Archives for January 5, 2024

Books of the Month! January 2024!

From superstar author Derrick Barnes, here is a middle-grade celebration of the people and stories that helped shape the game of basketball, from unsung pioneers to unforgettable moments of the game.

Capturing all the joy and energy that mark the sport of basketball, bestselling and award-winning superstar author Derrick Barnes shines a light on the amazing ballers, buzzer-beaters, and record-breakers who haven’t always gotten the attention they deserve. Who Got Game? Basketball, the second book in his sports series, following Who Got Game? Baseball, weaves together great storytelling, lively illustrations, and a far-ranging selection of facts, stats, sidebars, and quotes.
Middle-grade readers will discover the highest-scoring game in NCAA history. The influential center, George Mikan, who created the modern big man role, and 5’3″ Muggsy Bogues, the shortest player ever to star in the pros. The pioneering Senda Berenson Abbott, creator of the women’s game. The legendary Rucker Park b-ball court in Harlem, New York. Plus the first African American players and coaches, greatest comeback victories and earth-shattering slam dunks, longest winning streaks, and so much more. This book will hit you like a three-pointer from half-court!

About the Author

Derrick Barnes is the winner of the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for outstanding new writer, and his picture book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut took home four honors at the 2018 American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards: the Coretta Scott King Author Honor and Illustrator Honor, the Newbery Honor, and the Caldecott Honor. Derrick is also the author of the New York Times bestselling picture book The King of Kindergarten, and the bestselling chapter book series Ruby and the Booker Boys. Derrick lives in Charlotte, NC, with his wife, Dr. Tinka Barnes, and their four sons, all of whom play sportsThis may contain confidential material. If you are not an intended recipient, please notify the sender, delete immediately, and understand that no disclosure or reliance on the information herein is permitted. Hachette Book Group may monitor email to and from our network. Find it here.

New Keeper of the Lost Cities: The Graphic Novel Part 1 by Shannon Messenger.

The first book in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series is being reimagined as a graphic novel with the first half of the epic novel adapted to this new format with beautiful artwork!

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks…

But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known.

This stunning graphic novel retelling of the first half of the thrilling first novel comes to life with all the adventure and epic worldbuilding the Keeper of the Lost Cities series is known for.
Author Bio
Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she learned—among other things—that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She’s studied art, screenwriting, and film production, but she realized her real passion was writing stories for children. She’s the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the award-winning middle grade series, Keeper of the Lost Cities, as well as the Sky Fall series for young adults. Her books have been featured on multiple state reading lists, published in numerous countries, and translated into many different languages. She lives in Southern California with her family—and an embarrassing number of cats. Find her online at

FIGHTING WITH LOVE– New Nonfiction Pic Book About Civil Rights Leader John Lewis by Lesa Cline-Ransome & James E. Ransome (on-sale: 1/9)

This beautiful book follows the life of groundbreaking civil rights leader John Lewis, from his start on a cotton farm in Alabama, all the way through his contributions that helped change the nation. It showcases John walking alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his time as the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th district, and his beliefs in peaceful actions and voting rights. Despite many obstacles, John Lewis lived the life of a true trailblazer and readers will be inspired by his story. John Lewis received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, and sadly passed away in July 2020. This is one of the first books for children about his life and his story.

Author Bio
Lesa Cline-Ransome is the author of numerous nonfiction and historical fiction titles for picture book, chapter book, middle grade, and young adult readers including Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams and The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne. Her verse biography of Harriet Tubman, Before She Was Harriet was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and received a Jane Addams Children’s Book Honor, Christopher Award, and Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustration. Her debut middle grade novel, Finding Langston, won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and received the Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor. She lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York with her husband and frequent collaborator, James Ransome, and their family. Visit her at

James E. Ransome’s highly acclaimed illustrations for Before She Was Harriet received the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. His other award-winning titles include the Coretta Scott King winner The Creation; Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed’s BarbershopSweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; and Let My People Go, winner of the NAACP Image Award. James is also a recipient of the ALA Children’s Literature Legacy Award. He frequently collaborates with his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome, and their books include Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams and Fighting with Love: The Legacy of John Lewis. James is a professor and coordinator of the MFA Illustration Graduate Program at Syracuse University. He lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley region with his family. Visit James at

A bear who does not want to party?

