Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Whisper of the Woods (Book Review: Multicultural Children's Book Day)

I am so happy to once again be participating in the Multicultural Children's Book Day!


Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that. 


I was first introduced to author D.G. Driver and her high school protagonist, Juniper "June" Sawfeather, when I read and reviewed the first novel in this series, Cry of the Sea, for the 2016 Multicultural Children's Book Day.  In the first book, I loved the combination of real life environmental concerns, Native American culture, and fantasy - all centered around teen characters who fans of Young Adult fiction will relate to. Therefore, I was excited to read the second book in the series, Whisper of the Woods, for this year's MCBD 

At the end of Cry of the Sea, June, the daughter of environmental activists, is summoned by her father to a new protest involving the lumber industry and the cutting down of centuries old cedar trees. Whisper in the Woods picks up right where we left off in book one. 

In need of funds, one of the local Native American reservations has decided to sell their Old Growth cedar trees to the logging industry. The Sawfeathers are naturally opposed to this decision and have initiated a protest. To complicate matters, the Chief Executive of the Tribal Council in charge of this decision is June's uncle, Nathan. 

When in the woods as part of the protest, June is convinced she hears whispering. June feels an indescribable bond with one tree in particular. As legends begin to be told and the mysterious history behind this tree is unfolded, June decides to stage her own sit-in - 170 feet up in the tree! However, it soon becomes evident that June may not be allowed to leave the tree even if she wanted to. What happens next is a beautiful, yet sometimes eerie, story involving a mythical tree spirit that emphasizes the role of these ancient trees on our planet. The novel is very suspenseful and has the reader repeatedly questioning the motives of the spirit.

Will the tree release June? And, if so, under what conditions?

After finishing Cry of the Sea, I commented that I would have liked more Native American cultural connections. Whisper of the Woods delivers that.  Probably for this reason, I enjoyed it even more than Cry of the Sea. And, in keeping with the main purpose of the series, it doesn't forget to highlight environmental conservation. 

You don't need to have read the first novel to understand this one, but they are deeply connected, and it would make more sense. I believe the target audience of middle and high school teens will thoroughly enjoy this novel and believe teachers may certainly use it as a stepping stone to discussing the plight of our environment and things we can do to help protect and save it. 

I strongly encourage teens to become active in environmental issues.  A simple way to do so is to organize a local beach clean-up with your school or outside organization. The future of our planet depends on the compassion and action of today's youth. 

NOTE: I received this book free from the author, D.G. Driver, and her publisher, Fire and Ice Young Adult Books, requesting an honest review in honor of MCBD. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's rules and guidelines.  


Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive Co-Host Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our Co-Hosts HERE.
MCBD Links to remember:
MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/
Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i


Read more of my Book Reviews

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sully (Nik's Piks)

Sully Movie Review

"If he had followed the rules, we'd all be dead." ~ Sully

Initially, I was disappointed I missed Sully in theaters, but, honestly, I am glad I saved it for DVD. While I liked it and thought they did a great job with the story, it almost had a made for television feel. The film, directed by Clint Eastwood and based on the memoir by Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, gives an account of the true, near-fatal U.S. Airways flight emergency landing in the Hudson River. However, this is not the story of the incident itself per se, but rather it deals with the events that happened in the days immediately following the event. 

On January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina lost both engines when the aircraft collided with a flock of geese only minutes after takeoff. With only minutes to survey the situation, Captain Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) decided their only option was to try and make a forced water landing in the frigid waters of the Hudson River. Miraculously, all 155 crew and passengers on board survived the landing and the rescue efforts that followed. Sully was deemed a hero in the eyes of the world. 

Watch Official Trailer

What the public did not know until sometime after this fateful day, is that Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), underwent intense scrutiny and harsh criticism from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the investigation that followed. In what became a battle between computer evidence and raw human instinct, Sully and Skiles had to prove their actions were justified. 

The film portrays the actual landing as well as the NTSB hearings. It also highlights the internal stress the two men understandably suffered as they dealt with the realization of the horrific events, and as they defended Sully's unprecedented actions. 

"I've delivered a million passengers over 40 years in the air, but in the end, I'm going to be judged by 280 seconds."  ~ Sully

The scenes of the landing and rescue were dramatic and very well done. Hanks delivered a convincing performance as the pilot who pulled off the impossible by placing all statistics and training aside and going with his gut. Overall, I would recommend this film to nearly anyone. It is definitely worth a watch. 

Sully is rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language. The film also stars Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, and Mike O'Malley. 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Golden Globe Awards: In a Nutshell

Last night was the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards, but I can honestly say it was my first time that I tuned in to them (at least in their entirety).  I am not much of a television fan, with the exception of my few favorites, and have, therefore, preferred the Oscars over the years. 

