Book Review · Books to Movies · children's books · Favorite Books · horchata · thoughts

Ferdinand!  Book to Movie review

ferdinand the bull book coverYou guys! So you remember how excited I was to find out Ferdinand was being made into a movie?  Well, the Little Man and I had a date to see Ferdinand last week and after a false start with a sold-out showing and calming down a pissed off child with an ice-skating adventure, we finally got to see my childhood fav up on the big screen.

Whenever a favorite book gets turned into a movie, there’s a huge chance the director will take beloved characters and plotlines and turn them on their head (HP, Twilight, I’m talking to you).  There’s also the chance the director will take the book and magically transform everything in your imagination directly onto the big screen.  Wimpy Elijah Wood as Frodo aside, Lord of the Rings was fantastic for this.  While it’s easy to see how they can turn chapter and series books into movies, it’s a bit harder to see how a director will stay true to a story from a children’s book that’s less than 20 pages, so I was very interested to see what they’d do with Ferdinand.

Let’s start this book-to-movie review with John Cena.  Despite his tough guy appeal, wrestling fame and action flicks, John Cena has always come across as the love-able meat-head, just like Ferdinand.  Celebrity crushes aside, he was absolutely, hands down, the BEST choice to voice Ferdinand.

Like the book, Ferdinand-the-movie, was based in Spain, told the tale of a gentle, flower-loving bull, involved a bee and a bull ring.  And that’s about where the similarities end.  Ferdinand-the-book is a sparse gentle tale that allows the reader to infer and imagine many things about Ferdinand, his mother, his home and his life.  So much so, that the book became controversial in its interpretations.

Ferdinand-the-movie, on the other hand, is a coming of age tale whose message of self-acceptance cannot be disputed or misinterpreted.  The movie places Ferdinand, the gentle flower loving calf, smack dab in the middle of a bull fighting farm with his father, where he is surrounded by bulls and calves determined to fight their way into the bullring.  Like the book-Ferdinand, the movie-Ferdinand is a misfit who prefers flowers to fighting, earning him the ire of the other baby bulls.

From here, the film races forward with action and adventure not found in the book, with Ferdinand eventually finding himself squaring off with El Primero, the number one matador in Spain.  Despite all of the deviations from the original tale and the addition of a weird annoying sidekick, for me, seeing Ferdinand staring into the eyes of El Primero is where Ferdinand-the-movie shows a true understanding of the character Munro Leaf created.

While I won’t be re-watching Ferdinand endlessly until the DVD just gives up like I did with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Ferdinand-the-movie was a fun afternoon adventure with my kid.  I’d def recommend it if your family, like ours, enjoys reading books and watching the movies based on those books.

Until next time, happy reading!

Cheers,

-R

beach read · Book Review · Books to Movies · children's books · Greek Mythology · Mythology · Secret Hideout · series books · Summer Read

Percy Jackson & The Olympians vs Harry Potter

PERCY JACKSON THE LIGHTNING THIEFAnticipating a nice slow week at the beach, I set off on Amazon and Overdrive for something interesting.  I was craving something Harry Potter-esque without the deep tomes.

Cue Percy Jackson and The Olympians.

The first book in the series book popped up on my Amazon Kindle Unlimited freebies with a heading like  “If you liked Harry Potter, you may enjoy Percy Jackson.”  Amazon was right.  I absolutely enjoyed Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief.  It was an excellent beach read that could not be put down.  I even got a sunburn because I couldn’t be bothered to move while reading!  These books are easy reading and I read the first two in two weeks.

After I’ve finished a good book, I usually head over to Amazon to check out the reviews and see if there were any insights or interesting tidbits that I missed or see if anyone else felt a certain way about this character or that event.  When skimming reviews for Percy Jackson, I was blown away by how many people felt Rick Riordan had followed a bit too closely in J.K Rowling’s footsteps.  This was interesting, because while reading the book, not once did I think “Wow..this is just like Harry Potter”.

After discussing with my favorite bibliophile, we both agreed the reviewers panning Percy Jackson as a Harry Potter knock off had done a lazy comparison of the two books.  Yes, they both involve magic.  Yes, they both have a ridiculously smart female character that the male characters depend on.  Yes, they both have a somewhat silly sidekick.  But honestly, that could be any young adult series in this genre and calling Percy Jackson a cherry pick on Harry Potter is a bit like saying The Hunger Games cherry picked from 1984 or The Maze Runner.

