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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Film, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 544
1. Review: The Program

There are few stories more abjectly fascinating than those surrounding Lance Armstrong’s triumph over a cancer he was given infinitesimally small chance of surviving and his subsequent seven Tour de France (AKA Tour de Lance) victories. Consequently, there are few stories more assumptions-shattering than the revelation that Armstrong had, in fact, been using drugs to […]

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2. Review: Mockingjay 2 Film

I had the ‘I should have re-watched the last film before seeing this film’ feeling about a minute in to Mockingjay 2, the final film instalment of The Hunger Games trilogy. (The last book of which has, confusingly, filmicly been split into two to make the trilogy a kind of quadrilogy.) For I couldn’t remember […]

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3. Spectre and Bond do the damage

The durable Bond is back once more in Spectre. Little has changed and there has even been reversion. M has back-morphed into a man, Judi Dench giving way to Ralph Fiennes. 007 still works miracles, and not the least of these is financial – Pinewood Studios hope for another blockbuster movie. Hollywood roll over and die.

The post Spectre and Bond do the damage appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. November - Myths and Dark Deeds, books, movies, kids, and dogs

      US Fall 2012 159

In Days Gone By...
Oral tales, songs, and poems reflected the lives of the people. They were stories and songs of wonder and dreams. 

00018They were told and discussed around the hearth, the marketplace,the spinning room, and in the taverns --wherever people gathered.
They helped people to cope with the wars, hunger, poverty and religious conflicts that characterized their lives.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Giambattista Basile, a Neopolitan  soldier, courtier and writer (1575-1632), collected and rewrote, in the language of ordinary people, 50 tales of wonder. 
They were called the Tale of Tales or the Pentamerone.
Tale_of_Tales_Poster_Italia_midNow, for the first time, several of these tales have been adopted into a landmark film, the Tale of Tales.
I have seen the film and found it uncompromising in reflecting the sensibility of the original tales. However, like the original tales, they are far from the simplified, romanticized, linear simplicity of Disney films.This, in turn, may be affecting the as yet incomplete distribution of Tale of Tales.
I found that the two reviews excerpted below offer insightful personal reactions to the film. They both came from viewings at the Cannes Film Festival.
Unnerving Even For Adults

TaleOfTalesMatteoGarrone3"Drawing on the rich and until-now unexplored vein of Neapolitan fairy tales written by Giambattista Basile in the early 17th century, Tale of Tales combines the wildly imaginative world of kings, queens and ogres with the kind of lush production values for which Italian cinema was once famous. The result is a dreamy, fresh take on the kind of dark and gory yarns that have come down to us from the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, only here they're pleasingly new and unfamiliar. Starring Salma Hayek as a childless queen who is willing to do anything – absolutely anything – to conceive...

These fairy tales are certainly not aimed at children, though they will light the fire of many teens. Apart from a few moments of artistic eros — the first a shot of two court ladies consumed with passion for each other in a carriage; the second a post-orgy scene laced with naked, Felliniesque bodies — there is an underlying horror that is unnerving even for adults."  

 From the review by Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter. 
Gloriously Mad
"Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales is fabulous in every sense: a freaky portmanteau film based
TheTaleOfTales.2jpgon the folk myths collected and published by the 16th-century Neapolitan poet and scholar Giambattista Basile ... It is gloriously mad, rigorously imagined, visually wonderful: erotic, hilarious and internally consistent. The sort of film, in fact, which is the whole point of Cannes. It immerses you in a complete created world..."
From the review by Peter Bradshaw in the 








Bawdier and Crueler


TaleOfTales "The tales were probably intended to be read aloud in the 'courtly conversations' that were an elite pastime of this period...Lo conto (the tales) contains the earliest literary versions of many celebrated fairy-tale types -- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and others -- that later appeared in Perrault's and the Grimm's collections. But Basile's tales are often bawdier and crueler than their more canonical counterparts." -- 
Nancy Canepa,The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales. 

 Here is a link to the Trailer: Tale Of Tales 

Here is a link to the 1894 translation by John Edward Taylor of the Tale of Tales (The Pentamerone) with illustrations by John Cruickshank. 

Except for the detail from a Bruegel painting, at top, all of the above images are from the Tale of Tales. 

The Sun, Moon and Talia...the original story of Sleeping Beauty.
Here is an excerpt from Basile's story of what later became a very different story, by both Perrault and the Brothers Grimm (Briar Rose). Written for adults in the early 17th century, it's a long way from Disney.
BurneJonesSleepingBeauty"So he (a young king) climbed in and wandered the palace from room to room, but he found
nothing and no one. At last he came to a large, beautiful drawing room, where he found an enchanting girl who seemed to be sleeping. He called to her, but she would not wake. As he looked at her, and tried to wake her, she seemed so incredibly lovely to him that he could not help desiring her, and he began to grow hot with lust. He gathered her in his arms and carried her to a bed, where he made love to her. Leaving her on the bed, he left the palace and returned to his own city, where pressing business for a long time made him think no more about the incident.

Briar_rose_Walter-Crane1But Talia, who was not dead, but merely unconscious, had become pregnant, and after nine months she gave birth to twins, as beautiful a boy and girl as ever were born. Kindly fairies attended the birth, and put the babies to suck at their mother’s breast. One day, one of the infants, not being able to find the nipple, began to suck at his mother’s finger. He sucked with such force that he drew out the splinter of flax, and Talia awoke, just as if from a long sleep. When she saw the babies, she did not know what had happened or how they had come to her, but she embraced them with love, and nursed them until they were satisfied. She named the infants Sun and Moon. The kindly fairies continued to attend her, providing her with food and drink, which appeared as if delivered by unseen servants..."

Here is a link to read it all: Sun, Moon and Talia

The top illustration is by Edward Burne-Jones. The lower illustration is by Walter Crane. 


The Oral Tradition

BeautytheBeastCrane..."The tales came to the tellers from other tellers, or they read tales, digested them, and made them their own. Indeed, we always make tales our own and then send them off to other tellers with the hope that they will continue to disseminate their stories..." - Jack Zipes, The Forgotten Tales of the Brothers Grimm,  in the The Public Domain Review

 The illustration of Beauty and the Beast is by Walter Crane.


 Inside Those Secret Forests, Caves, and Seas...

"These were the 'last echoes of pagan myths...A world of magic is opened up before us, one which still exists among us in secret forests, in underground caves, and in the deepest sea, and it is still visible to children...(Fairy tales) have existed among the people for several centuries.' And what we find inside those secret forests, caves and seas...(are) fairy tales full of families, full of parents who bequeath a sense of self to children, full of ancestors and heirs whose lives play out, in little, the life of a nation from its childhood to maturity."

-- Wilhelm Grimm quoted by Seth Lerer in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter. 

Illustration from Pekka Halonen's painting, Pioneers In Karelia


The TN Safety Spotters 

The TN Safety Spotters, dogs from Memphis, TN, are Deaf Therapy Dogs who travel the Mid-South with owner, trainer, and handler, Paricia Bell. All the Spotters are rescued dogs.

TN SZafetySpotters"TN Safety Spotter’s goal is to significantly reduce the number of dog bite injuries and fire deaths in children using deaf therapy dogs as educational tools and teaching aides in Fire Safety and Dog Bite Prevention programs...

"The Spotters visit schools, libraries, hospitals, Fire Stations, camps and special events"...they are an excellent example of a dedicated dog lover finding multiple ways to help children and adults through their therapy dogs. The fact that the latest scientific research shows 30% of Dalmatians are born deaf has not deterred Patricia Bell nor her dogs 


Who were the Snow Valley Heroes?

Did they really save Christmas? The question has been asked by children and adults for many years. And there have been many who tried to answer these questions.

Northern lights-397KBThe confusion and uncertainty is because the Snow Valley Heroes came from the Planet Of The Dogs long, long ago.This is the true story of how the dogs saved Christmas, told for the first time in many years.

"Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, represents the age-old struggle between good and evil, and the fight to save the Spirit of Christmas–told in a format children can comprehend.  My 10-year-old son was excited to see a new Planet of the Dogs book arrive in our mailbox..I give this Christmas treasure a rating of five stars."  -- Charyl Miller Pingleton, The Uncommon Review

For sample chapters, please visit our website: Planet Of The Dogs 



We have free reader copies of the Planet Of The Dogs series  for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you the books.  

Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, SnowForest2Amazon, Powell's and many more.

Planet Of The Dogs is now available in digital format at

Barnes and NobleAmazonKoboOysterInkteraScribdTolino   

Librians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount. 

To read sample chapters of the series, visit Planet Of The Dogs. -

 The illustration, above, from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty.


The Skies Have Clouded Over

Game-of-Thrones-Kayak-Easter-Eggs"Disquiet about fairytales has become rather more widespread...Dislike of shallow promises and easy solutions in times of war, eco-disaster and other horrors have grounded fairytales; the escapist stories have become lenses through which difficult truths are inspected. Children around the world continue to grow up with the magic of fairytales in books, and to relish the multiple ways they are adapted, updated and put on to stage and screen. But the “realisation of imagined wonder”, which JRR Tolkien saw as the aim of the genre, isn’t always bright and shiny any more; its skies have clouded over..."

From: How Fairy Tales Grew Up by Marina Warner in the Guardian

The picture is from the TV show Game Of Thrones


Dark Dystopia 

DestructionFinalA Global Event HungerGames:Mockingjay2 is opening on November 18-20 worldwide after a premiere in Paris on November 9th. The first three Hunger Games films have grossed nearly two billion dollars. The films came from the Hunger Games book series by Suzanne Collins; over fifty million books have been sold.

This is another huge crossover phenomenon.

The Hunger Games films have also become an example of what Marina Warner refers to when she writes, "the escapist stories have become lenses through which difficult truths are inspected.

Mockingjay2 will see Katniss Everdeen on a quest to unite and liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem and destroy the evil President Snow. Hi-tech danger, mortality and moral choices are all part of the challenge.

Here is a link to the trailer for   Mockingjay2  


Pan Has Crashed

The disappointing reviews discouraged me from seeing Pan. Here is an except of the NY Times review by AO Scott (whom I respect), and a review/analysis from the entertainment world by Brent Lang in Variety.

PAN Poster2015"Peter Pan, who flew through the air in a costume, was in many ways a prototype of the modern superhero. He has certainly been a lucrative entertainment franchise for a very long time, with durable merchandising potential, from feathered hats to peanut butter. All of which may help to explain the otherwise baffling existence of “Pan,” a hectic and labored attempt to supply the boy who never grew up with an origin story.

 The dominant emotion in 'Pan' is the desperation of the filmmakers, who frantically try to pander to a young audience they don’t seem to respect, understand or trust."  AO ScottNYTIMES; "



Peterpanprogramme_hultonarchivePan” was supposed to provide a fresh spin on the oft-told tale of the boy who could fly, but the pricey epic remained earthbound last weekend, opening to an anemic $15.3 million.

That disastrous start guarantees it will rank alongside other costly misses like “Jupiter Ascending” and “Tomorrowland” as one of the year’s biggest box office disasters. With an $150 million price tag, Warner Bros. could lose tens of millions on a film it hoped would kick off a new fantasy franchise.

When the dust settles and studio executives comb through the wreckage for clues about what doomed the adventure film, it appears that it will suffer from two fatal and seemingly contradictory flaws. “Pan” was both overly formulaic and too wild a deviation from J.M. Barrie’s beloved children’s classic to succeed." ,  Variety 


The Hollywood Movie Meeting - How Movies Get Made

The following transcript was taken from a meeting of executives of a major Hollywood film company. The meeting is already in progress...

Executive #1: Should we produce this film?

Executive #2: Well, here's a Synopsis: It opens when the mother dies and the bereaved father, a merchant, remarries. His lovely daughter now has a cruel stepmother with two ugly daughters and they all abuse the girl. Her only friends are birds and a magic tree. That's act one. Now in act two...

Executive #3: What happens to the father? He just stands around while they abuse the kid?

Executive #2: He has to travel for his work. He's away a lot.

Executive #2: Act two better be good after that start.

Executive #1: I wanna hear Act two. I heard Disney made a lot of money with this.

Executive #2: In Act two we meet a handsome Prince who is planning a big party.

Executive #3: Why are we even talking about this if Disney already made it?

Executive #1: Maybe, we can  make some changes.

Executive#3: Changes? What kind of changes?

Executive #1: Maybe we can we change it to Christmas? We need a new flick for Christmas and at least this is based on a winner from the past. And we'll change the name...call it Cindy's Happy Holiday!

Executive #3: That's a helluva idea. What's next?

To Be Continued... 


How to Change the World in 30 Seconds 
A Web Warrior's Guide to Animal Advocacy Online by C A Wulff 

Arielchange world3edAlthough you may want to help animals, you may not have any idea where to begin. Or maybe you think that you don’t have enough time to make a difference. This guide will offer practical steps to get started using dog advocacy as the focus and will explain how just thirty seconds a day on the Internet can not only make a difference, but can also change the world.
Here is a review..."Combining case histories with practical tips on how to use the Internet to advocate for dogs, Wulff's book is an inspiring, informative and highly useful volume that anyone who thinks dogs are worth fighting for should have on their shelf."
John Woestendiek, author of 'Dog, Inc.' and the website ohmidog!

Read sample chapters of How to Change the World in Thirty Seconds: Amazon
An Outstanding Program: Therapy Reading Dogs for At-Risk Students!
BowwowlogoADA"Austin Dog Alliance Bow Wow Reading Dogs are non-judgmental certified therapy dogs who listen to at-risk students reading aloud.  The dog's handler has been educated on how to help at-risk readers learn to read. Many of our Bow Wow Reading dog volunteers are retired teachers or principals.
Here are the requirements for BowWow therapy reading dog handlers:
  • BowWowADA2Must enjoy children; Love to read!; Have a willingness to get to know the children, understand their challenges and remember small things about them; Have compassion for and sensitivity to the hesitant and reticent child; Patience with over-active children; Possess patience with repetitive reading of the same book; Have the ability to discern age with reading abilities and related activities; Are flexible and have the ability to 'go with the flow'; Are a retired teacher or principal or have attended a seminar on how to help at-risk readers."

Read more about this wonderful therapy reading dog program at Bow Wow Reading Dogs:

Texas Textbooks: McGraw-Hill changes slaves to immigration workers in High School textbook

McGrawHillEducationHOUSTON — "Coby Burren, 15, a freshman at a suburban high school south of here, was reading the textbook in his geography class last week when a map of the United States caught his attention. On Page 126, a caption in a section about immigration referred to Africans brought to American plantations between the 1500s and 1800s as 'workers' rather than slaves. 

He reached for his cellphone and sent a photograph of the caption to his mother, Roni Dean-Burren, along with a text message: 'we was real hard workers, wasn’t we'..."

Read it all in the article by  and  NY Times Motherlode


Beasts of No Nation 

The post that follows is about a book and a film outside the usual purview of this blog.
I have included it because of the subject matter, a young boy caught in the savage chaos of the real world today, and because it relates to the world of war, fear, and painful uncertainty of the past. Oral tales, that live on today as tales of wonder, originated in a hard world where ruthless power reigned and cruelty, superstition and hard times dominated daily life for most people.
BeastsBoyAnd so, I have posted below about a book, Beasts of No Nationby Uzodinma Iweala, and a movie made from the book, that tells the story of A Boy Soldier's Heart Of DarknessThis is the title of Simon Baker's book review of Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala. Here is an excerpt: 

"In a young child's life, few games can equal hide-and-seek: the excitement of crouching in a secret place as the pleasure of remaining at large vies with the thrill of possible discovery. The problem comes when a game like this turns serious -- when, say, the people you're hiding from want not just to find you but to hack you to pieces." 

Here is a link to read all of the NY Times Book Review by Simon Baker

The Movie Wants Us To Look At That Moment Square In The Face

"The movie holds on to a fair chunk of the book’s first-person narration, which is critical, because it establishes Agu as a character with his own thoughts and ethics rather than merely a shellshocked onlooker. There comes a moment when the boy has to cross the line
BeastsofNoNationfrom theory to action — from training to murder — and 'Beasts of No Nation' wants us to look that moment square in the face. It is awful, it has happened and is happening still, and for once you aren’t able to turn the page or switch to another channel. And then the movie invites us to wonder what happens to the child who is now a murderer. 'It is the worst sin, but it is the right sin to be doing,' Agu tells himself, but that lie doesn’t last. Before long, he is begging the sun to stop shining on this world."

