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<<October 2016>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Film, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The earnest faith of a storyteller

Ang Lee, the two-time Academy Award-winning director, has noted that we should never underestimate the power of storytelling. Indeed, as a storyteller, Lee has shown through his films the potential of stories to connect people, to heal wounds, to drive change, and to reveal more about ourselves and the world. In particular, Lee has harnessed new technology for storytelling in movies such as Life of Pi (2012) and his upcoming feature film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (to be released on 11 November, 2016).

The post The earnest faith of a storyteller appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on The earnest faith of a storyteller as of 1/1/1900
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2. June -- The Sky Opens, Kids, Books, Movies, and Dogs





Overcoming, Defeating, and Conquering -- The Giant(s)

Five thousand years ago, people were telling the story of a boy who overcame the ogre.

Ogres are all powerful, huge, and devour people --  much like giants.

In nineteenth century England, the boy, now known as Jack, became famous through chap books and story books. He was outwitting and killing giants.

And in our era, the giants have returned...this time through the movies.

The story that was told around campfires before the bronze age has endured through time, and continues to be told and even seen around the world -- in 3D movies with music and sounds.

Tales of wonder, indeed.


Fairy Tales Have Ancient Origins

From Africa and Asia to Europe and the Americas, anthropologists continue to uncover information about our past and our Celticcultural history. Recently, Durham University anthropologist Dr Jamie Tehrani, and folklorist Sara Graça da Silva, from New University of Lisbon, made a breakthrough in the world of wonder tales. Here are excerpts from an informative article about their discoveries written by Allison Flood in the Guardian.

"Analysis showed Jack and the Beanstalk was rooted in a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre’s Treasure, and could be traced back to when eastern and western Indo-European languages split – more than 5,000 years  ago. Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin  were found to be about 4,000 years old. A folk tale called The Smith and the Devil was estimated to date back 6,000 years to the bronze age..." 

"The author and academic Marina Warner, who has written a history of fairytales, called the paper 'fascinating'. 'What’s interesting to me is it shows how deeply this creative power of the imagination lies in the human being, how it’s about making sense of your world by inventing narratives that resist its difficulties..." - 

Here is a link to the article by Allison Flood in the Guardian.

Here is a link to the original article, published by the researchers, in the Royal Society Open Science Journal  The photo is of the Celtic Janus Stone, Boa Island, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland


Tales of Hope

MilletPeople have always needed hope. Life was a constant struggle in the early days of fairy tales. Life expectancy was less than thirty years.

Fairy tales, with their happy endings, gave people hope. They helped people to cope with the wars, hunger, disease, poverty and religious conflicts that characterized their lives.

Fairy tales, tales of wonder, told of struggles to survive, of finding light in the darkness. They told tales where a brave boy, using his wits, could overcome evil forces, and destroy the ogres and giants.

Through the eons of time, stories of this boy were tales of hope. 

The illustration is by Jean Francois Millet 


Jack, A Quick-witted Cornish Farm Boy

JackTwoHeadsGiantKillerJack and the Gyants, published in 1708, was an immediate success and initiated a variety of tales where Jack, through quick-witted chicanery, good luck, and violent death overwhelms many giants. He also achieves wealth, and a noble wife. "An immediate success, Jack and his giants were frequently alluded to in familiar terms by eighteenth century writers lilke Henry Fielding, John Newberry, Dr Johnson and Boswell, and William Cowper...When Jack tales were rewritten for refined sensibilities in the 18th and 19th centuries, the cruelty of their gory killings disappeared...Jack became an earthy Everyboy, and the Giant a geographically unlocalizable married oaf, reachable only by the magic of a bean that grew endlessly heavenward."

Ruth B. Bottigheimer -- The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales


English Fairy Tales-Joseph Jacobs

EnglishFairyTalesJosephJacobs" 'Who says that English folk have no fairy tales of their own?' Jacobs asked with a rhetorical flourish in the preface to English Fairy Tales (1890)...These collections were the British answer to Perrault in France, and to the Brothers Grimm in Germany, aiming to capture an oral tradition before it died out and to reveal that the British could pride themselves on a powerful, imaginative native lore...

'This book,' he wrote of English Fairy Tales, "is meant to be read aloud and not merely taken in by the eye' "...

Jack and the Beanstalk was one of the tales included in Jacob's book.

from Maria Tatar, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales


BruegalTalkingThe Tellers of the Tales

..."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 is a detail from a painting by Peiter Bruegal


Centuries of Oral Tradition

Greek"Our version of the 'Iliad' was composed toward the end of what we assume were centuries of oral tradition — the 'Iliad', like the 'Odyssey' and other oral poems, had a genetic ability to reproduce itself, changing with each recital, picking up new details even as old ones were discarded, but always remaining recognizable. Almost nothing material in the poem can be traced with certainty to the Mycenaean Greeks.."  William Logan in his NY Times review of ‘Memorial,’ Alice Oswald’s Version of the ‘Iliad’ 


SpiderMamanLoiseBourgeoisFantasy Is True

"For fantasy is true, of course. It isn't factual, but it's true. Children know that. Adults know it too, and that's precisely why many of them are afraid of fantasy. They know that its truth challenges, even threatens, all that is false, all that is phony, unnecessary, and trivial in the life that they have let themselves be forced into living. They're afraid of dragons, because they are afraid of freedom."

Ursula Le Quin(The Language of the Night) as quoted by Terri Windling's Myth and Moor

The sculpture of Spider Maman is by Louise Bourgeois



Castle In The Mist

CITM-blog size-382KBDo you think that it is possible for dogs to stop a war?

Author Robert J. McCarty has created a charming fantasy-allegory that can be read and understood on at least two different levels.  Children will enjoy the story about dogs who come from another planet to help people on earth.  But under the surface are the important messages of friendship, love, loyalty, and how to overcome evil with good.”  The same things are true as the story continues in Castle in the Mist.  The book is well written and easy to read.  It will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next..." 

From a review by Wayne Walker -- Stories for Children Magazine, Home School Book Review, and Hone School Buzz

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


GiantGameThrones3Before the Coming of Civilized Man.

"John Matthews writes in Taliessin, Shamanism and the Bardic Mysteries of Britain & Ireland (1992) that giants are very common throughout British folklore, and often represent the "original" inhabitants, ancestors, or gods of the island before the coming of "civilized man", their gigantic stature reflecting their otherworldly nature. Giants figure prominently in Cornish, Breton and Welsh folklore..." from Wikipedia  
The illustration of the giant is from Game Of Thrones


National Rifle Association (NRA) Adds Guns to Fairytales.

Maria Tatar, in her Breezes from Wonderland blog, has joined those protesting or questioning the NRA's insidious
NRAWOLFpublication of revised fairy tale violence. In the NRA's versions, both Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel use rifles to destroy their enemies. Tatar's post is entitled, I Finally Net Some Fairy Tales I Do Not Like. 

 John Schwartz  interviewed Ms Tatar for an article he wrote about the NRA in the NYTimes. Here's an excerpt:

"I got in touch with Professor Tatar, because how often do you get an excuse to talk with a professor of Germanic folklore and mythology? She said that one of the problems with these gun-toting, sanitized tales was that they missed the point of Grimm. Success in fairy tales, she explained, comes down to more than tight shot grouping. 'They are very much about problem-solving, using your wits and courage to get out of trouble,' she said. 'Unfortunately, because they take up very basic cultural contradictions and are supremely malleable, they can also be harnessed for almost any purpose. The Nazis recast Little Red Riding Hood as the innocent Aryan victim of a Jewish wolf.' "

The illustration is by Henry Justice Ford




Untold Damage...

The New York Times posted a report on children killed in the USA from Gun Deaths in 2015

ChildfuneralPhilTownsend36 age 12 and under

23 age 13-17

Children Injured/wounded by guns in the USA in  2015

36 age 12 and under

77 age 13-17

Here is a link to the article: Untold Damage,

The photo is by Phillip Townsend/WFAA


Breezes from Wonderland

Cersei-lannister-game-of-thrones-43Once again, I have had a very rewarding visit to Maria Tatar's blog. Currently, in addition to her criticism of the NRA's gun-toting fairy tales, she writes about the impact of story, fairy tales, and animated film in a complex family situation..."It’s a film that ends up animating us, rewiring our brains and rearranging our senses.  And it lets us look inside the minds of others in compelling ways–suddenly we see what they see, feel what they feel as we discover how the symbolic helps us navigate reality." 

Her current blog also has fascinating and provocative insights on women, Game Of Thrones. our fairy tale heritage, and the outrageous graphic violence of TV and film..."Our on-screen entertainments rarely replay real-life anxieties. Instead they haunt us in ways that are often errant and unpredictable. In a culture that has renounced the ideal of beauty, the beautiful dead woman of Edgar Allan Poe’s fantasies may now have moved into middle age..." 

The illustration is of Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones


The New Yelodoggie Book Is Coming

What do others think when they see Yelodoggie?

CatloveIs this really a dog?

If so, why is Yelodoggie  yelo?

Yelodoggie must find the answer. 

This is the story in the new book.

Yelodoggie is a creation of C.A. Wulff.
Here's a link to Wulff's Yeloddoggie  paintings.

Here's a link to her Up On The Woof website. Wulff is the author of wonderful books about dogs


CtWrevisedCoverKindleAmazon Review of Circling the Waggins by BrittdogPub

..."The book is filled with funny animal stories... The book also includes many sad times when one pet after another made the sad journey to the Rainbow Bridge. I highly recommend this book to animal lovers. You will definitely laugh and cry. You may even learn a few things about animal care and the treatment of various health issues pet owners often face. I enjoyed this book so much that I am now reading another of this author's pet tales." 

Circling the Waggins is also an Amazon Kindle Book



PirateThePitBullKids, Books, and Dogs

Here is a link to a touching 30 second video  reaffirming the hope engendered by the human canine bond...Every Thursday, Jacob, a 6-year-old boy with autism brings a small mat to the Carson Animal Shelter and sits down in front of Pirate the pit bull's cage to read to him. "If I read to the dogs, they will come out of their cages and find homes," says Jacob.



BFGGood Giants, Bad Giants, and a Young Girl

Stephen Spielberg,
the gifted director of films ranging from Schindler's List to Indiana Jones, and The Color Purple to Saving Private Ryan, has a new film, the BFG, opening on July1. The man who gave us E.T., has now made a film based on Roald Dahl's book, the BFG (the Big Friendly Giant). Disney, a co-producer with Amblin Entertainment and others, will distribute the film in 3D. The writer is the late Melissa Mathison, who also wrote E.T..

Here's a wikipedia link regarding Dahl's book,the BFG. 

Here is a link to the trailer for the BFG. 



Movies That Are Good For The Soul

BFG GirlGiantHandStephen Speilberg
was interviewed by Manhola Dargis of the New York Times. Here is an excerpt from a Speilberg reply:

" My only advice — and I don’t have a studio, I have a very small company — is that there needs to be a good balance of crowd-pleasers and movies that are good for the soul, that get us to dwell in the aftertaste of an experience that is so far-fetched or out of the box, but three days later we realize that we saw something that might change our lives..."

Here is a link to this excellent Manohla Dargis  interview with Stephen Speilberg


Disney has announced that Gigantic is coming in 2018... a 3D musical loosely based on Jack and the Beanstalk. The story includes a young girl giant inspired by Gulliver's travels. (More news on this next month)


Do They Have Hope ?
I don't know the answer. But they certainly have experienced the painful wrath of the Ogre. He sits in Aleppo and does't care about their pain. He keeps destroying more lives and creating more pain.

his is a link to a video of children from war ravaged Syria who tell us what they have experienced. It is a moving experience to witness this brief (2:18) video. It is frustrating and sad to know that this continues.

It was produced by the wonderful Save The Children organization. The following information is from their website:

Approximately half of the 19.5 million registered refugees globally are children and youth. Their number is growing dramatically as a result of escalating crises in places where violence, persecution and conflict are uprooting entire populations.

Children and families are fleeing out of fear for their lives and embarking on perilous journeys. Many hope for the chance of a better life and the opportunity for asylum. But while they are on the move, they are extremely vulnerable...

  • Here is a link to their website. Save The Children
  • Photo by Behal Halebi Anadolu, Agy/Getty Images


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

WeWishForWingsLucyCampbellScottishI 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, publishers, 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...".

The illustration of "We Wish fof Wings" is by Lucy Campbell


1000-DOG-ARTICLES-1-242x242Congratulations to Nancy Houser, Sandra Marquiss, and Marita Megan on their 1,000 blog posts dedicated to helping dogs and dog lovers. Here is an excerpt from their website based in their home and rescue center in Wilcox, Nebraska...

"We’ve created WayCoolDogs.com about seven years ago, in March of 2009, with the purpose of helping dog owners understand their dogs better so they can provide quality care for them.

We have worked very hard ever since to provide you with the best information about dog health, dog insurance, breeds, the latest in dog research, dog worms, military dogs, therapy dogs and lots of how-to articles on many other topics!

Or perhaps you just want to read some dog stories, like the one of Jerry Mathers and his hero dog Ron Ton Ton."

Here's a link to WayCoolDogs


NorthernLightsIllustrationBearWhy do you think it's so important that young people read?

For the same reason that I think it's important that they breathe, eat, drink, sleep, run about, fool around, and have people who love and look after them. It's part of what makes us fully human. Some people manage to get through life without reading; but I know that if I'd had to do that, an enormous part of my mind, or my soul if you like, would be missing. No one should be without the chance to let their soul grow.

Phillip Pullman in the Guardian. The question was asked by Luke, 13 years old.

The illustration is from Pullman's book, Northern Lights.


 "I would not, for any quantity of gold, part with the wonderful tales which I have retained from my earliest childhood or have met in the progress of my life." -- Martin Luther

CITM-blog size-382KBWe 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 independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more.

The Planet Of The Dogs series (including Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale) is also available in digital format at..Barnes & NobleAmazon, Powell's, KoboInkteraScribd, and Tolino.

Librarians, teachers and bookstores ..You can order the Planet Of The Dogs  series, through Ingram with a full professional discount. 

To read sample chapters of the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs 

 The illustration from Castle In The Mist is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
If you see a dog in trouble or encounter a lost dog and you are uncertain as to what to do, you'll find the information on Sunbear Squad..."Transforming animal lovers into welfare defenders with knowledge, tools, and inspiration."
"Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash?" -- Robert Brault

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3. X-Men: Apocalypse

I promise, at some point I'll go back to writing about things that aren't superheroes.  Though that would require Hollywood to stop blasting superhero stories at us in such close succession (I haven't even written anything about the second season of Daredevil, though you can get a sense of the existential despair it plunged me into from the thread starting at this tweet).  Coming at the end of

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4. Captain America: Civil War

It's a bit of a strange thing to say, but I might have liked Captain America: Civil War better if it were a less good movie.  When films like The Dark Knight Rises or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice deliver rancid political messages wrapped in equally rancid plots and characterization, the reviewer's job is made easier.  We can point to how a failure to recognize the actual complexity of a

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5. Ex Machina

The summer before last, at LonCon, I participated in a panel about "The Gendered AI"--those characters, either robots or disembodied artificial intelligences, who are seen as possessing a gender (where gender almost always means female, since maleness is still considered an unmarked category, and genre fiction rarely distinguishes between a robot that is genderless and one that is male-identified

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6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

To get the obvious stuff out of the way, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a terrible movie.  I mean, you didn't need me to tell you that, right?  It's been out for three weeks, and the reviews have been so uniformly terrible that its 28% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes actually seems a bit high.  And before that consensus formed, there were the pre-release reviews, which were if anything

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7. April -- Alternate Reality, Books, Kids, Movies, and Dogs



Alternate Reality

Harry Potter isn’t real? Oh no! Wait, wait, what do you mean by real? Is this video blog real? Am I real if you can see me and hear me, but only through the internet? Are you real if I can read your comment but I don’t know who you are or what your name is or where you’re from or what you look like or how old you are? I know all of those things about Harry Potter. Maybe Harry Potter’s real and you’re not.” 
John Green

The illustration of Hogwarts is by Jim Kay


Opening the Doors to Wonder

Töölö Buds2015-april 097Wonder comes in many forms.

Harry Potter swept the reading world and opened the doors to a greater audience. The success of the Harry Potter series renewed broad-based respect for fairy tales. 

From the first book and beyond, J.K. Rowling created an alternate world that readers could relate to. People young and old are drawn in to these robust stories and their engaging, fully developed characters. As with the classic stories from the past, the characters, imaginative twists and turns of the stories, and the fully realized details, combined to enable readers to believe in the magic of an alternate reality. The seven Harry Potter books created an enormous worldwide audience. And provided the substance for wonderful films. 

Adults have also become fans of the books and movies, creating a record breaking "crossover" market. And the phenomenon continues to grow...

Click the photo for spring wonder.


Contact With The Lives Of Others

HarryHermioneHogwartsOminous"Rowling's books, by arousing curiousity and establishing contact with the lives of others, even if they exist solely within the confines of a literary work, enable children to develop capacities that readily translate into real-life experience. JkRowling never shies away from the great existential mysteries: death and loss, cruelty and compassion, desire and depression. Harry is anything but sheltered from the evils of Voldermort...he is destined for greatness even though he also posseses the weaknesses, failings, and vulnerabilities of all humans."

Maria Tatar -- Enchanted Hunters -- The Power of Stories in Childhood


Harry Began On A Train

HarryPotterPhilosophersStoneBarryMoserJK Rowling: I was going on a train from Manchester to London and I was looking out of the window at some cows, I believe and I just thought: "Boy doesn't know he's a wizard - goes off to wizard school." I have no idea where it came from. I think the idea was floating along the train and looking for someone and my mind was vacant enough so it decided to zoom in there.

Stephen Fry: And you played with the idea in your head…

JK Rowling: Exactly! From that moment I thought: "Well why doesn't he realise he's a wizard?" It was as though the story was just there for me to discover and I thought: "Well his parents are dead and he needs to find out they're wizards" and on we went from there. 

From a Stephen Fry Interview with JK Rowling

The illustration, from the Philosophers Stone, is by Jim Kay.


Hermione...an empowered young woman

HermioneSoulful"Throughout the Harry Potter Tales, Hermione emerges as the beneficiary of three centuries of girls' book identity. At times the plucky youth, at times the serious student, at times the foolish lover, at times the tomboy, at times the blossoming maiden -- taken together, all these aspects of her personality make her the heir to everyone from Jenny Peace in Sarah Fielding's The Governess, to Jo in Alcott's Little Women, to Alice in Carroll's Wonderland, to all the girl guides, or "new Women" or adventuresome or studious females who fill the range of popular writing well into the twentieth century."

From Seth Lerer writing about Theaters of Girlhood, Domesticity, Desire, and Performance in Female Fiction in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter 


“I wrote a strong female character with brains”

- J.K. Rowling commenting on Hermione in a video conversation with Daniel Radcliff


Finding the Right Wand -- an adventure in an alternate reality

First, you go to Diagon Alley where Ollivanders is located..."Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C...

A single wand lays on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window."

You will be helped by Mr. Ollivander, a very old man, who remembers every wand he has sold -- and to whom he sold it.

NewHarryPYou will be measured in many ways by a tape measure that works on its on while Mr Ollvander explains that, "Every Ollvander wand has a core of powerful magical substance...We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tale feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same..."

You may have to try many wands before you have the right one.

It seems you don't choose the wand, the wand chooses you...

The fully imagined detail in the Harry Potter books plays a major role in their appeal. The fascinating story of Harry finding the right magic wand takes place in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when Hagrid takes Harry shopping on Diagon Alley, and introduces him to the the world of wizards.

The illustration of Harry and Hagrid in Diagon Alley is by Jim Kay


An Alternate Universe


Forbidden ForestCentaurs..."J. K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s Oz or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe, which may be one reason the “Potter” books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis...."

From the book review by Michiko Kakatani  of Harry potter and the Deathly Hallows in the New York Times


Stories That Opened My Mind

HarryOwl"There are hundreds upon hundreds of reasons for one to fall in love with the world and characters J.K. Rowling created in the Harry Potter series, the aforementioned being among them. For me, these are the stories that opened my mind to the wonderful world of books, novels and novellas, making them very near and dear to my heart..."

From the BookNerd on her Wonderful World of Writing blog


An Older Harry Potter 

...Harry is called back into active duty when evil powers return in force... a new book and a play (opening in London) based on the book - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child -- are on their way, arriving in late July. They are based on a story  by J.K. Rowling. Here are two links for more information: Pottermore and NPR

FantasticBeastsWhereToFindThemCoverWizardry Before Harry

The Wizard World in 1920's USA is the setting for a new movie,starring Eddie Redmayne... 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in the UK in November 2016... The book about Fantastic Beasts was used as part of the curriculum for young wizards in the Hogwarts classroom. There will be two sequels...all written by J.K. Rowling. 

Support For Children
LogoBetterJ.K. Rowling spends time and money on helping people...In 2004 she founded Lumos...'No child should be denied a family life because they are poor, disabled or from an ethnic minority. Lumos works to support the 8 million children in institutions worldwide to regain their right to a family life and to end the institutionalisation of children."

Among the many other charities she supports are:Book Aid InternationalCatie Hoch FoundationChildren with AIDSDyslexia ActionGingerbread...

JKRowling2Who Is J.K. Rowling ?

For the real J.K. Rowling, or as close as we will probably get, I suggest the Oprah Interview... Engaging, interesting,  and with some excellent documentary scenes woven in...Also, her candid, heartfelt, Harvard speech.

Alternate Reality 

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows  



The N.R.A. Reimagines Classic Fairy Tales, With Guns

Liam Stack wrote this disturbing article. Here are excerpts...

"The world of make-believe can be a scary place, but never fear: Thanks to a series of reimagined fairy tales published online by the National Rifle Association, classic characters like Hansel and Gretel are now packing heat.

FairytaleGunsNYTThe group has published two of the updated tales on its N.R.A. Family website in recent months, entitled Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun) and Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns). The stories have outraged advocates of gun control, but their author, Amelia Hamilton, a conservative blogger, has called them lessons in gun safety...

In the N.R.A. version, Little Red Riding Hood sets off through the forest to visit her grandmother, just like in the original. But the Big Bad Wolf did not scare her this time, because she “felt the reassuring weight of the rifle on her shoulder.”

When the wolf approached her, “she shifted her rifle so that it was in her hands and at the ready.” He fled in fear...

Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, agreed, calling the stories “a disgusting, morally depraved marketing campaign.” He said in a statement that the stories were in poor taste in part because nearly 50 children and teenagers are shot each day in the United States, and suicide by gun is a leading cause of death among children over the age of 9..." 

Here is a link to read all of this disturbing article:FairyTaleGuns

The photo of a boy with a Barrett rifle at a meeting of the National Rifle Association in St. Louis in 2012. is by Daniel Acker for The New York Times



 Save The Children

Save the Children works in 120 countries, including the United States, and has helped more than 166 million children — including more than 55 million children directly. Here are excerpts from the story of one child...

Omar said, 'We have to be here very early in the morning because the tankers arrive early, so I get here at six in the morning and leave late at night so I that I have time to collect as much fuel as possible'..."

Omar was a good student and loved school; he dreamed of becoming an architect. His life is now about survival.

Here is a link to read all of Omar's painful story: Omar

Top photo, courtesy IRF; bottom photo, courtesy Save The Children.


Hobbit2BookCoverImportance of Children's Books for Most Adults

"But children's books are extremely important. Most adults don't read many books and if they do it will probably be some form of popular fiction. So a children's classic may be the last, or in some cases, the only, piece of serious literature they have read. As such these books are very influential and so I think it is our responsibility to consider them as seriously and carefully as any other great literature." 

From a Guardian article by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Alison Lurie ,  professor emeritus of literature and writing at Cornell University, and author and editor of a multitude of children's books.


A Classic Video....Harvey the Dog





The Planet Of The Dogs....An Alternate Reality

Here are excerpts from Chapter One of the book...the story of how dogs came down to Planet Earth to help people...

"Far out in the sky, on the other side of the sun, is the Planet of the Dogs. Dogs have always lived there in peace and happiness.

PlanetOfTheDogs-frontcover-jpg-388x600There are country dogs and city dogs. They live in places like Shepherd Hills, Poodletown, Retriever Meadows, Muttville, Hound Dog Hamlet, Biscuit Town, and Shaggy Corners... 

Dogs talk to each other in many ways. They woof, bark, and howl. They use body movement, face licking, smiling, and tail wagging. Dogs can hear what other dogs are thinking. And they always tell the truth...Dogs are very good at sleeping, taking naps, and waiting for someone they love...

Dogs have no worries on their planet because there are no dangers there. There are no bad dogs, no hungry animals, and no mean people. There is plenty to eat, lots of time to play, and all kinds of schools for the puppies to learn interesting things about their planet and each other. It’s a wonderful place to live.

Here is a link to read Sample Chapters of the Planet Of The Dogs series. 


 This is the world of Yelodoggie, created by author and dog advocate, C.A. Wulff.

  All dogs, deep in their heart of hearts, are yellow. Because yellow is the color of light and joy and happiness, and these attributes are the true essence of dogs. Here is a link to Wulff's Etsy shop where you can see more of these delightful original watercolor paintings and prints celebrating dogs. They make a wonderful gift...






Alternate Realities from Finland

Leena Krohn, a highly regarded writer in Europe, wrote one of my favorite books, Tainaron. I was gratified to see that LeenakrohnMikaelBookJoshua Rothman, in the New Yorker, wrote that her newly published book of collected fiction was among  " The Books We Loved in 2015". Here is an excerpt:  

"I also found myself hypnotized by Leena Krohn, a Finnish writer whose collected stories and novels, rendered into English by many different translators, have just been published as a single volume, Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction.” Broadly speaking, Krohn is a speculative writer; one of the novels in the collection, for example, consists of thirty letters written from an insect city. (“It is summer and one can look at the flowers face to face.”) Krohn writes like a fantastical Lydia Davis, in short chapters the length of prose poems. Her characters often have a noirish toughness; one, explaining her approach to philosophy, says that when she asks an existential question, “life answers. It is generally a long and thorough answer...”

Here is the link to read all of Joshua Rothman's New Yorker review.

Photo by Mikael Böök. 



Under The Sun...two realities

A compelling 5 minute report on DW tv news about a little girl in North Korea brought me a reminder of the power of film. Vitaly Mansky, the producer/director, has made a very poignant film about the life of Zin Mi (the little girl) in both the real world and the manufactured world of North Korea. 

Here are excerpts  from an informative article by Carmen Gray in the Guardian...

UnderTheSunZinMiVitalyMansky2"A new film on life in North Korea has caused a diplomatic row after the director used officially sanctioned shoots to demonstrate how the state manipulates its people.

Authorities are said to have tried to prevent screenings of Under the Sun, a film that follows a North Korean girl as she prepares to celebrate the Day of the Shining Star, the birthday of former supreme leader Kim Jong-il...The film reveals how government representatives seek to construct an image of an “ideal” family, capturing the hectoring of officials as they tell the Koreans what to say, how to sit and when to smile.

“I wanted to make a film about the real Korea, but there’s no real life in the way that we consider,” said Mansky, who spent a year in the country filming. “There is just the creation of an image of the myth of a real life. So we made a film about fake reality.” 

Here is the link to the trailer for Under The Sun



"Credit the Disney folks with making what could have been a lecture on stereotypes into one of the more amusing animated kidflicks of recent vintage. When you consider that this is the same zip-ah-dee-doo-dah studio that once made Song of the South ... well, let's just say Zootopia suggests we've all come a long way"...Bob Mondello, NPR

Here is a link to the trailer: Zootopia


WitchTheFamilyDinnerThe Witch, a low budget (one million dollars), independent production, continues to find an ever-growing audience (over 30 million dollars)...

"The Witch is a scary movie and a serious one, because it lure us into the minds and the earthly domains, of those who are themselves scared, night and day, that they have forfeited the mercies of God. It takes an original movie to remind us of original sin..."  Anthony Lane in his New Yorker review.

Stacy Schiffin wrote an excellent article, relevant to this movie, on The Witches of Salem, also in the New Yorker. Here is an excerpt..."In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs 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..."


“Both Rowling and Meyer (Twilight series), they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”- Stephen King


 Circling the Waggins by C.A. Wulff

Cover_ctw_vers2What happens when a group of the most irascible, insane, and ridiculously un-adoptable pets known to man end up being permanent residents in an animal rescuer's home? Challenges abound and chaos reigns! 

Here are excerpts from author Tim McHugh’s review…

"Circling the Waggins is a heart-felt and moving story of two women's quest to heal and nurture a wide variety of animals.  C.A. Wulff poignantly captures the complex personalities of the mice, dogs, and cats that inhabit her wilderness home as well as the humorous chaos that ensues as they all try to coexist.  It is by turns a roller-coaster  ride of animal rescue, as well as a keen reflection on the frailty of all life and the healing power of love and letting go."   

 Tim McHugh, is author of Ivan! A Pound Dog's Views on Life, Love, & Leashes 


Dogs Open the Doors to Healing at Good Dog

Good Dog provides therapy dog services to people in health care, social service, educational and community GoodDogfacilities, and at disaster sites around the country. Its highly-trained and fully-certified volunteer teams each consist of a human handler and therapy dog.  Good Dog focuses on work in the four divisions of Education, Health Care and Wellness, Research, and Disaster Response. For more on the work of these divisions, click here.

As the largest certifying animal-assisted therapy organization on the East Coast of the United States, Good Dog currently operates in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, and at disaster sites around the country. Good Dog focuses on work in the four divisions of Education, Health Care and Wellness, Research, and Disaster Response."

Here is a link to the Good Dog Foundation Video


Turning Your Pet Into a Therapy Dog

by Jane E. Brody, Personal Health writer for the New York Times

Here is the link to read all of this fascinating and informative article by Jane Brody: Personal Health

The illustration is by Paul Rogers


        BP Header

POD-The bear-blog sizeWe 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 independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more.

The Planet Of The Dogs series is also available in digital format at

Barnes and NobleAmazon, Powell's, KoboInkteraScribd, and Tolino.

Librarians, teachers and bookstores ..You can order the Planet Of The Dogs  series, through Ingram with a full professional discount. 

To read sample chapters of the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs 

The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty


Meeting A Dog

Sunbearsquad-logoIf you see an injured dog or a dog in trouble , from puppy mills to poison, Sunbear Squad can help you. Sunbear Squad is a leading source for information and guidance in dog rescue and care. Here is an excerpt from their site about meeting a new dog(s)...

"In the western world, we are taught at an early age to greet new people by approaching them with upright posture, looking directly into their eyes and offering a hand to shake or squeeze. It becomes second nature to us, so as a result, many of us animal lovers greet every living thing–except bugs–using those same “good manners...

We must UNLEARN that set of social rules to avoid frightening dogs, cats, and other animals, who will perceive full-front posture, staring, and outstretched arm as rude and threatening (unless they were very well-socialized with humans during the crucial developmental period).

In other words, polite human greetings are bad manners for greeting dogs and cats! In fact the two greeting languages are almost all completely opposite...Here is a link to read all of this article: Meeting A Dog.


“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ― Will Rogers  






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8. March- Reality, Fantasy, books, kids, movies, and dogs



In A Dark Wood

"In the mid-path of my life, I woke to find myself in a dark wood," wrote Dante in The Divine Comedy, marking the start of a quest that will lead to transformation and redemption. Likewise, a journey through the dark of the woods is a common motif in fairy tales young heroes set off through the perilous forest in order to reach their destiny; or they find themselves abandoned there, cast off and left for dead. The road is long and treacherous,  prowled by ghosts, ghouls, wicked witches, wolves, and the more malign sorts of faeries....but helpers also appear on the path: wise crones, good faeries, and animal guides, often cloaked in unlikely disguise. The hero's task is to tell friend from foe, and to keep walking steadily onward..."

From Myth and Moor, Terri Windling's Blog. The illustration, from Song of the Sea, is by Tomm Moore


Lost In the Woods 

Tuusula april 2014 027 (1)We have all been lost in the woods at some time in our life either literally, metaphorically or both.

Being lost in the woods, where there is no clear path to follow, and the light is fading, is a serious and frightening matter.

Wild beasts, dangerous people, and invading armies cannot be seen in the dark forests. But they are there, in the mind of the author, the teller of tales, the animator...and in the mind of the child, until the story or myth finds light, escape and salvation.

So it was in a tale told, in 1805,by 12 year old Henriette Dorathea Wild, to the Brothers Grimm: Hansel and Gretel


Hansel and Gretel, The Impossible Tale

HanselGretlTheodrHosemannI have always found this to be a dark and disturbing tale. It deals with war, famine, abandonment, fear, cannibalism, a witch, dark forces and death in a rather overwhelming confluence. And the central characters are children who must experience and deal with these problems.

Moreover, in Hansel and Gretel, the line between reality and fantasy is often blurred.

Fortunately, as is the custom in the tradition of fairy tales, escape from the darkness, salvation, and a happy ending offer relief from the darkness.


HanselGretelWitchHanselCage ArthurRackhamBut what about mother? Mother in various versions of this tale tends to be heartless, self-centered and uncaring. The Grimms, in their seventh edition, transformed the cruel mother into a cruel stepmother.

The father, despite having regrets, remorse, sadness, and love for his children, is nevertheless a partner in his wife's dark scheme of abandonment. 

'No, wife,' said the man, 'I will not do that; how can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest?—the wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces.' 'O, you fool!' said she, 'then we must all four die of hunger, you may as well plane the planks for our coffins,' and she left him no peace until he consented. 'But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the same,' said the man."

Fear and loss of hope...a mirror to the past.  

                                                                                                                                            The top illustration is by Theodor Hosemann; The lower illustration is by Arthur Rackham


"Determined to find a way back home, Hansel and Gretel survive what children fear more than anything else: abandonment by parents and exposure to predators..." - Maria Tatar writing in her wonderful book, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales.


The Return of Hansel and Gretel

Over the centuries, the classic story of Hansel and Gretel has been reinterpreted in books, films, TV, ballet, theater, popular song and opera.
In 2014, Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti published a stunning new version. The illustrations envelop the story. And Gaimen, in his brilliant retelling, creates a masterful balance between fantasy and reality.
Here is an excerpt that sets the background and tone for the story that follows:
"War came, and the soldiers came with it -- hungry, angry, bored, scared men who, as they pushed through, stole the cabbages and the chickens and the ducks, The woodcutter's family was never certain who was fighting whom, nor why they were fighting,, nor what they were fighting about. But beyond the forest, fields of crops were burned and barley fields became battlefields, and the farmers were killed, or made into soldiers in their turn and marched away. And soon enough the miller had no grain to mill into flour, the butcher had no animals to kill and hang in the window, and they said you could name your own price for a rabbit." 

H&G TheyLived HappilyEverAfterThis is the setting -- famine and the aftermath war --  for this fairy tale of abandoned children. Gaimen's decision to spell out the chaos and hunger that overwhelmed the woodcutter and his family, is the impetus for all that follows.

This is a fairy tale, and therefore has a happy ending. The children return home to a great embrace by their father who had been searching for them every day in the forest. Mother has died for reasons "no one alive can say". However, "the treasures they had brought from the old woman's cottage kept them comfortable, and there were to be no more empty plates in their lives."



The Human Condition
"Written with a devastating spareness by Neil Gaiman and fearsomely illustrated in shades of black by Lorenzo Mattotti, the newest version of 'Hansel and Gretel' astonishes from start to finish...Their rendition brings a freshness and even a feeling of majesty to the little tale. Some great, roiling essence of the human condition — our fate of shuttling between the darkness and the light — seems to inhabit its pages...

H&GLorenzo Mattott.jpg4...It would be a monstrous thing to do, to kill our children,” the father says. “Lose them, not kill them,” the mother replies. In the Grimms’ original version... both parents agree that the children must be sacrificed. Then came later editions in which the mother alone is heartless. By the mid-19th century it was a stepmother who ordered the father to get rid of the children,...  Gaiman’s middle ground strikes just the right note of horror — a mother who would kill her children seems infinitely worse than a stepmother who makes the same calculation, yet having both parents plotting to off their offspring pushes the brutality too far toward hopeless despair rather than delicious terror....

The insights above were taken from Maria Russo's review of Hansel and Gretel in the New York Times

AlbertEderfeltWomenOutsideChurchRuokolahtiThe Oral Tradition

An insight by Angela Carter reminds us that fairy tales, tales of wonder, connect us to the world of our ancestors...

"For most of human history, 'literature,' both fiction and poetry, has been narrated, not written — heard, not read. So fairy tales, folk tales, stories from the oral tradition, are all of them the most vital connection we have with the imaginations of the ordinary men and women whose labor created our world.”   Angela Carter

The painting of Finnish country women talking after church is by Albert Edelfelt


Surviving in a Hard World

"The Grimms are in our blood. The fairy tales of 'Cinderella', 'Hansel and Gretel,' "The Fisherman and His Wife," 'Rumpelstiltskin' and dozens of others have become the common currency of our imagination. The cottage and the castle, or the forest or the mountain, have become the houses for our fears... 

Makovskiy_vladimir_peasant_children_1890... "We come to realize just how many of the Grimms' 'Tales' were about the family. These are stories of parents challenged by rural poverty, of husbands and wives fighting over who's in charge, of craftsmen who, for all their skill, cannot reshape their worlds. The 'once upon a time' here is a time of fishermen who get no fish, of shoemakers too poor to purchase leather, of unsuccessful millers and subsistence woodsmen. Many of these stories are tales of failed fathers who must make devilish deals to keep their children or, at worst, send them away.

And in those children, we may find true heroes. 'Hansel and Gretel' is really a fable of ingenuity: finding the pebbles or the breadcrumbs to mark the path home, or taking advantage of a witch's vanity to push her into an oven."

Seth Lerer writing about Phillip Pullman's book, Fairy Tales from the Brother's Grimmin the SF Gate. The painting of a peasant family is by Vladimir Makovsky

30 sec adhorizBlogFeb2016How to Change the World in Thirty Seconds is dedicated to all of the individuals and groups who devote their heads, hands, and hearts to improving the world for companion animals.
You are all, every one of you, my heroes -- C.A. Wulff
"This is probably the best "how-to" book I have ever seen. It is written in a very conversational manner while being extremely educational. Along with giving step-by-step instructions on how to use each advocacy tool, Cayr gives some background on each website, organization, and group... She walks you through the necessary steps and gives tips..." 
 Variations on Hansel and Gretel
There have been countless books,an enduring and respected opera by Engelbert Humperdinck, and a plethora of popular manifestations of Hansel and Gretel, Here ar two of the latter...celebrity photography and the world of fashion from Vogue magazine; and a song and video, Out Of The Woods, by the award winning Taylor Swift.
Hanselgretel-lady-gaga-andrew-garfield-hansel-gretel1The opera is performed by college theater groups as well as National Opera Companies of Holland, Wales,and England as well as the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Vogue Magazine, in anticipation of the Met production, published an extensive Hansel and Gretel photo shoot by Annie Leibovitz. The witch was played by Lady Gaga and Hansel and Gretel by actors Andrew Garfield and Lily Cole.
 In her video,Taylor Swift, alone in an exotic and rather threatening woods, runs and sings her hit song, Out Of The Woods...the woods are alive, wolves are in pursuit. and the snow covers the world as she  sings  "Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?..
The photo is by Annie Leibowitz for Vogue.. 


"The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless."
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau




POD-Daisy&Bean-blog sizeKidLitosphere 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. 

The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty 



An Enchanting Tale

Here are excerpts from the review of Planet Of The Dogs by Wayne Walker...

RjwithYogi reading PODbook"Did you ever wonder how dogs came to be man’s best friend? I’m sure that there is some historical explanation, although it may be shrouded in the mists of prehistoric times. But in your mind’s eye think back to those times and just imagine for a minute that there is a planet far out in space on the other side of the sun that is inhabited by intelligent dogs that live in peace and happiness. As the book opens, the dogs learn that there is trouble on Earth. Bik, the greedy leader of the warlike Stone tribe of Stone City, is planning to invade and conquer the peaceful people of Lake Village and surrounding Green Valley...

Author Robert J. McCarty has created a charming fantasy-allegory that can be read and understood on at least two different levels. Children will enjoy the story about dogs that come from another planet to help people on earth. But under the surface are the important messages of friendship, love, loyalty, and overcoming evil with good. 

Stella Mustanoja McCarty’s black-and-white shaded drawings are delightful companions to the text. Two sequels are now available, Castle in the Mist and Snow Valley Heroes: A Christmas Tale. Barking Planet Productions supports therapy dog reading programs across the country with book donations. Both old and young, especially dog lovers, will find Planet of the Dogs an enchanting tale."

Wayne Walker reviews for Stories for Children Magazine, Home School Book Reviews, and Home School Buzz,


Arriving At Truth

"So I believe that we should trust our children. Normal children do not confuse reality and fantasy -- they confuse them EmperorsNewClothesmuch less often than we adults do (as a certain great fantasist pointed out in a story called 'The Emperor's New Clothes'). Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren't real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books. All too often, that's more than Mummy and Daddy know; for, in denying their childhood, the adults have denied half their knowledge, and are left with the sad, sterile little fact: 'Unicorns aren't real.' And that fact is one that never got anyone anywhere (except in the story 'The Unicorn in the Garden,' by another great fantasist, in which it is shown that a devotion to the unreality of unicorns may get you straight into the loony bin.) It is by such statements as, 'Once upon a time there was a dragon,' or 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' -- it is by such beautiful non-facts that we fantastic human beings may arrive, in our peculiar fashion, at truth." 

Reprinted by Terri Windling in her blog, Myth and Moor -- From The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin



Light in the Darkness

Crying childrenThe damaged lives and suffering of children and their parents in today's war-torn world affect us all. The International Rescue Committee provides help to children in over 20 countries. Here are excerpts from their website 

"Currently 20 million children and adolescents are uprooted from their homes either as refugees or internally displaced persons. In order to respond to this, the IRC promotes the protection and development of children and youth, from the earliest stages of an emergency, through post-conflict and recovery....
In over 20 countries, the IRC’s community-based, participatory and holistic children and youth programs include:

GirlBrotherRefugeesSyriaJeffJMitchellGetty IRC provides counseling and services to young people who have experienced disease, abuse, exploitation or loss and separation from their families.

IRC “child-friendly spaces” provide the youngest victims of war and natural disaster with a safe place to play, participate in structured activities and to heal from trauma and loss while rebuilding a sense of normalcy.

The IRC trains educators, constructs classroom, and supports schools that are attended by hundreds of thousands of children.

We provide skills training to young people who have had their education or careers interrupted by war or natural disaster. More than half of those who receive such training are girls...".

Here is a video about the vital work of the International Rescue Comittee 

Here is very moving video... A Syrian Refugee Mother's Plea


Fairy_mounds_by_erynlasgalenphotoart-d73uy5sTill the moon has taken flight...

"Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand."

 From The Stolen Child by William Butler Yeats 

In 1988, The Waterboys, an Irish Musical Group set the The Stolen Child to heartfelt music. This was followed by a version with the lilting voice of the Canadian singer, Loreena McKennit


Trying to Reach Home

The illustration that greets you at the top of this blog is from Tomm Moore's movie folktale, the Song Song of the SeaTommMooreof the Sea, an amalgam of Irish folklore and Moore's imagination. Here are excerpts from the Guardian's 5 Star review: 

"A gorgeous, almost painterly tale of two siblings trying to reach home, but waylaid by witches, owls and faeries...This superb Irish animation from the director of 2009’s The Secret of Kells is a treat; an enchanting and very moving 'family film'. Once again, the story is rooted in Irish folklore, with selkies, giants and faeries slipping in and out of a tale of a vanished mother, a grieving father, and two lost but resourceful children trying to make their way home." 

Link to the Guardian review Song of the Sea. This illustration is also from Song of the Sea by Tomm Moore
This new film, inspired by events in Salem, has excellent reviews and is off to a very good start. Here are excerpts from the review by Mahola Dargis in the NY Times.  

"A finely calibrated shiver of a movie, “The Witch” opens on a scene of religious wrath. On a New England plantation,
WitchTheGirlLanternaround 1630, a true believer, William (Ralph Ineson), and his family are facing a grim assemblage. The setting is a kind of meeting house crowded with men, women and children, a congregation whose silence and unsmiling faces imply disapproval or perhaps fear. Whether they’re standing in judgment doesn’t matter to William, whose arrogant faith in his own notion of Christianity is as deep and darkly unsettling as his sepulchral voice...

Written and directed by Robert Eggers, “The Witch ” takes place in an America that in its extremes feels more familiar than its period drag might suggest. It’s set a decade after the Mayflower landed in Plymouth and tracks William’s family as it leaves the plantation to settle down alone at the edge of a forest. There, the family members build a farm, grow corn and commit themselves to God, a contract tested by a series of calamities that turn this story of belief into a freak-out of doubt...

What makes you and the movie jump, is that he stays inside the characters’ worlds and heads, all disastrously close quarters. These are people who fervently believe both in the Devil and in God, and for whom witches are as real as trees; it’s no wonder that their inability to tame the New World blurs with their fears..."
Here is the compelling trailer for the Witch

A Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki
SpiriteAwatGirlGhostsTrainRideThe Essence of Humanity is a 17 minute montage of compelling moments from the wonderful films of Hayao Miyazaki.
Miyazaki said:"Creating animation means creating a fictional world. That world soothes the spirit of those who are disheartened and exhausted from dealing with the sharp edges of reality." Written and narrated by Lewis Bond. Here is a link:The Essence of Humanity  



Inside Out Wins Both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe...

Apparently, this is a true breakthrough film from Pixar with great reviews and huge audiences of kids and parents...with a worldwide box office of over $850,000 before the awards.

Here is an excerpt from A.O. Scott's rave review in the NY Times: "

InsideOutGirl"The story takes place mostly in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who has just moved with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) from Minnesota to San Francisco. What happens to Riley on the outside is pretty standard: a dinner-table argument with Mom and Dad; a rough day at school; a disappointing hockey tryout. But anyone who has been or known a child Riley’s age will understand that such mundane happenings can be the stuff of major interior drama.

......... The achievement of “Inside Out” is at once subtler and more impressive. This is a movie almost entirely populated by abstract concepts moving through theoretical space. This world is both radically new — you’ve never seen anything like it — and instantly recognizable, as familiar aspects of consciousness are given shape and voice. Remember your imaginary childhood friend? Your earliest phobias? Your strangest dreams? You will, and you will also have a newly inspired understanding of how and why you remember those things..."

Here is the link to the trailer of Inside Out 

I've Never Felt So At Home 

GUARDIAN, wrote an article in praise of libraries..."Libraries today are as fast as and more generous than any online bookshop"...here is an excerpt:

LibraryNYC1..."It turns out that, during my five-year hiatus, the convenience argument has expired. The New York Public Library system has made it fantastically easy to order any book directly from your computer. There is a phone app, and an app for downloading ebooks. The half-empty shelves are irrelevant given that you can put a hold on any book in the entire New York system and it will be delivered to your branch within days. This week, I went on a half-hysterical borrowing frenzy and ordered ...Then I took my kids to the children’s section upstairs, where there are play mats and huge windows and a librarian who is very cross, all of the time, particularly if you try to feed your child a snack without her seeing. After almost 10 years in New York, I’ve never felt so at home."


Peasant womenFairy Tales and the Human Struggle

At their best, the storytelling of fairy tales constitute the most profound articulation of the human struggle to form and maintain a civilizing process. They depict metaphorically the opportunities for human adaptation to our environment and reflect the conflicts that arise when we fail to establish civilizing codes commensurate with the self-interests of large groups within the human population...."  Jack Zipes on The Art Of Storytelling Show



 More Children in Crisis

ReformaChildLogoThe National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos & the Spanish Speaking

" REFORMA, established in 1971 as an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), has actively sought to promote the development of library collections to include Spanish-language and Latino oriented materials; the recruitment of more bilingual and bicultural library professionals and support staff; the development of library services and programs...

The recent arrival of over 70,000 children crossing the southern border into the United States has created an unprecedented humanitarian refugee crisis that compels REFORMA as an organization to act.The children, mostly Spanish speaking, are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.  While recent news SanDiego ShelterKIdsInLibrarycoverage of this event has focused on legal, medical and emergency response to services, there are few if any news stories that demonstrate the social-emotional and information needs of these children and families.  A view of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities shows children waiting in large storage like facilities with no activities to occupy the children’s minds through learning and play while they are being processed.

  With no knowledge of where they are going or if they will reach their families in the United States, REFORMA has implemented a project,Children in Crisis, to solicit donations, purchase and deliver books for these children.  We are soliciting children's books in Spanish to be delivered to the children in the detention centers in and to the shelters and group homes around the country where these children are sent after being processed.  In the second phase of the project we will be coordinating backpacks that will contain books as well as paper, pencils, erasers, crayons and a writing journal for children to use in their journey toward their destination..."  

Here is a link to learn more: Reforma Website. The Reforma photo is of a library visit by Hispanic shelter children.  



Assistance Dogs of the West, Santa Fe , N.M., has won a $5,000 grant from the Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) for their wonderful work with therapy dogs.

Here are excerpts from their site:

Assistance DogsWestSF-studentDogsStudent Trainers

"Simply put, we teach students to train dogs to help people. Since 1995, more than 2500 student trainers in New Mexico have taken part in the ADW Assistance Dog Student Training program, the largest of its kind in the world. This work strengthens relationships, builds skills and nurtures empathy among young people, the dogs they train and our clients..."

Warrior Canine Connection

Warrior Canine Connection™ (WCC™)
 teaches warriors with combat injuries how to train service dogs for other veterans with disabilities. The dogs are trained to provide mobility support and to offer constant, non-judgmental, healing companionship to minds and bodies ravaged by war.

 Here is an excerpt from the Planet Dog Foundation Site with a succinct overview:

Assistance DogsWestSF-'Assistance Dogs of the West teaches students of all ages to help train service dogs and provide dogs to people with physical, psychological,

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9. February- The Uses of Enchantment...books, kids, movies, and dogs

The photograph of a Belarus bus stop is by Alexandra Soldatova

Enchantment takes many forms in wonder tales.

Metamorphosis and transformation are part of life.

In an instant, a girl, a boy, or even a powerful a prince may be transformed into a swan, a frog, a fox, a bird or a bear.  

And then, there is the beast...  

Beauty and the Beast
BeautyBeastAngelaBarrett3For a young woman to confront a beast is an experience of fear beyond words. In a time when dark spirits, witches and the devil himself acted on humans, both powerful kings and lowly peasants were vulnerable to transformation. Beauty and the Beast, is a rather incredible tale about a prince turned into a beast. And he will remain a beast until he marries. It will take an extraordinary woman to overcome her fear and revulsion and offer herself in marriage to the Beast...
Beauty and the Beast is an incredible story and a fascinating read. This story of fearful enchantment is not, however, for young children.
It was originally written in 1740 as a book, La Belle et La Bete, by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.  
The version rewritten in 1757 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, and published in a magazine for proper young women, is the most widely known version today. It is much shorter than the original, and was especially relevant for its readers in its exploration of love and inner beauty.The story has inspired countless books, plays, and films. 
Love, Fidelity, and Civilité
The following excerpt, by Terri Windling, taken from her Journal of Mythic Arts, provides insights into the relevance of Beauty and the Beast to the real life experiences of women. In her fascinating article, Windling also provides in-depth analysis and history of this classic fairy tale as well as the many variations inspired by the original.
The Journal of Mythic Arts, "(JoMA) is sponsored by The Endicott Studio , a nonprofit organization dedicated to literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, fairy tales, and the oral storytelling tradition." 

BeautyAnd TheBeastangelaBarrett2"De Villeneuve was part of the "second wave" of French fairy tale writers (Madame D'Aulnoy, Charles Perrault, and other salon fairy tale writers comprising the "first wave" fifty years earlier). When she sat down to create Beauty and the Beast (a novella–length tale first published in La jeune ameriquaine, et les contes marins), she was influenced by the work of "first wave" writers, by the story of "Cupid and Psyche" in Apuleius' Golden Ass, and by the various Animal Bridegroom legends of folklore. The story she came up with was uniquely her own, however, and addressed issues of concern to women of her day. Chief among these was a critique of a marriage system in which women had few legal rights — no right to chose their own husband, no right to refuse the marriage bed, no right to control their own property, and no right of divorce. Often the brides were fourteen or fifteen years old, given to men who were decades older. Unsatisfactory wives risked being locked up in mental institutions or distant convents. Women fairy tale writers of the 17th & 18th centuries were often sharply critical of such practices, promoting the ideas of love, fidelity, and civilité between the sexes. Their tales reflected the realities they lived with, and their dreams of a better way of life. Their Animal Bridegroom stories, in particularly, embodied the real–life fears of women who could be promised to total strangers in marriage, and who did not know if they'd find a beast or a lover in their marriage bed."

The two illustrations, above, of Beauty and the Beast are by Angela Barrett. 
Conversations with the Beast

Dinner in the Castle

BeautyBeastWalterCrane1"Go ahead and eat, Beauty",  said the monster,"And try not to get bored in this house, for everything here is yours, and I would be distressed if you were to become unhappy."
"You are very kind", said Beauty. "I swear to you that I am completely pleased with your tender heart. When I think of it, you no longer seem ugly to me."
"Oh, of course," Beast replied. "I have a tender heart, but I am still a monster."
"There are certainly many men more monstrous than you," said Beauty. " I like you better, even with your looks, than men who hide false, corrupt, and ungrateful hearts behind charming manners."
"Beast opened his eyes and said to beauty...'the thought of having lost you made me decide to starve myself to death. Now I will die happy for I have the pleasure of seeing you one last time.'  

BeautyAnd TheBeast MercerMayer'No, dear Beast, you will not die,' said Beauty. 'You will live and become my husband. From this moment on, I give you my hand in marriage, and I swear that I will belong only to you. Alas, I thought that I felt only friendship for you, but the anguish I am feeling makes me realize that I can't live without you.'
Scarcely had Beauty uttered these words when the castle became radiant with light...She turned back to look at her dear Beast, whose perilous condition made her tremble with fear. You can imagine her surprise when she discovered that Beast had disappeared and that a young prince, more handsome than the day was bright, was lying at her feet, thanking her for having broken the magic spell cast on him." 
The above excerpts by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, are taken from  Annotated Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar 
An annotated anthology of Beauty and the Beast stories is currently being edited by Marie Tatar 
The illustrations are by Walter Crane (top) and Mercer Mayer (bottom).
An Ancient Story
More validation regarding the ancient origin of wonder tales, including Beauty and the Beast...
IrelandNewgrangsSara Graça da Silva, New University, Lisbon; and Jamshid J. Tehrani, Durham University; have published a new study exploring the origins of folktales in the Royal Society Open Science Journal.This is a new open journal publishing high-quality original research across the entire range of science on the basis of objective peer-review."The researchers for this study utilized innovative methodology and computer applications.Here is an excerpt:
_NewgrangeSoneCircleMoonlight..."For example, two of the best known fairy tales, ATU 425C Beauty and the Beast’ and ATU 500 ‘The Name of the Supernatural Helper’ Rumplestiltskin’) were first written down in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries [43]. While some researchers claim that both storylines have antecedents in Greek and Roman mythology [44,45], our reconstructions suggest that they originated significantly earlier. Both tales can be securely traced back to the emergence of the major western Indo-European subfamilies as distinct lineages between 2500 and 6000 years ago [2,3], and may have even been present in the last common ancestor of Western Indo-European languages (figure 4).
The photos are from Newgrange, a neolithic monument built 5,000 years ago in Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland.
Thanks to Heidi Anne Heiner and Sur La Lune where I first read about this study.
Fairy Tales and the Civilizing Process
OrigFolkFairyTalesGrimmAndrea.3"At their best, the storytelling of fairy tales constitute the most profound articulation of the human struggle to form and maintain a civilizing process. They depict metaphorically the opportunities for human adaptation to our environment and reflect the conflicts that arise when we fail to establish civilizing codes commensurate with the self-interests of large groups within the human population. The more we give into base instincts – base in the sense of basic and depraved – the more criminal and destructive we become. The more we learn to relate to other groups of people and realize that their survival and the fulfillment of their interests is related to ours, the more we might construct social codes that guarantee humane relationships. -- Jack Zipes on The Art Of Storytelling Show
The Frog Queen illustration, by Andrea Dezso, is from Jack Zipe's book, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. 
 “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.” 
― Maya AngelouPoems 

LitworldWRAD16logo-webWorld Read Aloud Day is February 24, 2016
 LitWorld empowers children worldwide through reading and the power of story.
World Read Aloud Day continues to grow and is now celebrated by over one million people world- wide.The following is from the LitWorld website...
 "World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day is celebrated by millions of people in more than 100 countries thanks to people like you who participate and spread the word across the globe!"
2 Doghead 1.457 by 1.573 inchesPlanet Of The Dogs POD-Daisy&Bean-blog size

The Planet Of The Dogs  takes place long, ago. There were no dogs on planet earth. Invaders and outlaw tribes were an ongoing threat to farms, villages and towns where ordinary people lived.

Dogs came down to Green Valley from their own peaceful planet to help people. Using their courage, intelligence and their great love of humans, the dogs were able to help good people in myriad ways: rescuing lost children; bringing comfort and healing to the old and the lonely; guarding homes and farm; and finally, overcoming the invading warrior tribes and bringing peace to the land...

Reviewer Wayne Walker in Stories for Children Magazine:..." Author Robert J. McCarty has created a charming fantasy-allegory that can be read and understood on at least two different levels. Children will enjoy the story about dogs that come from another planet to help people on earth. But under the surface are the important messages of friendship, love, loyalty, and overcoming evil with good..."

 Read Sample Chapters of the Planet Of The Dogs series.

The illustrations from Snow Valley Heroes and Planet Of The Dogs are by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty

Action and Compassion...An exciting video posted on Facebook by the Logical Indian...a dog, carried along turbulent waters, is rescued... for compassionate people and for all dog lovers...a dog rescue video


Beauty and the Beast and Disney
BBeastEmmaWatsonPosterDisney is producing a new live action, 3-D, musical film version of Beauty and the Beast for release in March 2017.
Emma Watson
plays beauty. From the trailer, it looks like there are lots of special effects and plot additions. Music from the Disney hit Broadway musical version will be included. The Broadway version was written by Linda Woolverton, the writer also responsible for the very engaging, Maleficent . However, she is not the writer of this 2017 movie version.
We can only hope that Beauty's fearful journey of transition will not become a sugar coated, overwrought romance.
Here is the link to the trailer of the version that will open in 2017 .
Disney's 1991 animated film of Beauty and the Beast
I haven't seen this version. Therefore, I have posted excerpts from two recognized authorities.
Excerpts from two divergent opinions: One, by the respected Terri Windling, author of highly regarded children's BBeast1991Posterbooks and recognized as an expert on children's literature (Myth and Moor blog, the JOMA archives...Nonetheless, I found myself disturbed by the film — by the broad liberties the Disney Studio took in changing classic elements of the tale. This leads to the question of where precisely should one draw the line between use and abuse of fairy tales in creating art for modern audiences. It is a question that particularly concerns those of us interested in myth, folklore, fairy tales, and the ways they are used in contemporary arts.
Here is a divergent opinion by respected film critic, the late Roger Ebert,...  "The film is as good as any Disney animated feature ever made - as magical as “Pinocchio,” “Snow White,” “The Little Mermaid.” And it's a reminder that animation is the ideal medium for fantasy, because all of its fears and dreams can be made literal. No Gothic castle in the history of horror films, for example, has ever approached the awesome, frightening towers of the castle where the Beast lives..".
Disney Power, Enchantment and Myopia
DisneyCinderellaFor many years, Jack Zipes has written about, and documented, Disney's usurpation and corruption of fairy tales. Here is an excerpt...
"Our contemporary concept and image of a fairy tale have been shaped and standardized by Disney so efficiently through the mechanism of the culture industry that our notions of happiness and utopia are and continue to be filtered through a Disney lens even if it is myopic...myopic has continued to dominate both reality and utopia."
Jack Zipes, The Enchanted Screen, The Unknown History of Fairy Tale Films (2011); Zipes has co-edited with Pauline Cahill and Kendra Magnus-Johnston a new book, Fairy-Tale Films Beyond Disney, International Perspectives. 

RoomToReadSriLankaRoom to Read...bringing books to disadvantaged children

Over 9.7 million books were checked out from Room To Read Libraries in 2012. Here are excerpts from their website describing some of the outstanding work they accomplish worldwide:

"We envision a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.

To achieve this goal, we focus on two areas where we believe we can have the greatest impact: literacy and gender equality in education.

  We work in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond."

Here is a link to the Room to Read Literacy Program

RomReadCambodiaGirls' Education

"Our Girls’ Education Program ensures that girls complete secondary school and have the skills to negotiate key life decisions. Our program reinforces girls’ commitment to their own education, works with girls to develop essential life skills and increases support for girls’ education among their parents, school staff, and communities."

Here is a link to the Room to Read website


 The Dogs of Circling the Waggins Live Here

SnowCabin ArielThis is the home of author, blogger and animal advocate, CA Wulff. This is where she lives with her rescued dogs, writes her books, and helps people and dogs. She recently wrote on her blog, Up On The Woof, about her rescue work through the Community page, Lost & Found Ohio Pets on Facebook. The number of lost dogs, abandoned dogs, and rescued dogs is staggering.

Wulff has written two outstanding, practical, How-To books for dog (and animal) owners -- and for caring people who want to make a difference.

FindingFidoFinding Fido: Practical Steps for Finding Your Lost Pet 

Here is an Amazon Review:

"Would you know what to do if you found a stray pet? You might think that calling animal control would be the best thing for the animal - but you'd be wrong. Lots of food for thought in this book, including what to do if you find a stray pet, how to keep from losing a pet, and what to do if your pet is lost. The authors are donating all of the proceeds to ARME's Beagle Freedom Project, a group that rescues dogs used in laboratories."


CoverHTCWorld30secondsHow To Change the World in 30 Seconds: A Web Warriors Guide to Animal Advocacy 

Here is an Amazon Review:

"This book not only offers a starting point for animal rescue but serves as a comprehensive resource book for animal rights advocates. C.A. Wulff has done the urgent heavy lifting here so that the heart and the hands of the rescuer doesn't have to be burdened or bound with the anxieties of not knowing where to begin...I whole heartedly recommend this book as a necessary tool to bring about change in the world."

Here is a link to Circling the Waggins...a memoir of the canine connection in real life.


One of the reasons for JK Rowling's success was that she didn't give a fig for what people thought they wanted. They didn't know they wanted Harry Potter till she wrote about him. That's the proper way round.

Phillip Pullman


Beauty and the Beast -- Variations in Books, Film,Theater and Song
BroadwayPosterBBeastThe variations on Beauty and the Beast are endless. Countless books, toys and games, Film andTV productions, CD and DVD offerings...and much of it is owned or licensed by Disney. This is, indeed, a manifestation of the culture industry.  

Disney's Broadway musical version, according to Wikipedia,
"ran on Broadway for 5,461 performances between 1994 and 2007, becoming Broadway's ninth longest production in history...The musical has grossed more than $1.4 billion worldwide and played in thirteen countries and 115 cities."
Here is an excerpt from David Richard's review in the New York Times: "It is hardly a triumph of art, but it'll probably be a whale of a tourist attraction. It is Las Vegas without the sex, Mardi Gras without the booze...You don't watch it, you gape at it, knowing that nothing in Dubuque comes close."
Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast
BBeastCocteauBefore there were any Disney versions, Jean Cocteau, French author, designer, artist, playwright, and film maker created a film, La Belle et La Bete (1945). It was based on the version by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Filmed in black and white, it was highly stylized and elegant.
The film was very well received by the critics -- Roger Ebert added it to his list of the Best 25 Films. Bosley Crowther, in the New York Times , 'called the film a "priceless fabric of subtle images,...a fabric of gorgeous visual metaphors, of undulating movements and rhythmic pace, of hypnotic sounds and music, of casually congealing ideas." '(Wikipedia)

The Cocteau film also directly inspired, among several other versions, an opera by Phillip Glass, a Fairie Tale theater with Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski, and an original song by Stevie Nicks.

Here is a link to the song, Beauty and the Beast, sung by Stevie Nicks



“[I] went from fighting on the battlefield, to laying in a bed and having people take care of [me], back to being independent and doing everything on [my] own…”

 Chris Strickland, Age 22, Corporal, U.S. Army, regarding his Service Dog, Ruthie.


Mission and Services

"NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans provide independence to people who are Deaf or have a disability through the use of canine assistance.


NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was established in 1976. Our Assistance Dogs become an extension of their handlers and bring freedom, physical autonomy and relief from social isolation to their human partners.Service dogs are provided free to veterans.

The Human Canine Bond- NEADS has trained over 1,500 Assistance Dog teams since 1976. NEADS is accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices. NEADS offers a wide spectrum of Assistance Dog services"

Visit their website: NEADS


 “When I was a child, adults would tell me not to make things up, warning me of what would happen if I did. As far as I can tell so far, it seems to involve lots of foreign travel and not having to get up too early in the morning.”
Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors


The World and Its Wonders

Maria Tatar, in her wonderful book, Enchanted Hunters, describes how reading ignites a child's mind and transports them to worlds of imagination and wonder. In this excerpt from the chapter entitled Theaters for
the Imagination,
she discusses how fairy tales -- wonder tales -- opened the doors to new worlds:

Readersmain_school7"The deep, almost visceral connection between childhood and wonder had what was once perceived to be a dark side. The child's innate curiosity about the world and its wonders was repeatedly demonized and linked with the evils of idle hands...The rise of the fairy tale created a tectonic shift in children's literature and revealed that something had been long off kilter. Fairy tales -- sometimes referred to as "wonder tales" because they traffic in magic -- opened the door to new theaters of action, with casts of characters very different from the scolding schoolmarm, the aggravated bailiff, or the dis approving cleric found in manuals for moral and spiritual improvement. Books were suddenly invaded by fabulous monsters -- bloodthirsty giants, red-eyed witches, savage bluebeards, and sinister child snatchers -- and they produced a giddy sense of disorientation that roused the curiosity of the child reader."

Maria Tatar, Enchanted Hunters, the Power of Stories in Childhood.


A Message for the Family
This is a message from Churchhill Falls Public Library in Newfoundland, Canada...
Posted  by author Mary Balogh on her FB page.

Movies 2016

Alice returns May 27 in Tim Burton's Through the Looking Glass (Disney)...Much the same wonderful cast...Here is the delightful trailer 

Inside Out 2, A Pixar film that has a humorous, Judy Blume approach to the mind of a young teenage girl...Inside Out was a multiple award winner...here is the trailer link: Inside Out 2   

The Angry Birds Movie (Sony)...Inspired by the  computer game...Opens in May...Here is the trailer for The Angry Birds Movie 

The Jungle Book (Disney)...in 3D and Imax 3D...Opens April 15...Here is the fast action trailer for The Jungle Book

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Warners)...written by JK Rowling...a return to the world of wizardry...Opens Nov 18...set in the USA in 1926...here is the announcement trailer


GoodnightMoonElegant and Deep 

"If I am a scholar, I am also a parent. To read to a child is to experience not just the pleasures of instruction or the warmth of entertainment, but the immense importance of quite simply reading...Even the most ordinary prose becomes mag

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10. Feed the good wolf

I received Tomorrowland for Christmas and we watched it the other night. I loved every minute – it was especially fantastic as I grew up on the Space Coast just south of Cape Canaveral and have some pretty strong feelings about NASA and Disney’s vision of tomorrow. Here is my favorite quote from the movie though, the parable of good vs bad wolves:

A few days ago I watched a barn fire grow on social media over how a blog post was titled by another reviewer. The fanning of the flames, the giddiness of building the fire, turned my stomach. So much time and energy put toward dragging someone down and all for what? Twenty-four hours later it was done, everyone had moved on and here’s the thing – the blog post said what they wanted it to say, everyone was just pissed over the snarky title.

Yeah. This is what we spend our time on now.

I’ve done it, we’ve all done it, and it’s so damn easy to do it….to just get stuck in something that only lives to spread negativity. I can’t believe how much of my life has been spent living that way.

So, I’m trying to feed the good wolf. I should have been feeding the good wolf all along – I have deep regrets over time spent tending the bad wolf, especially when I was much younger. All I can do now is try to avoid that animal in the future which, by the way, brings me back to the greatness of Tomorrowland. Here’s the full trailer – check it out if you can:

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11. Yeehah - I am at 99%!

Since my Craftsy masterclass launched on Oct 19th, I have had an amazing 1161 people sign up! This is great news, not just because it is brilliant to know that it is obviously hitting the spot, but also because Craftsy classes are paid very much like picture books - you get an advance and then royalties. 

For those who don't know how an advance works, it is a payment to help cover the time the artist spends in development and production. It's better than a flat fee though, because it is an advance on royalties that the company expects you will be able to earn, which means that, if sales go really well and you earn more than the advance they've paid, you start to get more payments: your actual royalties.

I was paid half my advance when we finished filming in September last year and half when the class went live in October. The Craftsy website has a place with a little graph which tells me how much of my advance has been earned out. I've been taking a peak every few days and watching it creep up and, FANTASTIC news - this morning it looked like this. It was at 99%! 

I goes up slightly faster if people click through from my website or blog, so it's hard to work out exactly how many people that missing 1% represents, but I reckon I need about 12 more people to subscribe, for me hit the golden 100%.

The great thing about a Craftsy class is that it is not in 'real time'. You can sign up at any time and watch it at any time: it's there forever, for you to watch over and over if you like, so you can work through things as fast or as slowly as you wish. Plus, if you get busy and suddenly don't have time to get through all the 7 lessons, you can come back and carry on next year, if that fits better. You also get the chance to ask me questions and post your homework. If you've not seen it yet, this little trailer gives you a very clear idea of what you learn:

So, if you want to be able to draw characters with confidence - animals, people, whatever you fancy - and more importantly, learn how to make them feel real, by giving them individual personalities and emotional responses to their situations, have a go at the class and be one of my 12 people! 

