Saturday, 14 January 2012

Snow Reviewed in Summer

You know, someday you might even get an adult's book review out of me. (It's true! I'm currently most of the way through "The Help"). But not today. Today I get to gush about Caldecott award winning author Jane Yolen. *gush* ^_^

As soon as I saw Snow in Summer hit the shelf, I knew what my next book was going to be. If you want a good fairy tale and you don't want an original Grimm or its illustrated legacies, find a book by Ms. Yolen. I was even lucky enough to hear her speak in a panel about writing fairy stories. She took over the conversation a bit, talking about the evolutions of fairy tales. When she realized that she had been the only one talking for about 10 minutes, she apologized and offered to turn the room back to her other panel members. The entire room, including those on the panel reacted with 'no no! You just keep going! Please!'

But I digress. As you might have guessed from the title and the cover art, Snow in Summer is a Snow White tale. Also, it's set in 1940s Appalachia!

Snow In Summer, or Summer, lives with her happy dancing mother and her singing gardener of a father. And then, as always, her mother dies, this time giving birth to a baby brother that also dies. Summer's father takes the hit hardest of all. He no longer sings or dances or even tries to garden. Summer and Cousin Nancy (who does her best to step into the shoes of both parents and raises Summer) try to keep his gardens going in order to make money and, well, eat. But every night he goes up the mountain to the small abandoned church here Summer's mother is buried.

One night he comes down bewitched. Then the woman appears. She marries Papa, banishes Nancy, and as Papa is kept in an herb/magic induced stupor when he's not tending the gardens, enslaves Summer (who she insists upon referring to as Snow), who is under her spell enough to obey. One day, Snow finds the magic mirror in Step-mamma's room, gets caught and threatened. Another time, Step-mamma takes Snow up into the mountains to a ' church' she attended for a time - one filled with crazy mountain folk, fire, and snakes. Snow passes out, but unfortunately a certain person takes a liking to her before the service starts.

Meanwhile, Cousin Nancy, who is not even allowed to take Snow to the church in town once a week anymore has figured out a small way to fight back. She convinces Step-mamma to let her take Snow out for her birthday and, while out, she gives Snow presents, love, and most importantly, a little bit of folk-magic. Suddenly, Snow feels safer at home. A small burden seems to have been lifted, and even Papa, thanks to some rowan berries in his pocket, seems to be snapping out of it. And this is, naturally, where everything falls apart. Snow is told to put on her best dress. Step-mamma does her hair and even offers her some makeup and tells her to get in the car. Then she proceeds to drive Summer up into the mountains to the home of one of the younger men from the 'church', and leave her there.

This took up most of the book. We often think of Snow White AND the 7 Dwarfs. So now here we are, all the way at the end, and WHERE are the dwarfs? (The story never drags getting to this point. I just kept wondering how we were getting so near the end and still hadn't made it into the forest yet...) But fear not! They're there. You just have to read the book to find out where.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Dances of Sugarplum Fairies

And my Christmas present from my roommate was a trip to see The Nutcracker Ballet in Philadelphia! Yay! It is my favorite ballet. Growing up with a dancer mum and being a little ballerina, all I wanted in the world was to be able to dance the part of Clara! Unfortunately, my ballet company said "EVERYBODY does The Nutcracker. We'll do A Christmas Carol instead!" But then, at the Christmas party on the Navy base one year when I was very small I received my VERY OWN NUTCRACKER! Which I promptly drop and broke on the way to the car. So, naturally, my parents spent the next week calling me Clara. I was NOT amused.

Anyway, I no longer dance, but I still think that ballet is one of the most beautiful things in the world. Let me show you!

1955

1938 Margot Fonteyn in "Horoscope"


Louis Merante and Amalia Ferraris: 1860s


Swan Lake


1930 Swan Lake rehearsal at the Opera de Paris


Russian Ballerina Fjedorova


Violetta Elvin


1910


1973


Adelina Genee as Swanilda

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A Pouting Review That Ends With A Hug

So I always seem to be reviewing Juv. Fiction or Teen Fiction. Now I'm going to start throwing Picture Books into the mix. Yay! But let's face it. We've ALL read Goodnight Moon and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. They're wonderful books, but you already know that. So I'm going to try to keep it to more recent books that you might not have heard about.

The Pout Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen, is one of my FAVORITE picture books! Whenever I have to do Storytime at work (which is rare), I generally end up with a fishy theme so that I can read this!

It's about, well, <---That Guy. He's a "Pout Pout Fish, with a Pout Pout face" and he "spreads the Dreary Wearies all over the place!" It's not his fault, he claims, it's just how he is. Look at his mouth - it pouts. If he could be happy, he would, but because his mouth lives in a frown, he might as well be miserable. Various sea creatures (all fantastically and brightly illustrated) try to reason with the Pout Pout Fish and try to convince him that he's being absurd, but he just Blubs them off and sinks deeper and deeper into his own misery. Then, at the very end, a beautiful swishy fish comes swimming into view. She doesn't stop, she doesn't try to reason with him, she just gives him a big fat KISS! and swims away! Suddenly, the world is a happier place and the Pout Pout Fish turns into - well, you'll have to read the book!

