Book Review: The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe


Author: James Howe
TitleThe Celery Stalks at Midnight
Narrator: Victor Garber
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2004
Summary/Review:
A more direct sequel to the first novel as Bunnicula escapes from the house leaving a trail of dead, blanched vegetables in his wake.  Chester’s suspicions are again aroused and he draws in Harold and the new dimwitted puppy Howie into his investigation, leading to mayhem.  It’s very silly and funny.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Howliday Inn by James Howe


Author: James Howe
Title Howliday Inn
Narrator: Victor Garber
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2004
Summary/Review: To build on my belief that this series should be called “The Harold and Chester Mysteries,” Bunnicula doesn’t even appear in this story.  Instead, the Monroe’s go on vacation and Harold and Chester are sent to a kennel called Chateau Bow-Bow.  There, Chester immediately begins to share his suspicions of the other dogs and cats and their human caretakers.  It turns out that there is something suspicious going on even if Chester’s earliest assumptions were way off base, but it does lead up to a wonderful Holmes and Watson moment for Chester and Harold.  Another fun book with a bit of mystery.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe


Author: Deborah and James Howe
TitleBunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
Narrator: Victor Garber
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2004
Summary/Review:
My family enjoyed listening to this book on a long Thanksgiving road trip.  The premise of this series is that the Monroe family discovers and adopts a young rabbit with fangs who apparently can escape his cage and drain the vegetables in the kitchen of their juice and color.  But in all honesty, Bunnicula is a minor character in his eponymous book and this series could be called “The Harold and Chester Mysteries.”  Harold is the good-natured family dog who narrates the book and Chester is the egoistic and conspiracy-minded cat who stirs the pot with his suspicions of Bunniculas’ vampiric powers.  All in all, it’s a funny and entertaining family tale.
Recommended booksBeezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, Stuart Little by E. B. White, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Rating: ***

Movie Review: Dolphins (2000)


Title: Dolphins
Release Date: 14 April 2000
Director: Greg MacGillivray
Summary/Review:

Watched this at the Mugar Omnimax Theater at the Boston Museum of Science.  It kind of falls into every cliche you’d expect of an animal-themed IMAX film, but who can complain  about seeing larger than life dolphins leaping and diving?  Pierce Brosnan provides the narration but often yields to the featured scientists who share their knowledge and passion regarding these aquatic mammals.  On the odd side, the soundtrack is by Sting which makes me wonder what dolphins did to deserve this (especially since most of the music is reggae-tinged instrumental arrangements of Sting’s hit songs which have nothing to do with dolphins).
Rating: ***1/2

Photopost: Bronx Park


My family and I finished up the summer with an extended long weekend visiting my mother in the Bronx.  We took the time to explore New York and have a lot of fun.

On our final day, we visited the New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo, both in Bronx Park.

Photopost: Bronx Zoo Redux


Since my mother’s recent move back to New York, we’ve become Bronx Zoo members and now will be visiting one of our favorite places frequently.  On a crowded Memorial Day weekend, I went to the zoo with my mother, my kids, and for the first time ever, my wife.  We visited the World of Birds, Tiger Mountain, the Bengali Express, Jungle World, and the new Children’s Zoo.  We also waited a long time for the Zoo Shuttle to ride from one side of the zoo to the other.  It was a good day.  

JP A to Z: Z is for Zoo #AtoZChallenge #JamaicaPlain


Z is for Zoo

Franklin Park Zoo is part of the large Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park on the border between Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.  It’s a popular destination for local families. Although it’s not a particularly great zoo compared to others I visited, it does have some strong points.  One is the African Lion exhibit, once home to the late & lamented Christopher whose roars echoed through the city, and now home to the brothers Dinari and Kamaia. The premier exhibit is the Tropical Forest which is home to a troop of gorillas including the baby Azize born last May.  The Franklin Farm contains a petting zoo, and we’re eagerly awaiting the opening of the new children’s zoo Nature’s Neighborhoods.

 

Post for “Z” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Click to see more “Blogging A to Z” posts.

JP A to Z: A is for Arboretum #AtoZChallenge #JamaicaPlain


A is for Arboretum

Our first day in Jamaica Plain for JP A to Z brings us to the Arnold Arboretum.  A link in the chain of green spaces that make up Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the “Ahbs” is part Harvard University tree museum.  Whether you’re studying trees (or the animals that inhabit them) or just going for a walk or bike ride, Arnold Arboretum is a place enjoyed by JP residents in all four seasons.

Post for “A” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Click to see more “Blogging A to Z” posts.

Photopost: Return to Bronx Zoo


Over the weekend, the family returned to visit the he Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, a place I’ve visited dozens of times over the course of my life, and enjoyed by previous generations of my family as well.  This was a unique visit for three reasons:

  1. It was the first ever visit for my daughter Kay
  2. It was the first time we visited on two consecutive days
  3. It was the first time we visited as members!

The membership was a gift of my mother, who having moved to a new home in walking distance of the zoo is ready to visit the zoo again and again with her children and grandchildren.

Here are some of the best photos from our visit:

Related posts:

Movie Review: Over the Hedge (2006)


TitleOver the Hedge
Release Date: 2006
Director:Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick
Summary/Review:

The kids picked out this movie about a ragtag group of animals who awake from hibernation to learn that their forest has been surrounded by suburban development.  A scheming raccoon teaches them that they can get food by raiding the human’s trash but he has ulterior motives.  Ultimately it’s a movie about family and who we chose to be family.  There’s a lot of good satire of humanity’s sprawling development and the devastation to the natural world, but the villains in the movie (a bear, a homeowner’s association leader, & an exterminator) are broad caricatures so no one will really see themselves in them.  Ultimately, this is a funny and entertaining movie – the kids got a lot of laughs – but it’s not going to be a family classic.
Rating: **1/2

Photopost: Lion Brothers Birthday


On Saturday we went to the Franklin Park Zoo to celebrate lion brothers Dinari and Kamaia’s seventh birthday. We missed the cake, but we saw the lions lounging in the sun. We also saw the newborn Nigerian Dwarf Goat, Chewbacca, and the dramatic flapping wings of a flying condor.

Podcast of the Week: “Zoo Chef” by The Specialist


I just started listening to a new podcast called The Specialist and the first (and so far only) episode I heard is the fascinating behind the scenes story  about the staff at a zoo who prepare food for the animals.  The series is described as “A podcast about work we don’t think about and the people who do it.”  When I have time I’ll have to go back and listen to the earlier episodes.

 

Photopost: Alligator Adventure


One of the highlights of our visit to Myrtle Beach was a day at Alligator Adventure.  The initial impression one my get of a place with this name is a roadside attraction, but Alligator Adventure is actually a small zoo with a large number of animals in spacious enclosures, mostly alligators and crocodiles, but also a good number of reptiles, birds, and some mammals from all over the world.  It helps to visit with an 8-year-old gatorphile and absorb his enthusiasm, but I think it was a fun place to visit and learned a bit about the animals.  Another highlight was the animal demonstrations where we go to touch and hold a small gator, turtle, and a ball python.

Photopost: Giving Thanks for Nature and the Senses at Drumlin Farm


We spent the day after Thanksgiving at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary.  There were a number of art and music activities for the day to engage the senses, but the kids were content to make their usual round of visits to the farm animals, taking a hay ride, and then a hike up the Drumlin.

It was a perfect day for it!

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Photopost: Connors Farm


This weekend we visited Connors Farm in Danvers. It wasn’t quite what expected, less farm and more amusement park with a loud band, a chainsaw artist, and massive crowds. The line for tickets wound through the farm stand and was quite confusing (NOTE: if anyone from Connors Farm reads this, consider setting up admissions sales tables/tents in the parking lot on busy days to make it easier to get the wristbands and easier to shop for farm products).

Once we settled in, it was a lot of fun.  Even the band, Psychedelic Relic, sounded pretty good. We tried to make our way through the corn maze but got really lost. Or not so much lost, as we kept circling back to the beginning and could not figure out how to advance further into the maze. The kids got frustrated and we decided to take a break, but we never made it back. No matter. We had a great time seeing the barnyard animals, watching the pig race, and playing on the horse swings, jumping pillows, and pedal carts among other things.  Then we picked two massive pumpkins to bring home.

Here are some nice photos of our day of autumnal pleasantries.

Photopost: The Barnyard at Retreat Farm


After several days of playing tourist in our home town, we spent a long weekend with family in Brattleboro, VT. The kids and I enjoyed a visit to The Barnyard at Retreat Farm where there were no barriers between guests and animals and we fed oxen and goats, held chicks and captured chickens, and scratched pigs’ backs. We spent most of the day there with the kids asking to go back immediately.

Photopost: Wolfe’s Neck Farm


This weekend, we took our kids on their first camping trip at Recompence Shore in Freeport, ME. The oceanfront camp sites are adjacent to Wolfe’s Neck Farm.  We enjoyed a tour of the barn and garden with a livestock educator, and had a good time exploring the shore and hiking in the woods.

Photopost: Bronx Zoo


On our last day in New York, we visited the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo.  This was a second visit for Peter, a couple of dozen visits for me, and countless more for my mother.  In short, the zoo is a place we all love.  Highlights include seeing baboons and ibex on hillside, sunning lions and giraffes, baby gorillas galore, and the flitter-flutter of the butterfly garden.

Alpaca
Feeding goats
Bathing bear
Baby baboon and mother

Baby baboon in action!

Resting giraffe
Baby gorilla
Beautiful butterfly

Photopost: American Museum of Natural History


This will be the first of several posts from a Spring Break trip to New York City with my mother and my son.

One highlight of the trip was a visit the American Museum of Natural History.  I hadn’t visited the museum since I was a child, and several galleries were much as I remembered.  The AMNH is known for it’s “dead zoo” collections of preserved animals set up in naturalistic dioramas.  I noticed in the African mammals gallery how all the displays were surrounded by marble and carved friezes which made me realize just how much money went into the museum when it was built.  A nearby gallery of mammals from New York State showed that the money was not spread around evenly as it was just simple cases with the pelts of various animals pinned to the wall.  We also explored the halls of North American mammals, Asian mammals, and ocean life.  The highlight of any visit to the AMNH are the two galleries of dinosaur fossils which are vastly different from my childhood with the new scientific understanding of dinosaurs incorporated in the exhibits.

We visited only a fraction of the museum and will have to return to explore more.

Pride of lions
Line of skulls.
T. Rex
Blue whale
Sea otter
Sea lions