5 Questions with David Petersen


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

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with David Petersen, writer and artist of the award-winning Mouse Guard series of graphic novels from Archaia.

Let’s begin by saying that Zoey is a sucker for stories with mice having adventures. And, as it turns out, that’s actually a pretty expansive genre. So it came as no surprise that Mouse Guard was an instant hit with her.

She quickly fell in love with Saxon, Kenzie, Sadie, Lieam, and the rest of the Guardmice who populate this medieval world of intrigue, honor, warfare, and predators.

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Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch


  • Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch
  • by Eric Orchard
  • published by Top Shelf Productions (2014)
  • Price: $14.95
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Right away, my kids wanted to know who the Thimblewitch was. Is she good? Is she bad? What does she want? This is the sign of a good book in my house: one that engages their curiosity with questions from the get-go. A good cover or a good title can do that. This book has both. We’re off to a good start.

I picked up Maddy Kettle on a whim from Top Shelf at this year’s Small Press Expo. I admit, it was in a small stack of other books–Top Shelf puts out some great stuff–but it had just been released that weekend.

The book tells the story of 11-year-old Maddy. Through flashbacks, we learn that she works in her parents’ bookstore, but the book begins with her parents already turned into kangaroo rats.

This elicited a torrent of giggles. Zoey thought it hilarious that her parents are rats (since it’s not immediately explained that the parents were turned into rats by the Thimblewitch). Five pages in, and we’re still on the right track.

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Big Apple Circus: Metamorphosis

BIgAppleCircus(Big Apple Circus is currently playing at the Dulles Town Center in Dulles, VA, through Sunday, October 5. Buy tickets here. The show then moves back to New York for the holiday season, through January.)

The Big Apple Circus is probably best described as a happy marriage between a traditional circus (think Ringling Bros) and Cirque du Soleil. There’s a nice mix of acrobatics, contortionists, jugglers, and small animal acts.

It’s a bit more “fun” for little kids than Cirque du Soleil might be (and certainly more affordable), and it avoids the large animal acts that often plague larger, more traditional circuses. (There are no elephants, lions, or tigers.)

The conceit here is fairly simple: the Big Apple Circus presents a one-ring circus underneath a big top with an old-school ringmaster between acts. It’s almost enough to transport you back to the Dust Bowl. Almost.

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Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches #1


  • Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches – The Magic Swan Goose and the Lord of the Forest
  • written/illustrated/lettered by: S.M. Vidaurri
  • published by Archaia (Boom! Studios)
  • Price: $3.99
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Jim Henson’s Storyteller is back. If you don’t remember the original show from 1988, I’m so sorry. It was a groundbreaking series (for 1988) that blended live actors with Henson’s puppetry magic and retold European folktales and legends.

The show only survived for one season of 9 episodes, and it was briefly revived a few years later for a handful of episodes that centered on various Greek myths. John Hurt portrayed the storyteller in the first series, and it’s his contribution that sticks with me to to this day. The puppets made the show unique, but Hurt made the show a classic.

The episodes are bookended by the Storyteller, beside a roaring fire, telling the story to the viewer (and his talking dog). He then acts as narrator throughout the tales.

This new comic by Archaia stays true to that spirit. Though the Storyteller and his dog only appear on the final page of the first issue in silhouette, his presence is certainly felt throughout. The story is told mostly through narration–there is little dialogue–and S.M. Vidaurri adeptly captures the “voice” of Henson’s original Storyteller.

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5 Questions with Gene Luen Yang

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

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Gene Luen Yang, writer and artist of several graphic novels, including American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints.

Boxers and Saints, his most recent book, is an ambitious work of historical fiction set in late 19th century China and told in a graphic novel format. It tackles one of the most complicated periods of recent Chinese history with grace and elegance.

It was published by First Second Books in two companion volumes, and it has basically won (or been nominated for) every literary award. Likewise for American Born Chinese, which was the first graphic novel to be nominated for the National Book Award in 2006 (Boxers and Saints was shortlisted for the same award in 2013).

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5 Questions with Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown

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

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Jeffrey Brown, writer and artist on the adorable Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess, Goodnight Darth Vader, and the Jedi Academy books.

We first became aware of Jeffrey Brown in 2012 when Darth Vader and Son was released by Chronicle Books. I got a copy for Father’s Day and instantly fell in love. Zoey instantly fell in love, too, though she loved the art and the fact that Luke and Leia were tiny and cute. She hadn’t seen the movies at that point, so some of the jokes went right over her head. But, she still laughed.

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Marvel Universe Live!

MarvelLive_stageThere’s no denying it. The Marvel Universe is huge. For much of my youth, it always played second fiddle to competitor DC Comics–who seemed to have the somewhat unfair advantage of Superman and Batman.

However, for much of my kids’ lives, Marvel has simply dominated the pop cultural landscape. The Marvel Cinematic Universe launched with unlikely B-list superhero Iron Man in 2008 and hasn’t had a flop (or genuinely bad movie) since.

