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Archive for October, 2012

Doctor Who
Created by
Produced by BBC
Date of Release: First episode release – 1963;  Reboot release – 2005

Annotation:
The Doctor is a Time Lord and travels through space with his human companion in his ship the TARDIS.

Plot Summary:
Coming from the planet of Gallifrey, The Doctor travels through time and space with his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space). The Doctor is a Time Lord, an ancient alien race that has the power to regenerate into a new being when he is being threatened by death. It is for this reason the Doctor is over a thousand years old, possibly more.

As the Doctor travels through the universe, usually with a companion from his favorite planet Earth, he fights for intellect, romance, and justice against brute force and evil. He’s a curious soul who constantly finds himself in trouble but has a stout heart to find a solution. He’s very, very clever and very, very fun. Beware his angry though. The wrath of the last Time Lord has altered history and destroyed civilizations, for not all journeys and adventures are happy ones.

Critical Evaluation:
Since it’s first broadcast in 1963, Doctor Who has captured the imagination of children and adults for almost fifty years. The current Doctor Who series has continued to gain momentum and has discovered a larger audience in America instead of just the historical audience in the United Kingdom.

Beyond anything presented in the series, the character of the Doctor represents hope. A simple hope that there will be happiness and satisfaction to be found in little things. A hope that even the smallest thing can bring joy and that our sense of adventure we had as children hasn’t been destroyed but been ignored. The Doctor has seen great heartache as well and knows that his adventures won’t always be easy, especially for his wide-eyed companions. Traveling with the Doctor is a guarantee that your life can change but it’s not always easy and sometimes you don’t come back unchanged or come back at all.

The series, beyond its science fiction background, does also have some horrific elements. The Doctor’s enemies are not typical arch-nemesis but vile creatures that could destroy planets and universes. Some episodes, specifically those written by Stephen Moffat in Series 1-4, bring old-fashioned chills to those unexpected viewers. Those particular episodes are nail-bitting, hide behind your pillow tales that was the standard with the original series.

Overall, the series has stood the pass of time and has come out stronger than ever. Past Doctor adventures from the 70s and 80s are becoming more accessible to new viewers, with new editions being released every new quarter. The older episodes showcase shorter stories in larger episode arcs. They are slower paced compared to the newer series but are just as fun as the new adventures.

Genre:
Science Fiction/Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:
As Doctor Who does travel through time and space, past episodes can be used to showcase different historical settings. Series 5 used Winston Churchill’s bunker while Series 4 used Agatha Christie for a character and storyline. The discussion of alternative histories would be another suggestion.

Booktalking Ideas:
Where would you go if you had a chance to go anywhere? Including a different time period or a different planet?
What adventure would you like to have on Earth?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The series began as a family show and continues that standard with the reboot. The series is recommended for all ages.

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include romantic situations and violence.

Why did I include this series in the title selections?
Doctor Who has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. The series is accessible to new viewers and remains a delight almost fifty years since its creation. The series, though considered more science fiction due to the alien nature of the Doctor, actually merges different genres in its presentation. It allows for all viewers with different tastes and styles an opportunity to find something for themselves.

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World War Z
By Max Brooks
ISBN: 9780307346609
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Date of Publication: 2006

Reader’s Annotation:
Drawing from interviews from survivors of the Zombie War, Max Brooks presents a comprehensive history of how the war changed human civilization forever.

Plot Summary:
It has been over ten years since the outbreak. It has been over ten years since the beginning of the Zombie War or World War Z. Within this time period, the world has changed dramatically. Nations that were once ignored have become great world powers. The great powers of the past now struggle to maintain their survival.

Drawing from interviews from surveyors across the globe, Max Brooks has created two records for future generations. The first being the official United Nations Post-War Commission Report. The second being this book of memoirs that presents the human side of this devastating conflict. Despite the cold-facts of the first report, Brooks hopes that this human history will shed light onto the zombie conflict so that future generations can prevent another outbreak.

Critical Evaluation:
Max Brooks has been successful in creating a world filled with terror and horror. Brooks was inspired by the journalistic endeavors of author Studs Terkel, who used oral accounts to create a history instead of just mere prose. The interview storytelling method is an effective means for creating this world in that the personal stories of these “survivors” feel realistic. The reader is instantly connected to the story because the interviews feel honest and real.

Brooks also uses the inspiration of George Romero’s zombie horror films. Dawn of the Dead and Romero’s non-zombie film, The Crazies, can be seen through how the plague is spread and the human reaction to the disease.  Brooks’s choice for a Romero inspiration is important in that Romero’s zombie films have always presented a humanistic view to the horror, highlighting the problem of mass consumption and commercialism. Romero’s films have become parables of human society, showcasing that terror usually starts with our own greediness and follies.

Young Adult readers will enjoy the zombie element of the book, while mature Young Adult readers will be engaged at the challenging pieces of world political dynamics.

Information about the author:
Max Brooks is the son of legendary director Mel Brooks. A former writer for Saturday Night Live, Brooks’s prose writing career has focused primarily on his love of the zombie horror sub-genre. Brooks is also a voiceover actor and has appeared in various live television programs.

Genre:
Horror/Thriller

Curriculum Ties:
History, Journalism, Alternative History

Booktalking Ideas:
How does history affect our perception of our present?
What would you do to survive the end of the world?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
World War Z is a crossover title. It’s themes of violence would warrant an older teen audience, starting at 16 and Up.

Challenging Issues:

There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would include violent situations.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
The Zombie sub-genre is currently a popular trend in television (The Walking Dead) and in literature (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Warm Bodies). Brooks’s novel is set to be adapted into a film next year. World War Z is different from other zombie books in that its merging of journalistic storytelling techniques with fiction provides a genuinely engrossing read. It’s a great book to entice reluctant readers as the book is primarily interviews instead of just prose.

Reference:
IMDB. (n.d.). Max Brooks. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0112150/

Bonus Features!

Survival Handbook!

(more…)

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
By Ransom Riggs
ISBN: 9781594744761
Publisher: Quirk Books
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
After witnessing the gruesome death of his grandfather, Jacob Portman travels to Wales to learn the truth about his grandfather and to discover the meaning of his grandfather’s collection of strange photographs.

Plot Summary:
Jacob has grown up on his grandfather’s bedtime stories. For years, Grandpa Abraham Portman spun tales about his childhood, with tales of adventure and excitement. Jacob’s favorite stories describe a children’s home in Wales, where children are protected from monsters by a bird, a peregrine. Grandpa Portman even has old photographs of the children who seem to defy gravity and logic with their accomplishments. Yet, as Jacob grows old, the stories begin to seem silly and Jacob begins to ignore them as mere childish fairytales.

When Jacob is fifteen, he is witness to a horrific accident that claims the life of his grandfather. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Jacob finds himself returning to those stories. As Jacob delves further into his grandfather’s past, he begins to realize that maybe his grandfather’s stories were more truth than fiction. Jacob begins to look towards the west for answers. What he discovers is more important than he could have ever imagined. And that what we see is sometimes more than what we can ever understand.


Critical Evaluation:
Ransom Riggs’s first novel reads like a beautiful dream, despite its nightmarish, horrific elements. Using photographs from ten different independent collections, Riggs is able to provide a tangible past to the Welsh children’s home in Grandpa Portman’s stories. While the photographs are an added bonus, they would mean nothing if Riggs’s writing style was unable to match the photograph’s beauty. Luckily, the reader is given a well-written story that readers of all age can enjoy.

In regards to the horrific elements of the story, Riggs succeeds in presenting a scary story for young adult readers. Riggs’s descriptions of the children actually add more to the photographic elements, balancing the story with a lovely visual prose.

Overall, the story was coherent and delightful. This book is highly recommended for those readers yearning for an old-fashioned horror story.

Information about the Author:
From Ransom Riggs’s Webpage, Riggs first studied English at Kenyon Collge, followed by film studies at the University of Southern California. Riggs currently lives in Los Angeles where he combines his passion of writing and visual arts. He is a blogger for MentalFloss.Com.

Ransom Riggs on Twitter

Ransom Riggs on Facebook

Genre:
Fantasy, Horror/Thriller, Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Magic, Alternative History, Photography

Booktalking Ideas:
What do you see when you take a picture?
How are we different from our parents? From our grandparents? Did you see any similarities?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
School Library Journal suggests a reading grade of 6 to 12. I would recommend this title as an Ages 14 and Up.

Challenging Issues:

There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be its horrific elements and violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
My husband had picked this book up from the library and suggested I read it. He was willing to pay for late fees just so I would have time to finish it during our vacation. Riggs’s use of photograph, mixed with an engrossing story, provided for an entertaining read. It’s one of the first books I recommend now for readers looking for something different than the mainstream paranormal books that are currently popular amongst teens.

Reference:
Grajek, S. (2011). What horror is this?!. School Library  Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/newsletters/newsletterbucketsljteen/892814-444/what_horror_is_this.html.csp

Riggs, R. (n.d.). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.ransomriggs.com/bio/

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Anya’s Ghost
By Vera Brosgol
ISBN: 9781596435520
Publisher: First Second Books
Date of Publication: 2011
Reader’s Annotation:
When Anya meets a real ghost at the bottom of an old well, her already confusing life begins to morph into something uncertain and potentially dangerous.

Plot Summary:
Anya isn’t having the best day. Her mother doesn’t understand why Anya doesn’t want to eat all the time. She has a crush on a boy that doesn’t know she even exists. Her only friend is mad that Anya doesn’t want to share her cigarettes. And if her day wasn’t complicated enough, Anya has accidentally fallen down into an abandoned well with no chance of an immediate rescue.

But this accident proves to be interesting as at the bottom of the well lives a lonely ghost who now wants to be Anya’s friend. Eventually, Anya is rescued but she discovers that the ghost, Emily, has followed Anya out of the well. Now Anya and Emily have formed an unlikely alliance, with Emily helping Anya in her class work and gaining the attention of Anya’s crush. But Anya soon discovers that a friendship with a ghost is a different experience, especially when Anya begins to investigate how Emily became a ghost in the first place.

Critical Evaluation:
Author and artist Vera Brosgol was once herself a Russian immigrant. Using her own experiences with cultural emergence and immigrant parental confusion, Brosgol succeeds in creating a believable character in Anya. Brosgol’s art is delightful in that it is accessible to both teen and adult readers. The colors are not primarily black and white but a mixture of both with a lighter dark purple contrast. The results provides a suitable background for the horror elements of the story.

In regards to the writing, Brosgol uses a simple ghost story to highlight the trials and tribulations of the teen experience, quite similar to the analogy of terror that Writer/Director Joss Whedon used in his Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. The high school experience is horrific in that the boundaries of childhood and adulthood are riffed with confusion and heartache. Anya wants to fit in but she knows she never will. She’s an immigrant, an outsider to a different world. This is served to highlight that it’s okay to be different and that sometimes these differences can change everything.

Brosgol succeeds in creating a relatable story while still using horror elements to enhance the story. The art is wonderful and would be a great book for anyone looking to explore the graphic novel medium.

Information about the author:
Born in Moscow, Russia, Vera Brosgol currently lives in Portland, Oregon. A graduate from Sheridan College, Brosgol’s focus was in animation, a skill she has used in her illustration work for various comic book anthologies. Brosgol began honing her animation talent early in her life.

“As for comics, I started drawing comics for fun when I was in high school. I’d actually been drawing them even earlier as a little kid, but I didn’t know to put the drawings into boxes so they were just sequential drawings floating on a page.  I guess that’s how my brain works” (Brosgol, 2011)

Anya’s Ghost is her first graphic novel. Brosgol has also worked on the recent animated film, Paranorman.

Vera Brosgol on Twitter
Vera Brosgol on Flickr

Genre:
Horror/Thriller, Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Ghost Stories, Second Generation Immigrants

Booktalking Ideas:
Have you ever had an imaginary friend?
Have you ever felt self-conscious about your family?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests a reading age of 12-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include violence and horror elements.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I had read this book for a course on Graphic Novels and Comic Books. I found the art to be enjoyable and the story engrossing. As the protagonist deals with ghosts and alienation, I thought this would be a great choice for those looking for an alternative to the mainstream paranormal titles.

Reference page:
Brosgol, V. (2011). Frequently Asked Questions. Verabee.com. Retrieved from verabee.com/2011/12/frequently-asked-questions/

Kirkus Reviews. (2011). Anya’s Ghost. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/vera-brosgol/anyas-ghost/

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Bad Girls Don’t Die
By Katie Alender
ISBN: 978-1423108771
Publisher: Hyperion
Date of Publication: 2010

Reader’s Annotation:
Alexis Warren discovers that her sister might be working with something supernatural, something that wants revenge.

Plot Summary:
Alexis Warren isn’t known for fitting in at her high school. Alexis would rather be behind her camera than be part of school activities, such as decorating the gym for the Homecoming Banquet. But Alexis is used to being the outcast. When her best friend, Beth, was publicly humiliated, thanks to some mean-spirited cheerleaders, Alexis struck back with the intention of protecting Beth and her reputation. Beth eventually moved away, leaving Alexis to fend for herself.

Nowadays, Alexis reluctantly spends more time with her younger sister, Kasey. Lately, Kasey has been acting strange. First there’s the “accident” where Kasey’s friend breaks her arm. Then there’s the voices that seem to linger in the middle of the night and the strange lights in the attic. Alexis wakes up in the middle of the night to find her arms are scattered with little cuts.

Alexis fears that something is controlling Kasey. It’s up to Alexis to find the truth and save her family from the danger inside the house.

Critical Evaluation:
While it’s obvious from the book’s title this novel is about something undead, the mystery behind the supernatural encounter is still gripping and terrifying. Alender succeeds in creating characters that showcase both positive and negative qualities. Alexis is not perfect and is willing to admit she’s made mistakes in the past. The supporting cast of characters that help Alexis in this mystery are well-written additions to the story and don’t detract from Alexis’s search for answers.

There are some cliches scattered through the book that will induce some eye rolls, especially from hardcore horror fans. An example of this would be with Alexis and Kasey’s parents, who never seem to listen or be around when they are needed.

Alender has created a very scary book, despite those little cliches. As the bigger mystery begins to emerge, Alender succeeds in building great tension towards the climax of the book. Readers will find the story moves fast and is well paced. A great suggestion for those looking for stories outside of the paranormal romance genre.

Information about the author:
From Katie Alender’s Webpage, Alender is a graduate of Florida State Univeristy Film School. She currently lives with her husband in Los Angeles. Alender has worked in televisions, specifically with the Animal Planet channel. She is now a full-time writer.

Katie Alender on Twitter

Katie Alender on Facebook

Genre:
Horror/Thriller, Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
Ghost Stories

Booktalking Ideas:
Have you ever heard voices in your home that don’t sound familiar?
How can the past affect future generations?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age range of 13-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I was looking to expand my genre knowledge and picked this book up on a whim. Beyond paranormal romance books, I’ve noticed that there aren’t too many modern ghost stories. At least since I’ve been a teen myself. I enjoyed the story and thought this would be a fun recommendation.

Reference:
Alender, K. (n.d.). Bio. Retrieved from  http://katiealender.com/?page_id=378

Kirkus Reviews. (2010). Bad Girls Don’t Die. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/katie-alender/bad-girls-dont-die/

Bonus Features!

Mini Review!

Bad Girls Don’t Die Series

(more…)

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Hate List
by Jennifer Brown
ISBN: 978-0-316-04145-4
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date of Publication: 2009

Reader’s Annotation:
Valerie Leftman must deal with the physical and emotional aftermath after her boyfriend opens fire at their high school.

Plot Summary:
One day, without warning, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend Nick, opens fire in their high school cafeteria. Six students were killed with Nick ending the violence with his suicide. As the school reels from the tragedy, the reasons for the attack are questioned and the blame falls on part on Valerie. For Nick and Valerie had created a list of people for whom they hated; people who have wronged them in the past and for which Nick and Valerie felt threatened. While the list was meant to be a release for Valerie, it turned into a declaration of intent for Nick.

Five months after the attack Valerie is beginning to heal. She’s about to finish her last year of high school. But first Valerie must come to grips with Nick’s act of violence and the part she played in his life.

Critical Evaluation:
Drawing inspiration from a song lyric by the band Nickelback, author Jennifer Brown’s novel of personal redemption is a timely story, which unfortunately still populates our modern news. Told through the eyes of Valerie, the story is more about personal redemption versus the reasoning behind school violence. Brown’s take on the violence of Nick can be considered harsh in that Brown is graphic in her descriptions. Brown does not present the incident with rose-colored glasses and the reader might finds their level of shock to be on par with Valerie’s reactions.

The aftermath of Nick’s destruction is treated with care, but like the violence in the cafeteria, the reality is not rosy. Valerie suffers guilt in her role of the incident and the reader might be inclined to be less than supportive of the Valerie’s character. The supporting cast of character. In the end, Brown has produced a quality book that should be read by anyone who has suffered from bullying.

Information about the Author:
From Jennifer Brown’s Webpage, Brown, a graduate of William Jewell College, is a former columnist with The Kansas City Star. She left the position to become a novelist. She has written three young adult titles, with a fourth to be released in 2013 and a fifth in 2014.

Brown began as humor writer but started to write the Hate List due to a Nickelback song lyric that lingered in her mind. Brown was bullied herself in high school and understands the toll of being a victim of bullying actions.

Jennifer Brown on Twitter

Jennifer Brown on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Personal Identity, Social Identity

Booktalking Ideas:
Are there levels of anger?
How does bullying affect your life?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews has a listing for ages 19-20. Given the nature of the material, this book should be listed as ages 15 and up.

Challenge Issues:
Hate List has been challenged due to the book’s violence and its language. In Blue Springs, a school district in the Kansas City area, a group of parents protested nine out of fifteen books that were on a freshmen extra credit list.

The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I had picked this book up on a whim during my summer vacation. The subject matter is an important one in light of the bully issue in school as well as the rise of school violence.

Reference:
Brown, J. (n.d.). Bio Retrieved from http://www.jenniferbrownya.com/bio.htm

Brown, J. (n.d.). FAQ. Retrieved from http://www.jenniferbrownya.com/faq.htm

Kirkus Reviews. (2010). Hate List. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jennifer-brown/hate-list/

Miller, S. (2011). Blue Springs parents want books banned from school library. Examiner.com. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/blue-springs-parents-want-books-banned-from-school-library

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Teen Wolf
Developed by Jeff Davis
Produced by MGM Television and Music Television (MTV)
Original Release: 2011
Number of Seasons: 2

Annotation:
After teenager Scott McCall is bitten by a mysterious wolf creature, Scott discovers he had become a werewolf.

Summary:
Scott McCall exists on the fringes of his high school in Beacon Hills. Together with his sarcastic best fried. “Stiles” Stalinski, the pair hopes that this will be the year that they actually get to participate on the school’s lacrosse team instead of spending another season on the bench.

One night Scott and Stiles decide to quietly  follow Stiles’s father, the town sheriff, on an interesting case. A young woman is missing and the boys hope to find the girl first. As the boys roam in the forest, they are attacked by a mysterious wolf creature. Scott is bitten but survives the attack. The boys escape and make it home, scared but alive.

Overnight, Scott begins to feel changes in his body; his senses are heightened, his asthma has disappeared, and he now posses super-strength. In the midst of these changes, Scott meets Allison Argent, the new transfer student whose family has a unique history.As Scott and Stiles begin to discover the reasons behind Scott’s transformation, another figure enters their lives; the mysterious Derek Hale. Scott and Derek share a common trait. Both are actual werewolves and they are not alone.

Critical Evaluation:
From Teen Wolf’s Wikipedia page, loosely based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox comedy film of the same name, the show rarely resembles the original outside of the name and werewolf premise. Teen Wolf’s creator, Jeff Davis, was more inspired by the films The Lost Boys and Stand by Me, using the visual style and the story-lines as inspiration. Davis succeeds in that the show isn’t like any other current teen drama. The character feel like real teenagers and are rightly punished by parents who don’t exist in the sidelines, like many other teen shows often do. The parents are often part of the teens life and rarely are used when the plot calls for a humane lesson.

