Archives for May 2023

Prehistoric Planet 2 * This Season Unveils New Species And Habitats Which Occupied Ancient Earth 66 Million Years Ago

Experience the wonders of our world like never before in this epic docuseries from Jon Favreau and the producers of “Planet Earth.” “Prehistoric Planet” season two continues to bring Earth’s history to life like never before as the series presents new dinosaurs, new habitats and new scientific discoveries while taking viewers around the world in an epic five-night adventure. With new dinosaurs like the Tarchia, one of the largest Ankylosauri, to returning fan-favorites like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and many more, “Prehistoric Planet” returns with an all-new season of prehistoric wonders.  

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Dominic D. comments, “Prepare to be wowed by an incredible new documentary mini-series to be released this month. Back for its second season, Prehistoric Planet 2, produced by the world-renowned team from BBC’s Natural History Unit, unveils new species and habitats which occupied ancient Earth 66 million years ago.” See his full review below.

Prehistoric Planet 2
By Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Prepare to be wowed by an incredible new documentary mini-series to be released this month. Back for its second season, Prehistoric Planet 2, produced by the world-renowned team from BBC’s Natural History Unit, unveils new species and habitats which occupied ancient Earth 66 million years ago. I was really looking forward to watching this expansive series with its advanced technology and I was not disappointed. 

The show takes viewers back millions of years to examine a variety of new species within their unique habitats.  Based on new evidence provided by paleontologists and other experts within the field, these filmmakers are able to authentically recreate the Jurassic world and highlight the many interactions within and between species, and show how these magnificent creatures needed to fight so hard for their survival. This impressively animated series brings Earth’s history to life with such extraordinary detail. 

Prehistoric Planet 2 is an educationalmasterpiece! There is so much to appreciate in this series.  The CGI is state of the art; the CGI images are, by far, the best I’ve seen. The highly technical scenes are so dramatic and bring great adventure into our homes. Although the information portrayed by the biodiverse species in each episode has great merit from new found evidence by archaeologists, a lot of guesses and inferring goes into the depiction of these creatures. The information about these species makes perfect sense and I was truly inspired by each episode.  Narrated by beloved 97-year-old David Attenborough who excels as he explains to viewers the lives of so many unique species. He brings great excitement and emotion to Prehistoric Planet 2.  Parents need to be aware that some of the graphic content regarding survival strategies may be too intense for younger viewers. 

The message throughout each episode of the show is about understanding the biological dynamics of our ancient Earth.  We all find dinosaurs fascinating, but there is much more to be learned about their relationships, adaptations and survival mechanisms.  Gaining knowledge about past species not only helps us better understand their existence on Earth and it also helps us build more complete ancestral connections to species living today. Education is priceless!

Prehistoric Planet 2 gets5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Prehistoric Planet 2 releases on Apple TV+ May 22, 2023. 

A Feel Good Comedy That Puts You In A Happy Optimistic Mood

The highly anticipated sequel follows our four best friends as they take their book club to Italy for the fun girls’ trip they never had. When things go off the rails and secrets are revealed, their relaxing vacation turns into a once-in-a-lifetime cross-country adventure.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Mikella G. comments, “Book Club: The Next Chapter is a feel good, comedic film. It’s entertaining and light hearted, putting you in a happy optimistic mood. I really enjoy the beautiful scenery shown throughout the film. As the four friends travel throughout Italy, we see the sights of Rome, Venice and Tuscany.” Julie S. adds, “What a delightful romp this is! I came away from watching it with an extra spring in my step and a sense of joie de vivre. The cast truly had a good time and it’s contagious. It’s in theaters now, so drop what you’re doing and catch a matinee today. You’ll be glad you did.” See their full reviews below.

Book Club: The Next Chapter

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, age 17

Book Club: The Next Chapter is a feel good, comedic film. It’s entertaining and light hearted, putting you in a happy optimistic mood.

Book Club: The Next Chapter, a sequel to Book Club, brings together four best friends, who finally reunite after being in quarantine. In order to celebrate Vivian’s (Jane Fonda) big news and go on their long awaited girls’ trip, the group departs for Italy. While on their trip, they encounter many obstacles and surprises, providing the ladies a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

I really enjoy the beautiful scenery shown throughout the film. As the four friends travel throughout Italy, we see the sights of Rome, Venice and Tuscany. Most of the movie was filmed on location, which is an incredible aspect that really elevates the film. Everything is so colorful and eye-catching, which definitely made me much more engaged. When I look at a fun and exciting scene, I’m automatically more interested in what I’m watching. This movie definitely has that effect. Additionally, the characters really stand out. Each of the women has such a distinct personality.  For example, Diane (Diane Keaton) is more reluctant and very set in her ways. Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is very optimistic and wants to be adventurous. Then there’s Vivian who is finally stepping out of her comfort zone and taking a leap of faith, and lastly Sharon (Candice Bergen) who knows exactly what she wants, and won’t let anyone change her opinions. All the characters have different personalities but they all cohesively work together. Each actor excels in her role and really brings her character to life for a second time in this sequel. The strong chemistry and friendship between these women is evident, and really made me feel so fulfilled and happy to watch them on their adventure. The storyline is a lot of fun and has many dynamics. While the women are in Italy they encounter many rough patches. They constantly have to reroute their trip, and even run into people and memories that slow them down a little. However, they still come out stronger than ever in the end. This film is exciting to watch, and definitely held my interest the entire time.

The message of Book Club: The Next Chapter is a reminder to take risks and live life to the fullest because you never know when you might no longer have that opportunity. Be aware there is some light profanity.

I give Book Club: The Next Chapter 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases in theaters May 12, 2023.

Book Club: The Next Chapter
By Julie S., KIDS FIRST!

What a delightful romp this is! The four life-long friends Viv, Diane, Sharon and Carol are played by superstars Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen run away with the show. We see how their friendship has persevered the ups and downs of life for decades, through marriage and divorce, child-bearing, work ups and downs… they support each other unconditionally. In this sequel to the 2018 comedy Book Club, they are reunited after the pandemic and, after learning that Viv plans to marry, decide to take a bachelorette trip to Italy – a destination they’ve had on the horizon for some time.

The script is filled with silly jokes and passion for all that Italy has to offer – food, wine, landscapes and beautiful men. The significant others of the four, played by Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Giancarlo Giannini and Andy Garcia are equally entertaining. If this doesn’t make you want to pack your bags and head to Rome or Tuscany, then your spirit definitely needs a jump start.

I came away from watching this with an extra spring in my step and a sense of joie de vivre. The cast truly had a good time and it’s contagious.

I give book Club: The Next Chapter 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults, due to some mild profanity. It’s in theaters now, so drop what you’re doing and catch a matinee today. You’ll be glad you did.

Captivating And Inspirational Documentary That Highlights An Important Story And Really Connected With Me

An intimate portrait of a misunderstood American icon, this emotional and uplifting documentary about Yogi Berra takes us beyond the caricatures and “Yogisms,” and into the heart of a sports legend whose unparalleled accomplishments on the baseball diamond were often overshadowed by his off-the-field persona.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Mikella G. comments, “It Ain’t Over is a captivating inspirational documentary that highlights an important story, and really connected with me. I definitely felt moved and more knowledgeable afterwards.” See her full review below.

It Ain’t Over

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST!, age 16

It Ain’t Over is a captivating inspirational documentary that highlights an important story, and really connected with me. I definitely felt moved and more knowledgeable afterwards.

This film tells the story of Yogi Berra (Lawrence Peter Berra), an Italian immigrant who had a talent for baseball from a young age. Although he had an outstanding ability to catch balls, he was extremely unappreciated in the sports industry when he first started out. Yogi didn’t exactly fit the image of a stereotypical NBA star at the time, but he didn’t let that stop him. After many rocky patches, Yogi eventually found a home with the New York Yankees, where he managed to work his way to a top position, and became one of the best players in baseball history.

I really appreciate the structure of the film; it’s easy to follow and gives a lot of insight about Yogi as a person. Throughout the film are interviews with people from Yogi’s life, including his close family and friends. These are people that knew him personally and their input helps create a strong foundation for the film. It helped me get a better understanding of who Yogi was, and the positive effect that he left on people. Additionally, the storytelling is strong. The film incorporates so many important details of Yogi’s life in such an honest way. There are examples of people such as Jackie Robinson, who he really helped and respected. This documentary is going to make the world remember Yogi Berra in a positive and bright way, which defines who he was. The cinematography is outstanding. I really enjoyed the incorporation of archival footage from Yogi’s life, along with present day videos that showcase the evolution of professional baseball. 

The film’s message is to always follow your dreams no matter what other people tell you.

I give It Ain’t Over 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in select theaters on May 12, 2023.


SOAR – Tropical Butterflies Returns to South Coast Botanic Garden

So many beautiful butterflies!

South Coast Botanic Garden’s most popular exhibit, SOAR –
Tropical Butterflies is returning this May for its third consecutive year. This is the first time the
Garden has brought back a recurring exhibit for three years, a testament to SOAR’s unique
immersive experience.
This year, not only will guests be surrounded by hundreds of tropical butterflies inside the
pavilion, but they have the opportunity to purchase a ticket that includes our new Butterfly
Feeding Experience.

When: Daily May 1 through August 31
Tickets: $6 for Members and up to $23 for non-members, which includes price of general
admission. The Butterfly Feeding Experience is an additional $6 for all. Those who purchase the Butterfly Feeding Experience for an additional $6 can choose from a flower vial or ring filled with nectar to use while inside the pavilion to help entice butterflies to come closer to them for the optimum and most immersive experience.
Species inside the pavilion include the fan-favorite blue morpho, owl butterflies, malachite,
rusty tipped page, gold rim swallowtail, ruby spotted swallowtail, giant swallowtail, orange tiger and more.
This year’s exhibit also includes a new beautiful photo opportunity and a chance for guests to help support the exhibit and our new Pollination Garden through our Wall of Wings.

● Wear bright colors, like your favorite flower, to attract the butterflies
● Not all of the butterflies will be flying at once, so look around for them
● Look underneath! Butterflies sleep hanging upside down from leaves.
● There will be feeders around the pavilion so butterflies can feed on their favorite
citrus fruits.
● The butterflies are less active in colder weather.
● Food or drinks are not allowed in the pavilion
● Strollers are not allowed in the pavilion
● No removing butterflies from the pavilion
● No touching the butterflies (if one lands on you, look but don’t touch!)

I had the opportunity to visit and it is amazing! I loved seeing all the colorful butterflies!

Self Disclosure: Information was provided. Photo Credit: SoCal City Kids.

4 Dos and Don’ts for Engaging with Working Dogs

In more ways than one, dogs are truly man’s best friend. On top of bringing joy and comfort to households as pets, they also contribute towards necessary services such as aiding the disabled, preserving public safety in the company of personnel like policemen, and rescuing people in need during natural disasters. These paw-some heroes are called “working dogs.”

There are many types of working dogs, but all dogs that fall under that umbrella are trained to perform specific functions. For example, dogs classified as service animals by Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) typically help visually impaired people navigate public places, alert the hard of hearing about important sounds like knocks on the door, and respond to the onset of seizures in people with epilepsy.  

Most of the time, it’s easy to differentiate service dogs and other working dogs from normal pets thanks to apparel like custom dog collars or harnesses. But aside from being able to identify them, ordinary people should also learn the rules for interacting with working dogs. These canines follow rules and observe a routine that’s very different from that of a usual house dog, and it’s important to be conscious of them so that there are no obstacles to the valuable service they’re rendering for their humans. Knowing the etiquette for interacting with working canines will also allow strangers to respect the privacy, dignity, and agency of the dogs’ owners or handlers.

To that end, below are some dos and don’ts for safely and unobtrusively interacting with working dogs:

Rule Number One: Speak to the Owner, Not the Dog

Working dogs tend to stand out among other dogs, regardless of their breed. A dog on duty may catch your eye because of its well-trained and attentive nature, not to mention how adorable it is. You may have the urge to go up to a working dog and coo at them or talk to them. But don’t be tempted to place all your attention on the dog and completely ignore its owner.

Bear in mind that when they’re working, these dogs are supposed to accomplish specific tasks. They may be in the middle of leading their visually impaired owner down the street or watching their owner for alarming symptoms of a specific mental condition. Even if it’s not immediately apparent what they’re doing, talking to them may obstruct them from doing their duty and even endanger their owner. 

In addition, paying attention only to a working dog is rude behavior. The dog’s owner may feel like you’re ignoring them on purpose and may not take too kindly to you.

As such, it’s best practice to speak with the dog’s owner first before speaking to the dog. The owner is also in the best position to tell you about how to engage with their dog, as well as explain other important facts about how their dog helps them navigate their disability or condition—provided, of course, that they are open to sharing.

Rule Number Two: Don’t Distract the Dog without Permission

As mentioned above, working dogs are trained for highly specialized purposes, and a dog may be on duty even if it currently looks relaxed. The dog’s priority is to maintain their focus and ensure that their owner is safe at all times.

Avoid distracting the dog, for example by petting them or asking them to do a trick for you, unless given explicit permission by the owner or handler. Some dog breeds take a while to regain their focus after play, and this could potentially be dangerous for the owner if any incident arises soon after that.

If something were to happen to the owner during the interim between play and work, a working dog would not be able to do its job correctly. Knowing that, never violate the rule of permission and always take the dog owner’s word as the final word.

Rule Number Three: Keep Your Own Dog at a Safe Distance

It’s natural for dogs to be curious about one another, but if you’re a dog owner yourself, try to keep your pooch a safe distance away from a working dog. This is especially important if your dog is playful or easy to approach another dog.

At worst, it’s possible for your dog and a service dog or other working dog to get into a scuffle, and this could be particularly dangerous to the owner. Knowing that you can’t always predict how two dogs will interact with one another, err on the side of safety and make sure that the working dog and their owner have their space. 

Rule Number Four: Don’t Praise a Working Dog or Give It Treats

Lastly, it may be tempting to praise a working dog or give it treats when you see it doing a good job. Positive reinforcement is an integral part of a working dog’s training with the people immediately close to them, and hearing it from someone other than their owner may send the dog confusing signals.

Treats like human food can also pose as the ultimate distraction—even for the most well-trained dog. It cannot be overemphasized that working dogs should not be distracted from their duty or put in a situation that runs counter to their routine.

Final Thoughts: Treat Working Dogs as Service Professionals

As the term implies suggests, working dogs are trained to perform a specific duty. Dogs may be naturally friendly and irresistible to whoever beholds them, but nothing should get in the way of the tedious and precise duties required of a working dog—which, if done well, can save lives and contribute to the wellbeing of whole communities.   

If you’re unsure of how to engage with a working dog, the best course of action would be to defer to its owner. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s better that you do and learn the right thing to do moving forward than to accidentally do something wrong.

Enjoy Coastal Views & Family Fun Aboard Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains — perfect for exploring Southern California while looking to get away with the family for a couple of days.

Enjoy quality time with family while traveling to amazing destinations such as San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and more. Stretch your legs, grab food and drinks from the onboard café, stop at the restroom, power your devices at your seat, connect to free Wi-Fi, or sit back and enjoy the views. Enjoy extra savings with a half off deal for kids ages 2-12 on the lowest available adult ticket fare every day, and kids younger than two ride free*! Plus, students up to age 25 can save 15%

*One infant under the age of two may ride free with each passenger paying an adult fare. Free infants ride on the lap of the adult. Additional infants per adult travel at the child fare.”

Credit: Amtrak Pacific Surfliner.

Aquarium of the Pacific announces its 25th Anniversary Celebration

Photo credit: Aquarium of the Pacific

The public is invited to the Aquarium to explore new programming, events, and special contests starting May 26 through December 31, 2023.

 Since opening its doors in 1998, the nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific has connected millions of people from around the world to the beauty and wonder of our ocean planet. The Aquarium celebrates its 25th anniversary with new programming, events, a photography exhibit, and a short film—all highlighting Southern California’s natural world.

Southern California is home to ocean treasures that rival those around the world. Through its 25th Anniversary Celebration, the Aquarium will highlight this special region in a variety of ways, including announcing new major exhibits opening July 1. Throughout each day of the anniversary celebration, visitors can take in a new short film projected in the Aquarium’s Great Hall next to a life-sized model of a blue whale. During this experience, you can see the Aquarium’s work in saving local species and habitats.

I was able to check out the construction site for the upcoming exhibit and I can’t wait! It is going to be amazing!

On the Aquarium’s second floor, you can explore photography celebrating people’s connections to nature in Southern California. This exhibit will showcase the work of the top ten winners of the Aquarium’s 25th Anniversary photo contest. Also, during the celebration, the first guest who finds an octopus figurine hidden in a different exhibit each day will win a limited-edition commemorative Aquarium pin. During the summer, the Aquarium’s First Wednesdays guest speaker series, which includes music and a cocktail/social hour, will focus on the theme of connecting to nature. In addition, the Aquarium will launch its new podcast series and will have new 25th anniversary merchandise in its gift store.

WHEN:           May 26, 2023, through December 31, 2023 – Aquarium’s 25th Anniversary Celebration

WHERE:         100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802 

COST:            Included with general admission / General admission: $44.95 per adult (ages 12+), $29.95 per child (ages 3-11), $41.95 per senior (ages 62+), and free for Aquarium members and children under age three / Advance reservations required.

INFO:  (562) 590-3100 or

Credit: Aquarium of the Pacific (except for my personal opinion).

Ray Charles, May 26th Pet of the Week

Ray Charles is as gifted in the cat world as his namesake was as a musician. Like the famed artist, our Ray Charles is completely blind, too—we don’t know if he was born blind or lost his sight later, as his human counterpart did. Whoever his human caregivers were decided to hit the road, Jack, and our Ray wound up at LBACS at 5 years old. But he gets around fine and welcomes affection! Any loving human willing to take Ray Charles home will be shouting, “Hallelujah I love him so!” And if he could sing, it would be meowtual! Shelter hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 7700 E. Spring St. at the entrance to El Dorado Park (no parking fee for shelter visitors). You can email to speed the process for adopting or fostering Ray Charles. Ask for ID#A698202).

(This rescue encouraged by the usual suspects.)