It's a great read aloud - especially the 'blub's. The pictures are large and bright enough to be seen by a group sitting on the floor. And the repetition is great for kids to join in on! Also there's apparently a sequel - The Pout Pout Fish in the Big Big Dark, that I have to get into the store and read.

Picture books are short, so you get two! Hugs From Pearl, by Paul Schmid, is a newish book that I just read the other day. Pearl LOVES hugs. She loves receiving them. She REALLY loves giving them. And everybody thinks Pearl gives the best hugs! Or she would. Except she's a porcupine. And hugs from porcupines can sometimes be "ouchy". What's a porcupine to do? I bet you can't guess the solution that Pearl comes up with while looking at a bunch of thorny roses!

It's not exactly a book that will get a crowd of pre-schoolers excited and participating. But with its simple, elegant illustrations and huggy theme, it is DEFINITELY a book that should be read often. Complete with hugs. ^_^

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

We take particular pride in the excellence of our ballet, monsieur.

Not only was The Phantom of the Opera utterly fantabulous, but, being who I am (and who I am is quite obsessive over the historical accuracy which always seems to be lacking), I was struck and overjoyed at the historical accuracy of the costumes! The Phantom of the Opera is set (at least in Andrew Lloyd-Weber's production) in the 1880s. (I do have the book, and my sister loves it, but I have yet to read it. *shame*)

Anyway, the point is that the costumes that were used in the productions within the production (the ballet dancers, the extravagant costumes in the masquerade scene, etc.) where oddly shaped, gaudy, and spangled - with minimal cleavage (2004 movie, I'm looking at you. >:-/ ) Just the way 1880s costumes ACTUALLY LOOKED. Yay!

Because it is terribly difficult to get actual dates for photographs of generic dancers, these will be focused on the general area of the mid to late 19th century. Enjoy!




1870s

I know I've posted it before, but I really do love this costume. ^_^




1885


1890s


1881 Kate Vaughan & E.W. Royce in The Forty Thieves




Lessie Southgate




Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Review of Neptune!

Dear Rick Riordan, WHY MUST I WAIT ANOTHER WHOLE YEAR TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE ARGO II LANDS??!!??!?!!??!?!

I want book 3, and I want it now. *pout*

So yes, The Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune is awesome. ^_^ This book has the same basic timeline as book one, The Lost Hero.

Except now we have PERCY back! *yay!* Except that, aside from knowing his name and that MONSTERS ARE CHASING HIM, Percy has no idea of who he actually is. Same as with Jason in Lost Hero, Percy is suffering from memory loss (thanks, Juno). So, as was set up by this Jason guy finding Camp Half Blood, and omg! not only are there Greeks but ROMANS as well, Percy ends up at the Roman Camp (Camp Jupiter). (Being saved on his way in by the two heroes that will eventually accompany him on his quest) Now, the Greeks are all fun and games. The Romans. Are NOT. They are Very Serious Warriors.

Anyway, Percy ends up being mistrusted by most and so thrown into the 5th Cohort - the jinxed one that is the butt end of all the camp jokes. Then they win at war games when Percy explodes a water canon at their enemies. So when the big fun prophecy comes, to journey to the land beyond the gods (Alaska), it is up to Percy, Hazel (a son of Pluto (we're Roman now, remember) who REALLY shouldn't be there), and Frank (a son of Mars who is fantastic with a bow and arrow but apparently has some super special AMAZING talent that his grandmother insists he figure out on his own) to journey all the way to Alaska and free Thanatos, the god of Death (no, we're not getting confused. Pluto is the god of the Underworld, where the dead hang out. Thanatos is the guy who makes sure they go there). (Now that he's all chained up, the bad guys aren't staying dead. And when the bad guys are the monstrous sons of the waking Gaia, that's REALLY BAD. And they have less than a week to get there. And that's where the camp's eagle standard was lost in the first place (along with most of its other really impressive weapons) by the 5th Cohort (which is why it's jinxed).

I won't give you more than that, and I won't go on about all it's amazing features and styles and characters, etc. It's Rick Riordan. It's awesome. GO READ IT.

You're welcome. ^_^

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Phantoms of the Opera

My Dearest Darling Hilary asked me to accompany her and her mum to NYC to see The Phantom of the Opera! *squee!* It was a fantabulous performance! Much more exciting than I even thought it would be! So here are some Opera Ghosts for you!

Soprano Adelina Patti in the 1880s


Thomas Rendl as Pontius Pilate, 1890

Adelina's sister, Soprano Carlotta Patti


Francisco D'Andrade as Don Juan, 1891


Louise Swanborough in The Loves of Arcadia, 1860


German Bass-baritone Otto Schelper


Elisa Troisvalets in La Papillon


Charlotte Saunders in William Tell, 1860


Soprano Marie Roze


Barbara and Carlotta Marchisio in Semiramis, 1860