Monday, July 24, 2017

MMGM: A Little Princess

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

Reprint of Tasha Tudor edition from my childhood
A Little Princess

Written by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustration by Tasha Tudor
HarperCollins, 1992 reprint of 1963 edition
Ages 8-12, reading level 4.8
Lexile 250, 336 pp


Themes:
Poverty, Resourcefulness


Opening:
Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, and odd-looking little girl sat in a cabin with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.

She sat with her feet tucked under her, and leaned against her father, who held her in his arm, as she stared out of the window at the passing people with a queer old-fashioned thoughtfulness in her big eyes.

She was such a little girl that one did not expect to see such a look on her small face. It would have been an old look for a child of twelve, and Sarah Crewe was only seven. The fact was, however, that she was always dreaming and thinking odd things and could not herself remember any time when she had not been thinking things about grown-up people and the world they belonged to. She felt as if she had lived a long, long time.


Thoughts:
A Little Princess is definitely a fairy tale. But though the main character's fortunes may seem implausible, they are in proportion to her losses: not her poverty, but—spoiler alert—the loss of her parents and Indian home. The return of her wealth pales in comparison to the joy of finding a surrogate family.
Each time I read this story I discover something new. There were times in my life when I found Sarah precocious and insufferable, but happily I am back to enjoying her charm. I do wish I could channel a bit more Sarah Crewe when I receive a rejection letter or have to deal with my insurance company.
The book has the flaws typical of its place in history. As with all dated fiction, this book contains some stereotypes. I like to see the positive and learn from the negative. As lamentable as colonialism was, for example, I like to imagine that there were those who genuinely loved the culture and people of their adopted lands. I see Sarah and her father as two of those people. I myself revel in the Indian details and envy Sarah's fluency in Hindi. (My progress is lamentably slow.)
All in all, I believe A Little Princess has much to offer modern children (though probably mostly girls) and can still capture their imaginations. Quite a feat for a book over one hundred years old.


Bonus: 
1. You'll find biographical information about the author on Books Tell You Why and Your Dictionary.

2. Check out the Summer Drive-In review of A Little Princess, the movie from July 21, 2017.

3. Cover feast: This book has been published and republished. As an illustrator, I sometimes just want to revel in the variety of xtyles.

Originally serialized,
 then published under the title, Sara Crewe
First Edition, 1905
illustrated by Harold Piffard
Reprint of a cover by Ethel Franklin Betts
Free audio and e-versions from Loyal Books
Adapted by Jennifer Bassett for Oxford Press
Adapted and illustrated version
by Barbara McClintock


3. Below are more reviews of Francis Hodgson Burnett's books by fellow MMGM participants.

A Little Princess
Marsh and Emiline on Monster Ate My Book Report
Mike from Middle Grade Mafioso

The Secret Garden
Joanne of My Brain on Books
Dawn on Project Mayhem
Completely Full Bookshelf


4. If you liked A Little Princess, other MMGM bloggers recommend

Liesl and Po, by Lauren Oliver, reviewed by Myrna on Night Writer.
The Romeo and Juliet Code, by Phoebe Stone, reviewed by Ruth on Readatouille and Mike on Middle Grade Mafioso
The Belgian Twins, by Lucy Fitch Perkins, reviewed by Gabrielle Prendergast.
The Humming Room, by Ellen Potter, reviewed by Andrea on That's Another Story and Dawn on Project Mayhem

The Humming Room,
by Ellen Potter,
Cover by Jason Chan
The Romeo and Juliet Code,
 by Phoebe Stone
The Belgian Twins,
by Lucy Fitch Perkins





View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Visit all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 24, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Now Playing: A Little Princess

Perfect Picture Book Friday will return in September.
Until then,

Welcome to the Bookish Ambition 
Summer Drive-In

The Circle Drive-In from my childhood. Still open and now with double features on two screens!

