Holiday Book Gift Guide 2018

Books make great gifts! Here are some of my top choices!

These first ones are for adults:

Do you know someone who loves to cook? If so this one will be a hit!

INSTANT INDIAN: Classic foods from every region of India made easy in the Instant Pot!
By Rinku Bhattacharya

Hippocrene Books/October 2018
Paperback/$19.95

Whether you crave idli and sambhar from South India, Khaman Dhokla from Gujarat, Punjabi Butter Chicken, Goan Fish Curry or Bengali Red Lentils, or simply want to discover a new favorite, Instant Indian has something for everyone. Some of the delicious recipes in the book include:

–    Carrot and Beetroot Rasam – Spicy Carrot Beet Soup
–    Sevai Upma – Stir-Fried Indian Vermicelli with Vegetables
–    Kofta Pulao – Golden Rice Pilaf with Chicken Meatballs
–    Hakka Noodles – Indo-Chinese Mixed Noodles
–    Baigan Bhartha – Mashed Eggplant with Red Onions and Chilies
–    Bhindi Masala Subji – Stir-Fried Okra with Onions and Tomatoes
–    Patra Ni Macchi – Steamed Fish with Coconut and Herb Chutney
–    CheMeen Kari – Kerala Shrimp Curry
–    Adrak Saufwale Murgi – Chicken Curry with Ginger, Fennel and Thyme
–    Anda Rassa – Kolapuri Egg Curry
–    Rogan Josh – Kashmiri Fragrant Lamb Curry
–    Pork Vindaloo – Pork Ribs in Spicy Garlic Chili Sauce
–    Amritsari Phirni – Rice and Almond Pudding with Cardamom
–    Lagan Nu Custard – Indian Baked Custard
–    Kesar Bhapa Sandesh – Steamed Saffron Cheesecake

I like that the recipes are not complicated!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rinku Bhattacharya is a Gourmand Award-winning cookbook author, blogger and cooking instructor.  She is the author of Bengali Five Spices Chronicles and Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors. Rinku was born in Kolkata, India and has a natural passion and love for regional Indian cuisine and uses it to share and connect with her cultural heritage. She has traveled extensively and specializes in adapting Indian cuisine in global environments and kitchens. Her deep commitment to using seasonal ingredients for Indian cooking is reflected in her recipes.  Rinku teaches very popular Indian cooking classes in the Hudson Valley area of New York and has been featured in newspapers, magazines and on radio.  She and her family reside in the Hudson Valley area of New York.  Visit her at www.SpiceChronicles.com.

This next one is for those who would like to learn more about Bible Journaling!

Whether you’re new to Bible journaling or looking for fresh ideas, this book will lead
you on a rewarding spiritual journey. Success is not measured in the complexity or
polish of the art, but in a deeper, more personal connection with God.

Your relationship with God is unique. Shouldn’t your Bible reflect and celebrate that
bond?  In this introduction to Bible journaling, you’ll discover meaningful ways to combine art, heart and scripture—from backgrounds to hand-lettered verses to beautiful full-page drawings. BIBLE JOURNALING MADE SIMPLE: An Art-Filled Journey for Creative Worship (North Light Books; October 2018; Paperback; $19.00) by Sandy Allnock states that no expensive supplies or artistic skills are required…only a desire to honor and enhance your spiritual life.

To guide your creative worship experience, this book provides:
• Prompts to engage you with the text, then visually interpret Scripture in words and pictures
• Basic techniques for working with colored pencils, watercolor pencils and watercolor paints
• 21 step-by-step tutorials for drawing trees, flowers, skies, mountains, maps, water, light and other
popular themes
• Tons of inspirational page samples and suggested verses to illustrate
Downloadable icons and technique videos available on the author’s website

In addition to the book a companion workbook BIBLE JOURNALING MADE SIMPLE: Creative Workbook (NorthLight Books; Paperback; October 2018; $19.00) is also available.

If you like Bath Bombs and are the creative type this next book is a must-buy! 

I absolutely love this book and it is simple to learn how to make Bath Bombs and Body Scrubs!

This book will teach you how to create all kinds of delightful, natural, homemade treats like:

▪            “Candy Crush” Bath Bomb

▪            “Meet Me in Tahiti” Bath Bomb

▪            “Green Goodness” Face Mask

▪            “Pump It Up” Volumizing Hair Mask

▪            “Get Jiggly with It” Bath Jellies

My personal favorite is the “Meet Me in Tahiti” Bath Bomb!

More about the Authors:

Growing up in Minneapolis, Isabel and Caroline Bercaw always loved using fizzing bath bombs. So much so that they decided to make some of their own. During the summer of 2011, their parents Ben and Kim picked up $25 worth of ingredients to make homemade bath bombs as a science experiment. They decided to create their own line of bath bombs that contain a fun surprise in the middle. After successfully launching the da Bomb Bath Fizzers at an art fair, they met demand by making each bomb by hand out of their basement. Flash forward to 2018 and Isabel, 16, and Caroline, 15, now run a multimillion dollar business selling over 500,000 bath bombs a month with 150 employees. And it’s become a real family business – their mom is the CEO, and dad is the CFO/COO. The da Bomb Bath Fizzers are sold in more than 7,000 stores in all 50 states. All the bombs are made in Minneapolis and they use local materials as much as possible. Despite their booming business, Isabel and Caroline are still full-time high school students and even compete on their high school track team. The “sisterpreneurs” truly embody the fun, fresh appeal of the business and always looking to learn more.

If you are a fan of Harry and Meghan then this next one is for you! 

Celebrate the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with these lifelike cut-outs of the happy couple. Sixteen full-color plates include figures of the bride and groom, complete with accurate re-creations of the fashions they wore to pre-wedding events as well as on the day of the historic occasion. Highlights include the bridal gown, an exclusive design by Clare Waight Keller that was one of the year’s biggest fashion secrets and has already achieved iconic status.

I actually am a big fan and love this book!

Price: $9.99 and you can find here! 

Looking for an Inspirational story? Check out The Spirit of the Trail by Carrie Morgridge!

I really found Carrie Morgridge and her husband John’s journey very inspirational and interesting to read! It’s also a positive story about how you can achieve anything. You can find it on Amazon.

Do you have a Dog lover on your holiday shopping list? The Pocket Guide to Dog Tricks By Kyra Sundance is a must-buy!

With all the instructions you’ll need to get your dog thinking, moving, and its tail wagging, this handy pocket guide offers step-by-step instruction for impromptu training sessions. I really like this book because it makes teaching y our dogs tricks very simple! Even kids will like this book so it is not only for adults!

The Pocket Guide to Dog Tricks goes above and beyond in the most conveniently sized book for on-the-spot training. This book includes tricks ranging from basic skills like Sit, Shake Hands, Fetch, and Roll Over, to more out-of-the-box tricks like Tidy Up Your Toys into the Toybox and Get a Soda from the Fridge. Training your pup is important at any stage and helps increase your bond and communication skills for a better relationship and more energetic dog. Also, training on-site is not only convenient for you, but relevant for the dog to understand and remember a particular situation. With 500 images to show how to perform each trick step by step, The Pocket Guide to Dog Tricks provides easy to follow guidance for the best results. Perfect for traveling, a trip to the dog park, or to keep in your bag for immediate training, pup owners will love this book; and kids will too as a few of the best tricks from 101 Dog Tricks for Kids are added as a fun bonus!

You can find this one on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Target!

Now here are some of my favorites for the Kids!

QUEEN OF THE HANUKKAH DOSAS by Pamela Ehrenberg; illustrated by Anjan Sarkar (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), October 10, 2017, Ages 4-7)This is a colorful picture book that blends Jewish and Indian traditions as a multicultural family comes together to celebrate Hanukkah in their own special way. QUEEN OF THE HANUKKAH DOSAS is a fresh, modern Hanukkah story with a dosa recipe in the backmatter. Big siblings will relate to the challenge of getting little sisters or brothers to behave in this sweet sibling story.

I love gingerbread cookies and I really love this adorable story about this little Gingerbread Man finding his purpose!

TOUGH COOKIE: A CHRISTMAS STORY by Edward Hemingway (Henry Holt and Co. BYR, September 11, 2018, Ages 4-8)From author and illustrator Edward Hemingway — grandson of the famous novelist Ernest Hemingway — comes a delightful picture book that puts a humorous new twist on the classic story of the Gingerbread Man. Once upon a time, while Fox was visiting the Land of Holiday Treats, a little cookie, still warm from the oven, burst out of the bakery door, looking sweet and delicious. But what happens when the little cookie, aka the Sugar Cookie Man, realizes he is not as fast and tasty as he thinks? A terrific gift for the holiday season! In the back matter, readers will find a recipe and instructions to cook up your own Tough Cookies. Both a recipe for an edible cookie, and a recipe for a tree ornament.

Little Elliot the adorable Elephant is back with Merry Christmas Little Elliot! I just love this little elephant!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, LITTLE ELLIOT by Mike Curato (Henry Holt and Co. BYR, September 11, 2018, Ages 4-8) Best friends Little Elliot and Mouse go looking for Christmas spirit in this winter holiday picture book. This story is a perfect holiday read-aloud—a modern classic to share! And its theme about the true meaning of Christmas is one that will resonate with all. Scenes of sledding and skating and holiday fun bring lightness to the winter season. No matter where they go or what challenges they face, Little Elliot and Mouse are best friends—forever! This is Little Elliot and Mouse’s fifth adventure together! Fans of the duo will love this holiday special.

This next one is perfect for the younger kids!

A UNICORN NAMED SPARKLE’S FIRST CHRISTMAS by Amy Young ( Ages 2-6) It’s Sparkle’s first Christmas and Lucy is showing him how to celebrate. In pure Sparkle fashion, nothing goes as planned, but Lucy ends up learning that love— not presents— is what Christmas is all about. Sparkle has so much charisma, just like her peers and fellow beloved MCPG picture book characters like Pout-Pout Fish, Bad Kitty, and Love Monster. Unicorns are an evergreen subject and are especially in style and can be seen everywhere (gifts, clothing, toys, and even Starbucks!). The ethnicity of the main character is not specified, but Lucy has light brown skin and dark curly hair. The first book, A Unicorn Named Sparkle, was an Indie bestseller!

This next one is a really cute way to teach young children about voting!

 Voting with a Porpoise by Rock the Vote board member Russell Glass and children’s author Sean Callahan.

A pod of dolphins can’t find enough food in the reef where they have always lived and are faced with an important decision: stay in their long-time home or move on to more fruitful waters. Looking to the group to vote on what their future would hold, the pod’s leader, Finn, doesn’t want Petey to vote because “he’s just a porpoise.” However, when Finn finds himself with a 6-pack ring wrapped around his beak, which Petey helps him remove, he has a change of heart. With Petey’s vote, the pod swims off for a new reef where they happily find plenty of food and a prosperous new life.

This truly is a delightful story and I think that all young children should have this book!

This next one is another great gift idea from Dover Crafts!

Princess Party: A Scratch & Sketch Adventure

Three activity books in one! Coloring pages follow the adventures of five princesses-in-training that are magically transformed into pirates and battle a wicked queen in a faraway land. Then, using the stylus included, children can reveal the foil and
rainbow-colored backgrounds of 16 scratch art pages featuring these heroic characters. There are even drawing and doodle pages. Hardcover with special spiral binding.  Retails for $12.99.  This one is a lot of fun!

Stay tuned! There will be one more Holiday Book Gift Suggestions feature before Christmas! 

Self Disclosure: I received free samples of the above books and only feature books that I recommend. Images were also provided. No other compensation was received to post. 

Once Upon a Deadpool * Action-Packed, Draped With The Famous Parody Of The Original

“Fox has been asking for a PG-13 basically since the start in 2006,” Ryan Reynolds told Deadline. “I’ve said no since 2006. Now, this one time, I said ‘Yes’ on two conditions. First, a portion of the proceeds had to go to charity. Second, I wanted to kidnap Fred Savage. The second condition took some explaining…”Fred Savage will join Reynolds in new scenes for Once Upon A Deadpool in an homage to Savage’s starring role in the 1987 bedtime-story classic The Princess Bride. Fred remarked, “while my participation in this film was anything but voluntary, I am happy to learn that Fudge Cancer will be the beneficiary of this shameless cash grab.” KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Similar to the original film, the story is action-packed with some romance and drama, but always draped with the famous parody feel that creates an entertaining and comedic atmosphere.” See his full review below.

Once Upon a Deadpool

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

Deadpool had much attention recently for its fame of being highly mature, but at the same time incredibly entertaining. Once Upon a Deadpool attempts to break that by releasing a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2 and, while it will make the audience laugh as much as the previous version, it fails to expand the Deadpool audience to younger viewers.

Similar to the original film, the story is action-packed with some romance and drama, but always draped with the famous parody feel that creates an entertaining and comedic atmosphere.

Once Upon a Deadpool follows the previous film with Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) losing the love of his life, leading to him trying to find ways to stop his grief, eventually ending up with Deadpool trying to save a young mutant boy from becoming a cruel murderer and on the way making a new family. In the PG-13 edition, the entire story is told by Deadpool to Fred Savage as a bedtime story, similar to the style of Princess Bride. While this doesn’t truly affect the main plot a lot, the twist leads to much laughter and many comedic moments.

Once Upon a Deadpool delivers the same chaotic, dark and highly mature atmosphere that the previous film did and, despite being marketed as a PG-13 film, it still has the same amount of lewdness and foul language, even if the material merely gets hinted at instead of blatantly shown. While this does technically makes it a less severe rating, the re-cut is far from a family film that everyone can enjoy. Also, at times, the re-cut rearranges scenes and shots very uniquely to avoid showing anything mature. Mostly this works to tell the story, but at times it feels forced, as if the editor had to construct a film from sticks instead of clips, with awkward cuts and sequences.

Aside from this, the film achieves high praise overall. The new cast and old cast hold a great quality in their performances, despite being in many ways a parody film. Of course, being a superhero action, good VFX holds a huge role in the end product. While the CGI throughout has less quality than what you’d see in an Avengers’ film, it still mostly looks realistic and could convince anybody that what they see on screen is real.

Some of the funniest scenes come from the method that the film tells its story by having Deadpool read it to Fred Savage as a bedtime story. Most of the scenes breaks the fourth wall and are filled with self-mocking and sarcasm, which makes each time that the two are shown on camera together enjoyable. Savage and Reynolds’ on-screen chemistry works perfectly and the conversations and scenes flow smoothly, adding to the enjoyment as the comedy feels natural and real.

Despite being rated PG-13, Once Upon a Deadpool fails to actually expand to the target audience. I recommend this for ages 15 to 18, as well as adults. Parents should be warned that, while the film meets the national standard for a PG-13 rating, many adult-oriented elements are still referenced heavily, making it very mature in many ways. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars for excellent acting and comedy, but lacking in an interesting and unpredictable story and having a strange flow at times due to the numerous edits necessary to achieve the lower rating. This film opens in theaters December 12, 2018 so, check it out.

 

Photos ©Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

The Snowman * A Holiday Classic Unlike Any Other!

One crisp, winter morning, a young boy wakes up to find a thick blanket of snow has covered the ground as far as the eye can see. Filled with excitement, the boy decides to build a snowman using a tangerine for his nose, coal for his buttons and eyes, and tops him off with a hat and scarf. Later that night, at the stroke of midnight, the snowman comes to life! The young boy and the snowman embark on a magical adventure of discovery where the snowman explores the young boy’s world and in return he takes him flying to his home in the North Pole. Upon arriving at the North Pole, the two join a party as the guests of honor to a very special person. Based on Raymond Briggs book, The Snowman is a family classic for generations to enjoy. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Clayton P. comments, “…directed by Dianne Jackson and produced by John Coates. This extravagant film has a little touch of magic which will keep you on your toes with excitement.” Eden T. adds, “This heartwarming film about the winter season never ceases to amaze me. It reminds me of myself during the holidays.” Morgan B. wraps it up with, “I love that this film has no words is both beautifully illustrated with animated images. The orchestra for the original film is Sinfonia of London. Their performance is stunning.” See their full reviews below.

The Snowman

By Clayton P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The Snowman is a masterpiece that will bring families closer together for the holidays. The film is based on the classic UK picture book by Raymond Briggs, which has sold more than 8.5 million copies since it was first published in 1978.

In The Snowman, a young boy James wakes up one morning and finds snow on the ground. He quickly gets dressed and runs outside. He then builds a huge snowman. He gives it eyes, a nose, a scarf and a hat. He even gives it a big smiley face. After building the entire snowman by himself, it is time for James to go to bed. When he wakes up he notices that the Snowman has moved a little, so he runs downstairs and out the door. He then notices that the Snowman is glowing, moves some more and then, totally comes to life. James is flabbergasted to see a live Snowman. The Snowman and James introduce themselves and become great friends. The rest the film shows the two flying around having so much fun and adventure throughout the day.

The Snowman book was adapted for the screen in 1982 and earned a nomination for an Academy Award for best animated short film.  The animation of the drawings is just amazing, bringing to life so many memories from the days of movie shorts. There is no dialogue, which makes it even more beautiful and somewhat old-fashioned.  The music by Howard Blake, Peter Auty and the Sinfonia of London is amazing. It fits perfectly with everything the boy and the snowman are doing.  Each song tells a story, with each pluck of a string or push of a piano key. The songs in the movie are catchy and addicting to sing along with.  I am sixteen and I sung along with the songs!

The Snowman is directed by Dianne Jackson and produced by John Coates. This extravagant film has a little touch of magic which will keep you on your toes with excitement. I recommend this for ages 1 to 12 and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

The Snowman

By Eden T., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

This heartwarming film about the winter season never ceases to amaze me. It reminds me of myself during the holidays. For example, when the boy has to scrounge up snow for his snowman, I thought about when I tried to do the same thing!

In the film, a young British boy in a classic 1950s English rural home builds a snowman on Christmas Eve. At midnight, the snowman comes to life and takes the boy on a flying trip around the world! The scenes become grander and grander until you think nothing more can happen! After all of this is over, they travel back home. The next morning, the boy…well, you’ll see. The ending brought meaningful tears to my eyes!

The detail in this movie is stunning! Even though there is no talking, the artistry makes up for that. Each scene is hand-drawn, which must have been a technical pain for the scenes in motion! These movies are based on Raymond Briggs’ classic picture book.  Besides young children, adults who have read this book in their youth will also appreciate this quality film. The unexpected ending is truly memorable!

I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 2 to 6, as well as adults. This movie is available both on DVD now so check it out. Enjoy this winter delight!

The Snowman

By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Holiday movies are one of my favorite forms of entertainment. Especially those that have adorable characters and a heartwarming tale. That is what this short film is all about. Add magnificent hand drawn animation and you have the perfect Christmas movie.

I love that this film has no words is both beautifully illustrated with animated images. The orchestra for the original film is Sinfonia of London. Their performance is stunning. Each piece of music fits the scene perfectly because it made me feel as if I was in the scene myself. Also, the music is superb to relax to. So grab a hot cup of cocoa and put your feet up.

The images in this film are hand drawn with pastels and pencils, which make it special and unique. I like having a break from all the CGI we see and seeing animation as it was made years ago. This is something that many other kids will appreciate as well. This movie never gets old and people from all over the world will absolutely adore it. This DVD has become one I have added to my holiday collection and will watch it every year. Even really young children can watch it because it is so beautiful and the message is all about friendship, love, cheer and what the holidays are all about. I give this DVD 5 out of 5 golden stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 18, as well as adults.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!

Puppy Star Christmas: Touching Delivery of a Very Special Message About The Meaning of Christmas

A song-filled new Air Bud ‘Pup Star’ movie that introduces four new pups to the family, who stow away on Santa’s sleigh and find themselves trapped at the North Pole, trying to save the world’s Christmas spirit. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail Zoe L. comments, “The movie Puppy Star Christmas is a fun and entertaining holiday family film. It is full of upbeat music, dancing, humor and has a wonderful timeless message. I absolutely loved every second of this movie and would have stayed to watch it a second time right then and there!” Nathalia J. adds, “This film delivers a very special message. It’s not about the gifts; it is about being with family. The pups show that meaning in this film. This touching movie will have you singing Christmas songs on your way to school, work and perhaps your Christmas recital.” Jolleen M. adds, “This is a perfect film for everyone in the family. It not only has a good message, but it also is hilarious and will put you right into the Christmas spirit.” Damon F. wraps it up with, “I am not usually a fan of musicals, but this movie is better than some that I’ve seen. I really like how the dogs are animated in this movie. It really looks as if they are actually talking and dancing. That makes the movie as entertaining as it is.” See their full reviews and cast interviews below.

Puppy Star Christmas

By Abigail Zoe L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

The movie Puppy Star Christmas is a fun and entertaining holiday family film. It is full of upbeat music, dancing, humor and has a wonderful timeless message. I absolutely loved every second of this movie and would have stayed to watch it a second time right then and there!

This Pup Star story picks up when Tiny (Kaitlyn Maher) and P.U.P. (Mackenzie Sol) get married and have a very adorable litter of puppies that includes Brody, Rosie, Charlie and Cindy. These four pups are always getting into trouble. Thinking they are on Santa Claus’ “naughty list” for eating the family’s turkey and pumpkin pie, they head to the North pole with the hope of talking to Santa to get back onto his “nice” list. While there, they uncover Bark, Kano, Roland and Julio’s scheme to sabotage Pup Star and control the Christmas spirit. There is a wonderful heartfelt twist at the end with some of the characters that I won’t give away.

