Book Review

All Aboard The London Bus

All Aboard The London Bus

Written by Patty Toht

Illustrated by Sam Usher

Age Range: 5-8

 

As a family of four spend a day exploring London, fun, child-friendly poems introduce readers to our wonderful capital city, and all its secrets. Well-known landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye, plus inescapable features like rain and taking tea, all get Patty Toh...

Written by Patty Toht

Illustrated by Sam Usher

Age Range: 5-8

 

As a family of four spend a day exploring London, fun, child-friendly poems introduce readers to our wonderful capital city, and all its secrets. Well-known landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye, plus inescapable features like rain and taking tea, all get Patty Toht’s witty treatment. Non-fiction facts provide more information about the subjects, while rising star Sam Usher brings them to life with his signature style and humour. This gorgeous celebration of London will be loved by both tourists and those who call the city home.

 

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site

Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Age Range: 2 – 5 years

What to expect: Trucks, Cooperation, Rhyme, Construction Equipment

 

It’s time to hop out of the granny lane and hammer down in the fast lane! From the creators of the #1 bestseller Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, comes another whiz-bang, rhym...

Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Age Range: 2 – 5 years

What to expect: Trucks, Cooperation, Rhyme, Construction Equipment

 

It’s time to hop out of the granny lane and hammer down in the fast lane! From the creators of the #1 bestseller Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, comes another whiz-bang, rhyming picture book by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. This time it’s a rise-and-shine tale in which the trucks must start a brand new job, working together with their can-do attitudes to get the job done: The plan’s unrolled. They stare in awe—/the biggest thing they ever saw.

Sherri Duskey Rinker’s upbeat text bounces readers along on an enjoyable ride—the words roll so easily off the tongue and the onomatopoeia scattered throughout begs for readers to join in during a read-aloud session. The tone is not only set through the words and pictures, but also through pace. Sherri knows when to add moments of energy and moments of pause: It’s time to S-T-R-E-T-C-H, roll out of bed,/and gear up for the day ahead!  And thanks to the inclusion of female characters like Flatbed and Skid; there is no gender bias at this construction site. Flatbed is “Mighty” and Skid is small and quick and ready to lend a hand to ‘Dozer: Bulldozer’s heavy, wide, and grand. / He’ll push and plow to clear the land . . . / but even he can use a hand!

Rendered in Neocolor wax oil pastels on Mi-Teintes paper, some of the illustrations cover double page spreads, while others offer multiple close ups to show off the emotive personas of each truck. From dawn to dusk, each page beautifully glows in varying shades to reflect the time of day.

There is no doubt that truck aficionados and gear jammers everywhere are going to be sold on this fully loaded book, but who else might enjoy it? If you’re looking for a fast and fun tale that promotes teamwork, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site is a winner! Plus, it also doubles as a bedtime book. Whachyathank?

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Written by Drew Daywalt

Illustrated by Adam Rex

Age range: 4+

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

 

The legend of rock paper scissors imagines that Rock, Paper, and Scissors were once warriors battling in their respective kingdoms, looking for worthy foes. Each of them vanquishes all others. Rock smooshes an apricot, Paper defeats a printer by causing...

Written by Drew Daywalt

Illustrated by Adam Rex

Age range: 4+

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

 

The legend of rock paper scissors imagines that Rock, Paper, and Scissors were once warriors battling in their respective kingdoms, looking for worthy foes. Each of them vanquishes all others. Rock smooshes an apricot, Paper defeats a printer by causing a paper jam, and Scissors lays waste to a roll of tape. Finally, they meet each other, and kids can predict the outcome: Rock defeats Scissors, Paper defeats Rock, and Scissors defeats Paper.

Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

Triangle

Triangle

Written by Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Age Range:  5+

Publisher: Candlewick Press

The title character TRIANGLE lives in a triangle-shaped house with a triangular door. He decides to go visit his friend Square and play a "sneaky trick" on him. To get there, he has to walk through a stretch of "shapes with no names," and then to "a ...

Written by Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Age Range:  5+

Publisher: Candlewick Press

The title character TRIANGLE lives in a triangle-shaped house with a triangular door. He decides to go visit his friend Square and play a "sneaky trick" on him. To get there, he has to walk through a stretch of "shapes with no names," and then to "a place where there were squares." He arrives at Square's square house, walks up to Square's square door and, because he knows that Square's afraid of snakes, he hisses. Square, angry, chases Triangle back to his house. But when he tries to run through the triangular door, he gets stuck, blocking the light. Now it's Triangle's turn to be afraid since he's afraid of the dark. Square says, "Now I have played a sneaky trick on you! You see, Triangle, this was my plan all along." The book ends with the question, "But do you really believe it?" Through his experiences they will be able to see themselves and hopefully begin their own path to self-confidence.

 

 

Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

Hello, Universe

Hello, Universe

Written by Erin Entrada Kelly 

Illustrated by Isabel Roxas 

Age Range:  5+

What to expect: Growing Up & Facts of Life

 

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, bra...

Written by Erin Entrada Kelly 

Illustrated by Isabel Roxas 

Age Range:  5+

What to expect: Growing Up & Facts of Life

 

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Sometimes four can do what one cannot. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. The acclaimed author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls writes with an authentic, humorous, and irresistible tween voice that will appeal to fans of Thanhha Lai and Rita Williams-Garcia.Through his experiences they will be able to see themselves and hopefully begin their own path to self-confidence.

 

 

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

Flying Lessons and Other Stories

Flying Lessons and Other Stories

Age: +9

Riveting collection reflects common dreams, struggles.

