Before I write about Reel Girl’s pick of the week, I’ll come clean on two issues: I never do this feature once a week, and I have not read The Doll People in full. I have read enough to know the book is charming and stars no less than three adventurous female characters. My six year old daughter is obsessed with the book, and finished it without me. I just bought her the two sequels. I’m inspired to tell you about now, because I just looked at her book report and it looks like a report made for Reel Girl. Here it Alice’s homework verbatim, worksheet questions in bold.
Title: The Doll People
Author: Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin
How many pages? 256
Main characters? Anabelle, Tiffany, Auntie Sarah
The Best Part: is when they found Auntie Sarah. She was in the attic but her dress was stuck under a suite case. So Tiffany and Annabelle had to try to get her dress unstuck.
Did you enjoy the story? Yes
Why? Annabelle and Tiffany. They were brave a lot. They were very smart and read a lot of books.
Because I am one to judge a book by its cover, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this one. It’s about dolls and the one shown here has a pink skirt and a pink bow. This book came into our house because my older daughter’s friend, Calvin, gave it to her for her birthday when she was in first grade. I’m glad it found a way in past my prejudice.
What I love most about this book is that Auntie Sarah disappeared because she was so adventurous, she couldn’t stay safe, confined in her dollshouse home. Sarah’s niece, Annabelle, has the same spirit and this story is about how she gets the courage to follow her heart and how her family also comes to accept and admire her rebellious nature.
Based on Alice’s review along with sections I read, Reel Girl rates The Doll People ***HHH***
Someone commented on Reel Girl’s Facebook page: please note what age books are appropriate for. My daughter is almost seven. She loved it. It’s a chapter book. I think 6 – 10 would be ideal. Let me know if your kids have read it.
My three daughters, my niece, my sister, and I LOVED “The Croods.”
From beginning to end, this movie is fantastic. The characters are great and the animation is gorgeous. “The Croods” is the best ensemble animated movie since “The Incredibles,” and like that classic, “Croods” is about a family that is populated with strong female characters.
“The Croods” is narrated by a female. That is a true rarity in movies made for children. Who tells the story is hugely important and leaving females out of this role has all kind of bad effects. Everyone needs to be able to writer her own story.
Not only is Eep the narrator, but…and this is truly amazing…she is not a Minority Feisty! Her family is comprised of a mom, a granny, a baby sister and then her father and brother. That’s right, 4 females to 2 males! This gender ratio is almost unheard of in mainstream movies for children.
There’s another male main character who comes on the scene: Guy. But even with this addition, the gender ratio still tips in female favor. There are various animals and magical creatures, but their parts are small, and the genders mixed, so I feel confident we don’t have to deal with the Minority Feisty issue at all in this movie.
Speaking of creatures, in the last scene of the movie, Eep is shown NOT “riding bitch.” She is on a flying creature, in front, with Guy behind her.
I do have a couple complaints. Eep’s outfit sucked. While the clothing of all the other characters covered them to their knees or more, Eep’s dress barely skimmed her ass. There were actual panty shots. For that, I am deducting one H.
Aside from Eep’s outfit, her look is great. She is a cavewoman and she looks it, with big arms, muscular legs, and bushy hair. Her armpits, shown in the movies first shot, are conspicuously hairless, an issue that could’ve been easily solved by giving her more clothing coverage, but whatever.
Eeps refers to herself as a “caveman” and that term is used to describe her family a few times in the movie. At least that gendered word seemed really out of place, I hope not only to me. With all the ways this movie defied gender stereotypes, couldn’t they change that word to cavepeople?
Much of the movie is battle for leadership between the dad and Guy. I admit, I was pretty nervous when Guy came on the scene. As with “Hotel Transylvania,” I was concerned the story would morph from a father-daughter to father-son theme. Though in some places, it teetered, the movie stayed faithful to keeping Eep and her dad the central focus. I liked the addition of Guy. Clearly, he admires Eep for her strength and vision. He is enamored of her without coming off as a wimp, a loser, or relinquishing his own attractiveness. I liked that Eep is shown as powerful and also in love. Defying another limiting gender stereotype for females in the fantasy world, being strong doesn’t mean Eep has to end up alone.
I think the Granny made a sexist comment, calling the dad and the brother “girls” at one point as an insult, but that seems so out of character and incongruent with the movie that I’m hoping I’m wrong.
“The Croods” is a movie about the strength and importance of family. Of course, “family values” is a common theme in children’s media, but too often, to communicate this bond, female ambition is stereotyped and sacrificed. Most recently, we saw this in the infinitely sexist “Escape From Planet Earth” which made the point with a “good” stay-at-home mom versus a wicked, bitter, delusional, and lonely working woman.
“The Croods” did something different, showing the value of family by illustrating that each member’s role and identity is dynamic and changing. People need to grow. Pigeonholing identities gives only the illusion of strength.
One final factor that I adored about the movie is how it showed the power of the narrative and the importance of a female protagonist. The father and Guy both told stories to the the family about a female character who was obviously based on Eep. Theses stories mirrored the thematic basis and structure of the movie. Through stories, real life heroes are born. Don’t miss this movie! Reel Girl rates “The Croods” ***HH***
Update There’s just one more scene that kind of bugged me in “The Croods.” I forgot to mention it here, but I’ve been thinking about it since. So the dad and Guy are trying to lure a creature into a trap and as bait, they create a female version of the creature, desperate for help. The damsel in distress is grotesque, with a lipstick mouth. The attacking creature rescues her. It was a bummer for me to see 3 male characters act out this gender stereotyped scene.
Intrigued and excited, I interviewed co-founder Carey Albertine.
Why did you create In This Together Media?
We started In This Together Media to publish better quality books for and
about girls– stories where the main character’s whole reason for being
isn’t to be kissed, or the other extreme, to be some kind of superchick. We
wanted to broaden the narrative possibilities, and that comes from more
layered, nuanced characters.
What is the mission of ITTM?
First and foremost, we publish GREAT stories. And we strive to show the
girls’ and women in our books– and their relationships with each other– in
an authentic way. Organizations like Miss Representation and The Geena Davis Institute are doing fantastic work to raise awareness on the issue of gender
representation in the media. We see our part as putting out better content.
How many books are available now?
We have three books out right now– Soccer Sisters: Lily Out of Bounds, Mrs.
Claus and the School of Christmas Spirit, and Playing Nice. We have another
10-15 in development for 2013-2014. Most are for Middle-Grade and Young
Adult audiences but we also have an Early Chapter book series in
Where can you buy them?
Both the print and digital versions are available on Amazon. Very soon, you
will be able to get them on all the major platforms. Plus, supporting local
libraries and independent bookstores is very important to us and we are
broadening our presence in both.
How are they selling?
We are thrilled (and humbled) by how well things are going so far. Soccer
Sisters is a middle-grade series that is catching on with soccer playing and
non-soccer playing readers alike. The author and the series’ spokesperson,
Brandi Chastain, were on The Today Show not long ago promoting the book and
we get emails regularly begging for the next installment. Mrs. Claus was
the #1 Christmas Kids’ Books on Amazon for most of December. And Playing
Nice has over 70 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Teenagers love it but so
do 30 somethings who can relate to the travails of high school!
Do your books have a consistent theme or characteristics?
We like all kinds of stories from Adventure to Contemporary Fiction to
Fantasy. But I think the one thing that ties all of our books together,
besides the female characters, is humor. We like books and writers who make
How did you and your partner come up with the idea for he company? You both had several other jobs in media. Did your previous professional experience help you to see the need for ITTM and is ITTM your full time job now?
It all started when Saira asked me to meet up for drinks to discuss
conceiving of the next Dora the Explorer. Yes, we realize how hubristic
that must sound! One year and a thousand iterations later, In This Together
Media was born. It is hard to imagine anything more fun than sitting around
and coming up with stories with one of your oldest and dearest friends.
