Superheroes and popular culture. They’re like peanut butter and jelly. For almost as long as there’s been a “popular culture,” there have been superheroes. I mean, Edgar Rice Burroughs had superhero archetypes in the Barsoom and Tarzan novels as early as 1912 . . . and he wasn’t even the first.
But, realistically, when people think of superheroes, they’re not thinking of John Carter or Dejah Thoris. They’re thinking of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and all the rest. In short, they’re thinking of DC and Marvel characters.
Even those characters are much older than many people think. Mention Superman, and odds are people think of Christopher Reeve. Mention Batman, and people probably think of Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, or his animated form. Iron Man? That’s easy. Robert Downey, Jr. essentially introduced the character to a huge population that had never heard of him before.
- Designer: Lauge Luchau
- Publisher: Kosmos
- Plays 1–4
- Ages 8+
- Playing Time: 30 minutes
- Initial Release: 2014
- Elevator Pitch: An abstract game in which each player independently stacks spheres according to a rotating set of conditions.
- Roar Score: 4/5
I have a soft spot in my heart for abstract games. It doesn’t hurt that they’re my wife’s favorite genre, so I (usually) have a reliable opponent in the house. It therefore should come as no surprise that we have a sizable collection of abstract games . . . but we’re always looking for more.
Dimension is billed as a “spherical, stackable, fast-paced puzzle game,” and that’s a fairly accurate description. It’s also a fantastically fun game that gets the hamsters running upstairs. It plays with 1–4 people (a solo option is always an excellent selling point), and everyone plays at the same time, stacking their colored spheres in three dimensions and following the conditions established by a series of task cards.
- Designer: Darren Kisgen
- Publisher: Gamewright
- Plays 2–4
- Ages 8+
- Playing Time: 20 minutes
- Initial Release: 2015
- Elevator Pitch: A card-and-dice game that mimics a basic RPG and recalls a simplified Magic: The Gathering for a younger audience.
- Roar Score: 4/5
If you’ve read any of our game reviews here on The Roarbots, you know that we’re kind of in love with Gamewright. Their games are mostly perfect for all ages, the production quality is fantastic, and they’re super affordable.
Dragonwood is one of their latest titles, and it targets a slightly older player than something like Super Tooth or Feed the Kitty.
You play an adventurer on a journey through the enchanted forest of Dragonwood. During the game, you play cards to determine the number of dice you can roll. The more dice you can roll, the higher the potential result, which means you can defeat more powerful enemies or capture more powerful items to aid your journey.
Toon Books continues to kill it. Their entire library is breathtaking, and the latest offering from David Nytra is no exception. Following on the success of his 2012 debut, The Secret of the Stone Frog, Windmill Dragons again focuses on siblings Leah and Alan for another adventure.
Although the reader is left to interpret their adventure in the first book as a dream (or was it?), Windmill Dragons sets up its fantastic events in the first few pages as a story Leah reads aloud. The siblings then dive into the pages and appear as the protagonists of that story.
Welcome to a land where the elemental forces are under the control of three magnificent beasts: the Ziz (sky), the Behemoth (land), and the Leviathan (sea). When they exist in harmony with one another, peace prevails. However, when Leah and Alan arrive, all is most definitely not peaceful, and the duo are charged with saving the land from the windmills – which have come alive and are attacking the citizens.
Just when I thought every original idea had already been taken, used, recycled, and rebooted to death, along comes Teen Boat! – perhaps the most original concept I’ve read all year.
I somehow missed the first book in the series, which came out 2012, but it’s not necessarily required reading before tackling the sequel: The Race for Boatlantis.
In a nutshell, our protagonist is Teen Boat, an ordinary high school teenager that happens to be able to transform himself into a boat. Yep. And there’s no secret identify nonsense. His entire school knows he can turn into a boat, and it’s apparently no big deal.
We’re mostly beyond board books in our house. In fact, we recently brought almost our entire collection (with the exception of some sentimental titles) to the local Friends of the Library donation dropoff.
However, when board books are as much fun as these, it’s kind of hard not to find room on the bookshelf for them.
Behold, a series of fun “wearable books” that kids will inevitably go nuts for: Book-O-Beards, Book-O-Hats, Book-O-Masks, and Book-O-Teeth. Inspired by those ubiquitous lifesize cutouts where kids pose as animals or astronauts, these books bring that giggle-inducing fun home.