Author: Ellen Oh

Genre: Short Stories

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: January 3, 2017

 

 

In FLYING LESSONS AND OTHER STORIES, 10 celebrated authors create short stories for kids in ...

Age: +9

Riveting collection reflects common dreams, struggles.

Author: Ellen Oh

Genre: Short Stories

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: January 3, 2017

 

 

In FLYING LESSONS AND OTHER STORIES10 celebrated authors create short stories for kids in a variety of genres and reflecting a variety of perspectives. Some stories focus on sports or family; others weave magical folktales; some have heartache and triumph. Each story features characters of different ethnicities, genders, orientation, family makeup, and more, but those differences are not what's highlighted. Kids' common dreams, pain, family struggles, and excitements are conveyed in each story, giving every reader -- whether the character looks like the reader or not -- something to identify with, learn about, and explore.

 

Each story in this riveting collection is a gem that parents and kids alike will enjoy reading again and again. The stories are exciting, endearing, thoughtful, and refreshingly normal. Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh, cofounder of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, features diverse characters, authors, subjects, and perspectives. But perhaps the most wonderful aspect of this collection is that race, creed, sexual orientation, and other such characteristics are not the main drivers of the stories. Some are simply slice-of-life tales that portray race and sexual orientation as being a part of everyday life -- a refreshing outlook often missing from stories that feature diverse characters.

Editor Oh and the all-star roster of authors show that books and stories featuring diverse characters and situations have no limits in terms of subject matter, time period, genre, or writing style.

 

Parents need to know Flying Lessons and Other Stories is a collection edited by Ellen Oh, co-founder of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. It features work by award-winning authors Kwame Alexander, Matt de la Peña, Walter Dean Meyers, Grace Lin, and Jacqueline Woodson, among others. There are some instances of bullying, child slavery (in an earlier time period), characters dealing with racial stereotypes, budding possible same-sex and heterosexual crushes, the death of a parent, and alcoholism in a parent. 

 

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

 

Courageous Gilbert The Groundhog

Courageous Gilbert The Groundhog

Courageous Gilbert The Groundhog

Written by Regina E. McCarthy

Illustrated by Sue Dettman

Age Range:  5+

Publisher: Blue Stone Healing Books (2015)

What to expect: Animals, Emotions, Bullying, Courage, Friendship,

 

Gilbert is a shy groundhog with many interests. He loves to collects things like cars, action figu...

Courageous Gilbert The Groundhog

Written by Regina E. McCarthy

Illustrated by Sue Dettman

Age Range:  5+

Publisher: Blue Stone Healing Books (2015)

What to expect: Animals, Emotions, Bullying, Courage, Friendship,

 

Gilbert is a shy groundhog with many interests. He loves to collects things like cars, action figures, and rocks; and he also loves music and singing. Peter Opossum, a fellow schoolmate, teases Gilbert about his singing and no one ever makes space for him at the lunch table. One day when Gilbert is feeling very upset, he runs across the playground and climbs an oak tree in an attempt to escape the situation. To his astonishment, the wise tree talks. The tree encourages Gilbert to not focus on changing Peter, but to find a way to feel better inside and out. The tree begins with teaching him how to breathe deeply through a special rhyme and works on building Gilbert’s self-confidence. As Gilbert practices his new skills, his world begins to open up and a new friendship blossoms.

Regina E. McCarthy’s experience as a Holistic Psychotherapist shines through in this fictitious story that is designed to educate children in a safe and enjoyable way about navigating emotions and standing up to bullies. The author carefully crafted her story to show that the process of identifying and expressing feelings, and building self-confidence takes time. Parents will find her message at the end of the book a useful resource. The colorful pictures illustrate Gilbert’s emotions clearly, making it easy for the reader to digest the information and empathize with him.

Anyone, ages 5 and up, that has trouble with emotions or that is experiencing bullying will feel empowered by Gilbert. Through his experiences they will be able to see themselves and hopefully begin their own path to self-confidence.

 

 

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

If You Were Me And Lived In … The Ancient Mali Empire

If You Were Me And Lived In … The Ancient Mali Empire

If You Were Me And Lived In … The Ancient Mali Empire

Written by Carole P. Roman

Illustrated by Mateya Arkova

Age Range: 7-10

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2016)

What to expect: History, Social Studies

 

This latest book in award-winning author Carole P. Roman’s If You...

If You Were Me And Lived In … The Ancient Mali Empire

Written by Carole P. Roman

Illustrated by Mateya Arkova

Age Range: 7-10

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2016)

What to expect: History, Social Studies

 

This latest book in award-winning author Carole P. Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived In … series is set at the height of the Mali Empire, around 1332. Readers get to experience Mali, which means hippopotamus in the Mandinka language, as a vital trade center and a world power.

Readers will learn about this civilization and what it would have been like to live as a young girl in the capital, Niani. Roman explores a vast array of things throughout the book, including faith, dwellings, family dynamics, the dry desert-like climate, food, currency, trading, and important places such as Timbuktu. There is even a visit to the royal court to see the king in his fine clothing and experience important happenings.

The purpose of this book is to become educated on the Ancient Mali Empire, however, Roman not only educates, she entertains with her fascinating storytelling that will enthrall readers. As the Mali civilization had no written language during this time period, its storytellers with long memories told history. Roman builds this into her own storytelling with skill:

“The king nodded, and your grandfather cleared his throat to start the story. He took a deep breath then began the great tale of Mandinka people. Your grandfather sang in a booming voice that he received his knowledge from his father, who learned it from his own father going back in time to when the people made their lives on the banks of the Niger River.”

If You Were Me and Lived in … the Ancient Mali Empire is yet another great addition to this delightfully illustrated edutainment series for children ages 7 and up.

