Reel Girl’s book recs of the week

JoJo’s Flying Side Kick is about a Tae Kwon Do student who must break a board with a flying side kick in order to win her yellow belt.

JoJo is nervous about the test, telling her Grandaddy: “I’m freakin’ out!” He helps her by giving a tutorial on fancy footwork from his boxing days. JoJo experiences other fears– a creepy-looking tree, the swing that hangs from it, a boy from her class tells her she “yells like a mouse.” In order to nail the side kick, JoJo uses the footwork, imagines the board is the tree, and gives a giant yell: “KEEEYAAAHHH!”

This book is really fun to read out loud. I love how all of the protagonist’s fears are woven together and then conquered in unison. The story teaches kids the great lesson that courage doesn’t mean having no fear but doing something even when you’re terrified. Reel Girl rates JoJo’s Flying Side Kick ***GGG***

Adelaide is the story of a kangaroo born with wings. She knows she doesn’t quite belong in her family of wingless creatures, so she hooks up with a pilot and travels the world, exploring and having adventures.

She decides to stick around Paris where she loves the art and culture but misses kangaroos. One day she saves two children from a burning building but is seriously hurt in the fall. (Her wings can’t carry all that weight.) After a hospital stay, she decides to visit the zoo where she meets and falls in love with a kangaroo named Leon. I really like how this story ends with a wedding and then baby kangaroos but its an unexpected surprise. The “happily ever after” finale isn’t the focus of Adelaide’s quest, but its nice that she finds her soulmate showing heroic, powerful females can fall in love, too. Reel Girl rates Adelaide ***GGG***

Shrek the Third: Fiona’s Fairy-tale Five is kind of chesey, and a cheaply made, stapled together book, but I adore it. There is much to love about the first Shrek story/ movie: how Fiona transforms at the end from “beautiful” princess to fat, green, troll to find true love. How great is that? So much potential here to flip fairy tales– and the notion of what it is to be “happily ever after” and what beauty and love is too– on its head. Not to mention that so much of the Shrek franchise is about making fun of Disney.

But as the far as the big screen, the female potential for greatness in this epic remains tragically unexplored.  All three movies are Shrek’s stories, not Fiona’s. Fiona is only the Token Feisty, the strong female character included in many contemporary animated films so the audience won’t care or even notice that all of the other characters in the film are male, including the star who the movie is often titled for.

Fiona’s role is the love interest. The Shrek movie sequels are even more disappointing with the third one morphing into another animated father-son type saga (and Justin Timberlake vehicle) where Shrek must find an heir– male, of course. Fiona’s part is reduced to nothing. Where did she go? It sucks to see “Shrek 3” with your daughters, to say the least. But luckily, there is this cheap, little book. From the back of  Fiona’s Fairy -tale Five:

 “When Shrek is off finding an heir to the  throne, Fiona must watch the kingdom. But soon Prince Charming and his band of villains storm the castle. Fiona has little time to turn a group of prim and proper princesses into lean, mean fighting machines. Can the fairy-tale five come together to take back the castle?

This book would make such a great movie, it kills me. Imagine the princesses voiced by Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph joining Cameron Diaz’s Fiona. This little story is so subversive too, because Disney absolutely forbids its princesses to interact with each other. (Or even look at each other, embossed on diapers, T shirts, or coloring books each one gazes off in a different direction, ignoring the other. Great model for female friendship, huh?)

But who got the spin off movie from Shrek? That would be Puss in Boots. I want to tear out my hair. But check out this book, it’s also a good “gateway” story if your kids are into princesses. Reel Girl rates Shrek the Third: Fiona’s Fairy-tale Five***GGG/T***

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