#IMWAYR (11/9/2020): The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, as well as two movie adaptation reviews!

YES!!! I am so glad that Biden and Harris have won the U.S. presidency/vice-presidency. I try not to get political on this blog, but it's hard to spotlight and value different perspectives in books when the president is screaming hateful rhetoric for four years straight. Obviously, this win will not solve all of America's problems, and depending on the results of the Senate elections, it may not allow for any real policy improvements, but at least we can sleep at night knowing a reasonable person has the nuclear codes and veto power.

This is an unusual post, because I didn't read a YA book to review for my #IMWAYR-only post this week, so I have a picture book instead: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. I also decided to post two reviews of movie adaptations of books I reviewed a while back. I actually meant to put these up around 3 months ago, but I was going to wait until I had time to watch the movie adaptation of The Hate U Give with my family. I have now conceded that I will never have time to do that, so I am posting these two—perhaps a review of The Hate U Give's movie will be coming soon!

While we're on the topic of movie adaptations of books, two quick complaints:

  • Well, they finally forced Johnny Depp out of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies (a spin-off of the Harry Potter books)—it took them long enough. However, the franchise is still wildly problematic: J.K. Rowling is still a raging transphobe, Ezra Miller (yes, I know he was in one of the movies I am reviewing below) may or may not have attacked someone on the street, and there was the whole Nagini thing that you can just read about here. I liked the first movie back when it was in theaters, but at this point, the whole series just needs to be canceled.
  • Remember when I was excited for the new adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches? Well, they decided to go the ableist route and just ruin the whole thing by equating "less than 5 fingers" with "terrifying witch." Great choice, y'all. (Not.) Warner Bros. and Anne Hathaway (who played the witch) had to apologize after an Internet outcry. So maybe don't see that movie either. (Especially since it has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.)
Review of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse:

          The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is basically a longer-than-average picture book (128 pages with very few words) that has gained an enormous amount of notoriety in the year it has been available—back before the pandemic happened, I remember going into Barnes & Noble and seeing an entire table covered solely in copies of this book! I never knew what this book was about until I received it as a gift and read it, and I can say that part of why I didn't know what it was about is because it isn't really about much. This book chronicles a boy, a mole, a fox, and a horse traveling through the wilderness. The boy is curious, the mole is a voracious eater of cake (aren't we all?), the fox is quiet, and the horse is wise. We watch the four characters travel through various beautiful illustrations as they discuss life, love, and friendship.

          Although this book is, in some ways, reminiscent of a fairy tale or storybook from long ago, it is definitely a unique story all its own! The illustrations of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse are very unique and quite beautiful. Author/illustrator Charlie Mackesy's illustrations and hand-written text often look spontaneous and sketch-like (many illustrations look like that of the cover, although a number of them are monochrome). Instead of being immersive, the illustrations are unabashedly part of a story, which only serves to make them more lovable. A few illustrations are in full color and are quite beautiful; one, which depicts the night sky in two shades, is (sorry to be pretentious) very reminiscent of a Mark Rothko painting. Some of the pages use their illustrations to be quite funny; a page about imperfection is covered in the prints of the author's dog, which accidentally walked over it, thus proving the point! The illustrations are unlike those of any picture book I have ever seen, and I think many of you will find them truly beautiful! (Look at this Amazon page if you want to see more of them.)

          The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse has basically no plot and not much in the way of characters: besides the illustrations, it relies on moral lessons to impact the reader. Basically every sentence is some kind of moral, and I will be honest that many of them come across (at least to me) as overused platitudes. There's ideas about kindness, forgiveness, internal struggles, perfection, and more, but they are all short, quick sentences that do not get any real exploration. I found a few of them to be original, but I found many more to be the sort of thing I've already learned, in far greater depth, in the countless books I've read previously. I realize that this is a picture book, and, age-wise, I am obviously not in the usual picture book audience, but the author writes in the foreword that "This book is for everyone, whether you are eighty or eight," and this book has been popular among a wide age range of readers. I expected a little more depth, or a moving sort of plot; what I got felt a bit like an advice book.

          My opinion about The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is not a definitive one by any means; many people, who I'll presume are quite knowledgeable and thoughtful, have declared their absolute love for this book. I was not the most enormous fan of this book, but I believe that many people, especially younger readers, will love the illustrations and find the moral messages novel and worthy of exploration throughout older age. You might consider reading this book with your children or grandchildren, or giving them a copy to read with someone else. At the end of the day, this book is unabashedly unique, beautiful, and occasionally quite thoughtful, and it is definitely worth checking out further!

Update (11/30/2020): My rating is: Pretty good!




Reviews of Two Movie Adaptations:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Based on the book by Stephen Chbosky (see my review of the book)
This movie contains mature content

When I reviewed The Perks of Being a Wallflower a few weeks ago a very long time ago, many of you highly recommended the movie adaptation, and after having watched it, I can safely say that it is truly amazing! The author of the book, Stephen Chbosky, is much more of a filmmaker than an author (this is just one of two books he has ever written), and he actually refused to sell the movie rights to his book unless they let him write and direct the movie (which he ended up getting to do). Because Chbosky actually made this movie, it is incredibly true to the book's plot, characters, and themes. A few scenes that aren't relevant to the core plot line have been removed, and some stuff about SAT prep has been added that I don't remember from the book, but other than that, this is a faithful recreation of the book—exactly what book lovers want from a movie adaptation! Scenes that you might have loved from the book (like Charlie, Sam, and Patrick driving through the tunnel) are even more cinematic when represented in actual cinema (imagine that!)—the references to music and The Rocky Horror Picture Show also make much more sense when you can hear the music and see the movie/show. I found that being able to see the characters through my own eyes, not just Charlie's (which aren't always the most clued-in), actually cleared up a few points of confusion I had about the book. And the emotional impact of the movie is perhaps even more than the book—you might need some tissues nearby when you watch this, but it's so worth it!!! Logan Lerman, who plays Charlie, perfectly captures Charlie's awkwardness, anxiety, and kindness and is exactly who anyone would pick to play Charlie. Although I would be more comfortable recommending this movie without the whole Ezra Miller controversy that has since arisen, I cannot deny that Ezra Miller and Emma Watson as Patrick and Sam, respectively, absolutely captured the essence and likability of their characters as well. Despite what apparently all filmmakers think, you can stay completely true to a book and still make a spectacular film, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is complete proof of that.

Pride & Prejudice (2005) (a.k.a. "the Keira Knightley one")
Based on the book by Jane Austen (see my review of the book)

As a new six-month-old inductee into the world of Jane Austen, I cannot compare this movie to the other adaptations of Pride & Prejudice (I have relatives who vehemently prefer the BBC miniseries, but my own parents prefer this movie, so I watched it first). What I can say, though, is that this movie somehow manages to stay faithful to the book while actually being better than the book! This movie adaptation moves much, much faster than the book does, which is fantastic, because the book's snail-speed pacing is probably its biggest problem! And yet, despite the fast pacing, all of the themes of the book come through! Characters like Charlotte and Lydia still have their plot lines, and characters like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet still get to be quite entertaining! Keira Knightley truly couldn't be a better pick for the role of Elizabeth—her nuanced performance perfectly conveys Elizabeth's headstrong, thoughtful nature, and her delivery of Elizabeth's many delightfully snarky lines (including some new ones original to the film) is truly fantastic as well! I didn't think that Matthew Macfadyen's performance as Mr. Darcy was nearly as charismatic (although that may owe to the writing of the film as well), but his timing (particularly in Darcy's many arguments with Elizabeth) was undeniably excellent. The cinematography of the movie is stunning in a way you would never expect from a movie adaptation of a book; there are just so many beautiful scenes, rich colors, elegant camera pans, great compositions for the score, etc. You really feel all of the joy and wonder you would actually feel from being dropped into Austen's 19th-century England! I do have two minor comments. One (which isn't necessarily a criticism) is that Elizabeth's whole realization of all of the ways in which her prejudice against Darcy blinded her to facts is simplified noticeably for the film, even though the necessary foreshadowing is all there; it makes the plot easier to follow, but it does remove a bit of the genius from the story. The other comment (which is a criticism) is that Elizabeth seemed a bit too giggly at times to be the antithesis of characters like Kitty and Lydia (as she is in the book), which was somewhat odd; overall, though, I think it's worth the broader, more nuanced display of Elizabeth's emotions in general. I'm not what you'd call a massive fan of Pride & Prejudice, but this movie showed me why people take so much joy in this book! Even lower-key fans will adore this movie!

That's all the random stuff I have for today! Next week I will resume my regular programming with an MG book review, and hopefully the next week I will have a YA book as well. See you then!

Comments

  1. I haven't seen the movie adaptation of The Hate U Give yet either! I loved the book on audio and really want to see the movie.

    We felt much the same about Fantastic Beasts - we all enjoyed the first movie, and then the 2nd one just got WAY too complicated.

    I loved BOTH the book and movie of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In fact, knowing how much I liked the book, my sons gave me the DVd for Christmas one year. You've inspired me to watch it again (except I have very little alone time since the pandemic began!!)

    Sounds like some great movie viewing for you recently. Hope you enjoy your books AND movies this coming week! (I am late - this is my visit from last week)

    Sue

    Book By Book

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    1. I loved The Hate U Give as well, so I hope I can carve out some time to watch the movie soon! I didn't see the second Fantastic Beasts, but I didn't get the sense it was very good (in addition to all of the controversies). I'm glad you loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower as well! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  2. I haven't seen The Hate U Give but want to. I loved the book. I didn't see the second Fantastic Beasts movie and am not sure I will. The controversy around J.K. Rowling is disturbing and is hurting her series.

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    1. I also want to watch the movie of The Hate U Give! I did not see the second Fantastic Beasts movie either, and I'm really disappointed in J.K. Rowling as well—if MG books were a game, she had practically won, so I'm sad she decided to ruin it all. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. It is such a shame about Harry Potter - knowing what we do now about Rowling has just put a huge damper on the entire franchise.
    And Witches.... don't get my started. My daughter is on the USA National Paralympic Swim Team... so frustrating to see a limb discrepancy portrayed as something horrible. Wrong wrong wrong. Thanks for writing about it. More people need to understand it.

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    1. I know! I enjoyed Harry Potter but was not obsessed with it, but I know people who really loved it, and they must be reeling from all of this. (Who isn't?) I actually thought of some of your posts when I saw all of the stuff about The Witches, so I'm glad what I said resonated! Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I haven't seen the movies, but will sometime, all time taken now by the crazy politics. I'm sad about the Rowling mess, too bad for her & all her fans. I am one of those who loved The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, think it's great for certain readers, young ones & those in need of one book that might ease their pain of loss. I've given it to a few because of that need. Thanks!

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse! I can definitely see readers appreciating it in that context. I'm also disappointed in all of the J.K. Rowling stuff, but I do hope you get a chance to see some of the less problematic movies here! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  5. I loved the movie of Perks of Being a Wallflower just as much as I loved the book! And although I actually enjoyed Keira Knightley's Pride and Prejudice (Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet being my favorite part!), I have to admit the BBC miniseries is first in my heart (oh, Colin Firth!). I actually own them both on DVD. How interesting that your parents prefer "the Keira Knightley one"!

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    1. My grandmother vehemently prefers the BBC miniseries as well, so I should really try to watch it! I'm glad you loved the movie of The Perks of Being a Wallflower as well—apparently, all we needed for good movie adaptations was for the author to also be a talented screenwriter and director! That sounds doable for other books, right? ;) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  6. Just when I think I know all of the controversies-- Dahl has long been a problem, and The Witches was just creepy, but not in a good way. I was surprised that it was made into a movie and a graphic novel. On the other hand, students rarely know any of the problems with the authors, and I don't tell them! Glad you're seeing some movies that are good!

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    1. This is actually the second movie of The Witches—apparently the first movie was ridiculously terrifying! And yes, Dahl is indeed an issue as well (although I can't deny that I do love some of his books, particularly Matilda—sigh). Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  7. I haven't seen the movie version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but even before I finished reading this, I went and found it at my library. I will maybe find this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but honestly, I don't know if anyone could do Darcy like Colin Firth.

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    1. I should really watch the P&P miniseries! I hope you enjoy the movie of The Perks of Being a Wallflower—it really does capture the wonderfulness of the book! Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I haven't seen Perks, but now you have me thinking about it. I read and enjoyed the book quite a few years ago. I love that version of Pride and Prejudice. I also love the BBC version. It's hard to choose a favorite though because they are different creatures. One is a mini-series so there's more depth, but sometimes I might still want the story, but not want such a big time investment. :)I have watched the mini-series maybe three times and the other one also three times. I will likely watch them both again at some point because they're both swoony.

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