Tag Archives: children’s books

Review: Ann M. Martin: The Story of the Author of the Baby-Sitters Club

IMG_3463Recap: Ann M. Martin is the brilliant creator and writer of The Baby-Sitters Club series that I binged ferociously throughout elementary school. I wanted friends like the girls in the club, and I wanted a side job like they had so I could make money to shop at Claire’s. Ann M. Martin was J.K. Rowling before J.K. Rowling. She was a badass woman who created an entire world of people and problems to which every kid could relate. Finally learning a little more about her as a person was exciting and interesting.

The book is a true biography of her life and climb to the top as a children’s author. It includes details of her family, her childhood, the fall that caused her to deal with lifelong pain and illness and how she started writing professionally. When you read her biography, it becomes clear why she wrote about what she wrote about. She always loved children, writing and babysitting. For most of her young life, she thought she would be a teacher, but things ultimately changed direction as they so often do.

It was also interesting, maybe not so surprising, and a little disappointing to learn that once the series became so popular, she wasn’t necessarily the author writing all The Baby-Sitters Club books.

Analysis: A little backstory on this: I received this book in the mail as a response to a fan letter I wrote to Ann M. Martin probably when I was about eight years old. Clearly, author meant for me to read it then, but I didn’t and it fell into the abyss of my childhood bedroom. I rediscovered the book several years ago when my family moved out of that house, so I finally decided to read it.

It was extremely thoroughly and painted a beautiful, wholesome picture of the woman who will always remain wholesome in my pain.

That said, I wish I’d read it when I was eight. Though her story was interesting, it was clearly written for kids. The writing is extremely basic, especially when compared to some of the other adult memoirs and biographies out there. (I mean hell, I read Ron Chernow’s Hamilton a few years ago.) But it is the perfect biography for children who probably love Ann M. Martin as much as they love her books.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Movie vs. Book: A Wrinkle In Time

The classic fantasy children’s novel tells the story of a young girl Meg, who is transported to another planet by three other-worldly women (Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which). The mission: to locate her father who has gone missing in a space-traveling mishap. Along for the ride are her younger “special” brother (Charles Wallace) who is brilliant and a boy from school (Calvin) who — unbeknownst to her — is interested in her, her intelligence and her friendship.

It’s an empowering female story about love, trust and taking a leap of faith. For that reason, it has been read by boys and girls everywhere since it was first published in 1962. To see it on the big screen with such a phenomenal cast as Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid and Chris Pine was exciting to say the very least.

The movie takes the novel a step further by not only having a female lead this story, but by making her mixed race, forcing more than just a gender-oriented discussion. The character of Mrs. Who, who in the novel only speaks by quoting famous philosophers and successful people, is also updated in the movie as she quotes more modern artists, including Outkast and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Because the book is so fantastical, the movie has to hold up to it; it relies on a lot of CG in these make-believe planets. Good or bad, cheesy or not, the CG is beautiful. It’s simply a pretty movie to watch, which works considering how pretty the story is when we first read it.

But there are some major changes that really take away from the original story. In the novel, Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace are each given a piece of advice from the three Mrs. when they are forced to complete the journey on their own. Calvin is told his best talent is communication and he should use it when the moment calls for it. When the trio finds themselves in a moment where the evil spirit IT is trying to hypnotize them with monotonous chanting, Calvin gets out of the trap by shouting back at IT in phrasing that doesn’t rhyme or sound rhythmic in any way. It allows him to keep from being hypnotized, and then Meg follows suit. This section is eliminated from the movie altogether. By cutting this scene, the movie ultimately gives Calvin no real purpose. He just seems to be a character along for the ride. Without those few key moments, he’s essentially worthless.

In the book when Meg finally finds her father, he is trapped in a glass tube. Getting him out from there becomes a entirely new challenge. But in the movie, when she finds him, he’s just roaming around in a multi-colored hallway, and they are able to embrace and easily move on with the story.

As the story goes, Charles Wallace has become brainwashed by IT. Meg’s father suggests leaving the planet without Charles Wallace. The mere suggestion leaves Meg so aghast that her father would ever consider leaving his son behind. It leaves the reader aghast too. I remember thinking what a horrible father! But then Meg, Calvin and Meg’s father “tesser” — or transport — to another planet. Meg becomes really sick. She’s comforted and nursed back to health by a mysterious, mystical creature who she names Aunt Beast. During this time, she and her father resolve their issues and the Mrs. come back and tell Meg that she must be the one to  save Charles Wallace since she has the closest relationship with him. This ENTIRE section is removed from the movie. It is crushing to have this section cut and damages the storytelling of the movie. First of all, Aunt Beast is a beloved character. To have her eliminated is just sad. Secondly, this part of the book allows Meg — and  us, the readers — to make peace with Meg’s father over his suggestion to leave Charles Wallace behind. This resolution doesn’t really happen in the movie until the very end, at which point it feels like a rushed, forced afterthought.

It’s no surprise to me that the movie version of A Wrinkle in Time has gotten bad reviews, and that the movie will likely bomb at the box office. Personally, I thought there was some great acting and a few key moments filled with emotion. I also still think it’s an important movie for right now — seeing a biracial female lead us on this journey. But it doesn’t finish with the full scope of emotion, positivity, strength, empowerment, fantasy and storytelling that the book is known for.

Get A Wrinkle in Time in paperback for $5.65. 

Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie vs. Book, Reviews

‘Glee”s Chris Colfer Lands New Book Deal

chris-colfer-talks-new-book-stranger-than-fanfiction-at-ew-popfest-04As the Fox TV hit show “Glee” was winding down, star Chris Colfer was already working on his next project, a book series for children called The Land of Stories. 

Fast forward four years, and according to Entertainment Weekly, Colfer’s books have spent 48 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. So it should be no surprise that he’s landed yet another book deal. He’s writing an insider’s guide to The Land of Stories as well as two books in a new series.

The insider’s guide is set to be released next fall. The new series is set to be published in 2019.

This comes after Colfer partnered with Twentieth Century Fox and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps to adapt The Land of Series into films. The first film, The Wishing Spell, will mark Colfer’s directorial debut.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author News, News Articles

Pottermore Launching ‘Harry Potter’ Book Club

wwbookclubIn case my “book club” — which, let’s be honest, is really just a blog and not an actual club — isn’t enough for you, soon you’ll also be able to participate in a Harry Potter Wizarding World Book Club, launched by the Pottermore web site.

All you have to do is register on the site and agree to read one Harry Potter book per month (or some over a few months since the books later in the series get longer), and you can use the virtual book club to discuss the books. The idea is to connect Potter fans from around the world — and of course, reinvigorate their love for HP.

Each week, Pottermore will announce a new theme to be discussed on a new Twitter account, @wwbookclub. The account is already active. Though the book club is set to officially launch this month, an exact date for the first topic doesn’t appear to have been announced yet. Stay tuned, Potter fans!

Leave a comment

Filed under News Articles

Special Anniversary Covers Coming for ‘Harry Potter’

harry-potter-1Can you believe this year marks 20 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the name of the first book outside the U.S.) was released?

According to Entertainment Weekly, to honor the book that changed children’s literature, London-based publisher Bloomsbury Books is released special 20th anniversary covers for the book. There are eight new covers, honoring the four houses in Hogwarts.

Illustrator Levi Pinfold did the artwork for Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. There are different covers for the hardcover and paperback editions with the hardcover books having a black background.

The new covers hit the shelves in June. I’m sure they’ll sell well. Publishers will find any way to keep the Harry Potter craze going strong.

But I’m still stuck on this: it’s been 20 years?! Seriously?!

Leave a comment

Filed under News Articles

Harry Potter Exhibit in the Works

rowlingDid I call it or did I call it? J.K. Rowling et al keep finding ways to make Harry Potter relevant. According to Entertainment Weekly, a new Harry Potter exhibit will open next year at the British Library.

The exhibit will commemorate the 20th — can you believe it?? Yes, I said 20TH! — anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book of the Harry Potter series (aka Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S.). The exhibit will include things from J.K. Rowling’s archives and other goodies from British publisher Bloomsbury. The exhibit will be open October 20, 2017 until February 28, 2018.

All of this comes with the news that the latest addition to Harry Potter‘s universe, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, has sold more than three million copies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author News, News Articles

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

harry-potter-cursed-child-poster**Spoiler Alert: This review does contain spoilers about the latest edition and all books included in the Harry Potter series.

Contributed by: Sam Sloan, friend and high school English teacher

1. First of all, the obvious, what did you think? How did the feel of the play compare to the Harry Potter novels?

Having only read each Harry Potter novel once, reading the play gave me flashbacks of sitting down with the fifth novel. I had swallowed up the first four novels in late middle/early high school. I have a clear memory of taking the fifth one from my sister’s bedroom and giddily running off to my room to start it, excited to be reunited with old friends and to see how life would be after the horrors of the Triwizard Cup.

When I read the play, I felt my old friends had, like me, had gotten older but maybe not any wiser. They had some of the same problems with adulting that I have– despite having saved the world, Harry still struggles with doing what’s right and facing his past and adolescent children who struggle beneath the shadow his celebrity casts upon them. (I haven’t saved the world, but isn’t that the secret dream of any high school English teacher?)

Unlike the novels, the play forced me to stop and actually imagine a stage upon which this action would take place. Reading the novels allowed me to totally immerse myself in a make-believe world of dragons and Quidditch. This was a little different, as I had to imagine what this would look like on a Muggle stage.

2. What was it like reading Harry Potter in play format? How did the format affect or not affect the story?

Personally, I like reading plays because the stage directions are more than just adverbs that describe how a character should deliver a certain line. A narrator that is actively a part of the play gives the audience information about why something is happening, and the stage directions provide a reader with insight and background information that the reader might not necessarily receive through the delivery of lines. When the reader gets to read this, it helps to better create those characters on that stage in their minds.

3. Did you have a favorite new character?

Scorpius Malfoy. He’s self-aware: he knows the rumors about him, but he also knows that his parents didn’t want to raise him the way Lucius raised Draco. His mother is a tender character, who obviously enhanced his sensitivity and ability to tune out gossip. His innocence and desire for a friend melted my icy Slytherin heart. And he also validated my love for Slytherins. Scorpius is so the opposite of his father when Draco was a child and is such a good contrast to the moody, resentful Albus.

His crush on Rose and his desire to make sure that he and Albus didn’t create a Rose-less world was heart-warming. It’s nice to see that Draco and Astoria Malfoy raised their son to be the opposite of Draco or his horrible little friends. Not all Slytherins are jerks, and Scorpius proves that.

4. What was different from the books? (You mentioned some changes with the magic itself and also the inclusion — or lack thereof — of certain characters.) Did you like these changes? Was there a reason you think they were made?

Being that I only read the books once, a lot of the magic rules were foggy in my mind. I remember that Hermione had a time-turner in the third book to help with her class load, but I didn’t remember the parameters of using a time-turner. I did a quick Google search to refresh my memory (big shout out to the Harry Potter Wiki page).

Whether or not the “rules” of some of the magic were followed to a T is hard for me to say, but the magic served its purpose for the means of a play.

One thing that irked me was that Neville was frequently spoken about between the characters but didn’t make an appearance. Thanks to the time-turning, Harry’s dreams, and the talking paintings of the magic world, the reader was reacquainted with Snape, Hagrid, Dumbledore, and Cedric, but not Neville.

Neville spent his whole childhood being put down by his peers and even his own grandmother, but he played a crucial role in Voldemort’s defeat. He easily could’ve been included. Disappointing, to say the least, because I consider him as heroic as Harry, Hermione, and Ron. It was as if he were still being picked on.

Also surprisingly left out was Luna Lovegood. The big difference between her omission and Neville’s is that she was not even mentioned by other characters in passing. She was good enough for Harry and Ginny to name theirdaughter after her, but not good enough to include in the play? Hmph.

harry-potter-cursed-child-poster

It was nice to have an additional story, but it wasn’t necessary. I really did like the way the series ended. Good triumphed over evil. For the first time in his life Harry Potter was as close to normal as he could ever be. Ron and Hermione wound up together (despite me not being able to understand how the lovable Ron tolerated her know-it- all, sometimes obnoxious attitude). Draco Malfoy learned the difference between doing what’s right and doing what’s popular. I like that ending!

But like I said, it was like visiting old friends. I liked being able to hear Snape’s voice in my head again. I felt a crushing sadness when Harry spoke to the painting of Dumbledore about being a father. It was wonderful to be in that world again. But I didn’t need to be. The novels can stand the test of time through their themes of friendship, generosity, and tolerance; the play emphasizes and reminds the reader of those themes, but Potter fans likely haven’t forgotten them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews