Posted in family, Guide

Gift idea: LEGO With Dad (and some LEGO blocks!)

LEGO with Dad: Creatively Awesome Projects for Parents and Kids to Build Together, by Warren Nash, (Oct. 2020, Rocky Nook), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1681985862

Ages 12+

Blogger Warren Nash has taken to blogging and making videos about his LEGO projects with his son, drawing on memories of making cool LEGO stuff with his own dad. LEGO With Dad is a love letter to caregiver and kids bonding time; he notes in his foreword that “LEGO With Dad” carries different meanings for different families. The book is a comprehensive guide to building with the blocks, no kits necessary. Sections on the best bricks to use and best kits to buy are helpful when spending holiday dollars; a section with structural advice, adding unusual bricks for flourish, and working with  moving parts, like gears. Projects go from simple builds to more advanced builds, photographed and detailed step-by-step for easy following. Family Spotlights show off different families and how they share LEGO time together.

Easy to read, easy to follow, and with an emphasis on creating memories, relationships, and LEGOs together, this is a great book for all families. It’s a fun, imaginative gift idea, too: wrap this up with a LEGO set of mixed blocks, like the Classic Creative sets, and you’re all set. Set some time aside every day – goodness knows we’re getting a lot of it, but let’s try to make it less stressful – to build together, talk, and laugh together. And check out Warren Nash’s YouTube channel, too: he’s got some good videos on there, not all of which are about LEGO.

Posted in Guide, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Book Tour: College Student Health Handbook

Hi all! I’ve got a blog tour for our seniors to have on hand as they get read for college. Good health practices never go out of style, as we’ve certainly learned this year, and whether you’re home or (eventually) headed to a dorm, there’s some important info to be found here.

 

The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness,
by Jill Grimes, MD, GAPP/Illustrations by Nicole Grimes,
(May 2020, Skyhorse), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1510751033
Ages 16+

5 Must-Have Items for Your College Freshman

You’re making a list and checking it twice…because especially if this is your FIRST kid heading off to college, you want to be sure you’ve included every critical item.

  • Twin XL (Extra Long) Sheets?
  • Command Strips in every shape, size and strength? Check.

(Much bigger deal for girls vs. guys, but this is the only way to hang stuff on walls.)

  • Dorm Bed Risers? (I highly recommend the ones with extra outlets.) Check.

Chargers, fan, laundry bag, clothes, shoes, coats…the list goes on. And on. And ON. What could possibly be missing? From my perspective as a seasoned move-in mom and a university doctor, here ‘s my list of the top five forgotten items:

  1. Small Tool Kit: Hammer, screwdrivers, wrench set, pliers, scissors, tape measure and level. This should be last in, first out, because you’ll often need these immediately to assemble and disassemble dorm room furniture or fix a stuck drawer. Pro tip: Add in a couple garbage bags; trash piles up as soon as you start unpacking.
  2. Backup Prescription Glasses: especially for the kid that ALWAYS wears contacts! Why? Because if you get a bad stye or “pinkeye” (viral conjunctivitis), or more commonly, you accidentally fall asleep in your contacts or get something in your eye that scratches your cornea- you CANNOT wear contacts for several days to a week or more. And seeing clearly tends to help grades. If you always wear glasses, the backup pair is for when yours break or disappear. And inevitably, it happens during midterms or finals.
  3. Small Lock Box: If you take prescription medications for ADD, this is a must. These stimulant pills sell for $5-10 each (a felony if caught!!) and dorm rooms are rarely private and/or consistently locked. Please remove the temptation for others and keep your meds safe. Lock boxes also work well for pricey jewelry, your passport, and while we’re at it, your backup glasses.
  4. Heating Pad: Okay, not critical, but a great way to guarantee your popularity! Seriously, few students have these, but those that do tell me “EVERYONE borrows it” for aching muscles, back spasms and “cramps”. Bonus points: in cold climates they can double as an electric blanket (just don’t fall asleep on top of one, as this can cause burns.)
  5. Solid Air Freshener: Plug-ins are rarely allowed in dorms, but you can place a solid or gel freshener in your closet (by your shoes) and tuck another under your bed. Extra-strong odors? Bamboo charcoal bags are a pricey option, but they work incredibly well. Choose a neutral or “fresh” smell, not “flowery” or “citrus” as you don’t know your roommate’s sensitivity to different scents. Bodies, dirty clothes, third-hand smoke and old dorms all get very smelly. Unless you are moving into a brand-new dorm with a neat-freak roommate, these fresheners can be lifesavers. Or at the very least, roommate-savers.

Bottom Line: Add these five items to your list for a smoother move-in and a healthier, safer semester! (If you’re flying, pack the glasses & shop for the rest when you arrive.) Good Luck!

Posted in Fiction, geek culture, Guide, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Cyber Monday Gift Guide

Okay, get ready for the latest MomReadIt gift guide – if you can find great deals on Cyber Monday, go for it; if you prefer your local indie bookstore, have at it! Here are some books that the kiddos you know will be thrilled to receive, whether it’s for holiday or any day.

Paper World: Planet Earth, by Bomboland, (Sept. 2019, Big Picture Press),
$24.99, ISBN: 9781536208542
Ages 7-12

An awesome lift-the-flap book for bigger kids, Paper World: Planet Earth is a die-cut, lift-the-flap trip in and around our big blue planet. Readers explore and learn about earth’s tectonic plates; volcanoes, mountains, and glaciers; weather and storms, and more. Sturdy pages and flaps reveal facts, and die cut features add incredible texture. Hands-on science starts here! Back matter includes a glossary.

Code This Game!, by Meg Ray/Illustrated by Keith Zoo, (Aug. 2019, Odd Dot Books),
$24.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-30669-2
Ages 8-13

I’ve been working on coding with the Girls Who Code club at my library, and with my kiddo at home. We’ve been doing a lot of Scratch programming, but we want our kids to be multilingual in all areas – and that includes programming! Code This Game teaches kids how to use the Python programming language, and guides them, step-by-step, through how to make their very own computer game: Attack of the Vampire Pizzas! Brightly illustrated, with chunks of easy-to-read, easy to digest information, this is a fantastic book to get kids up and running with Python. The book is spiral bound and opens into an easel stand, so you can have the book open and standing up, making it that much easier to read while you work.

 

Code This! Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts
for the Problem-Solver in You!, by Jennifer Szymanski,
(Aug. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3443-6
Ages 8-12

More coding fun! A robot named Cody is packed with gadgets, and needs Explorers (that’s us readers) to program him. Together, readers and Cody learn different coding concepts and solve complete missions. Have a burgeoning coder? This is the book for them. They’ll learn how to apply offline concepts to online programming, using ciphers, mazes, secret codes, and good old-fashioned logic. Solutions are there when you get stuck, and quick takes on HTML/Javascript and Python help with quick reference, along with a glossary and index.

 

The Big Book of Bling, by Rose Davidson, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3531-0
Ages 8-12

What would the holidays be without a little bling? NatGeo Kids packs a bunch of bling into one volume, with incredible photos and facts about all things shiny. There are rocks and gems both dazzling and dangerous (stay away from that Hope Diamond), and some of nature’s most extra creations, like the Indian Peacock and the Jewel Caterpillar. Want to meet the richest pets in the world? They’re in here. Ever wonder what sushi wrapped in 24K gold looks like? You’ll find out, in here. Loaded with facts and stunning photos, this will definitely add some zing to the holiday gift-giving.

 

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell/Illustrated by Christian Birmingham
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536211245
Ages 8-12

I can’t believe Black Beauty was published over 140 years ago. It was a mainstay of my childhood library, and I still hand it to kids in my library today. This Anna Sewell classic features more than 50 new illustrations by artist Christian Birmingham, and is a gorgeous gift to anyone who grew up loving this story – or a horse-loving reader who hasn’t yet met the beautiful horse in this Victorian novel. Pair with Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli for a reader who loves an eternal story.

 

Treasury of Bible Stories, by Donna Jo Napoli/Illustrated by Christina Balit,
(Oct. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3538-9
Ages 4-12

This stunning compendium of Bible stories are taken from the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Christian Old Testament. There are 28 stories in all, beginning with Creation and going through to the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, all gorgeously illustrated in full color. The author’s note talks about the writing process, under the guidance of Rabbi Helen Plotkin, over the course of a year and how the book presents a “human history from Creation to the building of the second temple in Jerusalem”. A note on the illustrations points out that the stunning artwork is informed by archaeology and biogenetics: in other words, the humans are depicted with different skin tones, facial characteristics and hair texture. Callouts and fact boxes throughout the stories provide nonfiction content such as the domestication of animals, beginning and diversification of human language, and one of my favorites, “Sanctioned Recklessness”, which talks about the spring festivals of Purim and Carnival. There are maps for Lands of the Bible, a timeline of early civilizations, and a section spotlighting major figures in the Bible. Includes a bibliography and index.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Guide, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Comics: Easy as ABC! is essential kid and grownup reading!

Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids, by Ivan Brunetti, (Apr. 2019, TOON Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943145447

Ages 8-12

Ivan Brunetti and an all-star cast of comics luminaries put together a compulsively readable guide to cartooning and comics for kids and grownups alike. An Understanding Comics for younger readers, Comics: Easy as ABC! introduces kids to the joy of cartooning and doodling; drawing characters whose faces and body language communicate emotion and personality; perspective; point of view; lettering, and so much more. There are quotes and excerpts of comic panels and drawings by such comics and graphic novel notables including Neil Gaiman, Elise Gravel, Liniers, and Jeff Smith. TOON Editorial Director and New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly notes, in her introduction, that she hopes Comics: Easy as ABC! encourages more people to fall in love with comics and to inspire budding cartoonists.

This is such a great volume to have as a desk reference for librarians, parents, and educators, because it’s a crash course in understanding comics. It gives a language to the artwork, letting us look at all art – comic books, naturally, but picture books and illustrated chapter books, too – and explain to readers how to read art; how to decipher facial expressions and body language, how to read a landscape and understand a setting for a panel or spread. The book encourages readers to “draw their own conclusions” by letting them fill in the ending of a comic strip drawn by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and artist Art Spiegelman, and “find their own voices”, with guidance from author Eleanor Davis. A section dedicated to parents, teachers, and librarians guides us grown-ups through the process of how to read comics with kids, with examples, advice, and callout tips like, “The child who makes informed guesses is reading. Enjoy, and hold back from correcting”. Information about the TOON Into Reading Program explains TOON’s leveled reading (also broken further into Lexile, Guided Reading, Reading Recovery, and grade levels). An index, further resources, and a bibliography round out this information-packed guide to the world of comics and graphic novels.

TOON! does it again. This is an essential volume for your graphic novels shelves, and for your desk reference. There’s a 7-page free, downloadable Teacher’s Guide available on the website.

Posted in Guide, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Create your own Scratch games with Scratch Coding Cards!

scratchcodingcards_coverScratch Coding Cards, by Natalie Rusk, MIT Lab Scratch Team, (Dec. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 97-1-59327-774-1

Recommended for ages 8+

Better than flash cards, these Scratch coding cards teach users to design:

  • virtual pets that can eat, drink, and play;
  • games where you can catch things falling from the sky;
  • animated dance scenes with music and dance moves;
  • a bouncing ball game with sounds, points, and other effects;
  • characters that you can dress up with different clothes
  • stories, where you can choose characters, add conversations, and bring your story to life;
  • hide and seek games with characters that disappear;
  • a music program, where you choose instruments, add sounds, and press keys to play music;
  • a game where two characters race one another, and
  • a program that will animate the letters of your name.

Each activity comes with a set of cards, walking users through each action in the process. Every card is fully illustrated and includes screenshots and brief, clear text. I spent the better part of an afternoon creating Pong-type games with my 13 year old when I received my cards to review, and I’m going to start working with my 4 year-old on making up a story using Scratch. I’ve even gushed about these cards to the Collection Development group at my library system, because I love these cards so much.

Librarian or teacher? These cards are a class/program in themselves. Parent, or just interested in learning how to code? You can’t beat these cards for teaching and learning block coding.

Posted in Fiction, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Holiday Book Shopping: Science and Tech

Books make fantastic holiday gifts! Need a stocking stuffer or are stumped by a kid who has seemingly everything? Try one of these!

I am guilty of favoring books in the STEM/STEAM areas, because that’s what I love evangelizing to my own kids and the kids at my libraries. Take a look – you don’t need to be a Stephen Hawking-in-the-making to enjoy these.

scratch-playgroundScratch Programming Playground, by Al Sweigart, (Oct. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1593277628

Recommended for Ages 8-12

I love working with Scratch for young coders. It’s all about teaching kids how to computer code using interconnecting blocks of code, and the Scratch program, developed at MIT, is free and available online. Scratch Programming Playground walks kids (and grownups – I used this book extensively while putting together programs for this coming winter) through the process of learning Scratch by making cool games, like Fruit Slicer (a Fruit Ninja clone), Brick Breaker (where my ’80s friends at?), and Asteroid Breaker (Asteroids! Remember that one?). There are tons of full-color visuals and step-by-step breakdowns that will have kids programming in no time. I buy No Starch books for my libraries all the time – they’re great to have on hand.

