Munki and Trunk: Meet the Jungle Crew – Hilariously Adorable Characters Teach About Friendship and Teamwork

Ain’t no mountain high enough, river wide enough, or banana big enough to tear these two apart! Our brave, curious monkey and big-hearted elephant live together in the jungle, as children imagine it: a playground with vines to swing on, trampoline mushrooms to bounce on, and a crew of jungle buddies to share endless adventures. Munki and Trunk explore their world together, facing fears, having fun and helping friends in a comedy adventure that’s brim-full of heart, and built on a bedrock of friendship. Includes 8 tree-crashing, rock-smashing, water-splashing, fruit-mashing episodes! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “The characters are so adorable and hilarious. This is such a fun DVD to watch as it teaches the importance of friendship and teamwork. There is no dialogue, so the story can be understood universally.” Sahiba K. adds, “Although simplistic, the plots never fail to surprise me with the direction that they take, making me laugh, gasp and empathize with the characters. I fell in love with main characters again and again as every episode elaborate on their relationship.” Lukas L. wraps it up with, “I enjoy their attempt at  making the characters not talk and only use moans and weird noises, but there are some moments where it looks as if one of the characters is about to talk and just doesn’t. I sometimes wish they did.” See their full reviews below.

Munki and Trunk: Meet the Jungle Crew

By Jolleen Mejia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

The characters are so adorable and hilarious. This is such a fun DVD to watch as it teaches the importance of friendship and teamwork. There is no dialogue, so the story can be understood universally.

The only characters that are named are Munki (the monkey) and Trunk (the elephant). They are best friends and the main characters. The other characters include a giraffe, an ostrich, a baby ostrich, a chameleon, a rhino, a porcupine and a frog.

The animals communicate with each other through sighs and grunts. Brent Dawes, voice of Munki, and Alison Lambole, voice of Trunk, really bring their characters to life. Somehow they make it possible for us to understand their emotions or motives through small yelps and wails.

In terms of the animation, this is one of my favorite animated films. I love how realistic it looks with so much detail and additional adorable elements. The animators add great details to the patterns on the vegetation and the hairs on the animals. The animals closely resemble actual animals with the only difference being giving them bigger eyes.

My favorite parts of this DVD are whenever Munki and Trunk interact. They have such an amusing friendship. Since Trunk is an elephant and much bigger than Munki who is a monkey, Trunk throws Munki around or sometimes she catches him. Munki often jumps on Trunk’s back like a trampoline.

The moral of this show is centered on friendship and working together. Throughout all the conflicts and problems they work together. Although the pair is not the brightest in coming up with solutions, they succeed in the end. This message of friendship and teamwork is always a good message to be taught to children over and over again.

I enjoyed watching this hilarious DVD and it made me laugh. Munki and Trunk’s interaction is entertaining and I love the cute animation. I recommend this for ages 2 to 7 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Munki and Trunk: Meet The Jungle Crew! is available on DVD now so go check it out!

Munki and Trunk: Meet the Jungle Crew!

By Sahiba K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Munki and Trunk: Meet the Jungle Crew! is a simple delight! Although simplistic, the plots never fail to surprise me with the direction that they take, making me laugh, gasp and empathize with the characters. I fell in love with main characters again and again as every episode elaborate on their relationship.

The story follows best friends Munki and Trunk who run into troubles as their playfulness unexpectedly backfires. These bumps in the road strengthen their love for each other. Several episodes also explore the beauty and differences between the two characters, a concept that teaches the importance of being unique.

The series is devoid of any dialogue, an aspect that is for the best. It makes the relationships of the jungle crew more authentic as the emotions surpass the language barrier between the different animals. Despite having no dialogue, the series masters individuality by giving side characters personality through glimpses of their lives. For example, a porcupine named Humph is always found in a bad mood, either disapproving Munki and Trunk’s antics or mowing his lawn. From these few scenes, one can determine that Humph is like the grumpy old man of the jungle who has his soft spots. Additionally, when one of the animals re-enters the plot like Humph, I became excited, because they are all humorous in their own way and different from each other.

The animation has its strengths, but also some weaknesses. There are several strong cinematography moments that create humor, shock and curiosity. For example, in one scene, it  cuts to a first person perspective with someone running, but is unclear where they are running to or why. The excitement of the moment glued me to my seat. The only criticism I have is with the brightly colored scenery in certain scenes. For instance, one scene involves Munki running through the prairie’s tall bright yellow grass. It is so bright that becomes blurred against Munki’s darker brown fur. Otherwise, the simple animation adds to the overall effect and specialty of the series.

