Blog

5-Minute Marvel

Play the fast-paced 5-Minute Marvel game that puts you in the role of your favorite Marvel movie and comic book heroes.  The goal of the game is to defeat a horde of villains bent on destroying the universe.  The villains start easy and get harder as you eventually fight your way to Thanos to decide the fate of the world.  Each hero receives cards with special powers and abilities unique to their hero, which will help in the fight.

With each battle allowed only five minutes (a time gem would be helpful), you will have to be as fast as Quicksilver to win these battles.  The 5-minute clock makes this a quick game that is great for parties and short breaks. There is some reading involved, which makes 5-Minute Marvel (2016) perfect for ages 8 and up.

Series Spotlight: The Last Firehawk

Owls are determined to save their home – the island of Perodia – from the evil Thorn, a vulture who is destroying the island with the help of his army of tiger bats and prickle ants. Rivers are dry, trees are being destroyed, and no flowers are blooming. Heroes of this animal fantasy early chapter book are Tag, an owl who uses a magic map; Skyla, a squirrel who uses a slingshot; and Blaze, the last surviving firehawk who uses his wings. When Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are successful in the quest to find all the pieces of the ember stone, their home might be saved.

The first page of each book explains where Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are in their search for the ember stone so the books do not have to be read in order…but in order would be best. Start with The Ember Stone (2017).

A map of Perodia, which is a copy of the magic map used by Tag, is on the next page after the introduction. The reader will want to refer back to the map while reading the adventure. On the last page of each book are questions and activities suggestions, which will add to the enjoyment of the reader and extend their learning. Each of the 10 books (so far) in The Last Firehawk series by Katrina Charman are 90 pages. There are black and white illustrations on each page. Lexile range is 550-640.



We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Poor Penelope Rex. It's hard enough starting at a new school, but then to be told all of your classmates are children and that it's socially unacceptable to eat them? Well, those slobbered up kids aren't excited about their new dinosaur classmate, either. Ultimately, Penelope learns a very important lesson about making friends from the class goldfish, Walter: it isn't fun to be seen as someone else's snack.

Check out We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (2018), a 2020 Monarch Award Nominee, in print or digitally via Hoopla.


Tags:

Sleeping Queens

In Sleeping Queens, all of the world's queens have fallen under a spell forcing them to stay asleep. You will have to send your kings out to help the queens awaken, but be careful other players have knights and potions to steal your queens or to put them back to sleep.  You will have to be cunning to keep all your queens awake and safe.

One of my favorite things about Sleeping Queens (2015) is that an 8-year-old created it, and the fun way it plays shows that incredible passion a child has for games and silly happenstance.  This is a favorite game to play with my friends.  We all enjoy how quickly the game plays, and with simple rules, there are still some great play strategies.  The game is played with a single deck of cards and is quick to learn with no reading involved past the directions.  Some shape matching skills are needed to play; suitable for ages 6 and up.


Pocket Full of Colors

Explore the colorful and magical world of Mary Blair in this junior biography told with beautiful pictures. While we can now find Blair listed among top Disney artists, animators, and designers, we get to see how her childhood love of colors and sketching led to that future working with Walt Disney himself. It is not an easy journey, trying to compete with men as well as color cynics (perhaps somewhat surprising for the world of Disney we know today). Ultimately, though, Blair receives an invitation to help create arguably the most recognizable and nostalgic theme park ride of all time—and my personal favorite—It's a Small World, truly epitomizing Blair's talent and vibrant imagination.

Check out Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire (2017) by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville. For more information, visit Oh My Disney for The World Behind "It's a Small World" and The Life and Work of Mary Blair.

Noelle

Disney+ has finally arrived!  Based on cast alone, my first viewing selection was Noelle (2019, G) which was originally intended for theatrical release, but was later reserved for the launch of Disney+.  It stars Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader as Kris Kringle's kids, Noelle and Nick.  Also in the cast are long-time actors Shirley MacLaine and Julie Hagerty, with comedians, Billy Eichner and Ron Funches.

Nick has trained his whole life to take over for his father as Santa, but as the pressure builds, he takes a vacation on his sister's recommendation.  Unfortunately, Nick took that to mean a one-way trip to the southwest.  Noelle has to venture out from the North Pole to find him, all while learning that Christmas is more meaningful when you focus on giving instead of getting.

Overall, this light-hearted film, albeit slightly predictable, will bring laughter and maybe even some tears to you and your family.  Find other Christmas movies to watch with the family on our website.

View Noelle and everything else Disney you can imagine with a Roku featuring Disney+.


The Bad Guys

I read this book in one sitting with a three year old: I'd call that an accomplishment and give a lot of that credit to author Aaron Blabey. We follow Mr. Wolf and his associates, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, and Mr. Shark, on a mission to turn around their longtime reputations as bad guys. They hit just a couple bumps along the way, but are determined to make amends.

This early chapter book is part of a series, so get caught up in Blabey's sketchy characters' silly escapades. The Bad Guys (2017) is a 2020 Monarch Award nominee, recommended for grades 2-4.


Tags:

Loot

Have you ever wanted to plunder all the treasures on the open sea?  If you find that the letter "R" rolls off your tongue as "Arrr," then Loot is the game for you.

In Loot, take on the role of a pirate captain and guide your crew to merchant ships full of treasure, but watch out for your pirate friends who want some loot too and will fight you for every bit of it.

The objective of the card game is simple, collect the most gold by the end of the game.  The gameplay is quick and takes about 20 minutes.  The game is for ages 6 and up, some simple math skills and color matching are needed.  If you want the thrill of the high seas matched with the fun of playing with friends, check out Loot.


Aladdin

If you are a devoted Disney fan like me, you may be reluctant about the company's recent foray into live-action remakes of their classic animated movies.  In this 2019 live-action version of Aladdin (rated PG), I went in with low expectations, especially for Will Smith in the role of Genie, because Robin Williams' performance as the 1992 animated Genie was so outstanding.  Smith ultimately does not try to mimic Williams' style and interpretation, but rather adds his own flair to the part.  Genie even gets an expanded storyline in the live-action.  I also appreciated that Jasmine was a more developed character, expressing a desire to break down the oppression of her society and voice her opinions as a leader.

Composer and songwriter Alan Menken returns to score the live-action film, enhancing his original music and adding additional songs not part of the 1992 version.  So perhaps Disney can, in fact, be successful in livening up their animated classics after all!

Be sure to check out the soundtrack as well on CD or via Hoopla.

Are You Scared, Darth Vader?

Fellow parents and Star Wars fans, this is sure to please! Adam Rex writes this book in a conversational style, so I highly encourage reading in your best Darth Vader voice for an extra fun experience. Parents (and Star Wars buff kiddos) will appreciate nods to the movies and characters throughout.

All in all, Are You Scared, Darth Vader? (2019) is a hilarious book with a special twist ending. So, are you ready to find out if there is actually something frightening enough to scare Darth Vader?

Check out this book in print or digitally via Hoopla.



The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

Lucy does NOT want to go to middle school. She's been home-schooled since she was struck by lightning and became a math genius, but now her Nana insists that she try middle school for one year. Will she be able to keep the numbers in her head quiet and make at least one friend? Read The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (2018) to find out how a dog named Pi helps three middle school misfits succeed!



Tags:

Series Spotlight: You Choose Stories—Justice League

In order to enjoy this series, the reader should be a fan of the Justice League stories. There are seven Super characters in the Justice League, and they work together to protect the Universe! Many books and movies feature the Justice League.

The You Choose Stories—Justice League series engages the reader by requiring them to make decisions. The reader will notice as they start reading the book that…there, on the lower right corner of the right side page…in red…are choices to make:

If Batman goes after Black Manta, turn to page 23.

If Batman stays to help save the island, turn to page 29.

Throughout the book, the reader will make choices to continue the story.

Although this sounds complicated – and it will be too complicated for some readers – for those children who enjoy the "game" with the story – this will be an enjoyable book. Choose from Cosmic Conquest, The League of Laughs, The Portal of Doom, and The Ultimate Weapon.

Each book has 105 pages, and there are several full-page color, cartoon-style illustrations throughout the book. At the end, there is a glossary with pronunciations and definitions. There are four titles in the series – so far. The Lexile is 640-710.


Tags:

Series Spotlight: Peachy and Keen by Jason Tharp

The cat, Peachy, and the dog, Keen, are best friends. The series, Peachy and Keen, feature the two friends in stories of their school adventures at Happy Trails School.

In the first book, A School Tail (2018), Peachy wants to work on the school newspaper but discovers there is no longer a print newspaper. Peachy has the idea to replace the newspaper with an online magazine. With Keen's help, Peachy finds four classmates to work on the PURRFECT9: Rue, the high fashion kitty, Connie the octopus, Nanner the monkey, and Gertie the unicorn. Of course, they need a faculty sponsor and recruit Rocco the llama, who is the janitor. Principal Trunx, an elephant, is not helpful to Peachy but in the end… the PURRFECT9 staff wins him over.

These books by Jason Tharp are full of puns. To enjoy the stories, a reader will need to understand (and enjoy) puns. Even the title – Peachy Keen – is a pun.

Each book is 96 pages. There are full color, cartoon-style illustrations on each page and these add to the story and are fun in themselves. There is a significant amount of text, which makes the books look harder than they are. The Lexile is 590-770.



Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos (2016)

In this story, we follow a free spirit who can't help but want to tame all of the beautiful colors she sees. We join her wild and wonderful world and hunt for colors along with her. Swatch soon encounters an ethical challenge and we see how our heroine resolves her dilemma.

As picture books go, I think Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color is a perfect example of the power of illustrations and how beautifully and creatively they help tell a lovely story. Additionally, the overall layout and design of the book is great and helps capture the energy of it all.

This is the first book both written and illustrated by Julia Denos. She also wrote and illustrated Windows.


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (1967)

I first read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in fifth grade, so when my son, now a fifth-grader himself, said he needed a Newbery Prize winner for his book report, I was quick to suggest it to him. The adventures of Claudia and her younger brother Jamie are what childhood dreams are made of. After running away from home, the siblings live on their own in a strange and wonderful new city. They uncover a mystery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they're determined to solve. Their clever sleuthing leads them to discover much more than clues however — it leads them back home.

I enjoyed reading this classic children's book by E. L. Konigsburg just as much as an adult as I had as a child. The audiobook would be great to listen to on a family road trip as well. Check out this article from Smithsonian Magazine for a glimpse behind the story and its author.