Archives for January 2017

FEB 2: Nintendo Parents Guide to Pokémon

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Nintendo invites you to join us for Parents’ Guide to Pokémon, a special 101 tutorial geared specifically towards parents that will provide an overview of Pokémon and the two newest games – from the experts themselves!

The YouTube Live session is on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 2 pm ET. To RSVP, sign up here: bit.ly/2kkP4fS.

Credit: Pokemon.

 

Long Way North – Truly a work of art with hand-drawn animation and a wonderful adventure with characters from another culture.

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Long Way North is set in late 19th Century Saint Petersburg. Sacha, a young girl from the Russian aristocracy, has always been fascinated by the exciting life of her grandfather, Oloukine, a renowned scientist and Arctic explorer who has yet to return from his latest expedition to conquer the North Pole. But Sacha’s parents, who have already made arrangements for her marriage, strongly disapprove of her fascination, to say the least. Defying her parents’ wishes, Sacha flees her home and launches an adventure-filled quest toward the Great North in search of her grandfather and his ship. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “There are animated films that don’t use animation to its full potential and treat it as a tool instead of an art. Long Way North is not one of these films for it is a beautifully crafted animated masterpiece.”  Alejandra G. adds, “I like the film because the events are so unexpected. I would predict that something would happen and then, something completely different happened and I would stare at the screen in shock.” See their complete reviews below.

 

Long Way North

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

 

 

There are animated films that don’t use animation to its full potential and treat it as a tool instead of an art. Long Way North is not one of these films for it is a beautifully crafted animated masterpiece. Long Way North, at its core, is an adventure – not just a physical one, but an emotional one for the protagonist, Sacha. With so many dangerous moments, there is a multitude of action scenes filled with drama and intensity. This film will inspire you with its heartwarming story.
The story takes place in 1880s St. Petersburg, Russia. Sacha (Christa Théret) is a young girl from a very successful family. She doesn’t have her eyes on politics or wealth. Instead, Sacha has her eyes on the North Pole. After her grandfather disappears on a voyage to the North Pole, she makes it her mission to find him. It won’t be easy, she has never worked in her entire life and she will have to do it without her wealthy parents’ support.

 

One thing that is truly spectacular about this movie is how quickly you understand the conflict, protagonist, plot and goals of the protagonist. Within the first five minutes, I knew the names of each character, Sacha’s hopes and dreams, her challenges and why her character is unique. Very few films can achieve this with even a simple plot which shows how well the film’s story is shown. Another beautiful part of the film is the animation. It is hand drawn and very colorful. The style perfectly suits the story and seamlessly shows the different elements of the movie, from big ice cliffs to the stormy seas. One aspect of the film I disliked is the voiceover acting and dubbing. The movie was recorded originally in French and is dubbed in English. Many times, the voices are very emotional and perfectly fit the characters, but at times the voices are too soft and sound as if they were recorded in a room somewhere and not where the action is taking place. Despite this, turning on sub-titles completely removes this issue and it is still a very entertaining and enjoyable film.
My favorite scene is when Sacha first leaves the large mansion, surrounded by the maids she grew up with. What appeals to me about this scene is how connected you feel to this young girl. You can feel her fear, excitement and wonder that she is experiencing. It is all achieved, thanks to the amazing story, wonderful animation and unique, but relatable characters.

 

Parents have very little to worry about in this film. In a few scenes, there is some mild language, but that’s it. I recommend it for ages 5 to 18. It is intended to be a kid’s film, but because of the mature and inspiring story, I believe that teenagers and young adults will enjoy it as well. I give it 4 ½ out of 5 stars because it only has one small issue with the dubbing and voice-overs, but it is truly a work of art and something the whole family can enjoy watching. This film is available on DVD on January 17, 2017 so, go check it out. You’re sure to enjoy this adventure.

 

Long Way North

By Alejandra G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

 

 

I loved this film. It surprised me a lot. In the beginning, it was a bit boring, but as the movie progressed, it got better and better. I like the film because the events are so unexpected. I would predict that something would happen and then, something completely different happened and I would stare at the screen in shock. I love that feeling because it’s exciting. For me, when that happens, when you don’t know what’s going to happen next or that anything could happen, it makes the film intriguing and interesting. You are curious about what will happen next.

