Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Chutes & Ladders & Dubious Morality Lessons


Ah, Chutes and Ladders, the classic Milton Bradley game of good deeds and ladders, bad deeds and chutes (fancy-talk for slides.) Just as its inspiration and predecessor (the ancient game of Snakes & Ladders) did, Milton Bradley's version rewards kindness, generosity and hard work, and punishes... well, whatever's the opposite. The illustrations on the game board attempt to convey everyday choices children make and their typical and/or justifiable outcomes. 

Not long ago, I came across a copy of a 1950s Chutes and Ladders game board. I studied it in an attempt to make heads or tails of the lessons presented within. And I asked myself the following: 
1. Were the rewards really deserved? 

2. Did the punishments adequately fit the crimes? 

3. Why is climbing ladders considered the "good" thing, when everyone knows slides (or "chutes," if you must) are superior to ladders? Just ask any child on the playground.

4. What kinds of deeds were considered "bad" in the 50s? Genuinely curious.

Below is my attempt at unraveling the mystery that is Milton Bradley's 1950s Chutes and Ladders game board.


Good Deed #1: Digging up dandelions from your own yard and planting them in your neighbors' yard. Soon they, too, will be able to enjoy the delights of owning their own lawnful of "wish" flowers! How kind.


Reward: Your neighbors will be so pleased, they'll offer you fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes as a thank you! Unfortunately, you hate tomatoes, so of course you give them to the poor. The self-satisfaction you feel upon doing so is its own reward, is it not?


Bad Deed #98: Attempting to hitch a ride via your cat's tail.


Punishment: Nothing you didn't absolutely deserve.


And you know it.



Good Deed #9: Doing yard work without being asked.


Reward: After an exhausting day of working out in the hot sun, a shimmering circus tent will suddenly appear before you. You will be compelled towards it. You will never be seen again.



Bad Deed #47: Going fishing directly behind a No Fishing sign.


Punishment: After catching, cooking, and consuming what turns out to be a radioactive fish (the sign did try to warn you), you begin to hallucinate you're being chased by a disembodied leg. It chases you to the ends of the earth and makes you very, very sorry for what you've done.



Good Deed #36: Eating lots of delicious White Bread.

Reward: No more pesky belly button for you to worry about!



Bad Deed #87: Forming a human ladder to reach a jar of cookies when a simple summoning charm would have done the trick.


Punishment: Augh!! The broken glass!! The copious amounts of horrible blood!! And where are the cookies? That's right: they were never there to begin with. This was a test, and you FAILED. Now go see Madam Pomfrey about that arm.



Good Deed #71: Helping a lady out by suggesting the perfect accessory for her ensemble -- in this case, a handbag that exquisitely complements her emerald-green frock. Chase after her with said handbag if you must. She'd be lost without you.


Reward: Go on. Treat yourself. You know you deserve it.



Bad Deed #64: Braiding your client's hair the normal way when she clearly requested French braids.


Punishment: It's back to remedial beauty school for you, young man!



Good Deed #28: Tying up your little brother. Little scamp needs to be taught a lesson!


Reward: He'll thank you later.



Bad Deed #62: Accepting a job as a waitress at your aunt Millie's roadside diner. Child Labor laws have been around for decades, but neither of you seems to care. 


Punishment: Laws exist for a reason, Sally. You just had to have that new bike, didn't you? Well, now Millie's garnishing your wages for a week! Let's be a little more careful in the future, hmm?



Bad Deed #56: Skating near a No Skating sign.


Punishment: Frostbite, naturally. It's a real shame about those toes.



Bad Deed #95: Throwing your mom's vase out the window.

Punishment: "You break my vase, I break your pig, got it?"



Good Deed #4: Reading books.

Reward: Graduate 10 years early.


Bad Deed #16: Shooting rubber bands from behind your books instead of reading them.

Punishment: I dunno, for some reason pointy hats are bad and flat hats are good? 



Bad Deed #93: Making crappy art!

Punishment: Your monthly bath gets moved up to today. That'll teach you to be creative!



Good Deed #80: Making crappy art!

Reward: Fame & glory!


I know, I know. Life just isn't fair.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Judging By The Covers: "Now A Major Motion Picture!"

In the last few posts, I've talked about some of the reasons why books might get new covers. These reasons include: 1. Entice new readers! 2. New publisher, new cover! 3. Update the outdated! 4. And other reasons! 

 Here's yet another reason -- because the book has been made into a movie!

 A movie tie-in cover can work positively in two main ways. One, it can get people interested in the book itself ("Hey, Tom Hanks is on this cover... I love Tom Hanks! I should read this book!) Two, it can get people interested in the movie. ("Whaaat? There's a Little Women movie? I love the book Little Women! I should go see this movie!")*

Yes! Everybody wins! The publishers/authors sell more books, Hollywood sells a few extra movie tickets, and Average Reader JoeBob McBookerton gets to own a book with a cool cover. What's not to love?




Not all books made into films get the tie-in treatment. I have yet to see an official copy of a Harry Potter book featuring Daniel Radcliffe on a broomstick. Probably because the HP books have sold very well on their own accord. Plus, the HP books and the movies, for a while, were being released one-of-each-per-year. Both did well. It wasn't like we needed an additional reminder that, "Oh yeah, these books are movies, too," or vice versa.

But Harry Potter appears to be the exception. More often than not, an upcoming movie seems to prompt a tie-in cover.


Did you know (gasp!) there are actually people out there who don't like movie tie-in covers?? This article from the New York Times talks about the outcry when The Great Gatsby was given a Hollywood cover when the Leonardo DiCaprio movie came out.




The loathing was real. Personally, I like the tie-in.

In fact, I think I tend to like movie tie-in covers better than the original covers.

Below are some examples of tie-ins I own, alongside one of the book's earlier covers. Shall I compare them?


It took me a while to warm up to the Narnia movies, but I really enjoy them now. Eh, so what if Prince Caspian's supposed to be blonde and, like, a kid? Movie Caspian be Eye Candy, and that's all right with me.

Winner: Tie-in


Four famous girls... and Laurie, the boy two of them loved.

Way to sell it, book people.

Sad news: I looked it up, and all those actresses are now dead.

Winner: Either


I think I'd rather have the tie-in because (to me) it looks better than the original cover. I mean... that one's just so yellow. Plus, Rory Gilmore, yay.

Winner: Tie-In


I bought the tie-in cover before the movie came out, because I liked Anne Hathaway from other things. And, oh my, Anne is the only reason I've kept that version. That movie was a pile of burning rubbish.

Winner: Original


I loved the 2003 movie, so yeah I had the book, but it remains unread. I really need to get on that....

Winner: Tie-In


Both the movie and the book are great. Both covers are fine. I own the tie-in, even though I'm not too fond of Rosie O'Donnell... at least she's tiny.

Winner: Either



Here I prefer the original cover, with its iceberg-esque pillows in front of a starry sky. Of course, it doesn't help that Moustache Dad looks totally dopey over on the right, there.

Winner: Original



Seriously, what is that face?


Okay, I love Garth Williams. His pictures are classic and iconic. And I like how the Dakota Fanning cover pays tribute to it.

Winner: Both!



What are your thoughts on movie tie-in covers? If you have any particular favorites, let me know in the comments!




*I jest, of course, because there are roughly 47 Little Women movies.