October 12, 2006


 Snow White

Smiles and giggles start the moment you walk into the theater to find your seat. On the simple stage, two of Snow White's dwarfs are ready for their big moment in the spotlight with silly antics, handstands and playfulness with the kids, including pulling them out of the audience to play and sing on stage.

By the time the show starts, with a smattering of tiny princesses in the audience munching on child-friendly snacks and drinks, the actors have convinced the kids they are part of the show. No need to shush the kids here, the actors and actresses keep the kids involved by talking to them throughout the performance. At one point, the audience is encouraged to sing, with the help of cue cards. However, you'd have to be able to read to sing along, so some of the children may have felt left out of the song.

My 4-year-old, Zoe, laughed out loud throughout the show, although the magic mirror did scare her a bit, and my 7-year-old, Arlee, was the first to raise her hand when the queen wanted to try her evil potion on someone. Even my 10-year-old, Marty, found himself swept up in the fun and was smiling and laughing along with the performers even though the show is targeted for kids ages 3-8.

The silly antics are sure to delight parents as well. During Sunday's performance, one mom laughed so hard she got the queen laughing right along.

I have to admit I wasn't excited about a show featuring puppets, but in this show the use of puppets is creative and intelligent, so flawlessly executed you forget they are puppets. By the time the chase to catch the queen began, the theater filled with delighted screams from the kids trying to help.

This multi-talented, high-energy cast keeps the theater filled with fun, making the hour-long performance fly by and the kids wanting more. This is a must see. Tamara L. O'Shaughnessy "Snow White" as performed by Professor TJ Barker and his Troupe of Theatricals, extended through Nov. 5 by the Emerald City Theatre, at Apollo Theatre Center, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Call or check Web site for show times. (773) 935-6100 or www.emeraldcitytheatre.com. Families. Tickets are $13, $10 for children under 12.


 The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket


We started reading these dreadful books on a very fateful day many many years ago. Kati, who was then about 9-years-old, needed a new book to read. Her teacher, as teachers often do, had assigned a book report. Which here means that the student has to choose and then read and write about a book, while the teacher just has to read the report, thereby avoiding the endless hours of reading. The teacher can then say to his or her friends, "Why yes I read that book," when in actuality his or her students did all the work.

We were all at the library perusing the shelves, which here means walking in single file along the great vastness of shelf after shelf, book after book, and indeed judging each book by its cover; or as I realize it now, we were really judging each book by its binding. When one is in the library, looking at the books on the shelf, one is really not able to see the covers of each book; one is only able to see the one inch edge of the book otherwise known in the library world as the binding.

Kati found a book, rather four books, whose bindings all looked quite the same. That was her first mistake. Her second mistake was to actually touch one of the books. Her third and final and most dreadful mistake and as we know now, oh these many years later, her most grave error in judgment was to choose to check out the first book, otherwise known as The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket.   First, we laughed at the author's name, Lemony Snicket-what kind of a name is that? And then we read the dedication: To Beatrice, darling, dearest, dead. We were dreadfully, unconditionally, totally, extremely, gravely, happily hooked.

We have read them all. Each and every one of them. All 13 books. All 170 chapters. We have enjoyed them all. We have discussed them all at great length. We talk about our favorite scenes, our favorite villains, our favorite chapters and mostly our favorite parts of Lemony Snicket's goofy way of telling a story.

We received The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, one week early. That is our fate. Your fate is to go get The End tomorrow, yes tomorrow, the 13th book on Friday the 13th.

Then, after you have read the end of The End and are sure you have understood the end of The End, please write to me. Please send me a note, or a letter or a poem or a limerick or a clue or a hint and let me know what you think. I realize that a note in a bottle, or a note tied to the leg of a carrier pigeon or a piece of a note with just a few words left that are readable, would be an appropriate way to contact me, but I think, my dear friend that these ways of coorespondence will not be fast enough for my liking. If my favorite villian Esme were here she would say, "Blogging is so in."

Go to http://spsandi-theend.blogspot.com/ and let me know what you think about the end of The End. Is this really the end of The End or is it all just beginning to end?

P.S. You didn't really expect me to give away any clues, answers or even hints-did you? I can't save you from your own fate. You must get to the end of The End by yourself. Enjoy. Sandi Pedersen

 The Upside Down Show

The comedy duo, The Umbilical Brothers-David Collins and Shane Dundas-invite preschoolers into their fantasy world by handing them an imaginary remote control. But after just a few minutes of their antics on NOGGIN's new original show, The Upside Down Show, parents might have to fight the urge to press the "Stop" button on that remote.

Although some big names are behind the show, including co-creator and veteran Sesame Street writer Belinda Ward, and Brown Johnson, executive creative director for Nickelodeon Preschool Television, this show fails to deliver on its promises of bringing preschoolers critical thinking skills and life skills.

Still, the show is not without some great laugh-out-loud moments.

My daughters Arlee, 7, and Zoe, 4, and I reviewed the premiere episode, "Art Museum," and the second episode, "Farm."

In "Art Museum" Shane creates a "masterpiece" to hang on the refrigerator, but their neighbor Mrs. Foil suggests the brothers find an art museum. The search dragged on too long, but the three of us laughed hysterically at The Sticky Room, a sticky equivalent to a rubber room. "They're funny," Zoe giggled.

In "Farm," the brothers' band, The Talking Airheads, suddenly discovers David's cowbell-hooked on the imaginary cow Clarabelle-wandered off. A highlight of this episode was the brothers' outrageous dancing to Udder Chaos.

The brothers got the girls to use their pretend remote controls, so they were paying close attention to the show, but we won't be pushing "Play" on this show. Tamara L. O'Shaughnessy

The Upside Down Show will debut on NOGGIN Monday, Oct. 16, with two back-to-back episodes from 10-11 a.m. Check local listings.

 Side Rider Clip-on Basket

I've always wanted something to organize my 2-year-old son's things in our truck and the Side Rider Clip-on Basket looked like it might just do the job. It's made out of a good lasting material and is large enough to hold numerous things. My son has books, toys, sunglasses and his pacifier in it. It has saved us lots of time looking around for things beneath the back seats since he's gotten used to putting them in the basket when we get out of the truck. The clips that attach the basket to the car seat material are strong but difficult to handle, as they are on the back of the basket and you're trying to attach the basket to the side of the car seat. Also, the basket seems to droop and hang away from my son's reach no matter how I attach it, which makes it difficult for him to reach smaller things while he's strapped in to his seat.

I would recommend it to other people who have a child 2 1/2 years of age or older-it does help limit the numerous requests from the back seat because they want something they can't reach! And I could see myself purchasing another one for my younger son when he's a little older. Jennifer Brzezinski, Lombard

Side Rider: The Ultimate Clip-on Basket by Sunshine Kids Juvenile Products, $5.99, www.skjp.com.


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