Friday, September 13

my summer in entertainment

my life in entertainment - summer 2013

movies i saw

We Bought a Zoo - This movie (from 2011) was adorable and just the pick-me-up I needed when we watched it.  Matt Damon's character (based on a real person) Benjamin Mee is a journalist who writes about adventures around the world, until his wife passes away after a long illness and he can't seem to get back on track as a single dad.  He decides that his family needs to start again, and while house-hunting, discovers the perfect property - which is also a zoo.  He takes the plunge, to the delight of his young daughter Rosie and the chagrin of his teenage son Dylan.  Benjamin throws himself into working alongside the zoo's staff to get the animal park back into business and to help his kids find happiness again.

The Way Way Way Back - I finally got a chance to see this movie at Roanoke's Grandin Theater.  Duncan, played by newcomer Liam James, is an awkward 14-year-old who's been forced to join his protective mom (Toni Collette) and her overbearing new boyfriend (Steve Carell) at the beach for summer vacation.  Townie Owen (Sam Rockwell) befriends Owen and gives him a job at a small water park where he starts to gain a confidence he lacks back at the beach house.  Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet and AnnaSophia Robb play the beach's summer residents; Jim Rash and Nat Faxon wrote and directed the movie and play Duncan's supportive, quirky co-workers along with Maya Rudolph.  I really felt for Duncan and it was cathartic to watch his transformation over one crucial summer.

books i read

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (MG/YA Graphic Novel) - This cute, colorful graphic novel is about a seventh-grade girl, Callie, who loves working on her school's drama club stage crew and is starting to be interested in boys.  Like most middle school girls, she's not quite sure how to tell if they like her back, which causes problems when she befriends guys who are twins.

A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi (YA Historical Fiction) - Last year I taught a student who hated to read - unless the book was about the Salem Witch Trials.  I've read some of Ann Rinaldi's historical fiction before, and I think what sets her apart as an author is that it's clear she does intense research.  She can really bring the past to life.

Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow (MG Historical Fiction) - This book was recommended to me by a student two years ago, and when I purchased a copy last year with money donated by a school board member, my students actually fought over who got to read it first.  I had to set up a waiting list!  Set in post-World War II Russia, Saving Zasha is about a young boy, Mikhail, who discovers a dying man and a German Shepherd dog in the woods near his farm one day.  It was basically illegal to own German dogs in Russia after the war, but Mikhail's family decides to keep the dog, Zasha, in secret.  Several people in their village, including the newspaper editor's daughter, a local kennel owner, and dog thieves, start to suspect that Mikhail is hiding a dog, and it's up to him to keep Zasha safe.  This was an easy read; World War II and dogs are high-interest topics for middle-grade students, and a dog book with a happy ending is definitely a diamond in the rough.

Maximum Ride by James Patterson (YA Science Fiction) - Another student recommendation.  I just don't love James Patterson's work, but I can see why teens love this series - it's definitely action-packed, and while it's a long book, the chapters are very short.  The main character, Max, and her "siblings" are lab experiments - kids with wings like birds - and the organization that created them wants them back to conduct further tests.  Max is determined not to let that happen and will protect her family at all costs.

What have you been loving lately?


  1. It was actually a teacher that lead me to Ann Rinaldi. My 8th grade English teacher was a big fan of her, and assigned us to our her books to read. I think one took place in the Revolutionary War, but the one that still stands out to me was In My Father's House, which was a Civil War book.

    1. Some of my students in previous years got me hooked on her work - you can tell she does an insane amount of research.