Archives for December 11, 2013

Art of Problem Solving Presents: Beast Academy! A Homeschool Mom's answer to boring Math books!

Batterson Beast Academy (cover)

As a homeschool Mom, I am always trying to find ways to make school more fun..especially Math! My son does not care much for this 4 letter word and it can sometimes be more than a chore to get him to even half way want to do the subject.  One reason I chose to homeschool is because I have a gifted child who does get bored easily. I was thrilled when Beast Academy sent me the Math Guide 4A and the practice book to go along with it. The fully illustrated Guides for the grade includes complete lessons in an entertaining comic book style. My son was impressed with this because he likes to read. The practice books have challenging problems and much more. What I did find is that they are slightly advanced in the Grade 4 book we reviewed, which is not a bad thing at all.  We received the Grade 4A book because the 5th grade books are not out yet but the book was not too easy and too boring. I like that the book is aligned to the 2010 National Common Core State Standards and my son likes that the book is not boring like many other brands of Math Books. To find out more, check out the website!

Self Disclosure: I received the books free to review but any opinions expressed are my own.

Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters Holiday Gift Suggestion!

Invasion Earth - Napalmeon The Conquering - Pojo    Invasion Earth - Victory Gunner - KidzWorld  KJVDES_BoosterMockup   Kaijudo logo (no ROD)

Looking for a fun and competitive gift for boys (ages 7+) on your holiday shopping list! Kaijudo Invasion Earth Competitive Decks are fun and who wouldn’t want to defend the World Against Domination?  It’s a fantastic new trading card game for kids, with a brand-new TV show on Hub Network.  My son and one of his friends are Pokemon fans and they found this trading card game quite entertaining! We give it a 5 stars! Although, there may be some pretend violence, it also is creative and  as my(10 year old) son says is just “an epic card game.”  Learn more about the game and where to buy it at!

Self Disclosure: We received this game to facilitate this holiday gift suggestion but any opinion expressed are those of SoCal city Kids.


KIDS FIRST! Announces 2013 Audio Recording Endorsements Great Holiday Gift Suggestions!

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Just in time for your last minute holiday shopping, KIDS FIRST! proudly announces a freshly endorsed collection of audio recordings – music and the spoken word – by some of the most outstanding talents in children’s entertainment. With the assistance of respected music judge John Wood, we offer no hesitation in recommending these recordings by well-known recording artists such as Peter Apel, Bob McGrath, Tom Chapin, Phil Galdston, Marla Lewis, Beth Nielsen Chapman and more. Check them out, they are perfect little stocking stuffers or something to spend your itunes gift card on after Christmas.

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** I’VE GOT A DINOSAUR ON MY HEAD – This CD features singable original songs like “Sometimes I Have Oatmeal for Breakfast” and “I Love Bananas.” Movement and counting songs and educational lessons are sprinkled throughout along with colorful illustrations, liner notes and lyrics are included with the CD. Juror Comment: The title song “I’ve Got a Dinosaur On My Head” gives a big hint that this album is not going to chart new musical waters but it sure is fun, filled with whimsy and lots of sing-alongs and dance-alongs. The vocals are upbeat and engaging and the production values are unobtrusive and supportive. If you don’t laugh during “The Laughing Song,” I’m sorry, you have issues. Everybody loves “Train Whistles” and “Locomotives” so get on board and put a dinosaur on your head! This CD knows its audience and is fun, silly and filled with participation activities. It flows well, is simply structured but effective. There is vocal energy to the songs that will engage the listeners long beyond its 30 minutes. 30 min.; $14.98; Age: 2-6. PETER APEL. 213143


** The Ohmies: MORNINGWISHGARDEN – The Ohmies first full-length musical album for preschoolers features cast members from the hit New York stage show. This album features ten original songs for playtime or anytime. Juror comments: “MorningWishGarden” is a colorful, upbeat musical foray that introduces and encourages young children to dance, move and sing along with a talented cast of brightly, sprightly performers who lead the audience on a quest to find Mr. Sun and wake him up so their garden of wishes may grow. The performances and production values are strong and the songs inviting and engaging. Hopefully this will motivate the child to stay active and not vegetate with TV and video-related games. It speaks directly to its intended audience with the use of colorful costumes and upbeat songs to entertain. I’m not crazy about characters in costume, and any clown named after a fruit or vegetable are suspect. But, I still like it! 34 min., ages 2-5, $12.99, Artsong Music 213166


** WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TODAY – This second children’s music CD by Francie Kelley showcases her clear and lovely singing voice and a multinational theme binds the joyous songs together with a sense of exploration and wonder. Different tunes draw upon the rhythms and traditions of lands ranging from Jamaican drumming to Irish fiddle playing to Argentinean tango and much more. Juror Comments: This is a fine album filled with sounds and white rabbits that draw you into a world of predominantly world rhythms enticing the listener to become an amateur explorer of other cultures. The vocals are endearing and the production value, with an absolute nod to cultural instrumentation, is spot on. I must give a nod to the child performance at the beginning of “This Land Is Your Land.” The song is seminal as we hand it over to future generations. This album is in touch with its audience and respectful. In addition, it lasers in on its target audience. I love the World Music component of this album. Five thumbs up if I had five thumbs. 34 min.; Ages 2-5. $12.99; Artsong Music 213165


AGES 4-8

** BOB’S FAVORITE SING-ALONG SONGS – Bright new versions of 15 favorite children’s songs with first class musicianship and vocals. Bob encourages children to join the fun with him and sing without him as each song is repeated with an instrumental-only track. Juror Comments: Bob’s Favorite Sing-Along Songs are just that with a little added punch. Bob McGrath, a familiar face and voice on Sesame Street has put together 15 fun tracks (in addition to instrumental versions of each) of traditional endearing songs like “When You’re Happy and You Know It,” “When the Saints,” and “Hokey Pokey” to name a few. It encourages lots of participation and love ensues. Bob’s accessible endearing tenor and likability drives the bus but the destination is a safe and magical place. After listening to it, you simply want to listen to it again and again and again. The added instrumental tracks are a plus. I think that Bob McGrath is a positive pied piper who is so endearing and respected and trusted, like Mister Rogers. 51 min., ages 4-8, $12.99; Bob’s Kids Music 213162

** CELESTE SINGS, KIDS DANCE – “Happy beats for little feets.” Juror Comments: “Celeste Sings, Kids Dance” is a nice collection of upbeat tunes from an amalgam of writers including John Denver (For Baby), Tom Paxton (The Marvelous Toy) and Richard Starkey (Octopus’s Garden), to name a few, and a couple of instrumentals, Music Box Dancer and Pachelbel’s Canon, to round out the set. The vocals are strong and secure, the musicianship is stellar and the production quality is solid. I really enjoyed the performances – both vocal and instrumental. The recording quality is very good. It uplifts and embraces its intended age group. This project constantly supports love and happiness through a variety of song choices by a variant of artists. The music is quite appealing due to terrific production values from the vocals to the instrumental performances. There is a lot for young ears to like. 41 min., ages 4-8, $14.98, Romantic Realistic Records


*** COCOA! – Six tunes of diverse styles: Back to School, Cocoa!, Feet, Feet!, Jammin’, Kalico Kat’s Jug Band and Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Juror Comment: This 6-song extended play CD (EP) is pure magic and available for download. Marla Lewis’s vocals and songwriting abilities are off the charts. These are brilliant songs that educate and entertain seamlessly. The tracks are divinely produced, the musicianship is top of the line, and the message transcends cultural divides. Marla’s voice is pure honey that would confuse a bee. Her songwriting is a master’s class and the songs deliver like a guided musical missile. We can’t say enough so, enuff said! Buy this CD and do your bit to help the debt crisis! 16 min. ages 4-12; $4.99. Plumjuice Records


** FRED’S BACK – Thirteen original songs including “Lipstick Blah Blah,” “I Love Sopaipillas” and “Bombones (Marshmallows)” come together in a catchy collection that entertains kids and parents alike. Engaging digi-pack contains an eight page mini-booklet with colorful illustrations, liner notes and song lyrics. Juror Comment: You just can’t go wrong with an album filled with witty tunes about loving moms and dads, squirting grapefruits that nearly blind you, marshmallows, Spanish sopaipillas, donuts, dinosaurs, leprechauns and…you get my point: a little something for the child in us all. The humor is engaging, the musicianship is sound and the characters’ voices and the child performances are terrific. And, if this review is not enough to whet your appetite then my bad! This is a fun album! Check it out. The songs are upbeat and will hold any child’s attention. It is well paced, has a great variety of musical styles and instrumentation. It is very enjoyable. 38 min.; $14.98; Age: 4-8. PETER APEL.



