Book Review: The Giver

8309278I don’t know why it took me twenty-five years to read The Giver by Lois Lowry. It’s so good.

It’s the story of 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in what seems like a utopian community. At the Ceremony of Twelve, when his classmates are given their Assignments, roles like Birthmother, Instructor, or Laborer, Jonas is not assigned. Instead, he is selected at the next Receiver of Memory and is apprenticed to a man who calls himself The Giver. As he learns his new role, he begins to understand that when his community suppressed its bad memories (war, poverty, pain), it also gave up good memories (color, music, strong emotion)

The Giver won the Newbery Medal in 1994, and I’ve picked it up in the bookstore or library many times since then (including when the movie version came out in 2014). It was Larrabee who finally prompted me to read it, though. His teacher recommended it, and he decided he needed to read since it has also been suggested by someone at camp last summer. So maybe it’s one of those books that needs multiple recommendations. If so, let this blog post be the one that pushes you over the edge. It’s the type of story that will linger in your thoughts.

The other books in The Giver Quartet are Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son, but they are companion books rather than sequels to Jonas’s story. Larrabee has enjoyed the second and third books. We also enjoyed the movie, although it’s no substitute for the book in this case.

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Variations on A Christmas Carol

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 12.17.51 PM‘Tis the season for… Christmas specials. This year, in addition to our usual favorites, Larrabee and I have started a new tradition. We’re reading aloud the original version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and watching some of its many adaptations.

So far, we’ve watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol. What’s next? Bugs Bunny? The Flintstones? Sesame Street? Let us know if you have a recommendation.

As with all adaptations, it’s fun to see the differences between the book and the movies and between the different movie interpretations. And as with all Christmas specials, it’s nice to be reminded of the spirit of Christmas.

A Merry Christmas to us all, and God bless us every one!

Book Review: Wonder

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 1.47.53 PMR.J. Palacio‘s Wonder was the best book to read aloud and also the worst.

Larrabee and I borrowed it from from Blaine this fall because we knew the movie was coming out in November, and we always try to read the book first.

Auggie Pullman has a congenital facial deformity, and because of his health problems, he’s been home schooled until now. Wonder is the story of his 5th grade year, his first one in school, told through the points of view of Auggie, his sister, and several other kids.

It was the worst book for me to read aloud because it made me cry. And I don’t mean just a few sniffles over one sad scene. Sometimes Larrabee worried that we’d never get through the whole book.

But it was also the best book for me to read aloud. It sparked great conversations about empathy, about being different, about challenges and blessings, and about being kind. At the end, after all the tears, the book made me smile.

For those of you who want to read more about Auggie, R.J. Palacio has written three more stories from the points of view of Julian (his main tormentor), Christopher (his oldest friend), and Charlotte (a 5th grade classmate), collected in a book called Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories.

And we saw the movie adaptation last week. It’s very good too.

Like Seeing Your Dreams

img_0218I wish I had video of Larrabee trying the Google Cardboard viewer for the first time. He watched a 360-degree video about five National Parks on the NYT VR app. And he definitely found the experience immersive!

He spun around. He looked up. He looked down. He reached his toe out to touch something that only he could see. “Whoa,” he said several times.

His experience with virtual reality reminded me of the descriptions of early movies in The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Hugo remembers how his father described seeing his first movie: “like seeing his dreams in the middle of the day.” Later in the story, Hugo finds a book called The Invention of Dreams: The Story of the First Movies Ever Made. He reads:

In 1895, one of the very first films ever shown was called A Train Arrives in the Station, which was nothing more than what the title suggests, a train coming into the station. But when the train came speeding toward the screen, the audience screamed and fainted because they thought they were in danger of being run over. No one had ever seen anything like it before.

Mark’s father has a similar story. As a young man, he worked as a movie theatre usher in Washington state. Back them, talking pictures were still a novelty. One day, the theatre showed a Western. When a gunfight broke out in the movie, two cowboys in the audience pulled their guns from their holsters and returned fire! The screen sported two small holes for months.