Post Tagged with: "movies"

Books to read before the movies come out

Vampire Academy book cover (by Richelle Mead, published by Razorbill)Buzzfeed has produced a terrific list of books to read this year before their corresponding movies come out.

I’m a huge proponent of movies based on books because I think it helps to get kids reading.

I call them “book extensions.” There are many other “book extensions,” including video games, websites and games based on books. Whatever will bring a kid back to the original book is great, as far as I’m concerned.

Harry Potter and Hunger Games are excellent examples of books that have gotten many kids turned on to reading.

The Buzzfeed list includes some adult-oriented films, but a few noteworthy Young Adult (YA) books including the very popular Vampire Academy series and the Divergent series.

Here’s Buzzfeed’s list of books to read.

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The Hunger Games – not for me

mockingjay pinI think I now have a better understanding of kids who don’t enjoy reading.

Sometimes, it’s the subject matter that puts them off.

Take me and The Hunger Games, for instance.

I have tried to read it several times. But every time I picked up the book… yep, still about children killing each other.

It’s not for me.

I don’t get the whole dystopian thing. I find it creepy, depressing and scary.

But I also get that The Hunger Games, and the whole dystopian genre, is hugely popular with kids. They love it.

The Hunger Games is well-written and compelling. The characters are well-rounded, the world itself intricate and thoroughly thought-out.

But… it’s about children killing each other.

I saw the movie on the weekend.

When the lights went down, it felt like I was on a rollercoaster to a scary destination, from which I couldn’t disembark. And essentially that’s what happened.

From the first moment, when we see how the people in District 12 are living – and all throughout the movie – it’s my version of hell. Watching children living in horrible distress, being set up by adults, and ultimately watching some of them die.

It’s the reason I walked out of Slumdog Millionaire. (Which was billed as “uplifting” – a marketing lie I still haven’t forgiven.)

I didn’t want to see the The Hunger Games, but as a children’s literacy blogger and writer I could no longer avoid this literary juggernaut. I had to get into that rollercoaster and buckle up. (With my 10-year-old, who thoroughly enjoyed every second, wasn’t very disturbed by it, and helped me through the scary bits. “Remember, it’s just a movie, mom!”)

All of this has given me insight into kids who are forced to read material they haven’t chosen for themselves.

No matter how well-written or popular it is, sometimes you’re just not into certain books.

If I were a kid and The Hunger Games was on the curriculum, I can imagine the teacher saying, “it’s a great book! Millions of kids love it!” But it wouldn’t be my choice and all those other kids loving it still wouldn’t make me want to read it.

I’m glad I saw the movie. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to get through the books – although now that I’ve met Katniss Everdeen I do kind of want to know her better.

In the meantime, where did I put my copy of Scott Pilgrim? I need a chaser.

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Collection of videos kids gotta see

the kid should see this screenshotYou’ve gotta love the spirit behind The Kid Should See This.

You’re trolling the Internet (as you do) and you come across a crazy video showing lightning strikes on the CN Tower, and you think “I’ve gotta show this to my kid!”

That’s exactly what TKSST is. A collection of fascinating, insane, edutaining, funny videos that your kid has just gotta see.

What’s on TKSST right now? Let’s see:

  • a bug walking across food colouring, showing how its feet slurry the water. (cool);
  • luminescent underwater creatures (way-cool);
  • an animated, artistic work by a Scottish-Canadian filmmaker (interesting for a certain kind of kid);
  • Dizzy Gillespie performing St. Louis Blues on the Muppet Show (groovy);
  • a comparison of how big all the planets are (science-y fun, especially when the other planets come out to dwarf our Earth in size);
  • a guy flying over the Grand Canyon in a jet-propelled, wearable wing (nature-cool);
  • a TED lecture about a robot that flies like a bird (way-cool).

The videos range from less than a minute to five or six minutes. But of course, you can fast-forward and skip to the best parts. The site is co-curated by Rion Nakaya and her three-year-old, Dante.

TKSST parses all the white-noise from the Internet down to just the best stuff that’s going to feed your child’s curiosity in a good way. Gotta love that.

Thanks, Val, for pointing us to this great website. Via (where I nabbed this screenshot from since I still don’t know how to do good ones myself).

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Test your Potter fan with these clues

Harry Potter, magical quills; image: www.pottermore.comWe’ve all been missing Harry and the Gang, of course, which is why we were so excited to see the new website, Pottermore.

Getting Kids Reading has qualified to be an early, beta-tester of the new Harry Potter site.
That means we’ll be able to bring you an insider’s view of all of the magical outpourings of J. K. Rowling’s imagination, a month or so before the site is open to everyone in October.

(There are one million other beta-testers, incidentally, so we’re not exactly letting our special status go to our heads.)

They chose the beta-testers through a special contest. For one week, asked a question a day to elicit a clue which we then used to “find” a magical quill.

Test your little Potter fan and see how many he or she would have gotten correct!
Here are the clues they asked:

Day 1 Clue
How many breeds of owl are featured on the Eeylops Owl Emporium sign? Answer: 5

Day 2 Clue
What is the number of the chapter in which Professor McGonagall cancels the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff? Answer: 14

Day 3 Clue
In the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match, in Harry’s third year, how many points is Gryffindor leading by before Harry catches the golden snitch? Answer: 60

Day 4 Clue
How many students take part in the Triwizard Tournament during Harry’s fourth year? Answer: 4

Day 5 Clue
What is the house number of the Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix in Grimmauld Place? Answer: 12

Day 6 Clue
How many chapters are there in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? 
 Answer: 30

Day 7 Clue
How many deathly hallows are there? Answer: 3

The image of the magical quills came from the “Pottermore Insider’s Blog,” which magically disappeared after I clicked on it. OK, maybe I’m not so much “magical” as I am “technically incompetent” – but my point is, I’d love to know who the artist is. These are beautiful. And, clearly, magical.

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Brain game: Connections

Will SmithHere’s a fun game we were playing at the dinner table recently. It’s called “Connections,” and it’s great to help with creativity and get the blood flowing to the ol’ brain cells – not just for your kids but for you, too.

You start. You name two objects that seemingly have no connection to each other. Your child has to somehow connect the two objects in a logical way.

Here’s an example:

You: An electric oven and a tree.

Your child: The electric oven is based on the wood-burning stove. Wood comes from trees.

Then, it’s your child’s turn:

Your child: Snow and Florida.

You: That’s a hard one. Um, there’s no snow in Florida?

Your childAaaaaaang! (Buzzer sound). No way – try again!

You: In Florida, they have a hockey team called the Panthers. If one of the players stops really hard on the ice, his skate blades will create some… snow!

Your child (giggling hysterically at your ineptitude at this game): Oh man, mom–you were really reaching on that one! OK, I’ll accept that answer even though it’s awful. Your turn.

And on it goes.

The great thing is that there are no rules. Together you decide what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

And the other great thing is that often it’s harder to be the person coming up with the two objects than it is to be the person connecting them.

And the other great thing is that it’s all using your brain and having a good time doing it.

And then all of you can go and rent that Will Smith movie “Six Degrees of Separation.” No, wait – don’t do that. Highly inappropriate for kids. But you can watch it again when your kid’s asleep. Great flick. And, an excuse to have Will Smith’s picture on this post. Sigh.

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WORDS, an image-and-word poem

WORDS is a brilliant short (1:54) film that blends images to create a flowing “word poem” that is lovely, fun and thought-provoking.
It starts out with “play,” which leads to “blow” and then “break” and “split” and then “run.”

The images examine all aspects of the words. For instance, “run” is a person running, and then a runny nose, running a red light and running away… which leads to fly, and fly (zipper), and fly (work), and then fall… falling down, falling in love, waterfall, the Fall…

They used YouTube images to produce something really mesmerizing. Watch it with your kid, to bring new sense to some basic words and concepts and what they mean to us.

Re:WORDS from Everynone on Vimeo.

