Friday, January 26, 2018

Book Review - “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” Reviewed by Briana Bizier, Board Member of the Raymond Village Library

A really memorable children’s book manages to delight several different audiences. The story, pictures, and language all have to be simple enough to grab a child’s attention. However, a truly great children’s book is also able to engage the adult who is often reading the book over and over. One of the classics, which succeeds on both accounts, is “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett with illustrations by Ron Barrett.

The premise of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, told through the elegant framing device of a
grandfather’s bedtime story, is simple and beautifully ridiculous.

What if food fell from the sky? That would be wonderful . . . unless the weather took a turn for the worse. Children get a kick out of the pure silliness of this book, but the real beauty of Barrett’s story are the delightfully complex illustrations. 

I’ve read this book to my children over and over, for years, and I’m still finding hidden treasures in the illustrations. From the firemen rushing into a pancake-related disaster holding forks and spoons to the “Bowel Movers” van stuck on Lower Intestine Street, these delightful illustrations ensure that even adult readers can enjoy “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” again and again. 

Emerging readers will also enjoy finding these hidden treats in the illustrations, like a secret message in a flood of alphabet soup.

Yes, there is also a film adaptation of this popular children’s book, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable as the book. The movie manages to drain much of the silly fun from the story by trying to explain why food falls from the sky, and it ends up being yet another example of a movie which falls short of its source material.

You can check out “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” - both the book and the movie, at the Raymond Library!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Review of “The Golem and The Jinni” - Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor at the Windham Public Library

Helene Wecker’s “The Golem and The Jinni” is a rare combination of historical romance meets magical realism. This 400+ page tome is well worth the time investment. I was sorry when I finished reading it.
In New York in 1899, a golem arrives. She is a woman made from clay, fashioned to be the wife of a
lonely man who dies on the boat as their ship nears America. Because it is her nature to serve, the golem, Chava, struggles without a master. Set adrift in this unfamiliar land, the golem seeks and finds solace as a kind of daughter to an old rabbi.

At about the same time, a tinsmith repairs a bottle and releases a jinni. The jinni, Ahmand, trapped for centuries, craves reckless freedom. He roams the city like the fire he’s made from—wildly, quickly, without thought to consequence.

The golem and the jinni are simultaneously powerful and vulnerable as they stumble through their new, confusing community. When they meet, they recognize each other as something other than human. An unlikely friendship forms. And while they are both magical creatures, they possess thoughts and feelings that make them real, likeable and complex. 

The novel employs a wide cast of characters—the rabbi who takes in the lost golem, the tinsmith for whom the jinni works, an ice cream seller who was once a doctor, a man who runs a homeless shelter, all of whom struggle with desires and obstacles. Wecker throws out a multitude of threads and then, like a magician herself, weaves them seamlessly into a story. 

The plot only really gets going when the evil wizard who created the golem, Yedudah Schaalman, arrives in New York on a quest for eternal life. Here, the golem and the jinni must work together toward a common goal. 

If you’re looking for a plot-driven novel, this isn’t for you. But, if you’re willing to meander the streets of historical New York with two unconventional guides, this book is well worth your time.  

Friday, January 5, 2018

My Top 10 Movies of 2017 by Dan Kilgallon

(Note: As is this case each time I put together this list, I did not get a chance to see all of the big-name movies that were released in theaters in 2017. This was certainly a very strong year for film and a few major titles that I missed out on are “Get Out”, “Alien: Covenant”, and “It.”)

10. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (PG-13)
Run Time:  133 mins

My Rating: 7.5/10

The young Tom Holland made his debut as Spider-Man in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” but this marks his first standalone feature as the character. The sixteenth installment in the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe resulted in another strong outing for the franchise and one of their finest villains yet in the form of Michael Keaton’s Vulture.

9. “Wonder Woman” (PG-13)
Run Time: 141 mins

My Rating: 8/10

Similarly to Holland, Gal Gadot made an appearance as this titular character in 2016’s “Batman v Superman” before starring in this full length feature. While this milestone movie rightfully appeals to women all around the world, I think Wonder Woman can truly be enjoyed by just about any audience of moviegoers.

8. “Baby Driver” (R)
Run Time: 112 mins

My Rating: 8/10

I didn’t catch this heist movie (no pun intended) until it hit home video, but I am sure glad that I did. With “Baby Driver” director Edgar Wright crafted a fun, fresh, and exciting movie that could stand as a classic for years to come. The soundtrack and chase sequences alone are more than enough to make this worth a watch.

7. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (PG-13)
Run Time: 152 mins

My Rating: 8/10

“The Force Awakens” was my number one film of 2015 and remains my favorite chapter of the space saga. This time around, director Rian Johnson crafted a very exciting movie that certainly takes the franchise in a bold new direction. While there are many brilliant moments, the film is hurt by a few major storytelling issues.

6. “Thor: Ragnarok” (PG-13)
Run Time: 130 mins

My Rating: 8/10

In a year full of many fun movies, I would say that “Thor: Ragnarok” is the best of the bunch in that sense and a total home run for Marvel. This movie was absolutely hilarious and full of fresh, exciting action sequences. This film understood what it’s universe has become; an episodic series of movies that exist to entertain.

5. “Justice League” (PG-13)
Run Time: 120 mins

My Rating: 8.5/10

“Justice League” absolutely proved that this iconic titular team could be portrayed successfully and display natural camaraderie on the big screen. While I think that the studio mandated 2-hour runtime, prevented this film from being even better, it also very clear that DC is well on their way to competing with the dominance of Marvel.

4. “Blade Runner 2049” (R)
Run Time: 164 mins

My Rating: 8.5/10

In order to resurrect an old story through a contemporary sequel, the universe needs to be supplemented and the story must be built upon. Many reboot films fall incredibly short in this sense, as they simply modernize the visuals and retell old stories. “2049” functions excellently in evading these tropes and adds even more depth to the already rich universe that was established in the original movie.

3. “John Wick: Chapter 2” (R)
Run Time: 122 mins

My Rating: 9/10

Like its predecessor, “John Wick: Chapter 2” understands that action movies are supposed to be fun and sometimes cheesy; they do not try to be overly dark or grounded in reality. That might be the best thing that this series has going for it and this follow up expands on the mythos of the underworld of killers at the center of it all.
2. “War for the Planet of the Apes” (PG-13)
Run Time: 142 mins

My Rating: 9.5/10

The third installment of this excellent science fiction trilogy actually has a fairly misleading title. This is not as much of a giant war epic (as advertised) but rather, a psychological battle between the beloved chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his counterpart, The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). This was the best film of a fun summer and one of the finest science fiction film I have seen in years.
1. “Logan” (R)
Run Time: 137 mins

My Rating: 9.5/10

Hugh Jackman completely blows it out of the park, delivering his finest (and final) performance to date as this complicated and physically exhausted version of the Wolverine. “Logan” was everything that I expected and more; loaded with gruesome action and intense drama. This is easily my favorite “X-Men” movie yet and the best comic book film that I have seen since “The Dark Knight.”