On this day, a famous fantasy novel was published: The Chronicles of Naria: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the best known of the Chronicles of Narnia novels. The book was first published on October 16th in 1950 and has remained a classic, not to mention a mainstay, of children’s literature ever since.
The book centers on the fictional world of Narnia, a land of magic and talking animals. Narnia, at the book’s beginning, is ruled by the evil White Witch, who has plunged Narnia into an eternal winter. Four children from the real world (Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund) walk through a magical wardrobe and end up in the land, caught between the Witch’s forces of evil and the forces of good, who side with the god-like lion Aslan.
Image via Wikipedia
The novel was written by C.S. Lewis and dedicated to his granddaughter Lucy. The series contained many themes of Christianity, with Aslan and the Witch representing Jesus and the Devil respectively. This theme is most prominently seen in the book where Aslan is killed but rises after three days and slays the Witch in a final battle, restoring peace to the land. C.S. Lewis himself described the genesis of the story beginning with an image of a fawn with an umbrella.
The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’
He had bounced the idea around for several years during the forties, which inspirations taken from World War II, where English children were evacuated from London and other cities to the countryside. However, worked stalled for sometime until C.S. Lewis created the character of Aslan and from then on, inspiration struck. He described he often dreamed of lions and made great progress on the novel, completed in March 1949.
Image via Goodreads
Lewis very much enjoyed writing the novel and wrote the sequel soon after, such was his enthusiasm. There wasn’t much enthusiasm from his fanbase, however, with the fantasy and fairy tale elements seen as self-indulgent. Nonetheless, the critical response from his fanbase, young readers, was highly positive and the strong sales of the book allowed Lewis to write further Narnia tales.
What are your memories of this book? Full of fantasy, magic, wonder, not to mention allegorical elements, this series helped define fantasy for a generation. Crack it open and give it another read!
On Tuesday, October 8th, the finalists for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature were announced! Here are the five books that are influencing the minds of our youth!
Pet by Akweake Emezi
This story follows Jam, a transgender, selectively mute girl who lives in the fictional utopia of Lucille which claims itself to be post-bigotry and violence, and has supposedly eradicated all “monsters”. However, after Jam accidentally bleeds on her mother’s painting, the image of a horned creature with metallic feathers and metal claws comes to life, looking to defeat the human monster that threatens the home of Jam’s best friend, Redemption. Together, Jam, Redemption, and the creature—which they call Pet—set out to find the monster. Narrated by Jam in both voice and sign language, which is conveyed through italic text, Pet is a great read for fans of speculative horror!
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
In this book, Reynolds tells ten relatable stories, all beginning after school ends, over ten blocks encompassing multiple schools. The stories follow an overlapping black cast experiencing life as it comes at them. The stories cover topics such as familial love, first crushes, near-death experiences, cancer, bullying, and so on. Combining reality and humor, Reynold’s Look Both Ways leaves a bittersweet feeling on the reader’s tongue.
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
This novel follows high school senior Jay Reguero as he struggles to find out the truth about what happened to his cousin, get him the justice he deserves, as well as find his own identity as a Filipino-American. Navigating the secrets that his cousin kept and his guilt for losing touch, Jay comes of age in this story of a victim of the fictional President Duerte’s war on drugs.
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby
This novel intertwines the stories of two young girls on the cusp of WWII in Chicago—Frankie Mazza, a fourteen-year-old artistic “half orphan”, and the narrator, the ghost of Pearl Brownlow who died when she wasn’t much older than Frankie. Throughout the novel, Pearl observes Frankie’s life and reflects on her own, coming to terms with the events that preceded and ultimately led to her death. The journeys of the two girls bring to light the tribulations that girls suffer through at the hands of the patriarchy and the importance of living to the fullest.
