#IMWAYR – Feb 15, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at BookDate, and was adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

snowy

Title: Snowy Bear
Author: Tony Mitton / Illustrator: Alison Brown
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Picture book

My Two Cents

“Here is a bear who has nowhere to go,

so he’s plodding along through the cold winter snow.

Behind him his prints trace a long, weary line,

but ahead the snow’s waiting, unbroken and fine”

Brrrrrr……this is a cold and blustery book indeed, the kind of cold that gets into your bones with each turn of the page, the kind of cold those of us lucky enough to live in more temperate climes can only dream (or have nightmares…) about. A tiny little white bear trudges through a blizzard, desperately seeking a warm place to hide away from a terrible storm. He’s turned away from every dry, cozy hole by the other animals who have already protected their own young within. Finally, when all hope seems lost, the little bear spots a warm, dry and cozy little farmhouse. Will he finally find respite from the elements, and a place to call home?

snowy2snowy3

This star of this picture book is just about the cutest little furry bear I have ever seen – in fact, upon looking at the first page my colleague exclaimed, “is that a koala?!” The illustrations are utterly charming – I just want to scoop that shivering little bear up and snuggle him! The bleakness of the snow-swept scene is so beautifully rendered, with a hint of glitter making each snowdrift glisten as with ice crystals. There’s not really any overt moral to this story that I could detect, but that’s OK– not every book needs to teach children a lesson beyond that most important lesson – that reading is something to enjoy and to cherish. A lovely winter picture book for children to read and enjoy.

hobbit

Title: The Hobbit
Author: JRR Tolkien
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Fiction / Picture book

My Two Cents: Why, Peter Jackson, why? Why did you have to take this charming children’s fairy tale and turn it into a dark and bloated movie trilogy? Why?! I’m about half way through reading this fantasy classic for probably the third time now, and once again I’m reminded just why it’s been so popular with so many generations of children. Wizards and trolls, dwarves and magic, this is pretty traditional European fairy tale stuff, perfectly packaged and presented for young readers. There’s so much humour running throughout the story, which sadly seemed to have been largely cut from the film adaptation. The novel’s depiction of dwarves’ escape from the nasty trolls, for example, is delightful – there’s no fierce battle here, only Gandalf the wizard using some clever mimicry and voice throwing tricks to turn the trolls (endearingly named Tom, Bert, and Bill like extras from an English country TV show) against each other and buy enough time until sunrise turns the trolls to stone.  Unlike the Peter Jackson film adaptations of LOTR, which I actually preferred to the novels because so much extraneous content was removed, I was thoroughly disappointed with the Hobbit film trilogy because so much dark and dreary filler was added to turn a simple children’s story into an epic. Sometimes less truly is more, and bigger isn’t always better.

admiral

Title: The Admiral
Release Date: 2015
Korean (with English subtitles)

My Two Cents: In the year 1597, 12 battle-weary ships, the battered remnants of the Korean navy, faced off against over 300 Japanese war ships in an epic sea battle that represented Korea’s last great hope for survival. While it’s no secret that I love Korean tv dramas (just have a look at my “about me” description), I love Korean movies just as much. While The Pirates, which I shared a few weeks back, is a swashbuckling action-comedy, The Admiral is a gripping, beautifully-filmed and unabashedly nationalistic seafaring epic. Like most films of this nature, there is a brave, noble, self-sacrificing commander who leads from the front and rallies his demoralized troops around him with rousing speeches. Unlike something like 300, however, which also featured a small group fighting a doomed battle against a far superior foe, what makes The Admiral so stirring is its more realistic portrayal of war. The Korean sailors initially react the way most of us would when facing such odds – they’re terrified, desperate to escape, begging and pleading with their leader to turn back and retreat. These aren’t fearless professional soldiers with whom few viewers could ever relate, rather they’re regular people who eventually find their reserves of inner strength, but who at first felt like most conscripted soldiers throughout history must have felt – frightened, confused, and desperate.

This swashbuckling spectacle has little in the way of character development, and most characters barely get named, but that’s not really the point here. This is a dramatic clash of nations – the Koreans are the noble, honourable underdogs, while the Japanese are as terrifying an enemy as any army of orcs, monsters or aliens. I’m not familiar with Korean history (which is one reason why I enjoy watching foreign historical films), but I’m fairly confident that the filmmakers took some liberties with the facts here and there. Still, films like this tell you more about a country’s sense of self, its national identity and the way it wants to be portrayed both within and without its borders than they do about history. The Admiral also one heck of a visual ride, with glorious special effects and stunning visuals. Definitely worth a look if you like epic historical films like Braveheart or Red Cliff.

So, what have you been reading (or watching!) this week?

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25 thoughts on “#IMWAYR – Feb 15, 2016

  1. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of LOTR or The Hobbit and only watched bits and pieces of the latter because Richard Armitage was in it. (I’m yet to see the third movie as it happens!)

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  2. I loved Snowy Bear, & you’ve described it just right, Jane. I didn’t know there was a Hobbit picture book, but have read the original several times with book groups examining the hero in literature. What a series of books. I don’t know anything about Korean films, & have a Korean niece, so will share about this movie with her. Thanks!

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    • I am quite fond of Korean TV and films, as well as foreign films in general – they often provide a different perspective and have a different style than standard American cinema. I’m glad Netflix provides an extensive selection of foreign cinema to pick from!

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  3. At one point, I will have to re-read The Hobbit and LOTR. I loved them when I was in graduate school. Like you, I was disappointed by the film adaptation of The Hobbit – I don’t think we’ve even seen the last film in the trilogy yet.

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    • Ugh…yeah….and it was such a disappointment, because I remember just being in awe of the the LOTR film adaptations! It seems that everything has to be stretched out these days into as many films as possible, even when the source material really can’t support it.

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  4. The Hobbit movies are pretty to look at, I think, but they are so far removed from the book. The book is much better. Bloated is a good word for the movies. I love The Lord of the Rings movies and the books. I couldn’t choose which I like better of those. Snowy Bear sounds like such an adorable story. I love the artwork.

    I haven’t seen Admiral, but you have me curious.

    have a great week!

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  5. I just read several bear books today, so Snowy will be added to my list!
    I loved the Lord of the Rings books and movies. I enjoyed The Hobbit (reading it), but for some reason I never watched the movie. Maybe a good thing?

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    • Yeah…the Hobbit films beautifully made, and Martin Freeman does the best job he can, but it’s just too long and too serious for what is essentially a kid’s fairy tale. I hope you enjoy Snowy Bear – there’s not really much in the way of a story, but the illustrations are just so adorable!

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  6. Snowy Bear looks cute, I want to read it now. 🙂 Those two images you shared it just LOOKS cold, and he’s practically shivering in that first one. I may have to get this book! And I agree about The Hobbit- such a shame.

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