Sunday, March 14, 2010

Honor Books or Runners-Up?

Until I read Time magazine this morning, I hadn't noticed that the Academy Awards had changed "and the Oscar goes to . . ." to "and the winner is . . . ," a phrasing not heard on the show since 1989. In our own world, ALSC changed the designation runner up to Honor Book for, er, runners-up for the Newbery and Caldecott Medals in 1971. I've been assured by several people that the change was not just euphemistic and that the terms mean different things but damned if I can figure out what the difference is. Does anyone know? K.T., Nina, Peter, are you out there?

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Bring your own mushrooms

Chelsey reviews the new Alice in Wonderland.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Percy Jackson

Claire takes a breather from library school to review the movie.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

January-February Horn Book Magazine

The new Magazine is out but I haven't seen a copy yet--here's hoping the color looks as good as we wanted! Fanfare, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award speeches, and other selected content can all be linked to from the table of contents posted on the website.

I hope everybody had good holidays. Mine were a blur of movies (I see on child_lit that everyone is offended by Avatar but the one I'm fuming at is It's Complicated), colds, candy and presents, including a highly entertaining dvd set of Wagner's Ring cycle, which has Brunnhilde wandering existentially through the whole thing and a naked guy swimming in an aquarium as the Rheingold itself.

But now it's back to work. I'll be sunning myself in tropical Minnesota next weekend, speaking to the children's lit students at Hamline University (which for some reason is employing similar imagery to my Rheingold dvd) and then you all are coming to Boston for ALA. On that Saturday, I'll again be at the Horn Book booth asking "Five Questions for . . ." of M.T. Anderson, Kristin Cashore, Lois Lowry, and Mitali Perkins. I'll post the schedule this week.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Claire Takes a Bite

out of New Moon.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

We skipped the maple candy, too

Back from Vermont--we did get to visit the Patersons (that Katherine bakes a mean scone and gave us plenty to take back to our Killington chalet, no snow but there was a hot tub) but not JRL as poor Buster was by then too exhausted and disoriented to either move or leave behind. (He is better now but still, twenty.) Our chief entertainments were books in the daytime (me, a Joy Fielding--never again--and the second Stieg Larsson mystery; Richard, Possession (and finally skipping the poetry like I told him to) and The Godfather movies in the evenings. (How had I missed all three of those?) Like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire only really comes to life when The Girl is onstage, but then it is irresistible. Christopher Hitchens suggests that Winona Ryder should play her in the movie but I kept seeing Bjork or that little fey thing who was on Absolutely Fabulous.

We only went shopping for ice cream once, and the only locavore alternative to Ben & Jerry's was some coconut sorbet. No thank you.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wild Thing, I think I . . .

. . . well, I don't know what to think of the new Spike Jonze movie but luckily Claire does and she tells you here.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Magic School Bus Visits the Bowels of the Unconscious

The Horn Book offices will be closed this afternoon as the staff is making a field trip to see Where the Wild Things Are.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rough Cut

Here's a clip from my interview last Friday. I'm afraid to listen to it, so you be the judge.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

They're Gonna Put Me in the Movies

Some documentarians are coming by today to interview me for a forthcoming film about children's books. It did make me clean my office, so that's good.


Sunday, August 23, 2009


Wow, what a great movie. I'd gone in expecting another Spirited Away, which I found gorgeous but rambling and portentous and adult, but Ponyo is a true kids' movie. That's not to say I didn't have a fine time playing spot-the-allusion--forget "The Little Mermaid," Ponyo has The Magic Flute all over it--but the heroes seem like true five-year-olds. I also loved the way the human boy, Sosuke, interacted with his mother Liz Lemon--needing her, disregarding her, helping her--and always from the point of view of a kid, not from an adult's idea of how a kid should view things. It's great, too, in a world of airbrushed Pixar animation, to see moving pictures again--when was the last time a cartoon showed what looked like a hand-drawn line? And, best of all, I never once heard a joke or saw a scene that seemed intended as a sop or wink to the adults in the audience, something even the best Pixar movies do regularly. I love the fact that even nine-year-olds might feel too old for this film.

