I’m the first to admit that I like playing video and digital games—not long drawn-out affairs for hours at a time, mind you, but short sweet, 15-minute-break types of games. And I also fully admit that I’ve been a fan of PopCap Games for a long time: Plants vs. Zombies, Bejeweled, Bookworm, and the like. So when PopCap let me have an early look at some of their new games coming out later this year (watch the magazine for more details), they knew what they were doing when they also sent their newest game, Solitaire Blitz.
It’s simple, really, but therein lies the appeal: race the clock to try and clear all your cards while earning bonuses and treasures. Did I mention already that it’s addictive? “It’s my turn!” was the fairly consistent refrain at my house the last few nights as the boys and I all anxiously awaited our turns. The game really is that perfect little break—whether it be a fifteen minute homework or housework break. And did I mention it’s free? Score!
You know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, sometimes you can, especially when it’s a gorgeous illustration from Anthony Browne. One Gorilla: A Counting Book starts with a lush mixed media image of the title primate, then continues up the number chain to 10 lemurs in a simple counting theme. All the animals featured are primates and Browne expertly captures the playfulness we humans associate with them. Simple, yet completely engaging.
For another new picture picture book we love, check out I Dare You Not to Yawn.
The popular author of the tween mystery books, Secret Series, is missing! At least that’s the premise behind Pseudonymous Bosch’s newest title, Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery. To help find the missing scribe, kids are encouraged to finish writing the tome. And that’s where the real appeal—and innovation—come into play. Through a variety of puzzles, games, and activities, readers become writers and, hopefully, learn a little about the writing process as they go.
Some of my favorite examples:
- Random Writing Tip: When in doubt, insert fart joke. Suggestions: What do you call a writer who doesn’t fart in school? A private writing toot-er. (Ok, maybe I like this tip because I have three boys!)
- Pseudo-assignments, including Snoop Training: Pretend to be a first-time visitor in your home. What things stand out? What can you conclude about the people who live there? Write a list of observations and hypotheses based strictly on what you see, not on what you already know. (My house? You would find lots of lacrosse gear, homework stacked on the kitchen table, and a mostly empty jug of milk in the fridge.)
- Procrastination Pages: Take three months off. Tell everyone you need to “recharge.” Creativity requires rest. (Hmmmm, maybe I need a vacation…)
Watch for more on Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery in an upcoming issue. And for more
Senior Digital Editor Samuel Mead is today’s guest blogger. He writes:
I guess I shouldn’t be shocked by the magical moment that is the before-school ritual of playing a deceptively challenging board game, Troy Extra Muros, with my third grade son before he rushes off to school (and me to work). After all, I love games, he loves games, and we both love playing them any time or any place.
At first, I didn’t think much of Troy—how fun or interesting could a game with a small playing area and 12 pieces be? But I was quickly proved wrong. My son, who had received the game as a birthday gift, explained the rules to me and we started to play at the kitchen counter. The game has never been put away.
Perhaps it’s watching him solve a particularly tough set-up that I am stuck on—Troy is a strategy game where you must solve 60 progressively more challenging game board situations using four sections of walls to protect blue forces from red forces. Or maybe it’s the quiet that accompanies minds at work. While playing, my son exhibits a patience that’s absent when he’s playing a video strategy game. There is no frenetic pace, no pumping of buttons, just the shuffling of combinations of pieces to see what will solve the problem.
One thing is for sure, it’s a blessedly peaceful part of the morning. Our middle schooler is long out the door to catch her bus, lunches made, breakfast consumed. It’s that 20-minute window when I could be plowing through bills, answering emails, or surfing the web. Instead, I’m on cloud 9, watching my son play a game that’s as challenging for him as it is for me.
I know this is a fleeting moment. We’ve been playing for 10 days and are through challenge #53. Troy must soon fall! Then again, perhaps more is going on than just the playing of a game, a ritual that we both value. So when #60 has been successfully completed, we will seek out a new challenge, or just return to challenge #1.
In our September 2012 issue, we wrote about bunny-themed picture books that we noticed were multiplying like, well, rabbits. Seems like a good time to feature them again as folks get ready for the Easter Bunny to hop along on Sunday.
With four simple words—Good News, Bad News—and humorous illustrations, Jeff Mack tells the story of friends with two very different world views.
The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare, a collection of four bedtime tales, features the beloved characters from Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You.
Chloe, the heroine of author-illustrator Peter McCarty’s book, loves being the middle child, but her special position is threatened when her dad brings home a surprise.
Katherine Battersby’s expressive line drawings perfectly illustrate Brave Squish Rabbit, a sweet story of a bunny overcoming his fears.