A Keane eye

Margaret Keane, The First Grail, 1962

Margaret Keane, The First Grail, 1962

You might remember seeing faded prints of sad, haunting, waif-like children with overly large eyes, displayed in charity shops or in houses during the 1960s and 1970s. However, did you know that the works by American artist Margaret Keane, though derided by art critics and dealers, hung in the mansions of major Hollywood stars and in European museums? Or that her paintings were praised by artists such as Dali, Picasso and Warhol?

Through mass marketing, Margaret’s work became was incredibly popular with the general public. It sold millions of copies, when reproduced in affordable forms such as wall sized posters and cards, which you could buy in supermarkets and gift shops. Margaret’s waifs influenced the style of other painters and graphic artists. Unfortunately, Margaret never received the money that she earned from sales of her paintings, nor received the recognition that she deserved until recent times.

Produced and directed by Tim Burton, the movie Big Eyes stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. It is based on the true story of how Margaret’s husband Walter Keane created an elaborate deception, fooling the world by claiming credit for his wife’s art.

The film opens with the statement that the 50s was a great time if you were a man.

Fleeing a bad marriage in the mid-1950s, shy suburban housewife Margaret Hawkins flees to San Francisco with her young daughter, where she makes her living painting motives on furniture. She supplements her income at an outdoor market, painting children’s portraits in her distinctive style because “The eyes are the window to the soul”. It is there that Margaret meets the charming, ambitious landscape artist and real estate salesman Walter Keane. When Margaret’s former husband attempts to declare her an unfit mother and secure full custody of their daughter, Margaret accepts Walter’s offer of marriage.

Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane in Big Eyes.

Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane in Big Eyes.

Margaret Keane, Little Ones, 1962.

Margaret Keane, Little Ones, 1962.

Always the opportunist, Walter seeks out new ways to sell their art. He rents out wall space in a popular club. When patrons of the club start to notice only Margaret’s paintings of children, Walter takes credit for her work. The lie builds in intensity, as famous identities come to the club to see buy the pictures and the media takes an interest in this latest trend. It is not until Margaret watches Walter selling the paintings at the club does she realise what is happening. Although she is disturbed by Walter’s behaviour, Margaret has so little self esteem that she reluctantly goes along with the charade. She loves Walter and tells herself that she is doing the right thing. Remember, this was an era where women were expected to defer to the judgment of the head of the household, to their husband or father.

Big Eyes handles serious themes such as violence towards women, but Tim Burton’s quirky influence comes through. Sets are beautifully designed and there is a sense of otherworldliness to the look of the film. Burton uses warm lighting, bright colours and intense pastels in the cinemaphotography and he depicts suburbia like a model village, reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands. The film has elements of a fairytale. Margaret’s character is Burton’s usual blonde protagonist. She is the innocent woman imprisoned in a tower, living a nightmare. In in her attic studio, she is forced by her evil husband to paint magical pictures for up to 16 hours a day.

Christopher Waltz plays the deranged Walter Keane.

Christopher Waltz plays the deranged Walter Keane.

Burton’s brand of comedy comes through in both his characterisation and in his presentation of peculiar situations. For example, the exceptionally sweet Jehohavah Witness ladies arrive at Margaret’s door and change her life. An art snob who runs a fashionable modern art gallery rejects the paintings of waifs as kitsch but tries to sell splotches of paint on canvases to wealthy customers. Christopher Waltz expertly plays the egotistical Walter Keane, depicting his flamboyance and over the top mannerisms. Yet we are never in doubt of how sinister and deranged the character really is.

Big Eyes is also the story of Margaret’s triumph. As society starts to change for women throughout the 1960s and 70s, Margaret will find the courage to take control of her life and fight for her reputation as an artist.

Margaret Keane, San Francisco Here We Come, 1991.

Margaret Keane,
San Francisco Here We Come, 1991.

Margaret Keane aged 88 with Amy Adams

Margaret Keane aged 88 with Amy Adams

You can borrow the DVD or blu ray of Big Eyes through the One Card Network. Reserve it through the online catalogue or enquire at the Library. Find out more about Margaret and her work at: http://keane-eyes.com and http://www.margaretkeane.com/

An evening with Alice

Presented by Catlin Langford, enthusiast and collector.

1book28 White rabbit

Illustrations by Sir John Tenniel from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, 1865: The Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit.

ingpenAlicecvr   Alice-In-Wonderland-1972-Movie

Illustrated by Robert Ingpen, 2009          Film, Alice In Wonderland, 1972.

When:  Wednesday 8 July from 6.30 – 7.30pm.

