Monday, July 28, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry--Book-to-Movie Now Available on Blu-ray and DVD!

Lois Lowry's, The Giver. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     No sooner had my daughter arrived home from sixth grade telling me that her teacher was very mad at her because the book she had taken to read during the "free reading period," wasn't acceptable, then the phone rang. Answering it, I was surprised that my daughter's teacher was the one calling. She expressed great disapproval at my daughter's book saying it was inappropriate for a sixth grader to be reading a book that was beyond her grade level. 

     I asked her to please hold for a minute and then spoke to my daughter asking her to show me the book she was reading. I was somewhat surprised when she showed me the book and again asked her if she was sure this was the book the teacher was unhappy with her having. She assured me that it was the book. Going back to the phone the teacher again asked why I let her read a book inappropriate for her grade level. For a moment, I was dumbfounded at her disapproval of my daughter's book and my parenting. I composed myself, and told her I approved of the book. 

The book of which the tea-
cher disapproved because
of the dystopian themes.[2]
     I also told her that I had read the book when I had been in high school as part of my school curriculum. She said that it wasn't the book but my daughter's age that she was just too young. I told her that I know my daughter, and that though in sixth grade, she had been tested and was reading at high school level speed and comprehension. I told her that I permit my daughter to read whatever book she was capable of and interested in reading (of course, barring those which were sexually explicit). I told her my daughter didn't have to secretly check out books from the library and that she always showed me what she was reading. The teacher, in fury, hung up the phone. My daughter ran and threw her arms around me squeezing me tight. I told her not to worry, that her book was a good book and that I supported her reading choices.

The Newbery Medal. [3]
     Society and its views of dystopian society have moved forward since my daughter was in grade school. Young Adult novels abound with dystopian settings and themes; in fact, in 1993, Lois Lowry's book, The Giver was published and subsequently received the Newbery Medal (1994 by the Association for Library Service to Children)" In addition to the prestigious Newbery Medal, the book also receiv- ed the Regina Medal (1994), and the William Allen White Award (1996). [fn.1] [4]

At first blush, Jonas' community
appears idyllic with no pain,
war, or disease.  [5]
SHORT BOOK SYNOPSIS: Eleven-year-old Jonas lives in an idyllic community with his mother, father and sister. In this idyllic world, no suffering exists, no war, no disease, no pain. Jonas waits in anticipation for the December celebration where he would, with the other eleven-year-olds, celebrate the "Ceremony of Twelve." 

     Jonas will officially become an adult and receive his assignment in the work he will do as he grows into adulthood, and the training that will begin immediately after the ceremony. When the day arrives, Jonas--and everyone else--is shocked to learn he has been selected as the next "Receiver of Memory."

During his training, The Giver shows
Jonas a shocking recording of
an injection given to an infant. [6]
     When Jonas begins his training from a man who calls himself "The Giver," Jonas begins to see things in a different way than he did before his selection. Jonas begins learning the shocking and troublesome truths about the idyllic world in which he lives. He is confused and at first doesn't understand, but as time goes on and Jonas receives more and more memories from "The Giver," he tries to come to terms with his life and what it all means in this false community. Who really pays for the pain-free society in which he lives? Is it "The Giver?" "The Receiver?" or is the cost really laid upon the community at large?

MY FAVORITE QUOTE: [This quote is taken from the "Ceremony of Twelve," just before Jonas receives his selection as, the "Receiver of Memory."]
The quote I have selected as my favorite quote in the
book is a dramatic one that utilizes foreshadowing as
a literary technique. The reader is subtly appraised of
a potentially important part of the plot or story. Here,
the selection is also ironic in that everyone in the com-
munity strives to be the same, yet at the ceremony they
celebrate and "honor" their differences. Hmmmm! [7]
The initial speech at the Ceremony of Twelve was made by the Chief Elder, the leader of the com- munity who was elected every ten years. The speech was much the same each year: recol- lection of the time of childhood and the period of preparation, the com- ing responsibilities of adult life, the profound import- ance of Assignment, the seriousness of training to come...'This is the time,' she began, looking directly at them, 'when we acknowledge differences. You Elevens have spent all your years till now learning to fit in, to standardize your behavior, to curb any impulse that might set you apart from the group...But today we honor your differences. They have determined your futures.' [p.51]
     I really enjoyed this quote, and loved that the differences in the elevens-turned-twelves was what determined their futures--a wonderful foreshadowing of the changes to come! Jonas had something uniquely different about him, something that, in the end, would set him apart, entirely, from even the community. 

I like this idea. From a struggle to be "a part" of the community to a struggle to be "apart" from the community. Just reciprocally beautiful.

Everyone in the community struggled to
obey all the precepts of their age groups.
The struggle to conform was ongoing.[9]
ABOUT THE DYSTOPIAN NOVEL: First, a word or two about Dystopian novels, in general. At the beginning of the book, The Giver, it appeared too good to be true. A community where no pain existed, no unemployment, no war, no crime, just peace and sameness. However, we soon began to see a community in which people were controlled to the extent they had little individuality, were given pills to prevent passionate emotions, and "released" if they didn't fit into the community [...a euphemism for death.]. 

    DYSTOPIAN SOCIETIES are those societies that have qualities of being somewhat undesirable, harmful or perhaps unpleasant. The unpleasantness is usually due to a dramatic decline in society, for example, an apocalypse. In our book, The Giver, the decline had come before the present time, war, death, fighting, disease, etc. prompted people to give up their uniqueness and individual liberties to attain peace, and oneness. However, harmful or unpleasant side-effects of the dystopian society usually result.

