Saturday, August 30, 2008

Enchantment: the Life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto

Spoto, Donald (2006) Enchantment: the Life of Audrey Hepburn. New York: Three Rivers Press. 352 pages.

It may come as a surprise, but this biography was not written for children or young adults. This detailed look at Audrey Hepburn's life combines life events, analysis of film, and some interpolations of fact to give an intriguing and well-balanced look at a timeless icon. Spoto tells her life story candidly not hesitating to include Audrey's insecure or even scandalous moments. He does, however, tell these events without sensationalizing what isn't necessary.

My favorite feature of the book is Spoto's frankness about Audrey's desire to have a quiet family life contrasted with the pressures of being a movie icon. Her dreams of being a mother were repeatedly dashed; when she finally had the opportunity, it was difficult to give up her acting for a quiet life. My second favorite part of the book was the attention given to her role in The Nun's Story. This role prevented her from being typecast and gave her ample opportunity for introspection. Spoto often brought in personal events from Audrey's life and compared them to roles she played in film.

This was an excellent and realistic look at an actress who I personally admire. She did not have the royal life that some might suspect after watching Roman Holiday. This book shows her as a real human who became famous and did something with it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

After the Death of Anna Gonzales, by Terri Fields

Fields, Terri. (2002). After the Death of Anna Gonzales. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 100 pages.

The best word I could use to describe this book is weak. Told in poetry, it gives the reaction of 47 people to Anna Gonzales's suicide. Students, teachers, and friends give feelings or mostly their lack-there-of to the shocking news that Anna has taken her own life.

The poems allude to students' somber faces, but the majority of the poems were shallow, selfish reactions to the incidents. One cheerleader's concern is that the pep rally will be canceled. Another kid can't wait to uncover the inside scoop. Another wonders how long she has to wait to take Anna's desk which is next a cute boy. The teacher's on the other hand all had profound thoughts about the death. How patronizing for the young adult reader! I couldn't believe how the author portrayed these teens. It was infuriating and I'm not a teenager. Give the teens some credit!

The poetry was lifeless, and she had to tell the reader when she used metaphor. (Because a reader might not understand it in all it's frankness.) It was hard to tell one voice from another. This could have been a really good book, and I think it failed.

Sarah Morton's Day by Kate Waters

Waters, Kate & Russ, Kendall (1989). Sarah Morton's Day. New York: Scholastic, 32 pages.

Most people may be able to tell by now that I am a fan of nonfiction especially that work which will appeal to the recreational reader. This book uses photographs and first person narration to give a day in the life of Sarah Morton, an actual pilgrim who lived at Plimoth Plantations. Photographer, Kendall Russ uses Amelia Poole to reenact what might be a typical day for Sarah Morton. The real life photographs which were taken at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts bring her story to life.

The narration uses the old style of language, but is still simple and accessible to the young reader. The day begins when Sarah gets dressed. Photos show each piece of heavy clothing that she is required to wear. She takes the reader through her daily chores, games, lessons. She also describes her insecurities about having a new stepfather that she wishes will accept her. Sidebars and boxes highlight a recipe and a Bible passage she may have memorized. Overall the story is well told in a way that is accurate and can relate to children today.

This would be a great November read aloud for elementary school children or could be read independently by a good reader.