Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Weekend of Theatre

My daughter has been involved in a teen production through DramaRama Theatre Company, the company she performed with last year in Beauty and the Beast (see photo). This year, the group planned to produce Rent. Unfortunately, some of the cast dropped out and the plans fell through; but a core group of eight teens didn't want to give up the dream. They were determined to stick together and put on a show. Inspired by Rent, these young people believed that they and their friends had powerful stories that needed to be told.

Under the direction of Landon Shaw, the kids wrote monologues and skits, composed original music, and choreographed dances. The show went on this weekend, and it was truly impressive. This talented group performed four shows for small but enthusiastic audiences in DramaRama's new digs in the Southhampton neighborhood in South St. Louis. To learn more about the exciting happenings at DramaRama, click on the link to the company's webpage.
As if this weren't enough theatre for one weekend, we went to the Fabulous Fox Theatre last night to see Legally Blonde--a lively and entertaining show. See a clip here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Currently Reading... Savvy

Savvy, a middle grade fantasy by Ingrid Law, is the story of almost-thirteen-year-old Mississippi Beaumont (nicknamed Mibs) and her unusual family. When the Beaumont children turn thirteen, they get their "savvy". A savvy--a special talent of power--can be unpredictable and destructive at first; Mibs, like her older brothers, will be homeschooled until she learns to "scumble" her savvy. Mibs is looking forward to her birthday with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. She can hardly wait to find out what her savvy will be!

Just before Mibs' birthday, her beloved Poppa, the only one in the family without a savvy, is in a terrible car accident. He's lying in a coma in a hospital in another town, and he may not pull through. Momma and Rocket, Mibs' electrically-gifted older brother, go to Salina to be with him, leaving the younger children home with Grandpa.
On Mibs' birthday morning, two moderately strange things happen. Mibs' hard-to-wake youngest sister, Gypsy, wakes up when Mibs gets out of bed. Then their pet turtle suddenly wakes from its long hibernation. Mibs decides that her savvy is to wake sleeping things up--and she decides she must get to Salina right away to wake Poppa.

The rest of the story recounts the adventures of Mibs; her brothers Fish and Samson; her young admirer, Will; and Bobbi, a rebellious preacher's daughter, when they run away from Mibs' disastrous birthday party and stow away on a bus driven by a bible salesman. They are soon joined by a punctuality-challenged but kind-hearted waitress named Lill.

I love character-driven stories like this one. The people we meet in the pages of Savvy are flawed, eccentric, and quite likeable. Warm relationships grow as the motley crew tries to deal with the consequences of Mibs' impulsive act. Over the course of the misadventure, all of the characters grow. Mibs begins to understand the danger of letting the critical voices of others get stuck inside your head; Fish gains control over his water savvy; and the bus driver finds the confidence to stand up for the people he cares about--and to let love into his life.

Reading Savvy right after How to Ditch Your Fairy (scroll down for review) was interesting, since both stories involve young teens with quirky, supernatural powers--though the voices are distinct, and the powers are explained in entirely different ways. Some of the savvies in Savvy are similar to powers in other books, especially the "Charlie Bone" series by Jenny Nimmo. For instance, Fish's savvy of summoning hurricanes and causing large bodies of water to flood reminded me of Dagbert Endless in Charlie Bone and the Beast; while Rocket's electrical savvy made me think of Charlie's Uncle Paton. We don't find out much about other people with savvies--although there is mention of identical twin cousins who can make objects hover; Grandpa can move mountains; and Mibs' younger brother, Samson, seems to have a precocious savvy that enables him to calm other people's emotions (much like Jasper in Twilight). However, I'm not criticizing--these similarities in no way detract from the story! I'm just making text-to-text connections, as we say in elementary school literacy instruction.

Mibs' savvy turns out to be--SPOILER ALERT--the ability to hear secrets about people, blabbed by their tattoos--or even by pen-and-ink drawings on their skin. Okay, that one's pretty unusual, I guess ... ooooh, no, wait--I remember an X-Files episode about that: Never Again, in which the killer's tattoo reveals his intentions in Jodie Foster's voice!

Savvy is a well-written, fast-paced fantasy that will tug at your heartstrings--while making you wonder what your savvy would be if you were a Beaumont. Here's a cute interview in which the author answers the questions of a couple of nine-year-old fans.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Currently Reading... How to Ditch Your Fairy

I thoroughly enjoyed Justine Larbalestier's newest fantasy, How to Ditch Your Fairy. It's an awesome premise--wish I'd thought of it!

Fourteen-year-old Charlie has a lot going for her. She’s a talented athlete; she attends an illustrious sports magnet school; and her crush, a new boy nicknamed Steffi, seems to like her, too. But there's one thing in Charlie's life that's not so great--she's stuck with a parking fairy. Some people are blessed with good-hair fairies. Some people have loose-change-finding fairies, or charisma fairies, or (like Charlie's mom) knowing-what-your-kids-are-up-to fairies. Charlie's friend, Rochelle, has an enviable clothes-shopping fairy, which means she always gets incredible deals. Charlie's nemesis, Fiorenze (known as "Stupid-name") has the coolest fairy of all--an all-boys-like-you fairy. Of course, that makes all the girls hate Fiorenze, but that seems like a small price to pay.

Charlie is determined to get rid of her parking fairy. She's spent half her life in cars--people are always "borrowing" her, or even kidnapping her, because having her in the car guarantees a good parking place. But getting rid of a fairy is more easily said than done!

I’m probably too literal a reader, but I couldn’t help trying to figure out analogies between Charlie’s world and ours. For instance, New Avalon is clearly New York; so what does the west coast city of Ravenna equate to? LA, maybe? Or does looking for a US equivalent make me a self-obsessed American (just as Steffi accuses the people of New Avalon with being self-obsessed)?

Another interesting thing about this novel was the slang. The kids of New Avalon have their own lingo--and it's quite easy to figure out the meanings from context. I didn't realize until I reached the end that there's a glossary of slang at the back of the book, as well as a listing of every known type of fairy.

I'm usually not much for sports books, but I could easily relate to the passion Charlie and her classmates feel for their athletic pursuits. Their belief that New Avalon Sports High is infinitely superior to other schools also rang true.

This would be a great book for a teen literature group to discuss--it's fun and lighthearted, but it also raises some good questions. It would be interesting to discuss the elevation of celebrities (known as "Ours" in New Avalon) to near-godlike status. Do we do something similar in our own society?

And what about the fairies? Would they be a blessing or a curse? If a basketball player had a blocks-every-shot fairy, would that give her an unfair advantage? Or would it be no different than one player having more innate talent or better training than another? How would you feel about having an all-boys-like-you fairy? Would you enjoy the attention--or would you constantly wonder if your boyfriend really liked you for yourself?

Lots of food for thought here.