Category Books

Who was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

Long, entertaining and enticing. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poems take you on a memorable trip down U.S. history. Hailed for their musical verses, Longfellow’s poems are treasured and widely translated even today. Some of us might have even studied them as part of our syllabus. Prominent public figures from Abraham Lincoln and Charles Dickens to Charles Baudelaire were admirers of his poetry.

Born on February 27, 1807 in Portland, Maine in the U.S., Longfellow started his career as a professor at Bowdoin College and later at Harvard College. But he gave up teaching in 1854 to focus on his writing. His works “Evangeline” (1847), “The Song of Hiawatha” (1855), and “Paul Revere’s Ride” (1860) cemented his place as one of the iconic poets of the U.S. He was the first American to translate Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”.

Popular works

Let’s take a look at some of his noteworthy poems and the history behind them…

“Paul Revere’s Ride”

Written in a manner that suggests the galloping of a horse, Longfellow writes about the actions of American patriot Paul Revere in this poem. Revere is known for his midnight horse ride to alert the colonial militia in April 1775 to the approach of British forces. Longfellow wrote this epic poem as the U.S. moved towards a civil war. Though the poem has been criticised for its factual inaccuracies, it has been hailed as a call for courage.

“The Song of Hiawatha”

A long poem about the life of the Native Indians, “The Song of Hiawatha” tells the tale of Hiawatha, an Ojibwa Indian who becomes his people’s leader after performing feats of courage.


A sentimental poem, “Evangeline” follows a young couple separated when British soldiers expel the French colonists from what is now Nova Scotia. The couple, Evangeline and Gabriel, are reunited years later as Gabriel is dying.

Translating Dante

Longfellow lost the will to write after the death of his second wife 1861. She died after her dress accidentally caught fire. Seeking comfort in spirituality, he translated ‘The Divine Comedy” by Dante. He also wrote six sonnets on Dante that are among his finest poems.

Other works:

  • “Poems on Slavery” (1842)
  • “The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems” (1845)
  • “The Courtship of Miles Standish” (1858)
  • “The Golden Legend” (1851)
  • “The Masque of Pandora and Other Poems” (1875)
  • “The Seaside and Fireside” (1849)


  • Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer recited lines from Longfellow’s 1849 poem The Building of the Ship,” during Trump’s impeachment trial on February 10. 2021. The famous lines from the poem are: “Fear not each sudden sound and shock, Tis of the wave and not the rock.”
  • The Portland Gazette published Longfellow’s first poem at the age of 13.
  • Longfellow was a dog lover! His family had many pets, but Trap the Scotch Terrier was his favourite.
  • Longfellow is the only American to be honored with a bust in Westminster Abbey in London, England. His marble bust was placed in the Poet’s Comer in 1884.
  • One of his students at Harvard University was Henry David Thoreau.
  • Longfellow was a polyglot and could speak eight languages.


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What is anthropomorphism?

Do you love stories of talking animals, singing portraits and chatty kettles? If yes, then you are a fan of anthropomorphism.

A literary device, anthropomorphism (pronounced anthro-polt-more-fizz um) is used by authors to attribute human traits to animals or inanimate objects. This is done to make non-human characters more relatable and entertaining to readers and viewers. You may have seen this in stories and films that depict animals who can talk behave and feel emotions just like us. Children’s classics such as “Dr. Dolittle”, “Charlotte’s Web”, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”, and “Chronicles of Namia: The Lion. The Witch, and the Wardrobe all feature anthropomorphic characters.

While animals are commonly shown as anthropomorphised creatures, this technique is also used to bring inanimate objects to life by assigning them human-like qualities. Disney-Pixar films often use anthropomorphism – bringing clownfish and toy space-rangers to life as the beloved Nemo in Finding Nemo” and Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story”.

The term ‘anthropomorphism’ was coined by the Greek Philosopher Xenophanes after observing the physical similarities between people and their Gods.

Anthropomorphism vs. Personification

It is easy to confuse anthropomorphism with another similar literary device called personification. But the two are starkly different. Personification is a figure of speech in which a thing, an animal or an abstract notion is ascribed human qualities. For instance, the sentence, “Nature unleashed its fury through thunderstorms,” is an example of personification, because nature can’t be “furious” as it cannot feel human emotions. However, saying that nature can feel anger and fury emphasises the harshness of the storm. On the other hand in anthropomorphism, the non-human objects literally behave like human beings.