It took courage and great commitment by the brilliant young American director Cary Fukunaga to make this film. Netflix has released the film simultaneously in theaters and on the Internet. Over 3 million viewers in North America have seen Beasts of No Nation since its release on October 16.

Here is a link to Ty Burr's review in the Boston Globe.

Here is a link to the t
railer for the movie: Beasts of No Nation  

 The Amazing Sesame Street
KJ Dell'Antonia, in a very informative NY Times Motherlode article, wrote about a very special new Sesame Street initiative  -- Julia, an autistic little girl. Here are excerpts:

Autismstorybookcover"Sesame Street got so many things right with its new character, Julia, an orange-haired girl with autism whose eyes never quite meet the reader’s. Introduced in a digital storybook available online and in print, Julia is described as an old friend of Elmo’s. When Elmo’s muppet friend Abby meets Julia, she is confused, and she has questions. Julia doesn’t talk to her right away, does that mean Julia doesn’t like her? Why does Julia get so upset over loud noises?

And then there are the things Abby doesn’t comment on — Julia knows every word to a lot of songs. She spins the wheels of toy cars over and over and over again, and flaps her arms when she is excited. She is a recognizably different (and recognizably autistic) without being overwhelmingly so… children with autism can find themselves in her, and children learning about the condition can start here.

Sesame Workshop based Julia on years of research, says Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s vice president of outreach and educational practices. “We wanted to demonstrate some of the characteristics of autism in a positive way,” she says. The choice of gender was also deliberate. “We wanted to break down some of the myths and misconceptions around autism. It’s not only impacting boys, but girls as well...”

 Here is a link to read all of this insightful article on Motherlode 
Here is a Sesame Street link to their many programs devoted to autistic and/or special needs children. 

Sunbearsquad-logoHow to be a volunteer animal rescue transport driver...

"Over-filled animal control facilities or pounds euthanize an estimated 4 million dogs and cats each year...

Each weekend in America, an army of volunteer rescue transport drivers deliver dogs and cats to safety in an organized relay of vehicles. Hard-working volunteer transport coordinators plan the logistics, organize the four-legged passengers, and provide support by phone continuously during the entire one- or two-day operation. Drivers sign up for relay "legs" via e-mail. They meet the previous leg drivers at an appointed time, transfer the lucky dogs and cats to their vehicles, and drive to the next relay meeting spot where the process is repeated until the destination is reached..."

Here is a link to read the rest of this informative Sunbear Squad article: Rescue.

And here is a link to sample pages of Deb Eades book: Every Rescued Dog Has a Tale: Stories from the Dog Rescue Railroad.
"The more one gets to know of men, the more one values dogs."
Alphonse Toussenel

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5. Crimson Peak

The first thing you notice about Crimson Peak is how deliberately, consciously old-fashioned it is.  This is a movie that starts with the camera zooming in on the cloth-bound cover of a book bearing the film's title, and whose scene breaks (chapter breaks, we should say) are signaled by irising in on a prop or a character's face, as if we were watching an old-timey silent film.  The second thing

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6. Last Chance - Half Price Offer Ends This Weekend!

This weekend is your last chance to take advantage of my special half-price deal, celebrating the launch of my online illustration workshop. 
This little trailer shows you the kind of thing I cover in the 7 lessons:

I am thrilled to bits with how it's recruiting and I already have two really lovely 5-star reviews on the class. Here are highlights from what my new students had to say:
"This is a terrific course. Lynne Chapman is an excellent teacher who knows how to make it seem easy and fun to draw. I am a retired illustrator, and I've been rather stuck in my ways of doing things but I have enjoyed learning Lynne's approach and it is giving me new inspiration. This is carefully planned and well presented. I recommend it. A five star course for artists young and old." 
" Lynne is so clear to listen to and really helpful. The homework seems really doable and the accumulated knowledge is applicable to all kinds of illustration regarding a younger audience"

Thank you guys for that smashing feedback. I'm so glad it the class is coming across so well!
So, click this link and you will get the class for 50% of the regular price. After tomorrow night, the link will still be there, but the discount will be reduced to $10 off. Have fun!!

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7. My Craftsy Character-Illustration Class is Here!!

Today is the day!! My Craftsy master-class, teaching you how to draw children's book characters, just went live, slightly ahead of schedule! To celebrate, you can get the class half price for the rest of this week from this blog post. Yep - Craftsy allow me to discount the class if I want. So what better time?

Last week I got a sneak preview of how it looks and am absolutely delighted with the way it's turned out. The editing guys have done a smashing job, splicing all the material together. There's me talking (okay, nothing new there says John...), plus all the various drawing demos that we filmed, lots of illustrations from my books, as well as various extra drawing tips with bits and bobs of graphics. 

Plus, Craftsy's clever, techy guys have had to build the whole background platform, because the workshop is not just a series of films. Oh no...

After each lesson, I set my students a homework project to do. Then, when they're done, they can post their work onto a gallery, for me and the other students to see. Great eh? Plus students can even ask me questions, if there's anything they need more help with.

Huge CONGRATULATIONS to Tami T, who was the winner of my prize draw. Well done Tami! Have fun. I look forward to seeing your characters :-)

If you were unlucky, don't worry: all is not lost! C
raftsy classes are very reasonably priced but if you are on a tight budget, get in quick while mine is super-duper-brilliant-value with my launch-week deal... 

The other brilliant thing about the workshop is that it does not have an expiry date. You can watch it as many times as you like, for as long as you want - once you sign up, everything is yours for good. And because you only need a pencil and paper, once you have signed up, it's not going to cost you anything extra at all.

I have tried really hard to pack all 7 of the lessons with tons of tips which should really help your character drawings, both of animals and people, but I've also done my best to make it a fun workshop to do. 

Please do let me know what you think. As this is my first venture of this kind, I'd really like to hear your feedback.

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8. The Martian

When coming to write about The Martian, Ridley Scott's space/disaster/survival movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, it's hard to resist the impulse to draw comparisons.  The Martian is perhaps best-described as a cross between Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity and Robert Zemeckis's Cast Away.  Its focus on the engineering challenges that survival on Mars poses for hero Mark Watney, and on the

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9. October- What Is Real? ...kids, books, movies, and dogs

Illustration for the Grimm's Golden Bird by Harry Jurgens
Mysteries,  unexplainable events, magic and wonder, have been woven into the fabric of life for most of the time we've been on this planet. One man's fox was also a prince; one princess' frog was also a prince; and a beast may be transformed into a handsome prince when a tear of love falls on his cheek. Fairy tales are the echoes of days gone by, when reality had many meanings.
Fairy Tale is a Country of the Mind

SONG-OF-THE-SEA_McLir"Impossible – absurd – enchantments define fairy tale as a form of storytelling, but the magic also gives expression to thought-experiments: the wicked fairy turning out to be capable of love, the Frozen princess thawed into humanity by her heroic sister’s staunchness and love. Fairy tale is a country of the mind made by imagery, by riddles and charms, spells and nonsense; it uses language to create imaginary structures in which language itself is supremely powerful: Rumpelstiltskin is undone when the heroine discovers his name..."

An excerpt from How Fairy Tales Grew Up, by author Marina Warner,  in the Guardian.  

The illustration from Song of the Sea is by Tomm Moore. 
DaughtersOfTheNorthernLightGerhard MuntheNorway6

Real and Unreal... 

White-BearKingValemonbyTheodorKittelsen(1912)Myths, legends and folktales from the past influenced writers and
artists in emerging cultures throughout most of Europe. Often inspired by the work of the brothers Grimm, Romantic Nationalism enabled cultures to define themselves through their heritage from the past. New identities were emerging from traditions and folktales from their often troubled past.  

This was certainly true in the Nordic countries -- Denmark, Finland,
Norway, and Sweden. I recently attended an exhibition in Helsinki at the Theodor Kittelsen dragon awakens
Ateneum, the national gallery, entitled The Magic North. Much of the art depicted folk tales, fairy tales, and legends. Here is an excerpt from their program: 

"The Magic North exhibition presents Norwegian and Finnish art from the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this era, artists embraced themes such as their own countries imagined past, experiences of nature, and fables and legends arising out of human weaknesses and strengths..."


ImagesThe Finnish Kalevala, an epic collection of folk tales, memorized and sung by rune singers, were preserved in the vast reaches of the forest lands of Finnish Karelia. They were collected by Elias Lonrott, who traveled for years, until he organized and published the Kalevala in 1835. A second edition, an extended version of 22,900 verses appeared in 1849. Dating back centuries, the Kalevala was a prime factor in igniting a cultural renaissance -- a search for national identity --  in all the arts in Finland. 

Immersing  myself in the The Magic North exhibition, experiencing the influence of the Brothers' Grimm and the power of the past expressed by passionate artists, was a wondrous experience.The artists included Edvard Munch, Hugo Simberg, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Gerhard Munthe.

The illustration of the Daughters of the Northern Lights (top) is by Gerhard Munthe

The illustrations of the White Bear King, Valemon, and The Dragon Returns, are by Theodor Kittelsen.

The illustration from the Kalevala (bottom) is by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

The story of the White (Polar) Bear King was from a long folk tale collected and published by the Norwegian collector/writer, Peter Christen Asbjorrnsen (1882-1885). He published, with his partner Moe, over 100 Norwegian folk tales. They modeled their work on, and were inspired by, the Grimms.

Here is a trailer for an obscure film, the Polar Bear King, Valemon.


Witches Were Real 

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_Last_Judgment_(fragment_of_Hell)For centuries, witches were real in the minds of people in Europe and the USA.
If someone believes in witches, it becomes their reality.  
Witches could be casting spells, causing illness and strange behavior.
They must be avoided or punished... burned at the stake or hung by the neck.
It follows that witches, spells, and unexplainable events are an integral part of stories told as folk tales, fairy tales, and wonder tales.
Gretel, when pushing the witch into the oven, was not only saving her brother's life -- and her own -- she was doing what civilized society was doing...destroying the devil's emissary. 
 The illustration, a fragment of the Last Judgement, is by Hieronymus Bosch.

Puritan Reality

1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two Devil_dancesdogs for witchcraft. The sorcery materialized in January. The first hanging took place in June, the last in September; a stark, stunned silence followed. Although we will never know the exact number of those formally charged with having “wickedly, maliciously, and feloniously” engaged in sorcery, somewhere between a hundred and forty-four and a hundred and eighty-five witches and wizards were named in twenty-five villages and towns. The youngest was five; the eldest nearly eighty..." 

This is an excerpt from an article on The Witches Of Salem by Stacey Schiffin in the New Yorker
Secret Worlds Are Real
CoralineCarefulWhatYouWishForEverybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds... Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.” 
 Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You 
Here is a link to the turning point scene in Neil Gaiman's Coraline where she is confronted with making a choice between two worlds, two realities: Coraline  
A World of Fairy Tale Knowledge
The new edition of the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, is quite wonderful.
Comprehensive, easy to navigate, with information on all aspects of the world of fairy tales, from innovative creators like Jim Henson and Hayao Miyazake to authoritative entries on the classics from the Arabian Nights to Charles Perrault. 

OxfordCompanionFTalesZipesI was quite taken with extended overview articles of cutures with a strong fairy tale tradition. The list of countries is quite comprehensive, ranging from Britain and Ireland to the Slavic and Baltic Countries.
The articles throughout the Companion are well written and informative. The list of contributors and their credentials is inclusive and rather awesome. 
Jack Zipes, who edited this essential reference work, also provides an insightful and comprehensive Introduction which ranges through the centuries to modern times. In his introduction, Zipes writes that although the Companion includes contributions from many cultures, however, "The focus of this Companion is essentially on the literary formation of the Western fairy-tale genre and its expansion into opera, theater, painting, photography, and film, and other related cultural forms."
This is an essential book for all those with a serious interest in the world of Fairy Tales and their origins. It will be available in bookstores and on the internet on the first of November.
 Here's a link to read sample articles or to purchase: Oxford Companion
AmericanVetsTrainingProgramlong leash

 This is a photo of veterans participating in a 5 day in-residence training program at America's VetDogs Smithtown, NY, campus. America's VetDogs has received a Planet Dog Foundation Grant to help support a 3 year pilot program to study the differences that PTSD service dogs make in the lives of veterans.

Here is an excerpt from their website: "SERVICE DOG TRAINING PILOT PROGRAM

VeteranandhisService Dog"The Study: As part of this pilot program, America’s VetDogs has partnered with Western Kentucky  University to complete a professional three year study on the effects that PTSD service dogs will have on a veteran’s life. The study will help America’s VetDogs make changes to its curriculum and tasks to ensure that we are providing the best quality service dogs possible. America’s VetDogs also wants to be able to provide government agencies and the public with impartial evidence of the difference these dogs make for veterans, and foster understanding within their local communities of the issues faced by veterans with PTSD and how service dogs can help."
This is one of several wonderful programs that America's VetDogs provide at no cost to veterans and first responders by "placing specially trained assistance dogs to help them once again lead active, independent lives."
Here is a link to the America's VetDogs PTSD Service Dog Pilot Program


TomThumbWarwickGoble John's Reality

“I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?” 
― John Lennon

The illustration from Tom Thumb is by Warwick Goble


  Temp 2

Book Review of Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale,
by Don Blankenship, www.booksforkids-reviews.com 
Santa-397KBWhat would happen if someone kidnapped a couple of Santa's reindeer so that he could not deliver his presents on Christmas Eve? The dogs from The Planet of the Dogs have returned. After they had helped to save the hard working farmers of Green Valley from an invasion by the Stone City Warriors in Planet of the Dogs and then rescued two kidnapped children to prevent a war between the Stone City Warriors and the Black Hawk Tribes in Castle in the Mist, the dogs have another job. The evil King of the North, who was banished by the Tribe of the North and now lives in the forbidding Ice Castle, takes his vengeance by sending some of his Royal Guards to steal two reindeer from Santa Claus and thus stop Christmas. 

Daisy and Bean from Green Valley head north to help the dogs rescue Dasher and Dancer, and they meet a host of new friends in the process. But will they make it in time to save Christmas? All of the "Planet of the Dogs" books are well written. Not only are they fun to read but also they exhibit good attitudes and beneficial attributes on the part of the main characters so that good overcomes evil, sometimes in surprising ways. The short chapters are perfect to keep the attention of the target audience. Dog lovers will especially like these tales, but everyone else can enjoy them too. Snow Valley Heroes has the potential of becoming a favorite holiday story for both children and adults.
To read sample chapters, visit Planet Of The Dogs.
The illustration from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Story, is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty

Logofull bp Logo2_flatPreferredWe have free reader copies of the Planet Of The Dogs series  for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you the books.  

Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more.

Planet Of The Dogs is now available in digital format at

Barnes and NobleAmazonKoboOysterInkteraScribd, and Tolino.

SVH--cut-72 res-8x6cm-3 by 2.5 inchesLibrarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount. 

The illustration, from the cover of Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty.

To read sample chapters of the series, visit Planet Of The Dogs.
Plural Realities
MyNeighborToToro“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others?.." -- Phillip K. Dick
The illustration, from My Neighbor Totoro, is by Hiyamo Miyazake.
An Insightful Review from BookPleasures.com

"If you [also] love animals, I can guarantee you will adore this gem. The love Cayr and her
Bwtcoversamp_sm (2)friend, Dalene, have for these animals is clearly portrayed in this moving yet uplifting book. They are animal lovers with big hearts for not only domestic animals but for the waifs and strays too. I couldn't put this one down.

I thought it was an absolutely brilliant book, especially as I myself share the same passions as the author and her "life mate" have for animals.

This is a tale that will appeal to animal lovers and perhaps children too." --

 Here's a link to Amazon for more reviews: Born Without A Tail


We are having a new lotto... we are giving away 3 paperback copies of the second edition of Born Without a Tail.
To enter, please send an email to Books4DogLovers@gmail.com and place the word "entry" on the subject line.  


