Another Look at “The Gunniwolf”

Last spring, I wrote about a discovery I made while writing a short screenplay.  Elements of The Gunniwolf, a cautionary tale about a little girl who wanders into the woods and encounters the titular beast, made its way into the script.  I heard the story in grade school, but had forgotten about it, until I noticed the similiarity between a key sequence in my script and a key sequence in the folk tale.  The blog came to the attention of Harriet Stovall Kelley this past October, as she was researching some titles in her collection of antique books online.

Ms. Kelley owns a 1936 edition of Wilhelmina Harper’s The Gunniwolf and Other Merry Tales, illustrated by Kate Seredy.  She shared with us a sample of Seredy’s illustrations for The Gunniwolf.  In my first blog, I compared and noted the differences between  illustrations in two different editions of The Gunniwolf:  William Wiesner‘s Asian influenced, earth tones versus Barbara Upton’s colorful, vibrant landscapes.  Note the style and differences in Seredy’s illustration.  The Little Girl is in period clothing, and appears more urban that rural.  The gunniwolf may be the scariest of the three, but check his ears!  The jungle foliage and colors appear to be art deco (though I’m not entirely certain), which was the popular style of the thirties.  Ms. Kelley describes Seredy’s illustrations as soft and delicate.  In other books, Seredy’s style is that as well as bold and striking.  Seredy has authored several children’s book titles which she also illustrated.

Girl and gunni     gunniwolf-close-up.jpg
The Little Girl and the Gunniwolf as drawn by Weisner (above left), Upton (above right) and Serey (below)

Harriett Stovall Kelley is an award winning poet, whose works include an edition of her great-grandfather’s novel Rival Lovers, and The Butterfly Hotline, which she edited with fellow Agnes Scott College alums in memoriam to author Georgia Christopher.  An Atlanta native, Ms. Kelley currently lives in Dallas, Texas.  Our thanks to her for reading our blog and sharing her book and insights with us!

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The Gunniwolf with illustrations by Barbara Upton is available at 5 CCLS libraries.  The Gunniwolf with illustrations by William Wiesner and The Gunniwolf and Other Merry Tales are available through PINES.  Please ask the staff at your library branch for assistance.

Read the blog “Childhood Favorites: Rediscovering ‘The Gunniwolf’

Published in: on January 29, 2008 at 1:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Somebody Help Me

 

Sometime ago, a publicist for the fright flick Somebody Help Me sent me a copy of the film and asked me to write a review.  Though I try to avoid writing reviews in our blogsphere, I gave the movie a look and wrote this review; an edited version of one I wrote for CinemATL: 

Somebody Help Me features a principally African-American cast lead by R&B songsters Marques Houston and Omari Grandberry.  You’ve seen the tale before:  twentysomethings Brendan (Houston) and Darryl (Grandberry) invite their friends up to a remote mountain cabin for some partying.  Then one by one, the friends start to disappear, including their girlfriends.  Brendan and Darryl decide to try to find them before calling in authorities.  Along the way, they encounter a mysterious and creepy loner/voyeur and a mysterious and creepy little girl who perplex them with their mysterious and creepy ways.  Meanwhile, the abductor is treating the abductees to a little unnecessary surgery sans anesthesia, and is working his way down to Brendan’s girl.

I haven’t seen and don’t know a lot of horror films, but I have a feeling that Somebody Help Me borrows its plot lines from several different horror movies:  It’s a hodge-podge homage to writer/director Chris Stokes’ DVD collection.  But Stokes (House Party 4, You Got Served) doesn’t seem to have bothered with making his story cohesive, plausible or logical.  He’s more concerned with getting his characters into near encounters with the masked kidnapper and other “scary” moments, usually by way of contrived scenes and weakly stilted dialogue.  The script leaves many plot points unexplained and disconnected, as if the “scary” moments would distract from the fact.  Stokes likes to play around with shadows and darkness and editing and optical tricks in an attempt to build suspense; it only creates confusion. 

Houston, Grandberry and the rest of the cast stumble about the movie, strait-jacketed by bad dialogue and motivations that make you roll your eyes and say, “You’ve got to be kidding!”  Stokes establishes some relationship issues between Darryl and his girl (played by Kim Fields’ little sister Alexis) early on, as if he would delve into some character development.  But this is soon forgotten in favor of the movie’s attempts to be scary.  

Somebody Help Me won’t find its way onto my list of favorite horror movies (and it’s a very short list), but it manages to stay off of my list of worst movies.  True horror fans will probably disagree with me; they might see some things that make it a good horror movie besides its failings in story.  It’s a movie best enjoyed by gathering a group of friends, having some snacks and laughing at the weak points of the movie.  (Hopefully, your friends will make it home without vanishing!)

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Somebody Help Me is available on DVD for sale or rental.  Find more information at the Codeblack Entertainment website.

 

Published in: on January 29, 2008 at 12:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Book vs. Movie: 300

WARNING!!! Beyond this place, there be SPOILERS!!! 

 

Spartan warrior-king Leonidas receives an edict from the god-king Xerxes of Persia:  Submit to Xerxes’ lordship or face the largest army ever seen on earth.  Submission is not in a Spartan’s vocabulary, so Leonidas makes plans for battle.  But the Oracle decrees that Sparta must not fight, and by Spartan law, Leonidas must obey the Oracle.  So he and his personal guard of three hundred soldiers decide to “take a stroll,” ending up at a coastal pass called the Hot Gates.  There, the three hundred Spartans and other Greeks engage the Persians, mercilessly smashing wave after wave of Xerxes’ forces.  But a spurned Spartan warrior reveals a weakness in Leonidas’ defense, which Persia will certainly exploit.  Undeterred by certain defeat, Leonidas and his three hundred vow to stand and fight to the death.

 

 

 Frank Miller gives the story of Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae a mythical treatment in his graphic novel 300.  I haven’t read many graphic novels or comic books, but I sense that Miller portrays Leonidas like the superheroes of those media.  His Spartans are the stuff of legend – fearless, seemingly invincible men who need no armor; only weapons, scarlet cape and optional leather thong – but with deep angst that is resolved only through conflict with an equally invincible foe.  The 2007 movie version takes things higher.  The Spartans are indeed superheroes:  Physically buff men fighting in battle with balletic movement (thong required here) in a magically realistic world.

   Rarely does the movie version deviate from the novel’s structure.  Much of the visual action is taken directly from Miller’s artwork, but the benefit of motion and visual effects manipulation add to the mythical atmosphere.  Battle scenes are ramped up, as is the level of violence and bloodshed.  The movie adds a subplot, built from some passing moments in the novel:  Sparta is sold out to the Persians by the Oracle and a traitorous councilman, the latter who complicates efforts by Leonidas’ queen to send reinforcements to her husband.  This adds little to the main plot, but doesn’t derail the movie, either.  If anything, it underscores the relationship between Leonidas and his queen, and redeems him of his defiance of the Oracle.

The movie and novel differ most in the portrayal of Leonidas.  Book Leonidas is a hard king, who addresses his soldiers as “children” and is quick to mete out discipline.  Movie Leonidas is no softie – he is king of a patriarchal society, after all – but he regards his men more as fellow soldiers and countrymen than subjects.  Leonidas seeks and trusts the counsel of his wife (her role is greatly expanded from the book), showing the depth of their love and commitment.  Movie Leonidas is a family man, fighting the Persian threat for his family, homeland and freedom.  Book Leonidas is a Spartan warrior who fights fearlessly out of duty, and for honor and glory.  His humanity is not apparent as his movie counterpart, though his expression suggests that, beneath the hard, cool exterior, he wonders if he will attain his glory and immortality.

300 on page and on film are close to exact in nature.  Naturally, the graphic novel follows the conventions of comic book heroes, while the movie employs magic realism to raise the Spartans to mythical proportions.  The differences in Leonidas’ portrayal set the two apart; though in the end, in both book and movie, Leonidas proves to be a hero, and a Spartan.

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The graphic novel of 300 is available through PINES.

Frank Miller recommends these titles on the Battle of Thermopylae that are also available through PINES:

The Hot Gates by William Golding

Thermopylae:  The Battle for the West by Ernie Bradford

The Western Way of War by Victor Davis Hanson

Visit www.darkhorse.com to see other comic and graphic novel titles from 300’s publisher.

300 Spartan Warriors website is a resource that includes information about the Battle of Thermopylae, including ones for separating the facts from fiction of the book and movie.

Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 4:47 pm  Comments (1)  

MLK: Stride Toward Freedom

In a previous blog, I spoke about the book When Harlem Nearly Killed King by Hugh Pearson.  The book is an account of the days leading to and following an attempt on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. during his visit to Harlem, New York in 1957.  King was in Harlem to promote his book Stride Toward Freedom. 

Stride Toward Freedom is King’s account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott that occurred from December 1, 1955 to December 21, 1956.  Starting with King’s call to head the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama to Rosa Parks’ arrest to the end of the boycott, King speaks of the people, events and particulars of the boycott (from his perspective, as he cautions) that sparked the civil rights struggle throughout the American south, and placed him at the head of the movement.   

I haven’t finished the book at this writing, so I can’t give a thorough observation and opinion here.  I did find King’s prose engaging, drawing me in with his thoughtful observations.  He doesn’t hold back from reporting the problems that resulted from individual frailty, but of course speaks of the overwhelming unity of the African-American community in Montogmery in their effort to overcome the indignities of segregation:  A kind of unity needed today as African-Americans rally against recent displays of racism and racial injustices. 

Stride Toward Freedom is available at the Headquarters Library, and the Forest Park, Jonesboro and Morrow Branches.  

 When Harlem Nearly Killed King is available at all CCLS Libraries.  Please ask a Staff member for assistance in locating both titles.

Published in: on January 16, 2008 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Resolve Not to Say Resolution!

Every New Year this big quest for a New Year’s Resolution begins. I hate the word ‘resolution.’ It sounds so…I don’t know….final? No room for growth or change or adaption. Ugh I hate the word so much that just writing this was difficult.Instead I like to look at the New Year in terms of goals or to-dos. Those can be altered at will in my opinion. And if you’re anything like me-they will be!   

For 2008 one of my biggest goals is to read more books from my to-read list. Or, as I affectionately irritatingly call it: “Ginny’s Never-Ending List of Books She Really Really REALLY Wants to & Should Read!” As of 12/31/07 the lists stands at 79 titles! Adult, Young Adult, Non-Fiction, Juvenile, Award considerations, etc-there’s a little bit of everything mixed in there. If I can knock out at least 40 of those titles, I will be a happy little panda! But I also know the truth, by June, that list will have doubled and I will be lucky to ready 10 of them. lol… L  

This brings us to…JOURNALS! (okay, just bear with me, it all makes sense in the end) 

Keeping a journal can be nice; whether it is online (Livejournal, Xanga, a personal blog from WordPress, or Blogger, etc) or in an actual book. Yours truly keeps both-an electronic one for my friends to see and a written one just for me. But no matter what, I will always go back to the book journal. There is a different feeling involved when grabbing a pen and scribbling away in a book. I can actually spend hours picking one out. It has to have a certain vibe to it in order for me to buy and use it. (I know, sad right? lol) Journal writing can be a HUGE stress reliever! Write or type out what is bothering you, special events or memories, anything really. Journal or diary, male or female-give it a try! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy: a $1 blank book, handmade, composition notebook, or something much more expensive and fancy. Whatever suits your style and budget. 

 Aside from regular journals, there are many different kinds. Some people keep journals for quotations, random thoughts, wildlife, spiritual, artwork, clippings, travel, health/food, ideas for books or stories, poetry, etc. The list could go on and on.  

One of my favorites is a book journal. Its simple-keep track of the books want to read or ones you read, notes on some of those books, your thoughts and feelings,* if you recommended it , things like that. Year end reviews can be handy to go back and see what you read and if you enjoyed it, see if it later became popular, if from one books you decided to read more from that author, see which titles you went back to reread, which became favorites, etc. The following webpage from About.com has a little section on “How to Keep a Reading Log or Book Journal”  The site gives some ideas for journal entries as well. For example: “What are your favorite quotes/passages from the book? Copy them into the journal and explain why.” If you’ve never done it before, it would be something different to try this year.  

Finally we come to books written in a diary/journal format. (See, I told you this was going somewhere! :P)

Instead of written in the classic first person point of view (‘I went to the library to see if they had any books on the haunting of Darrowshire.’) the book is written in a journal entry format, usually prefaced with the date and time like most journals:

Monday Jan. 3, 2008
Went to the library today.
Checked to see if there were any books on the Darrowshire hauntings.
Found some really cool infos about the ghosts and ghouls that inhabit the place. CREEEEPY!
  

This style is not for everyone. Personally? I love ‘em! It allows you to fall more into the character’s mind and actions, gain a little bit of insight that might be lost if the book was written in p.o.v. Not to mention, some authors will actually write it as if it were a real entry-abbreviations for names or words, slang, etc.   Submitted for your approval…a brief sampling of Diary/Journal/Blog style books! 

Alice, I Think – Susan Juby
Burn Journal – Brent Runyon
Confessions of a Backup Dancer – Tucker Shaw
Confessions of a Boyfriend Stealer – Robynn Clairday
Dear America
Fever, 1793 – Laurie Halse Anderson
Go Ask Alice – Anonymous
Holding Up the Earth – Dianne E. Gray
Katie Maxwell
Lily B – Elizabeth Kimmel
Louise Rennison
Monster – Walter Dean Myers
My Name is America
Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot
Prom – Laurie Halse Anderson  

*In the book Peony in Love by Lisa See, the main character Peony, does this when reading the Peony Pavilion (Chinese play). Instead of writing in another journal, she keeps all her notes and thoughts in the margins of the book itself.Till next time, keep flipping those pages!
~Ginny

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Don’t Say Ain’t

At a former job, a young woman, discussing a popular soul food restaurant, referred to a dish as “poke and beans.”  A co-worker, who was also a school teacher, corrected her:  “No, Shanice, it’s pork and beans.”  At that, the young woman frowned and whined, “Why we got to talk proper all the time?!” 

Talking “proper” was (is) a given in my family – my Mom’s a retired school teacher – but I understood why some people might not speak the King’s English.  I also understood the attitudes of those like Shanice when it came to correct grammar use and pronunciation.  But I never considered the point of view of this young woman or others.  The juvenile fiction book Don’t Say Ain’t gave me some insight into the problem faced by African-Americans and other minority groups:  Being and showing oneself as educated versus being culturally correct.

Taking place in 1957 Harlem, Dana, an African-American girl, is accepted to an integrated advanced school.  There, she must discard her everyday speech habits and speak “properly.”  Her schoolmates ridicule her for her speech and mannerisms, and at home, her neighborhood friends chide her for going to the school and thinking she is “better” than her peers.  Dana begins to wonder if living up to her potential is worth being rejected by her friends.

Though I didn’t suffer as greatly as Dana, I can relate to her troubles.  By high school, none of my school chums since kindergarten – all African-American – were in the advanced and college prep courses that I took.  By being in those classes with predominately white students, they saw me as “trying to be white” or “snobbish.”  Don’t Say Ain’t’s author Irene Smalls and illustrator Colin Bootman had similar experiences.  Smalls was a child when schools in her native New York City were integrated, and Bootman, who was born in Trinidad, had to discard his accent and learn to speak “properly.” 

Sadly, many kids feel that they must choose between betterment of themselves and acceptance by their peers (and sometimes adults).  It’s a tough choice:  The opportunity of uplifting oneself is often seen as rejecting race, culture and community to be “white”; the consequences of the latter may result in remaining stuck in negative socioeconomic circumstances associated with race, not to mention living beneath ones’ full potential.  Some kids who do choose advanced education and opportunities may truly find themselves losing their cultural identity, or isolation from all groups. 

The problem is complex:  Kids need to grow to their level of potential; they also need the acceptance and experience of their peer groups.  They can have both, just as Dana realized in the book.  They only – and always – need the proper encouragement and affirmation from parents, teachers or mentors so they can find solutions to the problem without seeing compromise of their potential or cultural identity as their only solution.

Don’t Say Ain’t is available at all CCLS Libraries.  Please ask a Staff member for assistance.

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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