1. What's Eating Gilbert Grape, by Peter Hedges:
My interest in What's Eating Gilbert Grape was first peaked last summer when I found out the movie with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio was in fact based off a book (like most movies tend to be). I'd never seen the movie nor did I really know what the story was about, so I decided to check out the book. What's Eating Gilbert Grape is about 24-year-old Gilbert Grape, a grocery store clerk in the small, dead end town of Endora, Iowa. He lives with his family, which includes his older sister Amy and younger brother and sister Arnie and Ellen, as well as their mother, who has become morbidly obese in the years following her husband's suicide, having not left their house in 7 years. Arnie, who is mentally challenged (or "retarded" as they say derogatorily in the book, *sigh* it was the 90s), is about to turn 18, when his doctor said he would be lucky to live past 10 and now he could "pass any day" (I don't really get this? I think it's just something doctors used to say to families of mentally challenged children because there weren't the resources to care for them that there are today? IDK. Anyway, Arnie doesn't die. This is unimportant.) Gilbert dreams only of leaving - the only somewhat thrill he has in life is his affair with Betty Carver, a desperate housewife in town. That all changes when Becky rides into town, and things for Gilbert Grape might be turning around. In all honesty? I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I know all bookworms are supposed to pledge allegiance to the rule that "the book is always better" but sometimes a movie can say what a book cannot. In the case of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, the book is more Gilbert's narrative about his struggle - his life that's headed nowhere in Endora, and his shitty family. The movie, however, feels more of a compelling saga about the Grape family. It focuses just as much on Gilbert as the book, but if you asked me I wouldn't necessarily describe him as the main character - the movie elaborates more on the family and specifically in regards to Arnie, who is brought to life remarkably by Leonardo DiCaprio, who most certainly should have won the Oscar he was nominated for. The movie made me appreciate the story much more, because the book started to feel excessively like an oh poor me narrative about Gilbert Grape because he's stuck in a dead end town in Iowa with a fat mother and isn't getting any action with girls like cry me a river, please. Anyway. If you are interested, I recommend the movie over the book. The book was just okay. 3.5/5 stars.
2. Mary Poppins Opens the Door + Mary Poppins In the Park, by P.L. Travers: