Saturday, October 18, 2008

Movie: The Little White Horse

They've changed the name to The Secret of Moonacre. You can follow this path to find a trailer.
  1. Go to the Toronto International Film Festival trailer gallery site
  2. Got to Page 3 (arrow at the bottom of the thumbnail photos)
  3. The Secret of Moonacre trailer is on the first photo on the second row.

I must say, I think they've nailed Maria's bedroom, the bedroom ceiling looks beautiful.
I will have to go see it for Ioan Gruffudd and Tim Curry in any event.

One of my happiest moments on this blog was the discovery of other folks (besides JKRowling) who loved Elizabeth Goudge's book.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hell Phone

I had an opportunity to visit with one of my former students recently. As their "librarian-for-life," I am always interested in their current reading choices and interests. He said, "You have to read William Sleator, Mrs. P."

My sojourns into middle school libraries have reinforced my belief that is is NEVER too late for a kid to become a reader.

Hell Phone by William Sleator, Harry N. Abrams, 2006

Start with some classic Rod Serling-Twilight Zone; add in some of Dante's Divine Comedy with extra "Inferno" sprinkled on top. Mix in cell phones, video games, part time jobs, and a high school romance and you have a book that grabs the most reluctant, uninterested, I-don't-read-books guy (or girl) and keeps them turning the pages.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
[1855 H. G. Bohn Hand-Book of Proverbs 514]

Nick is an "A" student works a part-time job at a hospital. His income helps his mother who is working two jobs to support them. He does not have a car but gets around on an old bike.
For the first time in his life, Nick has a girlfriend and he is crazy about her. He is respectful to her parents and mindful of her commitment to the high school soccer team. He just wants to be able to talk to her on the phone in the evening.

A flier advertising the "cheapest phones in town" lures him to a store in a seedy neighborhood to look for a cell phone The fact that the caller ID does not work, does not dissuade him from buying the phone that is offered to him. The whiff of sulfur about the cell phone store foreshadows the events to come.

He begins to receive terrifying calls the moment he turns the phone on. A sobbing young woman and dire warnings from the former owner of the phone frighten him. When an anonymous, sinister voice threatens him, Nick's life begins to spin out of control.

He begins lying, stealing and becomes enmeshed with unsavory characters. The reader can sense the downward spiral Nick is on and calls to him at every turn to stop and reverse his course. The cell phone takes on a life of its own and plays on his insecurities. Nick acts heroically to rescue his girlfriend from an attempted rape (before anything happens) but then commits a crime for which he is tried and punished.

The book has great appeal to middle school boys. Seventh and eighth grade guys are looking towards high school when they will be have a part time job, working for good grades to earn college scholarships, and dating for the first time. Books are a safe way for kids to "try on" a future.

In every way, Hell Phone is a cautionary tale. The ease in which Nick slips away from his former life is frightening as each decision seems to be made almost innocently or as an attempt to protect his girlfriend and mother.

Sleator allows for redemption but harsh lessons are learned and no one escapes scot-free. The situations are grim and the book is creepy but there is no vulgar language or "Sam Peckinpaugh" style violence. The filth and ordure of Hell is vividly described and provides a hefty, "eeewww..." factor.

What a great teen book club read this would be!
There is much to ponder and discuss here about right and wrong, religious implications, free will and the nature of evil.

The book design is by the imaginative Chad Beckerman. (who also designs The Last Apprentice series) This cover grabs the reader by the shoulders and dares them to move on to another book. The opening pages shows a cell phone signal strength icon with the final and tallest bar in flames. Flames edge the pages exactly where a reader holds the book to read.

No wonder the book hardly ever makes it back to the shelf before it is checked-out again.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Author: Rick Riordan

OK, I am working in school libraries and talking to Rock Star Rick Riordan fans who DO NOT KNOW about The 39 Clues! Interesting.

Interview from Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Heartbeat for Horses

The entniece and entnephew came to visit our entwood recently. The entniece is a third grader (it was so nice to have a little girl in the house again) and she soon discovered Entling no.1's old Breyer horses which were packed away in a closet. A corral was erected on the floor of her bedroom and horses jumped and galloped across the carpet.

I handed the entniece Laura Chester's new horse books which I had received from Raab Associates to review.

Heartbeat for Horses, edited by Laura Chester, photographs by Donna DeMari, Willow Creek Press, 2008.

The cover photograph evokes the love for horses that flows through this book. Poems, essays and selections from classic horselore, including James Herriot, Black Beauty, King of the Wind, and, Will James's Smoky the Cowhorse (just to name a few) will thrill horse-loving girls and inspire others. If a young reader has not already found National Velvet, the except in this anthology will send her out to find it.

Donna DeMari's photographs are rich and romantic visions of horses and girls. DeMari is a fashion photographer whose work is featured in magazines like Marie Claire. Young equestrian jumpers, a girl jockey, rodeo riders and the Escaramuza Flor de Primavera riding group of Tucson are shown in action, as are girls working in the stable and nose to nose with their horses.

This would be a perfect gift for a young horse lover.

Chester writes of her own life long love of horses and the special horses in her life. She remembers her childhood collection of horses which reminded me of my own. My brothers collected Matchbox cars, I collected ceramic animals and lots of little horses.

Hiding Glory
by Laura Chester; illustrated by Gary A. Lippincott, Willow Creek Press, 2007
Marvel the Marvelous by Laura Chester;Willow Creek Press, 2008

The entnephew was teasing his sister about her love of "magic-flying-pony" books so these titles seemed to have been written just for her. Chester's novels Marvel the Marvelous and Hiding Glory are set in an fantasy world of Joya. Shades of "My Little Pony," the stories might very well be Chester's memories of playing with her own collection of horse figurines.

Watching the entniece gallop and jump the Breyer horses through their paces, was a strong reminder to me of the power a child's imagination and the importance of that play.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Make sure you've seen this article (by Jon Scieszka) about our hard working National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature's efforts on behalf of this nation during his visit to Washington D.C.

...Scieszka received his official Ambassador medal, and answered some hard-hitting questions from a class of local fifth-graders from Brent Elementary School.

“Where do you get your ideas?”

“Is it fun being an author?"

“Do you see Scholastic book orders as more of a bailout program or a rescue strategy to prop up sub-prime post-Harry Potter investments?”

More reading in case you missed his diplomatic efforts on behalf of Mo Willems earlier this year.
Scieszka is coming to town in the very near future. Must go.