Tuesday, October 30, 2012

59. Toppling

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Movie - The Master

R (2:18)
Limited release 9-14-12
Viewed: 1
/9/12 at El ConRT Critic:  85   Audience: 61
cag: 1/Did not like it (though the acting was fantastic)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
The Weinstein Company

Joaquain Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern


A striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post World War II America, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master unfolds the journey of a Naval veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Thoughts:  I tried - I really, really did try - to figure out what was gong on and why.  Unfortunately, it was to no avail.  The acting was incredible, but the story was.......nuts.

MOVIE -Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Viewed 10/12/12 at Crossroas
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Monday, October 8, 2012

58. The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

2011, Ballantine Books
324 pages
for adults
HC $25.00 TPPL
Goodreads: 4.04
my rating: 5 (I loved it, didn't want it to end)
Setting:  Contemporary San Francisco and a vineyard and flower farm somewhere an hour and a half north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
1st sentence/s:  "For eight years I dreamed of fire.  Trees ignited as I passed the; oceans burned.  The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose.  Even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, I bolted awake."

I read this book for a book group and became immediately enthralled. It was a delicious read. It was about a flawed foster child trying to figure out who and what and why she was, learning to trust...and love....and be part of a family. It takes place in contemporary San Francisco when Victoria turns 18, but occasionally goes back 8-10 years to the time she lived with Elizabeth, a single, vineyard owner, who planned to adopt Victoria. You know right from the start that something went terribly wrong during that time, but we don't discover exactly what it was until nearer the end of the book. There was a lot of information about flowers and the Victorian meanings of flowers, but it was all presented in a fascinating, interesting way so that even without a particular enjoyment of flowers it held my total attention.  Victoria's plight includes self-chosen homelessness, growing plants in public parks in San Francisco, stealing (food and flowers and anything she needed), discovering her business savvy, and learning to trust herself and not always running away.

One word for Victoria:  Bravo!  Thanks goodness I have never had to feel any of the abandonement or anguish that she did.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

South - Patrick McDonnell

(creator of the comic strip "Mutts")
2008, Little Brown & Co.
$14.99 HC
Goodreads: 4.43
my rating:  Liked it a lot (4.5)
40 pgs. & endpapers
Endpapers (& all pages) recycled beige

This simple, wordless picture book is super -- sweet and quite a lovely story.  It is autumn.  A flock of songbirds takes off for the south and forgets one of their own, who is asleep on the ground under a tree.  Along comes a cat who helps him through all sorts of strange,foreign terrain...pages and pages of a journey....until they come upon the bird's flock, resting on a telephone wire.  By now the bird and cat are close friends and their parting is a meaningful one.

Yes, my fourth graders could write a lovely story to go with this.  The simple beige/brown/pale yellow pages could easily be photocopied for students to use -- and even water color in the pale blues and greens that appear here and there.

(Note to self:  Check out other books by this author.  Are they wordless?  (The Gift of Nothing, Art, Just Like Heaven, Hug Time.)  "Sometimes it takes a friend to help you find your way."

57. Akimbo and the Crocodile Man - Alexander McCall Smith

Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
1993, Bloomsbury Children's Books
HC $9.95
65 pages
7 chapters
Goodreads: 3.86
My rating:  2.5
I'm guessing, and for some reason never took the time to post this review....perhaps because I wanted to be more pleased with it than I was....

Akimbo's father is a park ranger somewhere in the African bush.  Since Smith placed his Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency books in Botswana (I think), and he's resided there and in Zimbabwe, it might be set in either.

John, a crocodile expert, has come to the ranger station to tag crocodile families - newborns and their mothers.  Akimbo gets permission to accompany him.  He sees the mother netted and tagged, watches the babies hatch and tagged.  The huge scary reptiles are everywhere - and Akimbo knows how dangerous they are.  But then the unthinkable happens.  John, a trained naturalist who should have known better, gets attacked by one as he's getting into their rubber boat.  Things get more and more difficult as Akimbo hits the crocodile on the head with the oar, traverses the dangerous water, and hot wires the truck to get it started.

The beginning of the book was quite interesting.  Its simple storytelling is peppered with some great words and descriptions.  But then, perhaps to spice up a story that needed a little suspense/thrill, it turned in a crazy direction.  I would have much preferred the ecological, environmental story with more caution thrown in.  I have students who would love the animal part of this.  I was even planning to read it aloud, but I think I'll try another in the series (Akimbo and the Elephants, Akimbo and the Lions, Akimbo and the Snakes....)

A Walk in London - Salvatore Rubbino

illustrated by the author
2011, Candlewick Press
32 pages (2 are foldouts - making a large map of the Thames)
Goodreads:  4.20
my rating:  I love England, I love this book (4.5)

Endpapers:  Map of London.  On back endpaper, there's a index.
Illustrations:  Mixed media - simple - full page - no white
1st sentence/s:  "Hello!  There's me, and that's my mom!  We just got off the bus in Westminster - in the heart of central London!"

Very informative book about some of the highlights of London, as seen through the eyes of a mother and daughter.  Included on each page are short pieces of historic information that would greatly interest kids who are (or are to become) history buffs.  Included are:  St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Plazza Westmister/The Strand, St. Paul's Cathedral, "The Monument," Tower of London, the Thames, and Big Ben

Author/Illustrator's first picture book was A Walk in New York.  Lives (and walks) in London.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

56. A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park

Based on the true story of Salva Dut
2010, Clarion Books
122 pgs.
Goodreads: 4.18
My rating:  4.5

1st sentence/s:  "Going was easy.  Going, the big plastic container held only air.  Tall for her eleven years, Nya could switch the handle from one hand to the other, swing the container by her side, or cradle it in bot arms."

Setting:  southern Sudan, between 1985 and now.

OSS:  Two different voices, one of a Dinka "lost boy" of Sudan on a many-yeared journey to find a home, and a life; and one of a contemporary Nuer girl whose entire day is spent gathering water instead of going to school.

Wow.  Salva spends from 1985 to 1996 wandering, orphaned and homeless, from Sudan to Ethiopia to Kenya and finally to the United States before he can put down any kind of roots, get an education, and even find a few - new and old - family connections.  This is an amazing and wonderful true story of one of the thousands of "lost boys of Sudan," written by an award-winning author who actually knows him.

Salva has done amazing things with his life.  After you read this book (and you must) go to Salva's website:  Water for Southern Sudan.