In this delightful new picture book from author/illustrator Jennifer Gray Olson, this party pooper does NOT want to party, despite the best efforts of his fellow party goers. When pooper takes things a bit too far, he learns to own up to his mistakes and ask for forgiveness.

Party Pooper  tackles complex social emotional learning themes with expertise, grace, and laugh-out-loud humor. It’s a thoughtful, yet entertaining examination that has equal empathy for the party goers and, of course, the party pooper.

Tween Rom-Com COURTESY OF CUPID from debut author Nashae Jones is a hit!

In COURTESY OF CUPID, after Erin Johnson’s thirteenth birthday, she discovers her mysterious father is actually the love god Cupid and uses her newfound powers to sabotage her rival for the Multicultural Club presidency.

Middle schoolers are craving romance similar to classics from Meg Cabot and The Baby-Sitters Club, and this cute, fun middle-grade novel offers the ever-popular enemies-to-lovers trope and delivers on the butterflies and flirtation while remaining perfectly relevant to tween readers.

I enjoyed this one and think that tween readers will enjoy it!

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books for consideration to be featured. Cover images were also provided.

 Burke Williams Day Spa Offers Memberships to Prioritize Wellness in the New Year

Photo courtesy of Burke Williams. 

Burke Williams, California’s leading luxury day spa, is the ultimate destination to prioritize health and wellness in the New Year with membership options for every lifestyle. To start the New Year right, guests may also apply a pre-existing gift card balance toward a new membership, immediately receiving member pricing upon enrollment. 

Regular spa visits offer tangible benefits to health and well-being, including important rest and healing of the body, mind and spirit. Burke Williams’ flexible membership levels make it easy to enjoy relaxation and results every month. Deluxe members receive even more perks, including more enhancements, treatment time and the ability to share member pricing with friends twice a year. 

Burke Williams Membership Levels

Essential Membership — $115/month

  • One 50-min Pure Relaxation Massage or Spa Style Facial every month
  • Unlimited services at member pricing
  • 20% off all H2V products, Burke Williams’ proprietary skincare line

Deluxe Membership — $165/month

  • One 80-min Pure Relaxation Massage or Spa Style Facial every month
  • Monthly enhancement or exclusive offer with any 50 or 80-min service
  • Unlimited services at member pricing
  • Semi-annual bring a friend offer: share member pricing OR use benefits toward H2V skincare
  • 20% off all H2V products, Burke Williams’ proprietary skincare line

Membership pricing may vary at the San Francisco and San Jose locations. For more information on all of Burke Williams’ membership benefits, please visit 

Credit: Burke Williams.


Burke Williams created the original urban day spa in 1984, elevating the spa experience to a new art form. Drawing inspiration from world-class European day spas, the destination worked to combine the finest traditions with nourishing innovations to transport guests from the stress of everyday life. Today, with 11 locations across California, Burke Williams is a luxurious sanctuary, a place for wellness and beauty, inspiration and optimism. For more information, please visit 

Sun, Jan 14: ’17th Annual SoCal Slack Key Festival’ Biggest Hawaiian Music Event of the Year! & Free Hawaiian Marketplace

Kala Koa Entertainment celebrates 17 years of bringing the biggest and brightest names in Hawaiian music to the mainland with the 2024 Southern California Slack Key Festival returning to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Sunday, January 14, 2024.

One of the most acclaimed Hawaiian concerts to ever leave the islands, the Southern California Slack Key Festival takes fans on a Hawaiian musical journey showcasing GRAMMY-winning slack key guitarists, award-winning Hula Hālau, special guest performers and a free to the public Island Marketplace.

Since 2008, the Southern California Slack Key Festival has been the biggest Hawaiian music concert event in the mainland U.S. and features the most respected names in Hawaiian guitar music and hula today. Taking its name from a finger-picking style of guitar playing indigenous to Hawaii (as heard on the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for “The Descendants”), the Slack Key Festival brings the art of ki ho’alu guitar to Redondo Beach.

This year’s Southern California Slack Key Festival’s line-up includes Kula’iwiHi’ikuaJerry SantosJeff PetersonJim “Kimo” WestSean ParksNamaka CosmaLeokane Pryor, and Ken Emerson.

Kulāiwi – Individually, these three artists have a number of Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards among them. Lehua Kalima Alvarez is one-third of Hawai‘i’s beloved Nā Leo PilimehanaShawn Kekoa Pimental is a Grammy nominated producer, and he and Kawika Kahiapo have performed with countless island and national favorites. Kulāiwi received the honors of the 2022 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Album of the Year Award, Hawaiian Album of the Year Award, Group of the Year Award, and Hawaiian Engineering Award of the Year for the debut of their self-titled album Kulāiwi-Native Lands. Together, the synergy they create is both heard and felt by their audiences. Kulāiwi means “land of my ancestors.” With soaring vocals, island harmonies and a folk vibe, along with an easy-going charisma and witty banter, they are committed to telling the stories of Hawai’i – the land and the people – from their Indigenous points-of-view. Their prodigious talents as lyricists and composers create music imbued with Hawaiian values and ways of seeing and living in the world. Both their original songs and their selections of Hawaiian classics are inspired by diverse musical styles and reflect their passionate commitment to their islands.

Hi’ikua – In a culture that honors the legacies of the past, this Hawaiian trio of talented musicians pays homage to their roots while creating a unique and progressive sound that leaves their mark in contemporary Hawaiian music. The group’s name derives from the Hawaiian word that means literally “to carry on one’s back.” Hi‘ikua accepts this responsibility and intends with each song to achieve that goal: to speak of their history in words and music; to enjoy each moment of that expression, and in sharing this with you, to hope that their message will find its way into the future. This Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winning group is comprised of Kalehua KrugBlake Leoiki-Haili and Kamuela Kimokeo who is a Hawaiian music educator in a big way on Oahu. He is on the faculty at Windward Community College and has been instrumental in establishing their programming and curriculum, as well as bringing in the best Hawaiian music artists to become involved.

Jerry Santos – Best known for his work in the musical group Olomana, and a huge part of the 1970’s revival/ renaissance of Hawaiian music, singer/songwriter Jerry Santos has been a familiar presence on the Hawaii music scene for almost five decades. His work has been recognized by the Hawai’i musical community with numerous awards. Amongst them are awards for male vocalist, for composition, and for both traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music. Honolulu Magazine named Olomana’s first recording, “Like a Seabird in the Wind”, #11 on their list of the Top 50 Albums of all time and Jerry’s signature song “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u” was voted #7 on the top 50 Songs of all time. Olomana was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts for their body of work over the years. Jerry is perhaps most honored by his Moe Keale; Aloha is Award, an award that acknowledges a performer’s contributions to his community.

Jeff Peterson – Born on the Island of Maui and grew up on the slopes of Haleakala where he was introduced to the rich heritage of Hawaiian music by his father, a “paniolo” (Hawaiian cowboy), on the Haleakala Ranch. Recognized as one of Hawaii’s most versatile musicians, Peterson is at the heart of the Hawaiian music scene today, having contributed to two Grammy Award-winning recordings and winner of eight Na Hōkū Hanohano Awards in Hawaii including Slack Key Album of the Year for “Maui on My Mind” in 2010, “Slack Key Travels” in 2014 and “O’ahu” in 2016 which also earned him Instrumental Song of the Year for the song “Old Pali”. His latest release “Wahi Pana” is a full-length performance and documentary film and CD soundtrack.

Jim “Kimo” West – Regarded as one of the world’s foremost “ki ho’alu” or Hawaiian “slack key” guitar artists and his music has garnered over seventy-five million spins on streaming services, Kimo just wrapped up a tour of Europe playing his brand of slack key guitar music. He is a 2021 Grammy Winner for his recent CD, More Guitar Stories and a 2019 Grammy nominee for Moku Maluhia-Peaceful Island. He is also a 2008 winner of the Hawaii Music Awards and four-time Na Hoku Hanohano (the Hawaiian ‘Grammy’) nominee. He is a two-time winner of the LA Treasures Award for his efforts in keeping this important acoustic guitar tradition alive. His numerous CDʻs feature many original compositions as well as inventive arrangements of the genreʻs classic repertoire. His seventh CD, Guitar Stories goes beyond slack key, exploring genres like West African guitar, Middle Eastern Music and Americana. Slackers In Paradise features duets with slack and steel guitar legend, Ken Emerson, and his latest CD, Moku Maluhia-Peaceful Island is a mix of “nahenahe” or very relaxing compositions. For his work as long-time guitarist with “Weird Al”, he has earned four Grammy awards and a Billboard #1 CD debut for 2015’s Mandatory Fun. Kimo’s slack key compositions have been used in a number of features, TV spots, cable, web and in many documentaries.

Sean Parks – A talented young slack key guitarist and vocalist hailing from the island of Hawaiʻi. His ohana comes from the area of Kaimū in the district of Kalapana. Kalapana is famous for its unique style of Hawaiian music and kī hōʻalu (slack key) reminiscent of the old days of Hawaiʻi.

Namaka Cosma – A Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated rising Hawaiian music star and the daughter of Hana, Maui legend and Hawaiian slack key guitarist Pekelo Cosma. Namaka is a graduate of the Institute of Hawaiian Music program at the University of Hawaii Maui College, one of only a handful of women in the state pursuing the art of slack key guitar. While studying at the Institute of Hawaiian Music, Namaka Cosma recorded two songs with Geri Hewahewa, the daughter of Gilbert Emata, which were released as a single. “Ho’oheno A’o Pi’ilani” is nominated for a 2022 Hoku for Hawaiian Single of the Year.

Leokane Pryor – Born and raised in the mystical Mānoa valley on O’ahu, the singer-songwriter spent his youth gaining a love for the culture and music of the land of his birth. He made his debut in the Hawaiian music world in 1999 with his first CD, Maunahele, receiving wide radio play in Hawai’i, the mainland, and abroad and gaining great popularity delighting audiences with his angelic falsetto vocals. His original songs, telling of his home in heavenly Hana and his life-long love for Hawai’i, have been featured in television and film.

Kenton Robert Lopaka Emerson – A San Francisco Bay area born, and Hawaiian island bred guitarist who covers many musical genres. He has played his special blend of Blues/Jazz Hawaiian guitar for 40 years and running. His original compositions and performances on ‘Slack Key Guitar Vol 2’ (Palm Records) helped bring in the first ever 2005 GRAMMY award for Hawaiian music. ‘KE’ most recently played on Donald Fagen’s 2007 GRAMMY winning “Morph the Cat” album.

What is Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Music?
Played from the heart and soul through the fingers and flowing with vivid tropical images, Hawaiian ki ho’alu (slack key) is truly one of the great acoustic guitar traditions of the world. In slack key, some of the strings are “slacked” from the standard guitar tuning, with the thumb playing the bass notes while the other fingers play the melody and improvise in a finger-picked style. A brief history of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar can be found here:

How does the distinctive sound of slack key music fit into the fabric of Hawaiian music and culture? Watch this video and learn more about this beautiful generations-old art form –

In addition to the concert, an Island Marketplace – free and open to the public – takes place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. outside of the venue. Browse a variety of island themed gifts, home décor, accessories, apparel, Hawaiian food, authentic island-style shave ice and outdoor entertainment.

– Sunday, January 14, 2024; Concert 2:00 p.m.
– Free Island Marketplace 11:00 a.m.–
4:00 p.m.

Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center
1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd (at Aviation Blvd.), Redondo Beach, CA  90278
Free Parking


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Credit: Kala Koa Entertainment.

The Color Purple – A Musical Remake Of The 1985 Film With A Tear-Jerking Story, Engaging Musical Numbers And Brilliant Acting

Torn apart from her sister and her children, Celie faces many hardships in life, including an abusive husband. With support from a sultry singer named Shug Avery, as well as her stand-her-ground stepdaughter, Celie ultimately finds extraordinary strength in the unbreakable bonds of a new kind of sisterhood.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “I love this reimagined, musical version of The Color Purple! It has a really good balance of joyful and sorrowful scenes, which made me care deeply about the characters. Its cast is brilliant, as all of them fit their roles perfectly and have absolutely outstanding and powerful voices.” Sydney S. adds, “I absolutely love the film, The Color Purple! This musical remake of the 1985 film is a tear-jerking story with engaging musical numbers and brilliant acting. The film holds so much power and I like that it promotes hope.” See their full reviews below.

The Color Purple (2023)
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I love this reimagined, musical version of The Color Purple! It has a really good balance of joyful and sorrowful scenes, which made me care deeply about the characters. Its cast is brilliant, as all of them fit their roles perfectly and have absolutely outstanding and powerful voices.

This movie is a musical adaptation of the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker and also the movie The Color Purple from 1985. It follows two teenage sisters named Celie (Phylicia Pearl Mpasi/Fantasia Barrino) and Nettie (Halle Bailey/Ciara) in the American South in the early 1900s. Celie and Nettie are best friends, but then they get separated once Celie gets married to a man named Mister (Colman Domingo). The movie then tells the story of the struggles that Celie faces and her attempts to find her sister.

If you’ve seen the original movie and or read the book, you will notice the storyline is the same. However, how the story is portrayed is very different. It’s full of singing and dancing as in a Broadway musical. I like this rendition of The Color Purple the best out of the three because thesinging and dancing are so engaging – I really connected with the characters and their emotions. My favorite character is definitely Sophie, played by Danielle Brooks, because she is very funny and powerful, has a rich voice, and I loved every scene she was in.  The actors with the strongest performances are Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Colman Domingo. Celie, is such a dynamic character as we see her grow and change so much while she overcomes all of her traumas. Also, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi is definitely the right choice to play young Celie since she and Fantasia look very similar. Also I absolutely despise Mister because of Colman Domingo’s incredibly convincing performance!  The Color Purple also stars Taraji P. Henson, Corey Hawkins, Deon Cole, and H.E.R. Be sure to look for a couple cameos by people who were in the original movie adaptation.

The messages ofthis movie include the power of perseverance, the importance of forgiveness and of having the fortitude to overcome oppression and abuse. It also emphasizes the importance of family. Be aware that there is profanity, alcohol consumption, and rape.

I give The Color Purple 5 out of 5 stars, and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters December 25, 2023.

The Color Purple
By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

I absolutely love the film, The Color Purple! This musical remake of the 1985 film is a tear-jerking story with engaging musical numbers and brilliant acting. The film holds so much power and I like that it promotes hope.

The storyline follows Celie who struggles to find freedom in her life. After her children are taken from her, she is sent away to live with a husband who doesn’t allow Celie to contact her sister.

The main characters in the film are Celie (Fantasia Barrino), Young Celie (Phylicia Pearl), Young Nettie (Halle Bailey), Nettie (Ciara), Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), Sofia (Danielle Brooks), Harpo (Corey Hawkins), Mister (Colman Domingo), and Squeak (H.E.R.). The actors are incredible. They bring so much emotion that enhances the storyline and brings the movie to life. You can tell how they’re feeling by the look in their eyes! I love the amount of laughter in this movie. Sofia’s remedy to her depression is laughter. Celie never fails to laugh and smile when she’s happy. The relationship between Celie and her sister Nettie is so heartwarming, but seeing them get separated is crushing. I found my emotions flailing all over the place. There’s tension between some of the characters, too, which adds suspense. The costumes are relative to the time and setting. They get interesting when Shug Avery comes to town, though. The lighting dims when there’s tension or something awful happens, which is a great touch. The direction of this film is incredible because it focuses on important details, such as body language or angles. Steven Spielberg did a wonderful job once again. I really like the musical theater side incorporated in the film. The music touches hearts and helps the characters express their feelings. The songs are catchy, too. The dances are so well-choreographed and detailed. There’s a perfect balance of musical theater. It’s also beautiful to see the characters brought together by music. My favorite part of the film is the character Celie and her breakthrough with finding herself. No matter how difficult her life gets, she pushes through and finds joy in the little things. She’s grateful for what she has and deals with abuse at the same time. At the end, her message about herself and her life is beautiful.

The message of this film is that life can be difficult, but life is beautiful when you learn to persevere and stay positive. It also encourages you to stand up for yourself. Themes of family and friendship are also included. You should be aware there are some sensitive scenes that contain abuse, foul language and sexual content.

I give The Color Purple 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Color Purple comes out in theaters December 25, 2023.