Indeed, according to author Donald Lemke: “What parent doesn’t love seeing their baby’s face on the body of a giraffe?” Not this parent, that’s for sure.
I have to admit, I wasn’t really a fan of James Cameron’s Avatar, and I’m not particularly interested in the three sequels he’s currently working on. But I am absolutely interested in what he’s doing with the franchise off the big screen.
What I’ve seen of Pandora: The World of Avatar, the incredibly immersive land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017, looks astounding. And as a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, I’m thrilled to see their take on the world of Pandora, the 10-foot-tall Na’vi, and the Toruk (the flying dragon creatures).
My complaints about the movie aside, it was a gorgeous film with a fully realized alien planet and creatures that lend themselves to the Cirque du Soleil stage quite nicely. Toruk will be Cirque du Soleil’s 37th production since 1984, and I’m really looking forward to this one.
The sun will rise tomorrow. It’s one of the few absolutes and completely reliable events in life. But that’s not to say it’s uninteresting or uninspiring. Quite the opposite, actually.
The sun is on a continuous journey that quite literally brings life to billions along the way. It’s an adventure worthy of the greatest epics . . . or the smallest details.
In How the Sun Got to Coco’s House, Bob Graham relates one day in this continuing adventure and focuses on some relatively minor — yet nonetheless poignant — effects that sunlight has on our delicate planet.
- The Wonder
- written and illustrated by Faye Hanson
- published by Templar Books/Candlewick Press (2015)
- Roar Score: 4/5
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” –Pablo Picasso
I have to admit, I’m kind of a sucker for books that extol the wonders (excuse the pun) of one’s imagination. And The Wonder by Faye Hanson does this beautifully.
We follow a young boy as he makes his way to school with his head full of wonderings and musings about the world around him. He of course wonders about some of the common things all kids wonder: where birds fly to and how clouds are formed. But, somewhat unusually, he also wonders how street signs taste.
This is a kid after my own heart.
(Disney on Ice:100 Years of Magic is currently playing at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD, through Sunday, November 1. Buy tickets here. The show is currently touring around North America, and there are lots of dates in lots of different cities, so check the full calendar to see if it’s playing near you.)
There are currently five different touring Disney on Ice shows, and if you live in a major city, then you’re likely to see one of them come your way with some regularity. Earlier this year, we here in the Baltimore/DC region got World of Fantasy, and now 100 Years of Magic is coming through town.
The shows do have some distinct differences, but in all honesty, they’re remarkably similar. Even though we were prepared for this show to be cobbled together from recycled bits we’ve seen in other Disney on Ice performances, we were still pleasantly surprised to see some new characters and musical numbers.
- Seen and Not Heard
- written and illustrated by Katie May Green
- published by Candlewick Press (2015)
- Roar Score: 3/5
Here’s a book that’s perfect for Halloween without being too scary. It is a picture book, after all. But it’s a picture book that begins like this: “In a big old house, up creaky stairs, in a silent little nursery fulls of dolls and teddy bears, you’ll find the children of Shiverhawk Hall. They’re children in pictures on the wall – seen and not heard.”
What a fantastic setup for this slightly spooky story that got banned from my 4-year-old’s bedroom for being “too creepy.”
October is Bullying Prevention Month. Unfortunately, most books about bullying are so on the nose and hit kids over the head with the message. And they all have some variation of the same lesson: bullying is bad; be better than the bully.
Enter A Friend for Lakota from National Geographic Kids, which presents an anti-bullying message couched in a wildlife tale. The authors – Jim and Jamie Dutcher – spent six years living in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, following a pack of wolves and documenting rarely seen social behaviors.
They’ve since started Living with Wolves, a non-profit dedicated to raising “public awareness of the truth about wolves, their social nature, their importance to healthy ecosystems, and the threats to their survival.”
The Dutchers have made several documentaries and written several books about the wolves they “adopted.” A Friend for Lakota is their first children’s book on the subject.
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…
Eleanor’s Secret (2009): Dominique Monféry, director
Today, we’re taking part in another wonderful blog tour to benefit one of the excellent new titles from First Second Books. On tap is Maris Wicks’s Human Body Theater, a spellbinding nonfiction graphic novel that takes readers on a tour of the human body.
Follow your master of ceremonies through Human Body Theater, where you’ll get a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body. Starting out as a skeleton, our tour guide puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each “act.” By turns goofy and intensely informative, Human Body Theater is incredibly entertaining.
We last caught up with Maris Wicks (and this book) during a previous blog tour in which she was interviewed by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado for Children’s Book Week. If you’ve got a few minutes, go take a look. It sheds some light on her background and motivation and how the book came to be.
(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)
Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with author Tom Angleberger.
To say that Zoey is a fan of his is a massive understatement. We first encountered the Origami Yoda books on a roadtrip. We had gone to the library to stock up on some audiobooks, and Zoey grabbed the first two books in the series: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back. She was already a Star Wars fan, and she was really intrigued by the covers of each book.
That turned out to be the easiest road trip ever. Both kids were riveted to the stories and barely spoke at all. Heaven.
Pokemon is a relatively new visitor in my house. Believe it or not, the franchise has been around since 1995! I’ve always been aware of it, but I was just never a fan. I never get sucked into the video games, collectible card game, or animation.
But it’s still around . . . and still more popular than ever! And, thanks to school, my kids have now discovered Pikachu, Ash, and all the rest. As of now, their exposure has been limited to the shows available on Netflix and a few cards they’ve picked up from who knows where. But somehow they still know the names of about 1,000 different Pokemon.
So it was much joy that they tore into two new Pokemon toys from TOMY: Ash’s Arena Challenge and Battle Moves Pikachu. Did they live up to the excitement?
This year’s incarnation of the Disney On Ice show is called 100 Years of Magic. Why 100 years? Good question. As far as I can tell, that name is just figurative. Almost nothing of lasting significance happened in 1915, and it wasn’t until 1923 that Walt and Roy Disney moved to Hollywood and set up their first animation studio.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit first appeared in 1926, and Mickey Mouse made his debut (with sound) in Steamboat Willy in 1928. So if we’re really meant to celebrate 100 years of magic with these characters, we still have a ways to go. But “87 Years of Magic” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Disney On Ice shows, check out our review of last year’s show: World of Fantasy. It should give you a good idea of what to expect: Mickey acts as host, a variety of characters perform routines to well-known songs, Anna and Elsa serenade the crowd, and there’s a big finale at the end with everyone.
- LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded
- written by Hannah Dolan, Elizabeth Dowsett, Clare Hibbert, Shari Last, & Victoria Taylor
- published by DK (2015)
- Roar Score: 5/5
I don’t even know what to say about this one. If you like Star Wars, if you like LEGO, if you like awesomeness . . . then this one practically sells itself.
The LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia is essentially a comprehensive guide to every Star Wars minifigure every produced. And since it’s a DK book, that means it’s chock full of excellent photos and goodies. Each page features a close-up, highly detailed photo of one minifigure. Surrounding the photo is a bit of flavor text, describing the character/figure; a data file identifying when the figure was first released, which set it came in, and what accessories it came with; and information about any significant variations that have been released.
It’s basically more information that you ever wanted to know about LEGO Star Wars minifigures, but it makes for downright fascinating browsing.
(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)
Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with author Jennifer Holm.
Zoey first became aware of Jennifer through Sunny Side Up, a recent graphic novel from Scholastic/Graphix that tells the story of Sunny Lewin, a young girl who spends the summer of 1976 with her grandfather in Florida. Jennifer worked on the book with her younger brother, Matthew Holm, who did the art.
Today, it’s my absolute pleasure to take part in the Fable Comics blog tour hosted by First Second Books / Macmillan Kids.
In the tradition of Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics, First Second and editor Chris Duffy bring us Fable Comics–a phenomenal anthology of 28 different fables from almost as many artists. Featuring the enormous talent of cartoonists such as James Kochalka, Jaime Hernandez, Maris Wicks, Liniers, and Roger Langridge, Fable Comics presents stories of gods, animals, and humans who get themselves into and (sometimes) out of trouble…with the requisite moral at the end.
As part of the blog tour, The Roarbots is pleased to present the eighth installment in the book (and the tour): “The Old Man and Death” by Eleanor Davis.