The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

December 12th, 2016 · Books

Review By KRISTIN WALD

Putting an active spin on the Monster-In-The-Closet story, The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, written and illustrated by Drew Weing, humanizes monsters and presents kids with challenging and irresistible adventures. Readers follow Charles, a reluctant transplant to Echo City, as he grumbles about his new home while discovering local secrets even longtime residents don’t know.

Magoo

Charles’ new neighbor Kevin, who quests to beat any world record he can, is the only person who also believes there are monsters about. When he gives Charles Margo Maloo’s business card, the excitement really begins. Along the way, Trolls, Ghosts, Ogres, and a host of creative monsters (including one that looks an awful lot like a Blobfish) are discovered and reasoned with and even defended. All the while, Charles learns more about his new home and challenges his fear and displays ever-growing courage and acceptance of The Other.

The rich and detailed illustrations shift from light to dark for mood, and the more you look, the more hidden details and characters you will find. Details like a jar of peanut butter (with flax) and hidden Ogre eyes help develop the characters and the story.

What I especially liked about The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo was the casual but direct manner issues like gentrification, stereotypes, and challenging both fear and bias were addressed. Charles’ parents have purchased a dilapidated apartment building, and they are working very hard to renovate it (read: they are not wealthy developers), but there are also current residents (human and monster!) in the building who are affected by the renovations. In addition, time and again, Margo helps Charles see that the monsters they meet have personalities, families, and even businesses; they aren’t just there to scare kids. In fact, in each instance, it’s the kids who have disturbed the monsters — whether unintentionally or through meddling — and created the monster emergencies Margo is called to solve.

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo will entrance kids and their grown-ups with its realistic dialogue, well-rounded characters, and mysterious situations. Everyone will root for Charles as he becomes more and more of a Monster Expert, cheer as Kevin continues his quest for a World Record, and wonder admiringly about who — or what — Margo Maloo really is. Hopefully the next book will give us more of the same.

Highly recommended for ages 8-12+.

The publisher sent a copy of this book for review.

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Trolls (2016)

November 18th, 2016 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By JENNIFER KALI

I took my kids (ages 3 and 7) to see the movie “Trolls.” I had heard that it was about happiness but didn’t know much beyond that, so I was pleasantly surprised at the animal friendly message. In the middle of it, my daughter exclaimed, “You have to review this one!”

The entire movie is about the Trolls trying to avoid being eaten by the Bergens. At one point, a scared Troll exclaims, “I don’t want to be food!” There is a lot of color, hair, singing, dancing, and talk of happiness to round out this story about not wanting to be someone else’s food.

The movie was cute and had a lot of great music. My daughter, age 7, really loved the movie. My son, age 3, was afraid of the Bergens and didn’t really enjoy it. Common Sense Media suggests this movie for ages 6 and older and that seems about right.

Rated PG.

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

November 13th, 2016 · Books

Review By JENNIFER KALI

My mom’s favorite movie is “The Wizard of Oz,” so I’ve seen it dozens of times, but I’ve never read the book. I was happy to come across a copy of it in the Little Free Library on my street. My seven-year-old daughter and I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with the plan of following it with a viewing her grandmother’s favorite movie.

Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an enjoyable read. It tells the fantastic tale in a straightforward and even-keeled tone that held my daughter’s interest throughout. She was never very frightened by the elements of the book that I remember frightening me while watching the movie as a young child, and I think that’s due to the tone. Instead of being frightened, she was highly curious as to how Dorothy and her friends would get out of the various situations they found themselves in.

Amazingly, even though the book is over 100 years old, it holds up quite well. Dorothy is a strong and brave girl and makes a wonderful heroine.

One aspect of the story that surprised me, that I don’t recall from the movie, is the specifics of the tin woodman. He doesn’t have a heart, but is actually quite loving. One way his love manifests is a love of animals. He cries so much from stepping on a beetle that he rusts up and has to be oiled by Dorothy in order to move again. Another time, when Dorothy is hungry and in need of food, the lion offers to catch her a deer in the woods. The tin woodman begs Dorothy not to eat a deer because the mere thought it almost brings him to tears again. Dorothy instead picks some nuts from a tree for her meal.

This was a very lovely book that my daughter and I very much enjoyed. The animal loving spirit of the tin woodman was a surprise which would delight any vegetarian child.

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Santa’s First Vegan Christmas

November 11th, 2016 · Books

Review By DIANE VUKOVIC

When I read the title Santa’s First Vegan Christmas, I thought that this was going to be a kids’ book about leaving Santa plant milk and vegan cookies under the tree.  Boy was I wrong!

santa-cover-robin-raven-kara-maria-schunk
This cute, rhyming kid’s story actually tackles the very serious theme of animal labor. Specifically, it deals with the fact that Santa is using reindeer to pull his sleigh.

Luckily, a sweet little reindeer named Dana sets Santa straight. Realizing the errors of his ways, Santa decides to run his sleigh on magic power. Once he gets into the vegan spirit, he even decides to liberate all the caged pets and animals that Christmas too.

I’ve got to admit that I was worried this theme would be too intense for my 5-year old. Would it ruin Christmas for her if she started thinking of Santa’s reindeer as indentured servants instead of jolly volunteers?

I’m happy to say that the book did not ruin Christmas for my daughter, and we did have a nice discussion about whether it is fair to use animals like horses and reindeer for pulling sleighs and carriages.

What will she think the next time we hear the song “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” playing? I’m not sure. But this book definitely highlights how our vegan values can often conflict with holiday traditions. The book is a fun, lighthearted way to introduce a really serious topic with your kids.

Aside from the intense underlying message, Santa’s First Vegan Christmas is a cute holiday story with rhymes that flow very well and quirky illustrations. I’ll definitely be reading it with my kid again when the holidays come around.

Ages 4 to 7.

 

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