1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
Unlike the other finalists, Sandler’s book is a nonfiction outline of life-altering events that occurred in the year 1919 and how those events have shaped the present day. From Boston’s Great Molasses Flood, to Communist Red Scare, to the passage of the 19th Amendment and Prohibition, Sandler ties all these events and more to current events such as Black Lives Matter, women’s presence in business and the government, climate change, gun control, and so on. 1919 is a great resource that shows how big of an impact history has on the present day.
A year after Rainbow Rowell released her much beloved novel Carry On, the first book in the Simon Snow series, the second in the series, Wayward Son, has been published. Carry On received stellar reviews from audiences; some even claimed it to be comparable to the Harry Potter series. Last year, fans of the novel were left with a void in their hearts after finishing Carry On, but now that void, which can only be filled by more Simon and Baz interactions, can be filled… but not in the way audiences may expect. Rowell’s Wayward Son tells the story of what happens to the hero after the battle has been fought and the war has been won. What readers will learn is that there are always new battles to fight, and not everything ends in happily ever after.
At the end of Carry On, Simon sacrifices his magic in order to defeat the Insidious Humdrum—who turns out to be sort of a version of himself? I know kind of weird—Baz graduates from Watford at the top of his class, all thanks to Penelope who decided not to return for her last term at Watford; and Agatha runs off to California, attempting to get as far away from magic as she possibly can. Wayward Son fast forwards a year into the future. Simon and Penelope share an apartment in London. Baz and Penelope are both attending university, and Simon is doing relatively nothing. He sits on the couch day after day, needing Penelope to spell his wings and tail if he ever wants to wander the outside world. A complete one-eighty from how we left it, Baz and Simon’s relationship is beginning to suffer. Simon is always cranky, and Baz doesn’t know where they stand as a couple. It’s almost as if stripping the magic from Simon created someone completely different. This is when Penelope has her amazing idea to take a trip to America—something she and Simon had always talked about doing—and what starts out as an innocent idea to help cheer Simon up becomes an even bigger threat to their lives and the magical world.
Relationships and identity are major themes throughout this novel. All three main characters struggled with their identities for the duration of Wayward Son—Simon struggled with being stripped of his hero status, Baz contemplated his identity as a vampire, and Penelope attempted to find where she fits in a world outside of Watford. As these three characters struggled with their own identities, their relationships were tested, especially pertaining to Baz and Simon. Baz has felt estranged from Simon ever since they defeated the Humdrum and Simon lost his magic. They don’t do any of the things they did when their relationship first began, they don’t seem as close. Much of this had to do with Simon’s identity crisis. He was always the hero up to this point. Now it seems to him that he’s lost his purpose.
Rainbow Rowell did a fantastic job portraying hero after-the-fact in Wayward Son. In most action-adventure novels, the story ends with the hero saving the day and living happily ever after. However, the audience seldom sees the hero after his or her job is done. In this novel, we see exactly that, and in Simon’s case, the future is fairly bleak as he struggles to find a new purpose in life and to convince himself that he is deserving of Baz. Similarly, with Penelope, although she has moved on and is attending university, she is struggling to figure out how she fits into the outside world. At Watford, she was the top of her class and able to fix anything with a snap of her fingers (literally and figuratively). However, as she discovers during their road trip across America, the real world doesn’t work like that. There are mages more powerful and experienced, and obstacles not introduced to her at Watford.
Although the book did very well in regard to its themes and its portrayal of a different side of the main character, I found that it moved a bit slower than its predecessor, Carry On. The story moves a lot like a road trip across America might move—long stretches of seeing relatively the same thing. The beginning of the book and the beginning of their trip is a lot of Penelope being cranky and hungry, and Baz being confused about where he and Simon stand. It wasn’t until Nebraska that the story really got going.