  • “The Beauty and the Beast”: The fairytale as well as its Disney adaptation is packed with anthropomorphic furniture such as clocks and wardrobes that sing, dance and talk.
  • Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”: Humans and anthropomorphic characters such as walking rabbits, smiling cats and even talking playing cards exist together in this fantastical story.
  • J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter series: The magical world of Harry Potter is full of anthropomorphic characters. For instance, the talking and sometimes singing portraits hung inside the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The centaurs of the Forbidden Forest, who are half human, half-horse and skilled at Divination, are other examples of anthropomorphism.
  •  “The Secret Life of Pets” film franchise: Wonder what your pets – cats, dogs, or even rabbits – are up to when you leave the house? ‘The Secret Life of Pets” films show pets as socialising, watching telenovelas, raiding the fridge and even rocking out to heavy metal music when humans are not around.
  • Richard Adams’ Watership Down: In his debut novel. “Watership Down” (1972), Adams featured rabbits that could talk in their own distinctive language (Lapine).
  • “Doctor Dolittle”: Hugh Lofting’s series of children’s books portray a doctor who can talk to animals in their own languages. The books were adapted into highly successful films, starring Eddie Murphy as the main character.


  • Giving hurricanes human names is also a form of anthropomorphism. It is done because a human name is simpler and easier to comprehend than a scientific name, and makes us more receptive to information.
  • In religion and mythology, anthropomorphism is the perception of a divine being in human form, or the recognition of human qualities in these beings. Greek deities such as Zeus and Apollo are often depicted in human form exhibiting human qualities such as beauty, greed, hatred, jealousy, and uncontrollable anger.

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What is the original name of creator and illustrator of the comic strip “Dennis the Menace”?

Dennis the Menace is a daily syndicated newspaper comic strip originally created, written, and illustrated by Hank Ketcham. It debuted on March 12, 1951, in 16 newspapers and was originally distributed by Post-Hall Syndicate.

Dennis Mitchell, nicknamed Dennis the Menace, has messy blond hair with a characteristic cowlick in the back. He was initially depicted as a defiant child who deliberately sought out mischief, but over the years his personality softened considerably. He does not mean any real harm, yet he cannot help creating a racket or a mess at home, making a scene in public, and driving his parents, Alice and Henry Mitchell, to distraction.

The most frequent target of Dennis’s mischief is George Wilson, an older neighbour whom Dennis seldom allows a moment of peace, having adopted him as a surrogate grandfather. Wilson’s wife, Martha, obligingly behaves like an indulgent grandmother. Among the minor characters in the strip are Dennis’s shaggy dog, Ruff, and his toddler sidekick, Joey McDonald. Dennis’s nemesis is the slightly older and gratingly superior Margaret Wade, and he harbours a secret crush on the tomboyish Gina Gillotti.

The inspiration for the comic strip came from Dennis Ketcham, the real-life son of Hank Ketcham, who was only four years old when he refused to take a nap and somehow messed up his whole room. Hank tried many possible names for the character, and translated them into rough pencil sketches, but when his studio door flew open and his then-wife Alice, in utter exasperation, exclaimed, “Your son is a menace!”, the “Dennis the Menace” name stuck. The character of Henry Mitchell bore a striking resemblance to Ketcham. The Mitchell family of Dennis, Hank/Henry, and Alice were all named after the Ketchams.

Ketcham received the Reuben Award for the strip in 1953. He also was made honorary mayor of Wichita. He was quoted as saying, “I set the whole thing in Wichita, Kansas, and as a result I got made an honorary mayor of Wichita.”


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Popeye first appeared in the comic strip “Thimble Theatre” and later gets his own comic strip. What is his profession?

Popeye is the main protagonist of the Popeye Franchise, a sailor character created in 1928 by Elzie Crisler Segar for his Thimble Theatre comic strip (subsequently renamed after Popeye himself). The star of many comics and animated cartoons, he is best known for his squinting (or entirely missing) right eye, huge forearms with two anchor tattoos, skinny upper arms, and corncob pipe. He can occasionally be seen smoking his pipe but usually he toots it like a tugboat and sometimes uses it as a weapon by blowing the smoke in his enemies faces. His strength varies among his portrayals: as per the original comics, he is super-humanly strong and can lift huge objects, while in later adaptations he is not quite as mighty until he gains a boost in strength by eating spinach. He is known to mutter when he speaks and mangle the English language (e.g, he calls elephants and infants “elephinks” and “infinks”, respectively). Popeye’s creator, E. C. Segar, characterized him as violent and uncivilized yet introspective and with a high moral fiber.

