Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, gaming, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Tween Reads

Here it is… The First Holiday Gift Guide of the Season!

Finally, right? Here is my little contribution to the holiday season’s gift guides: a few of these over the next couple of weeks, as I try to match my Reader’s Advisory skills with my love of gifty books and book-adjacent goodies.

Build a Skyscraper, by Paul Farrell, (Sept. 2020, Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.69, ISBN: 978-1843654742

Ages 3-8

If you haven’t played with Paul Farrell’s Build a Castle, you have been missing out, but no worries: just in time for the holidays, he’s released Build a Skyscraper, the next in his series of graphic-designed cards that let you and your kiddos create the skyscraper of your dreams. The box contains 64 cards with slots cut to let you build and expand your building in any way you like. Add glass, decorative elements and flourishes, and build up or out. It’s all up to your little one! Perfect for stocking stuffers, this is great for hours of play and you can build a new skyscraper each time. An 8-page booklet contains some inspiration and descriptions of skyscraper elements. Get out the minifigs and let them move into a new neighborhood!

Elevator Up card game, (2020), $9.99

Ages 7+

Created by a 17-year-old, Elevator Up is – in the words of creator Harrison Brooks – “kid-created, kid-designed, kid-marketed, kid-shipped, and kid-loved card game”. It’s pretty easy to pick up, fast-paced, and way too much fun to play. The goal is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards as your elevator rides through a building. You can use cards to get your opponents stuck, sent back down to the lobby, or have the doors closed on them. There are a lot of laughs to be had – my Kiddo loves closing the door on his older brothers – and the chance for friendly trash talk is high. Support indie game makers and kid creators, give this one a look. For more information, check out the game website at PlayElevatorUp.com.

 

Lost in the Imagination: A Journey Through Nine Worlds in Nine Nights, by Hiawyn Oram/Illustrated by David Wyatt, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536210736

Ages 8-12

This book is just amazing, perfect for the reader always looking for new worlds and new adventures. Taken from the “found” journals of the late theoretical physicist Dawn Gable, the book is an armchair adventure: writing, drawings, research, and keepsakes from Dr. Gable’s nightly journeys into fantastic worlds: Asgard, Camelot, The Lost City of Kôr, and a city of machines, Meganopolis, are only a handful of the worlds explored here. Fantasy artwork brings readers from the fantasy of Camelot, with knights and shields, to the steampunk mechanical world of Meganopolis; dragons fly around Wyvern Alley, with fantastic beasts sketched on journal pages to delight and entice, and the ancient ruins of Atlantis wait for readers in its underwater kingdom, with squid and nautiluses. Perfect for your fantasy fans and anyone who loves the “Ology” series by Dugald Steer. Books like this are a gateway to more reading, so have some Tales of Asgard and Thor on hand, Gulliver’s Travels, or Tales of King Arthur handy.

Keeping this short and sweet, but there is much more to come!
Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Teen, Tween Reads

The holidays are coming… What do I do with these kids?

Welcome to this year’s edition of “What the heck do I do with a house full of kids?” Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK, which means Hanukkah and Christmas are right around the corner. We’re going to have homes full of kids while you’re getting the house clean, cooking meals, wrapping gifts, decorating your home. Sure, you could turn on Klaus on Netflix, but why not have some fun things ready to keep the kids entertained while you and the grownups get some face time in? Here are a few fun books chock full of ideas.

Playing with Collage, by Jeannie Baker, (Oct. 2019, Candlewick Studio), $16, ISBN: 9781536205398

Ages 8-12

Who doesn’t love making collages? It’s one of our favorite things to do at the library. Jeannie Baker is a picture book author-illustrator who created this master class on working with collage for kids and adults alike. She provides a look at the tools and textures she uses to create wonderful collage artwork, with plenty of examples. How do you prep leaves for pressing? Did I even know you prep leaves for pressing, rather than just gluing them to a page and calling it a day? How do you use corrugated cardboard and torn tissue paper to create a visually stunning scene that you can feel by just looking at it? Jeannie Baker is here for you with easy-to-read explanations and techniques. She’s got a whole section dedicated to kitchen materials, so keep things aside as you prep for holiday cooking – your kids will find ways to work with them. She even includes a fun guessing game at the end of the book, challenging readers to identify the materials in her final collage. Provide the materials, set aside a creative space (I usually designate my dining room table), and let them go to work with this book as a fun reference guide. There are suggestions for more advanced crafters in here – make sure any kinds of superglue or cutting materials are used with an adult’s guidance.

 

 

Yikes! Santa Claus is in His Underpants!, by Mister Ed,
(Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $6.99, ISBN: 9780764358296
Ages 3-8

How much fun is this? You get to dress up Santa! The inner flap of this softcover paper doll book is Santa, in all his underwear-rocking glory. The rest of the book includes pages of accessories and outfits to dress him in. All of his gear are removable stickers, so you can dress him up, mix and match, and do it all again. Dress him up in bunny pajamas, biker gear, a superhero set of tights, a sheriff, get him ready for his post-Christmas nap with a pair of fuzzy pajamas and reindeer slippers. Get creative, and have fun! At $6.99, you can definitely swing buying a couple of these for stocking stuffers or to let groups of kids have their own Dress Santa contests.

 

Make Your Own Beauty Masks: 38 Simple, All-Natural Recipes for Healthy Skin, Illustrated by Emma Trithart,
(Nov. 2019, Odd Dot), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250208125
Ages 10+

Come ON. This is just too much fun, especially if you have tween and teen girls in the home. Get in some pampering for the holidays with this adorable book from Odd Dot. Everything is natural; straight from your fridge or the produce section to your face. I bet you can find nearly everything in your home right now. The masks have the cutest names, and the book is beautifully illustrated. The contents tell you exactly what you need, and the step-by-step directions help you prep your face and your ingredients for absolute pampering and relaxation while you watch March of the Wooden Soldiers and wait for your turkey to cook. The book comes with ten sheet masks to get you started. Keep an eye out for any prep that requires cutting or blending; you may want to prep the ingredients with your spa participants the night before.

Don’t forget tabletop games – we’re still loving Monsters in the Elevator and Nightmarium, and are looking forward to introducing Throw Throw Burrito, which is, essentially, a combination of tabletop card game and dodgeball, with soft, adorable burritos. Dueling burritos, sneak attack burritos, team-up burrito warfare: it’s all here, and we have laughed ourselves into stomachaches playing it, so what better way to end a day of Thanksgiving eating? 

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate!

Posted in geek culture

Help! What do I do with these kids on Thanksgiving?

Are you facing down a day with restless kids? Dreading hearing the inevitable…

I hear you. That’s why I’m loading up on goodies to keep around the house when my 6-year-old starts up. (I can put the older two to work; they’re in high school and college.)

 

First off, Pinterest is a lifesaver. I’ve linked to a “Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids” search, so you can see a smidgen of the ideas waiting for you, most of which can be accomplished with stuff around the house. Toilet paper rolls? GODSEND. They can be turkey bodies; they can be Batman gauntlets or Wonder Woman bracelets; they can be snowmen, they can be anything! Stock up, have construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, and watercolor paints on hand (and newspaper to protect your table). The kids will love the chance to create.

Print out a bunch of pictures for coloring, and leave ’em around with crayons and colored pencils. Crayola has a bunch of Thanksgiving pictures, Hanukkah pictures, and Kwanzaa pictures, plus printables that let kids cut out and create their own turkeys, and even Thanksgiving Bingo! for a family game. Sesame Street’s got fantastic printables, including activities and different holidays; so does Disney Family.

Of course I have books! This is a book blog!

Around the World in 80 Puzzles, by Aleksandra Artymowska, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536203080

Ages 7-10

Puzzles!!! Who doesn’t have love puzzles? These aren’t your regular old crossword, word search, or Hidden Picture puzzles, though. These are puzzles made into an art form. Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic, Around the World in 80 Days, these puzzles feature steam trains, sailboats, parachutes, gliders, zeppelins, and more to take readers around the world. Each puzzle takes up a two-page spread and offers visual challenges to readers: find the safe path through a canyon that will avoid scorpions; discover lizards hiding in breathtaking Islamic architecture, or wander through jungle vines, in search of snakes and parrots. All mazes are in full-color and star a young boy who starts readers off on the adventure as he sits, reading, in his treehouse and grabs onto a balloon; the adventure ends when the balloon returns him to his little hideaway. The answers are at the back of the book, but that’s no fun! Get family members working together to solve the mysteries.

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets Christmas Coloring Book, created by Russell Ince, (2013), $11.00, ISBN: 089945589887

My friend picked this coloring book up at BookExpo this year, and I’m so glad she did. There are some beautiful Christmas pictures to color in this book; from Nutcrackers to Santa; holly mandalas and knotwork ornaments; Christmas stockings and presents. My little guy and I broke this out the other night and just went at it. There really is something soothing about coloring, and these meditative Christmas designs bring back memories of old-fashioned Christmases. If you can grab a copy for yourself, leave this one out and let the grownups and kids pair up together for some impressive artwork.

Games are great to get everyone going after the turkey coma threatens to kick in. We’re big on tabletop gaming in my family, so I’ve got a bunch handy, across age groups.

Machi Koro is a Pandasaurus/IDW Game that’s a big favorite with my older kids and me. (Me, primarily, because I love watching the two of them trash talk one another as they try to outdo one another). Think Monopoly, but faster-paced and with 100% more opportunity for smack talk. You’re the mayor of Machi Koro, an up-and-coming city, and you’ve got your work cut out for you: develop the city into the largest city in the region. It’s card and dice-based, for 2-4 players. We have the Harbor Expansion, which adds some more cards to the game and provides a few new building opportunities.

King of Tokyo is a board and dice-based game for 2-6 players. Because who doesn’t want to be a giant monster that destroys Tokyo? My littlest guy gets in there with the rest of us, no problem; one of us helps read the cards with him, but really, this game is about the dice and the hit points your monster can take. Actually getting hold of Tokyo is only part of the battle: fighting to keep it is quite another story!

Monsters in the Elevator is one of our favorites. It’s a cooperative game that brings math to the table. You’ve got a bunch of monsters, each with a different weight. You’ve got an elevator that goes up 20 floors. Monsters get on, monsters get off; monsters pass gas and clear out, monsters rush in to get to their destinations. You need to get that elevator up to the 20th floor, safely, so you need to keep your math skills sharp and maintain that weight! You can easily accommodate between 2 and 10 players, but I’d say anywhere between 3-6 is the best number. Younger kids can easily play this with help.

I couldn’t talk tabletop games without mentioning my first grader’s favorite game, Nightmarium. This one is fantastic for pre-readers all the way up to teens and adults. It’s a card-based game, and each monster comes in three parts: you have feet cards, body cards, and head cards. Monsters need to be built from the feet up, and you need to build five to win. Once you complete a monster, they have certain abilities that activate for that turn, depending on the cards making them up. We play this one a lot. It’s hilarious, and can be quite cutthroat. Enjoy.