 

The movie takes place in 19th Century Saint Petersburg when a young girl from the Russian aristocracy named Sacha suffers over the fate of her grandfather. He is a renowned scientist and Arctic explorer who has yet to return from an expedition to the North Pole. Against the wishes of her parents, who have made marriage arrangements for her, Sacha flees home and launches her quest to search for her grandfather and his ship.

 

My favorite part is when Sacha saves the captain from falling off a cliff and dying. I like this scene because Sacha manages to win the captain’s respect. Sacha was very judged and underestimated by the crew and captain, but she manages to prove all of them wrong. With her hard work and dedication, she shows them who she really is. Everyone finally starts respecting her and treats her respectfully. After she saves the captain’s life, they stopped judging her.

 

The life lesson taught in this film is to never underestimate anyone, because you can be surprised. You can be surprised at who they really are or how they might change to attain a goal. Don’t ever judge a book by its cover. Sacha changes throughout the movie in a huge way. She starts out as a spoiled girl that doesn’t know how to work or make herself useful. But she is also very decided and dedicated in what she wants to accomplish and she will do anything to get that, even if it means preparing herself to work. During her journey, the sailors have very little faith in her and judge her heavily. They think she is a superficial girl that doesn’t know what she is doing, but they are wrong. Sacha manages to prove the ship’s crew that she is courageous, determined and a special young woman through her actions. So, this film teaches us an important lesson, to never judge a person by they way they look. You don’t know what that person is capable of doing to achieve something that’s important to them.

 

I recommend this movie to kids ages 6 to 14 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. This film is available now on DVD so, go check it out.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!

 

 

Our Favorite Books of the Week!

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The Barefoot Book of Children is a must-read for children! 

A groundbreaking book for children that celebrates human diversity! 

Today more than ever, children need diverse, inclusive and inspiring books. On September 1, 2016, award-winning, multicultural children’s publisher, Barefoot Books, released The Barefoot Book of Childrena playful, powerful and thought-provoking celebration of both the big ideas and the everyday moments that reveal our common humanity, and perhaps its most important publication since its founding nearly 25 years ago.  

With a seemingly regular series of unsettling events that our children are exposed to every day –  graphic images of violence, contentious American politics, and an undercurrent of division, uncertainty and anxiety – there is an increasing need for discourse at school and around the dinner table. From a very young age, children can understand, absorb and internalize the messages around them – either an “us versus them” attitude or a readiness to accept and value everyone.

Books spark children’s curiosity and nurture their imaginations. They also offer an essential and accessible resource for parents and educators to kickstart crucial conversations about topics children sometimes struggle to grasp, including differences in appearances, beliefs and lifestyles. With campaigns like #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #1000BlackGirlBooks gaining ground, The Barefoot Book of Children facilitates important discussions about diversity and inclusivity. It is Peter Spier’s People or DK’s Children Just Like Me for the 21st century.

 “This book encapsulates the mission that we have been committed to from the very beginning,” says Nancy Traversy, Co-founder and CEO of Barefoot Books. “Perhaps if we all start sharing its important message as far and wide as possible, we can begin to change the conversation and help build a better future for our children.

The Barefoot Book of Children is a colorful and hopeful celebration of childhood. It takes its readers on a visual trek across the globe, where they discover that – despite our different clothes and homes and languages – we are more alike than different. More than just an exploration of our commonalities, The Barefoot Book of Children is an affirmation of our inherent dignity as human beings.”

Caryl Stern, President and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF

The Barefoot Book of Children, written by Tessa Strickland and Kate DePalma, illustrated by David Dean, will be published on September 1, 2016 (64 pages, hardcover, $19.99 USD / $24.99 CAD).

Find out more here.

You can also find this book on Amazon.com.

 

Have a child who loves Coding? This one is a Must-Buy!

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Learning how to program doesn’t have to be dry and dreary! With the latest release from No Starch Press, young readers will make a game of it. A leader in STEM education, No Starch Press has a long-standing tradition of publishing engaging, “no-fluff” coding books for kids like Teach Your Kids to Code, Learn to Program with Scratch, and Python for Kids.Scratch Programming Playground ($24.95, 4C, 288 pp., Sept. 2016) continues this tradition and is a project-packed guide to making fun games using the world’s most popular programming language for beginners.

