January 23, 2017

Movie Review: Wait Till Helen Comes

I was so excited when I was offered the opportunity to see and review this movie!  And the really funny part - I was in the process of listening to the audio book!  

You need to understand - I have been suggestion this book, as well as all of Downing Hahn's books - forever!  Whenever I have a student who wants a creepy book I go straight to her.  So the idea that one of her long-loved books was becoming a movie was fantastic! 

Ok about the movie.

WAIT TILL HELEN COMES is the long awaited film adaption of the beloved book of the same name by children’s author Mary Downing-Hahn.

Like the book, the film revolves around a blended family’s encounter with the ghost of a mysterious little girl as they move from the city to a converted church in the country. Heather (Isabelle NĂ©lisse), the youngest child, rattles their much hoped for quiet country life by forging a dangerous relationship with the ghost. Her elder stepsister Molly (Sophie NĂ©lisse), terrified of ghosts and battling her own teen troubles, is faced with overcoming her fears as she attempts to rescue her misled stepsister. WAIT TILL HELEN COMES is the first feature film by the best-selling and award-winning young adult novelist, Downing-Hahn, who also makes a guest appearance in the film. First published in 1986 – and never out of print - the novel is now in its 20th Printing at HMH Publishing, and appears on numerous US schools recommended reading lists.

WAIT TILL HELEN COMES is a throwback to the days of sitting around a campfire and telling spooky ghost stories – and the thrill that came with that. Like their older peers, tweens love a good scary movie, but most are not ready for PG-13 and R-rated movies. In WAIT TILL HELEN COMES, tweens get to be a part of this popular genre, while parents can feel comfortable letting their kids dim the lights, hide under the blankets and watch a bona fide ghost story!

WAIT TILL HELEN COMES is distributed by TriCoast Entertainment and premieres January 10, 2017 on iTunes, Amazon, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, Hoopla, Vudu and Vimeo on Demand and Flix Fling.

I really enjoyed this take on the story! Is it different from the book?  Yes.  Did I mind?  No!  You need to know that I'm not a purest when it comes to book to movie adaptions.  I get that things need to be changed, and a vast majority of the time I'm perfectly ok with that.  And this was one of those times!  What the story did keep was just the right amount of creep factor! I loved that they managed to take a book perfect at scaring the tween set and keep it the same level of creepy.  There are definitely points I was like "Molly no don't go in there!", but it never got to a point where I really scared more.  It really was the right level for the young middle school group.  

The acting was well done.  It took me a minute to realize that girl playing Molly was in The Book Thief.  She pretty much carried the movie and did a good job with it.  She was moody, smart, determined and very believable.  But I do have to say that the actress playing Heather did a great job as well!  Her role was smaller than what you would've expected (one of the changed), but she did a really nice job with it.  I actually liked her character where in the book she annoyed me a bit.  The adults did a nice job as well.  Their roles were kept at a minimum was well which I think was a wise choice.  Kids don't usually want to watch a movie made out of a book they enjoyed and then have it over-powered by adults.  

Over-all I enjoyed the movie.  It was well-made, true to the book (at least in the ways that mattered to me) and creepy.  If it had been out when I was 12 I would've loved it completely!

If you've read the book I encourage you to check it out! 

January 20, 2017

Book Review: Rise of the Lioness

Title: Rise of the Lioness: Restoring a Habitat and Its Pride on the Liuwa Plains
Author: Bradley Hague

Poaching and war damaged an isolated wilderness in West Zambia, reducing its lion population to just one: Lady, the last lioness. Witness Lady's fight for survival in this evocative narrative on the decline, fall, and rebirth of the Liuwa Plains. Follow Lady as she grapples with a landscape altered by human hands and discover how both Lady and humankind restore balance to the environment.

More than a story about one brave lion, The Lioness offers a great introduction to life science by looking at the workings of an ecosystem, the methods of scientists and environmentalists, and explaining the interconnection between the plant, animal, and human systems.

This is a absolutely fascinating book! The story of Lady (the last Lioness) is amazing.  To hear how she was alone for 10 years and how they were able to bring more lions to her was incredible.  I found myself almost cheering a little when I read that her and the male lions became a family and inseparable.  And then when cubs were born! Just amazing to see the be how they worked to bring the lions back and to see they were having success.  

