Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Media, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, TV Shows

Nick Jr’s Rainbow Rangers come to bookshelves

Since my kids have gotten bigger, I find myself woefully out of the loop on what’s popular on Nick Jr. these days. Apparently, Wallykazam is not a thing anymore? Thank goodness for Paw Patrol, or I’d really feel out of touch. Anyway. I was invited to check out the new line of books from Nick Jr’s newest show, Rainbow Rangers, so I did my research and consulted my 4-year-old niece, who assured me that this was a good show, because they girls are all rainbow colors and there is a unicorn. This, if you don’t realize it, is pretty big praise, so I dove in.

The Rainbow Rangers are “Earth’s first responders”. Basically, they’re the Avengers meets Captain Planet, and wow, I’ve just aged myself in one sentence. They live in Kaleidoscopia, a magical land on the other side of the rainbow, and there are six of them, each representing a different color of the rainbow: Rosie Redd; Mandarin Orange; Anna Banana; Pepper Mintz; Bonnie Blueberry; Indy Allfruit, and Lavender LaViolette all have different superpowers that they use to work together and keep Earth’s natural resources safe. Their leader, Kalia, sends them out on missions, and their pet unicorn, Floof, is there to help out. ImprintReads, from publisher Macmillan, has a Rainbow Rangers book for every reader in their new line of releases.

Rainbow Rangers: Rockin’ Rainbow Colors, by Summer Greene,
(Sept. 2019, Imprint/Macmillan), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250190345
Ages 3-6

This tabbed, oversized board book introduces each Rainbow Ranger, their talent, and also works with color recognition. Each of the Rainbow Rangers is named for a color in the spectrum, after all. It’s chunky, will hold up to multiple reads and exploring little hands, and the artwork is full of bright colors and large-eyed, expressive superheroines. Way too cute, preschoolers and toddlers will love this book.

 

Rainbow Rangers: The Quest for the Confetti Crystal, by Summer Greene/Illustrated by Joshua Heinsz and Maxime Lebrun,
(Sept. 2019, Imprint/Macmillan), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250190338
Ages 3-6

This picture book is great for preschoolers and early elementary school readers, and it’s an original Rainbow Rangers story. The Rainbow Rangers have plans to celebrate Bonnie Blueberry’s 100th mission with a party, and unicorn Floof is put in charge of protecting their Confetti Crystal for the celebration, while the Rangers head off on their mission. Floof tries to contribute to the party planning using the crystal, but the crystal rolls away, and Floof is off on his own mission to retrieve it. The artwork is adorable; the characters from the show are instantly recognizable, and for those of us who aren’t quite familiar with the Rainbow Rangers, it’s a fun fantasy adventure starring a unicorn, magic, and adventure.

 

Rainbow Rangers: Meet the Team, by Summer Greene,
(Sept. 2019, Imprint/Macmillan), $4.99, ISBN: 9781250190314
Ages 3-7

The team’s origin story comes together in Easy Reader format in Meet the Team, which introduces the characters and their powers, using a little more vocabulary than the Rockin’ Rainbow Colors board book. The story also emphasizes the importance of teamwork and respecting one another, even if you don’t always agree. Sentences are longer, with a little more meat to the information; emerging readers will love sitting down with this one and digging right in.

 

Rainbow Rangers: To the Rescue!, by Summer Greene,
(Sept. 2019, Imprint/Macmillan), $4.99, ISBN: 9781250190253
Ages 3-7

To the Rescue! is the 8×8 media tie-in, recreating the first Rainbow Rangers adventure: rescuing a polar bear cub when a melting ice floe separates him from his mother. The girls fly into action, discovering how to work together and addressing climate change on an age-appropriate level: “When temperatures get hotter, ice shelves break apart”. There’s a punch-out, wearable Kaleidocom that kids can wear just like the character Rosie Redd (librarians: keep this one in your desk until you can make copies or hold a giveaway). Fonts are bright and bold, with some words getting rainbow bubble font treatment for extra emphasis.

There’s a little something for everyone here, and kids will gobble this series up. The Rainbow Rangers website also has video clips, profiles on each character, and free, downloadable activity and coloring sheets. Have them on hand!

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Media, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Realistic Fiction, TV Shows, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Part Lois Lane, Part Nancy Drew… Introducing Cici!

Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer in Training, by Joris Chamblain/Illustrated by Aurelie Neyret, Translated by Carol Burrell, (Nov. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626722484

Recommended for readers 8-12

Cici’s dream is to become a novelist. She journals her thoughts and ideas, and constantly people watches, much to the chagrin of her mother and friends. Cici doesn’t see it as being nosy; she figures that you need to understand what’s inside of people in order to write about them. But when she starts digging further into people’s lives and expecting her friends to lie to her mother to cover up her “investigations”, they let her know that they’ve had enough. Can Cici learn to be a good friend and an attentive writer?

Originally published in France under the French title Les carnets de Cerise (2012), this is Cici’s first English translation and includes two stories. In the first story (title), Cici discovers an older man walking through the forest every Sunday, covered in paint and lugging cans of paint back and forth. In Hector’s Journal, she tries to get to the bottom of a mystery involving an older woman who takes the same library book out every week. Both times, Cici goes after her subject with gusto, but is often insensitive to her friends and mother. It isn’t until her mentor, a local author, steps in to have a heart to heart with Cici that she finally understands that she’s been using people, and starts taking others into consideration. Kids will recognize themselves and their friends in Cici, especially as she goes through the frustration of disagreeing with Mom and falling out with friends.

The graphic novel is a mix of graphic storytelling and journaling, with doodles, scrapbook pieces, comments, and notes throughout the book. The art is realistic with a soft touch, and Cici has a very fun and eclectic style that will appeal to middle graders. She complains about her friends throughout the book, and with seeming good reason: one girl is in a perpetually bad mood, and Cici herself can be exasperating (mind you, I say this as a 46 year -old mother of three, not a tween). In short, kids will identify with or see their friends in these characters, and dive into Cici’s adventures – and maybe start journaling on their own.

In my neverending quest to create programs that I can booktalk with, Cici’s Journal is a nice fit with a writer’s program I want to test out. Put this one with your Dork Diaries, Amelia’s Notebooks, Wimpy Kid books, My Dumb Diaries, Kate the Great, Origami Yodas, and Popularity Papers.

Posted in Media, TV Shows

Media Review: Jake and the Neverland Pirates (Episodes: The Golden Egg/Huddle Up) (Walt Disney Studios, 2011)

Directed by Kelly Ward. Disney Junior, 22 minutes. Walt Disney Studios. 2011

Recommended for ages 2-5

Jake_and_the_Neverland_Pirates_3489

Jake and the Neverland Pirates is Disney Junior’s answer to Dora the Explorer. Jake (voiced by Colin Ford) and his friends, Izzy (voiced by Madison Pettis) and Cubby (voiced by Jonathan Morgan Heit), are a multicultural group of children playing pirate games along with their parrot friend, Skully (voiced by David Arquette). Disney favorites Captain Hook and his mate, Smee, always seem to find a way to show up and meddle in their fun. Each 11-minute episode involves a quest of some sort, and Jake and his friends interact with the viewer by asking them to help out and solve problems and cheer them on. Each episode’s close rewards the team – and the viewer – for their teamwork by providing them with “pirate doubloons” that goes in the group treasure chest, which the viewers help Jake count. In The Golden Egg, Jake and his friends find a gold-colored egg, and set off to find who it belongs to. Captain Hook (voiced by longtime Captain Hook voice actor Corey Burton) and Smee (voiced by Jeff Bennett) are hot on the team’s trail, thinking the egg is an actual gold egg. Huddle Up finds Jake, Izzy and Cubby playing a game of “pirate football” until Captain Hook steals the ball, believing it has special powers. Jake and his friends set off on a quest to get the ball back from Hook.

 

The series is highly interactive, and children familiar with Dora will enjoy the familiarity. Like Dora, each episode resembles a video game, with tasks to complete; the team collects gold doubloons that float in the air to put in their treasure chest at the end of each episode. Members of the pirate rock band, Captain Bogg and Salty, end each episode with a pirate song.

 

Captain Hook and Smee are similar to Dora’s Swiper, the wily fox who tries to swipe Dora’s objects. Jake and his friends go on quests and provide the viewers with prompts to help them along; there are musical interludes throughout each episode, and a celebration at the end. It’s a good introduction to mainstay Disney characters – Peter Pan has appeared in at least one episode – for younger viewers, and Captain Hook and Smee are goofy here, less threatening than they are in the movie Peter Pan. Each episode emphasizes the importance of teamwork. With the Disney name on the cartoon, caregivers know the production values will be high. The animation is computer-generated, with bright colors and fluent action to keep viewers’ attention. The main characters have expressive, happy faces while the antagonists have exaggerated features that make them less menacing, more caricature-like.

 

Each episode runs roughly 11 minutes, which makes this a good addition to a pirate story time or a teamwork story time. The show is a pleasant way to keep children entertained while reinforcing lessons on preschool basics and teamwork, and the musical ending provides an opportunity to get the kids up and dancing. Learning a pirate jig would be a fun way to conclude a library program showing a Jake and the Neverland Pirates episode. The Jake and the Neverland Pirates section of the Disney website offers free printables that attendees can color and take home, and the Oriental Trading catalog and website has a wealth of pirate supplies that can be bought in bulk for relatively low cost, including fun pirate eye patches to hand out.

 

Posted in Media, TV Shows

Media Review: Yo Gabba Gabba: The Dancey Dance Bunch (DVD, Nickelodeon Studios, 2008)

Directed by Scott Schultz and Christian Jacobs. 99 minutes. DVD. Nickelodeon. 2008. $14.98. ISBN 097368925847

Recommended for ages 1-5

yo gabba gabba dancey dance

Yo Gabba Gabba is a fun Nickelodeon series that teaches children social skills. The Dancey Dance Bunch DVD packages four episodes from Yo Gabba Gabba’s first season in 2007: Eat, Dance, Friends and Happy. Each 23-minute episode features human host DJ Lance Rock (Lance Robertson) and his costumed character friends, Muno (voiced by Adam Deibert), Brobee (voiced by Amos Watene), Foofa (Emma Jacobs), Toodee (Charme Morales), and Plex (voiced by Christian Jacobs). The group sings, dances, and plays together while teaching children lessons about friendship, eating healthy, and respecting one another. The show is live-action, with animated sketches and segments featuring real children dancing and playing. Celebrities including Elijah Wood, Mya, and Mark Mothersbaugh teach dance moves and give drawing lessons.  The music, while geared toward a very young audience, is set to pop, rock, and hip-hop beats, and the songs stick with you long after the episodes are over. The sets are simple, almost stripped-down, so the emphasis is on the characters.

 

Color is an important part of Yo Gabba Gabba. DJ Lance Rock’s costume is bright orange, and the characters are all brightly colored. Children appearing in sketches often wear colorful clothing with Yo Gabba Gabba characters on them, and the backgrounds where the characters sing and dance range from bright green grassy fields to icy blue glaciers to 8-bit computer backgrounds. The characters’ voices are high-pitched like a child’s, but the language never speaks down to the audience; rather, it takes concepts like learning how to lose gracefully and simplifies the concepts through song and conversation to reach their viewers on their level: “We play games to have fun, not to win or lose”.

 

The episodes in this video can be used to teach toddlers and preschoolers alike about forming good habits early in life. In the episode Eat, for instance, the character Muno has a party in his tummy that carrots and string beans want to be invited to. Space and cleanup permitting, this could be a great idea for a healthy eating workshop, with finger foods like baby carrots, celery sticks, and sliced up fruit for preschoolers to invite to the “parties in their tummies”, while dancing and singing along with the video. It would be a great teaching tool for teachers and librarians alike, particularly with episodes that teach the joy of playing, that it’s more important to enjoy a game rather than worrying about winning or losing, and how to be a good friend.

 

Posted in Media, TV Shows

TV Show Review: Good Luck Charlie (Disney Channel, 2011-Present)

Recommended for ages 9-14

Good Luck Charlie is a Disney Channel show that follows the Duncan family, a family of six. The title refers to the youngest, Charlie (Charlene), and the videos that her family makes for her as a guide to growing up. Every video ends with her oldest sister (and star of the show) Teddy, played by Disney Channel favorite Bridgit Mendler, wishing Charlie “good luck” as she navigates her wacky family.

The show sticks to the Disney formula of having present, loving parents who tend to need more supervision than the children. While lacking much of the smart-alecky backtalk that some of the Nick shows have drawn fire for, the Duncan children, particularly the middle schooler Gabe, have no problem talking to their parents as their peers. Mom Amy may be a nurse, assuming a degree of intelligence, but she craves attention like a child; Dad Bob has his own bug-extermination business but seems to be lucky he can function on his own, as he comes across dim-witted beyond belief.

Each Duncan child is a stereotype: PJ, the oldest son, takes after his father in being slow-witted; high-schooler Teddy is the straight-A, neurotic overachiever; middle-schooler Gabe is the caustic, scheming pre-teen, and toddler Charlie steals the show with a cute word or smile.

The formulaic characters provide a comfortable familiarity to the ‘tweens who watch the show – they know what to expect, they know that they’ll get a laugh, and they know everything is neatly resolved by the end of the episode. The parents manage to be loving and supportive and offer disciplinary action when warranted; for instance, when Teddy is caught in a lie, she is grounded; when Teddy goes through a bad breakup with her boyfriend, her mother is there to hold her and tell her it will be okay. The kids come together and care for one another and their parents and have friends who they surround themselves with. They are good kids, a good family, with their quirks – kind of like most families.