Catch, fun songs from the three-time GRAMMY-winning pioneer of children’s music (created in tandem w/the groundbreaking book of the same title) has special appeal to young listeners navigating the tricky waters of social interaction. Juror comments: This is a quality produced and performed album by a celebrity of family music, Tom Chapin, and a gifted co-writer and producer/performer Phil Galdston. The energy and foresight in this project is palpable. Lovely! This album is multi-leveled: engaging music and fun songs on one level and wait, what, on another level – food for thought. The songs that keep on giving. I feel a tightrope successfully crossed that, in other hands, could have come across preachy or pushy are the antithesis of that. Intelligent lyrics. Really! Tom’s vocals ride effortless atop Phil Galdstons terrific production and arrangement with a lovely mix of folk meets Beatles that I love. Recording quality is beautiful. This album addresses socialization issues and promotes cognitive thinking more so than any album that’s crossed my desk in a while. 35 min. ages 5-8. $14.98; Sundance Music



** BANQUET ON THE GROUND – Narrated by Cheryl Rhoads (Mother Goose), the story is told from the perspective of animals in a small yard world who have always taken care of themselves until a generous “seed woman” moves into the house and starts giving them delightful edibles replacing their efforts with the expected daily delights.

Juror Comment: The music is classical and supports the narrative extremely well without being intrusive. It is very

appealing. It’s difficult to recommend this CD to a child because the concepts are a bit lofty and younger children

might lose interest. This CD is an allegory using animal characters to demonstrate universal attributes of working for one’s food, not taking hand-outs and working in chorus with your neighbor to achieve goals. All good but, the question begs: are these moral messages communicating to the intended audience of elementary school children? The presentation is well conceived, the orchestration beautifully supportive, the narration is solid but this CD may just fall in the cracks between its intended audience and the message. 53 min. Ages 5-12. $10.00. Renaissance Women Productions



*** MIGHTY SKY, THE – Children can musically explore the mysteries and wonders of the universe with this beautifully crafted album focusing on the science of astronomy and featuring a variety of musical styles presenting important celestial facts and fun. Juror Comment: I cannot emphasize enough how important the combination of terrific musicianship, production value and lyrics are to a concept album like “The Mighty Sky.” Now granted, Beth Nielsen Chapman has written world class songs and has access to a musical palette of top-flight talent, which is value added for the parent who is looking for a stimulating concept that will pique their child’s interest and lead them to learn more. I wish this had been around when I was a kid but, guitars weren’t invented then. Children are going to be jazzed to learn more about the universe, which in and of itself is a fascinating mystery for young minds. This traditional music CD comes with a gorgeous fold-out of the solar system in the liner notes. 32 min., $14.98; Age 5-12, BNC RECORDS


AGES 8-12

*** THE BEST IN ME – Celebrating the best in all of us! Kickin’ pop tunes spotlight helping children make good character choices even when faced with difficult situations. Musicians, vocals and songs are all first-rate and reach out rather than lecture. Juror comments: First of all, “The Best Of Me” rocks!” Second, if you enjoy great music, musicians, songwriting and performances wrapped in lovely messages of positive character choices and love, then you’ve come to the right place. Sit down and listen a spell or insert it into the car CD player and listen a bit. Parents will enjoy and appreciate the content as well as the kids which will hopefully lead to family discourse on the topics. Good Stuff! I think this album is a banner for motivational action. This is a socially interactive, educational album that hits its target audience. The music is top rate. It comes with a booklet. The album is true, first of all to itself, and second to its intended audience. This is a respectful address to the age group for which it is intended. The quality is excellent; the production value draws the listener into a safe place to receive the message. 78 min, ages 8-12, price 14.98 Song Wizards Records 2

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Credit: KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions


“Angels Sing” – An Original and Unique New Holiday Film, Perfect for Family Viewing KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions

Most of us have our favorite holiday films that we enjoy from year to year. Here is a new film that you might want to check out that puts a new spin on holiday movies. One of our youth reporters, Brianna B has this comment on the film, “I like how the writers, Lou Berney and Turk Pipkin, basically take a holiday scrooge and make him into a person that loves and enjoys the holidays with real life messages.” See her full review below.