Another aspect of the novel that was lacking was a resolution between Simon and Baz. Now, I realize that not all stories have a happy ending, and certainly not all relationships do either. However, I would have liked to know which direction they were leaning toward: working it out or letting each other go. Adding this to the novel wouldn’t necessarily have made Wayward Son better or worse, but I would’ve enjoyed it. Although there was no definite consensus about Baz and Simon, Baz does bring up an insightful point that stuck—is Simon acting like the Simon he first started dating because he feels like the hero again? Or is this how it’s going to be even when he’s not being the hero? As Simon, Baz, and Penelope encounter more obstacles and battles on their trip, Simon starts to cheer up and feel like himself again, most likely because he feels like he’s doing something important again and he has things to protect his loved ones from.
All in all, Wayward Son is a fantastic sequel to Carry On. It portrays feelings most all adolescents feel after graduating high school or the equivalent: lost and confused (but with more trees, sky, and magic).
Winnie the Pooh Winnie the Pooh Tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff He’s Winnie the Pooh Winnie the Pooh Willy nilly silly old bear
Sorry, didn’t mean to get that stuck in your head. But its a good introduction to what was doubtlessly a massive childhood memory for us: Winnie the Pooh. The silly old bear has made quite the impact on children across the world, universally beloved by young and old alike. Although Winnie the Pooh’s books have been overshadowed by the Disney adaptations, they’re still lovely and cherished by millions for their warmth and simplistic yet surprisingly complicated philosophical musings.
image via Disney
First published on October 14th, 1926, the children’s book introduced the world to Winnie the Pooh and his colorful cast of companions: Piglet, Eyeore, Kanga and Roo, Owl, and Rabbit. Tigger is the sole exception, not being introduced until the book’s sequel, The House at Pooh Corner. The book was written by A.A. Milne, who drew inspiration for the character from his son, Christopher Robin, who was also put into the books more or less as himself. Winnie the Pooh was named after Christopher’s toy bear, who was named ‘Winnie’ for the Canadian black bear he saw at the London zoo and ‘Pooh’ a swan the family had met while on holiday. On the character’s name, the author was quoted as saying:
But his arms were so stiff … they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think – but I am not sure – that that is why he is always called Pooh.
image via wikipedia
Winnie the Pooh became a bestselling phenomenon upon release, with its sequel following its publication shortly after. It has been translated into dozens of languages, including Latin (the Latin translation made the New York Times bestseller’s list). The rights were licensed by Disney in the 60s, where Winnie the Pooh and his cast were featured in several cartoon features by Disney, before Disney acquired full rights from Milne’s estate in 2001.
In the stories, Pooh is characterized as being a bear of very little brain, being often slow witted but also thoughtful, kind, and steadfast to his friends. Overall, his main motivation is often honey, which he spells as ‘hunny’. Overall, he is kindhearted and very loyal to his friends, even the perpetually grumpy Eyeore.
image via Disney
Happy birthday to our favorite bear, with the publication of his very first book. What fond memories do you have of the bear of little brain and his friends? Tell us in the comments and maybe you can help introduce Pooh to the next generation as well!
Another musician is stepping into the literature world. Entertainment Weekly reported K-pop star Jessica Jung will be publishing her own book next year: Shine.
Image Via Billboard
Inspired by most of her own life, the book follows Korean-American Rachel Kim as she is recruited by a K-pop label and follows her training into becoming a successful artist, and her relationship with a K-pop legend.
Jung is a former member of the South Korean girl group, Girls’ Generation, before branching into other businesses like fashion and acting and eventually going into a solo music career. Her discography includes nine studio albums with Girls’ Generation and three EP’s as a solo artist. She was included in Forbes’ 30 under 30 Asia list in 2017’s most influential people.
This will be the first of a two-book deal that Jung has with publisher Simon & Schuster imprint, Simon Pulse. In addition to the book deal, Shine has already been commissioned for a live-action adaptation by the same team behind To All The Boys I Loved Before.
Jung expressed how excited she was to publish her own book in her EW interview:
“With Shine, I wanted to tell a big, fun, escapist story that also examines in-depth, behind- the-scenes aspects of the K-pop world. My goal was to tell a transparent, candid story — in a way that sometimes fiction does best.”