My favorite scene is when P.U.P., played by the extremely talented singer, Mackenzie Sol, and Lou’s dad Steven, played by David DeLuise, are awaiting the birth of P.U.P.’s four adorable puppies. They are both so nervous. Steven paces back and forth while giving P.U.P. a “pup” talk. Another one of my favorite scenes is at the North Pole when the elves and reindeer dance to the uplifting musical number, “This is the Best Christmas Ever.”

My favorite character is the ever funny Roland, played by Jed Rees, who is always getting into trouble. Throughout the movie he continually becomes more and more addicted to candy canes. After kidnapping Santa he also begins to look like Santa Claus.

The music, songs and singing voices of Kaitlyn Maher and Mackenzie Sol are pup-tastic and will melt your heart. Listening to the music made me feel as if I wanted to jump up from my seat, start dancing and sing along. The special effects include talking animals and dancing reindeers that look amazingly real.

The heartfelt message of this Christmas story is about the importance of spending time with family, being grateful not greedy and second chances. This joyous fun family film is perfect for ages 3 to 18, as well as adults because of its universal and timeless messages. It will definitely put us all in the holiday spirit and I give it 5 out of 5 Puppy Stars. It’s available on Netflix November 20, 2018 so look for it.

Puppy Star Christmas
By Nathalia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

“It is Christmas in the heart, that puts Christmas in the air!” once said W.T Ellis. Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way. Yup, it’s Christmas time – presents, cookies, family and vacation time. This astonishing, touching, intriguing, heart-warming, well-intentioned and adorable movie is directed by Robert Vince and written by Pier Rae and Robert Vince.

This film follows Tiny and P.U.P whose four new pups take a trip into the dark night sky with a special guest named Santa Claus. Trouble comes with they find themselves with the evil dog Bark and trapped at the North Pole. The pups get saved, but you’ll have to see the movie to know how. This song-filled new Air Bud “Pup Star” movie will have you enjoying the Christmas spirit.

The lead characters in this film are Tiny (voiced by Kaitlyn Maher), P.U.P (voiced by Mackenzie Sol), Lou (Mackenzie Moss), Santa Claus (Richard Riehle), Rosie (voiced by Vivienne Rutherford) and complemented by many more.

My absolute favorite part of this film, without giving anything away, is when the Christmas spirit is saved. I love how the four pups set on a quest to find Santa Claus and recover the true meaning of Christmas with the help of their family. I think this part of the film will charm many because of the huge heart the little pups have!

This film delivers a very special message. It’s not about the gifts; it is about being with family. The pups show that meaning in this film. This touching movie will have you singing Christmas songs on your way to school, work and perhaps your Christmas recital.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 14, as well as adults. This film will release exclusively on NETFLIX on November 20, 2018. Make sure to check it out!

Puppy Star Christmas

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

This is a perfect film for everyone in the family. It not only has a good message, but it also is hilarious and will put you right into the Christmas spirit.

In the film, Tiny and P.U.P. get married and shortly after, they have four pups named Charlie, Rosie, Cindy and Brody. Tiny and P.U.P are busy and aren’t able to spend much time with their new pups. The pups become a little rebellious and decide it is a good idea to sneak onto Santa’s sleigh when he visits their parents’ show. This causes them to get stuck at the North Pole and leaves everyone worried. Meanwhile, they don’t know that the real Santa has been captured and replaced by their old enemy who wants to destroy Christmas.

Kaitlyn Maher, Mackenzie Moss and Mackenzie Sol are back again for Pup Star’s fourth film! They excel in showing the pups’ emotions with their voice acting, as always. We also have some new voice actors for the puppies – Dillon Fontana, Vivienne Rutherford, Chloe Coleman and Oakley Bull. They all sound sassy and super adorable! They have the perfect voices for the cute pups.

Since Tiny, P.U.P. and the pups have to go on stage a lot, they wear many different outfits. All of their outfits are very stylish and unique! I wish they sold costumes like those so I could get them for my dog. I love how the costumes match each puppy’s unique characteristics. Even though they all look very similar, it helps to have them in different outfits so you know who is who. The animation of the dogs is amazing. It matches well with the voice of the actors. There are also scenes where the dogs are animated to dance. That is hilarious. They have a lot of talent.

My favorite scene was the one after Tiny and P.U.P. said their vows. The people and the dogs got up and started dancing. The dogs go crazy with their moves. I was really impressed.

The message of this film is all about the meaning of the true Christmas spirit. Some people believe that Christmas is only about getting gifts. People become greedy and only like Christmas for the presents. This film teaches that Christmas is a time of giving, sharing and getting along with others. It is about spending time and reconnecting with your family. Even though this is message is promoted in other Christmas films, it is still an important moral that some people don’t seem to understand.

This is the fourth film in the Pup Stars series and definitely lives up to the other ones. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 18. If you haven’t checked out the first three films, be sure to check those out as well as this one! Puppy Star Christmas comes out on Netflix on November 20, 2018. Look for it!

Puppy Star Christmas
Damon F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I am not usually a fan of musicals, but this movie is better than some that I’ve seen. I really like how the dogs are animated in this movie. It really looks as if they are actually talking and dancing. That makes the movie as entertaining as it is.