 

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

We Found A Hat

We Found A Hat

We Found A Hat

Written by Jon Klassen

Age Range: 2 and up

Publisher: Candlewick Press

What to expect: Friendship, Kindness, Funny

 

In this hilarious third installment of Jon Klassen’s award-winning trilogy, a hat could potentially tear two turtle friends apart. 

Jon Klassen is the author and illustra...

We Found A Hat

Written by Jon Klassen

Age Range: 2 and up

Publisher: Candlewick Press

What to expect: Friendship, Kindness, Funny

 

In this hilarious third installment of Jon Klassen’s award-winning trilogy, a hat could potentially tear two turtle friends apart. 

Jon Klassen is the author and illustrator behind the very popular I WANT MY HAT BACK and THIS IS NOT MY HAT. WE FOUND A HAT continues the journey of cute animals finding or stealing hats. In this book two little turtles, clearly best friends who do everything from sleep to watch sunsets together, find a hat. It is beautiful. It looks great on both of them. It fits well. But, alas, there is but one.

We Found a Hat Illustration

“There is only one thing to do. We must leave the hat here and forget that we found it,” the second turtle says. It wouldn’t be right for only one of them to have a hat, no matter how great it is. The first turtle isn’t too sure, and his very expressive little eyes keep a wary watch on that amazing hat as they fall asleep. Will he take the hat for himself, or will he realize that his friendship, and their dreams, are worth more than even the best hat in the world?

We Found a Hat Illustration 2

Fans of previous books will absolutely love this third installment, and new readers will go back and get the first two. WE FOUND A HAT is the best book in the series. It is surprisingly sweet, as well as funny. Klassen is a master of looks and expressions on illustrated animals. Even the littlest of readers can tell that the first turtle is not really looking at the sunset, and instead is coveting that hat. When you finish the book, children will immediately demand that you read it again. And again. Adults will likely find themselves choking up while reading it. 

After all, nothing is sweeter to have than friendship.

 

 

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar, By Emily MacKenzie

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar, By Emily MacKenzie

Written and illustrated by Emily MacKenzie

Age Range: 2-7

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (2016)

What to expect: Reading, Animals, Risk, Consequences, Acceptance, Libraries, Friendship

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar shows us that being different from your peers is perfectly fine…as long as you don’t break any laws.

...

Written and illustrated by Emily MacKenzie

Age Range: 2-7

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (2016)

What to expect: Reading, Animals, Risk, Consequences, Acceptance, Libraries, Friendship

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar shows us that being different from your peers is perfectly fine…as long as you don’t break any laws.

In her debut picture book, Emily MacKenzie introduces us to Ralfy, a rather uncommon rabbit. Rather than munch on carrots or romp in the meadow like most bunnies, Ralfy prefers to read (and read and read). Ralfy loves books not just for their ability to take him to new worlds, but for their smell and the sound of their pages turning. His passion for reading is so great that he begins to steal books from people’s homes. His thievery is soon discovered by Arthur, a young boy who loves books as much as Ralfy. Though no one believes him at first, Arthur eventually proves that Ralfy is a book burglar (with the help of a policeman and an amusingly clever rabbit line-up). Fortunately for Ralfy, Arthur forgives the misguided rabbit because he understands the powerful pull books can have on a person (or bunny). Arthur gives Ralfy a great gift; he takes him to the library, where he can (legally) satisfy his hunger for books.

MacKenzie’s text is sweetly amusing without being precious, and smart without being over-the-heads of children. Her watercolor and ink illustrations provide a pleasant, cartoon-like background to her story. The pictures perfectly accompany the text on the page without distracting from the plot. When you stop to appreciate the sophisticated ease of MacKenzie’s writing and illustrating style, it is hard to believe this is a debut book.

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar gives kids a healthy dose of fun and cuteness while highlighting the joy of reading. Beyond all the amusement, this book delivers a weighty and incredibly important message: never hide your true self. If you express yourself honestly and are proud of your interests, you will find others who share your passion.

 

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

I’m The Happiest, By Anna Shuttlewood

I’m The Happiest, By Anna Shuttlewood

Written and Illustrated by Anna Shuttlewood

Age Range: 3-6

Publisher: QEB Publishing (2016)

What to expect: animals, emotions, diversity

I’m the Happiest is a heartwarming story about a lovable raccoon who enthusiastically celebrates everyone’s differences and best qualities.

The story begins on a sunny day when the ...

Written and Illustrated by Anna Shuttlewood

Age Range: 3-6

Publisher: QEB Publishing (2016)

What to expect: animals, emotions, diversity

I’m the Happiest is a heartwarming story about a lovable raccoon who enthusiastically celebrates everyone’s differences and best qualities.

The story begins on a sunny day when the raccoon and all of his friends come together. A giraffe starts bragging about his height and how useful it is to be tall. The giraffe’s behavior leads the other animals to stretch their necks in an attempt to become tall as well. After many unsuccessful attempts, the animals begin to sulk that they are not tall like the giraffe. However, the giraffe’s bragging does not bother the raccoon, who begins jumping and clapping his hands to show the other animals how happy he is for the tall giraffe. Soon the other animals start bragging about their best traits and how their differences make them better or prettier than the other animals. This interaction upsets all of the animals who become more and more jealous of one another. Meanwhile, the raccoon couldn’t be happier. All of the things that make each of his friends different make raccoon jubilant. Eventually, raccoon’s happiness rubs off on his buddies, who are happy to see their friend so joyful.

Anna Shuttlewood’s story is an excellent example of how appreciating the good qualities of others can make you feel good. The colorful illustrations and a large variety of characters will have children deeply engaged in this story and will help kids develop an appreciation for their own unique qualities, as well as the positive traits of their friends and family members. This delightful story is highly recommended when teaching 4-8-year-olds how to deal with jealousy. Overall, an enjoyable read aloud that can lead to worthwhile discussion.

About The Author

Anna Shuttlewood studied mural painting and fine arts at the National Academy of Arts in Bulgaria. She has since turned her talents to children’s illustration and designing greeting cards. This is the first book she has written. She lives in London.

I’m the Happiest, by Anna Shuttlewood, was reviewed by Jillian Sciacca. Discover more books like I’m the Happiest by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with , and .

 

Book Review courtesy of The Children's Book Review

 

Movie Review

The Boss Baby

The Boss Baby

Release date: 2017

Director: Tom McGrath

cast: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Lisa Kudrow

Genre: Family and Kids

 

About:

Seven-year-old Tim (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi) loves the life he has with his parents (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel): They laugh and play together all the time, and there's always time for Tim's special bedtime routine -- stories, songs, and all. He has no interest in a sibling, but that doesn't stop the arrival of THE BOSS BABY (Alec Baldwin), a suit-wearing, briefcase-toting mini-manager who arriv...

Release date: 2017

Director: Tom McGrath

cast: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Lisa Kudrow

Genre: Family and Kids

 

About:

Seven-year-old Tim (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi) loves the life he has with his parents (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel): They laugh and play together all the time, and there's always time for Tim's special bedtime routine -- stories, songs, and all. He has no interest in a sibling, but that doesn't stop the arrival of THE BOSS BABY (Alec Baldwin), a suit-wearing, briefcase-toting mini-manager who arrives on the scene and proceeds to turn Tim's household upside down. Tim's parents don't seem to notice anything unusual going on (they're too shell-shocked and sleep-deprived to notice much of anything), but Tim quickly realizes that this is no ordinary infant. It turns out that Boss Baby is on a special assignment from BabyCorp HQ to do a little corporate espionage related to Tim's parents' place of employment: Puppy Co. It seems that more people are adopting puppies than having babies, and that has BabyCorp nervous. If Boss Baby can find out what Puppy Co. has planned -- and stop it -- the corner office will be his. But he'll need Tim's help to carry out his mission, and Tim isn't exactly motivated by profits and promotions.

 

Quality:

Considering that it's based on a cute but pretty story-lite picture book, this animated comedy exceeds expectations -- especially if you're a fan of Baldwin's work on 30 Rock. His character in The Boss Baby is pretty much a miniature Jack Donaghy; Boss Baby throws money at problems, dismisses someone as a "hippie," and, when asked to deliver a cutting insult, comes up with "you went to community college!" (There's also an in-joke reference to Baldwin's cutthroat-businessman role in Glengarry Glen Ross that may make some parents smile.) And the script in general is pretty witty, with clever lines and unexpected twists. Tim's Gandalf-like talking-wizard alarm clock, "Wizzie," is funny, as is a sequence in which Boss Baby tries to encourage Tim to ride his bike by rattling off lines from motivational posters.

The movie is sure to give families with siblings a way to talk about the challenges of being an older brother or sister -- with the nice reassurance that there's always enough love to go around. And Tim and Boss Baby do learn to work together; their eventual affection for each other is sweet. That said, the puppy mill-esque portrayal of Puppy Co. is sure to irk dog lovers, and Tim's parents are clueless even by cartoon-parent standards. But if you can overlook those issues -- and you don't mind some pretty epic barf scenes -- The Boss Baby is a fun, if not instant-classic, movie that parents and kids can enjoy together.

parents needs to know:

Parents need to know that The Boss Baby is an animated comedy inspired by Marla Frazee's popular picture book. It addresses issues related to sibling rivalry (particularly an older child's fears that there will be less love after a new baby arrives) and has a fair bit of peril, though much of it is played for laughs. Expect chases, nick-of-time escapes, and plenty of slapstick confrontations between babies and children/adults. There are also potentially scary scenes imagined by 7-year-old Tim (attacking animals, creepy hallways, looming figures) and a sequence in which two kids investigate a mysterious dark room and subsequently get captured. Not surprisingly for a film about babies, there's also plenty of body/potty humor, including an explosive fake-barf sequence, bare baby bottoms, and use of words like "fart," "poop," and "doody." Other language includes some insults, and there's a scene in which it's implied that Tim tried a Long Island Ice Tea and didn't like it (champagne is also served in first class). The way the movie treats puppies -- like a factory-produced product -- may bother some viewers, and the fact that the boys travel to Las Vegas on their own may need some explaining ... as will the movie's take on where babies come from. But there are clear messages about the value of teamwork and the fact that there is enough love for everyone in a family. And parents who loved Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock will surely laugh (Boss Baby is basically a mini Jack Donaghy).

 

Watch trailer

 

 

 

 

Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

Smurfs: The Lost Village

Smurfs: The Lost Village

Release date: 2017

Director: Kelly Asbury

cast: Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello, Rainn Wilson

Genre: Family and Kids

 

About:

SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE focuses on Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato), who, unlike every other Smurf in Smurf Village, isn't male or identified by a descriptive personality trait (e.g. Handy, Brainy, Grouchy, Clumsy, Jokey, etc.). She was originally created by evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), and even though later she was magically transformed by Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin), Smurfette still wonders ho...