Angels Sing

Reviewed by Brianna Hope B., age 14, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic


This is a wonderful Holiday film that I really enjoyed watching.

Michael Walker (Harry Connick, Jr.) loved Christmas when he was a kid. Then, an accident crushed his holiday spirit. Years pass and he is married to Susan Walker (Connie Britton) and he still cannot enjoy the holidays. His family tries to help him. When his son David (Chandler Canterbury), faces his own tragedy, Michael needs to make amends with his past so he can help his son through his tough time. A stranger named Nick (Willie Nelson), gives Michael an amazing gift that helps him find the joyfulness that he lost.

“Angels Sing” is a great family film. The story line is original and unique. The acting, I feel, is very truthful and believable. I also like the singing by the cast, because it is very harmonious. I like how the writers Lou Berney and Turk Pipkin basically take a holiday scrooge and make him into a person that loves and enjoys the holidays with real life messages. This film is entertaining, and funny at times with some great comedy in lots of the scenes.

My favorite character is David because he is a kid like me and I like how he wants to help his dad with what is bothering him about the holiday season.

My favorite scene is when Michael is teaching David how to fly a remote control toy airplane, because it shows me how much David loves his father and how close he is to his father. I also like this scene because it shows how loose and carefree Michael is with his son and vice versa.

A great message that in this film is that that family love conquers all. If you love your family and your family loves you, the love between you will be more important than all your problems and all your worries.

I recommend “Angels Sing” for ages 10 to 17 and adults will enjoy it as well. It is great for a movie night with the whole family.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars. “Angels Sing” is in theaters now and will also be available on Video on Demand and DVD December 10th.

Brianna Hope Beaton, Age 14, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

WINTER CAMPS ALLOW CHILDREN TO GET UP CLOSE TO THE AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC’S MARINE LIFE The Aquarium invites kids to learn about cold-water animals during its winter day camps

kids at tropical (1)

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific
Pictured: The Tropical Reef Habitat


This winter parents can enroll their children in two winter day camps specially tailored to different age ranges. During the Aquarium’s Sea Squirt Winter Camp and Winter Day Camp, children can explore different animals and regions of the Pacific Ocean.


The Aquarium’s Winter Day Camp is for children in grades two through four, and campers must be at least seven years or older. Winter Day Camp will take children on an adventure through the depths of the Pacific Ocean through interactive learning at the Aquarium. Students will be able to learn about marine life through hands-on activities, including games and crafts. Participants will also get the chance to go behind the scenes at the Aquarium, allowing them to see and learn about animal care. They also get to meet animal husbandry staff members and help take care of the animals that call the Aquarium home. Topics for Winter Day Camp include migrations, cold water habitats, and polar bears.


For kids age five and six, the Sea Squirt Winter Day Camp provides an introductory course to the life that exists in the Pacific Ocean. Topics cover the lives and the habitats of wiggly fish, furry mammals, and fluffy birds. Aquarium staff will guide campers as they participate in crafts, games, stories, and tours. Sea Squirt Winter Day Camp allows young children to explore, interact, and develop questions independently. Children will be able to touch some of the animals and even conduct experiments.



Sea Squirt Winter Camp: December 26-28, 2013, 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Winter Day Camp: January 2-4, 2014, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.



Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium WayLong Beach, CA 90802



Sea Squirt Winter Camp: ages 5-6 (children only)

Winter Day Camp: ages 7+ within grades two through four


Sea Squirt Winter Camp: $115 per child ($90 per member child)

Winter Day Camp: $150 per child ($125 per Aquarium member)



RSVP:             (562) 951-1630


NOTES:          Pre-registration and pre-payment is required on all classes unless noted. Cancellations made 72 hours before the program will receive a full refund. Cancellations made less than 72 hours before a program will still be charged the full program price. Snacks must be provided by parents for children participating in both camps. Parents with children attending Sea Squirt Camp must also provide a day camp journal and lunch.



Photo Credit Required: Robin Riggs