Since then, Marvel and the Marvel characters have dominated the big screen, the small screen, the direct-to-DVD market, toy aisles, and now…arenas.

Marvel Universe Live! is a new production from Feld Entertainment, the group behind other kid-friendly arena shows such as Disney On Ice, Disney Live!, and Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

There was a lot of hype leading up to the premiere of Marvel Universe Live!, and I for one was very intrigued. We finally got the opportunity to see the show last weekend in Fairfax, VA.

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Day Out With Thomas


(The Day Out With Thomas is currently at the Strasburg Rail Road outside of Lancaster, PA, through Sunday, September 21. Buy tickets here.)

The Day Out With Thomas events have been a staple at train museums for many years now. The first such event in the United States was back in 1996, and they’ve been going strong ever since. If you have a kid who likes Thomas or is a train fanatic, then you’ve very likely heard of or been to this event.

There are about a half dozen different Thomas engines making the circuit, and I was surprised to learn that they were all built by the Strasburg Rail Road.

Well, Thomas now has a new friend on the rails! The good people at the Strasburg Rail Road decided to expand the fleet, so they designed and built a working Percy engine!

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5 Questions with Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith

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

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Jeff Smith, writer/artist/creator of the amazing Bone graphic novels.

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find a kid who hasn’t read the Bone books. Zoey is 5, has a pulse, and has a dad who read the comics from issue #1 way back when, so she of course is in love with the Bone cousins, Ted, Gran’ma Ben, Thorn, the Great Red Dragon, and all the other wonderful characters that populate the books.

Even as an adult who has read the books multiple times, the story is just so utterly enchanting and charming that I get whisked away on an adventure every single time I open one of the books.

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5 Questions with Judith Viorst

Judith Viorst

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

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Judith Viorst, the legendary children’s author who wrote–among many many other books–Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Zoey had the opportunity to sit and chat with Ms. Viorst during her appearance at this year’s National Book Festival in Washington, DC.

She prepared for her interview by voraciously reading (i.e., listening to me read) nearly a dozen of Judith Viorst’s books, each and every one of which she loved. She was already familiar with the Alexander books–particularly the original, since I still have my childhood copy and have read it to her numerous times before.

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Cirque du Soleil: Varekai


(Varekai is currently playing at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia through Sunday, September 14. Buy tickets here.)

It’s no secret that the Roarbots love Cirque du Soleil. We’ve see eight different shows and recently had the amazing opportunity to tour the International Headquarters in Montreal. If you haven’t read our trip report from that tour, make sure you go and do that right now.

Go ahead. We’ll wait for you.

Whereas other groups try to cash in by using the word cirque in their name but end up delivering mixed results of varying quality, Cirque du Soleil is the original. They’re who those other guys are mimicking, and they consistently deliver stellar performances of the highest quality possible.

Varekai is no different.

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5 Questions with Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo

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

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Kate DiCamillo, the recently named 2014-15 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress, winner of the 2004 Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux, winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal for Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, and, oh yeah, author of a long list of amazing books.

Zoey knows her best from the The Tale of Despereaux (which she has listened to several times on audiobook) and the Mercy Watson and Bink & Gollie series of chapter books.

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Upcoming: Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy

cirque dreams

It’s no secret that the Roarbots are fans of acrobatics and the whole “artistic circus” genre. (See our tour of Cirque du Soleil’s International Headquarters here.)

Cirque Dreams is in this same category and has been around since 1993, entertaining audiences around the world in theatres, casinos, theme parks, and at sea on cruise lines. They have a number of different performances touring at any one time.

Their newest show is called Jungle Fantasy and is currently touring the United States. Created and directed by theatrical and circus impresario Neil Goldberg, Jungle Fantasy is an exotic encounter inspired by nature’s unpredictable creations that are brought to life by an international cast of soaring aerialists, spine-bending contortionists, acrobats, jugglers and musicians.

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Upcoming: LEGO KidsFest & Giveaway

Lego KidsFest

Now here’s an event we’ve been looking forward to. The LEGO KidsFest will be held from October 3-5 at the Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, VA.

The show floor is an astounding three acres of LEGO awesomeness and will include a LEGO Model Museum, a Master Builder Academy, Race Ramps, Creation Nation, Construction Zone, a retail store, and the tantalizingly named Big Brick Pile.

Exhibits and activities will represent the wide variety of LEGO lines–Star Wars, Super Heroes, Ninjago, Mindstorms, Friends, Disney Princess, and Duplo–so there’s sure to be something for everyone, regardless of age or ability.

Richmond will be the tour’s second-to-last stop for 2014 (it moves on to Indianapolis next), and I can tell you that we’re waiting for this one with baited breath.

LEGO KidsFest tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for children, and they can be purchased online at legokidsfest.com.

Click this link and enter to win two tickets to the opening night session (4-8:30 pm) on Friday, Oct 3! Good luck, and thanks for playing!