I think Sendak would adore this movie--it was preceded by a preview of Where the Wild Things Are and, truth be told, I felt a little worried by the wooden dialogue. But let's wait for the whole thing.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Claire saw the new Harry Potter movie

so you don't have to. Except, she says, you'll want to.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

"The fanboys can be merciless."

This Times article about the gypsies invading the castle of professional film criticism has a lot of import to the kidlitosphere as well, as amateur (I use the word in a strict sense) and independent critics join the established professional players in reviewing new books for children. I like what A. O. Scott has to say: “the paradox is that the Web has invigorated criticism as an activity while undermining it as a profession.” He means, I think, that as more people are embracing criticism as valuable, the notion that particular people can have expertise (worth paying for) becomes devalued: all opinions become equal.

Here's what worries me more. In the recent dustup about the BEA bloggers panel and subsequent debate about first- and second-generation bloggers, a-list and b-list bloggers, whether blog tours do any good and what constitutes pay and payola in the book-reviewing blog world, I kept thinking about my favorite Nora Ephron crack, which I will have to paraphrase as I can't find my copy of Crazy Salad. Writing about her experience with a 70s feminist consciousness-raising group, Ephron noted that in its waning days the conversation had devolved into a discussion about how each woman was going to stuff her turkey that Thanksgiving, and that none of the members was even particularly interested in hearing what the other women had to say, they were just impatient for their turn to talk. (Or as Fran Leibowitz put it, "conversation is not the art of listening. It is the art of waiting.") I worry that Internet 2.0 is turning us all into better talkers than listeners--that's what will kill criticism from wherever its source.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Looking forward

We saw Star Trek this weekend--I don't know what the Trekkies thought of it (I was more of a Lost in Space guy) but I really liked it. It made me think about Farah Mendlesohn's article we published in March, where she complained of the dismal scenarios conjured by most contemporary YA SF, more Children of Men than Star Trek. Why can't the future be fun?

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

She really liked it.

Claire, that is, re Coraline-the-movie.


Friday, January 30, 2009

For your weekend viewing pleasure

Claire saw Inkheart. It sounds good.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The other good thing about Newbery/Caldecott short lists

would be that we would get a day for children's books like today is for the movies, all cries, whispers, anguished moans and unexpected surprises. A lot of talk focused on a bunch of good books would not be such a bad thing.

My favorite surprise was the nomination of Melissa Leo for Frozen River. Go see it.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mice at the Movies

Claire reviews The Tale of Despereaux movie.

I still crack up thinking about my librarian friend who, when Despereaux won the Newbery, was besieged by culturally anxious helicopter parents who wanted a copy of "The Tale of Day-pair-EUH."

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dutch Courage?

I mentioned over on Facebook showing one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Snowman, based on Raymond Briggs's book, to the little Dutch kids from downstairs. One is two and the other four and they both seem to enjoy the film (or maybe it's just that hypno-glaze the Snowman himself demonstrates when he watches TV for the first time). But Elizabeth said, "But the snowman dies! Were the kids ok? I've heard that used as the 'difference between Americans and Europeans' argument. We have Frosty, who comes back to life. Their snowman dies."

They seemed okay--when the boy in the movie opens the door into the sunny morning to greet his friend, the four-year-old said "he melted." She also said "it was all a dream," so maybe she's just a realist by nature. I'm guessing she doesn't understand enough about death to see melting as possibly analogous.  Has anyone else experience with sharing this movie with young kids?

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oscar bait?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Something to whet your appetites

Friday, November 21, 2008

Which would YOU rather have?

Forthcoming from the Spring 09 Horn Book Guide, we've posted our review of NBA winner What I Saw and How I Lied.

I've noticed that the recent panels of judges for the award have been composed exclusively of writers. When I judged it back in 1999 (When Zachary Beaver Came to Town was the winner), the panel was three critic-librarians (Hazel Rochman, Zena Sutherland, me) and two writers (Veronica Chambers and Mary Ann McGuigan). I wonder what difference it makes? There is rarely overlap between the ALA awards and the National Book Awards, and I wonder if it is a difference between expert readers and expert writers. Not to say that one cannot be both.

I'm reminded, though, of those winners of the Screen Actors Guild awards who gush that the SAG award is way more gratifying to receive than an Oscar because it's given by "the actors." In the words of the immortal James Marshall, "oh, sure."

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Hands Across the Wire

Betsy Bird, aka Fuse #8, did us the very great favor of reviewing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lights Out

That single dim bulb that is my brain misfired this weekend, sending me off to re-read and view The City of Ember when all the while Alicia Potter was already busy with her review. I have a few more issues with the gigantic predatory star-mole than she, but I'll save them for the sequel. (But will there be one? We went to a Columbus Day matinee and there were fourteen people in the theater.)


Friday, October 10, 2008

This crazy digital world

It wasn't until I got home today that I remembered I had promised Kitty that I would see The City of Ember movie and review it for the website. I wanted to reread the book first but of course neglected to bring it home. Then I thought, Kindle! And sure enough the book was available for five bucks so I ordered it on my computer and then went to read it on the magic Amazon reading machine. Oops--the power had flatlined (despite the fact that I never use it) and the recharge cord was back in the office. Then I had the bright idea of downloading it from bucks more--and settled in to listen but was defeated by the excess of voiciness in the narration--I get that the Mayor wheezes while he talks; do it once and let it go. But Miss Palm, faithful Miss Palm, gently reminded me that while she was getting on in years she, too, was no slouch at e-booking, so a visit to and five bucks more finally has me happily reading. I'll only have to leave the house to see the movie.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Songs for the New Depression

Claire* reviews Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.

*Making Martha and me feel old, for being the only people in the office who seemed to know Nick and Norah when they were Nick and Nora.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Maureen McCormick won't be seeing Tropic Thunder because she doesn't like the plotline involving an actor's bid for an Oscar by playing "Simple Jack," a--as Tropic Thunder calls it--"retard.":

I want to add my two cents to the opinions on whether it's offensive to the mentally challenged. I know Ben Stiller has said that he's making fun of actors, not people with disabilities. Still, the movie is geared toward a younger crowd and I fear a lot of those teenagers and college students will leave the theater thinking “retard” is an okay word to use.

Where to start? First, go see the movie if you want to have an opinion of it. Second, don't patronize "the younger crowd" (sounds like something Alice would say!) by assuming that they view movies as life manuals. Were big sisters the world over corrupted by how mean you could be to Jan? The assumption that "they" won't "get it" underestimates young people, prompts an impulse to control what they see/hear/read, and infantilizes the rest of us. It's a power trip.

The controversy about this movie reminds me of the worst-titled children's book ever, Someone Called Me a Retard Today . . . and My Heart Felt Sad. While it's difficult to argue with the book's theme--name-calling is hurtful--it missed the point that "retard" is an insult thrown around promiscuously, so much so that the term "mentally retarded" is no longer used to describe those individuals who actually have mental disabilities, a point excellently made by YouTube's Retarded Policeman and his brother.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

For the Lovers and the Fighters

Claire Gross has a new book list up about war, and Alicia Potter reviews The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Who needs critics?

Film critic Mark Lawson's Guardian piece about media producers shutting professional reviewers out is interesting to consider in light of the increased commercialization of children's fiction, particularly this:

Professional solidarity aside, it's easy to understand why publicists are looking at ways of bypassing conventional critics. For example, the considerable majority of those who regularly review films in Britain are, like me, white males over the age of 40 who tend to prize originality over repetition and realism above sentimentality. These demographics and values are completely the opposite of cinema's main target audience: 15-24-year-olds seeking, in two senses, a big release on a Friday or Saturday night.

As a result, the cinematic commentariat tends to be far keener than potential ticket-buyers on small-scale, brainy pieces (such as, recently, the quirky drama Son of Rambow or the political documentary Taxi to the Dark Side), while rating many very profitable genres far lower than cinema-goers do: chick flicks, romcoms, horror, children's films and any returning title that is followed by a number higher than 2. That attitude to sequels is typical of the fundamental philosophical difference between serious critics, who flinch at the idea that they know what they will get, and civilian audiences, who are often attracted by familiarity.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

At the Movies

Anita Burkam reviews Prince Caspian.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I Think She Might Have Liked Mine More

Horn Book reviewer Christine Heppermann heard a Who at the cineplex this weekend. I saw Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park, which felt like a YA novel written by Robbe-Grillet, when in fact it was based on a YA novel written by Blake Nelson. It was good.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Go flame her

But, Lord, I now adore this woman even more.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Forget Celebrity Writers . . .

. . . for Oscar Day, I present you with a celebrity reviewer, movie actress Saffron Burrows in the Guardian. Good job, too.

My Oscar hopes: No Country for Old Men, Coen brothers, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, none of them*, Amy Ryan, Persepolis; don't care about the rest but think the un-nominated Eastern Promises shoulda won for Best Score.

My predictions: No Country for Old Men, Coen Brothers, Daniel Day-Lewis, Javier Bardem, Julie Christie, Ruby Dee (Richard's pick because I can't decide), Ratatouille. Atonement for Best Score although it sucks big bombastic rocks.

*I know this isn't an option. It's like the Newbery and Caldecott: once you've decided that "choosing the best" is a defensible activity, then something has to win. We're talking comparatives, not superlatives, a distinction not observed in Zadie Smith's recent short-story contest. So I guess I'll go with Julie Christie. She makes me go misty.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who's in your backyard?

Horn Book Guide editorial assistant Rachel Smith reviews the new Spiderwick movie.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

This made me go all teary

Monday, February 04, 2008

Fiction doing backflips

In watching the three Bourne movies in close succession over the past week, Richard and I spotted a neat thing we had missed when viewing them at the theater: the final scene of the second movie, The Bourne Supremacy, is also the climax of the third movie, The Bourne Ultimatum, with a completely different dramatic purpose. I asked Elizabeth if she could think of any books-in-series that worked this way, and she came up with two related but inexact examples: that it wasn't until Lloyd Alexander had submitted The High King to his editor Ann Durrell that she told him he had missed a book and sent him off to write Taran Wanderer; and that Jan Karon was forced after the fact by fans to plug a plot hole in her Mitford series. Any others?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Taking the Children

It's been a while, but Richard clipped an article for me that speaks to us all. It's NY Times movie critic A. O. Scott writing about taking his kids to movies for which they are putatively too young, and he builds his argument from books:

" . . . something in me rebels against the idea that the books children choose should always be safely within their developmental comfort zone. There is pleasure to be found in bewilderment, in the struggle to make sense of what is just above you head, and there is wisdom as well."

Right on. This weekend, we saw three of the movies Scott discusses: Charlie Wilson's War, Persepolis and Juno. The first was great (although I think it would have bored the young me witless); the second, a cartoon, seemed to run out of graphic ideas before it was over; and the third reminded me of why writers should avoid slang in YA novels: it sounds dated already. Juno seems to be the Little Movie That Could, though; what a nice clutch of Oscar noms, yes?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wasn't that the short one that Robin McKinley loathed?

How the heck do you wring two movies out of The Hobbit?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And I promise not to withdraw it.

Claire's review of The Golden Compass is here.

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Second thoughts?

Alerted by an anonymous commenter, I see that the Catholic News Service has withdrawn its review of The Golden Compass. Without comment. Maybe the Magisterium is at work.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

A different movie

Claire is going to be reviewing The Golden Compass for you all, so let me skip my opinions on that for the moment to recommend what we saw as the first half of our Saturday night double-feature: Enchanted. Pretty hilarious if insidious, too, wrapping a Disney-princess-power theme in so many layers of parody and sincerity that your head spins. Blacks and gays provide comic relief.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

But enough about you

This idea of the internet as a solipsistic wonderland--oh wow! You're reading my blog!--really gained ground this weekend with two of our leading internet magazines--Salon and Slate--each using the premier of The Golden Compass as a springboard for people to talk about themselves while pretending to do otherwise.

