Tag Archives: genre:family stories

Feature Presentation: Peter Rabbit

peter_rabbitPeter Rabbit starring James Corden, Rose Byrne, Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley, Fayssal Bazzi, Domnhall Gleeson, Sia, Colin Moody, Sam Neill, Elizabeth Debicki, Christian Gazal, and Ewen Leslie

Sony Pictures Entertainment/2.0 Entertainment/Animal Logic Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Peter Rabbit (James Corden) his three sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), and Cotton Tail (Daisy Ridley) and their cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody) enjoy their days harassing old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) in his vegetable garden. After old McGregor’s death, his great-nephew (Domnhall Gleeson) inherits the house and seems to share his late uncle’s views about rabbits invading the garden. But when he starts to fall in love with the animal lover next door, Bea (Rose Byrne), his feelings towards Peter and the others begins to change. But is it too late?

I wasn’t quite sure what to think about this movie, but I ended up really enjoying it. The characters are endearing and charming, though sometimes the comedy can get a little crass (likely for the adult audience rather than the kiddies). My only real qualm with the movie is that it is supposed to be based on ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. While the movie shares some of its source material with the beloved children’s books by Beatrix Potter (namely, the characters and the basic plotline of Peter repeatedly sneaking into the garden), I don’t think it is a true adaptation (The World of Peter Rabbit and Tales of Beatrix Potter more closely follow the books). That said though, I liked the different angle the writers took to make it a little more relatable to modern audiences. There is a running joke about the contrast in Bea’s paintings (her ‘real work’ is abstract at best while her drawings of the local wildlife (a side project) are much more captivating) that seems to hold up over the running time. The extermination methods McGregor uses go a little bit over the top and the ridiculousness just made me bored after a while. The back and forth between the rabbits and McGregor also have moments where the jokes fall a little flat, but for the most part, the exchanges are clever and engaging. The message about learning to understand others and to ask for forgiveness is important to instill in younger and adult viewers alike. It’s a cute family film that will be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

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Feature Presentation: The Incredibles 2

incredibles_2The Incredibles 2 starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Bird, Sophia Bush, and Brad Bird

Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios, 2018. Rated PG

WARNING: There are VERY intense strobe effects in this movie. Be careful, this could cause an epileptic seizure or affect those with seizure disorders!!!

Synopsis: Having heard about the superheroes’ illegal antics to save their city, a high-powered executive at Devtech offers Elastigirl/Helen Parr a chance to help bring supers back into the light by showcasing crimefighting from her point of view. But while she’s off saving the world, Bob must figure out a way to care for their children without losing his mind.

The sequel literally picks up where the first movie left off with the Underminer’s attack and the Parr family donning their super suits to save the day – turns out, this does not go according to plan and the family is left cut off from their government protection program. When Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone are approached by the Deavor siblings of Devtech, it appears that there is an apparent solution to their problem. The parallel plotlines deal with Elastigirl’s efforts to save the city from a new villain Screenslaver and Bob/Mr. Incredible’s struggles with being a stay-at-home dad. One particularly amusing scene involves Bob attempting to help Dash with his math homework; Dash criticizes his father for not doing it correctly and Bob throwing up his hands in frustration that they have apparently “changed math”. Bob also has some further trouble when he discovers Jack-Jack DOES have powers – multiple powers, in fact – that make the baby difficult to manage. Screenslaver’s use of hypnosis to control people on an individual level and on a mass level has some definite meat to it in terms of how it relates to the amount of screen time the movie characters and the audience experiences. It seems to send an underlying message about how attached we are to our computers, phones, and televisions and that the art of having a face-to-face conversation seems to be all but lost – a commentary the audience has no doubt heard before. Sadly, the villain reveal for me was not all that surprising, then again, it was hard to tell if it was meant to be a surprise since there were a fair amount of hints dropped in the first half of the film. The humor will be enjoyed by both kids and adults, though most of the humor seems to be aimed at adult-ish issues. There are sequences in which Violet and Dash experiment with being able to control and track their baby brother’s powers that are very much kid humor, along with a scene in which Jack-Jack has a battle with a raccoon that is raiding the Parr’s garbage cans. Overall, it was a solid sequel that will be enjoyed by viewers of all ages, though expect there to be varying reviews among adults.

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Swing It, Sunny Review

swing_it_sunnySwing It, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm, colors by Lark Pien

Graphix, 2017. 978-0545741729

Synopsis: Summer’s over and it’s time for Sunny Lewin to enter the strange and unfriendly hallways of . . . middle school. When her Gramps calls her from Florida to ask how she’s doing, she always tells him she’s fine. But the truth? Sunny is NOT having the best time.from Amzon.com

Why I picked it up: I absolutely loved Sunny Side Up!

