Sonic Boom Season 1, Volume 2 * Nearly Five Hours of Laugh-Out-Loud, Animated Fun

It’s a Sonic you haven’t seen before an ensemble comedy that pokes fun at action-adventure storytelling, but still manages to deliver plenty of adrenaline! Wherever he goes and whatever he s up against, Sonic the Hedgehog is aided by his sidekick, Tails, and his friends Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks and, of course, attacked by his arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments, “I like this DVD because it is very entertaining.  Each story line is funny; it has a lot of action and delivers a lot of adrenaline. The graphics are amazing and the colors are very bright.  The voice-overs are funny and they fit each character.  The music is okay. I especially like the theme song, which is very catchy. Will C. adds, “Sonic Boom: Season 1 Volume 2 is nearly five hours of laugh-out-loud, animated fun, featuring your favorite hedgehog. The physical humor and amusing adventures will keep kids entertained for hours on end. The message of this series is that friends are stronger together.” Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer wraps it up with, “I am quite aware of Sonic the Hedgehog as a video game character, but have never watched any of his shows. I was pleasantly surprised as I watched this action-packed Season One, Volume 2 DVD. There is a lot of action as Sonic and his friends outwit Sonic’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman.” See their full reviews below.

Sonic Boom Season 1, Volume 2 
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

I like this DVD because it is very entertaining.  Each story line is funny; it has a lot of action and delivers a lot of adrenaline.

The Sonic Boom, Season 1, Volume 2 DVD, is over four hours of action, fun and entertainment. The package comes with two DVDs, which include 26 episodes.  What is nice is the gift set comes with two toys, Knuckles and Tails.  Sonic (Roger Craig Smith) is a blue hedgehog that has a sidekick, Tails, who helps him in his adventures. Sonic’s friends – Knuckles (Sebastian Desjours), Amy (Cindy Robinson) and Sticks (Nika Futterman) – help him attack his arch nemesis Dr. Eggman (Mike Pollock).  Each episode has a different story line.  The episodes do not follow a sequence, which it means that each episode is always a different adventure and that’s what makes it so entertaining.

The graphics are amazing and the colors are very bright.  The voice-overs are funny and they fit each character.  The music is okay. I especially like the theme song, which is very catchy.  My favorite episode is “Bro Down Showdown,” because it’s extremely funny.  It is about how Amy had to leave for a little bit, so Sonic and Knuckles ask her if they can stay at her house while she is gone.  Amy says yes, but there is one rule – no foolish things in her house.  So the first thing they do is eat nachos and spill on the couch.  Conveniently a commercial comes on saying, “if you win the best bros contest you win a brand new couch.” They immediately enter the contest.  It turns out Dr. Eggman is spying on them.  He arrives and starts bickering with Sonic about a bogus little thing.  A guy working there sees them fighting and pairs them up, even though Knuckles is going to be Sonic’s buddy.  Knuckels finds a new partner and tries to win the couch.  This is my favorite episode because this all happens, just because they spilled a nacho.

The moral to the stories is about “teamwork making the dream work,” because in each episode Sonic is helped by his sidekick and best friend, to either defeat Dr. Eggman or to enjoy their different adventures.

I give Sonic Boom, Season 1, Volume 2, 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, but adults can watch it with their kids and may find it amusing too. This DVD is available now so look for it! 

Sonic Boom: Season 1 Volume 2
By Will C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Sonic Boom: Season 1 Volume 2 is nearly five hours of laugh-out-loud, animated fun, featuring your favorite hedgehog. The physical humor and amusing adventures will keep kids entertained for hours on end.

The DVDs include 26 action-packed episodes, and if you get the limited edition gift set, you’ll also get two action figures—either Sonic with Dr. Eggman or Knuckles with Tails. In every episode, Sonic and his friends protect their village from the evil Dr. Eggman. Of course, no matter how crazy the situation, Sonic and friends are able to save the day in the end.

There are some really funny storylines, like when Sonic and Knuckles spill nacho cheese on Amy‘s couch while house-sitting. They try cleaning it up with grape soda, which just makes it worse! Their next idea is to try to win a new couch by going on a game show, but they fail and one of Dr. Eggman’s missiles ends up exploding the couch anyway. In another episode, it’s hilarious when Sonic grabs the last chili dog that Dr. Eggman wanted, so to be nice Sonic goes all the way to the warehouse to bring his nemesis a chili dog. But Dr. Eggman wanted extra relish, so he throws a tantrum by trying to destroy the whole town by shooting it with lasers and attacking it with robots. Of course this is nothing Sonic and friends can’t handle. One of the best jokes is when the boys compete against the girls in a survivor challenge. The girls decide the losers will have to do everyone’s laundry, but Sonic says, “That’s not fair for us boys – we don’t even wear pants!”

The message of this series is that friends are stronger together. There’s probably not a lot of content that parents will object to, but there is some cartoon violence that kids might be tempted to copy. The only thing that’s a problem for me is that there is one episode out of the 26 that’s only available with Spanish audio, no English at all. Unfortunately, I can’t understand what they’re saying in the episode, “Fire in a Crowded Workshop.”

I give this series 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 12, and adults might enjoy watching with their kids as well. Sonic Boom: Season 1 Volume 2 is available on DVD February 2020.

Sonic Boom Season 1, Volume 2 
By Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

I am quite aware of Sonic the Hedgehog as a video game character, but have never watched any of his shows. I was pleasantly surprised as I watched this action-packed Season One, Volume 2 DVD. There is a lot of action as Sonic and his friends outwit Sonic’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman. I like that there isn’t just the typical “good wins over evil.” It is expected that good will win, but it is fun to watch too.  Some of the humor is a bit dry if you are an adult watching the show. But, it is appropriate for children ages 5 through 12. I like that it shows teamwork and friendship, and all of the action makes it very entertaining to watch. The characters are very likable; my favorites are Sonic and Amy. I like that the characters are unique and each brings something to the show. Of course, Dr. Eggman is not a favorite of mine, but he also makes the series entertaining, especially since Sonic and his pals usually outwit him. I give this 4 out of 5 stars for its entertainment value. This DVD would make a great gift for a Sonic fan, since it is a Limited Edition Gift Set that includes Knuckles and Tails figurines. Reviewed by Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Reviewer

Onward * Easily One of Our Favorite Pixar Films. Touching Story, Fun, Exciting, Adventurous!

Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “As of now, this film is easily one of my favorite Pixar films. I adore the touching story and especially the world-building. Overall, Onward is an amazing film.” Zoe C. adds, “Onward is fun, exciting, adventurous, and an emotional roller coaster. Pixar delivers another wonderful film that is very appealing to new generations and easy to relate, despite characters from another world.” Jolleen M. contributes, “I loved every bit of this movie so much that I cannot pick one part as my favorite. The film induces such a wide range of emotions. Tears of joy, as well as sympathy, were shed, because of all the beautiful moments. Ian and Barley have a sweet relationship from the beginning, but the way that their relationship as brothers develops is wonderful to watch.” Will C. says, “The animators have created a beautiful imaginative world with lots of clever details that will make you want to watch again and again. The voice acting is top-notch, with Tom Holland and Chris Pratt showing a range of emotions and humor as Ian and Barley. Octavia Spencer as Manticore brings her character to life with frantic energy.” And Katherine S. wraps it up with, “The messages of this movie are that family is the most important thing and sometimes what you’re looking for has been with you the whole time. This film does have some magical scenes that kids should not imitate. It also reminds us to always pay your parking tickets.” See their full reviews below.

Onward

By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

(interviews)

As of now, this film is easily one of my favorite Pixar films. I adore the touching story and especially the world-building. Overall, Onward is an amazing film. Onward takes in a world much like our own, except it’s populated with fantasy creatures. We follow two elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot as they discover magic still exists and thus go on a quest to revive their father for one day.

So, first the animation. I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory. Since it is Pixar, the animation is absolutely outstanding. But, I specifically want to discuss the world in which Onward takes place. There are so many creative and diverse character designs and representations of mythological creatures (which I appreciate as a mythology fan). The world-building is probably some of the best I’ve ever seen. I have contemplated the idea of a suburban fantasy, so I’m really happy seeing that idea brought to life. There’s a lot of really funny gags surrounding this idea, such as an historically accurate “Dungeons and Dragons” and unicorns becoming the equivalent of raccoons. You can tell the artists really enjoyed designing the settings.

However, the world is not the only enjoyable aspect of this film. The characters are especially fun. The two brothers, Ian and Barley, have amazing chemistry. This is probably thanks to their voices actors – Tom Holland playing Ian and Chris Pratt playing Barley. They already have a connection from the Marvel movies, so their relationship feels real. But Ian and Barley aren’t the only great characters in this movie. I would say my personal favorite character is The Manticore, played by Octavia Spencer. The Manticore is probably the funniest character and I really like her friendship with the brothers’ mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

Speaking of which, Onward is really funny. There’s a specific scene involving The Manticore that caused me to laugh probably the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a Pixar movie. There are also a lot of gags involving the fact that the world is populated with fantasy creatures.

And as expected from a Pixar film, it’s pretty emotional. And, given the context of the plot, I feel this might be one of Pixar’s most heart wrenching films. When you think about it, who wouldn’t want to bring someone back, even for one day?

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18. It comes out on March 6, 2020 so look for it. 

Onward

By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Onward is fun, exciting, adventurous, and an emotional roller coaster. Pixar delivers another wonderful film that is very appealing to new generations and easy to relate, despite characters from another world.

Onward is a computer animated, urban fantasy film directed by Dan Scanlon, who also co-wrote the script with Jason Headley and Keith Bunin. The story follows brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), two teenage elf’s who embark on an extraordinary quest. Their goal is to try and see if there is magic left in the world, in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were younger. This is a story about bonding between father and son, and between two brothers.

(Zoe’s interview with Carlos Felipe Leon, shading art director, in Spanish)

Tom Holland, as Ian, the younger of the two brothers delivers a very subtle, but engaging interpretation that makes the audience immediately connect with his loner behavior. Chris Pratt, as Barley, the eldest brother, is vibrant, optimistic and his personality is almost opposite to his younger brother. Octavia Spencer plays Manticore, a fearless creature who can fly and sends people on quests). I absolutely love Octavia’s performance and Manticore is my favorite character. I’ve always loved Octavia as an actress, so I was really exited that she voices this character. Another great voice is Laurel, the brother’s mother, by super fun and charismatic Julia Louise-Dreyfus.

The animation in this movie is very detailed and sometimes photo realistic. Pixar has developed digital animation over the years to a fine art, and truly this film displays that. You can see so many details in the characters’ facial expressions. If you look very closely you can see that the elves all have freckles! There is also a lot of emotion in this movie and the animation displays it so well.

I’m pretty sure everyone who watches this movie will cry at one point. I sure did. One of the fascinating aspects of Onward is how these fantasy creatures interact with each other and go through a journey of redemption and self discovery.

Onward is entertaining all the way, but some jokes don’t work out and, at some point, it’s a little hard to feel fully invested in one of the characters that appears only from his waist to his feet.

The message of this film is – believe. The magic in the film is a metaphor for our own ability of make things happen and letting out the light within ourselves.

I give Onward 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 13. Make sure to check out Onward in theaters on March 6, 2020.

Onward

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

Onward has an amazing plot with lots of humor. The whole theater was laughing so much throughout, but there were also so many other emotions. Watching the film was an amazing rollercoaster and I learned a lot from it.

The film takes place in a fantasy world where many different species of creatures live. It follows the journey of two elves who are brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt). Ian is a shy, cautious person, while his older brother Barley is fearless and obsessed with quests and adventure. After Ian turns 16, their mother reveals a gift that their late father left for them. Their father died before Ian was born and Barley only has four memories of him. The gift includes a magical staff and a spell that will bring back their father for a day, so that he can see what his boys grew up to be. Ian manages to start the spell, but he is only able to resurrect the lower half of his father’s body before the crystal in the staff breaks. To be able to meet his father is everything to Ian, so along with Barley they go to find another crystal and bring the rest of their father back. 

Tom Holland and Chris Pratt have worked with each other before on other films, so they have a close relationship. You can see this when they voice Ian and Barley. It makes the film more enjoyable to watch, because they have such good chemistry. The animation is full of vibrant colors and magic. The creatures are all unique and have distinct personalities. The entire film is unique and filled with creative ideas, which pleasantly surprises the audience.

I loved every bit of this movie so much that I cannot pick one part as my favorite. The film induces such a wide range of emotions. Tears of joy, as well as sympathy were shed, because of all the beautiful moments. Ian and Barley have a sweet relationship from the beginning, but the way that their relationship as brothers develops is wonderful to watch.

