On our list of favorite female songwriters: Cynthia Weil. We have never lost that lovin’ feeling for her. And we are not kidding. Somewhere out there are other good female songwriters, but Weil, a Grammy award-winning and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, is a genius. Make that Genius.
Collaborating with her husband, Barry Mann, she has written countless standards. Our all-time favorite is “Blame It on the Bossa Nova”, a song that was a huge hit for Eydie Gorme, a friend we so sorely miss.
Weil has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (only the third woman to receive this honor in the non-performing category). She has been honored with multiple Grammy nominations and two Grammy awards for “Somewhere Out There,” which won the awards for “Motion Picture Song of the Year” and “Song of the Year.” Weil is so important in the history of pop music that she is featured as a real-life character in the Tony Award-winning musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
Weil. Such a novel woman. It’s only fitting, then, that her new children’s book, 806: A Novel (Tanglewood Publishing, $16.99), has a teen songwriter as its main character. The book hits shelves on March 13.
806: A Novel takes readers on a life-changing road trip with more than a few twists and turns. Taking on the thought-provoking topic of sperm donor kids seeking their father while facing challenges and disappointments along the way, the story is balanced by its humor, newfound familial relationships, and heartfelt moments. Teens will connect with KT, Jesse, and Gabe for different reasons during their journey as they race through the book to discover how everything turns out.
We told you she was a genius. By the way: Is it any wonder that “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”, is the most played song of the 20th century? I pray she will continue making her own kind of music.
We start a new chapter every time we get to read and cherish a new books. And we read and cherish many every year. It was tough, but we choose these as must-read, must-have for every library.
Walter and the Wallet (Eifrig Publishing, $14.99) Walter Whippingdale is having the worst day of his life. The girl he likes is making googly eyes at another boy in his class. He struck out during recess. He broke his favorite watch. A giant pimple appeared on his nose. And to top it off, he somehow managed to get mustard in his eye at lunch! Walking home from school, his head is hanging low. Which is precisely how Walter spots a wallet lying in the street . . . a wallet bursting with cash. Suddenly, his terrible day is about to change. But how? Cash in on this is a lovely, lyrical tale full of life lessons.
Ralphie, Always Loved (About Something Good , $14.99 or $7.99) will remind you of all that is good, and reaffirm your belief in love’s power to uplift and transform. Anyone who has felt a deep connection with their own beloved pet will find joy, kindness and light in Ralphie’s story; the book is perfect for sharing with little ones as well as friends and family. The cat’s meow! aboutsomethinggood.com/ralphie-always-loved/
The Global Warming Express (Terra Nova Books, $14.99) Whoever thought such an important issue could make for a fabulous kid’s book? We have placed the Earth in peril—through pollution, global warming, oil spills and our general disrespect and neglect of the environment. Those who respond first are the animals. There is The Fluff, a penguin; Creamy, a harp seal; Tomás, a black bear; Flora, a polar bear; and Lady Athabasca, a whooping crane, among others. The animals have all suffered from destruction to their habitats and neglect of the environment, and want to do something about it. They jump on a magical train powered by positive thoughts and take off to let others know about the problems Earth’s creatures are facing. This is the perfect book to begin conversations, educate kids and parents, and even help start up school programs in every neighborhood. terranovabooks.com/the-global-warming-express.html
Whenever the wind breaks, poor Argyle Fox has a tough time. With his signature style, he wants to play outside on a springtime day, but the wind is wreaking havoc with his fun and games. As soon as he builds a card tower, climbs into a giant spider web, or takes up his pirate sword, here comes the wind: Wooosh! Mama Fox tells grumpy Argyle that if he thinks long enough, he will come up with something to do. Following his mother’s suggestion and inspired by her knitting, he works all the pieces of his day together and creates the perfect solution. Argyle’s story, warmly told in Argyle Fox (Tanglewood Publishing, $17.99) shows that failure is often a path to success and celebrates perseverance, creative thinking, and an old-fashioned springtime activity. tanglewoodbooks.com/books/picture-books/argyle-fox/
We don’t usually recommend pop-up books for wee ones since inquisitive minds (and hands!) destroy such wondersl We make an exception with The Nutcracker: A Papercut Pop-Up Book (Thames & Hudson, $19.95), knowing parents and grandparents will protect papercut artist Shobhna Patel’s exquisite retelling of Tchaikovsky’s ballet using an entirely new pop-up technique featuring dazzling laser-cut illustrations that will enchant readers young and old. Patel has invented a new paper-engineering technique called the “paperscope,” which is used for the first time in this charming book. The book features four pop-up paperscopes that spring when the reader presses each paperscope down with their hand to reveal the scene hidden within. The effect is one of a magical series of stage sets, recalling the story’s origins as a ballet. Simply magnificent!
