Saving Mr. Banks: The Making of Mary Poppins

Saving_Mr_Banks_posterI recently saw the Saving Mr. Banks movie and I thought it was fascinating! I feel that what this movie unveils is unprecedented in the multimedia world because it actually takes you into the making of the movie. However, the movie was really more about the author of Mary Poppins, and her struggles in maintaining control over her story in the film making process. I read the original Mary Poppins this past summer, and I was shocked at how different the book is from the Julie Andrew’s nanny figure we all know.

First of all, how does one put music to a book? That is amazing that the Walt Disney musicians could actually make the book into a musical‼ In the movie, P.L. Travers (played in this film by Emma Thompson) explicitly states no singing or dancing in her movie. But by the end of the process, well… let’s just say that she was inspired. You’ll have to watch the movie to see what happens!

The most important part of Mary Poppins is not the Mary Poppins character, however- it’s Mr. Banks, the father of the Banks children whom Mrs. Poppins watches over. The movie really went into the depth of Mrs. Travers’ childhood inspiration. Throughout the movie, Mrs. Travers has flashbacks to her childhood and it is revealed to the viewer the hardships her family underwent. In the current time of the movie- around the 1960s- it was very common for authors to take a pen name, especially ones that did not reveal their gender. P.L. Travers adopted her father’s name as her own because it is obvious that she greatly loved and respected him. During a few flashbacks, her father tells her to never stop dreaming despite her mother’s practicality. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) tries desperately to understand why this woman is so hard to please in the movie room-all of their suggestions fail in the eyes of Mrs. Travers. Towards the end of the movie, Walt shows up at Mrs. Travers’ apartment in England, where he shows her that Mary Poppins is family to him also. He finally connects Mrs. Travers’ father to Mr. Banks and understands why she was having such trouble with their portrayal of him.

I love how Emma Thompson portrays this abrupt, posh English author. She does such a phenomenal job at showing the transition from this uptight woman into a fun, emotional lady at the end of the movie. I can easily connect P.L. Travers to Mary Poppins, because they are both proper, British, and inwardly kind. I really enjoyed the movie and the “behind the scenes” of one of the most classic stories of all time.

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Perfect Holiday Break Reading: The Shopaholic Series, by Sophie Kinsella

shopaholicOk, can I first say what fun reads all of these books are?! I came across the film version of Confessions of a Shopaholic during an airplane flight to Europe this summer. It was one of the free movies listed and though it was extremely cheesy, I thoroughly enjoyed it! That’s when I decided to try reading the book. After I finished it and loved it, I found out there was a whole series‼ My book taste is kind of all over the place because I love The Hunger Games, for example, but then I also love what I call “fluffy” reads like this series (that means that the book is about some girly subject like shopping! and dramatizes little conflicts like addictions to shopping!) Sophie truly has a gift for portraying spoiled, rich New York girls as protagonists.

I don’t know what it is about Kinsella’s writing style that makes her books so enjoyable! Whether it’s the comical events that a grown-up woman bring upon herself like hiding her shopping bills from her boyfriend or stuffing her face with carrots to prove her little girl eats them! I laugh every page at the obscurity of Rebecca (better known as Becky) Bloomwood Brandon’s shopping addiction and her way of “dealing” with the issues she causes.

While Becky is irresponsible and constantly in denial with her obsession for shopping, her boyfriend/fiancé/husband is cool, calm, and collected. He is responsible, hardworking, and obviously very forgiving if he’s willing to live with a girl who breaks his credit card every day! I think Luke Brandon is adorable, but a little stupid. I mean, who wants to have to deal with Becky? She wastes money, hides bills from you, and ignores your wishes (such as buying giant wooden giraffes while on their honeymoon.) However, she’s just one of those people that you have to still love and read more about despite her serious lack of self control.

I love picturing the fun and crazy hubbub of the New York life, and learning about how irresponsible Becky is makes me feel like a seriously good girl‼ And honestly, how cute are Luke and Becky?! They’re perfect for each other, so I forgive them! Every girl needs a Luke in their life…someday that is!

To sum up, Kinsella transports you to both England and New York, and gives you such a fun read…especially during the holiday break! I definitely give a thumbs-up to all of her books, and I can’t wait to read more books from her! Sophie is such a young and fresh author who understands what girly girls need in their book lists‼ I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys novels about shopping, fashion, and fun! Post a comment telling me what you think about this series! Happy Holidays to all!

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Book Review: I Am Nujood, by Nujood Ali

nujood_coverAbout one month ago, my Girl Scout troop and I attended a screening of the international phenomenon Girl Rising, following the stories of nine girls from all around the world about their struggles to go to school. The movie was inspiring, and so we decided to read Nujood Ali’s true story about her bravery to escape her husband and defy the customs of her people to dive deeper into the topic of girls’ rights. At first I was hesitant to read this book because I was afraid of what she would describe. However, after finishing the book, I can say that this book took the movie to another level, and it truly is an amazing read.

The story starts when Nujood is nine, and she spends the first couple chapters describing her family, community, and daily life. Then she painfully describes the day she found out she was getting married to a complete stranger. She says that her mother never spoke out against the marriage, because her mother was one of the many Yemeni women who followed tradition and orders. Nujood tells of her hopes and dreams to one day marry a sweet and nice man and live happily ever after, and how those dreams were shattered when she met and came to understand her new husband. She tells of her wedding day, and being covered with the black niqab, since married women must cover themselves whenever they leave the house. She also talks about the horrible journey from her home with her strange husband to his home far away from her family. She tells of how her husband abused her and dishonored her family’s request to respect her. Nujood really thought there was no escape, until with the help of her bravery and courage, she made it to a courthouse where she demanded a divorce.

This book will fill you with such pride and contempt at the same time. Pride in Nujood for persevering, despite all the odds. Contempt for the people who ignored, or pretended they couldn’t hear. My least favorite part of the book was, of course, the abuse. However, I knew that this was a true story, and that is an essential part of her argument, so I read it with that thought in the back of my mind. My favorite part of the book is after Nujood is granted the divorce, and she goes back with her lawyer, who she respects and loves dearly, to her office. There, all of the women working threw her a “divorce party.” When they decide they will sing Happy Birthday, and Nujood confesses she doesn’t know when her birth date is, Shada, the lawyer, exclaims that from now on, that day will be her birthday.

This book is truly the most inspiring story I have ever heard. I have deep admiration for Nujood and all the other girls who have the same courage as Nujood to defy their fates. I definitely recommend this book to teens and adults because it does have some adult topics, themes, and graphics. Nujood is a very brave girl, and her story deserves to be shared and cherished.

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Book Review: At the Mercy of the Queen, by Anne Clinard Barnhill

at_the_mercy_coverThis summer I was inspired to read a handful of books about English courts and palaces because my family went on a trip to England and Ireland. I toured the famous Hampton Court; the exact setting of this enthralling novel, and the Tower of London; the haunting location of Queen Anne of Boleyn’s execution. It was amazing to be able to visit the places described in this book! I felt like if I turned the corner into the great dining hall, I was going to walk in on a lively feast and celebration complete with dancing and music.

Now, I won’t spill too many details or secrets (as there are many in this mischievous novel), but I will give you a brief summary of the novel. This story follows Lady Margaret Shelton, who suddenly finds herself in the midst of King Henry’s lively court when her cousin Anne Boleyn becomes queen. Queen Anne immediately finds Lady Margaret Shelton (Pretty Madge) to be charming and very becoming, and invites her to become her lady in waiting. The men at court become enraptured by her beauty, but none more than Sir Henry Norris who begs the king to grant her to him for marriage. However, Margaret finds Sir Norris intimidating, forceful, and cruel. And then, there’s Sir Arthur Brandon, whose comedic, mocking manner seems to irritate Margaret. That is, until Sir Brandon rescues her from a very terrible situation. Is Margaret forced to marry her reproachful betrothed? Or will Queen Anne finally convince the king to break their ties? Lady Margaret Shelton helps the queen through her shaky marriage, births, miscarriages, and even her execution. And when Queen Anne begs Margaret to do something completely horrifying and completely against Margaret’s wishes, will Margaret consent? Or will she risk committing treason against the queen? Read my new favorite novel of all time to find out what happens!

My favorite part of the story is when Lady Margaret Shelton realizes that she’s madly in love with Sir Arthur Brandon. The two, while visiting a banquet house, step inside a room where Arthur declares his love for Margaret. When he asks Margaret if she returns his love and she hesitates, Arthur warns her that if she doesn’t say she loves him, he will leave and she will never see him again. Margaret runs to him and claims her love for him and the two share a passionate embrace. I love this scene because it is so romantic and dramatic. Can’t you see this scene in a movie? I definitely can 
I really did not have a least favorite part of the story, or a part I didn’t like. It was all amazing, thoroughly thought through, and connected!

I definitely recommend this book to teenage girls who are hopeless romantics and interested in English court life. This passionate love story is sure to make you want to visit Hampton Court!

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Changes in Classroom Literature Activities

bookstack2Instead of writing a book review, I decided to write about the changes being made in my English class as to what themes and concepts should be discussed on a particular novel.

Our required reading novel is All Quiet on the Western Front. In September and October of last year, I would have read the entire novel and taken quizzes on chapters of the book every week. This year, however, my teacher told us that the English department wants to “try something out.” Instead of reading the entire novel, we are only reading one chapter of the book.

We are also completing a project to learn about the different perspectives of war: we are going to interview someone we know about their experience with war from different perspectives (mother of soldier, child of soldier, soldier, war protestor, politician, etc.) And then we are going to create narratives using our interviewee’s story as inspiration.

Although I am pretty bummed that we do not get to read the whole novel- reading that one chapter makes me want to read the whole thing- I think this is really exciting because my sophomore class and I get to “test out” new teaching methods that, based on our responses and feedback, may or may not become the new standard for all other 10th grade English accelerated classes to come!

I love English (it’s my favorite subject) so I’m anxious to see how different these new methods will be. I just thought I would share with other students because I find it fascinating the way the teaching board decides how to teach certain material. Hopefully, this experience will be educational, enriching, AND FUN‼

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Book Review: Nory Ryan’s Song, by Patricia Reilly Giff

nory_ryans_song_coverNory Ryan, the heart of her family with her songs and carefree spirit, spends her days frolicking on the coasts and country fields in Ireland. With her Dad gone fishing for half a year, and her mom passed away from childbirth, Nory Ryan does everything she can to hold her family together. The one thing her family could live on was their harvested potatoes. Every Irish man could rest assured that his family would be well fed, as long as they had fields of potatoes. That was, at least, until disaster struck.

The English government takes control over their land, and a terrible famine sweeps through the little town where Nory and her family live. Patricia Reilly Giff describes the smell of rotting potatoes as Nory wraps her nose and mouth in her shawl, and her sister bends over gagging as they work to save their crop.

Toward the end of the story, Nory is left all alone on their family’s farm in Ireland after she insists for her family to migrate to New York, America without her. Nory is very brave to be left all alone, and she is selfless to give the tickets to the rest of her family instead of herself.

I chose to read this book in preparation for a family trip to Ireland and England. I wanted to get a deeper appreciation for my grandpa’s Irish ancestors and a greater image in my head of Irish countryside, where so much hardship was endured. I also thought it was interesting that the author added some old Irish words such as madra, meaning dog. This book was very depressing because it was on the Great Potato Famine; however, Giff brought a great power to the Irish spirit in Nory, and I loved to read about her. This book is so important for all of us fortunate OC teens to read because it brings to light the fact that we are so very blessed to have a safe and happy neighborhood to call home.

I recommend this book to teen girls because Nory Ryan is a teen girl, just in a very different world. It was fascinating to see Nory’s story, and to imagine what life was like for her. Patricia Reilly Giff did an amazing job painting the picture, and if you like Nory Ryan’s Song, then you’ll love the sequel, At Maggie’s Door. Please feel free to comment on any one of the topics I touched on!

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Book Review: Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, by Julie Andrews Edwards

home_memoir_coverJulie Andrews’ autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, shares with the reader the hardships and rewards of becoming a famous Broadway and Hollywood star. This book is fascinating to me, because like Andrews, I love to sing, dance, and read. Although I do not dream of becoming a famous icon, I find those who follow the road to becoming one interesting and undeniably courageous.

Julie Andrews’ story begins in London, England during World War II. Julie Andrews spends her childhood constantly in voice lessons and traveling to perform with her parents, and she describes despising her voice lessons as a child. Little did she know that later- in her teen years- she would come to appreciate and use her voice as her ticket to stardom. Despite her parents’ painful divorce and her mother’s flighty behavior, Julie Andrews succeeds in becoming a well-respected performer in her home country.

Andrews writes that although she thoroughly enjoyed traveling with a company and performing, she always felt responsible for her family, and she hated to be away from them. Julie Andrews is admirable because when she is offered a two year contract to perform as Eliza Doolittle from “My Fair Lady,” she insists on making it one year so that she can come home to care for her siblings. Most girls looking to make it on Broadway would snatch up the offer and leave their family to fend for themselves.

Julie Andrews was a talented, compassionate, responsible, composed young lady; respected by many as one of America’s greatest icons. With the help of the much-loved Walt Disney, Julie Andrews became a star on-screen as well as on-stage. One might say Julie Andrews is best known for her perfect role as Mary Poppins, the beloved nanny; but I love her most for her role as Maria in The Sound of Music for her carefree attitude and loving heart.

I recommend this book to all who love Julie Andrews’ work, and find themselves, like me, in awe at those who take such risks to discover themselves.

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Book vs. Movie: Life of Pi

life_of_pi_book_vs_movieI saw this movie on the deck of a cruise ship during spring break in the Caribbean. Not exactly the ideal spot to watch a movie about a boat sinking in the ocean! But I loved the movie so much that when I got back from my break, I immediately began reading the book Life of Pi, by Yann Martel.

Watching the movie immediately drew me in to Pi’s world, and I just had to read the book! Let me just give you a taste of what this phenomenon is all about. Life of Pi tells the story of an Indian boy named Pi, who loves animals and God. His family decides to move to Canada, and on the way, their ship sinks leaving Pi on a lifeboat with a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and a giant Bengal tiger. The second half of the book is about Pi’s struggles to survive in the middle of the ocean. Pi learns to abandon his vegetarian ways, train the tiger, and become a master shipman.

The story is dripping with imagery that is so vivid it will make your mouth water. Life of Pi is so powerful that I had dreams about giant whales, tigers, islands, lifeboats, and sunsets for practically a week! I have such an appreciation for Yann Martel because of Life of Pi. He is the most amazing author ever, and definitely deserves all of the awards he received!

In the movie Life of Pi, however, the ending is such a Hollywood ending that I feel bad for Yann Martel. Yann Martel specifically wrote the ending to show the brutal truth of life to the readers, and if you want to find out his lesson, then you’re just going to have to read it yourself! If I personally was directing the movie, I wouldn’t dream of changing the ending, because that is the whole point of the story. However, Ang Lee did do an amazing job because the scenery was beautifully artistic, casting was perfect, and computer graphics were out of this world, though, so I did still really love the movie, just not as much as the novel.
Anyways, I know that this review doesn’t even begin to express how amazing this story is, and it cannot possibly live up to Yann Martel in any shape or form. Life of Pi is the most amazing book I’ve ever read– literally, I found myself bawling my eyes out at some points! I want more than anything for everyone to read this book! You will never see tigers, humans, the ocean, animals, religions, or life the same ever again. Yann Martel strikes you with so much wonder and awe it is unbelievably breathtaking.

Please feel free to comment below as I know there will be many since this is such a renowned book!

-Kelsey H., 9th grade

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

fahrenheit451_coverFahrenheit 451 was a required reading book for me in my English class. At first I was like, ugggh required reading, right? ‘Cause who gets excited when they hear “required reading?” But once I started reading this book, I actually found it really interesting.

Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn. The main character, Guy Montag, thinks his life is swell and everybody’s happy and life is perfect. Montag is a fireman, and all he has known his whole life is firemen receive an alarm, go to the house that has been accused, find all of the books, burn them AND the house they were in. He never questioned books or if their job was right to do. Even though he has “everything a guy needs,” he still tells himself every day that he isn’t happy.

This story is basically about Montag finding himself and searching for the missing piece of his life. One day, however, a mishap of timing and an act of courage change Montag’s life. After that, Montag is fascinated by books and longs to understand the words on the page in front of him. I suggest this book to all teens because it really opens your eyes to how lucky we are to be able to freely and openly READ!!

Have you read this book too? Comment and let me know– I’d love to hear your thoughts.

-Kelsey H., 9th grade

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

secret_life_bees_coverI just came across a book that I immediately fell in love with. It’s called The Secret Life of Bees and it’s really good!

It’s all about a teenage girl named Lily and her journey to find out about her past. Why did her mother die? What do her memories mean? Why did her mother own a picture of Black Madonna? (Black Mary as in Mother Mary)

Lily spends her whole summer out in the middle of dirt selling peaches from a stand. Her father is strict and mean and reprimanding and gives her terrible punishments such as kneeling on grits for hours at a time. After a bunch of events happen, Lily and her black housekeeper come across a bright pink house in Tiburon, South Carolina where three sisters live as beekeepers. They introduce Lily to their world of making honey and caring for the bees. Lily learns to love it, and I love the way the beekeepers describe their bees and the honey, it’s just beautiful!

I’m really glad that I chose to read this book, because I wouldn’t have picked it out at the library on my own probably. Actually, it’s kinda funny how I came across it. It was one of the books on the list my English teacher gave us as ideas for books to read for our Contemporary Book Report. Really good, I recommend it for everyone! I keep telling everyone, “I view the world differently now” but they just laugh! I don’t blame them ’cause it’s a really dramatic sentence, but I’d love to hear from other people who have read this book or if my post inspired them to read it!

-Kelsey H., 9th grade