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As a reader, I don't typically go for the "feel sorry for myself/the Fates are against me" storylines. I do read books that deal with serious, even sad, subject matter, but I seem to react better to those than aren't more of a pity party to which I've (mistakenly) been invited. I don't say this as a good or bad thing, only as an indication of my taste. From that indication, you might better judge my opinion of this book, which is very high, by the way.
The story begins as a reminiscence by a widow of her deceased physician husband and how they both dealt with the loss of their son. While this sounds depressing and, to use one of my strongest condemning phrases, angst-filled, it actually handles both issues in a way that left me . . . shoot, how do you describe a sad topic that doesn't leave you exactly sad? Hopeful?
So, with that in mind, I loved this book. If I can't describe the plot well, maybe I can do better with the book itself . . . it is impressive and at times, fun. It will slow at points, but hang in there. It'll be worth it in the end.
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This is what you can call a simple idea, well told. A lonely, bitter old gaffer needs redemption, and thus is visited by three spirits who wish to give him a push in the right direction. You have then a ghost story, a timeslip adventure, and the slow defrosting of old Scrooge's soul. There are certain additions in the more famous filmed versions that help tweak the bare essentials as laid down by Dickens, but really, all the emotional impact and plot development necessary to make it believable that Scrooge is redeemable--and worth redeeming--is brilliantly cozied into place by the great novelist.
The scenes that choke me up the most are in the book; they may not be your favourites. I react very strongly to our very first look at the young Scrooge, sitting alone at school, emotionally abandoned by his father, waiting for his sister to come tell him there may be a happy Christmas. Then there are the various Cratchit scenes, but it is not so much Tiny Tim's appearances or absence that get to me--it's Bob Cratchit's dedication to his ailing son, and his various bits of small talk that either reveal how much he really listens to Tim, or else hide the pain Cratchit is feeling after we witness the family coming to grips with an empty place at the table. Scrooge as Tim's saviour is grandly set up, if only Scrooge can remember the little boy he once was, and start empathizing with the world once again. I especially like all Scrooge's minor epiphanies along his mystical journey; he stops a few times and realizes when he has said the wrong thing to Cratchit, having belittled Bob's low wages and position in life, and only later realizing that he is the miser with his bootheel on Cratchit's back. Plus, he must confront his opposite in business, Fezziwig, who treated his workers so wonderfully, and he watches as true love slips through his fingers again.
It all makes up the perfect Christmas tale, and if anyone can find happiness after having true love slip through his fingers many years ago, surprisingly, it's Scrooge. With the help of several supporting players borrowed from the horror arena, and put to splendid use here.
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William lives in a nice suburb with his ever-busy parents (I found it sweet how he still loves and treasures his parents, despite their frequent absence) and the nanny/maid, Mrs. Phillips. William receives shattering news: Mrs. Phillips intends to return to England. As a consolation gift, she gives him a toy castle with accompanying knight, and a tiny metal charm.
Then the knight comes to life. The tiny silver man, Sir Simon, soon befriends William as the young man goes to desperate lengths to keep Mrs. Phillips. But a knight can't forget his duty, and soon William becomes entangled in the clutches of Alastor, the evil wizard. But how can a physically unimpressive ten-year-old defeat a powerful magician?
William is an enjoyable character, made more so by his anxiety over Mrs. Phillips and general decency toward his fellow man. I also enjoyed the comparisons using his gymnastics lessons as examples of self-control and discipline.
Mrs. Phillips was a lovely character, very compassionate and caring, but firm in her intentions. Alastor was pure evil, while Sir Simon was a thoroughly likeable and decent guy, without being too perfect or anything like that. I found Calender to be a rather sorry character, and was glad of the resolution written for her.
The plot is pleasantly original, though I wish less time had been spent in "our" world. The writing style is rather ordinary, the first half a bit slow, and the descriptions somewhat underfleshed. However, the simple yet effective plot and good characterization overcome those problems. Without a doubt, kids should check out this book, and also the even-better sequel "The Battle for the Castle."
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This is a book where I would've given an extra half-star. While this book is great for adults to read and enjoy, its intended audience might not be able to enjoy it to its fullest. The story is complex enough to make the reader have to achieve a certain age to be able to completely understand what is going on. There also are some scenes with mild to medium bloodshed.
