One important thing to think about at times of civil unrest is how to explain the situation to young people. Parents need to find a way to make sure their children understand why people are angry and how we have reached this point. It’s all very well and good doing anti-racist reading for myself but what about anti-racist reading lists for children? How can you possibly help a child come to terms with the idea of systemic racism and how it explains the death of innocent people? You don’t want to traumatise them or make them too fearful of society. However, you need to understand that people are protesting for good reasons. That the violence of the Black Lives Matter movement is different from the violence performed by police officers. So, I decided to check out some fiction intended for a younger audience. Just to see what’s out there.
It’s been a really long time since I last posted a Friday Favourites list. To be honest, the series was getting tough and I was bored with it. I couldn’t think of interesting ideas and it was taking me too long to write them. So, I decided to scrap it. I was intending to come up with something different to post but it never happened. In light of the recent protests surrounding race discrimination, I decided to bring it back to life once again. I know that I don’t have a particularly big platform or that I have the ability to influence someone’s decisions. However, I have been lucky enough to be born with a privilege that many people don’t have. I have a voice and I need to use it. Last week, I posted a few suggestions for ways people could learn more about the things that the Black Lives Matter movement is marching for. To learn more about the systemic racism that exists in our society. It should not be up to black people to tell us what to do or how to do it. They’ve been doing the work for us for too long. So, I did something. I wanted to know what I had missed and what I needed to know. And, to help people in the same boat, I thought I’d share it. Hopefully, it can give other people some ideas.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been rewatching the whole of the Game of Thrones TV adaptation. Until season 7 and 8, it was a great reminder of how good a show it was. It’s weird to think now, that it was once one of the greatest shows ever created. It also got me wishing that George RR Martin was ready to release the next instalment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I can’t even remember how long ago it was that I read A Dance With Dragons. When the new book eventually comes out, I’m not going to be able to remember a damn thing that happened. Not that I’m complaining. I’d rather he take his time and do it right. If the last two seasons of the show taught us anything, it’s that it isn’t a series you can rush. I’ve often thought about going back and rereading the fifth book but it always seemed like a silly thing to do. My TBR is too big and The Winds of Winter won’t be out for ages anyway. This week I decided to get my George RR Martin fix elsewhere. I’ve tried and failed to read some of his non-ASOIAF books in the past but I just couldn’t get on board with them. So, this time I went for a related book. It’s not actually part of the same world but it’s in the right area.
Last year, Netflix proved that it had some great things to offer the world of animation. Both Klaus and I Lost My Body were worthy Oscar nominees at this year’s Oscars. It’s just a shame that Toy Story 4 knocked them out of the park. But it did go to show that Netflix was willing to push boundaries somewhere at least. Yes, the comedies weren’t exactly anything to write home about but they were clearly picking interesting animated projects. So, I was interested in their new animated film even before I knew anything about it. I didn’t know the book it had been adapted from or what to expect. It looked pretty interesting from the trailer so I decided that it would be worth a chance. It looked like Henry Selick but with added rainbows. At the very least, I figured that it would be a pretty film.
Imagine a world in which the Baudelaire orphans aren’t orphans but they’re parents were both as awful as Count Olaf. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the premise of this story. The four Willoughby children were born to two parents that had no interest in raising children. Mother and father Willoughby were so in love with each other that they had none left for anyone else. So, when their children come along, they just leave them to fend for themselves. Tim, the eldest child, always tries to live up to the Willoughby name. His family used to be full of great people with even greater moustaches. He tries to instil these traditions in his younger sister and twin brothers but they just want to get as far away from their family as possible.
Which is how the group come up with a plan to get rid of their parents once and for all. They send them off on a deadly adventure in an attempt to orphan themselves. They are left in the hands of Linda, a caring and happy nanny. The three younger siblings fall for Linda’s charms but Tim doesn’t trust her. To the extent that he calls Orphan Services and the children get taken away. All are sent to separate homes and are even more miserable than before. Can Tim come up with a plan to get the family back together? And just what does the orphan baby left on their doorstep have to do with it all?
The Willoughbys is a very original and exciting narrative. It might look sickly sweet on the outside but there is plenty of darkness here. The story has definite Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket vibes to it but it has enough rainbows and love to make it work. It is also pretty fast-paced. The narrative moves along at such a pace that you won’t have time to get bored. It’s constantly moving forwards and it is packed full of references. This is an energetic film that will keep younger viewers engaged and it has enough originality that parents won’t be too put-out having to sit with them.
Yet, compared to Netflix’s past animated offerings, it just feels a bit lacking. There is a sense that the darkness doesn’t quite work for the audience this film is aimed for. Or at least, that it could have gone further had it not been for the young audience. It brushes with death and darkness which is fine but it feels a bit childish still. The film opens by claiming that it won’t have a happy ending but there’s never a real sense of danger here. No matter how hard it tries to convince you otherwise. It would be interesting to see what could have been made had this film been pushed towards an older audience. It could have been more like A Series of Unfortunate Events instead of seeming like a pale imitation.
This is an interesting film but it feels a little fragmented. This is the main explanation for Ricky Gervais’ role as narrator. Playing a cat who oversees everything, the narrator is the thing that keeps all of these things together. Otherwise, the film would have the feel of a series of sketches instead of one complete narrative. I understand that, when adapting a book, having a narrator can feel natural but I’m not sure the cat added anything. It was Ricky Gervais playing Ricky Gervais again. It felt weird and out-of-place. I would have prefered the narrative to flow naturally without it.
Although, this is still an enjoyable film. The voice actors are all energetic and fantastic in their roles. The characters come to life on screen but its limited thanks to the pace of the storytelling. There’s plenty of fun and it is a visually great film. It’s just that there’s too much going on and it all happens too quickly. You can’t really sit back and enjoy the good bits because we’re skipping from bit to bit. It also means the overall emotional message gets lost a little. The film’s final act lacks the punch that it needed. It should have been a lovely moment but it’s just a bit flat. The Willoughbys isn’t the worst thing Netflix has ever created but, compared to some of their other animated films, it just can’t compare.
I’m struggling to get in the reading mood at the moment. I don’t know whether it’s being in the house all day or if it’s just the stress of the current situation. Whatever it is, I’m back in the old routine of getting in from work and just binge watching Netflix or something. I think that’s why I’ve been so drawn to the books of my childhood. It’s the idea of reading something familiar and comforting. Plus, knowing that it’s going to be an easy read is certainly useful. Of course, it could also be evidence that I’m slowly regressing back to my childhood. I may still be working full-time but I’m pretty reliant on my parents these days. It sometimes feels as though I’m going back in time. Maybe I should be worried about returning to the books I enjoyed as a kid? Regardless, after reading The Worst Witch last week, I decided to start reading two Jacqueline Wison books I used to love. The first combined my love of history with my love of reading. I was obsessed with this book.
Every now and then I get a sudden urge to go back and read one of the books of my childhood. There was a time when I used to read the Sophie books by Dick King-Smith to cheer myself up. If couldn’t sleep for any reason then I’d just whip one off the shelf. It’s that great mixture of an easy read, lovely story, and a huge wave of nostalgia that really makes it worth doing. Which is why I put off the many books on my TBR list so I could read this book this week. I don’t know why but I suddenly had a huge desire to go back to this one. I loved The Worst Witch when I was younger and I remember reading or listening to them all. I also loved the TV show.
Even though I’ve gone off J.K. Rowling a bit in recent years, I still appreciate the impact that she had on my life. The Harry Potter books were a big part of me becoming the reader that I am today. I guess it’s no stretch to say that they were a big part of the person I am today. Yes, I’ve grown up to realise that Rowling isn’t the great writer that I thought she once was. Yes, it bugs me that she keeps going back and altering her work for stupid reasons. Yes, I think she was massively wide of the mark when it comes to diversity. Yes, some of her personal views and opinions are just wrong. But she’s also done a lot for a lot of people. Her first two Harry Potter spin-off books were released to raise money for Comic Relief. Her latest charitable release came in the form of an Audible audiobook. The third book in the wider Potterverse is being read by stars like Jude Law, Evanna Lynch, Warwick Davies, and Jason Isaacs to raise money for the Lumos Foundation. Of course, I ended up getting it for free as an Audible member, so I’m not sure how that works. Still, I knew I had to check it out.
What happens when you take a book written by Ian Fleming, add a script co-written by Roald Dahl, and finish it off with Dick van Dyke? One of the greatest children’s films of all time that’s what. The film version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an absolute classic that everyone will remember from their youth. The very concept is an exciting one. A flying car will always be an exciting creation but add the ghoulish child catcher into the mix and you have a great story. I do enjoy the film but I’ve never read the book before. I can’t say I’m the biggest Ian Fleming fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bond films but I’ve never got on with the books. I’ve got a bit of a fascination with them but it’s hard to forget how inherently sexist and troubling they are. Still, I was sure that his children’s book wouldn’t suffer from quite the same issues as his spy novels.
As I said in my Sunday Rundown yesterday, I’ve been struggling with reading so far this month. I’ve got loads of great books to read and I’m really looking forward to starting them. The only problem is, I just can’t seem to sit down and concentrate. Every night last week, I tried to read but I always started really late. It’s partly to do with the month I think. January is the worst month of the year. It feels so long. I’m sure time slows down. We’re all tired after Christmas and all of the food is weighing us down. The weather is miserable and there’s nothing going on. All around us, people are preaching about their new gym lifestyles by posting endless selfies (even though we all know it will last all of 3 weeks). People are going vegan or alcohol-free and feel the need to rub it in our faces every 5 minutes. January is a bad month, so forgive me if I’m not quite in the swing of reading yet. But I do have a plan. I’m going to binge audiobooks all month until I feel ready to read physical books again. That way, I don’t fall into a dreaded slump and fuck up my whole year.
It was my Christmas party on Saturday night and it was a bit of a wild night. As I’ve only been at the company for about 8 months, I took it easy but there were plenty of people who didn’t. I’m glad I went, though. It made me feel like I was actually part of the team. We’re don’t get a lot of interaction in our office so I finally managed to meet some people I’ve only walked past in the corridor. Because I was held back from the free table wine, I woke up this morning without a fuzzy head but I’m so tired. I’ve been utterly useless all day. The only thing I was good for was listening to an audiobook in bed. I decided it would be a perfect time to go back to a childhood favourite. I remember that my sister and I liked Stig of the Dump when we were younger so we must have read it at some point. And I remember watching one of the TV adaptations. It was probably the 2002 version but I also feel that I might have been a bit too old at that point. I wish my memory was better. One of the main reasons why I don’t really remember the book that much. It was time to remind myself.