Archives for November 11, 2022

Books of the Week

Through lively, lyrical verse and digestible vocabulary, The Unique Beak tells the story of a young peacock whose passions and dreams disturb the status quo that his family and friends have established. Ostracized by his community for the unique talents that make Sai himself, the peacock is surprised to find a warm, supportive friend in the most unlikely of places. Here, through the eyes and ears of a friend who celebrates his difference, Sai finds the faith he needs to pursue what’s in his heart. Sai’s confidence and self-reliance flourish as his special talents propel him towards heights that shock not only those who had dismissed him, but even Sai himself. 

A globally recognized musician and recent LA Independent Film award recipient, Estani Frizzell is an Irish and Mexican American artist whose Latin music has achieved international acclaim. Though she now lives in Austin with her daughter Sophia, Frizzell was born in San Antonio and lived more than two decades in Los Angeles, where she spent 11 years as a teacher. Over the course of her musical career, Frizzell has participated in world tours, performed on programs like the Tonight Show, and continues to maintain her status as a voting member of the Grammys. Frizzell says that her upcoming children’s book, The Unique Beak, is a “metaphor related to [her] background and life,and the story is an expression of the author’s own efforts embrace her unique talents and pursue her passions. Frizzell has wanted to write children’s books since the birth of her daughter, and she used her decades of experience as a singer/songwriter to cultivate a story that not only inspires and motivates through its colorful characters, but engages the reader through its rhythmic, musical verse. With its lyrical feel and triumphant narrative, The Unique Beak is an encapsulation of Frizzell’s inspiring trajectory as an artist and mother made all the more special by the fact that Sophia did the illustrations for the book.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it! It truly is a great way to teach young children about self-confidence!

For every family with kiddos obsessed with fearsome dinosaurs, fascinating ocean creatures, and creepy crawly bugs, Fandex Kids: Dinosaurs, Ocean, and Bugs ( Ages 8-12; $12.95 US each) are the perfect prescription. These informative card decks are written just for kids, with bright, bold illustrations, lively and age-appropriate text, and simple die-cuts that make them easy to leaf through again and again.

Every fascinating creature is illustrated in colorful, lifelike detail and includes information about its size, habits, and habitat. Each deck features unique sidebars to help kids dive even further into their favorite topics:

·         Packed with fin factsOcean introduces kids to 49 fascinating aquatic creatures, including giant kelp, which can grow up to 2 feet every day— that’s right, 2 feet!

·         In Bugs, young entomologists will encounter 49 creepy crawlers from the bombardier beetle, which can spray its enemies with a boiling hot chemical fluid, to the tiny, pesky flea. Plus, “Learning from Nature” sidebars investigate how bugs inspire inventions in the fields of medicine, engineering, and even programming.

·         48 Fearsome and fascinating dinosaurs await inside Dinosaurs, from the airborne giant Quetzalcoatlus with a wingspan the size of a small airplane, to Tyrannousaurus rex; Giganotosaurus, and more. This deck is positively stuffed with dino bite-sized fun facts, plus a “how big” sidebar that shows kids just how huge these prehistoric creatures were.

Perfect for car rides, after school activities, and family fun, Fandex Kids decks provide fascinating answers plus all the astounding facts they’ve never thought to wonder about. Vibrant illustrations and simple die cuts make these perfectly portable decks the perfect companion for every kid.

I received samples and just love these! They would also make great stocking stuffers this upcoming holiday season! Find out more at

Picture Book from Chad Otis! A LITTLE FERRY TALE

In the spirit of The Little Engine That Could, this tender picture book introduces Little Ferry, who yearns to be more like the faster or stronger boats in the harbor only to find out her uniqueness can be her strength.

Little Ferry feels like no one notices her. She isn’t strong like Tugboat or fast like Speedboat or graceful like Sailboat, the boats everyone loves to watch. But Little Ferry is special, too! She’s patient and careful and always on time. And when disaster flares on Wildlife Island, Little Ferry finds that her quiet traits are the very ones that will help her finally stand out and save the day. I really enjoyed this adorable story and loved the main character and the illustrations!

