Sunday, May 24, 2015

Escape from Baxters' Barn

I recently received an ARC which I was looking forward to reading. I'd heard that it's in the same vein as Charlotte's Web, so obviously I had to investigate this claim. To me, Charlotte's Web is sacrosanct and I wanted to see what book could could dare to compare.

The story is about barnyard animals, which is apparent from the cover, as well as the title.

The interior illustrations are done in pen, like EB White's style, so it's not a coincidence that they are reminscent of Charlotte's Web.
I'm a sucker for animal stories, and both of these stories highlight the truth that sometimes animals have more humanity than humans.
Everyone knows how Fern spares Wilbur, the runt pig, from senseless slaughter. Mr. Arable justifies his attempt to kill the piglet by saying that runts make trouble. Wilbur is Othered initially because of the fact that he was born small, unlike the other pigs. Burdock the cat is Othered because he has only one eye. Unlike pet cats, who are coddled and cute, Burdock's had a rough life, and it's apparent in his scraggly and infirmed appearance.
Charlotte's Web is often heralded as a book which gently introduces the concept of mortality. Even after Wilbur is spared, he is informed by the sheep that the reason he's alive and on the farm to begin with, is to become food for the family. I must admit that because of this book, I always saw EB White through rose colored glasses, and it wasn't until I was in graduate school that I was enlightened:
Professor: EB White raised pigs.
Me: Like, as pets?
Professor: No, he raised them for meat.
Me: 'horrified look on face'
I couldn't imagine the man who had penned the heart-warming tale, butchering the same animals that he honored in his book.  It was the academic equivalent of your parents telling you as an adult that your beloved dog from childhood didn't actually go away to live on a farm.
Escape from Baxters' Barn does not shy away  from the reality of death either. Burdock is a cat; he hunts mice and eats them. When a barn owl needs his help, he catches a mouse for her to eat. Obviously there aren't any graphic depictions of the mouse's demise, but the text states it plainly. similar to when Charlotte the spider explains how drinks the blood of the flies she catches in her web. The central conflict also involves evading death; Burdock overhears a plan to burn down the barn for financial reasons so the animals hatch a grand plan. In both texts, the human characters view the animals as commodities for economic gain, and it is the animals who exhibit the traits attributed to humanitarianism such as compassion, individualism and capacity for self-realization through thought and reflection.
Templeton the rat has always been one of my favorite literary characters.
The rat had no morals, no conscience, no scruples, no consideration, no decency, no milk of rodent kindness, no compunctions, no higher feeling, no friendliness, no anything." He is what he is, and he doesn't care to change for anyone. When he hears that Wilbur is headed for the smokehouse, he simply says: "Let him die. I shouldn't care." Burdock the cat is not as callous as Templeton, but he does consider that it would be easy for him to escape the barn by himself. Does he really need to help the others? Why? He even admits that he is not usually one for moral quandries.
I've always loved this illustration of Templeton.
It's from the story's conclusion, and he eats so
much that he's as big as a young woodchuck.
So what happens at the end of Escape from Baxters' Barn? You can probably guess, but that's no reason to skip this read. The release date is 7/7/15.
And now, for your viewing enjoyment:
No offense to Steve Buscemi, I can see why you're a natural pick for the part, but Paul Lynd's vocal characterization of the wry and rancorous rat are unparalleled.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Supergirl= Andy Sachs with a Cape?

I admit to being out of the loop alot in regard to upcoming films and tv shows. Since we don't have cable, I don't see previews on TV, just on the Intenet.

I was psyched to see a trailer for the new Supergirl show online today! I didn't realize a series about her was in the making, but I'm especially excited because I just recently read the Superman/Batman comic book which explains  her origin.

As I watched the trailer though, I definitely got the chick flick vibe from it. The part with getting her boss's coffee seemed straight out of The Devil Wears Prada.

I think it's fantastic that FINALLY, a superheroine is getting her story told.`I mean, Supergirl has been around since 1959! We've had how many TV shows and films about her cousin, so it's long overdue. But I'm not sure if the chick flick feel is going to work for her or against her. 

