Book Series Review: Bird & Squirrel

                                                                        

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Back in January, my son got Bird & Squirrel On The Edge from one of his friends on his birthday. My son is not a reader, so seeing the excitement over the book told me this was something special. Then the fact that he read this book as soon as we got home from the party, instead of playing with the toys he got, I knew this was a great book. That same day we went online and ordered the other three books. A week later, we had the full series and my son eagerly started reading them as soon as he got home from school. Then as soon as he was down he brought them to me and asked if I wanted to read them. Seeing how much he loved these books, I knew I had to, plus I was curious about the books.

I read all four in one sitting. They were fast, fun reads. I can certainly see why my son enjoyed them so much. I have to say that between the friend heavy story line and the artwork, this was a wonderful collection of books. I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that I think these are excellent books for kids, that show the value of friendship and the joys of adventuring with that friend, even if it is very unexpected.

Like my son, I do hope that there are more books coming out in this series, because it would be great to continue to see the friendship of Bird and Squirrel evolve with each book.

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Book Review: The BFG

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the newer releases and read an old book, especially when that book is one that you read and loved as a child. I read all of Roald Dahl’s books growing up and I loved them all, though admittedly The Witches is my favorite.

I have been wanting to reread all of his books lately, but what spurred me into reading The BFG was the new movie coming out. I had planned to read it before the movie, but that didn’t work out, so I got to enjoy it after seeing the movie.

This story is great. I think the reason why I enjoyed it so much as a kid was seeing the giant struggle with his words, which all kids have similar experiences at some point in their lives. Heck even now my words get all jumbly  and squiggly in my head – as the giant would say. But it also shows that even thought you don’t know the correct words, you can still get your point across.

The journey that Sophie and the BFG make together is quite fantastic as well. They form an unlikely friendship and work well together to see not only the BFG is able to capture and sent out the dreams that he does each night, but also to free the giant from the other giants.

Speaking of the other giants, I always got a kick out of their names. Fleshlumpeater, Bonecruncher and Bloodbottler are just a few of the aptly named giants. These giants are not only a menace to the BFG but to mankind as well.

Some parts of the story are a little unbelievable, especially when reading the book as an adult, such as the Queen of England getting involved and accepting the giant with open arms with the help fo a dream and a few words from Sophie. Although the part where they all have breakfast together, and they partake in a bit of frobscottle and then all the whizzpopping happens. That scene is especially entertaining in the movie.

While I enjoyed the book more when I was younger, it was certainly great to visit the story once again. Dahl certainly had a way of bringing a story to like and making it appealing to both kids and adults. If you haven’t read any of his books, I could suggest you make time to do so, as they are quick and fun reads, and if you have read them before, then go ahead and read them again.

Book Review: Starfire

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I don’t often read middle grade books, but every now and then I’ll see one among my browsing and I will make the time to read it. Starfire was one of these books. I saw it randomly while looking at other books and of course the cover caught my eye. Guaranteed if a book has a horse or horse-like creature on the cover I will pick it up. After reading the description I figured it would be worthwhile reading, so it was added to my list of books to get one day and once I finally got a copy I was ready to read it.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect out of this book, after all I am a lot older than the target audience, but I dove in and gave it a try. The story had a good flow to it and I found myself easily breezing through the chapters. Not only did the pace keep my attention, but the mix of characters that were introduced as well as the storyline itself was certainly entertaining. I liked the different herds and how they varied in color that often matched with where they lived. Each herd also had different ways of thinking and living, and not just about what to do with the black foal but about other facets of life.

Star’s character certainly has a lot of growth throughout the book. He has some tough decisions to make and the path to get there is not easy. Morningleaf, who is Star’s best friend was a great counterbalance for Star. She could look past the colts faults and potential for disaster to see who he truly was underneath. Silvercloud, who is Morningleaf’s mother and Star’s adoptive mother, was the overall level-headed one in the book, which was a compliment to her mate, Thunderwing, more stern side. I could go on about the other characters in this book, but I won’t, they all have different aspects about them that added to the story and depending on who they were around they could bring peace or conflict.

Now one of the things I noticed in this book, both from reading it and looking at reviews, was the amount of violence. Now some people, the children reading this book and their parents, may have an issue with the violence, while others will be okay with it. If you do not want your child to be exposed to violence then I would recommend that they not read this book, as it contains bloody fights, bullying and all out war that results in many violent deaths.

Overall, I must say that this was a quick and enjoyable read. Obviously I would have enjoyed it more had I been younger but I can still see the appeal to this book. While this book may not be for everyone, mostly because of the violence, it does have some good lessons in it, especially when it comes to Star overcoming the bullying in his early life and proving to others he can bring good to the world when they all expect evil from him. I look forward to continuing on with this series and seeing where it leads Starfire and the other Pegasus.

