Looking at all the PR leading up to this weekend’s Oscars ceremony, we started thinking about all the books that have inspired award-winning films. To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind, The Help and The Godfather just begin this list. Then, we started thinking about what we have read lately that could inspire the next round of directors and screen writers. And, of course, we found a few books to recommend. Even if these books never become movies, we hope you enjoy them in their prose form.
Pick #1 – The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol (Feb. 2014) - What would make a better movie than a collection of short stories about people who made movies in the mid-20th century, and were persecuted as a result of their beliefs? The UnAmericans is this book, and wow would it provide great characters for Hollywood’s current best to make their own. But, while you wait for its screen debut, please read this great collection of fiction. Now, the envelope please –oops we meant now, our review:
To start, I HATE short stories. They leave me bereft because just as I am starting to care so much about their characters, they are over. So the fact I am recommending a collection of short stories is rare and special. This collection is amazing. Each story has unforgettable characters. Each is well written by one of Stanford’s Wallace Stegner Fellows (a sign for the Book Jam of an author who can write – hello Bo Caldwell). Yes, I was a bit sad at the end of each one because it was over. How did I survive? I chose to concentrate on the overarching theme, and look at it as a strangely constructed novel about a variety of interesting “communists”/immigrants to America from the various countries that were once known as those behind the Iron Curtain. ~ Lisa Christie
Pick #2 – The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson (Dec. 2013) - Yes, someone has already made Schindler’s List. However, we truly believe the true story of one of the young boys he saved would make a great leap to the big screen. But, until Mr. Spielberg hears our advice, please read this true story of one of the young Jewish boys saved during WWII by Herr Schindler. In this book, the boy reflects, as an older man, how chance, kindness, luck, intelligence, but most importantly Mr. Schindler, saved his life. This book for young people outlines important themes, brings life to unsung people that we should know about, uses care and candor throughout, and is well-written. ~ Lisa Christie
Pick #3 – Ripper by Isabel Allende (Feb. 2014) - What could be a more sure-fire hit than a movie: 1) filmed in San Francisco, 2) with a Latino lead who is not the stereotypical drug dealer, but is instead a police detective, and 3) that at its core is actually about a bunch of wicked-smart teen gamers who help solve the mystery of a serial killer? Well If Ripper ever becomes a movie, that is what you would see. In the meantime, enjoy Ms. Allende’s first mystery that combines murder, San Francisco and gaming. In it,, the teen daughter of a SF detective teams with misfit teens in an online game where players attempt to solve the identity of Jack the Ripper. The game becomes real when a grouping of murders in SF looks like the work of a serial killer. With access to her father’s files, the unintentional involvement of her rather unique mother and grandfather, the girl and her gaming friends prove instrumental in figuring things out. We predict a sequel featuring these teens, and at least a movie or two. ~ Lisa Christie
BONUS Pick – Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (March 2014) - Just before posting today’s reviews, our town’s lovely children’s librarian put a great middle grades novel in our hands. And, since the author herself credits the book Monuments Men as essential to her story, it seems timely to include a review of this superb book in an Oscars post.
Publishers Weekly says “Fans of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will find this another delightful lesson in art history.” That fan base includes us; so, we were thrilled to read this. What would the movie look like? Well, it would follow Theodora Tenpenny around Manhattan as she tries to solve the mystery of a painting she uncovers (literally) once her grandfather dies. It would include her eccentric mother who has spent at least fifteen years doing nothing but completing her mathematical dissertation and consuming very expensive tea (certainly not providing for Theodora). It would show how two amazing, but lonely, girls can make great friends. And, it would introduce viewers to both the world of amazing art, and the importance of asking for help when you need it. Not bad for an author’s first children’s book! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie