Lullaby & Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby

March 24th, 2015 · Books

LullabyKissesSweet-smReview By JESSICA ALMY

My kiddo’s baby days have long since passed us by, but I love this collection of short read-aloud poems for babies! Nonhuman animals attired in bibs, shorts, and even eyeglasses are the focus of the illustrations, but they’re not the narrators. Instead, all the poems are told from baby’s point of view.

Divided into five sections–family, food, firsts, play, and bedtime–this board book is in fact an anthology of poems. They each stand on their own, but their collective brevity and warmth makes the book an easy read in a single sitting.

Parents of vegetarian and vegan babies will find much to like in this book, particularly in the “food” section, which celebrates rice cereal, apples, oranges, watermelon, and spaghetti. There are so many delicious foods for older babies to enjoy!

The only potentially problematic food the book depicts is “milk.” Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that no children should drink cow’s milk before 12 months of age, I would expect that the baby’s milk is either breastmilk or formula. Still, the illustration seems to suggest otherwise. Perhaps the baby depicted is already 1 and the “milk” is soymilk the whole family enjoys? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

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All in all, Lullaby & Kisses Sweet is a delightful book that babies and their caregivers are likely to enjoy. I recommend this book for ages birth to 18 months.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

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Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees

March 22nd, 2015 · Books

Review By KRISTIN WALD

This straightforward telling of Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot, is accompanied by colorful and beautiful illustrations by Aurélia Fronty that help set the tone of hope and action throughout the book. This storybook, based on the true story of a young Kenyan girl who became the leader of an environmental and social movement. Aimed at 6-9 year olds, this book will be interesting and educational for both children and parents.

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I read this book aloud to my six year old, and we stopped several times to discuss details and the scenes depicted in the art. Told in the present tense, the events feel like they happened very recently. The story deals with important and difficult issues (British colonialism, gender inequality, environmental impact) in understandable and clear descriptions that allow children to ask age-appropriate questions.

The story of Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmental and human rights activist, is inspirational. This storybook version of her life demonstrates the importance of family, caring for the earth, and working hard for your values even when faced with opposition. The story highlights actions children can easily relate to, they will connect to Wangari’s desire to plant trees, provide a habitat for animals, help those in need, and stand up for justice.

The vivid colors and whimsical illustrations are a fantastic accompaniment to the story. With trees and leaves central to the picture themes, readers will enjoy finding hidden surprises in the details. The tone of the story is also supported by the different choices of colors and styles, and the revolution created by Wangari is shown in both realistic and fantastical images in the pages.

Following the story, which takes the reader through Wangari Maathai’s triumphant election to Parliament and Nobel Peace Prize award, there are photographs and information about Kenya and the legacy Wangari left behind. Highly recommended.

The publisher sent a copy of this book for review.

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Cinderella (2015)

March 15th, 2015 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By HOMA WOODRUM

I saw “Cinderella” with my 4-1/2 and 6-1/2-year-old yesterday and it was a non-musical slightly modern twist on the Disney cartoon of yore. I wanted to write about the movie for Vegbooks because it had some animal related themes. I’ve had friends complain the movie is not well written but I enjoyed it (and the company).

Cinderella is told to “be kind” and “have courage” by her mother. There are a lot of parental deaths in this movie, three total, but none are particularly violent. Grieving is not really depicted aside from some black garb for Cinderella and her father and a line later on after (spoiler alert) the king dies remarking along the lines of “after the time for grieving had passed….”

The costumes are beautiful, and the likes of Cate Blanchett and Derek Jacobi really elevate the style of the film (directed by Kenneth Branagh). Cinderella’s animal friends squeak and chirp but don’t actually talk.

There’s a great scene where Cinderella asks the Prince (though she doesn’t know he’s the prince yet) to spare a stag in the woods and we later learn that the hunt was stopped (not sure about other stag hunting in the future but it was nice all the same). Her argument to the Prince is that having always done something doesn’t mean it should be done.

On the flip side, if you’re not aware of the fairy tale itself, a fairy godmother transforms animals to assist Cinderella in getting to the ball. Mice become horses, lizards footmen, and a goose drives the carriage. It doesn’t seem like the transformation harms the animals but there’s not really any indication of consent either. I really liked that Cinderella calls her footman “Mr. Lizard” and the driver “Mr. Goose.” She was consistently sweet to them and they encourage her.

Arguably the movie meets the requirements of the Bechdel test – that two (named) female characters speak about something with one another aside from men but I don’t know how empowering that is when it involves a step mother and step-sisters bossing someone around. At one point Cinderella is asked why she doesn’t leave the home and she says that she feels her parents are a part of the place so she hates to leave. That’s all well and good except that she does go live in the palace after marrying the prince so I’m not sure where that plot thread leaves us.

Any worry I had that my daughter would think Cinderella was noble for being a servant in her own home was dashed when she proclaimed that I shouldn’t make her clean her room after we got back from the movie. Here’s to independent thinking!

Rated PG. Commonsense Media recommends this movie for kids ages 6 and up.

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A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story

February 13th, 2015 · Books

9781585368402_FCReview By HOMA WOODRUM

I received A Penguin Named Patience from Sleeping Bear Press as a review copy. I’ve never seen a picture book that ties in with Hurricane Katrina and it must be a sign that I’m getting older when books are made to explain events to children that may not have been alive at the time they actually happened (in this case, August 2005). Take away the reason the titular Patience the penguin and her compatriots were relocated from their home exhibit to one in Monterrey, California and the book still makes sense. Which is to say, though this is a book that has a basis in actual events, it isn’t meant to inform the reader about the Hurricane as much as share a vignette of evacuation and return.

The illustrations are charming and the story straight forward – penguins are flown across the country when it is no longer safe for them to stay at New Orleans’ Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Later, the penguins are able to return. The book mentions the names and personalities of the penguins but while attributing feelings like confusion or happiness to the penguins would inspire empathy in the reader, it leaves unanswered the question of why the penguins’ home is presumed to be the Aquarium. I don’t think it is problematic for veg families as a snippet of the penguins’ lives and considering it is based on real life events, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless.

Ultimately, the thrust of the story is that Patience worries and waits and eventually is brought home. In the Author’s Note at the end of the book it states that Patience died in 2006, the year following the events in the book, at the age of 25 (while the average age for a female African penguin, per the note, is 15.1 years). I found the note an important addition to the story so I’d recommend the book for ages 6 and up so they can get the most out of the story behind the story.

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