5 Questions with a Polar Bear Keeper


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

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Marie-Josée Côté, one of the zookeepers (and the one in charge of the polar bears) at Zoo Sauvage de St-Félicien. See The Roarbots review of the zoo here.

Zoey is in love with polar bears. Her favorite stuffed animal in the world is a little polar bear, and she takes it with her everywhere. It’s literally been around the world since Zoey took it along to China and Japan….and now Canada!

Our local zoo–the National Zoo in Washington, DC–sadly doesn’t have any polar bears. Therefore, Zoey was beyond excited when she got to see a real, live polar bear while visiting Zoo Sauvage in Quebec.

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Upcoming: National Book Festival

National Book Festival

The Library of Congress National Book Festival is one of the best events in Washington, DC. It’s a Mecca for book nerds that also happens to be a fantastic event for kids.

This year marks the 14th year of the festival (that was originally founded by Laura Bush) but the first year that it won’t be held outdoors on the National Mall. Having the festival on the Mall was always a mixed bag. On the one hand, the location can’t be beat. Checking out your favorite authors in the shadow of the Smithsonian and Washington Monument is just awesome.

However, you also have to compete with the weather. Sometimes it rains. More often than not, it’s just ungodly hot and humid (this is DC, after all). This year, the event will be held indoors at the Washington Convention Center. Ahh, air conditioning.

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The National Toy Train Museum

National Toy Train Museum

To coincide with my post about the Choo Choo Barn, I thought I’d just talk about the National Toy Train Museum at the same time. Both are located in Strasburg, PA, which is just a short drive from Lancaster and is filled to the brim with train-related goodies.

The two museums share a common enthusiasm (they’re both lovingly devoted to the world of model railroading), but they have different missions. Whereas the Choo Choo Barn is a presentation of what model railroading looks like, the National Toy Train Museum is dedicated to sharing how the hobby was born, presenting the history of its growth, and reveling in the obvious joy its curators take from this pastime.

Bonus: they’re only about a mile apart, so there’s really no reason not to visit both of them.

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The Choo Choo Barn

Choo Choo Barn

The area around Lancaster, PA, has no shortage of stuff to do with the little ones. We recently spent a weekend in the area and devoted most of a day to the wonderful world of trains. Strasburg, PA, about 15 minutes to the southeast of Lancaster, is also known as Traintown, USA.

And for good reason. It’s home to the Strasburg Railroad, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, the National Toy Train Museum, the Choo Choo Barn, and the incredible Red Caboose Motel.

The adorably named Choo Choo Barn certainly lives up to the cuteness of its name. Located just down the street from the Strasburg Railroad, the Choo Choo Barn is essentially an enormous model train layout.

It’s every little boy’s fantasy. At 1,700 square feet and with 22 operating trains, it certainly puts my childhood model train layout to shame.

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The Muppets Take Manhattan

The Muppets Take Manhattan

“Hey, I tell you what is. Big city, hmm? Live, work, huh? But not city only. Only peoples. Peoples is peoples. No is buildings. Is tomatoes, huh? Is peoples, is dancing, is music, is potatoes. So, peoples is peoples.”

This review is part of the 1984-a-thon, a collaborative multi-blog effort to review one of the best years of film: 1984.

Let’s begin by saying that it’s impossible to top The Muppet Movie. There just aren’t enough adjectives to do it justice. It’s one of the most enduring children’s movies of all time. Hyperbole? Not if you’ve seen it. It’s so close to perfection that the difference is negligible.

It may be impossible to top, but that doesn’t stop the machine. Indeed, there have been seven subsequent theatrical films. Some were good; some not so much. For my money, though, only The Muppets Take Manhattan comes close to being truly great.

The Muppets Take Manhattan closes out the original Muppets trilogy and marks the last feature film with Jim Henson’s direct involvement. It’s his swan song with the characters he created, and it’s the last Muppets film that should be required viewing.

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Ticket Giveaway for Big Apple Circus

Big Apple Circus

Coming soon to the Dulles Town Center in Sterling, VA, just outside of DC!

Full disclosure that I’ve never seen the Big Apple Circus before, but it seems to be a nice mix of traditional big-top circus and more “Cirque du Soleil” type theatrics. They do use live animals, but I don’t see mention of any “big” animals, such as elephants or lions.

From their press release:  You will be thrilled by the Flying Trapeze, the razzle-dazzle of the Rolla-Bolla, the dynamo of the Diablo, the risky rhythms of the Risley team, the cunning conjurors of the Quick-Change, and the incredible flexible limbs of the Contortionists.

Big Apple Circus

Save $10 off with promo code BIGAPPLE (*Limited availability. Offer good on select seats and shows. Children under 3 are free when seated on the lap of a paid adult.) 

Additionally, Big Apple Circus has made two tickets available to Roarbots readers for the opening night performance on Thursday, September 18 (7:00 pm). Enter using the widget below, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway