GeekMom’s 2014 Gift Guide of Books

Collage: Cathe Post.

Today’s gift guide is full of books: Historical books, storybooks, reference books, baby books, comic books, and more. There is something for everyone on this list!

Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo. Image: Abrams Books.

Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo. The ultimate gift for your favorite Adventure Time fan, this gorgeous full-color hardcover book will grace coffee tables with elegance. The Art of Ooo will put everything in perspective, presenting a behind-the-scenes look at the art and storyboards, the writers’ thoughts behind the characters, and interviews with those who voice the characters on the TV show. From concept art to the more sophisticated storylines, you will enjoy over 350 pages and 500 color images. $23.37

Basher science books. Image credit: Kingfisher
Basher science books. Image: Kingfisher.

Basher books. Author and illustrator Simon Basher has created a hit series of children’s books covering various subjects; it’s mostly science topics, but also history, math, English, and many more. They are absolutely fantastic! Each one is fun to read, educational, and cute. What more could you ask for? $7-$9

Cover copyright PotterCraft
Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families. Cover copyright PotterCraft.

Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families. Start the new year right, with plenty of project and activity ideas to do with your kids. Written by the founding editors of GeekMom, this book is also full of insightful essays on being a geek and a geeky parent, as well as as people and topics of interest to the geek world. $19.99

Image: Amazon.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design. Image: Amazon.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design. Perfect for your favorite Tolkien-fan-geek! Look no further than your favorite bookstore for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design by the Weta Workshop, the Wellington, New Zealand, special effects company behind the beauty of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Enjoy the behind-the-scenes journeys through Lonely Mountain, Lake-town, Long Lake, the Woodland Realm, and Mirkwood as you learn about Weta’s motivations in design. $27.41

Image: Chronicle Books
Kids Are Weird. Image: Chronicle Books.

Kids Are Weird. Yup. Kids are weird. Some might say geeklings are stranger than most (though mightily interesting!). This book by Jeffrey Brown shows us a few examples, in case we’ve forgotten just how weirdly awesome kids can be. $10.10

Letters of Note
Letters of Note. Image: Chronicle Books.

Letters of Note. Filled with personal letters and other correspondence from throughout history, Letters of Note is a wonderful, stunning book. Because each letter is its own short section, this book can be picked up and put down at your leisure, so you can reflect upon its meaning. The book is brimming with history and gives perspective to us in the modern day. $25.30

Marvel 75 Years of Cover Art. Image: DK Publishing.

Marvel 75 Years of Cover Art. Glorious Marvel Comics cover art collected in a slip-cased edition. $50

Image: Scholastic.

Spirit Animals Series. This series of kids’ books, much in the same spirit as The Golden Compass and Narnia, weaves fantasy and creatures into an addictive storyline. This one is probably for older grade-schoolers. $7.50 and up

Tinkerlab. Image credit: Roost Books
TinkerLab. Image: Roost Books.

TinkerLab. In addition to being mom to two little kids, author Rachelle Doorley has a master’s degree in arts education from Harvard and works as an art and museum educator. Doorley’s extensive background as an artist, docent, and educator shine through her children’s activity blog, TinkerLab, and her book of the same name. $21.95

Image: IDW Publishing.

Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics. This coffee table book features the origin of the world’s first and most kick-ass female superhero. It has 196 pages, with all of the black-and-white comics 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. There are tons of characters and stories to comb through, which includes appearances by Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, Cheetah, the Lasso of Truth, the Invisible Plane, the bracelets, and so much more. Speaking of which, the opening essay also has promotional materials, original sketches, and other tidbits. This is the gift for your favorite Wonder Woman fan. $35.25 

You Are Here by Chris Hadfield. Image credit: Little, Brown and Company.
You Are Here by Chris Hadfield. Image: Little, Brown and Company.

