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  • Heidi Fiedler 1:00 pm on 2016/09/25 Permalink
    Tags: Kid Stuff,   

    Celebrate Maker Faire with 8 Books to Encourage Young Computer Geniuses 

    When you clean out the backseat of your car, do you find miniature circuit boards mixed in with the crumbs? Is there a constant hum of video game music playing in your house? Do your kids dream about Minecraft? Maker families are invited to explore Barnes & Noble’s Mini Maker Faire November 5th and 6th. With demos, workshops, and project ideas galore, young programmers, graphic designers, and other tech-heads will feel right at home. Already excited? Check out one of the books below! They’re designed to inspire your resident genius’s next great idea—and they’re exclusive to Barnes & Noble!

    Getting Started with Raspberry Pi
    New to programming? Raspberry Pi is the perfect way to get started, and this book is a simple introduction. Kids will learn how to do everything from setting up a Pi to recording their own songs. They can even use Python to develop their own Minecraft masterpieces. This berry is ripe with possibilities, and this guide will help make the first steps kids take a success.

    Writing Computer Code
    Programming is about more than memorizing a series of zeros and ones. It’s about learning to speak the language of computers. This accessible introduction teaches kids to write a script that produces an online robot that makes it easy to visualize the effects of each line of code. Young programmers can customize their bot’s shapes and colors, and even teach it to dance!

    Getting Started with Coding
    This book teaches new programmers more skills, including how to create a drawing tool, animate graphics, and add a timer to applications. The simple, classroom-tested activities encourage confidence and build a foundation of knowledge that give young coders the freedom to design any digi-wonder they can dream of.

    Making YouTube Videos
    Whether your kids are drama queens, young activists, or pint-sized mad scientists, their future is video. YouTube is where  people go to express themselves and connect with others. This exclusive title shows kids how to star in their own videos and post them online. There are digital tips and tricks and ideas for creating content. In no time, kids will be ready to host their own channel!

    Modding Minecraft
    An octopus-shaped skyscraper? Sure. World’s best tree fort? Why not! A loop-de-loop rollercoaster made of gold? YES! All this and more!!! The mega game Minecraft has been proven to improve abstract thinking, spatial reasoning, and creativity in players young and old. If the builders in your house are obsessed, grab a copy of this book while you’re at the Maker Faire. It’s packed with ideas and pro tips to help kids design their own totally unique mods—whatever crazy shape they might take.

    Building a Minecraft City
    Depending on their personal aesthetic and obsessions, Minecraft fans can build surreal structures or mind bogglingly realistic cities. Some cities take years to build. If your kiddo is looking for ways to speed up construction just a bit, this exclusive book is here to help. Author Sarah Guthalas invites players to go deeper into the world of blocks, try new techniques, and build something totally fresh—without requiring two years of construction!

    Creating Digital Animations
    Imagine. Program. Share. That’s what Scratch is all about. It’s a simple language designed to help kids create and share stories, animations, and games. This book teaches the basics and more, with step-by-step instructions that show young makers how to turn their ideas into real programs, with sound effects, animation, and lots of other fun bells and whistles. If that doesn’t scratch their programming itch, nothing will!

    Designing Digital Games
    With a little Scratch know-how, young designers can create a game from the ground up. This book includes three simple projects that produce impressive results. Readers will learn how to design a digital pet snake, build a maze, and develop a game. By encouraging kids to create their own engaging graphics, this book makes computer time active, not passive!

    To learn more about the Barnes & Noble Maker Faire, click here! We hope to see you there!

    The post Celebrate Maker Faire with 8 Books to Encourage Young Computer Geniuses appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 8:00 pm on 2016/09/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , Kid Stuff,   

    Watch the Exclusive Book Trailer for Bryce Moore’s The Memory Thief 

    The Memory Thief

    For better or for worse, our memories shape who are. So imagine having the power to steal them from other people—from the memories they cherish, to those they deeply regret. This is the magical premise behind author Bryce Moore’s newest novel for young readers, The Memory Thief, brought to you by Adaptive Studios and available exclusively at Barnes & Noble.

    When Benji runs into a group of bullies at a county fair, he ducks into a tent called The Memory Emporium and meets Louis, a strange man with the power to take memories from others. Benji’s parents have been arguing, and he immediately imagines how taking some of their memories could keep them from fighting with each other, and convinces Louis to teach him this intriguing skill. But as he learns more about the art of being a “memory thief,” Benji realizes it is an ability that brings with it powerful—and sometimes damaging—consequences. And soon after meeting fellow memory thief Genevieve, who uses her abilities for evil, Benji finds himself pitted against her in a desperate struggle to protect the memories of everyone in town—including his little sister, Kelly.

    Check out The Memory Thiefs eerily atmospheric book trailer for a colorful glimpse into Moore’s haunting story.

    The Memory Thief is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post Watch the Exclusive Book Trailer for Bryce Moore’s The Memory Thief appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:30 pm on 2016/07/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Kid Stuff,   

    Strange Facts About Presidential History 

    The first thing people might wonder upon glimpsing Grover Cleveland, Again! on a bookshelf is why in the world Ken Burns, the celebrated documentarian who gave us in-depth films such as Baseball and The Civil War, would be writing an illustrated children’s book. The second thing would probably be why in the world it’s titled Grover Cleveland, Again!.

    The answer to both questions is contained in Burns’ charming introduction to this beautiful book (illustrated by Gerald Kelley): When his daughters were very young Burns, ever the historian, would get them to sleep by reciting the names of the presidents in order. His kids quickly memorized the list, and it became a game they played at bedtime—he would say the first name, they would supply the last name. When they got to Grover Cleveland’s second term, the kids would shout “Grover Cleveland, again!”

    If you’re surprised to find out that Grover Cleveland was both our 22nd and 24th president—the only person to have been elected to two non-consecutive terms, in fact—then this book is perfect for you and your kids—or just you. Because Burns and Kelley have given us a book that kids will find engaging and interesting, and adults will find surprisingly compelling themselves.

    Growing Up to be President
    Burns also has an ulterior motive in writing this book: he wants to impress upon kids that nothing, really, is stopping them from someday being president themselves. Despite the fact that 43 out of our 44 presidents to date have been white men, Burns looks a little deeper and finds a vast spread among the education, wealth, background, and philosophies of each president and uses this often overlooked diversity to make the point that America remains a country where people can rise from humble or unlikely beginnings to become leader of the country. In an age where we’ve just seen our first black president and might just be on the cusp of electing our first female president, the message really resonates.

    A Tiny Education
    Most people in the modern age aren’t terribly familiar with past presidents; after all, their decisions, controversies, and performance in office often seems like ancient history that has no bearing on our modern lives. Grover Cleveland, Again! is composed of two-page spreads for each president (two for Cleveland, naturally!) that are wonders of design, offering a wealth of easily absorbed information offering a glimpse of the times, the issues, and the achievements of each president. An official portrait and dense list of stats is accompanied by a gorgeous painting by Kelley depicting an important (or often private) moment from the president’s life or career, coupled with a clear, concise writeup that will give anyone a basic understanding of that president’s place in our shared history.

    Unlike a lot of books aimed at children, Burns doesn’t try to candy-coat history too much. While there’s no room for in-depth analysis, Burns doesn’t exclude negative facts about the presidents; for example, in his writeup of Andrew Jackson, Burns says, “Andrew Jackson did a couple of things in particular that most people think were wrong. First, he strongly supported the institution of slavery.” In his introduction, Burns also writes that “the great stain of slavery” still haunts the nation. He includes just enough of this sort of complexity to keep his overview of the presidents honest—and, more importantly, to spark questions from kids reading or listening to the book.

    Gorgeously Illustrated
    Gerald Kelley has been one of the top illustrators in the world of commercial art and book illustrations for a long time now, and his lush watercolors are both striking and beautiful. Kelley’s style is simultaneously simple (with implied backgrounds and rough edges) and complex (with a color sensibility and compositional eye that makes each piece pop off the page). The choice of which moment to illustrate for each man is also smart throughout, always a scene that isn’t one of the famous images already associated with that president, making every one a wonderful surprise for both kids and adults.

    The Lesson
    In the end, Burns succeeds in making his point: while superficially our list of presidents have been similar looking, in reality they’ve been very diverse—in their beliefs, their philosophy of government, and their origins. We’ve had educated presidents and uneducated presidents, rich ones and poor ones, physically frail ones and Teddy Roosevelt, even presidents with learning disabilities. Seeing all those differences spread out in one book like this really does drive it home: in America, any citizen can be president—and that’s a wonderful lesson for kids to learn.

  • Jenny Shank 5:30 pm on 2016/06/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Kid Stuff, nightmare fodder,   

    5 Disturbing Details from the Books of Roald Dahl (That You Probably Don’t Remember) 

    Roald Dahl knew how to capture the imaginations of children, and he always respected them as readers. His books often take extreme plot twists, conveying how dramatic ordinary events can appear to a kid, and how capricious, mysterious, and unfair adults can seem. In painting with broad strokes, Dahl makes life feel true to kids, who have little control over their days. Plus, Dahl always follows Matilda’s rule for writing for children: books for kids should always have plenty of “funny bits.” Sometimes Dahl’s funny bits are a little disturbing, which is part of what makes him such a distinctive and beloved writer. Here are five brilliant, disturbing details from Dahl’s books that you may not recall.

    Little box of horrors: The Chokey in Matilda
    Like all memorable sadists, the Trunchbull, the massive headmistress at Matilda’s school, is creative in her punishments. When a child’s long braids displease her, she uses them to hurl her across the schoolyard. When a boy is caught stealing cake, the Trunchbull makes him eat an entire cake in front of his assembled classmates. But the Trunchbull’s most twisted torture device has to be the Chokey.

    As fellow student Hortensia tells Matilda, “The Chokey…is a very tall but narrow cupboard. The floor is only ten inches square so you can’t sit down or squat in it. You have to stand. And three of the walls are made of cement with bits of broken glass sticking out all over, so you can’t lean against them. You have to stand more or less at attention all the time when you get locked up in there.” And you can’t lean on the door, either, because it has got “thousands of sharp spikey nails sticking out of it.”

    Once you’re a mouse, there’s no turning back in The Witches
    When The Witches‘ seven-year-old, unnamed narrator’s parents are killed, he goes to live with his grandmother. They form an especially close bond, and she teaches him all about spotting witches, her pet obsession. Then they book a trip at a resort that turns out to be hosting a convention of covert witches, who turn the narrator into a mouse. His small stature comes in handy for defeating them, but there is one drawback: he remains a mouse.

    Most children’s book writers would probably choose to have the spell wear off or to figure a way out of it, but Roald Dahl commits to his magic. The narrator cannot be turned back into a boy, which means he’ll have a mouse-sized lifespan. “A mouse-person will almost certainly live for three times as long as an ordinary mouse,” Grandmamma tells him. “About nine years.” But the boy rejoices in the news, figuring then he and his grandmother will die at about the same time, and he’ll never be alone. Has there ever been a stranger or more beautiful metaphor for the depths of the love a child can feel for his guardian?

    Rampant drug use among animals in James and the Giant Peach
    Believe it or not, the charming classic James and the Giant Peach is frequently banned. Is itchallenged because James’ adoring parents are eaten by an escaped zoo rhinoceros? Or because his horrid aunts get squashed flat by a peach? Nope, it’s mostly challenged for its drug and alcohol references, as in this rhyme that a Centipede sings to James: “Once upon a time/When pigs were swine/And monkeys chewed tobacco/And hens took snuff/To make themselves tough/And the ducks said quack-quack-quacko/And porcupines/Drank fiery wines.”

