Recommended Reading: Watcher of the Skies

Wednesday February 07, 2018

And it turned out my excitement over the arrival of this anthology from the UK was warranted. Watcher of the Skies: Poems about Space and Aliens is a fantastic poetry collection for kids - playful and insightful and sure to spark the imagination of young writers and explorers alike.

The collection pairs the poems with notes and suggested connections (presumably) supplied by editors Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, along with related facts by Rachel Cochrane, a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh's Institute for Astronomy. This is a wonderful way to put the book together, as it means the poems can rise to any level of whimsy, with the kid-friendly "footnotes" offering the real-world support. 

Some of my personal favourites include the crop-circle instructional "Art 101 for Aliens" by Rebecca Colby and the story of Galileo as told in "The Starry Messenger" by John Canfield. Robert Schecter's "Compared to What?" and Dom Conlon's "The Way Planets Talk" both compellingly present big ideas while "Up Above" by Mandy Coe is a beautiful hint at where folklore comes from.

Of course it also helped to win this Canadian over when the first of the lively line drawings done by co-editor Emma Wright was an illustration of Astronaut Chris Hadfield performing the title action for "How to Brush your Teeth in Space" by Sohini Basak (I do hope they sent Commander Hadfield a copy).

All of this is to say that I highly recommend this book for kids who have even a hint of space or or sci-fi nerd brewing in their souls, or who just love playful poems. I imagine teachers could make wonderful use of it as well. It's listed as being for ages 8+ and I see no reason to disagree. Some of the vocabulary will certainly challenge some 8 year olds, but what better way to encounter new and exciting words than in an out-of-this-world rhyme?

Full disclosure - The Emma Press has a policy that writers can only submit if they're part of The Emma Press Club, which is made up of anyone who they've previously published OR who has bought a book in the current year. So yes, I ordered this book so that I could submit some writing of my own, but this is a genuine recommendation - in fact this is one of those situations where a rejection won't bother me at all, because I'll still have this fantastic book on my shelf (until my nephew and nieces are old enough to appreciate it, that is.)

I ordered this directly from the Emma Press website and I recommend visiting to check out their other collections for kids and adults alike. But if you prefer, at time of writing the book is also available through and through (but don't use those options if you want to get in The Club - or at least send an email first and find out how that would work). 

Suggested Servings of Fruit, Part 2

Sunday July 2nd, 2017

I just finished eating a bowl of cherries. I can't remember the last time I bought cherries.

Today's anomaly was 100% because of this:

I've written before about being influenced by children's programming into eating more fruit. Apparently it isn't just kids shows that work on me. Musician and vegan Macka B's "Medical Monday" and "Wha Me Eat Wednesday" videos are currently working as a regular reminder for me that there's a whole world of healthy food out there.

Like so many people, we discovered Macka B when his video about cucumbers (cucumba!) went viral. If you somehow missed it, treat yourself to it and several others below, then treat yourself to some fruit and/or veggies. Also, you can follow Macka B on Faceboook.

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New Video for The Knight's Errand

Wednesday April 19, 2017

Thanks to Brian T. Schultz and the Storybook Land Theatre 2016 company for putting on a fantastic production of The Knight's Errand, hosting me when I came out to South Dakota to see it, and letting me use the footage. :)

Learn more about The Knight's Errand

(The video is also on YouTube, if you prefer:

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TIFF Kids 2017 Feature: "At Eye Level"

Saturday April 08, 2017

Let's cut to the chase - I highly recommend the German film At Eye Level (Auf Augenhöhe) and it's only got one more screening at this year's TIFF Kids; tomorrow (Sunday April 9, 2017) at 3:30 pm.

Suggested for ages 11-13 by TIFF Kids programmers, it's unfortunate that the marketers who put together the trailer and chose the visual look for its title screen seem to be trying to sell it as some kind of wacky family comedy:

There's humour in it, certainly, but this is a lovely relationship film - not just in terms of the blossoming father and son relationship, but in the way it presents friendship as well. Mostly male friendships, which range from being strained within the confines of a group home for children to being thoughtful and compassionate, though still far from perfect, in the adult world. One of the most beautifully understated arcs is how young Michi (Luis Vorbach) changes how he relates to other kids, including his former roommate Justin (Marco Licht), the more time he spends with Tom (Jordan Prentice). This is one of the most genuine-feeling coming of age films I think I've seen, where the changes in the main character are believable, and gradual, and represent the sum total of what he experiences through the course of the film, rather than a single, sudden moment of revelation at the end.

The chance of coming across a movie like At Eye Level is exactly why I go to TIFF Kids every year. If it had been made in North America, it probably would have become exactly the kind of movie the trailer wants you to think it is, instead of the mature drama that it is.

The distraction of Jordan Prentice's English-spoken lines being dubbed into German notwithstanding, this is a wonderful film with an amazing script, great direction, and spot-on performances. It's a little early to say, but I won't be at all surprised if this is one of the award winners at TIFF Kids 2017.

At Eye Level screens again at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on:

  • Sunday April 9, 3:30 pm

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TIFF Kids 2017 Feature: "TRIO - The Hunt for the Holy Shrine"

Saturday April 08, 2017

TRIO - The Hunt for the Holy Shrine is a high-quality adventure film that owes a lot to Indiana Jones. Recommended by TIFF programmers for ages 10-13, this subtitled Norwegian film follows four friends (I assume they started out as a trio in the Norwegian TV show of the same name, and the team gradually expanded) as they race to solve the mystery of Saint Olav's lost shrine before an internationally-known art thief and her henchmen get there first.

Like most movies of this type, enjoying The Hunt for the Holy Shrine starts with a healthy suspension of disbelief. The biggest for me was that the tablet owned by Lars the techie is able to do absolutely anything he wants it to do (where do I get the helicopter flying app?). But it's all in good action/adventure fun, and it's worth forgoing realism for the sake of a good teen treasure hunt.

The production values in this are high, making great use of a variety of locations. From sweeping shots of picturesque fishing villages to an elaborate puzzle-solving sequence inside the Nidaros Cathedral, it's a visually engaging film. The young performers are all strong and they're given just enough personal drama to add a coming-of-age element without bogging down the story.

Even though the movie is based on previously established characters, the filmmakers are quick in getting the audience up to speed. TRIO - The Hunt for the Holy Shrine is a fun choice for older kids who are fine with subtitles but not looking for anything too heavy. Then at home you can watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and discuss who did booby-trapped holy object hunts better.

TRIO screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on:
  • Sunday April 9, 2017 at 3:45 pm
  • Saturday April 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm

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