Archive for the ‘Wednesday Movies’ Category

Movie Wednesday: The Tale of Despereaux

Movie Wednesday The Tale of Despereaux

The sunny kingdom of Dor is famous for its soups, the favorite food of the king and queen and their daughter Princess Pea. But everything changes when a rat called Roscuro falls into the queen’s soup in the middle of a banquet. The terrified queen dies of a heart attack, and the devastated king outlaws both rats and soup.

Dor becomes a dark and gloomy place, and Pea becomes very lonely… until she meets a talking mouse named Despereaux. He wants to be a hero. He is so brave that his family are worried about him. And he has very big ears indeed.

Pea and Despereaux become friends. Maybe together they can convince the king to let people cook soup again and make Dor a happy place once more. But if Despereaux’s family discover that he’s been talking to humans, he’ll be cast into the castle dungeons forever…


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Published in 2003, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal and is widely loved by children and adults. In 2008, an animated film loosely based on the novel was released, starring the voices of Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Watson.

Discussion Questions

  • If you’ve read the original novel by Kate DiCamillo, how do you think the film compares?
  • Is there a message to this film? If so, what is it? Reading is good for you? You can be a hero no matter where you come from? Eat lots of soup?
  • Can you spot any similarities between the story and other fairy tales? For example, is Princess Pea a reference to The Princess and the Pea?
  • Which characters change throughout the story and which ones don’t? Give examples.
  • Does the film work as a computer animation? Can you imagine it working better told through a different medium? Explain your answer.

Additional Resources

Soup Recipes

Tale of Despereaux Book Club

The ArrowLearn language arts with the Tale of Despereaux Arrow!

The Arrow is the monthly digital product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (you purchase or obtain the novels yourself). It’s geared toward children ages 8-11 and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Movie Wednesday: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Movie Wednesday: Mr. Popper's Penguins

Divorced real estate entrepreneur Thomas Popper lives a completely different life to that of his late father, who traveled all over the world. But it looks like adventure is in store for Mr. Popper after all, when six penguins arrive one after the other in the mail!

A present from Mr. Popper’s father’s last trip, the penguins turn his son’s life upside down. But will his new friends help Mr. Popper make peace with his family, or would it be kinder to donate them to the zoo and move on with his life?


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In 1938, two American authors, Richard and Florence Atwater, published a children’s book titled Mr. Popper’s Penguins. In 1939 it was named a Newbery Honor Book; and in 2011 it was adapted by Warner Bros into a feature length family film.

Richard Atwater began writing what would become Mr. Popper’s Penguins after watching a documentary with his family about the Antarctic. He suffered a stroke, however, and could no longer continue writing. His wife, Florence, made revisions to his manuscript in order to get it published and the book has gone on to be considered a children’s classic.

The film, starring Jim Carrey, is only loosely based on the book and won a BMI Award for its score.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think adaptations should stick as close to the source material as possible or should they take more creative license? Explain your answer.
  • The penguins are a mix of CGI and real penguins. Can you tell? Would it have worked better if they had been realized in a different way? Why or why not.
  • In the original book, Mr. Popper lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma, but in the film he lives in New York. Do you think this makes the story more accessible to an international audience?
  • Mr. Popper’s assistant Pippi constantly uses words beginning with “p.” Describe what it might be like to spend a day using lots of words beginning with the first letter of your name.

Additional Resources

20 Facts About Penguins

Penguin Birthday Party

A Quiver of ArrowsLearn language arts with the Mr. Popper’s Penguins Quiver of Arrows!

A Quiver of Arrows is designed for children in the Partnership Writing stage of development (typically, first and second graders who are beginning to read and write). When purchased as a part of the ten issue Quiver product, the individual price drops to $7.90.

Movie Wednesday: The Book Thief

Movie Wednesday The Book Thief

Liesel Meminger is sent to live with foster parents on Himmel (Heaven) Street in the time just prior to World War II in Germany. Her brother dies on the journey and Liesel arrives shaken and traumatized…and with a book which might not be hers. Things worsen when she is sent to school and it is discovered that Liesel cannot read.

But her new foster ‘Papa’ begins teaching Liesel to read one night and she soon enters a world of words and maybe a few stolen books. However, the real world outside of Liesel’s books is churning towards cruelty and war, and one day the reality of that war arrives at her new family’s door in the form of a Jewish young man seeking shelter.


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Published in 2005, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak follows the young life of Liesel Meminger through the spectral eyes of Death as the book’s narrator, who chronicles her growing pains and book thievery amidst the backdrop of Nazi Germany. Inspired partially by the stories told to him as a child by his parents about the war, Zusak’s novel has gained widespread acclaim.

In 2013, The Book Thief was adapted into a film directed by Brian Percival and starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and Sophie Nélisse as the book thief, with an Oscar nominated and Grammy Award winning score by John Williams. Amidst lavish cinematography and gripping acting performances from the cast, the movie explores both the extreme light and darkness held in contradiction within humanity as seen through the eyes of a child whose burgeoning literacy becomes the lens through which she processes and makes sense of the turbulent world around her.

