, very slick, bouncy words with sustained notes at the end of each verse. It is a great song when it comes to gathering a crowd and making them angry. It is a battle song. It is also incredibly revealing. “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us.” This line is so telling, it sums up the entire village and the ignorance of the village. They shun Belle because she does not conform, they hate the beast, because they automatically fear him. They hate anything they don’t understand, and Gaston rallies them to become an angry mob and fight anything that is different. Honestly the song has always highlighted mob mentality for what it really is – a prejudiced group banding together.

The song is great, and it really gets the audience ready for the climax of the show. I had to mention it.

The entire cast was amazing. Each and every member of the cast was fantastic. The show was full of life, magic, and wonder. It is no small task to deliver a show like this night after night, so I have to give the cast my full admiration. I love the arts. It takes time, effort, training, tears, and dedication to have a career in the arts, and casts bring magic to the stage everyday.

I also have to give a round of applause to the entire crew who makes the show happen. A huge amount of behind-the-scenes work goes into every show, and no show would be possible without the crew, but Disney musicals in particular are often larger than life.

The amount of costumes, props, special effects, and set pieces that have to be accounted for, while keeping the magic alive must be enormous. So, I want to take a moment to say bravo to the entire crew, and to the entire cast.

The show is running until January 8th, so if you get a chance to see it, do not miss it.

It is wonderful. Beauty & The Beast is a show that is fun, enchanting, bright, and full of heart.

It tells a story of two people finding themselves, and where they truly belong, and finding love along the way. It is a show about people finding their happily ever afters.

If you loved the Disney animation, you’ll love the musical. If you’re a Disney fan, you’ll love the musical. If you want a festive night out, you’ll love the musical. If you want a date night idea, you’ll love the musical. If you want to introduce your kids to the theatre, you’ll love this musical. I could gush about it forever, but I believe I have made my point.

It is a #theatretrip that you won’t want to miss.

Lanny by Max Porter.

Lanny by Max Porter.

A review by Kate O’Brien.

Published by Faber & Faber in 2019, Porter’s Lanny tells an incredibly magnetic story about an artistic boy in a small town. This is a story about many things. It is about art, it is about being connected with nature, it is about small town life, and it is about how fickle human beings can be. Throw in some village lore for good measure, and we’ve got a wonderfully mysterious text that pulls you in deeper with every turn of the page.

Porter’s book caught me by surprise, because I will admit that when I first saw this book when I opened my blind date with a book package, the first thing I said was that I don’t think I would have chosen this book for myself. The cover didn’t do anything for me, it still doesn’t do anything for me, further proof that you should never judge a book by its cover after all. The plain white cover showcases snippets of reviews, all praising the work, while the title Lanny is displayed crookedly on a leave. The cover does not spark curiosity, however the text itself is another story.

Porter is a poetic writer and Lanny is a text that is filled with vivid imagery.

Porter appears to have a knack for describing things that should be mundane in a way that makes them unforgettable. I found that this book was full of quotes that I will remember for a very long time. “His body is a suit of bark-armour with the initials of long-dead teenage lovers carved in the surface.” (Porter, p.4). I read this line, and knew then that I was going to be incredibly moved by this book. Porter had me invested already, and this was only page four.

The style of writing in this book is interesting, as Porter jumps around from different points of view. We see what Lanny’s mum is thinking, and her inner thoughts are introduced with the heading “Lanny’s Mum”. I would say that this text reads as though it is one stream of thought and the inner monologues of each character gives readers a great insight into who these people are. Lanny’s dad is a commuter. He prefers London to the small village that they live in. He is okay at his job, but he is a rather absent father, and while he claims to love his son, it is clear that he does not understand him. Lanny’s mum is a writer, and while she is a much warmer parent who loves her son as he is, it is clear that he is often a mystery to her as well.

Porter also introduces readers to Dead Papa Toothworth, a mysterious entity who lives in the woods and has lived there for years, and years, and years. Dead Papa Toothworth lives off of snippets of other people’s conversations. He goes to the village and listens. He loves to listen to Lanny especially, because Lanny is a much more intuitive child. Dead Papa Toothworth is village lore, and he has become a story that parents use to scare their children. “Be good, or Papa Toothworth will get you.” Little did they know that threats of the bogeyman might one day come true. Papa Toothworth’s sections are wonderfully artistic, as the snippets of the conversations that he listens to swirl around the page, making our eyes dance in order to read every word. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is something that I enjoyed immensely.

Lanny is the book’s heart. He is curious and sensitive, intuitive, and artistic. Lanny seems to be connected to the earth in a way that is unexplainable. He asks questions that seem impossible to answer. He is almost fae like, as he is an all-knowing child. At times, Lanny seems to be an unrealistic child, but this is due to Porter mixing lore with reality. Lanny exists somewhere in the middle.

