Alice Ray

Ever since the first Harry Potter book hit the bestseller list, children's literature especially fantasy has been a hot commodity with editors. And if a story is strong enough to get people into bookstores, film producers figure it's a sure bet to draw them into theaters. The success of the film versions of Eragon and The Chronicles of Narnia are ample proof.

Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's playful five-book series for middle-grade readers, The Spiderwick Chronicles, is next in line to get the star treatment. On February 15, the story of twins Jared and Simon Grace, and their older sister Mallory, will be brought to theaters by Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Studios in a film directed by Mark Waters. The three Grace children move to an old Victorian mansion in upstate New York with their mother. There, in a secret room, the children find an old book, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, written by their great-great uncle, that classifies the different types of fairies, goblins, brownies, ogres and other magical creatures. They also uncover a seeing stone, a way to catch a glimpse of the Unseen World surrounding the ramshackle mansion. Longtime friends Black and DiTerlizzi came up with the idea for the series as a way to work together. Black, whose acclaimed novels (Tithe, Valiant and Ironside) are for a teen audience, and DiTerlizzi, a Caldecott Medal winner who writes and illustrates picture books (including G Is for One Gzonk!), found common ground in writing for middle-grade readers. The co-creators collaborated on every aspect of the series. Holly and I would discuss in detail the best way to tell the story, and, at the end of the day, she would go off and actually write the story and I would draw the illustrations, says DiTerlizzi. But, he continues, I helped with structuring the plot, and she offered lots of feedback on the visuals. The duo, who also share executive producer credits on the film, must be pleased that their best-selling series is being brought to life by an all-star cast. Though the Graces (like their creators) are American, the children's parts will be played by young talent from overseas: British actor Freddie Highmore (August Rush) stars as the twins (both of them!) and Irish actress Sarah Bolger (Stormbreaker) has the part of Mallory. Emmy-nominated actress Mary-Louise Parker plays their mother, Helen. The goblins and other inhabitants of the Unseen World are voiced by other well-known actors, including Martin Short, Seth Rogen (Knocked Up), and Nick Nolte, who plays Mulgarath, the villanous ogre who wants the Field Guide.

Those eager for the release of the film will be happy to hear that Simon &andamp; Schuster has plenty of movie tie-in books ($10.99 each, or $49.99 for the boxed set) in bookstores January 1. In addition to re-releasing the original novels with movie cover images, the publishers have commissioned all-new works, like The Spiderwick Chronicles Movie Storybook and The Official Spiderwick Chronicles Movie Companion, both of which contain stills from the film and interviews with the cast. There are also activity books galore, including a Make-Your-Own Field Guide Carry-Along Coloring Kit and Uncle Arthur's Art Studio.

So go ahead, lift up your seeing stone and enter the magical world of the Spiderwick Chronicles.

Ever since the first Harry Potter book hit the bestseller list, children's literature especially fantasy has been a hot commodity with editors. And if a story is strong enough to get people into bookstores, film producers figure it's a sure bet to draw them into theaters. The success of the film versions of Eragon and […]

Thomas Harris reveals the origins of his most famous creation Can anyone think of chianti (or fava beans) without also remembering literature's most urbane serial killer? Hannibal Lecter, the murderous cannibal with a brilliant mind and a flawless sense of style and etiquette, has intrigued readers since 1981, when Thomas Harris introduced the character in Red Dragon. Harris has written two other books about Lecter, both of which were made into films (most memorably, Silence of the Lambs, which won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1991). In all of these works, tantalizing clues about Hannibal Lecter are revealed: He is European, well-educated and a former doctor. But little is said about his formative years, and his famously publicity-shy creator (who declines all interviews) hasn't seen fit to enlighten curious fans.

Until now. In Hannibal Rising, Harris satisfies readers' need to know just what makes a man of culture and intelligence into a monster. The firstborn son of a wealthy Eastern European count, Hannibal Lecter was born and raised in 500-year-old Lecter Castle. His childhood is made up of lessons with his tutor and playing with his little sister, Mischa, on the castle grounds, until Hitler's Operation Barbarossa sweeps through, and SS troops demolish the countryside as part of their ill-fated campaign against Russia.

Hannibal and his family go into hiding on their country estate, but they are unable to completely escape the war, and Count Lecter and his wife are killed in the crossfire when the Germans and Russians clash nearby. After the attack, looters take the children captive. Hannibal is the only one who survives, and he is found stumbling through the frozen countryside, unable to speak. After a short stay in an orphanage, the 13-year-old is reunited with his uncle in Paris. Hannibal begins to speak again, and he forms an especially close bond with his uncle's beautiful Japanese wife, Lady Murasaki, who understands the pain that comes when your homeland and family are destroyed. His intelligence is recognized, and he becomes the youngest medical school graduate in France. But he never talks about what happened to Mischa except when he awakens from grisly nightmares, screaming her name. Eventually, he remembers the horrific circumstances of her death, and his darker urges drive him to take revenge on the men who made him into a monster.

Harris keeps the suspense (and blood) flowing at a steady pace in Hannibal Rising, which has more than its share of gory images. He has a knack for portraying the animal nature that lies beneath humankind's veneer of civilization, as in this description of the looters: Through the bars of the banister he saw Grutas licking a bloody birdskin, throwing it to the others, and they fell on it like dogs. Grutas' face was smeared with blood and feathers. Though the reader may cringe when Hannibal eventually exacts his violent revenge, they can't feel that these brutes don't deserve it.

As he did with his 1999 novel Hannibal, Harris worked on the screenplay for Hannibal Rising even as he completed the novel. This month, fans will be able to see young Hannibal on the big screen, portrayed by French actor Gaspard Ulliel (A Very Long Engagement). Li Gong (Memoirs of a Geisha) plays Lady Murasaki. Directed by Peter Webber, the film is scheduled for release nationwide on February 9.

Thomas Harris reveals the origins of his most famous creation Can anyone think of chianti (or fava beans) without also remembering literature's most urbane serial killer? Hannibal Lecter, the murderous cannibal with a brilliant mind and a flawless sense of style and etiquette, has intrigued readers since 1981, when Thomas Harris introduced the character in […]

Since 1995, when he helped Oprah lose 90 pounds and train for a marathon, lifestyle coach Bob Greene has been in the media spotlight. But his crusade to help people lead healthier, fitter lives began years earlier, during his childhood, when Greene would lecture his father on his liberal use of the salt shaker. He went on to study health and exercise physiology in Delaware and Arizona, and was managing the fitness staff in a spa in Telluride, Colorado, when he had his life-changing encounter with the famous TV talk show host. "Oprah and I hit if off right away, although during our first meeting she wouldn't look me in the eye. Despite her fame and accomplishments, Oprah felt ashamed of her weight," Greene recalls on his website. But the two soon settled into a successful routine. After a lifetime of gaining and losing large amounts of weight, Oprah reached her goal weight with Greene's help and she's stayed at a healthy weight for the past 10 years. He's been a part of her life for those 10 years as well, making appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, contributing to O magazine and even helping Oprah find the perfect Hawaiian vacation home.

In his new book, The Best Life Diet, Greene expands on the fitness philosophy he's developed over his long career (and in his other books, including Total Body Makeover and Get With the Program!). He believes that making a commitment to gradually increase your activity level and decrease your food intake (and winnow unhealthy foods from your daily diet) is the only way to lose weight and keep it off. He discusses the reasons people overeat, including the emotional ones. For Oprah, becoming aware of and dealing with her habit of burying her emotions under plates of food was the most critical component, Greene says. The Best Life Diet suggests that if you're in the same boat, recognizing that fact will make it easier to avoid those destructive habits.

"After working one-on-one with many clients and talking to thousands of people through the years, I think I can say with some authority that the fast and furious approach to weight loss is also the fastest route to failure," writes Greene, and his slow-but-steady strategy is both simple and effective. In Phase One, which lasts four weeks, you raise your level of activity (which is as easy as doubling the number of steps you take each day if you're totally inactive, and exercising three times a week if you're somewhat active), change the way you eat (three healthy meals a day plus at least one snack) and take a multivitamin. Phases Two and Three each intensify the activity level, and increase food intake to three meals and two snacks per day. Ultimately, if you skip meals, you won't save calories, cautions Greene, since skipping meals decreases your metabolism and increases the odds that you'll overeat when you finally get a chance at food.

The Best Life Diet includes recipes for delicious meals and snacks that won't make you feel deprived, like Salmon and Spinach Frittata, Black Bean Chipotle Burgers, Vanilla Caramel Truffle Lattes and Hazelnut Biscotti. More recipes, exercise routines and advice can be found on the book's companion website, thebestlife.com. To help you make smarter decisions at the supermarket, Greene has joined forces with several major food manufacturers to place the Best Life Diet seal of approval (shown on the upper right-hand corner of his book's cover) on products he believes meet the needs of anyone trying to lose weight and eat healthfully. Though Greene is an understanding, encouraging and empathetic guide through the wilds of weight loss, he's also adamant that his followers adhere to the high standards he sets for them. " One thing you'll never hear from me is that making changes in your life is easy. . . . Each step you take toward your weight-loss goal is a gift you give yourself." That about sums it up.

 

Since 1995, when he helped Oprah lose 90 pounds and train for a marathon, lifestyle coach Bob Greene has been in the media spotlight. But his crusade to help people lead healthier, fitter lives began years earlier, during his childhood, when Greene would lecture his father on his liberal use of the salt shaker. He […]

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