Our guide to cultural events in New York City for children and teenagers happening this weekend and in the week ahead.
‘LAURIE BERKNER’S PILLOWLAND’ at the Flea Theater (Nov. 18, 10 a.m. and noon; Sundays through April 14). Most preschoolers know that going to sleep doesn’t really mean going somewhere. But in this charming new production from New York City Children’s Theater, slumber entails an actual journey, which little audience members can join. First they’ll find Quinn, Stanley and Finn — portrayed by Allison Pappas, Jarred Bedgood and Rebecca Gerrard — sacked out in the lobby, where the insomniac Stanley discovers a scroll. It invites everyone to Pillowland, a magical place that some will recognize from the lilting tune (and picture book) by the children’s pop star Laurie Berkner. Barbara Zinn Krieger, who wrote the script, and Jonathan Shmidt Chapman, who devised the staging, have expanded the song’s premise, inventing a voyage in which theatergoers can blow on a sail, make waves, meet royalty, dine at a pretend banquet, have a mock pillow fight, sing and ultimately help a king find rest. Directed by Khalia Davis, the show won’t put anyone to sleep, but it does make bedtime powerfully attractive.
BROOKLYN CHILDREN’S BOOK FAIR at the Brooklyn Museum (Nov. 17, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.). This annual free literary event always features diverse books and authors, but this year several works celebrate diversity itself. The more than 40 participating writers and artists — all based in Brooklyn — will include Sharee Miller, who will read from her picture book “Princess Hair,” which demonstrates that you don’t need tresses like Rapunzel’s (blond and flowing) to be a royal heroine. Booki Vivat will lead an interactive program based on her best-selling graphic-novel series, “Frazzled,” in which her Asian-American protagonist, Abbi Wu, copes with middle school. And Peter Brown will read from “The Wild Robot Escapes,” the latest adventure of his titular character, Roz. (When was the last time you encountered a female storybook robot?) The fair will also present workshops with the authors Jon Burgerman, Stephen Savage and Abby Hanlon; music by Michael Hearst (“Songs for Unusual Creatures”); and a new drawing activity for preschoolers.
‘CASTLE IN THE SKY’ at select movie theaters nationwide (Nov. 18, 12:55 p.m.; Nov. 19-20, 7 p.m.). The eminent Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki created his own version of “Gulliver’s Travels” in this 1986 film, although it has no Gulliver and assigns its travels to a pair of children: Pazu, a boy apprenticed to an engineer, and Sheeta, a girl who literally falls from the sky. Together, the two set out to find Laputa, an island that Jonathan Swift described as floating above the earth. Fathom Events and the distributor GKids are bringing Pazu and Sheeta’s adventure back to the screen as the concluding feature in Studio Ghibli Fest 2018, a celebration of work from Miyazaki’s groundbreaking studio. Participating theaters will screen the movie in English on Sunday and Tuesday, and in the original Japanese, with English subtitles, on Monday.
COMMUNITY CARE FAIR at the Museum of the City of New York (Nov. 18, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.). Ever wish you could get your children to wash their hands more often? This event, which features local health care organizations, might do the trick. The fair will invite young visitors to swab their hands for microbes, learn how to use petri dishes to culture what is growing on their skin and observe similar bacteria under a microscope. (Adults can participate, too; they can have their cellphones swabbed for Weill Cornell Medical College’s StuckOnU, a study of urban microbiomes.) Held in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition “Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis,” which explores the history of New York City’s public-health challenges, the festival will also help young visitors build small take-home models of DNA from Twizzlers, marshmallows and toothpicks. But don’t worry about the candy: The program will compensate with tastings of nutritious food from organizations like Edible Schoolyard NYC.
HISTORY OF MAGIC FAMILY DAYS at the New-York Historical Society (Nov. 18 and Dec. 9, 1-4 p.m.). You might need more than a little wizardry to score a last-minute weekend ticket to the society’s new Harry Potter exhibition. These celebrations, alas, do not include admission to the show, but they do offer hours of immersion in all things Harry — and they don’t require advance registration. Among the activities: selecting and decorating a badge from one of Hogwarts’s four houses; creating a wand, after which an aspiring witch or wizard can explore the origins of historical incantations in word roots from several languages; and making and breaking secret codes, using old-fashioned ciphers. Young visitors can also view potions of the past from the museum’s collection and brew their own (actually tea) from herbs, flowers and spices.
KIDS ’N COMEDY: ‘THE PRE-TURKEY SHOW’ at Gotham Comedy Club (Nov. 18, 1 p.m.). Thanksgiving is near, and this organization’s young comics aim to use humor to make their relatives’ strange recipes — and even stranger personalities — seem a bit more palatable. Presenting tween and teenage stand-ups, the Kids ’n Comedy monthly series tackles the same subjects, including family dynamics and politics, that adult shows do, but without the cursing and vulgarity. But because the routines consist of sophisticated material, they’re not recommended for children under 9. (Reservations are required.)
SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS: WINTER CREATURES at the Irish Arts Center (Nov. 17, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.). Some weekend mornings, all kids want to do is roll out of bed and park themselves in front of a screen. This Saturday, you can indulge them without guilt: The Irish Arts Center’s program will educate as well as entertain. A speaker from New York City Audubon’s For the Birds! elementary school program will first give a presentation about avian species that spend winters in the city. Then Darrah Carr Dance will perform a piece inspired by endangered wildlife, and families can watch short films with animal themes. One highlight, the stop-motion-animated “Poles Apart,” focuses on a polar bear and a grizzly — portrayed by ingeniously designed puppets — that become friends in a changing Arctic landscape. The center, which will provide mini pancakes (and mimosas for grown-ups), encourages everyone to come in pajamas.
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