This animated feature film received outstanding reviews so I was keen. Especially because it features a musical instrument which is very timely with our relatively new musical instrument lending collection – shameless gratuitous plug, I know.
But, from the start of the film I had a few reservations. I was a bit off put off by the animation – it seemed too sharp and hard to connect with. And I did not glom on to the main character, Kubo the 12-year-old boy, another plucky precocious kid. However, ten minutes into the story – the 3D stop-motion turned out as lyrical as the story telling. Just as the straight edges of paper are folded into origami objects that are transformed into life and movement so too is the animation which is captivating and poignant. (Now who is being precocious?)
As for Kubo, the voice actor Art Parkinson conveys a loneliness, melancholy and resistance that is believable and moving.
Briefly, the epic fantasy occurs in feudal Japan where eye-patched Kubo takes care of his ill mother in a mountain cave near a village. He earns their meager living by telling a tale to the villagers by magically manipulating origami with music from his shamisen. He story is about a samurai warrior named Hanzo, Kubo's missing father. Kubo is never able to finish his tale becuase he doesn't know what happened to his father, and his mother can't recall the end of the story due to her deteriorating mental state. It is heartbreaking and realistic when the mother has moments of lucidity that slowly drain away in her storytelling. Mom warns Kubo not to stay out after dark because her Sisters (his aunts) and his grandfather, the Moon King (who took his eye when he was a baby), will be able to find him and take his remaining eye. This part of the story is a tich grisly, and for this reason (and some of the scary baddies), I would not suggest this PG film for younglings.
Of course, Kubo does stay out after dark and needs to be protected by the magic of his mother who sends him far away so his evil family can’t find him. Kubo’s journey then begins with the wonderful accompaniment of wise and sarcastic Monkey and the brave, endearing, but totally goofy Beetle.
Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey respectively are perfectly matched with their characters, adding a multi-dimensional delivery of lines that meld perfectly with the animation. The supporting voice actors, especially George Takei (a fan fav) and Brenda Vaccaro, also round out the story-telling.
The haunting strains of the theme song, the Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps, is beautifully sung by Regina Spektor, also adding another entrancing element to this film.
The tenderness, adventure, humour and beautiful craft of this film makes it a cinematic treat for not-too young children and adults alike.
And maybe, we can add a shamisen to the instrument collection.
We all know that music can enhance a story and create a mood. Just think of your favourite film and I'm sure you can mentally conjure the tunes that play during the most pivotal scenes. If I think of the film Halloween, all my mental images are tied up in John Carpenter's film score. That piano! Those repetitive notes! Run, Jamie Lee Curtis, run!
Music and film go hand in hand, but what about music and books? Recently, I read “The Hate U Give”, a poignant young adult novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that deals with the tough topics of racism and police brutality. The book’s title is in fact taken from a phrase coined by late rapper Tupac Shakur, so needless to say his music is referenced in the book, along with other rappers and musicians. I found myself drawn to finding albums by those artists and using them as a soundtrack to pair with my book when reading or after I put it down. The pairing completely changed my reading experience and added a new layer to character development – sound completely infused the story.
My book pairing was pretty straight forward; not all books essentially tell you what to listen to. It’s a bit of experiment when considering what music fits the story’s mood, the writer’s style, or a book’s themes. Are you interested in pairing your read with the perfect soundtrack, but don’t know where to start? Here’s a short list to help you get started:
It was a dark and stormy night, and the power had gone. As I rummaged through my kitchen drawers to find a flashlight or candle, a flash of lightning lit up the room, briefly illuminating the calendar that hung on the side of my fridge. And that’s when I saw it: I had forgotten to mark down the date of the Telling Tales Festival!
On Sunday, September 17th, the Westfield Heritage Village is hosting a celebration of the writing, reading and telling of stories at the 9th annual Telling Tales Festival in Rockton, Ontario. The event features writers, publishers and storytellers for all ages, and it’s free, though donations are always gratefully accepted.
Parking is not available at the village, but a free shuttle bus will shuttle festival-goers to and from the event regularly all through the day, leaving from the Rockton World’s Fairgrounds (812 Old Hwy 8, Rockton, Ontario), where parking is both free and plentiful.
The gates open at 9:30 a.m. for this event which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
…and more than twenty other authors and storytellers!
Programming includes readings by authors, musical performances, discussions with publishers, and workshops for children and teens. See a puppet show, exchange some books and meet a favourite author, all at the 2017 Telling Tales Festival!
This is my very first back to school season as a parent. I won’t go into the emotional changes this brings on, but I would like to confront another challenge for parents—back to school shopping. I recently heard a statistic while listening to the CBC that the average family spends over $300 per child on supplies and clothing in the pre-school season of July- September. Apparently this is the second highest retail season after the Christmas holidays! That was shocking to me. Wanting personally to avoid the Spiderman backpack and Paw Patrol-branded shoes for as long as possible, I decided to find as many ways as possible to avoid the consumerism crunch. Here is one small way: a handsome cat pencil bag.
Thanks to inspiration from Pinterest, and some sewing lessons from the library, I thought I would take on this quick little project. I learned a few basic hand stitches, made some pattern templates, and whipped up a rough draft (see photo) in about an evening. I will soon be ready to take on the final version. Hopefully my little Kindergartener will cherish his mother’s handmade pencil bag (for at least this year).
Also, check out this great “Maker” Magazine on Press Reader called Mollie Makes. It’s great for DIY inspiration.
- Aimee, Information Services
What We're Reading
The Essays of E.B. White
by: E.B. White
E.B. White, the author of beloved children’s classics like Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little has compiled a delightful collection of his articles first published in the New Yorker magazine. Most striking to me are his musings on farm life and the animals he raises. “The Death of a pig” and “Geese” both lend amusing insight into his personal experience that so obviously influenced his children’s books. The personification of these animals leads to wonderful quotes like, “Geese are friends to no one, they bad mouth everybody and everything. But they are companionable once you get used to their ingratitude and false accusations.” (page 76)
For dog lovers, readers are treated to White’s various essays about his beloved companion Fred, a dachshund, with great imagination: “Spotting a flicker or a starling on the wing, he would turn and make a quick report. “I just saw an eagle go by,” he would say. “It was carrying a baby.” This was not precisely a lie. Fred was like a child in many ways and sought always to blow things up to proportions that satisfied his imagination and love of adventure.” (page 101)
I also enjoyed reading White’s nostalgic reminiscing about a trip with his son to a summer place he remembers from his own childhood. Likewise, his essay on “The Railroad” and what it has meant to him kept me interested. Whether it is an article about people, places, animals, politics, or the art of writing, there is something for everyone in The Essays of E.B. White.