Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Discover Israel with this rhyming tour

My Israel and Me, by Alice Blumenthal McGinty/Illustrated by Rotem Teplow, (Sept. 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-7350875-3-5

Ages 3-8

Told in verse through the eyes of the diverse groups of people living in and visiting Israel, My Israel is a celebration of both the ancient and modern-day country.  Verse shares space with factual information about areas like The Dead Sea, the modern city and Israel’s status as a “Start-Up Nation”, kibbutzes, Biblical history, and more. Alice Blumenthal McGinty celebrates Jewish and Muslim culture and family life, and Rotem Teplow’s colorful artwork takes readers on a journey across the small country with a big history. Endpapers show a plethora of objects to take readers on a visual journey, like camels, kites, olive leaves, and cats, all of whom are waiting to be discovered in the pages.

To extend a lesson on Israel, visit TeachersPayTeachers, where you can find a map of ancient Israel from Taylor Beck; an Israel Activities Pack from Marshal Jewish Learning Center, and more! Download a free educator kit from Kalaniot’s website.

Author Alice Blumenthal McGinty is an award-winning author. You can find educator guides on her website, along with more information on her books, and information about school visits. Visit illustrator Rotem Teplow’s website for more of her artwork.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Great Rivers of the World teaches geography, history, and culture

Great Rivers of the World, by Volker Mehnert/Illustrated by Martin Haake, (March 2023, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374703

Ages 8-12

A companion to Prestel Publishing’s Great Ports of the World (2018) and Great Streets of the World (2019), Great Rivers of the World is a picture book tour of 18 of the world’s greatest rivers, from the Danube in Germany, to China’s Yangtze River, to the Egyptian Nile. Beautiful full-color spreads combined with informative facts about the rivers, with special attention to conservation efforts: the rain forests of the Congo, for  instance, are threatened due to environmental encroachment, mining of natural resources, and hunters. A foldout section on the Nile River discusses the environmental impact the citizens of Egypt face by polluting their river. There are great historical facts that would flesh out geographical and historical reports. A great additional nonfiction resource!

Posted in gaming, Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Box Brown gives us the real story of Tetris, the most addictive game EVER

tetris_1Tetris: The Games People Play, by Box Brown (October 2016, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626723153

Recommended for ages 12+

If you spent the better part of the early ’90s glued to your keyboard/gaming console/handheld, immersed in the video game Tetris, you’re not alone. I have logged many hours in front of my NES, rotating those little blocks to achieve the perfect fit. Box Brown’s graphic novel tells the story behind Tetris: the men who created it, and the game developers that almost went to war over bringing it to the masses.

We meet Alexey Pajitnov and his colleague, Vlad Pokhilko, computer scientists at the Moscow Academy of Science. In 1984, Alexey created Tetris in his spare time; it began life as freeware, being passed from friend to friend, coworker to coworker. This game was a phenomenon waiting to happen: it was addicting from the start; people were mesmerized. One story in the book illustrates a manager providing copies to his workplace colleagues, only to take the discs back and destroy them when office productivity declined.

We see the struggle between game developers and the tangled weave of rights for the game: Nintendo, Atari, and Sega all wanted it, and rights 0wnership was downright sketchy, with miscommunication and under the table deals leading to lawsuits. The story reads like an international thriller in parts, with all the trips to Moscow, international dealings, and theft and intrigue.

The story unfolds in two-color art, with game screen renderings and simple character drawings keeping readers focused on the story and the complexity of the game itself. In the story of Tetris, Box Brown also gives us the story of gaming: the pursuit of fun, and the role of gaming in art, culture, commerce, and intellect. From Lascaux cave paintings, which depict games, to artifacts of gaming pieces rendered in bone, to Senet, an Ancient Egyptian board game, to dice games, and finally, to smartphone gaming (where Tetris still lives on), the pursuit of fun, the joy of gaming, is part of human history.

This will go over well with gamers and history fans, graphic novel fans and anyone interested in business. There’s some good advice for businesses in the story of Tetris, especially for anyone interested in international licenses. Box Brown’s graphic novel is multilayered and well-rounded, with an abundance of information presented in an interesting and easy to digest format.

Box Brown is a New York Times–bestselling author. He wrote the best-selling graphic biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Take a look at some more of Tetris here, and head over to Box Brown’s author webpage and see more of his illustration work.

tetris_2 tetris_3 tetris_4

 

And now, you can’t get the Tetris music out of your head, either. You’re welcome.