GeekMom http://geekmom.com Smart. Savvy. Social. Wed, 22 Oct 2014 00:59:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 U.K. Youth Can Learn Computer Skills With The Doctor http://geekmom.com/2014/10/doctor-and-the-dalek-game/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/doctor-and-the-dalek-game/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:15:18 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154651 CBBC announces digital literacy-focused Doctor Who game.

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Image Copyright BBC

The Doctor and his most persistent foes have teamed up for a new online adventure—teaching young people in the United Kingdom computer skills.

The BBC children’s site CBBC, aka “CBeebies,” has created The Doctor and The Dalek. This free goal-driven web game for ages 6-12 helps The Doctor free a Dalek from a Cyberman vessel. The game, which follows the latest computing curriculum in England, will challenge youth to learn beginning skills such as repetition and loops, programming and coding, and logical reasoning. The game debuted this month as part of the BBC’s Make it Digital digital literacy project that offers similar games from other popular BBC children’s shows.

Adding to the game’s appeal is the voice of the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, and a story by writer Phil Ford, who has penned episodes of Doctor Who (including this season’s “Into The Dalek”), Torchwood, and The Sarah 1024px-CBBCNEWLOGO2010Jane Adventures.

Unfortunately for American web users, this game is currently only available via the web-based CBBC site accessible exclusively to internet users in the United Kingdom. For now, American Doctor Who fans can find the occasional educational or just-for-fun Doctor-related apps from Doctor Who Adventures magazine, geared towards school-aged children.

There’s no information yet on whether this latest game will make its way “across the pond” for American audiences, but the BBC has announced there are tentative plans to make this game usable on computer tablets in 2015. Who knows? Maybe the upgrade will be available to the benefit of young Whovians in the United States as well.

Only time worthy of a Time Lord will tell.

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Chatting with Jen Wang, In Real Life http://geekmom.com/2014/10/chatting-with-jen-wang/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/chatting-with-jen-wang/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:00:49 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154484 GeekMom Melanie had the opportunity to chat with artist Jen Wang about her work on the new graphic novel, IRL (In Real Life).

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Image: Jen Wang, First Second Books

Last week I interviewed Cory Doctorow about the new graphic novel IRL (In Real Life). This week, I’m catching up with his artist co-creator, Jen Wang, to see what she had to say about this project. Please help me welcome her to GeekMom!

GeekMom: So Cory Doctorow said you did all the heavy lifting on this project. Would you say that’s true?

IRLcover

Image: First Second Books

Jen Wang: The way this project worked was I was given free rein to adapt the script however I wanted so as to offer my own vision to the story. After that Cory would go over and offer ideas of his own and help guide the script into something that matched us both. We went back and forth like this for a couple drafts before settling with what we have. So yes, I made most of the changes in the story from the original to the graphic novel version, but it was a melding of both our sensibilities. And of course I did all artwork!

GM: Could you tell us a little about the artwork in IRL? What inspired the images in your mind? Was there something you felt was important to capture in the images?

JW: The most obvious decision in the design was the contrasting color palettes between the real world and the online world of Coarsegold. This is all from Anda’s perspective so it makes sense that her real life is uninteresting and the online world is colorful and exciting. I ended up using a “brown” filter over the real life images to reflect a serious (but not depressing) reality, while I used a multicolored filter to heighten the colors in Coarsegold. Other than that, I was given free rein to illustrate the book however I liked so I just had fun making up a coloring landscape that I felt would be appealing to someone like Anda.

GM: What is the process like, making a graphic novel, and perhaps, working on IRL in particular?

JW: I start with a script, which in IRL’s case involved both Cory and I. My scripts are roughly four pages of comic to one page of script so from there I have a rough idea how long the book is going to be. From there I do really rough thumbnails one chapter at a time. I like the thumbnails to be as rough as possible, enough to give me an idea of where to go, but leaving it open to experiment during the actual drawing process. The next phase is the pencil drawing, and after that the inking, scanning, and coloring.

GM: I lived in Flagstaff for a few years, and I noticed the couple frames where you have some background imagery, like the outside of the school, for instance and the landscape behind it, are just spot on. They really capture just the right things about the atmosphere of Flagstaff. Have you ever been there? Or were you able to catch that just from pictures and ideas?

