Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess MMovie – This animated feature film was the highest-grossing Japanese film of its time. The director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), sometimes described as the Japanese Walt Disney, is a pioneer of anime. In this epic adventure set in pre-industrial Japan a young prince incurs a life-threatening curse and sets off to find a cure. He becomes a central figure in a war between man and nature when a mining clan battles a variety of forest gods led by Princess Mononoke, a young woman raised by wolves. This film portrays mythology and surreal characters that are uniquely Japanese.

The viewer definitely picks up on the anxiety of the Japanese about the diminishing of their natural environment.  Although there is beautifully painted animation, it also contains some violence and it is not a story for young children. I appreciate that the characters and the social issues addressed in the film are complex and thoughtfully presented. A budding romance develops between the Prince and Princess Mononoke, but they often place duty above their personal relationship. This English version of the film was adapted by Neil Gaiman (Stardust, The Ocean at the End of the Lane)  and it is voiced by actors that include Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

The Art of Migration by Peggy Macnamara

MigrationBook – According to Macnamara, Chicago lies along a bird migratory route called the Mississippi Flyway. Insects such as butterflies and dragonflies migrate through this area as well. This beautifully printed little book succinctly introduces novices such as myself to the migration groupings one might expect to see in the Chicagoland area each season. Reading this, it felt like a treat to go behind the scenes with Macnamara and her co-authors to learn what ecological wonders local naturalists have witnessed through their work and observations. The inclusion of ancedotes from local establishments such as the Willowbrook Wildlife Center and the Field Museum bring the narrative close to home. Macnamar’s art and words even take us behind the scenes into the restricted sections of the Field Museum. Each beautifully printed illustration is accompanied by notes on the production of the artwork. These notes would be especially helpful to any fledgling wildlife artist. Because portions of the book are arranged by season, it is easy to flip to the relevant section to gain some insight into what might be traveling through my neighborhood currently.