I have a lot of respect for Donna Freitas's work on His Dark Materials, but on Salon she unconscionably sets up Catholic Leaguer Bill Donahue as the Grand Inquisitor and herself as Galileo: "Allow me to plead my case, for I think I am innocent. (Though I fear I might be on trial, or even be found guilty without a trial.)" Stop, Donna, we need the wood.

And I would really like to see some documentation for "Catholic principals, librarians and teachers all across the United States and Canada are being told by their diocese to remove "His Dark Materials" from their shelves and classroom curricula." I can find three instances of The Golden Compass being removed from Catholic schools (two in Canada and in Oshkosh, Wisconsin), and in none of them was the diocese involved: trustees, principals and one benighted librarian pulled the book without orders from above. Of course there are probably other, quieter instances of the book being removed (as that's how it's usually done, in public and parochial libraries alike) but the point is that the Catholic Church is engaged in no war with Philip Pullman and no one is being threatened with excommunication. It's just weenie Bill Donahue calling attention to himself via his self-administered interviews, and Freitas falling right into his trap by making him seem more important than he is.

But Freitas, at least, does have a point to make, and it's an eloquent and important one, about the feast of religious inquiry in Pullman's trilogy. Emily Bazelon writing for Slate, on the other hand, explains that she's not going to encourage her sons to read Pullman's trilogy because she really dug Flowers in the Attic even though her mother said it was dreck. (Thanks to Kelly Herold for the link.) Did I mention that I'm going to see The Golden Compass tonight and Nobody Listens to Andrew used to be my favorite book?

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Compass points

Kitty's put together a Philip Pullman page in anticipation of The Golden Compass opening this weekend; she's included links to both Monica Edinger and Bill Donohue, who must be stamping his little feet over The Catholic News Service's benevolent review.

And we apologize for the kind of rough audio, but my podcast interview with Pullman is also up for your listening pleasure.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Anastasia Krupnik loves Casablanca

and Lois Lowry is a big movie fan, too. Find out more in our latest podcast.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

As Claire originally began her review, WTF?

So keep that in mind when you read her review of The Seeker.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

But I bet he loved Clueless

from the Globe and Mail review of The Seeker: "Whether you fully embrace the Harry Potter phenomenon or simply live with it, there's no question that J. K. Rowling is an imaginative story-spinner. The trouble is that she has ruined the field for the legions of the second-rate."

Update: here's a link to the Maclean's blog post on the movie that commenter Clare references. It's really good.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I'm guessing Greenwitch will be a whole 'nother ball of wax.

The upcoming opening of The Seeker, formerly known as The Dark is Rising, has a lot of people on edge, not least Susan Cooper. I'm reminded of another time this title got in trouble, branded as racist in 1976 by the Council on Interracial Books for Children in their Human and Anti-Human Values in Children's Books: A Content Rating Instrument for Educators and Parents. And it was the title itself that got Cooper's book in hot water with this crowd, who believed that the equation of darkness with evil was "racist by commission," meaning overtly harmful. If I recall right, The Dark Is Rising was also labeled "racist by omission," by the CIBC, because it didn't have any black characters. I'll have to remember to ask Susan what she thought about all this.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Why we 'see' movies and 'watch' TV

Watching the Emmys last night (and was Sally Field cut off because she spoke out against the war or because she said "goddamn"?) I idly queried why the Oscars have more prestige and glamor when more people watch more TV than they do movies. Richard had a ready, comprehensive answer: in an impulse hearkening back even unto the Greeks, film is public ceremony that demands respectful attention, and it's bigger than we are. While we may eat during a movie (Twizzlers for me, thanks) we may not talk and the film cannot be paused by the audience or the sponsors. We watch it in the dark, all eyes on the screen.

The way we read is practically the opposite: we do it alone, in the light, and hold a book in our hands. But the status of the act of reading is greater than either seeing movies or watching TV, both despite and because of the fact that books have the smallest audience of the three. This may explain why censors go after books: they're both bigger than us and easier to bully.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More Harry

for the insatiable; Claire Gross reviews the new Harry Potter movie. And I had a few more words to say about the boy in USA Today.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Get a Clue,

Nancy Drew. Chris Heppermann's review of the new movie is up.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Maybe she's older than I thought

People's Leah Rozen on the new Nancy Drew movie: " . . . all that talk of Ned, roadsters and hunting for clues in abandoned mansions paled next to the thrill-filled young adult novels I was sneaking off my adolescent sister's bookshelf, like Johnny Tremain and Island of the Blue Dolphins."

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Friday, May 11, 2007

My view exactly; if only we could convince the rest of the world.

"Nothing satisfies the appetite for allegory quite like a movie about flesh-eating zombies"-- The NY Times's A.O. Scott on 28 Weeks Later.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Androne here

And I'm a modest and shy ocelot who loves long walks in the rain. Have you picked your daemon yet?

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Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm not sure just how it's supposed to work, exactly,

but we just received an audiobook edition of Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret, read by Jeff Woodman. Although the recording makes an attempt to convey the book's lengthy visual sequences via the substitution of sound effects (lots of footsteps!) I'm not quite sure this works for so resolutely bookish a book, one where pictures and text take turns rather than acting in concert. A separate DVD featuring many of the illustrations is also included, though, so perhaps listeners can follow the story with some time with the pictures, and put together the puzzle of Hugo for themselves.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Little did he know"

That line is the tipoff, in Stranger than Fiction, to English professor Dustin Hoffman that Will Ferrell might be telling the truth when he says that he can hear someone (Emma Thompson, we know) narrating his life. Hoffman says that he teaches a whole seminar on "little did he know," and while this seems meant to be a joke about the excesses of literary theory, you really could teach a whole lot about "little did he know" and similar reveals of an author's hand. The line also made me remember my days as Zena Sutherland's assistant--Zena hated "little did he know," and the presence of it or its variations ("had she but known," etc.) in a novel meant a mandatory point deduction in a BCCB review.

We missed this movie in the theater, where it must have come and gone in a minute. When we watched it last night, I kept thinking how much I wanted a Queen Latifah in my life--she plays an "author's assistant," hired by Emma Thompson's publisher to do whatever it takes to get Emma to finish her book. Which Emma does, like, three times, while the movie tries to figure out where and how it wants to end. I was happiest with ending number two. But see it if you can; this movie is one of the more satisfying examples of the fourth-wall cracking we've been seeing so much of lately.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Cheap Thrills on the Moral High Ground

We were discussing Holocaust education on child_lit, and a member forwarded an outline of her temple's planned seventh-grade Holocaust unit, which included a showing of Schindler's List. The outline noted, parenthetically, that "sexual content will be edited out." I thought of that this weekend when Richard and I saw The Black Book, a racy thriller from the director of Basic Instinct about a Dutch Jewess who gets involved in the Resistance after she sees her family shot by Nazis. When the Resistance head insinuatingly asks our heroine how far she's prepared to go in pursuit of bringing down a powerful German commander, I fully expected her to answer "at least as far as Sharon Stone did," and sure enough, we see her bottle-blonding her pubes as well as her head. It's an awfully dumb (R and I are divided on whether this was intentional) movie, with improbable escapes, melodramatic music, and lots of shots of the heroine stealthily, perkily, cutting her eyes from side to side as she enters yet another forbidden room or darkened alley. Very Alias meets Perils of Pauline. And very teen-friendly with its surfeit of sex and flesh, furious brain-spattering gun battles and double-crossing action-packed plot--there's even a nod to teen movie classic Carrie in one of the heroine's more disgusting humiliations.

It's certainly not a learn-about-the-Holocaust movie in the way that Schindler's List was. But the flaw of that movie was the way it wore its virtue on its sleeve, and the way it seemed to applaud its viewers for watching it: I felt like I was being congratulated for being a Morally Serious Person Made Even Better for watching it. This heavy handedness is also what makes it a high-school required-viewing staple, because there's no chance kids will miss the message. Black Book offers the same message but, daringly or dumbly, packages it in an entertainment; Schindler's List feels more like going to church (irony acknowledged). Compare and contrast--there's a high school term paper I would have loved to write!

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