Tag Archives: genre:humor

A Very Babymouse Christmas Review

a_very_babymouse_christmasA Very Babymouse Christmas (Babymouse #15) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2011. 978-0375867798

Synopsis: The holidays are here and everyone’s enjoying their favorite traditions—eating latkes, decorating for Kwanza, singing holiday songs, and most of all, being with family. Well, everyone except Babymouse. Babymouse only has one thing on her mind—PRESENTS!!! And whether she has to face down the ghosts of mean girls past or outsmart Santa himself, she’ll do whatever it takes to make sure she gets the present she wants. Will Babymouse find a whiz-bang under the tree? Will she learn the true meaning of the holidays? And what do you get for a narrator, anyway? – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This series is pretty popular and it came highly recommended by my librarian colleagues and my second cousins.

Why I finished it: This series is fun and funny, so I can totally understand the reader appeal. Yeah, I’m a little late to the game having only started reading the Holms’ work this last summer, but the sibling duo has definitely tapped into the mind of the reader and won their hearts. Christmas puns abound in this installment, beginning with a nod to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Readers will laugh out loud at Babymouse’s somewhat over-the-top antics in pursuit of the perfect Christmas gift – to receive, not to give. I love the multi-cultural cast of characters made up of a host of different animals – plus, I found it appropriate that the mean girls are cats. Despite the cover, the book is quite pink, which contributes to Babymouse’s personality. The art is fun and whimsical, befitting our day-dreaming heroine and it’s simple. I write that, and it has a sort of negative connotation, but it would seem the Holm siblings are relying on the characters and the plot to fuel the story along. Rather than an intricate page with details galore, it’s easier to follow with minimalist backgrounds and the three color scheme – an important factor in encouraging reluctant readers. Babymouse is full of humor and wit that will appeal to readers of all ages and remind us that there is more to the holidays than just the presents.

Other related materials: Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Squish series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney; Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renèe Russell; The Princess in Black books by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke

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Oh, Brother!: Brat Attack! Review

oh_brother_brat_attackOh, Brother! Brat Attack! by Bob Weber, Jr. and Jay Stephens

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015. 978-1449472252

Synopsis: Oh, Brother! stars the sibling duo of Bud and Lily, who humorously interact within the leafy confines of their middle-class suburban home and neighborhood. Whether they are playing together in the family room or running amok in the schoolyard, Bud and Lily elevate the act of one-upmanship to Code Red levels. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I have a soft spot for books about siblings.

Why I finished it: For those of us that have been blessed with siblings – either older or younger – we know what’s going to happen with Lily and Bud before we even crack the spine. But even if the antics between the two siblings is somewhat predictable, the reader is instantly endeared to the characters because of their love for each other…even if it isn’t always obvious. Lily and Bud are involved in a constant battle of the wits, each intent upon showing up the other with their own brands of superiority. The quick, light-hearted humor keeps the reader engaged and captures the delicate love/hate relationship between brothers and sisters. It’s reminiscent of the relationships between Beezus and Ramona Quimby and Peter and Fudge Hatcher: we laugh with them, we get angry with them, we cry with them, we are happy with them. They are the sort of stories that not only carry a nostalgia factor, but make us smile and remind us of the fun and innocence of childhood. Cute, quirky, and funny, this book is sure to strike a chord with reader of all ages.

Other related materials: Snoopy: Contact! (A Peanuts Collection) by Charles M. Schulz; Woodstock: Master of Disguise: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Charlie Brown and Friends: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; The Mutts Winter Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; The Mutts Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; EMU Club books by Ruben Bolling; Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary; Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary; Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary; The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume; Superfudge by Judy Blume; Fudge-a-Mania by Judy Blume; Double Fudge by Judy Blume

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The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders Review

olive_and_beatrix_1Olive & Beatrix, Book 1: The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders by Amy Marie Stadelmann

Scholastic, Inc., 2015. 978-0545814805

Synopsis: Twin sisters Olive and Beatrix don’t often get along. Olive is “ordinary” and loves science. But Beatrix is a witch! She has a brain full of tricks, and she uses her magic powers to play pranks on Olive and her best friend, Eddie. In this first book, Beatrix ruins Olive and Eddie’s latest science project. So Olive and Eddie play a prank on Bea. They rig up a bucket of spiders over her bedroom door. But when the spiders crawl into one of Bea’s magic potions…WHAM! Giant spiders are on the loose! These sisters will have to work together to shrink the not-so itty-bitty spiders down to size! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I have friends with younger children that struggle with reading, and the Branches books are a great way to help with retention.

Why I finished it: These books are not meant to be super deep by any means because it is designed to help grow readers, which means the author needs to get to the point a little bit quicker than some other beginning chapter books. We are introduced to the twins: Beatrix is a witch because she was born at midnight on the night of the full moon; Olive was born two minutes later and even though she’s not a witch, she works her own magic with science. The sibling rivalry is something lots of readers with siblings can relate to, and it’s important to have stories that continue to relay the message that even if we don’t get along with our siblings, they will be there to back us up when we need it. I liked the sort of purplish motif with the art because I like purple and because it gives the story a sort of mysterious air that plays up Beatrix’s magic and Olive’s science. The chapters are pretty short (5-10 pages), so it is a pretty quick read that can be enjoyed alone or as a read-aloud. It’s not going to hit the mark with everyone, but I hope that these stories can reach out to struggling readers and help make reading fun.

Other related materials: Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven, illustrated by Priscilla Burris; The Amazing Stardust Friends books by Heather Alexander, illustrated by Diane Le Feyer; Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe books by Noah Z. Jones; Stella and the Night Sprites books by Sam Hay, illustrated by Turine Tran; Owl Diaries books by Rebecca Elliott; The Adventures of Sophie Mouse series by Poppy Green, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell; Looniverse books by David Lubar, illustrated by Matt Loveridge; Monkey Me books by Timothy Roland; The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn, illustrated by Robert McPhillips; Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Katie Woo books by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

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From Norvelt to Nowhere Review

from_norvelt_to_nowhereFrom Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. 978-0374379940.

Synopsis: Just when Jack Gantos thought that his world had (mostly) righted itself, things start to get crazy again. In a series of events which includes an explosion that cancels school, a new old lady murder, and the death of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jack finds himself in the company of his neighbor Miss Volker. And this time, they’re going on a road trip to write an obit for their town’s founder and to catch the outlaw responsible for making her the last original Norvelter.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed Dead End in Norvelt and I was eager to read more about Jack’s strange adventures with Miss Volker.

Why I finished it: As a generalization, the stakes in sequels tend to be higher than their predecessors and in many cases, there is a heightened anticipation for the characters and the plot to be taken to the next level. Gantos certainly steps up the excitement and the sense of adventure, and has also found a way to deepen the relationships between the characters. The friendship that we saw developing between Jack and Miss Volker was definitely something special for both of them, though I doubt that either of them would outright acknowledge it. Generational gap aside, Jack and Miss Volker have a sort of symbiotic teacher/pupil relationship that allows for Jack to be pushed further toward his potential and Miss Volker to stay young. He’s much more than the companion he thinks he is, something he comes to realize as they journey further and further on their road trip together. And while neither finds what they are expecting at the close of the book, it’s evident that they have grown in more positive ways and become different people from when they set out from Norvelt. Gantos’s ability to write about people and how they connect is what draws the reader into his stories. Sure, they are funny, crazy, and even somewhat out-of-control at times, but in truth, it’s not much different from our own lives. It’s a feel good story that takes us on a wild ride in search of answers for which we may or may not already have the question.

Other related materials: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos; Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue by Jack Gantos; Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade by Jack Gantos; Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade by Jack Gantos; Jack’s New Power: Stories from a Caribbean Year by Jack Gantos; Jack’s Black Book: What Happens When You Flunk an IQ Test? by Jack Gantos; Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos; Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos; What Would Joey Do? by Jack Gantos; I Am Not Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos; The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos; Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia; Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko; The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes; A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

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Guys Write for Guys Read Review

guys_write_for_guys_readGuys Write for Guys Read edited by Jon Scieszka

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2005. 9780670060078.

Synopsis: There’s something for everyone in this collection of stories about men and boys being, well, men and boys. Chosen by readers of the Guys Read website, the writers retell stories about their childhoods, how they got into reading, and how they discovered their passions and themselves.

Why I picked it up: My reasoning was twofold: firstly, I love the Guys Read movement and its approach to encouraging literacy; secondly, I wanted to add some more guy-friendly books to my repertoire.

Why I finished it: While this collection is aimed at readers of the male persuasion, as a female reader I was still thoroughly engrossed in the stories and drawings of the contributors. I feel as though the adventures and misadventures recounted are relatable to both genders. True, most of the girls I know never tried to climb up a fire escape with an extension cord, pee on an electric fence (not that we could if we wanted to), or shoot themselves across the neighborhood on a homemade slingshot. But I am willing to bet there were a number of us that bulked ourselves up to get noticed (like David Yoo), crawled over fences we weren’t supposed to, read the sports section of the newspaper, or got their start drawing doodles in the margins of their homework assignments. But I digress: this collection is boys and men doing what they do, and by all accounts, doing it well and having a good time doing it. For older readers, it makes us remember our younger days when we were much more fearless and the consequences seemed less severe. For younger readers, it gives them inspiration to find their passions…and even perhaps in new avenues of mischief. It’s a fun, funny, laugh-out-loud book that has an appeal for guys of all ages that reminds us we are never too old to be young.

Other related materials: Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: The Sports Page edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read Thriller edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: Other Worlds by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: Terrifying Tales edited by Jon Scieszka; Knucklehead: Tall tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka; 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen edited by James Howe; No Easy Answers: Short Stories About Teenagers Making Tough Choices edited by Donald R. Gallo; On the Fringe edited by Donald R. Gallo; Baseball in April and Other Stories by Gary Soto; Guy Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know by Ralph Fletcher

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Feature Presentation: Despicable Me 2

despicable-me-2Despicable Me 2 starring the voices of Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Coogan, Benjamin Bratt, Ken Jeong, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, and Moises Arias

Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment, 2013 . Rated PG

Synopsis: Gru is a changed man. He’s traded his evil plans for jam and jelly recipes and focused on being the best dad to his three girls, Margot, Agnes, and Edith. But even though Gru’s no longer scheming and plotting, other villains are, and the Anti-Villain League wants to recruit Gru to aid them in helping save the world. With the help of Agent Lucy Wilde, Gru agrees to the mission, but can he manage to maintain his cover and avert suspicions while still keeping an eye on his girls?

Sequels can go either way, but very few manage to improve on the original. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Despicable Me 2 isn’t a good movie – because it is a delightful movie – but I still like the first one better. The film starts up where the first left off, with Gru taking care of his adoring daughters after having decided to focus on being a dad rather than an evil mastermind. I appreciated that the original voices came back for this installment, and the actors have brought the same charm and wit to the characters that made us fall in love with them. The new characters are equally likable: Lucy Wilde, an over-zealous Gru fan who has been tasked with being his partner; Eduardo, a gregarious restaurateur who appears to be hiding more than just a top secret salsa recipe; Floyd, a hairpiece enthusiast who has taken a keen interest in Gru’s bald head. The animation style is also consistent with its predecessor: bright, fun colors that help to fuel the energy of the film, even when things get a little less than sunny. The humor tries to appeal to its target audience, but, let’s face it, there’s a lot of jokes that will go straight over kid’s heads but earn a chuckle from the parents. It’s a fun family film that explores the challenges of being a single parent and the strangeness of falling in love that will put a smile on your face and make you want to get up and dance.

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Howliday Inn Review

howliday_innHowliday Inn by James Howe, illustrations by Lynn Munsinger

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006. 978-1416928157

Synopsis: When the Monroe family decides to go on vacation without their beloved pets, Chester and Harold are booked ‘bungalows’ at the Chateau Bow-Wow. But their first night there, a horrible howling noise makes Chester dub their hotel the Howliday Inn. And that’s only the start: when some of the other guests start to disappear, Chester suspects murder and he enlists Harold’s help in solving the mystery.

Why I picked it up: I loved Bunnicula and I wanted to read the other books in the series.

Why I finished it: Harold is a delightful narrator that helps to keep up the suspense and mystery as the reader works to put together the pieces to solve the puzzle. Even though Bunnicula is absent from this adventure, there is still a large cast of characters to entertain the reader. Chester is still every bit as snarky and pompous, assuming facts before he has all of the evidence and jumping from conclusion to conclusion without really thinking about logic. Harold isn’t quite as clever or conniving as Chester, but he has a big heart and is willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. The other dogs and cats at the Chateau Bow-Wow – Max, Georgette, Louise, Howard, Heather, Taxi, and Lyle – are somewhat flat, but despite their two-dimensionality, they move the plot along and provide excellent foils for Harold and Chester. Howe has borrowed from the great mystery tradition of Agatha Christie and given the reader a sort of children’s version of “And Then There Were None” that keeps the pages turning until the very end and it has a much happier ending than its inspiration. It is a clever and witty tale that will entertain readers of all ages reading after reading after reading.

Other related materials: Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe; The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe; Nighty-Nightmare by James Howe; Return to Howliday Inn by James Howe; Bunnicula Strikes Again by James Howe; Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow by James Howe; The Fright Before Christmas by James Howe; It Came From Beneath the Bed! by James Howe; Screaming Mummies of the Pharaoh’s Tomb II by James Howe; The Odorous Tales of Stinky Dog by James Howe; Howie Monroe and the Doghouse of Doom by James Howe; Bud Barkin’, Private Eye by James Howe; Eeire Elementary series by Jack Chabert, illustrated by Sam Ricks; The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks; Fantastic Mister Fox by Roald Dahl

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An Eyeball in My Garden Review

eyeballAn Eyeball in My Garden and Other Spine-Tingling Poems selected and edited by Jennifer Cole Judd and Laura Wynkopp, illustrations by Joahn Olander

Two Lions, 2010. 978-0761456551

Synopsis: Reader beware! Open at your own risk! This collection of poems is hoping to scare. From mummies to spiders to vampires to ghouls, these poems are sure to give goose bumps from forehead to ankle!

Why I picked it up: The title and the art reminded me a lot of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and while I am not a huge fan of things that go bump in the night, I can appreciate a good scary story/poem/film.

Why I finished it: I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t see very many collections of poems that deal with Halloween, but this collection is very well written. These poems are just the right amount of creepy to make you nervous about all the little ghosties and ghoulies that haunt our nightmares and hide under our beds. They’re also a little bit whimsical, since horror draws on what it is we fear the most. There’s also some classic creatures like werewolves, witches, Frankenstein’s monster, and Dracula. Olander’s illustrations give the poems an extra edge to them, bringing to life a ghost train, a ghost fish, a kid zombie, and a haunted house. The drawings are in black and white, but I feel like this is part of their charm and what makes them fit so well with this book. I think what I liked most about it was that it was fun without being too over the top on the fear factor. It’s a refreshing look at the things that make us sure to turn on the lights when we enter a room and make sure that we don’t run toward the noise coming from the top of the stairs.

Other related materials: Poetry for Young People: Edgar Allan Poe edited by Brod Bagert, illustrated by Carolynn Cobleigh, Literally Disturbed: Tales to Keep You Up at Night by Ben H. Winters, illustrated by Adam E. Watkins; A Field Guide to Aliens: Intergalactic Worrywarts, Bubblonauts, Silver-Slurpers, and Other Extraterrestria writtend and illustrated by Joahn Olander; A Field Guide to Monsters: Goggly-Eyed Wart Floppers, Shadows-Casters, Toe-Eaters, and Other Creatures written and illustrated by Joahn Olander; Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Julie Paschkis; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illustrations by Dave McKean; Short & Shivery: Thirty Chilling Tales by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Katherine Coville; A Terrifying Taste of Short & Shivery by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Katherine Coville; More Short and Shivery: Thirty Terrifying Tales by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Katherine Coville; Even More Short and Shivery: Thirty Chilling Tales by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers; Ask the Bones: Scary Stories from Around the World retold by Arielle North Olson and Howard Schwartz, illustrated by David Linn

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Emily’s Runaway Imagination Review

emilys_runaway_imaginationEmily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary, illustrations by Tracy Dockray

HarperCollins, 2008. 978-0380709236

Synopsis: Emily lives in the small town of Pitchfork, Oregon and she is intrigued by the stories of a library in the town of Portland where her cousin Miriam lives. Determined to bring a library to her small town, Emily enlists the help of her mother to write to the state capital in order to get some books and the help of the townspeople to help raise some money for a space. Will Emily’s enthusiasm and spark be enough to help make a dream come true?

Why I picked it up: I loved Beverly Cleary as a kid, but somehow skipped over this book when I was eating through her body of work.

Why I finished it: This story has Cleary’s trademark quirky main character with a big heart and the desire to do the right thing. Set during the 1920s, the story has an element of historic fiction to it, detailing life during the decade before the depression and a little bit about the early free library movement. Emily is clearly enamored with the idea that one can borrow books as often as they like and then bring them back. Having a library in her small town would mean that she would be able to read about the things her cousin talks about in her letters. Of course, having a highly active imagination also helps keep Emily’s life interesting: she dyes a horse white with bleach, feeds fermented apples to the family pigs, and even manages to accidentally win a costume contest. While readers might not relate to the times in which Emily lives, they will be able to identify with Emily’s curiosity and desire to spice up life in her small town where nothing too horribly interesting seems to happen. Emily likes to think outside the realm of the ordinary and it encourages readers to create their own adventures and find what makes their own towns special. Filled with humor and heart, this story is perfect for a summer read or even just a good choice for curling up with a cup of tea on a cold day.

Other related materials: Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary, illustrations by Tracy Dockray; Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary, illustrations by Tracy Dockray; Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary, illustrations by Jacqueline Rogers; Henry and the Clubhouse by Bevery Cleary, illustrations by Jacqueline Rogers; Lumber Camp Library by Natalie Kinsey-Warnok, illustrations by James Bernardin; Black Beauty by Anna Sewell; In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson, illustrated by Patrice Barton; More Stories from Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson, illustrated by Patrice Barton; The School Story by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Brian Selznick

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Feature Presentation: The Lego Movie

The_lego_movieThe Lego Movie starring the voices of Will Arnet, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, David Burrows, Charlie Day, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, and Chris Pratt

Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow Pictures/RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 2014. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Emmet is an ordinary construction worker, until one day after work he sees a mysterious stranger poking around the construction site. When he follows her, he comes across a special piece that attaches itself to him and the mysterious stranger, Wyldstyle. Believing Emmet to be “The Special”, Wyldstyle, her mentor Vitruvius, Batman, UniKitty, and a cast of other Lego characters must help Emmet use the special piece to stop a plot by President Business to destroy life in the Lego-verse as they know it.

I’ll be honest: I thought this was going to be one of those movies where only the good parts were shown in the trailers and it wound up being disappointing. This turned out not to be the case. The movie was surprisingly funny and full of heart, telling the story about how even though we don’t feel important, we still have something to offer the world. Emmet is a truly vanilla construction worker that wants nothing more than to fit in, but it turns out that his relative invisibility is an advantage because no one really expects him to be the person her turns into by the close of the film. The film has something to offer viewers of all ages, but older viewers will definitely see the social commentary that is prevalent throughout. Plus, there are references galore that will go over the heads of younger viewers, particularly those related to the Lego pieces themselves. My friends and I spent a good majority of the movie oogling over the collection of Lego pieces and reminiscing about the sets we used to play with when we were younger, and we got a particular kick out of the glow-in-the-dark pieces that show up toward the end. The movie does a good job of contrasting the two different kinds of Lego builders: those that follow the directions (like Emmet) and those that work with the pieces to make their own creations (here called the Master Builders). While there will always be that division, there is still the message that there is no wrong way to create, whether we are making the creation that is featured on the front of the box or we are mixing up the pieces to make something new. It also demonstrates that double-decker couches are not quite as dumb as they initially seem. It’s a comedy that reminds older viewers of their childhoods and younger viewers of the power of imaginative thinking.

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