Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Are You Writing for Children?

“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”
—C.S. Lewis*
Courtesy CataWiki

*Via Goodreads

Monday, August 21, 2017

MMGM: Ozma of Oz

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

Ozma of Oz, The Books of Wonder edition 
Ozma of Oz

Written by L. Frank Baum
Illustrated by John R. Neill
Originally published by Reilly & Lee, 1907
Wiliam Morrow/Books of Wonder, 1989
Ages 8-12, Lexile 1070L
272 pp, 37000 words


Themes:
Fantasy Adventure


Opening:
"The wind blew hard and joggled the water of the ocean, sending ripples across its surface. Then the wind pushed the edges of the ripples until they became waves, and shoved the waves around until they became billows. The billows rolled dreadfully high: higher even than the tops of houses. Some of them, indeed, rolled as high as the tops of tall trees, and seemed like mountains; and the gulfs between the great billows were like deep valleys.
"All this mad dashing and splashing of the waters of the big ocean, which the mischievous wind caused without any good reason whatever, resulted in a terrible storm, and a storm on the ocean is liable to cut many queer pranks and do a lot of damage.
"At the time the wind began to blow, a ship was sailing far out upon the waters. When the waves began to tumble and toss and to grow bigger and bigger the ship rolled up and down, and tipped sidewise—first one way and then the other—and was jostled around so roughly that even the sailor-men had to hold fast to the ropes and railings to keep themselves from being swept away by the wind or pitched headlong into the sea."


Thoughts:
Dorothy, accompanied by Billina the hen, travel to Ev to battle the Nome King and free the royal family.

I was surprised how much I liked this book. Though I like Oziana, I would not consider myself a fan of the original series. In general I find I like the ideas more than the stories themselves. Ozma is an exception. Perhaps I've grown wiser or perhaps this book is just funnier. I loved the writing style better than previous books. Of course, I saw the movie when I was in high school (do the math) and absolutely fell in love with many of the characters from Ozma. The movie played in my head as I read.

Have you read any of the other Oz authors? Most people say the sequels are inferior to L. Frank Baum's stories, but I am fond of John Neill's The Purple Prince of Oz. 

You'll find my review of the movie Return to Oz on last Friday's Summer Drive-In.


Bonus: 
1. Fans can join the International Wizard of Oz Club.

2. Ben, of My Comfy Chair, reviewed Rinkitink in Oz for MMGM way back in 2011.

3. Other MMGM bloggers recommend

Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms, by Chris Colfer, reviewed by Reading Violet.
The Ever Afters: Of Sorcery and Snow, by Shelby Bach, reviewed by Green Bean Teen Queen.
The Aviary, by Kathleen O'Dell, reviewed on That's Another Story
No Passengers Beyond This Point, by Gennifer Choldenko, reviewed here on Middle Grade Mafioso.
Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis, reviewed by BookishAmbition.

The Land of Stories book 4,
by Chris Colfer
and Brandon Dorman
Ever Afters book 1,
by Shelby Bach and Cory Loftis

The Aviary,
by Kathleen O'Dell
Cover by Molly Bosley
No Passengers
Beyond This Point, 

by Gennifer Choldenko
and Tyson Mangelsdorf





Check out the Summer Drive-In review of Return to Oz partially based on Ozma of Oz, from
August 18, 2017.
View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Check out all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for August 21, 2017August, 21, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Now Playing: Return to Oz

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: 
Return to Oz
Ozma of Oz written by L. Frank Baum
Illustrated by John R. Neill
Originally published by Reilly & Lee, 1907
Ages 8-12, Lexile 1070L

Return to Oz, Disney 1985
Poster by Drew Struzan
First edition Ozma of Oz, Reilly & L, 1907 


Highlights from the book? 
  • A whole new Baum land to explore
  • Billina's feisty role in the story
  • The lunch pails
  • The return of classic Oz characters
  • Tongue-in-cheek writing

Highlights from the movie?
  • Tik-Tok and Jack Pumpkinhead
  • Dazzling array of special effects still holds up over 30 years later
  • Costuming by Raymond Hughes
  • Spectacular claymation both fascinating and creepy
  • Faithful continuation of Oz series

Opening:
"The wind blew hard and joggled the water of the ocean, sending ripples across its surface. Then the wind pushed the edges of the ripples until they became waves, and shoved the waves around until they became billows. The billows rolled dreadfully high: higher even than the tops of houses. Some of them, indeed, rolled as high as the tops of tall trees, and seemed like mountains; and the gulfs between the great billows were like deep valleys."

