Unhappy Endings in Literature
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The reward of reading a book is a happy ending – or at least a satisfactory one. You read hundreds of pages that follow the hero or heroine through challenges, setbacks and triumphs. Surely love and justice will win in the end. It’s a letdown when you find out the heroes do not meet with the happy ending they deserve. Readers long for closure and resolution. Here are some of the most unsatisfying endings in literature . . .

1. The Great Gatsby. The reader wants Daisy Buchanan to leave her brutish husband Tom and run away with Jay Gatsby. After all Daisy loves Jay and she is trapped in an unhappy marriage. In a tragic mix-up, the husband of Tom’s mistress thinks Gatsby was driving the car that killed his wife. He guns Gatsby down as the innocent Jay floats in his swimming pool.

2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. After following Tess from childhood through the ups and downs of her life, she is finally reunited with Angel Clare, her husband and the only man she has ever loved. Okay, after Angel resurfaces Tess kills her rapist with a butter knife and runs away with Angel. But surely the court will let her off. Or not. Dear, sweet Tess is hanged, and Angel runs off with her sister.

3. Ethan Frome is the story of a good man. Mattie, his wife Zeena’s cousin, is a good woman. Even though Ethan and Mattie are deeply in love, they refrain from consummating their passion out of moral principles. Their only choice is to kill themselves. They board a sled and push off down a snow-covered hill and aim the sled for a tree. Boom! They hit the tree, but as a result of the accident Mattie is paralyzed and Ethan is crippled. Who takes care of Mattie? Ethan’s wife.

4. Billy Budd – what a guy! All the sailors on the ship love and admire him. The crew despises the cruel master-at-arms John Claggart who falsely accuses Billy of conspiracy to mutiny. Out of frustration Billy hits Claggart so hard it kills him. The crew and even the captain feel that Claggart had it coming, but Billy is hanged anyway.

5. Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a charming anti-hero who gives new life to patients in a mental hospital. McMurphy helps patients regain confidence and purpose. The reader wants Nurse Ratched fired and McMurphy and others released from the mental ward. In the end McMurphy is given a lobotomy and is reduced to a vegetative state. Chief Bromden mercifully smothers McMurphy and escapes from the hospital.

6. The Last of the Mohicans is a long book that chronicles the early British settlers’ relationship with native tribes. Toward the end of the book 2,000 Huron warriors massacre British soldiers, women and children. It’s downhill all the way after the attack. By the end of the book favorite characters are kidnapped and killed, and the final pages describe their funerals.

7. Huckleberry Finn leads the reader on an exciting adventure. He stages his own murder and runs away from his abusive father. He and runaway slave Jim share pleasures and dangers as they float down the Mississippi. When they miss the turn north to the Ohio River due to fog, they find themselves heading south into slave states. Tom Sawyer finally shows up and rescues Huck and Jim is freed. The reader thinks Huck will return to Missouri, go to school and have a good life. But nooooo! Huck rejects a civilized life and runs away again – this time to the Oklahoma Territory.

8. A Farewell to Arms immerses the reader in the unpredictable events of World War I. The hero Frederic finds love with Catherine, a nurse in Milan. After deserting, risking capture and execution, Frederic finds Catherine and they escape in a rowboat to Switzerland. Catherine becomes pregnant. Happiness is on the horizon, but nooo! Catherine dies giving birth to a stillborn baby boy. Frederic walks away in the rain.

9. All the King’s Men chronicles the rise of Willie Stark from good ole boy in the South to a crooked politician. But no way does the good ole boy deserve to die from assassination on the state senate floor by the irate brother of Willie’s mistress.

10. Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter really deserves a happy ending. She has suffered imprisonment and public humiliation for giving birth to a child in her husband’s long absence. Hester refuses to disclose the name of the child’s father. Her plan to run away to England with Reverend Dimmesdale, the father of her little girl, is within reach. They almost make it, but Dimmesdale dies hours before they are scheduled to board the ship.

A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time

The trailer for the new movie version of the book by Madeline L’Engle is on YouTube. The film opens March 9, 2018 and boasts an all-star cast including Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey.

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!
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April 23rd will be the bard’s birthday.

Harold Bloom, Yale University professor and Shakespeare scholar, observes that Shakespeare’s writing marks the beginning of the modern era and our idea of what it means to be human. Shakespeare explored human fears, virtues and flaws, giving each character a psychological profile and inventing complex relationships that still spark debate. Did Lady Macbeth force her husband to murder by questioning his manly courage? Or would Macbeth have killed the king anyway without his wife’s taunts?

If you once had to memorize a Shakespeare passage, try to recite it again. Chances are you will discover fragments of Shakespeare’s verse in the cobwebs of your mind. If you never had to learn a passage by heart, try memorizing a few lines. Here are some short quotes worth committing to memory:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant only taste of death but once.” (Julius Caesar, Act II, scene ii, line 32)

“For stony limits cannot hold love out.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene ii, line 67)

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene i, line 184)

“All the world’s a stage, and men and women merely players.” (As You Like It, Act II, scene vii, line 139)

“To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles . . .
(Hamlet, Act III, scene i, line 55)

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. (Macbeth, Act V, scene v, line 19)

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. (The Tempest, Act IV, scene i, line 156)

Darwin and To Kill a Mockingbird?
Mockingbird Art

Why is the mockingbird a big deal in To Kill a Mockingbird? Atticus Finch tells his kids not to kill a mockingbird because it’s an innocent songbird. In the novel the bird symbolizes the innocence of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. That’s not all. Charles Darwin discovered that mockingbirds in the Galapagos Islands differed from island to island and the mainland. 

A year after his voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1835, Darwin was puzzled by his notes on mockingbirds. Scientific doctrine said that species were immutable, unchangeable. BINGO!  The different species of mockingbirds proved that species did evolve. The mockingbird metaphor in Harper Lee’s novel is not only a symbol of innocence, but also evolution.  Racists, bigots and cultures can change. Thanks, Darwin. 

6 Ways to Blog About Subjects Everyone Else is Blogging About
MV Blog 5 Six Ways to Blog

I blog about movies – specifically the movie version of a book. There are hundreds of bloggers, magazines, TV shows, critics, and websites talking about the differences between the movie and the book. Sure, I’d love to write a review of the film, but the competition is too steep and I can’t compete. How do I get noticed? I separate from the herd. I try to set myself apart from other bloggers. Here are 6 steps you can take to write a blog that will attract readers:

1. Find a Niche. Focus on a narrow aspect of the subject that nobody else is talking about. In my case I zeroed in on the difference between a book and the movie version of the book. Within that narrow subject I can still talk about other films, actors, directors, box office success, special effects, and everything else that has to do with movies and movie making.

2. Original Point of View. Sorting out bloggers who are a waste of time from those who are perceptive and informative doesn’t take long. Once you discover who the best bloggers are, you go to them directly. Readers want to learn and gain insight from your observations. Give them an original point of view and they will come back for more.

3. Get Organized. The secret to writing once or twice a week is having an inspiration system. Don’t just sit down and write off the top of your head. Readers immediately detect fluff, BS, and old news. For ideas I keep files beside my computer. In those files are notes I’ve made, lists of ideas for blogs, big fat folders full of magazine and newspaper clippings, and articles I’ve found online. You can also keep an inspiration file folder on your computer. If I am burned out or have writer’s block, I go to the files. They haven’t failed me yet. A valuable tip is to always note the date of the clipping and the source. I also write a note on the clipping so I will know at a glance what it’s about.

4. The Title is Your Bait. You are up against the Google algorithm that will sort your blog by key words in the title. With that in mind, come up with a title that people will be searching for.

5. Key Words. You’ve got to feed the Google crawler in the first paragraph. Sprinkle a few key words – not EVERY key word – in the first few sentences. The Google algorithm is a mathematical formula that operates like a machine. You’ve got to give it what it’s programmed to look for.

6. Assume Authority. Use the first paragraph to assert your point of view on a subject. Readers are looking for affirmation of their own thoughts and feelings and assurance that you know what you are talking about. Put your experience and knowledge out there from the start. I’m not suggesting that you name-drop, list awards you’ve won or brag on your job or what college you went to. Just gently establish yourself as someone who knows the subject at hand by the way you speak about it. Tone is everything. Don’t mention other websites or sources in the first paragraph. Save citations and quotes for body paragraphs. Otherwise, the Google crawler will recognize a source that is higher on page ranking and count it toward the source’s website instead of your blog.

Don’t be timid about stating opinions. That’s what your audience is looking for!

Daisy Buchanan Was a Sultry, Southern Brunette
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Hollywood just can’t get Daisy Buchanan right. In movie versions of The Great Gatsby Daisy is portrayed as a neurotic blonde. Daisy was not like that. Both Mia Farrow in the 1974 film and Carey Mulligan in the 2013 movie play inaccurate portraits of the woman who triggered Jay Gatsby’s obsession. In the book Daisy is a sultry, southern brunette with a low, seductive voice. The on-screen switch in the Daisy character’s looks and personality leaves the viewer puzzled. Why is Gatsby so stuck on the weak, nervous woman in the movie versions? If the movie audience could see the novel’s version of Daisy, a refined, sensuous, dark-haired beauty from Kentucky, Gatsby’s fascination with Daisy and his compulsion to win her back would make sense. Roger Ebert’s review of the 2013 film makes the point that if Carey Mulligan had matched the book’s description of Daisy, viewers would have understood why Gatsby idealized her.

The book describes Daisy as a woman so desirable that she casts a spell on men. She has dark, shiny hair and a pale face (Chapter 8). Part of Daisy’s allure is her low voice and southern accent. She stretches out her syllables in a southern drawl as she croons to her young daughter: “Bles-sed pre-cious. Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair?” (Chapter 7). At Gatsby’s party Daisy sings along to the orchestra in her sweet contralto voice (Chapter 6). Daisy’s southern roots emerge at the Plaza hotel where she orders a mint julep, the Kentucky Derby cocktail. Her southern accent makes her voice “glowing and singing” (Chapter 1), “a deathless song” (Chapter 5). Daisy’s voice had “the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell . . . the jingle of it, the cymbal’s song of it . . .” (Chapter 7). Daisy murmured in a “low thrilling voice men who cared for her found difficult to forget” (Chapter 5).

