Ponyo (2009)

Rated: G
Length:  101 min.
Age: 4 and up.

Scary Factor: typhoon and tsunami, storm at sea mitigated by sight of little girl happily running on top of the waves!; entire island is submerged in huge flood, but no casualties

Intense scenes: twice Sosuke thinks his fish is dead (briefly); after floods Sosuke finds his mother’s car, eerily empty, and starts to cry, but finds her soon after

Language: mother calls the oddball wizard a “freakshow”; she also calls her husband a “Jerk!”; the wizard calls humans as a species “filthy” and “stupid” (which is justified)

Interests: ocean, sea creatures, magic, nature, spirits, boats, fish, wizards

Next: BOOK: The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen); MOVIES: My Neighbor Totoro, Finding Nemo (a little scarier), The Little Mermaid (a lot scarier)



A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)

Black & White
Rating: USA: Approved
Length: 133 min – other versions: 117 min (edited version), 142 min (with overture and exit music)
Age: suitable for 3, but for plot comprehension 4 or 5

Scary Factor: Oberon in black and his bat-people minions are a little unnerving, particularly when they seem to be rounding up the beautiful fairies at the end. Other than that there’s nothing violent or threatening. Viewers may wonder about the small orphan boy fought over by Oberon and Titania, but the toddler keeps smiling whether he’s with one or the other and seems to be treated well, so it shouldn’t be an issue. (He weeps only when Titania ignores him during her fascination with Bottom.)

Interests: magic, fairies, Shakespeare, old movies

Next: MOVIE: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) is more for 12+ crowd (PG-13); BOOKS: traditional fairy tales, Peter Pan, Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb, Shakespeare’s The Tempest (in a picture book version)

Preparation: picture books or other abridged versions of the Midsummer Night’s Dream story – helpful to know the plot first!


Mei Li


Mei Li

Thomas Handforth

New York: Doubleday, 1938

46 pp

for ages 3 +

Interests: China, family life, sibling issues


My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro

Rated: G
Length:  86 min.
Age: 4 and up.        commonsense media sez: 5+

Scary Factor: soot sprites are creepy, and provide one big Startle Moment (see below); Totoro seems scary at first glance, but is soon revealed to be friendly

Also: issue of Mother sick in hospital may bother some, but whole situation is treated gently, and without worry until late in film when girls grow concerned (see more below)

Interests: monster/spirits, magic, nature, country life, Japan

Next: Director Miyazaki has two other films for this age group: Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service; for older kids try: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle


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