Upcoming: Cirque du Soleil: Dralion

show_dralionCirque du Soleil’s touring show Dralion is coming to Charlottesville, VA—and just in time for homecoming at the University of Virginia!

If you’ve read The Roarbots for any length of time, you know that we’re fans of Cirque du Soleil. Check out the recap of our tour through International Headquarters in Montreal and our review of another touring show—Varekai.

Dralion premiered in 1999 and has been going strong (in front of some 11 million people) ever since. Similar to Varekai, the show began its life under the big top but is now performed in arenas. If our experience with Varekai is any judge, they haven’t sacrificed quality at all to make this transition.

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LEGO KidsFest

LEGOKidsFest

I’ve been to a lot of different conventions in my life: comic book conventions, book expos, Star Trek conventions. Until recently, I’d never been to a LEGO convention.

It was awesome.

Well, calling it a “convention” is sort of a misnomer. There’s only one exhibitor—LEGO—and it’s far more fun than your typical convention. It’s more like a huge LEGO playground. Their official marketing copy actually calls it “a hands-on, educational, all-ages LEGO extravaganza.” And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

LEGO KidsFest is a traveling show that’s been on tour since 2009, but it only makes seven North American stops each year. It also has a history of selling out well in advance. Therefore, if it comes anywhere near you, I highly suggest you make every effort to go.

We attended the event in Richmond, VA, which is a solid 3-hour drive for us from DC. I regret nothing.

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Ticket Giveaway – Disney On Ice: Frozen

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Yeah, I’m gonna do it: Frozen is still hot.

The newest Disney on Ice show from Feld Entertainment is themed entirely around the gang from Arendelle. The Academy Award winning tale will be told live for the first time in this production, and it will of course include Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf.

And yes, all the songs are also included, so you can go home humming “Let It Go” all over again.

The show isn’t a straight-up retelling of the movie, though. It’s hosted by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, with special guest appearances by some of the Disney Princesses and characters from Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King.

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New York Comic-Con 2014 Cosplay Roundup

NYCC2014

This past weekend was New York Comic-Con. To say there were a lot of people there is an understatement. There were an estimated 150,000+ people, which officially makes it bigger than San Diego Comic-Con—the granddaddy of all cons.

With that many people, there was undoubtedly a lot of great cosplay. I didn’t get pictures of nearly as many costumes as I would have liked. But I did manage to round up some of the great ones.

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Hansel and Gretel

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  • Hansel & Gretel
  • written/adapted by Neil Gaiman
  • illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti
  • published by Toon Books (Candlewick Press) (2014)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

They reached a river, and their father showed them where to ford it, where the river was shallow and the rocks stuck up from the water. They shook off their shoes, and they carried them until they reached the far bank, where the trees were thick, and old, and gnarled into shapes that looked like angry giants, frozen in time.

“Hansel and Gretel” is one of those stories that seems older than time. It is one of the most recognized of the Grimms’ fairy tales, yet it still remains unfamiliar. Elusive. Intangible.

Perhaps that’s because there have been so many different versions over the years. Tamer versions that smooth over some of the “unpleasant” aspects of the original. Children’s versions that soften the witch into someone more likable or change the parents’ roles entirely. Modern Hollywood versions that imagine the title characters as badass monster hunters.

Ask most kids nowadays, and their impression of the story more than likely centers on the witch’s candy house. “Hansel and Gretel” has, through the years, become known as a lighthearted romp through the woods to a Willy Wonka-style candy house.

Leave it to master storyteller Neil Gaiman, then, to bring us back to the story’s dark, gruesome, and haunting roots.

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5 Questions with Ben Hatke

Hatke

(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 Ben Hatke: artist, author, and creator of the Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels.

From page 1 of Zita the Spacegirl, Zoey was hooked. It’s got all the makings of a classic in this house: strong and spunky female protagonist, funky-looking aliens and creatures, amazing art, and an engaging adventure story. It’s basically everything Zoey loves all packaged together into one book.