The message is that friendship can lift you up in difficult times and bring out the best in you. I give Munki and Trunk: Meet the Jungle Crew! 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 8. It is available on DVD now, so check it out. 

Munki and Trunk: Meet The Jungle Crew

By Lukas L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I enjoyed watching the DVD Munki and Trunk: Meet The Jungle Crew. I enjoy their attempt at  making the characters not talk and only use moans and weird noises, but there are some moments where it looks as if one of the characters is about to talk and just doesn’t. I sometimes wish they did. So it is good, but I would prefer that they use words.

Munki and Trunk is about a monkey named Munki and an elephant named Trunk that find a new fun adventure every day. The adventures are very fun and colorful, but they always result in a problem or an emotional conflict that Munki and Trunk easily overcome. Mostly, they are joined by other friends that make a small but valuable addition to the show.

The show stars Brent Dawes as Munki and Alison Lamble as Trunk. It is directed by Sam Wilson and animated by Lynton Levengood.  I have a bit of a problem with the animation. Whereas the trees, Trunk and all the animals look great together very well,  Munki looks like he belongs to in totally different series. Perhaps it’s because he is the only one that has actual texture on his skin. Also, he walks on his back legs like a human, which is a little weird. And, his eyes look very creepy. As for all of the other characters, their personalities are developed very well by the actors, but I would like to see more detail in most of them.

The message of this film is to explore and have fun. You should be aware that they do some dangerous stuff such as swinging off of vines, bouncing off of mushrooms and climbing really tall trees. But, no one would really try doing that, would they?

I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 7. It is available now on DVD, so check it out.

Tito and the Birds – Deserves To Be Seen By Anyone Who Appreciates The Medium Of Animation

Tito is a shy 10-year-old boy who lives with his mother. When an unusual epidemic starts to spread, making people sick whenever they get scared, Tito quickly discovers that the cure is somehow related to his missing father’s research on bird song. He embarks on a journey with his friends to find the antidote. Tito’s search becomes a quest to find his missing father and save the world from the epidemic. “One of the most memorable films for 2018” – Elvis Mitchell, Film Independent. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Izzy C. comments, “From the moment I saw the artwork on the cover of the packaging for the Brazilian animated film, Tito and The Birds, I knew I had to see it! The animation style is beautiful! I love the look of it.” SaniyaRain F. adds, “Tito and the Birds is about real life problems that people face. Even though it is an animation film, it is serious. Sometimes movies teach kids about real life and that is what Tito and the Birds does.” Rachael V., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer  wraps it up with, “The BIG selling point of this film is its sensational art!  It is an interesting mesh between digital animation and what appears to be layers of living oil paintings.  It’s hard to accurately describe the visuals in a way that gives credit in which it richly deserves.  I assure you, this film deserves to be seen by anyone who appreciates the medium of animation.” See their full reviews below.

Tito and The Birds
By Izzy Cruz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

From the moment I saw the artwork on the cover of the packaging for the Brazilian animated film, Tito and The Birds, I knew I had to see it! The animation style is beautiful! I love the look of it. Its Brazilian directors Gustavo Steinberg, Gabriel Bitar and Andre Catoto have made something that looks like a moving painting.

The story is based on a boy named Tito (Pedro Henrique) and his friends working to stop an epidemic from spreading through their town.  It gets pretty intense! Luckily, they have the help of Tito’s dad Rufus (Matheus Nachtergaele), a very smart scientist.  Hopefully this will be enough to save the town.

The supporting characters, besides Tito’s father, include Tito’s mother Rosa (Denise Fraga) and his friends: Sarah (Marina Seritiello), his brave female friend who gives him hope; Buiú (Vinicius Garcia), his best friend, who becomes sick and is the main reason they want to find a cure.  And then there is Téo (Enrico Cardoso), his rival.

I relate mostly to the character of Tito because he is brave and wants to help.  He cares about people. The musical score by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat brings a lot of emotions to the movie. The music helps tell the story as much as the dialogue does. Even though this story is from Brazil I think people from everywhere can relate to it, because it is a story  about love and love is universal.

There is a good lesson wrapped inside the tory of Tito and The Birds: never be afraid, and help when it’s needed. Also, another lesson is to be yourself, and let no one tell you to be anyone else.

I give Tito and The Birds 5 out of 5 stars ! I love it! The animation is amazing! The storyline is told beautifully. I love the voice actors’ performances.

This film is perfect for ages 10 to 18, because the epidemic and sickness storyline could be a bit scary for younger audiences. I also think adults will enjoy this movie, too.  Go and check it out! I recommend it!

Remember you can get Tito and The Birds digitally or anywhere that your favorite DVD’s are sold.

Tito and the Birds
By SaniyaRain Fowler, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Tito and the Birds is about real life problems that people face. Even though it is an animation film, it is serious. Sometimes movies teach kids about real life and that is what Tito and the Birds does. It is a little scary because it is so real.

The first thing I noticed, besides it being a dark film, is the relationship Tito has with his dad. Tito and his dad work together to help their community overcome fear of a disease that is spreading.  Everyone is getting the disease and they do not know why. Everyone is scared to catch this disease because it makes people turn into rocks. The fear that everyone has in the community is so strong that people can’t live their lives. They are panicking and the news makes it worse.

Tito’s friends are awesome because they stick by his side and believe in him. He even makes friends with a boy who wants to beat Tito in a contest. Tito has some good friends, and we all need good friends when we are having a hard time in life. The friends show that they are real friends, not fake.

Tito learns a lot in the movie. He learns not to give up and to believe in himself. He also understands that sometimes things are hard and that everything is not going to be easy in life. He keeps trying to make his dad proud and build the machine right. Tito also learns that even a kid can make a difference.

I recommend this film for ages 8 to 14. It is too scary for little kids  I give this movie  2 out of 5 stars, because it is so frightening.  However, we all can learn about being brave and being different, so check it out if you find this intriguing.

Tito and the Birds

By Rachael V., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

Tito and the Birds is an oddly dark tale that is highlighted by its remarkably original art style.  By dark, I don’t mean gritty or vulgar. It is heavier in tone than many young adult films, but anyone that has seen Corpse Bride or Coraline won’t be addled in the slightest by this story about a fear pandemic.  The BIG selling point of this film is its sensational art!  It is an interesting mesh between digital animation and what appears to be layers of living oil paintings.  It’s hard to accurately describe the visuals in a way that gives credit in which it richly deserves.  I assure you, this film deserves to be seen by anyone who appreciates the medium of animation. I recommend it for ages 10 to 18, however, younger and older viewers may enjoy it as well. I certainly did. I give it 5 out of 5 stars because it is so stunning.

Sonic Boom: Here Comes the Boom! – Educational and Amusing. Great Characters!

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 is aided by his sidekick, Tails, and his friends Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks and, of course, attacked by his arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman. The series is set in a wide-open world, where most of the characters live in and around an unnamed village. Just over the horizon is a vast landscape filled with beaches, jungles, mountains, undersea civilizations, cloud cities, frozen lakes, and more! Includes 8 Action-Packed Episodes! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “My favorite part about this series is that they always find a way to make it humorous and add some plot twists. Every episode is different and that makes the audience want to watch the whole series all at once.” Damon F. adds, “I like this show because it has lots of characters from the classic Sonic Video games and TV shows. It shows their personality and fighting techniques. This is a good introduction to the characters to anyone that wants to play the Sonic games.” Rachel V. wraps it up with, “Although it’s based on the Sonic franchise, there is not a lot of on-screen action to keep little one’s eyes trained on the screen. That said, I believe that any young kid who is a fan of the game will be very excited to see Sonic on screen.” See their full reviews below.

Sonic Boom: Here Comes the Boom!

By Jolleen Mejia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

This action packed series is very educating. The morals taught in the episodes are valuable for the target audience. I love how they are able to teach important lessons in a very entertaining way. 

The show follows the characters Sonic, his friends and Dr. Eggman. Sonic and his friends always have some conflict with Dr. Eggman. The different schemes that Dr. Eggman comes up with are amusing and I watched till the end to see if Sonic and his friends were be able to solve the problem.

Mike Pollock voices Dr. Eggman in a very interesting way. Pollock can sound like a villain in one scene and in another he could be your grandfather. Dr. Eggman is a character with two personalities and it is great that Pollock voices both of them.  

The characters in this series are unique in their appearance. Sonic and his friends are animals, but they only have a few features that are recognizable as animals. I like that they vary their appearances from other films and series. It keeps the audience interested and intrigued.

My favorite part about this series is that they always find a way to make it humorous and add some plot twists. Every episode is different and that makes the audience want to watch the whole series all at once.

There are many underlying messages in each episode. The ones that stand out are to find the goodness in people and to work together. Sonic and Dr. Eggman will forever be rivals, but they do enjoy each other’s company. Sonic realizes that Dr. Eggman is desperate for attention and uses that to his advantage to be able to get to the good side of Dr. Eggman. This is how Sonic is always able to calm Dr. Eggman down and stop him from continuing his crazy, sometimes evil, ideas – for a while. Sonic and his team of superhero friends have to work together to come up with a plan to stop Dr. Eggman. Sometimes, when Sonic leaves, they fight over what to do and who should be the leader. In the end, they resolve their problems and learn the right thing to do for the next time a similar situation arises.

I loved how this DVD teaches valuable lessons that are usually overlooked in other children’s shows. I give this series 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 9. Sonic Boom: Here Comes the Boom is out now on DVDs so check it out!

Sonic Boom – Here Comes the Boom

By Damon F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I like this show because it has lots of characters from the classic Sonic Video games and TV shows. It shows their personality and fighting techniques. This is a good introduction to the characters to anyone that wants to play the Sonic games. If you want to try Sonic games, but you don’t know any of the characters just watch this show.

Sonic Boom – Here Comes the Boom is about Sonic (Roger Craig Smith) and his friends facing challenges usually involving Dr. Eggman (Mike Pollock), where they must work together to either escape a temple or destroy a robot. Sonic can’t fight off Dr. Eggman by himself, so he gets help from his friends and sticks the completely wild badger that uses a boomerang as her weapon of choice. Amy Rose is a pink hedgehog who fights with her hammer and keeps everyone at peace. Rounding out the team are Knuckles the echidna with a love of fighting and Tails Sonic’s tech-loving fox sidekick that can use his two tails to help him fly around.

My favorite episode in this DVD is “Just a Guy.” In this episode, Sonic accidently calls someone “just a guy” and everyone gets angry at him. I like this episode because it is funny and has a good message. That message is “don’t stereotype people.” Another good episode is “CowBot,” which is about when Dr. Eggman sends a robot that looks like a cow after Sonic. After a bit of fighting, Sonic gets the CowBot to go after Dr. Eggman. He goes to save him, but the CowBot is incredibly slow so they do loads of funny stuff while they wait. This episode is hilarious in how they solve the problem in the end.

My favorite character is CuBot because, whenever his partner OrBot says something smart about something he just says the real meaning without knowing what OrBot wants. For example, in the episode “The Meteor.” OrBot says, “Perhaps it is time we bid our foes “adieu.” CuBot doesn’t know what that means so he just says, “No time, we have to leave,” which means the same thing. I find these parts funny.

The main message of most of the episodes is, you must work together to complete a challenge. I rate this DVD 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 7 because it has good messages in every episode that younger kids will like.

Sonic Boom: Here Comes the Boom

By Rachel V., KIDS FIRST! Reviewer

This DVD is a compilation of episodes from Sonic Boom, an animated (CGI) kids’ show based around the Sonic the Hedgehog video game franchise. Let me frank, I have seen better kids’ shows.  That’s not to say that it is not a good show, it just isn’t as great as the video game that it originates from.  Aesthetically, it is a fairly good looking show, certainly above average your standard kiddie show in that regard. The voice acting is pretty good, but I have other concerns. The dialogue seems as if it is intended for preteens or adolescents, but it is not nearly clever or funny enough for that audience.  Although it’s based on the Sonic franchise, there is not a lot of on-screen action to keep little one’s eyes trained on the screen. That said, I believe that any young kid who is a fan of the game will be very excited to see Sonic on screen. I recommend this for ages 7 to 11 and give it  4 out of 5 stars. Reviewed by Rachel V., KIDS FIRST! Reviewer.

Books for Easter!

The following books are perfect for Spring time and for Easter too! Great for young children!


MY EASTER BASKET TAB BOOK by Roger Priddy (Priddy Books, January 8, 2019, Ages 0-2)
MY EASTER BASKET is an illustrated board book basket, with colorful Easter egg tabs, which opens out to search-and-find scenes of busy animals on an Easter egg hunt. Kids will love searching for the easter eggs right along with the animals in the story.
The cute basket-shape format, engrossing counting game, and colorful artwork all add up to a sweet alternative gift for young children at Easter.
Kids can carry it around like a basket, read the story, and enjoy the color-themed game of seek-and-find, spotting all the eggs the Easter Bunny has hidden on his rounds.
Roger Priddy’s passion for educating children through fun, informative and engaging books has led him to create some of publishing’s most enduring and successful non-fiction early learning books.

I love how bright and colorful this book is and that it is perfect for the very young children!


BORROWING BUNNIES: A SURPRISING TRUE TALE OF FOSTERING RABBITS Written by Cynthia Lord; photographs by John Bald; illustrations by Hazel Mitchell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), February 12, 2019, Ages 3-6)
Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord likes fostering rabbits—or, as she fondly calls it, “borrowing bunnies.” This is the heartwarming true story of the author’s own journey with two very special rabbits.
Young readers will delight in watching these bunnies thrive while also learning a few fun animal facts. With Cindy’s pitch-perfect blend of warmth and real-life experience, Borrowing Bunnies is a new classic in narrative nonfiction.
BORROWING BUNNIES sits confidently beside highly successful photographic picture books like Owen & Mzee, Nubs, Winter’s Tail, and Tuesday Tucks Me In.
The book will include FAQs about fostering and caring for rabbits, as well as fun facts about these little animals.

This book is absolutely beautiful! If you have a young children that likes bunnies, this book is a must read!

This is a perfect book for Spring!
SPRING AFTER SPRING by Stephanie Roth Sisson (Roaring Brook Press, August 14, 2018, Ages 4-8)
From the creator of Star Stuff comes a picture book biography of Rachel Carson, the iconic environmentalist who fought to keep the sounds of nature from going silent.
The cycles of nature that Rachel loved to study give structure to her own story in this charming picture book.
The story of a female scientist is great for STEM and common core lesson plan requirements.
Rachel Carson is widely considered the mother of the modern environmental movement. Her book, Silent Spring, led to the founding of Earth Day, which we still celebrate every April.

This is such a cute story!
NATURE GIRLS by Aki (Henry Holt BYR, on sale March 5, 2019, ages 3-6)
From the author-illustrator of The Weather Girls comes a new picture book starring an adorable troupe of girls exploring different biomes—the ocean, the desert, the tundra, the grasslands, the forest—and meeting all the cute animals that inhabit them.
All kinds of girls will see themselves in this adorable troupe of Nature Girls. With matching outfits and lots of spunk, they have all the charm of a modern-day Madeline.
Super cute art showcases the girls in scenes outdoors. Bright colors and simple lines bring this world to life!
Gently folded into the rhyming verse are fun facts and details about the biomes. Marine, desert, tundra, grasslands, forest—the Nature Girls love them all!

Look for all of these books this Spring!

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

Books of the Week!

Filled with creative exercises, art prompts, templates, and step-by-step projects, The Little Book of Rock Painting (Walter Foster Publishing / April 30, 2019 / US $14.99) encourages interactivity for immediate results, while teaching beginners the fundamentals of the medium in an engaging and fun way.

In The Little Book of Rock Painting, aspiring artists will discover how to gather and prepare their rocks to create masterpieces that are truly one with nature. Written and illustrated by three talented rock-painting artists, the book features a range of contemporary designs to experiment with, from patterns and animals to mandalas and dots. The instructions are easy to follow and invite creativity and originality.

Grab your colors, head outside, and start painting beautiful works of art on stones!

I really like how creative this book is and I love the designs! This one is a must-buy!


The Storyteller’s Illustrated Dictionary is a must for young writers!

Created to satisfy creative writing common core requirements with the help of NYU Childhood literacy and education expert Susan Neuman, The Storyteller’s Illustrated Dictionary is a unique and invaluable resource. Comprised of 4000 storytelling words carefully curated around six themes – Character, Settings, Taste and Smell, Action, Emotion, and Weather – and packed with over 1300 laugh-out-loud illustrations, kids will clamor to learn new words and build stories around the 127 storytelling topics presented in the book. Whether kids are putting words on paper or interacting with their peers, stories are the foundation of communication. Developing strong, word-rich story skills will pay dividends in the lives of children for years to come. I really enjoyed looking at this book!

Do you love exploring nature and live in Los Angeles? This next one is a must-buy!

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County publishes
Wild L.A.: Explore the Amazing Nature In and Around Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the second most densely populated city in the U.S., and a major biodiversity hotspot. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) wants to show Angelenos that their urban world is teeming with nature—not only in parks, but in backyards, apartment courtyards, and schoolyards. On March 18, NHM publishes Wild LA: Explore the Amazing Nature In and Around Los Angeles, a book equal parts local nature stories, field guide, and trip planner.

Wild L.A. was co-written by an eclectic group of writers: NHM Community Science Senior Manager Lila Higgins, NHM Herpetology Curator and UNRC Co-Director Greg Pauly, along with science journalist Jason Goldman and poet/naturalist Charles Hood.

The book begins with 10 short chapters focused on major themes that structure which species are found in the L.A. area, including more than 100 short species accounts that describe local plants and animals, tell a few of their most compelling stories, and most importantly, contain easy ways to identify them outside. Then, it’s time to explore. Readers will get guides for 25 hikes, meet local animals like the showy super-adapter Allen’s hummingbird, track undiscovered flies in backyard sanctuaries, get comfortable with the Pleistocene Age revealed at La Brea Tar Pits, and much more. 

Throughout, Wild L.A. takes on issues of naturalization, migration, climate change, extinction, and human impact all while promoting urban engagement with the natural world. “We live in a place with amazing nature. And with so much change due to the rapid growth of agriculture and then urban development, every species here has an amazing story to tell,” says Pauly.

A mix of illustrations and photography, and a personal, accessible approach to science, Wild L.A. encourages people, even people with no seeming interest in venturing outside, that the exploration of nature is a fun, easy, enlightening endeavor.

I really like this book! It is great for all ages and I love the Field Trip section! I can’t wait to explore Los Angeles with this book as my guide!

Wild L.A. is available from Timber Press and you can purchase here

Animal Noses

By Mary Holland

Noses come in all kinds of shapes and sizes that are just right for its particular animal host. Not only do most animals use their noses to breathe but for many animals, the sense of smell helps them find food, a mate, or even to know when danger is near! Following Animal TailsAnimal EyesAnimal Mouths (NSTA/CBC Outstanding Trade Science Award), and Animal Legs, Mary Holland continues her photographic Animal Anatomy and Adaptations series by exploring many different animal noses and how those noses help the animals survive in their habitats.

This is the fifth book in the popular Animal Anatomy and Adaptations series by Mary, and like the previous editions, the photographic book is packed full of facts about the sniffer. The animals featured are all found in North America and educators will love the connection to nature as well as the senses.

I love this book because it is great for young children! It is fun to read and it is very educational. Find this book and many others at https://www.arbordalepublishing.com/

Looking for Journals for Tween girls?

Notebook Doodles Peace Love and Notebook Doodles Fabulous Fashion Guided Journal both hit shelves this month. These journals are perfect for tweens, as they are fun and positive. They offer inspirational writing prompts designed to build confidence and self-esteem.  I really like these because they are fun!

They both can be found on Amazon.com!

If you have been involved in a Domestic Violence relationship or know someone who has been, you will relate to this story. Domestic Violence, sadly is very common today and chances are that you know someone who is a survivor! This story is well done and gives a realistic view.
Having escaped her abusive marriage, Susan Sparks shares her story as a cautionary tale to those entering relationships as well as reassurance to those still trapped in abusive relationships. 

Find out more here! You can also find the book on Amazon.com.

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

Dumbo – One of the Most Beautiful Films I Have Ever Seen!

From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure Dumbo expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “This film is absolutely amazing – a bit dark, but beautiful and the visual effects are very good… This is the perfect tale for the imagination of the great director Tim Burton. Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer adds, “Director Tim Burton’s mind truly is a circus – a beautiful, colorful, vivid and artistic mind. While he adds his dark macabre to this classic Disney tale, it is done in such a way to engage the viewer and bring another dimension to the film. Dumbo is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen…” Arjun N. has another take, “Despite Tim Burton’s flair, Dumbo shows promise, but ultimately fails to take flight. Still, the movie does boast apt direction and talented cast.” See their full reviews below.

Dumbo 

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

This film is absolutely amazing – a bit dark, but beautiful and the visual effects are very good. I was so excited to see this film because Dumbo is such a classic and I really wanted to see it not in animation form. It is a story about outsiders and the beauty in the strange. This is the perfect tale for the imagination of the great director Tim Burton.

The story is about a circus elephant who is a baby. His name is Jumbo but later he is renamed Dumbo. He was born with big ears and people around him think he is weird and worthless. In this environment with lots of extraordinary people, this peculiar elephant shouldn’t be so strange, but people make fun of him and are actually cruel. His protective mother who works in the circus gets really mad and is sent far away for misbehaving. Dumbo is sad because he is separated from his mom. The kids in the circus, Milly and Joe, don’t have a mother either. They are the sons of Holt (Collin Farrell) who returns from war to work at the circus. The kids feel empathy for the baby elephant and try to comfort him. They come up with a way to get Dumbo involved in the circus after they discover he can fly. They think if they make enough money they can buy her mom back and the elephants can be reunited. The flying baby elephant becomes the circus’ main attraction and the owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) receives a tempting offer. The family circus becomes part of a huge amusement park, but they are losing all that kept them united.

The story develops a little bit slowly at the beginning. I definitively love the scenes with Dumbo flying and the scenarios and costumes are gorgeous, but overall it is not as emotional as I expected. The cast is amazing, but the kids don’t deliver as much sentiment as the story requires and they play a key role. Eva Green is charming and believable. Her character Collette Marchant, the girl that “flies” is many the most intriguing one. Danny Elfman’s music creates an ideal atmosphere. 

This film has a very positive and powerful message – even if we are different, it doesn’t mean we should be treated differently, because that’s what makes us beautiful and makes us stand out from the ordinary. We have to accept people the way they are. I give this film 4.5 out of five stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 12 and adults as well. Dumbo opens in theaters March 29, 2019.

Dumbo

By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Director Tim Burton’s mind truly is a circus – a beautiful, colorful, vivid and artistic mind. While he adds his dark macabre to this classic Disney tale, it is done in such a way to engage the viewer and bring another dimension to the film. Dumbo is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen thousands of films. What’s impossible is possible when you believe. I believe in Dumbo.

When I heard Disney was creating a live-action version of their classic animated film Dumbo, I was skeptical as Dumbo is one of my childhood favorites. The live-action film I screened brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. It is so BEAUTIFUL –  the colors come alive in every frame, from the costumes to the imagery. Dumbo is so loveable, believable and beautiful. His eyes captivate you from the first time you see the baby to his final frame. For the only character in the film who doesn’t speak, you hear his journey of love and pain purely.

Dumbo plays homage to a Mother’s love and a quest of survival for motherless children – human and animal. It is so beautifully cast from our hero Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), to his amazing, innocent children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), to the nefarious V. A. Vandevere (evilly played by Michael Keaton) and the con-man we come to love, Max Medici (Danny DeVito). In my eyes, the children and Dumbo are the stars of the show. V.A. Vandevere teaches the audience a lesson in greed and Max Medici showcases his desire to make a buck with true transparency! This traveling circus offers many journeys for the cast and audience.

As a true Disney fan, I see the essence of many iconic Disney places and films. The balloons remind me of UP. The pink elephants remind me of Fantasia. Dreamland, a fictionist theme park made me think of Disneyland (I mean, DL…) – and all the theme parks at Walt Disney World and the merch! Plenty of merch to sell at Dumbo’s circus tent. The sublime imagery is seen throughout the film.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, as well as adults. Warning: there are some scary parts (Nightmare Island in Vandevere’s Dreamland theme park, hallucinogenic pink elephants and a SNAKE – not my favorite creature). The casting is great. The costumes are authentic and the music will move you. Danny Elfman is the master of music in film! Could this be another Oscar nomination? Pay attention to a new twist on the classic song “Baby Mine.” You won’t believe who sings this classic song!

Bring your tissues! This film opens in theaters nationwide March 29, 2019.

Dumbo

By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Despite Tim Burton’s flair, Dumbo shows promise, but ultimately fails to take flight. Still, the movie does boast apt direction and talented cast. Any Disney fan may want to check this out, but proceed with low expectations.

The story expands upon the beloved classic story as Dumbo, a newborn elephant with oversized ears, becomes a star. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) to caretake the young one. Dumbo quickly becomes the laughing stock. But, once Holt’s kids discover he can fly using his ears, Dumbo soon becomes the superstar of the circus and gains the attention of beguiling tycoon V.A. Vandevere with his Dreamworld amusement park. Vandevere’s schemes are not what they seem as he wants to monopolize Dumbo and threaten the circus’s goodwill.

First off, Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, as Milly and Joe Farrier, are absolutely fantastic in their first-ever roles. Nico shines with her scientific interests and discovering Dumbo’s flying capability. Whereas Finley nails his jockey attitude. Colin Farrell, as Holt Farrier, shines as their father who always means well for his kids and the safety of all. Sure, his Southern accent is quite jarring at first, but he grows into it. Danny DeVito, as Max Medici, is my favorite character as he has many scenes in the first half and is truly funny in every scene. It’s a shame that a lot of his screen time is axed by a meandering second half. Michael Keaton, as V.A. Vandevere, unfortunately falters with a comically over-the-top performance. While Keaton’s work is normally strong, here it just doesn’t mesh with the movie’s scenarios. Sure, at times, he sells the role of a tycoon well, but really his character always appears out of place.

Tim Burton aptly directs the movie, but the writing doesn’t do this visually spectacular experience any wonders. Every scene is well produced, but the movie’s pacing is all over the place. The special effects are also quite underwhelming at times. Some moments are impressive, but at times it comes across as artificial and unreal. The movie’s second half also meanders into some bizarre territory, primarily due to its unimpressive villain. In spite of this, Dumbo’s first flight scene is awe-inspiring, and is definitely my favorite scene.

The message of this film is that being different isn’t always bad. It can come to be a true talent. I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18 due to some intense scenes and mild language. The movie releases in theaters on March 29, 2019 so check it out.

Images © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase – Timeless and Entertaining

A bit of an outsider struggling to fit into her new surroundings, Nancy and her pals set out to solve a mystery, make new friends, and establish their place in the community. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “Now, it’s no secret that Nancy Drew is timeless. The books were first written in 1930 and they have been inspiring women ever since. I believe Nancy Drew is timeless and we all need a little girl power!” See her full review below.

Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This movie is very entertaining which is why we go to the movies. Even though I have no nostalgic attachment to the Nancy Drew books, I really enjoyed this film.

The story is about Nancy Drew who has just moved to a small town called River Heights. She meets an elder woman named Flora who claims her house is haunted. Nancy decides to investigate with the help of her friends, George and Bess, and Flora’s “mean girl” niece, Helen. My biggest issue with this movie is the mystery. I understand that this movie is aimed at younger kids, yet I feel the mystery is too easy to solve. However, that is my only major problem with this film. Plus, I didn’t mind this that much, since even though the mystery is obvious, I mostly let it slide as I enjoyed the characters so much.

One thing I really like about this film is the typical mean girl character, Helen. At first it seems like Helen is just a stereotypical popular girl. Instead, she’s only mean for a little bit of the movie. Halfway in she actually goes through a character arc. I really like this as I honestly feel mean girl characters are so overdone at this point. So it is nice to see this character done differently. However, my favorite character is hands down Flora. She is a very funny and so memorable. Everyone needs to have an Aunt Flora in their life. Flora had some of the best lines in the movie.

I really like the cast of this film. Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew is fantastic. She is very engaging and I hope to see more of her in the future. Linda Lavin as Flora is amazing. She brings so much charisma and humor to every scene she is in. Zoe Renee as George and Mackenzie Graham as Bess are also pretty good supporting characters. I wish they were in the movie more.

Now, it’s no secret that Nancy Drew is timeless. The books were first written in 1930 by Carolyn Keene and they have been inspiring women ever since. I believe Nancy Drew is timeless and we all need a little girl power!

I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18. This film comes out on March 15, 2019 so look for it.

Photos ©Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Books of the Week

Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. would like to introduce Mega Awesome Notebook by Kevin Minor.

This book is fun and I think tweens and teenagers will love this one!

Late for school, a young cartoonist accidentally microwaves his notebook while trying to heat his breakfast. This releases a radioactive cloud of awesomeness that makes the drawings in his notebook come to life. Now he has to make it through a typical teenage day of schoolwork, bullies, and general awkwardness while trying to hold on to his sanity. Dud, a character he has drawn, becomes the boy’s nemesis as they spar on the page through algebra, English, and art classes. Can Dud help the boy face his real-life struggles—girl trouble, social awkwardness, and divorced parents who work a lot—rather than hide behind his notebook?

Find it here.

This one is a must-buy!

The Book of No Worries
ISBN: 9781912413997 | $12.95

An essential guide that covers a multitude of worries and anxieties that a young person may face while growing up – from peer pressure to puberty and all the worries in between.

This friendly and funny book aims to reassure tweens that their worries and fears are normal and offers practical tips for managing anxiety and stress. From problems at school to relationship woes, body image issues to troubles at home, all worries are recognized and case studies and questions from real-life anonymous readers offer positive tips and advice to help young people survive angst and stress that can bring them down. 

I really think that this one is a must-buy and it will be very insightful and helpful for children especially those ages 8+.

This one is a fun one to read! I love how interesting it is!

How to Think Like an Absolute Genius
ISBN: 9780711239852 | $15.95

Be curious! Be imaginative! Be determined! Develop your talents by drawing inspiration from the greatest of geniuses. In a world that changes quickly, the future belongs to those who have an open, flexible mind: like John Lennon, they will imagine the impossible; like Walt Disney, they will work as a team; and like Copernicus, they will be able to think backwards! If you’re worried you might not be up to the job, have no fear! This fascinating book will show you the way. Meet 27 geniuses from different eras and disciplines –  artists, scientists, thinkers or writers – and learn from their “creative methods”. Packed with facts, games and activity ideas to boost your intelligence, creative, inventive, and critical thinking skills, this book will show you that you can become absolutely awesome at whatever you put your mind to!

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