Book with fun examples of painted rocks

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I bought a book about rock painting in 2001, and posted about it here. I still have the book, and more importantly, we still have some of the rocks my family painted 15 years ago. The book has lots of inspiring examples of the kinds of things you can paint on rocks. The book is out of print, but you can buy used copies on Amazon starting at just 24 cents, plus shipping. Read the rest

Attack of the Journal – Part journal part sketchbook and a great companion to the Star Wars Jedi Academy series

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

When an author who writes books for grown-ups is successful at translating his voice into books for kids it’s a win-win. Jeffrey Brown, author of graphic novels such as Clumsy and Funny Misshapen Body has done just that with his series Star Wars Jedi Academy. These graphic novels follow Roan, a young Jedi fumbling his way through middle school’s version of the Jedi Arts. This latest installation, Attack of the Journal, is part activity book part sketchbook and a great accompaniment to the series. It features familiar characters from the books, but you don’t need to have read the actual novels to enjoy the journal. Unlike many character-based activity books for children, Attack of the Journal gives the reins over to the reader. Instead of preprinted mazes and simple seek and finds, Brown’s activities are open-ended and challenge readers to try drawing new things and to write their own stories.

The book is great for elementary-aged kids, but even younger can have fun with the “Draw Your Friends As Aliens” page or attempt a self-portrait. I found it’s a great way to practice letters and words with kids in a way that is fun for everyone. Even the fact that it’s a hardback makes whatever you create inside feel more important. Jeffrey Brown’s sense of humor and kind encouragement are felt in the journal activities, helping young authors and illustrators not take it too seriously if their “Create your own Lightsaber” page looks more like a Wookie. Read the rest

Minecraft: Blockopedia – for full-on Minecraft geeks, as well as over-the-shoulder admirers

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Shaped like a hexagon to mimic the dimensions of a cube, Minecraft: Blockopedia is designed for full-on Minecraft geeks, although those of us who have only watched the game over the shoulders of children and loved ones will find plenty to admire here too. After the briefest of introductions and a quick glossary to help noobs make sense of the stats that accompany each block’s name, it’s off to the races, with page after page devoted to blocks made from rocks, blocks made from plants, blocks that serve particular functions (a ladder), and blocks that do particular things (acting as a switch).

One of the coolest characteristics about Minecraft is how it chooses to observe the laws of nature and physics, or ignore them. Sand, we are told, can be a cave-in hazard, but when it’s smelted in a furnace, it turns to glass. Both statements are true, but don’t go looking for glowstone the next time you’re spelunking – it is only found in a sinister dimension of Minecraft called the Nether. And while sugar cane in both the real world and the Overworld of Minecraft can be used to make sugar, guess where it can also be used to block flowing lava?

Though the format and illustrations in Minecraft: Blockopedia are the book’s most prominent features, it’s still a book filled with lots and lots of, you know, words. Writer Alex Wiltshire mostly plays it straight (“Water is incredibly useful.”), but often he lets the language and logic of Minecraft add color, as in “Sticky pistons are made by crafting a piston with a slimeball…” and “If you dig podzol without the silk touch enhancement it drops dirt.” Got that? Read the rest

Adventures with Barefoot Critters teaches ABCs with charming woodland flora and fauna

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

A is for adorable and that’s just the beginning of the attributes you’ll want to ascribe to this sweet account of anthropomorphic animals and the alphabet. Teagan White has created a charming book filled with colors awash in the glow of nostalgia, where forest critters romp across a scenic woodland, bundled in impossibly cute sweaters and tiny, striped scarves.

Adventures with Barefoot Creatures is characterized as an ABC book but its letter-themed, rhyming stanzas also follow the woodland flora and fauna through the seasons. A, B and C take place in deep winter as the critters clean out the attic and sniffle through colds. Spring arrives, with robin’s eggs and growing things twining their green vines and reaching across the pages in a riot of whimsy. Exuberant, the critters frolic in the summer’s sun, swimming in the lake and collecting ocean artifacts from the shores. As the end of the alphabet approaches, cable knit sweaters reappear and the illustrations become clotted with the changing colors of leaves and the warmth of campfires. Z arrives to find the barefoot critters snuggled together, exhausted from their delightful New Year’s festivities and tumbled together in a darling snoozefest on the couch.