It's currently on sale at £19.16 (or whatever the equivalent is in dollars, if you are over that side of the pond). I think for what you get, that it really good value. I've certainly had lots of lovely feedback. Hope you like it!

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12. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A few weeks ago, someone on my twitter feed joked that soon, we'd be inundated with a million reviews and thinkpieces about The Force Awakens all starting the same way--with a recitation of the author's personal connection to Star Wars, how they first encountered the movies, what their emotional reaction to the prequels was, and what place the franchise holds in their heart.  This threw me,

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13. Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine

A review by another Matt, Matt Zoller Seitz, convinced me to watch Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, and I'm glad I did. I wasn't going to, but these sentences got me curious: "It is wrenching but never exploitive. It is impressively skeptical of the same mission that it takes on its shoulders: to make something positive from a senseless crime without diminishing its senselessness."

What kept me from the film had been a fear of it being maudlin or superficial. I know the Shepard case well, I've seen The Laramie Project a couple of times, I've heard Judy Shepard speak about her son's murder. I didn't think more could, or even should, be made of it. The film proved me wrong.

Matthew Shepard was only a year (and a couple months) older than me. He died a few days before my 23rd birthday. Despite the barrage of national (and international) news coverage, I didn't learn of his murder for a few weeks, because I was in the midst of my first year working full-time at a boarding school, and I barely had time to sleep, never mind keep up with the news. At some point, a friend from college emailed and asked what the climate was like where I was, given how rural and isolated it seemed in my notes to her, and she worried, she said, because of what had happened to the boy in Wyoming. I didn't know what she was talking about at the time, but I soon did.

A rural gay man killed by homophobia. Once I knew about the story, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I followed the trial coverage obsessively. I thought I knew the story pretty well, but one of the excellent things Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine does is shift the angle. It's no longer the story of someone defined by his murder, though the murder is of course important, but rather the story of Matt Shepard, his friends, and his family. It tries to recover the Matt Shepard who became Matthew Shepard, a symbol for the world. That turns out to be a powerful, gripping, and deeply moving quest.

Michele Josue & Matt Shepard
It works so well because director Michele Josue is perfectly positioned to do this work — she went to high school with Shepard, but doesn't seem to have stayed closely in touch with him later, and so the film is partly about her own recovery of Matt, her own quest to fill in gaps. What she discovers and chronicles are both the material remnants of his life and, more importantly, the network of people who knew him and remember him. She finds his presence by mapping his absence.

While the film is informative and quite moving with regard to his murder, it's not so much a true crime movie as it is a story of how friendship works and how friendship lasts. It's significant that Josue made the movie fifteen years after Shepard's death, because the time is enough to allow some perspective and to allow us to look back on the legacy, but it's also not so much time that major figures within the story are no longer available. It's also not enough time, if there is such a thing as enough time, to get rid of the pain. A significant section of the film explores Josue's desire to escape grief, and her realization that such escape is not only not possible, but not desireable.

A question that comes up repeatedly, though quietly, throughout the second half of the movie is: Why did this particular crime capture the world's attention? As multiple people point out in the film, gay bashing wasn't (and isn't) especially rare. Dozens of other people were killed for being (or being perceived as) gay in 1998, but it was Shepard's story that moved the world. There's no single answer, and no really definitive answer, though some good partial answers surface, the most convincing being how much Shepard looked and seemed like an ordinary (white) boy from down the street, and how particularly brutal his murder was. (I suspect it resonated, too, because we couldn't help imagining the many hours he spent bleeding alone before he was discovered and helped, though it was too late, ultimately, to save his life. If we imagined that unimaginable time, and if we did so as someone who lived or had once lived in terror of being hurt or killed if our sexuality were known, the resonance was overwhelming and devastating.) He could have been anybody's son, somebody says in the film, which isn't exactly true, of course, but it highlights one of the perceptions that made Shepard's such an irresistible story — his was a familiar sort of face, his family a seemingly familiar sort of family, and his story came from the heart of the American mythos: not just rural but frontier America, where he was left to die while tied to a fence post. (Later, Brokeback Mountain would further publicize the idea of all-American gayness through its setting.)

It doesn't feel to me like a long time from Matthew Shepard's death in 1998, and yet it's more than 17 years now. Had he lived, he would have celebrated his thirty-ninth birthday at the beginning of this month. It's hard to imagine Matthew Shepard, the symbol, at thirty-nine, but Josue helps make a thirty-nine-year-old Matt imaginable, and thus makes his death all the more heartbreaking.

That heartbreaking quality surprised me in the film, because after the initial shock of the story, for those of us who weren't friends with Matt Shepard, his death actually came to stand for a lot of good progress that was made afterward. I have very mixed feelings about the assimilationist success of Gay, Inc., but I really never expected to see federal gay marriage in my lifetime, to see gay kisses become relatively normalized on tv and in mainstream movies, to see anything remotely like Sense8 from anyplace other than the very indie and very queer world, etc. Watching Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, I remembered what it used to feel like to live in terror of anybody finding out, or even just suspecting, that you're not entirely heterosexual. It's not that the terror's all gone, or that we're all safe and happy and prosperous etc., or that there aren't still bashings and murders (in 2014 the FBI counted "1,248 victims [of hate crimes] targeted due to sexual-orientation bias" and suicide remains an ever-present problem). But in many places of the U.S. now, it is easier to live openly as a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person than it was fifteen or twenty years ago. The culture (or, at least, part of the dominant culture) has shifted, and Matthew Shepard's murder — and the conversations and work that murder inspired — contributed to the shift.

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine reminds us of this, and it does a lot more besides. It pays close attention to how people continued their lives after his death. It shows why his death remains meaningful, and why his life deserves to be remembered. It suggests much about forgiveness, about grieving, about news media, and about living with questions that can't be answered. It is, finally, a beautiful tribute to a friend, and to a grief that cannot, and should not, be lost.

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14. The Big Picture and “The Big Short”: How Virtue helps us explain something as complex as the Financial Crisis

The star-studded new film “The Big Short” is based on Michael Lewis’s best-selling expose of the 2008 financial crisis. Reviewers are calling it the “ultimate feel-furious movie about Wall Street.” It emphasizes the oddball and maverick character of four mid-level hedge fund managers in order to explain what it would take to ignore the rating agencies’ evaluations and bet against the subprime industry—that is, their own industry.

The post The Big Picture and “The Big Short”: How Virtue helps us explain something as complex as the Financial Crisis appeared first on OUPblog.

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15. December- Hope and Celebration, kids, books, movies, and dogs

  Thomas Nast Santa


Hope and Celebration - Light in the darkness, time out for happiness, wonder and magic.

Enter the world of tales told by people, of stories that live on. of tales of wonder, fairy tales.

Santa Claus, the man in the red suit stepping out of the chimney, comes to us from the talented Thomas Nast; his popular 19th century illustrations helped to popularize Santa Claus as we know him today.                                                                



Charles Dicken'sA Christmas Carol, and the power of story.

This book influenced the thinking of generations of readers, and transformed the spirit of the Christmas holiday. The transformation was guided by Dicken's passionate belief that the true Christmas spirit embodied caring and generosity -- especially for those less fortunate.

TinyTimchristmascarolJohnLeechA Christmas Carol was written with the passion born of his painful childhood as an impoverished 12 year old boy from a broken family.With his father in debtor's prison, Dickens was forced to leave school and work ten-hour days for six shillings a week under harsh conditions (the factory was home to multitudes of rats) in England's new industrial economy. 

Much has changed with the passing of time and the commercialism of the marketplace has brought an endless stream of marketing -- more games, toys and advertising -- to Christmas.

But the Spirit Of Christmas does live on.


ScroogeJohnLeech“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” ...Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

Scrooge Lives On...

Viking has recently published (October 2015) a well reviewed book by Charles Lovett, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge. For more information, visit his website: Charles Lovett

The above illustrations are by John Leech from the original A Christmas Carol.


The Legend of Santa Claus

SantaThomas NastIN the USA, the legend of Santa Claus was greatly enhanced in the early nineteenth century by the poem, A Visit From St.Nicholas. 

The popularity of this story-poem, first published in 1823, continued to grow with the passing years. It was originally written for his children by Clement Clarke Moore.

Later in the century, popular illustrations by Thomas Nast, including Moore's poem, A Visit From St Nicholas, firmly established Santa Claus as a jolly, rotund figure in a red suit with a white beard. Nast's images of Santa and his red suit became accepted and remain the norm today.


The illustration is by Thomas Nast.


The Fairy Tale Moves On Its Own Time 

"It all adds up to this: the fairy tale narrates a wish-fulfillment which is not bound by its
SecretoftheKellsTomm_Mooreown time and the apparel of its contents. In contrast to the folk tale, which is always tied to a particular locale, the fairy tale remains unbound. Not only does the fairy tale remain as fresh as longing and love, 
but the evil demons that abound in fairy tales are still at work here in the present, and the happiness of "once upon a time", which is even more abundant in the fairy tale, still affects our vision of the future..." 

The above insights into the role of fairy tales are from an essay written in 1930 by the German GerardDubois3scholar and philosopher, Ernst Bloch. I believe that the context in which they were written adds to their import. Germany in 1930 was in the grip of the Great Depression. Poverty and uncertainty had swept the land. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were feeding on people's fear and rising in power. Bloch later escaped to the USA where he wrote his renowned three-part treatise, The Principle of Hope (1938-1947). 

The illustration from the Secret Of The Kells is by Tomm Moore. The painting is by Gerard Dubois.




The Elves and the Shoemaker

ElvesShoemakerLucy-Crane1886Here is an excerpt from a fairy tale by the Grimm's that came to be a Christmas story. It tells of the elves who helped a hard working, but impoverished shoemaker and his wife ...they, in gratitude, surprised the elves at Christmas time.

"About midnight in they came, dancing and skipping, hopped round the room, and then went to sit down to their work as usual; but when they saw the clothes lying for them, they laughed and chuckled, and seemed mightily delighted.

Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced and capered and sprang about, as merry as could be; till at last they danced out at the door, and away over the green..."

Here is link to read it all: The Elves and the Shoemaker  The illustration is by Lucy Crane.


The Saga Of Santa Claus 

SagaOfChristmasCoverWho is Santa? Where did he come from? How did the toy workshops get started? Where did all the elves come from and why did they agree to move to the wintry north and make toys for Santa? And how about the flying reindeer...where did they come from? These are among the many heretofore unanswered questions about the orgins of Christmas and Santa Claus.   

Now, at last, author Mark Couturier has written The Saga Of Santa Claus, a fascinating book telling the complete story of the ancient origins of Christmas and Santa Claus. For a comprehensive picture of this original book, check out the enthusiastic Amazon  reviews.



"The year 2015 will see the 49th annual Kwanzaa, the African American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1. It is estimated that some 18 million African Americans take part in Kwanzaa.

KwanzaFamilyCelebrationKwanzaa is not a religious holiday, nor is it meant to replace Christmas. It was created by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a professor of Black Studies, in 1966. At that time of great social change for African Americans, Karenga sought to design a celebration that would honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans who were working for progress. 

Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years."...Kwanzaa ends with gift giving and a celebratory feast.

This post is based on a comprehensive article by Holly Hartman.


Every Year...

XmasLightsonSheepChristmas Lights Moving Through the Hills...
A Holiday treat, and a wonder to behold, the moving lights are on hundreds of sheep, running in the darkness, guided by sheepdogs...this is a classic video...Here is the link: Moving Lights 



  Penn Vet

Pdf-logo-whitePenn Vet Working Dog Center 
Philadelphia, PA is a recent recipient of a 
Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) grant. The goals of the Penn Vet working Dog Center are "national security, fields of detection work, canine health and performance, and to enhance that unique bond between humans and man’s best friend". The Planet Dog Foundation has awarded grants exceeding one million dollars to fund "the training, placement and support of dogs helping people in need." 


