The Dinglehopper

You've Probably Never Heard of Us


Leave a comment

Movie Review: The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story

Bastian is a young boy who lives a dreary life being tormented by school bullies. On one such occasion he escapes into a book shop where the old proprietor reveals an ancient storybook to him, which he is warned can be dangerous. Shortly after, he ‘borrows’ the book and begins to read it in the school attic where he is drawn into the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction.

Most of my friends love The Neverending Story. It’s one of those moments in time or something. They have fond memories of Falcor. Just mentioning the Swamp of Sadness can make it a little dusty in the room. I don’t.

I never saw it. Well, until this weekend. When I was telling our preschooler about it last week I described the luck dragon as a sock filled with soup. For your information, that sounded as amazing to a child as it sounds derisive to you. Part of being an insufferable hipster parent is getting away with that kind of thing.

Anyway, one of our local theaters did those of us with offspring a good turn and offered a morning showing of this 80s classic. On a Saturday. Manna from heaven, provided you have some spare currency.

It’s scary as hell. I meaThe Neverending Wolfn that. Thirty minutes into Mad Max: Fury Road, I was talking to our preschooler about the metaphorical significance of hanging Max upside down for the blood transfusion and how it was similar
to Doc McStuffins. Thirty minutes into this Fangoria nightmare a tiny face had been burrowed into Mama for quite awhile already.

I don’t know if we just didn’t have nice things in the long ago. I remember everything but the gelflings in The Dark Crystal being kind of gross and weird, too. And now their porcelain faces might be the most uncanny thing in the movie. In, say, The Lord of the Rings, though, the creatures, even the baddies, are polished smooth and shiny. Palatable.

The Neverending SnailThe rockbiter and the racing snail and the bat are undoubtedly nice. But they’re hard to empathize with. And there’s a bit of a flaw in the overall design when the sound and visual effects of the giant are the same as the cataclysmic world-shattering earthquake at the end.

So, in the positive column the personalities and characteristics and motivations come through pretty clear. In the negative column there’s a lot of hard to look at frightening monstrosity going on.

I should do some reviewing, though. It’s a decent movie with some magical moments and the dragon riding effects definitely provided a series of frell yeah moments for young viewers. The ellision between reality and fiction is shown rather than overexplained and it, according to our preschooler, works remarkably well.

It is, however, probably the worst adaptation of a book I’ve ever seen. I try to be cool about that and I’ve mentioned here several times that I’m very accommodating. Even so, the gearhead lurking deep in my brain started complaining immediately. Scenes are cut, combined, or altered to such an extent that very little of what makes the book so good remains. It’s The Neverending Story retold by a ten year old.

Aha. I get it. That’s why all my friends love it from when they were kids. If it hadn’t been so ominous, I bet ours would be begging to go back. In point of fact, the theme song is already a favorite.

Still, if I had to recommend one or the other, I’d recommend the Michael Ende book to any ten year old. Even in translation, it solidly porThe Neverending Fierotrays the bookish child experiencing the loss and confusion of life’s upheavals. It’s
almost a primer on existentialism presented with humor, puns, and a reasonable retort. And it employs many of the same storytelling tricks as Midnight’s Children.

Um. Three stars. A must if your friends or your child’s friends have seen it. A pass if not. Seeing Inside Out first provides a sort of emotional playbook to compare stuff to.

Recommended for fans of Labyrinth, Beetlejuice, and The Last Unicorn.


Leave a comment

Book Review – Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child

Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child by Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha

Stress Free Potty Training

No two children experience the toilet-training process in exactly the same way. While some kids might be afraid to even go near the bathroom, others may master the actual act right away. “Stress-Free Potty Training” takes the anxiety out of this challenging rite of passage. The book differentiates the common childhood personality types, providing easy techniques to suit kids who are: goal-oriented, sensory-oriented, internalising, impulsive and strong-willed. Parents will find much needed advice to help them identify what ideas will work for their child’s temperament. This straight-talking guide enables readers to help any child make this important life transition free of worry, and in the way that’s right for them.

Filled with straight talk and practical advice, the second edition of Stress-Free Potty Training takes the anxiety out of this important life transition, helping you identify what approach will be most compatible with your child’s temperament. Starting with a simple quiz, the book provides easy techniques tailor-fit for all kinds of kids, whether they’re stubborn or willful, clinging to diapers, afraid to move on, or just late bloomers. The book shows you how to:

• Determine your child’s readiness to begin potty training
• Build on each success by gradually moving your child past his or her existing comfort zone (without adding undue pressure)
• Be a positive potty role model
• Handle accidents and temporary setbacks
• And more

Fully revised, the second edition includes brand new “Universal Strategies” . . . updated techniques for overcoming the common challenges and obstacles you’re likely to face with your child . . . ways to utilize the latest apps and websites that can be helpful during training . . . pitfalls to avoid on social media . . . and up-to-the-minute guidance on how to deal with interruptions and problems throughout the process.

This encouraging and practical guide helps you design a path around your own child’s needs, allowing you to say goodbye to diapers . . . with as little stress as possible.

So, if you’re reading this review, or any review, you’re probably wondering three things. Is it worth reading? Does it help? And does it free you from stress?

Stress-Free Potty Training makes good on its claim up there in the ad copy. Read at the right time, before your child starts potty training, this’ll reduce your anxiety about the process.

Is it worth reading? I think so. Again it’s probably a matter of timing. We went into potty training with what might generously be termed a smattering of book learnin’, anecdotal testimony, and assurances from every quarter that each child is different. We wouldn’t know our challenges, in other words, until we faced them.

That’s where Stress Free Potty Training comes in handy. First child? No experience? It’s got you. The information’s thoughtfully organized. What is potty training? What kind of child are you dealing with? What works for everyone? What works for your child? What are some common obstacles and how do you overcome them? Every child might be different, but you can enter into situation armed with good information and advice.

It might not be perfect. Our child is a textbook example of three of the types with some of the rest thrown in for good measure. But it’s possible to sort of triangulate even such a complex character and address specific concerns, even form a comprehensive strategy.

So, yes, it does help. I received a review copy well into our process and was able to apply some more effective techniques right away. I rather wish I’d picked it up sooner.

The most valuable part of the book might have been the skills acquisition chart. We learned that our child had mastered some simple and some advanced skills and sort of skipped over or entirely ignored others. It was both heartening and also maybe a little embarrassing. Needless to say we filled in the gaps and things began to run much more smoothly.

Obviously I haven’t read every potty training book, but I liked and benefited from another Au/Stavinoha book: Stress-Free Discipline. So this was a good fit. It didn’t eliminate our stress, but it’s helped reduce it. And instead of offering pithy advice, I’d recommend it and the time required to read it for parents with questions or concerns.

Recommended for parents who were only children, parents with the toddler/infant combo, and those motivated to be ready for challenges.

 


Leave a comment

Children’s Book Review: The Best Doghouse Ever

The Best Doghouse Ever (2)

By Mary Tillworth

Cover Illustrated by Sue DiCicco and Steve Talkowski

Interior illustrated by MJ Illustrations

Based on the screenplay

“Build Me a Building!” by Adam Peltzman

Based on the TV Series Bubble Guppies,

created by Robert Scull and Johnny Belt

The Bubble Guppies build a home for Bubble Puppy

STEP INTO READING

STEP 1: Ready to Ready to Read Preschool-Kindergarten

Does Your Child Know the alphabet? Is you child eager to begin reading? Step 1 is the perfect first step!

This is as much a story as it is a review. So the basics, before I take you down a rabbit hole, are these. This book is great. For toddlers. In fact, for most of this year, this was our toddler’s favorite book.

As you can see, there’s a lot of industry wrapped up in these twenty four pages. So much, in fact, that it prompts a vague feeling of unease. It’s part of a Random House marketing program. It’s a licensed adaptation of a Nickelodeon cartoon. It doesn’t just feature characters, it retells part of a particular episode.

