Caroline Davis

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In Books on April 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Summary: Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is only six years old when he is recruited for Battle School, a training ground in space for genius children to become military leaders in time for the next attack of the aliens they call “buggers.”  Ender is quickly singled out because of his potential, which alienates him from his peers.  When he is given the chance to lead his own team in the simulated battle room, his novice soldiers quickly defeat veteran players, using Ender’s innovative tactics and strategies.  Ender is promoted to Command School where he runs simulations of battles, unaware of the consequences of his actions.

Highlights: Ender’s Game is one of my favorite science fiction reads.  Even though the protagonist is so young, I think that tweens will enjoy this entertaining and thought provoking book.  Even though he is isolated from his family for long periods as he goes through his training, readers can identify with his homesickness for his beloved sister, Valentine, and his anger towards his bullying (and sadistic) older brother, Peter.  The book has plenty of action, especially in the battle room arena, and there are some highly likeable characters (along with some cruel ones).  The story raises many issues, including the ethics of involving children in the adult’s war, especially when the full extent of their involvement is kept from them.  Ender also faces a difficult realization at the end of the novel.  Thinking about his situation may provide tweens a chance to think about the consequences of their actions and give some thought to the related ethical questions.


Orson Scott Card’s Official Website

Interview With Orson Scott Card (Fiction Factor)

Other Reviews:


@ As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves

@ ScriptShadow


Fantastic Mr. Fox

In Movies on April 19, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Summary: When Mr. Fox learns that he is going to become a father, he promises Mrs. Fox that he will end his dangerous career stealing poultry.  Two years later, Mr. Fox decides to move his family out of a hole and into a tree – which happens to be in the same neighborhood as three affluent farms, owned by Boggis, Bunce and Bean.  Mr. Fox decides to secretly plan one last heist, and raids each of the farms on sequential nights.  In the meantime, the Fox family is caring for their nephew, Kristofferson, who is naturally athletic and likeable, much to the envy of their son, Ash.  The three farmers plot their revenge against Mr. Fox and try to ambush him outside of his tree, but only succeed in shooting off his tail.  They determine to dig him out, forcing the Fox family to burrow deeper into the hill and cutting off the food supply of all the animal families in the area.  The situation seems hopeless, but Mr. Fox devises a plan to save the lives of the starving animals.

Highlights: This quirky, stop-motion film is based on a children’s book by Roald Dahl (my personal favorite of his collection).  Under the direction of Wes Anderson, the plot has been expanded in delightful ways, although I felt that it remained faithful to the book even as new characters and situations were added.  One of my favorite additions was the character of Ash, Mr. Fox’s son, who can never quite live up to the legendary figure of his father, and also feels inadequate when compared to his cousin, Kristofferson, but possesses eagerness and a brave heart and is given an opportunity to display his courage.  George Clooney was an excellent casting choice for the voice of Mr. Fox, and manages to portray him with the slight arrogance and egotism of his character while still remaining a fantastic hero.


Official Movie Website

Movie Trailer (Youtube)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (IMDB)

Other Reviews:

@ Only the Cinema


@ Danland Movies

How to Train Your Dragon

In Movies on April 19, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Summary: In Hiccup’s village, there is nothing more honorable than becoming a great dragon killer, like his father, the chief.  But Hiccup is never given the opportunity to fight, so he can’t impress his father and his peers (especially Astrid, on whom he has a crush).  During a nighttime attack, Hiccup uses a contraption he designed to catch the Night Fury, the most mysterious and dangerous of dragons.  But when he tracks it down, Hiccup finds that he is unable to kill it, and releases it.  While most of the village is on an expedition to destroy the dragon nest, Hiccup is being trained to fight dragons.  He secretly returns to visit the Night Fury, and forms a companionship with the injured beast and names him Toothless.  Hiccup is worried that his secret might be discovered, and becomes conflicted when he realizes that the Vikings completely misunderstand the dragons.

Highlights: Based on the book by Cressida Cowell, the film version of How to Train Your Dragon is a visually impressive computer-animated feature (especially when viewed on a movie screen in 3D!).  There were some very thrilling parts, especially the flying scenes.  Aside from the technical aspects, this was a movie with a lot of heart that will resonate with anyone who has felt like an outsider.  The moral of the story was that Hiccup was able to become accepted, and even a hero, not because he conformed to what was expected, but because he learned to appreciate being different and use his unique gifts.  The relationship that developed between boy and dragon was particularly touching, and in many ways they had to rely on each other (for instance, Toothless wasn’t able to fly unless Hiccup was operating his prosthetic tail).  There are more books in Cowell’s series, and it will be interesting to see if they make more movies.  And I’m going to keep an eye out for the soundtrack, some of the Celtic inspired music was beautiful!