Thank you, Everynone, for this brilliant word poem. And BoingBoing for bringing it to our attention.

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Scott Pilgrim trailer

  • March 26, 2010 at 8:12 am
  • Uncategorized
  • 1 comment
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Official Trailer

This looks like a lot of fun, and I’m hoping it will be a good reading extension.

It’s the movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, starring (the adorable) Michael Cera. It’s based on the very popular series of Scott Pilgrim books. Here’s the official trailer which has just been released.

The movie was shot in Toronto, and lets the city be itself for once (Toronto usually doubles for a big US city). So that’s kind of exciting.

Here’s the website for the movie.
And the website for the Scott Pilgrim books.
And here’s another book recommended by Michael Cera.
And here’s a post on Boing Boing about the Scott Pilgrim movie.

Oh, and just for fun, here’s that great Canadian please video that I do enjoy so much.

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Alice movie too dark for (most) kids

  • March 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm
  • Uncategorized

As you know, I’m a big advocate of what I call reading extensions.

They’re the added bonus events, movies, products and tie-ins that go beyond the book, and which may help some kids get interested in a book or explore a book more fully.

Alice in Wonderland
The other night, I saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

I enjoyed it. I thought it was a well thought-out interpretation of the book, with some nice visuals. (Why it had to be in 3D I’m not quite sure.)

But in my opinion it is not really a children’s movie. I had high hopes for it, but I have to say that it’s probably not a good reading extension for young children. Before you take your child to see this movie, I would urge you to either see it yourself, or check out some reviewers whose opinions you trust. (Here’s Roger Ebert’s review.)

Quick synopsis
Alice has previously visited Wonderland as a little girl. Now she has returned as a young woman to a very different Wonderland. The Red Queen has taken over, despoiled the landscape, and cast fear into the hearts of Wonderlanders. Everyone awaits “the Alice” who will slay the jabberwock and restore peace to Wonderland.

What’s different about the movie and the book
Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece (the book) relies heavily on the absurd. The Red Queen threatens to lop off everyone’s head, but they all know that you just have to run away and she’ll soon forget. In the movie, Burton’s queen organizes a public beheading in the town square.

The lovely bits of nonsense, like having to repaint the white roses red, are glossed over and put into a flashback. No one’s allowed to be very silly in this movie.

In the book, the Mad Hatter was mad as in loopy or wacky. In the movie, madness is flat-out insanity. As a result, we get a Hatter who is more Sylvia Plath than Daffy Duck.

That lovely character, the Dormouse, who walked such a fine line between pathos and silliness thanks to Carrroll’s elegant depiction of him, has been Hollywoodized until he is flat and common.

The scary characters like the bandersnatch and the jabberwock, whose terrifyingness was only hinted at in the book, are made all too real in the movie. The jabberwock is given its own plot line. And don’t get me started on “the vorpal sword.” In the book vorpal is an adjective. In the movie, it’s the sword’s title, as if there is only one sword that could be vorpal.

There are a couple of pieces of nice new imagery, such as Alice becoming Joan of Arc as she battles the jabberwock. The caterpillar is given a more prominent and quite interesting role in the movie. And they haven’t messed too much with the white rabbit, which is a good thing because he is a masterpiece as written.

But on the whole, while it may be an interesting movie, Alice in Wonderland 2010 is not for most children. It’s rated PG and listed in the “kids and family” category, a misnomer that I think is almost as egregious as calling Slumdog Millionaire “uplifting,” for which I will always despise those moviemakers.

Obviously, only you know your child and only you can judge what is or isn’t suitable. But I think that most young children would be scared by the red queen’s furious rants, the threat of the deadly jabberwock and the overall darkness of this typical Tim Burton-like fare.

As a palate cleanser, may I present Carroll’s original nonsense poem (which, incidentally I memorized as a young girl, which feat I would be happy to demonstrate to anyone who would ask, which hasn’t actually happened yet but I await…):

JABBERWOCKY, by Lewis Carroll
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

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