     Characteristics of a Dystopian Society: Propaganda is used to control citizens; Information, independent thought, feelings and/or freedom are restricted; a "figurehead" or concept is worshipped by the citizens; Citizens are under constant surveillance (just like in our novel, today, The Giver), Citizens have a fear of the outside world; sometimes citizens live in a dehumanized state; the natural world is banished and distrusted; Citizens conform to uniform expectations--individuality and dissent are bad--again, just like in today's novel, The Giver; and the society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world--or wants to appear so.
Not just Social Class and Race,
though--it can be by ability, gender,or
anything else that divides people; in
The Giver it is age and aptitude [10].
     Stratification of SocietyHallmarks of literature utilizing dystopian structure in a book's plot usually includes the stratification of society. In Brave New World, Aldus Huxley created groups called Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons); in Divergent the groups were called Amity, Erudite, Dauntless, Abnegation, and Candor.

     In this book, The Giver, Lois Lowry creates groups based on a person's age: ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, sevens, eights, nines, tens, elevens, and twelves (who are considered to be adult) and finally the elderly or old (and retired persons). Every year the rules change for each age group, for example, at one year old you get your name and a family, at eight, like Jonas's sister, Lily, the child gets an "identifying jacket" with pockets and smaller buttons as well as being required to start doing volunteer hours; nine-year-old girls can remove their "childish" hair ribbons and put them aside, and all nine-year-olds got their bicycle. Moreover, once assigned a place in society after the Ceremony of Twelve, your career is yours permanently, supposedly assigned to your best abilities--like fish hatchery attendant, recreation assistant, birth mother or "Receiver of Memories," like Jonas.

Gattaca is a dystopian novel centering on controlling
population through the citizen's identity. The
small print at the top of this graphic says,
"There is no gene for the human spirit." [11]
     Family is also a critical piece of dystopian society. The government seeks to destroy or control social interaction by exerting rigid controls on the family. In The Giver, you must apply to be married, and even if approved, your spouse is selected for you; you are only allowed two children; moreover, birth mothers never see their children. The children are taken away and assigned to a family requesting a child. Individuals must report their dreams every morning, and when old enough to develop "stirrings," you must begin taking a daily pill to suppress the "stirrings" that you are feeling.

     Other hallmarks of dystopian novels (and movies) which use PROPAGANDA TO CONTROL CITIZENS of society through use of the following: Politics and Government (The Hunger Games); Economics (see, V For Ven- detta), Psychology (Brave New World) Religion (see, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, The Handmaid's Tale and A Canticle for Liebowitz), issues of Identity (see, Gattica), Violence of fighting, war, or other oppression (see, Judge Dredd, Mad Maxx, or The Running Man), Corporate Control (Minority Report and Running Man); Bureaucratic Control (Brazil), Science (Blade Runner), Technology (R.U.R.; I, Robot; The Matrix; and Terminator), and finally, Environmental issues [concerning pollution, not enough food, etc.] (see, Logan's Run, Avatar, Soylent Green, and Wall-E). It can be seen in other famous dystopian novels as follows: Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Farenheit 451 (of course, there are many, many more. This is just a small sampling.). [13]

The Book of Eli, starring Denzel
Washington, utilizes a 
dystopian setting. [14]

     Undoubtedly, since novels (and movies) following dystopian themes are so popular and prevalent in society, right now, we will visit this issue again in the future. Because dystopian themes are seen in everything from television shows (like The Walking Dead), to video games (Fallout) (as well as novels and movies), I'm sure we will be looking at dystopian themes in new novels as they are written and come into the publishing and reading world. Until then, I hope this quick little nutshell version of dystopian society helps you to appreciate this genre of literature more.

THE YA CONTROVERSY:     Some reviewers and bloggers are totally against YA (young adult) novels, in general, as reading material for adults. Apparently, the view is held that adults should be "embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children." [15] I feel quite differently about the matter. I have loudly proclaimed from day one of my blog posting that any kind of reading is wonderful. 

     I want to encourage everyone to read, not just children. Personally, since I'm beyond my YA years, I choose YA books every now and again to keep my spirit young. And...parents especially, should know what their children are reading--parents NEED to stay abreast of the most current trends in literature for their own children's sake. For other adults, if your tastes don't run to YA literature, don't read it--find something to read that you enjoy! That's what you should do in any event. 

     Personally, I choose to mix it up; I read YA, but I also read comics and graphic novels, I read classical literature, romance, Pulitzer-Prize-winning novels, non-fiction and historical, militaristic sci-fi, fantasy, biography, self-help, spirituality, psychology, horror, non-fiction, etc. I read them all. I think it makes me a more well-rounded person with a more flexible and agile mind. I simply find all this looking down one's nose at any given genre to be both snobbish and short-sighted. I am not embarrassed in the least. 'Nuff said.

     Second, YA books are, indeed, written for the teens. The difference in YA versus adult books is that the story is all about the teenage perspective. Teenagers are not adults and have not learned the critical thinking skills that mark adulthood, nor should they be expected to try and read from an adult perspective. Teen readers plunge themselves into the emotional life of the protagonists--in part, teens are learning empathy and gaining understanding of how to handle problems, deal with life situations, and what mistakes to avoid (among other things). I know some adults who might benefit from reading YA fiction. 

