Blog Tour: Eden West with Pete Hautman

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Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Pete Hautman, the extraordinarily talented writer of Eden West, out now from Candlewick Press. Pete’s 2004 novel, Godless, won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Eden West covers similar ground in that both books deal with the interplay between religion and control.

However, where Godless was about inventing a new religion, Eden West is about the world of cults. It is about the 12-square-mile land of Nodd, a “paradise” run by the Grace. Specifically, it’s about 17-year-old Jacob who knows nothing else about the World, except that it’s wicked and doomed to destruction. That is, until he meets Lynna and the two test their belief in the Grace with the temptations of the World.

It’s a tough YA book that tackles some serious issues in a thoughtful, respectful way. Thankfully, Pete Hautman also knows how to laugh. Which is a good thing, because for his blog tour stop here at the Roarbots, I decided to throw him some curveballs.

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Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba

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(Check out some of our previous adventures with Cirque du Soleil: Dralion, Varekai, and our tour of International Headquarters in Montreal.)

La Nouba was the first Cirque du Soleil show I ever saw. Since I’ve now seen more than 10 different Cirque shows, I guess you could say this is the one that made me a fan. I recently had the chance to see the show again, and it didn’t disappoint.

La Nouba premiered in Orlando in 1998 and was the third resident show created (Mystère and O in Las Vegas were the first two). The theater it calls home (on Downtown Disney’s West Side at the Walt Disney World Resort) was the first freestanding, permanent structure built for Cirque du Soleil, and Walt Disney Imagineering was involved in its design and construction.

Despite what many think, though, La Nouba is not owned or operated by Disney. Downtown Disney is its home, and it’s certainly a major draw to the area, but it’s not part of the larger Walt Disney World Resort. In other words, don’t expect Mickey and Goofy to be part of the highwire act.

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Blog Tour: Kids Comics Q&A with Maris Wicks

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Today, I have the privilege and honor of being a stop on the Kids Comics Q&A blog tour. The tour is sponsored by First Second Books and cosponsored by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Talk about good company!

This year, Free Comic Book Day officially kicked off Children’s Book Week (May 4-10, 2015), and even though that’s past tense at this point, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring and celebrating all the joy that children’s books provide. So, please, click through to some of those links above and check out all the great stuff that’s available at each.

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The Kids Comics Q&A blog tour is meant to celebrate the many fantastic creators who are writing and drawing some downright incredible “comics for kids.” Among the many brilliant participants are several friends of The Roarbots, including Kazu Kibuishi, Jeffrey Brown, Frank Cammuso, Gene Luen Yang, Mike Maihack, Andy Runton, and Ben Hatke!

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Interview With Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsuki: Bringing The Dam Keeper to Life

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

The Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film is always a collection of some of the most beautiful and artistic stories set to film in any given year. Last year was no different. Even though Disney’s Feast grabbed a lot of the headlines and spotlight (mostly by being attached to the mega-successful Big Hero 6), fellow nominee The Dam Keeper is arguably a better film.

Directed by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke (Dice) Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper tells the story of young Pig who lives and works in a windmill perched high atop a huge dam on the edge of town. His job is to keep the windmill running and thereby keep the encroaching black fog at bay. If the windmill stops, the black fog could envelop the town.

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Fight to the Last Man — Interview With the Creative Team Behind ‘The Stranger’

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Maybe I’ve just started noticing it for some reason, but it seems like there’s been an uptick in the number (and popularity) of graphic novels by French creators making their way States-side recently.

Toon Books has begun publishing the first English-language translations of the Philémon series, Snowpiercer made quite a splash thanks to its big-screen adaptation with Chris Evans, and now First Second Books is publishing English-language versions of the massively popular Last Man series.

The first book in the series, The Stranger, released in March, and First Second is planning to release Books 2 and 3 later this year. Books 4–6 will hopefully follow in 2016, which will bring us more or less in line with the French releases. There are a total of 12 volumes planned for the entire story.