Public Media Distribution and PBS Distribution have enough great DVDs to fill 1,367 stockings and appeal to the young (and young-at-heart). Three faves: We loved Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small: Play Date With Miffy, an all-new DVD from the lovable and popular children’s Nick Jr. TV series. Children will enjoy watching Miffy and her friends Melanie and Grunty as they embark on adventures and new experiences, sing memorable songs and have fun–all the while learning about kindness, respect, and friendship. Miffy and friends jump in puddles, take a ballet lesson, play hide and seek and much more in these 11 fun-filled playtime adventures. We also loved Wild Kratts: Wild Winter Creatures! Join Martin Kratt and Chris Kratt as they embark on four snowy winter adventures from their hit PBS KIDS series. Chris and Martin continue to face Zach Varmitech when he kidnaps a polar bear cub and a walrus calf, and again when he threatens to use an entire walrus herd to mine precious pearls for Donita Donata’s fashion line. Entertaining and educational. Super Why: Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairytale Adventurestakes Super Readers on four classic adventures. You will especially love the Sleeping Beauty segment. The Super Readers travel into the famous story of Sleeping Beauty to speak with a Princess who loves sleeping just as much as Princess Pea loves tea parties!
Disney Book Group has oodles of nifty books for the wee ones. Disney Baby: My First Christmas($8.99)introduces Baby to the wonders of Christmas with Mickey and friends. From sticky candy canes to fluffy white snow, Baby will delight in the touch and feel elements of this engaging board book. Join Olaf on a fantastic adventure inOlaf’s Frozen Adventure Olaf’s Journey ($12.99), a board book featuring LED lights showing through every page. In The Twelve Days of Christmas ($16.99), Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-Winning Greg Pizzoli’s pitch-perfect humor gives this classic carol new life. As more and more gifts show up in the story, fans of Greg’s previous books will love identifying familiar animals. This hilarious interpretation with festive foil on the cover makes for a perfect holiday gift. When a series of animals come knocking at the door seeking a warm place to sleep, there’s always room for one more!William’s Winter Nap ($17.99) is the perfect read-aloud for a cold winter night. Linda Ashman’s playful rhymes, paired with Chuck Groenink’s irresistible animal illustrations, will have young readers cuddling up to this book with their favorite stuffed animals at bedtime. Celebrate the spirit of the season withMickey’s Christmas Storybook Treasury ($30), a collectible Mickey & Friends volume featuring four beautifully illustrated Christmas stories: “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” “Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s Christmas Wish,” “Donald’s Christmas Tree” and “The Gift of the Magi.” Bring home the timeless appeal of Disney storytelling and experience the magic again and again. Who doesn’t love the holidays? Twinkling lights, merry carolers, the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and the alien creature battling your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man? Welcome to the exciting world of Marvel’s Super Hero Adventures!
