Archive for November 23rd, 2017

by Sam Juliano

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.         -William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Though the commercialization of Thanksgiving can never compare to the yuletide celebration of a month later, the late November depletion of the nation’s turkey population has come to be an occasion too often taken for granted.  To be sure much good comes out of the annual rendezvous with beloved family members and a dinner more often than not that’s fit for a king.  What is too often lost for children is the meaning of the day, the reason why school calendars always include two successive days off late in the month that usher in the ensuing weekend.  The big irony of course is that the title of the holiday says all we need to know about the significance of a festive occasion also crassly referred to as Turkey Day, yet even that ubiquitous labeling fails to cut through the pleasures many have come to anticipate with hedonist fervor.  No one is as routinely attuned to the Thanksgiving rituals as children, who are understandably showered with parental affection and all the cheer those special times of the year can engender.  Some family dinner gatherings are prefaced with prayers, or non denominational expressions of appreciation, but it all makes for a kind of blanket statement and a sweeping generality for kids who are accustomed to receiving, but less likely to identify the sources of their gratitude nor the origin of their sustenance and shelter.

Picture book artist Toni Yuly aims to set the record straight in Thank You Bees, a lower level work that could equally be categorized as an invocation or a scene-specific applause for the planet’s natural elements.  While this soulful homage to Earth’s invaluable resources was not designed to honor a holiday, its spirit and auspices make it an attractive addition to books about one of America’s most beloved single days.  Aside from the titular kinship the pervasive theme of Yuly’s book is one of unmitigated gratefulness, and the realization that without even a single one of her fundamental, indispensable acknowledgements, life as we know it could not exist.  While Yuly’s environmental homage is devoid of any replete secular reference, comparable to a work like the 1945 Caldecott Medal winner Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field and Elizabeth Orton Jones, there is nonetheless a spiritual vantage point of a child coming to terms with life’s essentials, via land, water and air.  There is certainly a plethora of fiction that addresses the appreciation process, but Yuly’s inspired primer is as close as a direct ecological plea to youngsters at the most impressionable of ages.  The author-artist doesn’t directly request a measure of conservation, but the implications are clear, and a positive consequence of first knowing what we were blessed with on the planet. (more…)

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by J.D. Lafrance

In 1989, up-and-coming screenwriter Steve Kloves wrote and directed The Fabulous Baker Boys, an engaging and insightful look at two piano-playing brothers working the lounge circuit. The film was a critical hit, but barely made back its modest budget. A few years later, he wrote and directed Flesh and Bone (1993), an under-appreciated neo-noir that also failed to connect with a mainstream audience. Its commercial failure must have hit Kloves hard as he wouldn’t have another screenplay made until Wonder Boys in 2000. Since then, he has been the go-to guy for the Harry Potter franchise, which hopefully has given him enough clout within the industry to write and direct again – it would be a shame if he squandered the promise showed on his first two films.

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