Can Music Help Parents Raise Kids Who Are Caring, Empowered and Inspired? We think so.

It’s a given that music has the power to heal and inspire people. When the day (or your life situation, or the times) get you down, you know that the sound of music can help pull you through.
It works for children, too. Parents and kids, who are bombarded daily with negative and scary media messages, are looking for ways to amplify their attempt to live a happy and meaningful life.
Music not only improves one’s personal life, it can also plant the idea that each person can make a difference in the wider world. Call it self-esteem or empowerment, empathy or “woke”-ness, these are qualities we all want children to gain as they grow. When people are joyful and inspired, they gain strength to move forward and do great things. 

Today’s family music artists, who work and perform with children every day, know how influential their lyrics and melodies can be. Recent releases provide proof of how even the simplest song can resonate with young listeners. As blogger Jeff Cohen noted at the start of 2017, even the worst days can improve with a good song: “You don’t have to be happy to be optimistic and that’s the promise of children’s music. Broke a toy? Split your time between mommy and daddy? Scared of new foods? Kids can change emotions in the span of a drumbeat. It may only take one note of a special song from a fun performer.”


Parents’ Choice Foundation President Claire Green advises, “When music is good, it can change a mood and an outlook. A frown turns upward, a scuff turns into a skip, a clenched fist becomes an open hand. Combine good music with good — and genuine — messages, and the possibility for positive effect increases. Don’t preach, and don’t force it. Kids understand authenticity and are apt to repeat it.”


Indeed, a really good way to find meaningful songs for your kids is by buying albums by award winners (Parents’ Choice recently announced a new batch of music awards).



Listen to a playlist of “Songs To Inspire” the young people in your life, by clicking HERE.

Dana's Do My Part


Need a few examples? We have some.


The family music pioneer Dana, who has won numerous awards for her engaging and action-oriented music, just released an inspiring music video called “Do My Part.” The video models children working together and thinking of themselves as the caretakers of their own little part of the world. It’s a great message.
The Bazillions‘ new and award-winning Rock-n-Roll Yearbook includes a wonderfully affirmative song called, “You Could Be the One.”
Ladysmith Black Mambazo has been called South Africa’s messengers of good will and harmony. Their new album, Songs of PEACE & LOVE for Kids and Parents Around the World, is a mesmerizing gem.


Alphabet Rockers, not a band to shy away from difficult social issues, offers a song that will make anyone’s day a little brighter. “Shine” is spinning on radio shows around the nation, and their new music video is a hit with hip hop fans.


There’s nothing like the experience of seeing a band perform live, and the Just Kidding performance series offers several all-ages concerts this 2017-18 season. A highlight this Saturday will be The Moonlights, and this sweet little music video of their song “Colour of Leaves” may be just the ticket to a better day.

Credit: Courtesy of Sugar Mountain PR. Permission was give to SoCal City Kids to repost.

Earth: One Amazing Day – Beautiful and Touching Reminder of the Amazing Planet – Earth!


From BBC Earth Films, the studio that brought you Earth, comes the sequel – Earth: One Amazing Day, an astonishing journey revealing the awesome power of the natural world. Over the course of one single day, we track the sun from the highest mountains to the remotest islands to exotic jungles. Breakthroughs in filmmaking technology bring you up close with a cast of unforgettable characters. Told with humour, intimacy and a jaw-dropping sense of cinematic splendor, Earth: One Amazing Day highlights how every day is filled with more wonders than you can possibly imagine- until now. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “Earth: One Amazing Day is a beautiful, informational film that makes you really appreciate Earth and know more about it. This film captures nature in all its beauty and is simply breathtaking. This film is very touching, suspenseful and pleasurable.” Rohan F. adds, “The film features amazing cinematography, stunning graphics, and the audio quality at the screening I saw was brilliant thanks to the Dolby theatre vast speaker system. It had different layers of sound played at the same time creating a very realistic vibe.” See their full reviews below.