ABC books are a well-explored subgenre that usually offers little in the way of novelty. Adventures with Barefoot Critters is a title that steps outside the clichéd with playful, quaint artwork that beguiles. If you enjoy the fascinating world of the quirky, imaginative Ms. White and her cast of cheery woodland companions, keep your eyes peeled for her latest book arriving in late summer, Counting with Barefoot Critters. Read the rest

Dad teaches 10-year-old daughter how to design and cast a pewter ring

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Designer Ivan Owens showed his daughter how to use Tinkercad to design a ring, print it in PLA plastic on a 3D printer, make a mold, and use the lost wax casting process to make a pewter butterfly ring.

My 10 year old daughter wanted to learn how to make her own metal ring by melting down the metal herself. …The video shows her learning to design and fabricate her own metal ring via sand casting using 3D design software, a 3D printer, scrap pewter, blowtorch, hammer, anvil, vise, drill & various other tools. I provided knowledge and supervision, but she drove the process. Through this process she learns that hazardous materials, such as molten metal, can be safely manipulated using the right equipment and techniques. She wanted to make a video of the process so that other kids could see all of the steps that go into making an everyday item like a ring.

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Dad makes awesome toddler toy

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This brilliant dad secured a bunch of fascinating hardware items to a board and let his toddler have at it. The best toy ever and educational.

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See microbes with a DIY phone microscope

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Anna Rothschild says, "See the tiny creatures living in a pond or puddle using your smartphone, poster tack, and a laser pointer."

Build a microscope stand for your laser pointer lens scope.

Create a 1000x smartphone microscope with a glass bead.

Don’t have a smartphone? Try this water drop microscope from Mr. Wizard.

[via] Read the rest

How Machines Work: Zoo Break! – An interactive book of building machinery and moving gears

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Walking through the children’s section of any given book store, this book will immediately catch your eye. The front cover has gears sticking out the side, and if you turn them, you can see one of our main characters moving up and down on a wheel and axel system. Open the book, and you’ll be treated to even more interactive illustration done in the book’s playful art style.

The plot of the story follows two friends who live in a zoo, Sloth and Sengi. After many years of living there, they have decided to escape using some simple machines. Along the way, they encounter many problems (as you can imagine would occur when a sloth and a variety of elephant shrew attempt to scale a zoo enclosure). Each page outlines a different type of machinery and invites the reader to learn about how each system functions. When Sloth and Sengi try and use an inclined plane to escape, the narrator demonstrates why it takes less effort to climb up an inclined plane than straight over the vertical fence. Later on, this idea of the inclined plane returns when Sloth and Sengi try and use a screw to escape. Probably my favorite section of the book involves the section on levers. The author outlines how a lever functions with an effort, a fulcrum, and a load. You can construct a lever from cardboard cut-outs in the book, and then use it to try and fling Sloth and Sengi over the fence of their enclosure, usually with more success than our main characters. Read the rest

Think up and create your own board game with this Game Inventors Kit

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See more photos at Wink Fun.

It's exciting to get a new game in its pristine box, wrapped in cellophane, begging to be opened. Inside you find the game board, colorful game pieces, cards, and, of course, instructions. Instructions are the worst part of a new game. Reading and rereading the sheet of rules, digesting them, and teaching them to your friends so you can get your game on can be excruciating. And how many practice games do you have to play before you really get it?

Instead of learning how to play someone else's game, how about inventing one of your own? Combine the elements of all those games you've played and loved into your own unique adventure using a board game inventors kit by Board Game Manufacturing. Don't be put off by their site's poor graphics and design. Their product is worth the slog through its eye-crossing pages.

I purchased their Junior Game Inventors Kit. The kit includes everything you need to start building a game: a pre-cut box, a blank folds-to-square game board, paper to cover box and board, nine pawns, a pair of standard dice, a 12-sided numbered die, 56 blank cards, and a bundle of play money. You can also purchase a la carte from a long list of goodies. I added a money tray, a set of ten chipboard blanks, and ten stands to the basic kit. They offer an Advanced Game Board Inventors Kit as well, with a mind-boggling array of pieces.

The components of the kit are sturdy and as good as those in a purchased game. Read the rest

Kano Computer Kit – If kids can put together Legos, then why not a whole computer?

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Confession: I know nothing – NOTHING – about coding. I’m still stuck in the glory days of the “if/thens” of my original Apple IIe, circa 1983. And I barely knew how to do anything past whatever I copied verbatim from Byte. I never got that right either. I don’t think. Ever. I remember staying up all night to do a Thundercats hi-res game. Tried to run it at 4am. Nothing. No Lion-O, no Cheetarah, no Snarf... NOTHING. Thus began a life of failure. BUT. I did not want my kids to suffer that same fate. Especially because it is now a presidential mandate that all kids must learn to code. And code they shall.

Kano is built on a simple idea: If kids can piece together Legos, then why not a whole computer? So they not only have a tactile experience in the building of the thing, but more importantly, they take ownership. Have a hands on experiece with their computer, and know it inside and out. My kids opened the cleverly packaged Kano box and had their machines up and running in about 45 minutes. The directions are sort of similar to Lego directions. Very simple, very easy to understand, and I’ll be damned... these boys, ages 7 and 9, were coding within the hour.

The computer itself comes with a Rasberry Pi brain, all the necessary cables, a keyboard, instructions and stickers to personalize the experience. It comes loaded with a bunch of different apps: Minecraft, Scratch, hack old school Pong, hack Snake, and many other great things, all with an eye towards hacking, coding and exploring. Read the rest

Best older kid's literature from 1966

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a true-blue fan of intermediate-reader adventures published during the Sixties (1964–73). Attribute this, if you will, to the fact that these books were popular when I was an impressionable adolescent in the late 1970s. The fact remains, the Sixties were a cornucopia producing a flood of extraordinary titles: Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles series, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Sure, I dig older kids’ lit from other eras, too. But nothing compares.

In anticipation of their 50th anniversaries, this year, here’s my list of the Best Older Kid’s Lit of 1966. Please let me know which favorite titles of yours I’ve overlooked!

OLDER KIDS’ LIT on HILOBROW: Best of 1963 | Best of 1964 | Best of 1965 | Best of 1966 | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince (serialized) | YA Sci-Fi | ALSO SEE: Best 1966 Adventures (for Grownups).

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In no particular order…

René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s bande dessinée Asterix adventure Asterix the Legionary. The tenth Asterix story is a particular favorite of mine — because it is a sardonic inversion of one of my favorite sub-genres of adventure: the all-for-one, one-for-all argonautica. In order to rescue a Gaul who has been conscripted into the Roman army and shipped to North Africa, where Julius Caesar was battling Metellus Scipio, Asterix and Obelix enlist in the army themselves. Read the rest

The delight of the unexpected moment when your child comes upon a character at a Disney park

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With the unsettling closure and uncertain future of a vast original area of Disneyland which has remained mostly undisturbed since park opening in 1955, it seems fitting to reflect upon some things which made it memorable. This is the first of a series of pieces, and also the most indirect — it’ll take me six paragraphs to make my real point.

One thing every parent knows is the delight of “the unexpected moment” when your child comes upon a character at a Disney park without warning.

There’s less of that these days, with “Character Meet and Greets” having been turned into controlled experiences and fewer instances of the characters simply walking the parks and freely mingling with the guests. (You tend to see much more of this at the Tokyo Disney Resort.)

On a trip to Disneyland when my daughter was about 4 or 5 years old just under a decade ago, we entered the park early, passed through Main Street, and were taking the walkway up to Sleeping Beauty Castle that curves to the right, past Snow White’s Grotto. The white marble statues of Snow White and the Dwarfs were a gift from the Ambassador of Italy, I explained to my daughter. They reside in a man-made grotto with a waterfall.

On the walkway itself is a full-size replica of the wishing well from the film Snow White. If you lean over and listen, you will hear Snow White singing. My daughter was listening intently, looking into the well, and when she turned around there was Snow White — pretty, indeed, as a picture. Read the rest

There's a new version of The Little Prince pop-up book

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The Little Prince, published in 1943, is a classic, emotionally stirring novella written by a French author that has since become the third most translated book in the world. With so many adaptions to both screen and stage, including a major animated motion picture debuting in the United States in 2016, you might be forgiven for assuming that the story has little more to offer in the way of novelty. One covetous glance at this enormous, intricate deluxe pop-up book and you’ll understand how very wrong you are. This tale of the enduring power of friendship, told by a narrator stranded in the sands of the Sahara, rises from the pages and extends into your world with enchanting, whimsical paper art.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry proclaims himself no “great artist” and this pop-up book stays true to the delicate pastels of the watercolors he used to create The Little Prince’s illustrations. The book begins with the Little Prince himself, being held aloft from the title page by a harnessed flock of birds, the white and pale gray of each wing a stark contrast to the enveloping black mass of the space that surrounds him. Beginning pages are full of hidden doors, windows and flaps that contain treasures of minuscule fold out animals and tiny doodles. As the classic tale unfolds and we learn more about the Little Prince’s miniature home planet, the pop-up art evolves into cratered orbs that spin at the pull of a tab or twist their flower clustered faces to the warmth of a rising sun stretching above the page. Read the rest

Introducing Boing Boing's Maker Box

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Quarterly.co is launching a brand new Maker Box subscription. This new Maker box features DIY kits and hands-on projects perfect for makers of all ages. You’ll receive kits to build your own gadgets, electronics, quirky tools, and more. Each quarter will feature a new curator, new ideas and new projects. The first curator is Boing Boing! Each box will contain at least 3 kits and will cost $100. The box ships in February. Read the rest

Arizona starts using Facebook and Twitter to publicly shame 'Deadbeat Dads'

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Fathers in Arizona who aren't delivering court-ordered child support payments may discover their mugs plastered all over social media soon. Arizona governor Doug Ducey this week unveiled a bizarre new name-and-shame campaign to publicly mock so-called “deadbeat dads,” a crackdown on "the worst of the worst" parents who fail to make child support payments.

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New book teaches Python programming with Minecraft

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In this beginner friendly book, called Learn to Program with Minecraft, you will learn how to do cool things in Minecraft using the Python programming language. No prior programming experience is needed. Author Craig Richardson shows you how to install Python (it's free) on your Mac, PC, or Raspberry Pi. The book has step-by-step instructions to show you how to teleport your character, create palaces and other structures with a few lines of code, stack blocks, duplicate villages and geography, and a lot more.

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Robo-Sauce is a brilliant twist on both storytelling and book design

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Robo-Sauce starts out as a mere picture book, then – with a few paper folds and a little imagination – transforms into a ROBOT picture book. The story starts out normally enough – when a boy can’t get enough of pretending to be a robot, he wishes for a potion that will actually turn him into one. And what do you know? The off-camera narrator happens to have the recipe for just such a potion. After dousing himself in the day-glo orange “robo-sauce,” the boy becomes a rather jerky and destructive robot – punching down a fruit stand with his robo-fist and blasting open a water tower with his laser eyes. When the startled narrator tries to offer the antidote to robo-sauce, the robo-boy promptly disintegrates it, then proceeds to slosh the noxious liquid all over his family, dog, friends, and pretty much anything else in sight. EVERYTHING transforms into a robot, and when the robo-sauce inevitably seeps over the words in the story, even the book turns into a robot. A page folds out, and instructs readers how to re-fold it to activate the robo-book. The larger fold-out page essentially turns into an alternate book jacket, and the last few pages in the story are full of beeps, boops, and, of course, robots. But one final page turn reveals that all the shenanigans were the result of one family’s afternoon of imaginative play.

Robo-Sauce is a brilliant twist on both storytelling and book design. Read the rest

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