The horror aspect of the show is surprising in that it really is scary. The show avoids major horror film cliches by reminded the audience that while the main characters are teens, they are now idiots and they do have the common sense to run away from danger if needed. The best part of the program comes during Dylan O’Brien’s performance of Stiles Stilinski. Playing second fiddle to Tyler Posey’s Scott McCall, the character provides great comic relief but is never just the humorous character. Like many characters of the show, there is more depth that what is perceived and that makes for compelling drama.

Information about the Creator:
From Jeff Davis’s Wikipedia page, born in Milford, Connecticut and a graduate of Vassar College, Davis studied film and later received a master’s in screenwriting from the University of Southern California. Davis found success when he helped created the program Criminal Minds. His greatest success has been Teen Wolf. He serves as executive producer, head writer and show creator.

Genre:
Fantasy, Urban/Modern Fantasy, Horror/Thriller, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Horror Stories, Modern Mythology

Booktalking Ideas:
Why would you refuse to have a power?
How do our surroundings change who we are?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
15 and up

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include sexual situations, violence, horrific situations, and child disobedience.

Why did I include this series in the title selection?
I started to watch the program as it kept popping up in discussions with my younger friends. I watched one episode to try it out. Five hours later, I had watched half of season one. The show’s true portrayal of teens is a great choice for teen audiences.

References:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Jeff Davis (writer). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Davis_%28writer%29

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Teen Wolf. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teen_Wolf_(2011_TV_series)

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gilmore_girls-show

Gilmore Girls
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
Produced by Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions
Released by Warner Brothers Television
Original release: 2000
Number of Seasons: 7

Annotation:
Lorelei Gilmore and her daughter Rory live in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, where the town is filled with interesting, eccentric characters.

Plot Summary:
When she was sixteen, Lorelei Gilmore discovered she was pregnant. Instead of marrying the baby’s father, Christopher Hayden, Lorelai leaves her parent’s home in Hartford and make her own way in the world. The mother and the baby eventually make Stars Hollow their home. Lorelai found work as a maid at the Independence Inn, where she rose through the ranks from maid to becoming the Inn’s executive manager.

Lorelai’s daughter, Rory, is a bright, young woman who has just been accepted into Chilton Preparatory School. This news is exciting as it means it’s one more step closer to Rory’s dream school, Harvard University. Unfortunately, Lorelai doesn’t have enough funds to pay for the tuition. With no one else to turn to, Lorelai swallows her pride and seeks assistance from her parents; an action that Lorelai tried to avoid due to their antagonizing relationship. Lorelai’s mother says yes, they will pay for Rory’s tuition, but on the condition that the two younger Gilmores join the senior Gilmores, Richard and Emily, for dinner every Friday night. For Emily and Lorelai’s relationship has been cracked for sometime, as what you wish for your child isn’t always what they desire.

Critical Evaluation:
With sharp dialogue and snappy settings, Gilmore Girls remains a well-written, funny program that explores issues such as family relationships amongst social classes, teen relationships, and the power (and craziness) of living in a small town. Because Lorelai was a teenager when she gave birth to Rory, the family dynamic is often sister-sister instead of mother-daughter. This dynamic comes into play as Rory grows up and begins making decisions without her mother. This conflict is mirrored in Lorelai’s interactions with Emily and provides for both laughs and drama. The supporting cast enhances the quirky small-town of Stars Hollow and viewers will be delighted when those small characters make brief appearances.

The music of the show is an important piece of the program as it’s almost the third staring member of the cast. Lorelai’s love of 80s music was a highlight in the first season when The Bangles appeared as guest stars. Rory’s best friend Lane loves music but hides it from her strict mother. Lane eventually starts her own band with Sebastian Bach, the former lead singer of the rock band Skid Row, stars as her bandmate. Carole King, who lent her music to the theme song, later plays a music shop owner. Grant-Lee Phillips plays the town’s troubadour.

The later seasons saw a change in the storyline that almost detracts from the relationship between Rory and Lorelai. It’s an issue that is somewhat solved in the end. Viewers of the show will be sad when the series eventually ends, as Stars Hollow because a part of their life and we can’t help but feel like family.

Information about the Creator:
From Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Wikipedia page , inspired by the quirky, witty dialogue of Dorothy Parker and Woody Allen, Sherman-Palladino has made a reputation of creating television programs that involve obscure popular culture references and quirky dialogue. Married to fellow writer Daniel Palladino, started as a staff writer for the sitcom Roseanne. She created different projects after leaving Roseanne but found no success as many of the projects were cancelled.

Sherman-Palladino created Gilmore Girls during a quick pitch to Warner Brothers. The show became an instant success with family groups in part to the relationship between Rory and her mother Lorelai. She left the show before it’s final season. Her latest success, Bunheads, will have its second season starting in January 2013.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Popular Culture

Booktalking Ideas:
How do you relate to your parents?
Are there things you keep hidden from your parents?

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include some sexual situations, especially during later seasons.

Why did I include this series in the titles selection?
Being a fan of the show since it’s first episode, the snappy dialogue and parental relationships are a would be treat to any teenager looking for quality television.

Reference:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Amy Sherman-Palladino. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Sherman-Palladino

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Speed Racer
Written and Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Distrubted by Warner Brothers Entertainment
Date of Release:
Rated: PG

Annotation:
Speed Racer is the best race car driver the world has ever seen.

Plot Summary:
All Speed has ever wanted to do was race cars. His blood runs deep with automobile oil. His older brother, Rex Racer, is a great car racer and encourages Speed’s passion for cars.  Speed’s parents, Pops and Mom, are the owner of his own racing company, Racer Motors. The family is proud and takes great pride in their work.

Rex Racer changes everything when he chooses to join a corporate team, leaving Pops behind. Speed is devasted and he must watch as his brother slowly is destroyed in the completive field. When Rex dies at the ruthless Casa Cristo race, the family mourns and is left with the rumors of Rex’s actions.

Years pass and Speed has become the top driver in the racing world. Speed with his car the Mach 6, only wants to race and take care of his family. When Speed’s skill grows, corporations are eager for Speed to join their ranks. Speed is then approached by E.P. Arnold Royalton, a manipulative businessman who has plans on controlling the racing industry. Trusting his gut, Speed refuses Royalton’s offer and continues to drive on his own. Royalton then plans for Speed’s downfall. It’s within this action that the racing world begins to see a change and it’s up to Speed to finish the greatest race of his career.

Critical Evaluation:
Based on the 1960s Japanese anime of the same name, Speed Racer is an over-the-top thrill ride that pushes the boundaries of technology and animation. The racing scenes are filled with color and imagination as Speed and his enemies fight on the tracks.

The Wachowskis’ use of visual technology adds to the mythos of the original anime and enhances the story. While some might complain about the quick pace of the animation, it fits with the storyline and the characters.

The actors are given a retro look that shares with the presentation of the anime. The female characters, once ignored in the original, are pushed up and given more power. They are strong and are an asset in Speed’s life.

The story is fun and simple. It’s clear that the Wachowskis’ intended this to be a kids/teen film, giving more attention to the visuals over the plot.

Information about the Directors:
From the Wachowski’s Wikipedia page, twins born in Chicago, the Wachowskis (Lana and Andy) are directors who have favored privacy and often do not do interviews. This has recently changed for the promotion of their latest film, Cloud Atlas. Lana, formerly Larry, felt it was important to start doing publicity again due to her recent sex change. Lana hopes that can be a positive influence for those transgender individuals who do not have a role model to look up to. Lana has cited that she suffered from depression and almost committed suicide.

The sibling due is responsible for the Matrix trilogy. They have been heavily influenced by Japanese animation and comic books. The siblings are often very involved in their projects such as writing and directing films as well as producing films. The prefer to have their work push the boundaries of genre, using stories that speak of the human condition beyond anything else.

Genre:
Action, Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:
Race Car Driving History

Booktalking Ideas:
What does it mean to stand up for one’s beliefs?
What’s your favorite way to travel?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The tim is rated PG and be best suited for viewers 14 and up.

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues would include violence.

Why did I include this film in the title selection?
The film, through all of its chaos, is still a fun film to watch. Teens will appreciate the visuals of the film as well as the storyline.

Reference:
Wikipedia. (n.d.) Speed Racer. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wachowskis

The original Speed Racer series is available to view on Hulu.

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The Complete Persepolis
By Marjane Satrapi
ISBN: 9780375714832
Publisher: Pantheon, a division of Random House
Date of Publication: 2003/2004 (Originally published in the United States in two volumes)
Reader’s Annotation:
Young Marjane Satrapi’s family adapts to the changing politics of Iran in the 1970s and the 1980s.

Plot Summary:
It is the early 1980s and Iran has entered the Cultural Revolution. Women are veiled or must wear a head covering in public. American Capitalism has been denounced and the nation turns its eyes onto Islamic Fundamentalism. Dissidents are arrested, inprisioned or executed.

In the midst of all this political and religious upheaval, a girl by the name of Marjane Satrapi is witness to the changes in her country, and then in her family. Marjane is an only child with an active imagination and a curious mind. Her family’s history is tied to the country’s history and these changes are felt intimately. As the years go by, young Marjane must reconcile her choice of freedom and her love of her country and family. Spanning decades and two continents, Persepolis is the story of how a young girl becomes a young women and how a country struggles to find it’s voice in change and conflict.

Critical Evaluation:
Drawing on her personal history, Marjane Satrapi weaves an artistic masterpiece. The art is bright and illuminating, even in black and white shadowing. In the parts describing the history of Iran, there is a magical, mythical quality, despite the horrific nature of the country’s history. Beyond Satrapi’s art, the story that Marjane presents feels honest and true. Satrapi’s family is a supportive bunch of individuals who want nothing but the best for young Marjane. Their conversations on politics and religion are meant to educate Marjane, though it leads to dire consequences later in her life. The path of change is not easy and Satrapi is honest in her assessment of her history and the power of Iranian politics.

Many memoirs expected some form of sympathy from their readers, grasping for pity as a means to feel supported. Satrapi expects her readers to be open-minded to her history and her country’s history. She doesn’t expect pity for her tale but convey what it meant to live in Iran and how the changes of the Cultural Revolution changed her family’s life. An example of this could be found in Satrapi’s conversations with God. When God does not answer, Satrapi begins to realize that the price of her decisions is her own and no one else’s. This concept is highlighted later when Satrapi is sent abroad to study. Satrapi’s tale could be a parallel history of the new Iran. As Satrapi begins to find her voice, so to does Iran in regards to its policies and actions. Mistakes are made but how we handle the mistakes define who we are as a person or as a nation.

The Complete Persepolis is both a beautiful art piece and a moving story. It is a great example of how art can influence a story and vice versa.

punk is not ded

 

Information about the Author:
Marjane Satrapi was born in Iran and was raised in Tehran. Satrapi studied Decorative Arts in Austria and eventually moved to Paris where she lives today. Satrapi has become an internationally recognized artist in part due to her work in comics but in the film adaptation of Persepolis. Satrapi has adapted her book Chicken with Plums to film and is working on third film that will be released in the Winter of next year. Her art work has appeared in various print media across the globe. (Barclay Agency)

Genre:
Memoir, Non-Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Iran History, Modern Islamic History, Art, Personal Stories

Booktalking Ideas:
What is the role of religion in politics?
What would it be like to leave your family to live in a different country?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Persepolis is a crossover title. This title would be perfect for ages 15 and up.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book in America. The book has been banned and challenged in Satrapi’s home country of Iran and the neighboring country of Lebanon on the basis of religious reasons. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be religion, violence, language, and sexual situations.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
As a fan of Satrapi’s art, I can’t help but be excited to talk about her books and films to anyone willing to try something new. Satrapi’s memoir focuses primarily on her youth and what it means to find an identity in a climate of political and religious change. Young readers who feel alienated from their peers and their family will find a kinship to Satrapi’s tale.

Reference:
Adnkronos International. (2008). Iran: Oscar-nominated film branded ‘anti-revolutionary’ by authorities. Adnkronos International. Retrieved from http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/CultureAndMedia/?id=1.0.1914777928

Barclay Agency. (n.d.). Marjane Satrapi. Retrieved from http://barclayagency.com/satrapi.html

France 24. (2008). Lebanon lifts Persepolis ban. Retrieved from http://www.france24.com/en/20080328-lebanon-lifts-persepolis-ban-film-lebanon

Bonus Features!

Mini Film Review:

(more…)

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