JW: I have been there! I was actually on a trip to the Grand Canyon when I first stayed in Flagstaff. I thought it was the perfect place for Anda to live. It’s so beautiful and peaceful, and you’re next to one of the great natural wonders of the world. And yet I could see how all this would be lost on a teenager. The town is small and there’s not a whole lot to do. Someone like Anda would easily be compelled to spend a lot of time online in a fantasy world.

GM: I loved the expressions on the characters faces throughout the book. I think you’ve captured so much of the dynamic teen personality in this book. How do you think you managed to do that?

JW: Expressions are a thing I love to draw, so it’s fun for me to indulge in. It’s like a form of acting except it comes out through a drawing instead of your body. I don’t like being the center of attention so I feel like having the emotions one step removed and projected onto a character is one way I can conjure these feelings vicariously without having the focus be on me. Who knows, maybe in alternate universe I would be an actor!

GM: This is your second book. Has anything changed for you in the way you approached the work between your first and second books?

JW: I definitely started writing full scripts after my first book Koko Be Good. With Koko, I scripted a chapter and drew it chronologically one at a time. Meaning I didn’t get to the ending until I got to the ending. I used to be more into stream of conscious writing and allowing myself to feel the surprises as they come. Now I much prefer being able to edit and improve on things and look at the piece as a whole.

GM: What was your favorite part about working on IRL?

JW: Finishing it! But no, kidding aside, the writing process for this project was hard but it taught me a lot. I’d never worked with another writer before and I’d never rewritten so much before, but I’m a much more confident writer now than I was at the beginning of it.

GM: We know that Cory Doctorow is a very active… well, activist. Would you classify yourself as such? What things are important to you?

JW: I wouldn’t say I’m as active as Cory, but I definitely feel very strongly about issues particularly with women, queer identity, and race. Sometimes I feel a little unsure how to approach activism because I know there’s an inherent privilege to being able to do that. It’s presumptuous to be in a position of education and outreach and tell people how to think even if I believe it is right. On the other hand, I’m in the unique position of writing literature for young adults and I definitely care a lot about what I represent as a creator and as a person. I hope at the very least as a woman and person of color my voice adds something of value to the young adult and comics readership.

GM: How do you think gaming can affect a teen’s life?

JW: Games are very time consuming and immersive. It can affect a lot! I don’t say that in an alarmist way because a lot of good things can come out of it too like friendships built, identities born, and creativities sparked. Like I think it’s so great kids are playing Minecraft and building their own worlds. On the other hand I wish there was more diversity in games and more variety in the types of games being made. That’s changing every day though as game-making becomes more accessible and I feel very optimistic.

GM: Do you game? If so, what do you play?

JW: Not a whole lot. I have a bunch of games on my phone and once a while I’ll play something off Steam everyone’s been recommending. Games are like comics in that the mainstream hasn’t appealed much to my demographic, but as the making and self-publishing becomes more accessible to creators I’m seeing more and more stuff that appeals to me. Gone Home, Analogue: A Hate Story, and Dear Esther are fantastic story-based indie games. I also like a lot of text-based games likes the ones made for Twine like Howling Dogs and Horse Master.

GM: Do you have any advice for a younger person trying to break into art or gaming?

JW: I can’t speak for gaming, but for art I’d say the best thing to do is just start drawing. Start drawing and have a lot of fun. It can be intimidating comparing yourself to others and what being an artist means for your future, but the best way to be an artist is to really love what you’re doing. Have fun and meet other artists online and at conventions. They will motivate, inspire you, and make you feel less alone as you toil away at your drawing desk.

GM:  Any thoughts for younger people who might be interested in helping others like Anda does?

JW: Get to know all different types of people! Listen to their stories and let their experiences inform you how to help them. Maybe some people don’t want your help, but they appreciate your support. Also, if you don’t see enough outlets for an issue you care about, feel free to make your own. Start a blog or a project that helps raise awareness like the Ice Bucket Challenge. Not only can it be fun, but it might inspire new people to your cause.

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Jen Wang! And for the rest of you, please check out IRL, available now wherever books are sold!

jen wang

Image: Jen Wang

Jen Wang is a cartoonist and illustrator currently living in Los Angeles. Her works have appeared in the Adventure Time comics and LA Magazine. She recently illustrated Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache. Her graphic novel Koko Be Good was published by First Second. In Real Life is her second book. 

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A Chewbacca Paper Portrait for Pint-Sized Padawans http://geekmom.com/2014/10/chewbacca-paper-portrait/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/chewbacca-paper-portrait/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:30:34 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154603 Craft it up, fuzzball! This Star Wars paper craft is lots of fun for little ones.

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All images: Kelly Knox

All images: Kelly Knox

Thanks to Phineas and Ferb and Star Wars Rebels, my five-year-old daughter is finally embracing her own love of Star Wars. Together we came up with a paper portrait of Chewbacca that not only gives her fine motor skills and creativity a little workout, it’s also pretty dang cute.

You’ll need:

  • White cardstock
  • A sheet of white paper
  • A sheet of black paper
  • Two sheets of brown paper (different shades)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black marker

To begin, rip up the brown paper into small squares. Next, draw a stick figure with long arms and legs on the cardstock—Wookiees are tall and lanky, after all! This will serve as a guide for Chewbacca’s basic shape.

Next, spread the glue liberally around the arms, legs, and head to stick the shredded paper pieces and turn them into Chewie’s fur.

Chewbacca Paper Portrait

You can stick each ripped piece on individually to craft your Chewbacca, or try my daughter’s favorite method of grabbing a handful and sprinkling it on like confetti. Pat, shake the paper, and then fill in the missing spots with individual shredded pieces.

Once all the spots are filled in and pressed onto the cardstock, cut a small rectangle out of the black paper for Chewie’s bandolier.

Chewbacca Paper Portrait

Glue it on top of the brown pieces. Next, use the sheet or a scrap of white paper to cut out small rectangles to complete the details of the bandolier. Draw lines on each rectangle to finish the bandolier look.

Next, use the black marker to draw eyes, nose, and a mouth for Chewie’s face. You may want to wait for the glue to dry, but my five-year-old was too excited and drew the facial features as soon as the fur was complete. (She opted not to add a mouth for her design.) She also drew toes on Chewbacca’s feet, as they occasionally stick out in various images of him.

Chewbacca Paper Portrait

And your Wookiee is complete!

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SF Worldbuilding: Dinosaur Train http://geekmom.com/2014/10/worldbuilding-dinosaur-train/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/worldbuilding-dinosaur-train/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:56 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154578 Karen tries to fill in the worldbuilding background to make PBS's Dinosaur Train make science fictional sense.

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Dinosaur Train

Image: PBSKids.org

Like so many toddlers, our 3-year-old has completely imprinted on PBS’s series Dinosaur Train. As a scientist-colleague of mine pointed out: “It’s like crack for toddlers. It combines two of their favorite things, dinosaurs and trains.” As it made a refreshing change from another PBS show, Daniel Tiger, for the last few months Dinosaur Train has been our go-to entertainment while we need to cook or clean or look after the new infant. (So far our toddler’s TV entertainment universe has been: Mythbusters, Daniel Tiger, Dinosaur Train, and Lindsey Sterling music videos–go figure.)

So my husband and I have spent more hours than I care to count listening to (but not really watching) Dinosaur Train. And thus, as dyed-in-the-wool science fiction fans, our dinner conversation has been tending more and more to trying to fill in the world building gaps of this series–like you do.

It’s made clear that the troodons (the “smartest dinosaur” by brain weight to body mass, apparently) operate and maintain the train–the Conductor mentions that he knows how to repair the train if it breaks down, and they’re the ones having tea in the caboose. But who built it in the first place? And why? There doesn’t seem to be any comparable technological development near the train stations that Buddy and Tiny visit, so it seems unlikely to be a native innovation. Usually if there are train stations nearby you’d expect to have local telegraphs or other circa 19th century inventions. My husband and I have been coming to the conclusion that the Dinosaur Train troodons are actually Time Lords, and the Conductor may be an early incarnation of the Doctor. Sure, in the TV show Doctor Who the Doctor always appears human, but I have it on authority from Paul Cornell that the show has no official canon (since otherwise in forty years of being on air, it would violate its own canon more times than it could count) so it’s easy to imagine the Doctor manifesting as a dinosaur.

Then I start thinking about the stations. For one, Mrs. Pteranodon always buys train tickets, but what would the economy be in this situation? What would she use for payment? Maybe it’s more of a first-come, first-served free reservation system. Also, there are obviously a limited number of stations, and I imagine each one being a center of culture and technology in an otherwise natural landscape, like an ocean port on a desert island.

After all, all the dinosaurs that the kids visit speak the same language, even when they’re separated by millions of years (the train visits stops in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods, all part of the Mesozoic Era). So I suspect that the troodons or the train builders (if they’re not the same) have standardized the language in the areas in which the trains operate. I remember once being utterly annoyed by a C. J. Cherryh story where an individual goes back to his species’ home planet after 40,000 years of no contact, and there was no linguistic drift at all–all the characters could understand each other perfectly. Could you understand Old English easily, much less Neanderthal language? So obviously there’s some external standardization at work in the Dinosaur Train universe, where the characters are separated by tens of millions of years.

Of course the show never really tackles the implications of time travel. The Pteranodon family lives in the Cretaceous period, the later of those visited by the train. So theoretically, they could dig up the skeletons of folks like Morris Stegosaurus (late Jurassic) or Petey Peteinosaurus (Triassic). That’s got to be weird. And what does it mean to say “We’ve got to catch the train because we don’t want to be late for dinner” when it’s a time traveling train? Perhaps all the stations are part of some managed parallel time network such that they all advance through their local time at the same rate? We do know that you can visit the same stations and see the same individuals (as in multiple visits to Rexville for Buddy to learn about T. Rexes) repeatedly, so the stations definitely aren’t perfectly  fixed in time.

Now, so far we’ve only downloaded the first season of Dinosaur Train; we’re holding off on the later seasons for our next big trip. So maybe we learn more about the train’s infrastructure later. And of course, if this were any normal grown-up science fiction show then halfway through Season One there’d be an episode where the train broke down while in one of the Time Tunnels and the kids would have to help the Conductor repair the train (possibly with an added lesson about how everyone has different skills and we can all work together to solve problems). Then we’d get more technobabble that would fill in some of these world building gaps. But in the meantime, we parents can entertain ourselves with thoughts of a Doctor Who/Dinosaur Train crossover, and try not to think too hard about the colonialist implications of the troodon-run stations being potential “islands of civilization” in otherwise “backwater” or “close to nature” landscapes. And also not think to hard about what or who went into the carrion that Delores Tyrannosaurus and her daughter Annie were eating. After all, as Morris Stegosaurus points out: “The plates do seem to scare the big meat eaters away… Most of the time.”

Don’t get me wrong–we love Dinosaur Train, and really appreciate the way the show’s concept allows the writers to have the dinosaurs interact while still pointing out that they didn’t all coexist in the same time period. We love the way they have the kids form hypotheses, and our son has been pointing out different animals that are carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores. So all our science fictional speculation is all in fun–just what our SF brains turn to during the 3rd or 4th dozen time we hear each episode.

So what kids shows do you fantasize about making fully science fictional? Next up: the implications of benign feudalism in Daniel Tiger… (or maybe not).

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Review: Pee-wee’s Playhouse Seasons 1-5 on Blu-Ray http://geekmom.com/2014/10/pee-wees-playhouse-complete-blu-ray/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/pee-wees-playhouse-complete-blu-ray/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:53 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154630 Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray will be released on October 21st and features all 45 episodes of the cult classic children's television series.

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Image: Shout Factory.

Mecka-lecka hi…Mecka-hiney ho!

This week Pee-wee Herman fans in Canada and the U.S. will be greeted with Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray and DVD. Our family had a chance to preview the Blu-Ray discs of all five seasons, consisting of 45 episodes. My husband and I enjoyed a trip down memory lane back to the days of traditional (and recently defunct) Saturday morning cartoons, and our 9-and-11-year-old sons couldn’t stop laughing at the silliness.

For those unfamiliar, Paul Reubens got his start in the early 1980s as a stand-up comic in Los Angeles, inventing the Pee-wee Herman character as part of a routine that ended up generating an incredible following. In fact, throughout the mid-1980s Reubens didn’t appear in public other than as Pee-wee. Many fans didn’t even know his real name throughout the 1980s…which in the pre-internet age wasn’t that difficult to conjure. The sellout stand-up shows featuring Pee-wee introduced friends such as Cowboy Curtis and Miss Yvonne. In 1985, a very young Tim Burton worked with Pee-wee on the full-length feature film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, now a cult classic for Generation X’ers everywhere, including my husband and me.

After the movie’s success, Pee-wee’s Playhouse was developed for CBS’s Saturday morning television lineup, featuring Pee-wee having a fun, silly, time in his house exploring the world around him. His friends Chairy (a chair), Magic Screen, and Pterri (a young pteradactyl) were joined by visitors such as Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), and Reba the Mail Lady (S. Epatha Merckerson in her first television role). Phil Hartman also makes numerous appearances as Captain Carl in one of his earliest television roles. You can also hear Cyndi Lauper singing the Betty Boop-styled opening theme song.

Even though viewers experience chaos and silliness in each episode, know that in each one there’s an underlying message: be kind, and others will be kind in return. Randy, a puppet character, will often do or say something mean, and this will turn into a lesson for viewers.

In addition to the 45 episodes of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, viewers will enjoy the interviews and featurettes that provide an additional four hours of viewing. Unfortunately, there is nothing that explicitly spells out where the featurettes are located among the discs. There’s a table of contents inside each of the two clamshells that outlines each episode title, with a header about there being bonus features “near” the contents of the 3rd disc in each set. But know that they’re on each set’s 4th disc. It’s very sweet hearing the cast and crew talk about some of the clever things Paul Reuben did for his colleagues, such as the “yearbooks” he had made to commemorate the end of each season’s filming. Also, the writers and artists regale throughout the interviews about the creative license they had in set design, skit design, and writing. Hear Mark Mothersbaugh and Danny Elfman talk about the music, and hear about Stephen Johnson and the artists of Aardman Animation discuss the skit sequencing. The bonuses are definitely more interesting to the adults than to the kids, with the following topics to enjoy:

Building the Playhouse
Opening the Playhouse
Writing for the Playhouse
The Look of the Playhouse
Music of the Playhouse
The Cast of the Playhouse
Puppets of the Playhouse
Animating the Playhouse
A Very Merry Christmas Special
Fans and Memorabilia of the Playhouse

Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series is timeless and will capture kids’ attention and enthusiasm even nearly 30 years later. The Blu-Ray box set will be available everywhere starting October 21, 2014, will retail for $149.99, and can be pre-ordered through Amazon for $96.99.

GeekMom received this product for review purposes.

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8 Delicious Gingerbread-themed Recipes (Take That, PSL!) http://geekmom.com/2014/10/gingerbread-themed-recipes/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/gingerbread-themed-recipes/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:00:54 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154615 Tired of the pumpkin spice craze? Get out of that funk with these gingerbread-flavored delights.

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Gingerbred babycakes with cinnamon caramel photo by Dennis Wilkinson. Read how he made them.

Earlier this month, the GeekMoms sounded off on their feelings about the most divisive topic of the season: pumpkin spice all-the-things. I noted that for me, it just means that the much smaller slice of the world that turns to gingerbread a month later is near.

One of the things I love about gingerbread (other than it simply being delicious) is how much you can adjust it to suit your mood. More sugar for sweeter or add cracked pepper for spiciness. Dial up the ginger or the cinnamon to suit. Change cinnamons! (Side note: If your cinnamon has been in the cabinet longer than six months, it’s time to buy fresh. You’ll be amazed at the difference.) As the time when I can get gingerbread lattes draws near, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gingerbread-themed recipes:

Gingerbread Doughnut Muffins. I’m eating these as I write this. Not super sweet or spicy, just a good kickoff to Gingerbreadmania.

Gingerbread Spiced Marshmallows. I’m a huge fan of Joy the Baker. Her writing is delightful, and her recipes have never steered me wrong once. She also has two books you should check out (here and here).

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Image credit: Joy the Baker Gingerbread Spiced Marshmallows

Guinness Gingerbread. My beer tastes tend towards stouts and porters, so how better to improve on gingerbread than with Guinness? Alas, the gingerbread-themed items I can’t recommend are the gingerbread-flavored beers. I haven’t found one yet that wasn’t just awful.

gingecups

Image credit: Katiecakes Guinness Gingerbread

Gingerbread Waffles. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to do this until a local restaurant served them as a seasonal special with cream and lemon curd. You can do it with pancakes, too.

Monkey (Ginger)Bread. Like monkey bread. But better.

Food52

Image credit: Food52 Monkey (Ginger)Bread

Gingerbread Scones. For some reason, I tend to forget how much I like scones until I go to a scone-eating country for a few days, and then I’m obsessed all over again. Making them gingerbread is just a double win.

Gingerbread Scones Recipe

Image credit: JoyofBaking.com Gingerbread Scones

Lebkuchen is the German version of gingerbread. If you’ve ever been through Bavaria, you’ve no doubt seen Lebkuchen’s cookie form, usually in the shape of hearts with messages on them. (I’d love to see your pics of some geeked-up Lebkuchen cookies!)

Finally, after all that baking, what better than a gingerbread martini? Enjoy the season!

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Gotta Draw ‘Em All! Hands On With Pokémon Art Academy http://geekmom.com/2014/10/pokemon-art-academy/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/pokemon-art-academy/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 10:30:31 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154545 If you have a Pokémon fan in the house, picking up this game is a no-brainer.

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© Nintendo

All images © Nintendo

Aspiring artists of all ages will love getting their hands on Pokémon Art Academy, out on October 24 for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS. If you have a Pokémon fan in the house, picking up this game is a no-brainer. Pokémon Art Academy walks players through step-by-step lessons, from novice to expert, to teach them how to draw some of their favorite pocket monsters.

The lessons, led by Professor Andy, introduce new drawing tools and art concepts for each level of expertise. You’ll learn about concepts like symmetry, perspective, and construction shapes, all while using the stylus to trace (and eventually draw freehand) some of Pokémon’s biggest stars.

Kids as young as preschool and kindergarten can even grab the stylus and play. You’ll need to do a lot of reading out loud to walk them through the lessons, but that can make for some entertaining family game time together. It’s also a perfect opportunity to work on fine motor skills like tracing and holding the stylus the correct way. (We are still working on that in my house.) While they will probably only be able to complete the Novice Course exercises, there are plenty of Pokémon for them to draw in the extra lessons and free draw.

Art by my five-year-old.

Art by my five-year-old.

My five-year-old is a big fan of the game. In fact, she wanted to tell you all about Pokémon Art Academy herself! Here she is demonstrating one of the novice lessons: drawing Oshawott.

Pokémon Art Academy is part game, part art lesson, and an altogether fun way to spend a fall afternoon. I even go through a lesson now and then when I’m looking for some quiet time for myself. It’s a great addition to your DS library, one of those rare games that you can pick it up for five minutes and still feel like you’ve accomplished something.

Pokémon Art Academy is available on October 24 for a suggested retail price of $29.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

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Wolfblood is Supernatural for The Whole Family http://geekmom.com/2014/10/wolfblood-supernatural-whole-family/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/wolfblood-supernatural-whole-family/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:00:45 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154548 You may not have heard of it yet, but Wolfblood is the hottest thing on British TV for tweens.

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Wolfblood © Titan

Wolfblood © Titan

You may not have heard of it yet, but Wolfblood is the hottest thing on British TV for tweens and also for their parents.

With the show now in its third season, and popular enough to spawn an official glossy magazine that launches this week, I wanted to take a closer look.

At its heart Wolfblood follows the stories of Maddy and Rhydian, two teenage “wolfbloods” who can turn into wolves at will. The show initially followed their attempts to balance regular human lives with their secret identities. Maddy comes from a family of wolfbloods and was aware of her identity before she began transforming, while Rhydian grew up in foster care and was therefore unaware of his heritage. Later series examined the bonds between the human friendly “tame” packs like Maddy’s family, wild packs like Rhydian’s biological family, and lone wolves, along with uncovering a conspiracy and more.

There are naturally parallels to be drawn between Wolfblood and other supernatural series aimed at young teens—most obviously Twilight. The wolfbloods can transform at will making them closer to Twilight’s shapeshifting wolves than to true werewolves, and the different groups reminded me of the various vampires in that saga: the human-friendly Cullens, those who consider humans no more than food like the Volturi, and lone ranging individuals like Alistair.

Plus, like the Twilight Saga, Wolfblood appears to have found an audience further afield than just the tweens it is aimed at. The show airs on CBBC, a BBC channel aimed specifically at children aged 6 to 12, and both of my nieces (conveniently aged six and 12 themselves) are deeply into it, but then again, so is their mother which is something of a rarity for the channel. In fact when I asked them if they would like to look at the new magazine for me I’m not sure who was more excited!

Wolfblood Cover © Titan

Wolfblood Cover © Titan

Totally Wolfblood Magazine includes news about the show, behind the scenes information, quizzes, puzzles, and posters. I asked my eldest niece to give me her thoughts on it. She absolutely loved the magazine overall, most of all the behind the scenes features, but she also raised a few negative points. It unfortunately introduced her to spoilers for the first time thanks to its “sneak peak” section which included pictures from the show’s third season which is currently on air. The season doesn’t conclude until the end of the month but the pictures gave away some upcoming plot points.

She was also unimpressed that the posters were backed with parts of the magazine she would rather not remove and asked why they couldn’t have been printed on the inside of the cover & back page so they could be hung up without removing important sections. The six year old was particularly taken with the free stationery set, but their mother was somewhat unhappy with the number of adverts. Four full pages were completely taken over by them, that’s over 10% of the entire magazine.

When I asked if they would continue reading future issues, both girls said that they would like to but their mother, even as a fan herself, doubted that she would be willing to pay £3.99.

Wolfblood continues to grow steadily more popular, it is now the most watched children’s show in Britain, and the addition of an official magazine helps to build its fandom.

In the USA the show airs on the Disney Channel and is now available on both Netflix and iTunes. If you’re looking for something supernatural for the whole family this Halloween then definitely give it a try. If you already have a Wolfblood addict in your home then they will love the new magazine.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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Tsuro of the Seas: More Strategy for Experienced Players http://geekmom.com/2014/10/tsuro-of-the-seas/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/tsuro-of-the-seas/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 11:00:27 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154473 We look at the Tsuro sequel Tsuro of the Seas and the Veterans expansion that build on the original premise while adding in extra complications that more experienced gamers will appreciate.

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Tsuro of The Seas © Sophie Brown

Tsuro of the Seas © Sophie Brown

Over summer we looked at the beautifully simple family board game Tsuro. The game is great to play with anyone, even non-gamers, but may be overly simple for more experienced gamers.

Today, we look at the sequel Tsuro of the Seas and the Veterans of the Seas expansion that build on the original premise while adding in extra complications that more experienced gamers will appreciate.

In the original Tsuro each player is a dragon and forges a path around the board by playing tiles from their hand. The goal is simple: Stay on the board. The last player to remain on the board having not forced themselves off the edge, or flown into an opponent, wins. In Tsuro of the Seas, you play a ship traveling around the ocean. The basic premise remains the same, to stay on the board as long as possible without crashing or falling off the edge, but beware: Here be dragons.

Tsuro of the Seas Board © Sophie Brown

Tsuro of the Seas Board © Sophie Brown

Between four and six sea dragons (or daikaiju as they are known in the game) move randomly around the board. Bump into one and you’re out. The daikaiju move first during every turn. Players roll two dice to determine if and how this happens: A roll totaling six, seven, or eight means that they are on the move. Each daikaiju tile includes five arrows, one for each direction of movement and a fifth for rotation on the spot. If a six is shown, then the tile remains stationary.

Just like the players, the daikaiju may also fall off the board or die by crashing into one another, however there must always be at least three on the board.

If movement results in the number dropping below three then a new tile is spawned. Once the daikaiju have finished moving, play continues just as in original Tsuro until the next player’s turn.

The inclusion of the daikaiju really changes the game. In the original Tsuro, players are only concerned with each other’s movements and often spend the game trying to stay as far away from one another as possible. The daikaiju move randomly, so their movements cannot be predicted. They also destroy the paths left behind by players making the board itself more open to evolution whilst simultaneously removing the ability to plan too far ahead. We found that the amount of concentration it took to play was more than doubled in this sequel—it is definitely a version for more experienced players.

Veterans of The Seas © Sophie Brown

Veterans of the Seas © Sophie Brown

The game also offers a small expansion pack called Veterans of the Seas. The pack adds in some additional tiles including the Mystic Portal, Tsunami, Uzushio (whirlpool), and Taihous (canons). Most of these tiles work against the players by adding in additional difficulties the ships may encounter, but the taihou tiles can be used to defend against daijaiku at any time during the game. These few tiles make a great addition for very little cost, however we did find the instructions for the Mystic Portal somewhat unclear.

As the holiday season approaches we are once again starting to think about which games to take with us to various family gatherings. By taking Tsuro and Tsuro of the Seas, we will be able to cater to every level of experience from small children through to regular gamers looking for a challenge. With the addition of the sequel, Tsuro is now truly for everyone.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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Extract Fruit DNA at Home http://geekmom.com/2014/10/extract-fruit-dna-home/ http://geekmom.com/2014/10/extract-fruit-dna-home/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:30:30 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=154550 Learn how to extract fruit DNA at home!

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When my daughter and I went to GeekGirlCon earlier this month, there was a science area. My daughter’s favorite experiment in the science area was extracting DNA from fruit. She enjoyed the experiment so much she decided to replicate the experiment for her homework.

If you would like to try the experiment at home, follow my daughter’s video above. What fruits will you try?

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