The Grand Budapest Hotel on DVD & Blu-ray

Mastermind director Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, (also written by Anderson) is set in a completely made up place. And with Anderson at the helm, every bit of the film is created from scratch. Every sign, newspaper, cake box, etc. are all original works created specifically for the film. Talk about design heaven! Here is a great interview with the graphic designer that worked with Anderson on the film to help get every bit just to his liking.

As for the film… It tells the story of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a grand European hotel. He befriends the young lobby boy and takes him along on an adventure when a close friend dies. Gustave is knee deep in the battle for the family fortune, which allows for much comedic adventure as he is chased by rivals.

While this is not my favorite Wes Anderson film, it features an all-star cast of Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman, and is an amazing visual treat that will surely please fans.

Babette's Feast - don't watch it when you're hungry.

BFBF

Based on a short story by Isak Dinesen, the Academy Award-winning, Danish-language film, Babette’s Feast, is a slow, atmospheric exploration of the choices and sacrifices we make in life. Set in the late nineteenth century, in a small village on the coast of Jutland, it follows the lives of two sisters, daughters of the stern village minister, devoted to their simple faith and good works. Beautiful and talented, and pursued by numerous suitors, both give up their dreams to serve their father and his small flock of pious, but quarrelsome, followers.

Years pass and their father has died and one stormy night the sisters rescue a mysterious French woman seeking asylum from the wars in France, in which she has lost everything. Babette becomes cook and housekeeper to them and they teach her to make their simple, austere meals of salted cod, thin soup and alebrot. Over the years, Babette finds a kind of peace in the village, quietly serving the sisters.

Many more years pass, and just before the 100th anniversary of the minister’s birth, Babette has a financial windfall, enough to leave Denmark, return to Paris and live independently. Instead, she asks if she can prepare an authentic French dinner for the small remnant of the minister’s followers, to honor the sisters who saved her and the memory of their father. (Yes, this meal ends up costing her the entire amount of her winnings.) The sisters cannot refuse her, so they reluctantly agree to the plan, but they and their friends are wary of being seduced by the worldly influence of French food, and they all secretly vow to resist any hedonistic pleasure the meal might offer. Nice try.

Now we come to the really good bit, as we watch Babette plan, prepare and serve the finest meal in movie history. I won’t tell you what she serves, but the menu reveals all the secrets of Babette and her past. The 12 guests, try as they might to remain immune to the seductions of the food and wine, are unwittingly brought under the spell of the elegance, richness and pure artistry of the meal and their resolve melts. They feast and smile and sigh, toast the memory of their sainted minister and celebrate the sensual pleasures of the food and drink and company. An old romance is revived. An old grudge forgiven. Old songs are sung under the stars. In the end, they recognize the artistic genius and selflessness of the hidden saint in their midst, Babette, who, with quiet grace, pours out her love and gratitude in the form of a meal, which transforms all who partake of it.

Six Days Left to Enter the 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Challenge!

There are only SIX DAYS left to enter the 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Challenge!

If you think you've already made up your mind, just think of how bored you will be without this challenge. After doing a poll* of kids in the United States, kids report they did the following things instead of entering the 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Challenge:

1. Twiddled their thumbs
2. Stared at the ceiling
3. Ate that gross thing on the floor
4. Flipped a pencil so it became "rubber"
5. Sang car alarm sounds
6. Tried to lick their elbows

But think of all the incredible reasons to enter the SUPER AMAZING SHORT STORY CHALLENGE for which you could possibly receive an INSANELY COOL PRIZE! Here are the top six reasons you should enter the Short Story Challenge**:

1. Writing is fun!
2. You have an entire six days! That's almost a whole week.
3. At the awards celebration you can meet a real professional author!
4. The awards celebration will also have cookies.
5. If you give permission, your story could be published on the AADL website!
6. You could win one of 6 AWESOME prizes!

Visit the Short Story Challenge page for more information, and email youngwrite@aadl.org with submissions or questions!

*this poll was not done using the scientific method, or any reliable sources.
**no puppies were harmed while making this list

Meet “It’s All Write!” Judge #10: Douglas Trevor

Douglas Trevor has been writing throughout his entire life. As a child, Douglas Trevor wrote stories about a caveman named Cowwow Bowwow and has since achieved great success as an author and professor.
Trevor’s short stories have appeared in several publications, including Fugue, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Paris Review. He is best known for his work of short stories, A Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space, which received the Iowa Short Fiction Award. He recently published Girls I Know, his first novel.

Trevor currently teaches creative writing and poetry at the University of Michigan, and resides in Ann Arbor. He is a fan of the Denver Broncos, Joyce’s Dubliners, and studied in France.

Stay tuned to find out who is the 11th and final judge for to the “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #452

Delicious! * is absolutely irresistible if you are a Ruth Reichl fan. The former New York Times restaurant critic, Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief, and bestselling author of culinary memoirs is turning to fiction (some would say rather semi-autobiographical?) for the first time, and the result is "a magical novel... that draws brilliantly on her wisdom and humor about life, her perceptiveness about family, her understanding of character, her belief in romance, and ... her description of food, so vivid you can taste every bite".

My advice: Do not attempt on an empty stomach!

College drop-out Billie Breslin lands the dream job at Delicious!, New York's most iconic food magazine. She has no culinary skills to recommend her but a "superhuman palate" (she can taste any dish and list its ingredients and suggest the flavors it needs) which endears her to the colorful staff at the magazine, as well as customers at the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends.

When Delicious! is abruptly shut down, Billie stays on in the empty office to maintaining the hotline for reader complaints, one of which leads her to a cache of letters hidden in the magazine's library, written during WWII by a Lulu Swan to the legendary chef James Beard.

This discovery leads to more clues (in the card catalog!!), a road trip, a forged connection, a glamor-makeover; and gives her the courage to face her fears, and be open to romantic possibilities.

"Reichl's... insider's look at life at a food magazine is fascinating. Her satisfying coming-of-age novel of love and loss vividly demonstrates the power of food to connect people across cultures and generations."

Also included are: A Conversation Between Ann Patchett and Ruth Reichl, and Billie's Gingerbread recipe.

* = starred review

Avatar, the Last Airbender

If your looking for a fun TV show that appeals to both kids and adults, check out Avatar, the Last Airbender. This cartoon has a great plot that will keep you interested until the very end.

The wold is divided into four nations (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air). Each nation’s people are able to manipulate their specific element. This manipulation is called “bending” and each nation’s bending is based off of a specific martial art (for example, water bending is based on tai chi, and fire bending is based on Northern Shaolin). There is one person who is born with the ability to bend all of the elements called the “Avatar,” this person is also in charge of keeping peace between the nations. However, when the Fire Nation decides to attack, the Avatar disappears.

A hundred years later, the Fire nation is now on the verge of dominating the entire world. But two siblings from the water tribe, Katara and Sokka, have just found the missing Avatar, a twelve-year-old boy named Aang, and his flying bison frozen in an iceberg. But can Aang learn to master all four elements and restore peace in time?

While this cartoon is not technically considered anime, it is heavily influenced by anime in it’s character designs. The fighting sequences are incredibly entertaining to watch and there are plenty of humorous moments which makes this cartoon a hit with the young and not-so-young.

If you enjoy the TV show, you should also check out the books, graphic novels, or even The Last Airbender movie that was directed by M. Night Shyamalan (disclaimer, if you are a big fan of the cartoon, this movie may miss the mark).

Hugo Awards


Hugo award finalists have been announced. The awards will be officially given at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention called Loncon 3 since it is the third time to be held in London, England. If you love scifi or fantasy, this is one of the largest and oldest annually held convention for fans (the first one was held in 1939 in NYC, and it has been held continuously since 1946). This year marks the 75th anniversary of the convention so in addition to the Hugo Awards, there are Retro-Hugo Awards honoring the best of scifi/fantasy from 1938. The following are this year's best novel nominees:

Ancillary justice by Ann Leckie: story focuses on the AI soldier, Breq, previously a starship now in a fragile human body; a space opera that will make you think what it is to be human vs AI; 1st part of the Imperial Radch series

Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross: multiple award winner Stross continues delving into the Freyaverse and our post-human descendants started in Saturn’s Children, followed by a short story called ‘Bit Rot’

Parasite by Mira Grant: a genetically engineered parasite that lives inside all humans delivering meds, protecting us from illness, and boosting our immune system? Sounds good until they start thinking on their own…1st in the Parasitology series. Mira Grant also writes award winning urban fantasy under the name Seanan McGuire , and has been nominated for Hugo awards for Feed and Deadline

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia: the series is available, and you can read a short prequel to it for free online called the Grimnoir Chronicles: Detroit Christmas

Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: anyone who knows scifi/fantasy has heard of this epic series that spans some 14 volumes with prequels; some J R R Tolkien influence, some Asian mythology…there was a computer game and a roleplaying game, even a soundtrack album Jordan died in 2007 and Sanderson picked up his notes for the final book and turned it into 3 books. Fans launched an online campaign to get the entire series nominated so it should be interesting to see if it wins!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #451

Retirement is pretty fabulous and I highly recommend it. However, there are certainly aspects of my work that I truly missed, blogging about books is one of them. So, Muffy is back, and just in time to bring you this wonderful first novel, published to coincide with the celebration of Will's 450th birthday this month.

Dark Aemilia * * is based on the life and loves of Aemilia Bassano Lanyer - the first woman poet to be published (in English), whom historians have called a "proto-feminist", choosing to dedicate many of her poems to a host of distinguished women.

British novelist Sally O'Reilly begins her U.S. debut with a young Aemilia, one of Queen Elizabeth's favorites at court, and mistress to Henry Carey, first Lord Hunsdon, the Queen's lord chamberlain. Learned and intelligent, she captivates the brash, young playwright Will and their clandestine affair proves to be her undoing. As the estrangement between them grows with each misunderstanding and misfortune, their love persists - painfully and without hope.

"With elegant style, masterly wordplay, and an eye for historical detail, O'Reilly beautifully relates a passionate and tragic love story, worthy of two such well-known figures". She also casts Aemilia in the shadowy role of the "Dark Lady" - the object of Shakespeare's late sonnets, and further fuels the debate as to the authorship of his plays.

"O'Reilly brings her star-crossed lovers together and drives them apart through plot twists that are, for once, credible outgrowths of the characters' personalities and beliefs, finally giving them a tender, heartbreaking parting. First-rate historical fiction: marvelously atmospheric and emotionally engaging." For fans of Philippa Gregory and Sarah Dunant.

* * = 2 starred reviews

PreK BITS - Monkey Mimics

Ms. Rachel found a Monkey who was COUNTING CROCODILES in Storytime today.
Who won the count? Monkeys? or Crocs?
We met a Peddler having a crazy day at work in the Classic CAPS For SALE by Esphyr Slobodkina

If you are a Monkey Scout searching for favorite monkey stories ... here are more monkey adventures I recommend:
CURIOUS GEORGE LEARNS TO COUNT FROM 1 to 100 featuring the monkey friend originally created by H.A. Rey.
The HATSELLER And The MONKEYS by Baba Wagué Diakité
FIVE LITTLE MONKEYS READING IN BED by the monkey Queen of picture books, Eileen Christelow.
NAUGHTY MONKEYS
MONKEY WITH A TOOL BELT
Monkey SEE... Monkey DO ... Monkey does the same as YOU !

U-M North Campus Bookstore is Hosting Monthly Story Hour

The University of Michigan North Campus Bookstore is hosting monthly story hours, having recently attracted 28 children for stories, crafts and coloring. The next one is coming up Friday May 9 at 2:30 pm with classics, treats and crafts relating to the books of Dr. Seuss. Summertime story hours are scheduled for June 6, July 11, and August 8, all at 2:30 pm. The bookstore is located in Pierpont Commons.

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