Why I finished it: Sunny is still struggling to adjust to her life without her older brother Dale, who is attending a boarding school for troubled youths. He is home for holidays, but things just aren’t the same. He’s angry and dismissive of Sunny, who just wants to be able to talk with her brother the way she used to. We haven’t all been in Sunny’s shoes, but we certainly know how painful it is to adjust when a family member moves out or when people we love change in ways that don’t seem like they are for the better. I found the advice that Gramps gives Sunny about just loving her brother and being able to give him space to figure things out to be particularly poignant. We can’t predict or control the changes that happen in our lives, but we can find healthy ways to move through the changes so that we are also learning and growing into the best people we can be. Pien’s colors really bring Sunny’s world to life, giving us a sort of flash back to what it was like to grow up in the late 70s. I liked the use of the spotlight to display a sort of reflectiveness in Sunny as she first is missing her older brother and then as the book goes on, how Sunny is striving to find ways to love her brother in spite of his anger at the family. The Holm siblings give the reader a sense that we can overcome life’s challenges and be able to run faster and fly farther than we could before. It gives us a positive message that even though bad things happen, we don’t have to let the break us.

Other related materials: Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, colors by Lark Pien; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm; Smile by Raina Telgemeier; Sisters by Raina Telgemeier; Drama by Raina Telgemeier; The Baby-Sitters Club books by Ann M. Martin; illustrated by Raina Telgemeier; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson; Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Phoebe and Her Unicorn series by Dana Simpson; Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson; Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce

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Ghosts Review

ghosts_telgemeierGhosts by Raina Telgemeier, colors by Braden Lamb

Graphix, 2016. 978-0545540612

Synopsis: Sisters Catarina and Maya are leaving their Southern California home and relocating to the Northern California coast in hopes that the sea air will help with Maya’s cystic fibrosis. As Cat reluctantly explores Bahìa de la Luna with her sister, the girls become aware that the town is full of ghosts. Maya wants to meet them, Cat does not; but as the day for honoring the dead, Dia de los Muertos, approaches, Cat must learn to embrace the town’s culture and help her sister make the most of her own life while she has it.

Why I picked it up: Raina Telgemeier is another one of those authors that I will read anything she writes forever.

Why I finished it: Telgemeier has a unique ability to take sensitive subjects and situations and create stories about how we can muster the courage to take the next step forward and recover from our own shortcomings. Ghosts deals with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that can cause a buildup of mucus in the lungs which can lead to other serious respiratory problems. Telgemeier takes us inside the lives of these two fictional sisters to explore the very real issues that individuals and families with loved ones batting cystic fibrosis must be aware of on a constant basis. It’s a struggle for Cat to have to share her life with her sister, but she has also taken on the role of protector which perhaps prevents her from having to deal with her own fears. The festival of Dìa de lost Muertos that the town participates in each year (and is celebrated worldwide, usually around the same time as Halloween) helps Cat begin to put some perspective about how we celebrate life and how to live her life to the fullest. She knows Maya’s cystic fibrosis will only get worse as she gets older, and at one point Maya asks her parents why she shouldn’t make the most of the time she has now while things aren’t too bad. Death is a weighty subject to be sure, but Telgemeier seems to arrange the notion in a context that is perhaps not so scary and foreboding to the reader. Thanks to the softness of her art style and the wonderful colors by Lamb, the story still has a lighthearted, wholesome feel to it – like having a conversation with a close friend. Ghosts is a story about how we connect with our family both in life and in death, and how they can give us the courage to keep going when the odds are against us.

Other related materials: Smile by Raina Telgemeier; Sisters by Raina Telgemeier; Drama by Raina Telgemeier; Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; House Arrest by K.A. Holt; Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper; Paperboy by Vince Vawter; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine; Rules by Cynthia Lord; Wonder by R.J. Palacio; So B. It by Sarah Weeks; Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr; Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret; Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter; Dìa De Los Muertos by Ann Heinrichs and Mernie Gallagher-Cole

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Molly and the Bear Review

cameron-company-molly-and-the-bear-soft-cover-1Molly and the Bear by Bob Scott

Cameron & Company, 2016. 978-1937359850

Synopsis: When pan phobic Bear moves in with Molly and her family, life becomes anything but ordinary. But with a lot of patience and understanding, Molly gradually begins to help Bear outside of his shell…even if there is some crying and whining along the way.

Why I picked it up: I am a huge fan of quirky animal stories, strong female protagonists, and family comics.

Why I finished it: It takes a special sort of person to handle a 900-pound pan phobic grizzly, and Molly happens to have the right personality. Despite the fact that some of Bear’s trivial idiosyncrasies leave Molly scratching her head, she is (to a point) happy to oblige to his requests. It’s not that she’s being dismissive; she merely wants to find a way to relieve some of Bear’s anxieties: his fear of cats, his worry that the air isn’t safe to breathe when they land after a plane flight, the stress of whether or not Molly is going to leave the house when she puts her socks on (sometimes she just has cold feet), and how to get her father to warm up to him. Originally published as a webcomic, Bob Scott has collected the most comprehensive collection of his strips to give the reader a little bit of a taste as to what Molly and the Bear is about. As previously stated, it’s easy to  get drawn in to the comic not only because of the characters, but because Scott’s art pays such a loving homage to the Golden Age comics of which we are so fond. There is a playfulness to the art and the writing that shows the reader just how much fun Scott has writing and drawing the strips. I thought it was particularly clever that he’s thrown in a few artist gags into the mix – they might go over some reader’s heads because they seem somewhat out of context, but I think it’s a way for Scott to poke a little bit of fun at himself. It’s a funny, heartwarming comic about just being yourself and the joys of friendship. For more of Molly and Bear, check out the comic here.

