Sunday, December 22, 2013

Joyeux Noel

This is a re-post of a post from three years ago about two DVD's, one a favorite opera, and the other a foreign film, both set in the Christmas season, and both set in Europe. The first is an opera set in Belle Epoque France; the latter is a 1914 war story that really is an anti-war story.

The opera was one I've written about before (when Sacramento Opera performed it in Spring of 2010): Puccini's La Boheme. In this case, La Boheme, the Movie, stars Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon as Mimi and Rodolfo. Both their voices are lush and lyrical, as if the composer wrote the music with them in mind, and their acting brought the story alive. All the cast was good, and the costumes and sets made scenes seem like impressionist paintings in motion. This is such a layered story, each time I hear and see the opera, I have a new appreciation for the breadth of understanding Pucci was able to convey in the music. I marvel how composers achieve on musical scores what I struggle to achieve in just words. I can never can see or hear this opera too many times, and I plan to buy the DVD.

The second movie was Joyeux Noel, a 2005 film that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film. The individual stories highlighted were fictitious, but the over all story is based on a true happening on a Christmas Eve in 1914, in the theater of war, rather than in an opera theater: Scottish, French, and German troops agreed to a cease fire, and put down their weapons to celebrate Christmas Eve, even warning each other of planned shellings the next day and offering refuge in each other's trenches when the shellings occurred. For all three military groups, the only thing that saved troops from being tried for treason was the fact that 200 or so in each case would have to be tried. Instead, all the participants were transferred to other fronts to make sure it wouldn't happen again. It was a remarkable film, and a story I won't forget.

So here it is, the New Year, and the Christmas message hovering still. Best wishes for the coming year, and for a time of peace, when people can be united again in their common humanity.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Free Kindle Download of The Fourth Wish.

With the holidays drawing close, I'm offering a second free Kindle download for The Fourth Wish, this time for three days: Sunday, December 15th through Tuesday, December 17th. The last one put the book as #1 in its category. But what made me happiest was the prospect of so many young people being able to read it. Here is where to go on those dates:

This story takes place over the winter holidays. It involves magic and wishes, complex family situations, and I've been told it's very humorous. A good read for both boys and girls, ages 8 to 12.

I hope you will check it out.

Meanwhile, what are some of your favorite titles for readers of that age group?

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Dawg and His Person

Here they are: Clyde and Dawg

Author, Lori Mortensen
I'm taking time out from posts about the cruise to share a charming picture book that would make just the right present for a young child in this gift-giving season: Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg, by Lori Mortensen. (It would make a nice library addition for big people, too, if they are dog lovers, as I am.)

The story starts with Cowpoke Clyde cleaning house and innocently deciding the finishing touch would be to give a bath to his dog, who is named, appropriately, Dawg. What happens when Clyde tries is hilarious. I really don't know how much to tell without giving the story away. Let me just say that bathing Dawg is no easy thing. The two leave chaos and commotion in their wake as Dawg gives Clyde the runaround.

Three things about the writing make this a stellar picture book for me.
1. The tone and "bounce" to this lively story make it one kids will want to read again and again. (Those who are too young to read will want you to read it aloud again and again.)
2. It's funny. I've read it three times, now, and each time leaves me grinning.
3. The rhyme scans so well! I have great admiration for the ability to write a rhyming stories. They are not easy. Often the rhyme feels a little off, and you feel a writer got away with it because the story was so good. Well, this story is "so good," and the rhyming is too!

As for the illustrations: With acrylics and colored pencils, Michael Allen Austin has made Dawg into the most lovable mutt you could find—and the other animals on the ranch are pretty captivating, too. Cowpoke Clyde is pawstively endearing.

School Library Journal has calledthis book, "A first purchase for most libraries."

Two other rhyming picture books by Lori Mortensen are: In the Trees, Honey Bees, that has won all kinds of awards, as well as the award-winning Cindy Moo. She's also written a non-rhyming biography about Léon Foucault, Come See the Earth Turn. 

Foucalt's Pendulum'

Hey, diddle-diddle.
Find out about the secret
life of bees.

You can read my review of Cindy Moo for Sacramento Book Review HERE.

And Lori was kind enough to give me an interview HERE.

More information about where and how to buy these books can be found on Lori's
 WEBSITE HERE. Visit the site, too, to read more reviews of these books.

What are your favorite picture books? Do you prefer rhyming books or unrhymed stories?