Category Archives: Films

The Hate U Give – the film

Have I mentioned before what a privilege it is being involved in the CILIP YLG London committee? Because the book by Angie Thomas was shortlisted for the 2018 Carnegie medial, we were invited by Walker books to a special preview of the film at 20th Century Fox in London last week.

Having read the book multiple times during the judging process, I was pretty nervous about how a film might live up to the source material. When we got into the small screening room there were bags of popcorn and packets of tissues waiting for us on the seats and boy were they needed (the tissues, although the popcorn was much appreciated)! In some respects it is very different to the book, lots cut out or rearranged in order to tell the story in 132 minutes – but the bits they kept the same were brilliant and the bits they changed worked. In fact <spoiler redacted> was completely different to the book and such a shock that I cried so hard I couldn’t stop a strange noise escaping my throat…and I still want to cry thinking about it. It translated the core message of the book superbly. But it is also funny! And sweet! Lots of reviews have focussed on the Dad character, Maverick, who is played to perfection by Russell Hornsby, but the whole family was amazing. I especially loved Sekani, that boy really is joy personified.

This is one of those rare occasions where the film is as special as the book, and I highly recommend you make your way to the cinema to see it when it is released. And if you haven’t read it yet, well I just don’t know where you’ve been…

Love, Simon

LOVE, SIMON also stars Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Miles Heizer, Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel and Tony Hale and is directed by Greg Berlanti.

The film is an adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s bestselling 2015 YA novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Teenage: a film about the 20th Century birth of the Teenager

Directed by: Matt Wolf
Narrated by: Jena Malone, Ben Wishaw, Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher
Release Date: March 14th, 2014 (US Theatrical)
Running Time: 77 mins.
Rating: Not Yet Rated by the MPAA
World Premiere: Tribeca Film Festival 2013

Before the ‘Teenager’ was invented, there was no second stage of life. You were either a child or you went to work as an adult. At the turn of the century, child labor was ending, ‘adolescence’ was emerging, and a struggle erupted between adults and youth. Would the young be controlled and regimented, or could they be free?

Inspired by punk author Jon Savage’s book, Teenage gives voice to young people from the first half of the 20th century in America, England, and Germany—from party-crazed Flappers and hip Swing Kids to zealous Nazi Youth and frenzied Sub-Debs. By the end of World War II, they were all ‘Teenagers’: a new idea of youth.

Four young voices (Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher) bring to life rare archival material and filmed portraits of emblematic teenagers from history—Brenda Dean Paul, a self-destructive Bright Young Thing; Melita Maschmann, an idealistic Hitler Youth; Tommie Scheel, a rebellious German Swing Kid; and Warren Wall, a black Boy Scout. This living collage is punctuated by a contemporary score by Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound).

Teenage is a story that ends with a beginning: a prelude to today’s youth culture. In each generation, adults often mistake youthful unrest for an emotional right of passage. But history proves that rebelling teenagers aren’t just claiming their independence, they’re shaping the future.

Ender's Game


The human race faces annihilation.

An alien threat is on the horizon, ready to strike. And if humanity is to be defended, the government must create the greatest military commander in history.

The brilliant young Ender Wiggin is their last hope. But first he must survive the rigours of a brutal military training program – to prove that he can be the leader of all leaders.

A saviour for mankind must be produced, through whatever means possible.

But are they creating a hero or a monster?

This is the multiple award-winning classic ENDER’S GAME – a ground-breaking tale of war, strategy and survival.
So after The Ender’s Game Panel last night (with Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld in conversation with director & writer Gavin Hood and the producers Bob Orci and Gigi Pritzker) I thought I would revisit Ender’s Game, the novel.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Sir Ben Kingsley looks amazing as Mazer Rackham, the soldier whose actions during the Formic War saved humanity. Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Colonel Hyrum Graff the man tasked with creating the next generation of warriors at Battle School is equally fantastic. Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld are also excellent castings, I have only seen Asa in Hugo and Hailee in True Grit and am looking forward to seeing how they handle Ender’s Game.

The panel discussion was incredibly interesting, sadly I was too interested in listening to what they were saying so I did not take notes but what I can remember is that it took two hours for the make-up department to apply Mazer Rackham’s facial tattoo to Sir Ben Kingsley every day and the first time Hailee used a wire harness she was unable to keep upright… oh and Harrison Ford said that for special effects during the filming of Star Wars they actually built model space ships rather than using green screen technology.

Gigi Pritzker spoke of her joy that the book had been adapted for the big screen as she had read the novel after her nephew had suggested she read it an event that united two generations in a love for the story.

As a writer Orson Scott Card is brilliant, sadly his views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage make him a failure on being a decent human being. Ender’s Game is one of my all-time favourite science fiction novels; I read it when I was about 14 years of age and although I have not read it since the story has remained with me to this day.

Ender’s Game – the story of Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin a boy raised to save humanity in a battle of extinction with the Buggers (also known as Formics in later novels) an alien race that almost succeeded in destroying the human race in previous battles.

Using children as soldiers is nothing new – the stories of child soldiers that have been in the headlines over the past few yeas makes this story just as relevant now as it was when it was first published. The parts of the novel in Battle School show his progression from a withdrawn boy into a warrior and leader are brutal and can make brilliant discussion points about the psychological effect war has on children and the moral aspects of turning human beings into weapons.

It is telling that Ender’s Game, along with Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers are on the United States Marine Corps recommended reading lists.

The Film's the Thing!