Release date: 2017

Director: Kelly Asbury

cast: Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello, Rainn Wilson

Genre: Family and Kids

 

About:

SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE focuses on Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato), who, unlike every other Smurf in Smurf Village, isn't male or identified by a descriptive personality trait (e.g. Handy, Brainy, Grouchy, Clumsy, Jokey, etc.). She was originally created by evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), and even though later she was magically transformed by Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin), Smurfette still wonders how she fits in. One day while adventuring with Hefty (Joe Manganiello), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer), and Brainy (Danny Pudi) near the Forbidden Forest, they're captured by Gargamel, who reveals that he plans to trap all the Smurfs, boil them in a potion, and steal their power. Aiding Gargamel in this endeavor is a map he claims shows where there's another "lost" Smurf village. Smurfette frees her friends and, defying Papa Smurf's orders, they travel beyond the borders of the Forbidden Forest and discover the other group of Smurfs, who all happen to be fierce females. Smurfette must convince the newly found Smurfs, who are led by Smurfwillow (Julia Roberts), that Gargamel may be on his way to kidnap and destroy them all.

 

Quality:

While this isn't the sort of animated film that teens and child-free adults will want to see, it's got just enough heart to hook younger audiences and remind them to embrace their uniqueness. The plot is fairly thin, but this is a story aimed at little kids, so that's not too much of a problem. The female Smurfs are like Amazons compared to the Smurf Village cohort. There's warrior archer Smurfstorm (a well-cast Michelle Rodriguez), perky and sweet Smurfblossom (Ellie Kemper), smart and decisive Smurflily (Ariel Winter), and, of course, the wise and maternal Smurfwillow.

Wilson's Gargamel is played in the standard, somewhat over-the-top manner, while his two minions strike the right balance between "dangerous" and "not quite killers." There's a pretty sad moment in the climax that may require hand holding and comfort for the preschool set -- but, never fear, all ends well. This completely animated adventure is notably better than the previous hybrid CGI-live action installments. By focusing on Smurfette, screenwriters Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon have created a girl-empowerment story that's sure to please young viewers and will finally really answer the question "Who is Smurfette?"

 

parents needs to know:

Parents need to know that Smurfs: The Lost Village is -- like the 2011 and 2013 live-action/animation movies -- based on the beloved blue cartoon characters. But unlike the previous Smurfs movies, this one is completely animated and aimed at slightly younger kids (in other words, there's less potty humor and iffy content this time around, though definitely still some slapstick moments). But you can expect scenes of peril/Smurfs in danger, as well as one genuinely scary, sad sequence in which a character has (sort of) died. Despite the occasional violence, no lasting harm comes to any of the main characters, and the movie has a clear girl-power message, as well as themes of courage and teamwork.

 

Watch trailer

 

 

Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Release date: 2005

Director: Tim Burton

cast: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, AnnaSophia Robb, Helena Bonham Carter, Julia Winter

Genre: Family and Kids 

 

About:

In CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) wins a chance to tour Willy Wonka's (Johnny Depp) chocolate factory, with four other children, when he purchases a chocolate bar that has a "golden ticket" inside. The group of children and guardians tour the factory, where they will see the top-secret, magical processes by which W...

Release date: 2005

Director: Tim Burton

cast: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, AnnaSophia Robb, Helena Bonham Carter, Julia Winter

Genre: Family and Kids 

 

About:

In CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) wins a chance to tour Willy Wonka's (Johnny Depp) chocolate factory, with four other children, when he purchases a chocolate bar that has a "golden ticket" inside. The group of children and guardians tour the factory, where they will see the top-secret, magical processes by which Willy Wonka makes his delicious candy. Specifically, they see the Oompa Loompas (all played by a digitally multiplied and reduced Deep Roy) make the candy and mete out judgments against misbehaving children.

 

Quality:

Portrayed in broad, cartoonish strokes, the kids' cruelties in the film serve as comedy, though they're not always funny, and each child-parent set reveals its dysfunction. Indeed, the non-Charlie children are so loathsome that their various "punishments" seem deserved. These are staged as song-and-dance numbers by the Oompa Loompas, modeled after scenes that some parents will recall from other venues, for instance, Esther Williams musicals, the Who's guitar-smashing rock shows, Hair, Psycho, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Fly, and even Tim Burton and Depp's Edward Scissorhands, in Willy's flashbacks to his troubled relationship with his dentist father (Christopher Lee). There are some current-day references, some of which fail miserably (the Oprah appearance comes to mind), while others are merely annoying and serve to break the film's dreamlike power.

The film's strangeness is often fun, in particular Depp's white-faced makeup, frisky line readings (check his explanation: "Everything in this room is eatable; even I'm eatable, but that's called cannibalism and frowned on in most societies"), and weird affect. But the narrative rhythms are uneven, and Charlie, especially, is undeveloped, more an emblem of goodness than a full-on character. While the novel maintains a more or less steady focus through Charlie's perspective of all these crazy goings-on, the film is less coherent. It skips about to cover multiple storylines, including Willy's memories and the four bad children's separate exploits, all eventually pulled together by Charlie's good-boy summary of what matters most, his cozy family.

 

parents needs to know:

Parents need to know that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a colorful kids' adventure that -- like the book -- includes some intense scenes. Obnoxious children are ridiculed visually and in words by the Oompa Loompas and dispatched. One girl blows up into a giant blueberry, another boy is sucked into a tube, the other girl is attacked and pinned down by squirrels who proceed to throw her down a garbage chute. In one early scene, dolls burn up and their eyeballs pop out. The movie is much closer in dark tone to the book than its cinematic predecessor. Willy Wonka himself seems to disdain families.

 

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Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

 

Theatrical release date: March 17, 2017

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad

Director: Bill Condon

Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Genre: Family and Kids

Topics: Magic and fantasy, Fairy tales, Great girl role models, Music and sing-along

 

About:

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens with a prologue: A greedy, careless, party-loving French prince (Dan Stevens) refuses to help an old woman seeking shelter, so she transforms into an enchantress and places a cu...