Earth: One Amazing Day

By Jolleen Mejia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12


Earth: One Amazing Day is a beautiful, informational film that makes you really appreciate Earth and know more about it. This film captures nature in all its beauty and is simply breathtaking. This film is very touching, suspenseful and pleasurable. There is comedy, action, adventure, romance and non-fiction all in one film. There is something for everyone to enjoy!

This film explores all the aspects of one day on Earth. It follows the lives of different animals including iguanas, baby lizards, zebras, giraffes, lions and many more. The film shows all the struggles in nature, but also the wonderful and amazing parts. It makes you see the beauty of nature and makes you curious about what’s out there.

The people who responsible for filming this, Robin Cox, Kevin Flay and Flying Glass used their cameras to capture the beauty of Earth. Doing this is a real challenge, but they managed to capture so much detail and were able to get incredible close ups. They recorded at different angles, which makes the whole film visually pleasing and close to what it’s like if you were actually there. I also loved the narration of Jackie Chan and Robert Redford. Their voices are very mellow, blends in with the music and overall just fits perfectly for this film.

The events that capture are very cool. I especially like how the camera work shoots at different angles so you get a different perspective on the world. The film’s visuals are very colorful and intriguing. My favorite part is when the giraffes fight over the land and the ladies. I like this scene because I learned something new. I had no idea that giraffes could bend their necks so much or that they would just swing their heads around to fight. It was really amusing to see their heads swinging around everywhere, but a little sad to see that they were bleeding.

The message of this film is to acknowledge the Earth and realize how lucky we are to be here. There are so many wonderful things happening around us that we don’t notice. The film reminds us to stop and smell the roses and to make sure to protect the earth’s beauty so future generations can enjoy it as well.

I loved watching this film so much. It really touched my heart and made me realize how beautiful the Earth is, on just one amazing day. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 18. I’m sure that everyone will enjoy this film, even adults. Definitely make sure to check it out. It opens nationwide in theaters October 6, 2017.

Earth: One Amazing Day
By Rohan D. Foxe, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 12


Earth: One Amazing Day is an incredible feature length documentary that is a sequel to Earth, an acclaimed movie based on Planet Earth, the famous series of BBC wildlife documentaries shown on networks and in schools worldwide.  The film features amazing cinematography, stunning graphics, and the audio quality at the screening I saw was brilliant thanks to the Dolby theatre vast speaker system. It had different layers of sound played at the same time creating a very realistic vibe.

Earth: One Amazing Day follows a huge variety of animals and the challenges they must face during a single day. It shows how animals are impacted by the rhythms of the sun and how it provides life to all creatures. It starts off early in the morning following marine iguanas. It then brings you to midday where we get an amazing view of a giant panda and her cub eating bamboo. Next, we get a view of a zebra and her foal attempting to cross a rushing river to get to where the grass will grow next. It continues telling different stories for every animal it shows.

My favorite scene is when it shows a group of bears scratching on trees to music. The scene is hilarious and is very well edited so that the bear’s movements appear to go to the music.

The documentary is narrated by Academy award-winner, Robert Redford. The pauses he leaves between his words are timed brilliantly creating a dramatic atmosphere for each tale. Earth: One Amazing Day was directed by Richard Dale, Peter Webber, and Fan Lixin. This is currently one of the biggest collaborations on a film between China and the United Kingdom. The Chinese version is voiced by Jackie Chan who is known across the world for his martial arts movies.

The music matches the scenes seamlessly. I love how they tell a short story with each animal and how it makes the viewer invested in each and every one of them. They use clips taken over the course of several days and make them appear as one scene.

The moral of this film is that there is beauty all around us that can be seen every day. We must only look around us to see it. I feel that this is an important and inspirational message to appreciate our world, this isn’t being said enough.

I give Earth: One Amazing Day 5 out of 5 stars for its unbelievable graphics and storytelling. I recommend it to children ages 6 to 18 and think that adults will also really appreciate the beauty of this documentary.



The Little Prince: The New Mission – Those You Save Will Guide You


Life on B612 has resumed to normalcy. Rose, Fox, and the Little Prince are living peacefully, maybe too peacefully. Then one night, Rose hears the Snake telling her that she has a home planet with a family. Rose asks Little Prince to find her planet because she’s afraid it’s in grave danger. The Little Prince asks Fox to keep an eye on Rose as he flies off on his plane to try to find more information on her planet. While searching for Rose’s planet, the Little Prince encounters four characters who tell him that Rose’s planet is in another galaxy far beyond interstellar space. Back on B612, Rose is bothered with nightmares and is becoming irritated. After an argument with Fox, they free the Snake. When the Little Prince finally returns to B612 and learns that the Snake has been freed, he collapses. His friend, the aviator, comforts him and urges him to set off on a new adventure to fight his worst enemy again. But what about Rose’s planet? The aviator mysteriously explains – those you save will guide you. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “This imaginative animated film warmed my heart. Elaborating upon a conquest to find Rose’s family, the friendship that Little Prince, Fox and Rose share is remarkable. Each character differs from one another, but they all manage to combat the forces of evil together, which in turn, strengthens their relationship in a way never seen before.” Alejandra G. adds, “I love that the Little Prince doesn’t just throw the life lessons in your face. It’s not obvious because, when you start watching it, it’s simply a casual storyline. But, if you pay close attention and analyze the characters and the events of the story, you start to notice all of the metaphors, figures of speech and symbols that hide real life lessons and sincere messages. audience.” See their full reviews below.


The Little Prince: The New Mission

By Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17


This imaginative animated film warmed my heart. Elaborating upon a conquest to find Rose’s family, the friendship that Little Prince, Fox and Rose share is remarkable. Each character differs from one another, but they all manage to combat the forces of evil together, which in turn, strengthens their relationship in a way never seen before. With such a divine plot, exquisite action scenes and heartwarming friendships, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


Previously, the Little Prince defeated an evil snake and trapped him in his beloved sketchbook. Everything on B612 is peaceful again. Rose, Fox and the Little Prince are enjoying life, playing games with one another and building stable friendships. But one night, the Snake tells Rose that she has a family that is in danger. It is up to the Little Prince, Fox and Rose to work as a team, and try to reunite Rose with her family.


Marion Cotillard, who plays Rose, delivers exceptional dialogue with her sweet voice. Her laugh is infectious and seeing Rose smile through every difficult situation is very inspiring. Cotillard portrays Rose as optimistic, through her desire to never give up and this is something that everyone can learn from. Riley Osborne, who plays the Little Prince, is very charming, because he cares about Rose and will do anything to help her find her family. He asks Fox (James Franco) to keep an eye on her as he searches the galaxy for her family.


The animation in this film is incredible. Seeing the galaxy for the first time left me speechless. The costumes are very realistic, which makes the characters look like they don’t belong in space. But, that is the beauty of this film, because we can see how opposites attract. My favorite part is when Rose, Fox and the Little Prince play a game called, “Red Light, Green Light.” Rose covers her eyes and Fox and the Little Prince can only move on green light. If they move on red light, Rose wins. It’s fascinating to see their friendship grow and it makes you want to join the game.


The message of this film is to work as a team and to never give up. No matter what obstacle you encounter, there is always a way to combat it and push forward. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars for its nonstop action and unique plot. I have never been this intrigued by a film before. I recommend this to kids ages 6 to 12 and it is great to watch for parents as well. With such comedic jokes, relatable characters and a mysterious plot, there is something for everyone to enjoy. This film is available now on DVD. Check it out and find out if the Little Prince can find the Planet of the Roses.


The Little Prince: The New Mission

By Alejandra G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15



This animated series had me very delighted with all the life lessons that it teaches its young audience. I love that the Little Prince doesn’t just throw the life lessons in your face. It’s not obvious because, when you start watching it, it’s simply a casual storyline. But, if you pay close attention and analyze the characters and the events of the story, you start to notice all of the metaphors, figures of speech and symbols that hide real life lessons and sincere messages. audience.


The Little Prince: The New Mission is about Snake telling the Rose that she her home planet and family are in danger. So, the Rose asks the Little Prince to go and find her planet fast. He promises her that he will go look for her planet. He asks Fox to keep an eye on Rose as he flies off on his plane promising he will return to trim the baobabs on B612, their planet. During his quest, he encounters four new characters: the hunter, the geographer, the king and the businessman. As he meets each one, they tell him that Rose’s planet is in another galaxy and offer to help him find it. Meanwhile back on B612, the baobabs continue to grow, Rose and Fox continue to argue and the Snake is freed from the sketchbook. When the Little Prince returns to his planet, he realizes he must set off on a new mission to fight his worse enemy and find the planet of the roses.


My favorite scene is when the Little Prince meets the Hunter. When he lands on his planet, he learns that the Hunter has been on a mission to find this marvelous beast and, while he was on it, he harms all of the creatures living there. Wanting to protect the animals, the Little Prince asks the Hunter to draw the creature he is looking for. His description doesn’t match anything and the Little Prince realizes that the creature doesn’t exist. It’s inside Hunter’s head. The Little Prince and the animals create a plan to stop Hunter’s search. They are cleverly successful in their solution, but you’ll have to watch the film to find out what it is.
One of the many life lessons that the Little Prince teaches, especially in these episodes, is that the baobabs need to be taken care of immediately. To explain, a baobab is a metaphor or a figure of speech for the problems we ignore and don’t pay attention to. Many of us ignore problems that are seemingly harmless at first, but later cause us regret when that tiny sprout of a setback transforms into a giant trouble. Baobabs start to grow small, but when they grow to be a huge tree, they are impossible to get rid of, similar to problems. The Little Prince understands so he destroy any appearance of them on his planet so they don’t have the chance to dominate the planet. He would take care of the problem at the time.


 Credit: KIDS FIRST!







Easy Pumpkin Carving is a must this Halloween!


The new book Easy Pumpkin Carving: Spooktacular Patterns, Tips & Ideas can help you make the best jack-o-lantern on the block. I received a copy of this book and love all the great ideas!

You can find it on 

Traditional Pumpkin Carving Techniques
By Colleen Dorsey

Here they are, the very essentials of pumpkin carving! By following these steps that you probably had down pay when you were a kid, you can get carving with any traditional pumpkin carving pattern. You’ll need a little elbow grease and a tolerance for mess to use this technique, but it’s totally worth it.

Pre-Carving Pumpkin Prep

1.Clean the Pumpkin

Prep the pumpkin first by rinsing it in cold water and using a scrub brush to remove dirt. If you want, you can spray the entire pumpkin with a mild bleach and water solution to kill mold and bacteria.

2.Cut out the Lid
Use a sturdy knife to slowly and carefully carve out and remove the lid of the pumpkin, going in at an angle rather than straight down in. Alternatively, you can cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, which will mean you can sit your pumpkin on top of a light rather than placing a light inside the pumpkin.

3.Clean Out the Guts
Use a scoop to completely empty the inside of the pumpkin of flesh and seeds. Keep scraping away at the inner walls of the pumpkin until you only have about a 1” (2.5cm) thick pumpkin wall that is nice and smooth.

4.Attach the Pattern
Transfer the pattern using your desired method. Check out Easy Pumpkin Carving for tons of patterns to choose from.

Carving Tips

  • Actually carving your pumpkin is simple enough. Here are some tips to make carving easy and effective:
  • Saw steadily with a continuous up and down motion, and don’t press too hard or try to go too fast.
  • When you’re finished cutting out a standalone piece (like an eye), pop it out of the pumpkin wall with your finger, not your carving tool.
  • To cut clean, sharp corners, remove and reinsert the carving tool.
  • Carve starting from the inside of the design and working your way outward.
  • Resist the urge to put your free hand inside the pumpkin while carving. Only do so if you can clearly see where all of your hand is.
  • If you accidentally break off a part of your carving as you work, such as a protruding tooth, stick it back on with a toothpick!

Preserve Your Pumpkin!

Keep your carved pumpkin cool and out of the direct sunlight (you can even put it in the fridge). You can also coat the interior and all cut edges with petroleum jelly to help lock in the pumpkin’s natural moisture, or purchase special preservative sprays for pumpkins.

More info about the Author:

Colleen Dorsey is a writer specializing in the craft and hobby industry, and an editor at Design Originals and Fox Chapel Publishing. Colleen has edited books on many topics, including foam and paper crafts, jewelry making, and children’s crafts. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in creative writing, and in her spare time she enjoys writing fiction, making jewelry, and upcycling findings into crafty new items.

Self Disclosure: A copy of the book, image and article were provided for this featured book.

Fun with Fidget Spinners: 50 Super Cool Tricks and Activities

Fun with Fidget Spinners: 50 Super Cool Tricks & Activities is a new one-of-a-kind guide where spinners can take their hobby to a whole new epic level. Spinners can learn how to master tricks such as spinning on a hat or stacking spinners on top of each other to create mesmerizing whirling towers of color! Spinners can also track their progress and tricks with a handy workbook. Plus, the book provides backstory into the health benefits of spinning.

I received a copy of this book and have to admit that it really is pretty cool! It’s a fun book for kids ages 7+ and it has really cool tricks!~SoCal City Kids.

You can find it on

Fun With Fidget Spinners_CVR - Final_hi-res

Fidget Spinners: Good for Kids’ Social and Real World Interaction 

Fidget spinners are still best-sellers in the toys department of Amazon. The addictive palm-sized toy’s popularity has spread like wildfire. In fact, the toy industry has seen sales over $500m since the trend took off this spring.

The activity has been met with a mixture of positivity and also criticism. Some say the toy is great for concentration while others argue it’s just another distraction. I’d like to add to the argument that fidget spinners are a positive and useful toy for children.

A toy that gets children up and away from their screens is a good thing. Alan Giagnocavo, publisher of the new bookFun with Fidget Spinners: 50 Super Cool Tricks and Activitiesagrees saying, “Fidget spinners are actually wonderful tools that can help kids learn. We all want crafts and activities to reduce the amount of screentime for our kids. The mental benefits of working with your hands in some way in the physical world has been known for centuries. And increasingly, science is able to measure and demonstrate this fact that we have known all along.”

Fox Chapel Publishing, known for creating crafts, arts, and hobbies books, is adamant about producing books that help users work with their hands, get outside, or inside an art studio, and help them interact creatively with the world around them.

Fidget spinners are great for getting kids off devices, but they offer another benefit: social interaction. Children enjoy collecting toys, whether they be Pokémon characters, Beanie Babies, or Pogs, and sharing their finds with their peers. With fidget spinners, children may children like to show off their moves or compete with one another on tricks and stunts. This is one reason Giagnocavo and his team made the decision to include a trick checklist section in their new book. Spreads are provided where friends can respectively track their tricks and time.

Social interaction is so important these days, especially when considering we’re more connected digitally but less connected face to face. “The misuse of technology is allowing us to become such a strong culture of communication that children forget about talking to people,” says children’s author Michael Morpurgo. “They get on social media just like that, in their bedrooms, and that can be very isolating.”

While some may still say fidget spinners are a nuisance, I challenge them to look at how the whirly gadget inspires children. A simple toy made with a few pieces of plastic is not only getting children to work with their hands, it’s helping children become connected to one another in an increasingly complex digital world.

Self Disclosure: A copy of book, images, and article were provided to feature this book. 



Just Dance, an over-the-top-awesome collection of impetuous dance hits for kids and families from the award-winning Peruvian-American kindie music phenomenon known as Twinkle, has just been released.

Described as “like Lady Gaga for kids,” with a super pop sound mixed with a touch of Broadway belt, a sparkling soupçon of hip hop, and plenty of EDM glam, Twinkle has always danced to the beat of her own drum, breaking barriers, sound and otherwise, with both her music and Harajuku-style presentation.

Launched by a childhood saturated with the sound and fury of Top 40 artists like Madonna, Lady Gaga, Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, Prince, Selena, Cher, and Shania Twain, Twinkle has forever experienced a gravitational pull in the direction of performers who create the “whole package,” from their infectious melodies and distinctive vocal qualities to their show-stopping presentations and trademark looks.