Now Playing: A Little Princess
Written by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustration by Anna Bond
Puffin, a division of Penguin BFYR, 2014
Ages 8-12, reading level 4.8,  Lexile 250
320 pp, 66000 words

A Little Princess, Warner Bros, 1995
A Little Princess,
by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Cover by Anna Bond
 


Highlights from the book? 
  • interesting historical description
  • the Large family next door
  • the beggar child and the baker
  • satisfying ending

Highlights from the movie?
  • Miss Amelia and her romance
  • A gloriously happy ending
  • Heightened drama
  • Becky and Ermengarde


Opening:
Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, and odd-looking little girl sat in a cabin with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.


Movie Trailer:
Note: This trailer has major movie spoilers.





I appreciate this well-scripted adaptation. Because that's what it feels like to me, an adaptation. The major alterations in the plot don't feel like they are there for cinematic drama alone, more like the writers had an agenda and made specific changes to carry those themes. For whatever reason, the movie focuses more on Sarah's emotional journey whereas the book focuses on her reaction to circumstances, I think. The book-Sarah effects social change and adapts to her circumstances. The movie-Sarah is transformed at her core, questioning accepted childhood beliefs and determining who she wants to become—what will be the hallmarks of her character.

I enjoy seeing this book come to life, the music, sets, casting. I am disappointed by some of the generic, stereotypical Indian bits, but hope watchers will be so entranced with India they will explore its diversity on their own. In a bit of savvy storytelling the script parallels Sarah's life and the stories she imagines. That's something kids do. It's pretty successful despite the awful special effects.

Skip ahead if you don't want to read any spoilers. The story takes place in America. The timeline is necessarily condensed. The students undergo some minor changes, but the adults suffer the most overhauls. Sarah's past and future are drastically changed. Her relationship with her father is completely reworked. Again, these changes all felt deliberate and make for good cinema.

Overall, I don't recommend the movie as a substitute for the book and I definitely recommend reading the original FIRST. Then enjoy the movie with your family.



Reminisce with intermission commercials
from Captain Bijou on You Tube.
Visit Our Snackbar!

What would the drive-in be like without the snack bar?

Twizzlers!.......need I say more?

Chef De Home has combined the great taste of Twizzlers with trail mix ingredients for a fun Road Trip Snack Cone, perfect for picnics or the drive-in.

If you've gotten addicted to Oreos during intermission (see the BFG post) then try my daughter's childhood favorite: Strawberry milk with a Twizzler straw. Be sure to pick a licorice piece where the hole goes all the way through and guzzle the double strawberry goodness.



Nostalgic for a drive-in movie? There are over 5,000 drive-in theaters across the U.S. mapped for you on Cinema Treasures.

It's a Jeep thing, you wouldn't understand.
I don't even consider it a night at the drive-in if I don't have my CJ with the top off.
Some drive-ins even have "Jeep night." Look for an event at a location near you.
Take along a gorgeous vintage Jeep cooler from Jeep Gear  and a half dozen bottles of Throwback Pepsi...ahhh.


Have you seen any screen adaptations of A Little Princess? What's your opinion?
Have you reviewed the book? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.
Check out the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review of A Little Princess, coming July 24, 2017.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Painting With Words

"I love language. Language is phenomenal. I have always been fascinated that one word can mean many different things. I love the challenge of painting a story in as few words as possible."
—Nikki Grimes*


Heron over Strasbourg Cathedral bookplate,
courtesy Ex Libris

*Via The Little Crooked Cottage


Monday, July 17, 2017

MMGM: The City of Ember

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

The City of Ember, book 1,
by Jeanne DuPrau and Chris Reily
The City of Ember

Written by Jeanne DuPrau
Cover by Chis Reily
Random House Books For Young Readers, 2003
Ages 8-12, Lexile 680L
60,000 words, 288 pp


Themes:
Dystopian adventure


Opening:
The prologue begins
"When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future."

Chapter 1 begins
"In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great flood lamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might as well have been wearing blindfolds.

