N O P E.

An eerie, slow-burning film about violence, obsession, and the idea of becoming a spectacle. 

A review by Kate O’Brien. 

NOPE was released in July of 2022 and the film was directed by Jordan Peele. 

I watched NOPE for the first time a few days ago and while it is a great choice of film to talk about during #spookyseason, this film is one that will stay with me for a long time. 

If you’re a new reader here at Katelovesliterature.com, you may not know that despite pushing through and watching anyways, I am not the biggest fan of horror. 

I used to say that as a blanket statement –   “I don’t like horror.” 

I’ve realised that this isn’t true. Horror intrigues me. I can like horror and often do, the problem is that I am jumpy and squeamish. I hate blood, the sight of it makes me nauseous and so the idea of many horror films make me squirm, however if I am interested enough in a concept, I have found ways to get over my fears and watch anyways. I will begrudgingly admit that despite covering my eyes during certain scenes, I usually enjoy the films I watch overall and I am often filled with many thoughts. 

NOPE is a film that I really enjoyed. I was assured that there are only two bloody/gory scenes that I would be fairly warned about and the rest of the film is a slow, suspense-filled, slow-burn. 

This is true. While there are some tense scenes, it is not a gore fest and there is only one jump-scare that was quite mild, and that is coming from me. So, if you’re like me and you hate blood but you’re curious about this film, I would recommend it. The first scene that I had to look away from happens very early on, when a character gets injured. The second scene that I had to look away from happens much later on. This movie is separated into acts with title chapters so – spoiler alert- 

When the Gordy section begins, I would recommend covering one’s eyes as this section opens with a long-panning, quite graphic, gory scene, but once this scene has passed, that is it. There is no more gore or shocking injuries for the rest of the movie. The third-act actually moves at a very quick pace and it even felt like an action movie at times, but I am getting ahead of myself. 

All of my thoughts and opinions, and interpretations are my own, so as with any film, I may have a completely different take on it compared to someone else’s, but I would suggest that this is a film that is talking about violence, and an audience’s obsession with violence and how we can make a spectacle out of things if we don’t respect them enough. 

Spoilers below. 

Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as OJ and Emerald, siblings who come together after their father dies. Their father, Otis Haywood Sr., taught his children the family business of training horses for films and television. Otis is on a horse when a mysterious coin falls from the sky, hits him in the eye and kills him. OJ and Emerald are grieving together and trying to keep the business going after their father’s death, but their family ranch has become home to an unknown presence. OJ and Emerald experience strange power outages and they also see something – they don’t know what, in the sky. The plot follows OJ and Emerald as they set out to capture video evidence of this mysterious object in the sky that appears to be eating things, including people.

I think that this film has done something really interesting, because in my opinion, this film has used alien film tropes to its advantage in order to explore various themes. As I was watching the film and trying to figure out what I think it means, there came a moment when I said, “this is an alien film.” 

In some ways, it is an alien film and I’ve even heard that some people interpreted NOPE to stand for “Not of planet earth”, but according to Peele, this is coincidental. It is an alien film in the sense that the main protagonists are attempting to capture footage of of extraterrestrial beings on camera, to prove that the strange happenings that are occurring at their home are actually real, and in the process of doing this, they find themselves in danger, but I think that this film is more than an alien film. I think this is a film that uses alien plot point tropes to tell a bigger story. 

I want to talk about the setting. This film is set out in the middle of nowhere on the Haywood ranch. There are some absolutely stunning visuals in this movie. There are big, sprawling, panning shots that show beautiful star filled skies, sprawling mountains, and a horizon that stretches and stretches. The Haywood’s house is a perfect backdrop for a horror film. It is a big house on a hill on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere. It is beautiful and eerie all at once. It is hard to get to and more importantly, hard to get away from. I would also argue that there are some gothic elements to this film. A very common trope in gothic literature is the idea that home becomes a place of danger rather than a place where one finds safety. In NOPE, the Haywood’s childhood home becomes the sight of odd occurrences and instead of feeling safe there, the Haywood’s are now at the mercy of whatever is in the sky. That is, they are at its mercy until they figure out what it is, and how to tame it. 

In films, lighting and sound can be used in really impactful, evocative ways and in this film, the light is very important. Whenever something unsettling is about to happen, the power goes out. Lights go out, any music that is playing trails off in a rather jarring way that it is unsettling to the ear. When the thing in the sky is gone, the lights come back on and this is a signal to the audiences that our protagonists are safe – for now. 

I want to talk about what I think the film’s themes are. I would argue that the film’s themes are the  ideas of watching and looking, the idea of how people can become obsessed with violence and violent acts, the idea of how obsession can lead to danger, and I would also argue that the film touches on ideas about control, the want to control other beings, or the want to control the narrative etc. 

This is also a film about family. OJ and Emerald are brother and sister and this is a film about them coming together and working together to defeat something. The two characters go on a journey together. If you strip away every other element, this is a film that is about grieving siblings who come together to face adversity, and that is beautiful. It’s touching. Their story really pulled on my heartstrings throughout the entire film. 

Filming is a topic that comes up a lot during this film. After his father’s death, OJ takes a horse to a shoot for a commercial, but the shoot doesn’t go well because the people on set do not listen to his safety demonstration and they do not treat the horse with respect. This leads to the horse getting spooked, and even though no one was hurt, OJ loses the job. Times have been tough on the ranch and some horses have had to be sold in order to make ends meet. This leads us to meeting Ricky “Jupe” Park. Jupe was a child actor who worked on the sitcom “Gordy’s Home.” Now the adult Jupe runs a western theme park and he has been buying Haywood horses. He even offers to buy the ranch. Jupe is very proud of the work he did as a child on “Gordy’s Home”, but the thing he talks about the most, the story that he exploits, is the tragedy that happened on set. Jupe recalls the story and tells Emerald and OJ how one day, one of the chimps playing Gordy attacked several co-stars on set, and that tragic event is the reason why chimps are not used on sets anymore. Jupe witnessed this entire tragic event play out and it has had a profound impact on him as an adult, but this is a point that I will expand on later. 

OJ contemplates Jupe’s offer, and Emerald encourages him to accept it, and while mulling this over, more strange events start occurring on the ranch, prompting OJ and Emerald to want to capture it on film. An important thing to note is that they want to be the ones to capture the evidence on film, because they don’t want anyone else to find out about the events on the ranch and film it, pushing the Haywood’s out. It is their family home, and they want to be the ones to tell this story, and I think this is an important point to keep in mind when thinking about who tells stories and the way that stories are told. 

When OJ and Emerald go to buy camera equipment, they meet Angel at the store. Angel is a tech enthusiast and he sets up the equipment at the house. He becomes a supportive friend to OJ and Emerald and as the film plays out, he helps them capture footage of what is eventually called a UFO. 

I don’t think this film has a villain, although out of everyone’s actions, Jupe’ are arguably the worst. It becomes obvious that the tragedy on the “Gordy’s Home” set had a profound impact on Jupe because now as an adult, he is obsessed with violent acts. He is obsessed with the idea of a spectacle. 

The thing in the sky, the UFO, is actually animal like. It is a predator. OJ is the one who figures this out. This makes sense, seeing as it is his family that has knowledge of animals, how to train them, and also, they respect them. The film takes time to teach audiences about what not to do around horses. No loud noises, no sudden movements, don’t look them in the eye, don’t get too close. Doing these things can spook a horse. OJ figures out that the thing in the sky is predator like because it is being territorial over the ranch, and one way to stay safe is to not look up. Don’t look it in the eye. 

The predator in the sky gets hungry, it scours for prey, it eats horses and sometimes it eats people, and then spits out things it can’t eat, hence the coins falling from the sky. We as the audience, learn that Jupe has become so obsessed with the spectacle that this thing creates that he has been buying the horses from OJ to use as bait to lure the thing in the sky out. 

The last character I need to mention before I talk anymore about the themes is Antlers Holst. Holst is a cinematographer who Emerald calls because she wants his help getting footage of the thing in the sky, the thing that she has named Jean Jacket, referring to a horse she didn’t get to tame when she was a child. I am mentioning Holst because he has a line that I feel really captures the entire message of the film. 

Holst is all about getting “the shot.” Holst warns Emerald that this thing that she is chasing, the dream that will take her to the top of the mountain, it is endless. It is a dream that “you never wake up from.”  

This line is really important. This idea of chasing this dream, this idea of being obsessed with “getting the shot, the shot” is ultimately Holst’s undoing. 

Holst has vast experience when it comes to capturing the extraordinary on film, and he uses manual cameras so the power outages do not mess with his footage, but he falls prey to the very thing he warned Emerald about. He got the shot. He captured Jean Jacket on film, but he wanted more, he wanted a better shot, so because he was so obsessed with getting the shot, he ignored all warnings and put himself in harm’s way. He ended up getting devoured by Jean Jacket, he died for the shot

This is extremely significant, because I feel like this moment sums up so much of the rest of the film. Jupe is obsessed with the idea of a spectacle, so much so that he uses horses as bait, endangering them and other people too, all because he is so fixated on seeing the chaos come to life. This obsession is a direct result of what happened to him when he was on set as a child. The tragic day where so many people get extremely hurt has become a spectacle. People don’t treat it with the respect that it deserves, instead people have become obsessed with watching the clip online. People are obsessed with how awful it was, so much so that is has become almost entertaining in a very twisted way. Jupe thrives off of telling the story, even though he is still haunted by it. He loves talking to people about that day because he loves how invested and engaged people are in the story. This is why he wants to lure Jean Jacket out of the sky. He wants a spectacle, and it never seems to occur to him that by doing this, he is endangering and disrespecting other people, and the horses.

He’s not thinking about them, they’re simply part of his spectacle. 

I think it would impossible to watch this film and not at all think about what it implies about animals in performance capacities. The Haywood’s care for their horses and respect them. They want their horses to be safe and healthy. Not everyone on set feels that way, Jupe doesn’t care about the horses when he is using them as bait, OJ and Emerald and Angel are the only ones who take Jean Jacket seriously. They respect the fact that the thing in the sky is a predator. It is a threat. It is not something that Jupe should be making a circus out of. Obviously times have changed compared to years and years ago, and where once upon a time large animals were used in theme parks and in circuses in unnatural habitats, this is a notion that is hugely controversial now as more and more people are against animals being held in captivity this way. 

I think this idea is impossible to ignore as it perfectly ties into the idea of making a spectacle out of something that should not be one. 

As we approach the end of the film, a journalist gets wind of the strange things that are happening at the Haywood ranch, so he arrives with a video camera. OJ, Emerald and Angel already have a plan set in motion about how to tame Jean Jacket so that no-one else gets hurt. This plan gets put at risk when the journalist shows up. Emerald tries to shoo him away, but he is invested and determined to get his shots. Just like Holst, he dies for the sake of filming. OJ did his best to save him but it was too late, and he too gets devoured by Jean Jacket. In his final moments, he is screaming about making sure this is filmed, make sure his death is caught on camera, so even in his final moments, he’s not thinking about his life, he’s thinking about getting his shot. 

While I can’t say for certain that this was Peele’s intention, this film really made me think about social media culture and how far we will go to get the shot. How far will we go for appearances? Do we put ourselves in harm’s way by doing too many performative things? 

Obviously this is quite extreme. I’ve always held the opinion that social media can be nothing more than lighthearted and fun as long as you behave responsibly and remember that so many things are created and altered so it cannot be viewed as the be all and end all, but as in all horror movies, this idea is taken to the extreme and forces audiences to question things. 

I’ve talked about it before, but there is this idea that the morbid is curious. Violence can be very intriguing. I’ve written about violence onscreen in an academic setting, and the idea that really resonated with me is the idea that when something seems so unimaginable, it is fascinating. 

It is the idea of wanting to look away but being unable to do so. Audiences enjoy experiencing violence from afar, in a safe way. Watching violence is intriguing because it poses no threat to us when we are safe on our sofas, but there does come a point where you have to think about what you’re doing. Are you viewing the victims of the violent acts as people? Are you feeling sympathy for them? Are you empathising with them? Or have they become part of a spectacle? Have their feelings been forgotten entirely? It is a very interesting, and complex topic because sadly violence does occur, and to pretend it doesn’t happen ever in the media that we take in would be insincere. 

How violence is contextualised is very important, and I would suggest that NOPE is a film that prompts audiences to think about the ways in which we view violence and violent acts onscreen. 

Despite this movie being unsettling, I would say that it ended on a hopeful note. 

I am going to spoil the ending because I want to talk about how I felt that the film had a full-circle structure. 

I am very happy that OJ and Emerald both survive. I was worried that we would lose one of them, but I was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case. The film ends with Emerald capturing the shot and Jean Jacket gets destroyed. OJ and Emerald work together the entire time, but in the end, Emerald is the one to “tame” Jean Jacket and I found this to be very poignant. Emerald didn’t get to train or tame the horse when she was a child, because the horse got booked for a job and because OJ was older, he got to go to work with their father, but OJ always looked back at Emerald. Now, we come full-circle. Emerald is an adult, and even though she and OJ are always there for each other, always looking back at each other, she is the one who gets to tame this Jean Jacket, and the film ends with her and OJ smiling at each other, thrilled that they are both okay as photographers and journalists start arriving with their cameras, all wanting their shot. 

The cycle starts again. Something happens and we always want to make a spectacle out of it. We want the details, we want the story, we want to know because we’re morbidly fascinated by the events that have occurred, because they seem so unimaginable. I feel this will always be the way it works, because we do need news, we do need to be informed, but it is important to remember to respect the people who actually experienced the event and view them as actual people, rather than figures for our own entertainment. 

NOPE is a brilliantly paced, slow-burning film that is deeply unsettling and extremely thought provoking. It is bright yet there is this constant, underlying tension that something isn’t right, something is wrong, and that sense of danger and urgency continues to build and become more intense, and then the final act moves at a very swift pace. It is perfect. It mirrors the sense of urgency that we feel as viewers. The characters must act now. The plan has to work. 

It is unsettling without being excessively gory. The score is stunning, and some of the visuals are almost like a painting. Overall I would say that NOPE is an extremely evocative film, and I would highly recommend it. 

Have you watched NOPE? 

My Fair Lady.

On Saturday I ventured into town for a #theatretrip. I went to see Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin.

If you know me then you know that a night at the theatre is my idea of a perfect night.

On Saturday we cracked out the autumn jackets and headed into town for a day filled with coffee, food, drinks, and some gorgeous music.

If you’re in Dublin and you want to go for a bite to eat, I am a big fan of The Woollen Mills. The restaurant is right beside the Ha’penny Bridge and the menu offers a wide range of choices along with a delightful cocktail menu.

All thoughts and opinions expressed here on Katelovesliterature.com are entirely my own. I have never been paid to promote or recommend anything. I’m writing about The Woollen Mills because it is a go to spot of mine, and I’d like to share it.

The theatre was buzzing with excitement, and it is great to be in a room that is filled with so much life. My Fair Lady is clearly a much-loved film, and the theatre was filled with people who love the film but hadn’t yet seen the show, or people who loved the show and the film. I fall into the latter category. I have loved the film for a very long time, and I have studied George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion in great detail, as well as being very familiar with Loewe’s music.

My Fair Lady the musical, directed by Bartlett Sher is a delight. The set is stunning, the music is charming. The show itself is funny, endearing, and full of passion. I laughed and cried in my seat, and I was in love with the beautiful costumes.

The entire cast was incredible and very deserving of the standing ovation that they received. I think a show like this would be a very hard one to step into because the roles are so iconic and audience members who absolutely adore the Audrey Hepburn adaptation have high expectations, but the cast definitely delivered.

Charlotte Kennedy played the famous Eliza Doolittle, and she did so brilliantly. I would argue that Eliza is the hardest role to play in the show, because the actress must almost play two parts. We meet Eliza on the street selling flowers, penniless and dirty, and “insulting the English language” according to Higgins, but then as the play goes on, Eliza becomes well educated, well spoken, and she no longer fits in on the streets where she grew up. Eliza has to be determined, feisty, funny, but she also has to be endearing, charming, and likeable. That is key. As the audience, we have to root for Eliza, we must cheer for her when she triumphs, we must be on her side, and to do that, we must like her. Charlotte Kennedy was beautiful. Her voice was sweet, yet strong, and had the most gorgeous, air-like quality to it. She was a funny, very passionate, and very likeable Eliza. I was on her side the entire time, as was the entire audience.

Michael D. Xavier was perfect as the snobby, pretentious, egotistical Professor Higgins. I have to commend him as some of the songs that Higgins must sing are very fast, and very wordy, but Michael D. Xavier was clear as a bell and very, very strong. Michael D. Xavier appeared to actually tear up during his final song, and he had me moved to tears. Higgins is an interesting character because at times he is incredibly unlikable, but it is important that he has the audience on side during his last song. We don’t have to like him, but we should feel for him, and I certainly did.

The ensemble was fantastic. The dancing was precise, and very classic. The costumes were dazzling, and the cast embodied their characters in every single way.

My Fair Lady is a fun show. It is charming. I think a great way to describe it is that it is effervescent, but it is not without heart. The show puts class differences front and centre for the world to see and highlights how very often, people are separated by the opportunities that they receive and the way that other people treat them.

Eliza puts it very aptly. The difference between a lady and a flower girl is how she is treated.

I loved the show. I thought it was bright, beautiful, and full of heart.

I would highly recommend seeing it if you get a chance to, and definitely watch the film if you haven’t.

Kate xo.

A snap of the beautiful stage before act one began.

My “loverly” programme.

The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak.

The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak. 

A review by Kate O’Brien.

A charming retelling of a story that most of us already know, set to a tune that will have us humming as we go. 

Published by Beehive Books, Catherine Ann Cullen’s The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak is a delightful story. What better way to introduce young readers to the story of Brigid’s cloak than by sharing a tale that can also be told through song? 

Catherine Ann Cullen is a talented poet who has a knack for writing charming verses that linger in the ears for a long time. Catherine’s take on the story of Brigid’s cloak started out as a song. 

You can see Catherine Ann Cullen singing “The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak” at beehivebooks.ie/brigids-cloak. Catherine adapted a traditional tune to fit her bouncy, funny take on the story of Brigid’s cloak, a story that many of us would have learned in school, but likely not in such an entertaining way. 

If you have not heard the tale, the book is about the Irish legend of St. Brigid. Brigid was never without her “wee small cloak.” Brigid is determined to build a church for the people, but the miserly King refuses to share one inch of his vast lands. Brigid is not deterred and she asks the King for as much land as her cloak will cover. The King took one look at Brigid’s “wee small cloak”, and laughed and laughed and agreed to her deal at once. Imagine the miserly King’s shocked face when he saw Brigid’s cloak growing, growing, and growing some more. It was the clever and determined Brigid who had the last laugh. 

When I first heard Catherine Ann Cullen’s take on the tale, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia because the last time I had heard the story of Brigid’s cloak, I was in primary school. 

I didn’t expect to be filled with such fondness for the tale, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself humming the song for the rest of the day. Catherine Ann Cullen has created a delightful earworm that is sure to have younger readers singing in their seats. 

Illustrated by Katya Swan, The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak plays out on beautiful pages. Katya has brought the story to life with rich colours that burst with life on the pages and catch the reader’s eye. Perfect for when we are trying to grab a younger reader’s attention. Katya’s artwork and Catherine Ann’s form go hand in hand because both are simple, and easy to follow, while still being beautiful, bright, and lots of fun. 

The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak is a charming read and it is a gorgeous addition to any bookshelf. As an adult, it was lovely to return to an old story that has been retold in a fresh, musical way. A book like this, a book that combines rhythm and song with easy verses and bright illustrations is a perfect way to introduce younger readers to a well-known, well-loved tale. It encourages role play, it encourages song, it is a fantastic book that allows young readers to explore a tale in various fun and engaging ways. 

The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak is available now at www.beehivebooks.ie and other bookshops. 

You can find follow Catherine Ann Cullen on Instagram @catherineanncullen. 

Katya Swan @katya_swan_illustrations & Beehive Books @beehivebooks.ie. 

Important Note: 

All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own. This is not an ad. This is not a paid promotion. 

Image taken by myself, with permission, at the book launch of The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak.

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: Horrifically Significant.

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.

I would suggest that one will always remember the first time they read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. The first time I read this text I was in secondary school, in English class and I remember getting to the end and feeling a pit in my stomach. I was intrigued, I wanted to know more, and I was shocked. That is something that stands out to me when I think about stories that I’ve read throughout the years. I was also a drama student, so I have come across so many scripts, short stories, excerpts etc., throughout the years so the fact that I still remember to this day how shocked I felt when I read The Lottery really demonstrates just how impactful this text is. 

Clearly I was not the only person that this text had an impact upon. The Lottery was first published in The New Yorker in 1948 and it is safe to say that this story caused ripples in the water. The New Yorker received letter after letter after letter from members of the public, demanding explanations about the story and what it meant. 

The Lottery has been called one of the most famous American short stories in literary history. 

Fair warning – There will be spoilers in this review.

