September 18, 2015

Children's Classics (and their movie adaptations) Part One

Longtime readers of the blog may have picked up on the fact that I absolutely adore classic literature. I'm a big fan of Dickens and Austen especially. However, there are a lot of children's classics which I haven't really touched upon here and since I have a hankering to read them...HERE WE GO!

The first one on the list is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Now this is a book which I first read back in middle school and I do believe I reread at least twice since then. I picked up a used hardcover copy a few years back at one of my local libraries for $0.25 (it's gorgeous and I love it) but until this past week I haven't stopped to reread this delightful little tome. The story centers on the March family which consists of Marmee (Mother), Father (away at the war at the beginning), Meg (eldest), Jo, Beth, and Amy (youngest). Each of the characters has a distinct (and at times rather exaggerated) personality. From the outset, it is clear that the reader is meant to favor Jo. Her character is the most fleshed out and tangible. She is outspoken and her biggest regret is that they weren't all born as boys. They are a close knit family group that is rounded out by their housekeeper and their neighbors next door who consist of a boy Jo's age and his grandfather. The story runs from their childhood into their adulthood and covers everything from petty sibling arguments to childbirth to death. Louisa May Alcott continued the series with Little Men and Jo's Boys which are excellent reads but not as great as Little Women in my opinion. The book was adapted to film in 1995 and included such actors as Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, and Christian Bale. The script stayed pretty close to the storyline of the book but I found the casting of some of the characters to be a bit off. For example, I think that the girl who played Meg would have done better as Beth and Christian Bale was not AT ALL what I pictured as Laurie. Otherwise, it was alright but if I had seen it first I don't think I would have been inspired to read the novel that it was adapted from.

Moving on from there, I finally read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I want to start with the film review for this one because it's truly in my top 5 favorite films of all time. The movie came out in 1993 and is the reason why I have wanted to ramble across the Yorkshire moors (which I finally did this summer!). The script includes lines which are directly lifted from the novel and is almost entirely faithful to the storyline. It is absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend it. Now for the book! It features a little girl named Mary Lennox who is orphaned and sent to live with an uncle who she has never met named Archibald Craven. Mary's childhood up until this point has been rather lonesome, grim, and without affection. As a result, she is a morose and not at all agreeable child. The house is large, foreboding, and empty apart from the servants as Mr. Craven frequently travels. They're situated out on the Yorkshire moors which to the little girl appears barren and desolate. At first, you think that Mary's life has not improved one iota...and then she starts exploring the gardens. She learns that there is a garden that is hidden and which no one has been inside for 10 years since Mrs. Craven died. Through seemingly magical circumstances, she locates the key and finds her way inside only to discover that the garden is not entirely dead. She enlists the help of a boy that lives on the moors named Dickon who tames animals and over time helps to tame her as well. They decide they are going to bring the garden back to life. This isn't the only mystery of the novel either...and I'm not going to tell you anymore because you need to read it and then watch the film. GO, GO, GO!

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