Song of the Sea and a Sibling’s Journey

song of the sea

Have you seen Song of the Sea? It’s an exquisitely animated movie by Tomm Moore, and it was animated for best animated feature at the 2014 Oscars (it lost to Big Hero 6).  I’ll give a spoiler-free plot synopsis, and then warn you before I start to talk about spoilers. You’re OK to read the this first part, promise.

Ben is a young boy who lives in a lighthouse with his sheepdog Cu, his father Conor, and mother Bronagh. The family is preparing for a baby. That night, Bronagh disappears into the sea, leaving behind newborn Saoirse.

Six years later, on Saoirse’s birthday, Conor’s mother comes to the lighthouse to see her grandchildren. When Saoirse tries to walk into the sea herself Granny decides that the lighthouse is no place for the children and she convinces her son the children need to live with her in the city. When Saoirse gets sick, Ben realizes that he has to get her back to the lighthouse, and to the white coat she left behind. But the Owl Witch Macha is also looking for Saoirse and Ben begins to realize that the Irish folk stories his mother told him may be more than just fairytales.

Want a better synopsis? Watch the trailer (which can truly convey how visually beautiful this story is, the animation is no joke):

I cried when I watched the trailer, I cried when I watched the movie. I am a sappy person. I knew I would cry! But something else about the movie really spoke to me, something that I’m not sure was intended, and that’s what I want to talk about.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

For most of the movie, Ben hates Saoirse. He resents her as the cause of their mother leaving, resents the special treatment Saoirse gets, resents that she cannot talk, and thinks of her as the reason Granny takes them away from the lighthouse. He is mean to her, he yells at her, when Saoirse wants Ben to share one of their Mother’s folk stories he tells her the scariest one- the story of Macha the Owl Witch who steals your feelings and turns you to stone.

The relationship between Ben and Saoirse reminds me of the relationship I had with my brother when he was first born, and even though Ben and Saoirse’s journey is magical and full of selkies and sidhe to me it feels like the story of coming to terms with a sibling who has disabilities.

I’ve touched on the fact that my brother has Down Syndrome. We’ve been extremely close for most of our lives, I truly love him dearly. But when he was born I did not have much love for him. I had resentment and I misplaced my anger at an unfair situation onto him. When my brother required extensive hospitalization, I felt like he had managed to take both my parents from. When I was tasked with taking on more responsibility because of him, I was resentful. I saw this interloper enter my family and take what I loved away from me. In a sense I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. It wasn’t my brother’s fault he was born with time consuming and frightening health complications, but 4 yr-old me couldn’t figure out who else to blame.

And being the sibling of a special needs kid you hear just as much “Welcome to Holland!” bullshit as the parents do. And your friends with siblings will certainly have rivalries, but they will talk about how fun and special it is to have a new baby that they get to help care for. They are elevated to Big Brother/Sister. And as a child, you just don’t know how to mourn and understand your losses. You can only see what has been taken from you.

When Ben interacts with Saoirse he can only see what has been taken. His mother, his father’s happiness, his home. Saoirse can see Ben for who he truly is- a little boy with a big heart. Ben can only see the “disability” (which in terms of plot I’m arguing is NOT Saoirse’s muteness but the fact that she is a selkie). But as they journey together Ben begins to see Saoirse’s value as a person. She’s the only one who can save those who have been turned to stone! And Ben is the one who knows the songs and the stories, so he must help her reach her potential- he’s the one who teaches her the songs that defeat Macha and free the trapped sidhe. And when Ben realizes that Conor threw away Saoirse’s selkie skin in a misguided attempt to protect his family it is Ben who puts himself at risk and overcomes his fears (he is always shown wearing a life jacket and hates going in the water) to save Saoirse. When it is time for Saoirse to chose between joining the sidhe and staying with the family, Ben wants her to stay.

There are as many messages and takeaways in Song of the Sea as there are hairs in Seanchai’s beard. It’s a story of family, and forgiveness. A story that tells you a life without sadness is not a full life (better than Inside Out) and to me, it’s a story about the journey of learning to love someone with special needs for their whole self as you move past your anger.

 

Blogging for Books: Owls

Owls: Our Most Charming Bird by Matt Sewell

This review is basically one big gift recommendation, so sucks to me for not having it done before Christmas so y’all could absorb my wisdom.

In my defense this book arrived after we had left on our trek to visit Manbeast’s family and even though I used it as a gift for him he didn’t get it until tonight.

So this is a first: first book I’ve ever given as a gift, first book I’ve ever reviewed the night I received it!

owls

Manbeast loves owls. He would agree with the subtitle of this book, they are Our Most Charming Bird. I generally think they are terrifying. But author/illustrator Matt Sewell has charmed even my hardened heart. Each owl is given a short blurb and a beautiful illustration. I usually cannot stand to look at a barn owl because I find them so upsetting, but Sewell makes them look majestic and -dare I say- cuddly.

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The illustrations are seriously gorgeous, and the owl descriptions are factual with a dash of irreverence.

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Manbeast has already ooohed and aaahed over ever impeccable illustration in the book and loved the few descriptions he actually read. This book is a must have for any owl lover.

Owls by Matt Sewell: Our Most Charming Bird Book.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Blogging for Books: The Secrets of Blood and Bone

The Secrets of Blood and Bone by Rebecca Alexander is the second book in the ‘Jackdaw Hammond Series’ and that makes it tough to review.

In order to effectively review this book, I snagged a copy of the first one (The Secrets of Life and Deathfor my Kindle app and speed read before Blood and Bone arrived at my doorstep.

This book took forever to get through, because I just got so bogged down with SCHOOL and LIFE and STUFF and it honestly has sucked pretty hard for the past ten weeks but I finally finished this book and my term.

Hooray me.

The basic plot of the series is: Jackdaw “Jack” Hammond (who is a lady) was saved from death as a pre-teen by a woman named Maggie, who is a witch. Maggie needed Jack’s reanimated blood to save her daughter Charley from leukemia, and now everyone is all grown up and Jack mostly keeps to herself with her dog (Ches) doing some small-time magical wheeling and dealing. Along the way she saves a young girl named Sadie through the same reanimation magic, meets a professor named Felix, and gets loosely embroiled with some members of the modern day incarnation of the Spanish Inquisition.  In between the main characters’ shenanigans the reader is treated to fictionalized letters of real-life figures Edward Kelley and John Dee as they deal with famous serial killer Erzsebet Bathory (who in the book is also a “borrowed-timer/revenant”).

I’m going to try to write this review without spoiling either book for you, but that might prove tricky so be forewarned.

Onto The Secrets of Blood and Bone specifically:

secrets of

“following her showdown with Elizabeth Bathory, Jackdaw Hammond is running from her past, hiding from her future, and hoping to contain her newfound thirst for blood. Buying an overgrown home in the middle of nowhere seems like the perfect place to escape…at least until she finds herself in the sights of a murderous family with a terrible secret and a penchant for dark magic. Meanwhile, her old ally Felix Guichard has gone to New Orleans to conduct his own investigation into the nature of blood magic, but is soon sucked into the intrigues of the city’s occult underworld. But Jack will need Felix more than she knows, for the battle for her soul is set to begin.
 
Her only salvation may lie with the secrets of 16th century master occultist Edward Kelley, and a dangerous mission he undertook in Venice to confront the Inquisition, the darkest deeds of his own past, and the fearsome power of Elizabeth Bathory.”