Sunday, December 21, 2008

Books into Movies

Want to stir up a heated conversation in a library? Start discussing movie adaptations of books. Now, as a general rule, I find that I usually prefer the book to the movie. Sometimes, how much I like a movie depends on which I did first--saw the movie or read the book. Very often, it seems that people are more forgiving of a movie's differences from the book if they saw the movie first. Whether you fall into the "love the book/hate the movie" camp or some other camp, one thing I've observed is this--when a movie comes out, circulation of the book at the library increases. Let me repeat that key phrase: Circulation Increases. With that in mind, I am perfectly happy to capitalize on a movie's popularity to promote the book. The following list is my running list that I plan to use to build my "Seen the Movie? Read the book!" display. I am amazed at the shocked expressions on some students' faces when they say "Look at this! Someone ripped off the movie!" and I point out that the book actually came first. Usually, they'll leave with a copy of the book in hand. Cool. Way cool.

101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

Saw the Disney cartoon first, loved it. The movie led me to the book. Love it too.

Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers

Saw the old Disney movie first, which led me to the book. Read it, loved it and then saw the re-make. My son and I both loved that one.

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Saw the movie as a child which led me to the book. The movie was not my favorite, but as it led me to the book--I was happy to see it.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Read the book and loved it. Too many of my students, ones who read the book THEN saw the movie, HATED the movie--so I haven't bothered to see that one. Oddly enough, students who saw the movie first, THEN read the book, were ok with the movie. Funny how that works.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Saw the movie first and loved it. It led me to the book, which I also loved.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

Read the book first and loved it--the descriptions of the witches and their itchy scalps still gives me a chuckle (and shiver). The movie was fun too, but I'll say I got more out of the book.

Spiderwick Chronicles by DiTerlizzi and Black

My son and I read the books (the first series) first and loved them. When we went to see the movie, my son was totally disappointed b/c they'd changed so much. I thought the movie was pretty fun, BUT not if you were expecting it to be true to the books.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Read the books first. Loved them. Saw the movies afterwards. Enjoyed them. Were they different? Yes. Enjoyable? I think so. Regardless of a love/hate relationship with the books, it is certain that, when a movie is due to be released, the books fly off the shelf as students (and adults!) scurry to re-read. Don't have much time to read 800 page books? The book-on-tape adaptations with Jim Dale as narrator are wonderful for car trips.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

I hate to admit that I must be one of the few adults who hadn't read this book before seeing the movie. I loved the movie, which led me to read the book. Loved them both.

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Read the book first, but it was so long before I saw the movie, that there is a lot about the book I just don't remember. Did I like the movie? It was fun, but my son, who is way ahead of me on the books, didn't like this movie nearly as much as he liked the first one.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Goodreads--Great Tool for Readers

Many years ago, I started keeping a book log. In this log, I would write down the titles of books I'd read, maybe a few favorite quotes from the book and a few notes about what I thought about the book--or what the book made me think about in general. In some ways, my book log became a journal. Looking back at these lists brings me back to where I was at that particular moment in my life--metaphorically speaking. Technology being what it is, we now have access to some amazing tools that allow anyone with Internet access (and these days, that basically means anyone who can get to a public library if they don't have a home computer), can log in, create an account, and get started. Here's the address: What can you do with this site? Here's a small sampling:

  • make a list of books you've read

  • make a list of books you want to read

  • rank the book from 1-5 stars

  • write a review

  • join a discussion group

  • create a group to discuss reading topics

  • invite friends to join and share their lists

To see a sample, take a look at my Children's and YA books widget, compliments of Good Reads. It's over on the right-hand side of this page.

Before you sign up, take a look at some of the other programs out there--Good Reads is only one of many. There's also Shelfari and Library Thing and many more--just use your favorite search engine and see what's out there. These sites offer a great way to network about books and reading.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Aza, 15, is blessed with an amazing voice and wonderful family, but feels cursed by her size (enormous compared to her fellow Ayorthians) and her appearance (in her words "an ugly ox. . . a blemish". Working in her family's inn, Aza is surprised when chance finds her accompanying a crotchety, cat-loving Duchess to the royal wedding. Aza is even more baffled when her amazing talent for "illusing" or copying and projecting the voices of others leads her to become the new queen's lady in waiting. Her good fortune turns sour when the new queen forces her to use her gifts to deceive both her king and her country. Torn between loyalty to her homeland and fear for her family, Aza is drawn into an adventure that might just help Aza see beyond her physical appearance--if it doesn't get her killed by ogres, magic mirrors, or angry courtiers.
If you've enjoyed other works by Levine, be sure to read Fairest. Readers of Ella Enchanted will be pleased at the cameo references to Lucinda and Ella's best friend. Grades 5+.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr

What do an earthquake, a toothache, television-watching dogs, claustrophobia (fear of small and cramped places) and a long-lost Uncle have in common? Normally, not much, until you meet John and Philippa Gaunt. These 12-year old twins from New York are about to set out on an adventure of a lifetime--and all apparently because their wisdom teeth are coming in early--well, that and the fact that they are descended from a long-line of Djinn. They get their wisdom teeth removed, their housekeeper's wish gets granted and suddenly, the children are on their way to England to meet an estranged (and rather strange) uncle--and oh, by the way, the world, as they know it, is in extreme danger. The Akhenaten Adventure is the first book in the Children of the Lamp series. The series so far:
    The Akhenaten Adventure The Blue Djinn of Babylon The Cobra King of Kathmandu The Day of the Djinn Warriors The Five Fakirs of Faizabad
To learn more about P.B. Kerr, check out the Kids Reads biography at:

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Ghost's Grave by Peg Kehret

Josh has just moved to a new state with his mother and new step-father. He doesn't know anyone in his new town yet, but is excited because he just found out that he was selected to play on his school's summer baseball league team. The only catch? He can't play baseball that summer because his mom and step-dad have to travel to India. To make matters worse, he will have to spend the summer in a little coal-mining town out in the middle of nowhere with a great-great aunt he's never met. He figures he's in for the dullest, most horrible summer ever. The bus drops him off at a little general store (no bus station--town's too small) and that's when he meets his great-great aunt for the first time. The ride to her house is hair-raising--her old truck does NOT have seat belts (yep, the truck is so old, it was made before seat belts were required), which wouldn't worry him nearly so badly if she didn't drive down the middle of the road (instead of in a lane like normal people). When they finally arrive safely at her house (phew!), he's checking out the house when he hears a blood-curdling scream. He runs to the kitchen where he finds his great aunt chasing a bat. (She really doesn't like bats, and especially not in the house.) He's figuring that if they turn the lights out and stop moving, they can shoo the bat out the door or out a window, but his great-aunt is having none of that. She goes out of the room and comes back--with a shot gun--and shoots the bat. Do you think this turns out to be the dullest, most horrible summer ever? Nope. Add to this a stray cat, a one-legged ghost, and a mysterious theft and you have the the makings for a great summer-time read. Check it out! This book won the Intermediate division of the 2007-2008 Volunteer State Book Awards.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series--More Info

If you're interested in more information about the Percy Jackson series, drop by Rick Riordan's site at:

What's cool about this site is that it shows the cover art, talks about each book in the series, and offers links to video of Rick Riordan reading from the series.

I had mistakenly thought that Book 4 might be the last of the Percy Jackson books, having read in Horn Book that it was the "penultimate" book of the series. I need to use the dictionary more often. Turns out "penultimate" means "next to last". Good news for all of us Percy Jackson fans!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is a 12-year old boy in current-day New York. He's been kicked out of 6 schools in 6 years, he's dyslexic and has ADHD, and his dad left when he Percy was little. And he just doesn't know why such strange things seem to keep happening to him--at least, not until he vaporizes one of his teachers during a field trip. Turns out that Percy Jackson is the demigod son of Poseidon (yes, THE Poseidon, Greek god of the sea) and a mortal woman. Also turns out that demigods are prime targets for the Titans because of their special abilities--and because of a prophecy that basically says that a half-blood will decide the fate of the world. Now, if it sounds like I've given too much away, never fear. What I've told you is just the tip of the iceberg.

The series includes (in order):

The Lightning Thief (Book 1)
The Sea of Monsters (Book 2)
The Titan's Curse (Book 3)
The Battle of the Labyrinth (Book 4)
The Last Olympian (Book 5)

Librarians and Teachers--this series is excellent for readers who have finished the Mary Pope Osborne Tales from the Odyssey series or for readers who enjoy great adventure with lots of battles and a bit of mystery. The series is a double win for librarians in that it will appeal to students interested in Greek mythology and to students who are interested in a great romp of an adventure. Readers who come at the series from a love of mythology tend to start getting interested in reading more adventure. Readers who come at the series from a love of adventure stories tend to get interested in learning more about Greek mythology.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn

Jack Morgan is 14, an orphan but for his con-artist Uncle Virgil who, for some reason, never seems to leave their ship, the Essenay. Jack is also in trouble, but for once, it's for something he didn't do. Jack and Virgil have decided to lay low on an out-of-the-way planet until the heat dies down, but a quiet time just isn't in the cards for them. They witness an attack and crash landing of a large alien ship, the Havenseeker, and go to investigate (and maybe see what they can pilfer in the process). The wreckage yields no survivors--apparently, until Jack stumbles across a dying dragon-like creature that, in a surprise attack, jumps over Jack and seems to disappear--but not exactly. Somehow, he has become flat and is riding on top of Jack's skin like some strange tattoo--who can move around and talk with Jack from this unusual location. Jacks learns that the creature's name is Draycos, a K'da poet-warrior, and apparently the only surviving member of an advance colony ship for the refugee K'da and Shontin peoples--who are fleeing the Death weapon being used against them on their home world. Thing is, the Death weapon seems to have met them at their new home and Draycos must find out how and who is responsible if he is to save his unsuspecting people. To do THAT, he must first help Jack solve his own problems with whoever seems to have framed him for a serious crime. I wish I could do this storyline justice--and hope that I'm not just making it sound silly b/c the story is anything but that. There is enough action, intrigue, humor, and complexity to leave you on the edge of your seat, and on the reserve list at the local library.

The series so far (and in order from first to latest) includes:

Note to librarians and teachers: to date, I've only read the first two, but CAN NOT WAIT to get my hands on the 3rd to see what happens. Each book so far has moved the characters closer the answers they are seeking--and each book so far has had an ending that wraps up its own loose ends--BUT--each book has also brought into play new characters and added some new questions. While listed as YA, this book may also be popular among upper-level elementary advanced readers who are clamoring for titles like Eragon.