Inkheart

I went through a Cornelia Funke phase, where I read most of her books from the library. I can’t remember if it started with Inkheart, or if I ended with it. I do know that I love the title Inkheart. It strikes a chord with the writer in me.

Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart (2003). 534 pages. Scholastic. $17.99 (hardcover).

Inkheart is about a girl, Meggie, and her father, who she simply calls Mo. He’s a famed bookbinder throughout Europe and they travel as he rebinds very old books. It’s a mystery about what happens to Meggie’s mother, as Meggie doesn’t remember and Mo refuses to talk about it. Then you find out that Mo has a very rare gift. If he reads out loud, he can read characters in and out of books, but has no control over who and what comes in or goes out. Mo and Meggie get thrown into an adventure with the fire-eater named Dustfinger, book collector Aunt Elinor, a boy from Arabian Nights, and the evil Capricorn.

It’s been awhile since I read Inkheart (as it is the first in the trilogy and I read its sequels more recently), so I don’t remember it as well. However, I love Funke’s writing. She has beautiful imagery and a great storyteller flow. It’s the reason why I read most of the books that she’s written. The English major in me wonders how well it’s translated (since it’s originally in German). As I’m never learning German, I suppose I’ll continue to wonder.

My only complaint really is Inkheart itself. The book titled Inkheart talks about a book, ironically, also titled Inkheart that Mo accidentally reads out some of its characters. As I enjoy the characters and it has its own entire plot, I wish I could read that book. However, I doubt Funke would ever write it. There’s so much told about the “original” story, it made me want to actually read it.

Towards the end of this first installment, it becomes a little predictable. When I learned that it was a trilogy, I decided to read the rest of the books series. Inkheart didn’t really end on a cliffhanger, and I would have been happy not reading the other two books. However, I’m glad I did. The last 2 books of the Inkworld trilogy are truly amazing, and it all comes to a conclusion that keeps you in suspense. For Inkheart alone, I would rate it 3.5/5. For the series, I would rate it 5/5.

I was very excited to learn that they were making a movie of this book. Then I learned Brendan Frasier would play Mo, and I wasn’t as excited.

Inkheart (2008). Starring Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis, and Jim Broadbent. Directed by Iain Softley. 106 min. $9.99

I decided not to have high expectations for the movie. Some great children’s books that have the potential to make great movies never actually turn out that great (Golden Compass, a perfect example). I was also very leery about Brendan Fraser being cast as Mo, as Mo is one of my favorite characters.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I actually was very impressed by the movie. It turned out to be a decent visual representation of the book. This was mostly due to the cast.

As I predicted, Brendan Fraser wasn’t all that impressive (but not nearly as terrible as I imagined) and the girl who played Meggie was so-so. The supporting cast actually made the movie (which made sense as they were my favorite characters in the books as well). Helen Mirren as cranky, bookish Aunt Elinor was fantastic. Andy Serkis as the very evil, creepy Capricorn was also amazing. Jim Broadbent as the absentminded, writer Fenoglio was brilliant. However the actor who stole the show was Paul Bettany as Dustfinger. I might be a little biased as Dustfinger is my favorite character. Half magical, part brooding, all around good guy with the best intentions, but only out for himself. Paul Bettany nails the role like it was meant for him.*

Especially his shirtless, fire dancing scene:

And now you understand.

The movie was a decent visual interpretation of the book, although it could have been a little longer to help explain and develop the movie plot a little better. I rate the movie a 3.5/5. I would still recommend reading the book first though.

And if you love Dustfinger, then definitely watch Paul Bettany.

 


*Then again Paul Bettany is pretty much excellent in everything he does (except for that crap tennis movie he did with Kirsten Dunst. Horrid).

The Tale of Despereaux

The most prestigious award for Children’s Literature is the Newbury Award. Some of my favorite kids/junior fiction are Newbury books such as The Giver or The Witch of Blackbird Pond. When I worked at the independent book store, The Tale of Despereaux was the latest pick and it was flying off the shelves. When the movie came out, I decided I would take the time to read it.

DiCamillo, Katie. The Tale of Despereaux (2003). 272 pages. Candlewick. $17.99

The Tale of Despereaux tells the story about a mouse named Despereaux who doesn’t act like other mice. His ears are too big, his eyes open too soon, he doesn’t scurry, and worst of all, he’s not afraid of humans. The mouse who is not like other mice also learns how to read, and imagines himself as a knight. Unfortunately, his kingdom has been saddened by the loss of their queen who died in a terrible mishap involving a rat (Roscuro) and soup. Therefore the king has outlawed soup through out the land. The beloved mouse has a huge adventure involving falling in love with a princess, a dungeon full of evil rats, a servant girl who dreams of being a princess, and bringing the joy of soup back to the kingdom. It’s heartwarming and endearing. Even the evil bad guys in the plot aren’t all that bad.

Overall, the book reads beautifully. It sounds like a fairy tale, as the author directly addresses the reader to give insights into the motivations and history of the characters. Katie DiCamillo writes a charming story with adventure and romance. I could imagine how it would be a great book to read out loud to children. I rate the book a 4/5.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie. I had heard that the movie was “boring”. After reading the book, I could understand why some people would think that. Although the story has a sense of adventure, it’s more of a mental story than a visual one. The narrator of the book really sets the tone for the whole story, and the words are much more compelling than what is actually happening. There are a lot of main characters and you better understand the character’s motivation by reading the book. For example, the reader feels the fear and apprehension in the dungeon because Despereaux is so terrified.

The Tale of Despereaux (2008). Starring Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Watson. Directed by Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen. 93 min. $14.98

 

 

 

 

 

 

The movie was so-so. It is very slow paced which I think is an effort to draw out the story for the big screen. They changed a couple things that weren’t bad or good, just different. The evil rat (Roscuro) wasn’t exactly evil but not in the same way that it was written in the book. They added the character of the king’s cook and his magical vegetable counterpart. A bunch of random vegetables came to life to help the cook make his soup. My first reaction to seeing it in the very beginning of the movie was “What the hell?” It was really weird and he played a very odd role in the movie. It was never explained how he could come to life or if he was simply a delusion of the cook’s. It was obvious he was added as comedic affect (as the story itself isn’t very funny), but he came off as creepy.  The only parts that redeemed it for me was the voices of Matthew Broderick as Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman as Roscuro, and Sigourney Weaver as the Narrator.

Overall, I don’t think the movie was successful in translating into a visual story. Kids would be better off reading the book, and enjoy it much more. I would rate the movie a 1.5/5.

On a side note, I decided I liked Katie DiCamillo and read Tiger Rising. I actually enjoyed it better than Despereaux. Although the symbolism for the novella kind of punches you in the face, it blended realism with a bit of fairytale that DiCamillo did so well in Despereaux. I also really would like to check out her other Newbury Award winning book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.