CatGreenHamCan A Classic Book Jacket Move?
Bending reality...Art director Javier Jensen puts movement (GIFS) into classic book jackets including Green Eggs and Ham, The Hobbit, and The Little Prince... I wonder what young readers think of this phenomenon...is it real?


A Hard Reality about Reading

LitWorld works in 14 countries around the world, and three sates in the USA, to bring literacy to children. Here, from the LitWorld website, is the Problem in the USA. 

WRADZa'atariSyrianRefugeeCampinJordanIn the 14 countries
 served by LitWorld outside the USA, the Problem is compunded.

Visit their website and read about the wonderful work they do: Link to LitWorld:

THE PROBLEM: "The millions of readers who complete elementary school reading below grade level are unable to read about the characters and plots written for their age group. The stories they can read are meant for a less mature audience. At best, they hide this by reading only in private. At worst (and most often) they simply give up reading altogether. Given the daily importance of reading in all aspects of life, lacking this crucial skill negatively impacts everything from academic performance to everyday communication.

BY THE NUMBERS: As many as 90 million teens and adults in America lack crucial literacy skills..."

This is a very hard reality. The photo was taken on LitWorld's World Read Aloud day in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan


Canine Therapy is Real HandsRose.4jpg

, an Australian Cattle Dog, has been an active therapy dog for 13 years at Tidewell Pallitive Care and Hospice.

I recently received a message with photos from Rose's owner, Susan Purser. We have been in touch for several years. I was moved by her message and the photos she sent wanted to share the following... 

"I was asked once what it was like to see so many hands reaching out for my dog, Rose. HandsRoseI hadn't really thought much about it, as she is such a giving Australian Cattle Dog and is continually searching for hands wanting to touch her.  I thought perhaps you might enjoy seeing some of these hands...aged hands, searching for memories and then sharing them with whispers in Rose's ear or while hugging her neck.  Soft spoken or without words, it doesn't get any better than watching this type of unconditional love."

HandsRose.5jpgRose doesn't understand future nor how long or short time is.  She does devote her total attention to these lovely people in their time of need.  She gives comfort that I can only observe and opens those ever so special memory doors that only she can enter...I am a facilitator and I do believe, if she could drive, she would not need me!  Pet therapy is such a special part of the people's lives and I am truly blessed to have entered this treasured space for just a little while and then I think, where have thirteen years gone?" 



Helsinki sep-oct-2013 027KidLitosphere has helped many readers find their way to these pages. Here is an excerpt from their home page...   

"Some of the best books being published today are children’s and young adult titles, well-written and engaging books that capture the imagination. Many of us can enjoy them as adults, but more importantly, can pass along our appreciation for books to the next generation by helping parents, teachers, librarians and others to find wonderful books, promote lifelong reading, and present literacy ideas."  
Here is a link to Kidlitosphere. 


 Movies -- PAN 

PAN is opening on Oct 9 in the USA; Oct 16 in the UK; it has already opened in Australia.

Advance reviews are mixed, some of them angry...I've read several and it sounds like the driving force was commercial success...Here are excerpts from Andrew Barker in Variety...

PAN Poster2015"Of all the recent big-budget studio films to re-imagine beloved children’s tales as garish, CGI-choked sensory overloads stripped of all whimsy or childlike wonderJoe Wright’s “Pan is certainly the most technically sophisticated...

There is perhaps no clearer illustration of “Pan’s” guiding principles than its treatment of pixie dust. In Walt Disney’s 1953 “Peter Pan,” the story’s best-known incarnation, pixie dust is a glowing substance that allows lucky children to fly high above the clouds. In “Pan,” pixie dust is the street name for Pixum, a rare, crystalline substance mined by slave labor from deep in the earth that, when smoked on an elaborate opium den-style apparatus, restores youthfulness to the user. (The film neglects to tell us its radioactive half-life or the side effects of recreational use, but perhaps those scenes are being saved for the director’s cut.).."

The story is a prequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. It borrows characters and much of it takes place in Neverland; the Darling Family never appear. 

The trailer looks exciting. Here is a link: PAN


The Reality of Five Senses


Famed animated film director Hayao Miyazaki is sponsoring a new children’s facility in a virgin forest on a small island 56 miles west of Okinawa Prefecture to encourage kids to enjoy nature through their five senses. Miyazaki's films include Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away.

About two and a half acres of forest are being provided by the town ofKumejima; Miyazake will cover the anticipated 2.5 million in construction costs.

The information for this post came from Kevin Melrose and the  Japan Times.


NewYork Public Library Childern's Literary Salon

Christopher Lassen <christopherlassen@bookops.org> of New York Public Library sent us a notice of a fascinating Children's Literary Salon (the Salons are ongoing and free) 

WinnieDisney3Movie2011On Saturday October 17th, our program will be "The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh". Join Kathryn Aalto (The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest That Inspired the Hundred Acre Woods) for a journey into one of the most iconic settings in children's literature: the Hundred Acre Wood, inspired by Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England. It is here where A. A. Milne lived and set the tender adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and his merry band of friends... 

The program will take place in the Celeste Auditorium (formerly South Court Auditorium) in the Stephen A Schwartzman Building of NYPL (5th Avenue & 42nd Street) at 2:00pm.


Sunbearsquad-logoSunbear Squad is a primary source of information for dog lovers...filled with information and guidelines, ranging from helping an abandoned dog to building a proper doghouse. Here is an excerpt from an article on Traveling By Car Or Truck With Pets by Edward Green, TruckersReport.com...

Taking the family pet along for the ride is a part of the vacation plans of families across the nation. These trips can be quite memorable and enjoyable—but only if you take the proper safety precautions for your animals. This guide will help you travel safely and comfortably with your favorite pet.

 Before You Travel

When you and your family are traveling, planning is essential to make sure you get everything packed and are fully prepared for your journey. Such planning is also a must when it comes to traveling with pets: Read the rest of this entry »


“The dog’s agenda is simple, fathomable, overt: I want. “I want to go out, come in, eat something, lie here, play with that, kiss you. There are no ulterior motives with a dog, no mind games, no second-guessing, no complicated negotiations or bargains, and no guilt trips or grudges if a request is denied.” 
― Caroline Knapp





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10. The Perils of Biopics: Life in Squares and Testament of Youth

The universe has conspired to turn my research work this summer into mass culture — while I've been toiling away on a fellowship that has me investigating Virginia Woolf's reading in the 1930s and the literary culture of the decade, the mini-series Life in Squares, about the Bloomsbury group and Woolf's family, played on the BBC and the film Testament of Youth, based on Vera Brittain's 1933 memoir of her experiences during World War One, played in cinemas.

I've now seen both and have mixed feelings about them, though I enjoyed watching each. Life in Squares offers some good acting and excellent production design, though it never really adds up to much; Testament of Youth is powerful and well constructed, even as it falls into some clichés of the WWI movie genre, and it's well worth seeing for its lead performance. 

The two productions got me thinking about what we want from biographical movies and tv shows, how we evaluate them, and how they're almost always destined to fail. (Of course, "what we want" is a rhetorical flourish, a bit of fiction that would more accurately be expressed as "what I think, on reflection, that I want, at least now, and what I imagine, which is to say guess, what somebody other than myself might want". For the sake of brevity, I shall continue occasionally to use the phrase "what we want".)

Testament of Youth is easier to discuss in this context, partly because it's a single feature film based (mostly) on one text and not a three-part mini-series depicting the lives of people about whom there are shelves and shelves of books. Though the filmmakers clearly read some of the biographies of Vera Brittain, as well as her diaries, and occasionally incorporate (or at least allude to) some of this material, the structure of the film of Testament of Youth is pretty much the structure of the book, even though the screenplay takes some massive liberties. (I expect the 1979 mini-series was able to be more faithful, since it had more time, but I haven't gotten around to watching it on YouTube, which is pretty much the only place it seems still to be available, never having been released on DVD.)

For any 2-hour movie of Brittain's memoir, massive liberties are unavoidable, and overall I think the filmmakers found good choices for ways to streamline an unwieldy text — 650 pages or so, with countless characters who constantly bounce from one locale to another.

I should admit here that I don't much like Brittain's book. Some of the war parts are compelling, and it's certainly important as a historical document, but it seems to me at least twice as long as it needs to be, and Brittain simplified the main characters to such an extent that I find it hard to care about any of them. For instance, when Roland, the great love of her life, dies, it's all supposed to be terribly sad and devastating and I just thought, "Finally! No more of that insipid pining and those godawful letters back and forth and that hideous poetry!" (Which is not to say that I wanted more of the slog of the first 100+ pages of the book with all the details of Oxford University's entrance exams.) Someone could create an abridgement of Testament of Youth, maybe reducing the book to 150 or 200 pages, and it would be vastly more interesting and compelling, because there really is some excellent material buried amidst it all. Concision was not among Brittain's writerly skills.

I am not the right reader for Testament of Youth, however. None of us are, really. The book became a bestseller for a number of reasons, but one of them was that readers could fill in its thin parts with their own memories, experiences, and griefs. What the film of Testament of Youth achieves is to evoke some semblance of the emotion that was, I expect, present in the book for its first readers, most of whom would have had memories of the war years, and many of whom would have suffered similar losses as those described by Brittain — losses both of loved ones and of a certain, more innocent, worldview.

The deaths in the film were, for me at least, far more powerful than the deaths in the book. One reason is the change in medium: the move from the words on a page to actors embodying roles. Deaths in books can be hugely powerful, of course (see A Little Life for a recent example), but Brittain's ability as a writer was not up to the task, at least in a way that would transfer beyond the experiences of people for whom the First World War was still an event that had defined important portions of their lives. The characters in the film are less idealized than in the book, more human. The screenplay by Juliette Towhidi creates situations, moments, and dialogue that allow the characters to live a bit more than they do in Brittain's narrative, where the characters are more asserted by the writer than dramatized. The acting by the men is generally good, and Taron Egerton is especially effective as Brittain's brother Edward. (Kit Harrington struggles a bit in the role of Roland, but it's a nearly impossible role, since its primary requirement is for the actor to make poetic mooning somehow alluring.) But I think the real reason this film of Testament of Youth ultimately succeeds at evoking some emotion and making us care about what we watch is that Alicia Vikander is a truly extraordinary actor. Her portrayal of Brittain manages to convey the important overall arc of the character: from naive, idealistic girl to war-hardened woman shattered not only by the events of the war but also by the deaths of all the men she most loved.

Life in Squares might have been saved by its performances as well, given the talent of the actors in the show, but they never get a chance to do much. Writer Amanda Coe tries hard to give focus to the story she wants to tell, but she was unfortunately undone by the limitations of time — three episodes of not quite an hour in length is simply too little for what Coe and the other filmmakers attempt, and the result is mostly thin and unaffecting. Coe does some great things with the material, but there's just not much for the actors to work with, because the scenes move forward so quickly that there's no chance to build up anything. It's a real waste, unfortunately, because the lead actors in the first two episodes, James Norton (as Duncan Grant) and Phoebe Fox (as Vanessa Bell), capture some of the energy, attraction, and personality of young Bloomsbury in ways I've never seen before. The mise-en-scene is important, too, and marvelously rendered, giving a sense of the physical world through careful attention to the detail of sets, props, and, especially, costumes. But it's a mise-en-scene in service to ... well, not much.

For anyone who doesn't know the intricacies of the personal relationships among the "Bloomsberries", Life in Squares must be terribly confusing, especially given the choice to have two sets of actors play the main characters: a younger group and an older one, with the older group seen in quick flashbacks in the first two episodes, then dominant in the third, which is set in the 1930s. (The BBC has a helpful guide to the characters on their website.) With so many people coming and going through the show, and only a handful of characters given more than a few lines, it's difficult even for a knowledgeable viewer to know who is who.

The best decision the show makes is to focus primarily on Vanessa Bell, a fascinating person who has too often been invisible in the pop culture shadow of her sister, Virginia Woolf, but who was really much more at the core of the Bloomsbury group than either Virginia or Leonard Woolf. Her life also exemplified the ideals and aspirations of the group — she was an artist, had an open marriage to Clive Bell (with whom she had two children), and had a child with Duncan Grant, who preferred sex with men but for whom Vanessa was about as close as a person can get to what might be thought of as a soul mate. Their lives included mistakes, prejudices, jealousies, and great grief, but nonetheless seem to me to have been quite beautiful.

The problem Life in Squares fails to solve is the problem of showing entire lives over a long period of time. This was a problem Virginia Woolf knew well, and tackled again and again in her novels. But the problem of narrative time in a movie is very different from the problem of narrative time in a novel, because cinema's relationship to time is different from that of prose narratives, as lots of filmmakers and film theorists have known (Deleuze's second Cinema book is subtitled "The Time-Image"). This is one of the big perils of biopics, since they seek to show the progression of a life, and yet cinema is usually at its best when taking a more focused, less expansive view. Some wonderful films have covered entire lives — Citizen Kane comes to mind, as does 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould — but most history-minded movies that take on such a large expanse end up feeling thin, especially if they try to tell the story in a fairly conventional way, as Life in Squares does. (For comparison: The Imitation Game can thrive in its utterly conventional, audience-pleasing form because its narrative is relentlessly straightforward and the history is simplified to fit the linear movement of the plot and the characters' desires. Life in Squares doesn't simplify the historical figures or events nearly so much, but it also doesn't find a form that fits what it seeks to depict.)

Actually, the problem for Life in Squares is that it can't decide quite what approach it wants to take — will it be fragmentary and impressionistic, or will it try to string events together in a more linear structure? Linear becomes impossible because there's just so much material, and thus the show has to skip over all sorts of things, but it still retains an urge for linearity that sinks it. (How much better it would have been to, for instance, show us just three days in the lives of the characters. Or to take a page from Four Weddings and a Funeral and base it on the weddings of Vanessa, Virginia, and Angelica and the days of the deaths of of Thoby Stephen, Lytton Strachey, Julian Bell, and Virginia. Or base it on particular art works. Or ... well, there are any number of possibilities.) Coe structures the story around the love lives of the characters, but there's too much else that she wants to throw in, and it all ends up a muddle that, sadly, too often domesticates people who, in reality, very much did not want to be domesticated.

What's worse, Life in Squares ultimately fails to show anything much of what's important about Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and the people around them — their contributions to culture. We see paintings around, we see the artists working now and then, and there are a few brief moments when we hear talk of books (Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, is, if I remember correctly, the only one we actually see, though there's some brief mention of The Years being a bestseller in the third episode). If not for the significant contributions to art, literature, and politics (hello there John Maynard Keynes, who gets maybe three lines in the whole show), these would not be especially noteworthy people, nor would there be much historical record of them. But more importantly, it's impossible to think of these people without their contributions to art, literature, and politics, because they lived for art, literature, and politics. (Well, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were less politically inclined than many of the others, but that's relative — the first biography of Leonard Woolf, for instance, was a political study.) Life in Squares does an admirable job of showing the truly radical sexual politics of the group, but it subordinates everything else to the personal relationships, which of course makes for easier drama, even if that drama is, as here, unfulfilling. But what it looks like and feels like and sounds like to devote your life to the things the Bloomsbury Group devoted their life to ... that isn't really here in a meaningful way.

(Is there a movie about a writer that gives a real sense of the writing life? Nothing comes immediately to mind. For artists, yes — Mr. Turner, Vincent & Theo — but the making of art is itself visual action. Carrington, which could almost be Life in Squares Episode 2.5, was better because it focused very closely on its two protagonists and allowed Lytton Strachey to talk to Carrington about books and Carrington to work on, and discuss, her art. It's still pretty flat as a movie, but it's earnest and Jonathan Pryce and Emma Thompson are quite good in their roles.)

Which brings me back to the original question: What do we want from biopics? Why was I excited to see a new film of Testament of Youth and a mini-series about the Bloomsbury Group? Why, even now, given all I've said especially about Life in Squares, am I glad these exist?

Partly, there's a sense of validation. It's a powerful feeling when mass culture recognizes the perhaps strange or esoteric thing you yourself obsess over. I watched the first episode of Life in Squares with a friend who only knows Virginia Woolf's name because he's seen her books around my house. He was bored by the show, but seemed amused by my ability to expound on the various relationships and histories of the characters flitting across the screen (and indistinguishable to him) — and in that moment, suddenly all of the work I've done this summer (not to mention the past twenty years of sometimes casually, sometimes obsessively reading in and around Woolf and her circle) felt somehow less ... hermetic. This, I could say, is something the wider world cares about, too, at least a little, at least superficially, at least...

It's possible that Life in Squares was a more fulfilling experience for me than for most viewers who know less about the characters and era. Not only could I figure out who was who, but I could also fill in the blanks that the show didn't have time or ability to dramatize. In that way, the show was, for me, pointillistic: my mind's eye filled in the space between the dots and extrapolated form from the individual moments of color.

Knowledge of the book of Testament of Youth is not necessarily helpful for the movie, because the film takes so many (mostly necessary) liberties that it's likely the knowledgeable viewer will become distracted by thinking about where the book and movie diverge. Both Testament and Life in Squares suffer from common problems of biopics, particularly name-dropping and random, obligatory cameos. Characters in Life in Squares constantly have to say each other's names because there are so many of them and they're all so quickly dealt with. Large historical moments must of course be alluded to in dialogue. And then important people must at least show up — there's a pointless moment with Vita Sackville-West in Life in Squares, for instance, and the presence of Winifred Holtby in Testament of Youth is only explicable because Holtby was so important in Brittain's life; but she gets so little time in the movie that she feels like she's been airdropped in at the last moment, and the portentousness of her announcing herself is never really dealt with. This brings me back, as ever, to the wonder that is Mr. Turner — director/writer Mike Leigh in that film and in his other historical movie, Topsy Turvy, avoids this sort of thing, because he knows that a movie is not a history book, and that what matters is not so much who people are as what they do and how they behave with each other.

What do we want to be accurate in our biopics ... and why? Does it matter if three minor characters are melded into one? Does it matter if chronologies are rearranged or simplified? Does it matter if people are put into places where they never were? "Well, it depends..." you say. Depends on what, though? I want to say that it depends on the ultimate goal, the effect, the meaning.

For me, the only changes that feel like betrayals are ones that distort the personality of characters I care about. Both Testament of Youth and Life in Squares do pretty well on that count, which is why, for all my grumbling, I was overall able to enjoy them and feel not great animosity toward them. I wish that the makers of each had been more imaginative, certainly — Life in Squares needed more imagination in order to come alive and feel vital, while Testament falls into too many clichés of the WWI story (plenty of which are directly from Brittain's text, which is why circumventing them requires significant imagination) and adds a couple of credibility-straining coincidences (particularly with Edward in France). If the Vera Brittain of the movie is a bit less naive and jingoistic at first than the real Vera Brittain was as a girl and the textual Vera Brittain is in the book, there is still a strong sense of her development in the film and, especially, in Vikander's performance, which begins with idealistic energy and ends with something far more profound.

In the end, I suppose what I want from biopics is a sense of the ordinary moments of extraordinary lives and the emotional realities of worlds gone by. This is something that drama in general can give us, and that cinema can give us especially well, with the camera-eye's ability to zoom and focus and linger and look. I got a sense of all that now and then in Life in Squares, especially when it calmed down and didn't try to squeeze so much in — I got a sense (imaginary, of course, but real in the way only the imaginary can be) of why everybody who ever met him seems to have fallen in love with Duncan Grant, and why Vanessa Bell was such a bedrock of the group, and what, in some way, it maybe felt like to wander those rooms and landscapes when they were not museums but just the places these people lived.

Testament of Youth offers a bit more, and also shows some other virtues of the historical or biographical film — it enlivened the material for me, and I returned to the book with a certain new appreciation, a new ability to find my way into it, to care about it and to imagine how its first readers cared about it.

The cinema fell upon its prey with immense rapacity, and to this moment largely subsists upon the body of its unfortunate victim. But the results are disastrous to both. The alliance is unnatural. Eye and brain are torn asunder ruthlessly as they try vainly to work in couples. The eye says: 'Here is Anna Karenina.' A voluptuous lady in black velvet wearing pearls comes before us. But the brain says: 'That is no more Anna Karenina than it is Queen Victoria.' For the brain knows Anna almost entirely by the inside of her mind -- her charm, her passion, her despair. All the emphasis is laid by the cinema upon her teeth, her pearls, and her velvet. Then 'Anna falls in love with Vronsky' -- that is to say, the lady in black velvet falls into the arms of a gentleman in uniform, and they kiss with enormous succulence, great deliberation, and infinite gesticulation on a sofa in an extremely well-appointed library, while a gardener incidentally mows the lawn. So we lurch and lumber through the most famous novels of the world. So we spell them out in words of one syllable written, too, in the scrawl of an illiterate schoolboy. A kiss is love. A broken cup is jealousy. A grin is happiness. Death is a hearse. None of these things has the least connection with the novel that Tolstoy wrote, and it is only when we give up trying to connect the pictures with the book that we guess from some accidental scene -- like the gardener mowing the lawn -- what the cinema might do if is were left to its own devices. 
—Virginia Woolf, "The Cinema", 1926

Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant

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11. August -.Happy Endings, books, kids, movies and dogs


Tales of wonder usually have happy endings. They may have danger and darkness, forbidden places and strange creatures, witches and cruel magic...but wonder tales -- fairy tales -- do have happy endings...with very few exceptions. The journey may be fearsome, but salvation and awakenings occur in the end...and these stories endure forever.


Beauty, Horror, and Ignition Power...

CoverEnchantedHuntersEnchanted Hunters, The Power of Stories in Childhood by Maria Tatar, takes the reader on a wonderful journey through children's literature.

In the chapter entitled, Beauty , Horror and Ignition Power, she writes about the effect of wonder tales on the imagination of children, including the balance between the dark side and positive endings. Here are excerpts..."We rarely worry about the effects of beauty, but horror is another matter...with an allure all its own, horror has the power to frighten as well as to fascinate...how much do we want children to find in their stories and how soon?..." 

Tatar then illustrates the idea of too much horror with "Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Girl Who Trod On The Loaf', a tale that revels in torturing Inger, the 'girl' in the title." Tatar then writes, by contrast. of three classic tales  where all ends well. 

 "RRHVogelBy contrast,'Little Red Riding Hood', 'Hansel and Gretel', and 'Snow White' begin with the child as victim, but they end with the triumph of the underdog and the punishment of the villain. 'Children know something they can't tell; they like Red Riding Hood and the wolf in bed' Djuna Barnes once declared. Fairy tales and fantasy enact perils and display horrors, but they always show a way out, allowing children to explore great existential mysteries that are far more disturbing when they remain abstract and uncharted rather than take the concrete form of the story."

The illustration of Little Red Riding Hood is by Hermann Vogel.


The Defining Dynamic of the Fairytale      

Amanda Craig,is an acclaimed British novelist,  journalist, and  children's book reviewer. The following excerpt is from her insightful review of Marina Warner's "Once Upon A Time, A Short History of the Fairy Tale", in the Guardian   

TomThumbWarwickGoble"One of the most interesting aspects of reworking fairytales is that it tends to be practised by idealists and reformers, whether devout Christians, such as CS Lewis, or socialists, such as JK Rowling. The defining dynamic of the fairy tale is optimism (as opposed to the tragic tendencies of the myth), but this has encouraged bowdlerisations from the dark and gruesome aspects of many originals – Dickens hated the way the illustrator George Cruikshank softened stories, the brothers Grimm tinkered to “excuse the men and blame the women”, and the ambiguity of the fairytale led to them being twisted into Nazi propaganda, with Little Red Riding Hood being saved from a Semitic wolf.

Happily, they have also been transmuted by modern feminism: Neil Gaiman’s striking novella, The Sleeper and the Spindle... conflates and subverts Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into a tale of female courage and choice..." Read it all in the Guardian   

The illustration from Tom Thumb is by Warwick Goble.


Where the Light is Golden...

SleepingChild“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or of shutting a book, did not end a tale. Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: "It is simply a matter," he explained to April, "of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.” ― Neil GaimanThe Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists

Illustration by Mike Dringenberg or Kelly Jones .


 Humane Society of Missouri

The Humane Society of Missouri helps more than 85,000 homeless, abused and unwanted animals each year. Here is their mission statement:

HumaneSocMOKids readtodogs"Since 1870, the Humane Society of Missouri has been dedicated to second chances. We provide a safe and caring haven to all animals in need - large and small - that have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Our mission is to end the cycle of abuse and pet overpopulation through our rescue and investigation efforts, spay/neuter programs and educational classes. We are committed to creating lasting relationships between people and animals through our adoption programs. We further support that bond by making available world-class veterinary care, and outstanding pet obedience and behavior programs..." 

Learn more about their work at www.hsmo.org.


 "Perfect for Me"


ParadeMisfitsBkCoverCayr"Wulff`s heartwarming stories about a household of misfit dogs, reminds me that family can include the four-legged variety, as well as the two-legged. Her simple affirmation that "My dogs are not perfect.... but they are perfect for me," guides the telling of these gentle stories. For dog lovers everywhere."
If you have not yet read "Born Without a Tail: the Making of an Animal Advocate" or "Circling the Waggins: How 5 Misfit Dogs Saved Me from Bewilderness", this mini ebook is the perfect introduction to the world of C.A.Wulff.  "Parade of Misfits" is only available in digital format. 

C.A. Wulff is an author, artist, and animal advocate. She has volunteered in animal rescue for more than 26 years and attributes her love of animals to having been raised by Wulffs.


Dr. Seuss’ ‘What Pet Should I Get?’

By MARIA RUSSO,in the NY Times. MS Russo writes an appreciation of the incredible Theodore Seuss Geisel, his wonderful books, and the new-found book, What Pet Should I Get? Here's an excerpt...

"First, though, the book itself: It features a round-faced brother and sister — his close-
WhatPetShouldIGetcropped hair is bristly on top, she has a long, wispy ponytail — who enter a pet store excited about the prospect of taking a new animal home. 'Dad said we could get one./ Dad said he would pay,' the boy exclaims. Inside, they confront a head-­spinning lineup of choices. Also, they don’t have much time — their mother has told them to be home by noon. A few pages into their predicament and again toward the end, the words MAKE UP YOUR MIND charge across the top of a two-page spread, each held aloft by a different invented Seussian creature — ­floppy-limbed, scruffy-coated, oddly proportioned, jubilantly weird. On one of those pages, the boy sums up the book’s central point in a deceptively innocent lament: 'Oh, boy! It is something to make a mind up!' ” 

Here is a link to read all of Russo's article: SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW

Here's a link to a delightful and informative Dr.Seuss Today Show  report on the new book, Theodore Geisel, his widow, his personal assistant, and his publisher.  



Winnie the PoohShepard Illustration

"To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks."

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.” 

“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
Even longer,' Pooh answered.” 

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.” 

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The illustration is by Earnest Shepard.

Rescuing Wonderful Shivery Tales

GrimmRackhamHanselGretel (2)

This is the title of Marina Warner's excellent and inclusive article in the NY Review of Books . Warner writes about contributions to the world of wonder tales and children's literature by Jack Zipes, Philip Pullman, Peter Wortman, and Maria Tatar. In the case of Tatar, she concentrates on her work in introducing, translating, and annotating the Turnip Princess, the tales collected by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth.

Here are excerpts from this informed and insightful article:  

"Jack Zipes has long been a staunch advocate of fairy tales and their proper study since his
book Breaking the Magic Spell (1979) issued a devastating blast against the wishful thinking of mass entertainment and shook the staid and soporific scene of folklore studies. To GrimmArthurRackhamKingThrushbeardinterpret the tales he has combined Marxism, feminism, cultural materialism, and even—for a short period—evolutionary biology. He has stirred readers with a similar passion for his material, while attacking the use of literary fantasy in movies and television to camouflage moral manipulation. Writers whom he admires—Jane Yolen, Terri Windling, and above all Angela Carter—and the films informed by their work have supplied countermodels to the sins of the dream factory. 

In the epilogue of the new critical collection, Grimm Legacies, Zipes, drawing on the work of the philosopher Ernst Bloch, once again argues that fairy tales are best understood as utopian thought experiments. When the peasant crushes the ogre, the poor lad finds justice; persecuted by malicious relatives, the kind sister gets her due, the courageous girl saves her beloved siblings or lover... 

Zipes is on a lifelong mission, as ardent as the Grimms’, to bring fairy tales into circulation for the general increase of pleasure, mutual and ethical understanding..."

The illustrations for the Grimm's Hansel and Gretel and King Thrushbeard are by Arthur Rackham.



By Don Blankenship, educator and reviewer for Good Books for Kids . This is an excerpt from his review of Castle In The Mist... 

20141128_183146_resized"This is the second book in the Planet of the Dogs series and I must say I enjoyed it, cover to cover. This work can be read as a sequel to Planet of the Dogs, an ideal situation, but can also be read as a stand-alone with no loss to the flow of the story. This read is suitable for children of approximately eight years and up as a reader, or can well be read to children much younger. Adults will love this one also; I know I did, but then I have my fare share of kid still in me...

The art work by Stella Mustanoja McCarty is of the same high quality that we found in the first book in this series (and we find in the sequel to this book also), and is a delight to the eye. These are a series of black and white drawing, probably enhanced by the use of charcoal, which fit the text perfectly. When you bring a skilled artist and writer together that know children and know their dogs, then you know you are in for a treat."

Read sample chapters of Castle In The Mist at our website: Planet Of The Dogs.

The photo, above, of the boy, Chase, and Rose, the therapy dog, are by Susan Purser. Susan and Rose bring hope and caring to many people, of all ages, from young readers to the ill and the aged.

We have free reader copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy CITM-frontcover-jpg-654x945dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you the books. 


Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

The  illustration and book cover are by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty. 


Pan In The Garden

"In many ways , modern children's literature remains an Edwardian phenomenon. This period defined the ways in which we still think of children's books and of
The Secret Garden Inga Moorethe child's imagination. During it's few years, this age produced a canon of authors and works that are still powerfully influential in the field...Our default mode of childhood, if you like, remains that decade or so before the first World War; the time between the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, and the assassination at Sarajevo in 1914, the time when writers looked back over loss and could only barely anticipate the end of the old order"

In the chapter "Pan In the Garden", Seth Lerer, in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter, writes of the impact of the Edwardian era on children's literature..."the years before the First World War in Britain and America were also years that socially and politically redefined childhood." 

Children's books written in the Edwardian era are known, even today, by many children:   The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), Peter Pan (JM Barrie), The Wind In the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) and more.

The cover illustration is by Inga Moore.



Laputa-castle-in-the-sky-"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." Albert Einstein



The illustration is from Miyazaki's Castle In The Sky.


Disney Got It Right in 2011-- After Previous Stumbles

According to Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of the critics (out of 127) liked the 2011 Disney production of Winnie the Pooh. Here is excerpt from the review by Michael DeQuina in Movie Report. 

WinnieDisneyMovieEyore2011..."the writing team and directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall make it work by never losing sight of the spirit of the characters, world, and Milne: imagination, innocence, and heaps of heart--best encapsulated by the bear's simple, moving gesture of friendship that so eloquently ties up the story, characters, themes and the enduring legacy that is Pooh."

Here's a link to the trailer: Winnie-the-Pooh



Maine has an organization - EmBrace A Vet -  that provides healing support with therapy Embrace a VetRetreatsservice dogs. They also provide retreats for groups of vets and their families. This is from their site:

"Embrace A Vet is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing direct and supportive services to these Maine Veterans and their families living with PTSD and/or TBI. Besides helping to save the lives of our veterans by providing love and hope through a new canine 'best friend', we also save the lives of many of the dogs who we adopt from shelters."

Embrace A Vet is the recipient of a $5,000 grant for their Paws for Peace Program. This funding, from the Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) will aid in the placement of 12 dogs with veterans in need,

Learn more about Embrace A Vet here. 

Here's a link to their new video


Reading Is Fundemental

Jessica Lahey, in the Motherlode section of the New York Times, wrote an excellent article on reading,literacy, and RIF. Here is an excerpt...

"Fortunately, Reading Is Fundemental (RIF), has been enriching children’s childhoods through the distribution of free books since 1966, when the founder Margaret McNamara resolved to give books to the children of Washington, D.C., children who may not
otherwise have the chance to own books. RIF delivered books into the hands of these ReadingIsFundementalchildren by way of their iconic Bookmobiles; magic vehicles of wonder that pulled right up to the schoolhouse door and invited children to select, and take home, books of their very own. In its first year, RIF gave 200,000 books to 41,000 Washington children, and by the time I stepped into my first Bookmobile in 1977, I was just one of 1.1 million children RIF served that year.

RIF’s vision has remained constant since Ms. McNamara handed out those first books: to
create “a literate America in which all children have access to books and discover the joys and value of reading.” 
While RIF promotes literacy for all children, its priority is to provide books to children in underserved and impoverished communities. Since 1966, RIF has given 412 million books to more than 40 million children, and today, it hands out 15 million carefully selected tomes each year.

Reading 2

Literacy is a prime predictor of student success, as well as a range of economic and physical well-being. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly half of the adult population, or 93 million Americans, read at or below the basic level needed to contribute successfully to society. Adults below this basic level of literacy are far more likely to be unemployed and live in poverty, while individuals who achieve higher levels of literacy are more likely to be employed, earn higher wages, and vote in state and national elections"...

Here's a link to read it all: Motherlode 



Go Ask Alice

Anthony Lane,in an effervescent New Yorker article, wrote about Lewis Carrol, the Alice books, the world of nineteenth century Oxford,and several biographies in what Lane calls the Carrolllian maze. Here is an excerpt from this fascinating article...
AliceGrownBigTenniel"Conversations about what is real, what is possible, and how rubbery the rules that govern such distinctions turn out to abound in the tales of Alice. Yet they are sold as children's books, and rightly so. A philosopher will ask how the identity of the self can be preserved amid the ceaseless flow of experience, but a child -- especially a child who is growing so fast that she suddenly fills the room -- will ask more urgently, as Alice does, "Was I the same as when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little a little different" Children, viewed from one angle, are philosophy in motion."

 After I had prepared this post, I found that it was already posted by Maria Tatar on Breezes From Wonderland. Tatar has since added more about Alice including information about a new Annotated Alice by Mark Burstein and other news about 175 translations worldwide.  

Here is a link to Grace Slick singing White Rabbit at Woodstock (August 1969)

The illustration of Alice is one of ninetytwo by John Tenniel for Lewis Carrol's books.




 A Rose Is Not a Rose...

This excerpt is from a fascinating article by Marina Warner in the Guardian

"A fairytale doesn’t exist in a fixed form; it’s something like a tune that can migrate from a symphony to a penny whistle.

Or you can compare it to a plant genus, to roses or fungi or grasses, that can seed and root and
SleepingBeautyJennieHarbourflower here and there, changing species and colour and size and shape where they spring. But if the prevailing idea of an archetype gives too strong an impression of fixity, the picture-language of fairytale is fluid and shapeshifting: a rose is not a rose, an apple not an apple; a princess or a villain signify far more than what they seem. A dictionary of fairytale would look more like a rebus made up of icons: snow, crystal, apples, dark forests, pinnacled castles, mermaids, toads, giants, dragons, sprites, fair princesses, likely lads and crones.

The symbolism comes alive through strong contrasts and sensations, evoking simple, sensuous phenomena that glint and sparkle, pierce and flow, by these means striking recognition in the reader or listener’s body at a visceral depth (gold and silver; diamonds and rubies, thorns and knives; wells and tunnels). It’s an Esperanto of the imagination, and it’s available for any of us to use – in almost any medium..." 

The painting of Sleeping Beauty is by Edward Burne Jones. The illustration is by Jennie Harbour.



TomThumbDäumlingThe Society of Bloggers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature 

I highly recommend Kidlitosphere as a source for anyone interested in children's literature.

The following is excerpted from their site...

Some of the best books being published today are children’s and young adult titles, well-written and engaging books that capture the imagination. Many of us can enjoy them as adults, but more importantly, can pass along our appreciation for books to the next generation by helping parents, teachers, librarians and others to find wonderful books, promote lifelong reading, and present literacy ideas.

The “KidLitosphere” is a community of reviewers, librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, Frog kingpublishers, parents, and other book enthusiasts who blog about children’s and young adult literature. In writing about books for children and teens, we’ve connected with others who share our love of books. With this website, we hope to spread the wealth of our reading and writing experience more broadly...

KidLitosphere Central strives to provide an avenue to good books and useful literary resources; to support authors and publishers by connecting them with readers and book reviewers; and to continue the growth of the society of bloggers in children’s and young adult literature...here is a link to read more. 

Welcome to our world.

The top illustration is of of Tom Thumb. The bottom illustration is of the Frog King.


There's magic, wonder, and exceptional animation here...I SongOfTheSealearned of this film, when I received this message from Joy Ward (author of exceptional dog books)..."There is an absolutely gorgeous animated movie out right now. It's Song of the Sea by an Irish team. Lovely story about o little boy and his selkie sister. Wonderful for everyone!"
The film reviewers have been uniformly enthusiastic. Here is an excerpt from Leslie Felperin in the Guardian: "Song of the Sea blends Celtic legends, bravura design and animation, and intelligent storytelling that understands but never patronises young viewers, to create an exquisite and rewarding work ..."   Here is a link to the trailer: Song Of The Sea


No Dark Deeds Here

This excerpt of the review by Jo Williams in the St Louis Post-Dispatch, sums up the Minions, a movie for the very young.

Minions2"If you’re old enough to read a movie review in a newspaper, you’re too old to fully appreciate “Minions.” Ditto if you’re old enough to read the menu at a fast-food joint, the height requirements at an amusement park or the price tag on a shiny yellow toy. This spinoff of the “Despicable Me” cartoons is like a pre-verbal version of “Inside Out,” all coos and colors and cute facial expressions. Tiny tots will eat it up like jelly beans. But what about their bigger siblings and baby-sitters? Will they be trapped on a sugar-rush cycle with no hope of escape?

Yes, but … The mad scientists at Dreamworks have scrubbed this ’toon of anything that might scare or challenge the target audience"... 

Here is the trailer: Minions


The Dog Rescue Railroad...

EveryRescued DogHasTaleCoverSeveral years ago, I read Deb Eades book, Every Rescued Dog Has a Tale, and first learned about the nationwide network of volunteers who are "rescuing dogs from certain deaths in kill shelters and then being driven by dedicated animal lovers to a new life in another state."

Deb Eades was one of these volunteers, and her book is filled with touching first-hand stories of rescuing dogs and driving them to a place where another volunteer takes over and drives the next leg of the rescue journey. Or, sometimes, actually driving the rescued dog(s) to their new home.


Sunbearsquad-logoSunbear Squad...

Sunbear Squad is a mainstay in dog rescue. Here is an excerpt from their site:

"Each weekend in America, an army of volunteer rescue transport drivers deliver dogs and cats to safety in an organized relay of vehicles. Hard-working volunteer transport coordinators plan the logistics, organize the four-legged passengers, and provide support by phone continuously during the entire one- or two-day operation. Drivers sign up for relay "legs" via e-mail. They meet the previous leg drivers at an appointed time, transfer the lucky dogs and cats to their vehicles, and drive to the next relay meeting spot where the process is repeated until the destination is reached..."

To read the entire article follow this link: Rescue 

"All knowledge, the totality of all questions and answers, is contained in the dog." -- Franz Kafka, Investigations of a Dog

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12. People-Sketching Book: My Last Few Weeks!

Goodness: the deadline for the book has suddenly jumped out of the bushes and is frantically waving its arms at me! I have until August 20th to get everything done. It's about a month, but counting only the free days I have to work on it, it's actually 3 weeks. Trouble is, that is also the only remaining time I have to prepare for filming the Craftsy class too - same deadline. Yikes. 

I clearly need to get my skates on. I hate to be so busy when it's summer though. I spent last Sunday working at my computer with the blinds down, while other folks were prancing around in the sunshine. Sob.

I have gone through the design layouts for almost all the book now. There are about a dozen new images to scan, because of rejigging the content at the design stage, then I have to choose sketches I want to feature as full page images for each of my chapter-header pages. It's hard to do that without having a proper overview of the content, so Quarto are about to send me a definitive version of what we have done so far. 

Once the final sketches are scanned, I will at last be able to get rid of all the sketchbooks piled around the studio. I'm really looking forward to a good tidy up.

There are still a few little bits of text that need doing: extra sections that have appeared as we have made changes (it has been very much a project that you have to allow to evolve as it goes along). That won't take long though. The main job left is all the step-by-step drawings dotted through the book. 

I am going to do some of them live to camera, so we can choose stills from the film to use to illustrate stages of the process. It's a wee bit scary, to be honest. I am going down to London to sort that out in a fortnight. We have 1.5 days to work on the filming and sort any photography, like taking pictures of all the elements of my sketching kit for instance.

Right. Back to it...

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13. Craftsy Illustration Workshop: Meeting my Producer

Remember the Craftsy online-workshop I was invited to run on How to Design Children's Book Characters? Well, last month, my outline got the go-ahead (yeh!), so I have now moved onto the next stage, fine-tuning the content.

The company are extremely professional and organised, which is great, as it fills me with confidence that they will get the best out of me (and help to make it look like I know what I am talking about!). They have a huge team of people working on all aspects of the process. First of all, I was commissioned by the Acquisitions Editor, who talked me through the framework of the workshops and advised me while I put together the outline and organised it into 7 similar length lessons of approx 15 - 20 minutes each. Now I have started to go through the lesson plans in detail with a Producer. 

My producer called me from Denver last week and we talked for about 45 minutes about what happens next. He asked me to devise 'homework' projects to follow each of the 7 lessons. I also have to make a list of all the materials I will need and all the materials my students will need. The biggest job though is to time myself, to make decisions about which teaching points I am going to demo live and which I am going to talk through, using existing examples of my book illustrations - I can't demo everything as there is so much to teach and so little time.

I did the homework last week and have started making preliminary decisions about what book illustrations I think I am going to need to show on-screen. Next job is to hunt them out of the archive to send to my producer. Luckily, I still have the original digital scans of pretty much everything I have ever had published.

I have also just had an email from another member of the team: the Talent Coach. they are responsible for making sure I coming across well on screen. All very interesting stuff. I am so enjoying the wild variety of my work at the moment, what with this film, the urban sketching book, the residency, the school visits and of course my next picture book with Julia Jarman, which I start in October. 

What a lucky bunny I am!

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14. July - Threshold of Wonder, books, kids, movies, and dogs


Long ago, when folk tales were told by people in homes, in fields, in the marketplace and taverns, there were many stories of the forests.

Two out of three of the original 1812 Grimm Folk Tales are set in or involve the forest. 

The forests held beauty and danger, the known and the unknown, light and darkness. 

The forests were places of lost and abandoned children; homes of witches, elves, and dwarfs. They were the place where wondrous events occurred. 

The forests were a threshold of wonder.

The illustration is of Harry Potter seeing the Silver Stag.



The Forest - steeped in ancient myth and legend and infused with
spiritual meaning...

Justine Gaunt, in Woodlands.co.uk, writes of the underlying significance and symbolism of the forest found in the minds of ancient peoples and in their folk and fairy tales.

TomThumb2GustavDore"Anyone embarking upon the journey of exploring forest symbolism finds themselves, perhaps like Little Red Riding Hood waving goodbye to her mother at the garden gate, on a vast voyage punctuated with the joys and dangers of the psyche, steeped in ancient myth and legend and infused with spiritual meaning.

It is no accident that so many fairytale characters find themselves having to traverse danger-laden tracts of woodland. In a most practical sense, as the ancients dreamed up those stories and even when the oral traditions were finally written down in the middle ages and later, the lands of northern and western Europe were thick with woodland. The dangers were palpable: from rogues and bandits lying in wait for unsuspecting travellers to opportunistic wolves hungry for the kill...

As for Little Red Riding Hood, straying from the path and into the woods is similarly dangerous and filled with treachery. Symbolically, those who lose their way in the uncharted forest are losing their way in life, losing touch with their conscious selves and voyaging into the realms of the subconscious..."

 Here is a link to read all of this article about fairy tales and the forest

The illustrations of fairies and for the story of Tom Thumb are by Gustav Dore.


Fairy Tales Speak to the Secret Self


Tim Lott, who writes a Family Column for the Guardian wrote about the resonance and connection that the dark side of fairy tales have -- especially for kids - after taking his family to an interactive total immersion theater event based on Phillip Pullman's Grimm Tales...

"But why do these particular plots have such resonance for the audience? Bruno Bettelheim in
GrimmstheRobberBridegroomJohnBGruellehis study, The Uses of Enchantment, suggested that folk and fairytales that endure from generation to generation, speak to something deep in the reader’s unconscious – for instance, that these older tales legitimized the murderous and violent instincts that all children experience, freeing them from the guilt that such feelings generate...

Whether or not you believe in Bettelheim’s Freudian take on storytelling, it is unquestionable that the best stories have a profound resonance of the Grimm tales transparently address our darkest fears, but in a sense, all mythic storytelling is about addressing uncertainties and anxieties...

Archetypal stories, then, for adults and children – even the “simplest”, not usually thought of as “art” – are more than merely entertainment. The more they involve us imaginatively, the more they speak to the secret self. Without access to those ancient portals that lie within us all, and certainly lie within Grimm Tales, we may applaud the style, and the elegance and the sophistication of the storyteller. And in children’s stories... "

Here is a link that will connect you to the full article, Fairy Tales Are Not Just For FunGuardian

Both illustrations are for the Grimm's story, the Robber Bridegroom. The top one is by John Cruikshank; the lower on is by John Gruelle.



VetdogsLogoThe Planet Dog Foundation (PDF), Planet Dog's non-profit grant-making organization, is awarding $60,000 in new grants to twelve canine service organizations throughout the country.

"A PDF grant of $5,000 to America's VetDogs will support the training and placement of dogs for veterans being trained through their
VetDogOlderVetMassachusetts Prison Puppy Program.
Collectively, inmates from local facilities along with local volunteer weekend puppy raisers will train 40 future service dogs per program cycle to assist our nation's veterans with disabilities. The program not only raises the quality of life for wounded veterans and keeps them active in their communities, but also has a positive impact on the inmate population involved in the training."

America's VetDogs serves veterans from all eras, and first responders who have honorably served our country and community, by providing Guide Dogs, Service Dogs for Disabilities,, Service Dogs for PTSD, Hearing Dogs, and more...Click this link and
Learn more about America's VetDogs here. 


Save The Children

The devastating effect of war on children is seen in a brief video, Second A Day, produced by Save The Children.  Here is an excerpt from a report by Dion Dassannayake in the Express: 

"The moving clip starts with a child celebrating her birthday and follows her moment by Save-the-children1moment as war and conflict develops in the UK. 
The hard hitting clip shows London being turned into a war zone where rockets are fired at buildings in broad daylight and children wear gas masks. The powerful video ends with a moving shot of the young girl celebrating her birthday once again."

In just one minute and thirty three seconds, we are reminded of what is happening to multitudes of children today. Here is a link to YouTube- Second A Day


The Wonder of a New Fairy Tale

Pixar's Inside Out...Inside the Mind of an 11 Year Old Girl...

InsideOutGirl2After a rather disappointing hiatus of wonder, the folks at Pixar -- who produced Up, Toy Story and Finding Nemo --have produced another winner, both critically and with audiences.

Rotten Tomatoes reports that 98% of 217 reviewers were enthusiastic and positive in their reviews of Inside Out. Opening weekend crowds for “Inside Out” were 56% female and 38% under the age of 12. Families comprised 71% of the audience. The film opened June 19 and has already grossed over $300 million in ticket sales.

Here's the reaction of Craig Mathieson in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"The most pleasurably complete Pixar film since 2004's The Incredibles, Inside Out delivers a witty and empathetic answer to the eternal lament of, "What is going on inside your head?"

And, here's an excerpt from an insightful review by Andrew O'hehir in Salon.com

 "... there’s an enormous conceptual gulf between Disney films of the “classic” mode, from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Dumbo” right through “Pocahontas” and “The Little Mermaid,” and the consistently elegiac and nostalgic childhood’s-end fables of the Pixar era. If
INTRO-2-INSIDE-OUTyou’ve ever wondered why Pixar’s animators have never gotten around to adapting “The Velveteen Rabbit,” Margery Williams’ 1922 classic about the boundary between childhood imagination and adult reality, it’s because they don’t have to. Almost every Pixar film is “The Velveteen Rabbit,” transmuted into some new fictional universe but built upon the same question, perhaps the most profound and tragic ever framed in the English language: 'Of what use was it to be loved and lose one’s beauty and become Real if it all ended like this?' ..."

Here's is a link to the trailer: Inside Out


Wendy TalkingDogA Dog that Meows and Sings..WENDY

This is amazing...a video for all.



Finding Fido:A Book That Can Save Your Dog's Life

FindingFido"Like Wulff's "How to Change the World in 30 Seconds", this book is another practical handbook for helping pets. Easy to follow steps, important data, and insider info. Displaced pets make up most of the animals that find themselves in pounds, and with 3-4 million animals euthanized in U.S. shelters every year, it's no place for your beloved pet! Many times the pet's people have no idea where, or how, to start looking for them. This guide spells it out with lots of helpful tips and advice. And all the sales go to charity - how great is that?...
An Amazon 5 star review by Kristina Kane 

Here's a link to read excerpts, reviews, and to purchase Finding Fido.


I was quite taken by an excellent and evocative Dog Poem on C.A. Wulff's website, Up On The Woof 


Sight Unseen...the Threshold of Invisibility


Here are excerpts from "The Hows and Whys of Invisibility" by Kathryn Schulz in the New Yorker.

...."These questions are not so much answered as provoked by “Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen”(Chicago), by the British science writer Philip Ball...

His book takes seriously a subject that, perhaps aptly, has heretofore been mostly
SpiritedAwayGirlTrainIntdisregarded. Invisibility looms large in the kingdom of childhood—in pretend play and imaginary friends, in fairy tales and comic books and other fictions for kids—but it seldom receives sustained adult scrutiny. And yet, once you get past the cloaks and the spells, invisibility is a consummately grownup matter. As a condition, a metaphor, a fantasy, and a technology, it helps us think about the composition of nature, the structure of society, and the deep weirdness of our human situation—about what it is like to be partly visible entities in a largely inscrutable universe. As such, the story of invisibility is not really about how to vanish at all. Curiously enough, it is a story about how we see ourselves..."

The illustrations are from the Miyazaki film Spirited Away.



Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland

The Morgan Library Museum in New York is presenting an extraordinary exhibit, both at the Museum and Online...

Alice_in_wonderland_very_tall"This exhibition will bring to light the curious history of Wonderland, presenting an engaging account of the genesis, publication, and enduring appeal of Lewis Carroll's classic tale, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

For the first time in three decades, the original manuscript will travel from the British Library in London to New York, where it will be joined by original drawings and letters, rare editions, vintage photographs, and fascinating objects—many never before exhibited..."

The array of artwork by Lewis Carrol and John Tenniel is dazzling. The scope of the online exhibit is quite comprehensive and includes information and links to early Alice films.


 Another Reality

“You know very well you’re not real.”

“I am real!” said Alice, and began to cry.

AliceTweedlesTenniel“You won’t make yourself a bit realler by crying,” Tweedledee remarked: “there’s nothing to cry about.”

“If I wasn’t real,” Alice said—half laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—“I shouldn’t be able to cry.”

“I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears?” Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There -Lewis Carrol

Illustration by John Tenniel


 Castle In The Mist is the second book in the Planet Of The Dogs Series  -

"...Castle in the Mist is full of the same elements I enjoyed in CITM-blog size-382KBPlanet of the Dogs and Snow Valley Heroes: beautiful, detailed, soft, mood setting drawings; the fun and antics of the dogs, and the people who are discovering them for the first time; encroaching danger and suspense; the lovely fantasy of a planet of dogs who are so concerned with the people of earth; and the forgiveness, unconditional love and loyalty that the dogs are able to subtly impart."- Taken from a 5 star Amazon review by Lisa Harvey, Book Thoughts by Lisa...


For sample chapters visit our website: Planet Of The Dogs

CITM-frontcover-jpg-654x945We have free reader copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you the books. 

 Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

 The illustration by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty is from Castle In The Mist



Rescuing Wonderful Shivery Tales

Marina Warner, in the New York Review of Books, writes an extremely informative overview  encompassing the books and lives of the brothers Grimm, the work of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (The Turnip Princess, translated by Maria Tatar), as well as related work by Philip Pullman and the translation of Selected Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Peter Wortman. The article also contains information and insights regarding the contributions through the years by Jack Zipes, including his translation of the Original Grimm Tales and his latest book, Grimm Legacies, The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales.

Here is brief excerpt regarding a turning point:

The brotherCruikshankElvesandShoemakers had been strongly encouraged to make their scholarship a bit more family-friendly by including Ludwig’s illustrations after they learned of the huge success in England of the first English translation by Edgar Taylor (1823 and 1826), with its quirky, joyous drawings by George Cruikshank. In Grimm Legacies, Zipes relates how the tone of the English illustrations changed the tales’ reception, inspiring Dickens to write sentimentally about their innocence, and Ruskin to claim that Cruikshank’s “original etchings…[are] unrivalled in masterfulness of touch since Rembrandt.

The illustration of the Elves and the Shoemaker is by George Cruikshank.




"The simpler question to answer is why these tales are called "fairy tales." It is from the influence of the women writers in the French Salons who dubbed their tales "contes de fees." The term was translated into English as "fairy tales." The name became so widely used due to the popularity of the French tales, that it began to be used to describe similar tales such as those by the Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen."  Heidi Anne Heiner -- SurLaLune

The illustration of Beauty and the Beast is by Walter Crane. 



Sunbear Squad is Anna Nirva's practical site for a wide range of information focused on the well being of dogs ( as well as cats). Here are a few excerpts from a very comprehensive article on Traveling by Car or Truck with Pets. 

...On the Road...

Once you are on the road with your pet, you will need to adhere to some basic guidelines to keep your animals and your family happy and safe. Here are some recommendations for the trip itself:

Keep the Animal Inside...Anyone who owns a dog knows how much these animals like to put their heads out the window while they are riding in a car. This is dangerous for the animal, as debris can injure it. It is best to keep the animal’s head and every other part inside the car or truck, and never let your pet ride in the bed of a pickup truck, which exposes it to many dangers.

Stop Frequently...Particularly if you are traveling with a dog, you will need to stop regularly to give your animal bathroom, exercise, and water breaks. Fortunately, most rest areas have ample space for you to give your pet a chance to stretch its legs. Keep your pet leashed when you stop and have a bag ready to clean up after it.

Food and Water...You will want to limit excessive feeding while you are traveling to avoid giving your pet an upset stomach. Keep feeding to a minimum and stick to the pet food. Avoid the temptation to let the animal snack on what you are eating, as that can cause some unpleasant digestive issues.

On the other hand, you want to make sure that your pet gets as much water as possible. Give it water every time you stop. You may also want to bring along some ice cubes, which are a treat for most pets and easier for them to handle than water if they get upset stomachs while you are traveling...


 There is much more to this article...here is the link: TRAVEL


"When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem." - Edward Abbey



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15. Jurassic World

Jurassic World is a pretty bad movie.  What's interesting about it, however, is that the reasons for its badness are, for the most part, the reasons it should have been good.  With only a few exceptions, the ideas that went into Jurassic World, the fourquel-slash-reboot of Steven Spielberg's paradigm-defining 1993 blockbuster, are solid and interesting.  The basic premise of the movie--that

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16. The Jurassic world of … dinosaurs?

The latest incarnation (I chose that word advisedly!) of the Jurassic Park franchise has been breaking box-office records and garnering mixed reviews from the critics. On the positive side the film is regarded as scary, entertaining, and a bit comedic at times (isn't that what most movies are supposed to be?). On the negative side the plot is described as rather 'thin', the human characters two-dimensional, and the scientific content (prehistoric animals) unreliable, inaccurate, or lacking entirely in credibility.

The post The Jurassic world of … dinosaurs? appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. Sense8

It's possible that Sense8, the new Netflix series from the Wachowskis, is the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. I don't know, because from the second episode it put its hooks into me so deeply that my critical, skeptical mind could not keep up. Certain elements of this show appealed to me so deeply that I was overwhelmed and had no ability to keep critical distance. Those elements were all related to a kind of queer ethic and queer vision, an approach to life that I've been a sucker for for decades, but have hardly ever seen expressed in a mainstream pop culture item.

First, I should note that even in my soggy, sappy, besotted love affair with this show, I couldn't miss some of its more obvious weaknesses. The major one for me is its globalized Americanism, well critiqued by Claire Light at The Nerds of Color in a post I pretty much entirely agree with, especially regarding the lost opportunity of a truly global production — imagine if, instead of writing it all themselves with J. Michael Straczynski, the Wachowskis had worked more as showrunners and farmed out the writing and maybe even directing to people from the actual places they depicted. I appreciate, for instance, that they reportedly liked Nairobi Half Life (I did, too!) and so had one of its producers, Tom Tykwer, direct the Nairobi scenes. But what if they'd brought in the actual Kenyan residents who wrote and directed Nairobi Half Life instead of just the German director who supported it but didn't really have a lot to do with its production? (For that matter, why not at least help Nairobi Half Life get broader distribution? I was lucky enough to see it when it played for one night in a nearby theatre, but as far as I know it's not available for home viewing in any way in the U.S.) But no. Though Sense8 is remarkable in many ways, it's still a product of big money, big egos, and a traditional production process. An anti-hegemonic pose is a whole lot easier to achieve than actually doing something to undermine hegemony.

Despite all this, I still fell hard for Sense8, and a lot of that has to do with a thought I had during the first episode: "I'm watching a sci-fi action soap opera kind of thing with queer people in it," and then later, "I'm watching a sci-fi action soap opera kind of thing that actually has more than a whiff of queer ethos to it."

That got me thinking about representation. I'm so used to seeing major media depict the world not as I know it, but as it is supposed to be known by a narrow norm, that when something like a pop cultured representation of something like what I know does make it into the mainstream, the gob smacks. It's not just about what I know of the world, however, because pop culture isn't really about the realistic representation of anything. It's more like a realistic representation of what we dream and hope for, a representation of yearnings and desires that are familiar and fitted into the whizzbang and weep of melodrama.

Halfway through my viewing of Sense8, I took a break and watched the documentary Vito, about Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet and an important gay rights activist. The documentary is effective, though hagiographic — The Celluloid Closet may be historically important in having reached a large audience, but it's awful as film criticism, and the material in the movie about the gay liberation and AIDS struggles gets terribly simplified (a perhaps inevitable consequence of a focus on one person). Nonetheless, Vito was interesting to watch while in the midst of Sense8 because it's a powerful story and because it does a good job of showing the importance of chosen families and chosen communities for queer people, even ones who have, as Russo did, a supportive biological family.

That's one of the great attractions of Sense8: it is very interested in communities, especially chosen ones. The sensates themselves have no choice about being part of their group (and I wonder what they'll do if they ever get tired of each other!), but the show does an excellent job of presenting good and bad families, chosen families, biological families, and communities of support. This stands in fierce opposition to mainstream family values, where biological family ties are sacred and uplifting. That's a story many queer people have no ability to participate in, and an important emphasis in a lot of queer culture is on the creation of intentional families and chosen communities.

In Sense8, for instance, Nomi's mother is horrible: she misgenders her, and she is complicit in torture of her. It might be nice and affirming and optimistic if they could reconcile, as they would in a mainstream show. Her mother would then learn to see Nomi as she wants to be seen and blah blah blah. But no. There's no redemption for her, nor should there be. She's no better than Wolfgang's abusive father was. We don't necessarily want Nomi's mother to be killed, but there's no need for Nomi to put effort into keeping this dreadful woman in her life. Call it a queer commandment: Thou shalt not put effort into maintaining a relationship with a family member who doesn't recognize you as you, or who doesn't respect your humanity.

I've never seen a mainstream movie or show that so well embraces the differences of queerness within a general ethic of common humanity. The mainstream liberal impulse these days is to take the queer out of queerness and extend the umbrella of normality. (Even your racist, sexist, bullying old uncle is welcome to the gay tent if he's willing to stop calling us faggots! Hooray for progress!) It's a message that appeals to Gay, Inc., allowing the mainstream to celebrate gayness alongside white supremacy, militarism, neoliberalism, etc. And certainly there's some of that in Sense8, but there's also an attention to details of sexual difference and oppression that Richard Dyer was writing about way back in the late '70s in a piece that's a bit dated (obviously) but still useful:
Now it may be true that we are still at the stage where we need to assert, to others and to ourselves, that we are part of the human race. But such assumptions assume that there is no real difference between being gay and being straight. Yet, from a materialist standpoint, gayness is different physically, emotionally, and socially from heterosexuality. It is physically different not in the sense of involving different genetic factors (the equivalent sexist argument for the fascist arguments of behavioral psychology) but in the sense of being a different physical activity—two women in bed together is not the same as a man and a woman together or two men. It is different emotionally because it involves two people who have received broadly the same socialization (being both the same gender) and have thus formed their personalities in relation to the same pressures and experiences. It is socially different because it is oppressed. ... 
What this boils down to in terms of films is that if you are representing sexual and emotional relationships on screen, it does make a difference whether they are gay or straight. One will not do as a metaphor for the other. Neither will either do as general metaphors for human sexuality and relationships.
The various relationships in Sense8 — gay, straight, trans, poly — are represented as the same in the sense of filled with love and capable of love and defined by love. (The Wachowskis are, in terms of their sensibilities, hippies.) But these relationships are not materially the same either to each other or to heterosexual relationships, and there's some good attention paid to exactly what Dyer pointed to: the physical, emotional, and social differences.

This is announced with a wonderful shot early on in the show where, after sex with Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Amanita (Freema Agyeman) drops a wet strap-on to the floor — a gauntlet plopped right into the center of the viewer's field of vision.

Sense 8 is definitely explicit (including full frontal Max Riemelt, which I would never complain about), and so it attends to the basic material, physical reality of queer sex in ways that movies and shows that don't have any explicit scenes do not. If anything, I wish Sense8 was more explicit, particularly in the Lito scenes (but the filmmakers probably pushed the actors as far as they were comfortable, and some viewers are already saying the show is porn, so...). Emotionally, Sense8 keeps the queer in queerness primarily through the affinity and comfort the sensates feel with each other, which seemed to me like the experience of first being in a space with other people whose emotions and desires are similar to yours — the first experience not only of a liberatory queer space, but also of, say, a particular fan community or any other place where your marginalized pleasures and enthusiasms are shared. This experience is sexualized in the sensate orgy scene, which wonderfully shows the erotic currents within that feeling of being around people who get you as you. (There's a certain Stranger in a Stranger Land element to it, too.) That the orgy is centered around Will (Brian J. Smith), the working class cop who's pretty darn hetero, is a great touch — instead of the queer being welcomed by and into the norm, the norm is brought into the queer. Late in the season, when Will and Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) first encounter each other, Will says something like, "Have we met?" and Lito responds, "Yes, we had sex," and the look on Will's face is perfect: right there, we see him come to grips with the queer within himself.

It's socially that Sense8 really fits into Dyer's rubric, particularly through the experiences of Nomi and Lito. The Wachowskis and Straczynski found a pulpy but effective way to make clear the emotional stakes in Lito's life as a closeted movie heartthrob — if you can sit through some of the later episodes without screaming out at him, "Come out! It'll be okay! Come out, Lito!" then you are stronger than I.

One of the reasons I typically prefer melodrama to verité drama is that I'm not especially interested in "rounded" characters — "roundedness" is a construction that depends on particular conventions and ideologies that I generally find boring and/or exhausted. Dyer gets at how this relates to queer subject matter:
Inscribed in the concept of the well-rounded character is the ideology of individualism, the belief that an individual is above all important in and for himself, rather than a belief in the importance of the individual for her or his class, community, or sisters and brothers. This cardinal precept of bourgeois ideology as against feudal or socialist ideology is built right into the notion of the "rounded character," who may well feel some pulls of allegiance to groups with whom she or he identifies, but who is ultimately seen as distinct and separate from the group, and in many cases, antagonistic to it. Rounded characterization is then far from ideal when you need (as we do) expressions of solidarity, common cause, class consciousness, fraternity and sorority.
Sense8 doesn't give us well-rounded characters, at least not in the way Dyer means, though the characterizations have some depth. They're still types, sometimes even clichés. This is melodrama, after all. The ways the actors and writers work with the expectations and possibilities offered by the types and clichés is what's interesting, and the ultimate effect of the show is indeed toward "expressions of solidarity, common cause, class consciousness, fraternity and sorority".

In some obvious ways, Sense8 draws on superhero stories, but the superhero stories it draws on are ones like The X-Men and Fantastic Four rather than Superman or Batman, and the kinds of superheroes it gives us are not ones with extraordinary, alien superpowers (beyond the psychic powers), but rather people with specific, relatively human skills who are able to benefit from each other. It is, then, a story of mutual aid.

The premise of people with special psychic powers and particular connections to each other pre-dates superhero stories, and the familiarity of that premise is, I think, actually a virtue of the series. What's innovative is not the basic idea, but the way that idea is developed. The entire first season of twelve episodes (each roughly an hour each) is, in traditional terms, basically set-up. What almost any other series would dispense with in an episode or two, Sense8 spends the season on: the characters discovering their abilities and each other, learning a bit about the malevolent forces that seemingly want to destroy them (but by the end of the season we learn hardly anything about this malevolent force), wandering around. It's a triumph of subplots with the main plot only becoming clearer by the end when the sensates realize they need to band together to protect each other. This allows us to spend a lot of time seeing their circumstances — meeting not just each major character, but developing an understanding of the various minor characters who are the people of their lives. It's a wonderfully humane structure, even if it denies some viewers the sort of plot-driven arc they'd prefer.

I could go on and on about various details I appreciated, including the exquisite use of the divine Jean-Claude van Damme and the sometimes goofy but amazingly powerful use of such familiar songs as "Mad World" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (in the haunting Antony & the Johnsons version; very well chosen for all sorts of reasons) and, especially, "What's Goin' On" ...  but I won't go on. You can make up your own mind. For all the ways Sense8 falls short, for all its faults and even failures, its virtues overwhelmed me, and I'm grateful this show exists, grateful it was made, grateful to have watched it.

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18. On Christopher Lee

Over at Press Play, I have a brief text essay about and a video tribute to Christopher Lee, who died on June 7 at the age of 93. Here's the opening of the essay:
Christopher Lee was the definitive working actor. His career was long, and he appeared in more films than any major performer in the English-speaking world — over 250. What distinguishes him, though, and should make him a role model for anyone seeking a life on stage or screen, is not that he worked so much but that he worked so well. He took that work seriously as both job and art, even in the lightest or most ridiculous roles, and he gave far better, more committed performances than many, if not most, of his films deserved.
Read and view more at Press Play.

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19. Razor Sharp Takes a Festival Winning Heroine to Comics and Feature Film

By Kevin J. Johnson

“Razor Sharp” is an exciting new project from writer/director Marcus Perry and actress/stuntwoman Amy Johnston (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). The story combines the sleek futuristic trappings of Aeon Flux with a bit of slapstick wit from The Pink Panther and a little bit of Samus Aran from Metroid thrown in for good measure. Forced to take on a corporate criminal syndicate in the distant future of Los Angeles, Veronica “Ronnie” Sharpe, a cat-burglar-gone-good must decide between saving a child genius held captive or saving her own neck.

Imagine J. Scott Campbell’s Danger Girl brought to life sans the male gaze and patronizing cheesecake poses, with a large heaping dose of Ripley-esque badassery and cyberpunk cityscapes. A proof of concept short features the heroine in action turning a squad of goons into rag dolls. The fight choreography and digital backlot betrays its no-budget status, highlighting the team’s “money-on-the-screen” ethos.


The crew is made up of dedicated “action movie junkie(s), and we all grew up obsessed with comic books,” says Perry, “so we wanted to create a character that embodies that passion.” Sharpe is definitely cut from the same cloth as female legends that writers such as Chris Claremont, John Bryne and Gail Simone have brought us.

And what’s more, the Razor Sharp team seem just as committed as the aforementioned in bringing a full-fledged heroine to life, where other major motion pictures have stumbled in the past. “Veronica’s not a damsel in distress, or somebody’s girlfriend,” Perry continues, “she’s in command, full of vulnerability and humor that I hope will catch people off guard.”

The creative team are stocked with industry vets who have delivered for audiences in the past, and know how to maximize a budget. And now, they have their opening salvo with “Razor Sharp,” along with a fully-visualized world, a companion comic book, and accolades from several film festivals. Perry and co are looking to expand their short film into a feature-length extravaganza, and count me in.

With films as brutal as The Raid or John Wick adapting a back-to-basics bare-knuckle approach to fight scenes, it’s refreshing to see a project as appealing as Razor Sharp but just as committed to raising the bar in action cinema. Spearheaded by their accomplished lead Johnston, the crew promises to deliver a striking new style to the big screen.

You can visit the official Facebook page and  the team on Twitter to find out more about the film.


Out of all the nerds talking about things on the webs, KJ literally ranks among the tallest. Check out his reviews, ramblings, proclamations and declarations on his website.

1 Comments on Razor Sharp Takes a Festival Winning Heroine to Comics and Feature Film, last added: 5/4/2015
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20. ICYMI: Dragon Bewares Videos!

VIDEO 1: Claudette is back!

VIDEO 2: What’s Your Favorite Thing About Dragons?

VIDEO 3: What Should be Claudette’s Battle Cry?

VIDEO 4: What’s do you like about dragons?

VIDEO 5: How would you fight a dragon?

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21. Mad Max: Fury Road

Before I start talking about Mad Max: Fury Road, I should probably say that I haven't seen any of the other films in the Mad Max series, and that I'm not feeling a particular need to catch myself up.  This should not be taken as a criticism of Fury Road, which is indeed as brilliant and exhilarating as advertized, and whose gorgeous, pulse-pounding action scenes put the rest of Hollywood's

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22. Essence of Mannstyle: Blackhat

No film director gets the sound of gunfire like Michael Mann. It's not just that he typically uses recordings of live fire; plenty of people do that. There's an alchemy he performs with his sound designers, a way of manipulating both the sound of the shots and the ambient sound to create a hyperreal effect. It's not the sound of gunfire. It's a sound that produces the effect of standing close to the sound of gunfire.

Mann is celebrated and derided for his visual style, a style so damn stylish that any Mann film is likely to get at least a few reviews saying, "All style, no substance." I can't empathize with such a view; for me, style is the substance of art, and if any object has value beyond the functional, that value is directly produced by style. (Which is not to say that Mann's style is above criticism. Not at all. But to say that it is "only" style, and that substance is something else, something that can be separated from style, seems nonsensical to me. You may prefer the style of an Eric Rohmer or Bela Tarr or a Steven Spielberg or just the general, conventionalized style of mainstream Hollywood or mainstream TV ... but it's still style, and it's still substance created and transmitted through style.)

What generally goes unnoticed about Mann's style is how the aural and the visual work together. The visuals can be so ostentatious, so determinedly symmetrical (in his early work) or abstract (in the more recent films) or supersaturated or obscuringly dark, that the strangeness of the soundtrack remains unremarked. One of the most sensitive viewers of Mann, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, noted it, though, in his review of Blackhat, pointing out the "patchy sound mixes" and "sound design [that] is deliberately erratic, rendering a good fifth of the dialogue unintelligible..."

Yes, and more: since his first abstract-expressionist film, 2006's Miami Vice, Mann has cast non-Americans as American characters for some of the leading men (Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Chris Hemsworth) and non-native speakers of English as the leading women (Gong Li, Marion Cotillard, Tang Wei). The men do a good job with their American accents, but it creates an extra level of artificiality for them to work through, an extra way for them to distance their everyday self from their character.

The women wrestle with English well, but their tones and rhythms are noticeably different from a native speaker's, and the effect is to further make the dialogue difficult to apprehend, to distance the words spoken from their meanings and heighten their aural qualities.

The dialogue in Mann's movies, regardless of whether he's the writer, is unmistakably the dialogue of a Michael Mann movie — there is Mannspeak just as there is Mametspeak. It's clipped, jargony, declarative, pulpy. It sometimes drives critics crazy ("laughable" and "ridiculous" are words I've frequently seen used to describe the dialogue in Mann's movies). The actors tend to fall into similar rhythms from film to film, and you could play a one or two minute clip of dialogue from any of Mann's films, particularly the ones of the last decade or so, and you'd know it was dialogue from a Mann film, just as you can easily identify clips of dialogue from the movies of Robert Altman, Woody Allen, and Terrence Malick. Couple the dialogue and how the actors speak it with a recording style that is more common to amateur documentaries, and the effect is odd and, if you're able to tune into it, intoxicating.

The ways we understand and get to know characters in these movies are also very different from the techniques of conventional Hollywood cinema. Mann's always presented psychology via action, but in his most popular films — that is, his films of the 1990s — there's a pretty standard approach to psychology. That all changes with Miami Vice, where a new distance is placed between viewer and character while at the same time the filmmaking heightens the sense of our subjectivity melding with theirs.

Now, the characters thoughts, feelings, and desires no longer inhere within the character, but are, instead, expressed through the light, colors, angles, and sounds of the world as it is conveyed to us. Mann's characters are no longer characters so much as they are figures in a landscape, and the landscape is an extension of those figures' feelings.

That's why it doesn't much matter whether you can understand all the dialogue. The dialogue is just sound, and it's how that sound fits with the images (the light, the color), and how those images and sounds flow together, that matters.

Odd and even alienating as Mann's style has become, there's a profound unity to its effect. More and more, he's come to make movies that feel not so much like dreams as like insomnia.

This style is not what we might expect from someone as concerned with verisimilitude as Mann. He prefers going to locations rather than building sets; he makes his actors do months of preparation; he hires numerous consultants to get all the details right. And then, shooting and editing the film, he obscures it all, swirls it, hollows it out, fragments it into collages of drift, burst, and glimpse until all that is real feels utterly artificial. Mann's ultimate aim seems to be affect: to evoke a feeling of the hyperfake real, of the deeply flattened surface, of a world rendered into electricity jumping across a flat plane of endless night.

Blackhat lost a lot of money. According to Box Office Mojo, it is Mann's least financially successful film since The Keep, a movie he's mostly disavowed. Produced for a reported $70 million, Blackhat has earned only 10% of that investment back and supposedly had the 11th worst opening for a film in 2,500 or more theatres since 1982. It is likely to end up being one of 2015's biggest flops, and that's saying something (for all the talk of Jupiter Ascending being a disaster, the Wachowski's film had some success in foreign markets and looks like it's made back its production budget, at least. Blackhat cannot say the same).

This is not especially surprising. Blackhat is marketed as a techno-thriller (the trailer, while hinting at Mannstyle, is pretty exciting), and its plot is, indeed, that of a techno-thriller. But anybody who goes into the movie expecting a techno-thriller is likely to be disappointed. "Boring" is a word commonly used in viewers' responses to the film.

The thrill is not in the movie's narrative, which gets subsumed and sublimed into Mannstyle. The thrill is in the movement, sound, and editing. Mann's affinities are more with Wong Kar-Wai than with any standard action filmmaker.

We could talk about the ideas in the movie, ideas about surveillance and punishment and information and reality. It's not for nothing that there are references to Foucault, Lyotard, and Derrida (The Animal That Therefore I Am) early on. But these ideas are not expressed as ideas that one can talk about and debate: they're ideas that are felt, sensed, whiffed, dreamed. They can't be separated from the mode of expression.

That's Mann's real accomplishment here. Ideas, like the books in Nick Hathaway's cell, get left behind.

The traces of those ideas, though, pulse through our circuits and burn across the night sky.

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23. Tomorrowland

"When I was younger, the future was... different."  So says Frank Walker (George Clooney), one of the heroes of Brad Bird's Tomorrowland, in the opening narration that acts as a frame for the film's story.  It probably says everything you need to know about this movie that Frank--and the film itself--seem entirely unaware of the irony and self-contradiction inherent in a statement like this, and

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24. Fassbinder at 70

Yesterday was the 70th birthday of my favorite filmmaker, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He wasn't around to see it, having died at age 37, but I celebrated for him by watching Querelle again. (I was tempted to do a Berlin Alexanderplatz marathon today, but I do actually have to get some work done...)

I've written various things about Fassbinder over the years, so here's a roundup and then some 70th birthday thoughts:

In the US, the best access to Fassbinder's films is via Criterion's Hulu Plus channel, where there is access not only to the various films Criterion sells on DVD (with the exception of Berlin Alexanderplatz), but also to films currently unavailable otherwise in the US, including some masterpieces: Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven, Fox and His Friends, Effi BriestMarriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss.

Fassbinder isn't around anymore to make some wishes on his birthday, so I'll make a few in his stead...

Of course, my primary wish is for everybody on Earth to recognize and celebrate Fassbinder's genius. But I can be more specific:

My greatest wish is for a release of Eight Hours Don't Make a Day. As far as I can tell, it's never been released on home video anywhere, and has hardly ever been shown since its premiere on German television in the early '70s.

Criterion is doing a good job of putting together excellent home video versions of many of the films. With luck, they'll solve whatever rights problems led them to put their wonderful BRD Trilogy set out of print, and will continue releasing extra-features-rich versions of the major films, as they recently have with The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and The Merchant of Four Seasons. I hope, given that they've been able to stream them on Hulu, Effi Briest, Fox and His Friends, and Mother Küsters are in line for similar treatment. I'd love to see a "Queer Fassbinder" set: Fox, In a Year of 13 Moons, and Querelle together, preferably with good commentaries and essays to help viewers work through the wonderful challenges those films offer.

Finally, we need someone to write a good, comprehensive biography. There are a few good Fassbinder books out there (my favorites of Thomas Elsaesser's Fassbinder's Germany and Wallace Steadman Watson's Understanding Rainer Werner Fassbinder, along with Juliane Lorenz's collection Chaos as Usual: Conversations About Rainer Werner Fassbinder), but there's no good biography that I'm aware of. (Robert Katz's 1989 biography is an atrocity and shall not be spoken of.) Telling the story of Fassbinder's life day by day would be a tremendous, perhaps impossible, challenge, but the attempt would be worthwhile because it's so difficult to get a sense of how those days fit together — he would work on a film while also working on stage plays and radio plays, writing new scripts, getting financing for upcoming works, traveling to festivals — it's dizzying just to think about.

Fassbinder continues to offer riches to us even now. I wish, of course, that he'd made it to the age of an elder statesman (I'd trade significant portions of my anatomy to see what he would have done with digital cameras), but he lived so fast, so productively, and so brilliantly that though he died young, we're still working through his oeuvre in a way we aren't with even great filmmakers who lived to ripe old age. So happy birthday, RWF. We're celebrating even in your absence.

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25. June -- Wonder Has No Opposite, kids, books, dogs and movies


 "Wonder has no opposite; it springs up already doubled on itself, compounded of dread and desire at once, attraction and recall, producing a thrill, the shudder of pleasure and of fear...It's a useful term, it frees this kind of story from the miniaturized whimsy of fairyland to free the wilder air of the marvelous"... Maria Warner in the Introduction to her book Wonder Tales: Six Stories of Enchantment.


The essential strangeness of fairy tales

by Alec Nevala-Lee 

BettelheimUses of Enchantment"Over the last few months, I’ve been telling my daughter a lot of fairy tales. My approach has been largely shaped, for better or worse, by Bruno Bettelheim’s book The Uses of Enchantment: I happened to read it last year as part of an unrelated writing project, but it also contained insights that I felt compelled to put to use almost at once in my own life. Bettelheim is a controversial figure for good reason, and he’s not a writer whose ideas we need to accept at face value, but he makes several points that feel intuitively correct. When it comes to fairy tales, it seems best to tell the oldest versions of each story we have, as refined through countless retellings, rather than a more modern interpretation that hasn’t been as thoroughly tested; and, when possible, it’s preferable to tell them without a book or pictures, which gets closer to the way in which they were originally transmitted. And the results have been really striking. Stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” Maerchen-rotkaeppchen-DW-and “Jack and the Beanstalk” have seized my daughter’s imagination, to the point where we’ll discuss them as if they happened to her personally, and she isn’t fazed by some of their darker aspects. (In “Hansel and Gretel,” when I tell her that the parents wanted to take their children into the woods and leave them there, she’ll cheerfully add: “And kill dem dere!”)...