They Made It Into A Movie: Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone

We all love our books, and there are times we wish they could come to life on the big screen. Sometimes our wish comes true and those beloved stories soon hit theaters. Yet as excited as we are for the movie version to come to be they are not always good experiences. Perhaps a character is portrayed incorrectly, important scenes are left out or changed completely, or that wonderful story has been reduced to something with no plot but amazing CG effects. And then there are times when the movie is absolutely stunning and you are left with such an amazing feeling after watching it. They Made It Into A Movie is a monthly feature, posted on the last Friday of each month, which explores one books and it’s movie adaptation counterpart.

How I First Encountered Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I missed the initial Harry Potter craze by a few years. In fact I didn’t really find out about it until after the first movie was made, and it was probably a year or so after that that I even watched the movie, and I only got around to reading the first book in the series this year.

The Book

Oh dear, what can I say about the book? I hated it. That’s what I can say about it.

I’m sorry to all those Harry Potter fans out there, but I found this book to be so boring. With each page I just wished that Harry would get killed in some horribly gruesome way. But obviously that would never happen because the series continues on for many more books.

I could say more about the book but I don’t feel like typing up all the reasons I didn’t like it. Needless to say I really don’t see me reading any others in the series.

The Movie

Well, the movie was okay. I have only seen it twice. The first time was a year or so after it came out, and it really didn’t appeal to me all that much then, but I could appreciate it for what it was. The second time was when I watched it this year to reacquaint myself with it after reading the book. Both times I thought it to be an okay movie, but really didn’t see the huge appeal to it, or why there was such an enormous fan base. I guess that could be blamed on being a few years too old when Harry Potter first came out.

There were some things I liked about the movie, and I can see how it may become more appealing with each movie in the series (I have only ever seen the first three movies, so can’t really say whether it does indeed get better or not). The acting was pretty good, the casting seems to be good as well. But once again I hated Harry’s character. Don’t know if it was the actor or just the role but boy does that kid get under my skin.

It’s a series of movies where I do not feel compelled to continue on with it.

How They Compare To Each Other

Well I have to say that the book and movie are pretty similar. There are obviously differences and changes but that is to be expected. The movie was certainly better in my opinion, but I can’t say that I was blown away by it, it just was simply more enjoyable than reading the story.

Book Review: Star Wars Jedi Academy

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

So about a year ago I saw this book at the book store. I thought, hey I enjoyed the short little picture books, Darth Vader and Son & Vader’s Little Princess, so surely I will like this one as well. Now while I didn’t buy the book at that time I did purchase it a few months later for my son as part of him monthly book order. It wasn’t until recently that I got around to reading this book with him.

The book was okay. I can’t even say that it was good and really saying that a Star Wars book was simply okay is hard for me. I love Star Wars and have only found a small number of books amid the hundreds out there that just didn’t impress me. I think the biggest problem I had with it is the similarities to the Star Wars movies. Farm boy from Tatooine gets to go to Jedi Academy but goes later than most kids would have and struggles to learn the ways of the Jedi and yet is clearly one of the most skills students there. Yup that sounds an awful lot like some other kid from Tatooine getting a late chance at becoming a Jedi.

While I understand this is written to appeal to kids even my son didn’t care for the book. When I asked him what he thought about it when we were done reading it he said “Eh, I didn’t really like it.” So that’s two big Star Wars fans that didn’t enjoy this book.

The other thing that stood out to me about this book is that some of the stuff that happens in it I just don’t see happening or being allowed to happen repeatedly if they were truly at the Jedi Academy. The one specific thing that comes to mind is the bullying from Cronah & Cyrus. Yeah pretty sure Yoda or any of the other teachers would have be aware of that and stopped it right away. Bullies do not belong in the Jedi academy.

I’m sure there are people who will enjoy this book but to me it felt more like reading an awkward Star Wars fanfic where the author didn’t quite know what they wanted to do with the story and was winging it for most of the book. Sorry Jeffrey Brown, but this one just wasn’t your greatest book.

They Made It Into A Movie: The Swiss Family Robinson

We all love our books, and there are times we wish they could come to life on the big screen. Sometimes our wish comes true and those beloved stories soon hit theaters. Yet as excited as we are for the movie version to come to be they are not always good experiences. Perhaps a character is portrayed incorrectly, important scenes are left out or changed completely, or that wonderful story has been reduced to something with no plot but amazing CG effects. And then there are times when the movie is absolutely stunning and you are left with such an amazing feeling after watching it. They Made It Into A Movie is a monthly feature, posted on the last Friday of each month, which explores one books and it’s movie adaptation counterpart.

How I First Encountered The Swiss Family Robinson

I don’t know the exact year that I first came upon The Swiss Family Robinson. I vaguely remember watching the original 1960 movie but not clearly enough to place how old I was. What I do remember clearly is watching the 1998 movie shortly after it came out, though I can’t recall if I saw it in the theater or when it hit VHS, and I absolutely loved it. I feel in love with the story that first time watching the movie and remember watching it countless times after that, in fact I remember wearing out the VHS I watched it that much. It wasn’t until a while later that I full realized that it was based on a book. I honestly don’t remember reading the book, but I may have at some point when I was younger.

The Book

It’s no secret that I’m generally not a fan of books that are considered classics. I just find them a struggle to read. However, even though Swiss Family Robinson falls into the classics category I decided to give the book a try anyways. I am glad that I did.

I found this book to be very well written. Right from page one I was pretty much hooked on the story and wanted to keep reading until I reached the end. The beginning was certainly written to capture the reader’s attention and the remainder of the story continues on in a similar manner. This book had a really good flow to it, with events moving smoothly along. I think what I enjoyed most if the struggles and triumphs of the family as they tried to make a new life for themselves on the island. It wasn’t always easy, sometimes things didn’t go quite right and others times they had unexpected rewards for their efforts. There was a lot of ingenuity along the way when it came to building shelter, capturing and raising animals, making clothing and other necessary items.

The story, though spanning ten years, is so well written that it doesn’t feel as though that much time as passed. Certainly you see mention of their accomplishments two years or four years into their time on the island but it is written in such a way that it feels like no time at all has passed. This is really one of the great features of this book. The only downside is how short the book is and that it take little time to read it from cover to cover. Of course I would like to know more, see where they were twenty years or more down the road, however I do think the book ended quite perfectly and thus I wouldn’t change a thing.

The Movie

While there have been at least two versions of this book made into movies I will be talking about the 1960 movie.

I think that this movie was overall very well made, especially considering when it was made and what they had to work with. The actors who played the various family members suited the roles quite nicely. Though I will admit I found the youngest son, Francis, to be a bit annoying at times, but what do you expect out of a young boy with an island full of animals and other things at his disposal. I think my favorite part of the movie is seeing the tree house when it is all build. I definitely remember wishing I had a tree house like that as a kid after first watching this movie many years ago. The setting of the movie is well done and you can see how they would have made their life, build shelter, got animals for meat fairly easily.

The movie does have a slightly rushed feeling to it, but not so much that it ruins the experience. I realize they kept things lively and active to appeal to the audience and make it a fun experience to watch. The pirates also added that sense of excitement and action to the story overall. If you haven’t watch the movie, I’d definitely suggest it. The newer 1998 version of the movie is also quite good.

How They Compare To Each Other

Well, all things considered I think they did a pretty good job of bringing the book to the big screen. The movie is more fanciful than the book. While the book concentrates on them making shelter, finding food and staying safe from predators, the movie’s big focus is the pirates. The pirates are one of the few big differences between the book and movie. In fact, in the book there were no pirates. Certainly they were added to make the movie more interesting, after all not many people would want to watch a family stranded on an island gather food for two hours, but I personally think it would have still been entertaining to watch it had they stuck more closely to the books storyline. Another difference is that in the book the Robinson family have four sons, where as in the movie there are only three. The introduction of the female character is very different as well, playing off of the pirates angle yet again. There is also a love interest with this female character, whereas in the book they essentially adopt her into a family like a daughter. Then the final difference is the amount of time they are on the island. In the book they are there for ten years before they are found, but in the movie it is a much shorter time frame, a few months is what I would guess it was.

Even with these differences I think they do a pretty good job of bringing the overall essence of the story to life, with a family trapped on an island and they must do whatever they can to survive until they are rescued.

They Made It Into A Movie: Black Beauty

We all love our books, and there are times we wish they could come to life on the big screen. Sometimes our wish comes true and those beloved stories soon hit theaters. Yet as excited as we are for the movie version to come to be they are not always good experiences. Perhaps a character is portrayed incorrectly, important scenes are left out or changed completely, or that wonderful story has been reduced to something with no plot but amazing CG effects. And then there are times when the movie is absolutely stunning and you are left with such an amazing feeling after watching it. They Made It Into A Movie is a monthly feature, posted on the last Friday of each month, which explores one books and it’s movie adaptation counterpart.