Other related materials: Garfield comics by Jim Davis; Snoopy: Contact! (A Peanuts Collection) by Charles M. Schulz; Woodstock: Master of Disguise: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Charlie Brown and Friends: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Beginning Pearls: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Croc Ate My Homework: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; When Crocs Fly: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Mutts Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; The Mutts Winter Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; AAAA!: A FoxTrot Kids Edition by Bill Amend; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Oh, Brother! Brat Attack! by Bob Weber, Jr. and Jay Stephens

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Feature Presentation: Finding Dory

Finding_DoryFinding Dory starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, and Dominic West

Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Pictures, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a Blue Tang that suffers from short-term memory loss, something that is somewhat of a conundrum to her other fish companions. So when Dory remembers her family, she becomes convinced that she must cross the ocean to find them. Reluctantly accompanied by Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), Dory journeys to the Marine Life Institute in search of the mother and father she left behind.

The internet memes weren’t lying when they joked about just how much non-Millenials have been waiting for this film. To really truly appreciate this movie, you had to have seen Finding Nemo, and I’m not just saying that because portions of the film are highlighted in Finding Dory. Finding Nemo is when we are introduced to and fall in love with Dory. Yes, she is forgetful; yes, she is somewhat naive; but despite her flaws, she heart and the creativity to be able to keep Marlin going as he searches for Nemo. She applies this same tenacity to her own search for her family after suddenly being able to recall portions of her younger years. Dory’s ability to consistently recall anything is something of an anomaly (“P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney” being the only other thing she has been able to recall to date, aside from names of her fish companions), and the disjointed nature by which she is recalling things at first seems like a reinforcement of her memory issues. But as the film goes on, we see that there is a sort of puzzle that Dory is solving as she searches through the Marine Life Institute for her parents and begins to recall the circumstances by which she was initially separated from them. There are a few scary moments, one in particular involving a giant squid in a field of sunken ships and another in which the characters are going through a rather perilous path of pipes. While I enjoyed the film, my one criticism is that it seemed to lack the emotional punch of its predecessor. There are a lot of heightened emotions involved with Dory’s search for her family, but for some reason it didn’t grab at my heartstrings the same way. Despite the lack of tear-jerking moments (for my part), it’s a fun, humorous story about the meaning of family and being able to find your way home.

 

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Review

absolutely_true_diary_of_a_part_time_indianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, art by Ellen Forney

Little, Brown books for Young Readers, 2007. 978-0316013680

Winner of the 2008 National Book Award

Synopsis: Junior isn’t like most people. Born with water on the brain, Junior often suffers from seizures; he wears glasses that don’t fit his face, his feet are too big for his body, and he speaks with a lisp. The one thing he seems to have going for him is his art. It’s how he makes sense of the world. It’s how he’s staying even a little bit sane when he becomes the only Indian at a high school full of white kids, when his best friend won’t speak to him, when his sister runs away to live the life of a romance novel. It’s what gives him hope during a year that seems hopeless.

Why I picked it up: This is another title that came highly recommended to me by my librarian colleagues and I thought it was time I pulled it off my shelf.

Why I finished it: I found out in the first few pages that Alexie wasn’t going to be pulling any punches. He told it like it was, and he didn’t shy away from any of the scary, awkward, gruesome details that come with growing up on an Indian reservation. In a lot of ways, Junior is a stereotype, and he’s willing to acknowledge this to a point. When it is proposed he leaves the reservation, it’s not only a way for him to help fight the stereotype, but a chance for him to make something better than himself, to be the person his parents could have been had someone believed in them. And really, I think everyone needs that: one person in our lives that is willing to believe in us, to help push us away from our comfort zone into the breech. And yet, Junior still feels as though he is living two separate lives, one much more surreal than the other. But despite the tragedies he faces and the challenges he overcomes, Junior finds a way to make sense of it all…well, mostly. Forney’s art is a delightful mix of realism and cartoonish humor, largely to reflect Junior’s mood or state of mind while he is drawing. It’s a way for the reader to truly experience how Junior is making sense of the world and how he is perceiving those around him. It’s a funny, heartbreaking story about how we face life’s challenges and how we learn to control the elements we can while coping with those we cannot.

Other related materials: Flight by Sherman Alexie; If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth; Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Lori Earley; Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell; My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson; Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz; Winger by Andrew Smith, illustrated by Sam Bosma; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine; American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang; Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina; The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina; Mexican White Boy  by Matt de la Peña; When I Was Young and Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago; Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa  Abdel-Fattah

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