 

Theatrical release date: March 17, 2017

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad

Director: Bill Condon

Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Genre: Family and Kids

Topics: Magic and fantasy, Fairy tales, Great girl role models, Music and sing-along

 

About:

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens with a prologue: A greedy, careless, party-loving French prince (Dan Stevens) refuses to help an old woman seeking shelter, so she transforms into an enchantress and places a curse on him. It turns him into an ugly beast and his castle's attendants into household objects until he can find someone to love him despite his looks. Years later, Belle (Emma Watson), a smart, book-loving girl living in the village near the castle dreams of something more than her daily routine. Vain war hero Gaston (Luke Evans) has his sights set on Belle for a wife, but she's not interested. After Belle's father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), ends up imprisoned in the enchanted castle, she follows him and offers herself up as a prisoner in exchange for his freedom. Meanwhile, the Beast's household staff -- led by candelabra Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), and teakettle Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) -- conspire to help Belle see their beastly master as something more ... and possibly break the spell.

 

Quality

Watson is an ideal Belle in this wonderful remake that's at once nostalgic and new, bringing to life the musical both for kids and life-long adult fans. Her Belle is relatable and sympathetic, with her curious eyes and aura of clever bookishness and strong-willed personality (Watson was also Hermione Granger, after all!). It turns out Watson can sing well, too; she's no rival to six-time Tony-winning co-star Audra McDonald, who plays Madame Garderobe, but her voice is clear and crisp and full of the longing and wanderlust that Belle conveys so beautifully in Alan Menken's songs. Stevens does a fine job with the Beast, playing up the character's frustration, anger, underlying sadness -- and eventual love -- in his voice and gestures.

But we all know that Beauty and the Beast is just as much about the supporting characters as it is the central couple, and director Bill Condon's ensemble doesn't disappoint. Kline's Maurice is even funnier than his bumbling animated counterpart, and McGregor and McKellen are hilarious as odd-couple duo Lumiere and Cogsworth. Thompson is comforting as Mrs. Potts, and her boy Chip is ever as lovable. And then there's Evans as narcissistic Gaston, who's so full of himself that he can't fathom why Belle won't agree to be his bride, and the amazing Josh Gad, who steals the show as Gaston's adoring (and smitten) sidekick LeFou. Menken's original songs are rendered with appropriate spectacle, particularly "Be Our Guest," but the new ones are decidedly bittersweet, underscoring the sadness both Belle and Beast feel about their situations. The gorgeous costumes and extraordinary set design add to the movie's overall delight, but it's the performances that stand out in this memorable musical remake. 

 

parent need to know 

Parents need to know that Beauty and the Beast is Disney's live-action remake of the classic 1991 animated musical, with Emma Watson as book-loving, independent Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. Although the movie will appeal to even very young viewers, especially those familiar with the original, the remake's violent sequences can be very intense, with a few jump-worthy and upsetting moments (several involving snarling wolves, others guns) that leave characters bloodied, injured, and, in one case, dead. As always, the story encourages viewers to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate, curious, humble, and generous. Director Bill Condon took care to make sure that this version had diverse supporting characters, including a gay LeFou (Josh Gad) -- Gaston's sidekick -- and people of color not represented in the animated version.

 

 

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Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

 

My Life as a Zucchini

My Life as a Zucchini

Animated drama about orphan is touching, unforgettable

Initial release: October 19, 2016 (Switzerland)

Originally published: 2016

Director: Claude Barras

Awards: Satellite Award for Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature, European Film Award for Best Animated Feature Film

Cast: Gaspard Schlatter, Sixtine Murat, Paulin Jaccoud

 

About:

MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI is a French-Swiss stop-motion animated film about a 9-year-old boy nicknamed Zucchini (voiced by Gaspard Schlatter ...

Animated drama about orphan is touching, unforgettable

Initial release: October 19, 2016 (Switzerland)

Originally published: 2016

Director: Claude Barras

Awards: Satellite Award for Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature, European Film Award for Best Animated Feature Film

Cast: Gaspard Schlatter, Sixtine Murat, Paulin Jaccoud

 

About:

MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI is a French-Swiss stop-motion animated film about a 9-year-old boy nicknamed Zucchini (voiced by Gaspard Schlatter in the original and Erick Abbate in the English-dubbed version) who ends up in a group foster home after his alcoholic mother dies suddenly in a home accident. Raymond (Michel Vuillermoz, Nick Offerman), the kind police officer who takes Zucchini to the home, stays in touch with the boy as he adjusts to the social hierarchy of the home. Simon (Paulin Jaccoud) is the worldly alpha kid with bullyish tendencies, but he's eventually won over. The rest of the crew -- Ahmed, Alice, Jujube, and Beatrice -- is sweet and unassuming, but they all have heartbreaking stories. The kids bond and form a routine -- and then a new orphan named Camille (Sixtine Murat, Ness Krell) arrives. Zucchini is instantly smitten with her, but her time in the home is threatened by a secretly cruel aunt, who threatens to take Camille away.

 

QUALITY:

Director Claude Barras' adaptation of Gilles Paris' novel isn't quite a coming-of-age story, but it's every bit as poignant. And the gorgeous animation and whip-smart dialogue make it a delightful pick for tweens and up. My Life as Zucchini can be heartbreaking, it but never loses sight of how resilient children are, even when they've seen the horrors of violence and abuse and abandonment. Despite their difficult backgrounds, Zucchini, Simon, and their housemates just want to be cared for and to belong -- and for the most part, they do. "They're all the same," Simon tells Zucchini -- whether it's because a parent was arrested, deported, died, or just left. These are kids who have no one to claim them as their own, at least at first.