Movie Trailer:



Return to Oz is based on two books by L. Frank Baum, Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. The film picks up where the MGM classic leaves off. Dorothy has helped the Scarecrow and her other friends reclaim Oz from the witch and travelled home by means of the ruby slippers. Back in Kansas, Dorothy and her family must rebuild the farm after the tornado's destruction. None of the adults in Dorothy's world believe her tales of Oz. This sets up the meeting with the Kansas villains who have Oz counterparts played by the same actors. After a storm, Dorothy finds herself back in Oz. She battles Princess Mombi and the Nome King to rescue the Tinman, Scarecrow, Lion, and Ozma from their clutches.

 Return to Oz combines the best parts of the two books and includes an array of creative characters. The movie incorporates most of the settings in the book, changing them to be parts of Oz itself. Where Ozma rescues Dorothy in the book, in the movie rescuing Ozma becomes one of Dorothy's goals, placing her squarely in the role of heroine. Mombi is actually a combination of Langwidere and Mombi. The Gnome King is a fabulous villain, part claymation, part prosthetic. His transformation of the residents of Oz, as opposed to the royal family from the book, is a clever confrontation. The movie combines Henson puppetry, clay, costuming, green screen, animatronics, and other special effects to provide a seamless fairy land experience which holds up even after thirty years.

I would note that this film can be frightening to kids, as was The Wizard of Oz before it. The wheelers' comic appearance heightens their fear-factor (think scary clowns or dolls.) The Princess Mombi has a terrifying secret. Dorothy and Jack Pumpkinhead in particular face very dangerous moments. And in classic Oz style, Dorothy's misadventures in a mental institution back in Kansas are extremely unnerving.

Of course, those scary moments are what make this such a great adventure film. Fairuza Balk's believable performance as Dorothy, truly magical moments where gumps fly and metal men battle, comic highs, terror-filled lows, and sparkling sets and costumes, complete the cinema experience. Watch. This. Film. You won't be sorry. It's a masterpiece of kidlit come to life.

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

Snackbar food isn't always conducive to a healthy diet. Chicken fingers are kid-pleasing and a healthier choice than standard fare.

Plenty of parents make their own chicken fingers, but I admit I'd rather buy them frozen or fried from the snack stand. I highly recommend SimpleBites chicken dip made with just three ingredients. We serve it with fries and chicken (and anything else we can think of.) You'll find their chicken finger coating and their easy Honey-Mustard dip on their website.


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

Not many theaters show cartoons anymore. If you're longing for a taste of the fifties, watch the 1939 Disney short below, The Little House, another children's book-turned-movie, this one based on The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.


Have you seen any screen adaptations of L. Frank Baum's works? What's your opinion?
Have you reviewed any Oz books? Please leave your link in the comments below. Thanks!

View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.
Check out the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review of  Ozma of Oz, coming August 21, 2017.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Write in Your Own Voice

"Write with a pen or pencil on actual paper...writing by hand will access more of the memories you need to access if you want to write with a unique voice...do it often enough to get in plenty of 'voice finding' time."
—Kim Griswell*


German bookplate, manufacturing and engineering


*Via Highlights Foundation

Monday, August 14, 2017

MMGM: The Swiss Family Robinson

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Wyss
The Swiss Family Robinson

Written by Johann Wyss
Penguin Puffin, 2009
first English Translation. Godwin, 1814
Ages 10 and up, Lexile 540L
496 pages, 108,000 words


Themes:
Family, Adventure, Science


Opening:
For many days we had been tempest-tossed. Six times had the darkness closed over a wild and terrific scene. Returning light as often brought but renewed distress, for the raging storm increased in fury until on the seventh day all hope was lost. We were driven completely out of our course; no conjecture could be formed as to our whereabouts The crew had lost heart, and were utterly exhausted by incessant labour.
       The riven masts had gone by the board. Leaks had been sprung in every direction. The water, which rushed in, gained upon us rapidly. Instead of reckless oaths, the seamen now uttered frantic cries to God for mercy, mingled with strange and often ludicrous vows to be performed should deliverance be granted. Every man on board alternately commended his soul to his Creator and strove to bethink himself by some means of saving his life.
       My heart sank as I looked round upon my family in the midst of these horrors. Our four young sons were overpowered by terror. "Dear children," said I, "if the Lord will, He can save us even from this fearful peril."


