Thursday, November 16, 2017

Junior High Book Club:
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, and a Visit With "Hannah"!

Go Big or Go Home!

A chance meeting with Paideia alumna Bex Taylor-Klaus in September prompted the choice of Julie Murphy's Dumplin' for our November junior high book club choice.  Bex, who moved to Los Angeles in the middle of 11th grade to pursue an acting career, was in town filming the movie version of Dumplin', and had come by campus with her parents to visit.  With that connection, how could we not read the book?? Plus, it's a pretty awesome book. In the movie (which features superstar Jennifer Anniston as a former beauty queen mom), Bex plays Hannah, one of a crew of unlikely small-town Texas beauty pageant contestants.

Willowdean Dickson's mom calls her "Dumplin'."  A plus-size person herself in back in high school, Will's mom made herself over into a Texas teen pageant queen, and simply can't understand how Will is ok with her own generous and curvy body.  Confused by the inexplicable attention of 2 cute boys, and a newly distant best friend, a rebellious Willowdean decides to show them all by entering the annual Bluebonnet Pageant, along with a crew of other "non-traditional" contestants.  Add in a couple of drag queen style coaches and a Dolly Parton soundtrack, and the Miss Teen Bluebonnet Pageant will never be the same.

Don't you just love the cover art?  A confident Diva in a killer red dress.   

Book club members pretty unanimously loved the novel, though we were split on which boy we wished Willowdean had chosen in the end.  We talked briefly about the book, watched the Julie Murphy "fun facts" video, and OF COURSE had to listen to Dolly Parton sing 'Jolene' (read the book to see why; a Dolly performance from The Porter Wagoner Show is embedded below).

But the highlight of today's meeting was a video visit with Bex, who talked about filming the movie (locations & sets in Marietta and Jonesboro), her co-stars, and how a script has to pare down a 9-hour narrative into a 90-minute movie.  Some subplots had to be let go (bummer) and some characters and scenes were reworked or combined to keep the important points, but lessen the complexity.   Bex also explained how prosthetic teeth turned her gorgeous self into an awkward, bucktoothed misfit.  Hard to imagine, but she showed a photo and a video of herself looking a lot more Freddie Mercury in the teeth department.  Wow.  And, Bex says that Dolly Parton wrote an original song to run with the credits.  A whole new generation of Dolly fans is about to be created!

We can't wait til the movie comes out sometime in 2018.  I think a Book Club field trip will be in order.  Stay tuned for details.

Our December book is going to be Will Grayson Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan.

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Julie Murphy Fun Facts 

Which one is the Real Dolly Parton??

Dolly Partin sings Jolene

Fan art - Willowdean in her work uniform

Coat of Many Colors

Theme Song and Clips from 9 to 5