Scratch is a colorful drag-and-drop programming language (designed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab) in which users connect blocks of code to create interactive stories, games, and animations. Coding with Scratch is intuitive, versatile, and perfectly suited for visual learners, making it an excellent first step for aspiring programmers.

In Scratch Programming Playground, readers follow step-by-step directions to make familiar games like Fruit Slicer, Asteroids, Snake, and even a game inspired by Super Mario Bros. By combining colorful blocks of code, kids will quickly learn computer programming concepts, like loops, strings, and variables, without having to master the cryptic syntaxes found in most programming languages. Every chapter includes review questions to reinforce the discussed concepts and extra coding challenges to level up each game and extend the lesson even further. According to No Starch Press founder Bill Pollock, “Kids learn best through play. Budding computer scientists love playing games—this book is a way to ease curious kids into the field of computer science by showing them how to program games they want to play.”

Scratch Programming Playground is an exciting introduction to coding that’s perfect for kids who love playing games and the parent or teacher looking to translate that passion to coding.

Scratch Programming Playground is available in bookstores everywhere.

I received a copy of this one and highly recommend for ages 8+. It will truly make learning coding so much fun!

I love the next books because they are ones that are sure to inspire children!

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Have a child who wants to be an Entrepreneur? Be a Young Entrepreneur is a Must-buy!

Be a Young Entrepreneur
Get Inspired to Become a Business Whiz
Adam Sutherland, Illustrated by Mike Gordon

Calling all business-minded kids: this book is for you. Be a Young Entrepreneur helps kids “think outside the box” and encourages them to be creative, make wise business decisions, and more. Youngsters will learn how to:

  • Choose a business that’s right for them
  • Find—and keep—customers
  • and many more great tips such as networking and problem solving!

This one is great for 9+.

You can buy here!

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Everyday Science
66 Experiments that Explain the Small and Big Things All Around Us
Eduardo Banqueri, Josep Ma Barres, Laia Barres, and Octavi López Coronado;
Illustrations by Roger Zanni

 

This one is full of fun Science experiments that are easy to follow and I like that you do not have to go out and buy all kinds of materials that you can’t find.  It has fun experiments like making a Rainbow disappear and building a time machine! Now, how cool is that?!  This one is great for ages 8+.

You can order this book here!

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How to Write Your Best Story Ever!
Top Tips and Trade Secrets from the Experts
Christopher Edge

As a Homeschool Mom, I am always on the look out to make learning more fun and I don’t always succeed but I do think this book is a great resource and makes writing stories more fun! I love the helpful features such as the tips and hints on creating amazing characters and Word Webs. This one is great for ages 7-13.

Look for this book here!

 

 

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. Photos and info were provided.

Insurance Claim Nightmare: Does Your Insurance Company Really Have Your Back?

Imagine returning from a vacation to find your house has been robbed, flooded, or covered in toxic asbestos and harmful fiberglass.
Sadly, this scenario actually happened to Todd Kozikowski’s family. An unexpected home renovation error ended up costing his family their health, home, and resulted in long legal battles—all because the insurance carrier didn’t provide the coverage the family thought it did.
Today, Todd has made it his mission to spare others from the same nightmare his family experienced. He and his team recently launched Clearsurance-the  world’s first company to level the playing field between big insurance and consumers.
I recently partnered with Clearsurance to help bring transparency to a traditionally secretive industry. Powered by 10,000+ customer reviews and industry-leading financial ratings, Clearsurance is the first ever ‘Yelp’ for auto, home, and renter’s insurance.
I recently signed up and left a review for AAA Car insurance. It was really simple! You can go to https://goo.gl/Pojoze and leave a review of your own!
It was easy to sign up and post my review of my insurance company on the Clearsurance website. All I had to do was go to www.clearsurance.com and fill out a short form—completely for free. By providing my personal insight, I could potentially save someone from a experiencing the same headache I went through when filing a claim.
I’d love to hear your experience dealing with an insurance company while filing a claim. Was the process smooth? Agonizing? Shocking? Head over to www.clearsurance.com, and leave a review on your insurance company. Who knows—your experience may save someone lots of trouble down the line.
Self Disclosure: I received a Complete Coverage Kit, (to participate in this campaign) which included: 
a) 1 Fire Resistant Document Bag
b) 1 Lightweight Packable Sling Bag with Anti-Theft Pocket 
c) 1 Extension Cord Safety Seal Water Resistant Cord Cover. 
No other compensation was received.

