Harry and the Hendersons (1987)

January 10th, 2015 · Movies

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

After watching “The Goonies” recently, my 9-year-old daughter has developed a taste for movies from my childhood. (Side note: did you know the actors who played Mikey and Mouth in “The Goonies” are now vegetarians?)

So, on family movie night, we gave “Harry and the Hendersons” a whirl.

I had forgotten that the opening scene depicts the father and son hunting down and killing a rabbit, and so I was not prepared when my wide-eyed daughter turned to me and asked, “Are you sure about this one?” My husband assured us to hang on because things would get better. And he was right.

Although aspects of this movie feel dated or confused, its positive message about animals and its silly humor make it worth watching in 2015.

Vegetarian and vegan parents should know that, while the film does open with a hunting scene, the overall gist is anti-hunting. In fact, a big part of the plot revolves around the gun-toting, hunter-dad’s transformation from stereotypical man’s man to a more compassionate and self-accepting person. It’s his relationship with Harry, a Bigfoot who confuses the boundary between us (humans) and them (nonhuman animals), that causes him to rethink his relationship with other animals, whom he’d previously labeled as trophy, dinner, or pet.

The tone of the movie is not serious. Still, those of us who were not raised vegetarian or vegan ourselves may recognize aspects of our journey in the father’s transformation. Harboring Harry and taking the side of a Bigfoot, in a community seized with fear and bloodlust, sets this dad and his family apart from their neighbors and even extended family members. And once they begin thinking of animals differently, another issue arises: what to do with their hunting trophies and Grandma’s fur stole (which also offend Harry)?

It’s Harry’s solution to this dilemma–to bury the dead animals in the backyard–which leads to the only explicit mention of vegetarianism in the movie. The Hendersons are seated at dinner, with their guest Dr. Wrightwood:

Sarah Henderson: Where’s the roast?
George Henderson: I’ll go get it.
Nancy Henderson: The roast is resting in a shallow unmarked grave in the backyard.
George Henderson: Oh. Well, there’s plenty of other stuff.
Dr. Wallace Wrightwood: Are you vegetarians?
George Henderson: Sometimes. It depends on the guest.

Despite all of these high points, I should note that the treatment of vegetarianism and animal rights is incomplete and may be confusing to younger children. Although Harry himself does not eat hamburgers and bristles at the view of hunting trophies, he is seen in one scene scooping up fish from an aquarium and happily gulping them down as a snack. Additionally, some parents (like me) may not be comfortable with the outdated gender roles in the movie.

Commonsense Media recommends this movie for ages 7 and up–but if you live with a vegetarian or vegan kid who is sensitive to animal suffering, I’d recommend holding off for another year or two.

Rated PG.

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The Wild Whale Watch (The Magic School Bus Chapter Book #3)

January 7th, 2015 · Books


My five-year-old loves all things Magic School Bus — the TV show, the picture books, the chapter books, the science kits — all of it. And I have to say that I’m right there with her. The Magic School Bus series teaches science to five-year-olds in a fun and engaging way.


It’s a story about elementary kids whose teacher, voiced by Lily Tomlin, is a bit eccentric and loves science. She has a school bus that is magical that she uses to take the kids on amazing adventures to learn about science, such a trip into space to learn how stars form. There is usually a little peril to keep things interesting and to promote problem solving skills. The stories are funny, interesting, and informative.  I myself learn things I didn’t know when I read these stories to my daughter. I also love the brilliant teacher as a female science role model for kids to emulate.

The Magic School Bus Chapter Book #3 The Wild Whale Watch (Amazon affiliate link) is my favorite in the series so far. Whales have always been my favorite animal and this book manages to even teach me things about whales that I didn’t know. But the best part is towards the end if the book when the class discusses dwindling whale populations and that some countries still hunt whales for food. The class decides to participate in an adopt-a-whale program. At the end of the book there is information on how we can adopt whales for ourselves which my daughter immediately wanted to do. It’s a great book for any animal lover or lover of science.

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Planet Kindergarten

January 5th, 2015 · Books

Planet Kindergarten_FC_LoResReview By HOMA WOODRUM

I put Planet Kindergarten on our library reservation list as soon as I knew it had been released because we love Sue Ganz-Schmitt’s book, The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Fairytale (I reviewed it here). Planet Kindergarten did not disappoint. My daughter is 6 and my son is 4 – both understood and loved the parallels between a boy going to his first day of kindergarten and taking a trip into outer space.

Kids will also love the bright illustrations – Shane Prigmore has contribution credits that include “The Iron Giant” and there’s a retro vibe to the design for this book that I really enjoyed. I also found myself chuckling at the clever turns of phrase:

I try to get used to the new atmosphere, but it’s not like home. For one thing, gravity works differently here. We have to try hard to stay in our seats.  And our hands go up a lot.

The only mention of food is at lunch, where our protagonist finds he likes “space food” (the drawings are of an apple, grapes, green gel, and fries). I realize we’re well into the school year already but it would be a great gift for a child entering school next year or one that is starting at a new school in a later grade. Looking at school as an adventure is what I hope my kids will do, even though it can seem a little alien at times. Highly recommended for ages 3 and up.


Also, check out the official publisher page for downloads you can print out like a “space food” wrap for a snack bar or “rocket fuel” for a juice box. My favorite is the card that reads “Message from Home Base” so families can continue the space journey theme into their little one’s first days at school. You can also preview some of the book’s interior.

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Turkey Claus

December 19th, 2014 · Books

Turkey ClausReview By JENNIFER KALI

My daughter has always been devastated by the ending of Run, Turkey, Run.  So much so that she refuses to let us read it to her. Readers spend the entire book cheering for the turkey to get away from the farmer trying to kill it for Thanksgiving.  The turkey finally succeeds, only to be found in time for Christmas dinner.

Though Turkey Claus (Amazon affiliate link) is written by a different author, it feels a lot like the much needed follow-up to Run, Turkey, Run. And this time there is a happy ending.

Turkey doesn’t want to be Christmas dinner. So he runs away to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to get Santa to grant his wish – to be allowed to live. What a wish! The elves won’t let anyone see Santa on Christmas Eve because he’s too busy preparing for his big night. Much of the story involves Turkey trying on silly costumes to try to sneak into Santa’s cottage until he’s finally successful. Santa helps Turkey come up with a plan to stay alive, which involves delivering pizza and cookies to the farmer to eat for Christmas dinner instead of Turkey. The end of the book shows Turkey enjoying Christmas dinner with the happy farmer and his family and other farm animals.

I found this book at the Scholastic Book Fair at my son’s school and was quite happy to be able to buy it. My five-year-old daughter enjoyed the happy ending. My one-year-old son enjoyed the bright and colorful pictures. It’s a nice companion to Run, Turkey, Run, and a nice addition to our holiday library.

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