Category Archives: Film

The 90 Second Newbery Film Festival — A Review

From the start I thought the idea of asking kids to come up with 90 Second Newbery films was a brilliant one. Originator James Kennedy kept the energy going by posting submissions on his blog so I’d seen a few before I arrived at the packed auditorium yesterday at the New York Public Library’s 42nd Street building. James and fellow MC Jon Scieszka kept up lively banter* throughout and further entertainment was provided by others who did skits about certain Newbery winners, musicals about the creation of the award, interviews, a game show (with special guest Rebecca Stead), and a very heartfelt song by one local school group. Oh, and the films themselves were delightful, every single one. I’ll leave it to Betsy Bird who helped organize the event to give you the true lowdown, but here’s one video that had a particular resonance to me as a member of the 2008 Newbery Committee:

*During one interlude  Jon and James were providing quotes (some a bit…er …doctored) for audience members to guess whether they were from Newbery books or…er… Snookie’s.  One quote was from The Tale of Despereaux with the addition of one word causing great consternation among a group of girls in front of me.  I assured them that bedonk was not one of Kate DiCamillo’s words and they relaxed.



Filed under Film, Newbery

A Few Fine Fairy Tale Films

While waiting for next week’s Tangled, Disney’s take on Rapunzel, I’ve been mulling over what makes a successful fairy tale movie for kids.  There are a lot of ephemeral ones out there, more out all the time it seems.  The ones that work for me are those with a bit more heft — some are updated, some are not, but all have wit, charm, and depth.  Here are four of those, one of which will be very familiar and three others that may be less so.  Do add your own suggestions in the comments.


Ashpet.  This is a delightful independent, small-budget, film, a Cinderella set in the rural South.  It is one of Tom Davenport’s From the Brothers Grimm series; the others are excellent too.


Enchanted.  Okay, this is the familiar one, but it is really clever and charming and holds up on multiple viewings.  The gentle digs at all sorts of classical Disney films are extremely funny if you know the originals and still extremely funny if you don’t.


Unfortunately I can’t find a trailer for the very sweet and under-the-radar I Was a Rat! (although I did notice the whole thing is up in parts on youtube — probably illegally so I’m not linking to it).  I regularly read aloud Philip Pullman’s book, a witty and elegant fiddling about with Cinderella, and find this movie to be a very faithful rendering of it.


Penelope.  This is a very interesting contemporary take on Beauty and the Beast, fun, different, and a tad surprising.


Filed under fairy tales, Film

The Little Fellow

When I was in high school it was typical to have John Lennon or Mick Jagger up on your bedroom wall. I had Charlie Chaplin — a lifesize poster, as a matter of fact.  He may have been my grandfather’s age at the time, but for me he was that fey twenty-something in the films of his that I saw on public television.  Elegant, flirty, sweet, clever, and adorable.   As he charmed everyone in his day so he charmed me decades later.

My crush on Charlie has never left me and so I’ve been showing the Little Tramp films to my classes for decades.  These nine and ten year-olds adore him and pass the word on to other classes  with the result that my colleagues have been showing Chaplin too.  I love that this clown and these early films are so successful with today’s media savvy kids.

For years I’ve had in mind a book on Chaplin, a book that would send young readers straight to his films.  Sid Fleischman’s recent biography is solid, but he is showing the whole life of a complicated artist.  I want to do something different — to focus on Chaplin’s art more than his life.  I want to communicate to child readers the energy, wit, hilarity, and elegance in his early films that is Chaplin at his best. I have years and years of firsthand evidence that kids still find him hilarious.  The word needs to get out — born in the 19th century, Charlie is still funny, funny, funny in the 21st — hopefully I’m the one to do it.

And so this summer I’m deep into Chaplin, reading and viewing and thinking about how to do this.  Having been besotted with the man, his character, and his work for so long I figured I knew a lot, but I’m learning more every day.  In particular, I’m interested in his particular comedy, gags, and the methodology of early film making — the stuff that I know that kids will be interested in too.  And is the case with research (and made easier with the Internet), I’m easily led astray on one tangent or another.  But I’m having fun learning about vaudeville and early film making along with the little guy himself.


Filed under Chaplin, Film

What Kids Think About the “Where the Wild Things Are” Movie

I started a book bloggers club this year partly so that kids who had blogs with me in 4th grade could continue with them in later grades and those from other classes who wanted to start blogs could.  Currently it is a lovely, if small cohort of 6th grade girls. Curious about what they’d think,  I took them to see “Where the Wild Things Are” last week.  Check out their very insightful reviews:


Filed under Film, movie

Adaptations and Such

I’ve seen several expressions of relief by children’s book folk after they viewed the new Where the Wild Things Are movie featurette in which Maurice Sendak expresses confidence and appreciation for Spike Jonze’s vision for his book.  While I too am happy that it has met with Sendak’s approval, I also want to point out that Jonze is a very, very unconventional filmmaker and the film is likely to be a very different aesthetic experience from the book.  The two movies of his I’ve seen were smart, engaging, and seriously weird.  Just be prepared is all I say.

The first one I saw was Being John Malkovich — incredibly strange and very endearing, I thought.  Here’s the trailer:

The only other one I’ve seen is Adaptation. Given that its plot involves someone trying to adapt a book for a movie, well isn’t that what Jonze is doing with Where the Wild Things Are? In the case of Adaptation, it is a real book, Susan Orlean’s nonfiction book The Orchid Thief, and things go from bad to worse — hopefully that doesn’t happen with Max’s story! Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the new featurette mentioned above for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

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Filed under Classic, Film, Picture Books

Fear for Children

Ryan Gilbey on the importance of taking children to scary movies | Film | The Guardian

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Distressed Metal


Thanks to Karyn Silverman for pointing out an intriguing steampunk competition.

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Filed under animation, Film

Eeriness, Spookiness, and the Two Neils

When Neil Gaiman announced that another Neil, one Neil Jordan, was going to do The Graveyard Book film, I was puzzled as I associated him vaguely with The Crying Game, a terrific movie, but a very different genre indeed.  However, just now I did a little investigating and I totally, totally get it.  I hadn’t realized that he was the director of  The Company of Wolves, one of the coolest fairy tale films I know.  Based on Angela Carter‘s story, “The Company of Wolves”  (you can read an excerpt here), it is definitely of its  time (1984), but nonetheless a very eerie and unique film.  I was then very intrigued to see he has just done Ondine. If it is about the nymph  Ondine or some variant of her, that will be very cool.  My only quibble is that of the two Jordan films mentioned first (as far as I know the only ones of his I’ve seen), they are pretty serious.  I just hope that he gets the humor of the graveyard as well as I’m sure he’ll get everything else.

Here’s the first ten minutes of that Little Red Riding— I mean, Jordan’s The Company of Wolves:


Filed under fairy tales, Film, Movies, Neil Gaiman, Newbery

The Horn Book Review of The Tale of Despereaux Film

Horn Book editor Claire E. Gross provides an excellent movie review of The Tale of Despereaux.

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The Elfstones of Shannara Film?

According to the IMDB, Mike Newell is directing the first adaptation of a Terry Brooks novel. The Elfstones of Shannara is also listed as being “in production” from the online source Production Weekly, so perhaps this is more than just rumor.

Powell’s Books – PowellsBooks.BLOG – Read It Before They Screen It: Dark Star and The Elfstones of Shannara

I have not read the Terry Brooks’ Shannara series myself, but have heard many praise it highly.  Newell directed one of the Harry Potter films, by the way.


Filed under Fantasy Worlds, Film