There are so many lessons and messages that you could take away, but the most prominent one is about being grateful for what you have. Ian was always so focused on the fact that he was never able to meet his father that he looked past the things that he did have. Fortunately, he is able to realize that he’s had his brother Barley all his life, before it is too late.

Onward is such a well made and creative movie that kept me intrigued the entire time. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. It comes out in theaters March 6, 2020 so be sure to go and watch it!

Onward

By Will C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Onward is Disney/Pixar’s new action-packed animated movie with lots of magical laughs! There’s hilarious physical humor, exciting chases and fights, but it’s also a very moving film. You really feel the main characters’ sense of loss at not growing up with their father.

Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) are teenage elf brothers who live in a suburban mushroom house in a land that was formerly full of magic. They use a spell to bring their dad back to life, but only get his bottom half! They have 24 hours to complete a quest to finish the spell and see him one more time. All they need to finish the spell is the Phoenix gem, but finding it proves a lot more complicated than they first think. While they are working to bring him back, they have to bring their dad’s legs and feet along with them for the ride.

The animators have created a beautiful imaginative world with lots of clever details that will make you want to watch again and again. The voice acting is top notch, with Tom Holland and Chris Pratt showing a range of emotions and humor as Ian and Barley. Octavia Spencer as Manticore brings her character to life with frantic energy. The introduction of her character is hilarious! She’s a former magical adventurer turned family restaurant owner. I really like the part when Barley shrinks down to a tiny size due to Ian messing up a spell. I also like when Ian turns their boat into a cheese puff so they can eat their own transportation! I love Officer Colt and his catchphrase where he asks everyone if they are “working hard or hardly working.”

There are a lot of positive messages in this film about family and loyalty. Another message is that you can go searching for things you’ve never had in life, but you might find they were right with you all along. Parents of younger kids might want to watch out for some of the risky actions the brothers take, like when Ian walks off a cliff, trusting in his magic to keep him safe.

I give this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 5 to 17, and adults will like it too. You can see Onward in theaters everywhere starting March 6, 2020.

Onward

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I love Onward! It is a whimsical story filled with colorful and eccentric characters. Pixar nailed the animation, and the cast of voices is pure perfection.

Onward takes place in a magical world, that isn’t quite so magical anymore. Brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) are complete opposites in every way. Brave Barley is never is afraid to take a risk, especially when it involves magic. Ian, on the other hand, is quirky, and lacks confidence. Their mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), is an important character as she is the glue keeping their family together.

The movie is inspired by the director, Dan Scanlon’s own childhood. I love the setting of this movie. It takes place in a modern town, where everyone lives in mushroom-shaped houses. Unicorns, once a majestic creature, are now more like raccoons than anything else. Adorable mini dragons are kept as pets. The voice-over actors are wonderful. Mel Rodriguez, who voices Officer Bronco, has the funniest laugh. Octavia Spencer, who voices The Manticore, acts as wild as a Manticore should. Tom Holland (Ian) perfectly portrays an awkward kid. My favorite character is Barley, because he is a classic rock loving boy. 

The messages of this movie are that family is the most important thing and sometimes what you’re looking for has been with you the whole time. This film does have some magical scenes that kids should not imitate. It also reminds us to always pay your parking tickets.

I give Onward 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18. People with siblings will especially like it as will adults. Onward opens in theaters March 6, 2020.

Cute, Fun, Family-friendly DVD based on the award-winning book and TV series.

Llama Llama springs to life in these heart-warming tales based on the award-winning book series by author and illustrator Anna Dewdney. Join Llama Llama, Nelly Gnu, Luna Giraffe, Euclid the Sheep and Gilroy Goat as they explore their friendly hometown and make childhood memories. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Cadence G. comments, “I like the Llama Llama Family Fun Collection DVD because every episode has a different main idea with an interesting story to tell. The animated characters each have their own thoughts about things and how to approach a situation.” Ruby A., follows with, “Llama Llama Family Fun Collection is a cute, fun, and family-friendly DVD that is based on an award-winning book and TV series. The storyline and adorable personalities of the characters combine to make the viewing experience enjoyable. The characters’ companionship is very sweet, and they care a lot about one another. They always have each other’s back.” Christine R. wraps it with, “Upbeat, positive messages about friendship and family make these great for family viewing.” See their full reviews below.

Llama Llama Family Fun Collection
By Cadence G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

I like the Llama Llama Family Fun Collection DVD because every episode has a different main idea with an interesting story to tell. The animated characters each have their own thoughts about things and how to approach a situation. The only part I didn’t really like is that the characters sometimes talk too slow and you want to make them talk faster, but it probably makes it easier for little kids to understand. 

The Llama Llama Family Collection has 15 episodes and is based on the book series written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney. The animated collection is about a llama and his friends who have awesome adventures together. Each episode has a moral to the story. For example, in one of the episodes, Luna (a giraffe, voiced by Vania Gill) is very scared to go on stage to perform a solo in front of an audience. Then Llama Llama and Nelly Gnu get a dance machine and it really helps Luna lose her fear of performing in front of an audience.  Another story tells about Llama Llama, Euclid and Gilroy Goat having a sleepover, where they experience new and different things while at a friend’s house. I know when I go to a sleepover, I find myself trying a new food or doing any activity that I wouldn’t necessarily have done at my house.

I didn’t recognize the voices of any of the characters, although after looking at who does the voices, I recognize Jennifer Garner, who voices Mama Llama. I like Luna’s personality, but my favorite character is Euclid (Brendon Sunderland). He’s smart, but in a funny way. I like when the group of friends take swimming lessons with Mama Llama in Eleanor Elephant’s (Kathleen Barr) pool. Even though Llama Llama (Shayle Simons) isn’t a great swimmer, his friends are supportive. And it is cute seeing Llama Llama’s grandpa (David Hoole) learn to swim, too.

The message of the film is to be nice to others. It’s important to help your friends, rather than make fun of them or bring them down. When I see someone making fun of someone, I try to stand up for them. It is nice to watch a film where a group of friends support one another.

I rate this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 9. This DVD is available now, so go look for it!

Llama Llama Family Fun CollectionBy Ruby A. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Llama Llama Family Fun Collection is a cute, fun, and family-friendly DVD that is based on an award-winning book and TV series. The storyline and adorable personalities of the characters combine to make the viewing experience enjoyable. The characters’ companionship is very sweet, and they care a lot about one another. They always have each other’s back.

The Llama Llama Family Fun Collection DVD is collection of episodes about a group of animal companions that go on a lot of adventures, meet new friends and solve problems along the way. In one episode, Llama Llama’s friend, Luna the Giraffe, struggles with bad stage fright. She has a dance recital the next day. Llama Llama and Nelly Gnu have to help her, or she won’t be able to perform without becoming nervous on stage. In another episode, Llama Llama and two of his friends, Gilroy Goat and Euclid Sheep, plan a sleepover together. What they don’t know is that strange things will happen just as they are about to go to sleep. But maybe the friends’ imaginations will wander too far…

Some of the lead characters are Mama Llama (Jennifer Garner) and Llama Llama (Shayle Simons). They are an adorable mother-son duo, and they love each other very much. What really stands out in this collection  is the incredibly detailed and expressive animation. The vibrant colors and homey scenery go hand in hand to create a wholesome, fun show for children and their families to watch. It really is a great choice for teaching good lessons to young minds. 

The message of the DVD Llama Llama Family Fun Collection   is that you should always be willing to help your friends, and that problems can be solved through the effort of a team. It is definitely successful in communicating its message through the close-knit friend group, and how they stick together and help each other face their fears. The message is definitely positive and uplifting, and can teach young children that companionship is an important life skill to have. There really isn’t anything to worry about when children are watching this series. There is no bad language at all, and there isn’t any negative behavior that young children may attempt to imitate. 

I give this series 4 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 2 to 10.  The Llama Llama Family Fun Collection  DVD is available now

Llama Llama Family Fun CollectionBy Christine R., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

The Llama Llama Family Fun Collection DVD features the animated friends from Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama book series in 15 stories, including holiday stories for Halloween, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. The friends learn to use their unique talents with some creativity to overcome day to day problems by following grown up advice and helping each other. In “Stage Fright,” Luna Giraffe’s upcoming dance recital is giving her performance jitters, but Llama Llama and Nelly Gnu are there to offer support, calming breaths and remind her to just have fun. Nelly Gnu is jealous of the attention her baby brother receives in the story “Jealous Nelly.” Her new tree-house takes a backseat to babysitting and party planning for the baby. She misses her parents’ and friends’ attention, but soon realizes that being a big sister is the perfect role for her. The friends accept the challenge to do without their electronic gadgets when Grandma Llama and Mama Llama take them on an overnight campout in “Let’s Go Camping.” They use their five senses to appreciate the sights and sounds of nature. Upbeat, positive messages about friendship and family make these great for family viewing. Children ages 4 to  8 should enjoy these fun, engaging episodes. I give this 5 out of 5 stars. Reviewed by Christine R., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer.

The Fun, Festive Holiday of Purim is Exuberant, Colorful and Full of Joy – Let PJ Library’s Unique, Family-Friendly Ideas Enliven Your Family Celebrations this March!

The early springtime holiday of Purim, with all of its festive fun, is an especially accessible holiday for children; this year, the holiday falls on March 9th-10th.

On Purim, it’s customary to listen to the biblical Book of Esther (also known as the Megillah in Hebrew), put on comic productions of the story of Purim called purimspiels (Yiddish for “plays”), dress up in costumes as the famous characters from the story, bake (and eat!) hamantaschen, shake Purim groggers (noisemakers), give gift baskets (mishloach manot) to friends and do tzedakah and other good works to spread joy and help the needy.

This Purim, PJ Library wants to help families celebrate in fun and unique ways, so they’ve created 18 great ideas sure to spur creativity and togetherness.  Whether your children have never dressed for Purim before or baked a classic, delicious hamantaschen – or you’re just tired of the same old routine – check out these enjoyable activities! And, for more, families are welcome to visit PJ Library’s Purim Hub!

If you currently receive PJ Library books, be on the lookout for the special February mailing, which contains a Purim gift basket to make and decorate!

A program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, PJ Library sends more than two hundred ten thousand expertly curated books to families raising Jewish children – every month, at no cost to subscribers. Families raising Jewish children may subscribe at http://bit.ly/2DckFee , tapping in to a wealth of information, parenting resources and community events as well as free books.

Self Disclosure: I am a part of the PJ Library Ambassadors tribe and some form of compensation has been received. Images and information are also provided.

Wendy * A Soulful Fantasy Drama Combining Drama With Adventure

Lost on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Wendy must fight to save her family, her freedom, and the joyous spirit of youth from the deadly peril of growing up. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “Wendy is the new re-imagined version of the Peter Pan story and a very thoughtful and meaningful film. It is beautifully shot, and it reminds us of the power of imagination. Wendy is a very introspective story that combines adventure with drama but is not a colorful vibrant tale—instead it is filled with some sadness and a little gloom.” Katherine S. adds, “This soulful fantasy drama drew me in from the very beginning and never let up.  It is so visually stimulating, with a lot of different camera angles and incredible stunts. The location is both beautiful and exotic. It’s the perfect setting.” See their full reviews below.

Wendy

By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Wendy is the new re-imagined version of the Peter Pan story and a very thoughtful and meaningful film. It is beautifully shot, and it reminds us of the power of imagination. Wendy is a very introspective story that combines adventure with drama but is not a colorful vibrant tale—instead it is filled with some sadness and a little gloom.

Director Benh Zeitlin co-wrote this film with his sister Eliza, a story where a little girl, Wendy, assumes the role of a mother figure to her brothers.  The story explores adulthood and the challenges of a new self-acquired freedom.

Trains pass everyday just next to Wendy’s house and everything shakes. Her life seems very methodical; she helps her mom at the dinner business that operates in the lower level of her house. On the top level, she plays and uses her imagination reading books and daydreaming about adventures. One day, when she is little, a kid disappears on top of a train in front of her pretty blue eyes. Years later, she decides to disappear on a train, too, followed by her brothers, curious to see what happens at the end of the journey. She meets Peter Pan and arrives in a remote volcano island. She also meets the kid that disappeared years ago, but he hasn’t aged. She discovers the secrets behind staying forever as a kid as she learns the importance of growing and enjoying every stage of life.

The film was shot on location, in places that represented a real challenge to the crew. Zeitlin is a passionate filmmaker who challenged himself filming in 16mm, a format that is artistic but represents more efforts, technically speaking. The format definitively adds texture and works perfectly for the story.

The young actors were excellent; they totally conveyed a wide range of emotions.

Wendy is about lots of things; definitively a coming-of-age film where Wendy deals with the fact of growing up and assuming responsibilities and being afraid of that. But it is also about family, respect for nature and grown-ups and older people. And this is probably my only issue with this film – at times, it feels that it has too many moments of symbolism which makes it hard to follow the main purpose.