Shakespeare is looked upon as the greatest writer in the English Language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

He created many words and phrases still in use today and the very mention of his name can make teenagers turn pale and quake in fear. Fortunately Hollywood in the late ’90’s and early years of the 21st century saw a gap in the market and a number of High School adaptations were made.
10 Things I Hate About You is my personal favourite (I have no idea why – I just enjoy it so much), based on The Taming of the Shrew. It is about a new kid must find a guy to date the meanest girl in school, the older sister of the girl he has a crush on, who cannot date until her older sister does.

She’s the Man, based on The Twelfth Night is about teenager Viola Hastings whose brother decides to ditch schoolfor a couple weeks in London, Viola heads over to his elite boarding school, disguises herself as him, and proceeds to fall for one of her soccer team-mates. Little does she realize she’s not the only one with romantic troubles, as she, as he, gets in the middle of a series of intermingled love affairs.

Loosely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Get Over It is a high school drama about a series of romantic entanglements around a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The darkest adaptation in this list, based on Othello, the main character is now Odin James (‘OJ’), star of the basketball team and the school’s only African American student. Desdemona is Desi, the dean’s daughter and Odin’s girlfriend. Iago is Hugo, the coach’s steroid-addicted son, who plants seeds of doubt that fester in Odin’s mind, leading them all to a violent fate.

One of the best-known updates, Romeo+Juliet is set in modern day Verona Beach. Unusually for a modern version the director (Baz Luhrmann) used the original Shakespearean language and apart from a few changes the movie is almost exactly the same as the play.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

I am a massive Tintin fan, that will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me – and possibly no surprise to anyone else either what with it being a comic book… sorry graphic album.

I was fortunate enough to win tickets to the pre-premiere screening of The Secret of the Unicorn and was completely blown away. I went in to the cinema with a few reservations having seen some stills from the film and was not totally convinced that 3D motion-capture CGI animation was a good idea.

I was wrong, so wrong the film is a joyous adaptation of The Secret of the Unicorn with extra bits from The Crab With The Golden Claws (to introduce Captain Haddock) and extra characters from some of the other books in the series but the Tintin purist in me did not care. The adaptation was made with love, care and attention to detail. It works as an all-ages family-film and there are enough small pieces scattered like Easter eggs throughout the film to delight the obsessive fans such as myself.

I was discussing the film with a friend just after watching and we agreed that there is a wide gulf between the original books and the film but both can be enjoyed on their own merits.

Tintin gets a lot of criticism these days about being racially insensitive (Tintin in the Congo), not having any strong female characters an anything else that people see that may cause offence in the pages of the books. Some of the contentious issues as well as the fantastic illustrations and cracking adventure stories are what makes it so good to talk about in a group, especially with young people.

Amongst the many topics that can be discussed in reading groups are:

  • racial stereotypes most notably in Tintin in the Congo, the early editions of Tintin in America and The Shooting Star;
  • alcoholism – most of the stories that feature Captain Haddock and occasionally Snowy;
  • space exploration Destination Moon & Explorers on the Moon;
  • history – The Blue Lotus covred the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the subsequent resignation from the League of Nations;
  • politics – Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin and the Picaros;
  • the slave trade The Red Sea Sharks;
  • drug smuggling – Cigars of the Pharaoh & The Crab with the Golden Claws.
  • The ligne claire style pioneered by Herge may also appeal to readers that enjoy reading comics but are unable to adapt their art styles to manga-like illustration.

    TED: Ideas worth Spreading




    TED or Technology Entertainment and Design to give it it’s full name, is a global set of conferences formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading. Since June 2006, the talks have been offered for free viewing online, under a Creative Commons license, through

    There are over 900 free talks available online. If your library or resource centre has a television or bank of computers it may be worth thinking about holding a TED day and running their freely available video talks in the library or in conjunction with school lessons.

    The TED Mission statement:
    We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

    Some of the talks follow

    Brewster Kahle builds a free digital library

    Handspring Puppet Co.: The genius puppetry behind War Horse

    Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter …

    Those were just three of the 900+ talks available free at The videos are subtitled so are accessible for the hearing impaired.  Thanks to volunteer translators taking part in TED’s Open Translation Project, subtitles in a variety of languages are available for nearly every video in the TEDTalks series.

    Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

    The brilliant Barry Lyga is running a competition ahead of the release of his new book Goth Girl Rising. You have to create a video trailer for one of his books, upload it onto Youtube, Myspace Video or anywhere you can host a video and send him the link.

    Full competition details are here

    This is worth promoting to any Teens who frequent the Library where you work, it could even be good for a Teen Group Library Project! Be quick you only have until the end of August!

    It is easy – and to prove this I have entered the competition. My trailer is below!

    Coraline by Neil Gaiman

    Read the full-text of Coraline online (including Dave McKean’s illustrations).

    A discussion guide for Coraline is available here if you would like to discuss it in a reading group.

    Tintin at 80

    Tintin & Snowy

    This Saturday the 10th January marks the 80th anniversary of Tintin‘s first appearance in Le Petit Vingtième.

    Tintin has remained consistently popular with children, teens and adults for the past 80 years. The 80th anniversary comes amidst news that the long-awaited Tintin film (to be directed by Steven Spielberg and a script written by Doctor Who scribe Steven Moffat) is due to be released in 2010.

    While the filming is only due to start in February, the film once released may be used as a taster of Tintin to get reluctant readers interested in trying the books themselves.