Tag Archives: Scotland

Book Review: That Fine Summer by Ella Manuel

Image result for That Fine Summer by Ella Manuel

That Fine Summer, by Ella Manuel, is a short children’s book set in Fox Cove, Newfoundland. Never heard of Newfoundland? I am not terribly surprised; The Rock, as her people call her, is not the most popular tourist destination in the world.

Newfoundland was discovered by Norsemen and colonized by them at the turn of the Dark Ages, if my memory serves me correctly. But it was not until after Christopher Columbus discovered America that a more permanent colony was set up. Over time English, Scottish, and Irish settlers came to Newfoundland to make their living on the bountiful cod, as well as the natural wealth of the rugged island itself. By the twentieth century, Newfoundland was its own island nation. I do not know the year, but Canada eventually annexed the island through Confederation.

I believe That Fine Summer is set before Confederation, back when Newfoundland was an independent country. In this short novel, Mahala “Malie” Jacobs marches out to her Grandfather’s house in a right fury. When asked what the matter is, she tells him that her mother has made her wear a new dress and a new set of shoes first thing in the morning.

Mahala is a tomboy who likes to go fishing and sailing, things she can only really do with her Grandfather. Her mother, her grandfather’s only child, wants Mahala to act and dress like a proper lady. The only things the two agree on are that they love each other, they love Grandfather, and they are ardent piano players.

That evening, Mahala’s mother springs another unwelcome surprise on her daughter. She tells Malie that they are going to St. John’s, the capitol city of Newfoundland, for the summer.

Malie is thunderstruck. She does not want to go to the city. She wants to stay in Fox Cove with her grandfather, fishing, exploring the beaches, and just having fun in her own native place. She has had it all planned out for the last few months.

This leads to an explosive family argument, and Malie goes to the person who understands her best to solve the dilemma: Grandfather. Grandfather talks to Mahala’s mother and convinces her to let Malie stay with him throughout the summer… That fine summer.

I’ll not spoil the rest of the book for you, readers. It is a sweet little story, with lots of local color and language. If you do not understand the Newfoundland slang, the BREAKWATER edition has a short glossary of Newfoundland expressions included in it. But between the jigs and the reels, the story should be easy for children to read and understand.

Have fun fishing for this book and learning about The Rock, readers!

Image result for That Fine Summer by Ella Manuel

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A ‘Brave’ Thing to Do

Brave

Hey, DiNozzo!

I’ll take that Klondike bar, thank you very much!  Now, for your punishment, you have to listen to me talk about Disney’s Brave.

Hah!  I knew you hadn’t heard of it.  Ooh, this is going to be fun!

Well for me it is, Tony.  You’re making up for that nasty joke about books, so it’s not supposed to be too much fun for you

Stop rolling your eyes, or I’ll hit you with what’s left of this Klondike bar!

Good.  Now, to business!  Brave is an animated movie set in – tenth century Scotland, I believe.  May want to recommend it to Ducky, now that I think of it.  The protagonist is headstrong, fierce Princess Merida.  A teenager with her sights set on adventure, Merida is a great horsewoman and, through practice from childhood, an amazing archer.  She has this trail in the forest near the castle that she rides with her Clydesdale, Angus, from time to time.  As she rides, she fires arrows at preset targets, hitting the center every time.

Actually, no, she doesn’t get to ride this trail every day.  I was under the impression she rode it about every weekend or something. 

Yes, she’s not allowed to do this more than once a week or so.  But it’s not because her father won’t let her.

Her mother does not like Merida running off to fire arrows at the trees.  It’s quite unladylike in Queen Eleanor’s opinion, and a proper princess should behave more like a lady than like a warrior.

Yup, you guessed it.  Merida and Eleanor don’t see eye to eye, at least not during most of the film.

This problem arose over time, with Eleanor trying to make Merida into a lady while Merida found every possible way to avoid fitting into the mold her mother had sized for her.  This constant fighting has reached the point that both women, when they speak to each other, never hear what the other has to say because they’re too busy listening to their own voices.  In short, neither is willing to admit the other has a point.  It is their way or the highway.

The trouble comes to a head when Merida is to be betrothed.  Each suitor, the oldest boy in his family, has to compete for Merida’s hand in a tournament.  The interesting thing is that Merida gets to choose what feat of arms they must accomplish to win her hand.

Right on again, Tony.  She picks archery.

So the three suitors from opposing clans each fire at the target.  The first two miss but the third – a midget with a vacant expression for most of his part in the movie – is startled into hitting the target dead center.

You think Merida’s in trouble?