Like some of Studio Ghibli or LAIKA's edgier offerings, My Life as Zucchini isn't meant for very young kids, and that's refreshing. Not all animated films need to cater to the early-elementary set, and this one is clearly best for kids who are mature enough to appreciate the characters' difficult circumstances (and of course, to deal with the hilarious conversation the boys have about "that thing between boys and girls"). This is a story that brings up so much, and it's all treated beautifully -- from the bully redeemed to the power of puppy love to the importance of friendship to the fact that families can be more than blood relations. If your family enjoys stop-motion animation and your kids are ready for big themes with a side of laughter and possibly tears, this is a must-see film.

 

PARENTS NEED TO KNOW

Parents need to know My Life as a Zucchini is an Oscar-nominated French-Swiss animated movie about an orphaned boy nicknamed Zucchini who goes to live in a group foster home. The occasionally mature subject matter -- including the death of Zucchini's alcoholic mother and references to  abuse, violence, suicide, deportation, and other reasons children end up in state care -- makes the movie most appropriate for older tweens and up. Expect some sad moments and conversations, but lots of funny and touching ones, too. There's plenty to talk about after watching movie, and it ultimately has a happy ending, as well as messages about family, friendship, and empathy.

 

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Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

Pinocchio

Pinocchio

Initial release: February 23, 1940 

Story by: Carlo Collodi

Cast: Dickie Jones, Christian Rub, Cliff Edwards, Evelyn Venable

 

About:

First released in 1940, PINOCCHIO tells the story of a kindhearted but lonely wood-carver named Geppetto (voiced by Christian Rub) who wishes that the wooden puppet he carved would be a real boy. His wish is granted by a fairy (Evelyn Venable) but only in part; it is up to the suddenly mobile Pinocchio (Dickie Jones) to finish his transformation to boyhood by being brave...

Initial release: February 23, 1940 

Story by: Carlo Collodi

Cast: Dickie Jones, Christian Rub, Cliff Edwards, Evelyn Venable

 

About:

First released in 1940, PINOCCHIO tells the story of a kindhearted but lonely wood-carver named Geppetto (voiced by Christian Rub) who wishes that the wooden puppet he carved would be a real boy. His wish is granted by a fairy (Evelyn Venable) but only in part; it is up to the suddenly mobile Pinocchio (Dickie Jones) to finish his transformation to boyhood by being brave, truthful, and unselfish. The fairy gives him help in the form of Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards), his designated "guide along the straight and narrow path." But when that path is strewn with temptations to skip school and visit Pleasure Island, Pinocchio's quest to be a real boy -- not to mention his father's life -- is imperiled.

 

QUALITY:

Seven decades after it first came out, this Disney classic harks back to a time when the stars of animated films were the illustrators, not celebrity voice talent. More recent reissues also include digital restoration of the film's original colors, so that, for instance, scenes of various cuckoo clocks chiming simultaneously in Geppetto's workshop would be reason enough to recommend the film. The soundtrack includes classics such as "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Give a Little Whistle" that will still be familiar to families today.

But the lessons in Pinocchio also are timeless: The same traits of bravery, honesty, and selflessness that make Pinocchio human are ones we would like our children to possess in adulthood. The downside of ignoring your conscience is rendered in a way that may be uniquely terrifying to children: how indulging in the temptations of Pleasure Island results in separation from family and utter loss of self. Though Jiminy's reassuring presence allows viewers to hope for the puppet boy's rescue, Pinocchio acts as the original Scared Straight experience for the younger set.

 

PARENTS NEED TO KNOW:

Parents need to know that Pinocchio is a Disney classic that easily passes the test of time for a beautiful and effective lesson on the perils of doing wrong when you know better. Some scenes and themes may be intense for younger or sensitive viewers, such as when Pinocchio is kidnapped and caged, threatened with destruction, can't find his father, and nearly drowns. Pinocchio's friend Lampwick introduces him to cigar smoking but is punished for it. Kids may be disturbed by Pleasure Island, where "bad boys" are turned into donkeys and sent to work in salt mines. But overall this morality tale is a good reminder of the importance of listening to your conscience.

 

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Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie

 

Theatrical release date:  9 February 2017 

Directors: Chris McKay

Stars: Jenny Slate,  Ralph Fiennes,  Channing Tatum

Studio: Warner Bros

Genre: Family and Kids

Topics: Animation, Action, Adventure, Clever, creative, action-packed adventure/toy ad

 

 

About:

In THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, Batman/Bruce Wayne (voiced by Will Arnett), is pretty sure he's got it made -- sweet Batcave, awesome tuxedo wardrobe, endless B...

 

Theatrical release date:  9 February 2017 

Directors: Chris McKay

Stars: Jenny Slate,  Ralph Fiennes,  Channing Tatum

Studio: Warner Bros

Genre: Family and Kids

Topics: Animation, Action, Adventure, Clever, creative, action-packed adventure/toy ad

 

 

About:

In THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, Batman/Bruce Wayne (voiced by Will Arnett), is pretty sure he's got it made -- sweet Batcave, awesome tuxedo wardrobe, endless Bat-vehicles and gadgets. But without anyone to share it with (other than long-suffering butler/minder Alfred, of course), what does it all mean? Even Gotham City's biggest bad guy, he Joker (Zach Galifianakis), can't break through Batman's "I don't need anyone" defense mechanisms. Things start changing when Batman accidentally adopts earnest young orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) and meets Gotham's new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). She wants Batman to work alongside the cops, rather than as a solo vigilante. He's skeptical, but after the Joker engineers a mass breakout from the galaxy's most secure prison, the Caped Crusader may have no other choice than to finally give teamwork a try.

 

QUALITY:

Smart, funny, and fast-paced, this second big-screen Lego movie shows that the first one wasn't a fluke: The folks behind this franchise definitely know what they're doing. Jokes and pop culture references fly fast and furiously in The Lego Batman Movie -- adults are likely to get a particular kick out of the many references to earlier Batman movies and TV shows -- and the animation is colorful and creative. It never gets old to see all the inventive ways that Lego pieces and characters are used, built, taken apart, and rebuilt. Plus, the writing is snappy, and the voice cast is spot on. Arnett stole the show as the Dark Knight in The Lego Movie, and he has no trouble taking center stage here. Cera's Dick Grayson/Robin is perfectly chirpy and wide-eyed; Dawson is cool, calm tough-chick perfection as Barbara; Ralph Fiennes is drolly amusing as Alfred (who gets several memorable scenes); and Galifianakis is a great mix of quirky and menacing as the Joker.

All of that said, what's particularly pleasing about this franchise (so far, at least!) is how much attention has obviously been paid to story development and positive take-aways for kids and families. No, the Lego movies aren't going to give you quite as many feels as something like Inside Out, but they've got distinct, memorable characters who change and grow over the course of their adventures in ways that even kids will understand -- in between their bouts of giggles, of course. Barbara's message to Batman -- "you can't be a hero if you only care about yourself" -- is simple and clear, but you never feel hit over the head by it because you're too busy marveling at the movie's technical achievements and clever humor. Bottom line? The Lego Batman Movie is as at least as much fun as one of Batman's tuxedo dress-up parties.

 

PARENTS NEED TO KNOW

Parents need to know that, like 2014's The Lego MovieThe Lego Batman Movie is clever, creative, and funny, with nonstop action. It's a little darker/edgier than its predecessor -- there are tons of bad guys, battles, explosions, bombs, weapons, destruction, and general mayhem. But because it's all made out of Legos, there's zero gore, and very little is permanently damaged (lots of things are put back together in a literal snap). Still, the main characters are constantly in peril, which could upset some younger/more sensitive kids, and one key character momentarily seems headed for a more serious end. Words like "butt," "loser," and "sucks" are used, and there's a little flirting, plus humor related to Dick/Robin's preference to go without pants when wearing his costume -- but nothing gets too risque. Batman is forced to give himself a pretty hard look over the course of the movie, eventually realizing that he can't do everything by himself and that working with a team/having a family is more fun and fulfilling than going it alone (no matter how awesome your pecs are). As with all Lego movies, shows, and games, it also serves as a feature-length toy ad -- but you may not care, you'll be laughing so hard.

 

 

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Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

Moana

Moana

 

 

Theatrical release date: November 23, 2016

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker

Cast: Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Alan Tudyk, Auli'i Cravalho

Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Genre: Family and Kids

Topics: Adventures, Great girl role models

About:

In MOANA, Disney tells the story of a Polynesian island chief's adolescent daughter who's been raised to become the next leader of her people. Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) has always had a special rel...

 

 

Theatrical release date: November 23, 2016

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker

Cast: Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Alan Tudyk, Auli'i Cravalho

Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Genre: Family and Kids

Topics: Adventures, Great girl role models

About:

In MOANA, Disney tells the story of a Polynesian island chief's adolescent daughter who's been raised to become the next leader of her people. Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) has always had a special relationship with the ocean and has grown up believing her grandmother's tales about how shape-shifting demigod Maui cursed the islands by stealing the ancient Heart of Te Fiti, which grants the power of creation. When the coconut harvest fails and the fishermen return with empty nets, Moana takes her grandmother's advice and sets sail against her father's rules. Her quest is to find the exiled Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and deliver him across the sea to return that which he stole a millennium ago. Along the way, the mighty Maui mentors Moana on how to be a wayfinder -- voyager -- as her people were meant to be.

 

QUALITY:

This engaging adventure triumphs because of its empowering storyline, which pays tribute to Polynesian culture, and because of its feel-good music, courtesy of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Teen Hawaiian singer Cravalho and Johnson (aka "The Rock") share a refreshingly student-and-mentor-like chemistry as the driven Moana and mythic Maui. Unlike any other "Disney princess" movie, Moana is completely romance free, never once bringing up its main character's marriage prospects. Moana's status as the island's next chief is unquestioned, and she's so busy trying to diplomatically solve her people's problems that the lack of a love interest is welcome. As Maui points out, she's a princess because she wears a dress and has an animal sidekick (in her case, a kooky rooster called Heihei), but Moana strives to save her island, not find a prince.

 

PARENTS NEED TO KNOW

Parents need to know that Moana is an animated Disney adventure about a Polynesian island chief's daughter who sets off on a quest to save her people. With Dwayne "The Rock" Johnsonvoicing demigod Maui and a score that features original music by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the movie should appeal to viewers of all ages. Scary, perilous scenes include run-ins with frightening, violent monsters (one made of lava, the other a giant crab) and run-ins with ocean storms and waves. Characters also go up against a ship full of adorable (but armed) coconut pirates, a character dies (off screen), and a couple of male authority figures yell at Moana. There's also a bit of language along the lines of "butt" and "dumb." Otherwise, the movie should be fine for younger viewers, offering positive messages of self-discovery and empowerment. And Moana herself is a great role model, demonstrating perseverance, curiosity, and courage.

 

 

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Review courtesy of Common Sense Media

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