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes. Chris Hadfield is an astronaut, but his claim to fame with the population at large is probably through the countless viral photographs and videos he’s shared from his multiple trips to the International Space Station. Now Hadfield has a brand-new photography book out, You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes. $23.40

The Elements. Image credit: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
The Elements. Image credit: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe. If your child has graduated from “why?” to “what is {…} made of?” then this is the book you need. While it’s not a children’s book per se, the stunning photographs and high contrast graphics are sure to capture their attention long enough to learn a thing or two about what our world is made of. The science-loving geeks on your list will surely appreciate the author’s mad geek cred—an element collection! Note that the author also has another book, Molecules, which just came out last month, as well as a matching Molecules app. $11.27

Photo: Laurence King Publishing
Photo: Laurence King Publishing.

Secret Garden Coloring Book. Adults and kids alike can color their way into peace and/or fun. This beautiful coloring book by Johanna Basford will have you searching for butterflies, tinting flowers, and planning your own secret garden in which to hide from the world. $9.54

Image: Clarkson Potter.

Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails. The entrepreneurs who created The Mason Shaker, a now-iconic invention that transformed a Mason jar into a cocktail shaker, have authored this lavishly illustrated book of recipes for cocktail crafting at home. It’s a gift with tasty promise! $19.08

cool tools

Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. This is a giant book that shares user-generated reviews of gadgets, hardware, materials, videos, podcasts, books, maps, and other goodies out there identified as the best, the cheapest, or the only gizmos available to do the job. These reviews are curated from the last decade of content from the Cool Tools website, which is itself an online where-did-the-time-go vacuum. The book’s 1,500+ mini-reviews are accompanied by QR codes for everything from the best baby bib to the best satellite phone. It’s a sure bet for the hard-to-please guy. $25.29

playful path

A Playful Path. This is a 304-page book jam-packed with awesomeness. It’s made up of tools and ideas to inspire the possibility-building, wide-open glory of playfulness. Written in short one-to-two-page segments, it’s perfect to read on an as-needed basis, sort of an antidote to all the not-fun that drags us down. A Playful Path is an entertaining book. It’s also wise, true, and entirely useful. It’s the perfect gift for the most fun-loving friend as well as the family curmudgeon. $21.95

amazing baby
Image: Kids Preferred.

Amazing Baby Feel and Learn. This soft book is based on research into early development. The wipe-off pages offer textures and crinkle sounds, plus there’s an attached teething toy. $12.99

let's count
Image: Kids Preferred.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Let’s Count. This clip-on book is inspired by Eric Carle’s classic book. It offers bold pages illustrating numbers, plus crinkle textures, a squeaker, a teether, and a clip for the car seat or stroller. It’s perfect for very young babies up to toddlers. $5.59

Image: Chronicle Books.

PANTONE: 35 Inspirational Color Palettes. If you’re a huge fan of color and design or a bit challenged when picking out paint chips or color schemes, this book will be an invaluable help. Filled with almost three dozen quite varied color combinations, there will be something to please everyone. $13.45

Image: Triangle Square.

A Young People’s History of the United States. Learn about American history from the point of view of someone other than the victors. This magnificent book by Howard Zinn adapted for younger readers and listeners will get kids analyzing what they think they already know. $14.36

Image: The Smithsonian.

Civil War in 3D. Look at the American Civil War through the eyes of a soldier. See the images of battlefields, life in camp, and scenery—all in 3D stereoscopic delight. Read the included detailed book telling of soldier life, about their uniforms, food, fear, camps, and letters home. $23.89

Image: Scholastic.

Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection. Do you have a Minecraft fan in your house? Maybe someone who wants some ideas on how to fight monsters, how to use red dust, or how to make more pixelated-awesomeness? This set is for them! $19.18

Image: Amazon.

Hello Kitty Crochet: Supercute Amigurumi Patterns for Sanrio Friends. Hello Kitty crochet is not for the faint of heart. The patterns inside make for some really cute animals, but we would suggest getting this for someone with a background in crochet and not a beginner. $14.95

Pride and Prejudice Manga
Image: Amazon.

Manga Classics Pride and Prejudice. Of all the versions of Pride and Prejudice, this is a GeekMom favorite. Marvel’s variation is okay, but this version does the original story far more justice. $15

Image: Ava’s Demon.

