Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Toys and Games Tuesday- Springfield and American Girl Dolls

It's already that time of year again, crazy busy holiday time!

I was at Michael's the other day (looking at craft supplies instead of writing, LOL) when I ran into these Springfield dolls. I'd seen them on the web, but it was my first time to see them in person. For those of you who don't have a seven year old daughter like me, Springfield is a company that makes 18" dolls, similar in appearance to American Girl dolls but five times CHEAPER. Think of them as American Girl's frugal cousin.

American Girl (the Mercedes Benz of doll companies) has several doll lines. They are best known for their historical dolls, but are getting more and more popular for their My American Girl Collection, where girls can customize a doll that looks (hopefully) like them.

While I'm not advocating for either company (unless they paid me to, of course...LOL), I think it's great that toys are beginning to finally reflect the population of our country.

Photo Credits

"Buy More Stuff Photo" link

Friday, October 18, 2013

International Friday: Ghosts from the Motherland

As a little kid, I was never afraid of Freddy Kreuger or Jason. Instead, the frightening creatures which plagued my Filipino-American psyche were:

1. The Multo. Loosely translated to "zombie", but I think most Filipino kids understand it to be just something hideously scary.

2. The White Lady. She could be anywhere and everywhere.

3. Don't forget the contribution of Catholicism. Stories of saints statues coming to life were commonly told among us children, and even scarier since most us had altars at home chock full of scary statues like this one of the Santo Nino (Baby Jesus):

4. Of course, there was also the Mama Mary.

It wasn't until I went to a high school with a large Cuban-American population that I encountered the chupacabra. Then I realized I wasn't alone in having fear of creatures that no one else knew about except people from the same ethnic immigrant population.

Which ghosts/creatures from near or far scared you? (Still scare you?)

Photo Credits

Thanks, as always! In no particular order:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Hocus Pocus

If you were a kid in the United States in the 1990s, you probably remember the cult classic Hocus Pocus. Back then, of course, it wasn't a cult classic yet, just cool Halloween weirdness. I remember some of my classmates jumping around the schoolyard saying Sarah Jessica Parker's line, "Amok, amok, amok!"

Flash forward a jillion years to the present, and I'm watching this movie for the blog. And all I can think of is how WEIRD this movie is, and how funny it is that I didn't notice it when I was a kid. Here's what I loved about the movie:

  1. Cheesy special effects. Picture it: a talking puppet cat, really bad zombie make-up, and lightning bolts coming out of Bette Midler's fingertips.
  2. Acting so bad it's good. Seriously.
  3. Sarah Jessica Parker before she was super-famous.
  4. The complete and utter over-the-top-ness of the Sanderson Sisters, especially Bette Midler. The scenes without them in the movie fell flat. Which brings me to my next list...

What I Hated About This Movie

  1. Overuse of the word "virgin." Yes, we get it. He's a virgin.
  2. Acting so bad it was just...bad.
  3. The predictability of the plot.

Verdict: If you're waxing nostalgic for the 1990s, pick this up. If not (and I know there will be an angry mob waiting for me outside when I say this), there are better Halloweeen movies out there! You can watch with your kids, but make sure to be ready to explain what a virgin is!

What's your favorite Halloweeen throwback film?

Creepy animated GIF courtesy of Crushable. Thanks!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Betty Ren Wright's The Pike River Phantom

Whether you are 9 or 99, there's always something magical about a scary story. Back in the Stone Age, I remember the brave girls (and it was always girls) carrying around scary story books like they were badges of honor. "Look at me, I'm not afraid of the Pike River Phantom!" their eyes would say. Meanwhile, other girls (like me) would take a quick peek at the cover and decide it was NOT the genre for me. Please, don't even leave it on my desk!

Now that I'm older, the cover of this classic reads more kitschy than frightening, and I can giggle that I was so afraid of this? Getting a good scare is still tons of fun, however, especially during Halloween, and especially when Betty Ren Wright is the author.

Betty Ren Wright (I just have to say her full name!) is a very efficient writer. In a book of only 153 pages, she manages to flesh out the story of 12-year-old Charlie Hocking, a Milaukee transplant new to the small town where his father grew up, and where all Charlie's troubles begin. His father is an ex-con, and his cousin Rachel, who also lives in the same house, is perfect. How can anyone compete with that? Throw in a ghost with a dilemma and a Fourth of July parade, and you've got one entertaining story. While I didn't encounter anything revolutionary in this book, Wright's skill as a writer of suspense kept me on my toes. Also, the way she portrays family relationships, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes baffling, always necessary and complicated make this book ring emotionally true. Yes, it's only 153 pages, and yes the cover has a picture of a ghost lady chasing some kids down the stairs, but it was a good read.

Overall, five stars. Come for the ghost story, stay for the happy ending. Wax nostalgic with your friends about book fairs, and for the time when kids were allowed to do scary things--like ride their bikes in the woods by themselves! (yes, Charlie does this often in the book!)

Haven't had enough? For more frightening fun check out an earlier review of middle-grade classic, Stonewords: A Ghost Story.

Photo Credits

The picture of of The Pike River Phantom came from here. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Toys and Games Tuesday: Badass Lego Girls

This article on the Huffington Post caught my attention awhile back, and I thought I would link to it here on my blog. Three-year-old Cecilia is taking her LEGO creations to a new level, turning girly LEGO figures tough. Read: 'Badass Lego Girls' Made By A Badass Three-Year-Old.

How's that for creativity?

Photo credits go to the HuffPo.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Print Media Monday: Catherine Stine's Ruby's Fire

Welcome to another Print Media Monday! Today we'll be reviewing Catherine Stine's Ruby's Fire, the second novel in the Fireseed Series. I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this novel from a giveaway on Kelly Hashway's blog. I say fortunate because it's not the kind of book I would pick up by myself (I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, and my tastes tend toward Middle Grade rather than YA.) But the gods intervened that day to bring me a book that I have thoroughly enjoyed, and I know you will enjoy, too.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is just like any other teenager. She has friends she adores, and a family she loves and wants to protect above all else. But Ruby is living in some extraordinary circumstances. On a post-Apocalyptic Earth, Ruby is a climate refugee, and living in a cult that worships the mysterious plant FireSeed. On the night of the Founder's Ceremony, Ruby makes a decision to escape that will not only change her life, but will alter the very essence of her being. Catherine Stine takes us and Ruby on an incredible emotional journey, where the question of what it means to be human will be explored and turned on its head.

Why I Loved This Book

One word: FireSeed! I didn't read FireSeed One (the first novel set in the FireSeed Universe) but that wasn't a problem. The properties of this crazy plant will leave you scratching your head for days and days. And of course, the characters. Ruby kicked butt as the resident healer, and her little brother Thorn would put Haley Joel Osment's character in Sixth Sense to shame. For those of you out there who love a good YA love triangle, you will not be disappointed.

More About Catherine Stine/ The Fireseed Series

For more information on the Fireseed Series, or Catherine Stine, please visit her website. You can also find Ruby's Fire and Fireseed One on Amazon.

Wah! Can't believe this is the last official post of Back-to-School Month. Went by in a blur! Make sure to come back next month where all posts will have to do with Horror/Halloween!

See you in October!

Photo Credits

The cover of Ruby's Fire was taken from here. Thanks heaps!

Friday, September 27, 2013

International Friday: Cute Stationery and Such

Angry Birds bento? Heck yeah!

