April 16th, 2018 ·
Review By JENNIFER KALI
One weekend, my family enjoyed a movie marathon of “Dr. Dolittle” and “Dr. Dolittle 2.” The first movie tells the story of a doctor (Eddie Murphy) who suddenly realizes he can talk to animals. He spends most of the movie coming to terms with his new reality. in the second movie, Dr. Dolittle used his ability to talk to animals to save a park land which is home to a very rare bear.
My daughter, age 8, loved these movies. There are a lot of visual gags and jokes that she found hilarious. The second movie has a strong animal rights theme. There are a few crude jokes, sexual innuendo, and mild cursing that seemed out of place in this family movie, but it wasn’t overwhelming.
Common Sense Media recommends “Dr. Dolittle” for ages 9+ and “Dr. Dolittle 2” for ages 8+.
This was a great selection for family movie night. Now we are off to see “Dr. Dolittle 3”!
1990s Movies·Eddie Murphy·Family Movies·Jennifer Kali·Older Elementary
April 14th, 2018 ·
Review By KRISTIN WALD
A relevant picture book for our times, Little Sid is a retelling of how a prince, Siddhartha, became Buddha. While not historically accurate, the story maintains the concepts and spirit of lessons to be learned in a style that will entice young readers. The modern twist (stuffed animals! casual diction!) will make the story of how Siddhartha became Buddha accessible to a whole new generation of children, many of whom will relate to the family dynamic described.
I found the telling interesting and direct without being overly childish. Little Sid is distraught to find that the possessions and activities his parents seem to value don’t provide contentment. Like many caregivers today, Little Sid’s parents are distracted and focused on getting “things” done, and when they notice that their son is unhappy, they order him entertained or showered in toys. The material things don’t help.
Thus, Little Sid learns early on that money can’t buy happiness, and he goes off on his own to find Happiness with a capital H. In his journeys, he finds some mysterious guides who only confuse him, and he even thinks some of their advice is “the dumbest thing he’d ever heard.” And then he sits with the advice for a while and wonders if it was in fact the wisest.
It is an encounter with a fierce tiger that shocks Little Sid into a discovery of how being fully present brings appreciation and Happiness. The rest of the story takes us back to Little Sid’s village and home to see how he spreads this knowledge to everyone, including his family.
The illustrations are dreamlike and beautiful. The layered imagery creates a focus for each page, and the simple shapes convey great emotion without cluttering the landscape. For younger children, the illustrations encourage interaction to identify emotions, colors, and more.
Recommended for ages 4-8.
I received a review copy from the publisher.
Buddha·Colors·Early Elementary·Happiness·Ian Lendler·Illustration·Kristin Wald·Picture Books·Tigers·Xanthe Bouma
February 20th, 2018 ·
Review By JENNIFER KALI
My 8-year-old daughter has been making her way through every book in the Vet Volunteers book series available at our local library. The series combines her love of mystery novels (she’s also reading every Nancy Drew book available) with her love of animals. The series, an American Girl spin-off, follows 11-year-old Maggie whose Grandmother owns a veterinary clinic and her four friends who volunteer at the clinic. In each book there is an animal mystery. In the first book, there is a crisis involving 10 sick puppies that arrive together at the clinic. It’s found that the puppies were bred in an illegal puppy mill which the kids help shut down.
The most recent book has inspired her to take action. In Treading Water, the Vet Volunteers discover pets abandoned after Easter, including baby chicks, baby ducks, and bunnies. They launch a campaign to stop the community from giving animals as pets. Immediately my daughter started designing a poster to hang at her school with a similar message that she wants to display prior to Easter.
I’ve never read these books. My recommendation comes solely from seeing what kind of reaction they elicit in my daughter. She loves to read them and has read about 10 of them in the last 2 weeks. But even better, these books have inspired her to take action for animals. I highly recommend Vet Volunteers.
Amazon recommends these books for ages 8-12 and that seems about right.
Animal Rescue·Female Protagonist·Jennifer Kali·Kindness to Animals·Mystery·Older Elementary·Series·Veterinarian
February 6th, 2018 ·
Review By KRISTIN WALD
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.
Braden Lamb·Early Elementary·Evolution·Ian Lendler·Kristin Wald·Origins of the Universe·Shelli Paroline