Category Archives: Books and Films

Prince Caspian

The inaugural post on this blog was titled “Children who talk about Narnia… and it was a review of the movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My children have been anticipating the release of the second movie, Prince Caspian, ever since they saw the first one. As many of you know it was released a few weeks ago. All the group of four families attended together, and the general consensus was that it was very enjoyable. Naturally there was much discussion afterwards about deviations from C.S. Lewis’ novel.

Spoiler Alert

The first deviation the children commented on was the kiss between Susan and Caspian at the end. They had been expecting some romance just from watching the trailer and sure enough, it was there. Many knowing looks passed between Susan and Caspian from their first meeting on. Our children were not impressed. I found it amusing that, while on the battle field, Susan would pause, with arrows flying all around her, to see if Caspian was alright and Caspian did likewise even though swords flashed on all sides.

When group of four met later in the week we were able to spend some time discussing what we had liked and disliked about the movie. Many of us agreed that the portrayal of Peter was disappointing. At times he was more of a proud but petty schoolboy than a high king of Narnia. He and Caspian often appeared to be competing against each other rather than working together towards the same end. As L13 pointed out, in the novel the children meet up with Caspian and Peter reassures him that they did not come to take his throne but to put him on it. Similarly we felt that Aslan was not given the prominence he should have had. His appearances were few and brief and his great power was played down.

We thought the night raid on Miraz’s castle was an odd addition to the plot. Peter acted contrary to the advice of others, made the assumption that Aslan was not coming and achieved nothing. Why was the night raid added in and other parts of the story left out?. More celebration after the victory at the fords of Beruna, Caspian’s reunion with his nurse and the schoolboys being changed into pigs are just a few scenes we were hoping for.

Visually the film was impressive. The costumes, the sets, the scenery were all excellent. Apparently Miraz’s castle was built specifically for the film and then completely demolished after filming. All the creatures, both great and small, were very well done. Reepicheep was the chivalrous warrior we expected and the Trufflehunter the wise badger.

Trumpkin, I thought, played the part beautifully. He had the perfect mix of stubborness, pride and humour. Caspian also was well cast. Just before we watched the movie we saw an interview with Ben Barnes (Caspian) explaining that the inspiration for his Mediterranean accent came from Inigo Montoya in Princess Bride. We kept waiting for “you killed my father, prepare to die!”

Lucy was just as appealing this time as she was in the first movie. Of all the children she appeared to have grown the most but was still the trusting, forgiving and fun-loving Lucy we saw in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Despite our discontent with some aspects of the movie, we still enjoyed it very much. The deviations from the book did not stop us from being captivated by an adventure in Narnia. We wondered though, whether someone with no knowledge of the book would be able to work out how it all fitted together. A good reason to read the book. Mind you, my opinion has always been read the book, then see the movie.

Digging up some classics

A few months back we showed the children some Get Smart and it was a hit. The other day Andrew introduced them to My Favourite Martian, which they also enjoyed. They thought it was a bit strange, but funny. As we don’t have a tv I can’t compare it to the current late afternoon children’s shows, but I’m guessing they’re a little different. I was telling my children about the shows I sometimes watched as a child, Brady Bunch, Hogan’s Heroes, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, F Troop, to name a few.

The other night Andrew and I watched some Gilligan’s Island, another silly show! Watching those poor shipwrecked people with Gilligan, we started making comparisons with another group of wreck survivors who end up on an island. LOST. We realised that the enduring question of GInger or Mary Ann? has become Jack or Sawyer? Or perhaps Kate or Juliette? Is Hurley the new Millionaire? Sayid the professor?

Last night we watched Indiana Jones: Raider of the Lost Ark with some friends. It’s hard to believe it came out twenty-seven years ago. I warned the children it was scary in quite a few places and a couple of times I covered B7’s eyes, but they all enjoyed it and are keen to see another one. My memory is that the subsequent ones were even scarier, so a preview might be in order before we continue. Following that they were treated to the first episode of Beverly Hillbillies! You can see we believe in rich and varied cultural experiences for our children.

Listening to

In addition to the comings and goings of our family that I write about on the blog, I also keep a record of the books we are reading. You can read that list by clicking on the link in the blog header. There is also a listening list which, on the whole, has been neglected. It is hard to update such a list so I have a new plan which might work. I will occasionally ask the members of the family who have mp3 players what is on their play lists and share that on the listening page. I probably won’t update it very often but at least you’ll see the strange and varied mix we listen to in this family.

Privilege, pride and prejudice

Last weekend I was having trouble using both my blogs. Loading either the publishing pages or the public site was a very slow process. It took several days before everything was back to normal and then more days before I managed to get back to the post I started below, so this news is a week old now.

My friend N and I were privileged to have a night away with our older girls, L13 and P13. We had been hoping to do this for a while, but Saturday music commitments made it hard to find the time. Last Friday afternoon Andrew was off work and on Saturday there was not a single rehearsal so we booked a B & B and off we went. N and I had a bit of trouble finding a suitable destination; there are many Bed & Breakfasts, but not all are affordable. And more importantly not all have tv and dvd provided. The one we settled on an hour out of Ottawa and was a two room suite complete with large tv and dvd player. I know many people choose to go away and enjoy life without the distraction of tv, but our part of our plan in going away together was to introduce the girls to the classic BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, all five hours of it!