Well, you’re half right.  But she has no intention of marrying this dopey boy – or either of the others.  One final contestant, hidden beneath a cloak, approaches the target.  When the figure lifts the hood, it’s revealed to be Merida!

As the oldest in her family, Merida says that she will “be shooting for my own hand!”

And she does, splitting the winning suitor’s arrow down the middle.  But Eleanor is right behind her, and boy does the fur fly when the two return to the castle.

Eleanor is distraught not only that her daughter has broken custom with this unladylike act, but she has also put a treaty among all four clans in grave danger of being broken.  Merida, however, does not care about this.  All she wants is her freedom to do what she enjoys: being a tomboy.  The argument hits fever pitch when Merida takes an axe and cuts a tapestry of her family (which her mother was embroidering) down the middle. 

In thoughtless retaliation, Eleanor throws Merida’s beloved bow into a nearby hearth fire, stating that she will marry her betrothed the next day.  Merida hardly hears this because the sight of her bow being eaten by the fire chases her out of the room.  So she’s not around when Eleanor, realizing what she’s done, frantically retrieves the scorched bow and puts the fire out, breaking down into tears when it becomes obvious the bow won’t be firing anymore arrows ever again.

Leaving the castle in tears, Merida ends up meeting a witch hiding in the forest some distance outside the castle.  The woman’s more than a little batty, but Merida manages to get her to sell her a spell to “change my mother.”

Yes, you got it; this is where things take a bad turn.  The witch cooks up the spell right enough, but instead of changing Eleanor’s mind concerning her decisions about Merida’s future, it changes her – into a huge bear!

Now, living somewhere outside the castle is a ‘demon’ bear called Mor’du.  Merida’s father, King Fergus, has a vendetta with this creature since it took his leg when Merida was a child.  So Merida’s big problem is that, if her father finds her mother in this altered state, he’ll hunt her down and kill her.

Thankfully, Merida and Eleanor (an anthropomorphic bear who can no longer speak) escape before her father sees what’s happened.  Merida goes back to the witch’s cottage with her mother in tow, hoping that she can change her back into a woman.  But the witch has gone and won’t be back for months; the only clue she leaves to Merida to help her get her mother back to normal is that they have to “mend the bond torn by pride.”

This isn’t easy as neither woman is willing to admit she’s wrong; but by and by, they sort it out and Merida’s mother is changed back.

No, I’m not going to tell you how it ends beyond that!  Firstly, I’d spoil the movie.  Secondly, the next part of your punishment is that you have to watch it for yourself.

Why did I write you if that was the point?  Because this is a really good film that breaks a long, long pattern in most films of the last several years.  I realize I’ve lost you, DiNozzo, sit still and let me clarify.   

Thank you.  Now listen to these titles and tell me what happens in each movie with the daughter in it: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, Taken, The Lord of the Rings, and Aladdin.

Yes, all have headstrong daughters rebelling, but against their fathers.  Ariel loves the human Eric against the wishes of King Triton; Kiara falls for Outlander Kovu although he is sent to kill her father, Simba; Liam Neeson’s character in Taken has a daughter who rebels against his protective instincts by hiding that she is travelling all over Europe and not just Paris, as she told him (and she pays the price later on); Arwen falls in love with and marries mortal Aragorn, becoming mortal herself and separating for all time from her father, Elrond; and in Aladdin, Jasmine refuses to marry any of her suitors.

In all these movies, it is daughter against father.  The last time I saw a story with daughter versus mother was in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, where Ariel’s ocean-loving daughter Melody leaves the safety of her parents’ kingdom to find answers about her heritage, a move she nearly comes to direly regret.  Freaky Friday is another similar story, but these are almost exceptions to the general trend.

This is why I like Brave so much.  It is far truer to a daughter’s nature than most of these other stories.  Fathers are protective and can make mistakes in regard to their daughters.  But when daughter and mother are both sure that the other is wrong and that they are right, oh boy, head for the hills.  We are talking about very serious, very ugly, cat fights that usually end in forgiveness – but sometimes don’t. 

And as Merida and Eleanor showed the audience, the ones who get hurt the most in these disputes tend to be mother and daughter.  So watch your step around the ladies, DiNozzo.  I’d prefer you didn’t get scratched – unless you earned it somehow.

I’m not saying you would, just that it’s a possibility.   Like that time you were undercover and met Jeanne’s mom?

Now you get it.

Well, time to go.  Thanks for the Klondike.  Next time we go back to The Hobbit.

What?  I told you, when I get in a groove, it takes me a while to get out of it.  Would you rather we talked about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Spongebob Squarepants?

I thought not.  Now get going, you’re making me angry. 😛

Later,

Mithril 

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