I deeply admire teens for how
they live passionately! [18]
     Even adults that have grown into an adult mind and experience a more critical perspective and analysis of reading material can learn new things and, as I mentioned, above, keep their spirits young at heart. To learn that teens, while they may not read with the adult critical mind, are people, too, with cares, desires, and a willingness to learn about life and grow into the people they are becoming. That teenagers deserve to be admired and applauded for their interest in reading, growing, and becoming more, is something they truly deserve. 

JONAS AND THE GIVER: Told entirely from third-person narrative, we are put into the perspective of the 11/12 year-old-boy, Jonas. We have no others injecting thoughts or information into the story. This tends to help make the experience of reading the story immediate, present, and intimate. Lowry's us of simple language helps us to regress down to Jonas's age to see things simply, and uncritically--choosing, instead, to trust the adults in his life, namely, his parents, and the elders, until he learns that he should not trust them. The language is instrumental in conveying the powerful concepts contained in the novel.

The climax is the pivotal point in the book, followed
by falling action and resolution. [19]
     The Climax of the book is a heartbreaking scene when disillusionment is complete for Jonas as The Giver plays a video of a newborn child being euthanized by Jonas's father--whose role in the community is that of a nurturer. Jonas realizes that all the people whom he has known who have been "released," have been killed, not transferred to other communities; their bodies then dumped down a chute like so much refuse. Jonas and the Giver then resolve to change the situation.

The rules are drummed into the children,
year after year. Jonas soon learns that
he must break some rules to effect
the change that's needed. [20]
 Rule Breaking: In this strictly-run com- munity full of laws and expectations, we also see rules broken: (1) When Jonas's father gets permission as an exception to the rules to bring home the baby (Gabriel) for additional nurturing; (2) when the nines (9-year-old children) teach their younger siblings to ride a bicycle--everyone turns their head in blindness at their violation of that law; (3) Jonas's father breaking a rule to obtain the name of the baby (Gabriel); (4) Jonas's father permitting the family to break the rule of calling the baby by its name before it had officially been named, such; (5) Jonas's father admitted knowing his assignment (Nurturer) before it was given at his Ceremony of Twelve.

     Children who see adults condone rule-breaking are subtly influenced to believe that they, too, may break the rules and get away with it. It may be one way adults, unknowingly, are fostering a rebellious child.

The first splash of color for Jonas, the
red apple, puts me in mind of the
movie, Pleasantville, where the first
splash of color was a red rose. [21]
     After Jonas begins receiving memories from the kindly Giver, he learns to see colors, feel joy, and even love for the first time--and also pain. He experiences sledding in the snow, death on a battlefield, and the physical pain of broken bones and injury. He also is shocked to learn that he has been given permission to break certain rules, like lying and rudeness. Jonas's "mind reeled" as he realized that other Twelves, other adults, could have received the exemption from lying--how often had he been lied to?

     Symbolically, Jonas's father, The Nurturer, seems to nurture a son conditioned to break rules. Jonas cannot live in the oppressive and feelingless society. Moreover, the society doesn't seem to recognize that the "Releasing" of the elderly, young, misfits, or failures, as a horror that harkens back to Nazi-like practices (e.g. youth camps, extermination of undesirables, etc.).

     Finally, to save Gabriel (an angelic little child from death), Jonas steals him and leaves the community, fleeing into the unknown. Jonas must draw upon his own courage and resourcefulness to evade search planes with heat seeking devices, face the cold and freezing weather with the small boy he carries as a symbol of the welfare of his whole community.

     Jonas places Gabriel next to his skin to warm him, becomes a Giver and gives Gabriel warm memories to help him survive. Like the first Giver (the old man whom he has grown to love), Jonas has moved from being a Receiver to a Giver. His hope is to save the child and the community by giving (releasing) back the memories he received from the Giver so that the community members can once more have feelings. The ambiguous ending does not reveal how this is to be accomplished.

THE MOVIE: As I indicated in the title of this post, the book-to-movie is coming to theaters on 08-15-14, so if you are reading the blog post the two weeks before the movie, you still have time to read the book before the movie comes out. For your pleasure, check out the trailer from YouTube. [24]

     Directing the movie is Philip Noyce; cast as Jonas is Brenton Thwaites, Jonas's father is Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes as Jonas's mother, Emma Tremblay as Lily (Jonas's sister), Jeff Bridges has been cast as The Giver, Taylor Swift as Rosemary, Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder, Odeya Rush as Fiona, and Cameron Monaghan as Asher. Writing Credits go to Lois Lowry (Book), Michael Mitnick (screenplay) and Robert B. Weide (screenplay).

     I sincerely hope the adaptation of the book to movie is successful. This wonderful books deserves nothing less than to be successful.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS AND RATING: The movie's MPAA rating is PG-13; I would, likewise, rate the book the same--as the book's target audience is for those students of middle school. For all the above reasons, I rate this wonderful book 4.5 Stars out of 5. 

     Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at Lois Lowry's wonderful novel, The Giver. Please join me next time as I review another new book. Pick up any book this week (or e-reader) and read for a while. Please don't forget to share, post, tweet or pin this blog post so others will be able to have access to the information about Lois Lowry's wonderful book. My love to you all!

Until next time...
A double white Rose of Sharon. [26]

...many happy pages of reading!



fn. 1 In addition to the above-listed awards, the American Library Association listed it in the "Best Book for Young Adults," the "ALA Notable Children's Book," and as "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000." It also garnered attention as a "Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book," as a "Booklist Editors' Choice," and a "School Library Journal" Best Book of the Year. Additionally, the National Education Association named The Giver one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children," as well as being named one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time [2012 poll by School Library Journal.]" [for sources, see #4, below, in REFERENCES.]

