The Birdwatchers

The Birdwatchers

by Simon James

Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2002

24 pp.

Age: 4 +

Interests: birds, nature, grandparents, science

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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

by Judith Viorst

illustrated by Ray Cruz

New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972

28 pp.

Age: 5 +

Interests: school, family, siblings, bad days, bad behaviour, moods

Other ‘Alexander’ books: Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday; Alexander, Who Is Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move

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Top 5: Picks for Hallowe’en

Here are a few of my picks for the season. For the young and timid, there are many picture books about children trick or treating, which might be a safer way to start than with books about ghouls. Also good are books with adorable, loveable witches, ghosts, etc. Also, books are never as scary as movies, so you might want to veer away from Hallowe’en videos if your child is particularly skittish.

Some of these choices are Hallowe’eny in spirit, if not in specifics…

BOOKS

1. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak – Ages 3+

This one is good because the boy Max is the scariest monster of all, and rules the beasts as king… until he gets tired of it. (This title on amazon.)

2. Ramona the Pest (Hallowe’en chapter), by Beverly Cleary – Ages 5+

A chapter book, but you can read just the Hallowe’en chapter if you like. Ramona is determined to be the scariest witch in the kindergarten parade. (This title on amazon.)

3. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum – Ages 5+

Not strictly a Hallowe’en book, but full of witches and sundry scary beasts. (This title on amazon.)

4. The Witches, by Roald Dahl – Ages 6+

Getting a little older and a little braver here… a young boy and his grandma foil an entire witch convention. Pretty creepy – be sure to read the review. (This title on amazon.)

5. The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde – Ages 7+ (mostly for comprehension)

You can ‘class up’ Christmas by turning to Dickens, why not do the same with Oscar Wilde at Hallowe’en? A very funny story about a hapless ghost who finds the new family in his ancestral home is scarier than he is. (This title on amazon.)

MOVIES

1. Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005) – Ages 3+ (according to Commonsense Media)

It ain’t great movie-making, being another Disney blot besmirching the true Pooh (a topic for another day!), but this is a fairly benign cartoon for very young viewers. Be aware though, that there is a pretty scary ‘Tree of Terror’. Roo and Lumpy, the youngest characters, overcome their fears to face the tree, which of course isn’t haunted after all.  For the very timid however, the tree may still be too scary… it might be best to wait until they’re older before you hit the Hallowe’en flicks! (This title on amazon.)

2. Meet Me in St. Louis (1945) – Hallowe’en scene – Ages 4+

The Hallowe’en sequence in this old musical is terrific. Be sure to read my review for the full description. A little girl screws up her courage to do something daring on Hallowe’en night and impresses all the big kids. (This title on amazon.)

3. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) – Ages 5+

A classic that we all love, and it isn’t at all scary, but be aware that it may fall flat for younger kids. My four-year-old didn’t like it at all because a) Lucy is mean, b) Sally misses trick or treating and c) yells a lot at Linus, and most of all, d) Charlie Brown gets rocks instead of candy!! (At what age does this injustice suddenly become funny? It probably varies from viewer to viewer.) In addition there’s a lot of bewildering sarcasm, insults, name-calling, etc. The Snoopy stuff she did like, but again, WWI references aren’t all that engaging for preschoolers. Moral dilemmas and the retention of optimism in an uncaring universe plays better to older viewers I guess. (This title via Instant Video on amazon.)

4. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) – Ages 5+

The 2nd half of this movie is perfect for Hallowe’en, retelling the classic story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Great buildup and suspense, and the slapstick action mitigates the terror of the chase somewhat. (This title on amazon.)

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Ages 7+

For the older viewers… It’s a Christmas movie, kind of, but really more of a Hallowe’en spooker. Visually stunning and chock-full of creepy but loveable characters. The main villain is pretty terrifying and gross, though, so be sure your audience really likes their ghouls and ghosties. (This title on amazon.)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

by Ian Fleming

150 pages, 12 chapters

London, Penguin, 1964

Age: 6 +

Interests: cars, magic, adventure, action, family, cops and robbers, science/inventions

Next: see the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (story is much different)

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Top 5: Old Comedy Clips

Oh boy do I have a treat for you today! Sometimes it takes a little digging around, but there’s a wealth of great stuff on youtube to share with your kids. I’ve discovered some classic old movie moments from the comedy masters for you. If you’re wondering about how to introduce your children to the look and the style of silent movies and early talkies, short clips are fantastic.

Enjoy!

1. Charlie Chaplin – “Dance of the Dinner Rolls” from The Gold Rush (1925)

Sweet and simple. Entry level viewing for the brilliance that is Chaplin.

 

2. Marx Bros. – Mirror Scene from Duck Soup (1933)

This has been copied a thousand times since, and it’s likely even Groucho and company were borrowing this routine from someone else, in the old vaudeville tradition, but nobody does it better.

 

3. Buster Keaton – Chase Scene from Seven Chances (1925)

Ah, there was a time when people did their own stunts! Buster Keaton never ceases to astonish me.

 

4. Laurel & Hardy – Pie Fight

I’ve never been a huge fan of the pie-in-the-face gag myself, but this is a pretty epic example of the genre. And it all starts with a banana peel!

 

5. Abbott and Costello – “Who’s On First?” from The Naughty Nineties (1945)

And finally, something a little more ‘talkie’… This routine delighted my 5-year-old and my 9-year-old nephew this summer. The writing, the delivery, the timing… perfection.

A Little Princess

A Little Princess

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

first published in 1905 (prior to that the story appeared as a serialized novella and a play)

201 pp., 19 chapters

Ages: (to be read to) 6 +; (to read) 8 +

Interests: boarding schools, girls, history, class, hardship

Also by this author: The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy

Next: MOVIES – A Little Princess (1939) with Shirley Temple, A Little Princess (1995) both with significant plot changes. TV ADAPTATIONS – 1973 and 1986, both apparently very faithful to original book.

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Governor General’s Literary Award finalists announced

“The GGs, Canada’s national book awards celebrate the excellence of Canadian writers, illustrators and translators. The English and French awards are in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature (text and illustration) and translation.”
See the finalists right here.

What are babies thinking?

This is a terrific TED talk about what is going on in our children’s heads… more than you might think… Also, a suggested link between length of childhood and intelligence of species.

I love this stuff! Have already ordered her latest book from my library…

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Released: 1968
Rated: G
Length: 144 min. (with an intermission at the 1:27 mark)
Age: 6 and up            Commensense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: fantasy adventure story abounds in peril but all is exaggerated and cartoonish; the Baron and his spies are too bumbling to be truly scary; the Child Catcher on the other hand is extremely creepy, he’s the scariest thing in the movie, especially when he captures Jemima and Jeremy

Intense Scenes: all the children living underground is a rather pathetic sight, it stuck with me as a child; Caractacus and Truly posing as dolls is a bit suspenseful, but mostly amusing

Questionable Language: apparently Grandpa says “ass” at some point

Other Violence and Mayhem: the Baron and Baroness are pretty weird, especially the Baron’s sly attempts to do away with his wife, particularly during their cutesy song together before the party; in an earlier scene the Baroness is ejected high into the air, she floats gently down thanks to her large skirts and the Baron hauls out his shotgun and shoots at her! (the resulting holes in her billowing skirt bring her down quickly, and he expresses disappointment that he only hit her skirt!)

Interests: cars, inventions, magic, action, adventure, castles, scientists, inventors, spies, musicals

Next: Ian Fleming book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (very different plot)
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Are Your Kids Really Ready for Scary Movies?

Commonsense Media has posted some advice for parents about scary movies.

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.