The Stranger focuses on a gladiatorial contest–the Games–in what seems to be a medieval world in which magic is not only possible but also the very soul of the Games. Teams compete and wield elemental powers against one another in the ring (think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Ultimate Fighting).

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Light It Up With Max Traxxx Tracer Racers

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Cars are a big deal in my house. My three-year-old son has more Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and other assorted cars than any other kid I know. My mother never parted ways with all of my toy cars, so he now has all of mine in addition to a growing collection of his own. (It doesn’t hurt that individual Hot Wheels cars make perfectly reasonable impulse buys.)

In short, if it has four wheels, my son will play with it. Therefore, it was with some fascination that we saw Max Traxxx Tracer Racers. Despite the surplus of Xs in the name, these cars and track sets immediately grabbed his attention.

Promising “glow powered racing,” the sets (put out by Skullduggery) include glow-in-the-dark track and cars with small lights on the bottom. In a darkened room, turn on the lights, let the cars race down the track, and you’re rewarded with cool green streaks of light in their wake.

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5 Questions with Cece Bell

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with Cece Bell, author and illustrator of (among other things) the graphic novel El Deafo.

ElDeafo_NewberyCece Bell already had several picture and chapter books under her belt before El Deafo hit the shelves. Among them: the Sock Monkey series, Itty Bitty, and Rabbit and Robot. But it was El Deafo that made the biggest splash.

El Deafoin case you’re unaware, is an autobiographical graphic novel that tells the story of how Cece lost her hearing at a very young age (from meningitis), struggled to appear “normal” and fit in throughout elementary school, and ultimately discovered her own superpowered altar ego in the guise of “El Deafo.”

It’s a charming, honest, warm, and funny book that’s a pure delight for all ages. And it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. To name a few, it won the 2015 Newbery Honor, was a Kirkus Prize finalist, and was recently nominated for an Eisner Award.

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Razor’s Crazy Cart Brings Mario Kart to Life

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Here’s another one to file under “I wish they had these when I was a kid.” Razor, the company perhaps best known for revitalizing the “scooter industry” and making kick scooters cool again, has branched out in some surprising ways.

One of those ways? The Crazy Cart. The second I saw a Crazy Cart, I knew I had to have one. What is it? It’s essentially a drifting go-kart. OK, what does that mean? In a nutshell, it’s a battery-powered go-kart that has the ability to drift sideways, go backwards, and make complete 360s.

Have you ever wished ‘Mario Kart’ were real? Of course you have. We all have. Well, it’s time to set up the Chain Chomps and prepare the turtle shells and banana peels; Razor is bringing real-life ‘Mario Kart’ to your nearest empty parking lot. Boo-yah.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Bugs in the Kitchen

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  • Bugs in the Kitchen
  • Designer: Peter-Paul Joopen
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Plays 2–4
  • Ages 5+
  • Playing Time: 10–15 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2013
  • Elevator Pitch: Rotate plastic utensils to force the robotic Hexbug into or away from your trap.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

I love it when simple games are both surprisingly fun and a big hit with the kids. All too often, simple = boring. Not so with Bugs in the Kitchen. And most of that is thanks to the inclusion of a Hexbug Nano as an integral component of the game.

The concept of the game is very simple. The board is composed of rotating plastic utensils, which form the walls of a maze. The Hexbug is let loose in the middle, and then players take turn rolling a die and rotating one of the utensils in an effort to either lure the Hexbug into (or away from) your corner, collecting tokens as you go. (There are a few different ways to play.)

The first person to collect a certain number of tokens wins.

That’s all there is. The Hexbug moves by itself, and you simply need to stay ahead of it by rotating the right utensils. It’s fast and frenetic, and it’s a total blast with kids.

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Giveaway: Bazooka Joe prize pack

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Believe it or not, Bazooka Joe is 60 years old! Doesn’t look a day over 12 if you ask me. I still remember going to the 7-11 on the corner when I was a kid and buying loose, single sticks of Bazooka Joe gum (off the bottom candy rack) for 5 cents each.

And get off my lawn while you’re at it!

To celebrate the anniversary, the brand is getting a bit of a makeover. Topps (Bazooka’s parent company) has enlisted the aid of four stellar illustrators who will design new looks for Bazooka Joe: Benjamin Balistreri (How to Train Your Dragon), Robert Lilly (Nickelodeon Animation Studios), Ben Reynolds (mobile Games for Ghostbusters and Monster Pet Shop), and Victor Instrasomnbat (Clockwork Animation).

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Magic, Myths, and Monsters: Interview with Jim Zub and Steve Cummings of ‘Wayward’

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(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

When it comes to comics, it’s not often that I’m immediately taken in and captivated by an ongoing series. It usually takes a few issues for the creative team to find its groove and for me to find something worth latching on to.

Wayward – from writer Jim Zub, artist Steve Cummings, and Image Comics – burst onto the scene last year, and from the very first issue, I was hooked. The story, often described as “Buffy in Japan,” was smart and intriguing. The art was phenomenal. And the series wasted no time in becoming fantastic. From page 1, Zub and Cummings felt completely at home in the world they were creating.

That comfort and confidence was evident on every page – every panel – and Wayward quickly became one of my favorite series.

The story follows half-Irish, half-Japanese teenager Rori Lane as she adjusts to her new life in Tokyo with her mother. Things don’t exactly go according to plan, though. Almost immediately, she’s attacked by mythical monsters no one else can see, discovers she suddenly has a superpower, and falls in with a small band of teenage “misfits” who possess other incredible powers.

This is an original superhero story without the spandex, a coming-of-age story that blends ancient Japanese mythology with modern Tokyo, and a good ol’ fashioned monster tale.

It’s also an epic in the making, and I highly recommend it.

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‘Part-Time Princesses': Mean Girls With a Paycheck

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Part-Time Princesses is a new graphic novel from Monica Gallagher and Oni Press that released digitally (an issue a week) on Comixology before the physical book arrived in stores.

The story follows Tiffany, Amber, Courtney, and Michelle: four high school seniors who work part-time as costumed princesses at Enchanted Park, their town’s local run-down amusement park. It’s very reminiscent of Storybook Land, which was a similar park near where I grew up in New Jersey (and still very much operational).

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GKIDS Retrospective: Mia and the Migoo

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We continue our series of reviews chronicling all of the (non-Studio Ghibli) animated films distributed by GKIDS Films–some of the most original and breathtakingly beautiful animated films from around the world–and how they hold up for a young American audience.

We’re traveling chronologically (the entire retrospective is found here), and this time we’ve got…

Mia and the Migoo (2008): Jacques-Rémy Girerd, director

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Interview with ‘Howtoons’ Artist Nick Dragotta

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(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Comics that aspire to be educational are not the easiest things to create. Well, I take that back; I guess they might be easy enough. There certainly are a lot of really bad “educational” comics out there. However, good comics that successfully educate and entertain are ridiculously hard to make.

If you’re skeptical that such a thing exists, I have two things to say to you. First, I don’t blame you. Second, I invite you to look no further than Howtoons (put out by Image Comics). Howtoons is the brainchild of artist Nick Dragotta and engineer/inventor Saul Griffith, and it aims to teach kids the fundamentals of math, science, and engineering through DIY projects that use everyday household materials.

Think Mr. Wizard in graphic novel form.

Step-by-step instructions for each project are in comic story form, and those instructions are sandwiched into a storyline that follows two siblings (Tucker and Celine) who make the projects themselves and go on adventures. Two collections (Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction and Howtoons: [Re]Ignition are now available. Both are fantastic.

I had the chance to chat with artist Nick Dragotta—who is perhaps best known for his work on Image Comics’ East of West with Jonathan Hickman—about his work on Howtoons, getting kids interested in STEAM subjects, and how to make the world a better place.

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Interview With Caldecott Honorees Jillian & Mariko Tamaki

ThisOneSummer-awards(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Every year, the American Library Association breaks out the medals and awards children’s and young adult books with some of the most prestigious awards they have to offer. The big two—and those with which most people are familiar—are the Newbery Medal (for outstanding contribution to children’s literature) and the Caldecott Medal (for most distinguished American picture book for children).

Graphic novels have always had a somewhat … uncomfortable relationship with these awards. Some claim that they shouldn’t be considered alongside more “traditional” children’s books, and some argue that there should be an entirely separate award for graphic novels.

This year, for the first time ever, graphic novels were recognized in a huge way. This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki, was awarded with both a Caldecott Honor and a Printz Honor (for excellence in literature written for young adults). This was the first graphic novel to ever be recognized with a Caldecott and only the second to snag a Printz.

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Interview with Newbery Honoree Cece Bell

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(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Every year, the American Library Association breaks out the medals and awards children’s and young adult books with some of the most prestigious awards they have to offer. The big two—and those with which most people are familiar—are the Newbery Medal (for outstanding contribution to children’s literature) and the Caldecott Medal (for most distinguished American picture book for children).

Graphic novels have always had a somewhat … uncomfortable relationship with these awards. Some claim that they shouldn’t be considered alongside more “traditional” children’s books, and some argue that there should be an entirely separate award for graphic novels.

This year, for the first time ever, graphic novels were recognized in a huge way. Cece Bell’s El Deafo received a Newbery Honor, and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki became the first graphic novel to be awarded a Caldecott Honor. (Click here for my interview with Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.)

Cece Bell’s graphic memoir appeared on many Best of 2014 lists for its charming, honest, and funny portrayal of her experiences and struggles after she loses her hearing (due to meningitis) at a young age.

I had the opportunity to chat with Cece Bell soon after she won the Newbery about the award, setting a precedent, and the lessons she’s learned.

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GKIDS Retrospective: Nocturna

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We continue our series of reviews chronicling all of the (non-Studio Ghibli) animated films distributed by GKIDS Films–some of the most original and breathtakingly beautiful animated films from around the world–and how they hold up for a young American audience.

We’re traveling chronologically (the entire retrospective is found here), and this time we’ve got…

Nocturna (2007): Victor Maldonado & Adrià Garcia, directors

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Blog Tour: Last of the Sandwalkers

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Today, we’ve got a bit of a treat. Jay Hosler is a biology professor and cartoonist, and lucky for us, he’s combined those two things with spectacular results!

His newest graphic novel, Last of the Sandwalkers, was just released from First Second, and it is phenomenal. It takes you on a journey inside an intricate society of beetles, and believe me when I tell you: it’s well worth the journey.

I’ll be doing a full review of the book in the coming days, but today I’m more than happy to turn it over to Jay! The Roarbots is the penultimate stop on his blog tour, which has been amazing in that each stop has featured a different beetle.

Therefore, without further ado, take it away Jay….

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Boggy Creek Airboat Rides

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An airboat ride through a swamp or marshland is one of those quintessential Florida experiences. Most people equate this experience with the Everglades in southern Florida, but would you believe me if I said you could set out on an airboat and be almost guaranteed to see wildlife (including gators) in central Florida, almost absurdly close to all of the tourist spots?

You can.

We recently visited Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and, despite the disclaimer you see above, we did indeed see some Florida gators. Alligators, in fact, are so common in Florida that many residents of the Sunshine State have become immune to them. They’re almost like squirrels. (Well, not quite…but almost.) For those of us who don’t live in Florida, though, it’s still an exciting sight.

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GKIDS Retrospective: Azur & Asmar

titleThis is the first in a series of reviews that will chronicle all of the (non-Studio Ghibli) animated films distributed by GKIDS Films. GKIDS distributes some of the most original and breathtakingly beautiful animated films from around the world, and I’ll be taking a look at how these films hold up for a young American audience.

We’ll be going chronologically in order of release, so first up is…

Azur & Asmar (2006): Michel Ocelot, director

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