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Imitation and Reinvention: Mad Hatters and March Hares and Kill the Farm Boy

12 Sep

Sometimes an author’s world and the words they wrote resonate so deeply that they live beyond the works themselves; there are many retellings of Alice in Wonderland and there are some especially terrific interpretations in the new collection edited by Ellen Datlow.  At other times authors may be inspired not by what stories in the past contained, but what the story leaves out. This is the case for the thoroughly modern fantasy Kill the Farm Boy by Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson which seeks to reinvent the genre with a modern sensibility.

Mad Hatters and March Hares: All New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
edited by Ellen Datlow
MadHattersandMarchHares

Mad Hatters and March Hares is a collection of stories based on not only characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it’s sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, but many also involve the book and the real people associated with stories like Alice Lidell since the tale of the writing of the books often seems as intriguing to readers and authors as the story itself. The story “Worrity, Worrity” by Andy Duncan takes a surrealistic look at why John Tenniel might have dissuaded Carroll from featuring a certain illustration.  Like the nonsense rhyme that filled originals, the collection begins and ends with two poems, the first of which “Gentle Alice” by Kris Dikeman is in the shape of a teacup reflecting the concrete poetry Carroll used in his own work.  Two of my favorite fantasy authors Catherynne M. Valente and Seanan McGuire have excellent stories included;  McGuire’s “Sentence Like a Saturday” was my favorite of the collection and looks at what happens when a certain Kitty enters the “real” world.  I found it interesting that on the whole the stories were dark fantasy and some in the horror genre reflecting the menace that can be seen just below the surface in the original with characters like the threatening Red Queen and Jabberwocky.  You can read about more Alice in Wonderland related books and movies in a previous blog post.

Kill The Farm Boy: The Tales Of Pell
by Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson
KilltheFarmBoy
This novel, according to an authors’ note, started as a conversation between Hearne and Dawson in an airport about the need to “kill the farm boy” which they feel represents the cliche of the white young male who lives in a rural area and finds out he is the “chosen one” and goes on to be the center of many adventures. White males can be pretty awesome and many deserve hero status, my dad, husband, and son are all examples of that, but there is definitely room especially in the fantasy realm for more diversity.  This novel made me think of many fantasy novels I’ve read especially the Once and Future King with its interpretation of the Arthur legend.  The novel starts out with the typical farm boy, but he meets an unfortunate accident that keeps him unable to continue his quest and instead the main story focuses on a variety of adventurers including a dark skinned female warrior and her newly met romantic interest a bard who is herself under a spell so that she has rabbit like features.  There were some bits where Kill the Farm Boy had me laughing out loud and it was very original with some of the directions that it took the adventurers in while skewing dated cliches of typical fantasy novels of the past as well as our contemporary society.  The novel manages to be more than just a parody and I hope the fun and original characters of Pell have many more adventures in store for readers.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

Finding Your Inner Sunshine: Unconditional

5 Sep

Unconditional
My last blog post was about dancing, and even though it seems at first it has nothing to do with this post – I feel that it is a perfect fit and segue to what this post is about.

Sometimes children’s books can teach even the well-seasoned adult something new. Now, I actually heard about this book from a movie. What intrigued me about the book was first, whether or not it actually existed and second, the struggle that the film portrayed that the person had creating this children’s book.

The movie, which was inspired by true events, is called Unconditional. Now, although the movie’s plot isn’t a direct storyline about the journey of the children’s book, it is the events in the movie to which give heed to the plot in the book itself. The book, Firebird: He Lived for the Sunshine, is mentioned in the beginning and end of the film and it is actually the turning point of the film. But what caught me was the fact that the book itself wasn’t featured in the film. So I did what any English major graduate would do and I looked it up. Low and behold, the book is now real (it is co-authored by Brent McCorkle, the film’s director and Amy Parker).

Fast forwarding to the end of the Firebird – without revealing spoilers – the last page reads, “He still loved to bask in the sunshine. But more importantly, knowing that the sun was always there, Firebird had learned to rejoice in the rain.” Now, the word dance comes back to us here – and whatever that means to you is also another kind of beauty. Recalling my last blog where I mention “even in the midst of the ugly, of the terrible and unrecognizable moments, there is always beauty living amongst it”, this also alludes how even in the rain there is still light surrounding us.

Of course the Unconditional is a lot more theatrical in its production and how it chooses to portray significant plot twists that may not be so pertinent to the children’s book. But in the end it’s evident that hope is something that is alive in us all and just like a rainy day may feel a little cloudy in your heart and mind, it doesn’t mean that hope/light doesn’t exist inside you.

So all in all, this combination of movie and book spiked an interest in me because of the rarity and reality of the conflict we deal with between the natural, tangible and the intangibility of life.

You can check out Unconditional from BCCLS libraries.  Several of Amy Parker’s inspirational books for children are also available from BCCLS libraries including Tiny Blessings for Giving Thanks and Tiny Blessings for Bedtime.

Written by:
Sherissa Hernandez
Adult Programming Assistant

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