The Warren & the World is Story Warren's weekly newsletter, providing a round-up of our favorite things from around the web as well as a review of what was on our site over the past week. We're glad you're here!
Around the Web:
Rediscovering Beauty, Truth, and Magic in Cinderella
I appreciate the folks at Christ and Pop Culture. I really appreciated their perspective in this look at the new, live-action Cinderella and the discussion around fairy tales.
- But Christians and non-Christians alike are tempted to focus the conversation only on our own beliefs or preferred social causes. We might only say that Cinderella is a Christlike character suffering under her step-family’s abuse. Or we might let the film’s critics frame the debate about how Cinderella’s story can be reduced to propaganda piece for anti-feminism or disempowerment of victims, or about how Cinderella’s ballgown waistline is too narrow.
Either response is far too mechanical, and in fact forces this simple yet powerful story into our own narrow expectations. Before we subject fairy tales to our social analyses, let us simply enjoy these well-crafted stories—whenever they appear—for what their makers intended them to be.
Hospitality and the Holy Imagination
We're big fans of Zach Franzen around here — and not just because he illustrated The Green Ember. (That's our first title — have you read it yet? No? Check it out here.) No, Zach is also one of the smartest people any of us know. He's got a real heart for serving people through creativity. And he wrote about it over at Amongst Lovely Things:
- In the second grade, two friends and I used our recess time to dig a hole.
At the base of a wooded hill between the jungle gym and the tether ball pole, we scratched the red Carolina clay with sticks and fingers. Every day we covered the hole with pine branches to hide it. This wasn’t just a hole made in the glow of childhood innocence. We weren’t digging for buried treasure or dinosaur bones. We were making a trap.
One of the boys claimed that every evening, cleaning-women swept the hill, and one was sure to step in our trap. The unlikelihood of a group of women hired to sweep a pine-needle covered hill never occurred to us. However, the hilarious image of a surprised woman stepping into a hole motivated us to dig not for a day or two, but for weeks. Two points need to be made. Our imaginations fueled efforts that would have been tedious on their own. Secondly, our seven year-old imagination was not a holy thing, which meant that our creative endeavors were inhospitable.
How to be a good reader — According to Jack
The good folks at Circe Institute have a great excerpt from a new book on C. S. Lewis's perspective on education. Great stuff:
In the first chapter of his first published work of literary criticism, The Allegory of Love (1936), Lewis, while attempting to unpack for the modern reader Chrétien de Troyes’s allegorical treatment of Love and Hate, offers this sage advice: “We have to worm our way very cautiously into the minds of these old writers: an a priori assumption as to what can, and what can not, be the expression of real imaginative experiences is the worst possible guide.” As we saw earlier, Lewis advocated, and carried out in his own work, a kind of genial criticism that respects the beliefs of the author and the common practices and responses of his age.
As teacher and critic, Lewis urged his students and readers to suspend their own agendas and personal assumptions and accept a work on its own terms. Like Matthew Arnold before him, Lewis sought ever to see the epic or tragedy or romance as it was in itself. In practice that meant carefully identifying the genre of the work being studied and then establishing what exactly that genre proposed to do for its reader. We would not evaluate a new car on the basis of how effectively it removes dust from our house. In the same way, we should not expect allegories to be realistic in the manner of modern novels or medieval books to champion a vision of the cosmos not held by anyone before the Enlightenment.
The Top 10 Books for Children
The folks over at BBC culture gathered some top book critics and polled them on the top children's book. Here's the top 10. Some surprises, maybe:
- What are the greatest children’s books ever? In search of a collective critical assessment, BBC Culture’s Jane Ciabattari polled dozens of critics around the world, including NPR’s Maureen Corrigan; Nicolette Jones, children’s books editor of the Sunday Times; Nicole Lamy of the Boston Globe; Time magazine's books editor Lev Grossman; Daniel Hahn, author of the new Oxford Companion to Children's Literature; and Beirut-based critic Rayyan Al-Shawaf. We asked each to name the best children’s books (for ages 10 and under) ever published in English. The critics named 151. Some of the choices may surprise you.
Around the Warren:
The World at 36 Inches
Helena Sorenson writes about what the world looks like when you're three feet tall. The world is different down there.
- When she stands on tippy-toe, she can just see over the edge of the windowsill. From there, the little dogwood tree in the front yard towers over her, and the robin’s nest is high, high.
She can’t reach the raisin toast on the counter. But those kitchen drawers house whole worlds of wonders: bowls and spatulas, sieves and funnels.
The bookshelf might as well be a castle wall, and each book a stone. As yet, they’re too large for her to hold, too dense for her to crack.
The Creator God Has Given Us Creativity
Laura Peterson kindly introduces us to some new novels in verse. My reading list is ever-growing.
- One activity I enjoy every spring is tracking down the list of Newbery and Caldecott Medal winners (usually announced in January or February) at my library. This year I snagged two of the Newbery winners before they got long waiting lists, and was surprised to find that they were both novels in verse. Poem-novels are a bit of an unexplored genre for me; there are a few that I’ve enjoyed, but sometimes I find myself steering away from them because it’s hard for me to get into the narrative.
But I just finished one that shot to the top of my list in this genre; Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
Lord Peter: A Norse Fairy Tale
Liz Cottrill introduces us to a wonderful Norse fairy tale.
I wonder if anyone knows how many fairy-tales have been told since the world began. It is certain that the familiar ones barely scratch the surface of that number. I unearthed one the other day that I had never read before. It has all the elements of the best tales: poverty to riches, sequences in threes, animals that talk, an ornery king, a troll, and, of course, a climactic surprise at the end. Thanks to Yesterday’s Classics.
Here is George Webbe Dasent’s rendering of an old Norse tale for your family to enjoy. –Liz
Something to Do with Your Kids:
It was 72 degrees at my house today, and the kids got to watch a small brush fire put out across the neighborhood by 3 or 4 units from our local fire department. That means it's time for spring activities via MyKidsAdventures.com. Read more here.
And Something to Watch
This one is filled with wonderful wordplay, funny visuals, and a sweet little story:
Thank you for reading. We're on your side.