Thursday, November 22, 2012

Guest Post: Great Movies For Kids

Great Movies for Kids

There are always new movies coming out for kids in theatres, but do you really want to take your chances on a hit or miss or would you rather go with a sure thing? There are some great kids movies, recent and older, that you probably have not shared with your children. Here are some of the top rated kid’s films:

Toy Story – I know you probably remember this 1995 surprise hit, but I am sure your kids are a little too young to be exposed to this new film classic. Personally I think the first movie of the trilogy was best, but I know that the second is some people’s favorite. This cartoon was so unique when it came out, but it is the great storyline and characters that make it a top kid’s pick.

Mary Poppins – This is an oldie but a goodie. Coming out in 1964, this tale of family strife and discord is filled with fun songs and important lessons. Kids will love the magic and dancing and you will love the object lessons. The old British setting might be a little hard for kids to grasp, but anyone can understand parents who work too much.

Pinocchio – Coming out in 1940, this classic Disney cartoon might be a little scary for the younger kids. Sometimes I do not understand how the writer’s came up with such a twisted tale. The moral of this story, about bad boys and good boys and the love of a family is a good one, however and it is undoubtedly something every child needs to see before they get to their rebellious teenage years.

Kiki’s Delivery Service – Released in 1989, this is not a Disney film. Instead it was written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki, the famous Japanese animator. The tale of a young witch who gets a job as a delivery girl, this sweet and fun tale does not focus on the witchcraft but rather the girl’s service and kindness to others.

Finding Nemo – Another Disney Pixar contribution to the list (seems like a lot of those, huh?) Finding Nemo is a great story of a rebellious fish and his loving but overprotective father. This heartwarming tale is full of fun and adventure, but even the scariest parts are not too scary for the young ones. With bright colors and fun animated fish, even the littlest kids will be glued to the 2003 film.

The Wizard of Oz – Released in 1939, this was a groundbreaking film. Not only was it in color (gasp!) but the songs and characters brought new life into an era where that sort of thing was very unusual. The kids will love the munchkins, the cowardly lion, the dopey scarecrow and the moody tin man, not to mention Toto, but be aware that the witch and the flying monkeys might scare younger kids. I love the moral though, that there is “no place like home.”

Up – A Disney Pixar cartoon released in 2009, this one is groundbreaking for a whole new reason. The slow storyline. This is a love or hate movie. Some people think it is too slow but personally I love it. Perfect for younger kids who need more time to think and fewer explosions, the tale of a grumpy old man and a boy scout lost in South America is the sweetest movie you will ever see. The talking dogs and colorful balloons will keep kids watching while you enjoy the storyline.

How to Train Your Dragon – One of my absolute favorite movies of all time, hands down. Even my brother enjoyed this one, and he is not a cartoon person! Coming out in 2010, I watched this film at least three times in theatres and another half dozen on DVD. Okay, so you get the point. The story of a Viking boy who does not fit in and his dragon pet is one that will have both you and your children glued to the screen the whole movie. With not a second of boredom or slowness, this is one film that is excitement and adventure from beginning to end. Not only that but the moral about listening to others, finding out who you are and not being prejudiced is one we can all agree with.

Babe – This sweet story of a pig adopted by sheep herding dogs was released in 1995. Throughout the story you get to learn not only about the pig and his discoveries of life, but you also get a glimpse into the life of the quiet farmer and his loud wife, the duck who wants to be a rooster, and ‘how things are’ in the farm world. While the mature themes of death and violence may be too much for younger kids, the talking animals and heroic nature of the pig more than make up for it. I love the ending and it will defiantly leave you smiling.

The Iron Giant – Released in 1999, this hand drawn animated cartoon looks like a throwback but is actually beautiful to watch. The heartwarming story of a friendship between a fatherless boy and a robot from outer space with amnesia is perfectly set during the cold war era of Sputnik and atomic fears. When the government comes to destroy their happiness it is up to the robot and the boy to show the world that you are who you choose to be.

The Incredibles – Another Disney Pixar cartoon released in 2004, this one is about a family of superheroes. However, that is not the point of the film. The point is that being yourself is more important than being a hero. It is only when the family is almost pulled apart by trying to fit in that they realize they need to stand out, together. A great story but a little scary at parts for younger kids.

Ratatouille – Released in 2007, this unusual movie stars a rat that loves to cook. If that was not enough, he gets a job in a restaurant by controlling a hapless kitchen helper that just happens to be the illegitimate son of the recently deceased owner of the restaurant. Regardless of the plausibility of the plot, the story is a good one about finding your own way in life and not trying to become someone you are not. Thankfully it all ends happily.

Chicken Run – Created by the same people that made Wallace and Grommet and released in 2000, this claymation film is full of humor for adults and kids alike. I loved the setting that was reminiscent of a prisoner of war camp, a la Stalag 13. The chickens are trapped in a egg farm and when they do not produce they are sent to the dinner table. However one chicken is planning to escape and sees her chance when a ‘flying’ rooster (voiced by Mel Gibson) lands in her lap. After finding out that the farm is about to turn into a chicken pie factory, the chickens band together to find freedom. Cute but a bit mature for younger kids.

The Princess Bride – This classic live action film was released in 1987 and quickly became a cult classic. Kids, teens and adults all love this film which is full of romance, action, and comedy. From princesses in distress to giant rats and sword fights, this movie will be a family favorite.

Monsters, Inc – Last but not least, the Disney Pixar hit released in 2001 that was all about the monsters that live in our closets. I love this movie for kids because it really shows them that monsters are not always scary, no matter what they look like. When a little girl, Boo, sneaks into the world of Monsters it is the monsters themselves that are scared. However they eventually learn that they do not need to scare kids anymore. After thwarting the evil plans of their boss, the monsters return Boo home safely and make a happier life for everyone. Very cute and funny with colorful characters, this movie is great for all ages.

Author Bio
Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny, etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Author Interview with Howard Shapiro, author of The Stereotypical Freaks

Happy Tuesday! Here's just one more thing for you to be thankful for this week (It's Thanksgiving week here in the States). The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro.

In case you missed it, you can find my review HERE.

Today, Howard was so kind to drop by and have a little Q&A with us. I'm super excited that this comic is now available for purchase, and I know so many of you are going to absolutely love it! 

Author Interview
Howard Shapiro
The Stereotypical Freaks

GL: Welcome, Howard! Please introduce yourself to everyone.

Howard: Thanks!  My name is Howard Shapiro. I am from Pittsburgh, PA.  I am married with two thirteen-year-old sons and my regular job is being the Controller for a Visual Effects Studio.  I also own a business named Supersonic Storybook Productions… Through that business I have authored four children’s book and also my debut graphic novel, The Stereotypical Freaks.  My Hockey Player for Life e-book has been the #1 kids hockey book, off and on, in terms of downloads on the Kindle sales chart the last 26 weeks.

GL: Now, tell us a little about The Stereotypical Freaks.

HS: Sure!  The Stereotypical Freaks is a 140-page graphic novel about four disparate high school seniors…  Tom, Dan, Mark and Jacoby, who share a love of rock and roll.  They come together to form a band to play in their high school’s battle of the bands.  When a life-altering secret is revealed, the guys initially wonder if they should go on.  Their decision sets up the last part of the story.

GL: What was the inspiration for this story?

HS: In the spring and summer of 2008, there were a lot of stories written about a local Pittsburgh area kid named John Challis who was dying from liver cancer.  There was a sports angle to the stories as he was a big baseball fan, but his personal story was very inspiring and he was wise beyond his years.  After reading the stories, I thought I wanted to write a character like him, with his story of courage and determination, and so John was the catalyst and inspiration for the story.  To learn more about him and see the work that his foundation is doing, please check out their website:

GL: Why a comic/graphic novel?

HS: Well, I’ve always loved comic books and at one of my school visits the librarian told me that the kids would take each and every graphic novel, regardless of the subject, out.  So, the little light went off above my head that maybe I could make my next story a graphic novel.  So, I went to our local public library and took a bunch of them out and fell in love with the genre.  Now, 95% of the books I buy or borrow are graphic novels!

GL: My son absolutely LOVES graphic novels. I think, especially for a child with ADHD, they are so much easier to follow and you can get through them as quickly or as slowly as you’d like without really getting “lost.” Probably three out of ever four books he checks out from the school library are comics :-).

GL: How is the publication process for a comic different from a traditional novel?

HS: That is an excellent question because the process, at least to me, is completely different.  I got into the mode of being a film director in that I thought everything through in a visual sense first and constructed the dialogue around the settings rather than vice versa.  So, everything revolved around the visual elements and I wrote it as a quasi-script instead of just writing it out in a more “normal” fashion.  Plus, I did it by panels, so I’d write the panel number, the character and then put in parentheses the characters actions, facial or body motions to give my illustrator the visual cues.  After that, I’d write their dialogue and even that had to be clipped or edited down because you only have so much space in each bubble.  It was a very different process but an extremely fun one and one that I would recommend to any writer to try! 

GL: Who did the artwork for the book?

HS: I was very lucky to have the great Joe Pekar ( do the artwork.  He is a very talented illustrator and does a lot of work for card and video game companies.  He also does covers for one graphic novel publisher.  The other member of my team, on lettering, was Ed Brisson (, who is a very talented artist and writer in his own right.  He’ll have a five-issue comic book coming out this fall.

GL: Is there any particular character that you relate to the most?

HS: I’d have to say that Tom is me and I am Tom!  This is my fifth book using this same character and in many ways he has been my doppelganger!  I relate things that have happened to me through him and sometimes I will write him the way I wished I would have acted in that circumstance or say what I should have said.  But more often than not, his actions were my actions.

GL: Are any or all of the characters based on someone in real life?

HS: Yes, as I mentioned, Tom is based on me, the Mark (the lead guitarist) character is based on my best friend in elementary school who moved on to other friends once he became a star athlete.  In the book, Tom and Mark’s reconciliation is pretty much how the real life Tom (me) and my friend reconciled.  Dan (the bass player) is based on a kid I was friends with in seventh grade and his real name was Daniel Roberts and that is the character’s name and one kid in our class called him Dan Bob and for some reason that stuck with me all of these years.  So, the name is the same, but after that, Dan is sort of amalgamation of every kind of overweight bass player in rock music… and there are many!  And, of course, Jacoby was inspired and done as a tribute to John Challis.

GL: Are you a musician? What do you play?

HS: I used to play the drums… never in a band or anything, just for fun.  I never took lessons or anything like that. I used to just bang away in my parents’ basement throughout my high school and college years.  If I was to pick a dream job, it would be to be a drummer in a great rock band.

GL: That sounds more interesting than piano or clarinet ;-)…

GL: I loved the suggested playlist that accompanied each chapter! Why did you decide to do this, and how did you pick the songs?

HS: Thanks!  I appreciate that as music is very central to this story as well as in my life.  The songs were chosen for several reasons.  In some chapters, lines in the dialogue were straight from a song.  In one chapter, when Tom is describing his relationship with Mark, he says how hurt he was that Mark dropped him as a friend.  He goes on to say that even though that happened a long time ago, “the past was close behind.”  This is a line from “Tangled up in Blue” by Bob Dylan.  So, there were parts or phrases from songs in each chapter and in some cases the songs listed were songs that I listened to while I was writing.  So, as a way to tip my cap to the bands that helped me, I wanted to list the songs out.  And one day, hopefully, when The Stereotypical Freaks gets made into a motion picture, the director will have a readymade soundtrack!

GL: Sounds like a plan! I’m sure they will be grateful :-).

GL: What other books do you have published and where can we find them?

HS: My other kids picture books (Hanukkah Counts Too!, Destructo and Spillerella, and Hockey Days and my middle grade novel, Hockey Player for Life) are available on Amazon or via my website:

GL: You have an entire day to yourself to spend however you wish. What do you do?

HS: Wow!  That would be great… I think I’d go to our art and history museum and then to our public library… all three are in the same area.   That would be a very fun day!

GL: What is the last movie you watched and what did you think?

HS: At the theater I saw Men in Black 3 which actually turned out to be better than I thought it would be.  But, everything else will pale to The Dark Knight Rises, which I plan on seeing twice (once in IMAX and then in a regular theatre) in the same afternoon.

GL: Okay, obviously we did this interview a while back :-). I hope The Dark Knight Rises did not disappoint! I liked it. And Men in Black 3 surprised me too. It made me cry…

GL: What would you have for your last meal?

HS: I went to Chicago once, by myself, to see the band Urge Overkill and I had heard about Giordano’s Chicago-style pizza and how great it was.  So, I stopped at one of their locations, which was near my hotel.  They take your order first and then seat you about an hour later or whatever the wait is that day.  Then the pizza arrived and I ate almost the whole thing and there was sauce everywhere.  I think I used about a dozen napkins, but it was worth it.  It was the greatest pizza I have ever had and I look forward to going to Chicago one day soon to relive the Giordano’s experience!

GL: Best piece of advice ever received or given?

HS: Work as hard as you can… and then work even harder!

Thanks so much, Howard! Congratulations on the release, and I wish you the very best!

For more about Howard and The Stereotypical Freaks, including where to buy and other reviews and interviews, please visit

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro

Wow! What a crazy time of year! I think it starts earlier and earlier every year. I need at least five clones to keep up with everything--toss in a couple extra for the last couple of months of the year, please...

I'm FINALLY getting around to sharing about this fantastic comic/graphic novel by an awesome guy: The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro. I feel like I've watched this baby grow over the past year or so. I got all sorts of sneak peeks and terrific swag from Howard, and now it is finally available for you to enjoy!

Drop back by tomorrow for an interview with Howard, and be sure to grab your own copy of The Stereotypical Freaks! You won't regret it...

The Stereotypical Freaks
By Howard Shapiro
ISBN: 9780578112176
Expected Publication: November 4, 2012 by Animal Media Group
Available Format: paperback, ebook

My Rating: ★★★★★

Publisher's Synopsis: Jacoby Nukik is an exchange student from Canada, with a spirit and wisdom well beyond his age.  Jacoby and three other, very disparate, high school seniors come together to compete in their school’s Battle of the Bands. They are The Stereotypical Freaks, and their world is coming to life in a new graphic novel from Sea Lion Books.

The Stereotypical Freaks is about the Battle of the Bands that the main characters enter, but at its heart it is a story about friendship, the power of music, and how we deal with loss. The power of music brings them together… the power of friendship, creativity, and determination takes them on a journey that will inspire the rest of their lives.

Although I've seen previews and been "in the loop" during most of the publication process, I was really pleased and surprised with the finished product!  When it all came together, this is a highly entertaining while truly touching story—perfectly illustrated and well-rounded for readers of any age.

What I really love about comics/graphic novels is that you don't get bogged down with pages and pages of descriptions—the pictures are right there to tell half the story, while the dialogue between the characters fills in the blanks. That, and I can read it in one sitting and enjoy it again and again as many times as I'd like!

Howard really brings these characters to life as we follow them through the story of their typical high school life, renewed friendships, and learning difficult yet monumental life lessons.

A really fun touch to the novel is the suggested playlist that comes with each chapter.  There are some great songs that I am very familiar with, while I was introduced to some that I didn't know that well at all. It just really added a whole new dimension to the reading experience.

Bravo, Howard! Amazing read and highly recommended for everyone… And I can't tell you how much it means to me that I was included in the acknowledgements J. Very cool indeed!