Daisy was sensual, but she was not a temptress. She was a woman with feminine charisma. Her magnetism is described as “warm human magic” (Chapter 6) and “the pale magic of her face” (Chapter 8). For Gatsby, Daisy’s allure was more than her looks and the “fluctuating, feverish warmth” of her voice (Chapter 5). Gatsby found Daisy “excitingly desirable” (Chapter 8) because he was drawn to her wealth and breeding. As the most popular girl in Louisville, Kentucky, Daisy lived in a grand, elegant home. Her family were Louisville society. To Gatsby she gleamed “like silver” (Chapter 8). In Chapter 7 Gatsby tells Nick Carraway that Daisy’s voice “is full of money.” Nick realizes that to Gatsby, Daisy is a prize. That other men adore her adds to her “value” (Chapter 7). Gatsby sees Daisy “high in a white palace, the king’s daughter, the golden girl . . .” (Chapter 7). Pursuing Daisy became Gatsby’s obsession because she fulfilled his dream of success. In chasing after her, Gatsby “had committed himself to the following of a grail” (Chapter 8).

The movie versions of The Great Gatsby capture most of the characters in the book accurately – except Daisy. What a difference a warm, sultry, southern brunette would make on the screen. Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy would then make sense.

Why there's no accurate movie of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Is there an accurate movie version of the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The answer is no. Hollywood has produced seven movies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s enduring tale. Every one of them adds characters who are not in the book. All but two of the movies omit the important character of Mr. Gabriel John Utterson, Dr. Jekyll’s lawyer. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars have been cast in the films, including John Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Mickey Rooney, Miriam Hopkins, Jack Palance and Fredric March who won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Jekyll and Hyde in the 1931 movie version. For all their popularity, the films do not follow the book.

Why can’t Hollywood get it right when it comes to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Here are a few reasons . . .

     • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a psychological story. The book is long on clues and short on action. The reader knows only what Mr. Utterson sees and knows. If a filmmaker told the story chapter by chapter, the resulting movie would be vague and boring.

     • The details of Mr. Hyde’s decadence and debauchery are implied, but not stated. What did Hyde do when he went out on the town at night? Where did he go? The author Stevenson doesn’t say. He gives no specific details about Hyde’s activities. Stevenson hints that Hyde is up to no good, but he doesn’t spell it out. Is Hyde a thief? A rapist? A serial killer? A terrorist? Screenwriters have had free rein to fill in the blanks.

     • The drugs Dr. Jekyll concocts present a challenge for screenwriters. In the book when Jekyll drinks the formula, the chemicals change his personality, but also his physique. Movies can’t recreate Jekyll’s transformation in the novel. The book describes Hyde as “dwarf-like” and “ape-like.” It is impossible for an actor to become shorter, so costume and makeup pros give Hyde dark, hairy skin. Since an actor can’t shrink in size, he stoops, slumps and bends over as he walks.

     • Two crimes are not enough for movie audiences. The book states that Hyde trampled a little girl and beat a man to death with a cane. That’s it. Screenwriters are obliged to make up Hyde’s crimes and wild adventures. An easy choice is to add violence and scenes of Hyde’s sexual escapades.

     • Women characters are invented to depict the depravity of Hyde. The only female characters in the book are a reference to a little girl Hyde trampled and an unnamed maid who happened to be looking out her window and witnessed Hyde murdering Sir Danvers Carew. Hollywood made a whole movie about the maid, Mary Reilly starring Julia Roberts. Most film versions portray Hyde as a sadist who abuses women.

     • Casting big name actors and actresses in a film boosts box office revenue. Adding characters who are not in the book is a way to add star power.

     • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a short novel with only 10 chapters, some of which are two pages long. Screenwriters must add more scenes to the story. Scenes that depict Hyde’s bad behavior have become the main plot of the movie versions.

The subtlety and mystery of the novel is its power and explains why it has endured as a work of literature. Robert Louis Stevenson deliberately omitted the details of Hyde’s crimes and sins. The author leaves Hyde’s antics to the reader’s imagination, making Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a sort of interactive novel that connects to the psyche of the individual reader. The uniqueness of the novel limits the possibility of an accurate movie version.

Which movie version is the best? Although the movie is not like the book, the 1941 film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at least has the best cast of all the movie versions. Spencer Tracy plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ingrid Bergman plays Ivy Peterson, a woman Hyde seduces and holds under his spell. Lana Turner plays Dr. Jekyll’s fiancé Beatrix Emery. The three stars deliver memorable performances, and the story line is minimally accurate.

Dark comedy is back!
Lewis Carroll Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Two movies full of dark satire are winning awards in 2023. The Banshees of Inisherin features self-mutilation and arson as a means of un-friending a long-time companion. The Menu uses ultra-dark gallows humor, including suicide, mutilation and mass-murder as a problem-solving solution to life’s annoyances. Both comedy genres are tools of satire. Dark comedy mocks the worst human conditions like poverty, sexism, racism, ageism, animal cruelty, failures and setbacks. Gallows humor makes fun of death, suicide, torture, execution and life-threatening situations like war, disease and famine.

Thousands of years before George Carlin, Bill Maher or The Daily Show, Aristophanes, the “Father of Comedy,” poked fun at politicians, generals, elite citizens and the general hypocrisy he observed in 450 B.C. in Athens. Other satirists followed, including Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Moliere, Voltaire, Swift, Carroll, Shaw, Ionesco and Vonnegut. Today late-night TV comedy skits by Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and others use satire, but rarely resort to dark comedy and gallows humor for laughs.

The actors in Banshees and The Menu don’t wink, jest, or play for laughs. Dark comedy and gallows humor require a solemn tone for impact. The characters in Voltaire’s Candide (1759) interact in earnest as if the plot sequences are entirely plausible. They suffer kidnapping, disease, flogging and the loss of body parts as they flee pedophiles, rapists, wars, earthquakes, the Spanish Inquisition and Jesuit missionaries. Playing it straight is the key to dark humor. The narrator of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1729) seriously suggests the solution to the problem of starving beggars is to eat their babies. In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), “The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking around.”

