Sunday, September 29, 2013

{Project 101: Weekly Library Challenge} Discovering New Alphabet Books + Learning about Butterflies and Bad Movies!

This week, I'll finally be caught up with the Weekly Library Challenge, where I share 1 book the boys love from the library and 1 that I am reading. At the end of the year, we will have shared 101 books in honor of our library's 101st birthday! To get all caught up, I'm sharing two books the boys love and two books I love. 

Since we've been focusing on letters a lot lately with our Letter of the Week learning activities and daily letter baskets, I have been on the prowl for new alphabet books and this week I'm sharing two new ones that we love. The first, ABC Kids by Simon Basher, is by far their favorite book from the library right now. The book uses alliteration to focus on each letter and has very clever scenarios, such as "Jasper juggles juicy jellyfish." I always appreciate ABC books that equally emphasize upper and lowercase letters and this one does that. I also love that it works well for reinforcing letter names for my toddler and for reinforcing letter sounds with my preschooler. We also have taken advantage of the inclusion of "cuckoo," "igloo," and "oodles" in the book to learn that two o's together make an oo sound. This is probably our most requested book right now at story time.

Our other new alphabet book from the library is Bang! Boom! Roar! A Busy Crew of Dinosaurs, which also has lots of alliteration, though I'll admit that what attracts the boys to this book is the dinosaurs and construction theme -- putting them together is fabulous! Plus, it ends with skateboarding dinosaurs. How could my boys NOT love that? 

As for me, I enjoyed both of my books this week quite a lot (enough to read two in one week to get caught up, which is pretty impressive): Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver and My Year of Flops by Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club (The Onion's Entertainment Section). The two couldn't be more different. 

I first became acquainted with Barbara Kingsolver through one of her rare non-fiction works, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life in which she shares her family's journey through a year of growing their own food and only eating locally produced food -- including raising their own turkeys, one of which became Thanksgiving Dinner. I already knew that I loved her writing style and that she was quite gifted with her prose. Flight Behavior only reinforced for me her talent and skill as a writer. The story chronicles a stay at home mom whose discovery of a massive colony of monarch butterflies changes her life. The butterflies have no business being in the hills above her home in Appalachia instead of Mexico. Their arrival allows her to not only make important discoveries about herself, her life and her family, but also about the butterflies themselves, their role in a fragile ecosystem and what their presence says about climate change. They also introduce her 5 year-old son to the world of science, changing his life forever as well. The book resonated with me on many levels, even if I felt that at times the global warming message was a bit heavy handed. I realize that maybe it needed to be for some readers. She honors so many individuals and issues well in the book and kept me engaged and interested. Though my life differs from the protagonist's in many ways, I could also relate to her and could enjoy taking her journey with her, which is ultimately what mattered the most. 

My Year of Flops is not for everyone - it is a book full of reviews of movies deemed box office and/or critical failures. Many of the films and much of the book would qualify as R-rated given the profane language. The book also reminded me that so many "bad" movies seem to include "shocking sex" or "hot girls" in an effort to attract an audience, I presume. Rabin reviews Elizabethtown, Waterworld, Howard the Duck, Ishtar, W. and many other films, many that I had previously never heard of -- thankfully Rabin assures me. Given that this is primarily a kid blog, I wanted to mention that this is very much an adult read -- not that anyone would ever read this book with their child. I also realize that some of my readers will appreciate knowing that Rabin uses explicit language as he discusses the films - if a film is vulgar, sometimes his discussion of it is too. If a scene is highly sexual and crude, his discussion of it is too. And so on. I don't want to get caught up in that as I agree with NPR in their assessment that this is "A Very Good Book About Some Very Bad Movies."

As an independent filmmaker and as someone who ran a film festival for several years, I know bad movies a little too well and have made a few myself. However, I know what Rabin knows as well: some bad movies are redeemable, some are not, all provide learning opportunities. 

Personally, I know that failure is part of success. It was comforting to see through the book that many acclaimed filmmakers/directors, have made abysmal failures, providing a life lesson for all of us -- don't let your failures define you. Learn from them and move on! Reading the book also underscored something I already knew -- most bad/failed films suffer from self-indulgence. It's okay to make a movie just for you, but be aware it may be just for you!! Everyone else might hate it or laugh at it for all of the wrong reasons. The unfortunate reality in the film business, though, is that a person's self-indulgent failure can cost many people their jobs and careers. It's an expensive art and thus very risky business. This is the reason I'm quite glad my failed films happened on my own dime and cost very little, but provided me a lot of insight into what I needed to do to make a good film. And that I have now successfully done that with my latest award-winning indie film, SMUGGLED. (I also recognize the irony in writing about self-indulgence on a blog about my kids -- which is insanely self-indulgent! On the flip side, the blog does not involve anyone else's money and nobody's career is on the line.) What I appreciate the most about Rabin is that he honors the fact that no matter how bad a movie may be, it was important to someone -- it involved many people who truly gave a lot to the project, even if no one else will ever understand, appreciate or enjoy it. As someone who knows first-hand how much work making a film is, I respect and appreciate the respect he gives to filmmakers -- even when they fail. 

So, if you love bad movies/cult movies, the A.V. Club and/or The Onion, this is the book for you -- it's funny, many of the films and scenarios are ridiculous, and it sometimes provides little known insights into the making of a project and, at times, includes interviews of people who worked on the failure. I don't think I could ever spend a year committed to watching bad movies, but thanks to Rabin I don't have to! Also, thanks to him, I may take a chance on a film considered a "failure" and discover, as he did at times, that it is a "secret success." So, fess up, what's your favorite "bad movie?" 

Shared this at Booknificent Thursday.

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  1. Oh, goodness! You must read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I wrote this review of it ( long ago, when we had a book blog - seems like ages. It is such a good thinking book!

  2. This was a fun review, and what a contrast of books! :) Thanks so much for linking at Booknificent Thursday! We love having you!