Various reviews

Stepping away from the politics for a little while, I thought I’d do some reviews. 

  • First, Curious George, the movie.  (Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy.  While I don’t necessarily praise the things that I get sent, I do feel guilty if I don’t get around to posting about them.  Should I?  Is it unethical to accept the offers if I don’t review the item?)  This is a cute, inoffensive kids movie.  Unlike most G-rated movies these days, there are no hidden pop references that are designed to go over the kids heads.  The plot is not directly based on any of the Curious George Books, although they inspire various scenes (George painting the walls, George hanging from a balloon).   The writers figured out how to avoid the most cringe-worthy elements of the book (e.g. that the man in the yellow hat kidnaps George) and also answer such pressing questions as what he’s doing in that stupid yellow suit in the first place.  My kids loved it.
  • Street Fight.  I netflixed this, and asked T. if he wanted to see it.  What’s it about, he wanted to know.  It’s a documentary about a mayoral race, I said (the 2002 Newark mayoral race between Sharpe James and Cory Booker).  Not interested, he said.  But 15 minutes later, he was watching it just as intently as I was.  It has the hypnotic qualities of a car crash — you can’t believe that James’ goons didn’t realize how bad they were going to look on video.
  • I’m an Amazon Associate on this blog (last quarter I earned $2.42), so they occasionally send me emails pitching products I might want to feature.  Most of the toys they’re promoting for this holiday season made me yawn, but both T and I are sorely tempted by the new Lego Mindstorms robots.  We’re resisting the temptation, because we know our boys are really too young for them, but boy do they look impressive.
  • I’ll admit that I’m also quite tempted by the Nintendo Wii.  If that controller is as cool as it’s being described, I suspect we’ll be getting one, although maybe not this holiday season.  The idea is that the controller is motion sensitive, so instead of pushing a combination of buttons, you can use it as a tennis racket or steering wheel or whatever the game requires.
  • In browsing through the toys r us catalog, I had to laugh at the Lifestyle Dream Kitchen, which is described as "realistic and upscale."  A quick comparison with the regular play kitchen reveals that what makes this "upscale" is the fake stainless steel on the stove and the refrigerator.  But this has to be an aspirational pitch, because my guess is that the mommies and daddies who have stainless steel appliances in their ktichen wouldn’t buy their little darlings anything with so much plastic — they’d go for something like this wooden version.

What’s on your wish list?

13 Responses to “Various reviews”

  1. mrscoulter Says:

    I believe that the faux granite (i.e., green flecked plastic) countertop is part of what makes it “upscale”.
    Lyra has this exact kitchen and loves it (second birthday present).
    I did feel a little guilty about not getting her a wooden kitchen, but, frankly, the wooden kitchens were too austere. Also, I would really rather that she throw plastic apples than wooden ones, you know?
    I think Lee would love a new video game console for Christmas, but on our budget it ain’t gonna happen. Maybe next year, when (hopefully) I will once more be gainfully employed.

  2. DaniGirl Says:

    Curious George was the first in-theatre movie we took Tristan to see, for his 4th birthday. I thought it was a wonderful little film. We now have the DVD too, and both my boys love it – and I don’t mind watching along with them, which is more than I can say about half the stuff they love.
    I was interested in your comment about the obligation to blog the free stuff you get. I found myself in this predicament recently with a couple of books… I wasn’t overly fond of them, but they weren’t bad enough to be snarkworthy, and I just didn’t have the heart to post anything negative so I said nothing. And felt immensely guilty about my silence. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess…

  3. whymommy Says:

    I’ve had similar thoughts about the dream kitchen. Of course, it would look so out of place in my decidely not dream kitchen, that it would just make me laugh. We have a child’s wooden kitchen that my father made for me in the 1970′s, and my toddler likes it just fine.
    There is just so much plastic out there these days! My concern (besides environmental) is that if every toy is so brightly colored and plastic-y, our kids may not be able to easily see that just about *anything* can be a toy with a little imagination. So we go heavy on the wood toys, like trains and multilevel racetracks — and yes, the wooden food, but that’s partly because the new food can be “sliced” and put back together with velcro over and over again! I reviewed some of my favorite wooden toys over on my blog just yesterday, actually — and it made me feel good to inventory and post!
    Thanks for the Curious George review. I’ve heard differing opinions, particularly for the not-quite-verbal toddler set, but it sounds great for preschool and up.

  4. whymommy Says:

    I’ve had similar thoughts about the dream kitchen. Of course, it would look so out of place in my decidely not dream kitchen, that it would just make me laugh. We have a child’s wooden kitchen that my father made for me in the 1970′s, and my toddler likes it just fine.
    There is just so much plastic out there these days! My concern (besides environmental) is that if every toy is so brightly colored and plastic-y, our kids may not be able to easily see that just about *anything* can be a toy with a little imagination. So we go heavy on the wood toys, like trains and multilevel racetracks — and yes, the wooden food, but that’s partly because the new food can be “sliced” and put back together with velcro over and over again! I reviewed some of my favorite wooden toys over on my blog just yesterday, actually — and it made me feel good to inventory and post!
    Thanks for the Curious George review. I’ve heard differing opinions, particularly for the not-quite-verbal toddler set, but it sounds great for preschool and up.

  5. pink Says:

    From an aesthetic point of view, I would have prefered the wooden kitchen, but frankly, the cost is highly and I’m with Mrs. C, they’re pretty austere. Miss P just got the Lifestyle Deluxe Kitchen (yeah, yeah, we stepped up, but only because Nana & Papa chipped in 1/2 the cost) for her second birthday. She LOVES it–”I got kitchen” “I cookin’” When I started doing research, the best thing I heard from moms with the Lifestyle series kitchens is that their kids are still playing with them at age 4-5 and up. If I’m going to drop the money on it, I want something that will last.
    In terms of the food, we have a mix of wooden and plastic. I prefer the Melissa and Doug wooden sets, but again, to go with Mrs C, if one of the apples goes flying, I’m ducking! (BTW, the M&D sushi set is fabulous!)

  6. jen Says:

    Our house is too small for a full play kitchen, but a few years ago my mother got the girls a small plastic stove. It’s not much bigger than two shoeboxes, but it has fake burners and a stove you can open. The kids love it.
    I can’t tell you how many people have asked us where we got it. Unfortunately I can’t find it for sale anywhere, but it does beg the question: who is making small or easily-stowable toys these days? Everything seems to be trending in the other direction of taking tons of space. This is almost more annoying to me than the “everything must have a battery and make noise” trend; at least you can leave the battery out if you want. But size cannot be overcome.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    We have a small wooden stove from Ikea — and yes, we got it not so much because of the aesthetics, but because it takes up less room than than a full play kitchen.

  8. bj Says:

    Hey, unless it’s a real working kitchen, I don’t see the benefit of wood over plastic (though I do have a pretty fancy kitchen of my own).
    We too are tempted sorely by the mindstorms legos (and they’re finally Mac compatible). But, I’m preventing my husband from buying them through sheer force of will because I’ve discovered that buying toys too early can spoil them forever for the kids. They can’t really play with them, because they’re too young, but they blame the toy, and won’t return when they could enjoy them.
    bj

  9. landismom Says:

    bj makes a great point about toy boredom.
    As far as the review goes, I felt the same way about books I was ambivalent about. But from my MIL (who is an academic), I’ve learned that lots of people send her books to review, and not only does she not review them all, she quite often sells the review copies. I think this is pretty common, and I’ve adopted it as my default position on the subject.

  10. Elizabeth Says:

    I’m not so much wondering if I’m obligated to review anything that someone sends me, but whether it’s unethical to say “yes, please send me a copy of X” just to score a free copy of something that I’d otherwise pay for, if I don’t intend to review it (and think that my review will be worth reading).
    Oh, and I forgot to mention that Public Affairs Books gets the award for best blog marketing — they found my very favorable review of The Woman at the Washington Zoo, and emailed me to let me know that the paperback edition is now out. Now that’s using your brain.

  11. MC Milker Says:

    When we traded in our little apartment for a house, I also traded in my DS’s “table top” kitchen. (BTW -Alex toys makes a wooden one available from, http://www.funbabytoys.com, though I bought mine at Marshalls.)
    Our new, wooden, full size, Little Colorado stovetop and fridge are in the playroom whereas the countertop was in the kitchen, so the play has changed. Now that my DS is 4 – he no longer “cooks” with us in the kitchen on his toy stove – he helps us using the real stuff. The big wooden set is used by him and his friends to play restaurant, house, cruise ship, etc.
    I agree that the wood kitchens are bought by the designer kitchen crew but, also by the “crunchy Moms”. I’m closer to crunchy than designer, but my thrifty self also thinks it makes sense because the set will last through several kids and…can be re-sold on E-bay when the kids outgrow it.

  12. ElizabethN Says:

    Dorothy has a wooden kitchen, but it’s one that her grandfather and father made for her last Christmas. I love it, not only for the sentiment but for the smart design. All of the kitchens for sale seemed to be too high for her when she was not quite two and got the kitchen, so they made it low, and also made a matching set of drawers that we can put underneath it to make it taller once that’s called for.
    There are photos at http://www.contracheck.com/nika/?p=792

  13. Jill Says:

    I took my then 4 yo daughter and our neighbor’s son to the theater to see Curious George last summer. The boy shook and cried through most of it. My daughter was confused, sad and then just uninterested. Both kids were fairly traumatized by the fact that in the movie version, the Man with the Yellow Hat doesn’t actually want George in his life. I disliked the movie for the same reason. My friend’s son cried through the movie as well, (until they left early) for the same reasons.
    The new PBS show is on our tivo and is the only TV my 5 yo watches – one episode a day and she loves it. I’d recommend against the movie version and stick with the nicer version on PBS. Oh, the soundtrack is fun, that’s the only redeeming quality.
    As for toy kitchens, I finally caved to the pressure when my coworker begged me to rescue the old plastic one his daughters had outgrown. A trip to the ‘burbs two weeks ago to get their hand-me-down toys was better than Christmas. They seem to be cooking just fine with the 10 year old version, complete with the random assortment of pots, pans and dishes. I’m glad we saved one piece of plastic toy from the landfill for the time-being.

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