We’ve both had a few different careers on the way to figuring out what we
wanted to be when we grow up from stand-up comedienne to lawyer to
television news producer to published author. Strangely enough, these
different experiences have given us the tools we needed to be successful.
And being mothers hasn’t hurt either. We share a deep love for reading and
writing and stories.
Where do you see ITTM in 5 years? Do you plan to expand beyond books into TV, movies, toys, apps, clothing?
World domination. Just kidding. But seriously, we create stories that we
think can live and grow on a lot of different platforms. So, yes, we expect
to expand into movies and TV, toys and maybe things we can’t even dream
about today. We think BIG. We could definitely be accused of having
delusions of grandeur!
Do you see a lack of strong female protagonists in MG and YA books?
I think YA and MG books have more female protagonists than television or
movies. And there are great examples of interesting, strong girls in some of
these books. But I am troubled by the YA trend of innocent naif meets
worldy-beyond-his-years young man made famous by a certain Vampire series. I
don’t think Romance has to be THE driving plot of every YA book. I also find
that the way female relationships are portrayed is not authentic to my own
experience. I have met few mean girls– mostly, my friends have been the
most important support system in my life. We don’t want to whitewash or show
perfect girls and relationships. We just want them to feel real.
I love this question and response from your site: “Do I have to be a girl to read your books or a woman to write with/for you? Absolutely not! Our stories are compelling thrill rides that appeal to girls and boys alike. And we welcome writers with a Y Chromosome to join our team.” One challenge with the “girl empowerment” community, on line and elsewhere, is that many parents assume it’s not about boys at all. But until parents read their sons books with girls and take them to movies aboutgirls, gender segregation will continue and so will stereotyping, along with myths that girls will watch movies about boys but boys won’t watch movies about girls etc. How do you market ITTM and what is your plan, if any, to deal with the gender segregation challenge so intensely aimed at kids today?
Thank you thank you for bringing this up! It is very important to us to
challenge this notion that boys are not interested in stories about girls.
How absurd! It would be a sad world if half the population is not interested
in the other half. We refuse to accept it. My son loves “boy” stuff but also
adores My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake. We hope we can help
dismantle the whole notion of “girl” stuff and “boy” stuff.
What are your favorite YA and MG books?
The classics– Roald Dahl and Madeleine L’Engle for Middle-Grade. “Proud
Taste of Scarlet and Miniver” by E.L. Konigsberg was one of my favorite
books as a girl. And Rick Riordan and the Percy Jackson series deserves
every bit of accolades it has received– so good! We have a book club of 4th
and 5th graders and they tell me what to read. They are on top of it. I just
started S.S. Taylor’s “The Expenditioners” and it is great. For Young Adult,
I am about to start “The Fault in Our Stars”. John Green is the man.
I admit, because I’m one to judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its poster, I was slightly bummed when yesterday, at the book store, my six year old daughter chose Thea Stilton and the Dancing Shadows. Ballet dancers and girls. Can we get any more cliched with gender roles?
Also, while I didn’t know Thea, I am sort of familiar with her brother, Geronimo. My nine year old has one of his books on her shelf. Why put his name at the top of Thea’s book? If you think that is an irrelevant detail, just conisder how actors fight for top billing and the kind of status, power, and salary that placement conveys.
The good news is that Thea Stilton totally rocks. My daughter and I have not been able to put the book down. This morning, she was still reading it on the way to school to the point of car sickness, finally, letting me tear it away from her so that I could come home and blog about it.
The first page of the book is a letter from Thea:
Hello, I’m Thea!
I’m Geronimo Stilton’s sister. As I’m sure you know from my brother’s best-selling novels, I’m a special correspondent for The Rodent’s Gazette…Unlike my ‘fraidy mouse brother, I absolutely adore traveling, having adventures, and meeting rodents from around the world.
Thea is way cooler than Geronimo. She hangs out with an eclectic pack of female mice friends who call themselves the Thea Sisters. The next 5 pages of the book describe each character. They come from different countries: China, Peru, Tanzania, Australia, and France. They have different passions, aspiring to be an ecologist, scientist, sports journalist, car mechanic, or fashion writer. As far as the fashion writer, whose favorite color is pink, Colette is one out of 6 female characters, and I have no issue with her look or career choice. The problem with pink, princesses, or for that matter, anorexic fashion models, is not they exist at all, but their dominance over representations of females in the media. One out of six into fashion is okay with me.
In this particular adventure, the Thea Sisters are off to Milan, Italy for a ballet competition where they investigate corruption; the judges have been bribed. The story is filled with interesting facts coupled with illustrations about Italy, ballet, and the history of dance. In this way, the book reminds me a little of the Magic Tree House series. Characters have funny names like Madame Rattlova and Professor Ratshnikov. There is a lot of word play and puns about mice and cheese. Two characters are described as different as “provolone and parmesan.” All of this makes the book really fun to read with daughter. There is a lot of opportunity to explain new words and jokes in a context that she was curious about and really wanted to understand. Reading this book with her, I felt like I was watching her brain grow.
While Geronimo has 53 books of his own, Thea has just 14, but we are excited to read them all, especially, for me, the ones that have nothing to do with ballet. Thea Stilton and the Dragon’s Code and Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarab Hunt look great.
Reel Girl rates Thea Stilton and The Dancing the Shadows ***HHH***
First grade is amazing. My six year old daughter, Alice, began this school year slowly sounding out words in picture books. Now, she saves those to read aloud to her enraptured little sister and then reads Harry Potter to herself.
That said, after spending her entire life in picture books, Alice was tentative to make the transition to chapter books. It wasn’t about skill but familiarity. Here’s the good and the bad history in books of how she did it:
Rainbow Magic Series ***S***
This was the first chapter book my daughter picked up. I thought I purged the house after my older one grew out of this series, but apparently I did not.
There are so many damn books in this series that I missed about 10. How did my older daughter acquire so many? All I can say is it happened before I knew better. Generally, I don’t forbid books. I may roll my eyes at a selection. I did refuse to let my eight year old read Twilight but mostly, I “highly encourage” books that I think would be great for them, and they would love and try to ignore the rest. So what did my six year old daughter do when I told her for one too many times she was ready to start chapter books? She picked up Lucy, the Diamond Fairy and brought it to be, beaming, knowing I would cringe. I caved. She read.
To learn more about how and why I hate this series and a few things that are OK about it, read here.
Junie B. Jones ***HH***
I’m not a fan of Junie B. either. She is super annoying and talks baby talk. I hate baby talk.
But the print is big, the stories are simple, and my daughter felt accomplished finishing the book. Parts of it are funny. Alice liked it okay. And, I’d rather her read about a brat than a navel baring Fairy who goes on about her outfit for pages. My daughter got through three of this series and then she went on to…
Judy Moody ***HH***
Judy Moody has a similar lay out of print size, book length, and illustration as Junie B.
I like Judy more than Junie. Thankfully, so does my daughter. I was kind of bored by these books, I like more drama. Alice also read a couple and then moved on to…
Magic Tree House ***HH***
If your new reader likes Magic Tree House, you’re in luck. There are so many of these books, and the kids always travel to a different place and time.
There is a lot of history woven into the stories, and of course, magic. I like these books a lot, though being me, it does bum me out that it is always “Jack and Annie” and never “Annie and Jack.” I mean, we’re talking hundreds of stories, can’t the girl come first at least half the time? When my older daughter got into this series, I was overjoyed and blogged about it here.
Ramona the Pest ***HHH***
I love Ramona.
The writing is great and the characters are awesome. This series is a jump from the previous 4: smaller print, longer, and more complex, IMO.
I think the only think I don’t like about this series is that Ramona thinks her brown hair and brown eyes are boring. If this was one book of many that had that theme, I wouldn’t have an issue, but dark haired girls don’t fare well in children’s media, from Rapunzel who literally loses her magic and power when her hair turns brown, to Ramona. Alice has two blue-eyed, blonde sisters, so its even more of a bummer to read about how Ramona is obsessed with other peoples hair. And no, it’s not something my daughter relates to, because she’s never felt like there is anything less good about brown hair. So that’s my tirade about hair. Otherwise, great series, read what I wrote about it here.
The Magic Half **HHH***
After Ramona, my daughter made the jump to The Magic Half.
This is a full on next level book and she plowed through it. I did not read it, but here is the synopsis from Amazon:
Miri is the non-twin child in a family with two sets of them–older brothers and younger sisters. The family has just moved to an old farmhouse in a new town, where the only good thing seems to be Miri’s ten-sided attic bedroom. But when Miri gets sent to her room after accidentally bashing her big brother on the head with a shovel, she finds herself in the same room . . . only not quite.
Without meaning to, she has found a way to travel back in time to 1935 where she discovers Molly, a girl her own age very much in need of a loving family. A highly satisfying classic-in-the-making full of spine-tingling moments, this is a delightful time-travel novel for the whole family.
Based on the rec of Alice and Lucy, I rated it 3 Hs
And that brings us to…
Harry Potter, the Sorcerer’s Stone ***H***
YAY. If you want to know how I feel about the series, begin here. My daughter loves the book so far, especially the way Hagrid talks.
I love Emily Thorne, the protagonist of “Revenge.”
Thorne is unlike any female protagonist I’ve seen on TV or film. First of all, she is independently wealthy. Viewers learn of her financial status on the first episode when her friend is planning a benefit. Thorne casually says “Count me in” for a $10,000 ticket.
My mouth dropped open when I heard that line. A young, smart, beautiful, strong female who is also rich? That doesn’t happen. It’s way to much power to give a girl.
If you don’t believe me, check out the Forbes 15. Every year, Forbes does a survey on the 15 richest imaginary characters, including Scrooge McDuck, Richie Rich, Smaug (dragon from Tolkein) Bruce Wayne (Batman), Mr. Monopoly, Carlisle Cullen (Twilight saga), C. Montgomery Burns (Simpsons). At most, 2 females make the list, in 2012 Lisbeth Salander (Girl With Dragon Tatoo) and Jo Bennett. Women are rarely permitted to control billions, in the imaginary world or the real one.
But Emily Thorne isn’t just rich. She is super smart. Every time I watch someone try to get the better of her, I have total confidence she’ll outsmart him. If it doesn’t come down to a battle of wits, Thorne can kick some serious ass. She’s a black belt in karate and this woman has no fear. She is driven and focused in every way. I feel a unique combination of calmness and excitement watching Thorne get into trouble that I’ve only felt before watching superheroes or James Bond: it’s fun to watch the action, how she pulls it all off, but you know she’ll be OK.
While “Downton Abbey” does a great job depicting how much it sucks to be a woman in 1900s upper class British society, “Revenge” shows women breaking through the limits imposed on them. I quit watching Downton because though the acting is good, it’s too prissy for me. “Revenge” doesn’t have Maggie Smith’s acting, but it all takes place in the Hamptons so you still get to gawk at rich people in fancy clothing who spend most of their time at parties.
I’ll be honest and admit that after more than one episode I’ve groaned and said, “I cannot watch this again.” But I always do.
My sister, Kim Magowan, has an excellent short story in the Gettysburg Review. “Nothing In My Mouth” follows a young woman in Amsterdam who tries to redeem herself after making a heartbreaking mistake. Order the Winter issue here.
If you are a feminist and love the King Arthur legend, you will be a fan of “Avalon High.” I am so into this Disney made for TV movie. Yes, I just wrote that. I can’t believe it myself. Oh yeah, your kids will love the movie too.