Movie audiences have been numbed by blockbuster action films and super-hero sequels. The linear plot lines are devoid of satire, irony and subtlety. The Banshees of Inisherin and The Menu make audiences think and reflect on what exactly is being ridiculed. The dark comedy trend may not last, but for at least this year, a few movies reach the height of cinematic art.

5 Movies We're Obsessed With

5 movies we're obsessed with that will leave you wanting more. Guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and question life.

1. La La Land

2. Bruce Almighty

3. Empire of the Sun

4. The Kingsman (all of them)

5. Parasite (oh, yes!)

Ella Enchanted: Movie Version

Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: Ella Enchanted
Streaming: Ella Enchanted
Ella Enchanted

Study Guide compares the novel ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine to the movie version Ella Enchanted (2004) starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver, and Vivica A. Fox. The main plot line and characters survive this film even though 18 chapters of the book are omitted from the movie.

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: Ella Enchanted (2004) starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver, and Vivica A. Fox.

Lady Eleanor’s funeral, Apple the centaur, Chock the parrot, gnomes, zoo, Finishing School, Hattie’s wig, Sir Peter’s financial problems, Edmund of Wolleck, sliding down the bannister, Lela, ball gowns, white mask, pumpkin coach, lost glass slipper, King Jerrold, and Queen Daria.

Narrator, Edgar, Heston, Benny, paper boy, newspaper, escalator, Frell Community College, Prince Charmont’s fan club, poison crown, dagger, Ella in prison, fight at the coronation.

Magic book, ogres, giants, elves, Ella and Char’s romance, Mandy, Lucinda, Sir Peter, Dame Olga, Hattie, Olive, Slannen, and Areida, Lucinda’s gift of obedience, Sir Peter’s marriage to Dame Olga, Ella’s marriage to Char.

Download the Study Guide Now: Ella Enchanted: Movie Version

5 Binge Watching Snacks
Mar 19, 2020  
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Consider the amount of time you spend binge-watching shows (and usually binge-eating along with it). Consuming mindless amounts of junk food only to find down the road our bodies do not love us for it. That’s why small changes like ‘binge-watching’ snacks are important and can make a big difference.

Here are 5 that we're obsessed with. Enjoy with your favorite hummus, guac, salsa or by themselves! What are some of your favorite binge-watching snacks?

1. Real Food From The Ground Up Cauliflower Stalks 

2. Real Food From The Ground Up Butternut Squash Pretzels

3. Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips

4. Popcorners Snacks Variety Pack

5. Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP Sea Salt Popcorn

Huckleberry Finn: Movie Version
Huckleberry Finn MV Title

Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: The Adventures of Huck Finn
Streaming: The Adventures of Huck Finn
Book: Huckleberry Finn

Study Guide compares the novel Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain to the movie version The Adventures of Huck Finn
 (1993) Even though this Disney movie omits 24 chapters of the book, it still covers the main plot lines and characters fairly accurately. Too bad the movie left out Tom Sawyer who dominates most of the omitted chapters.

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993) starring Elijah Wood, Courtney B. Vance, and Jason Robards. A Disney Picture. 

Tom Sawyer, Judge Thatcher, Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas, Aunt Polly, Emmeline Grangerford, Tom Sawyer’s band of robbers, Jim’s rattlesnake bite, the search for Huck’s body, the flood, the floating house, The Royal Nonesuch, the circus, Colonel Sherburn, Jim as a sick Arab, Tom and Huck’s rescue of Jim, Tom’s gunshot wound . . .

The fight with the bully, the wanted poster, Jim as a Grangerford slave, Pap’s body on the steamboat, Jim’s whipping, Jim as a Swahili, the attempted lynching of Jim, Mary Jane Wilks firing a gun, Jim’s arrest, Huck’s gunshot wound . . .

Widow Douglas and Miss Watson try to civilize Huck, Pap kidnaps Huck, Huck stages his own murder, Huck and Jim’s raft trip on the Mississippi River, Huck dressed as a girl, the Grangerford and Shepherdson feud, the king and the duke try to swindle the Wilks family, Huck runs away at the end . . .

Download the Study Guide Now: Huckleberry Finn: Movie Version

How to Kiss in the Movies
Heart Red-001

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 . . . a brief history of the rules. The first movie kiss lasted 19 seconds. Cinema pioneer Thomas Edison went to a Broadway theater in 1896 and filmed the kissing scene in the play The Widow Jones. Edison called his short film The Kiss.

Actor John Barrymore holds the record for most movie kisses, 119 kisses in Don Juan (1926).

The movie studios cracked down on kissing after Marlene Dietrich kissed a woman in Morocco (1930). After the girl-on-girl kiss, movie studios agreed to abide by rules (The Hays Code) that restricted excessive and lustful kissing. The kisses had to be between a male and a female adult who could kiss for only 3 seconds.

Director Alfred Hitchcock found a way to cheat the kissing rule. In Notorious (1946) Hitchcock directed Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman to kiss for 3 seconds, stop for 3 seconds, then kiss for 3 seconds, stop for 2 seconds, etc. The actors nuzzled each other between kisses so it looked like one long 2 ½ minute make-out session. The movie did not get industry “approval” but Hitchcock didn’t care. Neither did Billy Wilder in 1959 when Some Like It Hot did not receive “approval” because of a lingering kiss between Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis who was dressed in drag.

