Celebrate Black History Month with these Picture books for the younger children!

WATCH ME by Doyin Richards, illustrated by Joe Cepeda: A picture book about immigration, Watch Me is based on the author’s father’s own story of coming to America from Africa. This is a really interesting story to read and young children will enjoy it!

MY FRIEND! by Taye Diggs; illustrated by Shane W. Evans: With rhythm, kids will relate to, Taye’s text and Shane’s art offer a feast of emotions and joy, and aren’t didactic or message-heavy–the perfect book to celebrate Black joy!

FLYING HIGH: THE STORY OF GYMNASTICS CHAMPION SIMONE BILES by Michelle Meadows; illustrated by Ebony Glenn: From her early competitions to the height of her success as an Olympic champion, this is the story of the world’s greatest gymnast. For fans of She’s Got This by Laurie Hernandez and Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still. I really enjoyed reading this story and the main character is a true inspiration!

Find out where to purchase here.

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to feature in this post. Images were also provided.

Book of the week!

The Grumbletroll

The little troll is terribly angry. It’s like there’s a storm inside him, with lightning shooting out of the sky and thunder rumbling loudly. Yes, that’s exactly how he feels: like a rumbling and grumbling troll. A grumbletroll! Eventually, his friends get fed up with his yelling and go off to play without him. Will the little troll be able to make up for his bad behavior and win back the favor of his friends? Grumbletroll serves as a model to help children recognize and learn ways to stop fits of rage that we all struggle with when things don’t go our way. This is a great book for young children!

You can find out more here.

Self Disclosure: I received a free copy of the above book to facilitate this post. Images were also provided.

Minari * Earnest Portrayal of Immigrants -Intricate Storyline, Poignant Score and Outstanding Cinematography

A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Minari, a semi-autobiographical and earnest portrayal of an immigrant family, written and directed by Isaac Lee Chung, tugs at viewers’ heartstrings and is surely a 2021 must-watch. The incredible starring cast, intricate storyline, poignant background score and perfectly punctuated cinematography all combine to make this Korean and English feature a beautiful masterpiece.”  See his full review below.

Minari

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Minari, a semi-autobiographical and earnest portrayal of an immigrant family, written and directed by Isaac Lee Chung, tugs at viewers’ heartstrings and is surely a 2021 must-watch. The incredible starring cast, intricate storyline, poignant background score and perfectly punctuated cinematography all combine to make this Korean and English feature a beautiful masterpiece.

The name of the film, Minari, is another name for Korean watercress, which is key to the plotline. When the story begins the Yi family had immigrated to the U.S. from Korea years ago; Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Ye-Ri Han), parents to David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho), are chicken sexers by profession. The family moves from California to the Ozarks for new opportunities. Specifically, Arkansas, where they are greeted by their new yet run-down mobile home and by Paul, an eccentric evangelist. As they settle into their new home, problems in the family begin to set in. In the name of bringing back a bit of the family spirit, Monica invites her mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn), to come and stay with them. The foul-mouthed, cards-playing, yet adorable halmeoni (grandma in Korean) arrives and totally shakes things up, bonding with the grandkids over growing minari, playing cards, and watching wrestling. When tragedy strikes, though, the family is put through a resilience test like never before.

Lee Isaac Chung took inspiration from his own childhood growing up on his parents’ plot of land to create this film; it’s personal, and it shows. This film is a “the summer when everything changed” type of story . Steven Yeun is, as always, masterful in encapsulating the minimal emotions and laconic speech of his character. Veteran Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn is my other favorite in this film; her character’s feisty-yet-lovable grandma persona truly fits. She’s an unwavering icon of the South Korean film industry and her experience shows. Also, the cinematography team for Minari, as well as the editing team, have worked meticulously to create a seamless viewing experience that accentuates emotions, waits for just long enough to switch scenes, and adds the perfect level of drama to every scene. Minari as a whole makes it feel like you’re peeking into the Yi family’s life—it’s breathtaking.

The Sundance Award-winning film Minari is a priceless portrait of resilience within family, of sticking together even through the hardest times, and of enjoying the smallest things in life. Minari has some mild language and there are certain religious elements that parents should watch out for.

