“Five Stories About Sports, Not All of Them Uplifting”

A wide variety of films are presented at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Some will reach general audiences; some will just be seen at those small movie theaters in the city.

On Saturday, April 28, in conjunction with ESPN, five sports documentaries were screened.  It is probably only at film festivals that documentary film makers get to show their stuff.  And sports documentaries probably are a rarer breed of documentaries that struggle for an audience. 

The five films that were presented on Saturday are possible titles we could look for on DVD release in the future.

—-“On the Mat” about a high school wrestling team.  The reviewer of this piece in the NYT, thought this film shows how our society builds up sports into something than it ought not to be.

—-Town of Runners”–This film focuses on two teenage girl runners in Ethiopia.  They come from a town that has produced Olympic medalists and practically every young person in the area practices for hours.  This documentary is described by the reviewer as “a lovely film.”

—-Knuckleball”—This film is about two major league knuckleballers and how difficult it is to control a knuckleball pitch. 

The last two films have less of a feel good spirit.  “Benji” is about a promising basketball player, Ben Wilson, who was killed in his senior year in high school in a sidewalk fight over a trivial matter.  Lastly, “Broke” is bout professional athletes who make astronomical salaries and are broke a few years after they retire.

Murder Abroad

When you combine an exotic locale and a mystery, it seems you have a great combination for an exciting read and a possible best seller.  Kristi Chadwick in the April 15 issue of “Library Journal,” in an article titled “Crime Travels,” details the overwhelming number of titles that will soon be released featuring a foreign setting, an interesting detective, and, of course, a murder.

The “Millennium” trilogy’s appeal in the US has probably kept the interest in Scandinavian thrillers very alive.  One new novel that will probably keep up interest in that part of the world is Camilla Ceder’s “Frozen Moment.”  Set in Sweden it introduces a new detective, Christian Tell.

Why do novels set in this part of the world continue to find a readership?  One publisher says its part of globalization.  Emily Bester, editor-in-chief at Atria, believes the appeal of Scandinavian-based novels lies in setting and mood.  The weather and landscape offer a “chilling backdrop to murder.”

Sweden, of course, is not the only murder locale in mysteries.  Chadwick mentions new titles set in Chile, Gibraltar, India, and Milan among many other places.  Maybe we should set up a display of murder mystery travel books for summer reading.  Chadwick’s article really proves “Crime Travels.

“Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper- juvenile fiction

An outstanding book about Melody, a 10 year-old girl born with cerebral palsy. She is the smartest person in her grade, but no one knows it: she has never spoken a word. She can’t. Until the day she gets a “speaking” computer that allows her to communicate for the first time in her life- communicate with  WORDS. Unfortunately, kids can be mean and other students in her school are not nice to her and teachers keep treating her like a baby and don’t believe she is intelligent. She proves them wrong.  I am adding this to the summer reading list for 6th graders in my school.

Happy 60th Birthday, Charlotte

Authors are inspired by everything–people, places, events.  E.B. White’s inspiration for “Charlotte’s Web”, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, started with a more than 100 year old barn on his farm in Cove, Maine. 

In an essay in the NYT, Michael Sims described White’s fascination with his barn and the creatures that lived there.  His keen powers of observation and research about creatures he didn’t know too much about (spiders) led to this classic.  Fern entered the picture after many drafts.

When White presented his typed manuscript to his editor Ursula Nordstrom in 1952 he remarked that it was his only copy.  Worrying that she might lose the only copy she took it home with her.  She was the first to read what has become a children’s classic.  She soon realized that in addition to Wilbur and Charlotte, the barn was also a major character in this enduring story.

“The Lonely Book”

Sometimes it takes a poignant children’s story to remind us about the power of a book.  “The Lonely Book” by Kate Bernheimer is one such example. 

A new book arrives at the library.  It is displayed in the new book section and is often chosen by a child to take home.  Eventually, it is moved to the shelves with all the other children’s books.  Although it is no longer new, it is still very popular.  Years passed and the book was only rarely checked out.  “The book became lonely” until is was discovered by a young girl named Alice.  She didn’t mind that the book’s cover was faded or that the last page was missing.  She loved the story.  She took it to school every day.  She presented it at show and tell.  One day, when she was at the library, she forgot to renew it.  On her next library she could not find the book on the shelf.  (A volunteer had picked it up and put it in the basement for the next book sale.)  The book got lonelier.

Of course, Alice and the book are reunited at the end of the story at the library’s book sale.  She is so happy and the book “felt sublime in its always-and-forever home.”

After recently weeding the JE books, I felt a pang of guilt after reading this new addition to our collection.  Had I removed a book from the shelf that had been someone’s favorite story?  Someone who might look for it again?  Silly maybe, but that is the power of a book.