I, too, was among those on the road for Thanksgiving, completing the annual there-and-back and enjoying the restful splendor of the in-laws' and Thanksgiving and hikes and food and, of course, books. I was also grading aplenty (come on, December 12th!), but there were still several notable reading experiences.
First, the usual mass of audiobooks meant we enjoyed a few kids' selections that were new to me and two that were not. I hadn't read Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater since I was a child, but I thought I remembered it being good, so I picked it up on CD. And let me tell you, it was an absolute joy to listen to, for me and the whole family. What wasn't so joyful was finding out how ridiculously the movie version simply ripped off the title of this children's classic and paid no attention whatsoever to the actual content of the book. If you have seen the movie, please, PLEASE read the book as well. The two share nothing more than those three little words on the cover. See, the premise of the book is that a humble house-painter spends his winters (when he can't paint houses) reading and dreaming about faraway travel like that being undertaken by Admiral Drake in the Arctic. He even writes a letter to the Admiral, and on his evening radio program, Admiral Drake reads the letter and promises to send him a surprise straight from the South Pole. When the surprise (which Popper names Captain Cook) arrives, the adventure begins. It is implausible and ridiculous and hilarious and charming and completely, totally, wonderfully fun.
The movie, on the other hand, allows Jim Carrey's Mr. Popper to somehow become a wealthy divorced businessman who is too wrapped up in work to care much about his family or his estranged father, who unexpectedly decides one day to send him 6 penguins. The penguins, OF COURSE, warm Popper's cold little heart and bring him closer to his family and make him not so concerned with work and money and all that foolishness.
For the record, I have not seen the movie, but I think this second storyline is more implausible and not nearly so charming. Instead, it is canned and predictable, and it belittles the beauty and wit of the book. It doesn't even come CLOSE. I know it is common for us bookish-types to complain about movie versions of books we love, but isn't this going too far, even for non-bookish types? Don't we expect a movie version of a book to at least resemble the original plot a little?
Our second big audio-read was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by the inimitable E. L. Konigsburg. Naturally, we are loving it. What's not to love about a girl and her brother running away and living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City? And there's a mystery to solve, too? Couldn't be better. In fact, I'm now thinking it would make a great movie. A little internet research (ba-da bing, ba-da boom!) tells me it was made in 1973 with Ingrid Bergman and in 1995 as a television movie. Have you seen either? Are they faithful to the book?
Finally, you should know that I am about halfway through with A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, and it is blowing my mind. It is so, so good: the perfect fit for me right now. I have been needing to fall into a book so completely, and the world-building, fantasy/historical fiction, multiple narratives, multiple voices THING has got me captivated. So much so, in fact, that I can hardly bear the wait until they release the first season of the HBO series on DVD. I watched the trailer (see below), and it looks like a fantastic adaptation. Is it as good as it looks? It might be worth getting HBO just to have immediate access to all those back episodes. And I don't even have cable.