Monday, July 30, 2012

Books We Love: “Mission Possible” by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia

This is a sponsored blog post. The opinions are 100% mine.
Perhaps you’ve noticed this disturbing trend in our society: teachers, who just a few years ago were lauded as the underpaid, underappreciated heroes of our communities are now often vilified as lazy, over-compensated, union fat-cats. Frustrated with a system that often fails our students, it seems communities have turned on teachers in an effort to unfairly punish them for a system that is as expensive as it is (often) ineffective.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Read ME a Story: “Bear Despair” and “Waterloo & Trafalgar”

More Picture Books that Make Your Child the Storyteller
I recently posted a story on two picture books (Little Bird and The Night Riders) that encourage your child to do the storytelling. Here are two more similarly extraordinary books—Bear Despair and Waterloo & Trafalgar—that invite you and your child into the world of images and ideas. The actual forming of a spoken story is left to you and your child. These books are miraculous for several reasons, not the least of which is that in 2010, The New York Times published the piece, “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children” that spoke to “… a real push with parents and schools to have kids start reading big-kid books earlier.” But as a visually-oriented person myself, I believe that these wordless picture books encourage and support a different and important type of literacy—visual literacy—as they encourage imaginative storytelling from our kids.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Impromptu Tribute to Sally Ride from Children’s Book Illustrator Micah Player

Our friends at Chronicle Books shared this sweet, simple illustration by Micah Player, author and illustrator of Chloe, Instead created in honor of the passing of astronaut Sally Ride. The image features the character Lately, Lily an adventurous young girl who travels the world with her family. Her appreciation for Sally Ride’s boundary-breaking life is shared by many, especially the legions of young girls she inspired to study science and reach for the stars.

I hope Micah’s image made you smile and reflect on Ms. Ride’s remarkable legacy. Thanks to Chronicle Books and Micah Player for sharing this with us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Preschool Apps We Love: “I Learn Through Transportation,” “Sound Shaker,” and “Bug Builder”

When you’re choosing an app for the youngest users, you want something that’s engaging and educational and at the same time expands the way your child thinks. The sky’s the limit for preschoolers and I found a trio of apps that are fun, easy to use, and encourage expansive thinking.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Music We Love: “It’s Love” by Ellen & Matt

If you’re lucky, you already know about Ellen & Matt from their first disc, Best Friends. For everyone else, this is your lucky day. Ellen and Matt Kennedy have created a collection of songs for kids and their families that is fun and meaningful, filled with beautifully produced and orchestrated, tuneful pieces that speak to kids’ dilemmas and joys. And did I mention that Ellen Kennedy sings like an absolute angel? You’ll hear a bit of Patsy Kline and shades of Karen Carpenter in her pitch-perfect vocals. She can twang, she can rock, and she can sell a ballad. She’s a sublime discovery. And husband Matt Kennedy is no slouch himself as a vocalist, on guitar or on banjo.

Friday, July 20, 2012

In Memorium

I can't bring myself to write a review today. My thoughts are with the injured and the families of the dead from the horrific movie theater shooting in Colorado. My own child naps safely in her bed. I'm more grateful for that than my meager skills can express.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Re-Imagine the Basics: “The South African Alphabet” and “Pomelo Explores Color”

Picture Books We Love
Just about every pre-schooler’s library contains an A-B-C book and a book about colors. “A” is for apple; here’s three things that are red; you’ve probably seen countless examples. Two new books, The South African Alphabet and Pomelo Explores Color take these mainstays and turn them on their ear. Simple? Not by a long shot. These titles approach necessary topics—the alphabet and colors—and add extra educational value to the explorations and encourage readers to think in new ways. Sure, you can buy any number of simpler books on these topics but after you see these two titles, you may not want to.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Story With Wings (And a Hook): Disney’s “Peter Pan”

Disney’s Fourteenth Animated Feature – 1953
Walt Disney’s project to become the primary shaper of children’s entertainment went full-tilt in the early 1950’s, when in the space of four years, the studio released three feature-length cartoons: the fairy tale Cinderella, the whimsical Alice in Wonderland, and the action-packed Peter Pan. The heroic, scatterbrained, grownup-hating Peter was a much more recent creation than Cinderella and Alice, having been introduced by playwright (later novelist) J.M. Barrie in 1904, but had already taken his place as one of the most beloved characters in children’s popular culture. Disney’s version includes all the elements necessary in a re-telling of the story: three English siblings, their frustrated father, a canine nursemaid, pirates, orphan boys, a hungry crocodile, and, of course, pixie dust. The result is a somewhat rushed, very tame but thoroughly diverting film, Disney’s fourteenth animated feature.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Events We Love: Summerstage Kids Presented by Disney

If you live in the New York City area, you already know that this city offers an amazing array of free events and performances designed for kids, and few are on the level of Summerstage Kids Presented by Disney, part of the City Parks Foundation Summer Stage series. These events are presented at parks around the city and offer a wide variety of fun and games along with top-notch performers, all presented in the spirit that this is for kids. No silence is required here. In fact, performers encourage enthusiasm and participation from the junior audience members.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
Many griped that it was too soon to do another Spider-Man movie series. That didn’t bother me too much. I’m enough of a dork that if they rebooted the Spidey franchise every week, I’d be at the theater, 3-D glasses in hand.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Closer Look at “Brave”

This just in from Disney/Pixar, an Independence Day gift to us fans of Brave:

Fans of Disney/Pixar’s feature films love to scour the screen in search of the hidden gems the filmmakers sneak into each film: WALL•E’s explorations uncover a Mike Wazowski antenna ball, paying homage to Monsters, Inc., and in Up, the classic Luxo Jr. ball can be seen in the girl’s bedroom as Carl Fredricksen’s house flies by her window. Disney/Pixar’s epic action adventure Brave features a few such gems, two of which are revealed here:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Apps We Love: “Make A Scene” and “Create & Play”

Two children’s art-making apps enable users to create art through collage. Even though no drawing is required, these apps help kids create unique works of interactive art that they can save and share.