"Sometimes darkness fell in the middle of the day. The city of Ember was old, and everything in it, including the power lines, was in need of repair."


Thoughts:
Let's be frank. I hate prologues. I think this one was decent and mercifully short, but probably unnecessary. OK. Enough about that.

I adore this book. From the time it first appeared on the bookshelves I knew I had to read it. It just emanated that certain something. And The City of Ember does not disappoint.

Though not a fan of dystopian world-building, this novel had all the cool elements: a unique setting, immediate stakes, interesting characters, underdogs, solid voice. I love the main character (s) and their families. I love the element of mystery, of puzzling out the clues to save the world. And I really didn't know how this story would finish. I hoped for a happy ending, but it often seemed out of reach.

At the risk of sounding cranky and negative, I wish I had stopped this series at book one. My absolute love for this book is nearly crushed by the succeeding novels. I'd love to hear your opinion on this.


Bonus: 
1. I found this interview with the author rather sweet, available on the Secret Files of Fairday Morrow.

2. Looking for more dystopian books for middle graders? Other MMGM bloggers recommend Margaret Peterson Haddix's many books, like Children of Exile, Sabotaged, Among the Imposters, and Found.

Or sample one of the MG adventures below.

Bot Wars, by J. V. Kade
illustrated by Steve Stankiwewicz,
reviewed by
Heise Reads & Recommends.
The Age of Miracles, 
by Karen Thompson Walker
Reviewed by Writer's Alley

The Artic Code,
cover art by Paul Sullivan
Freakling,
by Lana Krumweide,
cover by Maryellen Hanley
reviewed by Lucky 13s



Check out the  Summer Drive-In review of the City of Ember movie, from July 14, 2017.
View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Visit all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 17, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Now Playing: City of Ember

Perfect Picture Book Friday will return in September.
Until then,

Welcome to the Bookish Ambition 
Summer Drive-In

The Circle Drive-In from my childhood. Still open and now with double features on two screens!

Now Playing: City of Ember
Written by Jeanne DuPrau
Cover by Paul Sullivan
Random House BFYR, 2003
Ages 8-12, Lexile 680L


City of EmberWalden Media, 2008
New edition of City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau
Cover by Paul Sullivan
 
Highlights from the book? 
  • Concise, gripping world-building without info dumping.
  • Poppy, Granny, and the shop
  • Fun character names
  • The secret message 
  • The awesome map of Ember by Chris Reily
  • The deluxe edition with bonus material and a facsimile of the instructions.

Highlights from the movie?
  • Amazing steampunk vibe 
  • Marianne Jean-Baptiste...always
  • Some truly terrifying moments
  • Cinematography by Xavier Grobet
  • Set Design, especially Jon Billington's and Celia Bobak's work

Opening:
"When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future."


Movie Trailer:




Thoughts:
I read the author was disappointed by the design of the movie. My opinion couldn't be more different. I love the book for the rich and natural world-building. I like the variety of characters and eagerly turn the pages as they unravel the clues which could save their world. Similarly, I love the thoughtful, layered scenic design of the movie, and the costumes and cast perfectly portrayed my vision of Ember. A good note for all of us who write: once the book passes from our hands to the hands of our readers, their imagination takes over. It becomes their book. And the movie version of Ember is my book cinematized. Perhaps that's why I was disenchanted with the book's sequels. My imagination and the author's went in different directions. I'm told if you want to see DuPrau's vision of Ember and its inhabitants, read the graphic novel.



Find a Krispy Kreme location near you...It's worth the drive!
Visit Our Snackbar!

We're trying something new tonight.
in honor of their 8oth anniversary...


The Original Krispy Kreme

HOT NOW


July 14 deal
Buy one dozen, 
Get the second dozen for  80¢

And just in case you don't know what to do with the second dozen, why not make Krispy Kreme strawberry shortcakes with instructions from Desi on SteakNPotatoesKindaGurl.


Nostalgic for a drive-in movie? There are over 5,000 drive-in theaters across the U.S. mapped for you on Cinema Treasures.

Build your own gorgeous outdoor screen with instructions from Horticult.



Have you seen The City of Ember? What's your opinion?
Reviewed the book? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review for The City of Ember, coming July 17, 2017.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Picture Book Non-Fiction

"The real world, the here and now, has not yet become stale for [children], and when I write for this audience, I try to return to the real world with the eyes I had as a child."
Anne Rockwell*

Eden's Tree of Life bookplate by Frances Delehanty
Via Bookplate Junkie

*Via Got Story? Countdown

Monday, July 10, 2017

MMGM: Theater Shoes

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

Theater Shoes, By Noels Streatfeild
Part of the Shoe Series
Theater Shoes

Written by Noel Streatfeild
Cover illustrated by Alissa Imre Geis
Random House Kids, 1945
Ages 8-12, Lexile 890L
288 pp, 69500 words


Themes:
Family, Following your Dreams, Theater, Dance, WW II


Opening:
"It is very difficult to look as if you minded the death of a grandfather who, though you may have spent your holidays in his house, certainly seldom remembered that you did."


Thoughts:
Siblings Sorrel, Mark, and Holly Forbes have lost their mother and their grandfather. Their father, a naval officer stationed in the South Pacific, is presumed dead. When they are sent to London to live with their estranged grandmother, the children are required to attend the Children's Academy of Dance and Stage Training like their family members before them. The children have other ideas about their future. Poverty and deprivations of war force the group to make hard choices and to explore new paths. This book was originally entitled Curtain Up.

The opening really grabbed me. In fact, though the prose is old-fashioned, I immediately took to the three near-orphans and their plight. The children move to war-torn London, which provides a fascinating setting with rare glimpses into the hardships of the mid 1940's. The main characters follow in the footsteps of the sisters from Ballet Shoes, but also in the paths of their parents and relatives. The theme of pressure to follow our family's expectations is one to which modern readers can relate. The middle of the book gets a bit soggy as the narration shifts more to the details of the children's careers than the children themselves. And unfortunately, I found the siblings a bit too similar to one another. The secondary characters and the historical details definitely make up for the deficiencies though.


I highlighted various covers and my initial thoughts about Ballet Shoes back in 2012 and you'll find my review of the movie on last Friday's Summer Drive-In.


Bonus: 
1. Looking for more books with a similar vibe?

Middle Grade Strikes Back recommends their top five middle grade books about ballet.
BookRiot has listed best books for theater lovers.

I unequivocally insist you read Bloomability, about a girl who goes to a foreign boarding school and discovers herself and Willa by Heart, about a girl who gets involved in her first theatrical production.

Bloomability,
by Sharon Creech
Willa By Heart,
by Coleen Paratore
Cover by Barbara McGregor

2. Other MMGM bloggers recommend

Dara Palmer's Major Drama, by Emma Shevah, reviewed by Bookshelf Monstrosity.
Drama, by Reina Telgemeier, reviewed by Jasmine Marie, the Bookish Mama.
King of Shadows, by Susan Cooper, reviewed here on Bookish Ambition.
Summerlost, by Ally Condie, reviewed by Word Spelunking, Reading Nook, and GeoLibrarian.

Summerlost,
by Ally Condie
Cover by Jennifer Bricking
Dara Palmer's Major Drama,
by Emma Shevah
Cover by Helen Crawford-White

3. The BBC discusses the career of Noel Streatfeild on their website.

4. Schools like the one in the book still thrive across America and in Europe. Kids who like this book can look into what life is like at a modern theater or dance academy, visiting or interviewing the students.

While I would hardly compare this book to Harry Potter, I think the details of school life will appeal to modern readers in the same way that English boarding schools have captured the imagination of a new generation.




Check out the  Summer Drive-In review of the Ballet Shoes movie, from July 7, 2017.
View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Check out all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 10, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!