Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dinner and a movie? How about books and a movie

As some of you know, this semester I'm taking Materials for Youth. That basically means we read at least 40 picture books and 30 novels with a variety of plots, authors and reading levels. We have to keep track of these books of course and to do this I started another blog, which I am pleased to say is called Books and Cleverness. Today I added the books I read this week so if you're interested, you can check those out. Also, if you have any recommendations for me of either book type, let me know! 50% of my books have to be written in the last 5-7 years so keep that in mind.

Books I am intending to read are: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Tale of Despereaux, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (sneaky!), The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, Fairest, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Inkspell, The Golden Compass and something by Vicki Grove. I need some more "real life" books and I need more books directed at boys, but really I want to hear any and all recommendations.

And thus concludes the book portion of today's blog.

Last night I watched Son of Rambow, and overall, I liked it pretty well. It went a little long, and sometimes I get a little impatient with movies only about and only featuring kids. Now that I sound like an ogre, I have one more thing to say about this movie. OK, for those of you who don't know the premise, the main character is a little boy who never watches TV (his family is very religious) but he's extremely creative. He happens to watch First Blood at a classmate's house and loves it. So, long story short, he and this friend are making a sequel to First Blood where the little boy has to save Rambo(w) from the Evil Scarecrow.

So, I did really love something about this movie and that was how magical Rambo was to this little boy (William?). He started wearing his tie around his forehead and ran everywhere, jumping on things, and fist fighting with the air. It wasn't that he turned violent or mean at all, but it just excited him so much and he was so exhilirated. I started wondering how often that happens now. It seems like everything is so well advertised and easily accessible, that it would be hard to be sort of hit over the head by something now. I mean, we hear about movies months before they're released, we see the trailers and the stills and merchandise. The only experience of mine that I can equate to the First Blood experience is seeing Return of the King for the first time. In that case, I hadn't read the book yet, I didn't watch the trailers, I didn't see any stills, I read no spoilers whatsoever. Of course, this led to me having minor nervous breakdowns in the theater but it was so worth it to be completely blown away. But even then, I'd seen the first two movies so I had some idea of where it was all going.

Anyway, I liked that Son of Rambow really captured this little boy's experience of seeing something thrilling for the first time and having it really work on his imagination and change his life. Plus the movie that sparked all this was First Blood, which is totally unexpected but it works so well! So, long story short, I would recommend it because, in addition to all that stuff I rambled about, it's also well made, quite funny, creative and the cast is all very good.

Did I mention it's British?


  1. All I ever saw of Son of Rambow was the poster, and it looked completely retarded. Now I'm mildly interested.

    I'm excited about your book blog, and I just wish I had more leisure reading time to try some of the books you're reading. Oh, well. I have suggestions, though....

    Have you ever read any William Sleator? (

    Sleator is my favorite Young Adult author, and he has a knack at writing hard sci-fi in an entertaining way to appeal to young readers. This is the guy that originally got me into scifi, after which I turned to Card and Crichton, then Niven. Most of his work is sci-fi, but not all of it is. Unfortunately, most of it is at least a decade old. They are, however, somewhat directed at boys, but work for all audiences.

    Here's a list of my favorites (there are others, of course) ranked by how much I enjoyed them, with my brief synopses:

    Interstellar Pig (1984) - A young boy stuck on a boring beach vacation with his parents discovers interesting neighbors who are obsessed with a space adventure board game called Interstallar Pig that they take way too seriously. It's hard to pick, but I think this is my favorite of his books.

    The Boy Who Reversed Himself (1986) - A girl meets a weird new neighbor boy, who just happens to know how to enter the fourth dimension. She figures out the trick, and gets lost. This is the first Sleator book I ever read.

    House of Stairs (1974) - Several 16 year old orphans are kidnapped and taken to a building so huge they can't see the walls, but it's full of a maze of stairways and bridges. They're isolated, and the only way to get food is by executing a very specific ritual in front of a machine, which they discover how to do by accident. It's kind of Lord of the Flies-ish (I haven't read that yet, though), and very interesting.

    Singularity (1985) - A boy who is constantly overshadowed by his more assertive twin brother discovers that time passes much more quickly in the shed at their vacation home. The book follows him as he spends a year in isolation in the shed while only a single night passes outside. This is much much better than Castaway, seriously.

    The Green Futures of Tycho (1981) - A boy finds a small metal object while digging a garden, and discovers that it's a time machine. He figures out how to work it, then sneaks peeks at his future, and doesn't like what he sees.

    Into the Dream (1979) - A boy and a girl in the same school who don't know each other discover they've been having the same odd recurring dream. They follow clues in the dream that lead them to a little boy and his dog, both of whom have psychic powers.

    The Duplicate (1988) - A boy finds a machine that makes exact duplicates of any living thing. He makes a duplicate of himself so he can be in two places at once, then isn't sure if he's the original or the duplicate. Bad things happen, of course.

    Blackbriar (1972) - A boy and his aunt move into a very old house in England that turns out to have been a sickhouse during the plague. It turns out they have some crazy neighbors who believe in Druid stuff and want them out.

    Parasite Pig (2002) - This is a sequel to Interstellar Pig, and it's fun and worth reading, but not quite as good.

    The Last Universe (2005) - A girl and her crippled brother take a walk through a maze in their garden, and find that depending on what route they take in the maze, things are different when they come out. Her brother things that if they take the right route, he might walk again, while she thinks they may just be stuck forever.

    The Boy Who Couldn't Die (2004) - A boy whose friend recently died is afraid of death, and sells his soul to a voodoo witch doctor. He very soon regrets it, of course. This one's kind of morbid.

    Strange Attractors (1989) - A boy gets possession of a time machine that is sought after by the scientist who invented it, and his madman alternate self from the future.

    So, those are pretty much spoiler-free synopses like you might find on the back of the book; if you are curious but don't want to read one of them without more info, ask me and I'll give you more details. These are very short reads, and very well written. There are often minor romance sub-plots that are hilarious because the characters are 14-17 years old, and the climactic moment is never more shocking than a kiss. Also, he sometimes likes to put oblique references to his other books in there (at the end of The Duplicate, the boy and his girlfriend watch a movie of Interstellar Pig, hehe). He has a very good attention to the details of the plot, and there's always good tension and conflict in the stories. I highly recommend his books.

  2. I will first admit that I only read the first half of this post, because I didn't want to read about Sons of Rainbow. I want to see it and I generally like movies better the less I know about them beforehand. I'll come back.

    I DID take Materials for Youth, however. It was quite fun, if I do say so. I will suggest that you don't read anything you have previously read before...even if you love it with all of your heart. (cough, cough, Harry Potter) You will read it again later! You know you will! Use this time to explore all the other really great things there are out there.
    I loved Gregor the Overlander and Artimis Fowl and Crispin and the Cross of Lead. They are all kind of boyish books. They are also all kind of fantasy. My 11 year old brother (at the time) was just RAVING about Walk Two Moons so I read that one (realistic fiction!) The main character was a girl, but he loved it.
    Ummm... Sunshine- Robin McKinley. It was good. And Vampirey. If you haven't read Holes yet, think about it.
    There you go. I may think of other suggestions. That class was fun and Dana Backs is awesome.

  3. I would recommend "I Am The Cheese". That is good for boys. Good for anyone, really.


  4. I'm not going to recommend books because we're in the class together, and even though we live together and work together (Hello! I can see you from where I'm sitting right now!), I think SOME things we do should be different! (Although I do agree with La Dolcezza's brother that Walk Two Moons is a great book.) Besides, we talk about books all the time! :)

    I loved Son of Rambow! It was really cute. And good. And despite the fact that only one guy showed up to International Cinema night, I think guys would like it. The only thing I kept wondering was, "this kid's never seen TV, and he wasn't absolutely horrified when he saw it?!" I think First Blood would be a very disturbing movie to choose as your first movie ever.