Archives for May 2, 2017

Cricket Media Introduces KEEPING TECH IN CHECK!

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More and more, contemporary parents feel “tech shamed” over the amount of time that their children spend consuming electronic media.  Research released almost daily warns of the mental health value of unplugging and the dangers of unrestricted time spent in front of a screen for kids of all ages. While parents recognize that today’s technology offers numerous developmental and educational benefits, parental anxiety over the tech takeover of family life is real and growing-but it’s time to reframe the conversation.
This April, Cricket Media, the most award-winning children’s magazine publisher in the marketplace and Parents’ Choice Foundation, the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys, will launch theKEEPING TECH IN CHECK campaign. With the tagline, “a balance, not a ban,” KEEPING TECH IN CHECK offers families across the country a wealth of tools, tips and resources to help them find the right balance between technology and real-life experiences at
Unlike similar efforts that focus only on “unplugging,” KEEPING TECH IN CHECK recognizes that screens are a mainstay in our 21st century lives, and this initiative is being launched to help parents mindfully manage screen-time as an intentional part of a daily “diet” of activities.
“Technology is here to stay, offering a wealth of resources,” says Stephanie Sharis, CEO of Cricket Media.  “Our magazines have always promoted active learning, acting as catalysts for children’s curiosity and creativity.  And with the Keeping Tech in Check initiative, we hope that we can help that play out in real life as much as online.”
The KEEPING TECH IN CHECK hub has been thoughtfully designed to give parents the information they need to navigate and manage technology guilt-free in ways that work for them.   Drawing from Cricket Media’s deep archive of award-winning magazine content, the site includes stories and downloadable activities, as well as news and current research. A dedicated blog will feature expert advice and real-life ideas for activities that shine the spotlight on balancing tech mindfully.
Launched on April 17, families everywhere are invited to join the KEEPING TECH IN CHECK community at Among the site’s features at launch will be:
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics Media Use Planner and Media Calculator (both kids and parents will be able to monitor their tech use with these planners)
  • Downloadable content from Cricket Media’s award-winning magazines, designed for ages 3 mos. to 14+
  • Advice from experts and peers, including a regularly updated blog written by Cricket Media editors, parents and other experts, sharing seasonal and topical ideas for screen-free activities, including “Out of the Box” ideas to unplug. Guest bloggers offer real-life examples of unplugged fun for various ages
  • Programs designed to focus families on achieving their goals together, including a summer reading program; the Smithsonian Institute sponsored Folklife Challenge and Invent It Challenge; and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Yang’s Reading without Walls Challenge
  • Mini printable books -colorfully illustrated tales by top authors and artists, aimed at a variety of age levels
  • Printable activities – enjoy conversation starters, scavenger hunts, recipes, party ideas, ad-lib word games, writing prompts, and brain teasing games for the whole family
  • Parents’ Choice Family Adventures Map
  • Subscription discounts to the 11 ad-free and multiple award-winning Cricket Media magazines for various ages and interests: ASK, BABY BUG, CLICK, CICADA, COBBLESTONE, CRICKET, DIG, FACES, LADYBUG, MUSE, and SPIDER
 “We long ago crossed the Digital Rubicon,” adds Claire Green, president of The Parents’ Choice Foundation.  “Keeping Tech in Check offers parents ways to help balance families’ screen based play.  No PhD required.”
About Cricket Media
Cricket Media is an education media company that provides award-winning content on a safe and secure learning network for children, families and teachers across the world.  Cricket Media’s 11 popular media brands for toddlers to teens include Babybug®, Ladybug®, Cricket™ and Cobblestone™.  The Company’s innovative web-based K12 tools for school and home include the ePals community and virtual classroom for global collaboration as well as Cricket Together, an e-Mentoring program that builds reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Cricket Media serves millions of teachers, students and parents in over 200 countries and territories through its platform and NeuPals, its joint venture with China’s leading IT services company Neusoft. Cricket Media also licenses its content and platform to top publishing and educational companies worldwide.
About Parents’ Choice Foundation
Established in 1978 as a 501c3, Parents’ Choice Foundation is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys. Best known for the Parents’ Choice Awards® program, the Parents’ Choice Award Seals are the Foundation’s internationally recognized and respected icons of quality. Parents’ Choice Award judges are experts in areas of industry and interest, from dinosaurs to digital media and from mathematics to making mayhem. The Parents’ Choice Awards committee members hail from families across the country who evaluate media and products based on developmentally appropriate content and challenges, design and function, the educational value, long-term play value, and the benefits to a child’s social and emotional growth and well being. Please visit for more information.
Self Disclosure: SoCal City Kids is honored to say we are a member of the advisory panel. So stay tuned for more!

Beautifully Shot Documentary With Fun Narration, Excellent Cinematography And An Inspiring Story

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Narrated by John Krasinski, Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure film Born In China takes an epic journey into the wilds of China where few people have ever ventured. Following the stories of three animal families, the film transports audiences to some of the most extreme environments on Earth to witness some of the most intimate moments ever captured in a nature film. A doting panda bear mother guides her growing baby as she begins to explore and seek independence. A two-year-old golden snub-nosed monkey who feels displaced by his new baby sister joins up with a group of free-spirited outcasts. And a mother snow leopard-an elusive animal rarely caught on camera-faces the very real drama of raising her two cubs in one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet. Featuring stunning, never-before-seen imagery, the film navigates China’s vast terrain-from the frigid mountains. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “I love the visual splendor of this film and I am still in awe from some of the shots of the vast Chinese landscape.” Morgan B. adds, “Adorable, cuddly, fierce, cunning and hilarious animals all have one thing in common – they all put a tingle in my heart!” See their full reviews below.


Born in China

By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11


Born in China is a beautifully shot documentary with fun narration, excellent cinematography and an inspiring story. I love the visual splendor of this film and I am still in awe from some of the shots of the vast Chinese landscape.


Narrated by John Krasinski (NBC’s The Office, Amazon’s Jack Ryan), Born in China chronicles the lives of three animals: Ya Ya, a giant panda who lives surrounded by bamboo and peace with her growing cub, the mischievous monkey Tao Tao who yearns for attention after the birth of his baby sister and later joins a group of outcasts, and the snow leopard Dawa struggling to protect her cubs from predators in harsh conditions. The film also follows the journey of a herd of chiru as they migrate to give birth to their young.


Born in China is one of the rare films that perfectly captures the magic and excitement of nature on screen. Not only does it have footage of some of the cutest animals on earth, but you really get to know some of the animals and their personalities. Also it has great shots of the stunning landscape of China that you’re not going to find in any other movie.


John Krasinski is very versatile in his role as narrator. He knows his young audience well and adds some fun dialogue to make it more appealing to them. His narration also goes very well with what is going on onscreen and is key in helping you understand the animals. One flaw is that the subplot with the chiru feels unneeded. Unlike other storylines, there is no main character to gravitate toward or follow. It feels like extra baggage that overcrowds the movie.


One of the best parts is that it demonstrates the animals showcasing basic values we see in society today. The lesson I took away is that the importance of family outweighs everything else, no matter what situation you’re in. Tao Tao goes to roam with The Lost Boys because he can’t find attention at home but later he learns that those who care for you will be there when you need them.


I recommend this film for ages 4 to 18. It’s pretty much suited for all ages, but some animal violence makes it an unsuitable for very young children. It also will be very much enjoyed by adults. I give Born in China 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It arrives in theaters just in time for Earth Day, April 22, 2017. Don’t forget to stay for the credits for a series of bloopers and outtakes.


Born In China

By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12


Adorable, cuddly, fierce, cunning and hilarious animals all have one thing in common – they all put a tingle in my heart! Director Lu Chuan put so much care into making this superb film. It is apparent how much he loves what he is doing and that adds to the charm of this film. I love how the movie made me feel when I watched it.


The red-winged crane carries us on a journey to different parts of China. Inspired by nature and adorable fun creatures that live there, we learn the Snow Leopard’s story told through Dwoa. Dwoa is a courageous and cunning Snow Leopard with two adorable baby cubs she is trying to protect. Finding food on the highest plateau on earth proves to be difficult. As much as I wanted to cuddle and pet her, I do not think she is the hugging type.


The adorable Giant Pandas’ story is told through Mei Mei and her mother Ya Ya, the stars of the show when it comes to humor. Mei Mei wants her independence and has big dreams and even bigger hopes of learning to climb trees. Her mom Ya Ya wants to do everything she can to keep her safe and keep her close forever. This is a thing that every child struggles with, including me. Fun fact: Giant Pandas eat more than 40 pounds of bamboo a day. That’s a lot of bamboo so, note to self, if you want a pet Panda you need to have a lot of money to buy bamboo plants.

