Sam and Jump

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  • Sam and Jump
  • written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
  • published by Candlewick (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

When you find a book with a character who shares a name with one of your children, it’s kind of mandatory to have in the house. And as common a name as Sam is, it’s kind of surprising that there aren’t more books about Sams.

But Sam and Jump is here to fill that void. The book is a simple story about a young boy (Sam) with a favorite stuffed animal (Jump). They go everywhere together. They do everything together. They’re best friends. Sound familiar?

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When the World Is Dreaming

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  • When the World Is Dreaming
  • written by Rita Gray
  • illustrated by Kenard Pak
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Reading this book to my kids at bedtime the other night, my daughter was immediately smitten by the protagonist. And it’s easy to see why. With her unkempt hair flying free in every direction and playing home to a stray leaf, my daughter proclaimed, “That’s me! A little outdoorsy tomboy!”

Be still my heart.

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Let Me Finish!

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  • Let Me Finish!
  • written by Minh Lê
  • illustrated by Isabel Roxas
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Is this the first children’s book about spoilers? It might be. And if it is, why has it taken until 2016 to have a book about the perils of unwanted spoilers? Children need to know when to keep their little traps shut and not ruin stories for other people. I’m only slightly kidding.

When The Force Awakens premiered last year, I had to sit my kids down and talk to them about spoilers. Just because YOU’VE seen the movie and know what happens doesn’t mean that EVERYONE has. Don’t ruin any surprises for them by talking about it school. No one ruined it for you.

Alas, I wish every parent had this discussion. But with the help of Minh Lê’s new book, Let Me Finish!, they can!

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Giveaway: Day Out With Thomas (Strasburg Rail Road)

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It’s almost back-to-school time, so what better way to celebrate the end of summer than with that little blue engine Thomas? This month, the Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster, PA, is welcoming back Thomas and Percy at the Day out with Thomas!

Click here and here for our reviews of previous Day out with Thomas events at the Strasburg Rail Road.

From August 27 through September 4, Thomas and Percy will be giving rides through the scenic Lancaster countryside! Thomas rides last 25 minutes, and Percy rides are 12. Additional activities include photo ops with Sir Topham Hatt, art-and-crafts stations, more train tables and Thomas toys that you’ve ever seen assembled in one place, and storytelling sessions, among other things.

Also, the Strasburg Rail Road’s vintage Cranky Cars, pint-sized pufferbelly train, and LO&S motorcar train will all be running.

Frankly, if your kids love trains and/or Thomas, this event is everything they could ever want.

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Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg Are Geeking Out

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For whatever reason, at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I kept crossing paths with Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg. I ran into Greg at an after-party sponsored by Scholastic (since he has a new graphic novel out with them). The two appeared together at Kevin’s Hall H panel on Saturday night (where Kevin told an amazing story about his experience following the Star Wars panel at last year’s show). And they were both promoting–and filming!–their new show on AMC called Geeking Out.

In a nutshell, Geeking Out takes a timely look at pop culture through a fanboy lens and features talk, celebrity interviews, and the kind of off-the-cuff segments and humor you probably associate with Kevin Smith. Basically, Kevin and Greg take advantage of their impressive contact lists and access to give viewers a “behind the scenes” look at unique events, and they strive to have honest, unfiltered conversations with their guests.

The first episode, which aired a couple weeks ago immediately following SDCC, featured some footage from the Star Trek Beyond premiere and impromptu conversations they recorded at the con. The show returns to AMC on Sunday, August 14 at 11 pm ET/PT with all-new episodes.

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What Is It?

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  • What Is It?
  • written by Nicole Hoang
  • illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
  • published by Boom! Studios/KaBOOM! (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

(This post originally appeared on GeekDad.)

There is – admittedly – sometimes a fine line between what constitutes a picture book and a graphic novel. They often have a lot in common, and it’s not surprising to find that many illustrators straddle that line and work in both media.

Traditional publishers long ago embraced the graphic novel format, and companies such as Scholastic (through their Graphix imprint) led the way. Comic publishers have been a bit slower to move in the opposite direction and put out picture books or novels. It’s not unheard of, though. First Second Books recently published their first children’s picture book (Ben Hatke’s Julia’s House for Lost Creatures) to near universal acclaim.

Now BOOM! Studios is following suit. Their all-ages imprint KaBOOM!, which has been home to some absolutely amazing monthly titles, is leading the charge with Nicole Hoang and Dustin Nguyen’s What Is It?

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Questions from a Kid: Conductor Justin Freer

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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 conductor Justin Freer.

We recently attended a performance of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and yeah, it was pretty much as awesome as you’d expect. However, the highlight of the evening actually came before the doors even opened.

Zoey had the chance to sit down with conductor Justin Freer (who we also saw conduct Dreamworks in Concert at Wolf Trap a couple months ago) and geek out about music a bit. But even before that, she was treated to a guided backstage – and on-stage – tour!

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Thank You, Paul Dini – You’re an Inspiration and We’re Lucky to Have You

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad.)

This year at San Diego Comic-Con, I was fortunate enough to have several amazing opportunities and experiences. A few (such as having drinks with Neil deGrasse Tyson and sitting front row center for the Star Trek press conference with William Shatner, Scott Bakula, Bryan Fuller, and so many more) stand out above the rest. But if pressed to name a highlight, my answer might be surprising: shaking Paul Dini’s hand and telling him, personally, what an inspiration he’s been.

Though I don’t write creatively for film and television, I do make a living (out in the real world and – to a much lesser extent – here online) wrangling words together, so most of my creative idols are writers. And Paul Dini is pretty darn near the top of that list.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert

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  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert
  • Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, MD)
  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Freer
  • Thursday, August 4, 2016
  • Roar Score: 5/5

This is the beginning of something wonderful. Beginning this summer, orchestras across the country (and around the world) will join forces with CineConcerts to present the entire score of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone played live while the film plays overhead on a massive screen.

This isn’t the first time movies have been screened in time with a live orchestra, but it IS the beginning of the Harry Potter Concert Series. All of the symphonies that signed up for the series have agreed to ultimately put on performances for all eight Harry Potter films. There’s not a schedule for the entire series yet, but if you’re a Potterphile, this is extraordinary news.

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Dream Jumper #1: Nightmare Escape

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  • Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape
  • written by Greg Grunberg & Lucas Turnbloom
  • illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom
  • colored by Guy Major
  • published by Scholastic/Graphix (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Scholastic’s Graphix imprint has long been home to some of the best “all-ages” graphic novels put out by a traditional book publisher. Graphix actually hit the ground running and got its start with the color editions of Jeff Smith’s groundbreaking Bone series, and they haven’t looked back.

They’ve since become a wellspring of fantastic, kid-friendly graphic novels, publishing books such as Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space series, all of Raina Telgemeier’s books, and so many more. Seriously, I challenge you to find a Graphix book that isn’t stunning.

Dream Jumper is one of their newest titles, and it’s definitely off to a promising start with the first book in the planned series, Nightmare Escape.

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Harry Potter Film Concert Series

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It’s certainly no secret that we here at The Roarbots are big fans of the new trend of films showed live with a full symphony playing the score. We’ve fawned over the Wolf Trap performances of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we’ve covered similar shows focused on Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks Animation.

And now? Well, who wouldn’t be excited about Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone with a live orchestra playing John Williams’s sweeping score? Not us, that’s for sure.

The Harry Potter Film Concert Series is a new concert tour that features a live symphony orchestra performing, to picture, every note from the Harry Potter films beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. For Potterphiles, this is just about the best news this summer could bring (well, aside from the book release of the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but that’s another story…)

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NPS Adventures: Petersburg National Battlefield

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The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Petersburg National Battlefield!

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Dreamworks in Concert

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Performances at Wolf Trap rarely disappoint. As the National Park Service’s only park dedicated to the performing arts, the venue is a wonderful place to watch live music (when the weather cooperates, of course). We’re huge fans of Wolf Trap, and their summer concerts that combine films with live orchestral accompaniment have become a Roarbots tradition.

It began way back in 2008 when they screened The Fellowship of the Ring with a full orchestra. The next two years saw performances of The Two Towers and Return of the King. I was at all of them, and they were amazing. Since then, they’ve branched out, and some of the highlights have definitely been Pixar In Concert and Disney in Concert.

This year’s DreamWorks in Concert fits the mold of those two shows perfectly. In short, there was a full orchestra on stage, playing music timed to video clips projected on a big screen over the stage and outside the amphitheater for everyone sitting on the lawn.

Please, Wolf Trap, do more of these. (psst….Star Wars, just sayin’)

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Cirque du Soleil: Paramour

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(See here for more Cirque du Soleil reviews from The Roarbots!)

After more than 30 years and nearly three dozen different shows, Cirque du Soleil has clearly become an institution. Over the years, they’ve taken their fair share of risks and exploded the boundaries of what was considered possible not only on stage but also by the human body.

There have been touring big-top shows, touring arena shows, and resident theater shows, and each has wowed and blown away audiences around the world. Not content to rest on its laurels, though, the brand continues to stretch the horizons of what’s possible and what audiences should expect from a Cirque du Soleil performance.

The touring Toruk show is evidence of how far they’re willing to stray from their core to put on a spectacle. Added to that list? The brand-new Broadway show, Paramour.

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Finding Dory: Three Little Words

Dory

  • Three Little Words
  • written by Amy Novesky
  • illustrated by Grace Lee
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Timed to coincide with this month’s theatrical release of Finding Dory, Three Little Words is a gorgeous picture book that really drives home the simple message that lies at the heart of Dory’s character: Just Keep Swimming.

This isn’t an adaptation of the film, per se, but it visually follows all of the major plot developments (including, apparently, the ending), so if you’re looking to remain spoiler-free until you’ve seen Finding Dory, then you may want to hold off on this for a few more weeks.

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Playing from the Heart

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  • Playing from the Heart
  • written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds
  • published by Candlewick Press (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I might as well get this out of the way right now: we’re big Peter Reynolds fans around these parts. You’d be hard pressed to find better books celebrating art, imagination, and creativity than his books The Dot and Ish.

And they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Reynolds has an entire library of beautiful books in which kids are allowed the freedom to express themselves and not suppress the art they have inside of them.

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NPS Adventures: Valley Forge National Historical Park

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The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Valley Forge National Historical Park!

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Circuit Maze

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  • Circuit Maze: Electric Current Logic Game
  • Publisher: ThinkFun
  • Plays 1
  • Ages 8+ (realistically, 5+)
  • Playing Time: varies
  • Initial Release: 2016
  • Elevator Pitch: Solve puzzles by connecting a sequence of blocks to connect an electric current and turn on one or more lights.
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I’m on record with how great I think ThinkFun’s products are. When it comes to educational (yet still FUN) games, they set the bar pretty high. Circuit Maze is one of their newer offerings, and it’s basically a variation of Laser Maze, which is another of their logic puzzle games. (I reviewed the excellent Laser Maze Jr. here.)

This one is a single-player electricity puzzle game in which the player must build a circuit pathway across the board to light up one or more beacons (there are three). It’s a brainburner of a logic puzzle game that also subtly teaches kids how current flows through an electrical circuit.

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Questions from a Kid: Dr. Scott Sampson

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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 paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson.

If you have young kids with even the slightest interest in dinosaurs, chances are very good you’ve heard of Dr. Scott the Paleontologist. If you’ve ever seen an episode of the PBS Kids / Jim Henson show Dinosaur Train, then you’ve seen Dr. Scott. He appears at the end of every episode, talks about the science behind each story, makes connections between the prehistoric world and the more familiar world in which kids live, and ends every episode by encouraging kids to “get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries!”

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NPS Adventures: Hampton National Historic Site

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The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Hampton National Historic Site!

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