In our house, we limit screen time, maybe an hour a day. For the first two years, we capped TV watching at an hour a week.
We also tend away from the licensed products.
You know the ones I am talking about, the Elsa socks, Batman toothbrushes, or Elmo dolls. So imagine my husband’s surprise when I announced we were giving our two-year-old nephew Spider-Man for Christmas.
It’s that time of year, folks. Halloween is over, and we’ve begun our holiday shopping. Or perhaps we have just begun our wish lists. In any case, first up for GeekMom’s gift guides this year is Books! Books are wonderful gifts for all ages, and there’s bound to be something here for someone on your gift list.
I didn’t read to my daughter when she was in the womb, but it wasn’t long after she was born that I started reading to her.
Some of the first books she heard were The Catcher in the Rye, and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, because they’re some of my favorites. Plus, it’s never too early to know about phonies, and the fact that sometimes the smallest, strangest person can make the biggest difference in your life.
The girl is six now, and reading is still a major pastime of ours. Through the years we’ve been able to introduce a few classics—Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz—and while it’s hard to wait on some of our favorites, we know it’s important to.
She’s afraid of people in masks, for instance, so the Star Wars movies are flat out. I’m ready to read her Harry Potter but I don’t want to ruin it for her if she thinks it’s scary.
October 13, as it turned out, was The International Day For Failure. There are a lot of commemorative days that do not make good family storytime topics, and at first glance “International Day For Failure” seemed like a pass. It sounded like a cynical joke, a day to fail. By the bemused looks on the faces of everyone who saw the week’s topic when I scheduled it, this is a common reaction.
This month the GeekMoms have been enjoying spooky tales of peculiar children, talented alchemists, mysterious desert towns, and deep, dark, fears.
These include the latest in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children‘s novels, a novelization of the Welcome to NightVale podcast world, the latest from Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess, and the definitive origin of Black Widow.
My son will pretty much do anything to get his hands on my iPad. He has plenty of his own devices, but that doesn’t keep him from ogling my iPad’s big, beautiful screen and whatever apps I’m checking out. I don’t mind forking it over if he’s using it wisely. Like I said, he has plenty of other portables for comics, books, and games. However, Storied Myth is a good reason to give up my precious portable. This is an iOS exclusive that combines reading with hands-on activities.
It’s back-to-school month and the GeekMoms have been working hard on their very own reading lists. From Bill Murray to origami, To Kill a Mockingbird to Shakespearean Star Wars, check out what we have been reading this month.
It’s still relatively warm where I live, but September means the coming of cooler weather for most of the country, and sometimes even snow, but often additional rain. For those weekend afternoons when your kids come to you, yet again, saying, “Mom, I’m bored,” here are a few new suggestions to give their play some direction. Continue reading 4 New Books and Activities For Indoor Fun
GeekMom: Hi Ben! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for GeekMom about your new book, Little Robot. I really enjoyed it.
Ben Hatke: You are welcome! And I’m glad you enjoyed it.
GM: Did you always plan for this to be a (mostly) visual story? What were the challenges and most fun aspects?
Ben: The original Little Robot webcomics were newspaper comic strip format and they were also largely silent, save for a few robot noises. So, coming into the project, I already had a sort of history just using the robot’s gestures and “acting” to tell a story. I continued that going into the graphic novel and gave the robot a little co-star that operated in a similar way—gesture over dialogue.
It was challenging to decide just how little text I could get away with, but for the most part I find purely visual storytelling a lot of fun. I used one of my daughters as a reference for a couple poses.
GM: The “hand” becoming a friend was a great part in the book. How did you come up with that idea?
Ben: I think that’s one of the things that came from the part of the process where I doodle in my sketchbook. In the early parts of a project like this I tend to be working on the plot in text and the design in a sketchbook at the same time, and each of those elements informs the other.
Of course I’m definitely not the first person to use a “helping hand” type of character. I was watching a clip from The Iron Giant recently, which I hadn’t seen in many years, and was a little dismayed to find that there’s a very similar robot hand scene in that movie! Continue reading Creating ‘Little Robot’: Ben Hatke Interview
Well, here are three to check out with dinosaurs! pirates! robots!
First up is Carter Goodrich’s We Forgot Brock! It’s a tale about all kinds of friendship. Brock is the coolest pirate/rocker/hero young Philip could imagine. But when Brock is forgotten at the fair, another child invites him home. Will Brock ever find Phillip again…does he want to? The artwork is key to the book’s charm. The “real” world is colorful, round, and soft. The “imaginary” friends are black and white and flat, but with expression and sincerity. Although I was at first disappointed in the gender-stereotypical depictions of what boys and girls would imagine, it was hard to keep a chip on my shoulder as I read the story aloud to my nieces. We really, really enjoyed it. (And they thought Princess Sparkle Dust was as cool as Brock.) Highly recommend for all ages.
Next is Mark Pett’s Lizard from the Park. If you have ever visited the NYC’s Museum of Natural History, and then walked in Central Park, it’s easy to see where Pett got his inspiration. Those dinosaur bones are so huge! And where would these giants fit in our world? That’s the problem Leonard, a young boy in the city, has when he hatches a lizard egg that may not be just your average lizard. As the mother to a young girl who was obsessed with dinosaurs, this is a sweet book I recommend for all ages.
Finally, Little Robot is Ben Hatke’s new book. This is perfect for youngsters looking for the next level up in storytelling from picture books. Without the need for many words (there is some dialogue) Hatke puts the emotion and layering of story in his artwork. The protagonist is a curly-haired, barefoot girl who finds an abandoned tool set, and box-o-robot in the local junkyard. She activates the robot and they quickly become friends. Yet, they are so very different! Can they stay friends? What is the meaning of true friendship when robot is in danger?
I have an upcoming interview with Ben Hatke about Little Robot, so stayed tuned for that. In the meantime, I recommend this book for ages 6 and up.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Summer is waning. Even here in North Carolina, where the hot season tends to linger a little longer than I’d like, we’ve had hints of autumn. My daughter just started preschool, and my son is back to school next week. But they had some great times this summer—we traveled, we relaxed (well, at least they did), and we immersed ourselves in some great books.
Prizes include a family trip to New York City, a Scholastic Study Corner Makeover, a tablet with Scholastic apps, a library of Scholastic books and more! Everyone who plays can also download free digital stories for their family.
Refrain from Brain Drain
The summer is almost over, but thankfully the Power Up and Read Summer Reading Challenge has you covered. Scholastic’s Maggie McGuire has 5 easy tips for making reading a priority for your child, like setting a weekly minutes goal, reserving special time to read together as a family, and celebrating reading accomplishments. It’s not too late to get your kids reading.
More Reading Resources
Scholastic has joined together with ENERGIZER® to power the 2015 Summer Reading Challenge and encourage families to find innovative ways to discover the power and joy of reading. It’s not too late to take part! Now through September 4th, visit Scholastic.com/Summer. Click the links below for a sampling of the fun resources you’ll find with Scholastic:
It’s time to head back to school and in this year’s planning guide, we have a little bit of style, a little bit of gadgets, and a lot of coolness. So let’s get started!
Electronic Accessories Witti Dotti ($69.99) This app-controlled pixel light will keep you posted on all of your notifications, with the added bonus of being able to customize the lights to suit your style.
Keyboard Shortcut Skins($30) Keyboard Shortcut Skins by Photojojo are one of my go-to accessories for my MacBook Pro. I have the one for Final Cut Pro and it’s a huge help when trying to learn the program. Shortcut Skins are also available for Photoshop (CS4/CS5/CS6), Aperture (2.0/3.0), Final Cut Pro/Express, or Lightroom (2/3/4/5). The available keyboard models include the MacBook with black or white keys, Macbook Air 13″, Apple Ultra-Thin Keyboard w/o Numeric Keypad, and the Apple Ultra-Thin Keyboard w/Numeric Keypad. Use coupon code: GEEKMOM for $5 off!
Scosche’s freeKEY ($49.99) For the student on the go, check out this roll-up bBuetooth keyboard.
Ultimate Screen Care Kit by Dust Off ($24.99)
Electronic users should have one of these in every bag they carry. It comes with a bottle of screen cleaner, a cleaning shammy, and a mobile cleaning pad.
Power USB Tap by Thumbs Up UK ($19.71)
The Power Tap is a fun and unique way to “turn on” power to your device for charging. The blue/red light tells you if the device is charging or not and offers a great little nightlight to any room.
I’m not a fan of highlights in my textbooks because I usually end up typing my notes anyway. With the Scanmarker, I can just scan my notes in directly from my textbook without marking them up (makes for better resale value as well). The Scanmarker lets you capture text and then edit it on your computer.
Gunnar Optiks Gaming/Computer Glasses($50-150 depending on whether you need a prescription)
These glasses ease eye strain for anyone who spends a lot of time looking at screens (computer or gaming). They really work. It’s not magic; it’s a combination of anti-glare coating and amber tinting.