The golden snub-nose monkeys’ story is told by my favorite character, Tao Tao who is only two years old. He is mischievous and feels like an outcast so, like Peter Pan, he joins a group of lost boys. Winter along the Yangtze River is harsh and we watch him shiver, covered with snow and ice. It made me want to grab a warm blanket to cover him.


There are many more animals that are incorporated in this 80 minute documentary that follows them for a year of their life, from spring to spring. I especially enjoyed the chiru which are a type of antelope. The red pandas are excellent tree climbers and perfect role models for all baby pandas who try to climb trees after watching them. John Krasinski (The Office) narrates this adorable documentary. His voice style and humor perfectly fit the film.


The circle of life is once again Disney’s of this nature documentary. I do not like movies that make me cry but Disney did it once again. I love this movie, especially the eye candy scenes of Mother Nature and her animals. The cinematography is stupendous as it captures close-ups of animals who are rarely seen in their natural habitats. You see every single hair and get to watch them forage for food, play, give birth and protect each other. The aerial views are stupendous and unique. I wondered what it would be like to be one of these animals. Is it fascinating seeing the things that they have to face every day of their lives.


I recommend this for ages 5 to 18. It is marvelous, but there are some moments that made me cry.  Animals need to eat and, when watching them hunt to eat, there are scenes that might freak out some kids. It is very informational, humorous and heartwarming. It reminded me that there is a big wide world out there ready to be explored. I give this film 5 out of 5 Mother Nature stars.  This film opens nationwide in theaters on April 21, 2017 just in time to celebrate Earth Day. Brought to you by Disneynature, when part of the box office proceeds will be donated to the World Wildlife Foundation to help giant pandas, snow leopards and many more animals.





Mr. Sunday is Pet of the Week!


Mr. Sunday is a sweet, playful pit bull/German shepherd mix, about 8 years old. Mr. Sunday was found on the street, wearing a dirty worn-out collar that had his name on it, but that’s all we knew about him, and no one came to claim him. Because we consider him a senior, his adoption fee is only $20! If he gets the home he deserves, Mr.Sunday will never be the same—and we mean that in the best possible way! Meet him on the shelter side of the Companion Animal Village at 7700 East Spring St., (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A585708.


(The usual suspects contributed to this rescue)


Credit: Courtesy of the Companion Animal Village.

LA Zoo 50th Anniversary Beastly Ball Features Rock Legend Slash in Concert Saturday, May 20, 6 pm Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s (GLAZA) annual BEASTLY BALL is set for Saturday, May 20, 2017, 6 pm, at the L.A. Zoo, a trusted leader in animal conservation.  This year’s signature fundraiser celebrates the L.A. Zoo’s 50th Anniversary and features a performance with legendary guitarist and noted wildlife advocate Slash in an exclusive live concert backed by Jimmy Vivino and The Basic Cable Band (Conan O’Brien Show), who will perform a mix of blues and R&B, joined by special guests Jack Black, Grace Potter and Bernard Fowler.  The Ball honors Wallis Annenberg and The Annenberg Foundation and bestows the Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award on the National Geographic Society, represented by Gary E. Knell, President and CEO.

For those not able to attend in person, Live Nation, NextVR, and Citi, will exclusively broadcast the entire concert in virtual reality.  In addition to the show, fans will also have extraordinary virtual access to “Backstage with Citi” – rare behind the scenes footage as Slash prepares to take the stage.  The live VR content will be available on a Google Daydream or Samsung Gear VR headset, along with a compatible smartphone, by downloading the NextVR app from the Oculus store for GearVR or the Google Play store for Daydream.  Fans can go to for additional details on the concert and are encouraged to make a donation at

Beastly Ball proceeds in part support the Zoo’s new Species Conservation Action Network (SCAN), including a dedicated Curator of Conservation whose sole focus will be to identify and respond to urgent animal conservation issues around the world.  Beastly Ball guests, invited to dress in “safari casual” attire, stroll through the Zoo during a rare after-hours visit observing its inhabitants, watching animal feedings, chatting with keepers, viewing small animals up close, and enjoying entertainment and dining on bountiful fare provided by some of L.A.’s most popular restaurants.  Also featured are a live auction and an online mobile-bidding silent auction – open to the public — comprised of hundreds of remarkable items and one-of-a-kind opportunities, plus opportunities to donate a Program Book ad or make other gifts.

“I’m honored and proud to be a part of the L.A. Zoo’s 50th Anniversary Beastly Ball,” said Slash.  “It’s going to be the biggest yet, and I’m really looking forward to jamming live with some good friends.

The Ball is known as “one of the best parties in Los Angeles” (KCBS/KCAL TV News) and “one the most important fund-raisers” (LA Times).  The Honorable Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, is Honorary Chair.

According to GLAZA President Connie Morgan, “As the Zoo celebrates 50 years of leadership in exceptional animal welfare and its role as a key player in major conservation projects that protect animal species from extinction, GLAZA’s Board of Trustees looks ahead to the next 50 by building upon five decades of major support for the Zoo.  Our goal to raise $3 million at the Beastly Ball to establish SCAN’s Curator of Conservation position and fund it for the future will, we believe, profoundly impact animal conservation, which is essential to the future of the Zoo and to the planet.”

L.A. Zoo Director John Lewis says, “The Zoo, with its decades of institutional knowledge and scientific expertise, will utilize SCAN to build solutions and connect the best people and programs, inside and outside the zoo profession, to act in a coordinated effort to address pressing and critical species survival issues.  The Zoo may not be the Ark but we are shipbuilders!”

The Annenberg Foundation, established in 1989, is a family foundation that supports the worldwide community through grantmaking, technical assistance and direct charitable activities.  Led by its Chairman, President and CEO Wallis Annenberg, a lifelong champion of animal welfare, the Foundation has provided support for an array of initiatives focusing on wildlife, service animals and pets.  Later this year, the Foundation will open the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace, an interactive community center for people and pets, in Playa Vista, CA.  The PetSpace offers a unique and innovative approach to adoption and training that is designed to help strengthen the bond we share with our pets through education, science, collaboration and thought leadership.  Through its Wallis Annenberg PetSpace Leadership Institute, the center will stand at the forefront of academic thought on the human-animal bond.

“I’ve been an animal lover all my life, and protecting and caring for animals — both in the wild, and in our homes — has been at the center of my philanthropy for many years now,” says Wallis Annenberg, Annenberg Foundation Chairman, President and CEO.  “That’s why this special honor is so meaningful to me.  No one works harder for all of God’s creatures than the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association and the Zoo itself, a beacon of animal welfare and conservation for 50 years now.  I’m proud to stand with them, and excited to be a part of this year’s Beastly Ball.”

The National Geographic Society is a leading nonprofit that invests in bold people and transformative ideas in the fields of exploration, scientific research, storytelling and education.  The Society supports educators to ensure that the next generation is armed with geographic knowledge and global understanding.  The Society also aspires to create a community of change, advancing key insights about our planet and probing some of the most pressing scientific questions of our time.  Its goal is measurable impact: furthering exploration and educating people around the world to inspire solutions for the greater good. For more information, visit

“I am extremely honored to accept the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award on behalf of the National Geographic Society, the first organization to receive this recognition,” says Gary E. Knell, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Geographic Society.  “Like Tom, the Society is committed to protecting wildlife and wild places and educating the next generation to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for the planet we all share.”

The National Geographic Society is the seventh recipient of the Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award, following actor/environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr. (2016), singer/philanthropist Lance Bass (2015), entertainment industry attorney Ken Ziffren (2014), actresses Pauley Perrette (2013) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (2012) and rock icon Slash, a GLAZA Trustee (2011).  The award was established in memory of former GLAZA Chairman Tom Mankiewicz, a beloved and highly regarded film and television writer and director.  Mankiewicz, who passed away in 2010, was associated with such films as Superman, Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die, and the Hart to Hart television series, among many others.  He championed the cause of saving and protecting wildlife and the environment through education and on-the-ground conservation.  He also promoted the Zoo’s universal appeal and its accessibility as a gathering place for all in Los Angeles’ diverse communities.

Among the iconic restaurants donating their services for dinner are Antonio’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant, Celestino Ristorante, El Cholo – Los Angeles, Delicious Arts, El Coyote Mexican Café, The Federal Bar, Frida Restaurant Americana, Hard Rock Café, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Little Sister, Malbec Argentinian Cuisine, Red O, Salt’s Cure, Simmzy’s, Sparkling Treatz, Taix French Restaurant, Tart Bites Bakery, Taste Of The Wild Catering at the Los Angeles Zoo, and Yummy Cupcakes.

Beastly Ball tickets are $1,500 per person, with individual and corporate sponsorship opportunities at higher levels also available.  The Los Angeles Zoo is located at 5333 Zoo Drive in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways.  Free parking is available.  For Beastly Ball tickets and additional information, call (323)
Credit: The Los Angeles Zoo.