Gift ideas for the whole family:
For the preschooler-2nd grader
Scholastic’s Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics is my very favorite DVD series ever for 3-8 year olds, with the very best in children’s books. The visuals, narration, and musical accompaniment are perfectly matched with stories that are funny, wise, inspiring, spooky, and always, always, an invitation to reading. Every one in the series is outstanding family entertainment and for the first time they are available as a set as well.
The latest from Veggie Tales is The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s, inspired by the story of the prodigal son. Like Dorothy, he learns that there’s no place like home.
Dora’s Christmas Everyone’s favorite explorer gives Santa a gift.
For the 3th-8th grader
The Naked Brothers Band and the companion television series with real-life brothers Nat and Alex Wolff playing superstar versions of themselves is hilarious and charming.
Like Disney superstar Hannah Montana, life is imitating art, with the real-life performers becoming very successful as performing artists. High School Musical 2 continues the phenomenon that was the surprise hit of 2006.
The 2007 Washington Jewish Film Festival included nearly 60 films. Some highlights:
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox A documentary telling the story behind the toiletries sold in health food stores and follows Bronner’s son as he carries forth his father’s message of unity and cleanliness.
Arranged Two devout women, one an Orthodox Jew, one a Muslim, meet as teachers in a New York school and find that they have a great deal in common. Very touching and sincere — inspired by a true story.
Bad Faith A French couple does not worry about their religious differences even though he is an Arab Muslim and she is a Jew because they are non-practicing and uncommitted — until she becomes pregnant.
Justice Louis D. Brandeis: The People’s Attorney Documentary about the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice and the originator of our modern legal theories about the right to privacy — now more central than ever in the era of Facebook and The Patriot Act.
Kike Like Me In the tradition of Black Like ME and Gentleman’s Agreement, a Canadian film-maker tells the people he meets that he is Jewish and films their reactions. Lubavitchers invite him to pray, Pat Buchanan bristles at the implication he is anti-Semitic, and some non-Jews admit that they think Jews want to control the world. Often frustrating but always provocative.
Love and Dance Like many of the films in the series, this focuses on a character who is uncertain about his identity because he feels
in betweeen two cultures. His mother is Russian and his father is Israeli. Somehow a ballroom dance class featuring the cha-cha and the tango helps him bridge the divide and develop his own identity.
Praying with Lior Documentary about Lior, who has Down Syndrome. He also has a gift for prayer, and for inspiring those around him. And he is preparing for his bar mitzvah.
Helena Bonham Carter stars in this nostalgic story set in 1966. A London boy realizes that his bar mitzvah is scheduled for the date of the World Cup. He starts to root for every team playing against England because if England is in the World Cup, no one will come to his bar mitzvah. Meanwhile, his parents’ store may be put out of business by a new supermarket.
Little toy jungle animals are lined up on the rug. Typewriter keys bang like gunshots. Briony (Saoirse Ronan) is writing a play called “The Trials of Arabella.” It is 1935 England, a dream of a summer afternoon on a sleepy but grand estate and Briony is the much-loved youngest daughter of the house. It feels like the biggest problem she will ever have is whether her young visitors will cooperate in putting on the play. She is already trying to impose her story on people. Briony is more imaginative than perceptive and that will lead to terrible betrayal, when the story she imposes is fictional but its consequences are very real.
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Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is disobedient, obstinate, crafty, and skeptical. In other words, she challenges authority, she is is a creative thinker, and she is in the grand tradition of the heroes of classic adventure stories. And this is a grand adventure indeed, sweeping, imaginative, epic, thrilling.
Lyra lives in an alternate world that looks like 19th century Oxford. She is an orphan essentially being raised through the benign neglect of a group of academics, with occasional visits from her uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), an explorer-scientist. She runs wild much of the time, playing with the servant’s children rather than sitting in classrooms. In her world, “souls walk beside our bodies” in the form of “daemons,” animal spirits that are invisibly connected to their humans. The daemons of children shift from one species to another as the circumstances inspire — or require. But daemons assume one form at puberty and retain it.
Lord Asriel arrives with news of “dust,” a mystical force he has been studying at the top of the world. There are mysterious rumors of children being snatched up and taken away. An imposing and mysterious woman named Mrs. Coulter invites Lyra to stay with her. And one of the scholars gives Lyra an important gift called an althiometer, a kind of compass with mysterious symbols that when read correctly — or rather, when read by the person who knows how to use it — tells the truth. All of these developments come together as Lyra goes on a journey in search of her captured friend, a journey that requires the assistance of a cowboy (gravel-voiced Sam Elliott), a witch (Eva Green), and an armored bear (voice of Ian McKellan).
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