In Deck the Malls ($4.99), the first book in the series, join Spider-Man and his amazing arachnid ally Spider-Gwen as they take on the alien menace known as Venom. Will Spider-Man outrun Venom before the creature can steal his powers? Will Spider-Gwen figure out Venom’s weakness before it’s too late? Will the spider-friends save the day in time to finish their holiday shopping? It’s anything but a silent night this festive season. Art of Coloring: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas ($15.99) These images are ideal for adding your own brand of color and style. Perfect for cultivating creativity, relaxation, and focus, these pages are filled with artwork evocative of the delightfully frightful world of Jack Skellington. Six Words Fresh Off the Boat captures hundreds of takes on the immigration experience, from every-day people as well as world-famous celebrities including Aziz Ansari, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Julianne Moore, Mario Batali, George Takei, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Billy Collins and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This book will have you thinking in sixes and challenging others to share six words about their lives. First premiering on Broadway in November 13, 1997, Disney’s award-winning “Best Musical” The Lion King celebrated its 20th anniversary in November. Now a veteran actor to the musical, Alton Fitzgerald White—the longest running “Mufasa”—reflects on his own life, career, and the rich lore of The Lion King, in My Pride: Mastering Life’s Daily Performance.
Inspired by the iconic series, Kim Smith’s adorable new picture book imagines what Scully and Mulder would be like as children camping out in a backyard filled with strange lights, sounds and… aliens? When it first aired, The X-Files was one of the most popular sci-fi TV shows in American television, lasting nine seasons and two feature films. With 2016’s revival season and production for the 2018 season of The X-Files set to begin this summer, excitement for the series continues to grow.
The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird (Quirk Books ($18.99) is a great way for parents to share one of their favorite TV shows and the picture book would be a great addition to any Halloween coverage you might be planning.
A bit (get it?) about apps. We know nada. We don’t even own a cell phone! But a very reliable source from way up North tells us about My Town Games, a company that has great and safe apps for kids. My Town: Pets is a purr-fect choice: It allows children to have fun adopting cats, dogs, birds and hamsters, caring for them, taking them to the vet–everything they would do with real pets–which will present the opportunity to learn animal interaction and responsibility that can carry over into their real lives. If they walk their dog at the park’s litter sand area, make sure they don’t just don’t forget to clean up the poop. An added bonus is connectivity of My Town games and with shared characters and places that can travel from one game to another, all part of the larger My Town family of apps. Another bonus: My Town: Pets received an endorsement from Kids First!, a program of The Coalition for Quality Children’s Media, a national, nonprofit organization founded in 1991 whose mission is to teach children critical viewing skills and to increase the visibility and availability of quality children’s media. So far, there are 22 titles in My Town’s library. Another neat app: My Little Princess: Stores. It allows children to open up a whole new digital dollhouse with new characters to dress up and test out the latest makeup trends and style. Find your characters’ best friend and go pick up food at the supermarket, or plan a party and pick up the items to celebrate with.
A trio of great games from (who else) Endless Games.
Name something everyone loves to play. If you said Family Feud, you’ve scored lots of points! Endless Games has released this nifty Family Feud 40th Anniversary Retro Edition Board Game, featuring the classic FF home version console. There are more than 500 survey questions, so every family will have ample chances to play . . . again and again and again. Richard Dawson’s kisses not included.
Remember that TV fave The Gig Short? What about that musical movie A Dorks Stink? No, we are not making typos. Nor are we losing our minds. We are simply having fun with Out of Order, a game in which film, TV, song and book titles are scrambled. Take away a letter here, add a letter there and in five steps the correct answer is revealed. So: The Gig Short = The Gig Shot = The Gag Shot = The Gang Shot = The Gang Show = The Gong Show. The Dorks Stink = A Dorks Sink = A Dorks Line = A Doris Line = A Chorus Line. Be the first to unscramble and identify the title to win.
The curtain has risen on series four of the popular Playbill Puzzles, a 1,000-piece jumble featuring Playbill covers of current Broadway plays and musicals. Even Mama Rose would would agree this family fun adventure is coming up roses . . . as long as the pieces fit.
Spinmaster continues to break the toy formula with these three marvel must-haves. Do your kids want a pet? A dazzling dog? A curious cat? A grunting guinea pig? Some frivolous fish? If your your apartment rental forbids such a childhood necessary or someone in the family is allergic, fret no more! Bring Zhu Zhu pet hamsters home. This battery-powered facmisle comes in nifty neon colors and the Hamster House Play Set is the perfect place for any Zhu to live. The set comes with an exclusive Winkie hamster and a slide and tunnel, making recreations of scenes from the TV show as A-B-C (or is it Z-H-U?). If he needs companions, add Mr. Squiggles, Roxie, Num Nums and the rest of the gang. Our pet favorite toy this season!
Kids can get ahead with the fun with the Airbrush Styling Studio. Tapping into the trend of online beauty tutorials, the Studio’s innovative cordless airbrush tool and colorful makeup sticks (washable markers) teaches them how to easily apply stylish hair and makeup on your very own model. Use the hair and makeup stencils to recreate your favorite looks from the Lookbook, and customize with gems and eye color stickers. Airbrush colorful highlights and attach the hair extensions wear the extensions in your own hair! Once the Lookbook styles are mastered, design your own using the free play templates and share your amazing Lookbook creations. Then, simply wash off to design all over again. It’s easy to create endless looks just like a real stylist with the Cool Maker Airbrush Styling Studio.
We spend way too much playing with M.A.X., a 12-inch tall advanced robot who is crammed with tons of fun, educational features. Designed for budding engineers and tinkerers 0 years and older, this robot-building kit offers a challenging yet rewarding build consisting of 332 parts. Once he’s assembled, M.A.X. functions as a friendly robot companion and personal assistant. He engages kids in conversation, learns from every interaction, remembers important dates, and more. He even features a built-in gaming platform. Customizable programming allows kids to personalize M.A.X. to meet their own specifications so that every assembled M.A.X. robot is truly one of a kind. And like all Meccano kits, M.A.X. can be reassembled into a huge variety of other robotics toys.
We came across two books meant for the wee ones, but we simply cannot stop reading them ourselves. No wonder we are young-at-heart!
Carrot and Pea (HMH Books for Young Readers, $16.99) is a charming and creative celebration of embracing differences and standing out in a crowd that will teach and remind everyone that our differences make us unique and wonderful . . . and most important, they make us, us.
Colin is tall and orange. He is definitely not a pea. He’s a carrot. He has nothing in common with his friend Lee, a round, green pea. He can’t roll, or bounce. In fact, Colin can’t do any of the things Lee and his pea pals can do. How can Colin and Lee ever be friends?
Morag Hood has written stories and painted pictures since childhood, and this delight is her debut picture book. She also created the nifty artwork, collaged from orange and green plastic grocery bags.
Next up: Frankie is an adorable shelter puppy who has just arrived at his new home. He’s so excited by the things he finds . . . A new home! A new bed! A new ball!
But wait… another dog already lives here. His name is Nico. That’s Nico’s home. Nico’s bed. Nico’s ball.
It’s not easy being the new dog in the house. Will Frankie be able to find his place here too?
Humorous and heartfelt, Frankie (HMH Books for Young Readers, $12.99), the latest from Geisel Honor-winning author-illustrator Mary Sullivan, introduces not one, but two new dogs with big personalities as they struggle to get along and find their places in the pack. The whimsical and wondrous book is based on her real-life experience. Frankie will surely win over fans of Sullivan’s previous books, Ball and Treat, as well as the hearts of dog-lovers everywhere.
Sullivan has donated a portion of sales to the Austin (Texas) Pets Alive, the shelter that first took (the real) Frankie in and helped him find a new permanent home!
Too many TV stations air too many turkeys on Thanksgiving. Never PBS. After your day of thanks, give your local public television thanks for airing L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.
This is the classic Lucy Maud Montgomery story that tells the tale of Anne Shirley, a precocious young girl taken from an orphanage and placed in the care of the uptight Marilla Cuthbert and her brother, Matthew. The conservative Marilla has a profound effect on the adventurous Anne and creates a journey of learning and personal engagement that has resonated with generations since L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908. The book remains an iconic work of Canadian literature and has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into 20 languages.