I give Minari 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. Minari releases in theaters on February 12, 2021, and On-Demand February 26, 2021.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things * Heart-Warming Teenage Love Story In A Time Loop

Two teens live the same day repeatedly, enabling them to create the titular map. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is an American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film directed by Ian Samuels, from a screenplay by Lev Grossman, based upon his short story of the same name. It stars Kathryn Newton, Kyle Allen, Jermaine Harris, Anna Mikami, Josh Hamilton, Cleo Fraser, and Jorja Fox. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S., comments, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a fun film with amazing stunts, a heart-warming teenage love story, a time loop and even a really cool 4-D cube drawing! The idea in this story of having infinite do-overs to create the perfect day is fascinating. Putting it all together, this film is a great combination of action, light romance, adventure, and comedy.” Mikella G. adds, “I really like The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, because it has an interesting story line that makes you think differently about life. It teaches viewers a very important life lesson, as well as making you feel something while you’re watching. It’s simple but complex, and overall just a really cute and enjoyable movie.” See their full reviews and interviews with talent below.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a fun film with amazing stunts, a heart-warming teenage love story, a time loop and even a really cool 4-D cube drawing! The idea in this story of having infinite do-overs to create the perfect day is fascinating. Putting it all together, this film is a great combination of action, light romance, adventure, and comedy.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things features Mark (Kyle Allen) who gets stuck in a time loop and is living the same day over and over again. Every night at midnight, he falls asleep and wakes up with the previous day starting over again. In the mist of the time loop, one day he meets a mysterious girl named Margaret (Kathryn Newton) who is stuck in the same time loop. They end up on an adventure all around the city finding the “tiny things” that make up that one perfect day, while trying to decide if and how to break the time loop.

I enjoyed watching Mark and Margaret’s friendship develop and all the wild things they do without suffering consequences since they are in the time loop, like drive a tractor down the street. My favorite part is when they completely trash a model home, knowing the time loop would put it back the way it was. Another part I love is when Mark shows his dad the tattoo he got. It’s funny because he shows it to his dad right before he goes back into the time loop so his dad won’t remember. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things has some really great stunts in it, too. One stunt I thought was cool was when Mark throws his water bottle at a closing door and makes it through!

The message of this film is that sometimes the most perfect things in life may be the smallest things. One great lesson Mark’s character shows is how to care about others. I loved seeing him remember all the ways he can help people in his town each day and spread kindness. A couple of things adults should look out for in this film include places with Margaret drinking and mild cursing.

I rate The Map of Tiny Perfect Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 years old. Adults will like it, too. Don’t forget to check out The Map of Tiny Perfect Things on Amazon Prime Video, February 12, 2021.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

By Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

I really like The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, because it has an interesting story line that makes you think differently about life. It teaches viewers a very important life lesson, as well as making you feel something while you’re watching. It’s simple but complex, and overall just a really cute and enjoyable movie. Plus, it’s a good length, not too long or short.

The storyline follows two characters, Mark (Kyle Allen) and Margaret (Kathryn Newton), who are basically trapped in time. The same day repeats over and over again, and they can’t ever die due to the fact that time has stopped. When Mark and Margaret finally meet each other, they go around the town looking for the “Tiny Perfect things,” hoping this will un-trap them from this time dimension. Throughout their time together, they discover new things about each other, and how special the little things in life really are.

I really enjoyed the film’s storylines of the two main characters. They have their own opinions on life. Also, the casting for this is terrific. Kyle Allen and Kathryn Newton are both believable as their characters and own their roles. Kathryn’s execution of Margaret is impeccable. She really makes the character stand out, and doesn’t hold back. We see all the different sides of the character. Margaret makes us look at things from a different perspective. Kyle also has great execution of Mark. You can really feel all of his frustration and anger. It’s almost as if we are there with him. They definitely locked me in while I was watching, and my thoughts never wandered. I also enjoyed the special effects, which are perfect for the film. Throughout the movie there are little things that they incorporate that really add to the dimension of the film. For instance, there are multiple scenes where they show us examples of tiny perfect things. This not only contributes to the lesson of the film, but also makes you realize the value of life, and how most of us are just going through the motions. It reminds us how special life really is.

The message of this film is to never take life for granted, and be grateful for the little things in life. You never know when you can encounter a drastic change, so always live life to the fullest while you can. Be aware that this film does have some profanity. However it’s pretty mild.

I give The Map of Tiny Perfect Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 21, as well as adults. You can watch The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Worldwide starting on February 12, 2021 on Amazon Prime.

Valentine’s Day Books for the Kids!

BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE by Nancy Tillman: Bestselling author Nancy Tillman celebrates the lifelong bond between parent and child in this testament to a parent’s protection and support of their child through all ages and stages.  This is a delightful story and a must-read for young children of all ages! It would make a great bedtime story book!

SEE TOUCH FEEL: LOVE by Roger Priddy: With touch and feel elements on every spread to help with sensory learning, SEE TOUCH FEEL: LOVE is the ideal Valentine’s Day purchase for young children. I found that it is not easy to find Valentine’s Day books for very young children but I completely recommend this one! It is perfect for ages 12 months and up!

I DREAM OF POPO by Livia Blackburn; illustrated by Julia Kuo: This delicate, emotionally rich picture book celebrates a special connection that crosses time zones and oceans as Popo and her granddaughter hold each other in their hearts forever. This is a really sweet story!

Find them all here and where to purchase. You can also find them on Amazon.com.

Self Disclosure: I received free copies to facilitate this post. Images were also provided.

A Glitch In The Matrix * Rare Documentary That Asks A Question It Knows It Can’t Answer

Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher tackles this question “are we living in a simulation?” with testimony, philosophical evidence and scientific explanation in his for the answer. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “A Glitch In The Matrix is a radical, uniquely-presented look at simulation theory in the digital age – specifically, how those who prescribe to the notion that we’re all living in a simulation came to those beliefs and how this belief affects their outlook. Dense, but accessible, directed by Rodney Ascher, it’s the rare documentary that asks a question it knows it can’t answer.” See the rest of his review below.

A Glitch In The Matrix

By Benjamin P., Kids First! Film Critic, Age 15

A Glitch In The Matrix is a radical, uniquely-presented look at simulation theory in the digital age – specifically, how those who prescribe to the notion that we’re all living in a simulation came to those beliefs and how this belief affects their outlook. Dense, but accessible, directed by Rodney Ascher, it’s the rare documentary that asks a question it knows it can’t answer.

In the late 1970s, famed author Phillip K. Dick, known for his sci-fi stories, gave a talk where he laid out his theory that we are living in a simulation. This becomes the entry point into the maw of simulation theory, its depth only outmatched by its complexity. A Glitch In The Matrix utilizes a famed and celebrated movie as its main frame of reference in exploring its theme — The Matrix, a film that put simulation theory into the mainstream. Ascher’s film investigates where stimulation theory stemmed from, how its tenets and principles have been echoed throughout history by everyone from Plato to Elon Musk to current times.

The conceit of A Glitch In The Matrix can’t so much be explored as marveled at, and the possibilities of a simulated reality tinkered with, and so that’s exactly what it does.  This film boldly depicts this proposed reality entirely through CG animation and clips from popular culture that have dealt with similar ideas. I respect that a film about simulations indulges so heavily in them.  For example, many people who speak in the film have their identities shielded by virtual avatars that filter their perspectives, enhancing the feel of a simulation. This method of using simulation techniques in a film about simulation gets very “meta,” but, in doing so, adheres to and honors the film’s topic and not in a show-offy or self-congratulatory way. 

I have respect for any movie that seeks to make you question the world you live in.  Socially and politically, A Glitch In The Matrix does that quite literally. If you’re looking for a documentary that finds the key to its main topic and deconstructs it bit by bit, this isn’t that, but if you’re willing to go on a bit of a journey through a school of thought via the lens of a capable filmmaker that challenges what you think about your own reality, sit down, give this a chance and enjoy it. A Glitch In The Matrix is left incomplete almost by design, but somehow that works to its charm.

I give A Glitch In The Matrix 3 out of 5 stars and an age rating of 14 to 18 for some simulated violence and the description of a violent crime. It just premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it will be available in theaters and at home on February 5, 2021.

The Snoopy Show * Classic Peanuts’ Fans Will Love This. New Adventures; True Characters

The world’s most iconic dog is ready for his close-up. Dive into new adventures with the happy-dancing, high-flying, big-dreaming beagle, who’s joined by best friend Woodstock and the rest of the “Peanuts” gang. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jude A. comments, “The new hit series, The Snoopy Show! The Snoopy Show has everything a classic Peanut’s fan will enjoy. The show looks incredibly like the original comic series, as if the animators took an old comic strip and put it on your home television! In addition, the writers made an outstanding effort to make every character stay true to their original passions and personalities.” See his full review below.

The Snoopy Show

By Jude A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Time to break out the classic Peanuts dance moves because today we are celebrating the new hit series, The Snoopy Show! The Snoopy Show has everything a classic Peanut’s fan will enjoy. The show looks incredibly like the original comic series, as if the animators took an old comic strip and put it on your home television! In addition, the writers made an outstanding effort to make every character stay true to their original passions and personalities. Instead of making the characters go on the same repetitive adventures (like a lot of cartoons do), The Snoopy Show brings brand new adventures sure to make you want more and more.

The Snoopy Show follows everyone’s favorite beagle, Snoopy (Terry McGurrin), with each episode including different stories surrounding him. Episode stories range from Snoopy writing his own autobiography to exploring the origin story between Snoopy and Woodstock.  Just when you think there can’t possibly be another amazing adventure, The Snoopy Show  consistently delivers new and original stories that all ages can enjoy.

The primary component of this creative revival that made me smile is the animation and art. The art director, Joseph Holt, surpassed any expectations of the show living up to its classic art style by making it authentic and original. The Snoopy Show is also extremely well voice cast because of how each character’s voice sounds like its predecessor. Out of all the Peanuts film content over the years, like The Peanuts Movie, The Snoopy Show really impresses me because of how writers can continue to find new angles to explore the characters and always put them in new entertaining scenarios.

The Snoopy Show is the perfect new show for kids. It has a lot of comedic content in an appropriate way, fun adventures, and lessons/morals for viewers to learn every episode. The show explores themes such as family, friendship, and gratefulness. One of the key morals taught in the show is to always be grateful for the people around you, and to never take people for granted; it also communicates the message that sometimes you just need someone you love to make you smile.

The Snoopy Show soars higher than Charlie Brown’s kite with a miraculous, nostalgic art style and new adventures all ages can enjoy. Similar to how Peppermint Patty scores five out of five goals in hockey, I am giving The Snoopy Show 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 4 to 18 plus adults, because who doesn’t love Peanuts? The Snoopy Show premieres Feb 5, 2021 on Apple TV+, so make sure to check it out!

Apollo 11: Quarantine * Unique Film Sure To Allure Space Fans, History Buffs And More

Apollo 11 astronauts spend three weeks in medical quarantine after safely returning to Earth in the summer of 1969. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Apollo 11: Quarantine is a uniquely relatable found-footage style film that is sure to allure space fans, history buffs and everyone else, too! The creators of this film have pieced together parts of old footage from newsfeeds and other sources to tell a grand story of astronauts in quarantine.” See his full review below.

Apollo 11: Quarantine

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Apollo 11: Quarantine is a uniquely relatable found-footage style film that is sure to allure space fans, history buffs and everyone else, too! The creators of this film have pieced together parts of old footage from newsfeeds and other sources to tell a grand story of astronauts in quarantine.

Now, more about that story! The film follows the crew of the Apollo 11 spaceflight that first landed humans on the moon (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) in their 21-day quarantine in the summer of 1969. Scientists weren’t sure if they had made contact (and maybe even brought back) dangerous lunar microorganisms like bacteria, so the astronauts had to be contained and swabbed and scrubbed down regularly. But the Apollo 11 crew weren’t as isolated as you’d think: they kept contact with the outside world through a pane of thick glass. This film shows the activities that went on during those 21 days and how much patience and emotional strength the astronauts had to show; it took a lot of resilience for the roving moon-explorers, but they pulled through!

To the fun stuff, now! Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins are the lead “characters” in the film. Todd Douglas Miller brilliantly edited together all of the individual incredible clips. Besides the editing, the music and small intercut scenes of footage shot in the 21st century both help create the ambiance for the film. I also have to say that the audio work is quite interesting; I didn’t think that audio from the late ‘60s was surround sound or stereo. I watch the film with headphones on and was surprised that the audio in parts of the film (like when the crew uses walkie-talkies) goes from one ear to the other. Quite modern for the mid-to-late 20th century!

Apollo 11: Quarantine promotes the message of resilience and sticking through anything that comes your way. The film shows exactly how difficult it was for the crew of Apollo 11 to be quarantined for 21 days, interacting with the outside world through a glass pane or capsule. But they pulled through, and President Gerald Ford congratulated them with a proud speech on Day 21 of their quarantine, the last day.

I give Apollo 11: Quarantine 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18. Adults will enjoy this film as well. Apollo 11: Quarantine will be released exclusively in IMAX™ on January 29, 2021, and on Premium On Demand on February 5, 2021.