[1] "The Giver." Retrieved 07-25-14.
[2] "Farenheit 451." Retrieved 07-26-14.
[3] "Awards and Prizes: The Newbery Medal." Retrieved 07-27-14.
[4] "The Giver: Awards, Nominations and Recognition." Retrieved 07-27-14.
[5] "Idyllic-Under Development." [graphic image] Retrieved 07-27-14.
[6] "Australian expert...on...drug." Retrieved 07-27-14.
[7] "Foreshadowing." Retrieved 07-27-14.
[8] "When to use A Part." Retrieved 07-27-14.
[9] "Dystopia." ["Do Not Disobey" graphic] Retrieved 07-27-14.
[10] "Stratification." ["Stratification" graphic] Retrieved 07-27-14.
[11]"Gattica." [poster graphic] Retrieved 07-27-14.
[12] "Word of the Week: Propaganda." [graphic image] Retrieved 07-27-14.
[13] "Dystopia." [Examples of Dystopian novels/movies] Retrieved 07-27-14.
[14] "The Ultimate [Lightweight] Bug Out Kit." [The Book of Eli] Retrieved 07-27-14.
[15] "Against YA." Retrieved 07-28-14.
[16] "The Literary Exploration Challenge." [graphic genre image] Retrieved 07-28-14.
[17] "Callous Snob Are the Words That Come to Mind." [quote image] Retrieved 07-27-14.
[18] "Keep Calm Because You Rock." Retrieved 07-28-14.
[19] "What Was the Climax of The Giver?" Retrieved 07-28-14. 
[20] "Style Architectz." [learn the rules...graphic] Retrieved 07-28-14.
[21] "First Splash of Color." [Pleasantville] Retrieved 07-28-14.
[22] "Lies, Damned Lies, and Newspaper Reports." Retrieved 07-28-14.
[23] "Check out these powerful character posters for The Giver." Retrieved 07-28-14.
[24] "The Giver Official Trailer #2 (2014)." Retrieved 07-28-14.
[25] "My Final Rating for Healthy Affiliate." Retrieved 07-09-14.
[26] "Pictures From my Garden." Retrieved 06-18-14.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais--See the Book-to-Movie in Theaters 08-08-14!

The Hundred-Foot Journey
by Richard C. Morais. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     My mom was always trying to teach me something. She took all four of us kids to the grocery story every week to do the shopping--every trip she'd give us a lesson like unit pricing, how to pick a sweet, ripe watermelon, or how to check the expiration date on milk. Her lessons about food changed one day when she came home with a cookbook for kids. She had me sit with her and we looked through the pages at all the things an eight-year-old could learn to cook. 

     I saw something wonderful! It was a recipe for "Framed Eggs." I had never seen anything like it before and was entranced by its uniqueness. I told my mother I wanted to make the Framed Egg recipe, and she quickly agreed, showing the enthusiasm I felt inside, too. Saturday morning arrived and we sat down to look at the recipe book. She told me that, "Even if you don't know how to cook something, a recipe can tell you how to do it. All you have to do is read it carefully...before you do it." She had me read the ingredients from the list and I got the bread, eggs, butter, and salt and pepper out--also the frying pan, spatula and table knife. 

A Framed Egg with fresh-grilled
sausage patties. 
When she was a
young girl, I taught my daughter how
to make something almost any kid can
learn to cook--a framed egg. She is
visiting me this week, and when the
nostalgia bug bit her, she whipped
up this rustic Americana simple
fare for us to have for a quick
breakfast this morning. Thank
you, My Darling Girl!
     Next, as I read the directions to her, my mother did the steps to show me how to read the recipe. She cooked the Framed Egg, then she handed me the spatula and told me that it was my turn. I got a chair so I could be tall enough to reach the frying pan and did the directions as she read them to me. I was so afraid it wouldn't work for me because I had the idea that things only worked for adults; adults could do things, kids couldn't. Carefully, I turned over the toast and egg...Oh, my God, I could hardly believe it!...Success! It looked so beautiful and I had actually done it by myself. I felt such a sense of accomplishment that I was bursting with pride. 

     We sat down and ate our Framed Eggs together, the buttery toast, and the egg yolk soaking into the toast--so delicious. After this success, I tried other kid-tested recipes from the book with great (and, sometimes, not so great) success. 

     I felt so connected to my mother in  the joy and success and enthusiasm for this new ability I had gained. She gave me a new sense of self, enthusiasm for learning and cooking, knowledge and how I could gain more by reading. First, she modeled the behavior and then allowed me to do it.  I was  filled with joy. Thank you, mom, for your encouragement and enthusiasm, for sharing this activity with me, and for your love. I will forever appreciate and love you for teaching me to love learning.

     My mom may not have a teaching credential, but she is the best teacher I've ever had. I loved how she taught me and encouraged me so much, that when I grew up, I wanted to be a teacher like her. I eventually received my credential and now work as a middle-school teacher, following my mother's legacy of teaching children how to love learning. I still love food and cooking, too. --Maryam Powers.

     NOTEThe, above, story was written by my daughter, teacher and author, Maryam Powers, of Harden Middle School in Salinas, California.  I am so proud of my daughter that she teaches young people English and English as a Second Language. She is an absolutely wonderful teacher. She touched my heart when she agreed to write the introduction to today's post about one of her food memories to introduce the book, The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. That she wrote this story about me dumbfounds me and leaves me speechless. Thank you, my beautiful daughter.
Crawford Market, Mumbai, India. [3]
     Hassan Haji (a fictional character) tells us of his life's journey from the streets of Mumbai to the dining rooms of Paris. Hassan was born into a large family in Mumbai, and his parents' work at creating a small restaurant provided the foundation for Hassan's love of food. Hassan and his mother frequented the local markets to purchase fresh vegetables, fish, meat, spices, and fruit--all the while teaching Hassan how to select good food and produce. Hassan recounts the vibrant colors, tastes, and aromas that fill his memories of a Mumbai childhood. 

     Then, a horrific tragedy takes Hassan's mother's life, and the family flees India to settle in England for a while. Disenchantment pushes the family to Europe where they begin eating their way around various countries, until, at last, soul weary and desiring a place to put down roots, the family stops in the little French village of Lumière, in the French Alps. They purchase a small building across the street from from a two star restaurant run by a famous chef, Madame Mallory.

Vanoise, French Alps. [4]
     Almost immediately, the Haji family and Mme. Mallory clash. Mme. Mallory can't stand the celebratory noise and colors, or the spicy smells coming from the restaurant across the way. She wants the family to take their "bad taste" back to India and leave the French Alps to her. When Hassan's father gets to the local market first and gets all the best fish, produce, and other delicacies, Mme. Mallory becomes incensed and confronts Hassan's father. A small war begins.

     During another confrontation, a second horrible event occurs, leaving Hassan in the hospital to recuperate. No longer having Hassan to cook, his father closes the restaurant. Hassan's father then decides to take the family and leave Lumière after Hassan gets out of the hospital. Mme. Mallory has a change of heart, so she decides to strike while the iron is hot. The world-class two star chef stages a "sit in" in the front yard of the family restaurant--ironically, adopting Mahatma Gandhi's peaceful protest against the Indian family. 

A scene from a rooftop restaurant in
 Paris, France. [5]
     Eventually, the father gives in and Hassan makes the "Hundred-Foot Journey" across the street to Mme. Mallory's relais, where he will learn to cook in the French style. After a few years of Mme. Mallory's tutelage, Hassan is called to Paris to begin his career as a chef. More adventures are had in the City That Never Sleeps, and as Hassan works his way into middle age, success comes to the once-culinary student of Mme. Mallory.

     WHAT WORKED FOR ME: First, the themes in this book impact, literally, everyone. Food, needed for life, itself, permeates all the corners of our lives. We live on the memories we had as children, and Richard C. Morais, has demonstrated that he, "gets it."

     Hassan's memories of the sights, sounds, smells, and even kinesthetic touching and gustatory tasting of food fill the pages with such enthusiasm, beauty, and sensual arousal that I could not help falling in love with the descriptions of Hassan's memories. Morais' prose devoured me!

    Second, another thing Morais, "gets," is the sense of family. How precious the relationship between Hassan and his mother is--the tender sharing of a trip to the market or the special splurge out to eat something decadent. Family, working together in the restaurant, pulling together to not only survive, but to grow, to improve their lot, to provide a nurturing environment to family members and members of the community who come to eat at their restaurant is nothing short of inspirational.

     Even when one member begins having, "difficulties," coping with life, she is not abandoned, but lovingly cared for and kept with them. When the mother dies, the father takes over and though he is grieving, continues to love and care for his family, removing them from an environment that has become dangerous.

     Third, the theme of "teaching" a child at a parent's knee, or in this case, the whole family's knee(s), is so important to having a healthy, well-adjusted child who can grow up and not turn to a life of crime, drugs, and alcohol, etc. Morais paints the picture of family members teaching Hassan things, notably, about cooking, and having the added benefit of giving Hassan a love for family, food, learning, and a passion for cooking food. My daughter and her story about how she learned to love and have passion for food, cooking, and teaching is a great example of a child learning in the kitchen and dining room of the home. For Hassan, it was so.

    Fourth, the pages are filled with exuberance, passion, and a profound delicacy. I found myself reading the book much as if I were dining and eating a gourmet meal. The story satiated my palate, and stilled my hunger. The story is so charming and heart-warming I found myself reading without stopping. It won me over.

Just saying.... [8]
     In spite of the wonderful things I've said, just above, some things about the book just didn't work for me. The most notable thing, or maybe I should say, what bothered me the most, was that the book seemed to change tone at about 66% (two-thirds) through the book. It happens when Hassan has completed his training and leaves for Paris to work as a chef. At this junction, we mostly leave all the characters behind that we had come to love, abandoning them to the past. Hassan goes off with a single sister and engages in a life unlike the previous one. 

     While the writing is still good writing, the tone, itself, changes. We don't have the exuberance, passion, and joyous abandon with food and cooking, but rather one man's struggle to become a three-star chef. The things that I loved about the first two-thirds of the book, food, family (and the individual characters we've come to love), teaching and learning, and the exuberance and love of life and living seems abandoned in the latter third of the book. It almost seems like two different books, two different stories.

I think I would have chosen to end The
Hundred-Foot Journey
 with Hassan
getting his offer to go to Paris. [9]
     Second, I do realize that not all stories, especially fictional ones, end well. It does, however, seem a little incongruous that two people (Hassan and his sister) from such a large, gregarious family as the Haji family, who love people and like having people around, never find partners with whom to have a family. Also, I know this isn't a story about a "romance," in the traditional sense of the word, but, come on, Hassan likes women and has several "romances," so why not let him have a family to continue the family traditions? I guess, I just would have preferred the two to find marital partners. It does seem out of character for Hassan and his sister to not find someone.