Nyrius Aries Prime ($199.99) Apple users have been able to stream their PC to a TV with the help of Apple TV and now Windows users can do the same thing with Nyrius Aries Prime. I use this at home when previewing my slideshows for class and I love it. My son loves it too because he likes to stream his Minecraft games to our TV.
Inateck MacBook Sleeve ($16.99)
A soft, felted sleeve for your MacBook. This gender neutral case allows you to transport your laptop in your backpack or purse in style.
Lumo Lift Posture and Activity Tracker($79.99)
Posture is something everyone needs work on here and there. The Lumo Lift will tell you when you are slouching and keep a record of how much time a day you spend in a good posture. It’s a nifty little device for those of us who spend our day sitting at a desk and are not always aware of how we are sitting until it’s too late.
Kinivo BTH220 ($20.99) I’ve had more than one pair of Kinivo headphones and for the price, they’re pretty good. These are over-the-ear headphones that work via Bluetooth, with buttons to play your music as well as make and receive phone calls.
Audiofly’s AF33 Headphones ($39.99) If wired headphones are more your thing, check out Audiofly’s AF33. They may be on the pricey side, but they offer noise isolation and are comfy to wear.
Scosche’s goBAT 6000 ($54.99) I love this little battery charger because it doesn’t require any cables. Just plug it into the wall when the battery dies and wait for the red light to go off. It’s also lightweight compared to other chargers and is small enough to fit into your back pocket.
Coffee Cup Power Inverter V2.0 ($34.99) When my husband first saw this, he thought it was a mug you can heat up in the car. He was kind of close. It’s a charger that looks like a coffee cup and can accommodate up to two wall chargers and one USB cable. The best part is that it fits in your cup holder so there’s no awkward worrying about where to put it while it’s plugged in.
Tablift ($59.99) My brother saw this and thought I would be lazy for using it. He obviously hasn’t tried to lay in bed while watching lectures and taking notes. Not to mention, it’s great for keeping your hands free while watching a movie, so you can eat your snacks. I set it up the other day to hold my iPad to help me follow directions on a sewing pattern. Tablift helped keep it off the floor and out of my pup’s mouth.
Stress Relievers and Fun
Recess for the Soul by Bernie DeKoven
Meditations on the mind’s “inner playground” are perfect for teachers to practice with kids of all ages. Parents too. Check out the recording Recess for the Soul by Bernie DeKoven to practice exercises for “inner swing set” and “teeter-taughter teachings.” It’s $20 for the CD, $9.99 for the iTunes album, or $0.99 per track.
Oregon Scientific Aroma Diffuser Elite ($99.99) Who doesn’t want to wake up to the smell of their favorite essential oil? Instead of waking you up with a noise you just hit the snooze on, this alarm clock wakes you up to the essential oil of your choice. If you are not allergic, I suggest starting the day off with peppermint. It’s my favorite.
Integrated Listening System’s Dreampad 26 with Optional Bluetooth Receiver ($209) Not everyone wants to fall asleep to white noise or music. Integrated Listening System’s Dreampad 26 has a built-in speaker that lets you plug in your device and listen to your heart’s content, while not disturbing those around you. If you want to keep your device charging while you sleep, pick up the optional Bluetooth receiver as well.
Scrabble Twist ($19.99) Scrabble Twist is my newest addiction. It’s small enough to fit into a purse and has multiplayer and solo game features. A single game lasts about a minute, so it offers a quick break from studying.
Bracketron: SmartCord Sling Bag ($24.99) The Braketron: SmartCord Sling Bag will protect your tablet/smartphone and other personal belongings from the weather and has a special holder to make sure your headphones are close by. Great for anyone who has minimal stuff to carry.
Zelda Eject Backpack ($54.99) My favorite part of this Zelda-themed backpack is not that it’s Zelda, but that the lunch box is on the outside and comes off. If you want to carry just the lunch box, unzip the edges and attach the shoulder strap. Otherwise, you have a cooler and a backpack in one.
Pelican Elite Luggage ($505)
For the students with expensive stuff in their luggage or who plan on taking it white water rafting, check out the Pelican Elite Luggage. I use mine for carrying my costumes to and from events so I don’t arrive with a broken Bat cowl.
Zoku Ice Cream Maker ($25.49) and Zoku Slush & Shake Maker ($17.95) The Zoku Ice Cream Maker and the Zoku Slush and Shake Maker are a must-have for the dorm room refrigerator. My family loves pouring soda into the slush maker and getting a frosty treat within minutes. And with Pinterest having truckloads of ice cream recipes, it’s hard to pick which one to make first.
AutoSeal Kangaroo Water Bottle with Pocket ($12.18) and Gizmo Sip Kids Water Bottles ($9.81)
Keep your student hydrated with the Kangaroo Water Bottle or the Gizmo. Both have a great seal on them and won’t spill when tossed in your backpack. (I toss mine in with my iPad all the time.) The Kangaroo comes in a variety of colors and holds 24 ounces. The Gizmo model comes in four different colors and holds 14 ounces of your child’s favorite drink. Both are dishwasher-safe. My suggestion is to keep only water in them if your only option is hand-washing.
Slim Snack ($13.95 for a four-pack)
Talk about your eco-friendly, multi-purpose product. Slim Snack is it. These leak-proof silicone tubes are perfect for packing fruit, granola, applesauce, veggies, or whatever. When school’s out for the summer, use them to make your own ice pops out of blended fruit or juices. Each one is easy to fill, even for kids, especially if you stand one up in drinking glass.
Library Card Tote Bag and Literary Scarf ($20 for the Tote and $48 for the Scarf)
Uncommon Goods, which specializes in high-quality items from independent makers, offers this pair of stylish accessories for teachers, librarians, or book lovers. The natural cotton tote is printed to look like a vintage library card, instantly noticeable by anyone who has every checked out a book from a library. The silk-screen cotton infinity scarf contains passages from a choice of three timeless classics: Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, or Wuthering Heights. Both products are sold on their own, with the tote made in Brooklyn and the scarf by Tori Tissell out of Portland, Oregon.
When it comes to back to school, you can never have enough gadgets. What items are in your students’ arsenal for the new school year? Let us know in the comments!
Disclaimer: GeekMom may have received samples of some of these items.
It’s time to head back to school and I’ve compiled a list of books I recommend you stock your shelves with for a profitable reading year.
Books For the Very Young
The Secret Garden: A Flowers Primer, and Don Quixote: A Spanish Language Primer ($9.99)
BabyLit, who specializes in introducing kids to classic literature with beginning reader board books, just introduced their latest pair to the series. Author Jennifer Adams and artist Alison Oliver celebrate “Little Miss Burnett” and “Little Master Cervantes” with The Secret Garden: A Flowers Primer and Don Quixote: A Spanish Language Primer.
The Flowers Primer shows young readers flowers featured in The Secret Garden, accompanied by a small quote. The Spanish Language Primer includes characters and items featured in Don Quixote, in both English and Spanish. This book works for both native Spanish and English speakers, with phonetic spellings on the back geared towards speakers of each language.
Both of these little gift books are a great way to get first-time students excited about reading and literature, as well as the natural world and different cultures. [Ages two and up.]
Books For Ages 8 and Up
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincibleby Ursula Vernon ($6.49) Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible is my favorite title on this list. It’s a graphic novel that follows Princess Harriet who learns that she cannot be harmed until her 13th birthday, thanks to a Sleeping Beauty-like curse she received as a baby. It’s a fun story about a young girl who wants the adventure and action usually reserved for the princes. Available August 18, 2015. [Ages 8 and up—though younger children will enjoy this title as well.]
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth graphic novel by Judd Winick($6.99)
A young boy falling from space has no idea where he came from or why going to school in his underwear is a bad idea. Sound like your kind of story? Then, this is the book for you. My son’s only complaint is that the sequel doesn’t come out until next year. It ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, so if you have young ones who can’t handle waiting till next year (and who can blame them?), I’d use this as an opportunity to have them write their own sequel. Available September 1, 2015. [Ages 8 and up, although younger readers may enjoy this being read to them.]
My Brother Is a Superhero by David Solomons ($10.61)
Two brothers are hanging out in their tree house, when the younger brother’s life is changed with the four little words: “I need to pee.” When he returns to the tree house, he finds that his older brother now has superpowers and he missed his chance all because “nature” was calling. It’s a fun story that my son loved so much, when I was too tired to read at night, he climbed into bed with me and read out-loud to me. [Ages 8 – 12.]
The Geography Collective
Get kids moving and investigating with unique, pocket-sized books by The Geography Collective. Each one is packed with activities that are made to be marked up and smeared as they’re used. Try Mission: Explore Food, with over 270 pages of strangely enticing ideas. Other titles include Mission: Explore on the Road and Mission: Explore Camping. Perfect for home or travel, and teachers can use these ideas too. Also know that more titles are available in the UK. [Ages 9-12.]
Medieval Lego by Greyson Beights ($11.06)
Take a journey through English history in the Middle Ages with Lego. Written with the help of medievalists and scholars, this title will keep your young knights and princesses interested in the medieval times. [Ages 8 and up.]
The Lego Adventure Book, Vol. 3 by Megan H. Rothrock ($18.46)
Follow the story of Megs and Brickbot as they face their toughest challenge: the return of the Destructor. On their journey, the two meet some of the world’s greatest Lego builders and show you how to build a Renaissance house, a classic movie theater, sushi, and much more. Available September 25, 2015. [Ages 9 and up.]
The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacyby Violet Blue ($13.76)
In the digital age, everyone needs to be more careful about what they do online. The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy takes young girls through the various ways they can protect themselves. It’s hard to believe how quickly a photo or video can spread, and this book covers what to do when you are a victim of a compromising photo online, how to fix reputation mishaps, how to act if your identity is stolen, and much more. A must-read for anyone.
Game Art by Matt Sainsbury ($28.03)
Video games are not just fun, they are a work of storytelling art. This book is ideal for art students, who will get a kick out of the art from 40 video games and interviews with their creators.
Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Sweigart ($22.86)
This title is perfect for anyone who has menial tasks they don’t want to spend hours doing. In this book, you can learn how to write simple programs that will help you rename files in bulk, search for text across multiple files, and add a logo to multiple files without opening each one. There’s also 18 chapters’ worth of fun programs to play with.
Doing Math with Pythonby Amit Saha($15.79)
I’m all for anything that makes high school math easier. Doing Math with Python helps students learn how to do math with the help of a little programming. It’s like learning two subjects at once. Available August 25, 2015.
Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Patel ($7.97) Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration is a hand-drawn, full-color journal by self-taught artist Meera Patel. Each left-side page offers an endearingly illustrated quote, while each right-side page asks the journal writer to answer a question in words, drawings, or both. This little book can fit easily into a backpack or dorm room, wherever it’s needed. You might want to include a package of colored pencils, because color.
This month the GeekMoms dove deeply into the Chris Carter-verse with books featuring both The X-Files and Millennium, fallen in love again with Star Wars through a new series of Little Golden Books, enjoyed home crafts, and finally found something to draw them away from a beloved series. Read on to find out more about what we’ve been reading this month.
She’s the best-selling science fiction and paranormal romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today “Happily Ever After” blog. However, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history, and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Three-time winner of the Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!
Thanks for inviting me to be your guest!
I love doing research and for my science fiction novels, I’m often doing a deep dive into odd things that I’m going to adapt for my future galactic civilization known as the Sectors.
The first topic I geeked out about for a specific book was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, because my first published SF novel was Wreck of the Nebula Dream, loosely inspired by the Titanic’s sinking. (I’ve always been fascinated by Titanic though.)
For that book, I researched anything and everything to do with the real-life tragedy, including the ship’s design, its passengers and crew, premonitions and superstitions connected to the event, the cargo… I enjoyed the creative exercise of applying that wealth of detail to a luxury cruiser roaming the star lanes. For my recent best-seller, Star Cruise: Marooned, I researched the world of the charter yacht, which is somewhat different in nature than a liner.
The second thing I’ve geeked out about for my SF world is Special Forces military operators.
My heroes are pretty much always in that line of work and my goal is to create men who could walk into any bar on Earth today where SEALs and Rangers gather, and be accepted as members of the brotherhood.
My late husband was a Marine, so I’m very supportive of the military in general, have had SEAL and Ranger authors as guests on my blog in the past… but as actual research, I’ve read numerous real-life accounts, asked a lot of questions, subscribe to a (public) Special Forces-oriented website to stay current, have been to at least one conference I’m not allowed to discuss….
I guess by now you can tell my definition of “geek out” isn’t about the hardware or the science, so much as it is about the world-building and the people.
I worked at JPL [NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory] for many years and totally geeked out over everything built and managed there, from Mars rovers to space telescopes, so it’s not that I’m not into those things! We’ll count that as the third thing for this column.
Nothing like looking at the actual flight hardware that’s going to be on another planet or watching a giant multi-legged robot cross the street in front of you. And yes, a lot of the engineers and scientists who work there could be characters on The Big Bang Theory. Maybe slightly exaggerated, but there’s a resemblance. Being in the room with those guys and gals is amazing. Some of the finest scientific and technical minds anywhere on Earth. I feel very privileged to have supported the efforts from my business-oriented vantage point as a contracts person.
The fourth thing I’ve geeked out about, which certainly influenced me as an author, would be comic books. As a kid, I had thousands squirreled away in my bedroom, mostly DC comics. I wasn’t into Marvel then, other than Thor. Two of my all-time favorites were Magnus Robot Fighter and Brothers of the Spear.
Interviewing John Scalzi, which I got to do for my USA Today “Happily Ever After SciFi Encounters” column. Talking to him was fascinating! His mind goes a mile a minute in a good way and as an interviewer, I absolutely felt motivated to try to ask him questions he hadn’t been asked before a million times. Discussing the processes of writing a novel, comparing notes with him, was like a Masters’ class for me. Really a rare and memorable experience!
Meg Antille works long hours on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon so she can send credits home to her family. Working hard to earn a promotion to a better post (and better pay), Meg has no time for romance.
Former Special Forces soldier Red Thomsill only took the berth on the Far Horizon in hopes of getting to know Meg better, but so far she’s kept him at a polite distance. A scheduled stopover on the idyllic beach of a nature preserve planet may be his last chance to impress the girl.
But when one of the passengers is attacked by a wild animal it becomes clear that conditions on the lushly forested Dantaralon aren’t as advertised—the ranger station is deserted, the defensive perimeter is down…and then the Far Horizon’s shuttle abruptly leaves without any of them.
Marooned on the dangerous outback world, romance is the least of their concerns, and yet Meg and Red cannot help being drawn to each other once they see how well they work together. But can they survive long enough to see their romance through? Or will the wild alien planet defeat them, ending their romance and their lives before anything can really begin?
This month in Between the Bookends, the GeekMoms have been reading about alien parasites, parenting skills, dark fantasy, climbing Everest, and the songs that tell the story of modern Britain. Check out what we’ve been reading after the jump.
Please help us welcome fantasy author J. Kathleen Cheney to GeekMom! Ms. Cheney is the author of The Golden City series from Roc Books. The Shores of Spain, book 3 in the series, has just been released today.
The Real Steampunk
I’ve always thought that if I had a chance to do my life all over again, my new day job would be as a civil engineer. It would be right up my alley. I have a nerdy fascination with sewer systems, underground building design, highways, rooftop gardening, and distribution/transport systems.
So when I worked on the first of the Golden City novels (aptly titled The Golden City), I fell in love with these:
Those two beauties are the Titans in Matosinhos, Portugal.
For those people who live in areas with harbors, they might even recognize what they are. Essentially, they’re cranes that specialize in building breakwaters. A breakwater is an enclosed area around a harbor or river’s mouth that makes for calmer waters where a ship comes in to dock. What the Titans do is carry 10-ton blocks from a building yard out to the end of the breakwater (via its own railway) and set the block into the water. Once enough stone is there to support the crane, the railway is extended, and the Titan goes back to get another block.
(Titans, by the way, are a classification of crane. It’s not the name of this particular set of cranes. So there are far younger Titans all around the world, in many industrial and nautical settings.)
I’ve included this picture so that you can get a bit of perspective on how big they are. The little “house” that’s sitting atop the crane’s boom arm is actually the housing for the steam engine. Beneath that, inside the boom arm, is the ballast that balances the heavy weights (up to 50 tons) that the Titan is made to carry. It’s an amazing piece of technology, particularly when you realize that these two were made during the Victorian age.
You want steampunk? These babies are real steampunk!
In my first novel, I managed to squeeze these guys in. There’s a scene where my hero, Duilio, ducks behind one of that behemoth’s rail wheels for cover during a gunfight. If you look at the little tiny people standing around on the temporary tracks, that will give you an idea how tiny he must have felt hiding under the Titan’s bulk. It’s huge, and in his place, I would have been terrified.
Now, at a ripe old age of 132 years, the Titans have seen better days. As they’re not being used for loading, they generally sit idle on the breakwaters. However, one did have an accident in 1892—it was swept into the ocean during a storm. The city managed (after a few years) to haul the thing back out of the water and set it back on its railway tracks. In early 2012, one of the Titans dropped some metal (metal fatigue), causing a rupture in a gas line and an industrial fire. After that, the city decided that instead of demolishing them, they would refurbish the two Titans to stave off another accident. That fall, when I traveled to Matosinhos, one of the Titans was, indeed, missing, having been taken away for that promised work.
There are many people arguing for the Titans to be named International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmarks. There are actually very few of these things left throughout the world. One that was built in 1907, in Clydebank, Scotland, was recently converted into a bungee jumping site. So I watch with fingers crossed and hope that they will last another 132 years, and that our descendants will look at them and marvel that we could have—with our limited technology—have managed to build such beauties.
J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, The Golden City was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). The sequel, The Seat of Magic, came out in 2014, and the final book in the series, The Shores of Spain, will come out July 2015.
Books about princesses and ballerinas are always fun reads, but it’s also great to find books starring heroines who also enjoy getting their hands dirty and figuring out how things work. Here are three charming and notable picture book picks featuring girls who love to tinker, fix, build, and make.
The classic fairy tale meets sci-fi in this lovely and welcome twist on the story of Cinderella. Cinderella doesn’t dream of living in a castle or meeting her prince, but of getting her own ship to fix and tinker with.
All of the familiar elements are there: the unpleasant stepmother and stepsisters, the prince, and the ball, and Underwood’s take on other parts of the tale are both clever and obviously well thought out. Cinderella’s mouse friend is a robot, she comes to the Prince’s rescue, and her response to his marriage proposal makes picking up this book worth it alone. And I’m not certain, but I like to think there’s an intentional nod to Doctor Who in there as well.
Rosie loves to build and tinker, but when one of her inventions goes haywire, can she find the courage to keep trying? Not only does Rosie Revere, Engineer include both colorful characters and a great jumping off point to talk about history, the story gives the rare message that it’s okay to fail. In fact, failure can be celebrated, as long as you keep trying.
This important theme and the wonderfully detailed illustrations of wacky gizmos make this a book that we revisit time and time again.
Violet is a mechanical genius who loves disassembling and reassembling things to see how they work. When she turns eight years old, her dreams turn to the sky. She works hard to make her own airplane, even as the other kids avoid her or tease her. Her parents support her, which I loved to see in the story, and she and her best friend Orville never give up in their work to reach the clouds.
Violet the Pilot has a vintage feel with soft illustrations, and can even begin conversations about life before selfies and social media.
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June.” – So wrote Dr. Seuss, and for those of us reaching the halfway stage of various reading challenges for the year, we may be wondering “how the time has flewn” quite so quickly this year. Let us know how you’re getting on whether you’re taking a GoodReads challenge of your own or the PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge along with countless others. The GeekMoms have been reading about Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Lecter, and many other less well-known characters this month so read ahead to see what pages they’ve been turning.
Thanks to a recent birthday and bookstore gift cards, Lisa was able to stock up on a couple of books from one of her favorite reading obsessions: alternative Sherlock Holmes stories.
For those wanting to dive into the many alternative mysteries about Sherlock Holmes not actually written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the best place to start is with books and stories that bear the seal of approval by the Conan Doyle Estate. This is a good indication that the author involved did their homework in keeping with the spirit of Doyle’s most famous creation. Lisa’s favorite read of the month,Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, (a follow-up to his first Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk), is one of those. This tale introduces the reader to Pinkerton Agency inspector Frederick Chase and Scotland Yard’s Athelney Jones trying to hunt down a sinister criminal with mind to take over as the kingpin of London’s criminal world not long after that fateful disappearance of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls.
Horowitz is known for his knack for mystery via his books for adults and young readers, as well as his creation for the World War II TV series Foyle’s War. This was evident with Moriarty, as it will keep Holmes and mystery fans up all night reading ’til the end, as well as pondering the outcome long after they finish the book.
The other Holmes-inspired novel she purchased is the collection of “Holmesian Tales Across Time and Space,” Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets, edited by David Thomas Moore. Moore, who had admitted to not being a huge fan of Holmes in his younger days, has since realized what a rebel the detective was after seeing the many new incarnations of the detective in movies and television. As a result, he complied fourteen tales from established and emerging science fiction and fantasy authors that take Holmes, Watson, and the usual supporting characters into scenarios that are anything but usual. The stories range from Wild West adventures to outer space adventures.
There were a couple of tales where the scenario just didn’t feel right (entering the world of the Wizard Lords’ events during the Year of the Yellow Cat was confusing, to say the least), but all of these stories were inventive and certainly not your typical Holmes. Traditionalists who find the modern Holmes’ versions a little far-fetched should steer clear of this collection, because there are female Holmes, a carnival dwarf version of Mrs. Hudson, and even appearances by pop icons like Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley. For those who want to take a journey with an unlimited amount of twists, turns, and surprises, then this anthology won’t disappoint.
Several years ago GeekMom Judy read a book that stuck with her for a long time. It was called Three Dog Lifeby Abigail Thomas. The touching story, that Stephen King called “the best memoir I’ve ever read,” was basically heart wrenching reflections on life after the author’s husband was struck by a car while crossing the street, and left with a severe brain injury. Turning to her family, friends, and bed full of dogs for comfort, the author navigated some pretty treacherous life waters. Judy loved the book so much that as soon as the library copy was returned, she bought a copy for her own bookshelves.
Then a few months ago, Ms. Thomas released a new book, called What Comes Next and How to Like It. This book covers a friendship that lasted for decades and some major life events that threatened to end it. The new book is written in very short, sometimes one paragraph “chapters” which make it very easy to read. Like Three Dog Life, What Comes Next is brutally honest and revealing. It will leave you thinking about the friendships in your own life, especially those which have lasted decades.
This month Patricia is reading Judy Blume’s latest book, In the Unlikely Event, released on June 2nd. If you have been a fan of Judy Blume’s poignant youth-point-of-view novels since a young age, as Patricia has been, you won’t be disappointed. The story follows several characters’ lives brought together by a C-46 commercial airliner crash in 1952 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a true event that impacted Judy Blume herself in real life.
In Blume’s classic style that we have experienced in adult novels such as Smart Womenand Summer Sisters, she takes us through numerous points of view, male and female, young and old, privileged and in-need. She covers issues and topics from the 1950s that are still of concern in today’s society, such as racism, religious freedom, and the challenges of single-parenthood. And, of course, first love. Patricia is about halfway through the novel right now and things are getting pretty emotional! She could barely put down the book to write up this brief review!
Sophie has been reading a wide variety of books this month, beginning with Red Dragon by Thomas Harris in preparation for season three of Hannibal which began on NBC earlier this month. This was her first time reading a Hannibal novel and she found the experience fascinating as a die-hard fan of the TV show. She often found herself noticing where ideas had been lifted from the source novel and changed, subtly or not, for the TV show, and she loved getting to see how the characters had been subtly altered to increase the diversity of the cast by adding more women and people of color from the original. Sometimes she even recognized full lines of dialogue that had been appropriated into different scenes. Sophie loved the book and cannot wait to see these new characters introduced this season.
Sophie has also been reading a number of graphic novels this month. She picked up Fury’s Big Week by Christopher Yost after seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron. The book was published as a prelude to the first Avengers movie in 2012 and although it has its moments she didn’t really enjoy it, much preferring the current ongoing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic series. Staying with Marvel, Sophie also read Mark Millar’s Civil War, her first real foray into the Marvel comics-verse. After getting to grips with the often very different characterization (Captain America was barely recognizable to her), she enjoyed the book but found herself deeply unhappy with the ending which felt like it came out of nowhere.
Sophie’s book club chose The Book Thief by Markus Zusack which she began reading almost immediately thinking the premise sounded very interesting. Sadly, after around 50 pages she ended up passing it on to another member because the writing style was just too annoying for her to stand. This is one month where she will be watching the movie adaptation instead! She chose to spend her time finishing up the third and final installment of Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy—The Last Town—and really enjoyed it despite the extremely violent scenes which pushed her right to her limits despite her being a fan of somewhat graphic horror. The book took a very different journey from the previous two and was non-stop action right from page one; she felt almost out of breath after reading it!
Finally Sophie read the first book in The Selection series by Kiera Cass. The book is the first in a series of YA novels set in a somewhat dystopian future U.S.A. (now renamed Illea and also now a kingdom), which echo The Hunger Games if the parts set in the Capitol had been the entirety of the competition. In The Selection, 35 young women have been chosen to enter what is basically a glorified version of The Bachelor and “compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.” You can imagine the rest of the book from that one sentence. Sophie thought the book was about as good as she imagined from that description (and from the hilarious reviews on Goodreads) but found the book to have that same guilty pleasure factor as The Twilight Saga—you know it’s awful but keep reading anyway! She plans to read more of the series to see if it can get any better!
Fran is re-reading Stephanie Feldman’s Angel of Losses. This Crawford-Award-winning book about family, sisterhood, myth, magic, and mystery grabbed her when she read it last fall. This time, it’s the interweaving of theology, history, and folk tales that drew her back.
She’s also reading an early copy of Max Gladstone’s Last First Snow because she loves the world of The Craft Sequence, and this might be the best one yet—bureacracy-mancy, necro-arbitrage, and more.
Lastly, she has a book hangover because she read Naomi Novik’s Uprootedin twelve blissful hours. Fantastic characters, electric magic that doesn’t color within the lines, and a world that breaks free of its fairy tale origins. Yes, please.
Copies of some books included in these recommendation have been provided for review purposes.
When I was a kid, my favorite part about summer was the fact that I could read as much as I wanted, for however long I wanted. There wasn’t homework, or assigned reading. I could go into the library, grab as many titles as I could carry, and read from dusk until dawn. I’m pretty sure that some days I did. Our sponsors at Scholastic certainly get that kind of kid—but they get other kids, too.
Now I’ve got kids, two of them. One is almost nine, and he’s reading at a near college level. But reading isn’t his thing. He can do it, and do it fast, but unless he sees the benefit, he’s not about to give in to his fiction-obsessed mother. The other one is quickly learning the magic of libraries and stories, but has yet to do any reading on her own. She just turned three, she’s got time.
Anyway, I’ve been thrilled with the Scholastic and Energizer “Power Up and Read” program for the summer, running from May 4th – September 4th, 2015. With their approach, both kids are reading toward their goals—for our son, a good mix of nonfiction and fiction, and for our daughter books with lots of pictures and easy words. The best part of the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is that I can download sheets (and certificates) all along the way. And as they log hours, they can earn virtual rewards, enter sweepstakes, and even play games. That’s definitely up their alley.
What’s particularly nice, too, is that you can match your kid with book suggestions. And, there’s a fun component with the INSTANT WIN Games—you and your kids could win a trip to NYC, or lots of lovely books.
Our goals are simple: Make reading fun. Some days that’s harder than others. But with all the tools from Scholastic, I’m convinced it will be a blast for all involved.
Check out their tips and resources below, including a great Harry Potter book party!
This merry month of May the GeekMoms have been stuck on Mars, trapped in a strange town, debating the merits of STEM and creativity in our schools, and solving puzzles in a future dystopia. Check out our reading lists as we get ready for the summer.
There are some books whose titles that don’t just grab your attention, they leap up and lock your attention in a choke hold until you start reading them. The Fangirl’s Guide to The Galaxy by Sam Maggs, released yesterday, is one of those titles. The second I spotted the book, and its amazing cover, I knew I had to read it right then and there.
Tomorrow Quirk book releases The Fangirl’s Guide to The Galaxy: a “fun and feminist girl-power guide to the geek galaxy” written by The Mary Sue associate editor Sam Maggs. I spoke to Sam about her experiences growing up as a “fangirl”, learning to approach media critically, and her hopes for the next generation of geek girls.
GeekMom: At what age did you first realise you were a fangirl? Can you describe that moment? Sam Maggs: My parents both saw the first Star Wars film over twenty times in theaters, so I was pretty much destined to be a fangirl from the start. But my first foray into fandom was my obsession with Stargate SG-1, which I discovered when I was about twelve years old. Seeing a woman like Sam Carter on-screen, someone who could kick ass but was also an astrophysicist, was huge to me.
GM: What are some of your earliest memories that you look back on and think “only a geeky kid would have done that”? Sam: The hours upon hours I spent in my basement on my computer reading Stargate and West Wing fanfic instead of making friends, for sure. I was also the head of my elementary school’s Library Club.
GM: How has being a fangirl changed for you as you’ve grown up? Sam: Fandom has become more and more inclusive for women, so I’ve been able to meet so many ladies online, through social media, that I admire and am now friends with. There’s also so much more merchandise for girls now, so I can express my fandom that way too!
GM: In the book you discuss many different fandoms; do you consider yourself a part of any in particular? If so which ones and are there any fandoms you have left behind? Sam: I’m definitely a huge fan of Harry Potter, Tamora Pierce novels, Mass Effect, and Marvel comics. The Stargate fandom has died down over the years, but I would still consider myself a part of it. I had a Twilight phase for a while there, but who didn’t?
GM: You also share a great list of female role models from different kinds of geeky media. Who were your role models when you were growing up? Sam: I mentioned Sam Carter earlier, but Hermione was also big in getting me to accept my nerdy side and realize that it could be an asset, and wasn’t something to be ashamed of. Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness and The Immortals quartet featured Alanna and Daine, two kick-butt heroines I still adore.
GM: Who do you hope is going to pick up this book and read it? What do you hope they get from it? Sam: I hope that everyone can get something out of this book! For girls new to fandom, it might be a good primer; for veteran fangirls, you might find some new tips and tricks about cons or trolls or a new video game to pick up. I’d even recommend it for allies to see what it’s like to be a girl in fandom.
GM: What geeky events/moments would you like to share with the next generation of fangirls? Sam: I can’t wait to see more ladies at conventions! They’re so much fun and I just want everyone to be able to go to one!
GM: Do you feel that being a critical consumer is a necessary part of being a fangirl today, or is it possible to just enjoy a fandom without engaging in those debates? Sam: I think it’s important to remember that you can be a fan of something even if you realize that it’s problematic. But representation for women and minorities will never change unless we speak up about what we take issue with, so it’s definitely important to engage with media on a critical level to realize what you’re taking in and how it influences your views on gender and society.
But you can still like something even if it has issues!
GM: Do you feel that the convention scene has shifted in the last few years, especially for women? Where would you like it to go? Sam: It definitely has – con attendees are now nearly 50% women across the board. I would love to see more booths and panels catered specifically towards women – ECCC and C2E2 in particular are already doing a great job of this.
GM: Turning the tables from the interviews you did in the book: what does the word “fangirl” mean to you? Sam: It means loving something passionately and without embarrassment. It means the things you love have changed your life for the better.
GM: How has being a geek positively influenced your life? Sam: It’s basically given me everything – my career, my friends, my partner. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to make my fangirliness into a career, because I love sharing the things about which I’m passionate with other ladies. Plus, with the advent of social media, I was able to meet so many amazing people through our shared interests that I never would have met otherwise, including my partner! I’m very grateful.
GM: If you could give geek girls advice for their careers or personal lives, what would it be? Sam: Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to love what you love and to be who you are. If the people around you don’t like it, there are a million other people out there who will.
Even after two years, our list of “7 Super Wonder Woman Gifts and Wants” still has me, well, wanting. That’s probably because Wonder Woman never goes out of style. However, she does apparently go out of print, because some of the stuff on that original list is no longer available. In other words, it’s time for an update.
Oh yes, I still want that mixer. And yes, it’s still only available in Brazil. Sigh. That said, there are many other awesome Wonder Women-themed goodies out there.
This list may be a little late for Mother’s Day gifts, but really, any time is a perfect time for a little something devoted to the Amazon princess. Here are our latest Wonder Woman-themed gift picks.
Custom Tungsten Wonder Woman Rings
These aren’t quite as strong as Wonder Woman’s bracelets, but each of Custom Tungsten’s Wonder Woman-themed rings are still pretty durable. They’re also pretty eye-catching, with a variety of different patterns available (including the one pictured above) in designs ranging from 4 to 10mm. If you want it to have a personal touch, opt for the engraving. Either way, each one is custom-made, so make sure you measure wisely; actual ring sizes range from 4 to 17. [$24.50 to $49]
Wonder Woman Superhero Socks
Sometimes, you want to hide your superpowers. These Wonder Woman socks are perfect for putting your Wonder Woman fandom out there, but you can also easily hide them under the outfit of your everyday alter ego. That’s because they have all of the Wonder Wonder flash, without the cape. Have you seen those socks with the little capes on the back? They’re cute, but I prefer my socks cape-free. It’s hard enough running, without having something flapping in the breeze. That said, if you want the flash without the cape, these faux lace-up socks would also be a pretty perfect accessory. [$8.99 to $11.99]
Wonder Woman Apron (Part 2)
Despite having superpowers in the kitchen, stains are my nemesis. They’ve also ruined more than one favorite shirt. While the apron that I previously mentioned is still available, I really love this one that Sassy Apron is selling on Etsy. And really, having a spare apron in your arsenal may be necessary. This one is cool, cute, and it’s made to order—as every super-suit should be. [$42]
Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics
Get ready to explore the origin of the world’s first and most kick-ass female superhero through 196 pages of black-and-white comics. This coffee table book has all of the strips that ran in newspapers from May 1, 1943, until December 1, 1944. These haven’t been printed since the series’ original run, making it even more of a must-have. Besides familiar faces, the Lasso of Truth, the Invisible Plane, the bracelets, and so much more, the book has an opening essay that provides a few peeks at promotional materials, original sketches, and other tidbits. [$35.25]
Wonder Woman Bangle Watch
With so many people relying on smartphones to provide the time these days, you don’t see as many watches. This is a watch worth showing off. Of course, it’s not as cool as Wonder Woman’s bracelets (and it won’t deflect bullets, either). That said, it does have the power to keep you from being late! [$44.95]
Wonder Woman Pillows & Pillowcases
Next time I go to take a snooze on the couch, I will dream of kicking some serious ass—at least if I have one of these pillows to put my weary head upon. Choose between different patterns and sizes, all of which are handmade by Comicscon on Etsy. You can even opt to purchase just the cushion fabric, the cover, or the cover and filling, so you can create your perfect Wonder Woman pillow. [Starts at $8]
Wonder Woman Messenger/Diaper Bag
I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine wearing a utility belt. This thing is much more my style, and I don’t even care that it’s “technically” a diaper bag. Officially licensed by DC Comics, this messenger bag has mesh pockets, an insulated bottle holder, and space for whatever else you need to carry on a daily basis. And just in case you are toting a superhero-in-training, it comes packaged with a changing pad and cape-shaped burp cloth. Think Geek is currently out of stock (of course!) on this bag, but it can be found on Amazon as well. [$37.98]
Dragons Beware! is the latest graphic novel of Claudette, a fearless girl who adventures with her younger chef brother, and princess best friend. What? You haven’t read Giants Beware! yet? Go! Go! Go!
I asked the creators of both books, Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre a few questions about the series and the latest adventure, and they were happy to oblige:
GEEKMOM:Claudette is a “leap before you look” type of character. Was there a particular person (or people) in your real lives that inspired her?
JORGE/RAFAEL: We both have lots of leap-before-they-look kind of people in our lives, but there wasn’t a single person who inspired Claudette. Her personality is somewhat inspired by the character Mafalda, an Argentinian comic-strip that both Jorge and I read as kids.
GM:I really enjoy the relationships between Claudette and brother, and best friend. Having a strong female lead in any story is breaking stereotypes, but to have good relationships with her brother (instead of being jealous or competitive with siblings) and enjoy her unashamed girly-girl best friend (instead of putting down “girly” things)—well, that’s just fantastic! Was it purposeful to create the series to be so different?
JORGE/RAFAEL: Thanks! We both like to put new twists on familiar archetypes. But we’re also trying to create interesting characters who we care about that. That means fleshing them out three-dimensionally and when you do that, you can avoid stereotypes. As for Claudette and Gaston: we love that their relationship is both that of siblings and friends–maybe it’s a Latino thing; we’re usually pretty close with our siblings.
GM:What were your favorite stories growing up?
RAFAEL: I loved superhero comics, Batman and Fantastic Four were my favorites. Anything by Kirby, especially in the 70s (Kamandi, New Gods, Mister Miracle).
JORGE: I loved Greek myths, superhero comic books, fantasy books, that sort of thing.
GM: Claudette’s father is a tough and capable guy who is also in a wheel chair. Have you gotten any feedback from wheelchair-bound kids and/or adults who have read the series?
JORGE/RAFAEL: We have not heard from any wheel-bound folks, however we both loved the idea of a warrior not impeded by the fact that his mobility is partially restricted. It makes him even more of a tough guy. And by the way, May is National Mobility Awareness Month.
GM:The dress up scene with Claudette in all the different outfits had my family and I cracking up–hilarious! Did you make yourselves laugh with the sketches? Were there outfits that didn’t make the final cut?
JORGE: I love the scene too. And it’s a pretty good example of how we work to entertain each other. The script only specified that Marie wanted to play-dress up and Claudette was not happy about that. And Rafael drew the really funny page of costumes.
RAFAEL: We always try to crack each other up first! If that works, we run it past our kids, and if that works, then we know we’re on the right track. As I go through the script I’m always trying to find ways to make it visually funny, to complement the funny dialogue that Jorge’s come up with.
GM:In this second book, each of the kids are moving forward in their own plot-lines: Claudette trying to get her father to officially train her, Marie and her suitors. But my favorite was Gaston and learning magic spells are like cooking. Was this planned from the first book? Do you already see where each of their personal stories are going next, or is that book to book?
JORGE/RAFAEL: We’re mostly figuring out the specific steps of each character’s journey as we go along. However, we have a pretty good idea where these characters end up. It’s the getting there that always takes time to figure out. How far do you let each character grow in each book—that’s a toughie. We had talked about Gaston using magic spells since that does feel related cooking. And Rafael drew the spellbook with the ingredients in the back of the book and that just felt right for Gaston.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Dragons Beware! is recommended for ages 5+.
GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.
My son is always asking if we can read stories on the iPad. I personally prefer the look and feel of an actual book, but the digital format gives us the opportunity to sample a lot of really good bedtime adventures.
Recently, I got to peek at a pair of bedtime stories that specifically deal with the moon—but in two very different ways, by different authors. Justin Gloe’s Little and the Moon and Bella Woodfield’s The Girl and the Moon are short, sweet stories designed for young adventurers right before they blast off to dreamland.
Even better, both of these books were self-published, via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform for eBooks and CreateSpace for the print. It’s nice to be able to explore new these stories, all while supporting someone else’s dream.
Little and the Moon is a short story about Little, a tabbit who lives a lonely life and longs for a friend to share adventures with. Apparently, a tabbit is a little creature that lives in the forest, and was a something inspired by Gloe’s rural Missouri upbringing. The artwork is cute and the story is even cuter, as Little goes about his travels. It’s short, but just the right amount of time for a bedtime story. Even better, the outcome should leave your little with a big smile right before bedtime.
Even shorter, The Girl and the Moon follows one girl’s quest to find out what the moon would taste like. It’s an interesting plotline, but how “feet” isn’t an option, I don’t know. The story involves the girl trying various ways to reach the moon, in search of a little sample. This one has a bit more color, but just a few words per page. It’s not exactly Goodnight Moon and won’t be very satisfying if it’s the only story in your bedtime routine. That said, it’s a cute concept and a quick, fun read.
Both of the above books are fictional, so don’t expect to end the night on an educational note. We especially loved Little and the Moon, because of the style, length, and the creative main character. The Girl and the Moon would be best for a beginner reader, although it’s certainly a sweet way to squeeze in an extra story at the end of the night.
Mother’s Day is right around the corner. It’s the one time of year when you “legally” have to shower Mom with love—and gifts! Of course, we’re kidding (sort of). While most moms do love the homemade cards, hugs, and brunch offers, a lot of us also love to get a gift that keeps on giving. So instead of giving your mom (or yourself) the same old wilted flowers, consider one of the gifts listed below in our 2015 GeekMom Mother’s Day Gift Guide.
Accessories Bookworm Shoulder Tote
Haul around your mom gear in this large zippered bag from Blue Q. It’s waterproof, wipes clean, is made from recycled materials, and is crazy strong. It measures 11-by-15-by-6.25 inches. One percent of the sale price supports The Nature Conservatory. And if the bookish design doesn’t do it for you, check out the same tote with a Da Vinci design or a Batista design. [$13.30]
“I Aim to Misbehave” Car Decal
This car decal serves two important purposes: It shows off your mom’s love for Firefly and that she is one spirited lady! [$6]
Multitool Hair Clip
Made of stainless steel, this creative hair clip for Mom is a secret multitool. It’s a screwdriver, wrench, trolley coin, ruler, and cutting edge, always handy and helpfully keeping her hair out of her eyes. [$9]
Ogio Hudson Pack
GeekMom Dakster is a huge fan of Ogio bags. As a mom on the go, her go-to laptop bag is the Ogio Hudson Pack in Peacoat blue. It fits her laptop, iPad, iPod, writing supplies, and all without feeling bulky on her back. [$64.99]
Pelican Elite Weekender Luggage
Built for the adventurer, this luggage will take any beating the cruise line, airline, or any other transportation service can throw at it. GeekMom Dakster likes having her bag around to protect her costumes when traveling to conventions. [$445]
The Sprite Bag by Pixelle
“Level up your look” with the subtle touches of The Sprite Bag by Pixelle. It’s just the right size for a mom on the go and comes in white or black. [$49.99]
Instant Happy: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers
Everyone needs a pick-me-up every now and then. For the days when Mom is feeling the weight of everything on her shoulders, hand her Instant Happy: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers. It has 128 pages of happy thoughts, with cute drawings and animals to accompany each one. [$11]
Subversive Cross Stitch: 50 F*cking Clever Designs for Your Sassy Side
Stitch some snark with this updated anniversary edition of the now-classic book that upended the ladylike craft of cross stitching. “Eat, Drink, and Be Quiet” may add some charm to your kitchen. If you have no intention of making any of the designs, just leave it out to shock your Great Aunt Rhonda next time she visits. [$11.50]
Ultimate Star Wars
A trained tauntaun of your own would be a fantastic gift. Sadly, Echo Base won’t ship them to Earth. Instead, consider this newly released large-format hardcover book to explore the Star Wars galaxy chronologically. It’s packed with in-depth information about characters and storylines. Yes, it has photos of tauntauns. [$26.49]
Clothing Banned Book Socks
Ankle socks with a kick, these Banned Book Socks feature titles on one foot and strike-outs on the other. Wearable all year ’round, not just during Banned Books Week. Made of nylon, polyester, spandex, and cotton; machine wash. [$10]
eShakti Gift Card
eShakti lets Mom customize clothing in sizes from 0-33. With numerous patterns and styles, she can pick out her favorite neckline, hem length, and sleeves style. The online retailer features a wide variety of fabrics. GeekMom Fran likes the cotton dresses very much. Did we mention that most dresses feature actual full-size pockets that you can put things in? Yes. [Varies]
Friendly Oak Geeky Tees
Printed on super soft American Apparel tees, these women’s shirts come in a variety of geeky designs: An octopus in a top hat! Sloths! Hot air balloons! Pirate ships! Bugs! Books! Dinosaurs! Bats! [$18 to $19 each]
High Commander Cardigan
Mom is the ultimate power in the universe, and now she can show her Imperial strength with the High Commander Cardigan from Her Universe. The light sweater is perfect for everyday cosplay, but subtle enough to pass as a simple gray sweater. But true Star Wars fans who catch a glimpse of the insignia on the front will give Mom a knowing smile. [$50]
Hot Topic’s Orphan Black Fit & Flare Dress
Hot Topic’s latest television show-themed clothing line is Orphan Black, and the red DNA-patterned flare dress is a standout. One of the best things about this simple dress is you don’t have to be a fan of this popular sci-fi series to appreciate the cool DNA double-helix design. This could be the perfect gift for science teachers… or just any mom who loves and appreciates the building blocks of life. Keep in mind Hot Topic’s women’s clothes tend to run in juniors’ sizes, so it may be a smart idea to get a size larger than Mom would usually wear. Oh, and FYI: This looks cute with another item in the Orphan Black line, the Lightweight Ombre Open Cardigan. [$29.50]
Marvel Ladies Knee High Socks
Comic book fans of Captain Marvel, Black Widow, and Spider-Woman will wear these knee-high socks with pride. Whether she’s padding around the house stealthily in Black Widow socks or channeling her inner Princess Sparklefists in her Captain Marvel knee-highs, Mom will feel like a superhero in these ThinkGeek exclusives. [$14.99]
Octopus Arm Cozies
Above the elbow arm cozies are a stylish way to tell Mom she’s cool and keep her warm at the same time. Sock Dreams has several styles and colors, but everything goes better with cephalopods. Made of 95-percent cotton with spandex; machine washable. [$25]
Solar System Knee High Socks
Mom will be walking on the sun with these Solar System Knee Highs from Sock Dreams. Made of 75-percent cotton with polyester/spandex, they’re machine-washable and keep their shape. For all the times she’s found your socks, or told you she loves you to the moon and back. [$10]
Toothless Tail Fin Skater Skirt by WeLoveFine
Help Mom show her dragon pride with the Toothless Tail Fin Skater Skirt by WeLoveFine. It’s flowy, it’s twirly, and it was designed to look like Toothless’ tail fin—complete with a white Viking skull on the back. [$25]
Electronics D-Link WiFi Smart Plug
If you’re anything like GeekMom Rachel, you’re constantly telling someone to turn off the lights. This handy gadget bypasses the people who never seem to learn and allows you to take control. Just plug the Smart Plug into any existing outlet, push the WPS button on your router, and the button on the Smart Plug. Then, you’ll be able to power off (and on) everything that’s plugged in via the mydlink Home mobile app, which is free for iOS and Android devices. [$39.99]
The Martian Notifier is GeekMom Dakster’s new favorite phone accessory. It’s a simple smartwatch whose only job is to send notifications from your phone to your wrist. What’s great about it is that there are no fancy bells and whistles; it’s simple, to the point, and the battery lasts over five days on a single charge. It also comes in white, black, and red. [$95.99]
Me-Shot Deluxe 2.0
Give Mom the gift of selfies with the Me-Shot Deluxe selfie stick. It comes with a remote to help her get that perfect group shot and it’s compact enough to fit into her bag. [$49.99]
Parrot Flower Power
For the mom who lacks a green thumb, this little device can be a lifesaver—or at least a plant-saver. It’s basically a little smart sensor that sticks right into the soil. Once it’s embedded, it can measure moisture, fertilizer, ambient temperature, and light intensity, and will send all of that info to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. In case Mom needs a little extra TLC for her plants, Parrot also has a library with info on thousands of plants, flowers, herbs, and more. [$49.95]
Philips hue Connected Light Bulbs
Sure, you could offer to mow the lawn or do the dishes, but the gift of automated lighting is something that Mom can use every single day. And it’s downright addictive! That’s because the hue offers remote control of lights via any smartphone or tablet. Even better, it’s also a nice decorative element, since the hue can be adjusted to make mood lighting in over 16 million colors. [$199 for the Starter Pack]
Sonos Play:1 Wireless Speaker
Just because Mom isn’t partial to extra-large speakers doesn’t mean that she can’t rock out. This small, mighty speaker is the least expensive in the Sonos line, but still packs the power needed to drown out Dad’s singing. It’s important to know that it needs WiFi or the Sonos Bridge ($49), as well as the Sonos app. Once everything is hooked up, it can stream music to anywhere in the house. Also nice to know is that you can always add on to this gift later, since it works well alone, in pairs, and with every other speaker in the Sonos line. [$199 each]
XSories Large Power CapXule
The Large Power CapXule keeps Mom’s GoPro camera safe and charged with the case’s built-in battery. [$79.99]
Kitchen Goods Don’t Talk to Me Yet Mug
For coffee- or tea-loving moms, for sleep-deprived moms, this white ceramic mug lays out when it’s safe to approach with questions about where your socks are, or whether you should be allowed to wear flip-flops in 20-degree weather. [$17]
Evil Genius or Everyday Super Hero Mugs
Is your mom a superhero, or does she get a certain amount of pleasure from being just a little bit bad? Be careful picking the appropriate one for your GeekMom—or buy both and let her decide how she feels in the morning! [$10.50 each]
KitchenAid Mixer Decals
If Mom has a KitchenAid mixer, it most likely lives on the countertop. Why not help her put a little bling into that permanent fixture? There are an endless number of decal options, from flames to flowers to a Flying Tiger Shark Plane. GeekMom Rachel has a set of superhero-themed decals for her KitchenAid and can tell you that they are easy to apply and stick quite nicely, even after a messy, marathon baking session. [Starts at $9.99]
GeekMom Rachel says that she loves a good cry—but not when that cry is initiated by cutting onions. Her husband got her a pair of these a little while ago. “They make me feel like a superhero and work like magic,” she says. [$19.95]
Triceratops Cake Stand
A 2014 Grassi and Bertoni design for the Museum of Modern Art, these dinosaur cake stands can hold all of Mom’s favorite cakes. Made of porcelain, the triceratops stands approximately 5 inches high, with the brontosaurus being 3.5 inches high. [$130]
Toys & Games Cluedo Sherlock Edition
Eagle-eyed fans of the BBC’s Sherlock know even the great sleuth himself enjoys Cluedo (or Clue in the United States), provided he wins. Now, the BBC has come up with an official Sherlock Edition of the classic mystery game. There’s a reason the original version of Clue is still a tabletop favorite, and now this version has made it even more enjoyable to match wits with friends and family around the table. A perfect Mother’s Day gift for those treasured family game nights and those who are still waiting… and waiting for Sherlock Season 4. [$39.49]
Fiesta Sea and Shore Series 36” Giant Octopus
Ignore all descriptions that allege this stuffed creature is a child’s toy. Those staring eyes, curling tentacles, and soft body make for an awesome cephalopod pal for someone your age too. You don’t have eight arms to attend to all your mom-ligations, but at least your giant octopus does. [$69.99]
A beautiful board game to play with the family. Players compete to see who can stay on the board longest. For two to eight players, ages eight and up. Each game takes about 20 minutes to play. [$24]
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
If Mom has fond memories of playing Final Fantasy or other Japanese RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a no-brainer. It looks fantastic on the New Nintendo 3DS, with phenomenal voiceovers, a sweeping story, classic JRPG elements, and a big world to explore. Hours of epic gameplay just might fill that Dragon Age-shaped hole in any RPG fan’s life. Just FYI: This title is only compatible with the New Nintendo 3DS. [$39.99]
The GeekMoms have taken advantage of Spring Breaks and Easter holidays to get some reading in. This month their selections include math in The Simpsons, a mysterious town in Idaho, YA science fiction, and a teenage girl from Japan determined to chronicle the life of her great gandmother.
Delilah S. Dawson is an author, a mom, a geek, a cowgirl, an artist, and this past weekend I saw pictures of her swinging from a trapeze! Is she a superhero in disguise? She was kind enough to take time out from her crazy schedule to answer some rapid-fire questions from me for GeekMom.
GeekMom Mel: Hi, Delilah Dawson! Welcome to GeekMom and thanks for doing this interview!
Delilah S. Dawson: Thanks so much for having me! As a geeky mom, I love what y’all do.
GMM: I think most of us know you as Delilah the Writer. How did you decide to become a writer? What did your road to publication look like?
DSD: Well, I blame my kids. When I was 32 and my son was 9 months old, he quit sleeping, and my brain basically broke. I started hallucinating, so I went to my psychologist husband for help. We came up with a schedule to help me get sleep, and he also suggested that I do something just for me, something creative—like writing a book. And the part of my brain that would’ve said, NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU’RE NOT A WRITER!–that part was gone.
I wrote my first book in two months, queried it, shelved it, wrote another book, queried it, and got an agent. That book didn’t sell, but my third book sold in a three-book deal to Simon & Schuster. That’s Wicked as They Come. Once I’d written one book and knew it was possible, I couldn’t stop.
GMM: You have written for adults with your Blud series and now have a couple books under your belt for teens. Does your process change between writing for the different audiences? Do you think about the books differently?
DSD: For each book, I fall in love with an idea that obsesses and compels me. When I can’t ignore it anymore, I build a playlist on Spotify of songs that “feel” like the book. As the characters and plot start to surface, I listen to the music everywhere, in the car and while out walking and while doing dishes. I become conditioned to be in that world when I hear that music, and that compartmentalization is what allows me to keep the different books separate.
GMM: I’ve met you in person at a con, and see you travel quite a bit on the con circuit. What is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you at a con? What is your favorite part about “conning”?
DSD: Oh, dude. Do I have con stories! At my first con, a small one in Atlanta, they rejected me as a guest. I’m very shy, so I offered to volunteer just to meet people and have something to do. They put me in the green room, where the Guest of Honor, a well-known SFF author, told me that I was ruining his genre and wasn’t worth the crap on his shoe—all because I’d dared to combine vampires, steampunk, and romance. Luckily, that was the worst thing that ever happened to me at a con. Except for maybe that time when I was waiting outside of a panel at Dragoncon and was propositioned for sex.
If we’re talking about good weird, I once ended up in the wrong Green Room at Phoenix Comicon and got to help Walter Koenig with a coffee machine and hand salad tongs to Nichelle Nichols.
My favorite part about conning is meeting writers and readers. I was a shy, geeky kid, but through the wonders of the internet, I’ve learned how to hack my social anxiety and make friends. It’s so healing. And fun!
GMM: Have your kids been to a con yet?
DSD: Sadly, nope. Dragoncon is the one that makes the most sense, since we live in Georgia, but I always have a packed schedule, which means my husband would be all alone while toting two tiny people around in a crowd of 80,000 people. The thought fills us all with anxiety.
They really want to go to BotCon, though, since they’re big into Transformers. I think they would love it. And spend way, way too much money in the dealer room.
GMM: What would you say to a parent who came to you concerned that Hit might be too dark for their youngling? Obviously there are some things parents of teens want to protect their kids from, but do you think a parent could go too far?
DSD:Hit is definitely the most violent of my books, although it was important to me to frame the violence with Patsy’s reticence to hurt anyone, her commitment to saving her mom, and the aftereffects of what she’s been forced to do. She throws up, she quits eating, she wakes up crying at night. The violence is not gratuitous, and she does consciously think about how to remain true to herself even as she’s forced to do things she knows to be wrong.
That being said, my 8 year old wants to read it, and I don’t think she’s ready. I let her read Servants of the Storm, but the fantasy element is the differentiating factor. I can tell her that demons don’t exist, but I can’t promise her that no one will ever ring her doorbell holding a gun. I would say that if a kid has read and enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent, they would enjoy Hit.
I’ve been asked how I would feel if my teen readers found my Blud series, and honestly, I think that would be great. As a rape survivor, consent is very important to me. The sex scenes in my Blud books involve active consent, healthy relationship discussion, safety, and body positivity. Just like with the violence, I want the sex to be meaningful and to matter.
GMM: Followers of your blog and social media will notice that you are a fan of many areas of the nerdiverse, from Star Wars to Adventure Time. Do you have a favorite?
DSD: Um, that’s like asking me if I have a favorite child. Or a favorite kind of cake. 😉
I love geeking out over stuff. I’m big into Bob’s Burgers right now, which I found through Archer, which I found through Frisky Dingo, which I found through Sealab 2021. We’re watching Justified and anxious for the next seasons of Penny Dreadful, Hannibal, True Detective, The Walking Dead, and American Horror Story. Other favorites include AdventureTime, Community, Firefly, The Mindy Project, and Venture Bros. And then we have MCU and Star Wars and Trek and… yeah. ALL THE THINGS! Writing a Star Wars novel is on my Writer Bucket List.
GMM: What type of characters have you found you align with? I remember growing up, my mom always tried to push Princess Leia, but I was leaning more toward Darth Vader…something about the deep conflicts within certain “bad guys” always fascinated me.
DSD: I’m Team Mando. I’m not down with the Jedi rejection of passion, but I’m not a fan of the Sith interest in murdering everybody. No, I like the plucky planet of creative mercenaries, with their fancy, unique armor. And I’m big into Ewoks. So I guess I would be a Chaotic Neutral Ewok Mandalorian. Can you imagine how much trouble I could cause?
GMM: Your kid comes up to you and says, “Go Empire!” What is your reaction?
DSD: …Are you trolling me? I think you’re trolling me.
GMM: How has parenthood changed your experience being a geek?
DSD: Honestly, I never knew how cool kids could be. Seeing them fall in love with things I love but on their own terms—it’s magical.
I have this pic of my daughter from when she was three and emerged from her room in an Ahsoka Tano costume. She wore panties as a shirt and striped leggings as her Togruta head-tails. She was so ferocious, holding her lightsaber—she was really into it. In that moment, she was Ahsoka. Amazing.
GMM: I’ll assume you, like many of us, had geeky leanings since your youth, and you remember what it was like growing up. What do you think is the best way a parent can support their young nerdlings?
DSD: I try to walk the line between “Everything you love is awesome!” and “But if you wear that to school, people might make fun of you. And that’s cool, but you need to be ready for it.”
When I was a geeky kid, I just wanted to fit in, to be liked, and I didn’t know how to do that. I try to be socially savvy, to help my kids be their own amazing, unique selves while arming them for what it’s like to be different. I want them to be proud and rebellious in the face of normalcy. And so far, it’s working out. The tips of my daughter’s hair are dyed hot pink, and it makes her feel fierce. Now, if I could just convince my 6 year old that not everyone wants to talk Evolve 24/7…
Also, we buy them pretty much any books they want and let them stay up an extra hour if they’re reading. They feel like they’re getting away with something. Bonus!
GMM: What is your favorite part about being a mom?
DSD: The hugs. My entire world stops when they hug me. I tend to live in my head, in my books, but having kids is grounding and amazing. I need that more than I could’ve guessed.
GMM: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but no one ever asked it?
DSD: Yes. “Delilah, this is LucasFilm. Will you write a Star Wars book for the big cash money wad?”
GMM: Thanks again for spending some time with us. Congratulations on your new book, I hope Hit is a huge success for you!
DSD: Thanks so much for having me! GeekMom rocks!
Delilah S. Dawson writes dark, edgy books for teens and fantasy with a wicked edge for adults.
The Blud series is available now and includes Wicked As She Wants, winner of the RT Book Reviews Steampunk Book of the Year and May Seal of Excellence for 2013. Servants of the Storm debuted August 2014, and Kirkus called the Southern Gothic Horror YA “an engaging page-turner” and “a standout, atmospheric horror tale.” April 14, 2015 will see the launch of Hit, a YA pre-dystopia about teen assassins in a bank-owned America.
Delilah is a geek, a synesthete, an adventure junkie, a cake fiend, and a Twitterholic (@DelilahSDawson). You can keep up with her news at www.whimsydark.com.
Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to review Annette Simon’s books, Robot Zombie Frankenstein and Robot Burp Head Smartypants. And as much as I love those two robots, it’s following her on Facebook where I found something I never get too much of: her book spine poetry.
“I started playing with spine poems, or ‘centos,’ shortly after I began working at our local indie, The BookMark, in 2011,” Annette told me when I asked how she started creating these wonderful mini-poems. “A perk of being a bookseller is getting the chance to read books not yet published,” she continued, “and one day a colleague, Pat Laurence, and I starting playing with the fun titles of the advance copies piled on the cart. I had my camera with me, and one thing led to another. I didn’t really know spine poetry was a ‘thing’ until the store received Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books. Then the blog Brain Pickings mentioned it, and I learned that Travis Jonker at School Library Journal had been talking spine poems since 2010. So they get the credit; I get to play. Won’t you join us?”
Because I never tire of seeing them and in honor of National Poetry Month, I asked Annette if she’d share her favorites with us, so here they are along with a few of my favorites she’s created as well.
Annette prefaced this one with, “For those who scribble, scratch, draft, and doodle. Yay, you!”
We’ve all had this day:
And this feeling:
For all those graduations and birthdays and awards and futures waiting to happen:
What I want in friends:
Career planning? This one’s for you:
If you’ve developed a close relationship with your electronics, you’ll understand:
If only the answers were inside:
We all learned this truth:
Watch out for bears and dragons. Especially if you’re hungry. Or if they’re hungry, come to think of it.