Archive for Kids

Peter, Paula and the Pelican

Peter, Paula and the Pelican.  Brent Cheetham.  Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd, Surrey, England.  ISBN 978-1-78623-019-5  Paperback. 41 pages.  Available from Amazon UK

IT’S BEEN a long time since I’ve read a children’s publication.  I’ve never reviewed one before, so I didn’t know what to expect.  Therefore, Peter, Paula and the Pelican was a first for me.  If that wasn’t enough, the author is an old mucker of mine, Brent Cheetham!

Published towards the middle of 2016, Peter, Paula and the Pelican is the first of several booklets he has written.  The others include The Rake’s Regression (Nov 2016), Ecstatic Essays (Apr 2017), andCuffley Capers (Aug 2017).

Before delving into any publication I always like to look at both the authors and publishers notes to get an idea of what I’m about to read. Peter, Paula and the Pelican was no exception.  Here I got a hint of thewhimsical nature of the booklet and the sense of humour employed by the author.  We are told that the book is:

‘a romp of a story, combining humour, pathos and nonsense for the edification of the young and the not so young adults who are still young at heart.  The author confirms that he has not yet had a visit from the men in white coats.

The author is aged 60, lives in the village of Cuffley, Hertfordshire, and still is partial to the odd peanut butter sandwich although he says he prefers a nice strong cup of English breakfast tea over a glass of ginger beer’.

Peter, Paula and the Pelican is set in England in 1925 and tells the tale of brother and sister Peter and Paula Brown who live in a cottage in the village of Sleepy Hollow.  Like many children they are getting under their mother’s feet so she sends them out to play.

Making their way to the local woods they come across hole in the bottom of a hedge which in turn leads to a large oak door.  Peter, who is the oldest, is all for opening the door.  Paula, on the other hand, worries in case there are ‘monsters, lions or dragons’ on the other side.  However, Peter notes that the last dragon was “killed years ago by somebody called St. George.”  (I thought that this was a nice way of weaving a little heritage and tradition into the book).

Disaster strikes when the door slams behind them as they become stuck in this ‘strange land’ that boasts two suns in the sky.  However, this is relatively normal compared to the adventure that follows and the characters they meet!

First up is a talking Pelican who informs them that they’re in Back to Front Land.  The only way of getting back home is to see the Prime Minister, Herbert Spencer.  He can gain them an audience with King Lupin the Second so that they get the key to unlock the door.  The King lives ‘in a big house in the big city’ but is unlikely to see the children ‘on account of the Brent.’

So who or what is ‘the Brent’?  In the best traditions of any children’s publication he is some form of ogre.  He ‘is a great big ugly giant, with moles on his face, who goes to the big city every now and again and demands peanut butter sandwiches and often knocks off chimney pots from the roof of the city houses’.

The Pelican has offered to take them to the ‘big house’ and so the adventure begins.  As mentioned earlier they meet some very weird and wonderful characters.  They include talking chickens who are knitting square egg cosies for the square eggs that they lay.  There’s also atractor-driving talking monkey, ‘silly sheep’ who have a problem as they never tell lies, a talking tablecloth, peanut butter mines (for some reason Back to Front Land seems to thrive on peanut butter) and a sign that points in two opposite directions – but to the same location!

Two more amazing characters include an owl who has such bad eyesight he has to wear glasses.  Indeed, this owl defies convention by coming out during the day – yes, you’ve guessed it, he’s a day owl as opposed to a night owl!  There’s also a retired dancing horse called Brian who talks absolute nonsense.  For instance, when asked what are the ingredients to carrot soup he replies ‘carrots and soup of course.’

I laughed at the method of transport that was taken to see the Prime Minister and King Lupin in the ‘big city,’ for Peter and Paula sat on Brian’s back whilst the Pelican perched on his head.  This must have been a sight for sore eyes.  Needless to say, Brian the nonsense horse talked absolute nonsense during the journey.

At last they reach their destination and manage to sort out ‘the Brent’ problem.  I don’t want to go into any detail how they did this – I don’t know if I’m over-thinking this part of the booklet, but I think much of what’s wrong with modern Britain can be explained here.  Read it for yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion.  The only thing I will say is that Paula is the hero of the hour.

I hope I’m not spoiling things by saying that the children make it home ok.  However, they do get some help from the Pelican, ‘the Brent’ and a bi-plane made of wood and canvas!

I must admit I really enjoyed Peter, Paula and the Pelican.  I chuckled to myself as some of what was said (especially by Mrs. Brown) brought back memories from my own childhood, which admittedly wasn’t exactly yesterday.  Typical English eccentricity flows through it – Peanut Butter sandwiches and Ginger Beer feature heavily – and I wondered how Brent (the author as opposed to the ogre!) managed to dream up these characters.   Indeed, where did he get his inspiration from?  It’s also Politically Incorrect in parts and the gender stereotypes would give the Orwellian ’thought police’ many a sleepless night.

The only downside were a few spelling and grammatical errors, which the author has acknowledged.  Hopefully, they’ll be sorted out in any reprint. However, they don’t really spoil this booklet at all and I’d happily recommend it to anyone who reads to their children.