The message of the film is we should always remember the good things about being a child, keeping a free spirit and use our imagination. But aging brings wisdom and we can’t change the course of life.

I give Wendy 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids age 10 to 18. Some images could be a little intense for young kids and this movie will not be very easy to understand for kids under 10. Wendy opens February 28, 2020.

Wendy

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

This soulful fantasy drama drew me in from the very beginning and never let up.  It is so visually stimulating, with a lot of different camera angles and incredible stunts. The location is both beautiful and exotic. It’s the perfect setting.

Wendy is a very different adaptation of the classic Peter Pan story. It follows a young girl named Wendy and her adventure to a mysterious island with her brothers.  Once on the island, they discover the wonders of nature, freedom and the surprising struggles of life. Wendy fights to keep her family together, while trying to stay young.

Benh Zeitlin co-wrote the screenplay with his sister, Eliza Zeitlin, and also directs the film. The awesome thing about this twosome is that they didn’t just, one day, think of this idea for a movie, but had the idea their whole lives. Benh also co-composed much of the dynamic music for the movie along with Dan Romer.  Wendy was filmed on location in the Caribbean, using 16mm film versus a reliance on green screens for background settings. It features real nature! This movie has a wonderful cast of nonprofessional kids, such as Yashua Mack, who plays a very believable Peter. Gage and Gavin Naquin, as Wendy’s brothers Douglas and James, have a visible bond with each other as brothers as well as in real life. My favorite character is Wendy (Devin France), because she is so brave, very curious, and has a kind spirit.  

The messages of this film are that it is ok to grow up, but never loose joy, hope, wonder and freedom and to confront, not escape, life’s difficulties. This movie has some mild profanity, some gory images and some very risky adventures, but the last is on purpose because they wanted these kids to be free to do fun and dangerous things.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. Adults will also like this movie. Wendy opens in theaters on February 28, 2020.

Books of the Month-Celebrate Black History Month with these books!

BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR by Angela Joy and Illustrated by Ekua Holmes: A poignant and powerful picture book that gives children the language and exposure to discuss ethnicity/race/culture and incline them to curiosity and not fear; self-love and not shame.
This is a beautiful picture book for young children! I highly recommend it for ages 3-6 years old.

WOKE by Mahogany L. Browne and Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III: A collection of poems to inspire kids to stay woke and become a new generation of activists.  This one is perfect for the little older kids!

Find both books and more at https://us.macmillan.com/mackids/

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of both books. Cover images were also provided. No other compensation was received.

Book of the Day: Three Paws, an inspirational picture book about a grizzly bear with a disability that learns how to adapt and overcome.

Four ways to dream your best life and then live it to the fullest
By Karen Struck, RN and author of Three Paws

So much has been written about living our lives to the fullest, but what does that really mean?  Mark Twain summarized it succinctly – “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.”  Let’s face it, life is a roller coaster.  We all face ups and downs throughout our journey.  Challenges abound.  It’s how you focus your thoughts, positively or negatively, that will determine your perception of your current path.

Do you view challenges as obstacles that appear to be insurmountable or as an opportunity for growth and personal empowerment?

Here are four ways to dream your best life and then take steps to live it to the fullest:

Overcome “fear of failure” by taking action
.  This is one of the biggest fears that we all share.  Fear holds us back from enjoying our lives and expanding to our highest potential.  Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players in the NBA said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something.  But I can’t accept not trying.” During his sophomore year in high school, Michael did not make the varsity basketball team.  The coach felt Michael was too short to play at that level.  Determined to play basketball, Michael joined the junior varsity team and practiced his skills for hours a day until he honed his skills and became an NBA star. During high school, Michael did not make the basketful team, because the coach felt Michael was too short to perform well. Determined to play basketball, he joined a less competitive team and practiced his skills for hours a day until he honed his skills and became an NBA star. To Michael, failure was a motivator to better himself.  Fear of failure is the brick wall between you and your goals.  Define your goals and begin taking baby steps by setting small goals. Each time you accomplish a small goal, your self-confidence will improve, and you will continue down the yellow brick road toward success.

Study success stories.  History has taught us that some of the most outstanding achievements have been realized by people with disabilities. Sudha Chadran, actress and dancer, was accepted into one of the best dance schools in India at age five.  By age seventeen, she lost her right leg in a car accident and was told she would never dance again.  Her passion for dancing helped Sudha overcome her physical challenge.  She learned to walk again after years of hard work and eventually received an artificial leg. After many failed attempts at dance, Sudha pushed herself and returned to professional dancing.  Her first public performance sold out.  All of us deal with various struggles in one way or another.  Never give up!  Challenge yourself by trying new things. There are a multitude of programs and resources to pave one’s path toward realistic goals.   Try not to compare yourself to others.  Set your own goals and celebrate each small success and enjoy the journey.

Find your purpose in life and practice gratitude.  What do you love to do? What makes you happy? What makes you feel good?  Think about what you are good at and focus on your positive attributes. Feeling positive is a choice. We can use difficult times as a teacher understanding that they can also lead to brighter days ahead. “Every cloud has a silver lining” gives us hope that the dark clouds will pass and the sun will shine again. Learn to practice gratitude on a daily basis.  Be thankful for the life you live by appreciating those around you.  Treat people with kindness and respect.  Create a gratitude journal and reflect on what you are most thankful for so you may feel more happiness in the present moment.  Consider the benefits of meditation – a process of training your mind to focus your thoughts and achieve mental clarity and peacefulness.    Dr. Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD, author of the “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation,” summarizes that people who practice the art of meditation “develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.”  YouTube offers meditation music to guide you toward peace and calm. 

Visualize your life the way you want to live it. There is an old saying that goes, “We need to see it in order to achieve it.”  When we are feeling out of sorts, visualization is an effective way to refocus our energy toward achieving the life we desire.  How do we visualize? Close your eyes and sit in a quiet place.  What is your dream? Envision your dream as if you’ve already achieved it.  Be as detailed as possible. Set aside a little time each day to visualize your achievement.  Vision boards are another form of visualization where pictures from magazines are cut out and placed on a board that represents your goals.  Media Mogul, Oprah Winfrey, used vision boards to achieve her dreams.

Oprah says it best.  “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” 

Credit: Karen Struck.

KAREN STRUCK is a registered nurse and works in the aesthetic industry.  She discovered the joy of children’s literature as she read to her daughter each night. She was inspired by the Harry Potter book series, and decided to take writing courses through the Institute of Children’s Literature. Three Paws is the first book published in the Three Paws Series. She resides in Los Gatos, California, with her husband and three children. 

Three Paws is available through Amazon and other major booksellers. 

Emma * A Cheerful Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Beloved Novel

Jane Austen’s beloved comedy about finding your equal and earning your happy ending, is re-imagined in this film. Handsome, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse is a restless queen bee without rivals in her sleepy little town. In this glittering satire of social class and the pain of growing up, Emma must adventure through misguided matches and romantic missteps to find the love that has been there all along. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “Emma is a cheerful adaption of Jane Austen’s beloved novel. Readers of Jane Austen can rejoice as her characters come to screen.” See his full review below.

Emma
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Emma is a cheerful adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel. Readers of Jane Austen can rejoice as her characters come to screen. Others might not find this to be their cup of tea.

In this adaptation the “handsome, clever and rich” matchmaker Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor Joy) pursues her adventures through matches and romanticism to find love.

Anya Taylor Joy, as Emma, gives the best performance. Anya has grown from a being newcomer and this demanding performance proves that, allowing for eloquent speaking and characterization. Her conversations with other characters are straight out of the classic Victorian tale; keeping in mind, she is American. Her love interests are Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley, a dashingly critical friend, and Callum Turner as Frank Churchill, a rich gentleman. I also enjoyed Mia Goth as Harriet, as she helps Emma find her match.

Director Autumn de Wilde is artistic, but the pacing could be tighter. This is a slow movie as several scenes are long, drawn-out conversations. I feel this aspect is best achieved in books, though some movies can capture the audience’s attention like that. This movie really must be your forte for it to be enjoyable. The character’s parlance is always olden English, and there is a loss of stakes. The score by Isobel Waller-Bridge is authentically Georgian capturing the grounded roots of genteel women living in England.

The message of this film is to not rush love, as Emma and Harriet let time prove its worth after hasty pursuits. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, due to brief nudity, even though younger kids might not be interested in watching this. The movie releases in theaters on February 21, 2020, so check it out.