I talk a lot about Frozen, which is a family favorite. So one might be forgiven for assuming that Bubble Guppies is another. That would explain everything. Except it’s not. We learned about the existence of the surreal submarine show watching Play-Doh surprise eggs videos during a bout of illness. I figured we should check out the show. Our toddler hated it.

Like, never speak of it again hated it. Wanna watch sumpin’ else hated it. This one’s weird hated it.

I also picked up a couple books from the library. And that’s where The Best Doghouse Ever! comes in. We tend to put the books down on the table and let interest guide our reading. Given the response to the show, I figured the Bubble Guppies books would be ignored.

Not so. We read it over and over and… well, only a toddler could handle the repetition. We learned the names, the setting, the relationships. We checked out all the books available at the library.

The text is large and the sentences are simple. But for all that it’s reasonably dense. Cramming charity, communication, and cooperation into less than a dozen words looks easy.

Guppies 01

Ignore the inanity of building a wooden doghouse on the ocean floor. The setting’s weird. But only as weird as, say, anthropomorphized animals or something.

The narrative moves along at a decent clip. The illustrations are colorful and precise. The environments are organized and uncluttered. Every page offers the opportunity for additional engagement identifying characters and objects.

Guppies 02

The Bubble Guppies are delightfully multiracial and relentlessly upbeat. It’s nice to have a reading reprieve after scary predators and sad, struggling trains. This was true for our toddler as much as it was for me. These books have been go-to bedtime reading for weeks.

But this particular book will always be special because it’s the first book our toddler read to me.

Guppies 03

 

I’m more or less sold on the Step Into Reading concept, at least at this first stage. These are designed for ages 4-6 and intended to help kids learn to read. But this one was fun, interesting, and memorable.

I had to excuse myself for a moment and when I returned, our toddler had the Kindle ready. My first bedtime story was executed perfectly page by page. It wasn’t reading, but it was how reading starts.

The Best Doghouse Ever! is available is paperback, library-bound hardback, and it’s part of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription service.


Leave a comment

Frozen Friday: Once Upon a Toddler

OUATODDLER

Once Upon a Time returned to our television screen last month. We shamefully finished dinner on the couch as the opening credits started, our toddler happily chowing away in the old high chair. We’d watched the first half of the season because of Anna and Elsa.

Right around the time our toddler discovered and fell for Frozen, ABC decided to pull this:

I’ve written at some length about how effective and instructive Frozen seemed to be after a single viewing. Kind of on a lark, I showed that to our toddler.

“That’s Elsa. Can we watch that?”

So, like all good parents, we tried to catch up on the show before the fall premiere. It was close. We don’t watch a lot of television and near the end it required a couple late nights. But we did it. Our toddler kept busy drawing or playing and deigned to watch when when the Of Arendelle sisters had scenes. The Frozen arc ended before Christmas and we didn’t hear anything about it.

Cut to four months later. We’ve mostly watched movies when we’ve watched anything at all. Our toddler’s developed the “Long Narrative” skill discovered during Frozen and displayed some remarkable comprehension in post viewing discussions. We were interested to see how the Queens of Darkness fared.

QOD logo

Things went relatively smoothly. We learned that four months of only watching movies or Netflix had created some expectations. Commercials were a particular challenge. They were met with indignation and feelings of betrayal.

“What!? Don’t turn it off!”

But we all sat together happily on the couch with plenty of hugs in case anything was scary. Toddlers can surprise you, talking constantly or being completely quiet. The episode ended and we got ready for bed.

It wasn’t until morning that we got a sense of how it was received. The editorial commentary came while walking down the stairs.

“There was no Elsa in that movie last night.”

“No, there wasn’t.”

“She was looking for Anna.”

She was looking for Anna

It wasn’t immediately clear that this was a recap of 4×09 “Fall,” of course.

“But Anna was in the water.”

Anna was in the water

That seemed to be enough, I guess. And the expectation was that they’d be in the next one. This time, the commercials weren’t confusing, just upsetting. It’s pretty gratifying seeing a toddler indignant at them, to be honest.

When Maleficent turned into dragon, things got a little tense. The kid ain’t scared of much, but dragons are on the list. Our toddler covered with questions.

“Where’s Anna? Where’s Elsa?”

We had to explain that they weren’t going to be back on the show, but that we could watch the Frozen themed episodes any time. Nonetheless, the show seems like a hit. The other night I asked, “Would you like to watch Gone Girl with us?” It was a safe question. I amuse myself by asking ridiculous questions with predictable answers.

“No. I want to watch Once Upon a Time.”

“But you want to watch the ones with Anna and Elsa, right?”

“And Hans!”

A week ago I was rewatching a scene while making dinner and our toddler recognized Killian by name. We were surprised and pleased, especially because we hadn’t talked about him much. But they may have lost their youngest fan last weekend. Babies and toddlers gotta stick together, and what they did wasn’t right.


Leave a comment

Book Review – Stress-Free Discipline: Simple Strategies for Handling Common Behavior Problems

Stress-Free Discipline: Simple Strategies for Handling Common Behavior Problems

by Sarah Au and Peter L. Stavinoha, out tomorrow

Stress Free Discipline

All children test boundaries (and sometimes your patience). It’s a natural part of growing up. Your job as a parent is to let them know what’s acceptable and what isn’t, praise good behavior, and enforce limits.

Easier said than done. Even the best-intentioned parents can find themselves shouting—or capitulating yet again to avoid a scene. Worse, the one-size-fits-all discipline methods experts tout can be too narrow for some concerns.

Blending developmental insights with an arsenal of proven techniques, Stress-Free Discipline prepares parents for any challenge: the preschooler who throws a fit . . . the second-grader who refuses homework . . . the budding tween who dishes out insults. The book helps determine the root cause, explaining what drives the behavior, why it’s usually normal, how to prevent escalations, and how to instill self-control. Once parents grasp the underlying motivation they can select the strategy that fits their child’s age, temperament, and issue—including role modeling, setting limits, positive reinforcement, negative consequences, disengagement—and deploy it calmly and with confidence. Examples and exercises throughout help readers personalize the authors’ advice to their unique situation.

First, let’s acknowledge right up front, as the authors do, that no portion of parenting will ever bee entirely free of stress. What you’re looking to do is reduce the amount of stress for yourself and for your children. Their intention is to provide strategies to do so. And let’s face it, if we could cut our stress in half, it’d be pretty freeing.

I picked out this book because we’re on the cusp of dealing with an emerging and malleable human being. Gone are the days where we must simply wait for biochemical equilibrium and emotional exhaustion. I don’t know if that’s a universal experience, but we reckoned correctly that reasoning with an infant was a fruitless endeavor.

What I didn’t realize is that Stress-Free Discipline is more of a rescue mission than an instruction manual. This book isn’t Discipline:101. You won’t get a step by step list of actions you can take to churn out perfectly behaved young people.

What you will get is a solid foundation for developing and improving your relationship with your child or children. The idea is to build on that foundation in order to reinforce your values, encourage expected behavior, and discourage bad behavior.

With a toddler just entering the age range covered by this book, many of the situations and examples are things I’ll have to remember. Or revisit. However, I wasn’t put off by that. Rather, I felt like I was reading it at exactly the right time. If we create such a foundation now, hopefully things will go more smoothly later. Still, I want to emphasize that a parent can pick up this book at any time and either gain some insight or be reminded to take the kinds of actions that require a little reflection before implementing.

During our day to day lives, the stress can get to us. We can take the easy, immediate road, without considering the consequences for the future. The strategies in Stress-Free Discipline aim to make better decisions easier, reduce the intensity of future conflicts, and develop positive habits in both parents and children. In other words, to reduce the stress.

The authors realize and acknowledge that not only are all children different, but all parents are as well. They provide a number of tactics for improving good behavior and curbing bad behavior, explaining how and why they function. More importantly, they describe how they interact and how best to use them in complementary ways. You can take what works for you and your child and discard or modify what doesn’t fully aware of where you’ll need extra work.

All in all, I found Stress-Free Discipline a worthy read. Trying to simply sum it up would probably lead to a lot of nodding and harumphing because some of the tips seem obvious. But what isn’t obvious is how important it can be to be always on. Or if you can’t be always on, to not need to be because you’ve already done a good portion of the groundwork.


Leave a comment

Frozen Friday: Recovery

Frozen Fever Kindle

A couple days before Frozen Fever and Cinderella hit theaters, Amazon recommended this. It doesn’t look like much. But let’s face some hard truths here; it doesn’t have to. It’s a sixteen page condensed version of the already short, um, short. I downloaded the sample and opened it up.

I wasn’t really impressed. Unlike some of our other Frozen books, this is just animation stills with plain text printed over the images. Or, more often, just under them.

Happy Birthday Anna

It’s relatively small print and frankly a lot of text for something I’d be reading to my toddler at bedtime. I was a little worried that it would be both boring and exhausting. I decided to pass in favor of the embarrassment of Bubble Guppies riches available with Kindle Unlimited.

So of course I forgot to delete the sample. Our toddler may not be reading yet, but the Frozen font is a logo unto itself. “What’s that?! Is that a book?! Can you read it to me?!”

What the heck. It’s three dollars. The worst that can happen is we only read it a couple times. If only. I read it three times that night.

Despite being kind of stilted, it’s not bad. It is a lot of text, but it’s memorable with touchstones in the pictures and in toddler life. The brightly colored letters in the banner above, for example, start conversations about the alphabet, painting, and birthdays.

In addition, when we did go to see it on the big screen, our toddler was essentially prepared. Our enjoyment wasn’t diminished one bit. I think the jokes landed more solidly and brought more pleasure. This certainly did.

Dry Banana Hippy Hat

 

And lately, we’ve been spelling out “DRY BANANA HIPPY HAT” and pointing to the individual words as we say them. Like Frozen, Frozen Fever was designed for repeat viewings. But it also seems to have been crafted with adaptation in mind. A block letter banner with no repeating colors in either anagram isn’t necessary for an animated short, but it’s perfect for a children’s book.

There’s a chance reading this over and over again will lull you to sleep if not drive you mad. But it’s great for its target audience. And a teachable text. Who knew?


Leave a comment

Children’s Book Review: Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr, illustrated by Eric Carle

Baby BearBaby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? is the final collaboration from this bestselling author-illustrator team. Young readers will enjoy Baby Bear’s quest to find Mama, and they’ll revel in identifying each of the native North American animals that appear along the way. The central focus on the special bond between mother and child makes a fitting finale to a beloved series.

Author’s Note

North America is filled with thousands of species of wildlife. These creatures have lived in their habitats for centuries. Together, we can work to ensure that they will remain wild and free forever. This book features ten of these great American animals.

Let’s face facts, here. We’d read Brown Bear since our toddler was an infant. We tried out Polar Bear and Panda Bear. Of course we were gonna give this one a shot. For completeness’ sake if nothing else.

Our local library had it in the 14 1/2 by 18″ board book we read Panda Bear in. Honestly, except for very young of very small hands, I think that’s the ideal format. The smaller board book and the Kindle editions have their advantages, but the large images show off what Eric Carle is really doing. I half expect questions about how to make them soon. And I’m eager to share the process. Maybe even try it out.

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? takes everything that worked from the previous collaborations and unites them. The visual experience of Brown Bear, the specific setting of Polar Bear, and the conservation theme of Panda Bear come together in an enjoyable final entry.

Baby Bear Snakes

The Rattlesnake from Baby Bear and the Boa Constrictor from Panda Bear

Some of the fierceness depicted in the previous volume appears to have been toned down. None of the animals look ready to eat the reader or one another. They’re mostly depicted in motion and that motion with that motion described, so there’s a secondary learning component sneaking around whenever your child is ready.

The art, as you can see above, is both distinct and improved. I’ll admit that I was surprised that our toddler could tell a giganotosaurus from a tyranosaurus. But differentiating snakes seems like another thing entirely.