A Dog’s Purpose will make you laugh, cry and question the true purpose of life.

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A devoted dog discovers the meaning of its own existence through the lives of the humans it teaches to laugh and love. Reincarnated as multiple canines over the course of five decades, the lovable pooch develops an unbreakable bond with a kindred spirit named Ethan. As the boy grows older and comes to a crossroad, the dog once again comes back into his life to remind him of his true self. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Only a few movies truly make me cry and, within the first 15 minutes, this became one of them. This was done not by blasting sad emotions with sad music at the viewer, but by building a real connection with the characters.” Maria G. adds, “This charming, appealing film had me on a rollercoaster of emotions. It has many beloved scenes that captivates the audience’s heart such as when Ethan saves Bailey from a steaming heat car and adopts the dog as his new companion.” See their full reviews below.

A Dog’s Purpose
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

 

There are many movies that focus on a dog’s world but not about what the dog is actually thinking. A Dog’s Purpose does the opposite, by focusing on the dog and a dog’s place in the world. This perfect story will make you laugh, cry and question the true purpose of life. The movie sets out to inspire the audience and does it by taking the main character through an emotional and long adventure filled with comedy, drama and even some romance.

The story begins with a happy puppy entering the world, ready to play and explore. Sadly for the puppy, his life doesn’t last long. After passing away, the puppy is surprised to come back as a puppy again. This time in a different body. Soon, he becomes a family pet named Bailey and specifically, is a best friend to the son of the family. As time passes, the boy grows up and heads to college. Bailey passes away once again, but this time he’s happy to have lived a long life with a human he loves. Bailey comes back again and again and again. Each time Bailey comes back as a different dog breed (or gender) with a different life purpose. Finally, after many lives, he realizes that his main purpose is to spend time with the people he loves and to help them in their lives as much as he can.

Only a few movies truly make me cry and, within the first 15 minutes, this became one of them. This was done not by blasting sad emotions with sad music at the viewer, but by building a real connection with the characters. The story doesn’t put a smile on everything. It is realistic and very sad and depressing at times. People who own dogs, like me, will never look at their dogs the same way. They will look at them as true companions and family members.

I really enjoyed the voice-over (Josh Gad) for Bailey and his other incarnations. His voice-over work is phenomenal and suits all the dogs in the story so well. The cinematography is also spot on. It often shows specific scenes from the dog’s perspective which is a genius idea and truly allows one to have a deeper connection with the character. The entire cast evokes emotion and  keep a complex story entertaining.

The scene where Bailey/Ellie swim in the water is my favorite because it is an action-packed scene that is exciting but also very sad. Another reason to bring up this scene is that it is the scene that has elicited accusations of animal abuse by some animal activists. In this scene, you can clearly see the dog is not in distress. The dog is happy and greatly enjoying the activity as is the case for almost every single scene in the film. Throughout, you see things happening to the main character which would make anyone want to adopt a dog. The message of dog adoption is so strong that it makes me wonder why animal rights activists are boycotting this film when it does nothing but hurts this wonderful and inspirational story to come out and support animal adoption. A Dog’s Purpose will inspire hundreds, if not thousands, to go out and adopt dogs to take care of and love.

A Dog’s Purpose has some brutally sad facts about the world around us which would be too much for younger kids. There is also mild violence in several scenes, so I recommend it for ages 9 to 18. I give it 5 out of 5 stars for its beautiful message about the purpose of life, its call to action for dog adoption, spectacular voice-over work, emotional acting and unique cinematography. It opens in theaters nationwide on January 27, 2017 so, go check it out.

 

A Dog’s Purpose

By Maria G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

 

 

 

 

This charming, appealing film had me on a rollercoaster of emotions. It has many beloved scenes that captivates the audience’s heart such as when Ethan saves Bailey from a steaming heat car and adopts the dog as his new companion. Additionally, throughout multiple scenes you see the heartwarming relationship and bond between dogs and their owners. For example, Maya has such a strong bond with her dog that the dog can guess what she is thinking.