With her own award-winning albums, raise-the-roof concerts, and one-of-a-kind costuming and make-up, Twinkle follows suit, dazzling kids and families nationwide.

Album highlights include the original version of Twinkle’s 2015 kindie hit, “Kidz Rock,” featuring the incomparable Mista Cookie Jar, whose spectacular warm-up act is the song’s very own, hands-down-ultimate remix produced by Grammy and Emmy award-winner Matthew Gerrard (Kelly Clarkson, Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Big Time Rush, High School Musical)  and renowned music programmer/producer Peter Amato (NBC’s The Voice, LeAnn Rimes, Ricky Martin). Gerrard and Amato transformed the original song into what Twinkle has christened, “a certified EDM monster track for kids!”

The nine original songs on Just Dance riff on positive themes ranging from dancing through life and living in the moment to making math-time fun-time, sailing through the solar system, and Twinkle’s personal affirmation that good manners rock.

The daughter of a Peruvian mom and a Brooklyn-raised, Romanian-Jewish dad, Twinkle’s first language was Spanish. With sensitivity and balance, she incorporates both Spanish and English into every performance.  Her highly anticipated Spanish version of Just Dance will be released in spring 2018.

Previous albums by Twinkle include Made In The U.S.A. (2012), which was honored with two Global Music Awards (Best Children’s Album and Best Children’s Song), and Twinkle Time (2009).

This is really fun music to dance to! Kids will love Twinkle!~SoCal City Kids. 

Just Dance is available at iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, CDBaby, on Twinkle’s website, and at live Twinkle Time shows.


Visit Twinkle’s website HERE.
Twinkle on Instagram.

Twinkle on Facebook.

Twinkle on Twitter.

Twinkle on YouTube.

Self Disclosure: Info and Images were provided. I may have received a free CD to facilitate this post. No other compensation was received. 

Victoria and Abdul – Mind-Boggling Story Revealing the Racism of the Times


Abdul Karim arrives from India to participate in Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. The young clerk is surprised to find favor with the queen herself. As Victoria questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance that her household and inner circle try to destroy. As their friendship deepens, the queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes, joyfully reclaiming her humanity. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “This incredible, historical film opened my eyes and made me better understand the world I live in. Given that racism is still a prevalent issue in today’s society, it was mind-boggling to see it in Britain, at the turn of the 20th century.” Lucia F. adds, “How could the Empress of the British Empire and a poor Indian clerk possibly have anything at all in common? The fact that there is much that they share is a major theme in Victoria and Abdul.”


Victoria and Abdul

By Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17


This incredible, historical film opened my eyes and made me better understand the world I live in. Given that racism is still a prevalent issue in today’s society, it was mind-boggling to see it in Britain, at the turn of the 20th century. I admire how this film brings the past to the present, and made me question how racism can dissipate in the future.


This film carefully documents the relationship between Queen Victoria and her beloved servant, Abdul Karim. Queen Victoria reigned in the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901. She was the longest serving monarch in world history. In addition to being a queen, she was also the Empress of India. Because of this, Abdul Karim and his friend Mohammed are sent from India to Britain to deliver a sacred coin: the Mohur. Abdul and Mohammed believe they are only going to remain in Britain for a short period of time, but they end up going on the adventure of a lifetime.


Judi Dench, who plays Queen Victoria, exceptionally portrays a queen who is tired of her constriction. All she wants to do is have Abdul be her full-time servant, but because of his origins, Queen Victoria’s staff does not approve. Ali Fazal, who plays Abdul Karim, considers the queen a very special person and his kindness towards her is impeccable. He teaches her the Quran and shares his culture with her. As time goes on, both develop a strong friendship, which is truly heartwarming.


The setting is remarkable. I’ve never seen the Taj Mahal, Scotland or the queen’s palace. This film takes the audience to all these places. After seeing the beauty in other countries, it makes me want to travel the world. My favorite part of this film is when Queen Victoria eats with her staff. She eats very quickly and, once she finishes her food, regardless if the others are done or not, the servants take all of the food away. It’s hilarious to see people still eating their meals and have their food taken away in the blink of an eye.
The message of this film is that no race, culture or religion is subordinate to another, even though individuals are from many different backgrounds. Britain is usually portrayed as one of the most powerful countries, but not in this film. We have to learn to not categorize others as inferior because of their lifestyle. Differences make society beautiful. If we were all the same, everything would be boring.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to kids ages 15 to 18 as well as adults. There are undertones of adult subject matter throughout the film. Queen Victoria is infatuated with much a younger, married man, which is why an older audience is more suitable for it. Check it out when it opens in select theaters on September 22, 2017. I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like this before. By Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17


Victoria and Abdul

By Lucia Funaro, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 18



How could the Empress of the British Empire and a poor Indian clerk possibly have anything at all in common? The fact that there is much that they share is a major theme in Victoria and Abdul.  One example is that they are both in “prison.” You first see scenes with Abdul and Queen Victoria in their native habitats: waking up, doing their jobs and, we see that they both exist in confined situations. Abdul works in an actual Indian prison, doing a very boring job and Victoria later says she is “in prison” because she cannot do what she wants to do, which is to explore the world. In one surprising scene, Victoria actually falls asleep at the table at her Golden Jubilee dinner! Abdul catches her eye and he becomes a window to the wonderfully exotic world of Indian culture.


Every British character in this story, except Victoria, is a terrible racist. The Royal staff of Queen Victoria disapproves of her friendship with Abdul and are constantly conspiring to sabotage their relationship. In contrast, Queen Victoria is fascinated by India, the languages, architecture and just about everything. She wants to explore India, but she cannot because if she does, she likely will be assassinated by the oppressed Indian people. Her son and heir Bertie (later King Edward VII) is the most hateful of all. One of the first things he does as king is to burn all evidence of his mother’s 14-year friendship with Abdul that exists among his mother’s papers and photographs.


One of the things that really stood out for me in this movie was the dialogue. Many wonderful actors are very lucky to bring life to this well-crafted screenplay. Judi Dench, as Queen Victoria, is really funny and dramatic at the same time. Ali Fazal, as Abdul, is amazing because he shows the care, love and respect the character has for the Queen. Of course, Michael Gambon is appropriately arrogant as the Prime Minister (although his distinctive voice keeps bringing Dumbledore to mind!)  Eddie Izzard, as Queen Victoria’s son Bertie, is also phenomenal as the worst villain in a movie full of them – very realistic and believable. The director Stephen Frears and the writer Lee Hall are amazing because they capture an important piece of history in an entertaining way. (When I found out Lee Hall wrote Billy Elliot, I knew this movie was going to be great.)


I give Victoria and Abdul 5 out of 5 stars because it tells the remarkable story about how two people from very different worlds come together as friends. I recommend this movie ages 13 to 18 because there are no intense moments and the plot is slightly complex. There are only funny, sweet, beautiful and some sad moments. You can see Victoria and Abdul in theaters when it opens on September 22, 2017.   By Lucia Funaro, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 18



Victoria and Abdul

By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12


Victoria and Abdul is a surprisingly humorous historical drama with great performances from its two main leads.


Victoria and Abdul opens in India when Abdul (Ali Fazal) is chosen to take a long voyage to England to present a special coin to Queen Victoria (Judi Dench). During the ceremony, something sparks their long, close and unusual friendship which is the subject of the film. Victoria and Abdul follows the queen in the final years of her rule. She is 81 years old and finds little happiness in her day-to-day life until Abdul arrives. Abdul teaches her how to speak and write in Urdu and soon becomes her “munshi,” a spiritual adviser. Many in the queen’s household do not approve of their friendship because of Abdul’s origins. Nevertheless, their friendship thrives.


Judi Dench plays a quite believable Queen Victoria and brings out both the stubborn and kind sides of her character. Dench really shows a range of emotions and truly brings out the personality of this historical figure. Dench makes Victoria’s loneliness so convincing that I felt her pain. Her rudeness makes sense considering every day she is followed by a selfish posse of unfaithful followers. When Abdul arrives, the kinder parts of her character come alive.


