Author Guest Post!: “Three Bowls of Porridge…” by Lisa Heathfield, Author of Seed


“Three Bowls of Porridge…” by Lisa Heathfield, Author of Seed

When I write, I have a ‘writing spirit’ that takes over. I sit for hours at the kitchen table, pen in hand and time sort-of stops. I don’t really know what I’ve written until I read back over my words. So I was surprised when reading a day’s work on my book, Seed, to see the line: ‘There are three bowls on the table, the porridge still warm.’ It seemed lifted straight out of the fairytale ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’.

A few days later, it happened again. When I read how Bobby was making a tiny house out of sticks, it made me think of the tale of ‘Three Little Pigs’. I then realised who Nana Willow reminded me of – tucked up in her bed, with blankets pulled up to her chin, she was the image of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. And outside, the wolf, in the guise of Papa S, was waiting.

In so many fairytales, there’s a wicked character that the protagonist must overcome – could this be Papa S? A handsome prince swoops in to save the day – is Ellis inadvertently walking in these shoes? Am I clutching at straws to say that Pearl leaving her slippers in Papa S’ chamber is reminiscent of ‘Cinderella’? I don’t think I am. Because since seeing references to fairytales scattered amongst the lines of SEED, I can see their influence everywhere. I wonder if the roots of fairytales are in every book we read?

The writer and child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, said that fairytales were ‘consoling’ to children, yet having re-read many of them recently, I think I sit more squarely in Angela Carter’s camp, seeing fairytales as violent and menacing. Many fairytales have true horror at their core. Take ‘The Juniper Tree’ – in it, a woman cuts off the head of her step-son, attempts to hide her crime by tying his head back onto his neck, before chopping him up into a stew which she feeds to his father. I could hardly bear to read it, yet it began its life as a story for children! Perhaps it’s a natural progression then, that teenagers go on to devour so-called ‘dark’ books. Is any theme ‘off-limits’, when they’ve been fed a literary diet of kidnapping, murder and corruption from such a young age?

With the memory of fairytales unintentionally at SEED’s core, it’s perhaps unsurprising that parts of it are dark. Unsettling themes weave in and out of the pages. It appears that my ‘writing spirit’ was definitely paying attention and taking notes all those years ago. However, she seems to have missed out something crucial – the ‘happily ever after’ part. Maybe she can sort it out in SEED’s sequel…

About Lisa: 

Lisa Heathfield

Lisa always dreamed of being a writer. She wrote her first book when she was nine – set in a haunted house, in the middle of a dark wood! And she’d sit for hours at her typewriter, creating stories to send off to magazine competitions (none of which got close to winning, but it didn’t put her off trying).

She was always reading. Lying in the grass, on her bed, up a tree, there was always a book in her hand. It was only natural that she would study English at university and go on to become an English teacher in a secondary school. An early fascination with Helen Keller followed her to the classroom and she began teaching hearing-impaired children.

Lisa and her husband settled in Brighton, on the south coast of England, where she concentrated on raising their three wonderful boys. After an ill-advised stint running a cafe, the need to write became too difficult to ignore. And her debut novel, Seed, was born.

About Seed:


Fifteen-year old Pearl has lived her whole life protected within the small community at Seed, where they worship Nature and idolize their leader, Papa S. When some outsiders join, everything changes. Pearl is forced to question everything she’s ever known and all she’s ever believed in. As she prepares to become Papa S’s Companion for the first time, she begins to realize that there’s darkness at the heart of Seed, a darkness that she must escape, before it’s too late.

Excerpt from Seed:

I look at Elizabeth. In the candlelight her cheeks look sunken, her eyes hollow. Is there fear hidden within her?
      “I’ve seen it now,” I say quietly. My voice sounds flat as it catches in the earth. “Can I go?”
      “We have all done this, Pearl. Every woman at Seed. I promise you will be all right.”
      “What do you mean?”
      “When you get your first Blessing, when you first start to bleed, you must stay with Nature so that she may give you the gift of a healthy womb,” she says.
       I don’t understand. I just stare at her in the flickering light.
       “You must stay deep in her womb, so your own womb may become fertile.”
       “What do you mean, fertile?”
       “So that when it is your time, you will be able to have children.”
       “I don’t want to be here, Elizabeth.” My voice cracks as I start to cry. I look at the earth circling me and I’m suddenly filled with terror. Does she want me to stay here?
      She puts the lamp down and wraps her arms around me, her face hidden in the shadows. “You know that you must not cry. Your life spirit will leave you and without it, you are nothing.”
      I can smell the sweetness of her vanilla scent. It masks the smell of the blood and the damp earth that is blocking the air.
      “It won’t be for long.”
      “So you’ll shut the trapdoor?” The words fall from my mouth.
      Elizabeth steps back and nods. She’s trying to smile.
      “But how will I breathe?”
      Elizabeth picks up the lantern and shines it on the bottom of the curved earth walls. Tiny black pipes stick out all around. “I have been here, Pearl. It’s all right.”
      “It’s not,” I say and I start to cry again. “I don’t want to stay.” My voice is getting louder and Elizabeth looks up the steps toward the light above.
      “Shh, now. Papa S must not hear you cry. And Nature is hearing every word.” Then she puts down the lantern once again and turns to go up the steps.
      I can’t move. Something holds me to the ground. I want to run after Elizabeth, pull her back, to escape, but I just watch as she goes up towards the air. The last thing I see is her blonde hair as she quickly lowers the trapdoor. It shuts with a muffled thud.

Thank you so much to Lisa for being our special guest this Sunday!

RickiSig andSignature

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick



Author: Paul Rudnick
Published April 30th, 2013 by Scholastic Press

Goodreads Summary: Inner beauty wants out. When eighteen-year-old Becky Randle’s mother dies, she’s summoned from her Missouri trailer park to meet Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer. He makes her an impossible offer: He’ll create three dresses to transform Becky from a nothing special girl into the most beautiful woman who ever lived.

Becky thinks Tom is a lunatic, or that he’s producing a hidden camera show called World’s Most Gullible Poor People. But she accepts, and she’s remade as Rebecca. When Becky looks in the mirror, she sees herself – an awkward mess of split ends and cankles. But when anyone else looks at Becky, they see pure five-alarm hotness.

Soon Rebecca is on the cover of Vogue, the new Hollywood darling, and dating celebrities. Then Becky meets Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and everything starts to crumble. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him. But to love her back, Gregory would have to look past the blinding Rebecca to see the real girl inside. And Becky knows there’s not enough magic in the world.

A screamingly defiant, hugely naughty, and impossibly fun free fall past the cat walks, the red carpets, and even the halls of Buckingham Palace, Gorgeous does the impossible: It makes you see yourself clearly for the first time.

My Review: This book is more than just a retelling of Cinderella, it is a look at our society and the importance (or lack there of) of physical appearance and celebrity. I would love to know which celebrities influenced Rudnick for some of the crazy characters in Gorgeous.  I also loved Becky as a person—she is quite funny and a very good person, even after she dives into Rebecca. Readers who love romance, fashion, Hollywood, and royalty will find a winner with this book and will also find a book that delves into deeper issues than it seems originally.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Although parts of of this book could be pulled out for read alouds to talk about satire or society, I know that where this book will find its home is in classroom and school libraries.

Discussion Questions: What celebrities do you think Rudnick was referring to when he wrote _____?; What is the theme of Gorgeous?; Would you have chosen to stay as Rebecca or gone back to Becky?

We Flagged: “But running away, with two dresses to go, wasn’t just timid and cowardly. A fast exit would be an insult to my mom. Because, when she didn’t shred that phone number, my mother had held out this possibility. She’d handed me that plane ticket, or maybe a pair of iridescent couture wings, and now I was flying, or at least cleared for takeoff.

Locking eyes with the woman on the TV screen, I knew that I had to find out where Rebecca might take me. Maybe Rebecca was more than a shell; maybe she was an amazing means of transportation, a surreal, hypersonic, goddess-shaped rocket ship, blasting out of East Trawley. And because Rebecca could do anything, maybe I could finally learn what had happened to my mother, and what had destroyed her.” (p. 58)

Read This If You Loved: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, Skinny by Donna Conner

Recommended For: 



Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich



Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist
Authors: Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Illustrator: Matt Mahurin
Published March 1st, 2013 by Wordsong

Goodreads Summary: What were all those fairy-tale characters thinking? Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich answer this question in paired poems, with sometimes startling results. The Princess claims all those mattresses kept her awake–“not” a silly pea–while the poor pea complains that the princess snores. One Snow White begs the witch to settle by the bay and throw that mirror away. Another boldly tells the mirror she “won’t be guided by a glass that’s so one-sided.” Grumbles from the Forest is a bewitching brew of voices–grumbling, pleading, bragging, reminiscing, confiding–that bubbles with magic and wonder. The spectacular paintings that tie the poems together are full of surprise and intrigue. This stunning collection includes end notes that briefly describe the tales and their history and an introduction that invites readers to imagine their own poems from unusual perspectives.

My Review: Jane Yolen just doesn’t make bad books. Every time I read one of her books, I know I am reading a piece of great literature. This book is no different. Grumbles from the Forest takes 15 different fairy tales and then has a poem from two different perspectives for each fairy tale. Some are two different characters: Cinderella and her stepsisters, the frog and the princess, the wicked fairy and Sleeping Beauty, etc. including some characters who didn’t have a voice in the original fairy tale like the pea from The Princess and the Pea. Some are from one character, but two points of view: Snow White talking to the witch and with the magic mirror. I was fascinated with all of the poems they came up with!

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book was built for being used in the classroom. First, each fairy tale section could start its own discussion about what the poem is saying vs. the original fairy tale. Second, the poetry itself stands alone. Look for figurative language and other poetic elements and there is even a haiku and cinquain. Third, we are always trying to get students to see things from different points of view and this is a perfect way. The introduction of the book even invites readers to: “Why not try writing a fairy-tale poem yourself? Pick a character or an object—maybe the bridge in Three Billy Goats Gruff, or Beauty’s father or the chair that Goldilocks broke. Imagine. Enchant. Write a poem that rewrites the tale. Make a little magic.”

Discussion Questions: Why do you think the authors chose to write from ____’s point of view? Do you agree with the point of view they gave the character/object? What would you have had them say instead? Who/what would you have written about instead?

We Flagged: Thumbelina 

“Thumbelina: A Cinquain”
small has its down-
side, but what, pray tell, is
the choice of a little missy
at birth?

“Little Big: A Haiku”
I am just a bit
Of a proper young lady,
Still I got my prince.

(p. 34-35)

Read This If You Loved: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl, and other fractured fairy tales; Stories told from different points of view like The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp

Recommended For: 

closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall


Rump by Liesl Shurtliff



Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
Author: Liesl Shurtliff
Published April 9th, 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.

Review: I love fairy tale retellings! They are so clever and I am so impressed with how an author can read a story and then think up a prequel or a different version of it. This specific retelling has jumped to become one of my favorites because I felt that she has made a wonderful, fantastical world and was able to see Rumpelstiltskin as more than just an antagonist.

I also felt that the book did have a moral, as all fairy tales should, but it is one that creeps up on you at the end and is such a great discussion starter.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book would make a fantastic read aloud! All students will enjoy it and it is just so fun! It will also find a home in many students’ hands by being in the classroom library.

Discussion Questions: Before reading the book, look at the chapter titles and predict what you think each title/the book will be about.; What do you think the moral of Rump is?; Look back at the original story of Rumpelstiltskin. How does the new information that Liesl Shurtliff has given us in Rump change how you view the original story?

We Flagged: “My mother named me after a cow’s read end. It’s the favorite village joke, and probably the only one, but it’s not really true. At least I don’t think it’s true, and neither does Gran. Really, my mother had another name for me, a wonderful name, but no on ever hear it. They only heard the first part. The worst part.” (p. 1)

Read This If You Loved: Rumpelstiltskin by The Grimm Brothers, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Dodgeball Chronicles by Frank Cammuso, Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst, The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker, A Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, The Other Slipper by Kenechi Udogu

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall

Rump was a #virtualbookclub book on Twitter. Did you take part in the chat?
What did you learn from the chat? How are you going to use Rump in your class?