Official Movie Website

Movie Trailer (Youtube)

How to Train Your Dragon (IMDB)

Other Reviews:

@ Row Three

@ Mendelson’s Memos

@ We Are Movie Geeks

Ballet Shoes

In Movies on April 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Summary: Eccentric paleontologist “Gum” (Great Uncle Matthew) has a habit of bringing home orphans for his niece, Sylvia Brown, and housekeeper, Nana, to raise – three girls, named Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil.  With Gum absent and money tight, Sylvia and Nana resort to selling specimens from Gum’s collection and taking in boarders, including a dance teacher named Theo Danes, who insists that the girls should be enrolled at the Children’s Academy of Dance and Stage Training.  Each of the girls has a different aspiration – Pauline wants to become an actress, Petrova longs to fly planes, and Posy wishes to train as a ballerina.  The family is still struggling financially, and depends on Pauline’s success as an actress for support.  After a dose of success brings out their worst, the ambitious girls learn lessons on how to use their talent with kindness and humility, and each of them are able to realize their dreams.

Highlights: Based on Noel Streatfeild’s beloved 1936 novel of the same title, this sweet film was very evocative of 1930s Britain, and the Fossil sisters and their guardians are convincing victims of the economic downturn of the time.  They approach their troubles head-on and are determined to support themselves while not compromising their dreams.  Although they are not biologically related, the entire family pulls together and supports each other.  The characters are not without blemish, so the story is not too treacly or sentimental, just perfectly nostalgic and relatable.  Originally produced for British television, the film is a little quickly paced and could be a bit more polished, but it is still a delightful story – and it is fun to see Harry Potter’s Emma Watson in a different role.


Interviews with the actors (BBC)

Ballet Shoes (IMDB)

Other Reviews:

@ Judge By Reviews

@ janell the great

@ Literature Young Adult Fiction

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

In Movies on April 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Summary: Percy Jackson doesn’t consider himself to be particularly extraordinary – he struggles at school because his dyslexia and ADHD make it hard to focus and learn, and his home life isn’t much better because of his rude and boorish stepfather.  His life completely changes when he discovers that he is the son of a Greek god – Poseidon – and that Percy is accused of having stolen Zeus’ lightning bolt.  His life in danger, Percy escapes to Camp Half-Blood, a training ground for demigods, but not before his mother is taken by a raging minotaur.  After learning that Hades is keeping his mother as a prisoner, Percy and his friends Grover and Annabeth – a satyr and a daughter of Athena – take off on a cross-country adventure looking for Persephone’s pearls, which they need in order to safely escape the Underworld.  Can Percy save his mother and prove his innocence?

Highlights: I haven’t read the book (by Rick Riordan) yet, so I didn’t know much about what to expect when I went to see the film, other than connections to Greek mythology.  To be honest, I had pretty low expectations for the movie, so I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it was.  I particularly liked how they incorporated ancient mythology into modern America – such as turning the Island of the Lotus Eaters from the Odyssey into the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas.  The main trio reminded me of the Harry Potter crew – a protagonist with a revelation about his parentage and power, a strong female lead and a humorous sidekick – which I didn’t find too derivative, since they had their own story to tell.  My only issues with the film were more to do with Columbus’s direction, not the actors and plot.  All in all, I thought the film was fun and a good way to inspire interest in Greek mythology – and my 12-year-old cousin liked it too!


Official Movie Website

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (IMDB)

Interview with Director, Chris Columbus

Other Reviews:

@ Speakeasy

@ MAVENity


The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

In Books on April 5, 2010 at 8:49 am

Summary: According to Maori legend, Kahutia Te Rangi was an ancestor who could speak to whales, and when he arrived in New Zealand riding on the back of a whale he blessed the land with abundance and prosperity.  In a modern day Maori tribe, a daughter is born to the chief and given the name Kahu, after their ancestor.  Her great-grandfather, Koro Apirana, is deeply disappointed that she wasn’t a boy, which would have made her eligible to inherit her father’s title.  As she grows up, Kahu adores her great-grandfather but he continues to keep her distant and call her useless – until a pod of whales arrives at their beach to reveal Kahu’s destiny.

Highlights: This beautiful book wove together three storylines – the legend of Kahutia Te Rangi, the birth and childhood of young Kahu, and the journey of the whales (this last had the most gorgeous language and imagery).  Although the main character is only eight-years-old for the majority of the book, I think it will appeal to middle readers and older (the narrator for the Kahu storyline is actually her 24-year-old uncle).  Sensitive readers may be upset by the tragic death of several beached whales, and it also tackles issues like racism and sexism.  I really loved this coming-of-age novel, and I think tweens might enjoy comparing it to the movie version (which made some changes).


Interview with Witi Ihimaera (Pacific Islanders in Communication)

Whale Rider Film Trailer (YouTube)

Other Reviews:

@ Book Nut

@ Libri Touches

@ curled up with a good book