Author Bio

Chad Otis has a BFA in design from the University of Washington School of Art. He’s been working with the likes of Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Online for over twenty-five years as an animator, illustrator, and creative director. Chad lives in Boise, Idaho, and is also the illustrator of Cuddle Monkey and author-illustrator of A Little Ferry Tale.

Find out where to buy this book here.

Early graphic novel series perfect for fans of Narwhal & Jelly (Doggo and Pupper Save the World, Cleo and Fitz Get Creative)

Looking for a new series to recommend to fans of Elephant & Piggie and Narwhal & Jelly? I’m thrilled to tell you about two hilarious and heartwarming early reader graphic novel series publishing this winter with Macmillan Children’s:
The second book in #1 New York Times-bestselling–author Katherine Applegate’s fun new early reader’s series, Doggo and Pupper Save the World) is full of adventure, wonderful humor, and charming art by Charlie Alder. These short stories, six in all, are great read-alouds and read-alongs for beginning readers – I mean, who can resist a winning menagerie of a grumpy old dog, a feisty puppy, and a sarcastic, entitled cat? The dynamo team behind Llama Destroys the World, Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox, continue their delightful and hilarious ghostly hijinks in Cleo and Fitz Get Creative. This endearing addition explores our titular heroes’ creative sides: the duo will start a band, make a movie, and do some writing and reading, among other artistic endeavors.

These series are perfect for emerging readers, pairing adventurous friendship stories with laugh-out-loud illustrations. Not only entertaining, this format strengthens both print and visual literacy skills in young readers as well as overall reading comprehension as they tackle future texts.

I highly recommend both for children ages 6+.

Find out more here.

A great read for Middle school-age kids!

Great Battles for Boys The American Revolution  is a book that is sure to have Middle School age kids excited about learning U.S. History! It was a need to help his young son enjoy reading and help him learn U.S. History that sparked educator, Joe Giorello, passion to write the series, Great Battles for Boys.  Now, he is introducing Great Battles for Boys: The American Revolution (Wheelhouse Publishing, May 2022) for Middle Grade readers.

“We were deeply troubled when our son showed no interest in reading. We wanted to change that — we knew we had to change that or his schooling would really suffer going forward. We started this series to help him and, once it had, other families with boys who hated to read asked for our guidance as well. My classes changed their lives. Now, we publish the books to help even more boys and their families.”

– Joe Giorello, author of the Great Battles for Boys series

I had the opportunity to read this book and I believe it will make learning and reading more fun!

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. Information and Cover images were also received.

Gratitude Revealed * A Thought-Provoking Piece With Gorgeous Footage, But Falters To Keep Viewers Engaged

An epic journey forty years in the making, Gratitude Revealed from acclaimed filmmaker, Louie Schwartzberg, the director of cult hit Fantastic Fungi, takes us on a transformational, cinematic Experience of how to live a more meaningful life full of gratitude through his intimate conversations with everyday people, thought leaders, and personalities revealing gratitude is a proven pathway back from the disconnection we feel in our lives; disconnection from ourselves, our planet, and each other.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “A thought-provoking piece, Gratitude Revealed shows promise in its concept and features gorgeous footage, but falters to keep viewers engaged in the film past the midway mark.” See his full review below.

Gratitude Revealed

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

A thought-provoking piece, Gratitude Revealed shows promise in its concept and features gorgeous footage, but falters to keep viewers engaged in the film past the midway mark.

Composed of stunning nature footage and high-profile interviews, Gratitude Revealed shows us how to live a more meaningful life full of thankfulness through filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s conversations with everyday people and eminent personalities. Featured are chats with figures like Norman Lear, Deepak Chopra, Jack Kornfield and more. The film makes the point that we need a pathway back from the disconnection we feel in our lives, within ourselves, and with others.