And I remember, so well, that moment when she clapped her hands in his and Papa pulled her to her feet with a grunt, the way my maitresse slowly and creakily rose from her courtyard chair. This, too, I remember....And so, next day, Auntie and Mehtab helped me pack my bag and I crossed the street. A lot of emotion went into that hundred-foot journey, cardboard suitcase in hand, from one side of Lumiere's boulevard to the other. Before me the sugar-dusted willow tree, the leaded windows and the lace curtains, the elegant inn where even the warped were soaked in great French traditions. And there, standing on LeSaule Pleureur's stone steps in white aprons, the taciturn Madame Mallory and kind Monsieur Leblanc, an elderly couple waiting with outstretched hands for their newly adopted son. (p. 133)
 Obviously, this quote highlights the title of the book. We see that the hundred-feet really is much, much longer than a simple hundred feet. It is mountain ranges, rivers, valleys and countries away from LeSaule Pleureur, miles and miles from where the journey began. I enjoyed Richard C. Morais' creative use of the journey across the street, a mere hundred-feet, as a metaphorical journey as well as a literal one. Darling, really.

     The book-to-movie comes to the big-screen August 8, 2014. I can hardly wait to see how the movie-makers have adapted the book to the movie for us. Helen Mirren, a wonderful actress, stars as Madame Mallory, and, of course, Om Puri will play Hassam's father, Papa Kadam--I can hardly wait to see the two stars tilting at one another on the big screen. Other actors include Rohan Chand as the young Hassan, and Manish Dayal as Hassan Haji, and Charlotte Le Bon as Marguerite. Writing credits go to Richard C. Morais (book) and Steven Knight (screenplay), Directing the film is Lasse Hallstrom.

     Please feel free to have a look at the trailer I found for The Hundred-Foot Journey for you from YouTube. I hope you enjoy it, I did. [12]

    Since the movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey, is rated (MPAA) as PG, I believe the book should be considered PG for parents looking to guide their children in their movie and book selections. The movie has been rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality. [13] In the book, at least one death (murder) occurs, so parents be cautioned. This caution, likewise, should be applicable to persons of a sensitive nature. For all adults of a mature age and of the target audience, the movie should not only be appropriate, but wonderful!

For all the reasons I gave, above, I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. 
4 stars out of 5. [14]
     I can't stress strongly enough, how very much I loved the first two-thirds of the book. It is simply full did I put it? Ah, yes, here's what I said, above: "Hassan's memories of the sights, sounds, smells, and even kinesthetic touching and gustatory tasting of food fill the pages with such enthusiasm, beauty, and sensual arousal that I could not help falling in love with the descriptions of Hassan's memories."

I thought a quote by the incomparable Julia
Child would be appropriate for today's post.[15]

     Thank you for joining me this week as we took a look at the book-to-movie book coming to the big screen on August 8, 2014. I know I will be joining my family that day watching this (hopefully) joyous, passionate movie. The trailer looks good, so I will keep my fingers crossed.

     Please join me again, next week as we look at another interesting book and discover what the pages hold for us. I hope to see you then. Please read something this week, even just a few minutes a day. You will be immeasurably enriched. Take time this week to be inspired by your family members; appreciate them for who they are, give them a hug, and say something kind to them. Have a meal together, and feel passion for something and let joy flow into you. To all of you, I send my love. 

Until next time...
A double white Rose of Sharon. [16]

...many happy pages of reading.


[1] "The Hundred-Foot Journey." Retrieved 07-15-14.
[2] "To Teach is to Touch a Life Forever." Retrieved 07-16-14.
[3] "Crawford Market, Mumbai, India." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[4] "12-Vanoise, French Alps." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[5] "Gilles' Choice for Paris Restaurants with a View." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[6] "Family." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[7] "Indian Family Eating Dinner." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[8] "It Just Didn't Work Out." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[9] "If You Want A Happy Ending...." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[10] "How to Make Your Favorite Quote Into a Picture File." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[11] "Never Judge A Book by its Movie." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[12] "The Hundred-Foot Journey." Retrieved 07-16-14.
[13] "MPAA Rating." Retrieved 07-17-14.
[14] "CSS Stars." [4 Stars out of 5] Retrieved 07-17-14.
[15] "Knock-knock! Who's There?" [Julia Child Quote] Retrieved 07-17-14.
[16] "Pictures From my Garden." Retrieved 06-18-14.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Now in Theaters!

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude
by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.
Paperback from [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Everyone knows who Superman is. Likewise, we all know Batman, The Avengers, and, of course, the X-Men. But I've been asked, "Who the heck are the Guardians of the Galaxy?" It seems only fans of these comic book heroes have any idea who this bunch of miscreants are.

     The Guardians of the Galaxy have come to the center of the entertainment arena for the very good reason that their story is being brought to the big screen. Even after seeing the trailer(s) for the upcoming movie, people seem to know very little about the group.

     IMDb tells us that Guardians of the Galaxy "...expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe." [2] In the trailer we see Peter Quill (AKA "Starlord") stealing the "mysterious orb." But the orb is not the only thing that is mysterious. All the characters seem to be unknown quantities. All we know about them is what the trailer shows us. They seem to be a bunch of criminal misfits that somehow were elevated to the status of "Guardians of the Galaxy." But, why? and how did they get that lofty title?


Guardians of the GalaxyTHEN...

One of the many movie posters for
Guardians of the Galaxy. [4]
Guardians of the Galaxy.

     As IMDb indicated, Peter Quill stole the orb, which for some mysterious reason, other people want. After the theft, Quill is caught, arrested and thrown into prison. Joining Quill in a jail break, Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot, escape and join together to form a group, calling themselves Guardians of the Galaxy. The group works to keep the orb out of the hands of its primary pursuer, "Ronan the Accuser," in an attempt to save the universe.

     The synopsis, as I've indicated, is the movie synopsis--I've given you that synopsis first because that's what everyone has been seeing in on-line movie trailers, on television sets and at theaters. It is important to put the movie info. into perspective because the book (we're about to discuss) is actually what comes before the movie. It is a, "PRELUDE" to the movie. Basically, it is what Marvel wants us to know about the characters, their backgrounds, connections, and universe before we get to the big-screen story.

     If you haven't seen the movie trailer, yet, please take a quick look at (this youtube trailer) about what I've been talking about, so far. Then, we'll get to the graphic novel to discuss its pros and cons. [5]

     The movie is categorized as action/adventure/sci-fi, is rated PG-13, and will be released to the big screen on August 1, 2014. Writing credits go to James Gunn and Nicole Perlman and (comic book credits) to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Directorial credits go to James Gunn. Starring in the feature film will be Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Starlord, Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Racoon (his voice), Vin Diesel as Groot (his voice), Karen Gillan as Nebula, Josh Brolin as Thanos (his voice), Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Dijmon Hounsou as Korath the Persuer, Laura Haddock as Meredith Quill, Benicio Del Toro as Taneleer Tivan (The Collector), Glen Close as Nova Prime Rael, Ophilia Lovibond as Carina, and Michael Rooker as Yondu. [2]

  I have mentioned in other posts that I am always interested in the adaptation of a novel or graphic novel to another media; here, we're talking about the big screen. Any adaptation of book to movie is a very interesting process and can have widely unpredictable results. Sometimes the story bears little semblance to the book, other times a real effort has been made to be true to the book. Since all we have to judge by is the trailer, we will just have to wait to see just how successful the adaptation has been. I will, most definitely, be at the theater on opening day to find out.
     First, (from the book) what's actually in the book: 
  • Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude #1-2;
  • Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic #1;
  • Iron Man (1968) #55;
  • Strange Tales (1951) #181;
  • Incredible Hulk (1968) #271;
  • Tales to Astonish (1959) #13
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 (2013)
     NOTE: Please note that to shorten this blog post, I've created a separate "PAGE" for the synopsis of each of the titles' publications, listed, just above. You can find them in two ways: (1) See the top of the blog on the right side bar and look under "SHARON'S PAGES," for the Guardians synopses, or (2) click on the direct link to them, here.

Left to right: Gamora, Drax, Star Lord, Groot and Iron Man.
These are all the heroes of the Guardians of the Galaxy. [7]
     The collected issues  include the characters and stories from Marvel's comic issues going back all the way to 1951 through to the present and comprise the beginnings of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The back cover explains that the book contains the stories of the members of the team and their earliest adventures.

"Who is Nebula? What tragic events forged her transformation? Then, when Rocket and Groot's latest bounty-hunting gig takes a deadly turn, they'll show everyone why those who underestimate them end up on the wrong side of a blaster. Finally, as Gamora begins her quest for the orb, learn firsthand why she's considered the most dangerous woman in the universe! Plus: relive the Guardians' solo debuts as Gamora and Star-Lord burst onto the scene. Drax and Iron Man take on Thanos, Rocket meets the Hulk--and Groot attempts to enslave the Earth!" [1]

The story must have three links:
a beginning, middle, and end. [8]
   What connects all the seemingly disparate stories? First, the stories show the team members' origins and their journey to the place where they all come together for a common cause. Second, the search for the orb by different factions is the primary link connecting the stories to create a chain of events that in total form an overarching story. That the authors have been able to pull together issues from different times with a common theme is important. What was once episodic in nature, chained together becomes a linked whole.

Who are the villains? Well,
Thanos, is certainly the most
mysterious, but in the movie, it
most likely will be Ronan the
Accuser; we may also see
Korath the Pursuer and Nebula.[9]
     To be a complete story, a beginning, a middle, and an end is needed. For example, Nebula's story of her beginnings, training, and shaping at the hands of Thanos to be used as a tool for Thanos to obtain the orb demonstrates not only the motivation of this villainous character, but how the story began. It continues on with the intermediary steps in the middle of the journey, with missions and armed conflicts, through to an end game by Thanos. Beginning. Middle. End...all together equals a chain of events resulting in a complete story arc. That is just the first thing we are looking for in a graphic novel. Let's see what else we need for our graphic novel.


     The very first thing we need in a graphic novel is a story arc, or sometimes called a beginning, middle and end. I also look at the physical attributes of the book, asking myself the following:

1. What kind of cover does the book have (hardcover, cardstock, or is it an e-book)?

2. How is the book bound together (is it sewn, glued, stapled, or spiraled)?

3. After reading, do the pages stay bound, or have the pages come loose or are falling out of the publication (are they secure)?

4. What kind of paper is used for the book (pulp paper-like comic books, heavier paper, is it glossy, what kind)?

5. How many pages does the book contain (Although it may vary, in the United States, the standard comic book is generally 22 pages plus another 10 for ads, while the graphic novel is approximately three times the size of a comic book, at around 100 pages. Many graphic novels tally 150 pages.)?

These two pages are all the advertising in the book--and all
are for Guardians. (see: "ANALYSIS," just below.)!
6. Does the publication have advertising? If so, how much and where is it located within the bounds of the book?

7. Is the book advertised or labeled as a "graphic novel?"

8. Is the publisher a U.S. publisher? (European publish- ers have different standards, practices and traditions.)

9. Overall quality and appearance: Is the cover appealing? Is the art well done?

10. Is the book episodic in nature (like comic books)? or, is the story one that has a beginning, middle, and end (a complete story from beginning to end)? This is actually the very first thing we covered, just above--since we've already covered this, I've placed it here at the end of the list.

This is a close up
photo of the stitch-
ing on the spine,
inside back cover.
     ANALYSISGuardians of the Galaxy Prelude has a beautiful glossy and full color card stock cover. I am pleased to say that this book is bound, first with stitching and appears glued to the heavy card stock cover with excellent adhesive. Please see the picture here (to the left) for a close up of the binding; these pages are securely attached and have not come loose--no loose pages at all. The paper used for the publication is beautiful paper, not the inexpensive pulp. Additionally, the publication has 168 pages, surpassing the minimal amount for a graphic novel.

     Advertising: The book does contain advertising, but only on the inside back cover for other Marvel publications relating to Guardians of the Galaxy. Although not promoted as a "graphic novel," it is being sold as a graphic novel at [11] And finally, the publication is a U.S. publication; furthermore, the overall quality and appearance of the publication is both sturdy and appealing, leaving a wonderful impression of a quality product.

     CONCLUSION: This publication is a good quality graphic novel!


     Over the years I have been both exceedingly pleased with some graphic novels I've purchased and terribly disappointed with others. I've only reviewed a few graphic novels in the year I have been posting on this blog, but here are a few examples of what I've found:

     Click on the link to go directly to the review of the graphic novel. Examples of those I've been disappointed in are: Hercules: The Thracian Wars (by Steve Moore); All You Need Is Kill (by Hiroshi Sakurazaka); and Thor: The Dark World Prelude. Examples of very good graphic novels are Vampire Academy, A Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier by Brubaker and Epting.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: One thing I haven't addressed is why the Hulk and Iron Man appear in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. To the casual eye, those super heroes may seem out of place in the series. Iron Man is not listed as one of the characters in the upcoming movie, so it is likely we will not be seeing Robert Downey, Jr. in outer space this summer. The same can be said for The Incredible Hulk and Mark Ruffalo.

     So why are Iron Man and the Hulk in the Prelude edition of the graphic novel? Well, the focus is not so much on the two Avenger members, but rather the character with which they appear in the graphic novel. Iron Man appears with a key member of the Guardians, Drax the Destroyer. The Hulk appears with a different key member, Rocket Racoon.

Entertainment Weekly's two-page spread about the movie,
Guardians of the Galaxy--a VERY interesting read. [14]
     So, the easy answer is that Prelude is giving the reader insight into the Guardians. As always, though, the powers and money people behind the franchises often look several steps ahead in planning movies and other money-making activities. I believe it is so with the Guardians franchise. Iron Man and Hulk have both appeared in the Guardi- ans comics, and, as such, may be paving the way for Guardians/Avengers crossovers.

     In fact, James Gunn, Director of the Guardians movie, as much as said so. In an interview with staff of Entertainment Weekly, Gunn said, "We're definitely connected to Avengers 3." [14] So, quite possibly, some very exciting times ahead for Guardians and Avengers fans, alike.


Groot, the bobblehead doll. He is
just one of the many marketing
gimics for Guardians of the
     The movie's MPAA rating is PG-13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and for some language." [2] I would rate the book similarly; even graphically, scenes of violence might disturb persons of a sensitive nature or those of immature age. Otherwise, adults in the target audience will find the book exciting and entertaining.

     For all the above-listed reasons, I rate this book 4.0 stars. 
 4 out of 5 stars. [15]

  Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at the exciting new book and also talked about the upcoming movie of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. Please join me next week as we will be looking at a different book that is also coming to the big screen. Take a little time for yourself this week and read a few minutes, everyday. Take care, my friends...and don't forget to be kind to yourself this week!

Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading!
A double white Rose of Sharon. [16]

All my love,

Here's Groot in the
box before I opened
it up. He's so cute.[17]
Merchandising for the
movie includes all kinds
of things! [18]

[1] "Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude." Retrieved 06-05-14.
[2] "Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)." Retrieved 07-13-14.
[3] "Spoiler Alert-#1." Retrieved 07-13-14.
[4] "Guardians of the Galaxy." [poster] Retrieved 07-13-14.
[5] "Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer 2 Official." Retrieved 07-11-14.
[6] "Synopsis." Retrieved 07-14-14.
[7] "Guardians Won't Crossover." Retrieved 07-14-14.
[8] "Chain Clip Art." [shared by: OCAL (11-13-07)] Retrieved 07-14-14.
[9] "Scottish Heroes & Villains Month." Retrieved 07-14-14.
[10] "Graphic Novels." Retrieved 07-14-14.
[11] "Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude TP." Retrieved 07-14-14.
[12] "All You Need Is Kill." Retrieved 07-15-14.
[13] "Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel." 07-15-14.
[14] "Meet the Guardians." Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview, April 18/25, Issue Nos. 1307/1308, double issue; story by Clark Collis.
[15] "4 out of 5 stars." Retrieved 07-15-14.
[16] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 07-10-14.
[17] "Funko Pop! Guardians Of The Galaxy Groot Vinyl Bobblehead Figure." Retrieved 07-15-14.
[18] "Kotobukiya Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket Raccoon Artfx+Statue." Retrieved 07-15-14.