This weekend, my nine year old daughter had a playdate, and it was her friend recommended the movie. This particular friend recommended “A Wrinkle in Time” during the last playdate, so I trusted her opinion. My daughter loved “Avalon High” so much, she begged me to watch it with her again the next day.
The protagonist is female. Allie Pennington is smart, brave, beautiful, kind, and athletic. She has just moved to a new area because her parents, scholars of Medieval literature and experts on King Arthur, got jobs at the local university. Allie is studying the King Arthur legend in her high school class as well, and it is there that she and her friend Miles first learn about a prophecy on the reincarnation of King Arthur: The Order of the Bear. Soon, they identify their friend and star quarterback, Will Wagner, as the new King Arthur. He is “perfect” so it seems obvious that her is the famous king. The danger in the story is that there is also an incarnation of the evil Mordred who Will must be protected from. After mysteries and adventures, it turns out that it is Allie, herself, who is the reincarnation of King Arthur. I knew that only because my daughter gleefully told me in order to convince me to watch. If I had not been warned, I never would have guessed. Your kids won’t. How many times in your life have you seen a Disney movie and not figured out the fabulous end? That, alone, makes “Avalon High” worth showing your kids.
Here are some more aspects I admired about the show:
Allie Though from my description– smart, beautiful, athletic, kind– may seem too perfect, Allie is a hero. Heroes are idealized. Too often, we don’t get to see idealized females except when the perfection revolves around beauty. Allie is super fast. She is a track star, ambitious, dedicated, and she knows she is good. There are several scenes in the movie where you see her running. I like that she was not cast as “plain” or an outcast/ nerd or as someone that gets a makeover in the end. Allie’s character defies the “smart” “pretty” split seen so often with female protagonists and hardly ever with male ones.
No mean girls There are no mean girls in this movie! YAY. Mean girls can be well done when kids relate by sympathizing with the protag who is victorious in the end; the lesson learned is “be kind.” But we’ve seen that so many times. I’m sick of it. “Avalon High” is original. Allie is disappointed when she meets Will’s girlfriend just after meeting him, but Jen is nice to her and she is nice back, throughout the whole movie. I was so surprised seeing this kind female relationship depicted that after Allie and Jen met on screen, I turned to my daughter, and said, “She’s nice?” My daughter said, “Yeah, she’s complicated.” She’s complicated, in a Disney movie. Hallelujah!
Action scenes We see Allie running, as I mentioned. We also see scenes of her galloping on a horse and battling in brutal sword fights. That said, I can’t find any pics on Google images of Allie fighting, running, or riding, while I can of Will. ARGH.
Cross-gender friendships Allie is good friends with Miles (who turns out to be the reincarnated Merlin.) Though she has a crush on Will, they are also shown as good friends.
Scenes of Allie admired by male characters for her skill There are several of these including when Allie beats Will in a race and when Will stops to watch her run, awed. Here, we see the equation we so often get with male protagonists but rarely with female ones: skill + talent = attractive
The only thing that slightly bugged me about this movie is that there are cheerleaders and Jen is one. But, then again, that casting clearly shows that Allie, our hero, is not one.
This movie made me long for an Middle Grade book that is a feminist version of King Arthur, sort of a Mists of Avalon, but for kids. Does this exist? I know its problematic because of the Arthur-Lancelot-Guinevere triangle (which is in Avalon High and well done.) This film is based on a book by Meg Cabot.
I have not liked a movie of this genre as much since “Escape to Witch Mountain.” Reel Girl rates Avalon High ***HHH***
It’s been three days of straight rain starting out Winter Break. These books are helping us get through:
Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys
I think this book just came out. In any case, I saw it for the first time a couple days ago, and I love it.
Imogen is the real life story of the great photographer, Imogen Cunningham. What I love most about this book is that it shows the challenge of being and artist and a mother and how that challenge was not only overcome but used to create art. Reading this book made me think of a post I wrote some time ago: Why aren’t there more women artists? The theory I wrote about– and that this book shows– is that in order to create, if you’re a mom as well, you need to be healthy as possible. The tortured, romanticized Marlboro Man, separated from the rest of life, doesn’t apply. This book shows all that beautifully.
Reel Girl rates Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys ***HHH***
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
My daughters adore this story about a woman who goes off by herself in the woods to gather herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds.
When she starts back home, she is followed by a pair of shoes. Not freaked out one bit by shoes without feet in them, the woman says: “Get out of my way you two big shoes! I’m not afraid of you!” A pair of pants is added, a shirt, and on and on, each with a different movement: the shoes go clomp, clomp; the pants go wiggle, wiggle, the shirt goes shake, shake. You get the idea.
So my confession here is that I have a hard time with repetition. It gets on my nerves. Goldilocks is an absolute nightmare for me. I get so bored reading the same thing over and over, knowing more of the same is to come. But repetition is in so many stories for kids because they love it; it helps them learn, too. My three daughters get so excited when they know what’s coming next. They call out all the sounds with huge grins on their faces. I love the old lady, so this book works for us.
Reel Girl rates The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything ***HHH***
Zita, the Spacegirl
This graphic novel features one of the few female superheroes. Zita is very cool.
This epic describes Zita’s journey from earth to another world, all to rescue her friend, Joseph. This story features monsters, magicians, and all kinds of scary space creatures. My only issue is that most (all?) of the other characters in this story appear to be male. Unfortunately, that gender division– when the female gets to be the protagonist, she is surrounded by males– is all too common in kids media. Still, I cannot wait to see the movie. I wish someone would make it.
My daughter is home sick today, and we got under a blanket, lit a fire, and watched “Secret of Kells.” Wow. Besides Miyazaki, I don’t think I I have ever seen an animated film so beautiful. The colors and the patterns are mesmerizing. Not only is this film drop-dead gorgeous, but it features one of the coolest female characters to grace animation. If that’s not enough to gush over, that female character, not the protagonist, is the one on the posters and DVD cover. (On Google, there is an alternative cover featuring the protagonist, Brendan, but I’ve never seen that version off the internet.)
“Secret of Kells” came out before my blog, back in 2009 when I still rented DVDs. The guy at the store recommended it to me. Remembering that today and because my daughter was too sick to argue with any movie choice of mine (i.e. one she’d never heard of) we watched “Kells.” As the film went on, I fell in love with it but also remembered why it slipped off my radar.
The story is about how the famed Book of Kells came to be. The narrative revolves around monks and monasteries. You can’t get a much more exclusively male as far as settings go than that. Today, as a couple years ago, I was impressed with the diversity of the monks. They are all body types, (rectangles and circles); they are old and young; they are varied ethnicities, and they are all male.
Brendan, our hero, is an apprentice monk (I’m sure there is a better term for that.) He is the protagonist of the movie and the narrative follows the traditional quest myth pattern. Brendan goes into the forbidden forest to search for some special berries that will make green ink that an old monk needs for the book. In the forest, Brendan runs into a pack of wolves. He is rescued by the brave fairy, Ainsling when she shouts: “What are you doing in my forest?”
Ainsling has me with that opening line. I love how territorial and confident she is. Her magic and familiarity with the forest is evident throughout her scenes. When Brendan sees the berry tree swarmed with bees, Ainsling assures him: “Don’t worry, I told them not to sting you.”
Not only can Ainlsing talk to and control animals, she can climb the tallest trees. She is totally at home in the forest and a protector of it. She is great looking, with long, white hair, bushy-black eyebrows, and huge green eyes.
Ainsling is wonderful, but she is not in the movie nearly enough. I remembered today that the last time I watched “Kells,” her absence annoyed me. This time, immersed for three years in animation, I know how rare a character like Ainsling is, and how rare it is to see a cross-gender friensship like hers and Brendan’s. I still wish she was in the movie more, but I really love this film.