Jimmy Fallon suffered through some technical difficulties in his opening monologue, barely holding it together until they sorted it all out. Meryl Streep was awarded the Cecil B. Demille Award for her lifetime achievement in film and gave a speech that will not be soon forgotten. 

Otherwise, there were no major surprises. La La Land, which opened in theaters last month, walked away with several awards including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), and Best Actress (Emma Stone) in that category. Moonlight, won for Best Motion Picture - Drama and, on the television front, The Crown, The People v O.J. Simpson: An American Crime Story, Atlanta, and The Night Manager were notable winners. 

Moonlight: Official Trailer

My favorite animated film of 2016, Zootopia, walked away with the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Animated. I was surprised to see how many nominations Nocturnal Animals received, but was happy for Aaron Taylor-Johnson on his win for Best Supporting Actor. 

Again, there weren't many surprises (at least not on the motion picture side). All the films that I walked away wanting to see were already on my radar and include Fences, La La Land, Moonlight, and Manchester by the Sea

Happy viewing! 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Readers' Choice: TOP FILMS to see in 2017

I want to thank everyone who voted in my Readers' Choice for TOP FILMS to see in 2017 surveys.  If I am to be completely honest, the line-up, while filled with major blockbusters, isn't as exciting to me as 2016's film releases were. Either way, by now you may have read my list and my son's list of 2017 must-see films. If not, check them out!! Between these three lists, your movie ticket budget for the year should be completely allocated. 

After tallying the votes, here is the 2017 READERS' CHOICE list of TOP FILMS to see in 2017

Number 10 - La La Land  - now playing in theaters

Official Trailer: La La Land

Number 9   - War for the Planet of the Apes - release date: July 14, 2017

Number 8  - Kong: Skull Island - release date: March 10, 2017

Number 7  - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - release date: May 26, 2017

Number 6  - Wonder Woman - release date: June 2, 2017

Number 5  - Beauty and the Beast - release date: March 17, 2017

Official Trailer: Beauty and the Beast

Number 4  - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - release date: May 5, 2017

Number 3  - Spider-Man: Homecoming - release date: July 7, 2017

Number 2  - Logan - release date: March 3, 2017

Official Trailer: Logan

And, finally, at NUMBER ONE on all THREE lists is STAR WARS: Episode VIII due out December 15, 2017!! 

Other films that received mentions are: Split, John Wick Chapter 2, Alien: Covenant, World War Z, T2 Trainspotting, Justice League, and Blade Runner 2049

Like I said, lots of big budget action / fantasy/ sci-fi films to look forward to this year. I'd like to remind my readers that, if they are looking for some not-so-obvious choices, head over to my list of TEN MOVIES to See in 2017 where you will find a few. 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Most Anticipated Films of 2017 (Tim's Piks)

The future film director in the family didn't want his voice to be left out of the TOP FILMS to see in 2017 discussion. If you would like your opinion to count in my reader's choice list, please comment below. 

The other day I published MY list. Read it here.

So, without further ado.....here is Tim's (age 12) list of Most Anticipated Films of 2017. 

10 - A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls -  Trailer 

 9 - Despicable Me 3

 8 - The Lego Batman Movie

 7 - Wonder Woman

 6 - Justice League

 5 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

 4 - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword - Official Trailer 

 3 - Alien: Covenant  

 2 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

And, no surprise, at NUMBER ONE - 

 1 - Star Wars: Episode VIII

Which films are you most looking forward to seeing in 2017? Comment below and be included in my reader's choice list coming soon.  

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

TEN Movies to See in 2017 (Nik's Piks)

Okay, movie buffs, 2017 is slated to give us many, MANY, huge blockbuster films - many from Marvel and DC Comics evident by their dominance of my list. But, there are so many more to add to our Must-See list. It wasn't easy to narrow my list down to just ten, and I know I am leaving many sure-to-be fabulous films out. However, for this list I am going with variety, and whether I run to the theater on opening weekend, or wait for them to be released on DVD, here are the TEN movies I want to see in 2017. 

10 - The Wedding Invitation  (Romantic Comedy)  

9 - A Dog's Purpose  (Adventure/Drama)  

8 -  Wonder Woman  (Action/Fantasy)

7 - Beauty and the Beast  (Drama / Musical)  

6 - Spiderman: Homecoming  (Action/Fantasy)

5 -  Everybody Loves Somebody  (Romantic Comedy)

4 -  Guardians of the Galaxy  (Action/Fantasy)

3 - Hidden Figures (Drama)

2 - Star Wars: Episode VIII  (Science Fiction)

1 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - (Action/Adventure)

BONUS:  I would also like to have a special mention of the film Lost in London which will be shown in theaters for one night only - January 19, 2017. This film will be filmed and broadcast LIVE - a truly unprecedented event! For this reason alone, I want to go see it. 


RELATED ARTICLE: Most Anticipated Films of 2017 (Tim's Piks) 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too!