Popeye has a long and rich history spanning nearly a century and is one of the most recognizable and beloved cartoon characters in the world, consistently regarded as one of the best ever created.

Popeye’s exploits are also enhanced by a few recurring plot elements. One is the love triangle among Popeye, Olive, and Bluto, and Bluto’s endless machinations to claim Olive at Popeye’s expense. Another is his near-saintly perseverance in overcoming any obstacle to please Olive, who often (if temporarily) renounces Popeye for Bluto.


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What sort of an animal is Garfield in the comic strip of the same name?

Garfield is a fictional cat and the protagonist of the comic strip of the same name, created by Jim Davis. The comic strip centers on Garfield, portrayed as a lazy, fat, and cynical orange persian/tabby cat. He is noted for his love of lasagna and sleeping, and his hatred of Mondays, fellow cat Nermal and exercise.

Garfield is an overweight anthropomorphic orange tabby noted for his laziness, smug sarcasm, and intense passion for food, particularly lasagna, pizza, and ice cream. Throughout the course of the strip, Garfield’s weight is often an object of ridicule, particularly by his talking electronic scale. Garfield usually does not handle insults or commands from the scale (or anybody else) very well, and will normally respond to such remarks with violence or a comeback of some type.

Garfield lives with his slightly eccentric, socially awkward owner Jon Arbuckle and Jon’s unintelligent pet dog Odie, and enjoys satirically teasing them. He particularly enjoys causing Odie physical harm or insulting him, and teases Jon for his social awkwardness and unpopularity with women. Despite this, Garfield cares for Odie and Jon, but cares most for his beloved teddy bear Pooky, which is frequently seen in his arms or close to its owner.


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What species of animal is Hobbes in the popular comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes’?

Hobbes’ dual nature is a defining motif for the strip: to Calvin, Hobbes is a living anthropomorphic tiger, while all the other characters see Hobbes as an inanimate stuffed toy.

Calvin and Hobbes was conceived when Bill Watterson, while working in an advertising job he detested, began devoting his spare time to developing a newspaper comic for potential syndication. He explored various strip ideas but all were rejected by the syndicates. United Feature Syndicate finally responded positively to one strip called The Doghouse, which featured a side character (the main character’s little brother) who had a stuffed tiger. United identified these characters as the strongest and encouraged Watterson to develop them as the centre of their own strip. Though United Feature ultimately rejected the new strip as lacking in marketing potential, Universal Press Syndicate took it up.

The final strip ran on Sunday, December 31, 1995.

As the final strip was run on a Sunday, it was in color. It depicted Calvin and Hobbes outside in freshly fallen snow carrying a sled. Reveling in the wonder and excitement of the winter scene, Hobbes says, “Everything familiar has disappeared! The world looks brand new!” Calvin agrees saying, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy!” Hobbes remarks about the fresh snow, “It is like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on!” Calvin adds, “A day of possibilities.” Getting ready to sled down the hill, Calvin exclaims, “A new year…a fresh, clean start!” Calvin and Hobbes sled down the snowy hill, Calvin saying “Let’s go exploring!”

According to a critic, speaking in 2005, “They left a hole in the comics page that no strip has been able to fill.”


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What is the name of anthropomorphic beagle and its sidekick, a small yellow bird, in the comic strip “Peanuts”?

Snoopy is an anthropomorphic beagle in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. He can also be found in all of the Peanuts movies and television specials. Since his debut on October 4, 1950, Snoopy has become one of the most recognizable and iconic characters in the comic strip and is considered more famous than Charlie Brown in some countries. The original drawings of Snoopy were inspired by Spike, one of Schulz’s childhood dogs.

Snoopy first appeared as a character balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1968; the balloon depicted Snoopy in his World War I Flying Ace costume.

Snoopy appeared on the October 4, 1950, strip, two days after the first strip. He was called Snoopy for the first time a month later, on November 10. He was originally Patty’s dog but quickly adopts Charlie Brown. On March 16, 1952, his thoughts were first shown in a thought balloon. Snoopy first appeared upright on his hind legs on January 9, 1956, when he was shown sliding across a sheet of ice after Shermy and Lucy had done so.

Woodstock is a fictional character in Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. He is best known for being Snoopy’s best friend and sidekick. The character first appeared in the April 4, 1967 strip, although he remains unnamed until June 22, 1970. He is named after the Woodstock festival of 1969.

In the early 1960s, Snoopy began befriending birds when they started using his doghouse for various occasions: a rest stop during migrations, a nesting site, a community hall, or a place to play cards. None of these birds was ever given a name, although they did, on occasion (e.g., July 10, 1962), use speech balloons, lettered in what would become the classic ‘chicken scratch marks’ of Woodstock’s utterances. What set Woodstock apart from all these earlier birds was the fact that he attached himself to Snoopy and assumed the role of Snoopy’s sidekick and assistant. There had been no recurring relationships between Snoopy and the earlier birds who visited the yard of the Browns, and Snoopy was as often as not more hostile than friendly toward those birds.

In the Peanuts daily comic strip on March 3, 1966, a mother bird flew in while Snoopy was lying on top of his doghouse, nested on top of his stomach and flew away. Soon afterward two chicks hatched in the nest, one of which hung around Snoopy throughout the spring, and returned the following spring on April 4, 1967. Schulz began to establish character traits for Snoopy’s new friend by revealing that he could talk (or at least emote), that he didn’t like flying south every winter, and that he struggled with flying. By the end of this four-strip sequence, Snoopy, in character as the World War I Flying Ace, learns that the bird is his new mechanic, Woodstock’s first supporting role.


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What is Charles Dickens most famous work?

Charles Dickens depicted the best of times and the worst of times through his books. Full of wit, astute observations, and autobiographical experience, they offer a realistic portrayal of the Victorian society in the 19th Century.

Hard times

Born in England in 1812, Dickens’ family fell back on hard times when his father was sent to a debtors’ prison. Just 12 years of age, Dickens was forced to drop out of school and work in a shoe polish factory to repay the debts.

A debtors’ prison was where people unable to pay their debts were incarcerated in the 19th Century. With its dingy rooms and stale food, people lived in wretched conditions in these places. They either have to do hard labour or secure outside funds to repay their debts.

At the factory, Dickens worked ten hours a day, Monday through Saturday, pasting labels onto individual pots of polish. All he received was six shillings per week. He toiled in the factory for nearly a year before his father was released from prison. Dickens recounted the harsh conditions he experienced in the factory in his semi-autobiographical novel “David Copperfield and it continued to shape his writing.

Beating the odds

Learning shorthand on his own, Dickens became a journalist and worked as a court reporter. He went on to edit a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles.


Although he is highly regarded as a writer, Dickens’ reputation is far from unblemished. Some of his works have been criticised for their racist and xenophobic views.

Significant works

Dickens is credited with popularising serialised novels. “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club” (popularly known as “The Pickwick Papers”) was published in instalments over 19 issues from March 1836 to October 1837. Dickens wrote most of “The Pickwick Papers” under the pseudonym Boz. His other popular works include “Great Expectations”, “Oliver Twist”, “A Tale of Two Cities” and “A Christmas Carol”.

Did you know?

  • India connection: Dickens’ second son, Lietuenant Walter Landor Dickens died in Kolkata in 1864. His original grave is located at the Bhowanipore Cemetery, while his tombstone has been moved to South Park Street Cemetery.
  • More than cats or dogs, Dickens preferred the company of ravens. His pet raven was named Grip. After its death, Dickens had the bird stuffed and mounted in a display case. You can view it at the Free Library in Philadelphia in the U.S. In fact, Grip also features in his novel “Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty”. It is also believed that Edgar Allan Poe, a friend of Dickens, was inspired by Grip when writing “The Raven”, one of his most celebrated poems.
  • While working in the shoe polish factory, Dickens used to visit his parents in prison on Sundays.
  • The greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ became popular after A Christmas Carol was published.
  • He called his favourite daughter Kate, “Lucifer Box” because her temper could flare up in an instant.
  • Dickens is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with introducing no less than 247 new words and usages into the language including “butter-fingers”, “fluffiness” and the verb “to manslaughter”.


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What kind of genre is slice of life?

As the name suggests, slice of life is a genre of fiction that captures the essence of everyday life. Instead of narrating a person’s entire life, these books focus on select events that occur at a particular point in time.

What makes slice of life appealing is though the characters are fictional, the story has no frills, and depicts significant events from people’s lives. Often slice of life stories throw light on a period in history. For instance, Laura Ingall Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” books give a slice-of-life account of the pioneers to the American Midwest.

In theatre, the term “slice of life” refers to a naturalistic representation of real life. The term originated between 1890 and 1895 from the French phrase ‘tranche de vie’, credited to the French playwright Jean Jullien.

Often, slice of life books lack a traditional plot. They might not have any conflict or dramatic occurrences. They progress slowly, but pay attention to even the minutest details of the character’s life at a given time. They are considered to be faithful reproductions of real life.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “The Anne of Green Gables” series is a classic example. It is a slice of life centred on a young woman aspiring to be a writer.

Manga and animé

Slice of life is also a popular genre in Japanese animé and manga. Unlike in literature, slice of life in manga is unrealistic. Packed with melodrama in typical manga style, it shows too many dramatic events in the characters life over a short span of time.


In literature:

  • “The Fault in Our Stars Looking for Alaska” and “Paper Towns” by John Green
  • “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
  • “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  • “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
  • “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling
  • “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult
  • “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery


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What are the most popular types of children’s books?

Family matters

A bitter-sweet tale of the March family, Lousia May Alcott’s “Little Women” will fill you up with the warmth of friendship and family. A semi-autobiographical book, “Little Women” is loosely based upon Alcott’s family – she was the second of four daughters. Despite being published in 1868, the coming-of-age story of the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – remains timeless and universal. It tells of love and loss, aspirations and dreams that the sister’s experience on their journey to adulthood.

Over the years, the classic has been adapted into many films and plays. The 1994 film adaptation is one of the most acclaimed version with Winona Ryder as Jo and Christian Bale as Laurie. In 2019, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Winds of change

Kenneth Graham’s “The Wind in the Willows” has been adored from generation to generation. In this enduring classic, we meet his splendid animal characters: Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad and Mr. Badger, and revel in their adventures on the banks of the River Thames. Told in Graham’s gorgeous lyrical prose, readers will be transported with tales of Toad Hall, the Wild Wood. This book is an endearing treasure. Grahame wrote this classic after retiring from his job as a bank secretary and moving to Berkshire. He spent much of his time next to the River Thames and got the idea to expand the bedtime stories he used to tell his son Alastair.

An English summer

From the “Famous Five” and “Secret Seven” to the “Malory Towers” and “Adventures of the Wishing Chair”, Enid Blyton has a story for every age group. But her ‘The Faraway Tree’ series is one that has universal appeal. Jo, Bessie and Fanny come across an ancient tree in the middle of an enchanted forest. The tree is so gigantic that its top reaches clouds that hold magical lands! Together with the tree’s unique inhabitants such as Moonface, Saucepean Man and Silky the pixie, the cousins explore different worlds on top of the tree.

Adventures of Anne

Between 1908 and 1939, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote seven books about an imaginative, talkative, high-spirited girl named Anne Shirley. Set in the 20th century, in a fictitious town of Avonlea on the tiny Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, “Anne of Green Gables” is the most popular book in the series. And no wonder. It is pure joy to read. It follows the adventures of Anne, a sweet-natured and cheerful girl with bright red hair. An 11-year-old orphan, she is mistakenly sent to live with the Cuthbert family, who had originally intended to adopt a boy. Anne has a quirky imagination and a vivacious manner, which makes her a likeable character. As she gets into hilarious mishaps and merry mischief, you will find yourself rooting for this red-haired girl!

An unlikely friendship

Published in October, 1952, “Charlotte’s Web” is one of the most popular children’s books by E.B. White. A young Fern Arable saves the life of a newborn pig on her father’s farm. She names him Wilbur and nurtures him lovingly. However, when she grows up, she is forced to sell Wilbur to her uncle who intends to slaughter him for food. That’s when Charlotte, a barn spider, who can read and write come up with a way to save Wilbur’s life. With the help of other farm animals, Charlotte convinces the Zuckerman family that Wilbur is actually quite special by weaving words and short phrases in praise of Wilbur into her web. The book weaves a heartwarming tale of an unlikely friendship.


  • Here’s a list of some of classics that are now available for free as audio books:
  • “Frankenstein”, written by Marry Shelley and narrated by David Dobrik
  • “Great Expectations”, written by Charles Dickens and narrated by James Langton Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte and narrated by Sarah Coombs
  • “Persuasion”, written by Jane Austen and narrated by Cynthia Erivo


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