 

The storyline of this film is about a caring dog (Josh Gad) following him through several lifetimes with several different humans as he discovers the purpose and the reason for his journey. Throughout his several lifetimes, every time he is reincarnated he comes back as a different breed, in a different decade and with a new owner. Although he meets several different owners and faces a different experience every time he is reincarnated, he is mostly impacted by Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) who is a young caring boy that rescues him. As Ethan matures and faces the challenges of life, their relationship will be lost but they are reunited in future years.

 

The idea and structure of this film is very creative and rare. Great attention is paid to all the details and ideas that make up this film. My favorite concept is how it’s told from the point of view and perspective of the dog. I love that you can hear the dog’s thoughts as he experiences several lives. I really like that every time he reincarnates he is a different breed of dog. For example, in one life he is a male German Shepherd who works with the Chicago Police Department and in another he is a college women’s companion. All these different point of views make this film great, although it might get a bit repetitious every time he is born.

 

The protagonist of the film, Ethan, is played by three characters as they portray his different ages. Young Ethan is played by Bryce Gheisar (Walk the Prank, The Bus Stop). Young high school football star Ethan is played by K.J Apa (Riverdale).  Adult Ethan is played by Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, Frequency, The Day After Tomorrow).

 

Although this film is told by a dog and is about his experiences, there are several morals and messages that the viewer can take in.  As the dog experiences five different decades from the 60s to the 90s, it tries to find its calling in life. This can be reflected in society, in the sense that each and everyone of us has a mission here on earth. Just like the loveable dog trying to figure out its journey and purpose, people also can relate to the goal of discovering what their calling is. Teenagers can particularly relate to this as they are maturing and discovering who they are as a person. I personally can connect with this moral and my philosophy in life is in sync with it – we all have a special unique purpose in this world.

 

I give A Dog’s Purpose 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a great film to watch with your friends and family. Its perfect for ages 6 to 18. Young adults and adults will also enjoy watching this heartfelt film about man’s best friend. This film comes out January 27, 2017 so, go check it out.

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Credit: KIDS FIRST!

 

 

January’s Walk and Train Your Dog (and Free Bil-Jac!) Special Giveaway Opportunity!

Did you know that January is Walk and Train Your Dog Month?

Our friends at Bil-Jac have some really helpful tips!

It’s important to keep our best friends by our side healthy, fit, and well behaved!

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We have also teamed up with our friends at Bil-Jac for a Giveaway! One winner will win 2 bags of their Bil-Jac dog treats! Our pup loves them! To enter, leave a comment below with a helpful training tip of your own! You can also tell us something about your favorite furry friend! Deadline to enter is January 30th, 2017 at noon PST. One winner will randomly be selected via Random.org.

 

Self Disclosure: I received free Bil-Jac treats for our dog to facilitate this post. No other compensation was provided.

 

Ryleigh is Pet of the Week!

Ryleigh, January 26 Pet of the Week

Ryleigh is poised attentively and ready for the next order. She’s a 5-year-old cattle dog who came in as a stray. She knows a few tricks, but since she’s a working-dog breed, she needs a job and would like to apply for one right now! Only loving, forever people would be approved as hires. Meet Ryleigh at the P.D. Pitchford Animal Village, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A583992.

 

(The usual suspects contributed to this rescue)

 

Credit: Courtesy of the P.D. Pitchford Animal Village.

Children Friendly motorcycle racing video game Moto Racer 4 released to XBOX and PS4 today!

 

 

If there is one motorcycle racing video game that you might enjoy playing this year with your children as a parent, look no further, Moto Racer 4 has what it takes to give the entire family a fun casual arcady racing experience.

Far from the complex hour long in-depth racing simulation games, Moto Racer 4 is plug and play with simple controls and provides the thrills and excitement of motorcycle sport action from the comfort of your coach with no learning curve.

Parents can pick up a quick game in Split-screen multiplayer mode decide to organize a family championship or take a break and let their children sharpen their skills while progressing on their own through the career mode.

Moto Racer 4 will be available on XBox 1 and PS4  today  (January 24)for $39.99!

I checked this one out and was really impressed with the graphics! It’s a fun family friendly game and I highly recommend!

We have teamed up for a Giveaway! One winner will win a free copy of the game (download code for either XBox 1 or PS4). To enter leave a comment below! Dealine to enter is January 27th, 2017 at noon. 

Self Disclosure: I received a free download code to check out the game. No other compensation was received. SoCal City KIds has teamed up with  publisher Microids, HomeRun PR to facilitate this post and giveaway.