Friday, December 24, 2010

Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus and NORAD is tracking his every move

For more than 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and its predecessor, Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa Claus on his Christmas Eve flight, providing Santa, his reindeer, and sleigh, safe and unimpeded air space over North America and Canada, while sharing information with children, on Santa’s minute-by-minute progress around the globe.

NORAD is staffed by the good folks who keep our skies safe, 24 hours a day, seven days week with radar and intercept aircraft, and this time of year, they also invite you to their NORAD Tracks Santa web site where you can keep an eye on Santa’s Christmas flight right along with them in real time.

At the NORAD site, children, parents and caregivers will see video images from the “Santa Cams” that have been pre-positioned around the world to catch glimpses of Santa, the reindeer and his sleigh.

You’ll also track Santa by downloading a free application of Google Earth, available from the NORAD web site, as well as following Santa's progress on NORAD’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

NORAD provides some fun and games during the countdown at "Santa’s Village," where you click on any shop in the village, and find an interesting activity that is inside each of the different buildings.

There are also special pages where you’ll see and hear Santa read the Night Before Christmas in a pre-recorded video, and learn lots of interesting facts about the big guy in red, everything from his sleigh’s technical data to how he gets down a chimney.

For Santa skeptics there is even a page where you can listen to the reading of a real letter, which was written to a newspaper in 1897 by eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, questioning the existence of Santa, and hear the newspaper editor’s touching and thoughtful reply.

Information about appropriate “Santa Snacks” to leave out for the main man, and pages about NORAD – "why" they track Santa and details on how the tracking is actually done are available.

The NORAD Tracks Santa website is a non-profit organization funded solely through corporate donations, and is fully staffed by an all-volunteer crew who love children, Christmas, and honor the memory of Colonel Harry Shoup, (Retired) USAF, who by serendipity in 1955, became NORAD’s very first Santa Tracker.

While you and your little one are waiting for Santa, below is an adorable video, “Let’s Make Santa Claus Happy Tonight,” by award-winning songwriter, performer and music teacher Deborah Poppink who is affectionately known by her fans as “DidiPop.”


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 Holiday Guide: Gifts of Music part three


Today we conclude this eight-part series that began in early November, and provided introductions as well as best-buy pricing options on various entertainment categories.

In today's entry, we finish as we started - with music, as it is one of the most popular categories, and is  perfect for affordable holiday gift giving.

Below you will find a broad range of artists that focused their talents on bringing recordings to the marketplace for children..

These products have been researched for quality as well as value, and are geared to provide multiple age ranges with many hours of positive and fun-filled entertainment.

Best pricing options available at the time of this posting are provided below, but it is suggested that (when available) you cross-compare with your favorite online as well as stick and brick retailers.

You may wish to bookmark this page to enable further explorations of the highlighted links at your leisure, as there are numerous choices covering a variety of musical tastes.

In case you missed earlier installments of this series, links to those editions are provided at the end of this article.

As always, you are the best judge of what is appropriate for your child’s entertainment.

Justin Roberts: Jungle Gym



The New York Times referred to Justin Roberts as, "The Judy Blume of kiddie rock," and Time magazine declared him, "A brilliant crafter of power pop tunes.” Those accolades are the real deal on this 2011 Grammy nominated children’s album, Jungle Gym.

Roberts truly captures the essence of childhood with his meaningful lyrics, and finely crafted melodies, all wrapped in excellent production values.

Best pricing for the CD is through Amazon Marketplace for $8.69.

Sound samples for the entire album and MP3 download are available with best price through Amazon.com for $5.00, or $0.99 per individual track.

Sunny Day Elizabeth Mitchell







From Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the gentle voice of family-favorite, Elizabeth Mitchell, is joined by her husband Daniel Littleton, their daughter Storey, Dan Zanes, Jon Langford, drummer Levon Helm, and the Children of Agape Choir.

The songs are a pleasant compilation with some unique selections, which include roots in Celtic, reggae, Japanese and Korean music.

The addition of children’s voices encourages youngsters to sing along.

Best Price for Sunny Day CD is $7.64 through Amazon Marketplace where sound samples are available for all 19 tracks.

An MP3 download is also available direct through Amazon.com for $8.99 and includes 20 tracks.



Randy Kaplan’s The Kids Are All Id





The Kids Are All Id is a wonderful album that features American roots music, blues and seamless storytelling from Randy Kaplan, a master entertainer.

The album has won several honors since its release and includes prestigious nods from NAPPA as a Gold Award-winner, and voted a Top Five CD in the NICKELODEON Parents' Picks Awards.

Best pricing for The Kids Are All Id CD is through Amazon Marketplace for $8.29.

All 17 sound samples and a best-price MP3 album download are available through Amazon.com for $8.99, or individual tracks at $0.99 each.

What Are the Odds?
















 New York City musician/educator Meredith LeVande is continuing in the previous vein of her highly successful first release, Monkey Monkey Music, and in this newest outing brings joyful songs geared perfectly for the youngest set age two to five.

This fun-loving preschool pop album is available in three formats: CD, MP3 download and in a newly released charming optional DVD or VHS video that recently received 2010 honors from NAPPA.

Sound samples for all 16 tracks are available with best pricing through Amazon.com for the entire MP3 album download at $8.99, or individual tracks at $0.99 each.

The complete CD can be purchased with best pricing through Amazon Marketplace for $9.98.

You can preview the video through Levande’s website where it is also available to purchase for $19.99 plus shipping and handling.

Green Golly and Her Golden Flute by Flute Sweet and Tickletoon



Barbara Siesel and Keith Torgan are “Flute Sweet and Tickletoon,” and together they present a delightful mix of storytelling, comedy and classical music.

Based on the traditional fairytale, Rapunzel, this retelling now has the central character known as “Green Golly.”

The album introduces children ages five through 10 to some of the greatest composers in history and includes works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, Bizet, Elgar, Gossec, and Copland

Best pricing for the CD is through Amazon Marketplace for $7.80.

Sound samples for the entire album and MP3 download are available at best price through Amazon.com for $8.99, or $0.99 per individual track.

Dream Jam Band: Leave it in the Soup



“Leave it in the Soup” featuring the Dream Jam Band is an energizing mix of rock, pop, hip-hop and blues with hints to Mozart, a bit of Beatles, and a nod to Arlo Guthrie and Duke Ellington.

Best pricing for the CD is through Amazon Marketplace for $6.34.

Sound samples for the entire 11 tracks album and MP3 download are available with best price through Amazon.com for $7.99, or $0.99 per individual track.

Time Out to Rock featuring The Not-Its!



Dubbed as Seattle’s "best-dressed" kid’s rockers, The Not-Its will leave no couch potatoes behind on this their second album release, “Time Out to Rock.”

Fun lyrics, with danceable music, equal a totally kid-rockin’ experience. The final tune, “Hollow Tree” will gently bring children back to home.


Amazon Marketplace has the CD at the best price of $7.98.

All 11 tracks are available to sound sample and download in MP3 format through Amazon.com with the best price of $8.99 for the entire album, or $0.99 per track.

Starfish: Enter Sandbox



For families that love to rock, this entry on the kid’s music scene provides plenty of entertainment for the whole family in this genre.

These New Jersey based children’s entertainers known as “Starfish,” are comprised of rock scene veterans who brings bring plenty of moxie to the table on their album, “Enter the Sandbox.”

Band members, StingRay (who covers lead vocals/ guitar) Grateful Dave (Dave Hartkern drums/vocals) along with Moose (better known as Marc Stern lead guitar ) plus Dr. Yes (Mark Asch keyboards and vocals) and Ant Farm (Antar Goodwin bass guitar) are not only seasoned pros, but fathers spreading the rock genre to the next generation.

Enter Sandbox is Starfish’s second album and shows recognizable influences of Cream, Deep Purple and Beatles.

Best price on Starfish’s newest CD is available from Amazon Marketplace for $2.50.

MP3 downloads and all sound samples are available direct from Amazon.com at $9.49 for the entire 12-track album, or $0.99 per track.

Earlier editions of the 2010 Gift Guide are available by clicking on the following links:

2010 Holiday Guide: Gifts of Music

2010 Holiday Guide: DVDs and videos

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Wizard of Oz theme oriented gifts

2010 Holiday Guide: Gifts of Music part two

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Hanukkah Gifts

2010 Holiday Guide: Best books of the year

2010 Holiday Guide: Story apps for e-readers, iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Living in the time of Jesus: NATGEO special presentation

Professor Arne Kislenko discusses ancient herbal remedies with Sharon Kotzer, an expert in herbal medicine. Many of the herbs used to treat ailments in the first century AD are still growing today, as the climate has remained relatively constant.

Just in time for the holiday week, the National Geographic channel takes viewers on a special historical journey with a three hour programming block, Mysteries of the Bible: Living in the Time of Jesus, Tuesday, December 21, 2010, beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT.

Host Arne Kislenko visits such historical sites as Jerusalem; Nazareth and Gethsemane and interviews everyone from archaeologists to biblical experts who help construct (along with reenactments) what life was truly like during the time of Jesus.

Viewers are introduced to segments on food, making a living, healing the sick and what it was like to live under Roman rule.

Below is a preview of tonight's special.






Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Holiday Guide: Story apps for e-readers, iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch


This is the eighth installment of this series that provides numerous entertainment options for holiday gift giving for children and teens, and today we turn our attention to one of the hottest emerging categories for entertainment- applications (also known as “apps”) for e-readers, iPads, iPod Touch and iPhones.

Children and teens are rapidly embracing these new technologies and there are numerous apps provided for entertainment, many of them extremely affordable, once you determine the choice of your technology device.

If you are not quite familiar with e-readers and the iPad, there is a helpful link to get you started at eReader Leader, where you can compare and check out customer reviews.

There is another excellent site, Aimersoft that discusses the differences between iPad and iPod Touch.

Also, many local libraries are beginning to provide e-readers for their patrons use and it is an excellent way to learn about options before investing in the technology.

The applications for the reading devices appear below and have been researched for quality as well as value. All are geared to provide hours of positive and fun-filled entertainment.

Best pricing options, at the time of this posting are listed, but it is suggested that you cross-compare with your favorite online as well as stick and brick retailers, as pricing may fluctuate on a daily basis.

