The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman is a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty story.  Sleeping Beauty and the people in her castle have been asleep for years. However, this sleeping sickness seems to be spreading. First, the nearby villages fall asleep, then the villages near them, and so on. Soon, the entire kingdom is asleep, and it’s up to three dwarfs and the queen of the neighboring kingdom to figure out how to put an end to the curse.

This story has an ingenious blend of fairy tales. For instance, the queen is a character from another story. I’ll just say that she is someone who has also been asleep for a long time and let you figure out who she is. There are also additional elements to the story that help flesh it out. Those who are asleep do more than sleep, an old woman who is trapped inside the castle and immune to the curse, and the more one delves into the story, the more it becomes apparent that the details of the Sleeping Beauty that appear in each retelling are not what they seem. Not to mention that the ending will leave you thinking, “Wait, what? What just happened?” Overall, this is a quick read that goes more in-depth than one would think the amount of pages would allow.

Genre: Fantasy

Setting: A fairy tale land in an unspecified historical era.

Number of pages: 66

Objectionable content? A small amount of violence, one death, an occasional corpse, and unsettling factors (i.e. the sleepers)

Can children read this? Yes, as long as they are not easily upset by unsettling elements in stories. However, this book is best for teenagers and adults.

Who would enjoy this? Anyone who enjoys Neil Gaiman’s other works, and anyone who enjoys fairy tale remakes.

Themes: Beauty, power, loss, choices, strong women, and the need to control other’s emotions vs. the strength of only feeling your emotions.

Rating: Five stars

Mining Books to Map Emotions

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So what were the happiest years in the last century?  I was driving home on April Fool’s Day  listening, as always, to NPR when this fascinating segment aired on analyzing the use of emotional words in books over the last century. A bunch of researchers in England decided that it would be interesting to use a computer program to track the use of hundreds of “emotion” words  from millions of books published over the last 100 years and digitized by Google.  All kinds of books were included from novels to technical manuals.  (Who knew that technical manuals had emotional content!) The original idea was to see if certain words became more popular at certain times, but the researchers didn’t really expect much.  However, what they discovered surprised them.

Check it out for yourself!  Read (or listen to) the the rest of the article on the NPR Health Blog.