One Day a Dot

February 6th, 2018 · Books


Any parent or caregiver knows that kids ask some tough questions. And while we now often have tiny computers at our fingertips, being able to sit down and work through answers that are at once satisfying and age-appropriate feels so much better. For questions about our beginnings and the origins of this marvelous blue marble we live on, there’s a beautiful new picture book that provides answers with age-appropriate truth and imagery. One Day a Dot by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, takes readers from the Big Bang to modern day self-awareness and a child’s curiosity. This book is recommended for children ages 4-8, but slightly younger and older could absolutely still appreciate it.


One Day A Dot begins with, you guessed it: a dot! It soon expands and explodes and begins to mix and merge and create something new. Children will enjoy searching for various “dots” in the illustrations, and they will notice changes and growth prompted by the simple observations and language. Child-like games and ideas help explain complex concepts, and the transition from “Catch the Light” to “Eat or Be Eaten” clearly explains how animals eventually evolved from simpler shapes and beings.

Children will notice and wonder at the emergence of teeth and feathers and scales, and eventually fur. Concepts like extinction and a struggle to survive are threaded throughout the book, punctuated by disaster — all appropriately demonstrated for the age group. For example: “When the big dot hit the blue dot…the explosion turned the whole sky red. The whole world was on fire…and all the land-fish burned. But one thing survived.” What seems pretty scary and violent for young children is tempered with the illustrations that show the entire scene, including the one survivor, in one spread.

A favorite part of the book is when humanoids appear. After learning about lots of animals that have sharp teeth and claws and lots of warm fur, the book introduces apes and then humans who don’t have those advantages, but do have a big brain to make their own claws and fur. Sensitive children will ask where the fur came from, and they will notice the images of hunters and spears on a cave wall. This affords an opportunity to discuss treatment of animals and different choices made throughout human history.

By the end of the book, One Day A Dot circles back to that first dot, and a child’s question about where it came from. There is also a winding age-appropriate timeline, perfect for little fingers to follow, that succinctly follows the events depicted in the book. This book is sure to be a favorite with children and the adults who struggle with their universally difficult questions.

One Day A Dot by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb comes out in April, 2018 from First Second. I received an Advance Reader’s Copy for review.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

December 29th, 2017 · Movies

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

My family has mad love for all things Star Wars and the latest movie is no exception. We saw “The Last Jedi” as a family and my 8-year-old daughter said, “That was just amazing! It’s the best movie I’ve ever seen!”

The latest movies in the Star Wars franchise do an excellent job of presenting a diverse cast which includes males and female and people of different races and ethnicities.  Many articles have been written about the role of women in “The Last Jedi,” such as this one from Bustle with the excellent title, “The Last Jedi Makes Treating Women As Equal Seem Easy – Because It Is.” The Last Jedi is a great movie to introduce to all children (males and females) for the diversity alone.

Another great aspect of the film that I wasn’t expecting is the treatment of animals. I was blown away by some aspects, detailed better than I can in this article from Peta2.

The Last Jedi is rated PG-13. Common Sense Media recommends it for ages 10 and over. We watched it with our 8-year-old.  My wife watched the movie first and then told our daughter the story, including who dies, so that she would be prepared to handle it in the theatre, which was a very helpful tactic.

Now go see the film! And May the Force Be With You.

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JANE (2017)

November 16th, 2017 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By KRISTIN WALD

Jane Goodall made her name 50 years ago through painstakingly observing chimpanzees in Gombe, and has recently been traveling all over the world promoting responsible stewardship of the earth and all of its inhabitants. “JANE,” from director Brett Morgen, is a wonderful new documentary that tells the story of how a young, untrained animal lover became one of the world’s most powerful advocates for chimpanzees and baboons, and conservation. (The trailer is online here.) It is a documentary well worth seeing for its story as well as its stunning imagery. Children sensitive to the range of nature’s realities and those under the age of eight may be upset by some scenes.

The footage used includes scenes from over 100 hours of newly rediscovered film from National Geographic photographer and filmmaker Hugo van Lawick, who became Jane Goodall’s husband after spending time in Gombe documenting her early work. It is intimate and beautiful, and it shows a casual, human, and even silly side to the work Jane Goodall did with chimpanzees. Her patience and love for the chimpanzees she followed, her disillusionment and horror at discovering the warlike aspects of chimp culture, and her sorrow at losses in the chimpanzee community she loves mirror the personal joys, separations, and frustrations involving her family and life choices.

The voiceovers in the film are a combination of new interviews with the filmmaker and audio from Jane Goodall’s audiobooks. Edited together with the original footage, the film becomes a smooth story arc that lets viewers feel they’ve really gotten to know this iconic figure, even as they feel inspired by Goodall’s minor and monumental achievements. It is the new interview material, however, that brings us some particular humor and touching moments as Jane Goodall tweaks past researchers’ techniques and admits to emotional pain regarding her son and first marriage. It is also when we hear her turmoil and sorrow regarding a polio outbreak in the chimpanzee community and the deaths of two of her most closely followed chimps.

All in all, “JANE” is a joy to watch for those who know her work, and it will also serve as a comprehensive introduction to her work for those who don’t yet know it well. The end of the film promotes Jane Goodall’s goal of encouraging and fostering the next generation in showing compassion for all living things, cultures, and the environment. In a few scenes, sensitive children will be disturbed by animals attacking each other and in one particularly gory scene, eating each other. There is also a brief scene of chimpanzees mating. The language is gentle, save for one instance at the beginning where a colloquial term for excrement is used. Highly recommended for children ages 8 and up.

Rated PG.

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Bee Movie (2007)

September 6th, 2017 · Movies

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

“Bee Movie” was a big hit for family movie night. Written by Jerry Seinfeld, who also voices the lead bee, this movie is funny and entertaining for the entire family. It was enjoyed by the kids (ages 3 and 8) and the adults in our family.

Barry the Bee (Seinfeld) finds out that humans are stealing honey from hard working bees and sues the government. There is a settlement that results in only the sale of “bee-approved” honey being allowed. My 8-year-old said, “Aw, bee-approved. I like that.” There is even a scene at the end in which a cow is asking Barry the Bee for advice on how to keep humans from stealing her milk.

Common Sense Media recommends this movie for ages 5+. I agree that older kids will understand the plot better, and also understand more of the jokes, but the movie is cute enough for younger kids as well. My three-year-old now says this is his favorite movie. Highly recommended for your next movie night. We were able to watch it on Netflix.

Rated PG.

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