"The Penn Vet Working Dog Center is part of the University of Pennsylvania's School of PennVetVeterinary Medicine, and serves as a national research and development center for detection dogs. They work to train elite detection dogs to assist in medical research, national security, and finding victims of disasters. PDF has awarded a $10,000 grant in support of Punches, a female Labrador Retriever named in honor of Jack Punches, a victim of the attacks of 9/11. Punches is training to detect explosives, explosives residue, and post-blast evidence. Trained explosives detection dogs can also detect firearms and ammunition hidden in vehicles and containers, on persons, or buried underground." 

Learn more about Penn Vet Working Dog Center here. 


 The Ghost Dog of Christmas Past

Here is an an excerpt from the dog lovers book, Circling the Waggins,  by CA Wulff. The dogs CtWrevisedCoverKindleseen in the ebook cover are the current residents of the cabin in the woods wherein this saga of a life with rescued dogs takes place. The book is a journey into the heart and mind of a dedicated pet lover who shares her experiences, concerns, and deep emotions with the reader.The setting is a cabin-home in a national park forest. The characters are several adopted dogs, cats, and, for a while, domestic mice -- and two compassionate women.

"I feel like we are haunted by the ghost dog of Christmas past. The Troll2season brings a million reminders of our Troll, a dog who had loved Christmas more than any other time of year. He would get excited at the first signs of holiday decorations, and his eyes would shine with a child’s wonder. On Christmas morning, he would race to be the first dog under the tree, to tear at the packages full of biscuits and rawhides. Each of the dogs would tear at a package, but Troll unwrapped with such gusto and fervor, that they would all abandon their presents to stand back and watch him, and then make off with whatever treats he had revealed." 

CA Wullf also created the cover for her book.



Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale

Review... Loved it… This delightful conclusion to the Planet of the Dogs series just caps off a wonderful tradition. The story is well suited to be read aloud to younger children and as chapter book for the older ones. All of your favorite dogs help rescue two of Santa's reindeer from the Evil King of the North. The story also imparts important lessons of cooperation and responsibility."   Mary Jacobs, Editor/reviewer Bookhounds  

Daisy&Nor-397KBWe have free reader copies of all the books in 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. They are also available in digital format at Barnes and NobleAmazonKoboOysterInkteraScribd, Powells, Tolino, 

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.

"What a truly wonderful and unique Christmas story for the whole family..." Don Blankenship,
Teacher, Reviewer for Great Books For Kids.


 Singing One Of The Old-Time Carols

..."'I think it must be the field-mice,' replied the Mole, with a touch of pride in his manner. 'They go round carol-singing regularly at this time of the year. They're quite an institution in these parts. And they never pass me over—they come to Mole End last of all; and I used to give them hot drinks, and supper too sometimes, when I could afford it. It will be like old times to hear them again.'

'Let's have a look at them!' cried the Rat, jumping up and running to the door.

XmasMiceWInWIngamooreIt was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes when they flung the door open. In the fore-court, lit by the dim rays of a horn lantern, some eight or ten little fieldmice stood in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their fore-paws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat-sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying, 'Now then, one, two, three!' and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time..."

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Illustration by Ernst Shepard 


Interview With Santa

This interview was conducted as part of a program to determine the truth behind the incredible story of Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale....

Santa-397KB Interviewer: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and clarifying things. 

Santa: I’m happy that the story is finally coming out. 

Interviewer: Is it a true story? 

Santa:  Absolutely. 

Interviewer: Why haven’t we known about it before? 

Santa:  I think it was lost in the mists of time…It took place hundreds and hundreds of years ago. 

Interviewer: Is it true that there was to be no more Christmas? 

Santa: I’m sorry to say that it’s true. Until the dogs arrived. 

Interviewer: The dogs? 

Santa: It was a surprise to all of us in Santa Claus village. None of us, and that includes all the elves, had even heard of dogs. 

Reindeer&Dog&Night-397KBInterviewer: Is that because you were so far North and rather isolated? 

Santa: Well, that and the fact that dogs has just started arriving on planet earth. Prior to that time, there had been no dogs on Earth. 

Interviewer: Really! Where did they come from? And how did they find you? 

Santa: They had started coming down to Earth from their own planet – the Planet of the Dogs. They came down to help people. Somehow, they heard we were in trouble, and one day, there they were, just like that...

 To read all of the Interview with Santa, click this link:  Interview with Santa 



 Boyhood Memories

"One Christmas was so much like the other, in those years around the sea-town corner now, ChildsChhristmasWalesCoverBookout of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down towards the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen..."
Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales



 Light In The Darkness 

"The Global Partnership for Education (GPE)  supports developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritizing the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

Established in 2002, the Global Partnership for Education is comprised of 60 developing countries, more than 20 donor governments, and international organizations, the private sector and foundations, teachers, and civil society/NGOs."

GPESince its inception, the Global Partnership has supported developing country partners to achieve remarkable and measurable results. For example, the number of out-of-school primary school children has been reduced from 56 million to 41 million in 2012. They have also achieved substantial improvements in gender parity and major increases in the number of girls completing primary school in countries where GPE has supplied support and resources.

Here is a link for more ot the remarkable RESULTS, from around the world (updates and photos), of  the Global Partnership for Education.



Hope in Dystopia in  Mockingjay: Part 2

Mockingjay2SymbolThis film is being seen by multitudes of people worldwide. Based on that fact alone, Mockingjay 2 is an important YA crossover film. It is a rather long, dark, viewing experience, executed with excellent acting and all the traditional elements of a very well done action movie. Mockingjay 2 also deals with issues of morality amidst the painful chaos of war.

Richard Lawson, in his thoughtful Vanity Fair review, considered the film's significance in these troubled times as well as the "entertainment" value of the film. Here are excerpts:

Mockingjay2"Mockingjay: Part 2 shows us, in rich and bracing fashion, the Hunger Games movies have been saying something all along—about the tragedy of youth (or anyone) in war, about post-traumatic stress disorder, about the ways we cede our autonomy to notions of comfort, to spectacle, to the easy lies of othering. The film makes these points in a far more clear-headed, more resonant manner than its source material. It’s a rare film adaptation that improves upon the original text, highlighting its crucial themes while streamlining and shaping the action into something legible and gripping...

The Hunger Games films...show us how good blockbuster movies can be. And they beseech us, in their earnest way, to be better, conscientious stewards of our own fraught and fragile world. That’s a useful message for anyone these days, young adult or not."

Here is a link to the article: Richard Lawson

Here is a link to the trailer: Mockingjay 2


Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- in time for the Holidays

The Dark Side Returns Worldwide on December 18-19 in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D...just in time
Star-wars-the-force-awakensReyDaisyRidleyfor the Holidays. Disney executives expect a very happy holiday, anticipating box office records with this $200,000,000 million dollar film. Fans will find that Harrison Ford, Chewbacca, Jedi Knights and light sabers have all returned along with the Dark Side. In keeping with changing times, the good side also has an important female warrior woman, Rey. Played by newcomer Daisy Ridley, she is also a red hot pilot.

 Here is a link to Trailer #1: The Force Awakens


Review: In ‘The Good Dinosaur,’ a Reptile Tends to His Human Pet

Manohla Dargis, the excellent NY Times reviewer, wrote a warm review for this latest Pixar production. Here is an excerpt... 

GoodDinosaur"Blink and you may miss the sly joke that sets 'The Good Dinosaur' on its enchantingly eccentric way. It begins with a near apocalypse 65 million years ago and an asteroid racing toward Earth. And while that’s around the time, more or less, that science hypothesizes the dinosaurs bit the dust, the wizards at Pixar have forged another creation story. Instead of crashing, the space rock zips past the big blue marble... "

Here is a link to read all of MS Dargis' review:  The Good Dinosaur

Here is a link to the trailer: Dinosaur


What a wonderful worldHope and Celebration are here with music... 3 minutes and 40 seconds of joy from singing kids in many places...What A Wonderful World (Playing for Change) 



WCDogsheader9All About Dog Love

Nancy Houser, on her Way Cool Dogs Blog, provides a wide variety of information on dog issues ranging from health care and nutrition to canine science and dog love. On a recent post, How To Love Your Dog, she wrote about many facets of dog love. Here's an excerpt...

PGI MontyyFourthGrade"How to love your dog by being a dog is something every dog owner should know about, as long as they do not continuously wag their tail!

And, whether your dog is a mischievous young puppy and full of bounding love, or an older dog that has been abandoned with very little  love— it won’t be too hard to play the part.

Loving your dog makes it easy to build positive and loving feelings for this furry friend,  choosing what is best to develop a better life.  Dogs who are loved not only feel safe, but secure and cherished.  But, recognizing if you love your dog does not mean a thing if your dog does not love you back."..The article continues, including a point by point section entitled"How to tell if your dog loves you back".

Nancy also includes information on fascinating MRI studies regarding a dog's love by neuroscientist Dr Gregory Berns. Dr Berns wrote a book titled "How Dogs Love Us". To learn more about Dr, Berns and his MRI dog studies, here is a link to his Ted Talk.

The photo is courtesy of the wonderful Paws Giving Independence therapy dog organization, Peoria,Illonois. Please click on the photo to enlarge and to see why it was chosen.


5Kids in CampDuhok-Domiz 161
Children, War, and Hope

Thirty million children have been driven from their homes by war. In a touching and informed article on refugee children, Jake Silverstein --  in the New York Times Magazine -- writes of this devastating situation by telling the stories of three young girls. Each is from a different part of the world: the Ukraine, South Sudan, and Lebanon. Here are excerpts from this excellent article:
GirlBrotherRefugeesSyriaJeffJMitchellGetty..."Young as these girls are, they have already been asked to bear a profound loss. You can see it in their faces. They appear to be only half children, the other half having been matured ahead of schedule by trauma and displacement. They know what they should not. And yet, there is still that other half. They are still kids. Unlike the adults in the frame, who must be constantly aware of their dangerous ordeal, the girls, from time to time, might forget. If the moment was right, they might play a game...
That children, even under the worst of circumstances, are able to remain children supplies the world around them with the sense of a future, which is the equivalent of hope..." 
The photo of the five Syrian children was taken in the Domaz refugee camp in Iraq.The photo of the  young girl and her brother was taken in a Syrian refugee camp by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty

Long Line at the Library? It’s Story Time Again

by Winnie Hu NY Times

BeatricePotterSnow"Story time is drawing capacity crowds at public libraries across New York and across the country
at a time when, more than ever, educators are emphasizing the importance of early literacy in preparing children for school and for developing critical thinking skills. The demand crosses economic lines, with parents at all income levels vying to get in.

Many libraries have refashioned the traditional readings to include enrichment activities such as counting numbers and naming colors, as well as music and dance. And many parents have made story time a fixture in their family routines alongside school pickups and playground outings — and, for those who employ nannies, a nonnegotiable requirement of the job...

Moomin-christmasLibraries around the country have expanded story time and other children’s programs in recent years, attracting a new generation of patrons in an age when online offerings sometimes make trips to the book stacks unnecessary. Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association, said such early-literacy efforts are part of a larger transformation libraries are undergoing to become active learning centers for their communities by offering services like classes in English as a second language, computer skills and career counseling."

The illustration of the rabbits is by Beatrix Potter.The illustration of the Moomins is by Tove Jansson. 


SunbearSqBigLogo Anna Nirva is the guiding light at Sunbear Squad,
a leading source for information and guidance in dog rescue and care. Here is an excerpt from their site about fostering dogs 

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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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

0 Comments on The Perils of Biopics: Life in Squares and Testament of Youth as of 8/16/2015 4:10:00 PM
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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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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