About half way to our destination we stopped in an attractive little town and wandered in and out of the interesting shops. The most intriguing by far was the vintage clothing store. I could not believe the huge range of clothing in the store. It was amusing that none of us liked the same things. I found a beautiful dress from the fifties, a deep blue and green tartan silk organza over a shot silk underskirt. Unfortunately the pleated skirt was beginning to split on the folds and would probably have fallen apart the first time I tried to wear it. We browsed in a couple more shops, had a bite to eat and then drove on to the B & B.

Our hosts were very welcoming and suggested we take the snow shoes and go for a short hike through the woods and down to the river, which was running, not frozen over. As they pointed out the route we looked across to the river and saw a deer walking along the waters’ edge. When we approached the river the deer was long gone, but on the bank opposite us was a huge beaver nibbling a stick. We stayed and watched for quite a while, taking pictures, which unfortunately do not do him justice. On returning to our rooms we pulled out our vast array of snacks and prepared to begin the marathon.

N and I felt it was almost a rite of passage for our girls to be watching Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy for the first time. And we thoroughly enjoyed watching it with them. L13 had read it late last year. P13, who has not read the book yet, was not even sure she would like it. We all assured her she would love it and were very pleased to see her enjoy it as much as the rest of us. Mr Collins made our skin crawl, Lydia made us angry, and of course Mrs Bennett disgusted us and made us laugh at the same time.

We had arranged with our hosts to have breakfast at about 9:30am, which was just as well after finishing P & P at 1:30am. We were served fruit smoothies, a fruit platter, eggs benedict and coffee, which were all delicious. L and P decided, after breakfast, to totally change the tone of viewing by squeezing in a Mr Bean before we set off again. On the way home we were able to chat about our favourite scenes and lines from the night before. It was interesting to hear the girls’ impressions and listen to them repeating bits of dialogue which had long been favourite passages of mine. We were all commenting on the very proper and polite way everyone spoke to each other even when they were in violent disagreement. We thought it would be a very good habit to cultivate.

Much Ado

Group of Four is engaging in some Shakespeare again, this time it is Much Ado about Nothing. At our house we began by reading through the Charles and Mary Lamb version of the story to give everyone an idea of what to expect when we watched. B7 and A11 sketched the characters as I read to help keep the relationships in order. When Group of Four met last week we watched the movie version directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring both Branagh as Benedick and Emma Thompson as Beatrice. It is a very enjoyable version which amused and inspired the young actors.

Earlier this week, the group participated in a workshop run by the Company of Fools for a group of thirty or so homeschooled students. The workshop ran all day and covered many aspects of acting, zeroing in on Much Ado about Nothing for several of the activities. The workshop was run by two of the “fools”, one an actor, the other a designer. I was very impressed by the way they worked with the children and the activities which kept everyone engaged all day.

They started with warm ups for voice, body and imagination. Following this they were taught a technique for learning lines by giving every word an action. Every word, not just the big words or the “easy to think of an action” words. Using this method they all learnt a section from Titus Andronicus. In pairs they then used the same method to learn and present a line from Much Ado.

Getting into character was the next focus and time was spent on facial expressions, body movements, walking styles and a little dialogue. The only costumes used all day were hats and the group spent time looking at a large collection of hats, working out why a particular one suited a particular character from Much Ado. Then of course they wore the hats and became the characters. After lunch the activities were a little longer as the children used scenes from Much Ado to create tableaux, posters and skits.

At Group of Four next week all the children will be acting in one or more scenes which the moms have cut and pasted together. We have chosen those scenes which really amused or impressed the children or classic scenes which just must be done. Our house will be filled with Shakespearean language once again as lines are practised and inserted into all sorts of conversations.

2008 so far

Before 2008 even started we had one sick girl, but as she had done nothing but rest for two days straight and was feeling a lot better, we all attended a New Year’s Day dinner at a friend’s house. By the end of the night I was not feeling at all well and headed straight for bed, where I stayed for days. One child, then another, became sick, slept beside me during the day and then after a day or so was well enough to be up and about. I was not. After a week had gone by I was not recovering and L13 had relapsed so we visited the doctor, who prescribed more rest and some medication for me.

Two weeks into 2008 I am now up and about but still taking things slowly. L13 is still recovering. She was up on Saturday for a rehearsal and played on Sunday at two Seniors homes before playing her solo at our studio recital. Both girls played their solos beautifully, making us particularly proud as they had both battled sickness over the previous two weeks. I think the effort required to play on Sunday took a lot out of L13, so it will be a little longer before she is at full strength again.

All the while my cousin has been coming and going, showing herself around the city when Andrew (the well one) wasn’t available to accompany her. She did get a bit sick herself, but found a cheap flight to Florida for a few days which warmed her up and took her out of our plague ridden house for a while. She is off to Toronto and Niagara today, so hopefully by the time she returns we will all be able to do something together.

