Sunday, July 24, 2011

Even though I've commented on the final Harry Potter book (Deathly Hallows) before, I want to make note of the final movie which covered the final scenes from book #7.
Leading up to the movie, I had made plans for kids ages 11-17 (the ages of the Hogwarts students) to come to a Horcrux Hunt event at the library. It was a huge success with about 50 kids (most in costumes) enjoying the chance to celebrate the books and the movies. In fact, I was excited to see that most of them were very well-versed with the books and were more interested in the prizes that were Harry Potter memorabilia (like a replica of the letter Harry received inviting him to Hogwarts; a replica of the Marauder's Map, etc.) than in a $10 gift card for the movie theater.
Most of those kids were hoping to get to see the movie that night at midnight or on Friday or Saturday of the opening weekend. I was too! When I went to the 7pm showing at Hillside Cinema, I was definitely one of the oldest people in the audience, and the average age of the audience was probably in the mid-twenties. Those young people have grown up reading the books and watching the movies. They were very attentive and responsive - applauding and cheering loudly when Molly Weasley blasted Belatrix Lestrange and when Voldemort was finally defeated.
My reaction was one of appreciation for the computer wizards who can conjure such great special effects for the movies, but I still feel that J. K. Rowling is the most talented wizard of them all! Thank you Joanne - you've given us a real hero and stories filled with subtle lessons on love, loyalty, suffering, perseverance, using brains and collaboration to face adversity, and so much more!


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
As soon as our library copy of The Hunger Games has been returned by a library patron it never sits on the shelf but immediately gets put in the special area for the next person who has placed a hold. This has been going on for several months and the hold list is extremely long! I’ve been wondering what was making ‘The Hunger Games’ such a popular series that the books are never on the shelves in the library, and now I understand!
The first book creates a dreary picture of the future in which a country called Panem has been divided into thirteen sections and is ruled by “The Capitol”, a completely tyrannical government. Although the form of the government is not described in the first novel in this series, I sensed that it was an oligarchy (rule of the wealthy) although it might pretend to be a democracy.
To ensure its grip over the people, the government has divided the country into 13 sections and sometime in the past it completely obliterated section 13 which tried to rebel. Additionally, the government sadistically delights in “entertaining” the populace with an annual event called ‘The Hunger Games’.
Two adolescents (one boy and one girl) are selected by a lottery system from each of the twelve remaining districts and are placed in an enormous arena to kill or be killed. The residents of Panem are then forced to watch the weeks-long drama on television. It is torture for those people unless they are from the Capitol where the people delight in the ‘sport’. Of course, they do not have to send their own children into the hellhole of the arena.
The premise of this book really did not appeal to me, but I found myself drawn in by the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, who chose to volunteer for the arena when her younger sister’s name was drawn in the annual lottery. Romantic drama is provided when Peeta, a boy from her district who has had a crush on her for years, is also chosen to take part. A love triangle is a possibility when another boy, Gale, is briefly introduced and then comes into Katniss’ mind repeatedly during her time in the arena.
The fact that there are more books in the series lets the readers know that Katniss surely survives. The action is well-paced and the main characters are more likeable as the story progresses. This is the reason that I liked this book far more than the “Twilight” series by Meyers. Those characters were all self-absorbed and there was too much teenage angst over-riding any depth within their personalities.
I have put my holds on the next two books in this series. Hope my hold on #2 comes up before my hold on #3!

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Friday, July 01, 2011

The Penderwicks Series by Jeanne Birdsall
I love the Penderwicks! In book 3 Little Batty has given up her butterfly wings and taken up playing the piano; Skye is still focusing on soccer and math, but also taken on the role of OAP in Rosalind’s absence; Jane has her first brush with “a boyfriend” and survives; and their wonderful friend Jeffrey has a life-changing discovery. All this happens in the 3rd book of the Penderwick series. The Penderwicks are so reminiscent of the March family (“Little Women”) in my mind, even though this is a contemporary series. I certainly hope that none of the Penderwicks are fore-ordained to die (as did one of the March girls), but I do wonder if one of them is bound to marry Jeffrey when they are adults. (Signs point to Skye, but perhaps Batty!)
During all of this you may wonder about the parents. Mother died when Batty (the youngest) was a baby and so the eldest sister, Rosalind, has acted as a mother to all the girls. Father is a well-intentioned but somewhat pre-occupied professor and lets Rosalind take charge far too much, particularly in the first book.
Interesting developments in the second book change family dynamics. I heard that a movie might be in the works based on these books. I think it would be wonderful if some producer has the capacity to portray these likeable, realistic children on screen without corrupting their innocence or making it into something slapstick.
Book 1: The Penderwicks: a summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits, and a very interesting boy
Book 2: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
Book 3: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

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