What makes a novelization of a children's movie worth reading? It helps if it's a really good movie, like Nanny McPhee Returns. It helps more if it's...moreWhat makes a novelization of a children's movie worth reading? It helps if it's a really good movie, like Nanny McPhee Returns. It helps more if it's written by the actual screenwriter. It helps even more if the chapters of the story alternate with the on-set diary of the screenwriter/star, making the book as much a behind-the-scenes tale as an adaptation of the movie. And if it's written by Emma Thompson, that makes it practically perfect.
In this, her first children's novel, Emma Thompson proves that she is every bit as adept at prose as she is screenwriting (for which she has been nominated for an Oscar) and acting. Charming, funny, and moving, this book captures the feel of classic British children's fantasies as easily as the Nanny McPhee movies. She had me laughing out loud in places, and tearing up in others. Adapting her own screenplay, she clearly understands that some things work better on the screen than on the page (and vice versa), and changes things accordingly.
The film diary is a lot of fun as well, and should give budding young filmmakers some insight into life on the movie set. Filled with funny anecdotes and praise for her young (and sometimes non-human) co-stars, the diary is every bit as much fun as the novel. And the self-deprecating humor makes me love Emma Thompson even more (as if such a thing were even possible).(less)
When I was a kid, I read Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides, and loved its mix of pirates and magic. When the Pirates of the Caribbean movies came out, I b...moreWhen I was a kid, I read Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides, and loved its mix of pirates and magic. When the Pirates of the Caribbean movies came out, I became a huge fan for the same reasons. I wanted more stories along those lines, so when this tie-in novel (the first Pirates of the Caribbean novel not aimed at grade school readers) came along, I couldn't wait to read it.
Unlike many tie-in novels, it's a substantial read, at over 650 pages. It's also satisfying, without feeling overlong or superfluous. It tells the story of young Jack Sparrow at a couple of turning points in his life. In it, A.C. Crispin captures the feel of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the voice of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, without directly copying stuff from the movies.
What makes this novel interesting to me is the focus on Sparrow himself. In the movies, he's entertaining, but the sort of character who can't grow or develop or change. The movies are about his adventures, but they aren't about him. This novel gives fans a unique opportunity to see Jack develop into the man we see on the screen. It wouldn't necessarily make a good Pirates movie, because it deviates too far from that formula. But as a novel, it makes a good supplement.
My one real complaint is that Crispin alludes to numerous events in Jack's childhood which really should be as important as the stuff we actually do see in the book. I have to guess that these events are depicted in the juvenile chapter books that have already been published. That's fine, but those books are mostly out of print now, and also aimed at a different audience than this novel. So it would have been nice, as an older reader, to get some more detail in this book.
Overall, this is a surprisingly well-written tie-in novel, and one I very willingly recommend to fans of the movie series. I don't want to see a series of Jack Sparrow adventure novels; those are the stories the movies should tell, and just doing more in books would take the specialness away from both. But as a one-off story fleshing out the background of Jack Sparrow, this is pretty cool.(less)
While nowhere near as nice as the William Joyce books that inspired the movie (and this comic), it's a fun little prequel that introduces several char...moreWhile nowhere near as nice as the William Joyce books that inspired the movie (and this comic), it's a fun little prequel that introduces several characters from the upcoming movie. The story helped whet my appetite, and the art was nice. A quick diversion, but fun.(less)