    Giants: They’re made out of people in The BFG
    In The BFG, the title character kidnaps Sophie and takes her to Giant Country, where kids are on the menu. “We is having an interesting babblement about the taste of the human bean. The human bean is not a vegetable,” one giant says. Even though the plot of the book involves ridding the world of people-eating giants, The BFG frequently lands on banned lists for its depiction of cannibalism.

    Get the kid to the juicer in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    Willie Wonka could swap stories with the Trunchbull about creative punishments for kids. So why does he endear while the Trunchbull horrifies? He’s much more debonair, his punishments are always just, and the children inflict them on themselves when they disobey. My favorite punishment is that of Violet Beauregarde, who clamors after some blueberry gum in such a spoiled manner that when she gets it, she turns blue and inflates into a blueberry. Wonka instructs the Oompah-Loompahs to roll her the Juicing Room. “We’ve got to squeeze the juice out of her immediately,” he explains. “After that, we’ll just have to see how she comes out.”

  • Whitney Collins 3:00 pm on 2016/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: book nerd experiments, , experiments, , , , Kid Stuff, , real life,   

    Here’s What Happened When I Let My Kids Pick My Next 5 Reads 

    You may be familiar with the recent viral experiment “I Let My Boyfriend/Husband Dress Me For A Week,” wherein brave women relinquish control of their closets and let the men in their lives take the fashion reins. As you can imagine, the results have been a combination of the comical, the endearing, the smutty, and the pleasantly—sometimes jaw-droppingly—surprising.

    So this month I thought I’d take this same challenge but steer it down a literary road; instead of outfits, I’d insist on books. On top of that, I thought it might be nice (aka, beneficial to my marriage) to spare my husband the pressure of selecting said publicized reads and, as a potentially disastrous alternative, enlist my sons to the task.

    It’s important to note that my children are 4 and 9. Their idea of “quality reading” usually involves something under 50 pages that features LARGE PRINT and a back page of detachable scratch-and-sniff stickers. Granted, my fourth grader has recently completed several notable, award-winning middle-grade books for his class’s literary circle (because he was assigned to do so), but you should probably know my pre-kindergartner spent the entirety of his eight dollars at the annual school book fair on World’s Cutest Cats & Kittens in 3-D.

    So this experiment came with an element of risk. “Boys,” I explained at the bookstore. “You have to browse every section. Not just the kids’ books.” I quickly added: “And I’m not reading anything that has a corresponding cartoon on television.” These were necessary guidelines, lest I end up with five copies of SpongeBob Goes to the Doctor. (Because I have already seen that episode. Thrice. And believe me, I know more than I ever wanted to know about “The Suds.”)

    Here were the rules: George, age 9, was allowed to select two books. Mark, age 4, was allowed to select two books. The final book, they had to agree on. It will come as no surprise that this stipulation resulted in a bar room brawl between the sci-fi aisle and the kitty cat endcap. I eventually led them over to the cookbook section, where I delivered my ultimatum: “PICK SOMETHING NOW OR YOU DON’T GET CANDY.”

    So, without much further ado about nothing, here’s what we went home with:

    Gluten is my Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free, by April Peveteaux
    Gluten is my Bitch has the big ol’ B-word on its cover, which is very funny to kids who can read. “Are we buying this?!” George asked incredulously. “Really?! You’re really going to let me pick out a book with B-I-T-C-H on the front?” It also has a big picture of charred toast on the front, which is very funny to kids who can’t read. “Look!” Mark squealed. “Breakfast like you make, Mommy!”

    Superficial selection reasons aside, Gluten is my Bitch turned out to be an excellent book. Yes, we, like lots of annoying people everywhere, have discovered that the amber waves of grain are not our friends. Thankfully, none of us is celiac, but this indispensable book for the wheat-wary is written for anyone struggling with symptoms that point toward gluten intolerance, such as gastrointestinal distress, depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. (Just to name a miserable few.)

    Author Peveteaux was diagnosed with celiac as an adult. The result of her discovering she’d no longer be able to eat cupcakes and doughnuts ever again? A brief period of despair, followed by the launch of her hilarious blog, “Gluten Is My Bitch.” So honest, entertaining, and popular was her site, a book of the same name inevitably followed. And I’m so glad it has that big ol’ B-word on its cover, because otherwise I would have never encountered the LOL brilliance of Peveteaux.

    Within I found an indispensable guide to living gluten-free, complete with lots of unfiltered personal anecdotes and truly useful advice from one of the funniest and most unabashed bloggers around. Need to know how to grocery shop, parent, travel to France, or eat at a TGI Friday’s without “getting glutened”? Peveteaux’s got you covered, with great advice and more than 60 wheat-free recipes ranging from mac and cheese to Ding Dongs. Oh, yes. So, if you’re celiac, wheat intolerant/allergic, or suspecting you might be, I highly recommend you go find the book with the burnt toast and B-word on the cover. It ended up being a delightful read. Nice work, kids.

    Pax, by Sara Pennypacker
    This lovely novel was chosen without hesitation by Mark, who picked it because it has a sweet, illustrated fox on the front. But don’t be fooled; although this book has both tenderness and charming drawings by Jon Klassen in spades, it isn’t a cute, little picture book. Rather, iPax is a profound and timely novel (perfect for grades 5 and up) that tackles the devastation of war, the process of grief, and the mysterious bond between a boy and his dog. Or in this case, a boy and his fox.

    Peter and Pax have been together (and inseparable) ever since Peter rescued the fox as a kit and his father reluctantly allowed him to keep and raise him. It’s a relationship destined to bloom, as both boy and fox lost their mothers at a young age and are both desperate to find a fellow lonelyheart. But when Peter turns 12 and his father enlists in the army, the unthinkable happens: Peter’s father forces him to take Pax to the woods and release him, before Peter is sent 300 miles away to live with his grandfather. Within hours of his arrival, Peter makes the daring decision to run away. Armed with just the bare essentials, plus his baseball glove, Peter sets out to reunite with Pax no matter the risk.

    Told in chapters alternating between the brave, searching voice of Peter and the sharp, believable voice of Pax, this groundbreaking tour de force follows the unforgettable journeys of boy and fox, the dangers they face, the friends they meet, and the love that propels them forward despite the bleak landscapes of an unnamed, eerily contemporary war.

    What a special discovery in this selection. I don’t normally browse this age group for myself, but thanks to this experiment, I found an epic must-read for myself and my soon-to-be 10-year-old.

    The Happy Prince and Other Stories, by Oscar Wilde
    At my urging that he consider the classics aisle, George quickly picked out this one and set it on our growing stack. “Why this?” I asked, curious. “I dunno,” he said. “It looks good.” I found that surprising, as the Puffin version of this renowned Oscar Wilde collection is not particularly remarkable cover-wise. There’s just a gold prince crying one tear next to a small bird—no blood or gore, much less the B-word!—in sight. But my son was set on his choice, so I dove into it with delight. Partly because I’m a sucker for fairy tales, but also because (and I disclose this shamefully, as an English major) I’ve never read Oscar Wilde. Having dodged both The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray, it seemed destined that this would come my way.

    And what a fantastic discovery it was. Wilde’s narratives are deeply imaginative, lush with vivid description, and chock full of wisdom, tragedy, and longing. The title story, “The Happy Prince,” is one of the most lovely and plaintive of the bunch. It tells the legend of a golden statue of a Prince who overlooks the poverty of a city and attempts to save its residents by enlisting a lone sparrow to strip him of his jewels and give them to the poor.

    Another favorite was a cautionary parable for the miserly, “The Selfish Giant.” It details the fate of an uncharitable giant who builds a wall to keep schoolchildren from his beautiful flower garden and orchard, only to have his property fall into a permanent winter. Expect an unexpected ending, rife with religious symbolism.

    “The Nightingale and the Rose” is one of the more melancholy yet glorious accounts of unrequited love I’ve read since Romeo and Juliet, and “The Devoted Friend” is about a fellow who is everything but that, replete with the best and worst of humanity. Each of the nine gems in this series, from “The Remarkable Rocket,” “The Young King” and “The Birthday of the Infanta” to “The Star-Child” and “The Fisherman and His Soul” is filled with delightful just desserts and evocative morals. They’re appropriate for kids, but profound enough for adults, making them a wonderful read or read-aloud guaranteed to spark lots of metaphysical discussions.

    Snuggle the Baby: An Interactive Book!, by Sara Gillingham
    Mark chose this innovative and interactive board book, probably because its 1960-style design and colors are irresistible, but maybe (just maybe) because he has a new baby cousin he isn’t particularly keen on. This great selection is perfect for kids who want to know how babies work, as well as for kids who think they don’t want to know how babies work.

    Inside, kids will find a sturdy, swaddled board baby who snaps neatly into bed, as well as a removable bottle that can be used to feed it. There’s a blanket that secures with Velcro, a lift-flap to tickle baby’s tummy, little arms that swing up to show “SO BIG!”, and most excitingly, a diaper that can be opened and closed. Mark originally chose this, I believe, to be silly (or regressive), but was soon entranced by the care of his cardboard friend. With pages on playing, moving, feeding, changing, comforting, and sleeping, this is a terrific gift book for soon-to-be big brothers and sisters—or cousins—who need to know their way around an infant, but may be intimidated by one who is actually alive.

    The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, by Stephen King
    Before I had kids, I was scared by a things both abstract and far-fetched, including Bigfoot, shark attacks, demonic hauntings, and loneliness, just to name a few. But after motherhood, my fears turned to the more concrete and probable, such as super lice, kidnappers, fourth-grade math, and knowing it would be a while before I had the luxury of being lonely again. So when George selected a Stephen King book, I breathed a sigh of relief. How nice it will be, I thought, to return to the world of bogeymen instead of domestic neuroses.

    Was I ever wrong. First off, this lesser-known King book is about a 9-year-old who gets lost in the woods. UM. THAT IS VERY LIKELY. Second of all, King has a way of writing—and spooking—that makes a case of super lice sound like a pleasant way to spend a weekend…or two.

    The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is the story of Trisha McFarland, a young girl who tires of her squabbling brother and mother while hiking, and decides to hang back for a moment of peace on the Appalachian Trail. The next thing she knows, she’s utterly lost. Armed with a little food and her Walkman, Trisha decides to follow a river while listening to a baseball game featuring her favorite player and crush, Tom Gordon. Like all King novels, things start out relatively well for Trisha (she does have two Twinkies, a tuna sandwich, and some wilderness ideas picked up from Little House on the Prairie), but soon enough, dehydration and panic have her hallucinating. She sees familiar faces, including that of Tom Gordon, but eventually becomes so delusional she believes the God of the Lost—a wasp-faced evil creature—is hunting her down.

    Each chapter in this unconventional terror tale is represented by an inning, and by “The Bottom of the Ninth,” readers will wonder if there’s any way Trisha is getting out of this alive, or with her sanity intact. Both traditionally creepy and psychologically thrilling, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a King book I’d never heard of but now can’t get out of my mind. So, thanks, George. Thanks, a lot. Oh, and guess what else? I found out this book now has a POP-UP VERSION. Like anything more needed to jump off the page here? I didn’t think so, but guess what. It’s incredible, too.

    In conclusion, letting my kids pick my next five reads turned out to be astoundingly fun. I don’t think I would have chosen any of the selections on my own, but after reading them, there’s not one I wouldn’t recommend. So the next time you’re in the bookstore with your kids, you might want to let them choose something for you—you could find yourself pleasantly surprised. Plus, it’s safer than letting them go down the fashion route. You might not end up enjoying your book on baseball stats, but it’s better than having to run to Target wearing adult footie pajamas and a snorkel mask.

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