We've talked about some really serious things here at EKM--racism, stereotyping, and girls' empowerment. But for this International Friday, we're going to talk about something even more important...CUTE STATIONERY! It's the last International Friday of Back-to-School Month, so what better way to close it off than by indulging in mindless but delicious consumerism?

I've posted some yummy pictures of kawaii (cute) bento (lunchboxes) and school supplies. Kawaii culture originated in Japan but has spread throughout Asia and the world, as evidenced by the amount of online retailers specializing in it (*NOTE* I have zero affiliation with any of the web sites listed here, and have listed them for informational purposes only). Also, cute culture isn't just for kids. Women in Japan, and some men, just can't resist the cute!

The Lunches

Yes, folks, they are made from nothing other than an imaginative use of rice, seaweed, and other food products!

Pencils and Such

School supplies so cute, who really needs school? My favorite are the poop pencils (they're the ones that look like ice cream scoops!) With the POCKY pencils a close second.

I can't stand it! Everything is just...so...cute!

Thanks for reading, everyone! See you in October!

Photo Credits

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Throwback Thursday: 8 Classic YA Books That Will Screw You Up For Life

It's not so sweet in the valley.

Came across this post on flavorwire. The title says it all: "8 Classic YA Books That Will Screw You Up for Life." Do you agree or disagree with the titles on the list? What titles, if any, would you add?

Happy reading, everyone!

Photo Credits

Photo of Sweet Valley book came from here. Gracias!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Toys and Games Tuesday: Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine

Hey All! This week I'd like to introduce a new column, Toys and Games Tuesday! It will appear once a month or so. In honor of Back-to-School Month, we're going to talk about the much buzzed-about toy, Goldie Blox.

If you have school-aged children, it's hard to avoid hearing about STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and is an acronym that anyone involved in education is throwing around the way troublemakers once threw paper airplanes in class. American children don't know enough about the STEM fields, politicians, big technology CEOs, and some educators have argued. This is bad for national security and the Future of the Nation in general. I'm not certain I agree, as it's been eons since I've stepped into a classroom, but I am all for anything that makes children more curious, passionate, and excited about the world we live in. Here is where Goldie Blox steps in.

Goldie Blox is the brainchild of Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling. Noticing a lack of women in the engineering field, she developed Goldie Blox to help get girls excited about building and engineering. Girls can do more than just play dress-up princess she argues. Her hope is that the more girls are exposed to engineering, the more interested they will be in pursuing engineering as a career, and the better the chances are that more women can help solve problems in the world.

What's Inside

  • Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine story book
  • One pegboard
  • Ten axles
  • Five blocks
  • One ribbon
  • Five blocks
  • Five wheels
  • Five Washers
  • One crank

Through the story in the book, Goldie and her friends figure out different ways to configure the machine parts to solve their problems. There are also pages where the child can copy and create different formations using the materials.

What I Like About This Toy

I like that this toy came into being because its creator (Sterling) wanted to empower girls. As a character, Goldie is as adorable as they come. The book shows Goldie solving problems but also having fun (even playing dress-up with her star sunglasses!) With her toolbelt and overalls, she is unambiguously ready to build. But Goldie's flowing blonde locks and her adorable animal friends also make her accessible to the princess set. The book and toy parts are also made out of high-quality plastic.

What I Don't Like About This Toy

My daughter, who is seven-years-old and my Official Tester of Everything Kid complained, "Ma, the ribbon isn't long enough!" I agree. It seems that once you get these cool formations going, you can't do much because the ribbon is too short. Are they inadvertently encouraging us to do Goldie Blox hacks? You could certainly get around this by using your own ribbon with some velcro sewn on the end. But still, seeing as this is a toy that is supposed to encourage young girls to build, why stop the fun when it had only gotten started? I would definitely recommend they start selling booster packs with extra long ribbon, parts, etc, if only for the lazy and technologically inept among us.

I also don't like (and this probably wasn't their intention) that by marketing an "engineering toy for girls" they create a further rift between life and science that an increase on focus on the STEM fields was supposed to fix. Life and engineering are inseparable. If you really want to get girls building, let them get involved in some real-life building situations. Let them help you put together some furniture you just bought (IKEA anyone? LOL!) or let her help you fix the car or bike (even if they just hold the tools because they might be too young or small to help you for real). Point out the beauty of a bridge you are about to drive across. These activities are free, and show STEM in everyday life.

*end rant*

Still, I love the toy and its message. If you've got a young girl in your life and the $30 to spare, you might want to consider this for her birthday or Christmas gift.

To find out more about Goldie Blox, check out their website. Their kickstarter page, though expired, is also rather informative. Goldie Blox is recommended for children ages 6+, and has small parts which may be a choking hazard for younger children.

Photo Credits

The photo of the inside of the box came from here. The picture of the Goldie Blox banner came from here, and "More Than Just a Princess" came from here. Thanks heaps!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wah! A Liebster Award Nomination!

The very lovely Leandra Wallace of the Le&ndra Wallace Blog has nominated Eating Kids' Media for a Liebster Award! Woo-hoo! The Liebster Award is for blogs that have less than 200 followers and need more love. Pass it on!

Here are the questions Leandra asked me, and their answers:

1. Who do you credit as being most inspirational in your life?

Oprah and my daughter :-)

2. What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?

Sleep. (LOL!) Or if possible, go for country drives.

3. Top three authors?

Haruki Murakami, Paulo Coelho, J. Krishnamurti

4. Snow or no snow?

I'm from the Northeast! NO SNOW!!!!

5. If you could visit any city in the world, what one would it be?

Not sure why, but Prague.

6. What is your favorite restaurant?

There's a dive-y Vietnamese restaurant in my town called Miss Saigon. The service is horrid but the food is always fast, fresh, and delicious!

7. Do you loan your books out?

Always, for the sake of humanity.

8. What's the one thing you're sick of seeing on book covers?

On YA books, I am sick of seeing a wispy blonde teenager stuck in the embrace of a topless man with nice abs. Don't get me wrong. I love nice abs. But in most of these books, there's actually a story in there, and the covers really sell them short.

9. If you could travel back in time to any major historical moment, what would it be?

The Pyramids. I want to know if aliens really built them.

10. If you could pick a name for yourself, what would it be?

The Artist Formerly known as a symbol. LOL!

Thanks Leandra! Here are my nominations for the Liebster Award, and the rules for those who choose to accept:

If you choose to accept here are the directions: Link back to the blogger who tagged you. Nominate 5-10 others and answer the questions of the one who tagged you. Then ask 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate as well as letting your nominees know of their award.

And now, my ten questions for those of you who choose to accept the award:

  1. If you could be an ice cream flavor, what would it be, and why?
  2. What is your favorite time of day to blog?
  3. If you were not a writer (or other current occupation) what would you be and why?
  4. Your go-to (place, blog, person, book) when you are dry on inspiration?
  5. What is your favorite book of all time?
  6. The best advice you've ever received?
  7. If you could have a super-power, what would it be and why?
  8. What is something you are optimistic about?
  9. I wish I could see....because....
  10. What is your most indispensable possession and why?

Happy Blogging, everyone! Don't forget to check out the blogs linked here. Thanksverymuch!

Friday, September 20, 2013

International Friday: Studio Ghibli's The Cat Returns

Fly, Haru, fly!

Welcome to another "International Friday" here at Eating Kids' Media! In keeping with the September/Back-to-School theme, I have decided to review Studio Ghibli's The Cat Returns (Japanese: Neko no Ongaeshi) for today's entry.

Some of you may be familiar with Studio Ghibli thanks to its famous founder and director Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). Although it is a Ghibli production,The Cat Returns was not directed by Miyazaki. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as the Miyazaki junkies out there (myself included!) can appreciate this lovely film for what it is, and not compare it to a film directed by Miyazaki. Now, on to the review!

The main character is Japanese high school student Haru. Like a lot of kids, she struggles with feeling confident about herself. She has a crush on a cute boy in her class, who doesn't even know she exists. And on top of that, she just can't seem to wake up on time for school!

One day, while walking home from school with her best friend, she saves a cat from being run over by a truck by running into the intersection and scooping it up with her lacrosse stick! (Badass!) She is shocked when the cat stands upright, sweeps the dust from his fur, and says in lovely honorific Japanese, "Thanks for saving me." It turns out that the gracious cat is none other than the prince of the Cat Kingdom, Prince Lune. Later that night, in a scene that words cannot do justice, Prince Lune's dad, the Cat King and his entourage, presents Haru with a scroll detailing gifts of repayment (ongaeshi) that she will receive over the coming days.

I'm a I'm a hustler!

To make a long story short, the gifts are not what Haru wanted or expected. When the Cat King's super-cute lackey (whose name I cannot remember) tells Haru that her final gift is her impending wedding to Prince Lune, Haru follows the advice of a mysterious voice to seek help from the Cat Bureau. And so begins Haru's harrowing adventure to find out that the only thing she really needed was inside her all along.

Why I Love This Movie

If you are a fan of Miyazaki, you've probably noticed that his characters are usually super-perfect strong females (with the exception of Chihiro from Spirited Away). That being said, I love that this Ghibli production features a strong girl with integrity (a super-athletic lacrosse-playing girl who loves cats!) who doesn't have it ENTIRELY together (she still can't wake up for school, even with an alarm.) This makes her instantly endearing and relatable. Action, intrigue, and giggles abound in this movie, but as a mother, the best part for me was the fact that Haru's character grows in the end. She's been through a lot, learned her lessons, and is stronger and better for all of it (cliched as it sounds!) Please watch it with your older children, both boys and girls!

Appropriate for ages 10 and up. No blood, gore, or sex, but some concepts about "finding yourself" that littler ones might not be interested in or understand.

Photo Credits

The picture of Haru and Baron was taken from this blog. The picture of the Cat Entourage was taken from here. Haru in the grass came from here. Thanks!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Recess: Season One Episode One

The Recess Gang

If you are of a certain age, you probably remember recess, that golden half hour or so where kids in school were allowed to go nuts and forget all their classroom woes. Heck, the teachers expected us to go nuts, in the hopes that we could finish the last half of the school-day just a little less wiggly and antsy. Sadly, kids these days don't have recess anymore (that's a topic for another blog!) However, for those of us waxing nostalgic, or just looking for a good laugh, nothing captures the essence of this magical time of school better than the aptly-named 1990s Recess cartoon.

Recess revolves around fourth grade friends TJ, Spinelli, Gretchen, Mikey, Vince, and Gus (who joins the gang in episode 2) and what they do at recess. In the first episode, gang-leader TJ gets caught trying to steal food from the cafeteria (from a refrigerator marked, "Good Food"-- LOL!) as a protest against the Tomato Surprise, a highly-acidic soup they are serving in the cafeteria. When the horrid Ms. Finster punishes TJ by taking away recess, the poet of the group, Mikey, shouts, "Why doesn't she just tear out his soul?!?!" The gang spend the rest of the episode trying to bail TJ out of the classroom, with hilarious results. TJ didn't get to have recess, but his friends ended up uniting various factions of the playground, until the next episode of course.

I used to watch this cartoon when it aired Saturday mornings on ABC, back in the Stone Age. As a kid, the thing I loved most about this show (and still love) is that it never failed to crack me up. Now that I'm older, I love that the characters are so likeable, and yet so different from one another--just like real kids! I talk about diversity a lot on this blog, and race or ethnicity-wise, you couldn't call the cast of Recess diverse. But there's a believable diversity of interests and personalities that make the show fun to watch, without the characters becoming caricatures. One of my faves is Gretchen the Nerd. She explains what's in Tomato Surprise:

Spinelli (after putting the Tomato Surprise on her tray): It's like acid!

Gretchen: Citric acid, actually. And a carbon base electromagnetically heated to create a synthetic compound which has some admirable qualities.

TJ: You mean it's ok to eat?

Gretchen: No, if you let it age it'll burn a hole in a concrete floor.


Go ahead and check out Recess. Then grab a friend and go play outside! What's your favorite recess memory?

Photo Credits

The image of the Recess gang was taken from here. Thanks heaps!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Print Media Monday: Chieu Anh Urban's Away We Go!

When we got this board book in the mail (the result of winning a giveaway at Brianna Sayre's blog) my daughter immediately picked it up. Nevermind that this book is supposed to be a gift for a friend's baby daughter, and nevermind that my daughter is seven, she loved it! According to her, "this book will help your baby become smart!" After looking through it myself, I completely agree!

Blast off! Wheeeeeee!

Let's start off by talking about design. The book itself is a sturdy board book, about seven inches wide and six inches long. It's big enough for chubby hands to hold, and not too small to get lost. The cut-outs of the shapes which appear on every page are great for little ones to enjoy sticking their hands into, or for mom or dad or babysitter to enjoy framing an eyeball with--perfect for distracting baby! The illustrations of different modes of transportation (school buses, rocket ships, and blimps) are bright and colorful, cleverly hiding the shapes which the little ones are supposed to find.

Although the book has many wonderful characteristics, the thing about it I love most is that it presents the subject of transportation as gender neutral. When we think of cars or trucks, we often think of little boys. This is also the case for the colors blue and pink--blue is for boys, pink is for girls. But somehow Urban's book manages to fly above all the gender stereotyping. A heart, which is normally associated with feminity and girls is the shape used for the propeller of the airplane, a mode of transportation adored by little boys everywhere. The background color for the illustration of the cement mixer is a deep red-violet, a color likely to appeal to girls. "Yes," this book seems to say, "cement mixers, race cars, bulldozers, and submarines are for everyone! Away we go!" Yes, Ms. Urban, they certainly are!

Grade for Back-to-School: A++! A fun way for your toddler to learn shapes, and also a book you won't get sick of reading ten million times thanks to the bold ilustrations and basically one word a page!

For more information about Chieu Anh Urban and Away We Go, visit her blog.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Print Media Monday: Can E-Books Be Passed Down?

Happy Labor Day, everyone! Some of you may have seen this article floating around the Internet. An interesting article/braodcast from NPR on the virtues of passing down physical books, and how that will change as e-books get more and more popular.

What do you think? To access the article, click here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Old-School YA: Virginia Nielsen's Mirror, Mirror


Hey All!

Thanks for hanging with me thus far! I've got a ton of exciting things planned for this blog in the weeks ahead, but my schedule has gotten CRAZY. I hope to be posting at least once a week once September hits, but you never know! And now, on to the review...

This week, we'll be taking a look at Virginia Nielsen's Mirror Mirror, published in 1983 by Scholastic's Windswept imprint.

When a friend of mine dug this out of an old box, I really wanted to get excited about this book. But while reading this, I couldn't help but compare it to a Lifetime channel movie. This book has: twins separated at birth, secrets, freak accidents, a psycho murderer, and forbidden, but chaste love. The story moved at a good pace, so there wasn't much time to be bored, but at 155 pages, there wasn't much time to be engaged. The main character, Gillian Topper was a little bit too lovesick lapdog for my taste, and I didn't care enough for the other characters, either. I kept wondering how a book like this would be written in 2013, and perhaps that also contributed to my displeasure. There were some lovely descriptions of Gillian's Valley and Gerry's San Francisco, however, but other than that, this book fell flat.

