Film Preview: Le Petit Prince

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Normally one to rail against major revisions/additions to film adaptations of classic literature, I am completely charmed by this trailer for the new French animated film version of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince, and its added narrative of this little girl and her friendship with her oddball neighbor. If you’ve read the book, then you know that the narrator, the pilot, is addressing an unseen listener, and it’s conceivable that that listener might well look like the studious little girl given life in this new film. And by adding this framework, it seems to me that the filmmakers have captured the wonder of reading this book, either for the first time as a child, or as an adult lost in the pleasures of nostalgia. The shift in animation style between the “real” world and the story of the Little Prince is so lovely, portraying the story-within-a-story as something delicate and other-worldly. I can’t wait to see this!

 

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Fairy Tale Books of 2014: A Gift Guide

December 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Looking for just the right fairy tale book for all the readers on your holiday list? Here are some of the highlights of 2014, including books for both adults and younger readers. Enjoy!

Short Story Collections

thompsonFor the Realist You’re Trying to Convert:
The Witch and Other Tales Retold, by Jean Thompson

Thompson is a master of exposing the wierdnesses of everyday life, in a manner that brings to mind Joyce Carol Oates at her vintage best. In this collection, she uses the framework and a few familiar tropes of beloved fairy tales and drops them into realistic tales of children surviving in a frightening foster home, teenagers acting out through sex, and young women tempted into strange, sudden marriages.

bernheimerFor the Die-Hard Fabulist:
How a Mother Weaned Her Girl From Fairy Tales, by Kate Bernheimer

Unlike Thompson, who uses familiar frameworks in updated settings in The Witch, Bernheimer is adept at crafting her own tales that are so odd and uncanny that they seem to be from another time. Frightening and fearless, Bernheimer’s imagination is at full force here — read these stories under a dim lamp at night, for optimal chills. « Read the rest of this entry »

Geoff Ryman’s WAS on The Slate Book Review

July 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

I have another review up this afternoon on Slate, of Geoff Ryman’s beautiful and raw 1992 novel WAS. WAS is inspired by The Wizard of Oz, but delves into dark territory such as abuse, AIDS, and misplaced nostalgia. I actually wrote the review over a year ago, and am happy to see it finally up. WAS is being reissued by Small Beer Press, a truly excellent fantasy press that also publishes the review Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and is helmed by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant. Check out the review, check out Small Beer, check out the book — it’s all good stuff. And thanks for reading!

Illustration by Eleanor Davis

Illustration by Eleanor Davis

“The Mermaid and the Shoe”: An Uncomplicated Fairy Tale

April 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Mermaid-CoverK.G. Campbell’s delicately illustrated and completely charming picture book The Mermaid and the Shoe received several good reviews this week, and rightly so. The illustrations are beautiful while still engaging, and the story is simple and sweet.  Minnow, the youngest daughter of a mer-king has yet to find her calling in life—her sisters tend to gardens, or train fish, but she is not good at any of these pursuits. But when she finds a strange object, she’s determined to discover its origins. Her journey takes her to the surface of the water, where she discovers a world in which mer-people don’t swim at all, but walk about on funny-looking appendages that they hide under shoes. If we were swimming in the seas of Hans Christian Andersen or Walt Disney, here would be the moment our mermaid spies her prince. But in K.G. Campbell’s refreshing book, Minnow swims quickly home, eager to tell her family all that she’s seen, and to find that her curiosity and storytelling are her calling.

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The tale ends there—an uncomplicated story about a girl finding her confidence and her niche, eschewing any romance, sea-witches, or annoying foot pains. Yet the similarities between The Mermaid and the Shoe and Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (and Disney’s too, if we’re being honest here) are also what will have the adults choosing it scratching their heads. Isn’t there more? We know there is. Will this mermaid princess come to know what exists over the highest sand dune? She wouldn’t be the first — and we know from prior stories that what lies above the surface isn’t all pleasant. Parents might find this short tale easier to explain to children, but they’ll likely have trouble shaking the more complicated story that is its ancestor. And this comparison may paint The Mermaid and the Shoe in a somewhat boring light. Ah, well. It’s beautifully illustrated, and I can certainly appreciate an homage to storytelling, in any form. An endearing fable, The Mermaid and the Shoe is an escape for parents who aren’t up to explaining why any sane young mer-girl would give up her voice for a man. My hope would be that the child who has this story read to them will be inspired, as they grow, to discover more complex fairy tales.

 

 

Saving Mary Poppins

December 23, 2013 § 1 Comment

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr. Banks"

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in “Saving Mr. Banks”

Mary Poppins needs a hand this winter, and the internet, thanks to all that is snarky and determined to spread truth, is here to save her. The indisputably expensive new Disney film Saving Mr. Banks, as you’re likely aware, claims to tell the true story behind the making of the indisputably delightful old Disney film, Mary Poppins, based on the novels of P.L. Travers. It pits prudish, harsh, and critical Travers (Emma Thompson) against fun-loving monomaniac Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in the battle for the rights to produce the film. Disney woo-ed Travers for many years before securing her sign-off to make the film, and Saving Mr. Banks would have you believe that it’s because Walt finally got to the “core” of Travers’s psychosis in creating the character in the first place: daddy issues. It goes so far as to have Thompson beaming with pride at the film’s release, tears welling in her eyes.

But as you may also be aware, thanks to the diligent critics of the inter-webs, Thompson’s tears are a woeful misrepresentation of the true story that isn’t being told in the film: that Travers was devastated by the film. She fought Disney tooth and nail for five years, and you can bet that that fight was not just a charming sing-along by Richard and Robert Sherman and an escorted trip to Disneyland. It was surely much, much uglier. Walt Disney, to put it mildly, was not a nice man. He was a business man, one who insisted in his early films that only his name appear listed as animator, even when he had a team helping him. One who insisted on slapping his name in front of every title his studios put out, in case anyone forgot it. There would never be “P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins” — there would only be his, and in the end, though Travers fought him, she lost. That’s what this film is about. « Read the rest of this entry »

My Grimm Project

August 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve begun a little project.

It’s called “A Grimm Project,” and I hope you’ll click through and follow it.

A Grimm Project” is a prompt-driven romp through all 242 tales in the 1987 edition of Jack Zipes’s The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. I have been writing about other peoples’ work for a long time, and needed an impetus to create my own. So you all will need to hold me accountable, as I create a freewrite on this new blog in response to each fairy tale in the book.

You can help out, too! Each week over on A Grimm Project I’ll be posting on the next tale, in order, in the book, and then posting a short “response” to the tale. Some will be harder than others, but there will be NO SKIPPING. And if you feel inspired by a particular tale, please email me your freewrite in the email provided in the “About the Project” section, or post it in the comments. Each month, I’ll choose some favorites to be included in a special post. So please check it out, follow, and contribute!

You can already read my first entries, on the first tale in the Grimms’ collection, “The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich,” here.

Thanks,
Cate

painting by Albert Weisgerber

painting by Albert Weisgerber

Google Doodles for Maurice Sendak’s 85th

June 10, 2013 § 1 Comment

Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, Outside Over There, My Brother’s Book and so many, many more, would have been 85 today. He died last May from complications from a stroke. In honor of his birthday, Google threw him a Doodle party. Make sure to check out the animation on Google’s home page today, but here are some screen shots to share the fun:

start

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