My favourite character is “Mad” Pete. He is a reclusive, gruff, and talented artist who is friends with Lanny’s mother. In an effort to be less gruff, he agrees to give Lanny art lessons, and he finds that Lanny’s natural artistic abilities, along with the boy’s curiosity leads him to enjoy being an art teacher more than he ever thought he would.

The book is divided into sections. The first section is neat and tidy, and everyone’s point of view is clearly labelled. We know what is happening, and we know who is speaking, and aside from Lanny’s curious questions, the first section is rather uneventful. Lanny goes to art class, Pete enjoys teaching, Lanny’s mum is writing, and she struggles with writing what is a very violent thriller, Lanny’s dad is working. Dead Papa Toothworth is listening. The village gossips, as all small villages tend to do. That is it. It is intriguing, but it is not terribly riveting. However Porter creates a real sense that something is off. Something is going to go wrong, we just don’t know what and we don’t know when.

Spoilers ahead.

The latter sections of the book descend into chaos. We no longer know who exactly is speaking, as all the thoughts merge into one, and we get snippets of the village reactions when Lanny goes missing. The book really paints an accurate picture of what happens in tragic cases like this. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is a detective, reporters descend and camp outside, and no one escapes scrutiny. Pete is turned against, as no one believes that an old man could give a boy art lessons just to be nice, Lanny’s mum is scrutinised because of the violent content in her book, both parents are under fire when the papers find out that Lanny often wandered, because he was a curious child, and stories entitled “Latchkey Lanny” are splashed over every front page. Lanny himself does not escape scrutiny as everyone says he was “odd all along.” There is public outcry, for how could this happen in a quiet, sleepy village? Are our children safe anywhere? Do we take safety for granted? It is a tense read, and yet I could not put the book down.

The book ends rather neatly, thankfully Lanny is found alive and well, and he becomes another cautionary tale. The lore of the woods lives on, for the woods will always be there, always as people come and go, as people die and as people are born, the woods have always been there, and they always will be.

I enjoyed this book. It was magnetic, and very engaging, and the more I read, the more I wanted to know. I read the entire book in one afternoon. I am curious to read more of Porter’s work, particularly Grief Is The Thing With Feathers as I knew of this work before reading Lanny but I have not read it yet.

Lanny is a mysterious, artistic text, that weaves lore with small village life. Each sleepy day builds up to an intense search party, and with every turn of the page readers will want to know what happened to Lanny. I’d highly recommend this book if you have not read it already, and I’d highly recommend grabbing one of those blind date with a book packages if you see them in a bookshop near you, as you may discover a great book that you would not have chosen otherwise, just like I did.

Exciting Times Ahead!

There is a lot to look forward to on Katelovesliterature.com over the next two weeks.

I am so excited because there is another #theatretrip coming up very soon. I’m sure some readers may be able to guess what I am going to see next. I cannot wait. The show that I am going to see soon is very special to me, but all will be revealed in my next Theatre Trip discussion. Keep an eye out on my Instagram – @katelovesliterature.

After a trip to the theatre, I am very happy to say that I am going on a trip to a #literarycity.

I can’t wait. I did not expect to travel this side of Christmas, and I am so grateful to have been surprised with this trip.

I’m going somewhere that I’ve never been before, and I am counting down the days because this city is filled with so much literary history, this city has a particularly rich music history and I am looking forward to exploring and taking lots of pictures and just soaking in the beauty and the history of the place, as well as really enjoying the festive season.

Most of my trips are inspired by literature in some way, not on purpose, but I am very drawn to exploring places that have a rich literary background. There is something really fascinating about seeing the place where a piece of art was created.

I have not yet shared where I am going, and I think I will keep it a secret for just a little while longer, but do stay tuned because all shall be revealed very soon.

Kate xo.

Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland.

Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland written by Karen Ward and illustrated by Paula McGloin. 

A literary review by Kate O’Brien. 

Published by Beehive Books, Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland introduces readers to legendary figures from Irish mythology. This book is filled with fascinating tales. 

This book is a delightful read, and Ward’s stories are brought to life by McGloin’s striking artwork. 

This book introduces readers to nine Goddesses. Danu, Gráinne, The Cailleach, Brigid, Áine, Aisling, Boann, The Morrigan, and Ériu. Each of these mythical Goddesses are unique and powerful in their own way. Each and every one of these figures is a force of nature. 

Danu, The Mother Goddess, is the first of all the Irish deities. Danu is the symbol of nature and fertility. Gráinne, The Maiden Goddess, is a determined girl who knows her own mind. The Cailleach, The Crone Goddess, is a protective and powerful force. The Crone Goddess brings the winter, but she also protects those in her care. Brigid, Goddess Of Spring, is the patron saint of Ireland. Brigid is the bringer of spring. Áine, Sun Goddess Of Love is celebrated at the summer solstice. She is a force that brings the harvest, and her sunlight ensures ripe crops. 

