Finding Dory (2016)

December 31st, 2016 · Movies

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

When my older daughter was three, we tried watching “Finding Nemo,” a movie beloved by many but way too scary for my daughter. My youngest is now three, and a parent of a friend of his suggested we watch “Finding Dory.” A look of horror must have crossed my face when she said that because she quickly followed it up with “It’s not scary like Finding Nemo!”

We were on vacation in Burlington, VT, and wanted to see a movie at the drive-in theatre, and they were playing “Finding Dory,” so we gave it a try. I enjoyed the movie more than “Finding Nemo,” and it’s definitely less scary. My daughter, seven years old, said she really liked the movie, and thought the characters were really funny, but it was sad. My son, three years old, said, “Ooh fish!” when the movie started, but he fell asleep before it ended, though the next day he said that he liked the movie and thought Dory was funny, but was worried because Dory couldn’t find her parents. I thought the movie was quiet and slow but a good story with enjoyable characters.

Much of the movie takes place in a ocean animal rescue center in California. My daughter loved hearing about how Ellen DeGeneres, the voice of Dory and a animal activist, suggested changes to the script that changed the setting from a Sea World-type aquarium to an animal rescue center. We talked about the power of speaking up for what you believe in. Even in that setting, you do get the feeling that the animals are trapped. It’s clear that though it is a rehabilitation center, many of the animals have been there for years. There is a conversation between a whale shark and a beluga whale in which the whale shark is considering whether or not to escape. The beluga whale says, “There are no walls in the ocean!” and the whale shark gets so excited. There is a big escape scene at the end that is particularly telling. All of the animals in the tanks start shouting “Release, release!”

Common Sense Media recommends this movie for ages 6+. I watched it with my children ages 7 and 3.

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Yertle the Turtle

December 29th, 2016 · Books


My three-year-old son has recently become interested in Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle, which seems appropriate in this political climate. My seven-year-old has even started asking to read it.


It’s Dr. Seuss, but it seems more poignant than most of his stories. It’s the story of a turtle who is king of his pond, of all he can see, but yearns for more. So he commands the other turtles to pile themselves up into a tower so that he can see more, and thus be king of more: “I’m king of a house! I”m king of a cow! I’m king of a tree!”

As his hunger for power grows, a turtle at the bottom of the pile comes up with a plan to topple the mighty king’s tower. In the end, Yertle the Turtle King is only king of the mud. It ends with my favorite line, “And the turtles, of course… all turtles are free, as turtles and maybe, all creatures should be.” There is so much to this story that can be used to start great conversations.

Amazon recommends this book for ages 5-9 (affiliate link), but it seems 3-9 is more appropriate.

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The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

December 12th, 2016 · Books


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.


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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