There’s a book for that: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I give full credit to PBS and Robert Downey Jr. for sparking my interest in the classic tales of a British private investigator with a keen eye for detail.

Does that description even do Sherlock Holmes justice?

My husband and I have watched both of PBS’ Sherlock series (brilliant, I say, and I have a mild crush on Martin Freeman as Watson) and saw both of RDJ’s Sherlock movies in the theater. (That’s a big deal. We don’t get to the theater more than 3 or 4 times a year, if that.) And I’m looking forward to a CBS series this fall called “Elementary” starring another favorite, Jonny Lee Miller (I loved his show “Eli Stone,” which of course, means it was canceled.)

Somewhere, in the midst of all that Sherlock on-screen love, I read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Once again, I was amazed at the storytelling. Throughout this series looking at classic books that have become movies, I have been disappointed in myself for not having read these books earlier. It was the same for Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I have yet to read the other Sherlock compilations by Doyle, but I am eager to read them, and re-read this one. Each story, or “case,” is a quick yet thrilling read, and like the screen versions, are full of twists and turns you don’t expect.

So, it’s on this note that I end my first ever “There’s a Book For That” series. I could write endless posts on books that have become movies, and I’ll consider another series later in the year. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed these looks at classic works. My own reading history has been enriched by these stories. I’m open to further suggestions, if you have them.

Happy reading!

There’s a book for that: Memoirs of an English Governess at the Siamese Court

Watching the film version of The King and I is one of my best childhood memories. I don’t know if it was the first musical I ever watched, but it certainly added to my love for the genre. The song “Getting to Know You” runs through my head when I meet new people. Fortunately for them, I don’t sing it out loud.

Years later, when Jodie Foster took the lead role in the non-musical Anna and the King, I gained new appreciation for the story of the widowed British woman who takes on the role of teacher and governess to the children of the King of Siam.

The two movies share some similarities in theme, and while they are based on a true story, I was never sure how much was fact and how much was fiction.

As part of this series, I decided to read Anna Leonowens’ book Memories of an English Governess at the Siamese Court. I was pleased to discover that the king’s quirks, portrayed so brilliantly by Yul Brynner, were accurate. Who can forget his repetition of “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera” or his “Who? Who? Who?” when Anna first arrives on the scene. These are documented in the book.

In fact, Leonowens’ work is incredibly detailed so that if you’ve never traveled to the Orient, you feel as though you are there. As with most things I read, I want to read more about this area of the world. On the downside, I did get a little bogged down in the details about midway through the book and almost didn’t finish it because it wasn’t holding my attention.

What I didn’t find in her account was any trace of love story, which appears in both film versions. I like both movies as stories, independent of the truth, and I’m glad to have read the story straight from the source. It reminds me that historical fiction is both based in history and fictionalized for dramatic effect.

One more week to go in this series. If you missed my other posts, check out my thoughts on the book versions of Mary Poppins, The Princess Bride, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Next week: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

There’s a book for that: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I don’t remember my first impressions of the movie The Wizard of Oz, although I do remember thinking Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was boring. (I had no idea her birthday was this week when I scheduled this post. No offense to the Judy Garland fans out there!) And that the movie overall was kind of, well, weird. I wouldn’t list it among my favorites, although I LOVED the theatrical production of Wicked (not so much the book it was based on).

So, I was happy to discover that the weirdness of The Wizard of Oz was there from the start in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. (FYI, the edition pictured is not what I read. It’s from the Library of Congress Web site, so it’s probably a rare book.  Mine was free for the Kindle.)

As with Mary Poppins, I was impressed by the creativity of the author to dream up things like a talking scarecrow, a tin man and a cowardly lion along with the adventures and dangers they face on the way to the Emerald City. Not everything in the movie is as it is in the book, but I’m okay with that. I was only a little disappointed that the ruby slippers weren’t ruby. Maybe ruby looked better on film than silver? I think overall, I have a new appreciation for the books that inspired movies we now consider classic.

I’ve yet to read any other of Baum’s Oz books or other works. Have you read them? What do you think?

I think I missed out on a lot of good children’s and young adult literature as a kid — and I was (still am) an avid reader! I’m enjoying the journey back to rediscover what I missed.

What’s your favorite book from childhood/young adulthood?

NEXT WEEK: Memoirs of an English Governess at the Siamese Court (the King and I).

There’s a book for that: The Princess Bride


The Princess Bride is hands-down my favorite movie. I can’t explain why and you don’t have to agree with me. It’s just the way it is. So it was totally and in all other ways “inconceivable” to me that I could love anything more. But I do!

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman is pure genius. I couldn’t put it down even though I’ve seen the movie a hundred times (probably more). I was almost berating myself for not having ever read it before. It’s soon to become part of my permanent library. (I borrowed it from the library for this reading.)

Everything I love about the movie I now love more because of the book. I was surprised, pleasantly, to discover that the movie doesn’t deviate in horrible ways from the book. From a production standpoint, I understand why some things were left out or moved around. On the whole, though, I am in love with this story all over again.

I’m sure you can’t tell, right?

I only know a handful of people who don’t like the movie, (I won’t name names, but Nikki, you’re the first one that comes to mind!) so if that’s you, give the book a whirl and see what you think. And if you are, like me, a devotee (my husband made his “move” to indicate he liked me during a showing of this movie adding to many reasons why I love it) and you haven’t read the book, then all I have to say is “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” Sorry for shouting.

Am I overselling it? Tell me what you think if you’ve read Goldman’s book.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this project, too. (If you missed last week, I gave my thoughts on Mary Poppins, the book.) What’s your favorite book-to-movie adaptation? Are you a strict book first, movie second kind of person? What treasures have you discovered on the bookshelves  in regards to books turned into movies?

Next week: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

There’s a book for that: Mary Poppins

A couple of months ago, our 4-year-old got to watch Mary Poppins for the first time. We decided after our trip to Disney, we needed to give her more opportunities to watch the movies we loved as kids. (No pressure to like them, right? I can’t wait to find out how she likes Pete’s Dragon.) So, her reward for having accident-free weeks potty-wise is her choice of Disney movie for a movie night. (Don’t worry, we’re borrowing them from the library. Our budget doesn’t include a line item for unlimited Disney movies. Wouldn’t that be nice!) One of her first picks was Mary Poppins.

Isabelle got to meet her at Disney.

They talked hats, an appropriate subject among ladies.

I’m pleased to say she loved every minute of the movie.

I, on the other hand, was shocked to discover that Mary Poppins had a life before Walt Disney. The movie is based on books written by P.L. Travers. A book, you say? It was almost all I could think about while we watched the movie. My husband dutifully googled the author and we learned a little bit about her and her dislike for the movie adaptation. (Reportedly, this is the basis for another movie, called Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. I’m in.)

Making blockbuster movies from bestselling novels is commonplace in the movie industry these days. It’s unusual, at least among the movies I watch, to find a movie written by a team of screenwriters and not “based on the book by …” I guess I didn’t think about this happening in the earlier days of film.

Needless to say, I went to the library soon after we watched the movie and checked out Mary Poppins, the book, by P.L. Travers.

I sort of loved it.

I mean, it’s different. Mary Poppins the character isn’t as likable in the book as she is in the movie, but the stories, especially the ones that didn’t make the movie, are entertaining and enjoyable. Maybe what I liked best about the book is that the things that make Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins so great — like Uncle Albert’s laughing fit or Mary Poppins arriving on an East Wind — were Travers’ idea first. I thought Walt Disney was the creative genius. And he was, in a sense, making it come to life on film. But as a writer, I appreciate the writer behind the on-screen creativity.

So, that made me wonder what other treasures I’d find in the books that became movies we love. Come back on Fridays this month (June) for the series “There’s a book for that.” Next week, The Princess Bride.

FROM ONE MARY TO ANOTHER: Last week, as the finale to Free Book Fridays in May, I offered Unveiling Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs. And the winner is: Ladette Kerr! Ladette is a two-time winner for Free Book Fridays. Congratulations! I’ll have your books in the mail in the next couple of days.