Aisling, Goddess Of Vision, she inspires all who see her. Aisling’s presence is a sign of hope, and it was believed that if she appeared before you, it was to bring an important message. 

Boann is the River Goddess who wouldn’t be refused wisdom, instead her power grew and grew. The Morrigan is the Goddess Of Death and Prophecy. The Morrigan is a seer of death, she predicts the future, and she encourages heroics. Last but not least is Ériu, the Sovereignty Goddess Of Ireland. She symbolises Ireland as a land of abundance. 

This book brings these Goddesses to life, and celebrates a variety of abilities and strengths. 

This book talks about life and death, about nature and the seasons, about love and revenge, and about the different stages of a woman’s life. The book also contains a lovely introduction, one that welcomes readers into the rich history of Ireland. Ancient Ireland was a place filled with magic and I must say that Ward and McGloin captured this sense of wonder on every page. 

Also included in this book is a glossary that younger readers may find helpful if they’re coming across some new words, (Older readers may find this helpful too. We are never too old to learn something new!), and there’s a beautiful map of ancient Ireland too, making this text truly something to treasure. 

Ward flawlessly writes about Ireland’s history as well as capturing the fiery, passionate, intelligent, powerful spirits of these figures and McGloin’s artwork is striking. The colours are rich and vivid, and her illustrations have brought the vastness of these figures to the forefront of every page. The illustrations capture the person, and their strength, as well as incorporating beautiful aspects of Ireland’s nature. I read this book from cover to cover several times over, but I also spent ages just flicking through the pages, looking at all of the pictures. There’s one or two that I would love to have framed on my wall! The stories are fascinating, and the artwork is eye-catching. That’s a brilliant combination if you ask me. 

If you’re a fan of Irish mythology then this book belongs in your collection, and if you’re looking for an introduction to Irish mythology and wonder, look no further! 

I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book, and I think it would make a beautiful present, remember Christmas is right around the corner. 

Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland is a richly magical read and a stunningly visual treat. 

I would recommend this book for anyone ages 8+. 

I would like to thank the Beehive Books team for sending me a copy of this book to review. 

Important Note – This is not an ad.

This is not sponsored.

This is not a paid review. 

All thoughts and opinions shared are entirely my own.

You can order your very own copy of Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland written by Karen Ward and illustrated by Paula McGloin on www.beehivebooks.ie

Social Links: @katelovesliterature @beehivebooks.ie  @drkarenwardtherapist @paulamcgloin 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing another book published by Beehive Books,  The Song of Brigid’s Cloak, written by Catherine Ann Cullen and illustrated by Katya Swan. 

You can read my review by clicking this link https://katelovesliterature.com/  

Enjoy! 

More Social Links: @catherineanncullen @katya_swan_illustrations

Book Review Coming Soon!

I was delighted to receive this gorgeous copy of Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland this morning from beehivebooks.ie.

This book is a striking addition to my bookshelf already. Just look at that cover! It is beautiful. It is so eye-catching, the cover alone calls to me. I can’t wait to dive in and give this book a read. A full literary review will be coming very soon on Katelovesliterature.com.

Currently Reading …

Katelovesliterature’s 2022 Literature Lover Inspired Gift Guide.

Let’s get festive! Do you have a literature lover in your life? A reader? A music lover? Do you dread coming up with Christmas gift ideas? Are you on the hunt for some inspiration? Look no further. I absolutely love the run up to Christmas and picking presents is part of the fun. I firmly believe that a nice present does not have to be awfully expensive. The best kind of present is one that shows how well you know someone.

So let’s dive in. This is my 2022 Literature Lover Inspired Gift Guide.

Books.

This may seem like a really obvious suggestion, but if you have an avid reader in your life then books make for a fantastic gift. Getting someone a book can be more creative than it sounds. For starters, there are so many different kinds of books. Hardcovers, paperbacks, clothbound editions, illustrated editions, signed copies, etc.

Personally I love a clothbound book. They look absolutely beautiful on my bookshelf and I am so delighted with my growing collection. If you know that someone has a book that they love, and you see a clothbound edition, I think this is a great gift because it shows that you know them well. You know their favourite book, and now they have a special edition of it, one that you picked out. It makes for a lovely collector’s item.

You can also get personalised books. Personalised books are a great gift idea if you ask me, for children and for adults. A personalised book is created specifically for the person you are gifting it to. You can create a personal story. When I was young, I received a personalised version of Beauty and the Beast. I was absolutely enchanted because as I was reading, I realised that the girl in the story shared my name, and not only that, but she looked like me too! My Mam still talks about how excited I was. I think this is a really sweet idea, especially if you are thinking of getting a book for a younger reader.

