So did you know that it’s Spring? Yeah I know, I keep forgetting too. But no matter what the weather is like, Spring is here, and so is Easter! Eggs, chocolate, bunnies, chocolate bunnies, the whole thing. And as usual, I am here to enhance all that holiday fun with books! Books with poetry, books with lessons, and books with bunny rabbits! Lots of bunny rabbits. So join me in hopping down the Bunny Trail (I’m sorry, just one Easter pun I promise!) as we look at some of the ways to celebrate Spring (especially if you’re a talking rabbit).
This is a classic Easter book written back in 1939, about a cute little rabbit who wants to be an Easter Bunny. Thankfully, she lives in a Rabbit society where there are snobby rich white rabbits with monocles and overconfident jackrabbits who mock little country bunnies when they aren’t being beaten in races with tortoises, and five Easter Bunnies who are chosen by the great Grandfather Bunny, who lives in the Palace of Easter Eggs. How people haven’t caught on to this magic rabbit society I`m not sure, but whatever. She wants to be an Easter Bunny, but she is both a hick country rabbit, and a girl, so that’s never going to happen. So she gets married and does what all rabbits do: has a million babies. Does her bunny army make her dreams impossible? This is a fun little story, and surprisingly modern, with its girl power motif, and message that being a Mom or being a simple country girl shouldn’t stop someone from living their dreams. It’s a fun little piece of late 30s fun, when even though the country was a mess, kids could still read about the magic Easter Bunny world, and the little bunny that could.
Did you ever read the Little House on the Prairie books? It was one of the first book series I ever read as a kid, and it sort of left me with a bit of a soft spot for covered wagon “prairie style” stories. There was something about the great expansive outdoors, and the little family trying to make it in the great outdoors as the grass blows in the wind and the great sun sets in the West. This might be why I liked Dandelions, a children’s picture book about a family moving out to the prairie and trying to survive. But what I really love are the pictures. It’s beautifully drawn, with lots of great colors and pictures of the prairie and the sun and flowers growing. To me, I always associate this sort of story with Spring. The fresh start, the flowers symbolically blooming on the prairie (this happens in A LOT of these sorts of stories), and the importance of the great outdoors. And if nothing else, it will give an appreciation of pretty colors, and your GPS (you could get really lost on those prairies.)
So you might have read some of the things written by Thoreau in some English class, and you may or may not remember it. Thoreau was a 19th-century writer, naturalist, and philosopher who was really into nature and how being in the outdoors could help your emotional and political life. He wrote a lot of things in his life, on a TON of topics, but his favorite subject was nature, and his favorite thing was Walden Pond. Walden Pond is actually not a pond at all, but a pretty sizeable lake (much bigger than you would expect reading this book- I’ve been there, and I swear it’s huge) in Massachusetts where Thoreau lived alone in a cabin for a while. If you want to do some reading about the importance of nature, and the beauty of Spring, this is a good place to look. Thoreau’s writings are generally quite accessible, and he has a lot of interesting things to say about a variety of things, but I love his stuff about Spring on Walden Pond. To me, while it’s not exactly poetry, it’s pretty darn close. Nowadays, Walden Pond is a big tourist place with gift shops and a beach, but it’s still easy to find a nice quiet place to enjoy the outdoors. And that is kind of the point of Spring right? Just sit back, relax, and watch nature do its thing.
All my life, I have loved movies. All sorts of them, from comedies to drama, from explosion-heavy action flicks to artsy foreign films, I can find something to like in pretty much any genre imaginable. I also love talking about movies. How the movies we create reflect the culture or place or time period they’re made in. At their best, films can teach us about ourselves and the world we live in, as well as transport us to somewhere else. Seriously, don’t let me corner you at a party; I can go on about films in a cultural and sociological context for hours (stay tuned for my epic post “America, Humanism, and Pop Art in the World of Michael Bay”). Turns out, there are lots of authors out there who love this stuff as much as I do, but they have credentials and talent and stuff. So check out some of these movie books in our Reference section, and see just how important film can be. Or at least, you can keep up with your hipster film major cousin at the next family reunion.
I am not a fan of censorship. Are there movies that I think are disgusting, exploitative, and downright offensive? Oh yeah. But at the same time, people have the right to make them or watch them if they want to. It is a free country after all. And I feel like Forbidden Films backs this up. It details the histories of 125 movies that have been censored for various reasons, and by different people. Some of them, like the infamous Lolita (banned from multiple theaters and given a special SUPER hard R for being a movie about the pseudo- sexual relationship between an old guy and a young girl) are kind of understandable. However, some of them are just baffling to me. Like, people trying to ban Schindler’s List for being “too disturbing, violent, and sexual”. Yeah, disturbing images in a movie about the Holocaust. Never could have seen that one coming. Or the mass protests by Christian groups about Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a controversy that would have made more sense if the protests had happened AFTER anyone saw the movie, and realized half the stuff they were protesting wasn’t even in the film. If this sounds interesting, give this book a try, and make up your own mind. Plenty more great films are mentioned that someone, somewhere, wanted to keep from the rest of us.
The Rock & Roll Film Encyclopedia
And speaking of people who hate censorship…rock & roll! Yes, movies and music have gone hand in hand for ages. Music in movies has been important ever since they were putting orchestras into silent movie theaters. And eventually, they started to make movies about that crazy new swing the kids are all grooving to: ROCK! This book lists a colorful variety of rock related movies, some about actual rock stars (The Doors, Sid and Nancy), musicals like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Grease, and movies that have rock as a major element, like The Commitments, and American Graffiti. It gives some information about each film, and talks about the music that each one offers, and it’s a pretty diverse group. It describes classics like The Beatles’ ground breaking Hard Day’s Night, or the infamous Mariah Carey bomb Glitter (which not even the book’s writer can help but snark on); there’s something for everyone here. So if you love both the power of rock and the power of film, turn on your favorite Springsteen song and start reading!
Remember that blog I wrote 100 years ago about adaptations? Turns out, we have a whole reference book about the magical world of book-to-movie adaptations! Where the previous book I described was about fusing music and movies, this is fusing movies with books. Like the other reference books, it lists movies from A to Z, flipping through a number of genres and time periods, as long as they are films that were once books. It came out in 2005, so it’s a bit out of date, but there are still plenty of movies to choose from. Even movies that people forgot were adaptations at all. Did you know The Godfather was a book first? Or Forrest Gump? This book discusses the differences and similarities between a novel and its film adaptation, as well as why certain changes were made in adapting the source material. Like, did you know that when Francis Ford Coppola was making Apocalypse Now, they had to almost entirely redo Marlon Brando’s villain role because he had gained so much weight? There are lots of stories and interesting facts like that in this book to entertain you, especially if you watch most adaptations screaming “WHY WOULD YOU CHANGE THAT?!?!”! Adaptations are not easy, but to learn how Hollywood does them, give this book a look (before it gets its own HBO series).
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
This is a coming-of-age story about a teen girl dealing with school, her family issues, and getting ready for college. She is also the manager of a teenage rock band (it’s set in Seattle, so of course) that she is pretty sure is a total mess. She can’t be 100 % sure though, considering she’s deaf. The book has two major storylines, one with the band (and her attempts to get five vastly different people to come together), and her story with her family, mostly with her troubled brother (who can hear) and her deaf baby sister, for whom her parents get cochlear implants so that she can hear. Oh, and her parents used money from her college fund to do this. Ouch. Our main character, Piper, is a likable protagonist, who is often pulled between the subculture of deaf Americans, and the more mainstream world of rock and roll. Hardly a tragic victim, she’s a normal girl, with issues and flaws and humor, who just happens to be legally deaf. In fact, most of the book has nothing to do with her disability; it’s more about her relationships with her band and her family. It’s a relatively light story about hearing aids, family, and the power of her music helping a young woman grow up.
Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
This is less of a traditional story than the last one, mainly because the whole thing is told in poetry. But hold on, don’t let that scare you off! The poems, told in accessible free verse, are used to tell the story of Josie, a 7th grade girl who lives in an aging farmhouse with her grandmother and her well-meaning but nagging mother. She also has cerebral palsy, so she has trouble moving one side of her body, and saying certain words. She has trouble making friends, until she meets a new boy named Jordan, who she becomes friends with. It’s a lyrical sort of book, with the problems Josie has being tied up in metaphors and similes, often linking to gardening or nature, the settings where she feels most comfortable. Like the previous book, it’s not about feeling bad for the main character and her struggles, it’s just about a young girl living her life and trying to figure out her place in the world, while feeling self-conscious about what makes her different.
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Remember how I said some of these books were more dramatic than the others? This is a big one. It’s told from the perspective of 14-year-old Shawn. He likes music and cars and girls, and is a normal teenage boy. Except one big thing. No one knows he likes these things, because he has very severe cerebral palsy from brain damage at birth, and can’t move, feed himself, or even talk. Everyone thinks that, in his head, he has the intellect of a 3 month old, when in actuality, he is highly intelligent, funny, and even optimistic. Oh, and he thinks that his father might be trying to kill him. Not because he hates him, but because he thinks he is constantly suffering. And there is nothing Shawn can do to stop him. It’s not an easy book, it talks about how families deal with children with severe disabilities, how society in general deals with them, and most of all, euthanasia. Look, I am not going to talk about who is right and who is wrong in this story, or about euthanasia, but man, this book will get to you. It’s a short read, but by the time you get to the last chapter, it packs a huge freaking punch.
Disabilities (The Experience)
This first book is the most informational, defining what constitutes a “disability”, how they are caused, and what that means for individual people and society at large. Each chapter has a different author and a different topic, all somewhat based around information on specific types of disabilities. It ranges from “But Stroke Happens to Older People Doesn’t It?” a chapter about people in their 30s or 40s dealing with the physical and emotional aftermaths of suffering a stroke, to “Disability in Arab Societies”, a chapter about…people with disabilities in Arab societies. Both of these chapters combine general information as well as personal stories. If you’re reading this book for a paper, it also has lot of references at the end of each chapter, telling where the authors got all their information, as well as where to find more. As a start to this book series, it’s a good way to begin, laying out the groundwork for the later books that get into more details of the issues discussed. And it is a much better way to get information on normal people living with disabilities than whatever is being shown on some procedural this week.
This book, while in the same series with the same themes, covers environmental, social, and cultural considerations. Where the first book was defining what exactly a disability is, this is more about how society reacts to them. Governments around the world have long struggled with how to help people with disabilities, and how much they can and should help. Or, how much people with disabilities even want help. In one chapter, called “Autonomy and Disability: A Quest for Quality of Life”, the author discusses how people with disabilities have fought to be treated like anyone else. It’s more about people with disabilities who want to be independent. More importantly, it asks how society can support people with various disabilities who want to live independently, especially children who want to learn to eventually function as adults. There is another chapter about a nurse who changes her whole perspective on research and disabilities when her brother is in a car accident and becomes brain damaged. It also provides a very harrowing look into what families go through when someone gets a brain injury, and how little support they receive in health care settings. Yeah, this book is not always super cheerful, to be honest. But, it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be both informative, and personal. And this one is personal in ways that the last one was not.
So this is the third in our trilogy, and the one that combines both the elements of the series, the personal stories and the facts. It is also the book that goes abroad a lot, looking at treating disabilities in elementary students in Greece, cancer related disabilities in Canada, and the increasing issues of disability in Sri Lanka, among many others. It’s mostly facts, but they’re woven into personal stories, which I think is an interesting way to talk about these issues. Plus, people don’t always think much about how different countries deal with disabilities, and it’s interesting seeing how different cultures have tried to deal with things. While the second book was about society, this one is more about political issues. It deals less with how society or individuals manage physical or mental issues, and more with how countries and governments deal with them. Some of the chapters are more like the first book, just lots of information, while some are more like the second, and are more personal. Which one is your preference? Doesn’t matter, because there are plenty of both!
Have you heard of Ms. Magazine? Some new blog, or fem crit book? Coming out in the wake of this whole War on Women thing we keep hearing about? Well, look back a little bit more. Ms. is a feminist magazine co-created by famous feminist Gloria Steinem in January 1972. The feminist movement had been going on for quite some time at that point, but there was a lot of work yet to be done. For the record, feminism is a collection of ideologies and movements that strive to create equal rights for women. It’s NOT about angry female liberal arts students burning their bras and screaming about “evil male patriarchal phallic symbols.” Just to get that out of the way. Anyway, Steinem and other like-minded feminists decided they wanted to create a magazine written by women, for women, about women’s issues. At first, publishers expected it to be a sort of proto HGTV/ Better Homes and Gardens sort of magazine, but boy were they wrong. The first issue sold out in just days, dealing with topical women’s issues like abortion, women getting less pay then men for doing the same work, lesbianism, and the general struggles of women (it also had Wonder Women on the cover, which is pretty cool). This was a huge deal, and the magazine stirred up both controversy and praise. And guess what? It’s still in print (and online) today!