The photography in the book is great.  I love nonfiction books with lots of clear strong photographs because they help me understand the information better.  This pictures in this book did that.  From the pictures I was able to better understand the climate of Liuwa, the affects of poaching and how lions survive there.  I know many kids will be hooked by the pictures in the book!

January 18, 2017

Review: To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space by Dr. Dave Williams

Title: To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space
Authors: Dr. Dave Williams and Loredona Cunti

Of all the questions astronauts are asked by kids, the most frequent one is “How do you go to the toilet in space?”
This book not only answers that question, but many others about the effect of zero gravity on the human body:
How do you brush your hair in space? What happens when you sweat? What does food taste like? The best thing is that the answers are provided by Dr. Dave Williams, a NASA astronaut who speaks from first-hand experience. Written for kids ages 7 to 10, this book uses age-appropriate language to explain the different phenomena that astronauts encounter during a mission. The bright, colorful pages, short blocks of text accompanied by photos and humorous illustrations make this a very attractive choice for young readers. The opening message from Dr. Dave empowers kids to follow his example by believing in themselves and following their dreams.

A true test for any book is to see how my students react when they hear about it.  I had this book sitting out in my teaching area and bunches of kids spotted it and were really interested.  I then shared it with the whole class asking how many would be interested in reading it.  I'd say at least 90% of the hands went up if not more! When that happens I know the book will do what I need it to do - get gets interested in reading.  But I mean really - what kid wouldn't be interested in this topic.  It covers such fun things as burping, using the toilet, and farting in space.  Perfect!  But it also covers things like sleeping in space, how being in spaces changes your height and eating.  Even as an adult I'm curious because it tells about all those things you wonder about when it comes to traveling in space.  And yes, all those things you want to know but were embarrassed to ask! I found the pages on blowing your nose most interesting.  And because I teach about credibility - it's perfect that the book is actually written by a form astronaut.  

In short - a super fun book that will get kids reading and learning and possibly picking up more books about space! 

January 16, 2017

Audio Book Review: Perry's Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber

Title: Perry's Killer Playlist
Author: Joe Schreiber
Narrator: Steven Boyer

When Perry ends up in Venice on a European tour with his band Inchworm, he can’t resist a visit to Harry’s Bar, where Gobi told him she’d meet him someday. The last time he saw Gobi, five people were assassinated one crazy night in New York City. Well... Gobi shows up, and once again Perry is roped into a wild, nonstop thrill ride with a body count. Double crossings, kidnappings, CIA agents, arms dealers, boat chases in Venetian canals, and a shootout in the middle of a Santa Claus convention ensue.

To the point review:
I loved, loved loved it!  

Let me explain:
I read Au Revoir Crazy European Chick several years ago. It was one of those books that I ended up really enjoying.  It wasn't until much later that I learned there was a sequel! I'd like to say I ran out and listened to it right away.  That's not the case, but when I did finally start it I had a hard time stopping.  There was one day I was mad I was already at work because I wanted to keep listening! I don't think would've liked that as a reason to be gone.  

Just like Au Revoir this book is nonstop.  Once Perry starts running - literally - it barely lets up.  And let me tell you - I had NOTHING figured out in this book.  I swear every chapter I was like "What!?  What?!".  At one point I had to rewind and listen again because I couldn't believe what I just heard! It seriously was that intense.  And just like in the first book I really liked Perry.  What was fun was that he had really grown up more in this book.  Oh he still was clueless at times, but you could see that he was older and stronger.  And Gobi as usual was cryptic, mysterious, headstrong and stubborn.  The two of them together was fun even when it shouldn't have been!

Loved the ending (as well as the beginning and middle).  Glad I got to spend more time With Perry and Gobi! 

Thoughts on the audio book: Very well done.  The narrator had a great voice for Perry.  At times he brought out Perry's strength and maturity and other times letting him still be a teenager.  

Best for:  People who like action and are ok with some bloody scenes.  
Best for ages: 14+
Best stick-with-you image: On the plaza.  That scene was crazy!