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  • Grown Ups

    Family Film ReviewsGrown Ups

    On Fourth of July weekend, five childhood friends are attending a funeral. Oh wait, that doesn’t sound like much fun. Let’s start again: five childhood friends use the passing of their beloved middle school basketball coach as a reason to reunite and remember his advice, that they “play the game of life the same way” they played their big championship victory. That way, he urges them back in 1978, “when the final buzzer of life goes off, you’ll have no regrets.”

  • A Balloon for Isabel

    Book ReviewsA Balloon for Isabel

    Isabel is a porcupine about to graduate from preschool and is quite upset that all her animal classmates will get balloons except for the porcupines, who will get bookmarks. When teacher Ms. Quill, also a porcupine as the name hints, explains that “balloons plus porcupines equal trouble,” Isabel won’t take no for an answer. So she begins her quest to find a solution that would allow her to have a balloon. Possible solutions are strapping pillows on her head and wrapping a fellow porcupine in bubble wrap. Needless to say, these don’t work. The resourceful little porcupine scores big when she…

  • Monster High

    Real ReviewsMonster High

    I am so excited and proud to review Mattel’s soon-to-be hottest line “Monster High.” I don’t want to blow your mind, but it’s about girls who are monsters and also in high school. Sound odd? Not at all for the students at Monster High. The dolls hit stores in July and are just the beginning for Mattel. The toy giant is also planning a new line of clothing at tween apparel store Justice. In the fall, the young adult publishers Little, Brown & Co., who are behind Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, will be publishing the first of six Monster High books written by Lisi Harrison,…

  • Toy Story 3

    Family Film ReviewsToy Story 3

    It’s good to be toys. At least that’s the first thought offered up in Toy Story 3, as Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) chase down a runaway train full of orphans (played by a squad of green- and pink-haired trolls). And just when the situation looks most dire, yet another toy—Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) booms in to rescue everyone. It’s fun, it’s rambunctious, and it looks pretty endless. When you’re a toy and played with, you can be heroic and happy every day. Even when you play a villain, you know it’s a game, and you’ll be back into the joyful…

  • The Daddy Mountain

    Book ReviewsThe Daddy Mountain

    From a young child’s perspective, climbing just about anything seems like climbing a mountain and what could be more fun than conquering a “daddy mountain”? This wonderfully simplistic book follows the “expedition” of a young girl from base camp—dad’s feet—all the way to the summit. Like any young mountaineer, this girl builds up energy with some of her favorite fruit juice and a little courage. She takes us on her climb, with a stream-of-consciousness narrative, past the knees, over the belt and on up the shirt. She talks herself through the challenging moments, noting…

  • The Karate Kid

    Family Film ReviewsThe Karate Kid

    Eleven-year-old Dre (Jaden Smith) is miserable as The Karate Kid begins. He and his mother (Taraji P. Henson) are moving from Detroit, the only home he’s ever known, to Beijing. She’s been transferred for work and, more importantly, as she puts it, they’re going to start a new life, following the death of his father.

  • Super Mario Galaxy 2

    Video Game ReviewsSuper Mario Galaxy 2

    It’s hard to believe that it has been three years since the first Super Mario Galaxy was released. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were transported to this strange and wacky galaxy that only Nintendo could conceive. Super Mario Galaxy 2, the sequel to the 2007 game, brings us more out-of-this (or any other) world adventures set among awesome, gravity-defying levels with spaced-out creatures and over-the-top obstacles.

  • F is for Flag

    Book ReviewsF is for Flag

    Our flag is the United States’ most important symbol of freedom and unity, and this book provides a simple introduction to it for kids. Basic language and concepts make a nice story out of the meaning of our flag, which author Wendy Cheyette Lewison poetically describes is “just like a hand waving hello.” Kids will learn some places where our flag is waved, such as in school and other public venues, as well as some of its early history. Ms. Lewison also introduces ways we pay our respect to the flag by mentioning the Pledge of Allegiance, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and of course, Flag…

  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

    Book ReviewsIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie

    This “modern classic” celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2010! Giving a mouse a cookie sounds quite simple, but the mouse in Laura Numeroff’s creative tale is quite complex. You might even say he is high maintenance! A nice young boy invites the mouse into his house for a cookie and finds himself indulging the mouse in series of connected requests beginning with a glass of milk and then a straw. The requests lead us through a chain of events that includes, among many things, a hair cut, house-cleaning spree and coloring session, returning us to the fridge where the mouse requests a second glass of…

  • Aqua Sand

    Real ReviewsAqua Sand

    I got home from work and my 4-year-old daughter Olivia and her 6-year-old cousin Lauren were waiting for me with big smiles on their faces. I saw the Time to Play box ripped to shreds on the floor and knew that the Aqua Sand had been delivered. The first thing my daughter asked me was, “Can Lauren and I play with the Aqua Sand? We want to try to make castles like the commercial.” Since they asked so nicely, I decided to let them try it. We opened the package and the Aqua Sand kit came with a water container, a cardboard background, two bottles of sand, a nozzle, a sculpting/shovel-net tool, a castle…