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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NPS Adventures: Fort Necessity National Battlefield

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!

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The Ventriloquist’s Daughter

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.

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Cirque du Soleil: Varekai

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.

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The Winter Fox

  • 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.

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Adventure Theatre: Frosty the Snow Man

  • 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.

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Fowl Language: The Struggle Is Real

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.

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Great Big Things

  • 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.

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Science Comics: Volcanoes Q&A with Jon Chad

Today, I’m thrilled to take part in a blog tour to celebrate the awesomeness of Science Comics. If you’re unaware, First Second Books has been quietly publishing an entire library of graphic novels that cover various nonfiction, scientific topics. From coral reefs to dinosaurs to flying machines to plagues, these books are a goldmine of accessible information for young readers.

They’re really great and should be on your shelf right now.

For a few weeks, the creators of some of these books are making the bloggy rounds (full list and links at the bottom of this post) to talk up the lineup and individual titles. Today, we welcome Jon Chad, who wrote and illustrated Volcanoes and who illustrated the upcoming Solar System.

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Play Fair 2017 Toy Unboxing

For the past few years, I’ve attended Toy Fair in New York and come away with nothing but good things to say about it. However, Toy Fair is a trade-only event, accessible only to industry professionals, corporate buyers, and press. It’s not open to the general public, and kids aren’t allowed. Which is a shame – and superbly ironic, considering it’s a convention center full of toys.

Last year, however, was the first year that Play Fair arrived in the same space to fill the void. Play Fair is “a public celebration of play and entertainment for all ages [that] brings new and beloved toy and pop culture brands together under one roof for an interactive and fun-filled live event open to families, fans, and media.”

This year’s event will be held at the Javits Center in Manhattan on November 4-5 (tickets available nowUse discount code ROARBOTS to save $5 of your tickets!). If you’ll be in the region and have some time, I highly recommend checking it out.

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The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse

I’m certainly not the first to say this, but Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are consistently putting out some of the most compelling picture books on the market.

They’ve collaborated several times before, including on the extraordinary Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and a personal favorite here at Roarbots HQ: Triangle. Their books are deceptively simple but offer so much to chew on.

I even talked to Mac Barnett last year about how he pushes the boundaries of picture books and children’s literature in subtle (yet revolutionary) ways. And their newest collaboration – The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse – is no different.

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Disney on Ice: Dare to Dream

We’ve been to enough Disney on Ice shows at this point that I could probably serve as a creative consultant. Still, no matter how many we’ve seen, there are always a few pleasant surprises.

If you’re unfamiliar with Disney on Ice, check out our reviews of Follow Your HeartWorld of Fantasy100 Years of Magic, and Treasure Trove. They should give you a good idea of what to expect.

The newest version of the show – Dare to Dream – is notable as the first Disney on Ice performance to include Moana. And, let’s be honest, that was really the main attraction for us.

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The Wendy Project

  • The Wendy Project
  • written by Melissa Jane Osborne
  • illustrated by Veronica Fish
  • published by Super Genius / Papercutz (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Sometimes it feels like there are just too many adaptations of J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. Every time you turn around, there’s another film version, another “reimagining,” or another new take on the classic tale. And many of them are, how should we say…less than thrilling.

So it was a genuine surprise to discover The Wendy Project, a graphic novel interpretation of the Peter Pan story that’s incredibly moving and explores the story’s fundamental themes along with a deeper dive into grief, family, and adolescence.

And it really is a fresh take on a familiar story.

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The Journey That Saved Curious George

As hard as it might be to believe, Curious George is still just as popular in 2017 as he’s been for the last 75 years. Yep: 75 years. Did I blow your mind? He’s gone from simple illustrations in a few picture books to becoming the center of a global franchise that includes an endless supply of books, toys, TV shows, and movies.

But have you ever wondered about the couple behind the perennially popular character, Margret and H.A. Rey? Turns out that have a remarkably compelling story, and the Curious George we all know and love almost never made it out of Nazi-occupied France!

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Ticket Giveaway: Disney On Ice Presents Dare to Dream

It’s that time again. Disney on Ice is returning to the Baltimore/Washington area, and they’re bringing a new show. This time around, it’s called Dare to Dream, and it’s got both familiar faces and fresh acts.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Disney On Ice shows, check out our reviews of Follow Your HeartWorld of Fantasy100 Years of Magic, and Treasure Trove. They should give you a good idea of what to expect: Mickey and the gang act as hosts, a variety of characters perform routines to well-known songs, and there’s a big finale at the end with everyone.

Dare to Dream is notable as the first Disney on Ice performance to include Moana, so if you (or your little ones) are fans of that movie – and who isn’t? – then you probably won’t want to miss this one.

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Backroads Travel: Red Wall Garden Hotel, Beijing

Backroads Travel is an occasional series that focuses on out-of-the-way, lesser-known, or otherwise off-the-beaten-track travel destinations that are nevertheless well worth the time and energy it takes to get there. These are places that might not be highlighted in your travel guides or pop up in typical Google searches. They’re the hidden and unsung wonders of the world.

Let’s get this out of the way right up top: I don’t particularly care for Beijing. I lived in China for several years, and it’s where I met my wife and got married. I’ve been to Beijing multiple times, but the city and I just never hit it off. And this is coming from someone who currently lives in Washington, DC, so I’m familiar with cities overwhelmingly defined by politics and government.

However, my personal feelings about the city aside, it’s chock full of historic sites and tourist must-dos. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from visiting Beijing, nor would I recommend visitors to China avoid the capital. Far from it. Beijing has the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and some of the best urban parks and museums in the country. It’s home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In short, it’s a required stop on any Chinese itinerary.

So it was that I recently found myself in Beijing for about a week. We took our kids (now 5 and 8) back to China for the summer and did a fair bit of backpacking around the country. How could we NOT take them to Beijing to see some of the country’s most famous and spectacular sites?

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Shanghai vs Hong Kong: An Incredibly Detailed Breakdown and Comparison of China’s Disney Parks

Buckle up, nerds! This post is gonna be a doozy.

If you’re a Disney nerd, odds are that you’ve at least thought about visiting the international parks at some point. As of this writing, there are 12 Disney parks worldwide, and only half of them are located in the United States.

Each provides a unique experience with a wealth of rides, attractions, shows, and cultural influences packed in. The internet is filled with information and opinions about all of them, and there’s certainly no shortage of Disney sites willing to overwhelm you with the minutiae of every Disney park.

The purpose of THIS post, though, is to give a detailed comparison between the two Chinese parks – Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disney Resort. How do they compare? How are they different? If you can only visit one, which should it be?

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NPS Adventures: George Washington Birthplace National Monument

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 George Washington Birthplace National Monument!

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NPS Adventures: Thomas Stone National Historic Site

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 Thomas Stone National Historic Site!

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