Ava’s Demon. This dark yet beautiful collection puts the online story of Ava’s Demon into print form.  $5.99 for the digital

ms marvel #1
Image: Marvel Comics.

Ms. Marvel: No Normal (Volume 1). Featuring the first female Muslim superhero, Ms. Marvel has been getting rave reviews since its debut earlier this year. This first collection showcases the title’s rare ability to speak to every reader regardless of their age, gender, background, or beliefs, thanks to writer G. Willow Wilson’s portrayal of Kamala as relatable and full of personality. $15.99

© DC Comics
© DC Comics.

Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell. This is a fun, easy read that any fan of either character should immediately add to their library. For anyone who might be a jaded reader of the New 52, this is just the book to remind them that comic books can still be fun. $22.99

Smallville Season 11 © DC Comics
Smallville Season 11 © DC Comics.

Smallville Season 11 Vol. 5: Olympus. Wonder Woman arrives in the Smallville universe in this phenomenal collection of the Smallville digital comics. Gorgeous art and a fast-paced story make this the perfect present for any fan of Smallville or Wonder Woman. $14.99

Image: Little Pickle Press.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain. This is a cute picture book for young elementary-aged children. It teaches them how their brain is a muscle, how to exercise it, and other fun facts. $12.45

download (1)
Image: Amazon.

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans. Join Rush Revere and his time-traveling horse Liberty on historical adventures. This historical science-fiction series also includes a book on the American Revolution and the first patriots. It’s great historical fun for older grade-school readers who need a little science fiction in their historical reading. $12.98

Image: Que Publishing.

Build and Program Your Own Lego Mindstorms EV3 Robots. Do you know a Lego brick advanced builder? This book will be out just in time for Christmas by our very own Marziah Karch. Plus, you know, robots and Lego programing. $21.77

Image: Random House Books.

The Fourteenth Goldfish. For older elementary-school fans who need more challenge than Jennifer L. Holm’s Baby Mouse series, Holms now has a chapter book out. A girl goes on an adventure to help her grandfather who has figured out a way to reverse aging (and is now younger than his granddaughter). This is a far more serious story than Baby Mouse, but a great read! $10.74

Image: Marvel Comics.

Rocket Raccoon. Previously mentioned by GeekMom Kelly, the new comic book adventures of Rocket Raccoon are a hilariously drawn series well worth the subscription. $9.99

Billy Boyd Bids the Middle Earth Saga A Last Goodbye

Image from "The Last Goodbye," copyright WaterTower Musi
Billy Boyd performs “The Last Goodbye,” a beautiful farewell to The Hobbit trilogy. Screen capture from the official video; copyright WaterTower Music.

I still get misty eyes and goosebumps when I hear Pippin’s mournful and stunning a cappella song from The Lord of The Rings: Return of the King, when he is forced to entertain the embittered Steward of Gondor, Denethor. Pippin’s passionate and desperate delivery is the nail in the emotional coffin, while witnessing army of Gondor’s soldiers, led by Denethor’s youngest son, Faramir, gallop into a futile and fatal battle.

Now, with the final movie in The Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies, less than a month away, director Peter Jackson has upped the emotional ante by asking Pippin portrayer, singer, and actor Billy Boyd to co-write and perform the trilogy’s closing song, “The Last Goodbye.”

The song’s video features Boyd’s performance, along with snippets of all six of Jackson’s Tolkien-based films, as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the cast as they wrap up their time together in Middle Earth.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 1.23.47 PM
Screen capture from Beecake’s “Please Stay.”

Boyd, a native of Glasgow, also fronts his own alternative rock band, Beecake, which has had notable singles “Please Stay” and “The Clown.” The band’s honors have included being awarded Best Live Act at Visit Scotland’s Tartan Clef Music Awards, which raises money for Scotland’s Nordiff Robbins Music Therapy charity. The charity uses music to better the lives of both children and adults who have been isolated by disability, trauma, or illness.