Where:  Relaxed Reading Area, City of Tea Tree Gully Library.

Cost:  Free.  Bookings are essential.

2015 marks 150 years since the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, considered as one of the most famous works of children’s literature. An Evening with Alice will investigate the numerous ideas, people, food, and paintings that inspired Carroll’s celebrated work of literature, providing an insight into topics as diverse as the Pre- Raphaelite group, to the not-so-beautiful turtle soup, to poisonous hats, and pet wombats.

You can book for An Evening with Alice here or telephone the Library on 8397 7333.

If you are of a crafty disposition, enjoy a sweet treat and are interested in everything ‘Alice’, READ ME.

Classic graphic

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: The Graphic Novel.
Campfire Graphic Novels. Adapted by Laurence Sach and illustrated by Rajesh Nagulakonda

Pride and Predjudice

Jane Austen;s Pride & Prejudice, The Graphic Novel


It is a truth universally acknowledged that if Jane Austen was alive today, she would be in possession of a sizeable fortune, derived from the sale of her novels, other works of literature based on her characters and film adaptations.

Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, the Graphic Novel is a worthy and modern adaptation of Austen’s popular novel designed to introduce new readers to the original classic. Or for those who already know Austen’s work, the graphic novel provides an opportunity to revisit and enjoy the memorable story of the Bennet family.

I can understand how challenging reading the novel can be for younger readers, after ploughing through the nineteenth century prose at sixteen, as part of the school curriculum. At that age it is easy to miss the humour that Austen puts into Pride and Prejudice, to not appreciate her cleverness and insight as a writer, and as one of my colleagues once commented, “To understand what Elizabeth and Darcy actually saw in each other”.

The story in the graphic novel stays true to the original work. All of the principle episodes and well-known lines are included. What impressed me about this adaption of Pride and Prejudice is the editing. The dialogue and plot unfold well, without the reader having to piece together the story in their minds from random episodes. Austen’s main characters come alive, as Laurence Sach effectively portrays their unique personality traits, in combination with Rajesh Nagulakonda’s illustrations.

The style of the illustrations is simplistic and they are painted in subtle tones of colour. However, I did like them. Characters have a waxy look to their faces but they really do display emotion. Backgrounds, interiors and furnishings are well drawn. Overall, the panels depict the look and feel of daily life for the landed gentry in the Regency period.
The graphic novel also gives readers a summary of Jane Austen’s life and her career as a writer.

You can reserve Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: The Graphic Novel through the One Card Network. Reserve it through the online catalogue or enquire at the Library.

Even more books-to-film 2014

To follow on from last week’s post about books making the transition to film in late 2014 here’s a few further titles coming to the big screen.

Mockingjay-Bird1The Hunger Games has become a phenomena (and money spinner), based on Suzanne Collins’ saga set in the dystopian future of totalitarian Panem. Katniss Everdeen is now the reluctant hero of the revolution against the Capital. The film’s production team have followed the style of Harry Potter and Twilight franchises by splitting the final novel into two films. Mockingjay Part 1 is due for release November 20, with the second film slated for release in late 2015.


paddingtonThere’s a couple for the kids coming too. Paddington,  the ageless classic series by Michael Bond, featuring the Peruvian teddy bear lost in urban London will hit screens in a CGI & live action film on December 11. It stars the new Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, with Paddington’s voice supplied by Ben Whishaw. Judith Viort’s Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day has been produced by Disney and starring Steve Carrell. Alexander’s bad day begins with gum in his hair, and progressively gets worse by the time he gets to bed he’s fed up and wants to move to Timbuktu. Look out for this one in mid October.


maze runnerThe Maze Runner, by James Dashner is another 2009 novel, this time a young adult sci-fi about Thomas who wakes up in ‘The Glade’ with no memory and must find his way through a maze picking up clues along the way. The book spawned two sequels and a prequel.  The film is released on September 18.




Finally the infamous graphic novel series by Frank Miller,  Sin City will see a sequel to 2005’s film released called Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Loosely based on some of the Sin City stories, this film reunites Marv, Hartigan, Nancy and crew for another artistic noir outing which is sure to become a cult classic.


There are loads more books being made into film this year and the list for 2015 is already pretty long. What are you most looking forward to, or what titles do you think I should have included in this list?

This year’s books-to-film

Vampire_AcademyEvery year many popular books make their transition to the big screen. You’re probably familiar with some of the really major ones of late; The Hobbit films, Life of Pi, The Hunger Games, The Silver Linings Playbook just to name a few.

The BuzzFeed news website has released their list of the top 16 books to read before the film versions are released this year, some that seem to have missed out on the media hype, and several that come from the non-fiction collection.

This year features  entries based on real-life stories from World War 2, including Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken featuring some relative unknown actors, but directed by Angelina Jolie and The Monuments Men, featuring an all-star cast.

wildThe hugely popular teen series Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, will screen in February, and Reese Witherspoon plays the protagonist in the journey of self-discovery title, Wild.

You can see the full list from BuzzFeed here.


There are plenty of others due out this year that have not made this list, what are you looking forward to seeing this year?

Books and films to look forward to

Looking for an exciting new read? Here are some recent titles to keep an eye out for…

Inferno by Dan Brown – his latest thriller featuring Robert Langdon, hero of The Da Vinci Code

16128105Big Brother by Lionel Shriver – bestselling author of We Need to Talk About Kevin

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger – sequel to the hilarious The Devil Wears Prada

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns

If you’re more of a film buff, check out these new and upcoming book-to-film adptations. If any of these interest you, it might be a good idea to read the book ASAP – books often become very popular just after their movie comes out!


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this dazzling film is now out at cinemas.

Carrie by Stephen King – this Stephen King horror novel was first adapted into the well-known 1976 film and will be remade later this year.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – this sci-fi classic from 1985 is finally coming out as a film in late 2013, with Card as co-producer.

Horns by Joe Hill – Daniel Radcliffe is set to play quite a different role to Harry Potter in this supernatural thriller.

Click any title to visit our catalogue and put it on hold!

More book-to-film adaptations

It can be quite conflicting to see a film adaptation of one of your favourite books. Some are spot-on – everything you imagined while reading the book is brought to life, with perfect visuals and casting. Other times it can be hard for a director to adapt a book into a movie without eliminating some parts, which can make you feel like you’re missing out on certain aspects that you may have been looking forward to!

Here are some recent and upcoming films based on books. Which ones are you keen to see?

The Woman in Black – This unsettling 1983 horror novel by Susan Hill has been adapted into a film starring Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting – Sharing its name with a non-fiction parenting book originally released in 1984, the film was released in May and follows five couples on their way to having children. Non-fiction books aren’t often adapted into romantic comedies, but this also happened with the 2009 film He’s Just Not That Into You – originally a dating advice book.

The Lucky One – Nicholas Sparks has been responsible for writing many heart-wrenching novels that later became films – think A Walk to Remember, The Notebook and Dear John. The Lucky One is based on the book of the same name.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – The timeless coming-of-age novel is finally hitting the big screen, and it’s directed by the novel’s author, Stephen Chbosky.

Check out our previous blog posts on book-to-film adaptations to find out more.

Some films to look forward to

It’s an exciting year for film adaptations of books. Here are some that library staff are eagerly awaiting.

Next month will bring the first of the Hunger Games films, from the thrilling book trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Collins also wrote the screenplay, and the actors are signed onto a four-film contract so it looks like the third film might be in two parts.

Stephen has been waiting for the Avengers film, due for release in May. “After almost 5 years of build-up, Marvel’s team-up spectacular is almost upon us. Directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and with a stellar cast, I have very high expectations of this one!” Check out the graphic novel series on our catalogue.

Another comic book-based film to look forward to is The Dark Knight Rises, which is due out in July. This film takes inspiration from the Batman graphic novel series. And it features Anne Hathaway as Catwoman!

The Hobbit Part I is due for release in December. This two-part film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel has an impressive cast and is sure to delight fans of the Lord of the Rings series.

What book would you like to see made into a film?

It’s the week for love

"Must Love Dogs"

Have you ever had beloved family or friends arrange a blind date for you?
Ever wondered about online dating?  Some of you may have your own amusing tales about the search for love.

Must Love Dogs is an entertaining romantic comedy about Sarah Nolan,
a newly divorced women, rediscovering romance with help from her enthusiastic, often misguided, well-meaning family.
(Check out the trailer!)

Starring Diane Lane, John Cusak and Elizabeth Perkins,  Must Love Dogs is adapted from the novel by Claire Cook.

Author Dick King-Smith dies aged 88

From the Adelaide Now website:

Dick King-Smith, the British author of the popular children’s books which spawned the hit film Babe, has died at the age of 88.

The prolific writer, whose 1983 book The Sheep-Pig was made into the 1995 film Babe, died in his sleep on Tuesday at his home near Bath in southwest England, said a spokeswoman for his publisher, Random House.

He is believed to have been in poor health in recent years.

King-Smith described his creations as “farmyard fantasies” for children and many of his more than 100 books featured animals, drawing on the two decades he spent as a farmer after fighting in World War II.

Search our catalogue for his books.