How I First Encountered Black Beauty

I cannot remember exactly when I first came across Black Beauty. I want to say it was probably around the same time, or shortly after, I started reading all of Marguerite Henry’s books. What I can remember is how the much the story stuck with me from that first reading and has continued to stay with me over the years. This book was so amazing and I have gone through several copies of it over the years I read it that much growing up.

The Book

While there are a lot of books out there involving horses Black Beauty really stands out among them as something truly amazing. It’s not just a story about a horse, but it’s his story told by the horse himself. That aspect alone truly makes this book shine among all the other horse books. Not only this, but the fact that it’s the humans that are the secondary characters in this book really shows how unique this story is. Anna Sewell did a top notch job at bringing not only the characters to life but the overall story as well. Often times with children’s novels things like cruelty are left out, keeping the story happy throughout the pages, but Black Beauty opens tells the truth that not everything is perfect in the world and that both man and beast are at the mercy of others around them. Because of this addition of cruelty the story of Black Beauty plays on a number of emotions as the reader ventures through the many life changes in the horses life. In fact this is the first book that I have read that made me cry and it continues to do so every time I read it, and though I do shed many tears during that one particular part there are also a great number of times when I know that there is a smile on my lips or a chuckle escaping from me.

The great mix of characters, both human and equine, combine to make this story what it is. If it wasn’t for Black Beauty moving from owner to owner because of certain events happening to him or to his current/previous owners, the story would be very short and certainly not have the appeal that it does as it is. While we don’t get to learn all there is about the owners and other humans that play a role in Black Beauty’s life we do see what is important to the story and it is those parts that affect the stallion directly and in some case indirectly. Of course I would like to know what happens to certain characters after they have left Black Beauty’s life, but the fact is the story isn’t about them, so we will just have to guess at what becomes of them and focus on the story of the stallion who touches each of their lives.

Though I know there are some people out there that think, even to this day, that a story about a horse by a horse would be silly I would highly urge those people to give it a chance. This book truly is a classic, a must read for all ages, and if you really don’t want to read it then I say at least give the movie a try because it too is another classic that must be seen by all. As for me the story of Black Beauty will forever hold a special place in my heart and it’s a book I will always have on my shelf so that I can read it again and again, for it’s just that good.

The Movie

Though there have been a number of movie, and TV, adaptations of this book the one I will be talking about is the 1994 version. While I cannot recall if I saw this one in theaters or not, though I feel as though this is the movie I would not have missed seeing on the big screen, it has forever been etched into my memory. From the moment we first see Black Beauty as a gangly colt to his journey’s through life’s up and downs and finally to his happy ending, I feel as though the movie draws the viewer in and doesn’t let their attention drop for one moment. As we watch the life events unfold for this lovely horse we realize how imperfect things can be at times and also how happiness can come at the most unexpected times. Certainly there are a lot of emotions both shown and felt through this movie. No matter how many times I watch this I always get completely chocked up whenever it gets to the scene when Black Beauty sees Ginger for the last time. It’s in that moment where the full force of the story of what not only Black Beauty, but those in his life, went through truly hits the viewer. This isn’t a movie where happiness is always present, there are moments of tragedy and sorrow mixed in as well. But of course there is happiness too. And I have to admit I love the character of Merrylegs, this spunky little pony rally adds sometimes to Black Beauty’s life. And of course we cannot forget about Ginger. All of the horses and all of the humans are, in my opinion, perfectly portrayed for their range of personalities and levels of affect on Black Beauty and others lives. The actors who play these roles did a fantastic job of fulfilling that particular characters attributes and doing their part to enhance or decrease the value of Black Beauty’s life.

I have lost track of the number of times I have watched this movie in the twenty years since it was produced but what I can tell you is that every time I watch it I feel as though I am experiencing it with new eyes. This is a movie I will never grow tired of. even if this movie wasn’t based on a book it would still remain one of my top favorite movies. Of course there are many versions of this movie out there and I have seen most if not all of them, and while I feel that they all do a good job of bringing this story to life, it is the 1994 version that will be my favorite among them. Anyone who has not yet seen this movie really should make an effort to see it as it is a truly wonderful thing to watch.

How They Compare To Each Other

I think that the movie is a fantastic adaptation of the book. It is one thing to read about all that occurs in Black Beauty’s life, but to actually see it play out for you on the screen brings a whole new level of emotions to the surface as well as creates even more realism to an already well developed book. I don’t really know what else I can say about this, as I feel this is one of the few adaptations that I feel is a perfect match to the book. There may be differences between the two, but I honestly cannot recall anything that sticks out to me, so if there are differences they must be minor ones. This book and movie will forever hold a special place in my heart.