The Lottery is a short story about a seemingly idyllic town. Set in June, on a warm and sunny day, the townspeople are gathering for the annual event – the lottery. Adults and children gather and play and chat happily before the event begins. When it is time for the lottery to take place, everyone in town separates from the merriment to stand with their family members. One by one the head of each household takes a slip from the old, falling apart yet unnervingly unwavering, big black box. 

Jackson has written the story in an objective third person point of view. When a story is told through an objective third person point of view, it is slightly different compared to when a story is told through a limited third person point of view. Usually when a story is written in the third person, the narrator exists outside of the story and this means that the omniscient narrator can enter a character’s head and allow readers to access a character’s thoughts. When we can access a character’s thoughts, we can read about how a character feels. When a story is told through an objective third person point of view, the point of view remains neutral and relays events to readers almost like a camera that is filming the goings on in the story. An objective third person point of view remains neutral, this point of view does not enter a character’s head, so readers cannot access their thoughts, and so it is harder to discern how a character is feeling. An easy way to think about the objective third person point of view is to think of it like a report. The facts are relayed, but emotions and motivations behind those facts are not. 

I would say that the main character is Tessie Hutchinson, but the objective third person point of view does not allow readers to get to know Tessie. As a a matter of fact, readers are not allowed into the thoughts of any character so I think that while Tessie becomes the focal point, we as readers, are somewhat detached to her. This is an important thing to note in my opinion, because the more I read this story, the more I think that this detachment to Tessie is very intentional. I think that is exactly the point. 

If you have not read the lottery by now, this is the part of the review where I spoil the ending. I am going to discuss the ending as I cannot discuss the themes of this story without revealing how it ends. 

As I said above, the lottery begins when the head of each household picks a slip of paper from a big black box. Tessie’s husband takes a slip, just like everyone else. Every slip in the box is blank, all except one. One slip has a black dot on it, this is the slip that Tessie’s husband Bill has taken from the box. The Hutchinson family is singled out. Tessie protests. It is not fair, she says. Her husband was rushed through picking his slip, she moans. She is ignored. There are five family members in the Hutchinson family. Tessie, Bill, and their three children. So five slips are put in a box. All are blank, except one. One slip has a black dot. Bill takes a slip. Blank. The three children take a slip one by one. Blank, blank, blank. Tessie takes her slip. The slip with the black dot. Tessie has won the lottery – that is what I thought when I first read this story, Tessie’s won, but something is wrong. Something is off. 

Tessie has not won the lottery. Tessie has not won anything. Tessie has lost her life. 

Tessie begins to protest again, she shouts and screams that it isn’t fair, it isn’t right. 

Everyone else in village starts to collect stones, all while Tessie continues to protest. Her cries about injustice are ignored as Tessie is stoned to death. 

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery has been called a masterpiece, and I have to say that I would agree with this assessment. 

This is a story that is unbelievably unsettling and upsetting, and it is very easy to see why this caused outrage when it was first published. 

This is the kind of story that makes people deeply uncomfortable, it is the kind of story that is thought of as being too horrible to write. That is what makes it so important, that is what makes it so brilliant. It is a dark piece, that is undeniable, but the horrors that exist in this text, and what those horrors represent and prompt one to think about are why this story is a crucial read. 

I believe that everyone should read The Lottery once in their lives. It should be a text that is taught, analysed and discussed because I think that while it was published in 1948, the story remains historically, culturally, and socially relevant and significant. 

Let’s talk about the themes of the story and their importance, alongside the story’s setting and how the story’s setting allows those themes to have such a memorable impact. 

I would call this story a suburban gothic. The story is set in an idyllic, suburban, American town. The exact place is not specified, but I think that adds to the idea that this could be any town USA. The story is set in June. It is summer, it is a warm, sunny day. Children are playing. It is the picture of suburbia …until it isn’t. The setting is significant. It seems unbelievable that such a horrific act could take place in a place that seemed so lovely and safe. That is the point, that violence, and horrific, unjust acts can take place anywhere, and sometimes the place that looks the prettiest can be home to some of the most awful acts. In my opinion, this is an important idea to discuss. Often, it can be argued that people think that certain places are dangerous, and it is easy to place where we live on a pedestal. It is easy to be naive and say “well things like that don’t happen here, bad things like that would never happen where I live.”, but this is very often not true. The Lottery is a story that highlights how ordinary and usually kind, reasonable people can act cruelly and allow cruelty to occur and this cruelty is allowed to occur in their safe, idyllic town. 

It is very easy to act as though one is above violence, but it is important to be aware of and ensure that, actually, we are not complicit in any violence.

I would suggest that the main themes of this story are the ideas of the danger of blindly following traditions, mob mentality, and hypocrisy. 

The lottery is an event that happens every year. It is an event that has been allowed to happen every year. Why? Well, the event is held because of the superstition that the lottery will lead to a good harvest, so there is this idea being put forward that a sacrifice will lead to prospering. This superstition rationalises the killing of one person, because this death leads to a good harvest, which is good for everyone else in the town. The townspeople need a good harvest. In this warped event, motivated by superstition and tradition, one could find a twisted sense of fairness. This twisted sense of fairness is almost symbolised in the narration. The story is told objectively, through the third person, there are no emotions involved. The event is presented matter of factly, and the idea that comes across is that the townspeople think that choosing someone at random through a lottery is the fairest way to decide who will die for the harvest, however readers are more likely to agree with Tessie. This is not right. This is not fair. This is wrong, this is shocking, this is unjust. 

The lottery is an event that has been unquestioned for so long that the big black box that the slips are put in is old and battered. This implies that perhaps it is time to end the event, as when the lottery first started, it was wood chips not paper in the box, but now the town has grown so much that the wood would no longer fit as there has to be enough for every family member to pick one. There is talk about other towns and about how other towns have stopped doing the lottery, but in Jackson’s story, the town is committed to the lottery because “there’s always been a lottery.” 

I would say that this story is pretty clearly presenting the message that clinging to traditions of old can be reductive and sometimes downright dangerous. While it is important to remember the past, it is crucial that society always moves with the times, and sometimes clinging on to something just because “it has always been done” does more harm than good. Sometimes we simply need to say enough is enough and stop doing something that no longer works – although when it comes to a story like Jackson’s, I can’t help but wonder if the point was to make readers question if this lottery was ever really fair in the first place. I would think not. 

The mob mentality aspect of the story is really interesting. The story highlights how the status quo is maintained, and often it is maintained simply because no-one stands up to it. Tessie protested, but her voice was quickly drowned out, and the story makes one think about how people act when they are surrounded by people who are doing the same thing. It is the echo-chamber effect. When you have an opinion that you know is a popular one, it is easier to share that opinion knowing that you will be agreed with. It is easier to shut down change, when it is clear that there are more people that are unwilling to change than those who are, and this is where mob mentality becomes dangerous. If more people are unwilling to change, unfortunately dangerous things continue to carry on. A horrifying, yet significant aspect of this story is the fact that Tessie’s husband Bill and their children participate in the stoning of Tessie. This is an absolutely awful thing, and it is horrible to think about, but it does demonstrate how people will go along with the status quo even if doing so harms someone they love. It is perhaps one of the harshest literary metaphors I’ve come across, but the point the story makes is clear. 

It is practically impossible to read The Lottery without thinking about hypocrisy. 

I’m going to say the setting is hypocritical because in a story like this, the setting is just as much of a character as anyone else, and small towns that preach good values are the perfect backdrop to a story about hypocrisy. The town is idyllic, the town is lovely, the town is safe and the people are good. How can the town be idyllic if a horrific event takes place year after year after year? 

How can the people be kind if they allow someone to be killed year after year after year? 

The town is not idyllic. The people have simply justified extreme violence because it suited them to do so. Tessie is this year’s victim of the lottery, but Tessie is also a hypocrite. 

Tessie arrives late to the lottery, she claims she forgot it was taking place that day. This highlights how nonchalant she has become about this event. The fact that she is a married mother implies that she has lived through the lottery every year up until this one. Tessie does not protest until Bill picks the slip with the black dot and even then she does not protest about the lottery, she simply complains that Bill was rushed when picking his slip. This implies that had someone else gotten the black dotted slip, she would not have said a word. She would have participated in the lottery, just like she has done every year until this one, but now she is protesting because it is her family that is in danger. Suddenly the lottery effects her and her family. I would suggest that Tessie is a very symbolic character as she represents a much larger societal issue. Tessie represents the fact that so many people do not care about injustice and are happy to let it continue until it impacts them or someone they love. When it impacts them or someone they love, suddenly it is not okay and that is hypocrisy at its finest – to say it is okay for others to suffer, but not for me. 

Is it any wonder that this story caused outrage in 1948? I bet it still causes outrage today as many, many people do not like it when societal flaws and hypocrisy are pointed out. 

We must point them out, this story is an extreme, horror filled example of why social flaws must be discussed, of why societal norms must be challenged if they are harmfully outdated, and why we must be always aware of violence and injustice, so that we can put a stop to it, rather than be complicit in it. 

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is perhaps one of the most frightening kinds of horror story, because so many of the themes in the story can be applied to real life. The story is extremely evocative, it is so well written. It builds, and builds until the horrible picture unfolds completely. It is jarring, it is mysterious, it is very unsettling, very scary, and the more I think about it, it is upsetting. 

That is why it is brilliant. The fact that is it so horrifically evocative is what makes it such a significant read. 

If you have not read The Lottery, you must and if you have read it, tell me do you remember the first time you read it and how you felt when you did? Please let me know because I’d love to read other people’s reaction to this story. 

Kate xo. 

The Haunting Season.

The Haunting Season: Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights

A collection of ghost stories by Bridget Collins, Natasha Pulley, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Andrew Michael Hurley, Jess Kidd, Elizabeth Macneal & Laura Purcell. 

The idea behind compiling this collection of stories appealed to me immediately. 

The idea behind this beautiful book was that winter is the perfect time to gather together to listen to ghost stories. 

I love winter. Autumn is my favourite season, but there is something deliciously gloomy about winter. I can’t explain why, but I’ve always had a fondness for grey skies. In my humble opinion, there is something calming about looking out the window at a dull, grey sky. Even better, if the dull, grey sky sits above bare, leafless trees. There is something quiet about it, something peaceful. I love those days where it looks as though at any second, the grey sky would split open so snow could fall. I love crisp cold air that allows you to see your own breath. 

Winter is a time that inspires descriptions & beautiful icing imagery. All of the blues and greys are juxtaposed against the warm twinkly lights of Christmas and the bright, vivid oranges of dancing flames in big fireplaces. 

The stories in this book take readers from Covent Gardens to the Yorkshire Moors, and the stories inspire goosebumps at every turn. The stories range from wonderfully eerie to at times desperately sad. At times I was deeply moved, and deeply unsettled. Some of the stories, in fact some of the lines in this book stayed with me for a long time. 

This collection of stories also lead me to think about the link between female mental health & horror in 19th century literature in particular. This collection of stories shines a light on how women suffered with their mental health, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum. It is very sad to read accounts of women who did not have the support, who suffered because they were dismissed as mad, when they really needed someone who understood, someone who was willing to help. 

I also couldn’t help but be reminded at times of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

This collection of stories is very evocative. The large, creepy, mysterious houses provide excellent backdrops for peculiar stories. I would suggest that there is a gothic element to the settings of these stories; big houses that don’t feel safe, suddenly making the home a place that one needs to escape from rather than find refuge in. 

I’m also quite fond of the idea that someone could get lost in their own home. The idea of being in a place with rooms upon rooms and not knowing what it is in each room intrigues me greatly, as I would feel very unsettled if there were wings in my house that were unknown to me. The fact that one can be in a house yet be so disconnected from parts of it is an idea that I’ve always been fascinated by. The idea that horrors lie around you but you are unaware of them until you go exploring the unknown rooms is an eerie but intriguing idea. 

There are eight stories in this book. It is hard to pick a favourite. I struggle when it comes to picking a favourite anything in general. If you have been a reader of my articles here on katelovesliterature.com for a while now then you’ll be aware of this. I like categories. 

I can’t just pick a favourite movie, I have to have a favourite Christmas movie, a favourite nostalgic movie, a favourite Disney movie etc. 

This collection of stories is no different. I enjoyed each one of the stories and there are times when I could say that any one of the eight are my favourite, and all for different reasons. I’m going to discuss the stories in no particular order. 

I think that I would set Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave aside because out of all the eight stories this one didn’t scare me, or I should say that while it did scare me, it didn’t scare me in a ghostly sense. This story was sad. It reminded me a lot of The Yellow Wallpaper. It is scary in the sense that when we look back through history, we see that so many women suffered because their health was not taken seriously, and not understood. 

It is frightening to think about how many women’s lives would have been different if they had gotten the support they needed, especially when it comes to postpartum care. 

I enjoyed this story. The ending made me sad. It stayed with me for a long time, but I could guess the plot and how it would play out fairly early on. It was the least “ghostly” of the stories. 

Thwaite’s Tenant and The Chillingham Chair by Imogen Hermes Gowar and Laura Purcell respectably are two stories that have similar themes and stories, but both are haunting in their own way. I loved Thwaite’s Tenant. I felt that this story had a really satisfying ending. I also think that this story is the one that captured the idea behind the collection really well. This story is filled with ominous descriptions of a cold, big, sinister house that one wouldn’t want to get stuck in on a freezing, wintery night.

The Chillingham Chair handles a similar story in more suspenseful way. I feel that this story was darker than what I consider its counterpart. I would say that it is the scarier of the two stories. The idea that an inanimate object can be horrifying may seem unbelievable, but Laura Purcell is excellent at portraying objects as things that can be in fact, very frightening indeed. 

Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd has the creepiest premise in my opinion, although it also feels the least realistic. The idea that a photographer would be so infatuated with a dead girl that he wants to bring her back to life somehow is unsettling, yet morbidly intriguing. This premise did remind me a little bit of Frankenstein, simply because I think that the story makes it clear from the start that bringing someone back from the dead cannot happen without consequences. This story is perhaps the most mysterious of the eight in my opinion, although at times a few more details would have been nice. Lily is a very mysterious character and wanting to know more about her is what kept me turning the pages, but we actually know nearly nothing about her at all. One might say that is the point, and if that is the case then I’m fine with that, I like a story that aims to keep readers curious and achieves that goal, but a few more details would have been nice. 

As I said, this story is very mysterious but it is also perhaps the least realistic of the eight. I’m sure that some people would have the opinion that ghost stories are simply not realistic at all, and that depends on one’s belief or disbelief in ghosts. 

I’m talking about a collection of ghost stories, and when one is talking about ghost stories, or myths, or legends, I think one tends to operate under the assumption that the stories being told are true, if a little unbelievable. That is how I operate anyways. When I think about storytelling around a fire, I tend to think of intriguing, magnetic stories that pull in a crowd. The stories delight and scare the listening audiences, and then later people wonder if the events of the tale really happened. That is the fun of a ghost story. 

So, I am looking at these ghost stories as suspense filled and unbelievable, but true and within this scope, Lily Wilt feels the least realistic, but I enjoyed the story all the same. 

A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins keeps readers guessing constantly. This story opens the collection and I think this was a smart choice because the story is consumed by an unsettling yet intriguing atmosphere. I think this is the story that I have reread the most. 

The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley is wonderfully creepy. This story has elements that I’ve stated many times that I am a fan of; this story features protagonists who long to go somewhere quiet at Christmas time, but the people who live in the town are not very welcoming at all. We’ve got newcomers in a mysterious town. We’ve got townspeople who don’t like newcomers, and we’ve got this ever increasing idea that something just isn’t right. I love this kind of setup. I really love that unsettling feeling that builds and builds and the longer you’re in town, the more things just feel off. 

I could be a little biassed because this kind of setup is a premise that I am a fan of already so when I realised that this was the route this story was taking, I was excited. I knew I’d like it before I read the entire thing, but I do think that this setup can make for an  extremely enticing read, especially when it’s done well. 

The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Michael Hurley is story that gives us a mysterious story within a story. It’s rather cryptic, and the ending does involve a twist that I won’t spoil. I enjoyed this story, but personally I would call it a mystery rather than a ghost story. 

I don’t think this book has to be strictly a collection of ghost stories only, as mysteries definitely fit the theme of gathering around to hear unbelievable tales. In my opinion, this story is about how the perception of the truth can heavily impact one’s life. What you do with what you think is the truth is extremely important, and when you discover new information, your entire belief system can be shattered, and all of your actions can be put under scrutiny. Information impacts the actions you take, and finding out new information after the fact can have a shocking effect. This story was engaging, but just not very ghostly. Our main character in this story is haunted, just in his own way. 

Monster by Elizabeth Macneal is an interesting story about how things can be different from how they appear. This idea is a very important one, and I think that it is an important lesson to learn that things are not always as they seem. This story is interesting as it highlights how victories cannot always be celebrated if they are intertwined with mystery, I also think this story is a good commentary on how becoming too consumed by one thing can be a slippery slope to go down. It’s not my favourite story in the collection, but I did like it. 

Overall this is a collection of stories that I really enjoyed reading. Some stories scared me more than others, and I enjoyed some stories more than others but it is a varied collection. It would be boring if all eight stories were exactly the same, and the collection does bring intrigue, mystery, and varying degrees of horror to readers. 

The cover is also beautiful, and while one should never judge a book by its cover, this book does look absolutely gorgeous on my shelf. I would recommend it. If you like ghost stories and mysteries then I’m sure you will find something that you love within this collection. I also love a collection like this because I do enjoy short stories, I like snippets of something that could have been longer, but kept me guessing and reading a book like The Haunting Season allows readers to enjoy eight different intriguing stories, and what better time to read ghost stories than in October? 

Do you have a favourite ghost story? I’d love to hear it. 

Kate xo. 

Hocus Pocus 2: Nostalgia Is Not Enough.

The witches are back! I could not have been more excited for their return. 

I loved Hocus Pocus when I was younger. I still love the movie today. Every October I look forward to getting cozy and watching Hocus Pocus in the lead up to Halloween. You can read my review of the beloved original by clicking the link below. 

It goes without saying that the movie that became a cult classic was always going to be a very tough act to follow. I enjoyed the sequel. I had a lot of fun watching the movie, but beyond the fun that the nostalgia provided, the sequel’s plot left a lot to be desired. I feel that this is a story that had so much potential, but unfortunately it fell flat. 

Let me explain why nostalgia is just not enough. 

Before I dive into this review, I do want to say that I know this is supposed to be a fun movie for kids and some readers may think I am taking it far too seriously, but I review a broad range of texts here on Katelovesliterature.com, children’s literature included, and I’ve always held the opinion that even if a movie is aimed towards children, the plot can and should still be of good quality. 

I will be drawing comparisons to the original movie as that too was aimed towards children, but the original movie takes its audience seriously, and while the original is not a perfect movie either, the plot had so much more heart, and more importantly, the movie actually had some stakes. 

Let’s talk about the plot of Hocus Pocus 2. The sequel follows Becca and her two best friends Izzy and Cassie as they must figure out a way to defeat the Sanderson Sisters who have returned once again to Salem. 

I have a suspicion that there were many drafts of this script, and I have a suspicion that within the final cut that aired, there were at least three other movie ideas that existed. The plot is messy, and annoyingly lacking. My biggest issue with this sequel is the fact that there are no stakes. 

Let’s talk about the new cast, because before I can elaborate on the lack of stakes, first we need to talk about our new protagonists. I do want to say that I think the actors did a great job, but I feel like all of the new characters had untapped potential. 

Let’s start with Becca. Becca was played by Whitney Peak, and I think that Peak did a fantastic job, but I really wish she had been given more material. Becca is the main protagonist, and one would guess that she is going to be the Max of this movie. This is another problem, one would assume that Becca is the Max of this movie, as she is the main protagonist, however the movie takes a different route and presents Becca as the Winifred of her trio. This just does not work, because Becca and Winifred are supposed to be the protagonist and antagonist respectively. I will elaborate on this point further on in my review, but first I want to discuss the fact that I feel like we barely know anything about Becca, Izzy, and Cassie. 

Becca is headstrong and she has an interest in magic. That is it. That is all we know about her. We don’t meet her parents. We don’t know where this interest in magic comes from. We don’t know what is important to her. Her friends are important to her, but the movie does not set her up as someone who loves her friends more than anything, the movie just sort of tells viewers that she is a good friend. Becca is the leader of the trio, simply because she has more lines than Izzy and Cassie. Cassie is missing for so much of the movie, it is frustrating. It is frustrating because the movie clearly indicates that Becca, Izzy and Cassie are the new generation of witches. Becca is Winifred, Izzy is Mary, and Cassie is Sarah. The girls and the Sanderson sisters are even dressed in matching colour schemes. Becca is wearing various shades of green, Izzy is wearing burgundies along with her hair in a similar half up, half down pony, Izzy is at Becca’s side throughout the entire movie while Cassie has boyfriend troubles, mirroring how Mary is always at Winifred’s side while Sarah is the romantic Sanderson sister. The mirroring is obvious. I don’t mind a “passing of the torch” plot, in fact I think that “passing the torch” storylines can be quite poignant, especially when it comes to childhood classics, the problem I have with this in Hocus Pocus 2 is that the “torch passing” is far too abrupt, and it also doesn’t make any sense. 

Izzy is Becca and Cassie’s best friend. She seems sweet. Her mother is named Susan. Izzy is slightly more nervous than Becca, she does not assert herself as confidently as Becca does. That is it. That is all we know about her, that and the fact that she misses Cassie and is willing to admit it, whereas Becca is clearly more annoyed with Cassie than Izzy is. 

Cassie is the mayor’s daughter. Her father is overbearing. Cassie has a boyfriend called Mike, and because she is dating Mike, she has grown distant from Becca and Izzy. Mike pokes fun at Becca because of her interest in magic and as he calls it, “witchy stuff”. Mike is not malicious, he’s just a bit clueless. Becca and Izzy just want to be able to hang out with Cassie again like old times, without Mike and his friends. They don’t communicate this properly. Cassie feels like she’s been iced out of the group, she does not realise that she’s been distant with her friends, it was not malicious on her part either. Their friendship just needed more communication. That is it. That is all we know about Cassie, that she is dating Mike and Becca and Izzy don’t like Mike. So Cassie is missing for so much of the plot, and that just can’t happen if the movie wants to present Becca, Izzy and Cassie as the new, modern, trio of witches. Winifred, Mary and Sarah are always together. They are a team, a trio. If the movie wanted to have a story about friends growing apart and coming back together to face adversity, that would have been great. I think the team behind the movie thinks that the movie did in fact do that, but the reason behind the girls falling out is flimsy at best, and Cassie is not in the movie enough to establish herself as an integral part of the trio so when the girls do makeup, I don’t care as much about it as the movie wants me to. Cassie being in the group again makes absolutely no difference to their actions. 

The original movie’s plot worked because the movie spent time setting up who Max is, and who is important to him. We know about Max. He is the new kid in town, he misses his old home, he’s not into Halloween the way everyone else is so he is the odd one out in class, he loves his little sister even though she annoys him sometimes, and he has a crush on Alison. 

This information is easy to showcase and it sets up Max’s actions throughout the entire movie. 

He wants to impress Alison because he has a crush on her so he agrees to go to the Sanderson house because Alison loves Halloween and the legend of the Sanderson sisters. Max is cocky, and he does not believe in the story of the Sanderson sisters, so he dismisses all warnings and lights the black flame candle. The rest of the movie follows Max as he has to face the consequences of his actions, he has to undo his mistake and defeat the Sanderson sisters, and he is motivated to do this because despite all annoyances, he does love his little sister and he wants to keep her safe. Max, Dani and Alison are our trio. They are guided through the night by Binx. Binx is a boy who was turned into a cat by the Sanderson sisters after he failed to save his little sister from them so the mirroring in the original is shown through Binx and Max. Max mirrors Binx because he is determined to save his sister, just like Binx was, and Binx is determined to help Max because he couldn’t save his sister so he is determined to ensure that the Sanderson sisters do not win again. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie are not guided by anyone. They kind of just have to figure things out for themselves, which would be fine except there is no real goal. There is Gilbert who owns the magic shop, and originally I thought that perhaps he would play the guiding role, as he is the one who would know the most about magic, but instead Gilbert is a character who is all over the place.

It is revealed that Gilbert created a new black flame candle and tricked Becca into lighting it, because he is obsessed with the Sanderson sisters and wanted to bring them back. It is revealed that he was one of the children in the original movie and he saw the sisters the night Max defeated them, and since then, he has been obsessed with finding a way for them to return.  

In the original, Winifred is obsessed with stealing Dani’s soul and Mary and Sarah loyally follow her through all of her plans. Winifred could have followed through with her plans had she gone after any other child, but Winifred is petty and revenge driven and she felt personally offended by Dani, so she makes it her mission to go after Dani specifically. Max, Alison, Dani, and Binx must find a way to outrun, and defeat them until the sun comes up. 

There is a goal on both sides. Winifred is determined to get Dani, and Max is determined to keep Dani safe. 

In Hocus Pocus 2, this goal does not exist. The movie introduces so many ideas, and there were so many moments where I though “ah okay so this is the story… wait no, now there’s another thing to consider”. 

The movie begins with a flashback to the childhood of the Sanderson sisters in Salem. I really liked the opening shot of this movie. It is a tracking shot of the Salem woods, and this opening shot mirrors the opening shot of the original movie. I loved this. The nostalgia hit immediately and I was excited. In this flashback, we meet young Winifred, Mary and Sarah. It is Winifred’s sixteenth birthday and the reverend wants to marry her off. Winifred refuses. Winifred talks back to the reverend and refuses to bow down to him. The reverend banishes her. Winifred and her sisters flee to the forbidden woods as they know the townsfolk won’t follow them. In the woods, the three girls meet a witch. This witch senses that Winifred is powerful. The sisters are gifted a spell book – the iconic book from the original movie. The witch makes Winifred promise to never do a certain spell, a spell that even Book dislikes. Winifred promises to never do this spell, and the witch tells the girls that a witch is nothing without her coven. The newly powerful Sanderson sisters return to town and wreak havoc by setting the reverend’s house on fire. The sisters, especially Winifred, watch on in delight as the house goes up in flames. 

Title credits and then we are in the modern day. 

When the Sanderson sisters return in this movie, they plan to steal Becca and Izzy’s souls so that they can stay young, but Becca pretends to be older and she leads the sisters to a Walgreens to show the sisters modern anti-aging products to kill some time. The sequel repeats the original gag in which the Sanderson sisters are baffled by modern technology and products. It is funny, but at times it is a little try-hard. I will say though, it is very obvious that Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker were having the time of their lives filming this sequel, and I did love whenever the Sanderson sisters were onscreen. I did laugh at the sisters being baffled by automatic doors, and assuming that Becca must be powerful, because “the doors parted for her”. These are the kind of cheesy jokes that made the original so charming and I did enjoy these jokes again in the sequel, even though there was an undeniable element of the movie saying “look, here is your favourite joke from the original, we did it again.” 

It goes without saying that the jokes and antics of the sisters were not as original as they were the first time around. It was clear that the writers saw what went down well in the original and tried to recreate it, and this just doesn’t work because the success of the original is largely due to the fact that the movie was not trying so hard. 

So the Sanderson sisters originally want to get Becca, because Becca tricked them, but then Winifred decides she is going to perform the forbidden spell – this spell will make her the most powerful witch of all. Winifred needs ingredients for this spell, and she bewitches Gilbert into gathering all of the ingredients for her, but then while he is off doing that, Winifred learns that Cassie’s father is a descendant of the reverend, so she becomes determined to get him and get revenge on the family. 

There are so many things going on which leads me to the biggest problem of this sequel – There are no villains. 

There will be spoilers below as I am discussing the movie’s ending. 

Hocus Pocus 2 is a movie without villains, without threats, and without any real stakes. 

In the original movie, the Sanderson Sisters were iconic because they posed a real threat to Max and his sister. They were villains. They lured children into the woods so they could kill them and steal their young souls so that they may live forever. They were evil – funny, but evil. 

In the sequel, their goal changes so much that at times it is unclear who they are chasing or what they will do when they have caught their target. The forbidden spell is also unclear because aside from Winifred declaring that the spell will make her the most powerful, she never states what she will use this forbidden power to do. As viewers, we can guess that she and her sisters will continue to steal the lives of the children in Salem, but the movie does not present this as a real threat. 

I would have been fine with the movie making Cassie’s father the villain, because the movie clearly attempts to push this idea of standing up to the patriarchy. The flashback to the young Sanderson sisters in Salem clearly wanted to paint a picture of how these three young women were targeted by men in power and outcast because they did not comply. One can think about how historically, this likely did happen. Sadly it is a fact that many innocent women were most likely called witches and persecuted because they did something that was deemed “unconventional” by the town leaders and this kind of plot point can invite audiences to think about who the true villain really is. 

The flashback is rather dark. The idea that a sixteen year old teenager is “of age” and ready to be married off to someone she does not wish to be with is a dark idea and I am surprised that Disney included it considering there seems to be a trend of erasing villains happening in movies at the moment, including in Hocus Pocus 2 itself. The reverend is an arrogant bully and he takes pleasure in setting an angry mob on the young, orphaned Sanderson sisters simply because Winifred defied him. In my opinion, it would have made more sense if Cassie’s father was more menacing than bumbling. He is the mayor, and he is clearly a descendant of the reverend. So in my opinion, it would have been better and it would have made more sense if he was this movie’s villain. He could have hated Halloween, he could have been the one to cause a rift between Cassie and her friends because he disapproved of Becca and Izzy’s interest in magic. The plot would have taken an interesting turn if Cassie had to team up with Becca and Izzy but be torn because she has to go against her father. She would have to make the choice that her father’s hatred of magic and difference is wrong and she would be the one to break the patriarchal cycle of her family. 

If the mayor was determined to beat the Sanderson sisters and they were determined to get revenge on him and his family, then two direct opposites would have had clear goals, and there would have been a key theme of puritan, outdated control vs magic. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie would have fallen into the area of “Look Dad! Not all witches are bad.”

Cassie’s father would have had to learn that not all magic is evil and blanket banning and hatred is not the answer. Becca would have to learn that power comes with responsibility and being obsessed with having all the power is how you end up like Winifred, so she would have to promise to always use magic for good, even though using it for selfish reasons is likely very tempting. 

The Sanderson sisters would have still been evil, and they are an example of what happens when you become consumed by evil, by power and by revenge. 

This did not happen. Unfortunately. 

The mayor is bumbling and nothing happens to him at any time, so the obsession the Sanderson sisters have with “getting him” falls flat. 

The movie’s climax is Winifred performing the forbidden spell with her sisters. What is the catch? Winifred refused to read Book’s warning about the spell – what is the warning? That Winifred will sacrifice what she loves most in order to become the most powerful witch of all. 

What does Winifred love most? We should ask whom does Winifred love most? Mary and Sarah. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie realise that Winifred is about to unknowingly sacrifice Mary and Sarah so they attempt to tell them. This could have been really interesting. Winifred has always been the most obsessed with power, she has always been the one to proclaim she is the best, and her sisters are idiots. She has always proclaimed to be the prettiest, the all knowing one and she always dismisses and mocks her sisters. 

There is a brilliant moment where Sarah stands up to her and tells Winifred that she is not a fool, she is a good and loyal sister and always has been. This great moment is undermined when Sarah utters out a frantic “yes Winnie” two seconds later. 

The movie also leans into lore and the idea that a witch gets her powers on her sixteenth birthday, and Becca shows signs of having actual magic powers throughout the movie and it is Becca’s magic that helps her and her friends hold the witches off towards the movie’s climax. This is fine, but it kind of detracts from the charm of the original in my opinion. Max and co had to fight the witches off without powers. They relied on lore, they relied on things such as witches not being able to stand on hollowed ground and salt circles to keep them safe. Becca and co do use salt circles, but it is Becca’s powers that leads to the girls standing a chance against Winifred as opposed to the girls having to figure things out without any magic. 

