GKIDS Retrospective: Tales of the Night

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.

The entire retrospective is found here, and this time we’ve got…

Tales of the Night (2011): Michel Ocelot, director

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GKIDS Retrospective: My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea

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.

The entire retrospective is found here, and this time we’ve got…

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea (2017): Dash Shaw, director

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Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics Vol. 1

Star Wars fans rejoice! Especially fans of early Star Wars comics or of comic strip history. IDW and the Library of American Comics are releasing Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics, which finally delivers the original daily and Sunday strips in all their glory!

As Star Wars fans, we’ve gotten burned before. I know that. We’ve all been conned into buying the same thing two or three times in different packaging. It’s true. And even though these comics have been published (of a sort) before, this is really the first time we’re getting the strips in their original and complete form.

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Get on the Case with Emily Calandrelli’s Ada Lace

If you’re not already familiar with Emily Calandrelli – first of all, what rock are you hiding under? – but let this be your introduction. She’s the host of Fox’s Xploration Outer Space, has given a couple TED talks, is one of the science correspondents for the Netflix show Bill Nye Saves the World, is science host for Discovery News, and covers the space industry for Techcrunch. Yeah, she knows her stuff.

And we also chatted with her over on The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, so you might want to check that out.

Calandrelli has taken a Master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics (from MIT, no less) and a gift for communication and used them to her advantage in the public sphere – an arena that was, quite frankly, previously only occupied by a couple guys named Nye and Tyson.

And if that brief rundown of her resume highlights isn’t impressive enough, she’s now added author to that list of accomplishments. Say hello to Ada Lace.

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Finding Inspiration with National Geographic Kids

National Geographic has been a household name for generations, thanks to its flagship magazine, stunning photography, and exhaustive storytelling from around the world. True to the brand, National Geographic Kids has been reliably putting out some of the best – and most inspiring – kids books on the market today.

Today, I want to take a look at three titles that further that inspiration and help kids ask the age-old question, What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be three things: a firefighter, an archaeologist, and an astronaut. I’ve been fortunate enough to be the first two. The third? Still waiting for that one to come true.

Nevertheless, there’s a billion and one jobs out there, and kids in 2018 have never had more options. 100 Things to Be When You Grow Up (by Lisa Gerry) narrows down that list quite a bit.

These are not your typical, run-of-the-mill job options. I mean, there are variations on the standard “doctor, lawyer, dentist” suggestions, but this book is all about getting kids to think outside the box. Helping them see that there are people who get paid to do some truly amazing things.

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GKIDS Retrospective: A Town Called Panic

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.

The entire retrospective is found here, and this time we’ve got…

A Town Called Panic: The Collection (2017): Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier, directors

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Oodles of Awesome Ways to Prepare for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

There is perhaps nothing I’m more anxious to see hit Netflix than The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Stranger who? Black what? It’s all just filling time until we get more Gelfling and Skeksis in our lives. You know I’m right.

If you need a reminder, here’s pretty much everything we know about the show right now…

But what if you want to fill the time before its release with more Dark Crystal? What’s a Podling to do? I’m so glad you asked. Turns out, there are a number of ways.

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Funko Warner Bros. Mystery Minis

Funko’s blind-box Mystery Minis are quickly becoming some of my favorite things. The boxes we’ve had the pleasure of tearing into so far – including Trollhunters and Disney Afternoon – have been fantastic. The characters Funko has included in each set have been perfect, and the sculpts spot-on and impressive.

For a collector or someone who’s going to display the figures on a desk or bookshelf, they look and feel incredible. For the kids – at least my kids – they’re wonderfully playable and durable.

I really can’t say enough about how GOOD the figures look. These aren’t Funko’s Pop! figures with enormous heads and outlandish proportions. These genuinely look like their respective characters. And with the new Warner Bros. set, the figures feel like you’re holding small animated versions of your favorite characters. I love them.

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Runaways: An Original Novel

The Runaways are having a bit of a moment. The current run of the comic book series is written by superstar author Rainbow Rowell, and the characters have been adapted for television as Marvel’s Runaways. The show, currently in its first season on Hulu, is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity and was recently greenlit for a second season.

Not sure who the Runaways are? Created in 2003 by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, the original run of Runaways was a breath of fresh air in a medium that doesn’t see compelling new superheroes – or superhero teams – all that often.

In a nutshell, the Runaways are a group of kids whose parents were all villains known as the Pride. Once they discovered their parents were evil aliens, time travelers, magicians, and mutants, the kids turned on them and joined forces to defeat their parents and – ultimately – atone for their sins.

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Playmobil: Pharaoh’s Pyramid

Today, we’re taking our first look at the History line with the Pharaoh’s Pyramid set. I first saw this huge set at last year’s Toy Fair, and it’s fair to say that it made an impression. Even when sharing the same exhibit space with the Ghostbusters and How to Train Your Dragon sets, the pyramid was a standout.

Right now, the History line is focused on Ancient Egypt (with a dash of Roman Empire). There are a number of other sets, but highlights include a tomb raiders’ camp, a Roman warriors’ ship, Caesar and Cleopatra, and a Roman chariot. Future releases (indicated on the Playmobil website) include the Sphinx an Egyptian house. So it’ll be interesting to see where the History line goes.

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Playmobil: Dreamworks Dragons

I’m not gonna lie; we’ve been looking forward to the brand-new Dragons line of toys from Playmobil for a while now. I first saw them back at Toy Fair, and once I showed the pictures to my kids, I knew they were destined to have a place of honor in our home. My kids are obsessed with the Dragons franchise. My daughter has read all 12 of the books, they both love the movies, and they adore Dragons: Race to the Edge on Netflix.

(If you’re interested, I chatted with How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell here and the showrunners for Race to the Edge here. Give them a listen!)

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Go Nuts for Donuts

  • Go Nuts for Donuts: The Pastry-Picking Card Game
  • Publisher: Gamewright
  • Plays 2-6
  • Ages 8+ (realistically, 4+)
  • Playing Time: 20 min
  • Initial Release: 2017
  • Elevator Pitch: Bid, bluff, and scheme to collect donuts and win points
  • Score: 5/5

Gamewright and donuts? Consider us sold. Go Nuts for Donuts has become the go-to game here at Roarbots HQ over the past couple weeks. And it’s easy to see why.

The game is incredibly easy to learn. It has adorable donut art. It has a simple gameplay with just enough strategy and tension to make it perfect for a variety of ages. And it’s endlessly replayable.

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Black Star Renegades

Do you like Star Wars? Stupid question, I know. Who doesn’t, right? Let me rephrase. Is what you love about Star Wars the exotic locales, weird aliens, and snarky characters who have nothing to lose? Do you want to see what might happen if Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy had a love child?

Of course you do. And boy do I have good news for you.

Michael Moreci’s Black Star Renegades is so clearly an homage to our favorite galaxy far, far away that it wouldn’t surprise me if it started out as fanfic (or if Moreci wrote the book to prove he has the chops to write Star Wars canon – which he does).

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Teen Titans: The Complete First Season

Teen Titans is, surprisingly, 15 years old this year. That’s right; it premiered in 2003. It’s almost old enough to drive, but before we hand over the keys, it’s only fair the gang gets an upgrade. And right on cue, the complete first season of the landmark show is finally out on Blu-ray, thanks to Warner Archive.

If you’re unfamiliar, Teen Titans follows the eponymously named superhero team composed of Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire, Cyborg, and Raven. The show ultimately ran for five seasons and 65 episodes and spawned the (decidedly different) sequel Teen Titans Go!

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Zen Pencils: Inspirational Quotes for Kids

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it’s sometimes hard to get kids interested in certain historical figures. Unless they’re famous for something that REALLY interests my kids, they all too often shrug off my attempts to get them to learn more.

“Yeah, sure, Marie Curie. She’s cool, but nah, I don’t really want to read that book about her.”

Frustrating, to say the least.

And that’s where Zen Pencils comes in handy. Couched in “inspirational quotes” and presented with approachable art, the book introduces kids to almost two dozen trailblazers throughout history in a way that engages them and makes them want to learn more.

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Don’t Cosplay with My Heart

I’m gonna be honest here. This is not usually my kind of book. I’m not necessarily the target audience. But because it’s written by Cecil Castellucci, I had to give it a go.

And boy am I glad I did. (Listen to my conversation with Castellucci here.)

Don’t Cosplay with My Heart is an ode to the glorious and brutal reality of being a young nerd today. Which is a totally different thing from being a young nerd in the 80s and 90s, which hits much closer to home.

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Star Wars: Canto Bight

  • Canto Bight
  • written by Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, & John Jackson Miller
  • published by Del Rey (2017)

So, in the lead-up to each new episodic Star Wars film, a series of books come out that are branded as a “journey” to that film. Each is tangentially related to the film and includes clues about the characters and events we’ll eventually see on screen. In the run up to The Force Awakens, we got Aftermath, Lost Stars, and a few junior novels.

This year, piggybacking on the excitement surrounding The Last Jedi, we’ve gotten Phasma, Leia: Princess of Alderaan, The Legends of Luke Skywalker, and now Canto Bight. Even though the books are all somewhat related to The Last Jedi, none outright includes spoilers or includes specific scenes from the film. And they all exist at different places along the “essential reading” spectrum.

So, what is Canto Bight? As a book, it’s a collection of four novellas from four authors that each takes place in and around a casino city very reminiscent of Las Vegas . . . if Vegas had aliens. As a location, Canto Bight is that casino city on the desert planet of Cantonica. It’s a place of excess and indulgence. It’s a “city of dreams, city of schemes, city of nightmares.” It’s an escape from the First Order, the Resistance, and the political turmoil engulfing the rest of the galaxy.

In short, it’s a place I think we could all use right about now.

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Funko Disney Afternoon Mystery Minis and Action Figures

Listen, I’m a sucker for blind boxes. Always have been. It’s what sucked me into collecting the Star Wars CCG cards back in the day when I didn’t even play the game. And the current trend of blind box toys has me champing at the bit right along with the kids.

So when you combine blind boxes with the Disney Afternoon? It’s pretty much a TAKE MY MONEY type of situation. The Disney Afternoon holds a special place of honor in the hearts of so many people from my generation. Along with Batman: The Animated Series, it was a constant of my weekday after-school hours – even if it was only on in the background.

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Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Deck the Malls!

The holidays are approaching, which means we’re currently getting assaulted with holiday-themed books and merchandise. Most of it doesn’t do much for me, but when the book features adorable Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen?

That gets my spider senses tingling.

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Swing It, Sunny

  • Swing It, Sunny
  • written by Jennifer Holm
  • illustrated by Matthew Holm
  • published by Graphix / Scholastic (2017)

Here at Roarbots HQ, graphic novels are having a moment. Quite a moment. Our bookshelves and floors are overrun with them, and it seems like the kids always have one in their hands. Not a bad problem, to be sure.

And I’d be lying if I said brother-and-sister duo Jennifer and Matthew Holm weren’t particular favorites. Their Babymouse and Squish series of books routinely come home from the school library, and Sunny Side Up was a smash hit with both kids.

Zoey even sat down with Jennifer Holm a couple years ago (at the National Book Festival) to chat about the book, its messages, and creativity. Needless to say, Swing It, Sunny has been on our shortlist of anticipated book for quite a while.

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