Speaking of childhood memories, nothing is quite like a little touch of nostalgia. So why not purchase someone’s favourite childhood book? I absolutely loved A Little Princess by Frances Hodges Burnett when I was younger and one of my favourite presents I received when I got older was a hardback edition of a story that I loved so much.

Similarly, last Christmas I received stunning, Victorian inspired covered editions of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. These two books look wonderful on my shelf. The books we read in childhood can have such a lasting impression on us. Some stories stay with us forever. I think that opening a present and finding a unique edition of a book you’ve always loved is a lovely moment. So I’d highly recommend this idea if you’re buying a book for a book lover, especially for a book lover who appears to have every book already!

Before I move on, I will say that I think that if you’re really stuck for a gift idea, a book voucher can be a great option. Giving a book lover a voucher for a book shop means that they can go in and browse (and we all know that a day spent in a book shop is a book lover’s dream) and buy what they want.

I know that some people dislike giving vouchers as it can seem impersonal. I understand that. I too only turn to vouchers as a last resort, however I have never been unhappy when I received a voucher myself as it allowed me to go and pick something for myself. So a voucher or perhaps even a kindle gift card could be an idea that works for you.

Movie Inspired Gifts

I know we live in an age of streaming services, but I am an avid movie lover and I love getting a boxset.

I know many people who still enjoy collecting DVD’s. I still collect DVD’s and I have many boxsets that I love and watch very often. Streaming services are great, but owning a copy of a show or a movie that you love is still special in my opinion. Some people are natural collector’s and DVD’s can have special extras such as behind-the-scenes features or director’s commentaries. Sometimes DVD’s contain deleted scenes too. So in my opinion, there are still plenty of reasons to grab a boxset. One day we will watch DVD’s and call it “having a vintage movie night.”

Another movie inspired idea is taking someone to a movie. Sometimes cinemas show screenings of classic movies.

Recently I went to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the Light House cinema in Dublin. I love that movie. It was a brilliant night out. We went for dinner and then had drinks afterwards. So if you want to give someone an experience, keep an eye out for screenings. If you see a movie that they love is being shown, grab a ticket and make a night of it. It can be great fun.

Another idea that is similar to this is looking into cinema cards. Some cinemas have memberships, and depending on how expensive it is, you could sign someone up so if they are an avid movie watcher, they can go to see as many movies as they like.

Movie prints and posters make for great gifts. Again, this is a gift idea that shows someone that you know them well. If you know their favourite movie, why not look around and see if there are any posters or prints that you think would look fantastic framed?

This is something that I did myself recently. I bought a print of the cover of one of the first movies that my boyfriend and I watched together, a movie that we both love, and I bought a frame for it and it looks great if I do say so myself.

It does not have to be a movie cover, you could look around and find a print of a certain scene or a famous quote. If you know someone’s favourite quote, then I’d suggest looking it up as you can very often find prints of quotes, especially if the quote is popular.

Following this idea, I’m a big fan of mugs. I am a big tea and coffee drinker, as are most people that I know. I own quite a few Disney mugs, as well as personalised ones. I’ve also given people personalised mugs before and they have always been well received. You can order a mug with a movie quote or even a book quote.

I think a really nice idea is putting together a few things that you know someone else will use.

For example, one of my friends is an avid reader, and she also loves herbal teas. So I ordered a personalised mug, it had a quote on it from a book that she absolutely loved. I got her a personalised bookmark to go along with it, and I picked up a box of her favourite herbal teas. I put them all together and she was delighted. It is an idea that does not have to cost too much, and it does not take too long to put together, but it is a thoughtful present.

Stationary & Accessories.

Another literature inspired gift idea that won’t drain your bank account is to get someone some stationary.

If you know someone who loves to write, or journal, then perhaps a nice idea would be to get them a new notebook and some lovely pens. Some notebooks can be quite expensive. You can get leather-bound notebooks. I’ve received one before, and it is absolutely beautiful. I use it all the time, but you don’t have to go with such an expensive option. You can find perfectly lovely notebooks that don’t cost too much. Pens can be lovely too, especially if someone enjoys handwriting. I believe that handwriting can almost be called an art form now as these days nearly everything is typed.

There are so many different kinds of pens. You can get pen sets, pens can be engraved etc.

A lovely idea could be to get someone a notebook and a set of pens, and maybe even a box of writing prompts.

Moving on to accessories, bookmarks make great stocking stuffers. Avid readers can never have too many bookmarks.

I have stainless steel bookmarks, I have resin bookmarks, I have Alice in Wonderland inspired bookmarks. I have personalised bookmarks. I have so many, and I use all of them. You don’t have to use them for just books, you can keep tabs on notes and journals too. So if you’re getting book inspired gifts and want to grab something for the stocking, grab a bookmark.

Accessories don’t have to be for just books. You can get all kinds of accessories. You could look into getting someone a keyboard for their desk, a phone case, a desk organiser. There are many options.

Phone cases can be a great idea. Many people get new phones for Christmas and every phone needs a case. You can get so many different kinds of cases from so many different places. You can even get movie or book inspired phone cases. So this could be another idea for a stocking stuffer.

Another idea, although this could be a more expensive idea, is to look into getting someone a bookcase.

If you know a book lover, then you’ll know how easily a room can become cluttered with books, books, books everywhere. A bookshelf or even a book trolley could make for a great gift, especially if you are trying to organise your living space.

My last literature accessory suggestion is to get the book lover in your life their very own book embosser.

A book embosser is a tool used to put an emblem on a book without damaging it. It is a great way for a book collector to identify their books as theirs. It adds a personal touch to one’s collection.

Music Inspired Gifts.

It is hard to find someone who does not like music at all. I don’t talk enough about how much I love music. I studied music in school. I attended singing lessons for years. I was always a member of the choir and I’ve participated in many amateur productions. Music is something that I love, it is something that I am passionate about, and there are so many music inspired gifts that could be perfect for the music lover in your life.

Vinyls can be pricey, but I know so many people who collect vinyls. Getting someone a vinyl or two, particularly if you know that they are a collector, could be an idea to consider.

Over the years I’ve received different scores and songbooks and I’ve always been delighted by them.

If you know a singer or someone who enjoys musical theatre, then I’d suggest getting them a score from their favourite show. Again, this is personal, it shows how well you know them and it also shows that you support their interests.

I mentioned prints already, but prints don’t just have to be from books and movies. You can get lovely prints that are inspired by music. You can find great prints of sound waves, different prints of scores or of lyrics, if you look around you might find prints of famous album covers or of different artists.

Another idea that could be perfect for a music lover, depending on how much you can spend, is a pair of headphones.

There are so many tech gifts that could be perfect for a music lover, amps, speakers, mics, but these are items that would definitely be more expensive. If money is no object, then instruments or instrument accessories are great gift ideas to think about.

I mentioned earlier that taking someone to a movie could be a great idea, concert tickets are another great idea, but again, concert tickets can be very expensive. Sometimes theatres will show movies and an orchestra will play the movie’s score. This is a great idea for a movie lover and for a music lover. I saw a screening of Blade Runner in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and it was amazing to watch the movie while the score was played by incredible musicians. It was a perfect night out. If you see that there is going to be an event like this going on in a theatre near you, getting tickets for someone if you can would be a great gift to give.

Speaking of tickets, I love getting theatre tickets. My birthday is in spring and I’ve already been told that I will be receiving tickets to see Blood Brothers when it returns to the Bord Gáis in 2023. I cannot wait. Last Christmas, I bought my Mam tickets to see Beauty and the Beast in the Bord Gáis. She was delighted. We cannot wait to see the show.

Stay tuned, as there will be another #theatretrip discussion about this show coming soon on Katelovesliterature.com.

Theatre tickets can be expensive, so this is not always an option, but prices do vary depending on what seats you choose so it never hurts to look and see if this is an option for you. A musical theatre fan would be delighted to get tickets to go and see a show that they love. The same can be said for drama lovers, play tickets can be less expensive than musical theatre tickets as straight plays are often performed in smaller venues.

A night out at the Christmas panto can be great fun. I firmly believe in leaning into the magic and fun of the evening. A trip to the panto can be a great present for kids. So keep an eye out for tickets, because sometimes the price can be just right and tickets are always a great gift.

Theatre Inspired Gifts.

I am a theatre lover through and through.

I love speech and drama.

If you know someone who enjoys drama or studies drama, a great gift idea could be to get them a copy of a script.

There are some beautiful editions of scripts. Sometimes you can find collections of plays in the one book.

I’ve found some great scripts in places like Eason.

Similar to cinema memberships, some theatres have memberships. Membership packages can be expensive, but if you attend the theatre often or you are shopping for someone who does, looking into memberships could be a good idea.

There are also much more affordable theatre inspired gifts ideas that you can look into, like getting a theatre lover a binder for their programmes.

You could also look online and see if you can find a collector’s item playbill or programme.

I have a programme from the Gaiety Theatre that is from the 19th century. It is amazing to have a piece of literary history in my house. It is a moment in time, captured forever.

You can also get theatre inspired t-shirts and bags, mugs and notebooks. There are plenty of things that you can find for the thespian in your life.

Household Items Inspired by Literature.

You would be amazed at how many things you can get that are in some way inspired by literature.

I love presents that can encourage new interests. Something that I enjoy is learning how to make different cocktails, and last year a friend got me a recipe book of cocktails from movies. It is a really cool gift and it is so much fun to say I’m making a James Bond inspired martini. When I was in London in May, I went to Shakespeare’s Globe and while I was there I found a fantastic book of Shakespeare inspired cocktail recipes.

If you know that someone enjoys cooking or baking, or making drinks, then have a look around and see if you can find a movie inspired recipe book. It is a great gift to give a movie lover, and it also gives someone who enjoys making things a whole new set of recipes to explore.

Coffee table books are another great idea. You can find some beautiful display books that can add the finishing touch to someone’s front room. There are some fantastic books about the art of film, about different classic films, about different authors and their lives, about art etc. These books are usually big and sturdy, and as well as being very informative about a certain topic, they are also great visual pieces for the home.

Would you believe that you can also find candles inspired by books? There are some great candles and I find that Etsy is a great place to browse. A candle that smells like pages of a new book is a candle that I would have burning everyday.

Speaking of scents, perfume can be a wonderful present, and there are scents inspired by that gorgeous scent that is the smell of a brand new book. There are so many different scents, some are musky like a leather-bound books, some scents are warm and cozy and they evoke feelings of sitting by a warm fire with a good book. So I’d say that perfume can be a great gift, as it is also a very personal present. A perfume can make you think of a certain moment or a certain person and perfume can be a way to bottle a memory so I always think it is a lovely present.

You can always add a personal touch to nearly every gift. For example, a piece of jewellery can be engraved with a saying or a quote, which adds a literary touch to a piece that is going to be worn all the time.

There are so many ways to add a touch of literature to your Christmas gifts this year. Books, bookmarks, boxsets, personalised items, tickets, and so much more. You can find different gifts all for different prices so no matter what your price range is, you will find something that the gift getter is sure to love!

I hope you’ve found my 2022 Literature Lover Inspired Gift Guide helpful. I hope you’ve found some inspiration. Enjoy the festive season and enjoy gift getting and gift giving. Ho Ho Ho!

November by Elizabeth Stoddard: A Poem for the Season.

November by Elizabeth Stoddard. 

A poetry discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading different poems that have all been inspired in some way by the month of November. 

I’ve said before that I find autumn to be a very inspiring and evocative time of year. 

It is a time of year that seems to inspire descriptions so naturally. Colours seem more vivid and there seems to be a heightened awareness about our surroundings as autumn and winter bring so many physical changes. The nights grow longer, leaves turn gold and red before they fall, leaving the trees completely bare. Writers approach autumn in many different ways. 

Some describe it as a melancholy time, some focus on all of the changes that are happening in nature. Some writers reflect on the cycle of the seasons and comment on how we must lose the leaves in autumn so that everything can bloom again in spring. Some writers love autumn and they write about the beauty that can be found in crisp skies and golden leaves. 

A poem that I came across recently is November by Elizabeth Stoddard. 

It is a short poem, only four stanzas long, and the poem seems to capture everything that I’ve mentioned above. In the poem, Stoddard highlights her fondness for the season, she states that “autumn charms my melancholy mind.” (Stoddard, November, Line 4.)

The second stanza references the changes in scenery, the cycle that nature must follow. 

“The year must perish; all the flowers are dead.” (Stoddard, Line 6.) 

The third stanza discusses the excitement in the air that autumn brings because autumn leads us into the festive season, which is why many people like it. She writes “Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer, The holly-berries and the ivy-tree.” (Stoddard, Lines 9-10.)

The final stanza is what stood out to me. It caught my attention because I found it to be very poignant. Stoddard talks about the stillness of autumn, the quietness of it. It can be a reflective time after all, when one is staring out at grey skies. 

Stoddard’s closing line says “The naked, silent trees have taught me this, —

The loss of beauty is not always loss!” (Stoddard, Lines 15-16.) 

This line is what stayed with me. I find that there is something very lovely about it. 

This is a very straightforward poem in my opinion. Stoddard uses everyday, easy language. 

Nothing is overcomplicated or hard to follow. The poem is short, simple, and yet there is something very charming about it. I think Stoddard captures the emptiness that autumn can bring, but this emptiness does not have to be a bad thing. 

I find that there is something beautiful about grey skies. I find looking out at bare trees and grey skies very peaceful. The emptiness is beautiful in its own way. I always look forward to a new year, there is something very exciting about it. I think I feel this way because I like looking at the new year as an opportunity for fresh starts and new chapters, but this feeling cannot exist without autumn. I like taking time to reflect, to appreciate all that I have and all that I have done. 

The leaves falling almost symbolise the end of one chapter, we say goodbye to the old, to the year that has nearly gone by, before embracing the new. 

The naked, silent trees are peaceful. They are beautiful, and soon they will have new leaves again. That is autumn. It is a time of change. It is no wonder that so many writers enjoy focusing on the season in their works. 

If you have not read November by Elizabeth Stoddard, I would recommend it. 

It is short and sweet, but rather poignant as the poem captures something that is hard to explain, although I feel that I have made a very good attempt at explaining it. 

If you’re not really a poetry lover, but you’re trying to read poetry more often, this is a poem that I would recommend because it is so short. It is an easy read, and this kind of poem does not require readers to have an in-depth understanding of poetic, literary devices. It is simply a charming read. 

I read this poem on www.allpoetry.com

“November by Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard.” By Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard – Famous Poems, Famous Poets. – All Poetry, https://allpoetry.com/poem/8591479-November-by-Elizabeth-Drew-Barstow-Stoddard

Have you ever read this poem? Do you have any autumn inspired poems that you love?

The Heart and the Bottle: Grief and Hope in Children’s Literature.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers. 

A review by Kate O’Brien.

The beginning of November is a time when many of us think about those who we have lost. 

It feels as though I am stating the obvious when I say that grieving can be a very difficult experience. Grief is a very complex feeling as many people grieve differently, and it is almost impossible to know how you will handle grief until something happens that makes you grieve.

Grief is a prominent theme in many, many works of literature as grief can be expressed in many different ways. When looking at children’s literature, the question of how does one approach the subject of grief with children is a difficult one. 

Unfortunately, children are not immune to bad experiences and loss, so to pretend that children are not impacted by grief would be unfair and unrealistic, however, grief is a complex feeling and so it is a complex topic to talk about in children’s fiction. 

I think it is important that children do see grief in stories, especially because children who are grieving themselves can see something that they relate to, and a story can have the power to be comforting. I also think that it is important that the topic is handled carefully, because while it is important to acknowledge that children do suffer loss and they do grieve too, it is also important that the information is given to children in a sensitive and age appropriate way, so that the story does provide comfort rather than cause more upset. 

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers is a really beautiful story about grief. 

I love this book. I cried the first time I read it because I feel that it depicts grief in a very realistic way, without being too gloomy. The story does not diminish the impact of grief, it does show how much grief can impact one’s life, but there is hope and I think having that hope is very important. 

The story is about a little girl who is filled with wonder and curiosity. Her father fuels this curiosity by reading her lots of stories and answering all of her questions and encouraging her to explore the world and all of its wonders. The girl and her father are very close, so you can imagine how upset the girl was when one day she came downstairs only to find her father’s chair empty. 

That empty chair says everything. 

The little girl’s heart is heavy with grief, and she never wants anything to hurt her heart ever again so she puts it in a glass bottle to keep it safe. This works for a while, the girl feels nothing, but as she gets older, she learns that wrapping away your heart means that while you block out the grief, you’re also blocking out joys. When the girl decides it is time to take her heart back, she finds that it is not so easy to take it back out of the bottle. 

I love this story. I love how true it is. When you build a wall around your heart, it is extremely hard to knock it down again. It is hard to be vulnerable, it is hard to put yourself out there. It is hard to risk another heartbreak, but putting ourselves out there, caring about things, caring about others, loving others, that is where we find joy, but allowing our hearts to love and find joy, means that we risk grief. The risk is worth it though. 

When the little girl locked her heart away, she locked away all of her questions, her curiosity, her wonder, and she no longer took any notice of anything. Instead of locking away her grief, she became consumed by it because locking away your heart means that you are closing yourself off from life. The girl grows up and when she is a grown woman, she sees another little girl who is full of wonder, and this girl reminds the woman of all she has lost, prompting her to want to take her heart back. 

Despite the story highlighting how what started off as a coping mechanism slowly became something that was hurting the girl even more, demonstrating how much grief can consume a person, overall I found it to be a very hopeful tale. One that is about finding happiness again after a loss, and how even though it is difficult, it is worth it. 

Happiness can be found again, it does not mean that we are forgetting about those whom we miss. The little girl’s father always encouraged her wonder, and he would not want her to go through life without experiencing any joys. He would not want her to lose her curiosity. 

The first time I read this story, it made me very emotional and it still does. I still tear up a little when the girl takes her heart back. 

Taking your heart back does not mean that grief ends automatically, and it does not mean that you no longer think about those you miss, but taking your heart back means that you are allowing yourself to live fully again. You’re allowing yourself to experience joy and wonder again, and that is a very hopeful thing. 

