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hidden-figures

by Sam Juliano

We are five days away from the Trump presidency and many of us are still trying to figure out how and why.  But we are there and must come to terms with could well be one of the darkest spans in recent history.  Speaking for myself though I am willing to wait, and hope that far more good comes out of this once unfathomable situation than most might think.  Friday morning’s inauguration is sure to be quite the event, and one doomed to attract fervent protests all over the map.  Stay tuned.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series has reached the last leg of its long and prolific journey, with six more days including today left to “spread the word.”  My projection is for it to end with fifty-eight essays completed.  As of this morning we have had fifty-two.  Thank you many times over to Jim Clark, Laurie Buchanan, Frank Gallo, John Grant, Peter M., Tony d’Ambra, Celeste Fenster, Duane Porter, Tim McCoy, Karen,  Wendy Wahmann, Nancy Armo, Ricky C., Kimbra Power, Book Barn Steve, Alia Jones, David Noack,  Jarie Waterfall, Sharon Lovejoy,  and others for their remarkable support in the comment threads.  And to all those who have registered ‘likes’ I am deeply appreciative.  The Facebook ‘likes’ that are on the linked reviews too are much appreciated.

My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to my friend and colleague on his family loss.  He is going through the worst time of his life, and I grieve with him at this unspeakable time. (more…)

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century

Screen cap from excellent “20th Century Women”

by Sam Juliano

My apologies for dropping the ball on the last Monday Morning Diary that published at the site two weeks ago.  I did not address the comments yet, mainly as a result of the time consuming Caldecott Contender series and my frenzied efforts to catch up on the movie going front.  I am currently planning to release the annual Ten Best and runners-up list on February 1st.  Others wishing to post their own list need only to reach me.

Happy New Year to staff writers and our devoted readers.  As I’ve stated in the past we are hoping for a much better twelve month span than the sorry one we just endured,

Thank you so much Jim Clark for your staggering essay contributions to the site over years.  And thank you to J.D. Lafrance for his recent run of excellent film pieces.  I would like to thank Laurie Buchanan, the aforementioned Jim Clark, Frank Gallo, John Grant, Peter M., Tony d’Ambra, Celeste Fenster, Ricky C., Karen, Patricia Hamilton, Duane Porter, Tim McCoy and others for their remarkable comments under the Caldecott Medal Contender reviews.  While I will readily admit that I have invested a bit too much time in the venture, that aspect always goes a long way with me. (more…)

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Pictured: Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson) & Viola Davis (Rose)

by Sam Juliano

And so another Christmas has passed into the annals of history.  We in the northeast had a moderate day temperature-wise, and as always got together with family in a fabulous location.  The downside was that Melanie, Jillian and Danny had to stay home with various flu-related illness.  So far the rest of us have been spared.  As per our annual tradition we got out to the movie theater, and in fact saw two of the new releases back to back.  Otherwise the past week was occupied by last minute Christmas shopping, preparation and for me the grueling and time-consuming  if engaging continuation of the Caldecott Medal Contender series, which will run until January 20th. (The awards will be announced on the 22nd).  2016 has been the saddest year in memory, but I will make more reference on next week’s day-after New Year’s Day Diary.

At home on 7 Spruce Street we managed all the Christmas staples – the 1951 A Christmas Carol, the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Polar Express and the musical Scrooge.  Now we get to enjoys a short break before returning to our school positions on Tuesday, January 3rd. I trust everyone enjoyed the holiday and am looking forward to hearing reports on watched films or any other activities worth noting. (more…)

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In Our Hearts Forever

allan-10

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lost-1

by Sam Juliano

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story is predicated on that rarest of occurrences in this age of climate change, late-launching winters and the annual transients who prefer a yuletide celebration outside a swimming pool.  Still, December 25th is a date that for centuries has captured the imaginations of writers and illustrators, who have maintained a traditional image of Christmas, one inhabited by the seasonal trappings and the setting most of us can only dream for.  We’ve been treated to such holiday winterscapes and the indelible trappings that have long given this holiday its sense of mystery and anticipation in works such as Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman and Chris Van Allsberg’s Caldecott Medal winning The Polar Express.  In all three and in many others Christmas is defined by blustery snow, freezing temperatures and Jolly old St. Nick, a tireless globetrotter who somehow defies all logistics by making a personal stop at every house where children reside, usually entering through chimneys.  The favored visual transcription of Christmas Eve is a very dark blue starry sky, a snowy terrain, houses scattered, pine trees in abundance and a rustic home with a  fireplace, a living room Christmas tree and gifts wrapped in red and green paper.  This exquisite setting, usually evoking a location far to the north is captured via pencil and ink washes with digital color in a gem of a holiday book, written by Kallie George and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin.   The story, chronicles the return of a present that fell off Santa’s sleigh after a gust of wind, by four dutiful forest animals, who must complete their task in frigid cold way past their bedtimes.  Their challenges -and a later snowbank mishap- recall that which faced the resilient title character in William Stieg’s classic Brave Irene. (more…)

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rudas-1

by Sam Juliano

During the closing act of Nino Wrestles the World,  readers learn against all reasonable odds that the only way to handle Las Hermanitas is to join ranks with them.  After death defying but ultimately triumphant battles against some of Lucha Libre’s  most terrifying opponents, the irrepressible youngster Nino finds more than he can handle with two toddlers who never play by the rules.  Mind you this was a crafty marauder who put down the Guanajuato Mummy of Muarggg! and Whaaarrg! fame with the pulverizing, if intoxicating “Tickle Tackle!;” completely neutralized the mysterious Olmec Head with the debilitating “puzzle muzzle;” confounded the benign space explorer El Extraterrestre with his adept play at “Marble Mash” and sent the king of temptation himself, El Chamuco slip sliding away on ice pop slicks.  But our intrepid freebooter is way over his head against the tag team who possess double the irreverence and audaciousness.  These feisty ninas are totally natural – no masks, no hiding behind alternate identities, just a comprehensive embrace of the old adage “where there’s a will there is a way”.  In the equally raucous and deliriously irresistible Rudas: Nino’s Horrendous Hermanitas these rattle waving Lucha Queens really hit their opponents below the belt with their irascible toddler antics and gassy implications.  Nino’s celebrated Mexican-American Caldecott Honor winning author-illustrator Yuyi Morales won superlative reviews for her endlessly delightful Lucha Libre prep course, prompting her to stage a second act in this unmissable circus show, one even more boisterous, animated and colorful in its inimitable comic book style. (more…)

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christmas-2016

by Sam Juliano

By the time the next Monday Morning Diary is posted Christmas will be a day old.  Hence I want to wish all our readers and staff and friends here and overseas a Merry Christmas.  On a personal note it has been the worst year in memory.  Losing the dearest of friends – one who served as a pillar of this site and as a staple in our lives – was a calamity still unthinkable.  I also lost my young nephew and a brace of people who had reached ripe old ages.  But this is the way of the world, and no doubt many others will identify 2016 as a  year to blot from our collective memories.  We can look forward to 2017 as a kind of rebound year – one where positive energy and happy events will help to alleviate at least some of the pain of the prior year.

I did see a few films this past week, but have to decided to combine the round-up with the viewings that will be negotiated over the next seven days.  I also managed a second viewing of Nocturnal Animals, and I am happy to report the result was a positive one.  (4.5)

Thanks to all those who have placed comments on the Caldecott Medal reviews.  Typically, I have gone overboard, displaying a level of obsessiveness worthy of institutionalization, but the series is moving toward its final phase.  Well, maybe not final – it does after all run until January 20th, but it is shall be say well underway. (more…)

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