Herd Your Horses

January 31st, 2016 · Board Games

623_HerdYourHorses_BOX_720233006234Review By JENNIFER KALI

My six-year-old daughter, a lover of horses, asked anybody and everybody for “only horse things” as Christmas gifts this year. She got shirts, books, earrings, temporary tattoos, and this really interesting board game. The premise of the game is that a stallion has escaped from a ranch, taking some mares with him, and is trying to make it on his own in the wild before getting rounded back up by the rancher. You can play as either the rancher trying to or the stallion. Players gather up horses and experience setbacks and gains while making their way around the board, all the while learning facts about horses.

623_HerdYourHorses_OTB_720233006234Playing this game can spark great conversations, such as why the horses would want to escape, differences between domestic and wild horses, and what it’s like to be a ranch horse. It’s challenging enough for advanced players and basic enough for new players. We played together as a family and really enjoyed it.

Ages 6-12. 4 players.

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Here Comes Valentine Cat

January 25th, 2016 · Books

Review By JENNIFER KALI

Here Comes Valentine Cat is a grumpy cat book in the same vein as the Bad Kitty series, which is a series my six-year-old loves, though this book seems aimed at a bit younger demographic.

9780525429159

Cat doesn’t like Valentine’s Day. Too mushy. Also, Cat doesn’t like the dog that lives on the other side of the fence. Dog is noisy and reckless and tosses things into the yard, like balls and bones and dog treats. Cat decides that for Valentine’s Day he will compose an angry letter to Dog. Just as Cat is about to toss the letter across the fence, Dog sends a Valentine to Cat that melts his grumpy little heart.

This book was provided as a review copy by the publisher.

Ages 3-5.

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Chicken Run (2000)

January 18th, 2016 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By JESSICA ALMY

How is it we’ve posted 750 reviews on Vegbooks, and yet we haven’t reviewed Nick Park’s 2000 animated film “Chicken Run” yet? PETA includes it in an article on 10 movies that will make you go meatless and the ultimate list of animal-friendly movies. And the Humane Society of the United States liked it so much that they teamed up with the film’s makers to celebrate Food Day with a short film that critiques gestation crates for pigs.

In other words, if you haven’t seen “Chicken Run” yet, you really ought to.

Based on the plot of World War II classic “The Great Escape,” this family-friendly film chronicles the escape efforts of egg-laying chickens in England. The pace is quick but not hectic, and while the movie does reveal some ugly truths about agriculture–spent hens are killed–overall, it elicits sympathy for the characters without telling the whole story about the egg or meat industries. (For example, the hens are free-roaming, not confined to battery cages, and there’s no mention of what happens to male chicks.)

Plus, the movie is just plain funny, with lots of great one-liners.

While some critics have argued that the film “neatly sidesteps the issue of chicken-eating,” I’m not convinced. For starters, the hens feel a deep sympathy for their friend who has not laid eggs in a while and ends up on the farmers’ table. Second, the escape efforts escalate when the farmers decide to begin a chicken pie operation.

Instead, I think the film makes clear that what’s important is not saving a single life, but saving them all. In the opening scene, Ginger escapes multiple times but each time gets sent to solitary confinement after her attempts to free her friends fail. And when another character in the film–Rocky, a circus rooster who shakes things up on the farm–says that it’s not hard to escape, Ginger explains that it’s not difficult for one chicken to get out, but that they must all get out.

I strongly recommend this film for families to watch together. There are many themes that warrant discussion, including the ethics of meat eating, conditions on the farm, and the power of collective action.

Rated G. Commonsense Media recommends “Chicken Run” for ages 7 and up.

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Noisy Bird Sing-Along

January 17th, 2016 · Books

Review By KRISTIN WALD

Most children learn that birds TWEET and occasionally QUACK. But John Himmelman’s Noisy Bird Sing-Along will expand their bird vocabulary with its fully illustrated pages. This is a colorful, fun, active book for children to practice bird sounds and to learn about different types of feathered friends.

9781584695134

Every two-page section focuses on a different bird with facts and emphasized birdsong in exaggerated type. Beautifully images of each bird include visual reflection of the habitat or habits of each winged creature. Whether it’s a black-capped Chickadee, a tapping Woodpecker, or a nocturnal Owl, children will enjoy imitating the sounds and learning more about each bird.

The end of the book includes Fun Facts About the Birds and additional activities to continue learning. While this book is recommended for ages 4-9, I think ages 3-7 are more appropriate for the level of tone and facts.

The publisher sent a copy of this book for review.

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