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Archive for the ‘author Sam Juliano’ Category

Daylight 1

by Sam Juliano

Though much of his picture book output was produced in collaboration with some exceedingly high profile award winning authors, Wendell Minor sometimes traversed his outdoor habitats solo.  The inspiration for his latest solitary foray has produced an uncommonly beautiful book, one that focuses on the animals that live around us while we engage during the day and also while we sleep.  There is nothing obscure or geographically specialized in Minor’s new work, rather he seeks to sponsor an open house tour – a zoo without physical parameters that is dictated only by what terrain the readers reside in.  Excluding those living in the urban centers or the desert, most would readily identify Wendall’s benign array of wildlife wonderment, either because they encountered some of the animals or were long familiar with the sounds they make.  The renowned author-illustrator enticingly broaches how a day turns into night (and vice-versa) and how motherhood is at the center of activity for all mammals.

     At the very start Minor sets up the different cast of players that inhabit the diurnal and nocturnal landscapes of chosen locations.  His opening spread depicts a wooded clearing framed by a fence, tree trucks and a flat stone pathway.  There is pictorial continuity in the design, yet the left panel, subtly lit, shows the creatures we might see in the daylight, while the right shows the ones only seen or heard when the stars are twinkling.  Minor asks his young readers to identify those who inhabit his ravishing tapestries, by posing an innocuous inquiry.  No wildlife artist captures the soaring majesty of a hawk in flight like Minor, and the bird is promptly presented  in detailed close-up that is as arresting as it is radiant: (more…)

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en20ws20invasion20of20the20body20snatchers20undefined-21

by Sam Juliano

One of the crowning glories of 50’s science-fiction, Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, based on a short story by Jack Finney, still enthralls both genre buffs and those riveted by the notion of the fantastic seeming perfectly credible.  The story of seed pods replicating living people and changing them into emotion-less conformists who communally work towards a world order without love or compassion, offers no obstacles to believability, and leads to the most unthinkable of nightmares.  Allied Artists were themselves so caught up in the hopelessness of this “psychological siege” that they forced Siegel to add a prologue which intimated that mankind would be saved.

The film was re-made in 1977, with Phillip Kaufman at the helm, but it lacked the original’s brilliant pacing, which has the excitement building all the way to the denouement.  Siegel employs a number of devices that keep the film in full-throttle, like characters always in motion, racing their cars, and spying each other through windows, blind and glass doors and reaching a level of unbearable tension in the scenes in the cave where the two lead characters hide beneath the wooden boards, after being chased up the steps of a long and very steep hill.  Siegel employs subtlety to great effect too, like the scene when the fleeing couple attempt to feign transformation to the soulless beings that are taking over the small town, only to be betrayed by one’s scream as a dog is about to be struck by a car.  The race against time and in the instance of this film, the struggle to stay awake, is woven into the fabric of it’s sense of urgency.  No less an authority than Jean-Luc Godard quotes the film in his futuristic Alphaville, and Francois Truffaut makes reference to it in Fahrenheit 451.  It is even suggested by UCLA Film Professor Maurice Yacowar (whose running commentary on the Criterion laserdisc in the early 90’s was one of the famous and controversial ever recorded) that maybe even the great playwright Eugene Ionesco was thinking of the film’s fearful “pods” when he wrote his absurdist masterpiece Rhinoceros, where humankind turns into thick-skinned, insensitive, conformist rhinos–pods on the hoof. (more…)

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A.I. 2

by Sam Juliano

The idea behind A.I. was originally conceived by Stanley Kubrick, who subsequently entrusted the proposed project to Steven Spielberg.  When Kubrick died suddenly in 1999, his widow successfully persuaded Spielberg to assume complete artistic control of the film, including the direction.  Set in a future time when progress in robotics poses a conceivable menace to the human species, David (Haley Joel Osment), a robotic boy, is the artificial life form who is capable of experiencing love.  As a prototype, he is given to a couple whose real son is mired in what appears to be an irreversible coma.  After a discordant initiation David and his mother bond, at which point the “real” son miraculously awakens from the coma, rejoins to the family, and tricks David into engaging in dangerous things.  The father concludes that they must return the robotic boy to the manufacturer for destruction, but the mother arranges for his escape via abandonment.  For the duration of the film David seeks to be reunited with his mother, and for a time is joined by “Gigolo Joe,” a robot designed to function as a male prostitute.  David becomes frozen I an the ocean, and millennia later–long after the extinction of the human species–robots of the future rescue him and allow him to reunite with his mother for one day that will last in his mind for eternity. (more…)

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trapped 4

by Sam Juliano

The team that dazzled picture book aficionados with last year’s Edward Hopper Paints His World, and a series of other non-fiction titles over the years have again collaborated on a splendid work based on an actual event.  Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor’s engaging documentation results in a breathtaking rescue story that yields the same kind of crowd-pleasing denouement that made Jerry Pinkney’s Caldecott Medal winner The Lion and the Mouse so unforgettable.  Burleigh’s narrative follows the food-seeking journey of the largest mammal on the earth from the icy waters of the arctic to coastal California, where the hump back whale is after a massive volume of krill.  Burleigh’s exclamatory descriptive language (i.e. “She spanks the cold blue with her powerful tail, Bang!; Down in the depths, her call echoes.”) is perfectly wed with Minor’s magnificent aquamarine gouache paintings.

The event, as described in a “Behind the Story” afterward occurred on December 11, 2005, when fisherman detected a hump back whale struggling to free itself from rope entanglement near the coast of San Francisco.  Quick notification was sent on to whale specialists and rescue divers, who then performed aquatic miracles in averting a tragedy, but for the endangered mammal and the would-be human saviors it was a tenuous and harrowing episode that from the start posed an enormous risk.  The crisis is laid out in compelling terms by Burleigh:

The whale feels the tickle of thin threads/She plunges on./She tosses.  She spirals sideways as spidery lines tighten around her./The struggle begins./The web of ropes cuts into her skin.  She flails, starts to sink, fights for sir. (more…)

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edgar

by Sam Juliano

TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.  

-Edgar Allan Poe

A model of word economy and one of literature’s most celebrated works of psychosis and depravity, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart is probably America’s greatest short story writer’s most famous story of all.  It is usually the first one taken up in Junior High classes, and the one that regularly makes its way into literature textbooks.  Though it is as macabre as some of the author’s equally venerated stories (most especially The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat and The Fall of the House of Usher) it is distinguished  by the fact that every word contributes to the purpose of moving the story forward.

6-7 (1)

Much like several entries in the Roger Corman film series based on Poe’s works, a continuing children’s picture book series by Jennifer Adams and Ron Stucki attributes its creation to the inspiration from the respective work, in this case The Tell-Tale Heart.  The new book in the ‘Baby Step’ Lit series, Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart is actually a sequel to Edgar Gets Ready For Bed, and it owes just as much to Poe’s iconic poem “The Raven” as it does to the short story.  Adams makes no bones that her book is aimed at the pre-K set and is intended to teach a valuable life’s lesson while affording its juvenile readers their very first introduction to a writer they will be examining later in the more advanced grades.  Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart doesn’t overdo the Poe references, rather it throws out a few characters that makes the connection with the literary counterparts, with the goal of developing in the readers and interest in literature at the earliest age. (more…)

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elizabeth-queen-of-the-seas

by Sam Juliano

The people of Christchurch, New Zealand considered their former commonwealth’s Queen Elizabeth as someone who was strong, powerful and of course regal.  They thought the same things about a resident silvery brown elephant seal who against all odds swam in the “sweet, shallow” waters of Avon River that ran through the center of the city.  When she wore herself out she’s use her flippers to access the shore,  and nap in the sunshine, cooling herself by flipping big clumps of wet mud onto her back.  She is soon befriended by a boy named Michael who looks for this wondrous mammal enroute and on the way home from school every day, often calling out “Elizabeth!  Hello, Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas!  Are you there?”  When he was lucky he’d be recipient to a snort and a look from her dark brown eyes.  But then things in Christchurch got hairy, when Elizabeth ventured beyond the riverbank to dangerously stretch out across a two-lane road, much appreciating the warmth from above and below.  After one car swerves into a rock and another barely misses her back flippers, she slides down the riverbank, belly-flopping into the water.  But the near-miss sets in motion a story of watery transience that finally ends on a happy note.  The renowned long-distance swimmer and adult author Lynne Cox teamed up with the Caldecott Medal winning illustrator Brian Floca to bring the emotional and inspiring story loosely based on a real-life situation to exquisite fruition in Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas. (more…)

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number one sam

by Sam Juliano

Number One Sam’s racing car exponent’s entire life centers around sporting triumphs.  This theme of competition and winning at all costs is explored in this irresistible picture book by Greg Pizzoli, one that re-emphasizes a time-worn adage on sportsmanship and the insignificance of competitive prowess, when it goes up against life’s far more vital concerns.  Pizzoli, who last year treated kids and picture book aficionados to the Geisel award-winning The Watermelon Seed – a vibrantly colored work about a watermelon-loving crocodile who becomes distraught after swallowing a seed, believing it will grow inside of him – has again offered up a real charmer that holds up repeatedly to classroom employment. (more…)

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