All in all, a great book to read, and I would highly recommend it.
Why 5 stars?:
I simply love the mythical magic of dragons. The illustrations included in this version are gorgeous. The story can be understood and enjoyed by children of all ages. Second graders should be able to read this book with just some slight assistance.
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The story is in a clear, straightforward, traditional retelling by Barbara Rogasky, but Hyman's illustrations lift this version out of the average and into the sublime. The illustrations are intricately drawn and luminously colored; they have the effect of rendering the human, emotional side of the story with clarity and immediacy, while keeping intact the otherworldly quality necessary to the fairy tale.
Take, for example, Hyman's illustration of the young Rapunzel and the witch in the garden. Rapunzel gazes at her with rapt adoration, while the witch returns the look with benevolent affection. In this one illustration, we are taken beyond the realm of the archetypal cardboard figures of fiction and are shown instead the very human figures of a foster mother and daughter. This relationship continues through to the last illustration, with the solitary witch watching the happy couple depart through the forest. Despite her cruel actions, this witch is a real woman capable of feeling loss and remorse.
Perhaps I wax rhapsodic, but Hyman's gorgeous illustrations really must be seen to be believed. This is a book that can be appreciated on various levels by both young and old alike.
I can't comment on the accuracy and literary side of the book - I'm not an expert on the original tale. However, the writing is wonderful; the story is an easy read with younger children. But clearly, the illustrations are what set this book apart. Many children's books use child-like pictures - but each page of this book is a new and different work of art. Detail and texturing worthy of an art gallery make this a pleasure to view as well as read. Highly recommended.
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I think the author wrote this book, Caddie Woodlawn to compare a young girls life in 1864 to a young girls life in 2002, now. It also shows what jobs they had to do and how to act.
I like this story because it really shows you what they did. I also really like this story because it's very exciting and if you think some things going to happen then it wont because it's always a surprise so I kept reading because I couldn't stop.
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The Canterbury Tales revolve around a group of 29 on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral to pay homage to the martyred St. Thomas a'Becket. The members of the pilgrimage come from all walks of life, including a Knight, Prioress, Merchant, Miller, the ever-entertaining Wife of Bath, and many others. The Canterbury Tales are the pilgrims' stories and each one reflects the individual character's personality beautifully. One can't help but feel a part of this lively group.
Whether you like a bawdy, raucous tale or a morally sound fable you will definitely find something entertaining in this book. I laughed out loud several times and found Chaucer's use of symbolism, wit, wisdom, and the glimpse into 14th Century life absolutely fascinating.
There is, however, some merit to be found in Nureyev's choreography. Many of the swan formations are interesting. There is some good detail in the dancing when Prince Siegfried first meets Odette. When Odile does her famous 32 fouttes in Act III, the camera changes angles a couple of times to give you different views. I've learned not to take things like that for granted, as I've seen other quality productions who will just stay with the one view for the entire time. A libretto is provided, in case you do not already know the story. The video run time is 112 minutes, whereas a Kirov production is 144 minutes long. That means that Nureyev had to edit out some of the lessor known dances. Nureyev did not like the Joker in the Kirov version, because he felt it was not in keeping with the overall character of the ballet. So, he edited it out along with Prince Siegfried's friend Benno. He also changed the name of the evil sorcerer from von Rotbart to Redbeard.
The ballet music was written by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The score is beautiful, but the performance by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra is mediocre compared to other performances I've seen by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. Also, it is important to consider the fact that this was recorded in 1967. The recording technology back then is not what it is today.
I am afraid that many people will buy this video because of the name attraction of Fonteyn and Nureyev. Quite frankly, I think that they are making a mistake, especially if this is to be the only "Swan Lake" in their collection. If you desire to own all of the available "Swan Lake" editions, then by all means buy this one. But, remember that Dame Margot Fonteyn was born in 1919, and her technical skills in 1967 are not up to par with today's dancers. Furthermore, there are a number of dances that are not done by the principal dancers, and the Vienna corps is simply not all that great. For instance, during the dance of the four Cygnets, you can see that their heads are not in sync. I invite a comparison with The Kirov Ballet.