The thought behind this film is remarkable. However, the substance of the film is revealed painfully slowly, and some of the insights are rather obvious. It is unfortunate that the film lacks momentum and vibrancy beyond cinematography, as this makes it a difficult watch for young viewers accustomed to a faster pace of cinema. If it was the intent of the filmmaker to slow down viewers caught in the rat race of life, he certainly achieved it… almost too well. The camera work and editing in Gratitude Revealed are the highest points of the film, along with the cachet of the big names Schwartzberg speaks with. I especially love the way the interviews are framed. I feel that some of the interviews are way too long and tedious. It sometimes feels as if the nature shots are being used to compensate for the repetition of certain points. This leads to Gratitude Revealed feeling less like a documentary and more like an experimental film.

Gratitude Revealed promotes finding joy in the small things in life and just “being.” It’s a beautiful message that is perfect for the Thanksgiving season.

I give Gratitude Revealed 3.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Gratitude Revealed releases on VOD November 1, 2022.


A Family Matters Christmas * The “Switch-Mas” Spirit Is In The Air With The New Fun Family Film That Makes You Rethink The True Meaning Of Christmas

Christmas is anything but ordinary when three bickering siblings from a newly blended household cannot see eye to eye. The youngest one, while completing his annual science project, accidentally calls upon the spirit of Christmas. They wake up to find themselves having switched bodies, unable to change back until they learn to spend the holidays together as a loving family.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “The “switch-mas” spirit is in the air with the new film, A Family Matters Christmas! It’s a fun family film that forces you to think about the true meaning of Christmas and shows just how important it is for family to come together and get along.” Mikella G. adds, “This film is truly an enjoyable viewing experience…I really enjoyed the plot; the concept of the characters swapping bodies is really cute, and definitely creates a fun twist for a Christmas movie.” Kendall B. adds, “The message of A Family Matters Christmas is that family is important, whether you are related by blood or not. Throughout the film, Brandon has a hard time learning to love his new siblings, but the body switch really helps him realize what family means.” SaniyaRain F. wraps it up with, “A Family Matters Christmas is a family-friendly, comedic, lesson-learning film that includes a bit of romance. The film is also great to watch if you are, like me, a fan of Christmas miracle stories.” See their full reviews below.

A Family Matters Christmas 

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

The “switch-mas” spirit is in the air with the new film, A Family Matters Christmas! It’s a fun family film that forces you to think about the true meaning of Christmas and shows just how important it is for family to come together and get along.

A Family Matters Christmas follows siblings, Aiden (Randy Vince III), Emily (Cheyanne Cummings), and their soon-to-be brother, Brandon (Chase X. Drewery), whose parents are looking forward to getting married and spending their first family holiday together. However, the sibling’s constant bickering threatens to make Christmas not-so-merry. Aiden creates an experiment to bring his family together, but with a little “help” from the “forgotten Christmas Spirit,” Alternis (Stephen Fisher), his spell causes the three siblings to switch bodies. They must work together to learn the true meaning of family to break the spell and switch bodies back before Christmas morning.

The main characters are Aiden, Emily and Brandon. I love how much each sibling changes the other sibling’s life, just by switching bodies. My favorite part was seeing the sacrifices each sibling makes for the sibling whose body they took over. It forces each one to experience life as that sibling, and even helps them. For example, since Emily is more outspoken, while she is in Aiden’s body, she is able to stand up for him against bullies at school — something Aiden would never do himself. The “switch” really creates some hilarious moments, like when Brandon is in Emily’s body and get a dose of what it is like to be a girl. The film is so entertaining, that you forget it starts off as a story being read about the characters’ journey. This is a storyline that some people will say has been made before and, while that’s true, what’s important is the message behind it; plus it is entertaining.

A Family Matters Christmas shows us that family really does matter and that it’s possible to get along if you take the time to get to know one another. While you may not always agree with your siblings or be best friends, it’s still good to create some kind of bond with them. Parents should look out for adult drinking and some slightly intimate parts.

I give A Family Matters Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to18, plus adults. A Family Matters Christmas releases on Digital and DVD November 8, 2022.

A Family Matters Christmas

By Mikella G, KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, age 16

A Family Matters Christmas is a fun, enjoyable film that really puts you in the Christmas spirit. It teaches an important lesson, while delivering a cute and interesting storyline.

A Family Matters Christmas follows the lives of three siblings living in a newly blended household. They are all struggling to adapt to their new family, especially during the holidays and this causes them to fight all of the time. However, when the youngest sibling Aiden, (Randy Vince Iii) starts to read fairy tales about Christmas legends who haunt siblings who can’t get along, he realizes that they need to stop the bickering. Unfortunately, it’s a little too late and their household is greeted with a special elf who causes all three of them to swap bodies. Now, the siblings must learn to tolerate and help each other, or else they will be stuck inside these different identities forever.

This film is truly an enjoyable viewing experience. The cinematographic quality of this film really stands out — the camera work is very clear, and the colors jump. I really enjoyed the plot; the concept of the characters swapping bodies is really cute, and definitely creates a fun twist for a Christmas movie. It’s really interesting to see how they all work things out in the end. Plus, all three actors portray multiple personas in different bodies exceptionally well, as they show us how their switched character might react to a particular situation. Additionally, the message of the film is really strong. It really emphasizes the importance of family, particularly around Christmas time, and reminds viewers how valuable our families are. This is an important highlight, especially for younger audiences, because it’s something that can sometimes be forgotten.

The message of A Family Matters Christmas is that family is very valuable, and you should always hold to them.

I give A Family Matters Christmas 3.5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. It releases on VOD and DVD November 8, 2022.

A Family Matters Christmas
By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

A Family Matters Christmas is all about family and love; it’s the perfect movie to get you ready for the holiday season.

The storyline for A Family Matters Christmas is told by a grandma to her grandchildren. The story follows a boy named Aiden (Randy Vince III) and his sister Emily (Cheyenne Cummings) who are having a hard time getting along with their new step-brother, Brandon (Chase X Drewery). Ayden conducts a science experiment gone wrong and ends up summoning a Christmas spirit who makes him and his siblings switch places. They now must figure out how to walk in each other’s shoes, and how to switch back.

The plot of this film may seem kind of basic, but there are a lot of twists that turn the basic story into something more. I really love the cinematography — at the beginning, behind the opening credits, are some beautiful shots of the city which are just stunning. All the acting is outstanding and so is the script. I love the character of Grandma (Jo Marie Payton), because she’s really sassy; I love the way she teaches her grandchildren to be nicer to each other. Another great character is Aunt Tracy (Tamieka Chavis), who is quite feisty as well and has a very powerful personality. I especially love the character Alternis (Stephen Fischer), the Christmas spirit, because his eccentric and loud personality is very exciting and fun. My favorite part of the film is when the kids first change places and don’t know how to behave in each other’s bodies.

The message of A Family Matters Christmas is that family is important, whether you are related by blood or not. Throughout the film, Brandon has a hard time learning to love his new siblings, but the body switch really helps him realize what family means.

I give A Family Matters Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. This film releases on VOD and DVD November 8, 2022.

A Family Matters Christmas
By SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14 

This movie has funny scenes and you never know what happens next; whenever Alternis makes an entrance, you always wonder where he is going to come from next. An important theme of the film is that family does matter and will always be there for you. At the very beginning you see the family’s drama and how most of them don’t connect with one another. It makes them depressed and, in the end, all the characters change as they connect with one another. Most of the CGI is not too impressive, although one nifty thing the editors use is a book image to segue between scenes. The music matches each scene very well especially during the dance scene. The message of A Family Matters Christmas is to never lose sight of who your family is and always know they matter and will be there for you. There will be times when you don’t get along with them, but in the end they are the people who you can always count on to be there. We are also reminded to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes and see the situation from their point of view.

I give A Family Matters Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can find it on VOD and DVD beginning November 8, 2022.