Monday, January 30, 2012

Washington Did More Than Just Sleep Here

The American Revolution in New York City
I read that the word of the year should be “occupy,” as in “Occupy Wall Street,” the popular protest in New York City that inspired similar protests around the country and around the world. But New York City has always been a revolutionary city, a place where ideas come to percolate, a city where the only constant is the constant change.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Books (and Authors) We Love: “Honest Abe’s Funny Money Book” by Jack Silbert

Book Review and Author Interview by Maggie Hames
Our frequent contributor Jack Silbert (reviewer of Joyful Noise, War Horse, and many other pieces) has just written a new book, Honest Abe’s Funny Money Book, and if you’re already a fan of Silbert’s work, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s very funny and very informative. Jack’s one of those rare birds who really makes learning fun.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Museums That Visit YOU

Virtual Museums That Bring Home the Fun
Not to complain, but it was 17° here last week. This weekend, it’s snowing. I don’t want to go to the grocery store much less out for fun. On blustery days, why not take advantage of that window to the world we call the Internet? I think older kids and teens will get a kick out of these sites, the quirky little museums often started by an individual or small group. Hint: great ideas for school essays here! And maybe teens will be inspired to create their own online museums. Do you have a collection of just about anything? That’s a start.

Friday, January 20, 2012

All You Cats Join In and “Make Mine Music”

Disney’s Eighth Animated Feature – 1946
Make Mine Music was Disney’s fourth “package” film, a feature-length film made up of a series of shorts. World War II had just come to an end, but during the war, much of Disney’s staff had been drafted or called upon by the U.S. government to make training and propaganda films. It was difficult for Disney to get anything in the pipeline except short films. And these reasonably popular package films were also a way for Disney to experiment with new techniques and talent.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King

We honor Dr. Martin Luther King as we honor our exceptional Presidents—with a federal holiday. King never held elective office, but giving him an official federal holiday properly honors his vital, irreplaceable life’s work and acknowledges and underscores an important aspect of his struggle: that even though he was a man of vision with extraordinary leadership abilities, as a man of color, Martin Luther King could never have hoped to make a successful run for the American Presidency in his era.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Give It Five Hurrahs and Twelve Hip-Hips! Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast in 3-D”

Disney’s Thirtieth Animated Feature – 1991 (Original Release) 2012 (3-D Release)
As a woman, a feminist, and as the mother of a little girl, I must say I’ve always loved Beauty and the Beast. Belle (the Beauty) is a heroine girls can relate to. She’s lovely and smart, but so intellectually curious she feels she doesn’t fit into her small-town life. She wants to see the greater world and yearns to meet someone who will understand her and love her just as she is.

Joyful Noise

Film Review by Jack Silbert
It would be entirely too easy to refer to this movie as the “gospel Glee” And it wouldn’t be fair, either. Writer/director Todd Graff was totally pre-Glee with the whole singing/dancing kids thing, back with his charming 2003 debut Camp. And once again, he’s created an upbeat, warm-hearted, music-filled tale that is perfect for families. And yes, I’d say that even if Graff—as a young actor—didn’t share a few seconds of screen time with my parents in 1987’s Sweet Lorraine. (But that’s a story for another time.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Character Education Is a Hot Topic. And You Can Quote Me!

Book Review: Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time by Steve Reifman
Santa Monica grammar school teacher Steve Reifman is ahead of the curve on the topic of character education. While some educators are increasingly obsessed with standardized test scores, Reifman champions a more holistic educational approach, “I have always wanted kids to become great students, but it’s more important to me that they become great people.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Apps We Love: Counting Bees, Memory Train, and Interactive Alphabet by Pi’ikea Street

My daughter and I have been playing Counting Bees, Memory Train, and Interactive Alphabet all week and I don’t know who loves these apps more, her or me. Hats off to the developers at Pi’ikea Street. These apps are highly educational, fun, easy to use, and did I mention fun? There are layers of interactivity here that will keep your preschoolers to grammar schoolers entertained for months, possibly years.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Music We Love: “Strange Dees, Indeed” by the Deedle Deedle Dees

Music Review by Jack Silbert
I hadn’t even popped the CD into the player, and the group’s name had already brought to mind Fiddler on the Roof, Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night,” and of course Rick Dees, who gave us that masterwork “Disco Duck.” Meanwhile, the album title was making me think of the John Lennon song “Nobody Told Me.” Most peculiar, mama!