The 3-second kissing rule lasted until 1968 when the current movie rating system was adopted. Movie-goers didn’t see two men kiss on screen until Sunday Bloody Sunday in 1971.

The longest movie kiss was 3 minutes, 24 seconds in Elena Undone (2010).

Bridge to Terabithia: Movie Version

Find the recommended movie and book here: 
DVD: Bridge to Terabithia
Streaming: Bridge to Terabithia
Book: Bridge to Terabithia

Study Guide compares the novel Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson to the movie Bridge to Terabithia 
(2007) Many plot points are accurate in this movie version of Bridge to Terabithia. The movie adds plots, characters, and themes that are not in the book, but the general story sticks to the book. It’s worth watching if you keep in mind that in the book Jess and Leslie are 10-years-old, not teenagers, and the book does not have a giant troll and flying monsters.

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: Bridge to Terabithia (2007) starring Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb and Zooey Deschanel. Directed by Gabor Csupo. Walt Disney Pictures.

Bessie the cow, Jess can’t swim, the sacred grove, King of the Mountain, Christmas gifts, Easter service, paper dolls, cremation, funeral wreath, the National Gallery, the Smithsonian, characters including Grandma Burke, Mrs. Pierce, Wilma Dean, Bobby Sue Henshaw, Mrs. Prentice and Billy Morris.

The greenhouse, pink sneakers, abandoned pickup, the treehouse, the lost keys, squogres and vultures, the giant troll, Mr. Bailey, Scott Hoager, Alexandra, Kenny the bus driver.

The rope, the flooded creek, Terabithia, Prince Terrien, the race that Leslie wins, the stolen Twinkie, the Burke’s gold living room, the trip to the museum with Miss Edmunds, Mrs. Myers, Leslie’s accident, Jess’s drawings, the trick played on Janice Avery, Leslie’s gift of art supplies, Gary Fulcher.

Download the Study Guide Now: Bridge to Terabithia: Movie Version

Lord of the Flies Boys as Grown-ups
Lord of the Flies-art

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What kind of men did Ralph, Jack, and Roger become? After their rescue from the island, they had their whole lives ahead of them. Childhood behavior is a reliable predictor of the kind of men they grew to be. Here are some possibilities based on the boys’ personalities and moral traits revealed on the island.

ROGER: Only one boy on the island is evil: Roger. His sadistic tendencies include cruelty to children and animals. He throws rocks at the younger boys. He tortures the female pig before he kills it. He murders Piggy. He tortures Sam and Eric. Roger’s tendencies indicate that he is a victim of child abuse himself. Roger is so damaged emotionally and psychologically that he cannot break the cycle of abuse. Prediction: Roger falls into a life of crime. He winds up spending most of his life in prison.

JACK: Jack isn’t evil. He is willful, ambitious, and needs to control people and events. Jack has a track record as a leader. At school he is head of the choirboys. He uses his political skills to depose Ralph, the elected leader on the island, and persuades the choirboys to join his tribe. He recruits all of them except Simon. Jack is not a team player. He has to be in charge and is willing to break rules and use violence to get his way. He likes wielding power and managing a large operation. Jack is uncompromising and competitive. Prediction: Jack becomes the CEO of a corporation, a real estate developer, or the mayor of a large city.

RALPH: Ralph has leadership skills, plus a sense of ethics and compassion. He is mindful of the younger, helpless children on the island. He also recognizes Piggy’s intelligence and tries to protect him from Jack and his tribe. Ralph believes in the power of laws and civil organization. He acknowledges the conch as the symbol of free speech. Ralph is an organizer. He oversees the building of shelters and devises a system for watching the signal fire. He is dedicated to the ideals of living in harmony, social welfare, and civil rights. Ralph is willing to work out solutions to problems through diplomacy and compromise. He has the ability to identify priorities.  Ralph sees the big picture. He recognizes that the most important goal for the stranded boys is rescue. The signal fire is the number one priority. Prediction: Ralph becomes a lawyer and advocate for social and environmental causes, the president of an international charity, or a career diplomat.

Download the Study Guide Now: Lord of the Flies: Movie Version

To Kill a Mockingbird: Movie Version
To Kill a Mockingbird MV Title Page

Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: To Kill a Mockingbird
Streaming: To Kill a Mockingbird
Book: To Kill a Mockingbird

Study Guide compares To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee to the movie version To Kill a Mockingbird
 (1962) This is the ONLY movie version of the novel and a classic. Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus Finch.

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) starring Gregory Peck. Screenplay by Horton Foote. Directed by Robert Mulligan. Produced by Alan Pakula. A Pakula-Mulligan, Brentwood Productions Picture.

Aunt Alexandra, the history of the Finch family, Uncle Jack, cousin Francis, Nathan Radley, Link Deas, the air rifles, the fire at Miss Maudie’s, the mud man, Scout’s painful experiences in first and second grade, Dill’s Aunt Rachel (in the movie she’s called Aunt Stephanie), Jem’s destruction of Mrs. Dubose’s flowers, Scout’s discovery of trinkets left in the knothole, the children’s visit to Calpurnia’s church, the story takes place over 2 ½ years.

Dill’s aunt Miss Stephanie Crawford (in the book her name is Miss Rachel), the judge’s request that Attitcus defend Tom Robinson, Jem’s discovery of the first trinkets in the knothole, Tom Robinson’s father, Arthur Radley’s cementing over the knothole, Miss Maudie as a younger woman, the trial as the main action, the reduced role of Mrs. Dubose, the story taking place in one year, Atticus throwing a glass at Tom Robinson in the courtroom.

The setting in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930’s, Scout’s fights at school, the trinkets in the knothole, Atticus’s shooting a mad dog, the trial of Tom Robinson, Bob Ewell’s spitting on Atticus, Boo Radley’s rescue of Jem and Scout on Halloween.

Download the Study Guide Now: To Kill a Mockingbird: Movie Version

Heart of Darkness: Conrad’s Congo Diary
Heart of Darkness Art

The only diary Joseph Conrad ever kept was a journal he wrote during his six months in the Belgian Congo. He worked on a steamer that sailed up the Congo River to an inner station. Conrad used his notes eight years later to write the novella Heart of Darkness, published as a three-part serial in Blackwood’s magazine in 1889.

Was there really a Kurtz who embraced the life of a savage chieftain? How common was it for Europeans to go native after spending time in the jungle? The surrender to the dark side once a man arrived in Africa happened a lot. Several men are thought to be the model for Kurtz including Georges-Antoine Klein, the agent for the trading company Conrad worked for. Other Kurtz-like nominees are Leon Rom, a Belgian soldier, Edmund Musgrave Barttelot, explorer, Tippu Tip, slave trader and Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh explorer.

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Huckleberry Finn 2: The Sequel

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Mark Twain left us hanging. What happened to Huck Finn? A new sequel to the movie version of Huckleberry Finn could satisfy our curiosity. At the end of the novel, 12-year-old Huck decides he can’t live with Widow Douglas anymore and endure her attempts to civilize him. Huck says, he’s “been there before.” Instead he decides to “light out for the territory.” He runs away.

The territory in the mid-1850s was all of the United States west of the Mississippi except for Texas and California. Like Mark Twain himself, the streetwise and gregarious Huck would shun hard labor on a farm or ranch and head for the bustling city of San Francisco.

Huck doesn’t need to work. He was awarded half of Injun Joe’s gold at the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Judge Thatcher invested Huck’s $6,000 and pays him a dollar a day in interest. That’s plenty to live on in the 1850s. Huck likes to be around people, he’s observant, and he has a habit of assuming different names and identities. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck introduces himself by five different names and personal histories.

As much as he likes to pose as a character, Huck would find acting too demanding. He would have to memorize lines, take direction, and be locked into a schedule. Huck is a free spirit who doesn’t like to be tied down. He needs to be in control of his time and movements. Most of all Huck craves adventure.

So in the sequel, Huck becomes a freelance newspaper reporter in San Francisco like Mark Twain. He ventures down to the harbor, out to the gold mines, and into the redwood forests and Yosemite to find out what’s going on.

Does Huck fall in love and settle down? Maybe . . .  in Huck Finn 3!

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Fahrenheit 451 Predicts Flat Screen TV

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The flat screen TV in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was so big it was called “the wall.” Today’s largest TVs boast seven-foot screens. According to Fahrenheit, it’s not the size of the screen that matters, it’s the content.

Like modern media rooms, game rooms, and home theaters, every house in Bradbury’s futuristic novel has a TV wall. Bradbury predicted in 1953 that television screens would get bigger, programming would become mediocre, and technology would become the center of our lives. In Fahrenheit 451 TV shows are like reality TV. Characters interact with the wall much like we do on Facebook, Twitter, and Skype.

Bradbury predicted other inventions in Fahrenheit 451 including 24-hour banking machines, earbud headphones, electronic surveillance cameras, and listening devices in the form of Bradbury robot dogs that sniff around your house recording conversations.

The most prophetic trend in Fahrenheit 451 is technology’s dehumanizing effect on modern culture. Characters in the novel suffer from loneliness and isolation from watching the wall’s mindless programming. The character of Mildred spends her days interacting with the wall and taking sleeping pills at night.

Viewers have finally turned away from the mind-numbing reality shows the networks developed to cut costs. Quality dramas and sit-coms are back, but they are produced by internet companies, not the networks. Netflix and Amazon have hired talented writers with fresh ideas. For the first time CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX did not win 2015 Golden Globes. HBO won a single award. Netflix and Amazon were big winners, signaling a power shift from the traditional television industry to tech companies, and the viewers’ shift from TV to computer.

The new players in the media biz seem to have heeded Fahrenheit 451: “The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her.”

Download the Study Guide Now: Fahrenheit 451: Movie Version

Ethan Frome: Movie Version
Ethan Frome MV Title Page

Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: Ethan Frome
Streaming: Ethan Frome
Book: Ethan Frome

Study Guide compares the book Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton to the movie Ethan Frome

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: Ethan Frome (1993) starring Liam Neeson, Joan Allen, and Patricia Arquette. Directed by John Madden. A Miramax Films Picture.

the engineer . . . the graveyard . . . the suicide pact . . . Ethan’s red scar . . .
Mattie’s red hair ribbon . . . the church picnic . . . the pillow . . . Ethan’s study . . . the shaving scene . . . Ethan’s letter to Zeena . . . Mattie’s note to Ethan . . .

Reverend Smith . . . Ruth as narrator . . . the pump scene . . . the love scenes . . . the fox . . . the poison . . . the gift from Denis . . . the comb . . . Mattie’s singing . . .

the dance . . . the search for the key . . . Zeena’s trip to the doctor . . . the pickle dish . . . the sawmill . . . the smash-up . . . 

Download the Study Guide Now: Ethan Frome: Movie Version

Why Do We Say “Merry" Christmas?
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We say “Happy” Birthday, New Year, Thanksgiving, Easter and lots of other holidays. But Christmas is the only “Merry” greeting. The answer lies in the tradition of drinking alcohol at Christmas. “Merry” used to mean “tipsy” or “drunk” and the custom of getting drunk at Christmas goes back to the 4th century.

- 324 A.D. Early Christians celebrated Easter only. Pope Liberius added Christmas to the church calendar and set the date December 25. The idea was to attract more converts who liked to celebrate the Roman winter festival Saturnalia when houses were decorated with evergreens and everybody played games, gave gifts and partied.
- Middle Ages. Christmas was celebrated as a rowdy party with dancing, drinking and sexual revelry.
- The Reformation. In the 1500s Protestants banned the wild festival of Christmas, but Catholics partied on.
- The Restoration. In England the Puritans banned Christmas when they seized power in 1640. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Christmas made a comeback. So did the drinking and revelry.
- 1844. Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, a novel where Ebenezer Scrooge says, “Merry Christmas!”
- Temperance Movement. In the late 1800s in England, women campaigned against drinking alcohol at Christmas. They proposed doing away with the tipsy “Merry” and replacing it with “Happy.” To this day the English and Irish say “Happy Christmas.”

3 Reasons Why it's Still in the Curriculum

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Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage has always been way ahead of its time.  That’s one reason the book has never been out of print since it was first published in 1894. The novel has also been required reading in middle school and high school for over a hundred years. Set in the American Civil War, Crane’s novel is so realistic that battle descriptions are like live tweets from the front lines. The novel is all the more remarkable because Crane did not fight in the Civil War or any war. He was born 6 years after the Civil War ended.  He wrote the book when he was 24. The magazine and newspaper accounts he read of battles were dry and factual. As a writing exercise Crane decided to create emotional passages that describe how soldiers feel before, during, and after battle. Crane wrote in a style totally different from the conventional style of 1894. The result is a novel that still seems modern and unique. Here are 3 reasons why The Red Badge of Courage is still in the curriculum: 

  1. Entry-level Classic. The low reading level (Grade 6) makes Red Badge easy to read while exposing readers to complex themes and sophisticated literary style. Young readers have to build up vocabulary, reading comprehension, and experience with figurative language before diving into adult fiction. Red Badge is a good start. The book provides a solid bridge between young adult fiction and the more challenging adult classics. Readers first must learn to interpret irony, symbolism, and literary devices before tackling the English classics of Dickens, Hardy, and the Brontes, and the American classics of Twain, Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Hemingway. Red Badge is a good basic introduction to adult literature. 

  2. Universal Themes. Red Badge explores what war feels like to a young recruit. The book could be about a soldier in any war who experiences courage, bravery, heroism, loyalty, and survival in the face of dehumanizing forces outside an individual’s control. Red Badge is not a historical novel full of events, dates, and battle strategies. Instead Crane zeroes in on the feelings of the soldiers who are portrayed as victims of war. The characters in Red Badge do not spout political ideology or religious beliefs. They speak of home, family, uncertainty, fear, and survival. 

  3. Modern Style. Red Badge also serves as an introduction to modern style.  Sentences are short and descriptive. Modern literary devices used in the book include flashback and stream of consciousness. The emotional and psychological reactions of characters are exposed. Crane’s descriptions of battle are surrealistic. Examples include: Tents sprang up like strange plants. Camp fires, like red, peculiar blossoms, dotted the night. The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer. The trees began softly to sing a hymn of twilight. The youth could see the two flags shaking with laughter amid the smoke remnants. The moon had been lighted and hung in a treetop.

Download the Study Guide Now: The Red Badge of Courage: Movie Version

Frankenstein: Movie Version

Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Streaming: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Book: Frankenstein

Study Guide compares the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley to the movie Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) The movie changes the plot in places, but this is the most reliable movie version. Robert De Niro as the 8-foot-tall creature is fantastic!

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) starring Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, and Aidan Quinn. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola. A TriStar Picture.

The letters to Margaret Saville, Victor’s mother dying of scarlet fever, Justine’s trial, Felix’s sister Agatha and his girlfriend Safie, nature’s power to refresh Victor, the books the creature reads, Victor’s trip to England with Henry, Victor’s laboratory in Scotland, Henry’s murder in Ireland, the creature’s repentance . . .

Victor’s mother dying in childbirth, Victor’s father is a doctor, Waldman’s death, use of Waldman’s brain in the creature, cholera epidemic, the mob that hangs Justine, the flute, Felix’s wife and children, the landlord, the good spirit of the forest, Elizabeth in Ingolstadt, the engagement locket, the murder of Victor’s father, the bodyguards, the ripping out of Elizabeth’s heart, use of Elizabeth’s corpse to make a female creature, Victor’s funeral . . .

Robert Walton’s Arctic expedition, the sighting of the creature on the ice, the rescue of Victor Frankenstein, Justine’s hanging, the old blind man, how the creature learns to read and write, Victor Frankenstein’s journal . . .

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Frankenstein Day
8-30 Mary Shelley

FRANKENSTEIN DAY is August 30. Why? Because it’s the birthday of Mary Shelley who was born on August 30, 1797. Shelley began writing the noveFrankenstein when she was 18 years old. The first edition of the classic was published anonymously in 1818 when she was 20.

Mary Shelley’s name appeared on the second edition published in France in 1823.

Download the Study Guide Now: Frankenstein: Movie Version

What’s the Best Movie Version of a Book?
Best Movie Version

There are two: The Old Man and the Sea and The Outsiders.

The Old Man and the Sea (1958) starring Spencer Tracy is true to the book throughout. Turner Classic Movies calls it the “most literal word-for-word rendition of a written story ever filmed.” It was one of the first movies to use bluescreen. The shots of the Cuban coast are authentic, as is the film of a giant marlin breaking the surface of the sea. Tracy was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. Dimitri Tiomkin won for Best Original Score.

The Outsiders (1983) movie is true to the book except for one flaw - the movie omits Chapter 11. Shot on location in the book's authentic setting, Tulsa, Oklahoma, the film features dialogue that is almost word-for-word from the book. The actual ages of the teenage cast adds to the authenticity: C. Thomas Howell (16), Patrick Swayze (29), Matt Dillon (18), Rob Lowe (18), Emilio Estevez (20), Ralph Macchio (21), Diane Lane (17), and Tom Cruise (20).

Two Hollywood legends brought the books to life on the screen. John Sturges directed The Old Man and the Sea and Francis Ford Coppola directed The Outsiders.

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The Old Man and the Sea: Movie Version
The Outsiders: Movie Version

A Wrinkle in Time: Movie Version

Find the recommended movie and book here: 
DVD: A Wrinkle in Time
Streaming: A Wrinkle in Time
Book: A Wrinkle in Time

Study Guide compares the novel A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle to the movie version A Wrinkle in Time 
(2003) starring Katie Stuart, Gregory Smith, David Dorfman, Chris Potter, Kate Nelligan, and Alfre Woodard. Directed by John Kent Harrison. This made for TV movie aired on ABC in 2004. Although many scenes are not true to the book, this film is more accurate than the 2018 movie version.

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: A Wrinkle in Time (2003) starring Katie Stuart, Gregory Smith, David Dorfman, Chris Potter, Kate Nelligan, and Alfre Woodard. Directed by John Kent Harrison. This made for TV movie aired on ABC in 2004. Although many scenes are not true to the book, this film is more accurate than the 2018 movie version.

Mrs. Buncombe’s bedsheets, Mrs. Porter, tesseract to a two-dimensional planet, gifts from Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, the paperboy on Camazotz, creatures with tentacles, Meg’s use of the periodic table, square roots, and nursery rhymes to ward off evil.

Star-watching rock, Calvin’s brother Eric, science teacher, desert sandstorm on Camazotz, ice and snow on Ixchel, girl in pink, men in limos, Calvin’s capture, Calvin’s basketball fantasy, Mr. Murry’s broken leg, glow worms, fire flowers, Meg’s double, and the earthquake on Camazotz,

The Murry family, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, tesseract, IT, Camazotz, the man with red eyes, Central Intelligence Center, and Aunt Beast.

Download the Study Guide Now: A Wrinkle in Time: Movie Version

ANIMAL FARM: There will be blood!
Blog 14 Animal Farm Art

*Featured Artist: @trishalyonsart

The 1954 animated film version of Animal Farm by George Orwell features the first blood shown in a cartoon. Disney movies did not show blood until five years later when a dragon was killed by a sword in the 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty.

Blood appears three times in the cartoon – when a dog bites a farmer, when Boxer is shot in the hoof and when Napoleon begins executing disobedient animals. The killings are not shown on screen, but after animals are murdered, one of the commandments on the side of the barn is amended. The commandment now reads: No animal shall kill another animal WITHOUT CAUSE. The words “without cause” are written in blood.

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Trump Movie is in Demand BIGLY
MV Blog Trump Art

Trump’s The Art of the Deal: Movie Version is a parody of the 1987 book. Netflix is the only place you can stream the movie version of Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal. Johnny Depp stars as Donald Trump in this Funny or Die produced satire released in February 2016. In the parody Trump decides to produce his own movie version of his best-selling book. The comedy pokes fun at The Art of the Deal with chapters on:

Chapter 1: The Art of Intimidating Rent Controlled Tenants
Chapter 2: The Art of Defeating Totally Bogus Discrimination
Chapter 3: The Art of Suing Those Losers at the NFL
Chapter 4: The Art of Buying a Casino from the Hilton Family
Chapter 5: The Art of Marrying a Gorgeous Immigrant
Chapter 6: The Art of Building the Trump Tower

The film also features Ron Howard, Kristen Schaal, Patton Oswalt, Henry Winkler, Alfred Molina, Andy Richter, Stephen Merchant, Jack McBrayer, Robert Morse and Christopher Lloyd. The 50-minute comedy is available on Netflix and can be viewed soon on the Funny or Die website.

What was the First Movie of a Book?
Sherlock Holmes


The first movie of a book was Sherlock Holmes Baffled,
a 30-second black and white silent film that debuted
April 26, 1900 in New York City.

Is the Movie Ethan Frome Accurate?

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Is the movie Ethan Frome accurate? The 1993 film is the only movie of the novel by Edith Wharton. Liam Neeson is perfect as Frome. The film has two major flaws: 1. Ethan and Mattie do not have sex in the novel. 2. The narrator of the book is an engineer, not the preacher character in the movie. The movie version of Ethan Frome tells the basic story, but adds action and characters that are not in the book.

Download the Study Guide Now: Ethan Frome: Movie Version