If you're curious about old-school YA, I would pick this up just for fun. The book is peppered with old-fashioned expressions like "going steady" and "that's neat!" that are sure to make you giggle! When writing descriptions of setting, Ms. Nielsen's writing is tops. But other than the fact they are twins, the main characters are just not that interesting.

My unofficial rating: for teens ages 13 and up, due to adult themes and violence.

Photo Credits

The cover photo of Mirror, Mirror was taken from here. Thank you!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back From Hiatus!!!

Hey all!!!!

Got back from vacation and finally over the jet lag! Can't wait to start blogging again. Watch out for my next entry, on Throwback Thursday.

'Til we meet again,


Friday, July 19, 2013

International Friday: Gareth Evan's Merantau

It's all about the martial arts!

I don't really like violent movies, but as a lover/aspiring writer of the middle grade/YA genre, I thought I would check this movie out. I don't remember exactly how it came to my attention, but this movie seemed to check off all the boxes on my list at the time I decided to watch it: Young people? Check. Coming of age story? Check. International? (It's a film set in Indonesia directed by a Welshman). Check.

The movie starts off showing us Yuda, the main butt-kicker in his hometown in Western Sumatra. The grass is green, the tomatoes are red, and everything, even Yuda, appears golden (cinematographer's choice?) In other words, Yuda's hometown is the best place in the world. The scenes with his mom and brother emphasize this. Yuda has a good life--good family, idyllic surroundings. And to top it all off, he is really good at silat a kind of Indonesian martial arts. There's a great sequence with Yuda practicing in the fields, with dramatic music and the mountains in the background which makes me want to take out some curved blades and do some silat like Yuda!

Alas, Yuda's lovely existence on the farm comes to an end, as he embarks on his merantau, a coming-of-age tradition in the Mingkabau culture where the young boy leaves the community and comes back a man. His mother tells him he doesn't have to go, but Yuda wants to make a difference in the world. He sets off for the seedy capital of Jakarta to make his mark. His life is changed when he rescues a girl named Astri and her little brother from being beaten up by Astri's boss. From that moment on, all hell breaks loose.

I didn't exactly dislike the movie, as much as it just wasn't what I was expecting. I like that the movie highlights silat, which is a lesser-known martial art. The choreographers did an amazing job with the fight scenes, fight scenes on par with any great martial arts movie. The cinematography and musical score were mind-blowing. But (surprise, surprise) the story was a little thin on the characterization, and for a two hour movie, that's just sad. I wanted to know more about Yuda. I wanted to know who he was before, and how being in Jakarta changed him. Without this part, there's really no coming-of-age, because coming-of-age means becoming mature. Yuda stayed dignified and bad-ass the entire time. He was a static character, and because of that, not very interesting. This movie is also very bloody. I have a low tolerance for gore, so I didn't like it as much as others might.

If you are looking for a good coming-of-age story set in Indonesia, or other parts of Asia, skip this movie. If you are looking for some high-action, martial arts goodness with a ton of blood and very disturbing villains, this is the movie for you. Please don't watch it with your kids.

For more information about Merantau, head to the Merantau IMDb page.

Photo Credits

The picture of Merantau was taken from here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Throwback Thursday: X-Men: The Animated Series Episodes One and Two

Before Hugh Jackman was Wolverine, there was X-Men: The Animated Series!!! I remember watching this as a kid and thinking it was the most amazing show ever, and 20 years later I still feel the same way. Here's why X-Men: The Animated Series (still) rocks the house:

1.) The ladies kick butt.

Oh my Jeebus. Within the first five minutes of episode one, Storm and Rogue are fighting a robot the size of a building while saving Jubilee's life. No Prince Charming needed here, the ladies have it covered. Throughout the two episodes (and the series), the women continue kicking major bootay. In the first two episodes, although teenaged Jubilee is still getting used to her powers, she uses them whenever necessary. The ladies of the X-Men (X-women?) do not take things lying down! And, they are gosh-darned pretty to boot! Extra bonus: in the X-Men universe, a woman is president!

2.) A diverse cast.

Only Marvel could put together a group of folks from all over the world and still somehow make the X-Men story feel natural and believeable. There's wealthy Charles Xavier, eternal drifter from everywhere-and-nowhere Wolverine, the fairly vanilla Cyclops, the African Queen Storm, the Southern Belle Rogue, Gambit the Cajun, intellectual-turned-blue-monster Beast, and Chinese-American foster child Jubilee. Despite their different backgrounds, the characters feel authentic, not forced or "written in" for diversity's sake.

3.) The action!

I don't normally like watching violent television shows, but I get excited when the X-Men beat up the bad guys!!!! You're going down, gigantic, evil robot!

4.) The smart, fast-paced writing.

In the first three minutes of episode one, there's so much going on. First there's Jubilee's foster parents' anxiety over her being a mutant, Jubilee's hurt and sadness over being given up to the Mutant Control Agency, and then, in the third minute, a touch of snark:

Jubilee is playing video games in an effort to forget her sorrow. She inevitably ends up breaking the arcade game with her firecracker power. The owner is upset, naturally. He approaches Jubilee.

Arcade Guy: Do you know how much this thing costs???

Jubilee: (nonchalantly drinking her soda and putting her sunglasses back on) Yeah. A quarter.

And later in the Danger Room, when Wolverine and Gambit are training:

Wolverine: Had enough, Cajun? Just say, "oncle."


I'd forgotten just how much fun cartoons could be. As a mom, I try to pick wholesome cartoons that have a moral. I'm not certain X-Men would be considered wholesome, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from watching X-Men as well. Tolerance, not being greedy, and learning to control your temper are just a few (yeah, I'm looking at you, Wolverine!). But morals aren't the reason I want to watch X-Men. I like watching X-Men because it's just plain FUN!

X-Men: The Animated Series, recommended for ages 9+ for cartoon violence and scary situations. (My rating, not an official one ;-) )

Photo Credits

The photo of the clashing mutants above was taken from here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

International Friday: A Library Without Books

My dream is to make millions of dollars and give a whole bunch of it away. Since I don't have those millions yet, I will gladly promote worthy causes in the meantime. Library for All is a non-profit organization that aims to create a digital library for children in the Third World. E-textbooks and other learning resources will be accessible via an inexpensive tablet, and downloadable through the country's mobile network or internet connection. The content will be relevant to the local community. The first stop is Haiti, and then the world!

To learn more about Library for All, visit their web site. You can also donate to their Kickstarter campaign until July 13th.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Old-School Middle Grade: Peg Kehret's Sisters Long Ago

Welcome to another Throwback Thursday! This week we are going to discuss Peg Kehret's Sisters Long Ago, published in 1992 by Minstrel Books.

On her thirteenth birthday, Willow Paige and her best friend go to the lake. While Willow is swimming, she gets a cramp in her stomach and nearly drowns. In her struggle to get her head above water, Willow has visions of an ancient Egyptian girl name Kalos, whom Willow is convinced is herself in a previous lifetime. Did she really live before, in ancient Egypt? Or was the vision brought on by the stress of almost drowning? Watch Willow's quest for answers unfold against the backdrop of Willow's sister's leukemia, friendship struggles, and catching a suspected dognapper! Whew!