The Sanderson sisters having magic is what made them so threatening in the original movie. They could not step on hollowed ground? Not a problem, Winifred used to her magic to bring Billy Butcherson back from the dead so now Max and co have to contend with a zombie too. 

Becca having magical powers is just another reason on the list of why this sequel is so sloppy. Becca had no inclination of having powers prior to the events of this movie, aside from stating she has an interest in magic, there is no suggestion that she has practiced spells. Her powers arrive and even though she has no idea how to use them, she is a match against Winifred who has been practising dark magic for centuries. Becca is a new witch, with no knowledge about her new powers or how to use them, she should not be able to go toe to toe with Winifred just like that. 

I have another suspicion that somewhere in the drafts archives, there is a script in which Sarah and Mary turn against Winifred because they are sick of being disrespected. Winifred would have become the most evil one of all because she is so obsessed with power that she is willing to sacrifice her sisters and that would have been the last straw for Mary and Sarah. 

In my opinion, it would have been interesting if Mary and Sarah were forced to join forces with Becca and co in order to defeat Winifred, and then the “passing of the torch” moment would have made more sense. Becca’s magic being able to go toe to toe with Winifred’s would have made more sense if she had Mary and Sarah on her side, because despite always being mocked by Winifred, Mary and Sarah are powerful witches who have been practising the dark arts for just as long as Winifred. 

This did not happen. 

What did happen? Let’s talk about it. 

Winifred, Mary and Sarah perform the spell without knowing the price that must be paid because Becca and co do not get there in time. 

The Sanderson sisters are overjoyed with their new powers and Winifred is happily gloating about her next move when Sarah and Mary begin to disappear. 

Becca reads the warning to Winifred, explaining that she has sacrificed her sisters because they are who Winifred loves the most. 

Winifred gives a heartwarming, albeit unbelievably out of character speech about how much she loves her sisters – the theme of the movie becomes clear – a witch is nothing without her coven. 

Winifred pleads with Becca and Book. She asks is there anything that can be done. 

There is one solution. Becca, Izzy and Cassie perform a spell that sends Winifred to her sisters. Winifred is overjoyed to reunite with them and Becca performing this spell undoes all of the spells that Winifred performed, so Billy Butcherson is able to rest in peace at last etc. 

The movie ends with Gilbert apologising for the mess he caused, and Becca, Izzy and Cassie are happily friends again. They skip down the road with Book, they even do the famous and iconic “Sanderson Sisters walk” – If you know you know. 

Credits roll and a post credits scene reveals another black flame candle – hinting that another movie could be possible. 

I am not opposed to a movie being about the power of friendship, but Hocus Pocus 2 is not the movie for that. I don’t want to see Winifred Sanderson begging for help and reminding our new protagonist to always hold her friends dear. I want to see the evil, petty, obsessed with revenge Winifred Sanderson. I want her to be a real threat. I want the Sanderson Sisters to be villains. They are iconic characters because they are villains, but instead of allowing them to be wonderfully and comically evil for evil’s sake, Disney had to make them nice. 

I’m getting increasingly tired of classic villains being undone because for some reason movies cannot just have a completely evil villain now. I am all for nuance and grey areas, in fact I adore grey areas where right and wrong is not easy to establish, however I do not like the fact that pure villains are being removed. It is fun to have a pure villain, it is fun to be scared, it is fun to have real stakes in a movie and just because a movie is aimed towards children, that does not mean that baddies cannot and should not exist. 

Gilbert has a line where he says the Sanderson Sisters are evil “because they had to be but everyone loves them now” and the movie leans into, and is aware of the public love for the Sanderson Sisters – to this I say yes everyone loves them now, but everyone loves them because they are evil. 

They were fantastic villains in the original movie and unapologetically so, and I am very disappointed that they have been reduced to slapstick caricatures of their original selves with no real threat behind them whatsoever. 

With all of that being said, I did enjoy the movie. I had lots of fun. I loved seeing the Sanderson Sisters sing again, and there were so many times where I said “okay if this is what we are doing, I’m okay with it because it is fun”, but despite the fun, the plot is lacking in so many ways and I feel like classic characters have been diminished. 

Hocus Pocus 2 is a movie that could have been fantastic, but the plot is messy and there are too many new characters who have such great potential that sadly was not reached. This is a great example of why nostalgia alone just is not enough and in my opinion, a brilliant example of why it is important that we don’t erase villains. We need villains, we need stakes, and most importantly, we need to return to a time when movies for kids weren’t afraid to be a bit scary, because that is what made them so fantastic. Real stakes, real threats, and real triumphs, that is what we need to recapture in our movies. 

Have you watched Hocus Pocus 2? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Kate xo. 

The Idea of Home in Children’s Literature & The Importance of Reading in Childhood.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2022 Children’s Books Ireland International Conference that took place in the Light House Cinema. Before I go any further I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who played a part in making the conference happen and run smoothly. Needless to say events like this are often filled with lots of planning, work, and stress behind-the-scenes, but everyone’s hard work paid off because it was a brilliant event. Thank you again to everyone involved. 

The theme of this year’s conference was the idea of home. The conference was titled All The Way Home, so over the entire weekend, conference goers like myself had the opportunity to listen to authors, poets, and illustrators talk about this idea of home and what the word home means. Home can mean different things to different people. Home can be where we are from. Home can be the house we grew up in. Home can be our family. Home can be our friends. Home can be found and created with another person. Home can be a place that we create. During the heights of the pandemic, home may have been a place we wanted to get away from because suddenly when you cannot leave a place, that place does not seem so comforting anymore. Home can be places that are lost in an instant.We can have more than one home. It may seem dull to some, but the idea of home is an idea that can be explored in many, many different ways. 

There is a reason why so many children’s stories focus on this idea of home. It is a place (or several places) that evokes many feelings in readers and so it is interesting to think about why the idea of home is often promoted in children’s stories. Many children’s stories feature a protagonist who must leave home and go on an adventure. On this adventure, the protagonist will face challenges and make new friends along the way, but the story usually always ends with the protagonist returning home, and bringing their newfound skills and knowledge with them. The journey home in children’s literature aligns quite closely with the quest narrative as in order for a story to be a quest, there must be a goal to be achieved and a journey to make in order to achieve that goal although adult quests can be more complex and perhaps darker, whereas child protagonists will often face age appropriate fears. Having a child protagonist face and overcome a certain fear allows child readers to experience fear in a safe and controlled way, and then when the book protagonist overcomes their fear, this shows the child reader that fears can be overcome so it is quite an empowering moment in the children’s story and this moment usually happens towards the end. 

I recently watched Disney’s The Haunted Mansion (2003), and a great example of what I am talking about can be found in this movie. The movie follows the Evers family as they must learn how to escape the curse of Gracey Manor. Michael Evers is the youngest member of the Evers family and we learn in the beginning of the movie that he is deathly afraid of spiders. When Michael sees a spider, he is so afraid that he is unable to move. The cursed haunted mansion is a place where fears can be exploited and just before we move into the final act of the movie, Michael must face his fear and open a door that is covered in spiders to save his dad and his sister who are trapped behind the door. Michael does face his fear, he opens the door, and he learns that he can do things even though he may sometimes be scared of doing them. 

There are so many movies that focus on this idea of getting home and wanting to get home above all else. Another iconic example is The Wizard of Oz. 

This past weekend lead me to think about several examples, and I started thinking about all of the books that I loved when I was a child and I started to really examine what home means to me. 

There were so many incredibly talented authors, poets, and illustrators at this event. I was pinching myself and I will be for quite a while to come, but Hannah Lee, the wonderful author of My Hair said something during her talk that really stuck with me. Hannah spoke about how she loved the story The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm when she was a little girl, and she spoke about how even though there have been many books that she read as an adult and loved, nothing stuck with her quite like how The Twelve Dancing Princesses did. 

This point really resonated with me because I think that the entire reason I do what I do has stemmed from my love of reading as a child. I was a bookworm. I was a movie lover. I still am a movie lover. I’ve written before about how I love returning to books with adult eyes, because sometimes the book can mean so much more now that I am an adult. Sometimes I like to return to a childhood book because I want that wonderful wave of nostalgia to hit me. 

Home can also be found in stories. Stories can make us feel safe and understood. Stories can speak to us in a way that no-one else can because stories, while they are meant to be shared, can also be a very personal thing. I love Charles Dickens. I love Oscar Wilde. I love Shakespeare. I love Emily Dickinson. I love all of the canonical classical authors that we are told we must learn about, but whenever I think about my favourite stories, I almost always think of fairy tales. 

I think of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. I think about Matilda and The Wind in the Willows.

I think about Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. I think about the works of Lemony Snicket. 

These are the stories that I was enamoured by when I was little. These are the stories that I still love now. Some may be imperfect, some may be outdated, but I love them all the same. I still think they are extremely important. I think about the person that I am today, and without sounding too dramatic, I really do owe a lot to the books I read as a child. Today I consider myself a huge advocate for fairy tales, an advocate for encouraging a sense of curiosity and wonder in children because being curious and being wonderstruck leads to questions. Questioning leads to learning more because we want the answers, and a thirst for knowledge means that the world is open. The more you learn, the more you know, and I think that the more you understand different things, the better experiences you have. 

A love of reading can open up so many doors. I loved reading and I loved watching movies so then I went to drama class. In drama class I learned that I love poetry and prose so I decided I wanted to study English Literature and that is what I did. I worked hard because I wanted to get into my course, and now I’m doing my masters in a specialised area of English Literature and getting the opportunities to do things such as review books for Children’s Books Ireland and attend international conferences where I get to listen to Carson Ellis speak. Carson Ellis has done illustrations for Lemony Snicket. I mentioned above that I adored the work of Lemony Snicket. 

Ten year old me would have been over the moon if she knew that someday she’d get to listen to Carson Ellis talk about her journey and her career. 

I’ve been rather self-indulgent, speaking about myself and it won’t be something that I do very often, but it felt important to me that I attempt to explain, as succinctly as possible, why children’s literature means so much to me. Children’s literature has had a huge impact on my life as the love for reading I had as a child lead me down the path to the work I do today, to the career I wish to have. I know so many others who say the exact same thing so it is crucial that we do not dismiss the importance of reading in childhood. It is crucial that we encourage young people to read and to fall in love with reading. Their curiosity should be cheered on and their enthusiasm should never be dampened. It is crucial that all young people are given the opportunity to fall in love with reading because you never know where that childhood passion may take them. Children need to have access to good quality books and the fact that some schools do not have any library services is just unacceptable. When things need to be cut due to financial reasons, the arts are often the first to go because there is still sadly an attitude that the arts are disposable, or not as important as other subjects. This simply is not true. This attitude needs to be forgotten. So many children thrive creatively. So many children find solace in English class or music class or art class and if you tell a child that their passions don’t matter, that their passions are not important anyways, you are ignoring and crushing potential. 

At the conference, the idea of decoding was discussed a lot. This idea that books are something to be “decoded” saddens me because it just feels like the point of literature is being completely missed. Yes you can analyse a text and study it in detail. You can discuss the themes and decide what you think the author is trying to say. You can spend time figuring out what your interpretation of a piece is, but the idea that a text can be “decoded” in a classroom, the idea that it must have one meaning that is the same to everyone misses the point entirely and defeats the purpose of opening up ideas in the classroom. This kind of thinking leads to children and young people having no interest in their English classes because it is becoming another rigid subject. 

The joy of English Literature is that there is no right or wrong. There is no rigid set meaning that one must commit to memory. You should have the freedom to figure out your own interpretation and then use the text to back up your opinion. It should be fun, it should be exciting. Sharing different ideas and having discussions is all part of the fun. The sharing and expressing of different creative ideas is key and if we lose that then we lose the joy of studying English. 

We cannot be afraid to have creativity in our classrooms. We must let children be curious and excited. We must let them express their thoughts and ideas and this all begins with ensuring that they have books. 

I adore the work that Children’s Books Ireland does. I’ve written an article about why I love the work of this organisation so much which you can read by clicking the link below. 

I’m also going to provide a link to the official Children’s Books Ireland website so you can go and explore the work that they do and learn more about this fantastic organisation by clicking the link below. 

https://childrensbooksireland.ie/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzpiWqKO1-gIVYoBQBh1_fQ5AEAAYASAAEgJCcfD_BwE

I have quite a few book and movie reviews coming soon here on katelovesliterature.com along with some exciting news that I can hopefully share soon so keep an eye out for updates. Remember you can follow me on Instagram @katelovesliterature. I do a lot on my stories. You can now also find me on TikTok so I’d appreciate it if you’d follow me there too. As always my handle is @katelovesliterature

Is there a book that you loved as a child that still sticks with you to this day? What book is it? I’d love to know. I’d also love to hear some different opinions on the idea of home so feel free to comment below. 

I read every comment and every message and I do my best to respond to every single one as they are very much appreciated, and I do love hearing other people’s thoughts. If you’ve engaged with me here or on Instagram by commenting or sending me a message, you know who you are, and thank you so much for your interest and support. 

Always remember that #everychildareader.

Kate xo. 

Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is coming to an end. Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about why talking about books that have been banned, and talking about the reasons why they have been banned is so important to me. The aim of Banned Books Week is to celebrate the freedom to read, the freedom to express ideas and thoughts, and it is extremely important that we acknowledge how crucial it is that we are able to access information. 

If one looks back through different time periods, it is clear that banning and challenging books has always been an issue that the literary world has to contend with. In 2022, the banning and challenging of books, particularly in schools, is happening at a disappointingly high rate. 

I am conducting research currently while working on my MA thesis, and within the broad scope of reading that I am doing, I found a list of books that have been banned or challenged recently and this list details the reasons why. I’ve also been examining some of the books that I studied in detail while I was doing my BA because many of the books on that course have been banned at one point in time. This is a fact that baffles me because after studying some of these texts, I would argue in detail why each one of them needs a place on academic curriculums. 

It is very interesting when you read about why certain books have been banned or challenged. 

After reading several lists of books that have been challenged and the reasons why, I’ve quickly put together three categories that I’m affectionately calling “Banning Bingo” categories. 

In no particular order, it has become clear that a book will likely face banning and challenging issues if it contains any of the following:

  • Sex/Sexuality 

If a book contains any content regarding sex or a character’s sexuality, the questionisng of one’s sexuality, exploring, experimenting, intimacy etc. then the book is likely to face some challenges. 

In my opinion, when a book talks about sex/sexuality, the complaints about the book get divided into two sections. 

There are people who feel that teens in school should not be reading anything about sex or sexuality at all, because the information is not age appropriate, or they feel that the classroom is not an appropriate place to access this information and see it as a parent’s job to educate their own children about sex. This complaint seems to be about sex in general. 

There are other people who very specifically have a problem if a book explores what it is like to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. So if a character is questioning their sexuality, wondering if they are gay or bi for example, if a character is thinking about their gender identity as well, or sadly even if a book focuses on a same sex couple or same sex parents then this book is unfortunately likely to face challenges. This complaint is due to some people believing that anything besides heteronormative is somehow “wrong” or “inappropriate”. 

It is 2022. Many children have same sex parents, and many people explore their sexuality and their identity and it is a shame that some people have the opinion that someone else’s family structure is “wrong” just because it is different to their family structure and I really hope that as a society, we get to a place where if someone challenges a book and their reason for challenging that book is because they have an issue with same sex relationships for example, then that complaint should be dismissed. Focusing on anyone who is not heteronormative is not a valid reason to ban or challenge a book. 

I would put forward the question: is there truly any reason to ban a book? 

This is an entirely different, and very complex conversation as many people will have many opinions on this, but I don’t believe in banning books or limiting somebody’s education or their ability to access different information about everything that goes on in this world. 

  • Flaws & Failings of Society: Critiquing social issues,  flaws, & failings. . 

If a book explores issues and failures in our society then this book will likely face challenges. 

Many books have been challenged or banned if they discuss racism. Books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Colour Purple, Roll of Thunder, Hear Me Cry have all been challenged or banned at one point in time, they are still challenged today. If books discuss how a system can be inherently and implicitly flawed, if they make readers look inwards and force readers to confront their own biases, if they open conversations about diversity and injustice in the classroom then these books will face challenges because some people just do not want to discuss those things. 

Another point is that some books contain very racist and hurtful language and stereotypes and people have challenged these books because of that derogatory language. 

Literature reflects society, the good, the bad, the things we wish never happened. 

History cannot be erased. Horrible things were said and done. Books written in a certain time period will reflect the language and attitudes that were prevalent at that time. You can’t read a Mark Twain book for example, and pretend that the racist language and racist attitudes illustrated in his works did not happen. You read Huckleberry Finn and the purpose of reading this book is to reflect upon the abysmal actions that happened in this book, and discuss how wrong those actions were. You read the book and should be appalled that certain attitudes were just the norm and the book teaches us that this kind of prejudice against other people is unacceptable, and as a society, we have to learn from history so that society changes, so that history does not repeat itself. 

Banning these kinds of books from the classroom is actively banning people’s history and that is wrong. Suffering occurred, suffering is still occurring, and to ban someone’s ability to speak about their suffering or the suffering of their ancestors is just wrong. It should not be allowed to happen. Some people should not be able to decide that they simply don’t want to hear about or know about another’s person’s experiences just because those experiences are difficult to hear about. 

Racism is just one topic that causes some people to want to challenge a book, other topics such as climate change, class differences, bodily autonomy and the right to make decisions about one’s own body, inequality in many forms, and consent are all topics that cause some people to want to challenge a book. 

The reasons for wanting to challenge these topics, again fall to the opinion of some that consent for example, is a topic that should be taught at home. 

This is a conversation that needs to be more nuanced, because there is a way to deliver information in an age appropriate way, and some kids handle things earlier than others, some kids mature later than others and so they may need more time before they learn about certain topics, but there is a huge difference between wanting to make sure your own child is ready to hear certain information vs feeling that kids in school just should not be taught about certain things. 

Some people want to have the right to teach their own kids about topics in their own homes, but then they do not have those crucial conversations and then we have eighteen year olds who are leaving secondary school and high school and they’re going off into the world without a proper understanding of consent and personal boundaries etc. 

There is also the point that education is meant to be broad. You are supposed to learn about different people, different places, different cultures, different ideas, different beliefs, and some of the things you learn about may be different to what you personally think, but that does not mean that education should be hindered. 

  • Violence 

Violence of any kind in books will usually be challenged. Violence in movies will be challenged. 

People will always question whether or not a book or film is too violent for kids to read/watch. 

If a book containing violence is to be taught in schools, people will question if the book is too violent for a classroom. 

This type of questioning happens in other mediums too. People question whether or not people should play violent games. People question if violence in the media glorifies and encourages violence etc. Violence will most likely always be challenged.

I think it is important to give readers, particularly younger readers more credit. People are not just passive viewers or passive readers, you can watch a movie or read a book that contains violence without automatically going and doing something violent yourself. If anything, many narratives promote the message that violence is wrong and it is shocking that this violence happens. To say that violent content automatically makes viewers and readers behave violently severely insults the viewer/reader because we are not mindlessly consuming content. We can still make our own decisions about our actions. Violence and how the violence shown is contextualised is very important, and I do believe that it is a subject that should be handled with care, tact, nuance, and respect but I don’t think violent content should be challenged automatically because it is violent. 

I also think that no matter what the topic is, if a book is about relationships, or racism, or inequality, or about coming of age, it does not matter what the topic is, the topic should always be handled with care, tact, nuance, proper research, and respect. 

So those are, in my opinion, the three main areas of topics that will lead to a book facing challenges. Sex/Sexuality, Flaws and Failings in Society, and Violence are headings that contain a very broad, very layered, very nuanced range of topics and ideas that tend to face challenges for the reasons I have discussed above, and many more. 

  • Other Areas. 

There are also two other areas that tend to cause issues as well, and those areas are magic and the idea that animals may be equal to humans. Alice in Wonderland was challenged because of the nonsense in the book, and because Carroll placed animals in the text as being equal to Alice.  Books that contain magic are challenged in so many ways, as like fairy tales, people question are they unrealistic? Do they promote unrealistic life expectations? Do they tell children magic is real and should they? Books that contain magic can also face criticism based upon religious objections and others question if the magic being done is promoting bad behaviour, encouraging pranks etc. 

So it is clear that there are many different reasons as to why someone might want to challenge or more extremely, ban a book, and as I’ve discussed, there are certain topics that tend to face these challenges very often. I think it is so important that we study why books get challenged because to take a book out of a classroom or a library, to not allow someone to read or watch something, it may seem like not a big deal to some, because people think that what a kid does not know won’t hurt them, but to block access in any way to a topic, is actively hindering somebody’s growth. If a topic is not allowed to be explored, education is being limited. If a person cannot learn wholly about the world, then their knowledge of the world and how to handle the world is being limited, their ability to grow emotionally is being limited, their ability to develop their own opinions, and their own critical thinking skills is being limited, and a message is being presented that if your experiences and thoughts and ideas don’t fit certain boxes then your ability to express yourself will be limited, censored, and silenced. So book banning is not a casual thing, and the fact that some people will discuss removing a book so flippantly is a problem. Banning, challenging, censoring, is a very serious thing and it has serious repercussions and so a much bigger conversation needs to be had. That is why Banned Books Week is so important, the right to access ideas and express ideas is so fundamental, and the right to access information should always be acknowledged as highly significant, and the right to express oneself and read about anything and everything should be celebrated. 

Cited Below are articles of interest that I have reread many times during this week. 

“Shhhh! These Kid’s Books Have Been Banned (or Challenged).” Evanston Public Library, 24 Sept. 2021, https://www.epl.org/booklist/shhhh-these-kids-books-have-been-banned-or-challenged/. 

Heidi. “Banned! – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: J. Willard Marriott Library Blog.” J. Willard Marriott Library Blog |, 11 Oct. 2018, https://blog.lib.utah.edu/banned-alices-adventures-wonderland/#:~:text=In%201931%2C%20the%20work%20was,beings%20on%20the%20same%20level.%E2%80%9D. 

Do you have a book that resonated with you? Has it been banned? Think about it. Look it up. It is important.

Kate xo.

Defending Damsels: Encouraging All Emotions in Modern Heroines.

I don’t think there is anything more nostalgic than sitting down with a book I enjoyed when I was little and reading it now with adult eyes. My studies have allowed me to dive into the world of children’s literature, and I’ve found that I have a new appreciation for all of the books that I read as a child. I’ve always been one to encourage reading in childhood as having a love for literature can open so many doors and benefit us in ways we may not even realise. 

Lately I’ve fallen down a bit of a fairy tale rabbit hole, as you will have noticed if you keep up with me on Instagram. If you haven’t already, you can follow me @katelovesliterature

Fairy tales always provoke very interesting conversations in my opinion, and I think that classic fairy tales are often treated unfairly in today’s media. Literature will always reflect the time that it was written in, that is in many ways the role of literature, to shine a light on all aspects of society, the good, the bad, and the things we wish didn’t happen. I will admit, many fairy tales are imperfect. There are aspects of some older fairy tales that would likely not be included if they were written today by a modern writer. I find it interesting that fairy tales are readapted and reimagined so often, because new adaptations tend to bring out critics who enjoy tearing the original to pieces. I’ve found that sometimes in an effort to correct some outdated ideas that an original story may present, the adaptations in question can sometimes swing too far the other way and present a different idea that is not exactly ideal either, however that is a much broader conversation and one that I will share another time in a different discussion. 

I will give a very brief example of what I mean, and I just want to be clear that in this example, I’m not referring to any story in particular, instead I’m speaking generally about an idea that I’ve seen in various different pieces. 

I’m an advocate for female empowerment and female agency in stories. 

I love seeing female characters who know their own mind, and speak confidently about their own desires and interests. I understand the idea behind wanting to show young children stories about women who are well-rounded, complex, dimensional characters. This is great. For a long time female characters were subjects of the male gaze and I think it is fantastic that there seems to be a shift and finally we are getting to see female characters exist and function beyond how they’re viewed by men. I always like to say that there is nothing wrong with being a love interest, but you shouldn’t only be a love interest. That should not be a female character’s only purpose, however I dislike the trend of calling the heroines in original fairy tales nothing more than “damsels in distress who do nothing but wait to be saved.” 

The heroines in older Disney movies face this kind of criticism as well, and I think it is very unfair. In my opinion it is too simplistic. That kind of critique completely ignores the fact that these stories were written in a very different time. It is the same with period pieces, people complain if female characters don’t act in a way that perhaps a modern woman would, but this critique again ignores the fact that many period pieces take place in times when women were at the mercy of the men in their lives. If you didn’t have access to any money, if you didn’t have anywhere to go, if you didn’t have any kind of education depending on one’s status, if you didn’t have any say in who you married, then it is almost impossible to just up and leave. I still think it is inappropriate to say that today in 2022, because the truth is that we cannot know everybody’s private circumstances and to say “just leave” is ignorant and dismissive. I will not scoff at original heroines. I will not call them passive, helpless, and I will not say that they did nothing but wait for a Prince. If you actually read the original fairy tales properly, you will see that many of the original heroines did their best despite being in dire circumstances that were beyond their control. I also don’t like the idea of promoting a narrative that says accepting any kind of help means you’re weak. I think there needs to be a balance. It is important to have complex, realistic, layered female characters who know they can speak their mind, assert boundaries, and take control of their lives the way a male protagonist would without question, but I think one must also acknowledge that it is okay to have friends, it is okay to accept help, it is okay to cry and be vulnerable sometimes, and it is okay to need people and have romantic desires.

I’ve noticed that female characters shutting out love because “they’re perfectly fine on their own” has become a bit of a trend. The idea behind this is wanting to show a character who doesn’t need a romantic relationship to be happy. That is great, but the idea is often undermined by the fact that she will almost always end up in a romantic relationship anyways, often with the man that she’s been shutting out for the entire story. I think this is a bit contradictory and reductive. Plenty of people are happily single and plenty of people genuinely don’t want a romantic partner and that is perfectly fine, but I’d rather see a character who is happily single throughout instead of seeing a woman actively shut down any romantic feelings or desires because she feels she has to, because she feels that allowing herself to be romantic somehow makes her weaker. Again, in my opinion, it is a question of balance. All independence should not be lost because you are in a relationship and these characters should still be able to function independently and chase their dreams and thrive at work even if they do admit that they really like someone else. Independence is very important. I think it is vital to be able to be alone and enjoy one’s own company, however I don’t think it is reasonable to expect anyone to be alone all of the time. These types of narratives tend to involve characters learning that it is okay to let people in, and it is okay to share feelings and be vulnerable, and it is okay to want someone or people in your life – these discoveries don’t always have to be romantic, they can come from relationships with friends, families, and mentors too, and all of that is great, but I’m a bit tired of that being the lesson. 

To sum up this point, the gist of what I’m saying is that of course I do want female characters to be well-rounded and dynamic and to be more than just a love interest, however I also don’t want to venture into a territory that says emotions or accepting help or being in love automatically equal a loss of strength and/or independence. 

This is a topic that I want to explore/write about in much broader detail with fleshed out examples so stay tuned for more discussions like this if this is a topic that interests you.

My book review of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is coming soon.

Have you read this book? Let me know.

Kate xo.

Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical.

If you’re a fan of Jim Steinman & Meat Loaf then Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is a show you don’t want to miss. Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is an electric show that is filled with incredible rock anthems. 

I always look forward to a #theatretrip & this time was no different. I decided to buy tickets for opening night in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. I never have a bad night at the theatre, however it is unusual for me to know almost nothing about the show that I’m going to see. 

I knew that Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical existed, but I had never seen the show before & I didn’t know anything about the plot. Usually if I don’t know much about a show I will look it up & read about it so I know what I’m going into, but this time I decided to go in with no knowledge at all. I wanted to go in with completely fresh eyes so I could take it all in. 

The show was incredible. I went on Tuesday night. I’m still buzzing. The songs are stuck in my head & I’ve been trying to pin down a moment that was my favourite. 

Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical brings the love story of Strat & Raven to the stage. Strat is the leader of ‘The Lost’ gang & Raven is the daughter of Falco. Falco rules the city & his family. He is overbearingly protective of Raven. He never lets her leave the house, but despite his rule, she & Strat meet & fall in love. 

It is a classic forbidden love story that has a Peter Pan style twist to it, as Strat & the rest of the ‘The Lost’ are frozen at the age of eighteen. Raven has just turned eighteen, but she will continue to age as normal. This is a problem that the couple will have to face, that is if they can get together at all, because Raven’s father is determined to keep them apart. 

This story is accompanied by the music of Jim Steinman & Meat Loaf & the staging is spectacular from start to finish. The best word I can use to describe this show is electric. 

It was absolutely brilliant. Every single cast member was fantastic & each one drew me in. 

I love seeing a cast that clearly loves the show that they’re doing. It is also brilliant when the chemistry on the stage is so obvious. There was an energy in the air & I was fully invested in every character & their stories. 

I have to give a special mention to Sharon Sexton. I might be a little biassed because I love seeing Irish actors thrive onstage, but Sharon Sexton is utterly brilliant. I saw her during the tour of Mamma Mia! The show came to Dublin & I got the chance to see her playing Donna. She was brilliant then & when I found out that she would be playing Sloane, I couldn’t wait to see her again. Her voice is just amazing. I love hearing her belt out those iconic songs. She just owns the role of Sloane & she’s got this brilliant, slick energy in every scene that she is in. Sloane is a fantastic character. I think that she might be my favourite character in the show. The pairing of Sharon Sexton & Rob Fowler as Sloane & Falco is a perfect match. The two play off of each other so well & Rob Fowler was incredibly engaging as the strict, overbearing, powerful ruler of his domain. These two singing Paradise By the Dashboard Light was one of the best moments in the show. 

Glenn Adamson & Martha Kirby played the forbidden lovers Strat & Raven. They were amazing. I’ve heard the show be described as an ensemble piece because it really is a group effort & while I would agree with that assessment, I think it is so important that we, the audience, feel connected to Start & Raven, because we need to root for them in order for the plot to work. 

I would call the show an ensemble piece, but I definitely would class Strat as a leader. He is the leader of ‘The Lost’, he looks out for all of his friends, the gang look to him for guidance etc. I felt that Glenn Adamson really commanded the stage, especially in his romantic scenes with Raven. I believed every bit of his passion & Martha Kirby as Raven complimented his Strat perfectly. Kirby’s voice is stunning. She is powerful, but she also has some softer moments & the light & shade of her voice was really beautiful. 

I could honestly go through each cast member & talk about them one by one because everyone was fantastic. The vocal skills displayed were exceptional. These are not easy songs, there are some really difficult notes in this score & the actors made it seem so easy. I’m so impressed that I’m almost jealous. I wish I had that amount of power in my voice. I just love seeing talent & passion bursting on a stage. The sets, staging, & lighting just adds to the buzzing atmosphere that this show creates. You can feel it in the audience. It is hot. It is compelling. It is powerful. It is charged. That is something that really stood out. Everyone gave a very charged, passionate performance. 

It is a fun show that brings an element of  rock’n’roll to the theatre, but within all of this fun, there is a really engaging & at times, very poignant plot. The characters are compelling & they command attention. Each character goes on their own journey. Sloane in particular has a very compelling character arc, as does Falco. 

I had the most fantastic night & I would 100% see this show again. 

Have you seen Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical? If you haven’t & you get the chance to, don’t miss it. 

My two top moments – Paradise By the Dashboard Light & You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night). 

Here’s to another fantastic #theatretrip. 

Kate xo.

The latest addition to my programme collection xo.