Thoughts:
The Swiss Family Robinson tells the story of a family of Swiss colonists who get shipwrecked on a deserted tropical island. They salvage wreckage to build homes in various locations on the island, and attempt dozens of experiments to survive. The Robinsons build boats, breed livestock, grind flour, spin flax, excavate caves, and learn blacksmithing. Each new craft is explained in detail along with facts about animals from all parts of the world. The book was written at the dawn of the nineteenth century, so be warned the characters shoot and eat every animal they encounter. They subdue the land in true colonial fashion which some people will find offensive. But at the heart of the book is the story of a family working together to survive the threats and terrors of a wholly alien landscape.

The Swiss Family Robinson was written with the intent to educate the author's children. It has been inspiring admirers and firing the imagination for over two hundred years. I read this book as a child and, being a daughter of the sixties, I dreamed of living in a tree house (still do.) When I reread the book as an adult I found I didn't remember much at all. Whether that was the result of maturity or originally having read a retelling, I cannot say. Honestly, as I pored over the detailed scientific processes, I wondered if the book would interest my children. For insurance I also bought the Educator's Classic Library annotated edition. And while I still recommend the annotated version for its fascinating content, I can wholeheartedly say my children loved reading the book aloud and still enjoy the audiobook version narrated by Frederick Davidson.

Most unabridged editions are from the same translation, but you'll find several different endings, as the author never settled on just one. I normally eschew adaptations, but in this case, as long as it still contains fascinating animal adventures and clever inventions, a retelling may be just the ticket to excite a sense of wonder in a young reader.


You'll find a book-movie comparison on last Friday's Summer Drive-In.


Bonus: 
1. The adventures of the Robinsons have been illustrated by a variety of artists over the years. Louis Rhead, Milo Winter, and the author's son, Johann Emannuel Wyss. Cover artists are too many to list.

2. Other MMGM bloggers recommend books with a similar vibe:

Both Reading Nook and Always in the Middle review Shipwreck Island on their respective blogs.
Ms. Yingling recommends the non-fiction finds  Survival and Pirates and Shipwreck.
Michelle Mason suggests The Map to Everywhere.
Reading Violet reviewed the first two books in the Crusoe Adventure Series, Dawn of Spies and Day of Ice.
For contemporary tree house story, That's Another Story suggests The Great Treehouse War.
And for treehouse-related mayhem, Alice Marvels reviews The 13-Story Treehouse.

3. Other island adventure classics include quintessential N. C. Wyeth standards

Robinson Crusoe,
by Daniel Defoe
Treasure Island,
by Robert Louis Stevenson



Contemporary survival stories

Hatchet, by Gary Paulson
Shipwreck, book 1: Island
by Gordon Korman

Stories of adventure
Treasure Hunters series,
by James Patterson
Adventure Island series,
by Helen Moss




View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Check out all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for August 14, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

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


Friday, August 11, 2017

Now Playing: The Swiss Family Robinson

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: 
The Swiss Family Robinson
Written by Johann Wyss
First publication 1812, first English Translation, Godwin, 1814
Penguin Random House, 2007
Ages 10 and up, Lexile 540L


Swiss Family Robinson, Disney, 1960
Adult edition of The Swiss Family Robinson,
Penguin Random House, 2007

Highlights from the book? 
  • High-adventure
  • Educational: everything from candle making to sugar production
  • Scope for the imagination
  • Frequent Christian themes

Highlights from the movie?
  • Classic mid-century cinema
  • Action and humor
  • Dream sets and locations
  • Feel-good family movie
  • The treehouse!
  • Coconut bombs
  • Great danes

Opening:
"For many days we had been tempest-tossed. Six times had the darkness closed over a wild and terrific scene. Returning light as often brought but renewed distress, for the raging storm increased in fury until on the seventh day all hope was lost."


Movie Trailer:




The Swiss Family Robinson was written to educate the author's children in an entertaining format. He incorporates his Christian principle as well as various scientific pursuits and facts about dozens of animal species, all from the eighteenth century man's perspective. The family encounters dangers from animals, storms, seasons, and outsiders. They struggle not only to survive but to thrive. Although the story is far-fetched and sometimes encyclopedic, it lights a spark in the imagination. It reads like a bible for the current makers movement. Despite the colonial mindset of  the characters (and the fact they kill and cook every animal that moves) the book makes for good family reading, inspiring readers to question past assumptions and delve into creative projects. Try a variety of English translation, retellings, graphic novels, or audiobook versions.


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

We haven't yet mentioned that staple of summer, ice cream!

Stroll to the snack bar during intermission for a Good Humor eclair on a stick or Nestle Drumstick, sundae in a cone.

It's tough to take ice cream to the drive in, but Let's Dish has created "ice cream" cookie sandwiches which are good for on-the-go. Creator Danielle adapts a cool whip/instant pudding recipe I've used for years and sandwiches it between chocolate chip goodness. (Try it with soft peanut butter cookies, too!)


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

The country's second oldest drive-in movie theater, Shankweiler's, opened in 1934.
Visit Shankweiler's Drive-In in Orefield, PA. Still operating after 84 years.

Shankweiler's, the oldest continuously operating
drive-in theater in the United States.
Have you seen any screen adaptations of The Swiss Family Robinson? 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 The Swiss Family Robinson, coming August 14, 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Perseverence in the Face of Rejection

"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."
Booker T. Washington*

Ship and bookshelf bookplate via Flickr

*Via WikiQuote



Monday, August 7, 2017

MMGM: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

First edition The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
by C. S. Lewis and Pauline Baynes
Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Written by C. S. Lewis
Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
HarperCollins, 1952
Ages 8-12, Lexile 720L256 pages, 54000 words


Opening:
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, because he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother," but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very little clothes on beds and the windows were always open.

Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or had pictures of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.

Eustace Clarence disliked his cousins the four Pevensies, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. But he was quite glad when he heard that Edmund and Lucy were coming to stay. For deep down inside him he liked bossing and bullying; and, though he was a puny little person who couldn't have stood up even to Lucy, let alone Edmund, in a fight, he knew that there are dozens of ways to give people a bad time if you are in your own home and they are only visitors.


Thoughts:
How amazing is that opening? Reminds one of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, doesn't it, with its tongue-in-cheek way of showing us Eustace's personality and the author's opinion of "advanced people?"

Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia to help Caspian regain the lost parts of his island kingdom and to find his missing subjects. I like the questing format of this particular book and the series of short adventures the characters face. That and the old-fashioned writing may not appeal to every child. For more reluctant readers, try reading aloud or audio versions. We thoroughly enjoyed reading them together around the fireplace when the kids were little, I think we started when the youngest was 3 and the oldest foster child was 12. Now we revisit them periodically with the audiobooks. Lynn Redgrave does an amazing job, as does Derek Jacobi, narrator of The Dawn Treader. Every child and adult should read the series, or at least the core books about the Pevensies, at least once in their lives.

If nothing else, the introduction to Narnia may open the door to a life-long love of fantasy.


A Note on the Christian Aspects:
I probably should address the spiritual nature of the books. The author started the series with the question, "What if the Son of God chose to come to Earth as a lion instead of a man?" and then he wrote a story. So yes, everything C. S. Lewis believed about God and his salvation was a basis for these books. He purposely portrayed different aspects of his beliefs into the story. Many of the characters react as Lewis would himself, because of his religious convictions. The world-building rests on similar principles to actual Christianity. That offends some people. I still think you should read them.

Not that you asked for it, but here's more of my opinion. Every single book you read reflects the moral beliefs of the author, sometimes overtly, sometimes unintentionally.  Sometimes the author is wondering what would happen if. Sometimes the author wants to present multiple sides of an issue. Many times books purposely question the validity of religious or moral views. In every case, the author has an opinion. In every case, the author has to decide his agenda: Throw uncertainty on an issue? Dissuade the reader from a previous belief? Present multiple options as valid? Highlight an area of ambiguity in the author's mind and leave it open to the reader to decide?
Let's stop pretending books are somehow morally ambiguous. And please let's drop the pretense of separation of church and state. If you want everyone's views to be represented, then you shouldn't reject a book because it presents a religious point of view.

OK. Got a lot to say on these issues but let's move on to...


Bonus: 
1. A timeline of the creation of the Chronicles of Narnia.
2. I reviewed the movie version last Friday on the Summer Drive-In.
3. More gorgeous covers

Art by Steve Lavis
Art by Chris Van Allsburg

Art by Leo and Diane Dillon
Anyone know the cover artist?

Art by Pauline Baynes
4. For more C. S. Lewis:
Check out the Hopeful Heroine's review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,
G. S. Prendergast's review of The Silver Chair,
AshyGirl15's review of The Magician's Nephew,
an overview of The Chronicles of Narnia as a series on Carstairs Considers,
and reviews of The Magician's Nephew, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Horse and His Boy, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle by Michelle Isenhoff


5. Other MMGM bloggers recommend The Books of Elsewhere, by Jaqueline West, Illustrated by Poly Bernatene, and the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling, illustrated by Mary GrandPre. The Dark is Rising, by Susan CooperThe High King and The Foundling and Other Tales, by Lloyd Alexander. I would wholeheartedly add the entire Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander.

Reviewed by 
the Hopeful Heroine
Reviewed by
Laurisa White Reyes

Reviewed by Kim at Dead Houseplants

Prydain, Book 1
Overview here
Prydain short stories
Reviewed by Michelle




Check out all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for August 7, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Now Playing: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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: 
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Written by C. S. Lewis
Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
HarperCollins, 1952
Ages 8-12, Lexile 720L

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,
Walden Media, 2010
My favorite version of Dawn Treader
Cover by Leo and Diane Dillon
 
Highlights from the book? 
  • C. S. Lewis's unique storytelling style
  • Very personal narrative
  • Caspian's romance
  • Multiple adventures
  • Spiritual aspects
  • Less violent

Highlights from the movie?
  • Outstanding casting
  • Reepicheep!
  • Dazzling special effects
  • Focused cinematic storyline
  • Eustace in both forms
  • Exciting action scenes


Opening:
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, because he had none.


Movie Trailer:





I am a fan of the Narnia books, though they can be old-fashioned and slow-moving at times. I loved the first movie, but had my doubts when the film rights for the successive books were sold to another company. The novel The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is full of interesting segments and new characters, but it is a quest tale with shallow heroes. I can think of more than a few disappointing movies adapted too faithfully from quest novels. This movie takes the best segments of the book and condenses them into a more focused journey with an over-arching threat. It is a true sequel, too. It works hard to keep continuity by bringing back old characters and deepening their character arcs. I like the added backstory and the setting. And the new characters are some of my favorites from the films. The action is intensified for the big screen and historical background downplayed. I don't think you could have the movie without the book, but I think it is a great extension of a classic book series.

What did you think?



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

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

What's your favorite movie candy? In my top three is a box of Nestle Sno-Caps. There's something magical about that rattling, scraping sound as the Sno-caps slide toward the tiny perforated opening in the box (and my mouth!) They are kinda noisy, which made them better suited to the drive-in than the theater.

Want a quieter version with the same chocolate taste? Nestle offers a recipe for Sno-Cap cocoa cookies with Sno-Caps baked right in, or The Rowdy Baker invented an amazing recipe for a cookie version of a Sno-Cap, a chocolate cookie covered in nonpareils. Yum!


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

Drive-In movie projectors, photo The Top Shelf
Update your backyard movie tech with tips from Popular Science, and turn your old projector into an object d'art instead. Shop upcycled projector/lamps from Light and Time Art on Etsy or find plenty of DIY versions like the film reel table on Pinterest



Have you seen any screen adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia? Of the Dawn Treader? 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 coming August 7, 2017.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Writing Kidlit

"Whenever I really like a grown up writer's work, I always think, 'This is so great. Why do they write for adults???'"
John Green*

The Spirit bookplate by Will Eisner via La Neuvieme Art


*Via Twitter