Ali Fazal portrayst a very likable Abdul, but he feels poorly developed in comparison and never really gets a chance to shine. I also have to give props to Eddie Izzard who plays Queen Victoria’s son Bertie. He is a believable villain and keeps up a terrible personality until the final frame. Despite the talented cast, this film feels disjointed. There’s too much going on and too many characters to keep up with. Victoria and Abdul never quite fully develops the relationship between the title characters and the film suffers because of it. It also tends to be melodramatic at times, especially at the end.


I recommend it for ages 13 to 18. This films talks about some subjects that could be unsettling to explain to a younger child. Little kids will probably not enjoy the film as much as tweens, teens and adults because they won’t know the history and the context. I give the film 3.5 out of 5 stars. At its core, this film is about how one friendship overcomes prejudice and racism. Victoria doesn’t care what other people think about Abdul. He is her friend and that’s all that matters.









Kids learn music through creative play! TWO PUBLISHING GIANTS -- DISNEY & HAL LEONARD TEAM UP TO CREATIVE INNOVATIVE CHILDREN'S BOOK SERIES: MOANA: THE BEAT OF YOUR HEART A Musical Exploration Activity Book TANGLED: IT'S BETTER WHEN YOU SING IT A Musical Exploration Storybook MICKEY'S FOUND SOUNDS A Musical Exploration Storybook

unnamed unnamed (1)  unnamed (2)

Two pillars of the publishing world — Disney and Hal Leonard have pooled their talent resources to craft an irresistible series of picture books with additional online content that help young children develop musical skills and knowledge through creative play. Launching the Disney Learning “Explore Music” series are:

Moana: The Beat of Your Heart – A Musical Exploration Activity BookPrincess Moana, who lives in a tropical island paradise, shares her culture with young readers who discover how the natural rhythms of Moana’s environment are expressed artistically through hand clapping, body rhythm, and drumming. Kids will develop their sense of inner pulse by playing along with the drums of Motonui on percussion instruments that they themselves craft from household objects. This beautifully illustrated book with online musical enhancements serves as a guide for children to explore beat, rhythm, and the sounds of Motonui’s drums through constructive activities and creative play.

Tangled: It’s Better When You Sing It – A Musical Exploration StorybookGraced with the charming familiarity of Tangled-inspired illustrations, this innovative musical exploration storybook integrates thoughtful activities right in the engaging narrative. Rapunzel shows youngsters that everything is better when they sing! Learning about music becomes an exciting adventure with this playful story that encourages children to experience the joy of singing while they discover the qualities of their own unique voice. Along the way, they’ll explore concepts like tempo, pitch awareness, proper breathing, careful listening, using music to express feelings, and much more.

Mickey’s Found Sounds -A Musical Exploration Storybook
The Main Street Parade has been rained out, but Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy, along with Donald and Daisy Duck and all their friends, form their own parade playing musical instruments they have made from everyday items found around the house. Children will follow simple instructions and share with Mickey and his pals the fun of playing music with instruments they create themselves. This exploration storybook combines music making with imaginative play, following directions to create crafts, and experiencing the sounds of different instruments.

Authored by a Hal Leonard team of artists, designers, writers, music educators, songwriters, and music producers, and based on an early childhood music curriculum commissioned by Disney Learning, each of these hardcover picture books includes not only a charming, colorfully illustrated story that’s perfect for ages 4 – 8, but also an array of musical exploration activities. To add to the fun, additional online activities, including video read-alongs, audio sing-alongs, and more, are provided for each title on the Hal Leonard Explore Music website.

Singing and making music are wonderful ways to bond and nurture physical, emotional, and social development. Helpful suggestions for parents and caregivers about incorporating music into the life of a young child are included in each book.

I had the opportunity to check out all three books and I highly recommend them! I like that they will entertain young children and that they teach about making music! I love that you can also go to the Hal Leonard Explore Music website for more fun activities!

Look for Moana: The Beat of Your Heart – A Musical Exploration Activity BookTangled: It’s Better When You Sing It – A Musical Exploration Storybook, and Mickey’s Found Sounds – A Musical Exploration Storybook at fine music and bookstores everywhere or by visiting

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