I'm not saying that Supergirl shouldn't have her own regular, Earth girl issues, like not loving her job, being a little socially awkward, especially around men, etc. but I fear that marketing her story this way is going to alienate (ha, get it?) male audiences. Women will watch superhero stories with no problem, but men are often reluctant to watch chick flicks and girly shows.

I hope that it's is better than the trailer lets on, Perhaps then Supergirl will blaze the trail for more women from Krypton, Gotham City and  Themyscira to have their stories told.

Personally, I am waiting for the day when Batgirl gets own deluxe treatment.

Librarian by day, crime fighter at night.  .  .

Heck, I'll make it myself if I gotta- I already have a Batgirl costume!

Every librarian should.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Treatments of Tiger Lily

Is it just me, or does the new Tiger Lily resemble Cher?

                                     Cher                                    Tiger Lily (Pan 2015)

Yesterday I watched the trailer for the 2015 movie Pan, and I blogged about the new adaptation's portrayal of Captain Hook. But I've never discussed the treatments of Tiger Lily in the various TV and film versions.

Tiger Lily is the princess of the Piccaninny Tribe of Indians living on the island of Neverland. Probably the most  well known image of her comes from the 1953 Disney movie:

Although her appearance is not particularly offensive, the treatment of Indians in this film has been long criticized, due to the song "What Makes the Red Man Red?" and the Indians' exaggerated features, which makes them look like caricatures and affirms the sterotypical view of this people:

But that's no newsflash.

It's interesting that the Mary Martin version features a Tiger Lily whose appearance is the polar opposite. This Tiger Lily is not offensive because she promotes stereotypes or the sexualization of Native American women (we're looking at YOU, Disney Princess Pocahontas!). No, it's offensive, and utterly confusing, because she looks like the Swiss Miss girl.

Rayna Green writes in her article “The Pocahontas Perplex: The Image of Indian Women in American Culture.” that the white appearance of Pocahontas in various renderings relates to the concept of the “Indian Princess,” an American figure that serves to represent America and its values (702-703). The Indian Princess is not rendered like other Natives. Green describes, “The Princess is ‘civilized’; to illustrate her native nobility, most pictures portray her as white” (704).

When Cathy Rigby played Peter Pan on Broadway and in a televised performance, Tiger Lily did look a little less Anglicized. However, her costume resembled the Disney's Pocahontas rather than Disney's Tiger Lily.

The 1991 movie Hook took the easy way out, and declined to portray Tiger Lily or any Indians at all.

Personally, I feel that the most socially responsible representation of Tiger Lily is Carsen Gray's portrayal of her in the 2003 film Peter Pan.

Gray descended from the Haida, indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. In the film, she speaks the Iroquois language, in contrast to previous Tiger Lily's who didn't speak at all  (Disney 1953), or spoke English mixed with gibberish
(uu-a-wuug and puff-a-wuff and gugg-a-bluck aren't real words).
A Native American actress, speaking an actual Native American language!
Who would've though it could work?!

Last year, NBC broadcast a live teleplay of Peter Pan, notable because Christopher Walken portrayed Captain Hook. Playing Tiger Lily was actress Alanna Saunders, whose paternal great-grandmother was part of the Cherokee Nation.

This version changed the nonsensical lyrics to the Ugg a Wugg song and titled it "True Blood Brothers". The production had a Native American consultant who helped create something 'traditionally Native American'. I'm glad he helped with the song, but I'm assuming they didn't run Tiger Lily's costume by him:

The costume's actually not the skimpiest one ever, but the shiny turquoise streamers don't exactly scream 'traditional.'

Unfortunately, it seems now that the film industry has regressed to mid 20th century values, because in Pan, Tiger Lily is once again blonde.

Furthermore, she also appears to be cast as the males' plaything, an exotic beauty who is a trophy from a far away land.

Does this seem familiar?

