Solo: A Star Wars Story – An Essential Watch for Any Star Wars Fan

During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion. Described as a space western, the film centers on the young Han Solo and his adventures with his Wookiee side-kick Chewbacca, including their encounter with Lando Calrissian. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “Solo: A Star Wars Story is a perfectly serviceable origin story for the famous titular character. The acting and direction provide an outstanding mix of visuals and characterization.” KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror, Kimbirly O. adds, “Howard’s optimistic effort on this prequel doesn’t save the film. He made a good film, but if it was a stand-alone film, I would not predict a plethora of sequels.” See their full reviews below.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a perfectly serviceable origin story for the famous titular character. The acting and direction provide an outstanding mix of visuals and characterization. This is definitely an essential watch for any Star Wars fan.

The movie follows young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) on his journey to become the famed hero pilot. As a talented maverick, Solo joins forces with the thief Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew to escape poverty and become part of something bigger. However, one of their heists goes wrong resulting in a life or death deal with Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) which will determine the fate of their lives. To rectify this, Solo and newfound friend Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) enlist the help of old flame Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and the charming Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) to take part in the second heist.

Alden Ehrenreich, as Han Solo, wonderfully portrays his hero’s journey from a poor, oppressed dreamer to heroic pilot. His mannerisms and line delivery excellently match up to the standard set by Harrison Ford. Joonas Suotamo, as Chewbacca, encompasses an extraordinary counterpart Peter Mayhew’s mantle as he perfectly portrays his growing friendship with Han. Donald Glover, as Lando Calrissian, is my favorite character due to his exact interpretations of Billy Dee Williams’s zany parlance. His banter with Solo only forwards the character’s legacy. Woody Harrelson, as Beckett, provides for a flawed yet effective mentor to Solo by guiding him about motivations and how to deal. Emilia Clarke, as Qi’ra, is great with what she is given, but her character falls into the stereotypical “will they or won’t they” love interest loop. Paul Bettany, as Dryden Vos, is menacing with his passive aggressiveness building to volatile outburst when his orders are disobeyed.

Ron Howard efficiently grasps all the characters’ tales by providing great interactions with known Star Wars lore. My favorite scene is the initial train heist as it showcases how unprepared Beckett’s gang was and is intense as regards the fates of all characters involved. Also, there are great displays of special effects with the train’s movement patterns. The one flaw is that it really doesn’t Solo any character transformation as he always remains heroic with the only change being how he goes from rags to riches. The love triangle between Solo, Qi’ra and Dryden also feels uninspired.

The message of the movie is to always abide by morals rather than selfish instinct. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 because of its intense action. The movie releases in theaters May 25, 2018, so check it out.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I was excited to see the origin story of Han Solo, as he has been a character favorite of mine for years. The young man was boosting scams from age 10 and lived a life of adventure, for sure! Learning how his last name came to be was interesting – think passport control questioning. But, I digress.

While the film strives to tell the story of how Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Chewbacca, everyone’s favorite Wookie (Joonas Suotamo) became BFFs after a contentious beginning, it had some stalls and at times, I wondered if Han was attempting to be our hero or villain. I felt the origin story of Han Solo did not go deep enough to show us who he is, and what lead him to be, Solo.

The most interesting character is Becket, played by Woody Harrelson. He is a true team player, but what team does he play for? His chameleon-like persona is wonderful to see and a testament to this talented and beloved actor.

The film begins centered on a bunch of bad dudes who all fear the reptilian and then, our hero Han, who eventually joins the Imperial armed forces to reconnect with his love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). Being the rebel he is, Han is kicked out of pilot training and ends up in one of the many Empire wars. His quest to find Qi’ra lands him in the clutches of the dreadful mob boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and a gambler named Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).

Long ago, in a vision far-away, original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were off-loaded from the payload and rescued by super Director Ron Howard. Howard’s optimistic effort on this prequel doesn’t save the film. He made a good film, but if it was a stand-alone film, I would not predict a plethora of sequels.

I give this film of 4 out of 5 stars for the performances, which are spectacular, especially Glover, Harrelson and Ehrenreich, along with special effects, creepy wardrobes, action scenes and Star Wars references that any true fan will ‘get’ (like the Kessel Run, the Millennium Falcon and of course, the necklace hanging on the rearview mirror). I recommend this film for ages 8 to 18. I caution younger viewing due to adult themes and fight scenes which may be disturbing to younger children.

Photo by Jonathan Olley – © 2018 – Lucasfilm Ltd.


Brooklyn’s Beloved Kindie Star Suzi Shelton Releases an Album of Smart Songs for Kids Who Care Hand in Hand Avail now!

 Suzi Shelton, known for her “heartfelt songs that span a lot of childhood territory”(Parents’ Choice) and “hummable, kid-friendly tunes” (NY Daily  News), released her fourth solo album for families this spring: Hand in Hand on May 11. Suzi plans several concerts to celebrate the release, including Friday sing-alongs at JCP Downtown in NYC and a show at Madison Square Park (as part of the Madison Square Kids series) on Wednesday, July 11.

Suzi and special musical guests will present an interactive Facebook Live concert on Thursday, May 10 at about 6 pm Eastern Time.

Inspired by a challenge from her Brooklyn based women’s songwriting group, Suzi offers her signature “catchy, danceable pop-rock songs that connect directly with kids” (BaristaNet), while delving into more sophisticated stylings and production. Hand in Hand includes nine upbeat songs to encourage self-discovery, expression and kindness. Some of the tunes are childlike and whimsical, about things like ladybugs and raindrops and blue fin fish. Others are meant to be inspiring, like “Can You Feel the Power,” “The Grass Is Always Greener,” “River Come Down,” and “We Shall Walk.” The lyrics emphasize inclusion and believing in one’s own power to do good. “I want to encourage kids and let them know that they can be comfortable in their own skin and express themselves joyously,” says Suzi.

GRAMMY winning artist and former Sprout TV host Tim Kubart sings on the tune “Grass Is Always Greener,” and Brooklyn kindie stars Vered Ronen (Baby in Tune), Amelia Robinson (Mil’s Trills) and Katie Mullins (Katie Ha Ha Ha) add vocals to “Can You Feel the Power?” The toe-tapping finger-snapping traditional children’s song “Ladybugs” includes swinging Andrews Sisters style harmonies by Bess Rogers and Hannah Winkler. Hand in Hand was engineered, produced and mixed by Greg Mayo and Dan Weiner, who together with Suzi aimed to create an eclectic pop album with a modern feel. Children’s voices add lift to peppy and positive songs like the first track, “Put Your Hands in the Air,” and Suzi’s 13-year-old daughter Emma wrote and performed on the song, “We Shall Walk.”


Suzi Shelton

 More about Suzi Shelton


The proud mother of two children, Suzi also works and performs regularly with students at area schools. MomTrends called Suzi “one of our favorite musicians,” and the Brooklyn Spectator noted, “When Suzi Shelton takes the stage with her guitar and her band, you know that something special is about to happen.” In addition to family concerts in and around NYC this spring and summer, Suzi is also working on her fifth season of FREE Sing with Suzi videos on YouTube. She is constantly creating new songs and video content for her preschool fans. Visit for updates.

Connect with Suzi on Facebook: Suzi Shelton Music, Instagram: SuziMusic,Twitter: @SuziShelton , and YouTube: Suzi Shelton.

Credit: Sugar Mountain PR.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Applejack – Wonderfully animated, delightful stories, great lessons!

Think work on the farm is easy? Then you don’t know jack – Applejack, that is! Honesty, patience and friendships are tested in a new collection of adventures featuring every pony’s favorite four-hooved apple lover! Join Applejack and her very best pals – Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy and Spike – as they experience the power and magic of true friendship. Bonus Feature: sing-along. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “Even though these episodes are clearly for younger kids, I can’t deny that I actually really like these episodes. I don’t think I’ll actually start watching the show, but this show can be enjoyed by the whole family because it is very entertaining.” Adult juror Kimberly M. adds, “I love the humor in these stories, the visual appeal, interesting storylines and great morals that children can easily pick up. The animation is big and colorful.” See their full reviews below.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Applejack

By Calista Bess, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

Even though these episodes are clearly for younger kids, I can’t deny that I actually really like these episodes. I don’t think I’ll actually start watching the show, but this show can be enjoyed by the whole family because it is very entertaining.

This DVD is a collection of five shorts from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, with most of the episodes centered around the character, Applejack. She is an important character in every episode, even the ones that are not centered around her. I am aware that My Little Pony actually has some pretty interesting stories and can get pretty dark, but these episodes are filler. They do also reference major events in past episodes and one episode has two characters who appear to be recurring characters, so I really wouldn’t recommend this DVD as a way to fully understand what takes place on the show.

That being said, Applejack has a sweet southern accent, works on a farm and appears to epitomize honesty. I like that My Little Pony shows have a moral compass that teach positive lessons. This show should make lots of parents happy.  My Little Pony has a ton of effort and care put into each episode. I’m very impressed with this show. Often times in shows, filler episodes are boring and they make you wish you were watching a story driven episode. This isn’t the case with these stories!

Now, My Little Pony has some really interesting characters. I love character driven stories and that best describes this series. The main cast consists of six characters, or “The Mane 6” as they’re often referred to outside the show. By the way, it’s an amazing pun. I really like when shows have a large cast of recurring characters that really make their world feel real. It helps world-building, character dynamics and of course, I love talking about characters in media. As I mentioned, these episodes focus mainly on one character, Applejack, but sometimes the other members of The Mane 6 share the spotlight.  If you like Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash and Rarity, then you will love this series because they are highly featured. My main issue is that, ironically, my favorite member of The Mane 6, Fluttershy isn’t in any of these episodes. I know the episodes are about Applejack, but from what I’ve seen of recent My Little Pony, Fluttershy is the most under-developed of the group. So please, My Little Pony creators, show some love and character development to Fluttershy. I give this DVD 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 12. The DVD is available now, so look for it.

My Little Pony: Friendship and Magic: Applejack

By Kimberly Mullins, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror.

I found this DVD quite charming and filled with great lessons. Each episode in this collection is approximately 25 minutes in length. The storylines are very straightforward and the moral messages are charming and clear. They are very engaging for the target age. The characters draw you in with their multi-dimensional human personality traits. The language is quite suitable for the audience as well, although younger kids may not pick up every single word. The overall messages are what are important. Applejack, the main character, maintains an integrity even if others do something different. If she does something wrong, then she accepts the mistake as well as its consequences and, more importantly, apologizes. The other characters hold the same level of integrity as well. Questioning and probing are developed when certain problematic situations take place. An example is when a pair of scam artists dupe a crowd at a circus presentation into believing that a miracle product cures ills, Applejack instantly feels there is something fishy going on and is concerned when grandma pony purchases the elixir. In another episode, Applejack’s younger sisters and friends want to help build carts for a race, but the older sisters take over designing the carts. The race ends in a big crash, destroying the carts. The younger siblings assert that the holder ones took over their project and the resolution is for the younger ponies to rebuild their carts without interference from the older siblings. I love the humor in these stories, the visual appeal, interesting storylines and great morals that children can easily pick up. The animation is big and colorful. There are five episodes and bonus singalong. The messages address how to be a person of high character, getting along with others, owning up to mistakes and apologizing. I give this 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 through 9. Reviewed by Kimberly M., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror


Books of the Week of May 24th!

A new picture book about mindful breathing from Nick Ortner is a must-read for young children!

A wonderful read for the chaotic preschool classroom or after a busy day before bed, MY MAGIC BREATH helps children process their emotions and consciously breathe through the moment to help find calm. With a read-along-breathe-along element, this new release provides prompts to inspire conversation between parent and child about how they feel:

  • Are there too many thoughts running through your mind?
  • What happened today that made you smile?
  • Did something happen that made you feel sad or mad?

I really like how this teaches pre-schoolers to be calmer and it’s great for ages 4-8!

Nick Ortner is CEO of the Tapping Solution, LLC, a company with a mission to promote the natural healing method known as Emotional Freedom Techniques or “tapping” (a combination of Chinese healing practices). This is his second children’s book; his first was The Big Book of Hugs. He is also the New York Times bestselling author of The Tapping Solution, The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief, and the upcoming book The Tapping Solution for Manifesting Your Best Self. Nick lives in Newtown, CT, with his wife and daughter, June. You can find Nick at

Alison Taylor is an elementary school teacher and coauthor of The Big Book of Hugs. She writes to inspire young people, especially her beloved June and Harris, to find what makes them happy. She lives in Connecticut with her husband.

Michelle Polizzi is an illustrator and designer living and working in California. This is her second book working alongside Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor. She lives in the East Bay with her sons, Rowan and River, her husband, Nick, and their beloved Frenchie, Oscar, where they spend their days creating and inspiring one another. You can see more of her work at

Are you looking forward to the Royal Wedding? 

I love these book choices!

My favorite is the Harry and Meghan Paperdolls!

Commemorate the wedding of the year with paper dolls of the royal couple! The world will be watching when Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle wed in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle — and you can relive the events leading up to the big day with this fabulous paper doll collectible. Dress the royal couple in the outfits they wore to their engagement announcement or choose from Harry’s Invictus Games T-shirt, Meghan’s ensemble for her first official duty, and more. Includes two dolls and 14 costumes.

Price: $9.99

Who Am I? by Steve Simpson is a great one for Teenagers!

Nationally recognized and award-winning, Simpson is a child advocate, child abuse survivor and media commentator who  released The Teenage and Young Adult Survival Handbook — a small guide that is modestly tucked inside in all four of his YA adventure novels which covers most of the topics plaguing young people today—suicide, bullying, sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, self-worth, being the child of an addict, living in a dysfunctional home, surviving school and more. This is a way for children and teens to seek help in a private way.

I think this is a must-read for all teens! It may be helpful for adults to read too!

I’m always stressed about what grade I’m going to get on my next test. There always seems to be a hassle with at least one teacher. There is constantly drama with some other student and half of the time I don’t even know why. I’m tired when I wake up in the morning and I dread going. I can’t stand half the kids and don’t even like the building. The only thing worse than going to school and dealing with all of this is not going to school and dealing with the abuse and drama in my house! I never look forward to holidays and the summer is like one big holiday. More time home, more time with my abusive parent, more chances of at least getting verbally abused if not worse. And for some reason my non-abusive co-dependent parent thinks its okay to tell me about all the problems and worries, not to mention the horrible things that might happen to us. I wish I could just go into suspended animation for the summer until the new school year starts or just plain get off of this world!

These are some of the thoughts that many young people who live in abusive or dysfunctional homes think this time of year. I was one of those abused children and these were my thoughts exactly with the love/hate relation of school. The end result almost equivocally ends with thoughts of suicide or running away, to which I tried both. This is why I have spent my adult life speaking and writing books on these topics. Even students who seem fine in school can return after the summer a different person, ready to give up after a long summer in an abusive or dysfunctional home.

Author Steve Simpson covers these and similar topics such as suicide, child abuse, being a child of an alcoholic, self-esteem, bullying and surviving the holidays in a dysfunctional home in The Teenage and Young Adult Survival Handbook which is found in all of Steve’s novels Who Am I?The World is WrongRunaway and Child’s Island.

Do you have a Baseball fan in the house?

Sports Illustrated Kids Books. THE BASEBALL FANBOOK  is such a fun little book that middle readers (& older) are going to be obsessed with, especially the MLB quizzes at the end of the book. I actually found the quizzes at the end quite fun! This book will be a hit for summer reading!
This is the next installment in the popular Fanbook series (The Football Fanbook, August 2017), and is chock-full of all the nerdy-cool insider knowledge that fans ready for next-level, in-depth stats need to know. Tailor-made for baseball fanatics who know the basics of the sport they love and are looking to become super fans, this new fanbook is filled with fun trivia, unique lingo, and illustrated behind-the-skills how-to’s. Chapters include Team Tidbits (facts about every MLB team), Think Like a Manager (essential strategies), He Reminds Me Of (comparing current plays to legendary greats), and much more!
I love this next fun series for young children! 

STICKY FACTS is an innovative, kid-friendly approach to beloved topics for ages 6 and up, featuring a cutting-edge sticker sheet design that allows for text and color images to appear underneath the sticker. This is such a fun way to learn new facts! I recommend for all younger children!

The STICKY FACTS: WHAT WILL YOU FIND? series includes…

STICKY FACTS: ANIMALS— A veritable sticker field guide to the animal kingdom and the habitats they call home, readers will learn how to tell two zebras apart, what happens when a squirrel falls out of a tree, why meerkats stand up, and more

STICKY FACTS: CONSTRUCTION— Teaches readers about the powerful machines and massive monster-size trucks that encompass the world of construction. Learn where to find a construction elevator, where the “steam” in “steamroller” comes from, the body parts that most resemble stabilizers, and more

STICKY FACTS: NEW YORK—At once at once an interactive activity book and the ultimate interactive guide to the Big Apple, readers will learn whether Lady Liberty can dance, how many miles comprise the subway tracks, the number of art pieces housed within the famed MoMA, and more about the city so nice, they named it twice!

 Unlike average sticker books, each sticker page features questions with facts hidden underneath the relevant sticker. Once the sticker is peeled o­ff, the fascinating fact is revealed. Activity pages with corresponding prompts are featured next to the sticker pages for readers to use as fuel for sticker landscapes, adding hours of fun to the whole experience!

I love the Pout-Pout Fish series and love that this one addresses bullying!


Mr. Fish has always been a sensitive soul, and in this time he tackles his most challenging anxiety yet— a bully. Swim along with Mr. Fish as he teaches the bully shark about kindness and being a friend. I recommend this one for all pre-schoolers and young children because it teaches such an important lesson in a delightful way! I love the characters and the illustrations are amazing!

Rosemary Wells Launches New Preschool Picture Book Series!

I love this author and remember reading Max & Ruby books with my son when he was younger.

Picture book legend Rosemary Wells (creator of beloved characters Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora, Yoko, etc.), whose titles have sold in excess of five million copies worldwide, is launching a new preschool picture book series, KIT AND KABOODLE (Henry Holt and Co. BYR,  Ages 4-8) — sure to be an enduring classic!

With gentle messages of kindness and sharing, this story — starring a brother-and-sister twin cat duo, Kit and Kaboodle, and the mischievous mouse, Spinka — is a great entry point to talking about feelings and emotional intelligence in a preschool setting.

The characters are delightful and I absolutely love the colorful illustrations!

Do you have young children who love board books? Sesame Street 5 Little Rubber Duckies and 10, 9, 8…Owls Up Late Teach Little Ones to Count should be added to their home library!

These books are too cute and really fun to read! Sesame Street: 5 Little Rubber Duckies (Studio Fun; ISBN: 9780794441197; $11.99; 12 pgs) is perfect for pre-schoolers! What a fun way to learn to count from 1-5! Join Ernie and his friends on Sesame Street as they try to find five little rubber duckies in this fun, hands-on board book! With touch and trace elements perfect for little hands and plastic duckies to push and count along, this book is the perfect story time activity for early learners. Also available in Spanish (5 Patitos de Hule)!

In 10, 9, 8…Owls Up Late! (Silver Dolphin; ISBN: 9781684121847; $9.99; 26 pgs; Ages 3-5) ten little owls are playing in a tree, hopping and hooting happily. But Mama Owl calls from down in the nest, “It’s bedtime now; it’s time to rest.” Peek through the pages and spot the mischievous owls in this fun counting book, perfect for bedtime! Featuring fun rhyming text, funny illustrations and peek-through die-cut pages. I love the illustrations in this charming book!

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to feature and only feature books that I highly recommend! Cover images were also provided. 



RBG – An Intimate Portrait of an Unlikely Rock Star – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

An intimate portrait of an unlikely rock star: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers explore how her early legal battles changed the world for women. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “This documentary, RBG, tells you about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and not only inspires you, but motivates you to change the world just as she did.” Ranny L., KIDS FIRST! Juror adds, “She is an inspiration in so many ways. Shy and somewhat introverted, she never let that keep her from pursuing a career path that was unique for woman at the time.” See their full reviews below.


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

In one of the most divided political times in the recent history, it is good to look back to the previous decades and see the changes and inspiration that occurred in America. This documentary, RBG, tells you about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and not only inspires you, but motivates you to change the world just as she did.

At its core, this documentary will inspire people. It doesn’t hide the many aspects of life’s challenges. Throughout Ruth’s life, there are moments of romance as well as drama. On the opposite side of the coin, there are many comedic moments, ranging from fun antidotes about Ruth’s workaholism to Saturday Night Live skits.

Starting from her childhood to the present day, RGB reveals the essence of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is the female attorney who, not only fought for women’s rights in the United States, but also spent years on as a Supreme Court Justice fighting for women’s rights. This film truly gives real insight into the fight for women’s education, equal payment in the workplace and equal treatment in every situation. Despite gender discrimination (which still occurs worldwide), few know the efforts women have gone through, in order to receive the same rights and treatment that men have. The film also shows many aspects of her personal family life as well as struggles she has survived, such as surviving cancer.

One of my favorite parts of the film is when it shows how political differences don’t mean that two people cannot get along. Antonin Scalia, also a Supreme Court Justice, and Ruth were best friends for many years. Scalia was a staunch conservative and Ruth was always quite liberal. Often, in court, they differed in opinion. Yet, as the film shows, they were friends in real life, with no hard feelings despite their political differences. Their friendship delivers an important message for our nation today – that politics should not be something that breaks and blocks relationships.

RBG doesn’t rely on a single narrator to explain the life of Justice Ginsburg, there are many people who talk about her. Throughout the documentary, the person we hear from the most is Justice Ginsburg herself telling her stories. Skilled research and editing incorporate real-life speeches at the Supreme Court, as well as many hearings when Ruth was a lawyer. This gives a unique realistic feel to the film. Instead of being lectured about the subject, you feel as if you are part of her story. This also has its downsides. The documentary flows chronologically, but it also focuses on many aspects of Ruth’s life. In some ways, the film deals with so much information that it can become overwhelming.

While Ruth’s story is something we all should hear, it is complex with many mature details and important subjects. I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 as well as adults. It truly is a film that teenagers should see, as it demonstrates how anyone is capable of change. I give the film 4.5 out of 5 stars.


By Ranny Levy, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I have been a fan of Justice Ginsburg since she first came into focus in the 70s, as an advocate of women’s rights. This documentary about her life offers insight into her personal history and the people around her who supported her for so many years. She is an inspiration in so many ways. Shy and somewhat introverted, she never let that keep her from pursuing a career path that was unique for woman at the time. She entered Harvard Law School in 1956, one of 9 women in a class of 500 men. I resonated with her story about the Dean reportedly asking the female law students, “How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?”

Justice Ginsburg proudly speaks about being born and bred in Brooklyn. In the 70s she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU. We listen to Gloria Steinem and Nina Totenberg reveal tales of her past that make you realize how pivotal her involvement in the women’s movement was. Filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West dig into the substance of this woman with a judicious zeal usually reserved for our deceased heroes. As a staunch feminist, her nomination to the Supreme Court could have been way-laid had not President Clinton been wowed by her in the first 15 minutes of her interview with him. Then, he knew that he had to put her on the Court.

The love story between Ruth and Martin Ginsburg is nothing less than awe-inspiring. I love how she tells about her undergraduate years at Cornell where there was a four to one ratio of boys to girls. “Every mother wanted to send their daughter there because, if you couldn’t find a husband there, you were hopeless.” She reveals that during her freshman year, she never dated the same boy twice. That is, until she met Marty, who was the first guy that recognized she had a brain. When President Carter brought her to the federal bench, Marty gave up his success career as a tax attorney in New York to move to DC to support her. He recognized Ruth for the super star that she is and later, when she was nominated to the Supreme Court, rallied on her behalf with endless enthusiasm. Also noted is that he was the cook in the family. Her children tell how they had to keep her out of the kitchen.

One thing I really like about this film is that it focuses on Justice Ginsburg’s life long fight against gender discrimination. She experienced it first hand as a fresh law school graduate that could not get a job in any law office in New York City because “they didn’t hire women.” She has never given up the fight, and there have been many – for women in the military who were discriminated against for pay and benefits, for widowed men who couldn’t get survivor benefits. She chose her plaintiffs carefully, picking a male to show that gender discrimination worked against both men and women.

Although this film may lack verve in terms of groundbreaking filmmaking, it is stunningly beautiful in telling the story of a contemporary hero. 84-year-old Justice Ginsburg is an icon of our times. A woman who has weathered extremely difficult conditions and sits on the highest court in the country as someone dedicated to equality – for women, for people of different races and cultures – for all of us. She is a modern heroine and, as shy and quiet as she is – carries a big stick! I have been touting this film to all the young women and men in my universe and sending them to it. Most walk away stunned. My 20-year-old friends never even knew who she was before going to see the film. Many weep as they watch it. Now, that’s something. That’s important. If this film manages to get one young person’s attention and give them the courage to stand up for what they believe, then these filmmakers have something to be outrageously proud of. I believe they have.


Photos, courtesy of Magnolia Pictures


Books for Mom this Mother’s Day!

This is a really simple but cute book for Moms with young babies and toddlers! EVERYTHING IS MAMA by Jimmy Fallon (Feiwel & Friends, October 10, Ages 1-3). This one is a #1 New York Times Bestseller! 

Look for it online or at a bookstore near you!

I love these next choices from Mango Media!

Cooking, Making, and Baking: 100 Recipes and DIY Ideas for All Seasons and Reasons by Cynthia O’Hara, $24.95
From the creative mind of the “Harried Housewife” blog comes a beautifully packaged one-stop-shop book bursting with DIY recipes and ideas for the entire year! Cooking, Baking, and Making includes 60 DIY recipes with bonus designs and 40 DIY ideas that tie your home together for all 365 days. For spring, serve Herbed Cucumber Tea Sandwiches and a make a Spring Centerpiece as you watch the flowers bloom. In the hot summer, delight your guests with Fresh Berries and Cannoli Cream and make your own decorative coasters. In autumn, admire the turning leaves as you bake Dilled Beer and Cheddar Bread and make Autumn Harvest Potpourri. And in winter, enjoy Creamy Eggnog Cupcakes and make Festive Votives while snuggling by the fire. Cynthia O’Hara presents incredibly user-friendly projects and dishes that make replicating her flavors and designs as natural as the changing of the seasons. The Harried Housewife has written articles and developed a wide variety of recipes that reflect a simpler time and are ideal for budget-conscious families. The “Harried Housewife’s Recipe Box” column is syndicated nationally in regional newspapers. View this book on Amazon!

I love the DIY recipes in this book!

Women Who Launch: The Women Who Shattered Glass Ceilings by Marlene Wagman-Geller, $16.95
Dorothy Parker observed, “It’s a man’s world”; the lady entrepreneurs and game-changers profiled in Women Who Launch would beg to differ. Unlike many matrons of the 1950s, these kick-ass females left their DNA in the annals of time. Julia Ward-Howe showed what’s good for the goose is good for the gander when she created the Girl Scouts of America. Sara Joseph Hale, authoress of Mary had a Little Lamb, convinced Lincoln to launch a national day of thanks, while Anna Jarvis persuaded President Wilson to initiate a day in tribute of mothers. Estee Lauder revolutionized the cosmetics industry. The tradition of these Mothers of Invention continued when, compliments of knitter Krista Suh, the heads of millions were adorned with pink, pussy-cat ears in the largest women’s march in history. Women Who Launch is filled with inspiring true stories of women activists, artists, entrepreneurs who launched some of the most famous companies, brands, and organizations today and changed the world. It is at once a collection of biographies and a testament of female empowerment. These women who launched prove, in the words of Rosie the Riveter, “We can do it!” Find motivation in your career and life with the amazing history of women entrepreneurship, activism, and leadership. View this book on Amazon!

A Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils: Recipes and Practices for a Natural Lifestyle and Holistic Health by Hayley Hobson, $19.95
Homeopathic medicine and alternative medicines are gaining in popularity daily. A Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils by Hayley Hobson can become your first step to a healthier life—your first step to holistic health. Hayley is an internationally known author and inspirational speaker. She presents uplifting and educational programs in over 50 countries and promotes a holistic path to wellness by incorporating the use of essential oils with a regimen of exercise, healthy eating, and mental and emotional wellness practices. As a coach, she passionately empowers others to live their dreams and create lifestyle transformations by supporting them in becoming the best possible WHOLE versions of themselves. In her book, you will find real life stories and natural lifestyle principles. You’ll discover why we get out of balance in the first place—and find out how to fix it. You’ll learn about Hayley’s signature recipes and their specific purposes, helpful remedies and daily changes, safe handling and usage, and much more. View this book on Amazon!

This one is perfect for new Moms and Moms-to-be! Deep Breaths: The New Mom’s Handbook to Your Baby’s First Year by Michelle Pearson, $16.95
You’ve survived pregnancy and now you have a newborn baby. What’s next? You open up Deep Breaths by Michelle Pearson—and maybe take a few deep breaths of your own. This isn’t your grandma’s parenting book. YouTube parenting vlogger, Michelle Pearson, brings her inspiring and motivating parenting stories, tips, and tricks for the modern millennial mom. From what to expect as the pregnancy develops to the milestones within the first 12 months, Michelle knows that the journey will have highs, lows, and the occasional unexpected surprise on social media. In her book, she details what to expect during pregnancy and the first year of motherhood, the importance of finding your mother tribe, how to embrace motherhood with all of its ups and downs, and how to continue managing your career—and your social life—now that you have a newborn to care for. In Deep Breaths, Michelle will help you figure out what kind of mom you want to be—and how to become her. She will walk you through the good, the bad, and the ugly. And she will show you how to find, define, and embrace the mother within you—all while maintaining a delicate balance and taking the time to pamper yourself, sometimes, too. View this book on Amazon!



Geek Sweets: An Adventurer’s Guide to the World of Baking Wizardry by Jenny Burgesse
A baking cookbook for the truly geeky, Geek Sweets by Jenny Burgesse is filled with recipes for cookies, cupcakes, and cakepops in increasing difficulties, as well as party ideas with fantasy/adventure themes. Big, beautiful photographs, recipes, printable templates, and step-by-step how-to’s for every adventurer—from the squire just starting their journey, to a well-worn dragon slayer looking for a challenge—are all in this incredible cookbook. Whether you’ve never baked before or baking is basically your life, Jenny’s book can help you make tasty treats for your guild. Quest through a tome of countless fandoms, including Minecraft, Dungeons & Dragons, The Legend of Zelda, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and many more! View this book on Amazon!   

Your kids will love this one! 




The Book of Awesome Women: Boundary Breakers, Freedom Fighters, Sheroes and Female Firsts by Becca Anderson, $16.95
Women hold up half the sky and, most days, do even more of the heavy lifting including childbearing and child-rearing. All after a long day at the office. Women have always been strong, true heroes ─ sheroes, oftentimes unacknowledged. As we shake off the last traces of a major patriarchal hangover, women are coming into their own. In the 21st Century, all women can fully embrace their fiery fempower and celebrate their no-holds-barred individuality. It is time to acknowledge the successful women of the world. From the foremothers who blazed trails and broke barriers, to today’s women warriors from sports, science, cyberspace, city hall, the lecture hall, and the silver screen, The Book of Awesome Women paints 200 portraits of powerful and inspiring role models for women and girls poised to become super women of the future. View this book on Amazon!




Badass Women Give the Best Advice: Everything You Need to Know About Life and Love by Becca Anderson, $15.95
Women’s Studies scholar Becca Anderson has gathered the wisdom from a chorus of fabulous femmes for this one-of-a-kind advice book. From housewives to Hollywood starlets, from standup comedians to startup entrepreneurs, from feminists to Facebook queens, these badass women offer unvarnished and unabashed opinions about love, life, word, men, and sex and share their very frank and forthright thinking on the wild world of relationships. This delightfully dishy gathering of gal pals is like having a heart-to-heart with 200 of your closest friends. Garrulous girls and loquacious ladies of from every walk of life unleash their wicked wit in this humorous and enlightening compilation and tell it like it is. Topics include What the World Needs Now, Love Hurts, Lost Love, and Are Men Really Necessary and cover sex, personal ads, blind dates, break ups, weddings, and the prerequisites for the perfect kiss. Sidebars include quizzes, love and sex bucket lists and topics like “Size Really Does Matter,” and “Cry Me a River, The Weepiest Romantic Movies Ever.” Wait, there’s more–true tales about wild women of yore that entertain as much as they enlighten. From Anais Nin to Lily Tomlin, from Amy Bloom to Dorothy Allison, from Drew Barrymore to Chrissy Teigan and beyond, there’s no shortage of sass, sarcasm, or sizzle and a few shocks along the way! View this book on Amazon!

And, I don’t know about you! But, I really like Journals and I love these ones from Fox Chapel Publishing! They are already known for their high-quality artisan books but now they have released faith-based journals, Hello Angel lined and guided journals, TangleEasy lined and guided journals, and a highly-anticipated line of Woodstock-inspired journals.


They are simply so beautiful that I look forward to writing in them each day! My favorite is one of the Woodstock styles! (below photo)

Find them all at

Self Disclosure: I received copies of the above books for consideration to feature. I highly recommend all the above books. Images were also provided. 



In Time for Mother’s Day – Cheri Magill’s “Tour Guide”

Award-winning independent singer/songwriter Cheri Magill breaks new ground with her third album, Tour Guide, whose ten songs are snapshots of motherhood that deliver sage wisdom with a saucy touch and a positive outlook.  Tour Guide is set for release on May 4, 2018, in time for Mother’s Day.

Produced in Nashville by Cason Cooley (Ingrid Michaelson, Ben Rector, JJ Heller), Tour Guide offers the perfect setting for Cheri Magill’s impressive delivery of lyrics that shape in song the universal feelings of motherhood, from quietly reflective to outrageously joyful.

Cheri Magill explains, “I felt drawn to write about motherhood because it has stretched me more than any other thing I’ve been a part of in life. I don’t write about it because I believe I’m a perfect mother. I write about it because many times I’ve struggled and grasped at straws. I believe that mothers need to feel they aren’t alone, and they need to know someone else feels the same way they do. I want this album to be that healing and nurturing power for mothers.”

Album highlights include the title track, with motherhood personified as a tour guide, and “Brave,” with its driving rhythm and colorful orchestration backing up Cheri Magill’s soaring vocals that are packed with bold optimism and more than a hint of iconic heroism.

“Lasso the Moon,” which features an impulsive dance beat, is an example of the consistently inventive quality of Tour Guide’sarrangements, courtesy of producer Cason Cooley. “You Are Here,” a song with which every parent can identify, is well served by the irresistible nature of Cheri Magill’s lyrics, while “Crazy” has a jovial bounce, accenting the warmth radiating from the purity of Cheri’s vocals.

Born in the tiny, one-stoplight town of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Cheri Magill grew up playing the piano and singing with her three sisters, realizing early on that music was her passion. Upon receiving her B.A. in Music from Brigham Young University, Cheri began recording and performing professionally, releasing two albums, Ready (2004) and Chasing Yesterday (2007), and touring throughout the West and Midwest.

In between albums, Cheri married and began family life. After the birth of her first child in 2007, Cheri took a big step away from her musical activities, yet she missed having a creative outlet. Eventually, her search to find a pursuit that would be compatible with home life and children led her to start a blog called “I Am Momma Hear Me Roar.”  This project led Cheri to some exciting opportunities, crowned by an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show in which she taught Martha how to sew an upcycled little girl’s dress. However, after five years of blogging, and with the arrival of her third child, Cheri felt the need to concentrate wholly on home life.

Cheri Magill always knew she would want to write songs for her children, but those songs had never come.  It wasn’t until she stepped back from everything else that she began to hear melodies again. She composed a song for each of her children, and this opened the floodgates of melodic inspiration that led to more songs about the joys and challenges, peace and craziness of motherhood. These songs would become the heart of Tour Guide.

Tour Guide will be available for download at digital retailers such as iTunes, Google Play, Bandcamp, and more. Physical CDs will be available at CDBaby and Streaming will be available on Spotify.

Tour Guide
Label:  Red Shoe Records
SRP:   $9.99 digital download. $12.97 CD.
Running time:  31 minutes

Visit Cheri Magill’s website HERE.

Cheri Magill on Instagram.

Cheri Magill on Facebook.


Credit: Waldmania PR.

The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island – An All-Time Favorite Book Comes to the Big Screen May 8th

One of the most-read children’s book series of all time comes alive on the big screen in the Boxcar Children – Surprise Island based on the second book from the series by Gertrude Chandler, featuring the voice talents of Martin Sheen, J.K. Simmons, Griffin Cluck, Joey King, Dane DeHaan and more! The Alden children have a home with their grandfather now – but their adventures are just beginning! The first surprise comes when they learn they’ll be spending the summer on their private island. A kind stranger who lives there is always happy to help the children out, but does this new friend have a secret? A special after school event will take place at more than 650 theaters nationwide through Fathom Events and Shout! Factory. The screening will feature a special introduction and an exclusive short program with producer/director Dan Chuba about how the adaptation of a book to movie works and the process of animating! For details and to find a theater near you, visit:

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “Summer is just around the corner, and there’s no better way to start it than by watching this alluring animated film. I could not stop smiling the entire time, because I felt as if I was at the beach, enjoying my summer vacation.” Morgan B. adds, “Surprises, mysteries and new things to explore sounds like a lot of fun for the Boxcar Children so I suggest joining them on this new adventure to a mysterious island. I really enjoyed the funny characters, amazing animation and unique story line –  all of which bring this film and its story to life.” See their full reviews below.

The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island

By Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Summer is just around the corner, and there’s no better way to start it than by watching this alluring animated film. I could not stop smiling the entire time, because I felt as if I was at the beach, enjoying my summer vacation. With humorous jokes, unexpected challenges and adorable animals, you will become captivated for the full hour and a half. If you are trying to figure out your fun plans for summer vacation, all you need to do is watch this film.

The Alden children have just begun their summer vacation and are truly ecstatic. After running home joyfully to see their grandfather, the kids are presented with exciting news, they are going to spend summer break on their grandfather’s secret island. Little do they know, their summer will be filled with marvelous adventures, since they have to do everything on their own. But, the kids end up meeting a boy living on the island named Joe, who has a hidden secret. Join Benny, Henry, Jessie and Violet (four orphaned brothers and sisters) as they have the vacation of a lifetime.

Benny, played by Carter Sand, is such an optimistic, inquisitive young boy. He always wants to help his family, such as asking to drive his grandfather’s boat. Jessie, played by Joey King, is a responsible girl with a big heart. She looks out for Benny and gives him his teddy bear when he needs it. I admire her compassion, because she exemplifies the perfect sister. John Alden, played by Dane DeHaan, is humble and thoughtful. He plants an entire garden for the kids to admire. I cannot wait to have my own garden when I am older.

The animation is impeccable. For a few moments during the film, I felt as if I had time traveled from the movie theater to the beach. I could not help but envision myself next to waves, listening to the beautiful sounds of nature. My favorite part is when all of the kids make their own first dinner. Once they sit down at the table, they begin feeding their dog some bread. This is hilarious, because it reminds me of how I always feed my dogs extra food. Dogs are adorable, and, no matter how much food you give them, they will always beg for more.

The message of this film is that when you work as a team, anything is possible. No matter what challenges there are in this world, you can transcend them. Life is short, so we need to make the best of it. Next time you feel that the world is not on your side, just remember that everything happens for a reason. These kids teach us to enjoy summer vacation and to never give up. If they can do this, so can we.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 6 to 12. It is the perfect family-friendly film, because you will see how important family truly is to the Alden children.

This film will be offered as an after school by Fathom Events for one day only, on May 8th, 2018. So, go check it out. If you are ever stuck on an island, don’t worry. This film will show you how to make an island your next home.


The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island

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

Surprises, mysteries and new things to explore sounds like a lot of fun for the Boxcar Children so I suggest joining them on this new adventure to a mysterious island. I really enjoyed the funny characters, amazing animation and unique story line –  all of which bring this film and its story to life.

One thing that is mind blowing about this film is the animation. While I watched it, I noticed all the tiny details and how lifelike the characters look. I believed multiple times that I was actually exploring the island with them and felt like I was part of the action. The animation is that good. There is lots of eye candy to look at with great depth so it almost seems to be in 3D even though it isn’t.  This makes the film very enjoyable and it widens the age rage so older kids would enjoy it as well as younger ones.

Carter Sand as Benny is just adorable. He is very quirky and reminds me of my younger friends.  I also like him because he is good hearted and loves his siblings as much as the whole wide world. That is a trait that I think we all should share.  J. K. Simmons as Dr. Moore is superb. I did a Farmers commercial once with Mr. Simmons and found him as charming off screen as on. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.

Joey King as Jessie is a smart, lovely young lady. I have interviewed her many times and she is just adorable and personable. The only difference is that last time I saw her she was wearing reindeer ears and in this film she is the older sibling who knows how to cook. I like seeing her cook delicious foods from scratch such as clam chowder, cooked peas and carrots, apple pie and other foods. It made me hungry for dinner.

Martin Sheen as James Alden plays a gracious and kind character. Everyone would love a grandfather like him because he is so kind to others, especially his grandchildren. He is willing to do anything to make them happy and even takes them to a special island for the summer. That is what I call great grand parenting.

One thing that I don’t like about this film is that the story is sometimes way too slow.  Also, they have a mystery that they discover that goes unsolved. It is weird that the story didn’t pursue that. It showed up and then they just dropped it. Other than that, the film is adorable and has a lot heart for families.

I recommend this film for ages 5 to 12 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. This will play in more than 700 theaters as an after school screening on May 8, thanks to Fathom Event. So, go check it out!