Books Get their Second Wind on the Big Screen

Young adult book-to-movie adaptations have shifted the way in which young adults read novels. Despite the fact that film adaptations are certainly not a new concept, movie adaptations play an increasingly integral role in the book industry. The growth of this highly lucrative phenomenon can be attributed to the explosive success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, to name a few. Over the past year alone, there have been several novels that reached much wider audiences through the film industry, such as Life of Pi and The Hunger Games.

Although there is ongoing criticism from readers that movie versions are not as good as their literary counterparts, teachers and librarians face a more pressing issue. If students prefer to watch the films rather than focus on the assigned readings, what does the proliferation of movie adaptations mean for young adults’ reading practices?

In fact, however, the things that make films attractive to younger viewers may encourage the very same movie goers to read the original novels. Harold M. Foster suggests that the power and popularity of films lie in their emotional immediacy. The difference between stories told through books or through films depends largely on the language with which they are told. According to Foster, film stories are told in the language of dreams — they encompasses images, color, movement, sound, and light. Unlike the written word, this medium produces immediate feedback for the senses. Films are therefore “very powerful and emotional; they are potentially ‘extra-rational’ experiences capable of exerting a great deal of subconscious influence upon untrained viewers.”

Film adaptations promote their original titles, which often provides a great boost for book sales prior to and following a film’s launch. This trend will most likely continue in 2013, with several adaptations due to hit the silver screen, including Beautiful Creatures, The Host, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

For those who look forward to the latest movie release dates of their favorite stories, there is an abundance of resources available:

Teachers and avid readers are divided when it comes to movie adaptations. What do you think: are film adaptations a great tool to promote literacy, or simply another distraction?

What Makes a Hero?

For an online Comics and Graphic novel course (LIS 518). I read a blog post by Laura Hudson called “The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and their ‘Liberated Sexuality,” which described Catwoman being objectified and reduced to her cleavage in the first few pages of issue #1 of the New 52 Catwoman; her responses, though totally understandable and justified, were quite different from my own. I had subscribed to four titles in DC’s New 52 – Green Lantern, Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Catwoman; I had been enjoying them all for 14 months when I read Hudson’s post.

The vehemence of the post made me go back and re-read Catwoman #1. It also had me wondering why I enjoy Catwoman, and if my comic subscriptions could pass the Bechdel test – which measures female representation in movies with 3 simple criteria. Those criteria are: there must be more than two female characters, they must talk to each other, and their conversation must be about something other than a man. Hudson’s blog post states that female super heroes, specifically Catwoman and Starfire, are not heroes at all; so I set out to define concrete criteria for heroism that could be easily quantified to find out if Catwoman was the hero of her own story or not. I counted frames in the first 6 issues of the New 52 series for each title, 24 comics that were each counted 19 times. I am not familiar with Starfire so I cannot comment on that series. Continue reading

On Blog Readers

When we submitted our paper on young adult author blogs (see above), one of the questions our professor asked was whether we used blog readers, and whether we found them helpful. In honour of the new year (an excellent time for trying out new things!) I thought I’d go ahead and offer my answer to the question.

While I’ve become a big fan of blogs over the last couple of years — there’s just something about that blend of thought-provoking content and conversational tone in pieces short enough for me to read while I wait for my bus in the morning — I didn’t try a blog reader until this past fall. What that meant in practice was that I bookmarked a lot of blogs that intrigued me, but only returned to the handful whose titles I could remember, and then only when I had the time and wifi connection to jump from site to site. For the most part I avoided e-mail subscriptions, since the e-mail lists I sign up for, despite good intentions, generally end up filed away unread — I won’t tell you how many word-of-the-day e-mails I have waiting for me.

As a means of keeping track of the author blogs we wanted to cover for our paper (my share of them, anyway), I downloaded a couple of blog reader apps to try. While they have their downside — I’m now unreasonably irritated when a particular blog proves to be incompatible with my reader — overall I’ve been pretty satisfied with my experiences. My favourite of the readers I’ve tried is one called Pulse, which allows me to sort my blogs into categories and presents each category of blogs in a stack of horizontally-scrollable strings of recent posts, complete with headline images. I’m now able to check on a couple dozen blogs and read the posts that interest me in just a few minutes. I do miss out on the original settings of the blogs reading them this way, including the archive links, recommended posts, and comment threads, but for the most part, this is a good system for me.

I suppose, in brief, my answer is this: I’ve grown to really like my blog reader. If your primary interest in blogs is keeping up to date on the content, I recommend trying a few different blog readers to find one with a format and features that serve your purposes. If it’s the sense of community or the rabbit trails that bring you back to your favourite blogs, a blog reader may not be the best option — at least not from what I’ve seen so far.