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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book to film adaptations, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Film Review: The Giver

Giver1 Film Review: The Giver[SPOILER ALERT: This whole review pretty gives away every plot point in both the book and film versions of The Giver.  Abandon ship all ye who wish to remain surprised.]

On Sunday night I had an extraordinary experience.  I was sitting in a theater, just about to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, and seeing what had to be the lamest run of movie trailers I have ever experienced.  I’m talking horrible stuff.  The Annie trailer (which ends with a prostitute joke), the Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day trailer (which may rival the Paddington film for Worst Trailer of the Year), and others that made my brain shut down.  However it was the last trailer that was particularly interesting to me.  It was for the film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver.  For the first time in my life, I was watching a trailer in a theater for a film I had already seen.  Since Guardians of the Galaxy is a mighty popular film these days, you may find yourself seeing the same trailer.  Don’t believe it, though.  The movie, believe it or not, is MUCH better than its preview.  Much.

Because I’m currently on maternity leave with a small baby boy I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to see an early screening of the film.  Fortunately Walden Media was accommodating and so, a week or two ago, I sat down with two buddies and a 10-week old child to see the onscreen adaptation of Lois Lowry’s Newbery Award winning book.  And let me tell you, if you had to pick a movie to watch while holding a baby, this probably wouldn’t be your first choice.

I had reason to be skeptical, by the way.  When children’s novels make the transition to the big screen they have a tendency to go a bit wonky.  Remember Madeleine L’Engle’s straight to DVD Wrinkle in Time (NOT to be confused with the recently announced version)?  Or what happened to Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising?  And yes, I knew that Ms. Lowry had not only put her stamp of approval on this film but had been actively promoting it, but what did that really mean?  So when I sat down and watched it I noted that one of my compatriots had read the original book as an adult when it published and the other had never read the book at all.  Their insights proved invaluable.

Giver2 202x300 Film Review: The GiverThe thing to remember when you watch The Giver is how long this book has been in the making.  Jeff Bridges wanted to do it so long ago that he cast his father, Lloyd Bridges, in the title role with Bud Cort on narration.  With the book originally publishing in 1993, this was middle grade dystopian long before Hunger Games came around.  As such, a lot of the tropes you’ll find in the film won’t remind you of the current wave of YA dystopias as much as it will dystopias of the past.  I’m talkin’ Planet of the Apes / 1984 / Soylent Green / Zardoz stuff (well . . . maybe not Zardoz). The kind where people aren’t quite certain how to use conjunctions anymore.  I suspect we may see some reviews of this film that say it’s derivative of the current dystopias, but can you really be derivative if you came first?

The film begins with what looks like a slightly cleaner gated community than you’d usually find.  Perfect lawns.  Lots of circles.  The occasional drone.  And zero sexy clothes.  We meet Jonas, our hero, and his two bestest buddies Fiona (ten years ago she would have been played by Kristen Stewart) and Asher (one of my compatriots pointed out that he was essentially Rolfe from The Sound of Music).  They’re all white.  Heck, all the major characters in this film are white.  You might chalk that up to flaws in the dystopia, but I dunno.  Seems like they could have had Jonas’s mom or dad be of color (after all, they’re not his birth parents or anything).

As for the kids, they are all older teens, a fact that was lamented wildly when it was first announced.  However, as much as I’m for films to stay strictly faithful to their books, this change makes a lot of sense.  I never quite understood those books where kids find out their lifelong jobs when they’re 12.  The age appears to be there solely to allow the book to be shelved in the children’s rather than the YA section.  In life, teenagers are more often told to pick their career paths.  Plus the themes of the film fit adolescence so well (example: the desire to be the same as everyone else, even if it removes you from your own identity).  Plus, kids watching the film at this point will certainly be thinking that this is a pretty great place to live.  Teens will be the ones who first see the cracks.

Giver1 202x300 Film Review: The GiverOf course there is no picking in this world.  Jonas is on the cusp of finding out what his job for life will be.  Played by Brenton Thwaites, it’s a thankless role.  A whole lotta yearning, which would try any actor’s patience.  Brenton does a good job of it, though, and there’s a faint creepiness to the sunny happy-go-lucky interactions between him and his friends.  Very Disney Channel-esque, if less risqué (if such a thing were possible).

When Jonas returns home we meet his mother and father, played by Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård.  To have Katie playing a teenager’s mother is, sadly, par for the course with Hollywood.  She’s over 30?  Cast her as a mom.  But in this society you get the distinct feeling that it makes a lot of sense.  If she was handed a baby when she was 18 then sure, she could be Jonas’s mother.  It makes sense within the context of the film.  Holmes, however, is a bit overshadowed in her role by Skarsgård who ends up being one of the finest actors in the movie.  He plays the part of a very earnest, nice guy who would seriously kill you without a second thought if told to do so.  This disconnect could tap nicely into a teen’s hidden fears about their own parents.  You trust them implicitly when you are a child, but as you grow older you begin to see some character defects (some MAJOR character defects in this case).

We get to know the world a bit better when we hear about people being “released”.  That’s where the Soylent Green similarities start to crop up (and if you haven’t seen that film, I assure you that it is MUCH better than one would expect it to be).  Then we witness the ceremony where the kids get assigned their jobs and as each one is named a little montage of them over the years plays on a kind of live feed.  It becomes clear that these images are plucked from the constant surveillance technology that inundates the place, which gives a nice eerie vibe to what would otherwise feel a lot like those videos parents make for their kids’ graduation ceremonies.

Giver3 202x300 Film Review: The GiverWhen Meryl Streep arrives via hologram (there are a lot of Star Wars-esque holograms to be found here, partly because Streep’s schedule didn’t allow her to travel to Australia where much of the movie was filmed) she steps into the role of white-haired-woman-in-charge.  This is a popular role for great, older film actresses.  Heck, the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy even had one in the form of Glenn Close.  In Streep’s case, her role is as the Chief Elder, an embodiment of the problematic leaders of this society.  The nice thing about casting Streep is that she’s able to give a bit more nuance to what would otherwise be a two-dimensional part.  The Chief Elder is honestly conflicted by the choices she has to make, but there’s an understanding that society itself wouldn’t have her any other way.  Plus, only Streep could give the line “Thank you for your childhood” the right edge.  Mind you, I would bet you really good money that as I write this Anthony Lane is wracking his brain to come up with an appropriately cutting line to use to describe her bangs.  They didn’t bug me though.

Jonas is assigned to be The Receiver to Jeff Bridges, the titular Giver.  Like Streep, Bridges is fantastic to watch.  Of course, he has an advantage over her in that he’s the only real person in the whole film for quite some time.  A guy who doesn’t waste his time with b.s.  Half the time he’s talking you’re not certain if he believes what he says.  He’s also the kind of guy willing to play with the whole “chosen one” trope for fun (a fact that I appreciated).  He lives in a little house near “the edge” of society itself in a house that’s sort of Dr. Calgari meets M.C. Escher.  As The Giver, Mr. Bridges hands Jonas memories of the past via a kind of Vulcan mind meld.  The first memory is of a sled, effectively making this film Citizen Kane for kids.

Giver6 300x199 Film Review: The GiverAt this point the Garden of Eden references start to crank up big time.  Jonas peers into the mist at the edge where nothing is supposed to exist and sees a tree.  The first thing he officially sees in color is an apple (Fiona’s pretty red hair notwithstanding – though I suppose you could argue that it had some Biblical significance as well).  As Jonas starts to learn more he decides not to take his inoculations, so he puts a bit of blood on a red apple and bypasses the system that way.  And, naturally, he uses this apple to try to convince his friend Fiona to do the same.  One naturally wonders if sex is going to come up since these are teenagers we’re talking about, but the most you get is some very chaste kissing after the two have plunged into a man made waterfall (now entering metaphor city).

Now did I fail to mention that until this point the film has been in black and white?  It has indeed, and that’s fine.  It certainly gives the film a kind of Wizard of Oz feel when Jonas at long last begins to see colors.

I watched with great interest how the film handled the darker elements of this society.  First off, it’s been a while since I read the book so I couldn’t remember what the first memory of cruelty The Giver would give.  In this case it’s a mighty realistic elephant safari.  Can you train an elephant to fall down like that?  You must.  And that was one well trained animal.  As for the shockingly horrible memory Jonas accidentally taps into, they went with Vietnam.  A clever choice since Vietnam is sort of the perfect American nightmare in and of itself.  But as well all know, there is one particular element to the book that causes it to be banned with shocking regularity in schools nationwide.  I wondered if the film would show it or skip it entirely, but it’s so essential to the plot that you really can’t take it out. I am referring of course to the murder of a baby.

Giver4 202x300 Film Review: The GiverThese days you can’t really kill a dog onscreen anymore.  They will never remake Old Yeller for this very reason.  But a baby?  James Kennedy, the man behind the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, once told me that when he gets a submission for The Giver there is usually one thing he can count on.  The film may skip one part of the book or another but kids ALWAYS include the dead baby scene.  They will reenact it with teddy bears or baby dolls or what have you, but it’ll be there.  And fair play to the filmmakers.  There’s Alexander Skarsgård, all soft sweet talk and pretty eyes, and he friggin’ kills a baby onscreen.  If you are in the audience holding a baby at this time it is all the more harrowing.  People are going to freak out about this when they see it, but it is probably the #1 most effective method of showing that this world is awful.  Even kids and teens will understand that much.

I should note that there are the occasional lighter moments, though it would be a stretch to call this film comedic.  You’re so desperate for some lightness, in fact, that the moment when Jonas’s father is telling his daughter that a stuffed elephant is a “mythical hippo”, it works.  Plus Jeff Bridges is himself a great source of humor.

As we near the end we gear up for the big escape of Jonas and baby Gabriel.  Now for the screenwriter there was a very big dramatic problem at the core of the original book.  You want to have an exciting climax to the film where your hero is attempting to do something big.  In this case, it isn’t enough for Jonas to be running to safety with Gabe.  You can only take that so far.  So they’ve added that he must also free everybody’s memories as well, something that can apparently be done by crossing some kind of border.  It’s not really explained but since the whole transference of The Giver’s memories isn’t explained in the book either, you can’t really sweat it.  Mind you, by crossing this border everyone in society will have as many memories of the past as The Giver himself.  And on top of that they alternate Jonas’s flight with the upcoming execution of a friend, which also allows for a dramatic conversation between The Giver and The Elder about knowledge and choices.

Giver5 300x123 Film Review: The GiverThose of us familiar with the original book know that one of the great debates surrounding it for years was the ending.  In fact, you could credit much of The Giver‘s success to the fact that the finish was open ended (sequels that settle the matter and Ms. Lowry’s own protests aside).  Some people would interpret the end to mean that Jonas and Gabe died while others were convinced that they lived.  The question in my mind, upon entering the theater, was whether or not the film would also be open to interpretation in this way.  Final conclusion: Probably not.  For one thing, Jonas is narrating the whole time and he’s speaking in the past tense.  And sure, this might be Ghost Jonas talking, but from what he says you get the feeling that he’s defending himself from people who don’t like how he changed their society.  The ending of the film isn’t really cut and dried, though.  Jonas and Gabe hear the Christmas carols.  They see the sled.  They see the house where the songs are coming from. (Gabe also sports what may well be the most authentically runny nose in cinematic history.)  They approach and the film ends.  But what was the carol they were hearing? “Silent Night”.  And what line in the song was clearer to the audience’s ear than any other?  “Sleep in heavenly peace.”  Hmmmm.  I say, the jury is still out.

I mentioned before the whitey whiteness of the film, which really wasn’t necessary.  The society itself isn’t all-white, just the major characters in this film.  Then there are the women.  Were in not for Fiona and Jonas’s rather charming little sister we’d be drowning in a sea of disapproving shrews (Katie Holmes, Meryl Streep, etc.).  As it stands, it could be better (Fiona’s more a symbol than a person) but it’s not terrible by any means.  As I said before, Streep’s a pro and gives her character a great deal of nuance.  She’s not cackling with malicious glee or anything (ala Jodie Foster in Elysium).   There are also the flashbacks into the past that Jonas witnesses through his sessions with The Giver.  These are sometimes so well done that the last one in particular made me tear up a little.  Sadly, while it shows families and protests and other meaningful elements (Nelson Mandela gets some serious screen time) there were no gay families or alternative families in the mix.  A bit of a missed opportunity there, folks.

Giver71 300x187 Film Review: The GiverWhen we consider the pantheon of book to film adaptations, few are word-for-word carbon copies of the books.  Even the faithful Harry Potter films had to make the occasional change.  Much of what has been done to The Giver is entirely logical.  In the end, the best way to judge a book-to-screen situation is to look at the book’s theme.  Is this a case like The Lorax where the film upsets the very moral of the original source material?  Or will it be more like The Fantastic Mr. Fox and preserve the beauty of the book’s thematic core while clearly establishing itself as its own beast?  The Giver happily falls into the latter category.  It is most faithful to the book in terms of the themes, the morals, and way in which it confronts the problems with conformity.  Over the next few decades millions of children will be shown this Newbery Award adaptation in school.  And I, for one, am grateful.

I considered closing this post by embedding a trailer for the film, then thought better of it.  For the record, the trailers of The Giver are all universally awful.  The initial one made it appear as if the film was in color.  After public outcry the studio rushed to assure people that it had simply been cut to look that way.  Then came the second trailer which acknowledged that parts were in black and white, but at the same time it contained about five different misleading moments.  Rather than watching these trailers I suggest you see the film itself.  Or, in lieu of that, this delightful 90-second version created for James Kennedy’s 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.  Bonus: No dead babies.

Many thanks to Walden Media for allowing me my own little preview!

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2. Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet.

Hi ho.  Time to round-up what Jules and I have been up to over at our Wild Things blog (book promotion for bloggers means more blogging, you see).  Here’s the long and short of what you may have missed:

Whew!  We’re busy little bees, aren’t we?

  • Tra la!  It’s coming!  The greatest conference of children’s and YA literary bloggers is coming!  And Liz Burns not only has the info but also the reason such an event is cool.  Quoth she: “What I love about KidLitCon is it’s about the bloggers. Full stop. That is the primary purpose and mission of KidLitCon. It’s about what the bloggers care about. Oh, there may be authors and publishers there, presenting, and that can be great and amazing. But it’s not about them. They are there to support the blogging community: they are not there saying, what can the blogging community do for us.”  Amen, sister.  Preach!  By the way, the theme this year is Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?  Be there or be square.
  • So there’s a new Children’s Book Review Editor at the New York Times and by some strange quirk of fate her name is NOT alliterative (note Julie Just, Pamela Paul, and Sarah Smith).  Her name?  Maria Russo.  Which pretty much means I’ll be tracking her like a bloodhound at the next Eric Carle Honors event.  Trouble is, we don’t wear nametags at that event so I’ll probably be the crazy lady grabbing all the women, staring intently into their eyes.  Wouldn’t be the first time.

LewisTolkien 300x186 Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet. I blame Saving Mr. Banks.  One little children’s writer biopic comes out where the writer isn’t seen as all kittens and sunshine (I still loathe you Miss Potter and Finding Neverland) and all hell breaks loose.  Now we hear that McG is going to do a Shel Silverstein biopic on the one hand and that there are plans to examine the relationship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on the other.  I’m just counting the minutes until someone tackles Margaret Wise Brown or the whole Anne-Carroll-Moore-didn’t-like-Stuart-Little story (which you just KNOW is in the works somewhere).

  • Speaking of films, when I heard that Alan Snow’s delightful Here Be Monsters was being turned into a film called The Boxtrolls I was incredulous.  That book?  The one I couldn’t get kids to even look at until they made a blue paperback version?  I mean I liked it (it came out in a year when sentient cheese was all the rage in children’s literature) but how long was this film in production for crying out loud?  Doesn’t matter because according to iO9 it’s brilliant.  Good to know.
  • So Phil Nel, our ever intrepid professor with a hankering for children’s literature, went to ComicCon.  Best of all, he’s willing to report his findings to us (so that we don’t have to go!).  Read up on Part 1, Part 2 (my favorite for the cameo of Bananaman), Part 3, and Part 4.  Phil was there promoting his Barnaby books (which he co-edited with Eric Reynolds). These include Barnaby Volume One: 1942-1943 (2013) and Barnaby Volume Two: 1944-1945 (2014).
  • Did I know that Amanda Palmer wrote a song about what she owes to Judy Blume?  I do now.
  • This is what separates the true fangirls from the poseurs.  Thanks to the CBC for the link.
  • Two Little Free Libraries have sprung up near my home across the street from the Harlem branch of NYPL.  I couldn’t be more pleased because they mean just one thing to me . . . a place to give away my books!!!  Culling books is terribly enjoyable.  It’s also part of BookRiot’s incredibly useful post 8 Tips for Moving When You Have a Ton of Books.
  • Daily Image:

Two words. Bookish shoes.  My personal favorites include . . .

Little Prince Shoes Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet.

Sherlock Shoes 500x335 Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet.

Book Spine heels Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet.

Remember, by the way, that my sister told you how to make some of these yourself.  Thanks to Mom for the link.

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1 Comments on Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet., last added: 7/29/2014
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3. Fusenews: On Beyond Flummoxed

In a weird way, Twitter sort of made my Fusenews posts this side of obsolete.  If you want cool things to see online it’s often just a case of knowing whom to follow.  And yet I love my little Fusenews.  Pressed as I am for time today, let’s pretend that these are little tweets:

Pinterest continues to remain a strange elusive creation that I have a hard time wrapping my head around.  Fortunately sometimes it will do something like post images from William Steig’s Agony in the Kindergarten (circa 195o) and all at once everything is clear. Thanks to Alex Penfold for the link.

And while you’re looking at vast numbers of images, why not look at this collection of international children’s art.  Purdy.  Thanks to Warren Truitt for the link.

Adrienne says, “I Can’t Imagine There Was Ever a Time in Which This Version of Little Red Riding Hood Wasn’t Creepy.” I don’t quite know what she means since I haven’t yet seen the . . . GAAAAAHHHHH!!!

  • I want a new Leslie Connor middle grade novel for kids and I want it now now now now now. (This is called “baiting the universe” and should only be attempted under the strictest of circumstances.)
  • Was anyone else aware that Thomas Locker died this year, or just BookMoot?  First I’ve heard of it.  Shoot.
  • As per usual, the best round-up of the year is happening at Chicken Spaghetti.  If you want to see every last Best Of list printed for 2012 books, seek ye no further.
  • Speaking of Best Of lists, I am not usually flummoxed by the books folks pick.  I like to think that on the children’s side I see almost everything.  So imagine my flummoxing when I check out the 100 Scope Notes Top 20 Children’s Books of 2012 and find that #20 is a book I have NEVER heard of before!?!  I am tongue-tied, stopped, and otherwise befuddled.  You win this round, Jonker, but I shall have my revenge!!
  • The Bookbug children’s bookstore in Kalamazoo, Michigan does many things right.  But most recently they managed to make this remarkable little fellow:

Don’t try to buy him for your holiday shopping, though.  Apparently to make it you need to get “many different packages of legos from several different vendors.”  Worth it.

  • You know how weird it was when they redid Spiderman with an all-new cast?  Yup.  Well, hold onto your hats, folks.  A children’s book is getting yet another reworking as well. From Cynopsis Kids:

Columbia looks to Zach Helm (Stranger Than Fiction, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which he also directed, and the upcoming The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) to write a new big screen adaptation of Jumanji, based on Chris van Allsburg’s 1981 book of the same name, per THRMatt Tolmach (The Amazing Spider-Man) will produce the new Jumanji movie. Joe Johnston directed the 1995 feature film incarnation of Jumanji, which starred Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst.

  • Daily Image:

There is a giant swing installation somewhere in New York City right now.  You walk in, you sit, and you swing.

I may have missed the Columbus Circle installation but by gum I am finding this one!  Thanks to Crooked House for the heads up.

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4. Fusenews: I’m going back to Indiana! Indiana here I come!

Those of you familiar with the Jackson 5 song I’ve referenced in my title are probably now throwing virtual rotten fruit in my general direction.  Still, I can’t say it isn’t accurate.  This weekend I am pleased to be a speaker at the SCBWI Indiana conference in Zionsville, IN.  I haven’t been back in Indiana since my last college reunion in 2010.  It’ll be good for me to fill the lungs with some pure uncut Midwestern air once more.  A gal need to fill up before heading back into the NYC fray.  While you read this I may be zooming up into the clouds above, so enjoy some ephemera in my absence.

  • ReadingNet 300x174 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!Sure.  On the one hand Spain’s reading net, highlighted by Boing Boing this week, looks AMAZING.  But while it may work well for Spanish children, you just know that our kids would be leaping and jumping all over that thing within seconds.  Plus, there appears to be a gigantic hole in it that’s just asking for trouble.  Or maybe that’s how you get in.  That would make sense.
  • Views From the Tesseract has reached its 100th post and as a result Stephanie came up with What Stories Have Taught Me in 100 Small Lessons.  It’s nice without being sentimental.  Plus, if you’re in the market for good quotes from children’s books, this here’s the place to go for your one stop shopping!
  • My l’il sis is at it again.  This time she came up with a way to create comic book shoes.  I cannot help but think that this might be possible with old Advanced Readers Copies.  Or YA craft programs.  Yeah.  I think you can tell that the next time I go to the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet I’m recruiting Kate to help me with my outfit.  She made one shoe superheroes and one supervillains.

SupervillainShoe Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

For the record, she also did a post on how to make a hollow book.  If you read it, just remember that the world is FULL of extra Harry Potter 7s.  One or two less isn’t gonna hurt anything.

  • And while we’re feeling crafty, Delightful Children’s Books has come up with such a good idea: a Bookish Advent Calendar.  Genius!  I may have to steal this idea myself.  If I do, though, I’d better get cracking.  Start placing holds now.  December is practically nigh!
  • On the more serious side of things, Marjorie Ingall writes great posts no matter where she is, but it’s her titles that consistently blow me away.  At the blog Modern Loss (a site for “navigating your life after a death”) Marjorie wrote 5 Kids Books That Go There: The best of the ‘talking to kids about death’ genre (drumroll, please).  It’s a strong five.  I’m trying to think what I might add.  This year’s Missing Mommy by Rebecca Cobb, maybe.  That book ripped my heart from my chest and danced a tarantella on the remains.
  • *sigh*  Well, if nothing else, this clarifies for me who exactly “McKenna” is and why folks keep asking me to buy her books.  And Saige, for that matter.  Alexandra Petri writes a rather amusing piece on what has happened to American Girl.

WhatFoxSay 232x300 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!I’m far less upset about the fact that they’re turning What Does the Fox Say? into a picture book.  For one thing, I’m weirdly thrilled that the Norwegian YouTube hit sensation has a Norwegian illustrator.  And one that clearly has a sense of humor.  Hey!  Whatever it takes to get some new names from overseas into the American market.  At the very least, I want to see it (though I’m fairly certain it is NOT the first picture book to be based on a YouTube sensation).  Thanks to Playing By the Book and Matt for the info.

  • Daily Image:

Today, I show something I may have shown before.  It’s lithographs of famous books where the text from the story makes up the image itself.  Here are some examples:

A Christmas Carol

ChristmasCarol 500x324 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

Alice in Wonderland

Wonderland 500x324 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

A Little Princess

LittlePrincess 500x324 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

Thanks to Marci for the link!

 

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5. Films Now, Books First

What are your favorite book-to-film adaptations? Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Book Thief? Anxious for the movie version of Divergent? Can't wait to see the next installment of The Hobbit? Leave a comment at Allie's latest Teens Wanna Know article!
 

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6. Video Sunday: MIT’s Faculty Lounge and Other Mysteries

No time to dilly-dally, people! We’ve most of our peers and betters living it up in Las Vegas. Let’s soothe our sorrows of not attending ourselves in some lovely videos then, eh whot?

First off, you may have known that there was a recent Boston Children’s Book Trivia Night. But did you know there was video from the event as well? Indeedy.  Just LOOK at that turnout!  That’s Jack Gantos moderating.  The only trouble with this vid is that it doesn’t contain the answer to his trivia question.  Um . . . anyone want to tell it to me?

In other news, Eoin Colfer.  Not that his existence is news exactly.  It’s just worth making your day brighter to watch him talk a little about . . . well, pretty much anything.  In this case, on getting a literary agent.  Granted, he looks a bit like a great big blue floating head, but I care not.

In movie news, The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex is finally finding itself in film form.  Retitled Home, it has made some interesting changes. The title, for one.   J-Lo is now just O. And  Tip is a teenager (one suspects the film executives thought kids would start picking up their own parents’ car keys if they saw a kid in a movie driving).  We shall see.

Awwww.  A Harry Potter rap!  It’s never too late folks (and note the complete and utter lack of snark in the lyrics).

Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

And for our off-topic video, this one actually mentions Hagrid at one point (continuing our Harry Potter theme).  So we’re awfully close to being on-topic.  It’s one woman, seventeen different British accents, and one rocking pair of fantastically 1985 glasses.

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7. Fusenews: Shelve the books but shelve them slant

  • “I just finished a poem where St. Francis and St. Clare double-date with Thoreau and Evita and it just makes me very happy.”  My mother was the winner of the 2011 Prairie Schooner Book Prize because she is as good as it gets.  No brag.  Just fact.  Prairie Schooner recently interviewed her as well and I recommend looking at it, partly because this my mother we’re talking about and she makes me very proud and partly because it raises the old interview bar, so to speak.  Clearly I need to put more work into my own.
  • Once in a great while my husband’s occupation and my own will intersect.  He is a screenwriter and will alert me to interesting news items on the cinematic side of things.  This week he pointed me to a ScriptShadow piece.  If you are unfamiliar with the site it’s where a fellow going by the name of “Carson Reeves” reads and reviews the scripts that have recently sold in Hollywood and critiques them long before they are turned into films.  Each Friday Carson has something he calls Amateur Friday where folks submit their own screenplays for his review.  Last Friday someone handed in a script called Fifi, A Monkey’s Tale.  Those of you familiar with the story behind Curious George will recognize this as the original title of that manuscript.  The script essentially tells the tale of the Reys’ escape from the Nazis in WWII.  Only to punch it up a bit the screenwriter (and I kinda love this) rewrote history so that Goebbels himself wants Mr. Rey destroyed.  Something you have to see for yourself, I think.
  • Do you like awards?  Do you like children’s books that come from countries other than America?  Well then, folks, have I got great news from you.  After her recent trip to Italy to judge the awards, Jules at 7-Imp let me know that the winners have been announced:

The 2012 Bologna Ragazzi Awards have just been announced! Here are links for interested folks:

Fiction winner and mentions: http://www.bolognachildrensbookfair.com/en/boragazziaward/images_award/fiction;
Nonfiction winner and mentions:http://www.bolognachildrensbookfair.com/en/boragazziaward/images_award/non_fiction;
New Horizons winner and mentions:http://www.bolognachildrensbookfair.com/en/boragazziaward/images_award/new_horizons;
Opera Prima winner and mentions (Opera Prima is for new artists):http://www.bolognachildrensbookfair.com/en/boragazziaward/images_award/opera_prima.

  • I long for the day Save NYC Libraries can be shut down, but until that happy day occurs it’s a hugely useful and well-organized site for fighting mayoral cuts.  Recently the mayor rolled out his old budget again and yep.  You guessed it.  We’re

    5 Comments on Fusenews: Shelve the books but shelve them slant, last added: 2/24/2012
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8. Fusenews: Look for the Girl with the Caterpillar Tattoo and She’s Gone

I apologize for the recent radio silence, folks.  There’s something goofy in the state of Fuse 8.  For one thing, I can’t seem to comment on my own posts.  Most peculiar.  I will assume that this is just a passing fancy of the blog and that all will be well and good from this day forward.  Onward then!

This year, as some of you may know, I eschewed plastering myself with fake tattoos in favor of instead impaling myself with Shrinky Dinks at the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet.  Shrinky Dinks: The classy choice.  I did this because I was tired of picking clumps of multicolored skin off of my arms in airports, but if we want to get to the real reason behind the reason I can sum it up in three words: Becky Quiroga Curtis.  More specifically, Becky Quiroga Curtis, the Children’s Book Buyer and Event Coordinator of Books & Books (also known as one of the only reasons to visit Miami).  This is a woman who takes her love of children’s books and turns it hardcore.  Oh, you think you love picture books?  Really?  Enough to have them tattooed onto your arm?!?!  Just one arm, mind you.  In any case, you can see how she convinces artists to draw on her arm here and you can see a feature on her at the Scholastic blog On Our Minds here and an older PW article on her here.  You can also enjoy a slew of posts showing the tattoos if you follow the Becky’s Arm tag.  Hard.  Core.

  • By the way, folk.  A bunch of you signed up to get cool PDFs of my Top 100 polls, yes?  You may be wondering where the heck those PDFs are, yes?  Well fear not.  I have it from on high that they are almost done, looking good, and you should see them within the next week or so.  Stay tuned, faithful readers!
  • On the One Hand: The recent news that Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan is being turned into a film is fantastic and I am very excited indeed.
  • On the Other Hand: The book is being turned into a screenplay by . . . . Stephenie Meyer.  Hubba wha?
  • So I was looking at the very cool Spring 2013 Sneak Preview provided by PW, which offers a glimpse of some of the upcoming books next year.  Fun stuff.  And as I look I note several things of interest.  The most notable is by far the fact that Yuyi Morales has a book coming out called Niño Wrestles the World that features a kid dressed as a Mexican wrestler . . . I’m beyond thrilled.  Oh, and then there’s this little picture book coming out with Greenwillow called, um, Giant Dance Party.  And who is it by?  Well let’s see here. . .  could it be by me?  I do believe it could be.  *smile*
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9. Fusenews: Though to be fair, who ever heard of harmFUL spitballing?

Howdy-do, folks.  Today I am off to the Yonkers Library to participate in a Charles Dickens panel with some experts in the field.  Why me?  I don’t precisely know but I’m honored to be asked.  Plus the train ride will allow me to read my new Lemony Snicket book (this would be the children’s literature equivalent of bold as you please name dropping).

Onward!

First up, some nepotism, uncut.  The resident husband has a tendency to be brilliant (not that I’m biased or anything).  Recent evidence of this can be found on editor Cheryl Klein’s podcast Narrative Breakdown – Creative Writing, Screenwriting,Young Adult Lit, TV shows and More.  With partner-in-crime James Monohan, the two of them have a habit of talking about writing in all its many forms.  Mr. Bird appears on the episode called “Scene Construction 1 > Character Expectations and Tactics” on 9/8/12 which was described as, “what may be our most ambitious episode yet.”  In related news, Mr. Bird has restarted his blog Cockeyed Caravan in all its wild advisory glory.  I just like this picture he came up with when talking about the roles individuals play in teams:

  • Wow.  This post outlining how creating a book trailer meets Common Core Standards is fantastic.  Many thanks indeed to Joyce Valenza for the link!
  • In case you weren’t aware of it, the Onion A.V. Club has decided that young adult literature is interesting enough to highlight on occasion (articles equating it with chick lit and meritless copyright suits notwithstanding).  In the series YA Why? they split their time evenly between new hot titles and older fare.  Stay for the new stuff but eschew the looks back in time.  Odds are whatever title you see there, the Fine Lines column by Lizzie Skurnick did it better.
  • “…the critic is someone who, when his knowledge, operated on by his taste in the presence of some new example of the genre he’s interested in…hungers to make sense of that new thing, to analyze it, interpret it, make it mean something.”  Flatterer.  As an aspiring book critic of children’s fare, I was much taken with the Darryl Campbell Millions article Is This Book Bad, Or Is It Just Me? The Anatomy of Book Reviews which seeks to not only summarize in brief the spats and spits in the adult literary criticism world (a fine and fancy recap if ever there was one) then goes so far as to define the four classical elements of literary appraisal (“Reaction. Summary. Aesthetic and historical appraisal”).  This one is your required reading of the day.  Many thanks to Marjorie Ingall (who will be part of the literary criticism panel at this year’s KidLitCon) for the link.
  • List this one under Good Folks Doing Stuff You Should Know About.  Now tell me everything you know about The Foundation for Children’s Books.  Not to worry.  If you don’t live in Boston you might not have heard about them.  I’m a New Yorker but I know all too well the good works of the Bostonians, and this organization is particularly keen since they “bring acclaimed children’s book authors and illustrators into underserved K-8 schools in Boston for visits and workshops focused on writing and illustration.”  Folks like Barbara O’Connor, Grace Lin, Mitali Perkins, Bryan Collier, and many many more.  From what I hear, this year they’re hoping to expand their work in six schools, increase the number of donated books they bring to each school, and start a “Books for Breakfast” professional development series in Boston classrooms where they focus on particular “libraries” of new books–for example, “great non-fiction for 4th and 5th graders,” and then donate the books that they highlight to those classrooms.  FYI!!
  • Movie news time!  As you may know I tend to get my heads up from Cynopsis Kids.  This week they threw out a little piece of info that I almost missed.  I was reading up on future children’s movie projects when the title Happy Smekday floated past.  Happy what now?  Apparently I missed Adam Rex’s June post that mentioned that an official announcement had been made about a True Meaning of Smekday movie from Dreamworks Animation.  More to the point the press release (and IMDB page) report that it will star Jim Parsons and Rihanna.  Which . . . is perfect.  Blooming bloody perfect.  Clearly J.Lo will be played by Parsons and Tip by Rihanna.  I’m a little floored.  Mind you, the description of the film that they provide is a bit ugh. “In Happy Smekday! an alien race invades Earth and uses it as a hideout from their mortal enemy. When one lowly alien accidentally notifies the enemies of his whereabouts, he is forced to go on the run with a teenage girl. The two become unlikely buddies and embark on a comical globe-trotting adventure to right his wrongs, in which our alien hero learns what it really means to be human.”  As I recall J.Lo discovers “what it really means to be human” insofar as it means taking road trips and wearing a sheet over his head.  Ah well.  All I ask is that they include my favorite line in the book when he looks at Tip’s car and says with sweet condescension “Oh.  It rolls”.

There’s other book news on the horizon too, so look lively.  Cynopsis Kids has been busy.  To wit:

  • “Universal looks to Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci to produce its feature film adaptation of author Dugald A. Steer’s popular kid’s book series Dragonology (12 books so far), per Heat Vision. Kurtzman and Orci have a first look deal with Universal under their banner K/O Paper Products  Dragonology is part of that agreement. Dragonology was to be written by Leonard Hartman who will now serve as an executive producer. A new writer has not yet been named. Kurtzman and Orci, who wrote and produced Star Trek 2, are also set to write and executive produce the Amazing Spider-Man movie sequel.”

And very very exciting news:

  • FilmNation Entertainment acquires the feature film rights to the popular kid’s book A Tale Dark & Grimm by author Adam Gidwitz. FilmNation is partnering with Marissa McMahon of Kamala Films to finance the development and produce the live-action movie with FilmNation Entertainment’s Aaron Ryder and Karen Lunder. Jon Gunn (Mercy Streets, My Date with Drew) and John W. Mann (Mercy Streets) will pen the screenplay. Based on some of the more gruesome Grimm Brother’s stories, A Tale Dark & Grimm follows the adventures of two unsuspecting kids who hold the key to breaking out of the dark ages. McMahon explains, “Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark & Grimm is a smart, addictive, and hilariously gruesome narrative that turns familiar fairy tales on their head, much to the delight of both children and parents.” FilmNation recently completed filming on the new teen-targeted comedy Premature, which they are producing from writer/director Dan Beers.”

Not so sure about the whole “hold the key to breaking out of the dark ages” part (and you know the devil is totally going to get cut) but still good news for the author.  Have no idea how they’ll do it, though.  I mean, there is a LOT of blood in that book.

  • Daily Image:

It came out a couple months ago but I never linked to it.  You’d do well to discover this great Flavorwire post on 10 Wonderful Libraries Repurposed from Unused Structures (though really, how can you link to one jail and not mention the greatest courthouse-to-library conversion of all time, the Jefferson Market Branch?).  Here’s a converted railcar to library:

And if you liked that be sure to read the follow up post on 10 Awesome Bookstores Repurposed from Unused Structures.  Big thanks to Mike Lewis for the links!

5 Comments on Fusenews: Though to be fair, who ever heard of harmFUL spitballing?, last added: 9/28/2012
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10. Fusenews: Paddington V. Pooh (supporters could call themselves marmalites and hunnies)

You folks have been awfully good about my recent shoddy blogging, so I tip my hat in your general direction.  Jules of 7-Imp and I are putting the final touches on our book for Candlewick editing-wise and, as you might imagine, it eats up large swaths of time like an irate and hungry badger.  There is no situation in which a badger cannot be used as an example.  True fact.

In other news, there’s an author/illustrator out there that I happen to like very much.  His name is Aaron Zenz and over the years he has startled me time and again with the relative brilliance of his creativity.  If he wasn’t making multiple inspired pieces for the Re-Seussification Project then his kids were contributing to the stellar Boogie Woogie blog.  Well, Aaron and Co. are some of my favorite folks so when I saw the Friends of Zenz page asking to help ‘em out in the midst of some pretty upsetting surgery, you can bet I jumped on board.  If you’ve a minute, you can too.  They’re swell folks.

So I got to meet J.K. Rowling the other day.  Yup.  The woman who basically set me on the path of children’s librarianship in the first place via her books and I up and met her.  You see the good Dan Blank had tickets and one of those tickets happened to have my name on it.  So I got to see her speak with Ann Patchett about this adult novel of hers The Casual Vacancy (a title I’m certain she stole from the notes of Lemony Snicket) and then I stood in a long line and got my copy signed.  The conversation between us is as follows:

J.K. Rowling: Thanks for coming.

Betsy Bird:  Guh.

Many thanks to Dan for the opportunity.  He’s blogged about the experience here and just so you writer folks know, he’s doing another session of his author platform course starting Oct 31, with a free webinar. The course features Jane Friedman, Richard Nash, Colleen Lindsay, Kathleen Schmidt, Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins as guest speakers.  Info on the session is here and the webinar is here.

COMIC LEGEND: There was a Winnie the Pooh comic strip where the characters acted a lot more aggressively than most Winnie the Pooh fans are used to.

STATUS: True”

Thus we find the strangest and maybe most engaging link of the day.  Apparently there was a Winnie-the-Pooh syndicated comic strip out there for a while that contained the Disneyfied Pooh and friends.  And apparently it was written by some seriously odd souls.  How else to explain some of these downright weird inclusions?  Comic Book Legends Revealed explains more (you’ll have to scroll down a little but they’re worth finding).  This one’s my favorite:

Wowzah.

And speaking of bears . . . how do you get kids interested in the political process?  Have ‘em vote for bears, of course!  The West Linn Public Library had an inspired idea.  They’re holding a bear election through election day on November 6 and, as they explained it to me:

“inviting kids (and adults) to vote for their favorite bear from children’s literature: Pooh, Paddington, Mama Berenstain, or Corduroy. We have also gotten staff involved by asking them to volunteer to be bear campaign managers. The response from staff and patrons has been tremendous! Our campaign managers have embraced their roles beyond my wildest dreams by designing posters, stickers, bookmarks, and games to support their bear.We are having so much fun that I thought I would share with other libraries. I have even created a campaign video for my candidate, Mama Bear—here is that link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=vb.153513568034372&type=2“  Love it!  I suppose I’m a staunch Pooh supporter thanks to my job, but it’s tough.  Paddington comes in at a close second in my heart.

Okay, let’s do the Me Stuff all in one fell swoop today.  First off, I made a reading list for NYC’s New Victory Theater to accompany their upcoming shows.  Check it out here.  I never properly thanked Miss Kathleen at Mental Floss for including me in the 24 Library-Centric Sites We Love round-up, to say nothing of the compliments regarding my video with Travis Jonker. Thanks to Maureen Petry for the links!  I’m speaking at a Joan Aiken event tonight so enjoy this piece written by Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, entitled Voices: The magical mysteries of children’s literature.  I was interviewed at the blog The Children’s Book Review as part of their ongoing librarian series.  And the Children’s Media Association blog gave me what could well be the most flattering spotlight I’ve received in my long internet life. Whew!

There was a Bibliography-Off between Judy Blume and one of my favorite comics Patton Oswalt not long ago.  As Jezebel described it, “The only thing that could really be better than this (for a Sunday, anyway) is if Calvin and Hobbes were real and they spoke at a TED Talk about the vividness of a small child’s imagination.” I just wish S.E. Hinton had heeded Patton’s call to give him a hand.  She’s on Twitter all the time, y’know.  Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link!

Maybe you can’t see Phil Nel speaking in my library tomorrow about Crockett Johnson.  If not, here’s the next best thing.

All right.  Enough with the books.  Let’s look at some up-to-date movie news directly from Cynopsis Kids.  First up:

Nickelodeon begins production this month on its new original comedy/caper TV movie, Swindle, which will star a bevy of the network’s stars including Jennette McCurdy (iCarly), Noah Crawford (How to Rock, You Gotta See This), Noah Munck (iCarly), Ariana Grande (Victorious), Chris O’Neal (How to Rock, You Gotta See This) and Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush). Based on the popular kids book of the same name by Gordon Korman, the movie will be shot in Vancouver Canada. The movie is set to begin airing in 2014 on Nickelodeon’s 40+ international channels across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia. The story begins when an evil collector cons Griffin (Crawford) out of a million dollar baseball card that could have saved his best friend’s (O’Neal) home, he teams a ragtag group of his classmates (Grande, McCurdy, Munck and Bravo) to take down the swindler. Directed by Jonathan Judge (Big Time Rush, Fred 3), Swindle is written by Bill Motz (Brandy & Mr. Whiskers) & Bob Roth (Lion King 2), Eric Freiser (Road to Ruin) and Adam Rifkin (Small Soliders, Mousehunt). Marjorie Cohn (Big Time Movie, Rags), Lauren Levine (Bridge to Terabithia, Best Player), Loris Lunsford, Karen Glass and Paul Barry serve as executive producers. Scott McAboy’s Pacific Bay Entertainment is producing.”

Second up:

“Toronto-based Radical Sheep Productions (Stella and Sam, Yub Yubs, The Big Comfy Couch) acquires the rights to the graphic novel series Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian, by author/illustrator Michael Rex (Goodnight Goon, The Runaway Mummy). Under the deal Radical Sheep will develop a K6-11 aimed animated series based on Fangbone! The story revolves around Fangbone, a nine-year-old barbarian warrior from Skullbania who winds up in third grade at Eastwood Elementary in order to save his native land from the evildoer Venomous Drool. With the help of his new pal Bill, a lovable, average, goofy kid, Fangbone outwits his enemies while discovering the modern world.”

Sometimes the title sells it alone: Children’s Author Illustrator Elisha Cooper Gives Lecture on “Inappropriate” Children’s Books.

New Blog Alert: The election’s coming up and everyone’s getting ready.  With that in mind, did you know that there’s a blog out there solely dedicated to talking about political children’s books?  Kid Lit About Politics it’s called.  One for the radar.

New Blog Alert II: For that matter did you know there was a mother-son blog out there (adult mother and son!) called crossreferencing: a hereditary blog?  Yep.  There you can find Sarah and Mark Flowers as they, “discuss YA Literature and Librarianship from our dual perspectives.”  It’s pretty cool.

New Blog Alert III: Tis the season.  This third new blog is actual that of The Junior Library Guild called Shelf Life.  It’s currently doing a wonderful job of discussing current issues and hot books.  Of particular note is the post Save [Books of Wonder] and Save Your Soul.  Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Have you ever watched the movie Matilda and thought to yourself, Whatever happened to child actress Mara Wilson?  Thank god for the internet, eh?  Thanks to Brita for the link.

On a serious note there is a lovely memory of Peter Sieruta up at the blog Archives and Special Collections.  It happens to include what may be the first picture of Peter to ever make it to the world wide web.  God, I miss that guy.

The Onion’s A.V. Club has been a bit lazy in their looks at children’s and YA literature but this recent post on 2012 graphic novels is well worth reading. Many thanks to Eric Carpenter for the link!

Daily Image:

Just knowing that Gabi Swiatkowska has a blog where she displays art like the pieces below is enough to make my life complete.

Thanks to Jane Curley for the link.

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11. Video Sunday: “…Rousseau and his mate Voltaire.”

Oh, why not.  Let’s just start with what is undoubtedly the best thing ever.  Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 90-Second Newbery and James Kennedy, the author and organizer, was clever enough to know how to start things off.  It seems that Aaron Zenz and his Boogie Woogie kids have made another video.  And darned if it isn’t even better than their previous (genius) efforts. I liked it so much I’m including the Making Of film as well.

Those of you already familiar with the PBS Digital Studio’s remixes of Mr. Rogers, Julia Child, and Bob Ross (boy is that catchy) know that no one is safe when it comes to classic public television.  They did a nice job with LeVar here too.  It’s fun to watch based on his shifting facial hair alone.

Seems to me that LeVar Burton had his way of recommending books.  Iron Guy Carl of Boys Rock, Boys Read has a different method: Scare them away with a PSA.  Works for me!

Now here we have a movie coming out based on a YA novel I never read.  I did listen to the Read It and Weep podcast episode about it, but now I suppose that was insufficient.  I dunno.  The creepy kiddo looks interesting but I may just hold out for The Last Apprentice film that’s coming out soon anyway.

Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

Oksey-doksey.  New publishing model time.  It happens.  Seems Rebecca Emberley and Deidre Randall are creating a new “hybrid children’s book imprint” called two little birds (something about that name just speaks to me).  They’re pairing a picture book in print form with an app of the same title and publishing them simultaneously.  The first book is the sure-fire winner The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, catchy song in tow.

You can learn more about their Kickstarter campaign here and read the article about it here.

Author Alan Silberberg has a different method of bringing videos and books together.  He animates his thoughts on writerly advice.  Like so:

Sweet screams never sounded so right.

Finally, the off-topic video (I did well this week, didn’t I? – she said like an eager puppy).  Normally I’d eschew something as tawdry as a Gangnam Style parody, but . . .  but . . . there are literary references!  And for once the idea of looking like you’re riding a tiny pony makes odd sense.

Thanks to Jeanne Birdsall for the link.

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