Directed by John Kent Harrison and based on the original script by Susan Coyne, this adaptation, filmed in Canada, stars critically acclaimedMartin Sheen, who portrays Matthew Cuthbert, one half of the brother-sister couple who care for Anne Shirley.
Some people Anne, and not Annie, is the most famous in the world. Whatever. Ella Ballentine stars as Anne in the two-hour, made-for-TV movie. “My mom read Anne of Green Gables to me when I was younger,” Ella recalls. “And every now and then the cartoon came on TV, so I saw little bits of that. Then I did an episode of Reign on the CW, and Megan Follows is on that. I didn’t have a scene with her, but my mom was telling me, ‘Oh, you know, she played Anne of Green Gables before.’ And I thought, ‘How cool is it to be Anne of Green Gables?’ So then when there was the audition for this, I got really excited.
Is there anything specific in today’s world that she would miss if she could go back in time to the late 1800s, when Anne of Green Gables is set?
Without an eye on an iPhone: “Modern hospitals,” she says.
Maybe she knows that we will remind you the PBS film is just that the doctor ordered? Can’t wait? PBS Distribution offers it on DVD on November 8.
We are always encouraging people to start new chapters in their lives. Especially when it comes to reading . . . and we mean reading real books, those hold-them-in-your-hands treasures, not “reading” on those annoying electronic devices that should be banned to some unreachable nook somewhere. Kids must be taught the importance of reading real books at an early age. We discovered tk books that belong in every wee one’s library. The ages? Just mere guidelines, dear readers, since we believe they are for the young and young-at-heart.
From the team behind the best-selling Atlas of Adventures comes a new, nifty tome. Head off on a journey of discovery with Atlas of Animal Adventures (Wide Eyed Editions, $30), a book that collects nature’s most unmissable events from between the two poles, including epic migrations, extraordinary behaviors and Herculean habits. Find hundreds of things to spot and learn new facts about every animal. Perfect for ages 6 to 9.
Your imagination will be your guide as you discover 12 clever cardboard craft projects for the entire family. DIY Box Creations(Walter Foster Jr., $9.95)includes a variety of out-of-the-box cardboard creations for families to build together, transforming leftover boxes into an assortment of step-by-step projects. From planes, trains, forts, lemonade stands, and puppet theaters, have fun building memories and creativity with each step. Perfect for ages 8 to 12.
Raffi is a shy boy who doesn’t like noisy games and is often teased at school. When he gets the idea of making a scarf for his dad’s birthday, he is full of enthusiasm even though the other children think it’s girly to knit. Then the day draws near for the school pageant, and there is one big problem; there’s no costume for the prince.
And that’s when Raffi has his most brilliant idea of all: to make a prince’s cape. On the day of the pageant, Raffi’s cape is the star of the show. The education and entertainment is found in Made by Raffi (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, $9.99). Perfect for ages 6 to 9.
Fun with Stitchables (Walter Foster Jr. , $14.95)introduces young crafters to the fun of simple embroidery. Quick and easy cross stitch sewing cards are included with punched holes for easy stitching, as well as a 16-page project book with instructions for designing your own unique stitching patterns and color combinations.
A project gallery shows examples of what the hand-stitched cards can become once they are complete: everything from ornaments to greeting cards. The simple stitching patterns taught in this book promote growth and development, hand-eye coordination, as well as creativity and imagination. Fun with Stitchables will entertain and delight crafters of all ages and inspire a lifelong love of embroidery.
Kids love things dirty and stinky and yucky and mucky. Think of mudpies, puddle jumping, food fights. (Now that I think of it, many adults like such messy moments.) We are sure that the new Amazon Original Kids Series, The Stinky & Dirty Show, premiering on September 2, is going to be a five-star winner, even if mudpies, puddle jumping and food fights are reserved for the older folks.