Puppy Star Christmas is a Christmas themed sequel to Pup Star 2 that follows the Pup Star company making a Christmas special right after Tiny has puppies. The movie follows the pup’s parents getting ready for Christmas. It also focuses on the pups as they carry out some crazy ideas and plans that sometimes get them into trouble. For example, the pups decide to go to the North Pole to meet Santa, but while trying to do that, some evil dogs are trying to take over Christmas! Tiny and the Pup Star staff are working on the Christmas special while searching for the missing pups.

The four new members to the Pup Star family are Brody (Dillon Fontana), an adventurous little pup that thinks of something fun to do and his sisters usually follow. Rosie (Vivienne Rutherford) is the pup who always thinks of herself as the star of everything. Cindy (Oakley Bull) is the pup who knows when something will go wrong, but none of her siblings ever listen to her. Last is Charlie (Chloe Coleman), the sarcastic one, who has some of the best lines.

My favorite scene in this movie is when the elves sing “The Worst Christmas Ever,” while the villains think they are singing the same thing as they are – “The Best Christmas Ever.” Another good scene is when the reindeers bring Roland to the Pup Star stage. The reindeers are doing loop the loops, while going as fast as they can, just to be mean to Roland. My favorite character is Brody, because he is adventurous and he loves to eat, just like me. He also comes up with a bunch of crazy ideas that get him in trouble, but I don’t think he will ever learn. For example, in the beginning of the film Brody tries to eat both the turkey and the pumpkin pie. That really gets him into trouble.

The message of this movie is that Christmas isn’t just about the gifts; it is about being with family. The pups show that throughout the entire film. I rate this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 18, because it is an amusing movie that shows the meaning of Christmas in a great way. I think adults will enjoy watching this film with their children. This movie will be available exclusively on Netflix on November 20, 2018 so look for it!

 

Photos ©Air Bud Entertainment. All Rights Reserved

Guess How Much I Love You Christmas To The Moon And Back – Captures The Christmas Spirit

On a snow-covered Christmas Eve, Little Nutbrown Hare and his friends stumble across a little Brown Bear who is lost. Determined to return their young friend back to his mother in time for Christmas, the friends venture bravely into the unknown woods. Through this epic journey we are reminded that the greatest gift of Christmas is being with the ones you love. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Morgan B. comments, “I really love this film because it captures the Christmas spirit by showing us all the characters telling us what they think about Christmas. They show us that Christmas really means family.” Tina B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror adds, “The production values are outstanding, from the animation to the voice over talent to the background music. The images look like watercolors brought to life. I love them!” See their full reviews below.

Guess How Much I Love You Christmas To The Moon And Back

By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

This film is based on the British book series written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, published in 1994 in the UK and in 1995 in the US. The book was an ALA Notable Children’s book and sold over 28 million copies worldwide!

Now, I have an adorable special guest who helped review the film with me, Little Field Mouse.  I really love this film because it captures the Christmas spirit by showing us all the characters telling us what they think about Christmas. They show us that Christmas really means family. It’s really about spending time with your family, not about giving gifts or any of that stuff. It’s spending time with your Mom and Dad and anyone else you love. That’s what I really respect about the film.

I really do cherish the story and also the animation in this film which is true to the original illustrations in the book. It really captures the adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare and his adventures. The show is produced by SLR Productions Australia (Suzanne Ryan) and Scrawl Studios and stars the voice of Ky Baldwin. They really capture all the original pictures from the book which look just like watercolors. I love them. It looks like a beautiful story that was drawn by a little kid. I really love that!  The animation is something that everyone will truly enjoy.

I really love the characters in the story, especially my friend Little Field Mouse. Of course, Little Nutbrown Hare is my favorite character. He’s absolutely adorable and at the same time, kind and thoughtful. Just his love for everything around him makes me love him more.  He’s kind of fun and silly, but really he is just adorable.

The film is really suitable for preschoolers but also older kids, up to age 8 will enjoy this because of all the fun and silly stories. I even think tween and teens will like this show. Of course, adults can enjoy this as well and it makes a great show for families to enjoy during the holiday season. I definitely give this 5 out of 5 Magnificent Stars. It is available now on DVD so, look for it!

Guess How Much I Love You: Christmas To the Moon and Back

Reviewed by Tina B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I thoroughly enjoyed this short film and highly recommend it for kids and families.  This is a heartwarming tale about Little Nutbrown Hare who wanders outside one night when he can’t sleep and discovers a rare, all white fawn dancing in the snow. He knows all white fawns are rare and when he talks to her she runs away. Through lots of escapades Little Nutbrown Hare finally is able to convince his forest friends the fawn is real and able to befriend the white fawn. The characters are interesting and charming. A field mouse and a squirrel friends are all friends with Little Nutbrown Hare and they interact with each other in the most loving way. I felt sorry for Little Nutbrown Hare when no one believes that he had seen the white fawn. Eventually, the truth comes out and they finally see her and believe Little Nutbrown Hare.  The moral of this story is about love. The love between Little Nutbrown Hare and his dad, the love of friends and possibility of the love of strangers. The negative behaviors shown are about doubt, but that disappears over time. I particularly enjoyed seeing the field mouse trying to protect Little Nutbrown Hare by making a white fawn out of snow. He tries to protect his friend’s honor in doing so. The educational and social elements that make this film valuable emphasize the various ways that you can show someone how you love them. Adults often tell children that they love them and they can hear it in this story in a way they can relate to.  The production values are outstanding, from the animation to the voice over talent to the background music. The images look like watercolors brought to life. I love them!  I recommend this for ages 2 to 7 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. It uses vocabulary and ideas which little children can understand and enjoy. Questioning, probing and problem-solving are developed in a manner suitable for the target age. It is very enjoyable and charming. If you have a festival for preschool and early elementary kids, this will fit right in. Reviewed by Tina B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: An Astonishing New Film Filled with Humor and Excitement!

Video game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz must risk it all by traveling to the World Wide Web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, “Sugar Rush.” In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet — the netizens — to help navigate their way, including an entrepreneur named Yesss, who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site BuzzzTube. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abraham F. comments, “Ralph Breaks the Internet is a colorful, fun-filled adventure that builds on characters and friendships. Going into this movie I thought it was going to be a predictable and boring washed-up sequel. That is not the case.” Na’im S. adds, “Ralph Breaks the Internet is an astonishing new film that’s full humor and excitement.” See their full reviews below.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

By Abraham Finer, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. age 13

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a colorful, fun-filled adventure that builds on characters and friendships. Going into this movie I thought it was going to be a predictable and boring washed-up sequel. That is not the case. The film builds upon the friendship that Ralph and Venellope have with each other. The climax of the movie is a heartwarming test of their friendship which brings light that friends don’t always need to agree on everything.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is about Mr. Litwack installing the Internet to his arcade and his “Sugar Rush” game breaking, which leads to their adventure through the internet. Mr. Litwack orders the parts on eBay, but it costs $200 which is more than the game makes a year. Ralph and Venellope overhear him talking and decide to go on a quest to find the part and save Venellope’s game. They travel to the router and get transported to the magical world of the Internet. They awe at the vibrant colors and variety of the internet and go directly go to the search bar where they ask to go to eBay. When they realize they have to bid for the wheel, they bid the highest number they can think of, not realizing they have to pay. This causes them to go on an epic adventure to get $27,001 in under 24 hours or else the item would be re-bid. They find a pop-up ad that shows them how to make money playing video games. They decide to get a car owned by Shank. They race Shank until they get beat by her. She gives them a tip and tells Venellope she races well.

My favorite scene is when they go to the Disney section of the Internet and we see a whole lot of cameos from favorite characters such as Eeyore and Stan Lee. I especially love when Venellope is being chased by Stormtroopers and goes into the princess lounge where she teaches them about modern comforts. I found that hilarious.

This film has huge star power. Ralph is voiced by John C. Reilly, the man behind Step Brothers and The Sisters Brothers. Also, Sarah Silverman plays Venelope who started in SNL and has appeared in The battle of the Sexes.

The message of this movie is that, even if you are best friends with someone that doesn’t mean you can’t disagree. This movie has nothing be inappropriate for kids. I recommend it for ages 7 to 18 and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is in theaters now so look for it.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

By Na’im Smith, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Ralph Breaks the Internet is an astonishing new film that’s full humor and excitement. It is about Ralph aka Wreck it Ralph who goes on a trip with his best friend Vanellope into the internet to buy a steering wheel for Vanellope’s game so it doesn’t get shut down. The internet is a whole new thing for Ralph and his friends and they walk into some trouble while trying to get the wheel. A few of the inconveniences they run into are not knowing where to go and also not having money. Before Ralph and Vanellope find out they need money, they place a bid of $27,000 on the steering wheel. When they get to check out and they don’t have money, the cashier says they have 24 hours before their bid expires. That’s when they embark on their journey through the internet.

All the same characters from the original movie Wreck it Ralph are in this film and there are even some new ones introduced. Nathan Warner, the cinematography director excels at giving the movie a realistic cartoonish look. It really fits in with the whole video game plot and scenery. The theme is that friendships come in all shapes and sizes and that friends are forever.

If you plan on bringing kids under 11 or 12, I strongly recommend that you watch the trailer with them and ask if they would want to see the full movie because there are a lot of puns about Twitter and a lot of jokes that I don’t think younger kids will get. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bring younger kids, because they will still understand the majority of what’s happening and enjoy the film, but the director geared this film for older audiences such as 12 and above. I recommend this for ages 10 to 18, as well as adults. It seemed that the adults were laughing more than the kids during the movie. I give it 4 out of 5 stars because it is a hilarious movie that kept me interested for all two hours.

Make sure you stay for both scenes after the credits. You can find this movie in USA theaters November 21, 2018 and worldwide in the days and weeks after. Put it on your calendar!

Photos © Walt Disney Studios. All rights reserved

 

Green Book: Powerful Portrayal Of An Inspirational Journey Promoting Courage, Activism And Always Doing What’s Right

Dr. Don Shirley is a world-class African-American pianist who’s about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. In need of a driver and protection, Shirley recruits Tony Lip, a tough-talking bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. Despite their differences, the two men soon develop an unexpected bond while confronting racism and danger in an era of segregation. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “I absolutely give the film 5 out of 5 stars for its powerful portrayal of an inspirational journey that promotes courage, activism and always doing what’s right in the world… This movie contains a massively wide range of emotions. At times, the story is driven by love, romance and family. At other times, the characters live in racism, homophobia and segregation as it directly addresses and shows the darkness of the 60s in the United States.” See his full review below.

Green Book

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

Sometimes being alone means not being accepted. A fact that some have attempted to convey in the art of cinema, but only a few reach the precision and emotional strength of Green Book which shows not only the complex and dark social issues of the 1960s but also demonstrates the power and emotion of feeling truly alone.

This movie contains a massively wide range of emotions. At times, the story is driven by love, romance and family. At other times, the characters live in racism, homophobia and segregation as it directly addresses and shows the darkness of the 60s in the United States. Yet still, the viewer will be surprised by the amount of humor and wonderfully vibrant moments that are portrayed. They will make you laugh in all the right places, without interrupting truly emotional moments.

Green Book follows the highly famous and incredibly successful pianist, Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who takes great risks as an African American man touring through the highly racial deep south. Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) accompanies Shirley going from his driver to savior to eventually, his close friend. As the tour progresses, the audience goes through many parts of the south where not only racism was prevalent against African Americans and Italians, but also acknowledge the severe homophobia that existed so terribly in the 1960s.

Perhaps one of the most lovable aspects of this movie can be attributed to the story itself. Every person in the film has a major character arc in which they become completely reshaped and remolded by the end. The entire cast performs with Oscar-worthy emotional portrayals of their characters. Mahershala once again delivers absolutely heart-wrenching scenes as the audience becomes acquainted with the lonesome and depressed life Don Shirley lives in, despite being unarguably talented and highly intelligent. The complexities in the set design, costume design, and overall tone of the entire world never run out of depth as the entire film feels as if it truly belongs in the 1960s, despite being shot nearly half a century later. Director Peter Farrelly may be seasoned in humoristic comedies, but makes sure his background stays separate for this film.  With his lead, the audience experiences bitter reality and, with the help of cinematographer Sean Porter, view a vivid and colorful picture of United States in the 1960s, from up north in New York all the way to down south in Alabama.

Cinema about musicians would be blasphemy without an impressive soundtrack to follow suit. From music considered modern and pop for that era, to classical pieces hundreds of years old, Green Book promises a highly wide and diverse soundtrack that highlights itself as one of the greatest this year. Furthermore, the music tells the story as it begins with 1960s music, but slowly goes more and more towards classical and orchestral as the story unfolds and the viewer learns more about the conflicts of pianist Don Shirley. Furthermore, despite being over two hours long, the film keeps you captivated for the entire runtime and leaves you satisfied with a natural and beautiful ending.

Instead of a favorite scene, I would like to talk about several sequences present in the film. Since they’re on tour, of course, Shirley and his fellow musicians in his trio are shown playing music. Yet, this varies in emotion, strength and passion as real-life events impact Don Shirley’s craft just as the events impact his actual character. The power of his work never dwindles and always leaves you in awe. During the performance scenes, every aspect of the film shines with absolutely masterful cinematographic compositions that seem to isolate the musicians and truly captures the raw emotions such powerful music creates.

Despite the beauty and power that hold true throughout this film, it does have things to concern parents. As previously stated, the film embraces the bitter and blunt reality of the 1960s, from homophobia to racism. This makes it most appropriate for ages 14 to 18, as well as adults. I absolutely give the film 5 out of 5 stars for its powerful portrayal of an inspirational journey that promotes courage, activism and always doing what’s right in the world. It opens in theaters November 21, 2018 so, check it out.

 

Photos by Universal Pictures – ©2018 Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved

Instant Family: Deals With A Heavy Subject And Dives Right In! No Sugar Coating Here

When Pete and Ellie decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child, but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15-year-old girl, they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hope of becoming a family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “This movie deals with a very heavy subject – the foster care system. Foster kids go through a lot of terrible stuff, which greatly affects them psychologically. One thing I really like about this movie is that it doesn’t sugar coat the hard reality. It dives straight into the lives of foster kids, without simplifying what they’ve gone through.” See her full review below.

Instant Family
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

Now, I must admit that I’m a bit biased. My mom has worked with foster kids for 20 years and I’ve helped out a charity that helps foster kids. So foster children are really important to me and this movie really reflects the truth about this system in an emotional and funny way.

The story follows Pete and Ellie, a couple who feel as though there is something missing in their life. They decide to adopt three siblings from the foster care system. However, they find that raising children is a lot harder than they thought.

This movie deals with a very heavy subject – the foster care system. Foster kids go through a lot of terrible stuff, which greatly affects them psychologically. One thing I really like about this movie is that it doesn’t sugar coat the hard reality. It dives straight into the lives of foster kids, without simplifying what they’ve gone through. I really like this as it breaks the impressions that a lot of people have about raising a foster kid – that it’s not as hard as raising your own kid. That is not the case and the movie perfectly shows this. It may seem like the kids are unlikable because of this, however, they grow on you. It took quite a while for Pete and Ellie to grow on me however. They’re very impatient and annoying for a lot of the movie. And, although they get better over time, it kind of takes a while.

This movie is a comedy. So how is the comedic aspect? Pretty good. However, in the beginning, there are lots of jokes about foster kids that feel very forced. While they technically have a purpose. They just weren’t funny to me. For example, there is a joke where Pete says one kid looks like she has fetal alcohol syndrome or was chained to a radiator her whole life. While there is a funny pay off, the implications kind of made me uncomfortable and it was part of the reason why I didn’t like Pete and Ellie.

I admit that when the film starts to get really emotional, it really hits hard. The acting is really great in the serious scenes, especially from Lizzy (Isabela Moner). Of course, I need to give a shout out to Octavia Spencer who plays Karen, one of the caseworkers. I really like Octavia Spencer and she makes every scene she’s in absolutely outstanding!

I would give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it for ages 13 to 18. I would also recommend this movie for people who are considering becoming foster parents. If you want to mentor foster youth go to your local group home and help out. This movie is out on November 16, 2018. Look for it.

 

Photos © Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.