As you can imagine my school preparations did not get done but we are easing into school work again, beginning with the basics. For years now Friday afternoons in January and February have been spent cross-country skiing. Hopefully we can do that again this year. While I was lying in bed I did read an excellent book, which I hope to review soon. I also searched through The Book Tree for books to add to the children’s reading lists for this year. So life is getting back to normal and I have been told by several people, especially my husband that pneumonia can take a while to recover from, so I will try not to be impatient.

Summer days are for:

img_2936quiltcrop.jpgWashing the quilts and blankets
Planting a herb garden (that is mine in the tubs)
Reading books
Visiting friends
Entertaining friends
Long slow meals
Listening to music
Sleeping in (occasionally)
Scrapbooking and card making
Visiting a cottage (that’s next week)
Making chutney, jam, salsa
Cleaning, sorting, organising
Throwing things away

On location

A friend called me yesterday to see if we would like to watch some filming that was going on at her place. She and her husband own a farm, twenty minutes away from us, where they keep horses. Several weeks ago, she had let me know that they were considering letting a tv series do some filming using their horses, barns and beautiful farm scenery.

When we arrived they were just redoing a scene with one of the horses. Two girls were standing by the horse talking about a boy, when the boy turned up and whipped off his cap to reveal…a girl! A peak into the tent where the monitors were gave me a glimpse of what the viewers will eventually see. While the crew prepared for another scene, we were taken on a short tour of the horse barn, the adjacent enclosures and the farmhouse, built in 1885. The lovely white farm house is surrounded by red geraniums and blue lobelia and makes a beautiful backdrop for filming.

We returned to the corrals where the actors and crew were rehearsing another short scene. After many repetitions of the scene with out cameras we watched several takes before we had to leave. The action was taking place outside the corral with a horse behind them, which was apparently not the original plan. The actors and crew, who had no horse experience, had tried the scene in with the horses several times only to find that the sudden appearance of the girls spooked the horses every time. We were there for a couple of hours during which time they may have completed one three or four minute scene. It was a very interesting glimpse into the world of tv.

Possum Magic

possum_cover.gifWhen I was teaching in Australian schools all those years ago Possum Magic was a classic, I’m sure it still is. I owned a Big Book version which I kept in the class room to read to the class. Today B6 and I read the big copy and enjoyed it very much. He knows many Australian animals but probably not as many as the girls did at his age. I think it made it a little more fun to read as he recognised some and puzzled over others.

Possum Magic is about Grandma Poss and Hush, her little grand-daughter. Grandma Poss has some basic magic skills, enough to make Hush invisible but not enough to change her back when the novelty wears off. She has a hunch that the magical remedy involves food.

In order to become visible Grandma and Hush set off around Australia in search of quintessential Aussie cuisine. B6 knew many of the foods mentioned (because we make them) but not all. He had never heard of a Mintie and wasn’t clear on what a mornay was either. Tomorrow we are going to make one of the foods which restored some of Hush’s visibility so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Julie Vivas’ watercolour pictures are beautiful. The rainbow serpent in particular caught our eyes, especially in the big book version as it takes up the whole double page spread. B6 recognised the famous landmarks dotted through the pages and was entertained by the whole book. It hasn’t changed his opinion of Vegemite though, it must be the Canadian coming out in him.


After reading Jennifer’s recommendation I decided to reserve this one at the library. I collected it today and read it in an hour before turning it over to my ten-year-old. It is about a fifth grade boy who is not afraid to push the limits; he is not out to cause trouble, he just wants to see what will happen. Always ready with a clever question just before the homework assignment is given out, Arnold finds his delay tactic backfires when his teacher asks him to research the answer to his own question. His research gets him thinking about words, how they came to be and why.

When we were studying Romeo and Juliet with the Group of Four, we looked at Juliet’s speculation that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. The activity that followed was very amusing as the children created small skits where familiar words were replaced by other words. One group replaced the names for things found in an average Sunday morning church service. The strawberries were welcomed and the dish soap led in prayer. I guess you had to be there but it was quite funny.

In Frindle Arnold replaces the word ‘pen’ with the word ‘frindle’, First a few of his friends play along, eventually most of the school is participating and it looks like things might be getting out of hand. A battle ensues with the students up against the teacher and principal. His teacher appears all along to be his staunchest opponent, but in his mother he finds an unexpected ally. The media picks it up and Arnold becomes something of a celebrity.

Frindle is an amusing and thought provoking book, which would be great to read aloud to boys and girls. I enjoyed reading a book where the dictionary takes centre stage, vocabulary is played with and etymology is entertaining. After finishing it A10 also gave it the thumbs up. She liked the fact that there was trouble and a mean teacher. When she mentioned the teacher, I asked,”Did you really think she was mean?”

To which L12 replied,” She is looking at it from the kid’s perspective, while you are seeing it from the teacher’s.” She’s quite right, but either way it is worth reading.