While the Harry Potter books derive directly from the vast imagination of their author who created an engagingly dynamic world, the PJ books overlay classical Greek mythology into modern day life.  Riordan does this incredibly well and weaves the Greek myths into a coming-of-age tale while also adding his own spin and a little bit of modernization to the personalities, stories and descriptions of the Greek Gods and mythical creatures.  His characterization of Ares, for example, as an aggressive biker thug was spot-on.   Riordan peppers the books with ancient Greek phrases that add a little dash of mysticism to the stories, while also feeling a teensy bit familiar.  I liked knowing the history and myths surrounding the Greek gods and creatures and seeing how Riordan wove them into this tale.  It’s easy to see how this series would inspire young readers to follow the PJ series with something else rooted in Greek mythology.

While there is a fair amount of magic involved in PJ, it is always limited by the original Greek myths; unlike Harry Potter, in which magic itself is a main character capable of many great and seemingly unlimited things.

Unlike Harry, who grew up an orphan with his terrible extended family, Percy has a loving mother and a distant, somewhat disappointing relationship with his father, Poseidon, the Sea God.  While Harry’s parents are lodged forever in the story as the perfect loving parents who died battling evil, Percy often grapples with anger, confusion and irritation with his missing father while balancing the usual preteen love and annoyance with his incredibly understanding and supportive mother.  Percy’s complicated relationships with his parents are handled incredibly well in an age appropriate manner that kids can relate to.  Harry’s parents, on the other hand, are put on a pedestal and frequently out of Harry’s reach, making it a bit harder to relate to that parent-child relationship.

The world J.K. Rowling created for Harry Potter was absolutely unlimited in place, description and location.  As the primary setting for the HP books, Hogwarts plays a huge role in the story of Harry Potter and with all of the quirky personality it displays, can essential be considered a character itself.  The three friends set off on the occasional adventure elsewhere, but Hogwarts occupies the majority of their adventures.

The PJ books are again limited to Greek myth and the modern world.  These books read more like the Odyssey, with Camp Half-Blood acting as a temporary home base while Percy and friends race around the world to ancient places like Mount Olympus, The Underworld, The Sea of Monsters, and the island of Polyphemus which are hidden in modern locations.  The description of LA as the secret entrance to the Underworld, for example, was particularly delicious.

And finally, we reach the comparison of Hermione to Annabeth.  Both are presented as incredibly smart and capable young ladies who seem ages older than their male counterparts.  This frequently leaves them as the voice of reason and in the case of Hermione, the default caretaker of the group.  For the most part, Hermione was a bit of a know-it-all outcast and a bit of a show-off with a chip on her shoulder.  She was frequently trying to prove herself as a Muggle Witch and maintain her place among her peers.

Annabeth, however, as the daughter of Athena, tends to show more restraint and wisdom for her age.  Her knowledge tends to show itself in her extensive planning and unlike Hermione, who tends to always be right, Annabeth has been known to falter, particularly with the Siren’s song.  Unlike Hermione who tends to always be the caretaker, Percy and Annabeth tend to share caretaker duties.  Their relationship feels a bit more equal than the relationship between Harry and Hermione.

And of course, we can’t forget about the Greek Gods who dip in and out of the PJ stories, interfering and guiding, setting traps and leaving life lines.  While Harry Potter has some minor religious undertones now and then, the PJ characters deal heavily with the presence of celestial beings.  They waiver between believing in the Gods, being a pawn of the Gods and being part of the Gods.

All in all, the PJ books are enjoyable, quick to read and I enjoyed the incorporation of the Greek Gods.  I wouldn’t classify them as anywhere near Harry Potter knockoffs, and hope those shunning this series as an HP knockoff give it another chance.

Until next time, happy reading!

 

ps.  Due to the fact that nectar and ambrosia kills mere mortals, a shot of Greek ouzo will do just fine.  Opa!

 

audio books · Bad Ass Women · Biography · Books to Movies · children's books · Historical Fiction · series books · Western

Finding Minimalism on the Prairie

little house on the prairieWe tend to think of materialism and a desire to hold on to and collect physical objects as a modern day enigma, one born of mass production and fast fashion.  Imagine my surprise when this theme popped up unexpectedly in the strangest of places, the final chapters of The Little House on the Prairie.

The book ends dramatically when the Ingalls family finds their homestead, along with a few of their neighbors, is unintentionally but illegally located on Indian Land.  Rather than face the soldiers tasked with removing these settlers by force, Pa decides it’s best for the family to move along before the soldiers arrive.  As the restless spirit in the family who initiated the move out west, it’s easy to see Pa moving along without regrets.  He is akin to the modern day uber minimalist, packing furs and rifle in lieu of the mandatory modern minimalist back pack and laptop.  You can just see Pa nodding a curt goodbye to the house, the well, the garden and the year he spent building, digging, planning, planting, and trapping.  You can just see him moving along to the next adventure without a second glance.

For Ma and the girls, the disappointment is a bit thicker, but they face their reality head on with chores and no tears.  When everything they own is loaded in the wagon, Laura and Mary’s only sentimentality is a request to watch the little house disappear behind them as they roll away.  It’s hard to imagine any modern child (or adult for that matter) packing up their belongings as quickly or calmly as those two little prairie children asked to vacate their beloved home in such short order.

As the family heads towards Independence, Kansas, they come across a couple stranded in the middle of the prairie, the victims of a horse thief.  When the Ingalls family offers them a ride to Independence, the couple refuses.  They won’t leave their belongings.

Knowing full well the dangers the couple face alone in Indian Territory, Pa offers the ride multiple times, practically begging the couple to join them.   Each time, the couple refuses, opting instead to stay in the prairie with wagon full of (now useless) belongings.

As Pa drove off, burdened now with the knowledge of these people choosing to stay stranded in a very hostile land, I was left contemplating the situation.  It was impossible not to compare the stranded couple with modern Americans.

How many of us let our belongings dictate our future and hold us hostage, sometimes in dangerous territory, just so we can hold onto them?

How many of us have forgone a dream vacation or chance of a life time trip around the world because we couldn’t let go of our apartment?

How many of us have declined to take that exciting job opportunity in a field we love because it meant moving all of our belongings cross country?

How many times have our friends or family members stayed in a relationship way beyond the expiration date, simply to avoid giving up their stuff?

How many of us have taken on the burden of homes that chain us to the porch with the mortgage?

How many of us have taken on careers we actively despise or work multiple jobs so we can afford our wants?

How many of us are giving up our lives for a wagon full of useless shit?

children's books · Favorite Books · Grandparents · library

7 Books for Grandmother’s to share with their Granddaughters

7 Books for Grandmothers to share with granddaughtersAs the one year anniversary of my Grandma’s passing creeps slowly closer, I’ve been drawn subconsciously to all things reminiscent of her.  During the months after her passing, I found myself dialing her number on the way home from work to share a funny story or searching in a drawer for the perfect postcard to mail.  Catching myself in these moments hurt deeply and I had to delete her phone number from my contacts using my laptop.  It felt too intimate, too personal somehow to do this on the phone itself.  While these moments have mercifully ceased, the other day, I found myself drawn to a section in the library that held all of the books my Grandma read with me as a little girl.

Flipping through the books, I realized that most of these books shared a common theme of strong independent girls and young women.  In her own way, Grandma was planting the seed in my mind; affirming, cultivating and accepting those traits in me.

Reading together bridged the gap between us throughout the middle school years, giving us something common to discuss during those years which are notoriously difficult and known for moving children away from their grandparents.  Reading books like the Little House on the Prairie series and Blue Willow also opened up a gateway for Grandma to share her own story and those of her parents and grandparents.  These stories fueled my (very unusual for an adolescent) passion for history, Westerns, and ancestry.

I highly recommend these 7 books for Grandmothers to share and read with their Granddaughters.  Most of these books have been adapted into movies, giving Grandmas one more activity to share with their Granddaughters after finishing the book.

  1. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  2. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  3. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  4. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  5. Blue Willow by Doris Gates
  6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Happy Reading!

p.s. These are also wonderful books for Mothers to share with their Daughters!

Books to Movies · children's books · Favorite Books · horchata · WWII

Ferdinand The Bull

ferdinand the bull book coverMy absolute favorite children’s book of all time is the 1936 classic, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.  My grandmother read it to me as a child and I’ve read it to Huck as least 1000 times in the last few years.  History has it that Leaf wrote the story in a single afternoon as a way to help his friend, Robert Lawson, showcase his artistic talent.  The book was a hit, and at $1 per copy the 1938 sales topped those of the ever popular Gone with the Wind.  The Story of Ferdinand has never been out of print despite the many political waves this little story has caused.  1930’s America received Ferdinand in two very different facets.  Some saw the strong but gentle Ferdinand as a fascist, a pacifist, a sit-down striker, and a communist, while others received the children’s tale as story of being true to oneself.  Both receptions say more about America at that time than the story itself.