One good thing about this production is that the ending is more true to the actual story than a typical Kirov version. This is because the Tsar did not allow for certain types of endings in his theater. The Soviets also maintained that tradition. Nureyev was known to have despised the Kirov ending, and therefore he discarded it. His ending is also quite theatrical and involves stage props. That might not sit well with some purist types. Also, the sorcerer Redbeard is primarily an actor. He doesn't even wear ballet slippers because he doesn't dance. He just goes around appearing menacing and stirring up the swans and casting spells and such. By comparison, the Kirov version features a dancing von Rotbart. The actual name of the sorcerer, and whether he is theatrical or not, doesn't matter all that much to me. But, you can make your own decisions as to what you value in a performance, so I'm just letting you know.
Out of the five "Swan Lake" versions that I have seen (to date), my favorite is a Peter Martins after George Balanchine after Petipa & Ivanov production from the "Live From Lincoln Center" public television series. It features innovative choreography, great dancing and an absolutely stunning ending! Peter Martin's production is my idea of a five-star "Swan Lake." Unfortunately, it is not available commercially. As an alternative, I recommend the Kirov "Swan Lake" production (ASIN 6304185529 by Kultur Video) as a reasonable, quality substitute that can be purchased through Amazon.com. In any case, please be sure to fully research the other "Swan Lake" productions available to you before buying this one. You might be disappointed by this one. I was.
But there's more. Margot Fonteyn was one of the greatest ballerinas ever. In 1961, when Nureyev famously leapt to the West, a partnership began that many have described as miraculous. Fonteyn's age was fairly transparent here. Certainly the technique maintained a high level of purity and style. Even though the roll was trimmed to accomadate the tolls of sin (Fonteyn was 47 when this was filmed!) and she probably was even more breathtaking at her peak, this performance will not dissapoint anyone but a moron.
Sadly, the corps here is remarkably weak and the orchestra [disappointing]. This is why it lost a star from me. Because the corps is so vital to this ballet, and Tchaikovsky's music so fine, you'll probably want another Swan Lake if you can only have one. The Kirov is probably the one, also on DVD. But if you're a [fan]for heart-melting beauty, you'll have to get it for Nureyev.
Contrary to what many reviewers experienced, I found this DVD to be surprisingly fresh and clear. I couldn't actually believe that it was 1966 when it was recorded. I had to double-check the notes. In fact, after seeing it once, I was certain that I had been mistaken. This looks like something from the 80s at least. But it's not.
Well, when Margot Fonteyn danced, every single motion or gesture of hers was a poem of utmost beauty and she herself was the embodiment of supreme elegance. In view of the duration of her part here, she herself alone deserves 7 stars! Nureyev himself also deserves 6 stars as a dancer: there is hardly anyone either from Kirov or any other place who could seriously challenge him. The rest, especially by today's standard, are all 5 star ballerinas, and there are masses of them here.
For most ballet music, the composers tailor made their music to the requirements of the choreography. Tsaichovsky was an exception, his musical imagination was given a free hand: the original choreographist accommodated him and changed some of his part in accordance with his music. That partly explains why Tsaichovsky's Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty was such great music outshinging any other ballet music. Anyway, music and choreography in ballet should go either hand in hand or as glove befitting hand. Here lies the main drawback of this DVD: the choreography doesn't tie in well with the music and was often at odd with it! Nureyev, however great a dancer he was, didn't have good ears for music, it could also be seen from the conductor of the accompanying orchestra he preferred (?) whose treatment of Swan Lake is so out of line.
Nureyev introduced some new and novel elements in his choreography, notably the use of properties, say the roses, the bow and arrow, and the large clothes representing waves on the stage that at last engulfed the prince. He also mobilized masses of ballerinas to create various shapes, making them as scented as flowers. Even when they are only some simple geometric matrixes, they are equally spectacular especially when seen from a height.
The stage settings are great, the costumes too and there are numerous of them. Of course, viewers must bear in mind that however brilliant the photography was, it was filmed in 1968 after all. Furthermore, there are at times some makeshifts, however brief that may be, they are quite prosaic or even static: Nureyev was by then not as matured a choreographist as he later was, as could be seen from his "Sleeping Beauty with Ballet De L'opera De Paris".