I love this book. Usually middle grade books are about an ordinary kid who goes to another planet/universe/world/dimension and does extraordinary things there. This was probably the first book I read as a child that made me think about extraordinary events happening in the ordinary world. Because of the subject matter, the tone of the book is very reflective; we're inside Willow's head most of the time. But the pace of the story moves rather quickly, so one doesn't get bored. Still, if you or your child likes a lot of action, you won't find a ton of it here, though there are a couple of tense action scenes. (I won't ruin them for you!) Ancient Egypt fans will get a kick out this book as well, as there is a fair amount of history in a book of this length (149 pages).

Recommended for kids ages 10+. No sex, drugs, or violence, but Willow does struggle with questions of Life and Death, so be prepared to chat with your tween afterwards!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Print Media Monday: Kids Still Read Paper Books?

Saw this article floating around in several different versions on the web. Apparently, young people read more printed books than their older counterparts!!! If you haven't read this article yet, click here to read why.

Friday, July 5, 2013

International Friday: Sara Farizan's If You Could Be Mine

I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about Sara Farizan's If You Could Be Mine in the Twitterverse for awhile now. If You Could Be Mine is a YA novel about a seventeen-year-old girl Sahar, and how far she would go for the love of her best friend, Nasrin (also a girl, for those of you not familiar with Persian names)...in the Islamic Republic of Iran. *Cue dramatic music* And you thought you had problems!

I'll admit I was excited when I read blurbs about the book online, but I was also a little worried. As a person of color living in the United States, I am always conscious of media representations of non-Anglo cultures. Would this book resort to stereotyping? Tokenism? Preachiness about the evils of living in Iran?

Much to Ms. Farizan's credit, the answer to those questions is a resounding no. While some of the foods, culture, and words might be unfamiliar to some American readers, somehow, by using Sahar's voice to tell the story, it makes the story feel more immediate. It makes me feel like it is happening to a close friend, and not a random girl in a country I know nothing about.

I only read the first five chapters from the digital preview on Amazon, but I can't wait to see what happens next. The official release for the book is August 20, 2013. Pre-order it from your favorite bookseller today!

Check out morethanjustmagic's interview with Sara Farizan here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Dazed and Confused?

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! For today's post I'll be taking on an American classic, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused.

When an acquaintance of mine suggested I watch this movie, it turns out I was one of two people on Earth who had never seen the movie before, so I didn't know what to expect. Though it's often touted as "a stoner movie" or a "coming of age movie", I was surprised that Dazed and Confused was more nuanced and complex than it makes itself appear to be, which I suppose is part of its beauty. So rather than try to disentangle my entangled feelings for it, I will list what I liked and didn't like, and then you, fair reader, can decide if it's something you would let your teenagers watch.

What I Liked

There are characters who question things.

The main character, Randall "Pink" Floyd, refuses to sign a contract for his football team saying he will abstain from drugs and alcohol. When one of his teammates asks him why he won't just sign the paper, he replies, "Why are we playing football?" There were a couple of scenes where Pink's coach was giving Pink a lecture about making something of his life and to stop hanging out with losers. While it was clear Pink wanted his life to be of his own making, he wasn't sure that the regimented world of football was the desirable alternative to hanging out with his pothead friends. Another character, Mike, played by the irrepresible Adam Goldberg constantly rails against the system throughout the movie. In the beginning, he questions the need for freshman hazing at the school, something which all the other characters in the movie have accepted as normal.

The characters and situations are complex.

Pink is one of my favorite characters. While he is made out to be the all-around good guy, he is constantly drunk or stoned throughout the movie, which quite frankly, made me feel sorry for him. In another scene, when the seniors are engaged in a car chase with a bunch of freshman so they could beat them with wooden paddles they made themselves, I couldn't help but be troubled. There was something disturbing about watching the boys, but especially the black character yipping for joy in the pick-up truck waiting to beat on his prey. This reminded me of other scenes from other movies, where white men in pick-up trucks chased black men, ready to lynch them. Whether this was Director Richard Linklater's intention, I'm not sure, but that's what came to mind. Even though this movie is set in 1970s Texas in a high school, it still brought up interesting and troubling questions of power--who's got it and why--without coming off as too preachy.

The rules are, there are no rules.

I didn't grow up in the 70s, but there's something about this movie that evokes the nostalgia in me for more carefree times. I, too, have memories of riding around in a car with my friends aimlessly on a summer night (sans alcohol--my parents would have killed me!!!!) As a mother now, I see how restrictive our environment has become, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad. Kids nowadays have very regimented schedules and lots of academic work. It makes me wonder if my daughter will have the chance to be aimless and free for a while (sans the illegal substances, of course.)

The fashion!

Who doesn't love some good-old retro fashion! The polyester in this movie was to die for!

What I Didn't Like

Most of the kids in this movie were drunk and stoned most of the time.

I read some reviews of this movie, where people have said, "Duh! The name of this movie is Dazed and Confused. What did you expect?" While it's true, I wasn't expecting a deep, philosophical movie, watching people (especially kids) drunk and stoned for most of the movie made me depressed.

Overall, I am surprised at how much I liked this movie. Despite the "stoner movie" facade, the film does ask some intriguing questions about why we do the things we do in our lives, who has the power, and why do we give it to them? If I had a teenager in my life, I would definitely let him/her watch it, but not without a long chat afterwards.

Special thanks to Mr. Reyes for bringing this film to my attention.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Print Media Monday: Gay Characters in Middle Grade Fiction

Vikki Vansickle wrote this wonderful post on her blog a couple of weeks back about the scarcity of gay characters in middle grade fiction. It's too late to wait for YA to introduce this topic, she argues, and I wholeheartedly agree. She includes a list of middle grade books with gay characters, for those who are interested in exploring more. You can read the post here.

Pride Month is over, but let's keep the love and support in our hearts all year long!

Photo Credits

The lovely photo of the rainbow flag was taken from this site. Thanks!

Friday, June 28, 2013

International Friday: Books With International Focus

This week I decided to stay local, or glocal, as it were. I wanted to see what international treasures I could find at the library. I have seen kids' books in Hindi, Chinese, Turkish, Arabic, and Spanish at the library before, so I thought inspiration for this blog entry would hit me when I got there. Lo and behold, I was smitten not with foreign books, but with (American) English books with a global focus.

I stumbled upon Sitti's Secrets and I am so glad I did. This book was published in 1994, but sadly, it is still relevant today. Sitti's Secerets is about a young girl named Mona from the United States who visits her Sitti (which means "grandmother" in Arabic) living in Palestine. Using gentle, nostalgic language, Shihab Nye showcases the love between a granddaughter and grandmother but manages to delicately weave in the War as a silent, yet persistent character. It's a book that kids and their parents will definitely have to sit down and chat about, but that's a good thing. Because love, not war, is at the center of this book, all kids with loving grandparents will be able to relate to this story. I'm not a kid, and I almost cried at the end! Don't worry, parents, there's no violence or death in this book.

The next gem I found is for the younger set and is the perfect complement to Sitti's Secrets. It's called, appropriately, Little Treasures by Jacqueline K. Ogburn. Little Treasures lists endearments parents all over the world use on their children. While there's no story per se, Chris Raschka's darling illustrations are candy for the eyes--I just wanted to reach into the book and squeeze the pictures THEY WERE THAT CUTE. Ms. Ogburn's message is crystal clear and much-needed in today's world: People might look different and speak different languages, but no matter where they are, they love their children.

What are your favorite books with an international focus? Let me know in the comments section below!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Old-School Middle Grade-- Stonewords: A Ghost Story!!!!


Stonewords. Wow! This book was creepy with a capital "C"!!!! The back of this book (Book Club Edition published in 1992 by Scholastic) says "RL5" or "Reading Level, 5th Grade." There were definitely parts of this book that were very graphic (rotting flesh and the like) that I'm not sure I would expose a ten-year-old to. The campy illustration on the outside and the larger size of the book scream "middle grade" (not sure why middle grade books are wider than regular books. Wider for smaller hands?) but the content and themes are more reminiscent of R.L. Stine's Fear Street series.

The story begins with Zoe retelling the story of how she was abandoned by her mother at age four. Wow! Way to hit the reader in the face with something heavy right at the beginning! Now, as an adult and a mother, my initial reaction was deep, deep sadness and empathy for the character. I wonder how a ten year old would take it? If he/she came from a similar background, this might be comforting and relatable. They might take it as, "Ah! Here's a girl like me! I was abandoned, too." Or, for a kid who's had both parents in his/her life, this might add another layer of scariness. Because what could be more frightening to a child than losing a parent he/she loves? I think it's interesting how Conrad used the character of the mother in this book. To fully understand it, I think I would need to re-read the book. And I'm not going to, because it's JUST THAT CREEPY (of course, this is a good thing for those of you who LOVE this genre, but I don't!)

Over the course of the novel, Zoe meets a ghost with her same name who lived in her house 200 years ago. They can travel to each other's world's using a staircase and...that's all I'm telling you, because you need to experience the creepy goodness for yourself! No, no, I don't get any renumeration from Scholastic, HarperCollins, or the Estate of Pam Conrad (I wish I did!) but I still recommend this book for the scary factor (if you're into that), crazy story (Remember? Middle grade readers still believe in the impossible!) and the poetry. Yes, the poetry! Here's the opening paragraph of Chapter Five:

Honeysuckle has been known to bloom in the snow. It has its own internal time schedule that has nothing to do with wind, weather, or season. It's as if honeysuckle were always daydreaming, coming out of deep thought to say something so off and disconnected that everyone around is confused and thrown off-balance. My mother was like this.

Bottom line: if your ten or eleven year old is used to blood and guts, this book might be okay. The beautiful language and heavy themes do make it a book worth picking up, but I think an older child, 12, or 13, would get more out of it.

Special thanks to Mikki R., for digging this out of her ancient middle grade fiction collection for me to read!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Print Media Monday: What's in a Bookcover?

I remember being in the fourth grade, in a dusty Catholic school library. Our teacher had overheard the conversation of my friends and me (I guess we weren't making any effort to be quiet in the library, lol!) about which books had the nicest covers. I remember my teacher spouting the well-known adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover!" in her stern teacher voice.

Of course we did, and still do. Everyone judges appearances, even if we like to think we are more enlightened than that. In her blog entry for the Huffington Post, YA author Maureen Johnson discusses how women have historically been sidelined in the world of literature, and how an overly "girly" bookcover can affect our perceptions of the "seriousness" of the author, because women are still perceived as not being able to write "serious" books. She started a Twitter campaign, #coverflip, which some of you may have participated in, asking folks to re-imagine gendered book covers (turning the girly masculine and vice versa). The results can be seen here. This blog entry made me think about the books my own daughter reads, which I talked about in last week's entry.

As my own middle-grade manuscript reaches completion, this article has me thinking about what the cover is going to look like, what kind of message it will send. Any writers out there have any interesting experiences with their publisher and book covers? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

Friday, June 21, 2013

International Friday: Pororo the Penguin!

It might be summer here on the East Coast, but in Pororo's village, it's always winter!

Pororo is a computer-animated cartoon from South Korea animated by Iconix. It's been a runaway commercial success, airing in about 100 countries. I'd heard about Pororo a couple of years back from a Korean-American friend of mine, but I never got the chance to actually check the show out for myself. All I can say is WOW! It's a good thing each episode is only five minutes long, because Pororo and his friends are so sweet they could give you cavities!

If you've watched other programs for the preschool set (Miffy and Friends, Teletubbies, Pocoyo) you'll notice how similar in format Pororo is to those shows (in fact, the founder of Iconix used The Teletubbies as inspiration for Pororo, which you can read about here, if you are so inclined). There is Pororo and his friends having all sorts of fun, and the unseen narrator who elaborates the actions (or one of the character's feelings) to the viewers. There's nothing earth-shatteringly great about the show, but there isn't anything earth-shatteringly bad, either. I'm still not certain why this show is so popular, but then again, who can resist a cute, blue, penguin? I know I can't!

Recommended for kids ages 2-5.

You can watch Pororo in English (and Chinese or Korean, for that matter) on his official YouTube channel here.

Picture of Pororo was taken from here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Highlights 67th Anniversary Issue!

Today is Throwback Thursday, and I am pleased to bring to you, a super-throwback, the 67th Anniversary issue of the beloved children's magazine, Highlights!

If you grew up in the United States, it was hard to escape Highlights magazine. From the dentist's office to free sample issues that came in the mail (free stickers, anyone?), Highlights was simply part of childhood.

Now, as a writer for children, it's fun to look at how far Highlights has come through a (lovingly) critical lens.

The issue in question (June, 1946) can be accessed here. (I'm not sure when the folks at Highlights plan to take this down, as this link was posted on their Twitter account a few days ago.)

On to the fun part!

My very first impression of this issue was how simple it was in design. Yellow cover, black and white inside. Lots of text. Then I became aware of two things: children back then (1946) probably had a greater attention span than our iPad-addicted darlings of today. Printing in colored ink was probably costly as well. Still, as a typography junkie, I love love love the cover, and how the "f" of the word "fun" elegantly curves from top to bottom.

The "Editor's Note" by the first Highlights editor, Garry Cleveland Meyers almost made me cry. It was addressed to the readers, the children of America. It's pretty evident he believed in the children of America:

To us who are much older than you are, you seem to grow so fast. We know it won't be long before you are men and women. Soon you will take our places. We believe you will be useful men and women. We believe that other persons will look up to you and speak well of you when you are as old as we are now.
And he went on for a few more heartwarming paragraphs about the children of America growing up to be good citizens, but also having useful fun with the magazine. He also reminded the readers not to forget to read their Bible and attend Sunday school, which surprised me at first. But of course, America was a very different place in in 1946.

There were many stories and activities, but most of them only a couple pages in length. My favorites were: the very first "Hidden Pictures"(pg. 25), "Animals No One Has Seen Before" (pg. 37) which features animals from the readers' imaginations, "A Little Log Cabin to Build on the Ground" (pg. 38) a piece on how to build a log cabin, complete with diagram! There were a couple of pieces that had a Mexican character, "Over the Cliff", and a Native American family, "Plant Trappers"--which surprised me, considering the time period in America. (Of course, the "Plant Trappers" story was a thinly-veiled science story and the father of the family was wearing a headful of feathers--but still, I appreciate the attempt at diversity, considering again, the time period.)

I highly recommend checking out this piece of American history. It's amazing to see how much has changed, but also how much has stayed the same.

Happy Birthday, Highlights! We (still) love having fun with a purpose!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Print Media Monday: What Do You Want To See In A Children's Book?

When I first started working on my manuscript (a middle-grade adventure/fantasy), my only concerns were 1.) Making the dialogue sound true 2.) Making sure the reader wouldn't be bored to tears. As I get deeper and deeper into the manuscript, however, I am beginning to wonder. What does a reader look for in a children's book? What do I, as a parent, look for in a book for my own daughter?

Of course, the answers to these questions are as diverse as the children and parents out there. Here is my own personal wish list. Feel free to add anything you feel is missing in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you!

1.)The book appeals to both genders.

I was browsing a certain online bookseller looking for my daughter's favorite series, Ivy and Bean when I saw a suggestion for a book series called, The Never Girls. I'd never heard of it before, so I clicked on it. Apparently, the premise for this series is that four girls get lost (somehow) in Never Land. Yes, the (Disney-fied version of) Never Land of Tinker Bell and Peter Pan. The front and back covers are very girly (not pink, but pale purple, and maybe sparkly). From the reviews of the book, it seems that all the readers are young girls.

So what's the problem, you ask? I don't have a problem per se. My own daughter reads Ivy and Bean, as I just mentioned, and that is also a series that appeals overwhelmingly to young girls. But she also reads books with gender neutral appeal, like anything by Roald Dahl. And I'll borrow books from the library about race cars and dinosaurs, and other random subject matter, especially if it's subject matter that's not typically thought of as something girls would be interested in.

So what's my point? I don't want to make it seem like I'm attacking fairy books, or Ivy and Bean, or any other books that are (gasp!) marketed toward young girls. But I do feel like we need to present a balanced world to our children. And if our children are lucky enough to have access to books, then a great way to expose them to the world is through books that show both sides, "boys' world" and "girls world." Why not let your son read The Never Girls or your daughter pick up a Ninjago book? Or better yet, why not let them read books that just have a great story, and are not trying to over-market a brand or product? *end rant*

2.) The book shows ethnic, class, personality, and ability diversity, in a genuine, and not token way. (whew!)

Growing up as a minority in the U.S, I always got excited when I saw someone who looked vaguely Asian on television. It was the same way for books. I think the first character I encountered who was Asian American was the Chinese-American girl (whose name I cannot remember) from Zilpha Keatly Snyder's The Egypt Game. That book was great in that it had ethnic diversity, but also family diversity. The main character, April, was living with her grandmother after a divorce at a time when divorce was something almost unheard of.

Of course, diversity doesn't always have to mean something serious. On a lighter note, I love how Ivy and Bean of Ivy and Bean are imperfect in their imperfections. Bean hates to read (which makes me giggle considering she is a character in a book) while Ivy likes to make magic spells. I love that they are both weird and crazy and not obsessed with their test scores and soccer practices.

The world is wide and the kinds of people in it are many. If my child and I can learn something but also empathize with the characters, then I would say the book was a good read!

3.)The author tells a good story.

'Nuff said! Read on, write on!

Friday, June 14, 2013

International Friday: Little Krishna Episode One (English Version)

Little Krishna and his flute.

With all this hype about the new Superman movie, today we're going to talk about the original Superman, Krishna! More specifically, Big Animation's 3D television series Little Krishna.

Little Krishna is the result of seven years of research by the India Heritage Foundation and gorgeous, gorgeous animation by Big Animation. The stories presented in each episode are based on the childhood of Sri Krishna, a very important Hindu god, the 8th incarnation of the Lord Vishnu, to be exact. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) I wasn't really sure what to expect from this tv show. I wasn't raised in the Hindu religion, but still, I was a little nervous about how someone could turn something as weighty as the life of a god into a kids' cartoon.

But the show did not disappoint. I have seen very few things on television that I can describe using the word, "lush." But there is a richness about this show that is difficult to put into words. Perhaps it is the combination of entrancing music, superb voice acting, and eye-popping colors which wove a spell on me. I didn't notice any overt religious preaching. If you are unfamiliar with Hindu texts, you won't have any problems following the story (although a background in the subject matter of course, wouldn't hurt). Kids watching it will love the action and the friendship among the children. The writers did an amazing job of turning a Hindu god into a lovable little boy with superpowers. Who also happens to be blue.

Recommended for kids ages 6 and up. There are a couple of scary scenes here with the sea serpent, but the way Little Krishna handles him is very exciting to watch!

To watch this episode on Big Animation's YouTube channel, click here.

Photo Credits

Today's picture of Little Krishna was taken from here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Print Media Monday: Superman Family Adventures #11

Hey all!

2013 is Superman's 75th anniversary. So in honor of the Man of Steel, the only one who can wear blue tights and red undies and still look good, we're going to review DC Comics' Superman Family Adventures #11!

*Author's Note*I did a bit of internet digging about twenty seconds ago, and found out that Superman Family Adventures has already ended with book #12. Boo! Sorry for being so late, folks! Our local Toys R Us is a bit behind when it comes to stocking comic books!

Back to the review! SFA is the work of creative team Art Baltazar and Franco, set in the Tiny Titans Universe. (Aw, yeah!) The art, like Tiny Titans, is bright and colorful. The villains are scary, but not too scary. In fact, (and I mean this in the best possible way) the illustrations look like they were done by a child, and that is part of its appeal. If you want to introduce your child to the world of super heroes without all the blood, liplock, and too-ample cleavage, this is the perfect series to do it with.

The other part of its appeal, of course, is Baltazar and Franco's whip-smart humor. I haven't picked up an issue since #2, so I had some trouble following the story line. Even then, almost every page got a giggle out of me.

Finally, no offense to the talented team at DC comics for making this comic happen, but the best part about this comic for me? The price! At $2.99, this comic can't be beat. For $2.99 you get a few minutes of quiet while your son or daughter has a few laughs, and some reading practice, too. What more could a parent ask for? :-)

Superman Family Adventures is rated "E" for everyone!

Photo Credits

The picture of the cover of SFA #11 was taken from here.

Thanks again for coming! Don't forget to comment and subscribe!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Blog on hiatus!

Hey Fans and Friends,

Eating Kids Media will be on un-official hiatus for a couple of weeks (meaning, if I post something, great, if not, you know why not).

Real life beckons, and it's pretty gosh darn exciting!

Take care, everyone! Until the next post!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Thundercats are Loose!

Thundercats, HO!

If you were fortunate enough to have been a child for a part of the 1980s, you might remember a gem of a cartoon called Thundercats. (There was a 2011 remake of the cartoon with the same name, but we won't address that in this blog entry). Today we're going to be totally 80s, and talk about what is wrong, and oh so right with Thundercats!

My memory of the cartoon is a little fuzzy, so I wanted to watch one of the beginning episodes. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the first episode. Instead what I found (thanks to YouTube!) was the 1985 Thundercats movie, Thundercats, HO!, which is really more of a mini-series as it was composed of five separate episodes meant be watched on five separate occasions. This means, there was a ton of pointless fights, times where Lion-O ran off alone, got in trouble, was rescued, lather, rinse, repeat, and it happened all over again. The prisoners Lynx-O, Pumyra, and Bengali escaped their captors on three separate occasions, only to be captured again. The plot didn't actually pick up until the last 20 minutes, or what would have been the last episode in the mini-series.

I don't want to talk too much about the absurdity of the plot (the all-powerful and immortal Mumm-Ra sends his goons to do his bidding, but they are always defeated by the Thundercats. If he is so powerful, why does he have to rely on incompetents to do his bidding?) the bad acting, or the sometimes bad animation. I want to talk about the magic of the 1980s that Thundercats embodies.

In the world of the Thundercats, it's perfectly fine to be half-animal, half human. It's even better if you're half cat. It's even better if your name comes from the animal you're supposed to be (Lion-O, Cheetara, Lynx-O). It's even better if you wear leotards. It's even better if you have the technology to go to outer space, but no cell phone. It's even better if you can talk to dead people.

Today for once, I won't talk about plot holes, or political incorrectness. I just want to talk about the freedom to be absurd. The freedom to make up a crazy story, and believe in the plausability of the story, and just have fun with it. There were a couple of times in the story where I felt that if my seven year old daughter had the chance to write for Thundercats, she would absolutely make the same choices. That's how imaginative it was. Pure, creative, craziness, where everyone is invited to join in and lose themselves in this world. Everyone is invited, everyone is welcome--especially cats in leotards!

Parents please be aware, this cartoon is not for small children due to violent images.

Photo Credits

The lovely Thundercats picture was taken from this site.

Monday, June 3, 2013

ABC Family's The Fosters

Tonight I watched the pilot episode of ABC Family's new series, The Fosters. I will be honest with you. I really, really wanted to hate this show. ABC is owned by Disney, and Disney is evil, right? And somehow, after watching the trailers, I felt that the show was trying too hard to be diverse and interesting. It almost seemed like the casting directors had a checklist of races and ethnicities they needed to have in the show. There was Teri Polo playing the blonde police officer, Stef, with the heart of gold. Sheri Saum plays the African-American vice principal of a perfect charter school, and Stef's wife. She also has a heart of gold. Stef has one biological child from her previous marriage with her ex-husband, who happens to be Latino. They adopted a pair of fraternal twins, Mariana and Jesus, played by Cierra Ramirez and Jake T. Austin who used to be their foster kids. And our protagonist, Callie, played by Maia Mitchell rounds out the cast. Before I watched the show I wondered, could they really pull off all the roles without falling into tokenism?

Thankfully, I was pleassantly surprised. If you watch the show, you will see that there are so many layers to the characters that you really begin to feel for them and relate to them as human beings. The acting is superb overall, with each actor adding depth to the characters they portray. By the end of the hour (which flew by) I saw them as a regular family facing struggles like any other. If that is the message the show's creators were trying to send out, I would say they succeeded.

My only complaint would be (and this probably not a problem for anyone else but me) is the lack of chemistry between Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum). I wonder if they did this on purpose?

Please be advised, due to violent scenes, this show is for older children.

Photo Credits

The Fosters logo was taken from here.

Friday, May 31, 2013

International Friday: Upin & Ipin and Friends Episode 1, Season 5

Welcome to the first "International Friday" post at Eating Kids' Media! Here we will explore kids' media around the world, because let's face it-- the world is wide and interesting!
Let's get blabbing!

I finally learned how to center a photo!

Upin & Ipin is a 3D-animated cartoon about five-year-old twin boys who live with their sister and grandmother in a village in Malaysia. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this show. I've seen bits and pieces of it, thanks to my Indonesian relatives (Upin and Ipin is also broadcast in Indonesia, oddly enough, with Indonesian subtitles) but I've never actually paid attention (Upin and Ipin's voices always annoyed me) so I always ended up leaving the room after five minutes. But something inside me said it might be a good topic to explore, so here we are today.

The episode I chose to watch was Episode 1, Season 5, "Belajar Lagi?" (Study again?). I chose this episode at random, because I knew that the characters don't age, like the Simpsons, so it wouldn't matter which episode I watched. In this episode, Upin and Ipin come back to school after an unnamed school holiday. There's lots of drama and excitement as they prepare for school, see their newly-renovated classroom, catch up with old friends, and play a game in school. After watching this 20 minute episode, I can honestly say that I am an Upin and Ipin convert.

Upin and Ipin is just pure kid fun. They might be Malaysian kids, but they act like any other kid on the planet. Everything about life is amazing to them, from the shoe polish that their sister uses on their shoes, to the way their new classroom shines. This show is a celebration of the magic of being a kid, without being too heavy-handed or moralistic. My favorite scene, and this is a SPOILER ALERT, in case you were thinking of watching, is when their classmate, Mail walks in to the classroom like a cowboy. When Mail's classmates ask him what's wrong, there is a unified gasp of horror when he answers, "circumcision." Circumcision is an everyday thing in a Muslim-majority country like Malaysia. But to see it through the eyes of a child brings laughter and joy to even a jaded adult like me.

If you're looking for something different to watch with the little ones, or you just want a good laugh, I recommend Upin and Ipin. I would like to say one final thing, however. I am not familiar with the socio-political situation in Malaysia, but there was one character who gave me pause. Upin and Ipin's classmate, Jarjit, is a Sikh boy (evident from the turban he wears) with a booming, adult voice. I'm not exactly sure if this is a stereotype, or if this is meant to be derogatory. If anyone out there knows, feel free to drop me a line, and I will post your answer on this page.

Photo Credits

The image of Upin & Ipin was taken from here.

Coming soon! Let's get some print media up in here! Plus a guest blog (or two) from my writer/editor friend, Shabana! Stay tuned logged in!

Also, don't forget to comment, share a post, or email me. My electronic door is always open!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Gargoyles: Season One, Episode One

In the last post, I talked about Lego Ninjago, and how it's very heavily marketed toward boys. So I thought it would be nice to kick off the first "Throwback Thursday" post with a classic cartoon that crosses gender lines--the 1990s cartoon, Gargoyles.

I'll admit Gargoyles wasn't at the top of my list of throwbacks to review. But one day, when I was feeling nostalgic, I posted a Gargoyles video on Facebook (Yes, I'm outing myself--I'm a child of the 1990s!) All the people who commented on the video were female. Hmmmm, I thought. That's interesting. Using today's standards of what would make a good show "for girls" the show doesn't seem to have much girl appeal. Lots of fighting. No (cutesy) princesses. No pink. So what is it about Gargoyles that fans, both male and female, love?

The opening sequence of the first episode is action-packed, chock full of falling boulders, fire, and screaming people. It makes the viewer ask, "What the heck is going on?" Five seconds later, a beautiful but obviously strong woman detective comes on the scene, only identifying herself as "Maza." (I liked that they used a less-common Latin last name like Maza. The name firmly establishes her Latin identity without making her the token minority, which would have happened if they used a more common name like Lopez or Gomez). Maza's strong, yet attractive and not too overly-primped character makes the viewers want to know more about her and also gives the female viewers someone to identify with.

Edit I just checked the Wikipedia entry for Elisa Maza. It turns out that she is not Latina, but half-Nigerian, and half-Native American. Of course, this wasn't revealed in the first episode, which was the only episode I watched. According to the creators of the show, Maza's parents' relationship is supposed to parallel her later relationship with Goliath. Whoa! Inter-species love!

Flash backward to Scotland, A.D. 994. The origin of the Gargoyles is revealed. There's betrayal, murder, friendship, and true Gargoyle love all rolled into one. There's also tension between the Gargoyle and Human races. In spite of their service to the humans, the gargoyles are under constant threat of violence and vitriol. At one point, Goliath, the head honcho, wisely says, "It is human nature to fear what they don't understand."

So what's so great about Gargoyles? Everything! Both male and female fans can enjoy the great story, wise lessons, deep characterization, interesting relationships, and of course, action. It's a cartoon worth watching. No pink or token characters required.

To purchase Gargoyles, visit Amazon.

Please be advised that due to violent content, Gargoyles may not be a cartoon for very young children. I would personally rate this a cartoon for kids 11 and up, but the best thing would be to watch it first before showing it to your child.

Photo Credits

The picture of Demona kicking butt was taken from here.