Two subsequent books–Legends of Zita the Spacegirl and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl–round out the trilogy, and all three are published by the simply stellar First Second Books.

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5 Questions with Andy Runton

AndyRunton

(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 Andy Runton, creator of the Owly comics.

If you’re not familiar with the Owly books….first of all, shame on you! Second of all, you’re in for a real treat. They’re a blast of adorable.

They’re (mostly) wordless graphic novels that focus on a little owl with huge eyes and the adventures he has with his friends–mostly his friend Wormy. The stories rely on expressions and symbols for the narrative, which make them absolutely perfect for the youngest readers.

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The Night Fairy

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The Night Fairy

  • playing at Imagination Stage (Bethesda, MD)
  • dates: now through October 26, 2014
  • directed by Jeremy Skidmore
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Flory is a Night Fairy who is attacked by a bat. When her wings are damaged in the struggle, she is forced to learn how to survive in the daylight among the other birds and animals in a typical backyard. During her adventures, Flory makes new friends and eventually reconciles with her foe. By the time her wings begin to sprout back, Flory has discovered a renewed sense of creativity, diplomacy, and resilience that she never knew she had.

It’s no secret that we love Imagination Stage. We’ve been to nearly every show since Zoey was old enough to sit still, and her favorite play ever was an Imagination Stage production (Anime Momotaro–which also happens to be the best children’s theater performance I’ve ever seen).

Upon first seeing The Night Fairy poster at a performance of The BFG, Zoey was hooked. She had to see it.

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Maryland Renaissance Festival

MDRenFest

There are certain events in the DC region that we absolutely make a point to visit every year. The Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, MD, is one of these events. It runs every weekend from the end of August through most of October, which means the weather is usually glorious.

Generally considered to be the second largest Renaissance Festival in the United States, the Maryland fair is held in a permanent village called Revel Grove. This lends the fair an air of realism and…well…permanence that would be missing if the village were temporarily constructed for just one season.

This year, the festival brought to life the year 1521, King Henry VIII, and Queen Katherine of Aragon. For a few hours on the weekend, it really feels like 16th century England has come to life. Just a tad cleaner. And less plague-y.

If you’ve never been to a Renaissance fair, want to go to one, or are just curious. Here’s a few of our best shots from this year’s excursion….

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5 Questions with Mike Maihack

MikeMaihack

(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 Mike Maihack, writer and artist of Cleopatra in Space from Graphix/Scholastic.

If you’re interested in Cleopatra in Space, you’ll definitely want to read our review of the first book: Target Practice. In short, you don’t want to miss this one. It’s fantastic.

A strong, spunky female protagonist. A sci-fi setting with historical flavoring. A good Indiana Jones style adventure. And a whole range of emotions–both expressed by the characters and elicited in the reader. What’s not to love?

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5 Questions with Frank Cammuso

FrankCammuso

(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 Frank Cammuso.

Zoey is most familiar with Frank from his work writing and illustrating the The Misadventures of Salem Hyde series (Amulet Books) and the Otto series (Toon Books). But Frank has also created the Knights of the Lunch Table and Max Hamm: Fairy Tale Detective series (Graphix/Scholastic and Nite Owl Comix, respectively).

In short, he’s a kids comics powerhouse.

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The Other Side of Hugless Hill

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  • The Other Side of Hugless Hill
  • written and illustrated by Mark Mariano
  • self-published
  • Price: $9.99
  • Roar Score: 5/5

We picked this one up a few weeks back at Baltimore Comic-Con. There’s an absolutely fantastic kids area at that con, and there’s always a ton of great stuff to choose from.

The Other Side of Hugless Hill is a an adorable picture book / graphic novel that’s aimed at the younger end of the “all-ages” spectrum. In other words, my 3-year-old loves it.

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5 Questions with David Petersen

DavidPetersen

(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

MaddyKettle

  • 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

Storyteller

  • 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

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(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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