Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry
So this video started going around my facebook today, with about a dozen of my female friends sharing the link with comments like, and “Everyone needs to see this”, and “All girls should watch this,” and “This made me cry.” And I’m not trying to shame those girls! I definitely understand why they would do so. And I don’t want to be a killjoy. But as I clicked the link and started watching the video, I started to feel a slight sense of discomfort. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was, exactly, but it continued throughout the whole thing. After watching the video several more times, I have some thoughts…
First Test- Tamora Pierce
In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan (known as Kel) is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood.
This is not the first book in Tamora Pierce’s fantasy world Tortall, but it is the first book of her’s that I ever picked up. Looking at my bookshelf now, there are twenty-six others that sit beside it.
Keladry instantly became one of my favourite role models in fiction. Strong, composed, and in control of herself Kel always defends what she believes in. Her beliefs are noble and conscientious. She stands up for those who can’t- or don’t stand up for themselves, and always makes an effort to be kind. On top of that she is strong, determined, and committed. Her example of hard work, even when you don’t really want to, is something I continue to aspire to achieve.
First Test is an excellent introduction of Keladry as a character. The story of her first year as a page reveals the type of battles Kel will continue to fight as she grows an matures. Always concerned with the underdog and stopping bullies, she makes a lasting impression on everyone she works with. Within the isolated group of pages she solidifies the value of equality that will be her defining characteristic as she becomes more politically involved with the realm in the following books.
The obstacle driving much of Pierce’s work is that of females wanting to do something that is typically a male occupation. Upon reflection, the complete disregard her characters have for gender stereotypes was probably heavily influential in my adoption of the same ideology.
Pierce has also created some of my favourite supporting characters in this series. The boys Kel completes her page training with are an interesting cast. As well, one of my favourite features of Pierce’s writing is the presence of characters from former novels. As time passes in Tortall, the story of the realm is told through the eyes of a new character. In each new series, though, the previous characters are still integral. I love being able to follow the storyline of previous favourite characters into new books.
If you enjoy fantasy and haven’t discovered Tamora Pierce yet, it is definitely not too late and I expect you’ll love it.
Wonderstruck- Brian Selznick
Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.
Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories—Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures—weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful—with over 460 pages of original artwork—Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.
I work at an Indigo, and while I was browsing the YA fiction this book caught my eye first my the cover- which is stunning, and then by the staff pick sticker that was also on the front. I got to talking with my friend who really loved the book and was super interested by one feature that I believe is the highlight of the book.
The novel tells the story of two individuals. Ben, whose story is told through text, and Rose, whose story is told through pictures only:
The artwork alone is a reason to read the book. Each page is beautiful and it is a wonderfully unique way to read a novel. I have just started to read graphic novel’s as well so I really enjoyed this union between visual and written art.
If the physical beauty of the book isn’t enough to draw you in, the story is just as excellent. Getting used to the picture format for Rose’s story take a bit of time, but I found myself flipping pages as fast as I could in order to learn more about her life. Going too quickly, however, results in missed details in the images at some key points. So while I expect readers to be cruising through the book, don’t forget to slow down and take in every aspect of the pictures.
The book jacket reveals that Rose and Ben will have their stories intersect and while reading I had no shortage of guesses as to how this would occur. The plot teases readers with some almost-meetings between the two and ultimately, when the two characters do meet, it took me by surprise.
While on their adventures both Ben and Rose end up in New York City, which was my other favourite feature of the story. Their exploration of the city reveals many of the wonders that New York has to offer. Once again the images of Rose’s story add depth to this discovery.
Overall I loved the story- the pace, the plot, the telling and the book itself was beautiful. I flew through the six hundred and thirty pages in less than two days.
The Giver- Lois Lowry
“It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.”
Thus opens this haunting novel in which a boy inhabits a seemingly ideal world: a world without conflict, poverty, unemployment, divorce, injustice, or inequality. It is a time in which family values are paramount, teenage rebellion is unheard of, and even good manners are a way of life.
December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve year old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man -the man called only the Giver -he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.
Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.
I first read this book in my grade 6 English class at the choosing of one of my favourite English teachers. I didn’t realize at the time, but I think she was quite influential in developing my appreciation and need for books. The Giver was not my introduction to Lois Lowry, however. I had read Number the Stars the year before, and loved it as well. Since, I have read Messenger and Gathering Blue multiple times and am beyond excited to read her fourth instalment, Son. The Giver has remained my favourite of Lowry’s novels to date.
I ripped through the book, finishing it in about a day during a very busy Christmas season. It had been a while since having read fiction geared towards as young an audience as The Giver is, but I enjoyed the story and the story telling all the same. Lowry is excellent at dropping readers into the midst of a world they know nothing about and revealing key details just in time to allow you to understand what’s happening, but keep you guessing what could possibly come next.
I remember the book seeming much longer the first time I read it, perhaps because many of the ideas and the concept of dystopian fiction was entirely new to me at the time. My eyes were certainly opened to many new concepts of government, choice, rights and responsibility the first time I read the novel. My most recent read found me particularly focused on the idea of truth; what qualifies as truth, when it should be told, when it should be with held, and the power and responsibility that comes with the truth.
One of my favourite things about rereading books is the experience of going back and finding a new detail that hadn’t stood out to you before. The Giver was a comfortable and familiar book that was still able to challenge my opinions. Jonas’s story is easy to read and his experiences allow one to see aspects of our lives- that are taken for granted, through a fresh pair of eyes.
It is always a pleasure to read Lois Lowry’s work and I recommend this book for anyone as young as grade 5, and any and every age older.
Project Read: to be read
Hey! So I’ve started another blog where I’m going to post reviews/blurbs/quotes from books I have read and haven’t reviewed myself, or books I’m planning on reading. So there’ll be lots of good book recommendations there.
Also feel free to submit anything you’ve reviewed, and I’ll post it, or anything you think I should review.
Link to the blog below:
The Scorpio Races- Maggie Stiefvater
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
Maggie Stiefvater is no stranger to fantasy and has written some of my favourites of the genre. In The Scorpio Races however, she perfectly melds fantasy with reality in a way that had me reconsidering if it could actually be a true story. Stiefvater keeps the book deeply rooted in reality while still creating a sense of the truly magical on the isolated island where much of the story takes place. She creates the small town atmosphere with a familiar cast of characters who still believe in myth and magic, the kind of town one hopes to find in an old European country.
The novel is based on the legends of the eich uisce- the Celtic water horse. I usually stick to stories of your straightforward oddly beautiful, tricking, lying, dancing faeries so I was not familiar with the history of these creatures. Stiefvater reveals the mythology of her world slowly, not to the detriment of the plot though. Information is revealed on a need-to-know basis and adds to the aura of mystery the novel exudes. The very first line in the book is what drew me in as I scanned the pages at Indigo:
“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”
I was hooked from this line, which is narrated to the reader from one of the main characters Sean. The story is told from alternating perspectives, a steadfast Sean and a spunky Puck. Both live in the small island but have little contact at the start of the novel.
Their stories intersect and the characters get to know each other in the same slow manor in which everything in this book is paced. As Puck is determined to get to know the water horses it is no surprise that she eventually crosses paths with the islands water horse expert- Sean. Their relationship begins tentatively and grows naturally over the course of the novel.
Puck and Sean are my two favourite characters that Stiefvater has created to date. They are the kind of characters you hold on to after the book is finished. I feel like they are as real as any other person I would meet on the street, their lives, their choices and their flaws are aspects that I embrace and love.
You can read the first chapter for free on Maggie’s website: http://maggiestiefvater.com/the-scorpio-races/