A Gift From Bob * A Holiday Story With A Touching Message And A Loveable Cat Named Bob

Christmas gifts come in all shapes and sizes. For James (Luke Treadaway), a struggling street musician, a very special one arrives in the form of Bob, a strong-willed stray cat who wanders into James’s tiny flat. Bob enriches James’s life, giving him companionship, purpose, and a large, new audience. When Animal Welfare officers threaten to take Bob, the local community rallies to help James and Bob — sparking a journey that takes the pair to places they never imagined in this heartwarming, spirit-lifting movie for the whole family.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S., comments, “A Gift From Bob is a holiday story with a touching message and a loveable cat named Bob. The film shows how a musician and a cat come together and form a bond that touches everyone around them. It’s based on a true story and is an uplifting reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.” See her full review below.

A Gift From Bob
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

A Gift From Bob is a holiday story with a touching message and a loveable cat named Bob. The film shows how a musician and a cat come together and form a bond that touches everyone around them. It’s based on a true story and is an uplifting reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.

This movie begins with the main character, James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) at a party. He has published a successful book about his cat Bob and is struggling with an idea for his next book. When he walks outside with his cat, he sees a young man being accosted and he intervenes. He learns the young man is homeless and decides to tell him about his past struggles. The majority of the film centers on this flashback.  Life has not been easy for James. He has experienced many misfortunes and he struggles to make ends meet as he tries to escape his past and care of Bob. Throughout the film, James meets a lot of people along the way, including Bea (Kristina Tonteri-Young) and Moody (Phaldut Sharma) who are willing to help him. He also meets people who are trying to take away the one thing he loves most. He must try to figure out his path in life and what is best for Bob.

My favorite scene is when James is dealing with a tough dilemma and suddenly, all the people of the city gather around him with gifts. This display of affection shows how much they all care for Bob and that they all agree James and Bob are perfect for each other. His friend Moody tells him some stories which are inspirational and interesting to hear; they also add to the message of the film. The setting is perfect for Christmas with the city decorated in lights and Christmas trees and, even Bob wears a holiday outfit. I also like how James’ apartment changes to reflect what is happening in his life. It is a big contrast from the beginning to the end. The music in the film is enjoyable. I particularly like how James turns a traditional Christmas song into one about his cat.

The message in this film is that treating others with kindness is a gift that gives back. The film captures the essence of Christmas by showing how gifts of kindness are more powerful than material gifts. The bond James creates with his cat and those in his community help give him the strength and encouragement he need. The only warning I have are the references to drugs that occur a few times in the film, plus some mild violence.

I give A Gift From Bob 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 17, plus adults. It opens in select theaters November 5 and On Demand, Digital and DVD November 9, 2021.  

Belfast * The Equivalent Of A Stormy, Rainy Day, Calm-Before-The-Storm Kind Of Feeling

Belfast is a 2021 black-and-white coming of age comedy-drama film written and directed by Kenneth Branagh. It is a movie straight from Branagh’s own experience. A nine-year-old boy must chart a path towards adulthood through a world that has suddenly turned upside down. His stable and loving community and everything he thought he understood about life is changed forever but joy, laughter, music and the formative magic of the movies remain. The film stars Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, and newcomer Jude Hill. The film, which Branagh has described as his “most personal film,” centers on a young boy’s childhood amidst the tumult of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the 1960s.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail L. comments, “Belfast is the equivalent of a stormy, rainy day, creating a perfect calm-before-the-storm kind of feeling. Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, this family story is a tasteful, bittersweet masterpiece.” Samantha B. adds, “Belfast shows how a talented child actor, the use of black and white film and a powerful emotional story can make an independent film pack a powerful punch. The heart of Belfast is the lead character, Buddy (Jude Hill). I like how we see the story through his eyes. The black and white photography and close-up camera angles also highlight the joy and terror of Buddy’s neighborhood in 1969 when religious tensions explode.” See their full reviews below.  

Belfast
By Abigail L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17



Belfast is the equivalent of a stormy, rainy day, creating a perfect calm-before-the-storm kind of feeling. Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, this family story is a tasteful, bittersweet masterpiece.

Set in a small neighborhood in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s, Buddy (Jude Hill), a young boy from a small-town family, experiences life in tumultuous times. As religious tensions between the tight-knit community members grow, his family dodges shady neighbors and argues the question of moving out of Belfast while Buddy tries to ace his time tables. Belonging to the struggling working class, Buddy’s father (Jamie Dornan) often travels for weeks at a time leaving him and his older brother (Lewis McAskie) to explore Belfast on their own. However, their father and mother (Caitriona Balfe) are always there to protect them when danger comes their way.

Four things really stand out to me watching this film. First, the use of black and white with some color is really outstanding. It creates a sense of nostalgia and the few choice moments with color helps those scenes stand out. Second, the sound is absolutely fantastic. In every scene, there is a sound effect that enhances it, it’s the sound of rain, fire, or a buzzing television. The quality of the sound effects is astounding, adding another layer of engagement when watching this film. Third, the acting is especially impressive. Young talent Jude Hilly, especially, is quite a star and steals the show. I also love the talent of Caitriona Balfe, who masters the strength and emotion of a mother. Lastly, every scene is very intimate; the camera is always up and close to the action and the family, making audiences feel closer to the main characters.
 

Kenneth Branagh’s film, based on a true story from his own childhood, touches audiences’ hearts with an intimate view of family and the struggles of the working class. Parents should be aware there is some profanity, mention of religion, aggression and minor violence.

I rate Belfast 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. This film opens in theaters November 12, 2021.

Belfast

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

Belfast shows how a talented child actor, the use of black and white film and a powerful emotional story can make an independent film pack a powerful punch. The heart of Belfast is the lead character, Buddy (Jude Hill). I like how we see the story through his eyes. The black and white photography and close-up camera angles also highlight the joy and terror of Buddy’s neighborhood in 1969 when religious tensions explode.

Belfast was inspired by director Kenneth Branagh’s childhood in Belfast, Ireland, in the late 1960s. We meet Buddy, his older brother, his parents, grandparents and the neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, kids play safely in the streets and residents may not have much money but are happy. This reality is quickly shattered when violence breaks out between Protestants and Catholics, pitting the once friendly neighbors against each other. Buddy’s parents have to make a difficult choice about whether to stay or go.    

In addition to a standout performance from Jude Hill as Buddy, I love the character of Ma (Caitriona Balfe). You feel the agony of her decision about whether to move the family out of Belfast. I also love the grandparents (Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds). Their love for each other is so genuine. I also enjoyed the music in the film, which is by Irish singer Van Morrison. The sound design for the violent scenes is very powerful and creates a lot of tension. In addition, the film shows how going to the movies was a way for Buddy and his family to escape the growing violence. Finally, the period details bring Belfast to life, especially the red bus from the late 60s that appears in so many scenes like when Buddy’s Pa comes and goes every two weeks from his job in England.

The main message of Belfast is that being a good person is more important than what religion you are. Also, it addresses the importance of family and community and how sometimes change is hard, but necessary. Be aware that the film contains some profanity, gambling, fighting and gang violence but also promotes positive behavior with great role models who stand up for what is right. I give Belfast 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. I left this movie smiling, and I think you will, too. Belfast opens in select theaters on November 12, 2021.

Samantha’s interview with Ciaran Hinds and Jude Hill from Belfast (see below).



How to choose a bed size for your kid?


Photo Credit: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=105779&picture=baby-bedroom

The seemingly easy task of purchasing a bed for a child frequently gives parents huge headaches. Which model should be chosen? How long will the crib be used? What is a convenient width, as well? The answers to these questions can be found in the following sections of the article. We’ll talk about regular and non-standard bed sizes, as well as whether it’s appropriate to upgrade to a larger mattress.

Dimensions of a bed.

A child’s sleeping space is the main area of the bed in which he or she sleeps. When it comes to sleeping space dimensions, it is the same as the mattress. The bed itself can be significantly larger. Particularly applicable to designer objects such as beds shaped like automobiles, boats or carriages, and so on. Due to the fact that such things take up more space, they should be coordinated with the room’s decor.

Suggestion (off-topic). We must remember that little, childishly painted beds, particularly those with a cartoon theme, are only enjoyable for a couple of years and then become tedious for the child. It is important to remember that children grow up. If a child is “lightened up” by Lightning McQueen at the age of 5 or 6, by the age of 8, his interests will be shifted completely, and the schoolboy, who is going to consider himself almost an adult, will find it difficult to sleep in the crib with wheels. Such beds should be chosen with care, with the understanding that the children’s room will be redecorated in a few years to reflect the changing wants and requirements. As a long-term strategy, this is not the best option available.

The size of the bed and the physical parameters of the child are important considerations.

When it comes to bed sizes for adults, the length should be at least 20-30 cm longer than the person’s own height. In this situation, the person can lie freely on the bed, with his or her feet on the footboard and without resting his or her head on the headboard. When it comes to children, the situation is a little different. Because children develop at a rapid rate, it is common for beds to be purchased with an additional size for “growth.”

This method of determining the ideal width of a bed is: a person lies down on his back, folds his palms in the lock, and places them on his stomach, stretching his elbows to the sides. Add 10 cm to the sides of each elbow and adjust the distance between the sides. This is the smallest individual width of the bunk bed that is convenient for a single person to sleep in comfortably.

For children under three years of age, the usual bed width is 60 cm; for children aged four to five years, the standard bed width is 70 cm; and for children aged five to eleven years, it is preferable to have a bed with a width of 80 cm. Many youngsters enjoy sleeping “spread out like a star” or rolling back and forth in their dreams, therefore, it is recommended that you get a bed that is slightly wider than the recommended size for the child’s age, assuming that the room’s size permits it.

Non-standard beds.

These are less prevalent on the market and tend to be more expensive because manufacturers attempt to sell them as soon as possible with pre-made mattresses. There may be a 5-15 cm difference in length and width compared to the standard size bed. It might occasionally make it easier to successfully integrate the bed into the room space.


Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/bed-kids-bed-baby-sleep-childhood-4689671/

Here are five suggestions to assist you in determining the appropriate size for a bed.

  • Concentrate your attention on the place in the room where the child’s sleeping bed will be stationed . If you have the available space, you should consider the traditional model with wheels as an option.
  • For those who are not willing to change their beds on a regular basis, choose a model that can be transformed into a larger bed.
  • If you want a custom-made bed, you should think about what kind of mattress you want well ahead of time. Seek the services of a company that will handle this for you.
  • Recall that children grow fastest from birth to the age of one and a half years, and then again at the age of eleven to thirteen years. Keep this in mind for future bed shopping.

Read the restrictions for the models you are interested in carefully, some are only suitable for children whose weight does not surpass specific thresholds.

Books for Native American Heritage Month

FRY BREAD by Kevin Noble Maillard; illustrated by Juana Martinez- Neal: Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal. This is a perfect book to celebrate this month and I recommend for ages 3-6.

Another great choice for the little ones is this picture book!

WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS by Carole Lindstrom; illustrated by Michaela Goade: Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, this bold and lyrical picture book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguarding the Earth’s water from harm and corruption. I really enjoyed reading this book and loved the beautiful illustrations!

Looking for a book for young adults? I highly recommend this one!

FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley: In Firekeeper’s Daughter, debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.

This next one is perfect for middle school-age kids!

THE BRAVE by James Bird: There are so few books about the contemporary Native experience. In school, kids usually learn about Sacagawea and Pocahontas, and other Native Americans from our past. James Bird wants to show readers that “Native stories are about today and tomorrow, not just the past.” which makes THE BRAVE necessary reading for back-to-school.

You can find all of these at https://us.macmillan.com/mackids/

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books. Cover images were also provided.

Dana Point Harbor Partners Light up the Holidays Beginning November 17

Image courtesy of Dana Point Harbor Partners.

Dana Point Harbor Partners (DPHP) is spreading holiday cheer by hosting the annual holiday light display, consisting of over 700,000 LED lights, set to illuminate the Harbor beginning November 17. Each night throughout the holiday season, the Harbor’s magnificent light display will illuminate the evening sky for guests of all ages to enjoy. DPHP is proud to provide the holiday lights for the community including giant whale sculptures, lighted palm trees, Christmas trees, a giant Adirondack chair, and the popular “Merry Kiss Me” arch. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy strolling carolers, holiday-themed photo ops, visits with Santa, waterfront restaurant offerings, boutique holiday shopping and more. 

The Harbor’s much anticipated annual Boat Parade of Lights will take place December 10-12 with a “Fiesta Holiday” theme. The parade will begin at 7:30 p.m. on December 10 and 11 and at 6:30 p.m. on December 12. Boaters will decorate their vessels to the theme of the parade, for a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes across several award categories, courtesy of Dana Point Harbor Partners. Award categories include Best Use of Theme, People’s Choice, Supervisor’s Cup, Mayor’s Cup and more. Boaters can sign up at The Marina at Dana Point office. 

Get in the holiday spirit and enjoy Holiday carolers as they stroll through the Harbor dressed in “Ugly Sweater” attire on Thursdays, December 9, 16 and 23 from 4 – 7 p.m. 

Santa’s coming to the Harbor on December 10 and 11 and taking residence in the Clock Courtyard from 3-5 p.m. Visitors will have the opportunity to take a photo with Santa in front of a holiday-themed photo op, which will remain up throughout the month of December for all to enjoy. 

Visitors are invited to participate in Dana Point Harbor’s “Holidays at the Harbor” social media contest on Instagram from November 17 – December 22. Take a photo in front of one of the many light installations throughout the Harbor, tag @danapoint_harbor on Instagram and use the hashtag #HolidaysattheHarbor. At the end of the campaign, one lucky winner will be chosen at random and awarded a special Dana Point Harbor package.

Additional Holiday Happenings:

DPHP in partnership with the Chabad Jewish Center of Dana Point will host a Menorah Lighting Ceremony on the Fishing Pier at Baby Beach at 4 p.m. on November 28th. Guests can enjoy hot latkes, music, coffee, dreidels, crafts for kids and more. The 12-foot Menorah will remain at the pier for the duration of Hanukkah until December 6. 

Pet Project Foundation will host the 10th Annual Santa Paws on December 4 & 5 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Clock Courtyard. Pet photos will be offered for a small donation with all proceeds supporting the Pet Project Foundation. 

Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching will also host the annual Boat Rides with Santa on Saturday, December 4th and 5th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Take photos with Santa and his holiday helpers on this adventure at sea for a $5 donation with proceeds supporting Soroptimist of Capistrano Bay. Reservations will be required. Visit danawharf.com for more information and to purchase tickets.

WHEN

  • Holiday light display will illuminate the Harbor November 17 – early January 
  • 46th Annual Boat Parade of Lights to take place December 10, 11 starting at 7:30 pm and December 12 at 6 p.m. 
  • “Holidays at the Harbor” social media contest will run from November 17 – December 22.
  • Visit the Harbor events calendar on the website for additional holiday happenings

WHERE

Dana Point Harbor, 34555 Golden Lantern St., Dana Point, CA 92629 

MORE INFORMATION

For more information on Holidays at the Harbor visit DanaPointHarbor.com/holidays-at-the-harbor.

Credit: Dana Point Harbor and Dana Point Harbor Partners.

Santa Monica Tree Lighting Kicks Off Holiday Season, Nov. 19th

Photo Credit: Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.

Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) brings the holidays to the Third Street Promenade with the return of Winterlit, transforming the downtown district into an immersive, festive experience. Tens of thousands of colorful lights, decor and garland will deck the Third Street Promenade, 2nd and 4th Streets, illuminating convenient shopping and cozy outdoor dining experiences. Santa comes to the Promenade on Friday, November 19 at 6 p.m. for the annual lighting of the official City of Santa Monica 24-foot-tall holiday tree. 

Nightly menorah lightings will celebrate the Festival of Lights during the Hanukkah season from Sunday, November 28 through Monday, December 6. The lighting of the menorah will begin at sundown and take place on the 1400 block of Third Street Promenade (located between Santa Monica Blvd and Broadway).

For a one-stop holiday shopping destination, the Conscious Night Market will be on the Promenade, Saturday, December 4 from 4 – 9 p.m. hosted by Fit Girl LA. The pop-up artisan market features unique goods from over 40 local vendors, elevated and sustainable brands in addition to live music and free kombucha. The SoCal Etsy Guild comes to downtown for two dates: Saturday, November 20 and Saturday, December 18 from 2 – 9 p.m., featuring local Southern California-based artists, crafters and designers. Shoppers can support local businesses while finding something for everyone on their gift list. 

Steps from the Promenade, Santa Monica Place will offer an array of festive activities for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season. Santa Claus will be in town and available for photos  November 19 through December 24. Visitors and shoppers can also catch special performances by the dancing sensation, Santa Monica Beach Belles, and the 14-foot larger-than-life Snow Globe. Bring your furry friend to a special pet night and “sit” for a photo with Santa on December 15 and 16. Visit SantaMonicaPlace.com for more information.

DTSM remains committed to ensuring the health and safety of the community, visitors, and staff. Face coverings are recommended when visiting the Third Street Promenade and all guests are encouraged to practice physical distancing. For more information and a full list of events, visit DowntownSM.com or follow @DTSantaMonica on Instagram and Twitter or DowntownSantaMonica on Facebook.

Credit: Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.

Olive, Nov. 18th Pet of the Week!

As our volunteer Dee put it, sweet old Olive thinks that being in a kennel is the pits. She’s wonky, with bad skin and sad eyes. She was moping around the shelter, and only recently did she crack this smile after a few outings with Long Beach Animal Care Services’ loving volunteers. Someone needs to be the martini to this Olive and let her relax on the sofa with them and really enjoy her golden years. November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, so make it meaningful for Olive. Our shelter’s adoptions are conducted through appointment only, so call 562-570-PETS or email PetAdopt@longbeach.gov to meet Olive. Ask for ID#A666042.

(This rescue encouraged by the usual suspects.)

The End of Blindness * Beautiful Moving Real-Life Story Drawing Attention To An Important Issue

There is a crisis in Ethiopia. With over four million cases of visual impairment it has one of the highest rates of blindness on the continent. But one man is fighting to change that. Here, over a million people live without sight. In fact, it has one of the highest rates of blindness in Africa. The End of Blindness tells the incredible true story of Dr. Samuel Bora, the only ophthalmologist for over 3 million people in rural Ethiopia who provides free cataract surgery to the blind poor. Dedicating his life to serving the poor in his country, Dr. Samuel performs up to 60 surgeries a day for those who would otherwise be forgotten. Step inside the operating room and witness the powerful impact a single surgeon can have on the lives of thousands of people- from children with cataracts to a blind mother who has never seen her son.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “The End of Blindness is a beautifully shot, moving real-life story drawing attention to an important current issue. It’s not just a great watch, but a necessary watch in 2021.” Avalon N. adds, “The End Of Blindness is an inspiring and heartfelt documentary. With so many great stories it is sure to inform you about something you didn’t know before and make you want to help.” See their full reviews below.

The End of Blindness

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

The End of Blindness is a beautifully shot, moving real-life story drawing attention to an important current issue. It’s not just a great watch, but a necessary watch in 2021.

Ethiopia is facing a crisis. With over four million cases of visual impairment it has one of the highest rates of blindness on the continent, but one man — Mr. Samuel Bora — is fighting to change that. Dr. Bora is the only ophthalmologist for over three million people in rural Ethiopia, providing free cataract surgery to the blind poor. Dr. Samuel performs up to 60 surgeries a day for those who would otherwise be forgotten. The End of Blindness takes you into the operating room and shows you the impact one can have on the lives of thousands of people, from children with cataracts due to trauma to a blind mother who has never seen her son.

Dr. Bora’s passion for helping the poor is evident, as he has been touched by poverty. The film features many emotional scenes where he shares more about his journey from working in his village to being sponsored for a formal education by two Finnish missionaries. The care with which Dr. Bora does his work and the compelling way he speaks about his job and his life make a narrator almost unnecessary. The narrator only interjects once or twice to help move the story along or summarize, which works well. My favorite scene in the film is when Dr. Bora visits a patient whose eyesight has been restored; seeing the ecstasy on her and her husband’s face really made my day, and I’m sure it made Dr. Bora’s day, too. The cinematography is beautiful and it’s evident that a professional team has taken on this effort. Panoramic shots of Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian countryside open the film and close-up shots of surgery provide a clear view of exactly how cataract surgery is performed (though many may be squeamish at the sight). Overall, it’s an immaculately created film.

The End of Blindness promotes community service, using your talents for good and showing compassion, just like Dr. Samuel Bora does. There are some graphic scenes of surgery that those who are afraid of needles or blood will find difficult to watch.

I give The End of Blindness 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. The End of Blindness releases on demand on November 16, 2021.

The End of Blindness

By Avalon N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

The End Of Blindness is an inspiring and heartfelt documentary. With so many great stories it is sure to inform you about something you didn’t know before and make you want to help.


This documentary is about Samuel Bora who is the only ophthalmologist for three million people in rural Ethiopia. It shares many stories about people who have eye problems or are blind and how Dr. Bora provides free or very cheap cataract surgery for the poor. We learn about Dr. Bora’s incredible life story during this documentary.


One of the most amazing parts is seeing people take off their eye patch after their surgery. When they can see, after being in the dark for so long, you share their joy. There are lots of cool camera angles such as the shot from the ground when a jeep passes by. There are also some shots of African villages that show us how different these cities are from what we are accustomed to in the USA. There are so many remarkable stories that range from a blind 67-year-old to a blind 9-year-old. There is no age limit to blindness. Though most of the people’s blindness is fixable, not all are, and it is sad when they are told nothing can be done. Something else I found out is that blind people sometimes have their children act as guides, which prevents the children from having a normal life. These surgeries not only give a blind person sight but their child gets a chance to be a kid again.

The message is that no matter what the situation, there is always something to be done, so go out and do it. I should warn you that there are scenes of cataract surgery which are very graphic and may be unpleasant to watch.

I give The End Of Blindness 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It comes out On Demand November 16, 2021.