A note to parents: The Book Thief is rated PG-13 and contains some highly disturbing content for younger audiences. We recommend looking up the film on sites like Commonsense Media before deciding if it is appropriate for your family.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel about the choice to have Death narrate the story? Do you think it adds or detracts from the emotional impact of the events that unfold?
  • In the book Rosa physically beats Liesel multiple times. This is largely omitted from the film. Why do you think the filmmakers made that choice? Does it change the relationship between Rosa and Liesel?
  • Throughout the course of the story, Liesel famously steals several books. What might the story be saying about literacy as something to be taken when it is not given?
  • At the end of the film, Death says that he is haunted by humans. What do you think he means by this?

Additional Resources

Markus Zusak discusses the inspiration, themes, and writing process of the Book Thief (parents should be aware that violence and the Holocaust are discussed in this video)

BoomerangLearn language arts with the Book Thief Boomerang!

The Boomerang is a monthly digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward 8th to 10th graders (ages 12—advanced, 13-15) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Movie Wednesday: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Movie Wednesday The Hound of the Baskervilles

Detective Sherlock Holmes is asked to investigate the mysterious and seemingly supernatural death of Charles Baskerville and to prevent the death of the new heir to the Baskerville estate, Henry. According to local superstition, the Baskerville family is cursed by a giant spectral hound, which always hunts down the head of the family. Holmes sends his good friend, Dr. John Watson, to the moors of Devonshire to investigate. But the case quickly proves much more complex and sinister than originally supposed.


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The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was first published in Strand Magazine in a series of installments from August 1901 to April 1902. It marked the return of Sherlock Holmes to publication after the titular character’s infamous “death” in the story The Final Problem. The Hound of the Baskervilles takes place prior to the legendary detective’s seeming demise and it was the popularity of this story that ultimately lead to the revival of the character.

The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted to screen many, many times (in fact, did you know that Sherlock Holmes is considered the record holder for most portrayed literary human character in film and TV?), but perhaps one of the most well known is the 1939 film starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. It’s notable for being one of the first known Holmes adaptation to be set in the Victorian era instead of a more updated setting and for beginning a long running series of Holmes films even though it was the only one in the series to be directly and strictly based on a story by Conan Doyle.

Movie Wednesday The Hound of the Baskervilles

Discussion Questions

  • One of the joys of detective fiction is that it invites the viewer or the reader to hypothesize on their own as the story progresses. Did you have any hypotheses while watching The Hound of the Baskervilles? Were they the same or different than the conclusions Holmes and Watson come to? Explain one of your hypotheses.
  • Do you think it was acceptable for Holmes to mislead Watson and the others to believe he was staying in London while in reality he was out on the moor? Why or why not?
  • The 1939 film takes several liberties with Conan Doyle’s text. If you’ve read the book, what was a change in the film that you liked and one you didn’t like? Explain you answers.
  • In the book, the hound is doused in phosphorous to make it appear spectral, but in the film the hound appears simply as a large dog. Which do you think is more frightening and why?

Additional Resources

Infographic

DIY 221B notebook

BoomerangLearn language arts with the Hound of the Baskervilles Boomerang!

The Boomerang is a monthly digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward 8th to 10th graders (ages 12—advanced, 13-15) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Movie Night: James and the Giant Peach

Movie Wednesday James and the Giant Peach

James Henry Trotter has lived with his ghastly aunts, Sponge and Spiker, ever since his parents were eaten by an escaped rhinoceros. Life is miserable… until a mysterious old man gives him a bag of magic crocodile tongues, which James accidentally uses to grow a peach the size of a house!

This fantastic fruit, and the friendly insects who live in it, might just be James’ path to a new life of adventure, if he can survive ghost pirates, robot sharks, and the return of the deadly rhinoceros, that is.


[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Roald Dahl was and continues to be a beloved children’s author. James and the Giant Peach was one of Dahl’s first and most popular novels for children, and in 1996 it was adapted into a film. Produced by Tim Burton and Denise Di Novi, the film combines live action and stop motion animation elements (it took a whole week to animate one minute of film!) in order to contrast of James’ miserable “real” life with the fantastical adventure he goes on inside the giant peach.

James and the Giant Peach is a scary, warmhearted, and beautiful film for the whole family.

Discussion Questions

  • If you’ve read the original book, how do you think the film compares? Out of the changes that have been made, which ones do you think are the most successful?
  • Does James change during the film or is it just that his circumstances change? Explain.
  • What do you think of the combination of animation and live-action sequences? What other films can you think of that do this?
  • Do the occasional songs seem justified or out of place? Why or why not.
  • Are Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker evil or simply unpleasant? Give examples.
  • Do you think there is a moral to the story? If so, what is it?

Additional Resources

The official Roald Dahl website

The ArrowLearn language arts with the James and the Giant Peach (free sample) Arrow!

The Arrow is the monthly digital product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (you purchase or obtain the novels yourself). It’s geared toward children ages 8-11 and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.