Amina’s Voice

  • Amina’s Voice
  • written by Hena Khan
  • published by Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Amina has always been a shy kid. She does her own thing, is content to stay out of the spotlight, and stays out of trouble.

But now she’s in middle school. And of course, all bets are off. Especially when it seems like absolutely everything around her is undergoing massive change – change she can’t control.

On top of typical middle school struggles, Amina is facing several unexpected challenges that rock her world.

Continue reading

Playmates Booth at Toy Fair 2017

Another February, another Toy Fair New York. This year was a bit of a whirlwind for me, and I actually had a different focus than in years past. That meant I got to chat with a lot of different companies and learn about a lot of great new products – many of which I’ll focus on over the next few months both here and at GeekDad.

But I still made time to visit some of my favorite booths. And today, I’m here to help with a walkthrough of the Playmates booth. In previous years, Playmates has been all about the Ninja Turtles – almost to the detriment of everything else. Their booth was very green.

But not so this year! In addition to a very healthy TMNT line, Playmates has also added Ben 10 (for the newly rebooted show), Voltron: Legendary Defender, and the upcoming Nickelodeon show Mysticons.

Continue reading

Sleepover at the National Archives

All Photos: Jeffrey Reed of the National Archives

There’s certainly no shortage of amazing, unique opportunities in Washington, DC. Most visitors to the city hit a lot of the same standard hot spots: the White House, the Capitol Building, a Smithsonian museum or two, the Washington Monument, and so on.

But there’s so much more. And if you have the time – or if you’re a local looking for something truly special – you really should consider spending the night at the National Archives.

What’s that? Didn’t know you could stay at the Archives? Well, normally you can’t. But twice a year, the National Archives Foundation hosts a Sleepover at the National Archives. The next sleepover will be held on October 14, 2017, and you can reserve your spot(s) now. If you’re interested, I highly recommend reserving your spot as early as possible. These events DO sell out.

Continue reading

Adventure Theatre: Ella Enchanted

  • playing at Adventure Theatre MTC (Glen Echo, MD)
  • dates: now through March 19, 2017
  • directed by Mary Hall Surface
  • book by Karen Zacarias
  • music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
  • Roar Score: 4/5

It’s been a while since we caught a show at Adventure Theatre. When the kids were younger, shows there were one of our reliable standbys. Unclaimed weekend? Odds are, we found our way to Glen Echo Park for a show at either Adventure Theatre or its neighbor, The Puppet Co.

So it was with some excitement that we recently attended the opening of Adventure Theatre’s newest show: Ella Enchanted.

Continue reading

Blog Tour: Spy on History + Giveaway

Thanks to Hamilton and our constant National Park Service Adventures, my daughter is currently fascinated by American history. Living near Washington, DC, has only stoked that interest. In fact, we recently had the opportunity to sleep over at the National Archives and literally spent the night right next to the Constitution. My daughter couldn’t have been more thrilled.

It’s no surprise, then, that Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring is right up our alley at the moment. It’s therefore a thrill to take part in this blog tour in support of the new book by Enigma Alberti (a pseudonym for a group of authors writing the Spy on History series) and illustrated by Tony Cliff (Delilah Dirk).

Continue reading

NPS Adventures: Federal Hall National Memorial

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 Federal Hall National Memorial!

Continue reading

NPS Adventures: Hamilton Grange National Memorial

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 Hamilton Grange National Memorial!

Continue reading

Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs!

Now might be a good time to admit that I adore books meant to be scribbled in. Growing up, I completed My Book About Me several times, crossing through previous notes if they had changed. I loved that book.

A few months ago, my daughter was gifted a copy of Wreck This Journal and had a similar love affair. It was a mindblowing experience to be expected to actually write on the pages and “destroy” the book.

So when we saw this new Doodle Adventures book from Workman, we knew it was love at first sight. And we weren’t disappointed.

Continue reading

Faraway Fox

  • Faraway Fox
  • written by Jolene Thompson
  • illustrated by Justin K. Thompson
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Most picture books with an environmental message (and there are a lot of them) practically hit you over the head with the moral or takeaway. Faraway Fox takes a subtler approach, though it’s still effective and powerful.

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of a small fox, lost and alone in suburbia. As he wanders through backyards, playgrounds, and parking lots, he’s recalling what everyplace was like before it was developed. When he was younger and still with his family.

Continue reading

Mighty Jack

  • Mighty Jack
  • written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
  • published by First Second Books (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Ben Hatke is a favorite in my house. His Zita the Spacegirl trilogy is pure magic, and his other books (Little Robot, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and Nobody Likes a Goblin) are just downright enchanting.

We look forward to each new book as a major event. So it was with much excitement that we dug into his current major undertaking: Mighty Jack for First Second Books. The first book in the series came out a few months ago, and Book 2 – Mighty Jack and the Goblin King – is set to release this fall.

Continue reading

Kennedy Center: Bud, Not Buddy

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 15, 2017
  • directed by Clarke Peters
  • script by Kirsten Greenidge
  • music by Terence Blanchard
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Christopher Paul Curtis’s novel Bud, Not Buddy first slipped onto my radar in 2012. Yes, the book was published in 1999, and it won both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000. But it was in 2012 that I saw Curtis speak and read from his book in Chicago at the International Reading Association’s annual conference (now the International Literacy Association).

I was blown away.

So I was incredibly excited to catch the stage adaptation of the book this week at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. With a couple familiar faces in the cast and a full jazz band on stage, the show didn’t disappoint.

Continue reading

Big Bob, Little Bob

  • Big Bob, Little Bob
  • written by James Howe
  • illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson
  • published by Candlewick Press (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

James Howe wrote my favorite series of books as a kid, which also happens to be the world’s best series about a vampire bunny and his fellow housepets: Bunnicula!

Seriously, the Bunnicula series was right up there with Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books and Choose Your Own Adventure as my reliable go-to books. The books haven’t aged at all, and they’re just as entertaining and fun in 2016 as they were in 1986.

But James Howe is so much more than Bunnicula. He’s written close to 100 books, which is simply astonishing, and his books cover a spectrum of styles and genres: picture books, children’s nonfiction, beginning reader chapter books, kids novels, YA fiction, and screenplays.

And Big Bob, LIttle Bob – his newest picture book – might be one of his most personal. And the message contained in these 30 pages is also incredibly important for kids to hear, maybe more so now than ever before.

Continue reading

Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath

I’ll admit it: the Beowulf legend has never been my jam. I read it in high school (don’t remember the translation) and read it again when that critically adored translation by Seamus Heaney came out years ago.

I just couldn’t get into it. I appreciated the story, and – yes – I understood it, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it like I could with other myths and legends. King Arthur? Sure. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Yep. Edith Wharton’s Mythology? Why not? But Beowulf? Just didn’t do it for me.

So when Kid Beowulf appeared on my radar, I’d be lying if I said it immediately rose to the top of my reading pile. I liked the twist of making the story accessible to young readers, but…well, it was still Beowulf.

But I’m here to tell you I wish I had read this a lot sooner.

Continue reading

Poppy Pickle: A Little Girl with a Big Imagination

  • Poppy Pickle
  • written and illustrated by Emma Yarlett
  • published by Templar Books (Candlewick Press) (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Emma Yarlett’s previous book, Orion and the Dark, was one of the most fantastic surprises of 2015 for us, in terms of picture books. So it shouldn’t come as much surprise that her follow-up, Poppy Pickle, is near the top of the list for 2016.

Where Orion and the Dark was about a young boy who brings the darkness to life, Poppy Pickle is about a young girl with a similar power. Except instead of animating her biggest fear, she uses her imagination to conjure a bit of magic and make life just a shade more interesting.

Continue reading

Ada Twist, Scientist

  • Ada Twist, Scientist
  • written by Andrea Beaty
  • illustrated by David Roberts
  • published by Abrams Books for Young Readers (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

There’s something about a good rhyming picture book that just hits the spot for me. And a rhyming picture book with a great message? All the better.

Look, I read a lot of picture books. Most of them are well written. Many of them are gorgeous. Some of them have sweet, memorable themes. But only a few of them are automatic winners right out of the gate.

If Ada Twist, Scientist were a person, I’d give her high-fives until her hand got sore. I’d bring her around to meet the extended family. I’d hug her until it became uncomfortable.

In other words, if any book deserves a full 5 out of 5, Ada Twist, Scientist is it.

Continue reading

That’s Not Bunny!

  • That’s Not Bunny!
  • written by Chris Barton
  • illustrated by Colin Jack
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

There are some picture books you pick up and reread for the story. They have powerful lessons or morals, or they reach you on a personal level. There are other picture books you pick up and reread because of the art.

That’s Not Bunny! is one of the latter. The fact that it’s tons o’ fun to read aloud is also a mark in its favor.

Continue reading

Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus

  • Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus
  • written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway
  • published by Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Do you have a grumpasaurus in your home? Let me rephrase…do you have a child of basically any age in your home? You do? Then you also have a grumpasaurus.

I must also come clean right here at the top that I have a soft spot for books that disguise themselves as field guides for fictional creatures. (The same is true for travel guides to fictional places. Love ’em.)

So…a field guide to a grumpy toddler who’s incognito as an adorable stegosaurus? Yeah, you had me at hello.

Continue reading

Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig

In my house, we’re all about series at the moment. If a book has a sequel or is part of a multibook series, my kids will gobble it up. So it wasn’t surprising when they took to the charming Mango & Bambang right away.

The good news is that this book is the first of a trilogy that came out in the UK last year. However, Candlewick is publishing them here in the States, and so far they’ve only released the first one. We’re patient, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t anxiously champing at the bit for Books 2 and 3.

Continue reading

Kennedy Center: Into the Woods

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 8, 2017
  • directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld
  • music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I have a checkered history with Sondheim’s Into the Woods. I came to the show very late. I listened to the recording and was not overly impressed. I saw an amateur production and left even less enthralled. Then I saw the 2014 Disney movie and was blown away. I saw the story for what it was (and could be), and I fell in love.

And my kids? Even more so. At 4 and 6, they absolutely adored the film, and we went to see it multiple times in the theater. And when she was 5, my daughter had the opportunity to solo Red Riding Hood’s “I Know Things Now,” so the show has become a family favorite.

Obviously, it was with much excitement that we went to the Kennedy Center to check out Fiasco Theater’s “experimental” production of the musical, which had an acclaimed Broadway run and is in town for the holidays.

Continue reading

The Illusionists: Turn of the Century on Broadway

A bit of background: my kids (like all kids) cycle through various obsessions. One of their current obsessions is a National Geographic show they found on Netflix called Brain Games. The show highlights all of the ways we can trick our brains into believing what we see even when it contradicts what we actually know to be true.

One of the recurring hosts on the show calls himself a “deception specialist,” so of course that’s exactly what my daughter wants to be when she grows up. We’ve tried telling her that it’s not a real career (unless you’re a thief), but she’s hearing none of it.

She’s fascinated by magic, illusions, sleight of hand, and people who specialize in deception. So it was with great anticipation that we checked out this year’s version of The Illusionists show on Broadway.

Continue reading