The above is an excerpt from Alec Nevala-Lee's blog --  Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life. Nevala-Lee is also an author. His books include Icon Thief, City of Exiles and Eternal Empire.




 3AM: Magazine

Crossing the Avalanche of Time...Excerpts from Richard Marshall's in-depth article and review of Jack Zipes' current books

"...The Grimms have been appropriated by U.S. America because defying the inhuman is as urgent there as anywhere else and its unhinged power leaves behind the innocent and the beaten. What Zipes has done in these two books is remind us that there’s a need for the naked struggle of Kafka, where speech goes to extremes without strategy, without masks, without calculation. The tales of this first edition are as much a part of an old weird Americana as bluesman Howling Wolf singing ‘Going Down Slow’... 

The Grimms have become as ancient a part of this old weird America as the other folk songs and tales that ship around, and though Zipes is right to decry their banalisation and Disneyfication they still remain underneath or behind, ready to be reeled in by alert souls..." 

 Marshall was inspired by Jack Zipes' recent translation of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm   (1812 & 1815) and by Zipes' provocative ideas regarding the impact of the Grimms' tales, Grimm Legacies:The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales.   

 Here is another excerpt from this very heady article:

"From 'The Frog King' to 'The Golden Key,' wondrous worlds unfold—heroes and heroines are SnowWhiteVogelrewarded, weaker animals triumph over the strong, and simple bumpkins prove themselves not so simple after all. Esteemed fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes offers accessible translations that retain the spare description and engaging storytelling style of the originals. Indeed, this is what makes the tales from the 1812 and 1815 editions unique—they reflect diverse voices, rooted in oral traditions, that are absent from the Grimms’ later, more embellished collections of tales. Zipes’s introduction gives important historical context, and the book includes the Grimms’ prefaces and notes.

The original edition of Grimms’ tales read like once-familiar weirds, crossing the avalanche of time like hallucinatory figures, abrupt as thorns, troubling as a black hawthorn that won’t stop bleeding. They move in and out between long disconnected synapses, stirring up logics and memories that fill us up with dread and unease. Readers are Macbeth listening to the stories of the three weird women. Everything is laid out for us but we are dazzled by their dark intensity. What is needed to read them? Courage and an imminent doomsday."

Here is a link to all of Marshall's article, Curious Legacies of the Brothers Grimm: 3:AM Magazine 

The illustration of Snow White is by Hermann Vogel. The photo is by Gregg McCarty.


Wonder has no opposite...


Cinderella has strayed from Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, but she has never left us.

In the Western World today, romantic fantasy appears to be the foundation for the popularity of this abandoned child story and sustains its huge popularity in the hearts of little girls, young girls, and many mommies.

The current worldwide box office results (as of May 31) of over $531,750,700 attest to way the story continues to resonate around the world.





Cinderella Has Been Everywhere -- Forever. And Heidi Anne Heiner has written a book to prove it: Cinderella Tales From Around the World Here is an excerpt from her introduction on the often overlooked dimensions of this timeless story:

" The quandary is that one version of Cinderella dominates all the others, so we assume we
CinderellaTalesAroundtheWorldCoverknow her, this fairy tale celebrity, and many of us have grown bored with her to the point of relegating her to cliche and nothing else. But when we consider the hundreds of Cinderella variants from around the world, Cinderella becomes once again mysterious and lovely, active and vibrant, for she defies definition and understanding...

Book Overview by Barnes and Noble:
"Yeh-hsien. Cenerentola. Cendrillon. Ashenputtle. Chernuska. Cinderella. These are just a few of the names of one of the best known and most beloved fairy tale characters in the world. The tale is known in countless variations 
throughout Europe and Asia as well as Africa and the Americas. The tales share the familiar story of a persecuted heroine who finally triumphs over oppressed circumstances through her virtue and the assistance of a magical helper. "  

Here is a sample from Heidi Anne Heiner's collection...

Cinderella in Ireland: The Story of Ashey Pelt 

"WELL, my grandmother she told me that in them auld days a ewe might be your mother. It is a very lucky thing to have a black ewe. A man married again, and his daughter, Ashey Pelt, was Cliffsof Claireunhappy. She cried alone, and the black ewe came to her from under the greystone in the field and said, “Don’t cry, go and find a rod behind the stone and strike it three times, and whatever you want will come.”

So she did as she was bid. She wanted to go to a party. Dress and horses and all came to her, but she was bound to be back before twelve o’clock or all the enchantment would go, all she had would vanish. The sisters they did na’ like her; she was so pretty, and the stepmother she kept her in wretchedness just.

She was most lovely. At the party the Prince fell in love with her, and she forgot to get back in time. In her speed a-running she dropped her silk slipper, and he sent and he went over all the country to find the lady it wad fit..."  The story, Ashey Pelt, continues with a fine Irish ending. 


"Have Courage and Be Kind"

Jack Zipes has written often of the hype that distorts the meaning of folk and fairy tales. I found a disturbing example in Kenneth Branagh's comments about the film quoted in Kate Connolly's Cinderella article in the Guardian . The comments were made at a press conference following the successful launch of the film at the Berlin Film Festival. Here is an excerpt:

"Branagh said though more used to directing Shakespeare, he had been struck by many of the
BrannaghCinderella3similarities between those plays and the Brothers Grimm fairytale. “We have the line Cinderella is told by her mother: ‘Have courage and be kind’; some people thought it seemed trite, but I was reminding them of King Lear when Edgar says ‘Have patience and endure’ 
at the point he’s being put in the stocks and mocked. Patience to me equates to compassion, and endurance is a form of courage – it reminded me that these basic, human and fundamental situations get seized on by great storytellers and there are obvious resonances between all these stories.”

I find it difficult to see the "obvious resonance" that exists in Mr Branagh's sugar-coated Cinderella and the tortured story of King Lear. I do see hype. Disney is not Shakespeare.


Never mind Branagh – my mother wrote a Cinderella story you can believe in...


Here is an excerpt from a saucy article by Ed Vulliamy in the Guardian about a retold version of the Cinderella story with a very different setting, and a totally different ending.

"It is hardly surprising that Kenneth Branagh’s saccharine Barbie-Cinderella, with her tiny waist and crinoline dress, has caused a storm in Hollywood and irked cinema-going women, let alone those wanting to see changed female role models on screen.

The actor-cum-fairy-storyteller – and his critics, to cheer them – would have done well to
EllasBigChanceShirleyGreenwayCoverheed an acclaimed retelling of Cinderella in a book of more than a decade ago, which won the Kate Greenaway medal, the highest honour in illustrated children’s books, for 2003.

It was entitled Ella’s Big Chance: A Fairy Tale Retold, by the author and illustrator Shirley Hughes, serial award-winning doyenne of children’s books, described by Philip Pullman as “a national treasure” (I should declare an interest here: Shirley Hughes is my mother). She retells the famous and primal story of the persecuted seamstress: the ball, prince (a duke in this version) and shoe – set in the roaring 1920s on what seems to be the Mediterranean coast – with two big differences..."

Read more about this award winning book where Cinderella chooses not to marry the prince -- in the Guardian.


  Reading Paws Logo

Reading programs with therapy dogs that support kids and open the doors to the world of reading, have been spreading throughout the US and the Western world.

MunchkinNancy KeenPalmerREADing Paws is opening the doors to reading for kids in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Tennessee. READing Paws is a recipient of a Planet Dog Foundation grant.

"The mission of READing Paws is to improve the literacy skills of children...READing Paws utilizes nationally registered animal-owner/handler Therapy Teams who volunteer to go to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children. The utilization of registered therapy teams is the foundation of READing Paws, in order to ensure that the animals have been trained and tested for health and safety, appropriate skills and temperament, and have been insured for liability."

R.E.A.D.READing Paws is proud to be an Affiliate of R.E.A.D.® (Reading Education Assistance Dogs®), a program of Intermountain Therapy Animals ® (ITA) of Salt Lake City, Utah" R.E.A.D. has affiliates throughout the USA and in fourteen foreign countries, from Spain to Finland, and Canada to Australia.


The Last Echoes of Pagan Myths 

TheElvesGrimmsGOlms "These were the 'last echoes of pagan myths...A world of magic is opened up before us, one which still exists among us in secret forests, in underground caves, and in the deepest sea, and it is still visible to children...(Fairy tales) have existed among the people for several centuries.' And what we find inside those secret forests, caves and seas...(are) fairy tales full of families, full of parents who bequeath a sense of self to children, full of ancestors and heirs whose lives play out, in little, the life of a nation from its childhood to maturity."

Wilheim Grimm as quoted by Seth Lerer in his bookChildren's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter. 


Entering a World of Long Ago...

Castle in the Mist

When the dogs first came down to planet Earth, great forests were found in many lands.

CITM-frontcover-jpg-308x445ISBN_9780978692810The Castle In The Mist was located on lake Ladok in the land of the Forest People. It is here that the Black Hawk Warriors, under Prince Ukko's command, brought the kidnapped children. And it is this act that brought the threat of war.

Forests play a major role in all of the books in the Planet of the Dogs Series. The forests frustrate invaders. What does conquest mean when people can disappear by going to places in the forest unknown to the invaders --  or beyond the forest and into the mountains.

Stories and fairy tales about the forests and the deep woods have always stimulated children's imagination. In the Castle In The Mist, the dogs love the forests and use them to frustrate the Black Hawk Warriors. The dogs follow a non-violent path until their courage, loyalty and cleverness cause Prince Ukko to free the children and bring peace to the land of the Forest People.


CITM-Dogs at night-blog sizeCastle In The Mist Is the second book in the Planet Of The Dogs Series 

"...the McCarty's again succeeded in bringing archetypal themes such as good vs evil, man vs nature, love, faith and faithfulness into the story without being overly teachy or preachy. We were riveted by the story and its main characters (both human and canine); we shared in their challenges and celebrated their victories. Melinda Gates, Reading Mother

Visit our website for sample chapters: http://www.planetofthedogs.net

The illustration from Castle In The Mist is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty


For sample chapters from all the books in the series,visit our Planet Of The Dogs website.

We have free reader copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy dog
2 Doghead 1.457 by 1.573 inchesorganizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you the books. 

Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

The illustration by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty is from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale


Here's another look at Cinderella from BerkeleyMews.com




KidLitoSphere is a very special website that connects kid lit bloggers to the world of readers. Librarian MotherReader (Pam Coughlin), who describes herself in this way -- "The heart of a mother. The soul of a reader. The mouth of a smartass" --  is president. Among her achievements as a passionate advocate of children's books is the founding of Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors. Here's a sample...

"As Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors founder and let’s say president, I see it as the
BacaLogokid lit equivalent of the four horsemen of the apocalypse when the Children's Choice Book Awards Author of the Year is Rush Limbaugh. I'm sure that there are and will be many thoughtful articles about what happened to make the winner of a prestigious children's literature award for Rush Revere and The Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans. But all I can say is,
"Dear God, what have we done?"

The power of the bestseller was a slippery slope for children's literature awards. Certainly the power of the celebrity author - with their top budget promotions and guaranteed WalMart shelf space - was enough for a snarky online cause like Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors. But now, we've added to this mixture the nebulous and sometimes nefarious power of the Internet, which allows anyone to vote for this now-less-prestigious award. There is no way - NO WAY! - that children voted for Rush Limbaugh over Rick Riordan or Veronica Roth... 

Read more from MotherReader-cast your vote at BACA


Circling the Waggins

Aaron Fowler wrote a profile of C.A. Wulff for Akron Life....Here are excerpts...

ArielWaldo..."For the last 26 years, Wulff has volunteered in animal rescue. In 2007, she released her first book, “Born Without a Tail,” which chronicles the true-life adventures of two animal rescuers living with an ever-changing house full of pets.

This past year she unveiled the sequel, “Circling the Waggins: How 5 Misfit Dogs Saved Me from Bewilderness,” which follows Wulff and her companion,  
Dalene, as they maneuver through one unexpected pet incident after another while living in 
a cabin in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

CtWAlthough both books are memoirs, she explains that they are very
different. “Born Without a Tail” tells the stories of 20 animals who have shared her life. While it’s chronological, each chapter stands alone and is devoted to a single animal.

 ‘Circling the Waggins’ is more of a story with a beginning and an ending. It tells the story of some 27 animals over the course of two years, who lived in our home and took root in our hearts,” she says...' 

Like her first book, “Circling the Waggins” is an incredibly personal story. Its depiction of the ups and downs of sharing your life with animals has reached out to those who have experienced the same heartache and joy... "

Nancy Segovia, Amazon reviewer and author of Dragon Tears, wrote this:

 I am not really sure what it is about these books by Wulff, but I simply love them. The story telling and commentaries are engaging, honest and sincere. And, her love of animals shouts out from every page." 



A Fairy Tale excerpt from the Turnip Princess by 

In lieu of actually reviewing the newly translated (by Maria Tatar) Turnip Princess, Slate published one on the stories,Tricking the Witch. It has magic, transformations, twists and turns and a princess heroine -- not a prince -- who saves the day. 

Here is an excerpt...

VonSchonwerthCover..."It looked as if the two were about to be caught, when the princess said: “I’m going to change into a rosebush, and I’ll turn you into a rose. My sister is chasing us, and she won’t be able to do a thing because she can’t stand the smell of roses.” Just when the girl was closing in on them, a fragrant rosebush sprang up right in her path with a magnificent rose in bloom. The girl had been tricked, and she had to turn back. The witch scolded her to no end. “You stupid girl,” she grumbled angrily. “If you had just plucked the rose, the bush would have followed.” And then she sent the eldest of the three to find the two fugitives.

In the meantime the couple returned to their human shapes, and they continued on their way. Reinhilda turned around at one point, and she saw that they were still being pursued. She decided to take advantage of her magic powers again, and she said to the prince: “I’m going to turn myself into a church, and you are going to climb up into the pulpit and hold a stern sermon about witches and their sinister magic...”

Read it all on SLATE



Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Nancy Houser has written an informed article, based on research and experience, about the effects of age on dogs and parallels with the aging experience of humans. Here are excerpts:

"The more we are around the old dogs on our rescue farm, the more we see similar characteristics between human dementia and Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.  To tell the truth, there is not a whole lot of difference. The health care field is one I have been involved with throughout most of my life – dementia and Alzheimer’s were my specialties. The very first job I had was at a care-home in Lexington, Nebraska, when I was 16-years old.''"

Read all of this insightful article at:  Way Cool Dogs



My Apollo, A Story of Companionship and Healing

by Kaitlin Jenkins

We rarely post book reviews. However, our respect for Kaitlin Jenkins -- She Speaks Bark -and Pet Parent -- is such that we were drawn to her review of My Apollo and wanted to share excepts here:

ApolloBook"Nina Huang wrote ‘My Apollo‘ after being inspired by her own experiences in rescuing companion dogs. ‘My Apollo‘ is a gorgeous book, full of beautiful hand-illustrated drawings that are absolutely lovely. The watercolor images are done by the author herself, and the book is hardbound on durable, heavyweight paper. ‘My Apollo’ features the story of a young boy who is struggling at school. His family adopts a rescue greyhound, Apollo, and the book follows along as the two of them begin a healing journey together. The great thing is, Apollo the dog actually exists- Nina and her family adopted him and have helped him overcome his shy nature and fear of new things."

You can learn more about author/illustrator Nina Huang on her website.

The photo of Scooter, the dog, and the book, my Apollo, is by Kaitlin Jenkins.


Littleprince"Grownups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

Antoine de Saint-Exuprey, The Little Prince


Sunbearsquad-logoThe weather is bad. You're tired. You want to get home -- at that moment, you see an injured dog, a dog in distress. What can you do? What should you do?  For answers, examples, true stories and more, visit Sunbear Squad...Let the experience of compassionate dog lovers guide you...free Wallet Cards & Pocket  Posters,  Informative and practical guidance...

Visit SunBear Squad -  - 


"No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses." - Herman Melville 


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