Based on the popular I Stink! books by Kate & Jim McMullan, garbage truck Stinky (voiced by Jaden Betts) and backhoe loader Dirty (voiced by Jacob Guenther) are a dynamic and hilarious duo who use critical thinking, creativity and resourcefulness to help their other best friends and the town of Go City. There’s no problem too big for the best friends; when things don’t go as expected, they know asking “what if” can lead to success. Stinky & Dirty teach our kids values that they should be learning at an early age. They will learn to never give up, and this is reinforced by negotiation and social problem solving.
The series features original music from Dan Bern and celebrity voice talent, including Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Lynch, Andy Richter, Joan Cusack and Wallace Shawn.
The pilot episode, rated 4.8 stars by customers with 86% 5-star reviews, is available to stream and download now, with nine additional episodes to debut next month, exclusively for Prime members via the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices including Fire TV, mobile devices and online—Prime members can also download the series to mobile devices for offline viewing.
“The popular books have laid the groundwork for a beautifully inspiring television series for preschoolers that instills one of the most important life skills—resourcefulness,” coos Tara Sorensen, Head of Kids Programming at Amazon Studios. “We are thrilled to bring to our customers, who embraced the pilot, a full season of The Stinky & Dirty Show and are proud be collaborating with Kate, Jim, Guy and Jessica as well as Dan Bern and a very recognizable celebrity voice cast on this upbeat and empowering show.”
The first season of The Stinky & Dirty Show will be available for Prime members to stream and enjoy using the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices including Amazon Fire TV, and mobile devices, or online at Amazon.com/originals, at no additional cost to their membership. Customers who are not already a Prime member can sign up for a free trial at www.amazon.com/prime. For a list of all Amazon Video compatible devices, visit www.amazon.com/howtostream. The Stinky & Dirty Show will also be available as part of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, the all-you-can-eat subscription service designed from the ground up for kids. FreeTime Unlimited is available exclusively on Amazon devices including Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, and a year-long subscription is included with every Fire Kids Edition.
Jupiter, Pluto and two stunning sets of U.S. postal stamps. In recent weeks, the solar system and certain planets have been taking center stage, even if Jupiter’s stage (when the Earth and Jupiter are at their closest point, 365 million miles) and Pluto’s stage is 4.67 billion miles miles away.
Anyone can take a journey from your doorstep into outer space with A Journey Through Space ( QEB Publishing, $16.95).Zoom through the solar system, discovering satellites, comets and asteroids along the way. Explore craters on Mars, do the moonwalk around Jupiter and get a close-up view of Saturn’s amazing rings. You’re even warned not to travel too close to the Sun.
The book, packed with lively illustrations to reveal our amazing universe, is perfect for a parent and child to read together or to explore independently. Bonus: The book includes a dust jacket that unfolds into a poster.
QEB Publishing has released a second book that’s outer space! Get ready to explore the magical night sky. Find out everything there is to know about what you can spot in the sky, such as how explorers used constellations as a form of navigation. Discover the best time to spot comets and why the Moon’s appearance has changed over time. Night Sky Watcher ($12.95) includes everything from the Sun to the Moon, to the stars and planets.
Symbols are used within the book to show what can be seen in the northern and southern hemispheres, allowing readers to view exactly what they can see in the sky, regardless of their location. The book comes with a zipper slipcase, so you can take it on all your adventures!
What a marvel! Wolf Tales: Read & Play Puppet Theater (Walter Foster Jr., $14.95) allows you to not only read your favorite fairy tales, but also act them out on stage. The box for the Wolf Tales can be used as a stage and contains puppets, set pieces and a book of three fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf and the Young Kids and The Three Little Pigs.
Each tale includes a shortened script and will capture the attention of event the youngest children. Just set up the pieces, get the puppets ready, and let the performance begin. The boxed set contains: a fold-out puppet theater, a book of three fairy tales with shortened scripts and prompts, 5 colorful set backdrops and 9 double-sided paper puppets. A four-star delight!
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some