  • Reviewed by John Field.

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Film & DVD Review: Brother Bear

RUNNING TIME: 80 Minutes DIRECTORS:Aaron Blaise & Robert Walker

Reviewed By Jacqueline

A great start! An old woman talks about her ancestors and their spiritual beings. A unique fantasy story emerges, she tells of, “a world full of magic” and “the ever-changing light dancing across the sky, the lights are powers to make changes to our world”.

Most importantly for the story she continues, “when each of us comes of age the great spirits reveal to us a totem that helps guide us through our lives”.

I’m curious, what are these totems? The old woman awards Kenai, (Joaquin Phoenix), with his totem, The Bear of Love. We learn of his two older brothers’ totems. Denhai, (Jason Raize) has been bestowed with the totem of wisdom, while his other brother Sitka, (D. B Sweeney), has been awarded the totem, the Eagle of guidance.

A great story unfolds of brotherly love and honour. Kenai’s life changes forever due to an unfortunate event. He can’t turn back time and finds himself being part of a bear world. He hooks up with a baby bear called Koda, (Jeremy Suarez), whom he adores and eventually loves. Together they set out on their long journey over the mountains looking for answers trying to turn back time. Unfortunately all is not well; an angry hunter carrying a spear tries to kill Kenai.

Kenai and Koda eventually find what they have been searching for. However, a twist in the storyline is one that changes Kenai’s life forever. He is transformed from a boy to a man and finds himself with an extended family.

You will enjoy the enchanting music from Phil Collins and Tina Turner. The animation is extremely colourful and exciting. A truly unique production, which comes highly recommended. Your children will love talking for hours on end about the colourful animals they have seen, such as the bears, mammoths, squirrels and moose. It is great that all of the animals were friendly and kind towards one another. Your little ones will enjoy sharing the experience of the great magical animal kingdom that brother bear experienced. They will be able to talk and talk with their siblings about brotherly love and totems for hours on end. One of the strengths of this animation is that it proves to be an enjoyable production for adults to watch with the added benefit that you will be able to share the experience and magic of Brother Bear with your children.



Chuck Williams


# Tab Murphy
# Lorne Cameron
# David Hoselton
# Steve Bencich
# Ron J Friedman


# Phil Collins, (On My Way/No Way Out/Look Through My Eyes)
# Jeremy Svarez, (On My Way with Phil Collins)
# Tina Turner, (Great Spirits)
# The Bulgarian Women’s Choir, (Transformation)
# The Blind Boys of Alabama, (Welcome)


# Joaquin Phoenix, (Kenai Bear)
# Jeremy Suarez, (Koda)
# Jason Raize, (Denahi)
# Rick Moranis, (Rick)
# Dave Thomas, (Tuke)
# D. B Sweeney, (Sitka)
# Joan Copeland, (Tanana)
# Estelle Harris, (Old Lady Bear)
# Michael Clarke Duncan, (Tug)
# Paul Christie, (Ram 1)
# Daniel Mastrogiorgio, (Ram 2)

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Film & DVD Review: The Polar Express

Certificate UK:U / USA:G
Running Time 100 mins

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Robert Zemeckis. Written by Zemeckis and William Broyles Jr., based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg.

A lot of the press attention for The Polar Express has centred on the technology behind its production .It’s the first feature-length usage of the process of Motion Capture or as the studio more accurately calls this (given the detail and complexity) “performance capture”. Actors were given costumes with sensors attached that map onto points in three-dimensional space inside the 3D computer environment. Many small points were placed on the muscles of their faces to capture every nuance of expression. The movement and expression flows and is natural but they then played with style, colour and other elements. Tom Hanks plays six parts: the conductor (that’s where he resembles himself the most closely), the boy, the boy’s father, the mysterious hobo, a Scrooge puppet, and Santa Claus. In most reviews this has been called an animated film. I don’t think that’s right. It’s certainly not live-action but I feel that it would be fairer to see it as a new medium. It’s easy to see why everyone is excited by the production process as it opens up so many new possibilities – especially as techniques develop and we move closer to ‘photo-real’ images. The process will raise ethical and even political issues in the future (but that’s another article!).

Some critics have found the film ‘creepy’ because of the mix of real expressions with not quite real representations. I can see where they are coming from – although it didn’t have that effect on me. It’s difficult to see how the fabulous artwork from Van Allsburg’s 1985 book could have been brought to life without the use of this technology. The rendering of ‘Lonely Boy’ is both subtle and beautiful. I loved the creativity displayed in the scene where a ticket is lost and is blown by the wind to an encounter with an eagle and other ‘adventures’. I also enjoyed the scene where hot chocolate is served on the train in a spectacular song-and-dance routine.

But enough of the technology – what about the story? It’s a good one. An unnamed boy lies in bed, late on Christmas Eve, entertaining doubts about the existence of Santa Claus. Like a lot of children around 8 or 9, he sifts and weighs the evidence. Then gradually he nods off. When he awakes, a locomotive has pulled up in front of his house. It’s the Polar Express, a train that makes an annual run to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. The boy runs outside in his bathrobe and slippers, and the conductor advises him to get onboard. Once there he finds other children, all wearing pajamas and all around the same age. From there, the movie unfolds as a series of adventures. There are some great set-pieces. We get high adventure, such as a sequence where the brakes fail as the train is racing along tracks that mimic a roller coaster, careening down a “179-degree grade” and racing through tunnels with a half-inch of clearance. Hero Boy and the Hobo ski the top of the train to find safety before the tunnel! The scene of an out-of-control dash with the train skidding off its tracks and going sliding out across a collapsing frozen lake is thrilling too. You will also enjoy the arrival at the North Pole, where the elves treat Santa Claus like the ultimate rock star.

The movie’s strong emotional pull stems from the way it expresses a loss of magic and wonder. It’s kind of nostalgic and wistful – even a little regretful. This aspect of the film gives it a complexity that will enthrall adults while the kids enjoy the action.

Cast & Credits

  • Body movement performers: Hero Boy/Father/Conductor/Hobo/ Scrooge/Santa: Tom Hanks
  • Smoker/Steamer: Michael Jeter
  • Hero Girl: Nona Gaye
  • Lonely Boy: Peter Scolari
  • Know-It-All: Eddie Deezen
  • Additional voice performers:
  • Hero Boy: Daryl Sabara
  • Smoker/Steamer: Andre Sogliuzzo
  • Sister Sarah: Isabella Peregrina
  • Lonely Boy: Jimmy Bennett
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    Film & DVD Review: Bear in the Big Blue House

    Bear in the Big Blue House: Potty Time With Bear
    Bear in the Big Blue House: Shapes and Colours With Bear
    Reviewed by Pat Harrington

    First, let me confess that I’m a big fan of Bear in the Big Blue House. I watch it on television with the kids and they enjoy it almost as much as me! I find myself humming the tunes in embarrassing situations and getting weird looks off people who recognise them!

    Bear was first seen on the Disney Channel but it has grown into one of the most popular kid’s shows. One reason I like Bear is that he has a lot of fun. He is a big, gentle and calm character. His ‘supporting cast’ of Treelo the lemur, Ojo the bear cub, Tutter the mouse and Pip and Pop the otters are great.

    It’s educational but not preachy. There are underlying morals but the show entertains. It’s a difficult balance to maintain but Bear in the Big Blue House accomplishes it. Add to that some well-written lyrics and tunes and you’ve got a hit.

    I was delighted to hear that a range of Bear DVDs was being released. Potty Time With Bear deals with teaching and encouraging basic bathroom skills and would be a good aid for parents. My only criticism is that is used the American diaper rather than nappy which might confuse some English kids. Perhaps we need an English English option on the soundtrack! Shapes, Sounds and Colours is very watchable and fun but not as good. I thought that it was a little too complex for younger children when it went into how colours could be mixed.

    Well worth buying, however. I look forward to seeing the next in the series when they are released in June.

    Potty Time With Bear Extras

  • Your potty chair
  • What’s that smell?
  • The Toileteers
  • Hello SongShapes, Sounds and Colours With Bear Extras
  • What’s in the mail today?
  • Some of the colours I see.
  • Me, I’m The Shape of a Bear
  • Listen UpProduct Information

    Certificate U Running Time 90 mins

    Technical Specifications

    Closed Caption Region 2

    Languages and Subtitles

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Italian
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    Film & DVD Review: Hoodwinked! (2005)

  • Directed by: Cory Edwards
  • Todd Edwards (co-director)
  • Rental/ Retail Release Date: 29th January
  • RRP: £19.99
  • Certification: UK:U / USA:PG (certificate #42224) / Finland:K-7 / Ireland:G / Canada:G (Ontario) / Norway:7 / Australia:G / Czech Republic:U / Germany:o.Al. / Singapore:G / Sweden:7 / Netherlands:AL / France:U
  • Running Time: 80 minsThis is the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood. But if you thought you were familiar with the story, forget it. This is told from four different perspectives Red (voice of Ann Hathaway), the Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton), Granny (Glenn Close) and a fairly dumb, axe-wielding woodsman (Jim Belushi).

    It starts at the end of the tale with the arrest of the four. They are accused of stealing ‘goodie’ recipes and interrogated by a long-legged frog, Inspector Flippers (David Ogden Stiers). Each suspect tells a different story that somehow cleverly ties the whole event together. It’s similar in its use of different perspectives to Kurosawa’s classic “Rashomon” but produced by computer animators at the Weinstein Company.

    The script is excellent. Adults will enjoy the puns. The kids will enjoy the many animal characters, such as pigs as policemen, a singing, hillbilly goat (Benjy Gaither), a squirrel on speed (director Edwards), a Huggy bear-type stool pigeon sheep (Chazz Palimeri) and a tricky little bunny, Boingo (Andy Dick). Having said that I really liked the hilbilly goat and his ‘Be Prepared’ song!

    Hoodwinked is full of twists and turns and is a good film for adults to watch alongside the kids.

    DVD Extras

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Critters Have Feelings Music Video
  • How to Make an Animated Film
  • Commentary with the Film Makers
  • Theatrical Trailer
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