And on a less depressing note, writing this post prompted me to look up a biography on Cher. Apparently, her mother was of Cherokee ancestry. 

She can't turn back time, but apparently Warner Brothers Co. can.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I just watched the trailer for the new movie Pan, which will be released this October.

I do plan to see it, because I've always been enamored with the story, but I am not quite sure what to make of this version yet.

It appears to be a prequel, but rather than revealing the backstory of Peter himself, it reveals the backstory of Captain Hook.

Now, we already know the obvious about him (like how he got his hook), and in 1927, Barrie revealed more about the infamous pirate in his speech. For example, he is an alumnus of Eton College, the prestigious boarding school responsible for educating Prime Ministers, Royalty, and a number of other prominent figures in history. In that address, Barrie informed his audience that Hook was quite intellectual, and one of the more accomplished students in his class. His aunt described him as a sensitive young boy, and opines that his canings at the hands of headmasters contributed to his cruelty that led to his infamy.

I didn't see any of these qualities in the Hook portrayed in this upcoming film. It's difficult for me to imagine how the Hook we see (played by Garrett Hedlund) is going to evolve into the classic Captain Hook we all know.
I admit I've always had a bit of a crush on the Captain, and I've written a couple blog posts on different incarnations of him in film and television; my main complaint is that none of them seem evil enough. The new Hook doesn't even look the part though:
I understand that this Hook is supposed to be younger, and thus he hasn't grown into this appearance yet, but what's with the pretty boy wearing the khaki colored outfit?

He looks more like Indiana Jones than a future fearsome foe.
At least the Hook we see in the Once Upon a Time series (played by Colin O'Donoghue) looks more like how someone so dark and mysterious could have appeared in his younger days:
Dark hair is more true to Barrie's text; in the novel Peter and Wendy, Hook is described as having long dark curls which look like "black candles" at a distance. And his clothing is very elegant as well, which confirms his pedigree and gentlmanliness.
However, I do credit to this new adaptation for expanding upon one particular part of the Hook legend. The good Captain began his pirating career as "boatswain to Blackbeard", and this film promises more explanation of that characteristic.
What do you think of the trailer?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mirror, mirror on the tree. . .

My home is situated on about three acres of forest. It's one of the reasons I fell in love with it and decided it would be my ideal home.

As soon as the winter melted away, I went to work in the forest. I dream of making it my own enchanted forest, reminiscent of all my favorite stories and fictional friends.

My husband found an old mirror on the side of the road one day and brought it home to me so I could use it for a project. I decided I wanted to hang it up among the trees. The mirror is a nod to Snow White, but that's not the only reference.

And there's the obvious Lacanian interpretation; when we look in the mirror, we “assume an image". 
What we see in our reflection directly informs our perception of ourselves, but what see in the mirror 
is a fantasy, not reality.

I love how the mirror, hung in the forest, reflects the forest, and makes it seem as though there is another world to be entered inside the one we know.

The forest is a mysterious place; it's wild and untamed and primal. It has to be survived rather than simply endured.  There's a reason why it is so often the setting in fairy tales and folktales. They are usually inhabited by mysterious creatures, symbols of all of the dangers with which the young protagonists must triumph over if they are to become adults. Think about it:

The wicked Queen orders the huntsman to take Snow White into the forest to be killed. However, he finds himself unable to kill her as she sobs heavily and begs for her life. She stays in the forest, befriending the dwarfs who come to her aid more than once.

Hansel and Gretel are led into the woods by their father at the request of their stepmother.

Little Red Riding Hood walks through the forest to deliver food to her sickly grandmother and meets the hungry wolf.

It's interesting that the forest represents femininity and motherhood, as a beautiful place in which life thrives and is renewed; all of the above stories have a female protagonist who meets danger in the forest, and two of the stories begin with a stepmother sending them into the woods. (By the way, I just happen to be posting this on Mother's Day.)

So once again it's obvious that I'm not satisfied with simply reading classic fairy tales, nor am I content to wax and wane about the symbolism contained in them, I need to create my own experience based on the stories and tales which are imprinted on my consciousness.

Whenever I look into the woods, and see the mirror I hung on the tree, it makes me think about what I see reflected there, and what I'd like to see reflected there.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Children's Book Themed Nursery

So I abandoned blogging for a while. Not because I didn't like it or because I ran out of things to say, but simply because real life got in the way. I finished grad school, got a job I love, got married, went on a European honeymoon, bought a home, got pregnant, and gave birth to my so  a couple months ago.

I don't plan to post alot of personal stuff on here, but since I decorated Baby J's nursery in a children's book motif, it's relevant here.

 When my husband and I bought our home, there was a very cute little room painted in nice bright colors, but it had hideous Sponge Bob Square Pants decorations in it. Removing those was one of my first home projects- even before I knew I was pregnant.

So here's some photos of all the lovable classic characters that have a home in Baby J's nursery.

I scored this vintage Padington poster from Goodwill!

wall shelf with some pretty recognizable faces

Michael Hague is one of my all-time favorite illustrators, so I framed some book pages.
Also, the drawing on the upper right was by him, especially for me.

I got these one of a kind drawings by Eric Carle a couple years ago during
 a special event at the Carle Museum in Amherst, MA

Here's a lovable cast of characters!

A friend of ours did this beautiful picture of 
Paddington, with Baby J's initials in the corners.

A basket of bears! Paddington has a special significance. 
When I was very little, I had a Paddington picture in my room. 
And on our honeymoon, we went to Paddington Station so I could 
see the Paddington statue (and of course stop at the gift shop).
 In fact, while I was in the gift shop, the cashier told me that
 she was not used to seeing bears with yellow hats. 
Apparently, the true English bears wear red hats, and 
when the Eden Toy Co. in NYC got permission to 
produce the bears, they had to make yellow hats so that 
the English bears and the American bears could be deciphered.

The Paddington that is standing up is an original from England, 
wearing the child size Dunlop boots, rather than
 the boots that were  specially manufactured 
for the bears in later years.

I think that's enough baby stuff for now. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Lost Little Women

I LOVE Little Women. (The classic story, not actual tiny little ladies).

I won't go into all the reasons why, but stories like this are the reason I am a librarian.

My favorite live version of this beloved book is the 1994 film, because I saw that movie in the theater when I was 12 years old, shortly after I finished reading the book. I have the Collector's Edition DVD, and the soundtrack, as well as the novelization of the movie (that I got from a Scholastic book order- so old school). To me, Christian Bale will always be Laurie, not Batman.

I have seen the1933 one and I enjoy it (how can anyone not love the late, great Kate?!)

I also appreciate the 1949 version and I have a VHS copy of it that's handy whenever I feel the need to see it.

I know there was a silent movie done in 1918, but the film is considered to be lost. Here is a lobby card for the film.

Too bad for me because I always enjoy comparing books to film, and films to other films based on the same story. 

Today while browsing at the local Salvation Army, I happened across one of those dollar store DVD's that are mass produced; the television shows and films have become property of the public forum because their copyrights ran out and nobody noticed or bothered to renew it. The DVD is titled: "Little Women: Jo's Story."

I had never heard of it before. After a little research, I discovered that in 1950 there was a television series based on the classic tale. There were six episodes, and they had names like "Jo's Story" and "Meg's Story". Here's my DVD:

The series was believed to be lost for many years, and many Internet sources still cite that it IS lost. The back of the DVD case gives 2006 as the reproduction date, so some lucky person in Hollywood must have found this gem within the last couple of years.

After doing a little more research, I saw that "Meg's Story" also appears to be available on one of these cheapo DVDs, although Amazon is charging $5 instead of the 99 cents I got mine for.

I's incredible, the amount of joy I experienced at finding yet another film version of one of my all-time favorite stories, the added joy that came when I decided the need to research it and the fulfillment I felt when I found the answers I was looking for.

I guess that's why I'm a librarian.