If you happened to have missed earlier posts to this series, links are provided at the end of this article.

Also, you may wish to bookmark this page in order to explore these items in further depth at your leisure.

As always, you are the best judge of what is appropriate for your child’s entertainment.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears 


A children’s book app from KwiqApps is perfect for iPhone/iPad and is only $0.99 through iTunes. The app provides animation as well as text highlighting so a young reader can easily follow along. There are also “Read To Me” and “Auto Play” modes – a terrific way for parents or caregivers to connect (with child on lap) and introduce technology to the youngest set.



The Dr. Seuss collection


Children’s storybooks apps from Oceanhouse Media provides a wide variety of titles that include such classics as: Dr. Seuss's ABC; Green Eggs and Ham; How The Grinch Stole Christmas! as well as many more choices. There are also free downloads that provide test previews.

Prices for the apps range from $1.99 to $3.99, and they are compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. By following this link to Oceanhouse Media’s Dr. Seuss page and selecting a particular title, you will connect to further detailed information on each product as well as “Buy now” button that directs you the to Apple iTunes store for placing your order.


The Berenstain Bears 



A collection of storybook apps, also from Oceanhouse Media, range from $2.99 to $3.99, and all are compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The following link to the Berenstain Bear page provides a portal for further information and links to purchasing through the Apple iTunes store.

There are also a number of other Berenstain Bear books for the Kindle e-Book from Amazon.com, where prices range from $0.88 to $7.99, and can be explored further by following this link.

Ruckus Media


A superb collection of titles that exhibit beautiful production values, which are compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and are priced at $0.99 to $1.99.

By following this link, more information is provided for such apps as Johnny Appleseed; Tin Soldier and The Velveteen Rabbit.



The following are award-winning selections for older children and teens and are compatible with the NOOKbook (eBook) from Barnes and Noble or the Kindle from Amazon.com.

Further information is available by clicking on each title.

A Wrinkle in Time [NOOKbook] by Madeleine L'Engle $6.99


















A Swiftly Tilting Planet [NOOKbook] by Madeleine L'Engle $6.99




The Giver by Lois Lowry [Kindle] $6.64 includes free wireless delivery.


















Number the Stars by Lois Lowry [Kindle Edition] $6.64 includes free wireless delivery



 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson [Kindle Edition] $5.99 includes free wireless delivery.



Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech [Kindle Edition] $5.99 includes free wireless delivery




Earlier editions of the 2010 Gift Guide are available by clicking on the following links:

2010 Holiday Guide: Gifts of Music

2010 Holiday Guide: DVDs and videos

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Wizard of Oz theme oriented gifts

2010 Holiday Guide: Gifts of Music part two

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Hanukkah Gifts

2010 Holiday Guide: Best books of the year

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Popcorn Report: Movie Guide for Christmas and New Year’s weeks with ratings and trailers

 ‘Popcorn’ photo by Petr Kratochvil
It’s time to make holiday family entertainment plans and see if the next three-week’s crop of films will be part of your schedule. The following report covers motion picture theatrical releases opening nationwide beginning Friday, December 17, 2010 to Friday, January 7, 2011.

The movies listed below have a rating, which has been established by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and have been provided with an italicized commentary from the Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA).

If a film has not been provided with an official rating, additional information may, or may not be provided.

If a film is designated NC-17, very limited information will be furnished.

For your convenience, (when available) each film title links directly to the Internet Movie Data Base, which provides the most comprehensive listing about the movie’s storyline, and includes a trailer, cast and crew information, initial audience reaction (if prior screenings have taken place) and parent advisories.


As always, you are the single best judge for determining your child’s choice of entertainment.

Opened December 17, 2010 And Soon the Darkness- Horror, Thriller- R because of “some violence and brief torture.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opening December 29, 2010 Another Year- Comedy, Drama- PG-13 because of “some language.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opening December 29, 2010 Biutiful- Horror, Thriller- R because of “disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opening December 31, 2010 Blue Valentine- Drama, Romance- R-“on appeal for strong graphic sexual content, language, and a beating; originally rated NC-17 for a scene of explicit sexual content.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opened December 17, 2010 Casino Jack – Biography, Comedy, Crime- R because of “pervasive language, some violence and brief nudity.” NOTE: In limited release.

SPECIAL SCREENING January 1 and 2, 2011 Chicken Run- Animation, Family, Comedy-G- NOTE: New York City, Symphony Space- Leonard Nimoy Thalia- click here for tickets and show times.

Opening December 22, 2010 Country Strong – Drama, Music- PG-13- because of “thematic elements involving alcohol abuse and some sexual content.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opening December 25, 2010 Gulliver’s Travels- Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy- PG- because of "brief rude humor, mild language and action.”

Opened December 17, 2010 How Do You Know- Comedy, Drama, Romance- PG-13 because of “sexual content and some strong language.”

SPECIAL SCREENING December 25 and 26, 2010 Hugo and the Dragon-Animated, Family (Not Rated) NOTE: New York City, Symphony Space- Leonard Nimoy Thalia- click here for more information, tickets and show times.

Opening December 25, 2010 The Illusionist- Animation- PG- because of “thematic elements and smoking.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opening December 22, 2010 Little Fockers—Comedy-PG-13 because of “mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content.”

Opened December 17, 2010 Rabbit Hole-Drama, Fantasy- PG-13- because of “mature thematic material, some drug use and language.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opening January 7, 2011 Season of the Witch- Adventure, Drama, Fantasy-PG-13- because of “thematic elements, violence and disturbing content.”

Opening December 22, 2010 Somewhere-Drama, Fantasy- R- because of “sexual content, nudity and language.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opened December 17, 2010 Tron: Legacy –Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi- PG- because of “sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.”

Opening December 22, 2010 True Grit –Drama, Western- PG-13- because of “some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.”

Opened December 17, 2010 Yogi Bear–Animation, Adventure, Comedy- PG- because of “some mild rude humor.”

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, December 10, 2010, which included: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Fighter; Hemingway’s Garden of Eden; The Tempest and The Tourist, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, December 3, 2010, which included: All Good Things; Black Swan; I Love You Phillips Morris; Meskada; Night Catches Us; Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and The Warrior’s Way, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 19 to Friday, November 26, 2010, which included: Burlesque; Faster; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1; Love and Other Drugs; Made in Dagenham; Tangled; The King’s Speech; The Next Three Days; The Nutcracker in 3D and White Material, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to Thanksgiving week movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 12, 2010, which included: Cool It; Skyline; Tiny Furniture and Unstoppable, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 5, 2010, which included: 127 Hours; Care Bears: Share Bears Shines; Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer; Due Date; Fair Game; For Colored Girls; Four Lions; Megamind; Morning Glory and Red Hill, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the weeks of September 24 to October 29, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the weeks of August 6 to September 17, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the weeks of June 11 to July 30, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

G GENERAL AUDIENCES (All Ages Admitted) PG PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED (Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children) PG-13 PARENTS STRONGLY CAUTIONED (Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13) R RESTRICTED (Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) NC-17 NO ONE 17 AND UNDER ADMITTED – As determined by the Rating Board/Motion Picture Association of America.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Holiday Guide: Best books of the year


This is the seventh installment of this series that provides numerous entertainment options for holiday gift giving for children and teens, and today we turn our attention to the best books released this year.

The products, which appear, below have been researched for quality as well as value, and are geared to provide hours of positive and fun-filled entertainment.

Best pricing options, at the time of this posting are provided below, but it is suggested that you cross-compare, when available book prices and editions with your favorite online as well as stick and brick retailers, as pricing may fluctuate on a daily basis.

If you happened to have missed earlier posts, links are provided at the end of this article.

Also, you may wish to bookmark this page, as the links include reviews or author videos that enable further in-depth exploration at your leisure.

As always, you are the best judge of what is appropriate for your child’s entertainment.

When You Reach Me is written by Rebecca Stead and published by Wendy Lamb Books (an imprint of Random House Children's Books.)

Designated this year’s winner of the John Newbery Medal, for the “most outstanding contribution to children's literature,”  When You Reach Me will not disappoint, it is beautifully written and suspenseful.

“ From School Library Journal Starred Review. Grade 5-8–Sixth-grader Miranda lives in 1978 New York City with her mother, and her life compass is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. When she receives a series of enigmatic notes that claim to want to save her life, she comes to believe that they are from someone who knows the future.”

Explore a video interview with Rebecca Stead at Amazon.com, which includes additional storyline and background information.

Best pricing for the hardcover edition is through Amazon Marketplace for $5.15.  Best pricing for soon-to-be-released (12/28/10) paperback edition is available for pre-order through Barnes and Noble for $6.29.

The Lion & the Mouse illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney, publisher Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers is the 2010 winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the “most distinguished American picture book for children.” 


The book is a retelling of the classic Aesop’s Fable and is an incredible visual feast that will enthrall youngsters.


“From School Library Journal Starred Review. Preschool-Grade 3—This story starts on the cover with the glorious, golden countenance of a lion. No text is necessary to communicate the title: the direction of the beast's gaze and the conflicted expression on his tightly cropped face compel readers to turn the book over, where a mouse, almost filling the vertical space, glances back. The endpapers and artist's note place these creatures among the animal families of the African Serengeti. Each spread contributes something new in this nearly wordless narrative, including the title opening. “

Connect to a video with author/illustrator Jerry Pinkney, and more visuals of this amazing picture book by following this link.

More detailed customer reviews for The Lion & the Mouse are available through Amazon.com.

Best price for this hardbound edition is through Amazon Marketplace for $8.95.

Going Bovine is written by Libba Bray, publisher Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House.)

Going Bovine was honored with the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award for “excellence in literature written for young adults.”

This may be viewed as a controversial book choice, but it is a touching, witty, gritty and a very sobering read.

Going Bovine is recommended for older teens, as it leaves its marks about life’s priorities. Some parents may wish to extensively check reviews as to the appropriateness of their child’s ability to comprehend the book’s message. It is long but well written, and includes some profanity and mature content.  However, it definitely provides room for parent-teen conversations.

“From School Library Journal Grade 8 Up—In this ambitious novel, Cameron, a 16-year-old slacker whose somewhat dysfunctional family has just about given up on him, as perhaps he himself has, when his diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jacob, "mad cow" disease, reunites them, if too late. The heart of the story, though, is a hallucinatory—or is it?—quest with many parallels to the hopeless but inspirational efforts of Don Quixote, about whom Cameron had been reading before his illness.”

Read reviews, both pro and con at Amazon.com, and best price is the paperback edition at $5.70 through Amazon Marketplace.

My People illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr., written by Langston Hughes and published by Ginee Seo Books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers.


This Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award-winner is an exquisite marriage of poetry and photography.

“From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. At just thirty-three words total, [this] poem is a study in its visual simplicity. This picture-book presentation is a tour de force. Introducing the poem two or three words at a time, Smith pairs each phrase with a portrait of one or more African-Americans; printed in sepia, the faces of his subjects materialize on black pages. The night, reads the opening spread, across from an image of a mans face, his eyes shut; is beautiful, continues the next spread, showing the same face, now with eyes open and a wide smile. The text, sized big to balance the portraits, shows up in hues that range from white to tan to brown-black, reflecting Smiths reading that the words celebrate black people of differing shades and ages.”

To find out more about My People, visit Amazon.com, and where best pricing is available through the Amazon Marketplace at $6.48 for the hardcover edition.

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, and published by Carolrhoda Books (a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.)


This year, the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, which recognizes “an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults”, was awarded to Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal.

A superb read geared for middle school children, which features a true-life hero, Bass Reeves, the first African-American deputy U.S. marshal who brought law and order to the old west.

Bad News for Outlaws was also designated with the honor of being an “Amazon Best Books of the Month” selection.

This edition of Bad News comes in a Library Binding and is available with best pricing through Amazon Marketplace for $10.98.

A Faraway Island is the 2010 winner of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for “an outstanding children's book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States.”

Originally published in Swedish in 1996 as "En o i havet," the book was written by Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schenck, and published by Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House Children's Books.)

A poignant and riveting novel that takes a different look at the Holocaust, as two Austrian sisters are separated from their family, and evacuated to an island off the coast of Sweden. Each girl placed with a different foster family.


"From School Library Journal Grade 5–8— In this gripping story, Stephie and Nellie, two Austrian Jewish sisters, are evacuated in 1938 from Vienna to a Swedish island and placed in separate foster homes. Twelve-year-old Stephie has promised her parents that she will try to ease her younger sister's way, a burdensome promise to keep. Auntie Alma, Nellie's Swedish mother, is warmer and more welcoming than Auntie Märta, Stephie's more austere foster parent. “

Reviews for A Faraway Island are available at Amazon.com, and best pricing for this hardbound edition is through Amazon Marketplace at $3.58.

To view other installments of the Holiday Gift Guide 2010, please click on the following:






Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides trailer released

Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and Angelica (Penelope Cruz) make their
watery way through the jungle in search of the Fountain of Youth.
Photo Peter Mountain © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back, and just as entertaining as ever in the newly released video trailer of Walt Disney Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES.

The Tides trailer, initially released at a special “Fans First” event at Disneyland in Anaheim, California on Monday, Dec. 13, is now available for the rest of the world to see.

The comedy/adventure has a launch date of May 20, 2011, and is one of the more eagerly awaited films to be on the schedule in the New Year.

In this newest incarnation, presented in Disney Digital 3D™, “Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) finds himself on an unexpected journey to the fabled Fountain of Youth when a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz) forces him aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane).”

Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week's movies with ratings and trailers

"Popcorn" photo by Petr Kratochvil
It’s time to make weekend family entertainment plans and see if this week’s current crop of films will be part of your schedule. The following report covers motion picture theatrical releases opening nationwide beginning Friday, December 10, 2010.

The movies listed below have a rating, which has been established by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and have been provided with an italicized commentary from the Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA).

If a film has not been provided with an official rating, additional information may, or may not be provided.

If a film is designated NC-17, very limited information will be furnished.

For your convenience, each film title links directly to the Internet Movie Data Base, which provides the most comprehensive listing about the movie’s storyline, and includes a trailer, cast and crew information, initial audience reaction (if prior screenings have taken place) and parent advisories when available.

As always, you are the single best judge for determining your child’s choice of entertainment.

Opened December 10, 2010 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader- Adventure, Family, Fantasy- PG because of “some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action.”

Opened December 10, 2010 The Fighter - Drama, Sport- R because of “language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.” NOTE: In limited release until December 17.

Opened December 10, 2010 Hemingway's Garden of Eden- Drama- R because of “strong sexual content, nudity and some language.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opened December 10, 2010 The Tempest-Comedy, Drama, Fantasy- PG-13- because of “some nudity, suggestive content and scary images.”

Opened December 10, 2010 The Tourist -Drama, Thriller- PG-13- because of “violence and brief strong language.”

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, December 3, 2010, which included: All Good Things; Black Swan; I Love You Phillips Morris; Meskada; Night Catches Us; Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and The Warrior’s Way, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 19 to Friday, November 26, 2010, which included: Burlesque; Faster; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1; Love and Other Drugs; Made in Dagenham; Tangled; The King’s Speech; The Next Three Days; The Nutcracker in 3D and White Material, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to Thanksgiving week movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 12, 2010, which included: Cool It; Skyline; Tiny Furniture and Unstoppable, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 5, 2010, which included: 127 Hours; Care Bears: Share Bears Shines; Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer; Due Date; Fair Game; For Colored Girls; Four Lions; Megamind; Morning Glory and Red Hill, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the weeks of September 24 to October 29, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the weeks of August 6 to September 17, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the weeks of June 11 to July 30, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

G GENERAL AUDIENCES (All Ages Admitted) PG PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED (Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children) PG-13 PARENTS STRONGLY CAUTIONED (Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13) R RESTRICTED (Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) NC-17 NO ONE 17 AND UNDER ADMITTED – As determined by the Rating Board/Motion Picture Association of America.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Holiday Guide: DVDs for preschoolers


This is the sixth installment of this series that provides numerous entertainment options for holiday gift giving for children and teens, and today we turn our attention to some of the best DVDs released this year for the preschool set.

The products, which appear below have been researched for quality as well as value, and are geared to provide hours of positive and fun-filled entertainment.

Best pricing options, at the time of this posting are provided below, but it is suggested that you cross-compare, when available, DVD prices with your favorite online as well as stick and brick retailers, as pricing may fluctuate on a daily basis.

If you happened to have missed earlier posts, links are provided at the end of this article.

Also, you may wish to bookmark this page, as most of the links include viewing previews that enable further in-depth exploration at your leisure.

As always, you are the best judge of what is appropriate for your child’s entertainment.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood


In an exclusive arrangement with The Fred Rogers Company, 100 episodes of the multiple Emmy® Award-winning TV series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ are now available through a joint arrangement with Amazon.com/Create Space and Respond2 Entertainment.

Created in DVD format “on demand” (when ordered) and shipped within two to three business days, these episodes span four decades of the series and include some shows that have not been seen in 30 years but remain relevant and fresh even though they are classics.

Especially interesting in this collection are the first five episodes that aired beginning Feb. 19, 1968 and were premiered in black and white when the show was first known as “Misterogers’ Neighborhood.” Later that year the show was filmed in color and the name was changed to the familiar three-word format.

Episodes include all the regular cast members and cover such timeless topics as: “What is Love?” “Children Taking Care of All Kinds of Pets” and “Is Santa Claus Real?” as well as learning how orange juice is made and even visiting a factory that makes crayons.

The Mister Rogers Neighborhood collection represents a lifetime body of work by its gentle and genial host, Fred Rogers, a pioneer in appropriate and positive television programming for children.

The series, now in its 43rd year of successive broadcast on PBS stations nationwide each weekend, continues to delight the newest generation.

Almost all of this vast selection of 28-minute episodes are individually priced at $9.95 and are available exclusively through Amazon.com.

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!

The award-winning Nick Jr. ® preschool TV series Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! introduced several new DVDs this year featuring that cute, yellow bendy-tale critter known as “Wubbzy,” and all his pals from the make-believe world of “Wuzzleburg.”

The selections below are but a sampling of excellent entertainment for the preschool set that not only engages children with fun-filled episodes, but teaches important lessons about friendship, diversity, honesty, teamwork and cooperation.

Wubbzy Goes To School



Wubbzy and his friends Widget, Walden and Daizy embark on wonderful and wacky adventures that help ease youngster’s anxieties about starting school for the first time and making new friends.

Released in August this year from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Wubbzy Goes To School features six episodes: “Who Needs School;” “New Kid on the Block;” “Gotta Dance;” “Wubbzy the Star;” “You Gotta Have Art,” and “Magic Tricks” as well as bonus features such as a photo gallery of Wubbzy’s schoolmates and coloring and activity sheets.

A preview of Wubbzy Goes To School is available through Amazon.com, and best pricing for this 70-minute DVD is through Amazon Marketplace at $5.80.

Further discounted pricing at $3.76 is available with a membership at HotMovieSale.com.

Escape From Dino Island





Preschool children love stories about dinosaurs and Escape From Dino Island perfectly fills the bill. Released on May 4, 2010 from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Wubbzy and his Wuzzleburg pals travel together on an excellent adventure to Dino Island where they have a roaring good time with lots of singing and dancing fun.

Important life lessons about honesty and teamwork are shared and are right on target for this age viewer.

Preview Escape From Dino Island at Amazon.com and for pricing at $8.99.

FLY US TO THE MOON


A recent release from November of this year, Fly Us To The Moon takes our Wuzzleburg friends on an extraordinary outer space journey to wake-up the man in the moon. Along the way, they’ll encounter space monsters, a runaway comet, a spiral galaxy, the “Tooth Fairy” and super heroes, “Captain Wonderpants” and the “Super Fixers.”

This 70-minute DVD includes a bonus episode, coloring pages, activity sheets, music videos and some “sneak peeks.”

Preview Fly Us To The Moon by following this link.
Best price of Fly Us To The Moon is $12.96 online from Walmart.com.

Busytown Mysteries: The Biggest Mysteries Ever!


In July, Mill Creek Entertainment released a fully animated series based on the beloved books by Richard Scarry that were created for television.

All of your child’s favorite characters come to life as Lowly Worm, Huckel Cat, Sally Cat, Hilda Hippo and Pig Will take children on mystery adventures around Busytown.

The 269 minute, single disc DVD includes ten, half-hour television episodes that encourage children to us skills in logic, which incorporate problem-solving abilities in a joyful and sweet manner.

You can preview Busytown Mysteries: The Biggest Mysteries Ever! by following this link to Amazon.com.

Best price available for the product is through importcds’ page on Amazon Marketplace where it is value priced at $3.35

Dwizzle Dee™ – Colors, Sizes, Songs & Imagination! 

Released in May by Cinema Werx, this 30-minute DVD is a
Dove Family Approved title and is also endorsed by Kids First.

Dwizzle Dee gently introduces children to a classroom setting using puppet characters Ms. Ashley, Lenny, Penny and Gifford.

Basic fundamentals such as colors, sizes and shapes are highlighted and presented in a low-key manner.

Children are encouraged to interact with the characters, which reinforces learning.

Song segments are included that offer optional sing-along subtitling, and a special an animated video short “El Gato!” teaches children Spanish words.

View the video preview of Dwizzle Dee™ – Colors, Sizes, Songs & Imagination! at Cinema Werx’s Dwizzle Dee page, where for a limited time, the DVD is available free with a modest shipping charge of $4.50.

Also, the site provides a free downloadable coloring page, line search and connect-the-dots. 

To view other installments of the Holiday Gift Guide 2010, please click on the following:

2010 Holiday Guide: Gifts of Music 

2010 Holiday Guide: DVDs and videos 

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Wizard of Oz theme oriented gifts 

2010 Holiday Guide: Gifts of Music part two 

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Hanukkah Gifts

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Disney Pixar CARS 2 races to the big screen June 2011


The heroes of “Radiator Springs” race back into theaters on June 24, 2011 in Disney Pixar’s, CARS 2, with the newest installment to roll towards audiences in Disney Digital 3D™ and IMAX® 3D in select theaters.

The animated/comedy/adventure puts director John Lasseter firmly behind the wheel once again after creating the 2006 Golden Globe®-winning first installment of CARS.

Lasseter is joined in this newest venture with Co-Director, Brad Lewis (producer of the Oscar®-winning film RATATOUILLE), Producer Denise Ream (associate producer, UP; visual effects executive producer, STAR WARS EPISODE III – “Revenge of the Sith”) and Composer Michael Giacchino (Oscar®-winner Original Score UP.)

In a statement to the press, CARS 2 promises fast-paced fun that includes: “secret agents, menacing villains and international racing competitors when star race car, ‘Lighting McQueen’ (voice of Owen Wilson) and the incomparable tow truck, ‘Mater’ (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix, Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.”

The film’s rating has yet to be determined, but for your viewing enjoyment a first look at CARS 2.


Friday, December 3, 2010

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week's movies with ratings and trailers

'Popcorn' photo by Petr Kratochvil
It’s time to make weekend family entertainment plans and see if this week’s current crop of films will be part of your schedule. The following report covers motion picture theatrical releases opening nationwide, beginning Friday, December 3, 2010.

The movies listed below have a rating, which has been established by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and have been provided with an italicized commentary from the Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA).

If a film has not been provided with an official rating, additional information may, or may not be provided.

If a film is designated NC-17, very limited information will be furnished.

For your convenience, each film title links directly to the Internet Movie Data Base, which provides the most comprehensive listing about the movie’s storyline, and includes a trailer, cast and crew information, initial audience reaction (if prior screenings have taken place) and parent advisories when available.

As always, you are the single best judge for determining your child’s choice of entertainment.

Opened December 3, 2010 All Good Things- Drama, Mystery, Thriller- R because of “drug use, violence, language and some sexuality.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opened December 3, 2010 Black Swan- Drama, Thriller- R because of “strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.” NOTE: In limited release.

Opened December 3, 2010 I Love you Philip Morris- Comedy, Drama, Romance- R because of “sexual content including strong dialogue, and language.” NOTE: Los Angeles and New York only.

Opened December 3, 2010 Meskada-Crime, Drama, Thriller- R- because of “language, some violence and a scene of sexuality.” NOTE: In limited release – Los Angeles and New York only.

Opened December 3, 2010 Night Catches Us-Drama, Romance- R- because of “language, some sexuality and violence.” NOTE: Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia only.

Opened December 3, 2010- Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale– Action, Comedy, Fantasy-R- because of “some nudity and language.” NOTE: New York only.

Opened December 3, 2010 The Warrior's Way- Action, Fantasy, Western- R because of “strong bloody violence.” NOTE: In limited release.

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 19 to Friday, November 26, 2010, which included: Burlesque; Faster; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1; Love and Other Drugs; Made in Dagenham; Tangled; The King’s Speech; The Next Three Days; The Nutcracker in 3D and White Material, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to Thanksgiving week movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 12, 2010, which included: Cool It; Skyline; Tiny Furniture and Unstoppable, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, November 5, 2010, which included: 127 Hours; Care Bears: Share Bears Shines; Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer; Due Date; Fair Game; For Colored Girls; Four Lions; Megamind; Morning Glory and Red Hill, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the week of Friday, October 29, 2010, which included: Aftershock; The Feed; The Girl Who Knocked the Hornet’s Nest; Monsters; Outside the Law; Saw 3-D; Waste Land; Welcome to the Rileys and Wild Target, and for all other films that opened September 24 to October 22, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the weeks of August 6 to September 17, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

For information on films that opened the weeks of June 11 to July 30, 2010, please click on the following link:

The Popcorn Report: Guide to this week’s movies

G GENERAL AUDIENCES (All Ages Admitted) PG PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED (Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children) PG-13 PARENTS STRONGLY CAUTIONED (Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13) R RESTRICTED (Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) NC-17 NO ONE 17 AND UNDER ADMITTED – As determined by the Rating Board/Motion Picture Association of America.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Hanukkah Gifts

Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, which began at sundown Wednesday, December 1, 2010 is celebrated in Jewish households for eight nights, and provides plenty of opportunity for candle lighting, dreidel spinning, latke making (making potato pancakes), gift-giving, gelt- getting (gifts of money), music making and story telling.

Some of the best Hanukkah presents are classic entertainment items, many are geared toward the four to eight year old range, but when shared in a family’s home setting, these gems are sure to delight all ages.

Favorites that have stood the test of time, and that will probably be around for many more years to engage, inspire and entertain are the picks that are listed below.

Please remember, best pricing at the time of this post has been provided for your convenience, but it is always a good idea to cross compare with your favorite online as well as stick-and brick-retailers.

As always, you are the final authority in selecting appropriate items for your child’s entertainment.

First, we start with books. The items that are listed below were published during the early 1990’s but have remained in print because of their delightful ability to transcend generations, and all are available through favorite booksellers as well as most local libraries.

Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story by Fran Manushkin and Robin Spowart




A gentle tale about a peasant family, whose potato crop was buried in a blinding early snowstorm and their apple harvest, meager at best – left them with nothing to eat for the Hanukkah holiday. Despite their poverty, they invite a stray cat and dog into their household for shelter and care from the cruel winter storm, and are blessed with a miracle of sorts on the eighth day of Hanukkah. With beautifully illustrated chalk drawings, the book also includes an explanation of the holiday, directions for playing dreidel and a wonderful recipe for latkes.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (October 1, 1992)
Best price available is at Amazon Marketplace for a new paperback is $1.75

The Chanukah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel and Giora Carmi 

A totally silly story about 97-year old “Bubba” (Grandmother) Brayna, who each year during Hanukkah, makes the best latkes in the village, but this year, because she is very hard of hearing and almost blind, mistakes a hungry bear for her invited guest (the Rabbi), and feeds him all her latkes.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Holiday House (September 1992)
Best price for paperback is at Amazon Marketplace for .59 cents

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel and Trina Schart Hyman



Worse than the “Grinch,” a number of holiday-hating hobgoblins (each a nasty prankster) set out to ruin Hanukkah for an entire village, but “Hershel of Ostropol” outwits them all. Trina Schart’s Caldecott Award-winning illustrations are the perfect match to Kimmel’s cleverly told story.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 30 pages
Publisher: Holiday House (September 1994)
Best price available at Barnes and Noble online for $6.25

Now, for top recommended DVDs -

Lights: The Miracle Of Chanukah 


This 24-minute animated short explains the history behind the celebration of Chanukah, which also includes a special section about the Hebrew alphabet. A wonderful introduction of the holiday for children and features the voice over talents of Paul Michael Glaser, Judd Hirsch and Leonard Nimoy.
Presented in color, Dolby sound and full screen DVD format.
Best price at Amazon Marketplace $14.99

Lambchop's Chanukah and Passover Surprise 



"Lamb Chop," "Charlie Horse," "Hush Puppy" and of course the beloved and late Shari Lewis tell you everything you need to know about the two Jewish holidays of Chanukah and Passover. This charming, G-Rated, 128 minute DVD also features guest appearances by Dom DeLuise, Robert Guillaume and Alan Thicke.
Best price from Empire.com for $14.59

Finally, here’s the perfect audio choice to ring in the holiday -

Chanukah Fever



"Mama Doni,” also known in real life as Doni Zasloff Thomas, an attractive and energetic 21st century, New Jersey-based Jewish mother and preschool-teacher-turned-entertainer, captivates kids and families with her fun-loving renditions of Chanukah songs.

Winners of the Simcha Award at the 2008 International Jewish Music Festival, Amsterdam, Mama Doni Band serves up a wide range of musical styles from reggae to rock with blends of Klezmer and even disco along with a few other genres mixed in.

Clever lyrics abound along with a bit of wacky shtick to celebrate not only the holiday but a beloved heritage.

You can preview all 14 tracks of Chanukah Fever at CD Baby where the CD format is available for $15.00, or the option for an MP3 album download for $9.99 or .99 cents per track.

An MP 3 download is also available through itunes with identical download pricing.

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the following: A video interpretation of “The Funky Gold Menorah” from Chanukah Fever by The Mama Doni Band. Enjoy!



To view other installments of the Holiday Gift Guide 2010, please click on the following: