The plot elements of the new movie "Freedom Writers," starring Hilary Swank, are familiar: young first-year teacher, high school with gang problems, low-achieving and uninterested students. But the movie, based on a true story, is really good, give or take some obvious product placement. (That would be you, Borders). Hilary Swank plays Erin Gruwell, a naive idealist who unites a class of misfits, and they end up saving themselves through writing. I love that. Books (including young-adult novels) play a central role, there's a department head so un-visionary that you want to hiss when she appears on screen, and amid the learning, there's a tiny bit of dancing. I liked this one a lot, much more than the fake-o "History Boys," which is also about a charismatic teacher and his students.
"Curious George" the movie opened today. For a list of reviews, see the Rotten Tomatoes compendium of criticism. Audrey Rock-Richardson, at the Tooele (Utah) Transcript Bulletin, writes, "It's the complete opposite of the
pushy, loud-mouthed, smart-alecky stuff that dominates children's
Here's a neat article in the Concord Monitor about the Reys' life in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, where they had a summer home after coming to the U.S. (Their main home was in Cambridge, Mass.) The Reys were well-known to the children of the Waterville Valley area. When Hans was working in his studio, he would hang out a picture of a man at his desk if he was receiving small visitors. The town of Waterville Valley now owns the Reys' cottage, which is open to the public, and the cottage maintains its own blog!
William Booth explains the brouhaha about the Narnia movie, opening tomorrow, in the Washington Post. His article is called "The Roar Over C.S. Lewis."
The New Yorker critic Anthony Lane reviews the movie in the December 12th issue of the magazine, which is on the newsstands now. About the books on which the film is based, he writes,
Lewis lovers must squabble among themselves. I cannot join the party,
having missed out on Narnia as a child. I was busy elsewhere, up to my
armpits in hobbits, and starting to ask hard questions about the sexual
longevity of elves.
Kelly, proprietor of the kid-lit blog Big A little a, rounds up the latest children's book reviews from the Washington Post, LA Times, and the New York Times, so do go check them out.
At the Guardian, the author Alison Lurie writes about C.S. Lewis and Narnia. The Narnia topic, currently stirring up things on at least one list-serv and a couple of Internet bulletin boards, is on everyone's mind (or so one might think) because of the movie, which comes out on Friday, December 9th.
Your Fairy Bookmother reviews Laurie Halse Anderson's young-adult novel Prom on her blog. I"ll check our library for the new book, as I read Anderson's Speak earlier this year. Speak is a powerful, accessible story about a serious subject, a sexual crime at a high-school party. It's not a dreary read at all; Halse's heroine is triumphant.
Where the Wild Things Are, the classic Maurice Sendak picture book, is in movie pre-production. The film's director, Spike Jonze (of "Being John Malkovich" fame), collaborated on the screenplay with Dave Eggers. Dave Eggers? The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius guy? Yes, indeed. The New York Timesrelates the saga of how this film came to be, or rather, is coming to be. The screenplay is pending final approval by Sendak and film studio honchos.
Sendak is frank, as usual, when interviewed by the reporter Charles Fleming:
He had then and has now, Mr. Sendak said, "a loathing of movies that
are based on children's books, and a loathing for most children's
books." In his words: "It's all vulgar. It's all Madonna." Asked about the film versions of Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat or How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- both released by Universal, where Ms. Snider is now chairman - he
said: "What is the purpose of this debauchery? Money! Only a seriously
sick or brainless person could like them."