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Tag Archive: Sweeney Todd


Review by C.J. Bunce

A new print edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden is coming to bookstores next month, and its artistry and design could stand as the definitive version–a storybook that could be a new favorite for the next generation of readers.  Originally published in serial form for both adults and children in 1910, Burnett’s classic book of children forced to grow up in difficult times and the value of friendship to their growth was initially not so well-received.  Burnett would be better known for her novels Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Little Princess even years past her death, but over time The Secret Garden flourished to become a beloved favorite, frequently ranked high on British and American reading lists, including those of School Library Journal, the U.S. National Education Association, and the BBC.  The novel made its way into the public domain, and has been the subject of countless print editions, as well as plays, musicals, television features, and theatrical films.  Actors Dean Stockwell, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Glynis Johns, and Honor Blackman have all found roles in various adaptations of the book.  And soon another big-screen adaptation is coming your way from StudioCanal starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters.

Design studio MinaLima has partnered with Harper Design to release a truly beautiful version of The Secret Garden incorporating three-dimensional elements and hundreds of pieces of colorful line art and decorations.  A garden’s worth of vibrant flowers hug the footer numbers at the bottom of each page, colorful end papers adorn each new chapter, the off-white pages have an antiqued appearance, each chapter finds an old-fashioned stylized introductory letter, and pop-up images emphasize story elements.  It even includes a traditional paper doll, and cleverly folded paper gardens.  The 384-page hardcover features a gilded, textured cover, and tucked throughout the book are symbols and images found in Burnett’s sumptuous text.  The fifth in a series of children’s classics illustrated by MinaLima, including Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, The Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales, The Secret Garden is the pinnacle of these accurately self-described “lavishly illustrated” editions, finding a story that doesn’t require illustrations, but is enhanced so well by MinaLima’s application of them.  At two points in the story, letters are received via post by key characters, and instead of merely printing them in text as found in the original novel, the illustrators include two actual letters, designed as replicas, neatly folded just as you would have found real letters in the late 19th century, ready for readers to pull out and read as they move through the story.  That tactile experience will move readers young and old.

The style of artwork is suited to the story, combining British and Indian influences the young lead character Mary Lennox would have been familiar with, plus ink color choices and wallpapers similarly found in her era.  In this tale, Mary, an initially angry, “quite contrary” daughter of a British couple living in India that dies of cholera, finds herself nearly abandoned at a widowed uncle’s giant mansion back in England.  There she discovers the widower’s abandoned garden, and her relationships with three young people, an older girl and two boys, allow her to grow and move beyond her past.

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Marvin Robot voice Alan Rickman

The great British actor Alan Rickman died yesterday in the same week as singer and Labyrinth star David Bowie, and the Internet is full of tributes.  Alan Rickman gave us some great performances and as genre performers go, few have traversed more of our favorite franchises than Rickman.  In honor of Mr. Rickman let’s take a walk through our favorites in case you might have missed one.

Most of us first met Rickman as the villain Hans Gruber in 1988’s Die Hard, the first of action-packed films featuring Bruce Willis as John McClane.  Rickman’s ability to portray the seething, classic, moustache-twirling villain won us over from the beginning, and would be a hallmark of the characters he would play over the course of a quarter of a century.  At least one of my friends would recount Quigley Down Under as his next memorable film, but most remember well his Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner.

Nottingham Rickman

All in, Rickman was featured in three of my all-time top ten fantasy film favorites: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  It is the sequel to the latter, Alice Through the Looking Glass, where we will witness Rickman’s last performance on screen later this year, as the voice of the blue caterpillar.  It will be difficult not to tie Rickman to his Severus Snape incarnation in all eight Harry Potter films for an entire generation–and many generations to come.  He stepped into the shoes of Snape more than any of his film roles.

Severus Snape Rickman

But Rickman won’t be remembered only for his major fantasy film roles, as two of his films struck chords for fans of sci-fi movies.  His parody of a Spock-type alien Dr. Lazarus in the 1999 Star Trek parody Galaxy Quest was second to none.  And his voicing of the droopy robot Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy opposite Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel added the gravity needed to make the 2005 movie another sci-fi classic.

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