World wide, Ferdinand entered the political arena with mixed reactions.  In Spain, Ferdinand was banned as a pacifist book until the death of Francisco Franco.  Nazi Germany declared Ferdinand a symbol of democratic propaganda and ordered all copies of the book burned.  Ironically, this sweet tale was the only American children’s book sold in Stalinist-era Poland.  In 1945, following the defeat of Germany and the end of WWII, 30,000 copies of Ferdinand were published and distributed to the German children to encourage peace.

Despite all of the historical political heat, at its heart, Ferdinand is a book children will love.  This adorable tale about a strong young bull named Ferdinand who would rather sit and smell the flowers than participate in the normal young bull activities is one that children (and their parents) will relate to.  There are so many deep themes gently layered into this story: self acceptance, parental support and acceptance of a child who clearly steers away from the normal expectations, and being true to yourself despite what everyone else wants from you.  If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend borrowing your favorite child and enjoying the sweet story of Ferdinand together, especially as this classic is coming to movie screens in December.

Title: The Story of Ferdinand

Rating: 5 stars

Location best to enjoy: Snuggled in a good reading nook with your favorite child

Best Paired with: A glass of horchata 🙂

 

audio books · children's books · Ice-Cream Sundae · Secret Hideout · series books

Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys

Nancy Drew the secret of the old clock book cover

My son, who we’ll call Huck in this blog, LOVES story time and was very disappointed that Mommy couldn’t read him his favorite books while driving him to school in the morning.  I attempted a few “from memory” recitations, which never quite hit the mark, before remembering my brother and I having several books on tape that we would sit and listen to over and over and over and over again.

On our next library visit, we found the “reading kits” which contain the book for the child to read and the cd for them to listen.  We picked out several and headed home.  The ride home (and all subsequent car rides for the next week) was awesome, until it became apparent we were going to listen to the same 5 min story 15 times for each car ride.

Cue the Nancy Drew audio book in the wrong location.

The bright yellow color caught Huck’s eyes and he had to have the yellow audio book.  We checked it out and were soon absorbed in a world of 1930’s American mystery.  Unlike the children’s books, this book had chapters and it took us about a week to complete.  My kid was obsessed, OBSESSED I tell you, with the mystery and we would have to sit in the car listening until we reached the end of each chapter.

At 3, I wasn’t sure he’d be able to follow such a long complex story, but he really surprised me by not only following the story, but coming up with his own ideas, conclusions and plans for catching the bad guy.  Over the next few months, we moved through the first five of the original Nancy Drew mysteries before moving on to the Hardy Boys.

Both series are very well written.  The characters are well developed and very like-able.  The plot is always intriguing and the mystery ending always attempts to be creative.  I enjoyed the timelessness of Nancy Drew.  Despite the lack of cell phones, which would have ended quite a few of her mysteries before they started, the novels never felt dated  and it was easy to relate to Nancy and her friends.  The length and complexity of the story was just right to satisfy the literary needs of both Huck and me.

Listening to these books took me straight back to third grade and I enjoyed just as much now as I did then, how Nancy, George, and Bess were presented as strong independent young women who held their own in the mystery world.  It was particularly refreshing to “read” about Nancy’s relationships with men.  The local police force, for example, respected her ideas, opinions and appreciated her assistance on cases.  Her father, a successful lawyer, encouraged Nancy to take chances and follow leads, while also backing her up when she needed it.

The Hardy Boys books are well written as well, but at times felt a bit dated, particularly when they mention money.  The Hardy Boys were also still active in their high school social life, leading to a few more characters than Nancy’s trusty sidekicks of George and Bess.  The stories were very very good but longer than the Nancy Drew mysteries and at times a little bit more complex.  While written about high schoolers, the books seem to be written for a little bit older audience that the Nancy Drew books.

Both my husband and I enjoyed listening to these mysteries with our son, and while I have a notorious affection for F-Bombs and complex tales, I enjoyed the fact that all of the language, scenarios and situations in these books were G rated.  These two series are just as good and as satisfying to read as an adult as they were as a child, and I’m rating these as 5 stars and recommending a traditional old ice cream sundae as the choice of drink while reading.

Title: The Nancy Drew Mysteries/ The Hardy Boys Mysteries

Rating: 5 stars

Location best to enjoy: Your secret hideout, a blanket fort, or the crook of a big old tree

Best Paired with: An old fashioned ice cream sundae with the works