 

how-things-workHow Things Work, by T.J Resler (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2555-7

Recommended for ages 7-12

Know a kid who’s constantly taking everything apart to see how it works? This is the book for her or him. It’s loaded with gadgets and how they work; fun facts; in-depth pieces on technology and how it works; profiles of scientists and innovators, and yes, experiments that are totally safe to try at home (with adult supervision, please). Learn how a tablet really works, how an aquarium works to keep fish healthy and happy, even how a toilet works, complete with diagram. Design a roller coaster with your kids – it’s easier than you think! Because it’s a NatGeo Kids book, you know the writing is great; it speaks to kids in easy, clear, fun language that educates and never talks over their heads or down to them. The photos are amazing, and the dog on a surfboard (page 131) is worth the cost of the book all on its own.

science-encyclopediaScience Encyclopedia: Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2543-4

Recommended for ages 8-13

I know, it’s a NatGeo Kids lovefest right now, but it’s well-deserved. The Science Encyclopedia is info-packed with everything kids need to know about physical and life sciences, covering matter, energy, electronics, the universe, and more. There are record breakers, key dates in atomic science, and activities to try at home. Information is presented in 2-page spreads broken out into subject-specific blocks, with stunning photos, fun facts, and hilariously bad jokes (Where does bad light go? A prism!) A glossary, index, and additional resources round this volume out. Fantastic gift for any tween who wants to know more about everything.

 

These are all available now, either in your local bookstore or online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or IndieBound.

Posted in gaming, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Minecraft teaches kids Python, empowers future programmers

minecraftLearn to Program with Minecraft, by Craig Richardson (Dec. 2015, No Starch Press), $29.95, ISBN: 9781593276706

Recommended for ages 10+

The kids in my library are obsessed with Minecraft. From 2:30 on, as the kids storm the beachhead that is my children’s room, I hear shouts of, “Don’t touch my skin!”; “GET THE CREEPER! GET THE CREEPER!”; “OMG, get away from the Enderman!”; and “DIAMONDS!” I see the potential of Minecraft, and how it can be a fantastic tool to teach kids to create online worlds. I also, as a children’s librarian and mom of three boys, know that for the most part, they want to kill creepers and each other in some kind of 8-bit battle royale more often than not.

Books like Learn to Program with Minecraft are my gateway drug to programming with these kids. First, I get the fiction in (the GameKnight999 series by Mark Cheverton is available in English and Spanish, and they fly off my shelves), then I introduce coding programs like the Hour of Code, to show them how playing their game actually teaches them the building blocks of coding programs and apps of their own. Finally, I use part of my book-buying budget to buy coding nonfiction to keep around. I love DK’s coding books; those are especially great for my younger coders. My older kids need a little more, though, to keep them interested. That’s where the No Starch Books come in.

No Starch has great programming books for kids and teens, and Learn to Program with Minecraft is a solid addition to middle school and YA collecctions. A heads-up: you have to download Python to work with this book, but it’s a free programming language. Don’t be scared! The book will guide you along your Python/Minecraft journey, with screenshots and step-by-step bullets points that make creating much less stressful.

The book will help you create mini-games within Minecraft, take you on an automated teleportation tour around your Minecraft world, and teach you to make secret passageways. You’ll learn to make lava traps and cause floods, but be a good Minecraft citizen: no griefing.

I don’t quite have the Minecraft skills for this just yet, but I’m confident in my crafters here – I’ll be investing in this for my summer crowd, especially since we’ll be running a Google CS program here in a couple of months. Get kids to love programming, and watch what they come up with. I’m pretty psyched.

 

Posted in Guide, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Sleepover Party is a great guide to a fun girls’ nights in!

sleepoverSleepover Party, by DK Publishing, (May 2016, DK Children), $14.99, ISBN: 9781465450975

Recommended for ages 8-12

Sleepovers are a part of life for tweens, especially tween girls. It’s socializing, it’s girl time, it’s just fun. DK’s new guide to sleepover parties is going to be a hit with the tween set: it’s got everything to plan sleepovers with five great themes: Pamper Party (aka, spa night), Campout, Fashion, Pop Star, and Movie Night. Loaded with games, activities, and craft ideas, this book is a hit for girls who want to kick their sleepover game up a notch.

I love DK books. I’ll say it a hundred times, and then, a hundred times more. I love their step-by-step guides to crafts, their detailed photos for everything, and their uncanny ability to make books that kids want to grab off the shelves. I love that I can use some of these ideas for my own Summer Reading programs (I am ALL over Fashion and Pop Star activities for the kids here). There are templates, recipes, and quizzes galore to get everyone talking, too – no lonely girl sitting on the bed with a cat while the others are chattering away and doing each other’s nails this time!

There are exclamation points throughout the book, used as callouts to let kids and parents know when cutting or use of sharps (like a needle, to thread candy for bracelets – YUM) is necessary and adult supervision may be required.

Add this one to your collection where you have tween girls who want some fun and crafty activities.

Posted in gaming, geek, geek culture, Guide, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads, Video Games

Yogscast: The Book!

yogscastYogscast: The Diggy Diggy Book, by The Yogscast, (Feb. 2016, Scholastic), $8.99, ISBN: 9780545956635

Recommended for ages 8-13

Yogscast is an insanely popular YouTube channel by gamers, for gamers. They have skits, animations, videos, songs – it’s like SNL on crack for gamers, and it’s pretty kid-friendly (otherwise, Scholastic wouldn’t be putting this book out). If you have Warcraft and/or Minecrafters in your household, library, or classroom, you’ve likely heard of Yogscast, or the kids in your life have.

My gamer boy was a faithful Yogscast fan when he was 7 or 8; I’d see him curled up with his iPad and headset in, cackling and snorting, and wondering what in the world he was listening to. So I asked him, and he told me, and then he showed me.

Yogscast is HUGE. The channel has over 4 BILLION views. If they were a movie, they’d be Deadpool PLUS Avengers, and that is just something that warps my fragile little mind. When I saw that they had a book out, I knew I’d need to check this out.

The Diggy Diggy Book is for people who know this channel and know it well. You will meet the creators and explore different areas. There are tons of in-jokes, a tour of YogTowers, a the tourist’s guide to Datlof, and the chance to become a JaffaQuest cadet. I was pretty clueless reading this book, because it is such an inclusive community (yes, I know calling a community of millions and billions inclusive is hilarious), but if you’re a fan, you’ll love the book. Carry it in your library at your own risk, though – there are workbook-type pages in here and they’ll most likely get written on. This book will do gangbusters at the Scholastic Book Fairs, bet on it.

 

Posted in Fiction, Guide, Middle Grade

DC’s Backstories: Digest-sized origin stories for your fave superheroes!

supesSuperman: Man of Tomorrow, by Daniel Wallace/Illustrated by Patrick Spaziante (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545868181

Wonder Woman: Amazon Warrior, by Steve Korté/Illustrated by Marcus To (Feb. 2016, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545925570

Recommended for ages 7-10

Just in time for the Batman vs. Superman movie, Dawn of Justice, Scholastic is giving us the Backstories series: digest-sized origin stories of our favorite DC superheroes, including a list of friends, foes, and family; a chronology of the characters’ origins; a short biography in chapters; timelines; glossaries; fast facts, and indexes.

 

Superman: Man of Tomorrow, by Daniel Wallace tells the story of how farm boy Clark Kent discovered that he was more than just the farm boy son of Martha and Jonathan Kent, graduated from college with a degree in journalism, and went to work in the big city of Metropolis, where he found a job at the Daily Planet. The biography, told through pictures, newspaper excerpts (with a Lois Lane byline!), and artwork, also touches on Clark Kent’s Kryptonian heritage, both sets of his parents, and his first big feud with Lex Luthor. We learn a little bit about Superman’s allies on the Justice League and his biggest foes.

wondyWonder Woman: Amazon Warrior tells the story of Wonder Woman’s childhood on Paradise Island, also known as Themiscyra; her warrior training and the Amazons’ war with the Greek god, Ares, and the origin of her name, Diana, after Diana Trevor, the mortal woman who crash landed on the island and fought with the Amazons against the creature, Cottus. We learn about Steve Trevor’s – Diana Trevor’s son – arrival on the island, and how Diana won a contest of skill to be the one to take him back to America, where she would defend the human race against Ares. We also learn about Diana’s allies, foes, and armor – did you know that her tiara’s edges are razor sharp and can be thrown like a chakram? Me, either!

Each book provides a foreword from the hero, leading us into their story, introducing themselves to us. Artwork in my advance reader copies are black and white, but I’m hoping there will be some color illustration, too. These books are a good addition to a juvenile library; in my library system, the superhero trade paperbacks are largely in the teen area for content. When the kids ask for superhero stories – and they do! – I have to make sure that I’ve got a rich set of offerings for them! I’ve got easy readers and chapter books; solid little origin stories like this will really round out my superhero collection.