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.
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.
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.
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!)
- 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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 Fort Necessity National Battlefield!
This book first popped up on my radar after I read Bronze and Sunflower and was blown away by Helen Wang’s translation. I immediately went online to see what else she’d done, and The Ventriloquist’s Daughter came into my life.
Once again, Wang turns in a beautifully evocative translation that brings Lin’s story to life. Lin Man-Chiu is a well-known children’s author in Taiwan, and The Ventriloquist’s Daughter is the story of a young girl dealing with grief on multiple fronts. It’s also a somewhat surreal, mind-bending psychological twister that has more in common with The Twilight Zone than most modern YA books.
Varekai is currently playing at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia for seven performances only through Sunday, November 26. Buy tickets here.
I’m not gonna lie; we’re huge fans of Cirque du Soleil here at Roarbots HQ. The number of different shows we’ve seen runs into the double digits, and we had the privilege of touring the international headquarters in Montreal. (Check out our reviews of Paramour, Toruk: The First Flight, La Nouba, and Dralion + backstage tour!)
We even had the pleasure of seeing Varekai once before, several years ago when it was previously in Philadelphia. The show is back, and if you’ve never seen it before, don’t miss this chance. It will take its final curtain call in December, so this is literally your last chance to catch Varekai before it goes away.
- The Winter Fox
- written by Timothy Knapman
- illustrated by Rebecca Harry
- published by Nosy Crow / Candlewick Press (2017)
Every year around this time, a bumper crop of winter- and holiday-themed picture books take over the bookstores. Some of them are blatant cash grabs, some are genuinely sweet and worth owning.
The Winter Fox is one that fits into the latter category. Originally published in the UK last year, this edition is distributed in the States by Candlewick Press and only just came out here.
It’s an adorable story of some forest friends preparing for winter, but one of them (the titular fox) is Mr. Procrastination. The Winter Fox is almost a reversal of the classic folk tale The Little Red Hen.
- playing at Adventure Theatre MTC (Glen Echo, MD)
- dates: now through December 31, 2017
- directed by Jason Schlafstein
- Roar Score: 4/5
The holidays are coming. At the theater, that typically means A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker. This year, though, Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park (just outside of Washington, DC) is staging a performance of Frosty the Snow Man instead.
Technically, this version of Frosty is based simply on the traditional song and not on any pre-existing version. However, it is heavily influenced by the classic Rankin/Bass animated special. That show, which has been a staple of the holiday season since 1969, is obviously a powerhouse of nostalgia, so it makes sense to draw on it for inspiration.
Every so often, a comic comes along that really “gets” parenthood and the surreal insanity that often accompanies it. Lynn Johnston’s For Better of For Worse is a classic of the genre. Lunarbaboon is a regular webcomic that simultaneously tags your funny bone and pulls at your heartstrings.
And now I’m adding Brian Gordon’s Fowl Language to that list. It’s flat-out hilarious and should be required reading for every parent: new, old, rookie, experienced, naive, or jaded.
- Great Big Things
- written by Kate Hoefler
- illustrated by Noah Klocek
- published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2017)
- Roar Score: 4/5
What’s that old adage? Oh, who am I kidding? You know what it is. Great things come in small packages, right? Well, Kate Hoefler’s Great Big Things is a beautiful picture book dedicated to that very idea.
Plus, it comes with a tagline on the cover that just screams movie poster: “Even the tiniest heart can be mighty.”
Echoes of Galadriel in the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring, sure, but come on. It’s still catchy.