If you haven’t read The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers, I would highly recommend it. It is a very poignant read. If you have dealt with grief, I think this book is very relatable and very comforting, and if you have not experienced grief, then this book shines a light on how much grief can impact someone, so it is important to be kind and considerate as you never know how someone can be struggling, even if they pretend that everything is fine. 

Jeffers handles grief in a poignant and beautiful way, and I am very glad that I came across this story.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

October isn’t over yet and I’ve decided that Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is a brilliant poem to read in the lead up to Halloween.

If you’re not a fan of Poe or you are unfamiliar with his work, I would recommend The Raven, because it is one of Poe’s most well-known poems. I would suggest that this poem is Poe’s most famous work, simply because of how often the poem gets parodied.

I recently watched a Halloween episode of The Simpsons. It was one of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, season 2, episode 3. The third section of this particular episode is an adaptation of Poe’s The Raven. It was fantastic. If you want to be introduced to this piece in a very fun way, then I would absolutely recommend this episode. The “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of The Simpsons are always great fun. I am a casual watcher, so I had never seen this particular episode before, so I was happily surprised to see that The Raven was featured. Hearing the poem again in this episode reminded me of just how much I enjoy the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Raven was published in 1845 and it is made up of eighteen stanzas.

I really love this poem because I think it is a piece that really demonstrates Poe’s writing style. It is no secret that I am a fan of gothic literature. I enjoy the way gothic literature subverts expectations and builds suspense. Gothic stories often take place in very vivid settings. To sum up; I love gothic literature because of how evocative it can be.

It has been said that Edgar Allan Poe is a brilliant example of a gothic writer. I would have to say that I agree with this statement because Poe’s writing often explores themes of death and despair, while also being on the verge of terrifying. Poe also uses repetition to build up a sense of urgency in his pieces, alongside utilizing descriptions to create very vivid pictures with his words.

The Raven is a poem that encapsulates all of the above mentioned characteristics. The poem is about a man who is desperately lonely and heartbroken after the death of the love of his life. On a cold winter night, a raven taps on the window and on the door. He opens the window, letting the bird in, but he slowly becomes driven mad by this raven.

The raven seems to be talking back to the man, although all the bird can croak out is the word “nevermore”. Now one can ask if the bird is actually croaking out that word? One interpretation could be that the man is imagining the bird is responding to him, or one could imagine that perhaps this bird is somehow communicating with this man.

I would say that this poem is about a man who is descending deeper and deeper into sadness and despair after the death of his wife. He thinks about how the bird will soon leave the room, leaving him, just as his loved ones have left him. The man goes on to question if he will someday be reunited with his love Lenore, but all the bird says is “nevermore”.

The man becomes more and more distraught by the raven’s response. His sadness turns to anger as he gets angry at the bird constantly saying “nevermore”. The man is driven mad by the raven, and he decides the raven is a thing of evil.

In all of my readings about The Raven, something that I have come across many times is that apparently Poe himself stated that the raven was a symbol of grief, and he felt that a raven suited the dark theme of the poem.

One could also say that this poem is a gothic romance, as it is about a man who is utterly devastated by the loss of his love, clearly showing that his love for Lenore remained just as strong after she died. He hopes to be reunited with her someday. His grief drives him so mad that he asks a raven questions that the bird cannot possibly answer.

The Raven is a beautiful, musical poem despite being so very sad. This poem is a lovely one to read aloud, and I would say that this is due to Poe’s frequent use of alliteration and repetition.

Theory Time.

Poe has used trochaic octameter in The Raven.

What does this mean?

This means that each poetic meter has eight trochaic feet in each line, and each foot contains a stressed syllable that is followed by an unstressed syllable. This is a meter that is not used often, however I would say that the rhythm it creates, paired with Poe’s alliteration and repetition is why this poem became so famous. It is musical. It flows off the tongue beautifully, and you can’t help but become passionate when you say it aloud, because you become urgent, just like the man does.

I think that the poem is very evocative because there is a lot of onomatopoeia used by Poe.

Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds like what it describes  – “buzz,” “whoosh,” “splat.” These are words that are great examples of onomatopoeia.

I would argue that Poe uses quite straightforward language. The poem is easy to follow, however the repetition of very similar words can leave the reader slightly tongue twisted on the first attempt.  

The Raven is an evocative, gothic poem that makes for a very eerie, moving read. It is an especially brilliant poem to turn to when one is studying poetry as this poem allows readers to analyse several different poetic literary devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition, imagery, etc. as mentioned above. It is one thing to talk about literary devices, but it is really helpful when you can see how a writer has used these techniques to create something very beautiful and very musical.

If you’ve never read The Raven then I would highly recommend that you do. It is a brilliant October read.

Do you have a favourite poem? Let me know.

Kate xo.