Boyd said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that being able to close this journey was “truly a great, great honor.”

With this video being made available just in time for Thanksgiving, it is also an overwhelming honor for all of us as well.

Thank you, Mr. Boyd and Mr. Jackson, for giving us such a stunning and heartwarming way to say goodbye to your final Middle Earth visit.

The Desolation of Smaug (With Tweets)

Image: Storify Screenshot.

Going to see a movie with your spouse, when you have two children and a dwindling supply of babysitters, is no mean feat. So in 2013, when friends invited us to see The Desolation of Smaug with them at the theater, it was inevitable that only one of us would go.

You would think as lifelong geeks, lovers of Tolkien, and admirers of Peter Jackson, that we would be in some kind of fight to the death to see who would go. The truth is, neither of us enjoyed the first installment of The Hobbit, and therefore weren’t excited by the prospect of installments two and three. For myself, I have grown weary of multi-installment franchises. I am tired of books that take a good story and spin it six ways to Tuesday. I am annoyed beyond reason at this generation’s penchant for taking one book and turning it into two movies for the final chapter. I’m looking at you Potter, Katniss, and Tris.

I had been less thrilled with a three-part film adaptation of The Hobbit than I had been with the news that R2-D2 and C-3PO were to be in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The only saving grace of the second installment of The Hobbit, in my eyes at least, was the dragon. Give me any movie, add a dragon or a dinosaur, and I am there. I wanted to see Smaug on the big screen, but the thought of Radagast again was too much for me. I willingly sent my husband off with his friends.

Now it is August 2014, and for eight months I have been battling disinterest in the movie. Then suddenly, probably spurred by my desire for next year’s Jurassic World, I found my need to see Smaug overwhelming my need to dislike The Hobbit spread over too much bread. Within 24 hours, I was watching it. Using Twitter and Storify, here are my musings on the movie franchise that will never end.

Smaug 2
Screenshots: Sarah Pinault.

The movie? In my humble opinion, it’s so much better than the first installment. It moved at a better clip, contained more elements of the book that I personally favored, and had fewer moments that required heavy sighing. If you are looking for a more conventional review, I would suggest GeekMom’s own Patricia Vollmer, who was much fairer than I in her judgement! Live tweeting the movie was a lot of fun, and I plan on doing this again with friends across multiple locations. Likewise, employing Storify to get a running narrative of my event was a neat way of looking at.

Note, I have included some comments from friends and the responses, which occurred on the final few tweets. You can find the expanded interactions on my Twitter page, that is, if you are into expanded versions.


Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design

Image: Amazon.
Book Cover: Harper Design

Are you looking for a last-minute gift idea for your favorite Tolkien-fan-geek? Look no further than your favorite bookstore for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design by the Weta Workshop, the Wellington, New Zealand special effects company behind the beauty of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

If you are as fascinated by the settings, costumes, and art design as I am, this is the perfect book. It’s a large hard-cover book perfect for prominent display. The high-quality glossy pages are filled with vibrant storyboard pictures, costume design renderings, and short vignettes by the art and design crew members about the senses they were attempting to convey as you progress through the story of The Desolation of Smaug. You will feel the set and costume designers’ passion for the roles they played in the film’s production.

The book is arranged based on the chapters of the original pages of The Hobbit, although, as I’d mentioned in my review of the film earlier this week, there are some plot diversions. These are addressed as well.

Enjoy the behind-the-scenes journeys through Lonely Mountain, Lake-town, Long Lake, the Woodland Realm, and Mirkwood as you learn about Weta’s motivations in design. For example, readers will learn about Lake-town’s Tibetan and Scandinavian influences.

Each of the book’s 208 pages is filled with beautiful storyboards and costume design drawings. Enjoy Legolas here in all his glory! Image: Weta Workshop.

This book makes an outstanding companion to the film; its intended audience is someone who has already read the book and/or seen the film. There are spoilers in the book, so be sure your gift recipient knows the story already!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design retails for $39.99 and is available at book retailers nationwide, to include Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: A Visual Treat

Image: Warner Brothers Studios.

This weekend my family saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug*. We didn’t watch it in IMAX nor did we choose to watch it in 3D, although there are some scenes which would have been more fun in 3D. Unfortunately, we arrived at the theater a little later than we should have and so even in the regular showing, we had to sit in the very front of the auditorium, practically looking straight up at the enormous screen.

*How do you pronounce it? “Smog” or “Smow-g?” After years of simply seeing the word in print, I was somewhat surprised at how many variations there can be to pronouncing the name of the dragon.

I went in to this entire trilogy as a skeptic about Peter Jackson’s decision to convert J.R.R. Tolkien’s shortest novel to a three-part trilogy. I’m a big fan of the books, so since 2001, I’ve been watching the movies while concurrently remembering the books in my mind. I came out of the theater after this movie feeling just as skeptical about the movie adaptation but for slightly different reasons. But, at least, I’m now convinced he can turn this into three movies.

I’ll cover the cinematography, creative liberties taken in the storyline, and then address concerns parents might have about taking their kids to this film.

Cinematography and Design

In terms of the cinematography, it was at least as beautiful as all of its predecessor films in the series. I will never grow tired of seeing that New Zealand landscape in the enormous panoramic scenes. Nor will I tire of Howard Shore’s wonderful music, particularly the flute and violin solos heard in the themes from the Shire.

In the 12 years since Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring came out, the advances in CGI technology are apparent. You will see evidence of this with the stunning detail in Smaug himself, as well as with the visually gorgeous settings in locations such as the Woodland Elves’ city on the edge of Mirkwood.

Smaug is incredible. I think they did an outstanding job conveying the size and incredible details that Tolkien invested in the pages of the original novel. They effectively captured the “red-golden” color, the “wings folded like an immeasurable bat”, and “the large patch on the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell”. For those eagerly awaiting Benedict Cumberbatch’s eloquent voice…well, it’s not going to be what you think.

If you’ve seen and enjoyed the other films in the series thus far, you will certainly not be disappointed in the visuals.

The costumes and makeup continue to absolutely wow me every time as well. It’s no wonder the design teams for these categories are consistently nominated for, and have previously won, Oscars for their artistry.

(Stay tuned for a review of the book The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design, which includes hundreds of accounts by the set and costume designers.)

Things started to diverge as the story progressed in this film. I will need to describe some scenes such that there will be spoilers, but I promise not to include significant story details. Scroll along if you’re okay with this. In the meantime, enjoy a poster of Thorin Oakenshield to bide the time.

Image: Warner Brothers  Studio

The Spiders

All was well in the movie from Beorn’s house to entering Mirkwood. Then I noticed that the spider scene seemed short, and the barrel scene seemed incredibly long and unrealistic. I’m not completely sure why they chose not to include a larger battle with the spiders that involved all of the dwarves. Instead, it all seemed very hurried, as if they were in a rush to bring Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly into the story.

Is that really Orlando Bloom?

Be prepared for a different kind of Elf than what was experienced in the first three Lord of the Ring movies and the LOTR novels. You saw a glimpse of it when you watched Gimli and Legolas bickering in the original trilogy (although they ultimately became good friends). These Elves aren’t as gracious or quite as elegant as the Rivendell Elves. You’re going to want to toss Thranduil out the window because he’s such a jerk.

The three adults in my party wavered back and forth on whether that was actually Orlando Bloom in the film. I knew he was in the cast, and I knew when he was in a conversation in the movie since he was being called “Legolas”…but it did not look like him. He looked so much older, which got my knickers in such a knot because The Hobbit is a backstory. Why didn’t they CGI the youth back into him?

Legolas isn’t in the original novel at all. So why is he in the movie? If you’ve read the novels, you know that Legolas is the son of Thranduil, the Elvenking of the Woodland Realm. Legolas was serving as a messenger to Rivendell when he became involved in the Fellowship of the Ring. Therefore, Jackson and his team felt that Legolas could fit into the storyline perfectly well and so those of us who loved seeing his nimble feet and lightning-quick archery could continue to swoon.

Tauriel, the Elven Badass

Tauriel, played by Lost star Evangeline Lilly, is an entirely original creation for the movie. It’s no secret that Tauriel was inserted into the storyline for a deliberate strong female lead and I will attest that viewers will not be disappointed in her strength. Pay attention to the dialogue and you will learn that she has a romantic interest in Legolas but Thranduil warns her that she’s a “common soldier” who cannot get involved with the son of the Elvenking. She also has a flirtation with the Dwarf Kili.

Lilly does an awesome job portraying a badass warrior Elf. It was reported that she performed her own stunts, and as I’d said already, you will not be disappointed.

The Eternal Barrel Scene

Chapter 9 of The Hobbit is titled “Barrels Out of Bond”, and it’s about Bilbo rescuing the dwarves from being held as Thranduil’s prisoners. Bilbo devises a genius escape by packing the dwarves into wine barrels and sending them down through a trap door into the Forest River.

In the film version, a pack of Orcs with orders to kill the Dwarves intercepts the barrels in the river and a battle takes place between the Dwarves, Orcs, and Elves. Cinematography-wise, the battle is downright fun to watch: Elves are spritely hopping back and forth across the river on the heads of the Dwarves in the barrels, Orcs’ heads are flying off (that’s a fun scene to see in 3D, since one of the heads flies right towards you!), and the Dwarves are popping in and out of the barrels lopping off Orcs’ limbs. This goes on for several minutes; as fun as it is to watch, this didn’t happen in the book.

Yes, in the novel the Dwarves were cast into the river in barrels, but they were sealed barrels, while Bilbo alone was floating down the river exposed to the water. The book scene is pretty straightforward: the barrels float down the river to the town without incident.

In order to have this great battle, the film version needed all of the Dwarves available to fight. This scene in the book is so mundane, after Bilbo comes ashore, that Tolkien writes, “There is no need to tell you much of his adventures that night, for now we are drawing near the end of the eastward journey and coming to the last and greatest adventure, so we must hurry on.”

Bard the Single Dad

The great hero, Bard, is introduced earlier in the story. He becomes a major player in Lake-town earlier on in the film chronology. Bard (played by Welsh actor Luke Evans) has a well-thought out backstory that includes a considerable amount of ethos for the collapsed economy of the town due to Smaug’s takeover of Lonely Mountain. Bard also is a single father to three children who seem to take care of him as much as he tries to take care of them.

Those who have read the book know what Bard goes on to do, and I do hope Jackson’s team continues to give him the treatment he deserves in the final installment of the trilogy.

Should Kids Go to See This Film?

I brought my 8- and-11-year-old sons to the movie; my 11-year-old has read The Hobbit and my 8-year-old had started it but hasn’t finished. So I felt they would be okay with some of the battle scenes. They enjoyed the movie immensely.

I’m not sure I’d be comfortable taking my sons if they were any younger. If you have concerns about extreme violence or adult themes, here are some thoughts that might help one make a decision, and GeekDad has a review with more details.

  • The spiders toward the beginning of the film are quite large, realistic looking, and vicious. There are vivid, close up scenes of Bilbo killing them, and scenes of all of the Dwarves fighting the spiders in a collective melee. No blood, but there’s no doubt that the spiders are dying.
  • There are Orcs in this movie. Many of them, and they are more vicious than the spiders. They don’t say kind things, they’re grossly scary-looking, and they kill without remorse. You will see multiple instances of the Orcs themselves getting limbs chopped off and decapitated by Elves and Dwarves. If it’s in 3D, prepare kids for the heads flying off the screen towards you.
  • There isn’t any significant romance, such as what you might have seen between Arwen and Aragorn in the original LOTR trilogy. However, be prepared for a flirtation, then compassion, between the female Elf Tauriel and Dwarf Kili. It starts with Tauriel placing the Dwarves in their respective prison cells and Kili suggesting that Tauriel search his trousers. Tauriel’s retort is awesome! As the movie continues, you will see Kili awakening from a fever to see Tauriel looking over him and he’s clearly in love. Other than the dialogue about the trousers, the purported romance is quite harmless.
  • The movie is 161 minutes. This might be the longest movie my sons have ever sat through, yet they did it without complaint. Keep this in mind if you are considering bringing preschoolers.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a visual treat.

However, if you have read the book, prepare yourself for some divergent plot lines, such as the introduction of Legolas and Tauriel, and Orcs chasing Bilbo and the Dwarves across Middle Earth.

The crew paid significant respect to J.R.R. Tolkien’s descriptions of key settings and characters, and they carried out the storyline adequately—although with quite a bit of creative license. My family enjoyed the movie, despite its deviations from Tolkien’s novel.

Use your judgement when deciding whether to take elementary-school-aged or younger children to the film, it’s appropriately rated PG-13 and can be rather long for younger ones.

Hobbit-Inspired Fall Nature Crafts

nature craft main photo
All images by Lisa Kay Tate

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the winter holidays are approaching fast, and with it comes the much anticipated extra family celebration: the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

J.R.R. Tolkien was someone who loved the outdoors, celebrated nature, embraced the magic of the holiday season (even Bilbo Baggins enjoys a cozy Yule on his way back home in The Hobbit), and found ways of incorporating the beauty of the world (in his case, Middle Earth) in his writings.

In this spirit, I’ve put together two simple Hobbit-inspired nature crafts, perfect for fall and winter decorating: Biblo’s Acorn Button bracelet and Thranduil’s Elven Crown. Both of these crafts incorporate the at least one item that can be found through one of my favorite fall pastimes: nature walks. Any time I can walk with my kids and dogs among the beautiful fall leaves and paw around in the trees, bushes, and pond edges makes the day incredible, especially in the fall.

button steps
Button steps, clockwise from top left: Gather materials, threaded button, glued “acorn half” to button, paint button.

For Bilbo’s Acorn Buttons Bracelet:
• Acorn caps
• Polymer clay, any color
• Plastic or wood buttons, any color (with rim and two or four holes)
• Straw, hemp, or other natural ribbon or twine
• Craft paint (gold and brown)

Thread about 12” of twine through buttons, set aside.

With a sharp craft knife gently slice the acorn caps in half (make sure an adult does this part).

Take small amount of clay and roll it in a ball small enough to fit under the cap half, and place it on a flat surface to shape into an acorn half. Bake per the clay instructions, to harden.

Use strong craft glue to glue the acorn cap to the clay acorn “body” then glue onto the button.

Paint buttons, gold craft paint. Once dry, dab a little watered down brown paint over the buttons to give it an “antiqued look.”

crown steps
Crown steps, from top left: gather sticks and leaves, glue on headband, wrap ribbon to secure.

For Thranduil’s Crown:
• Sticks, twigs, or small branches
• Fall leaf sprigs
• Plain plastic headband
• Natural ribbon or twine

Using a glue gun, adhere the leaf sprigs around the outside of the headband. Ideally, these should stick up about three or four inches.

Glue twigs at least twice the height of the leaf springs around the headband in the same manner. The lighter the twigs used, the better.

Glue one or two twigs, at the each end of the headband, so they stick off the “fronts” of the crown. Don’t make these too long.

Hobbit tree trimming
Trim a tree with Bilbo’s buttons.

Wrap ribbon or twine around the length of the headband, to help hold the leaves and sticks in place. Real leaves look beautiful, but some might want to make a more “permanent” crown with artificial ones.

These crafts can also be used to make Thanksgiving table centerpieces, by placing them among dried leaves, pine cones, seedpods, feathers, or foraged items from the neighborhood. The bracelets can also be used as napkin holders or to trim a nature or Hobbit-inspired tree or wreath.

Whatever you decide, I’m sure Tolkien would approve.

Bilbo’s Acorn Button Bracelet.