Tag Archives: Gift List

REVIEW: Chu’s Day

To finish my month-long series on childhood literacy, I thought there would be nothing better than to look at a great picture book that was just released: Neil Gaiman’s Chu’s Day.

Chu’s Day is the story of a small panda with a big problem. Whenever Chu sneezes, bad things happen. Over the course of the book, Chu appears to be in danger of sneezing a handful of times, first at the library (dusty books), then at the diner where he has lunch (lots of pepper in the air), but it is actually at the circus when nobody is paying attention to Chu that he needs to warn everyone else about his impending calamitous sneeze.

Knowing Gaiman, it would not be outside the realm of possibility for monsters to appear–or more likely, that we realize the worst monsters of all are ourselves–but that doesn’t happen here, and this book stays within a light, cheerful sensibility that any parent can appreciate. The book is designed for very young children, with appropriately simple short sentences and a preeminence given to the artwork.

Speaking of Adam Rex’s artwork, it is beautiful.

One of my favorite images, featuring Chu and his father at a diner

Every page of the book is filled with the gorgeous, deeply colored, and highly characterized art represented on this page. In all seriousness, this is one of the most beautiful picture books I have read. And it only gets more fascinating when Chu finally does sneeze and everything gets blown around!

Of course, it doesn’t really matter how much I like the book. What matters is how much children like the book, and in my particular case, what matters is how much Sam likes the book. Let me tell you, he loves it! We borrowed this from the library and read it regularly while we had it. He is usually pretty good about sitting still and listening to stories, but even so, he did as well with this book as any other book I have ever read to him. What’s more, he seemed to enjoy it every time we read it!

I don’t think I can praise this book highly enough. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors already, but I know this book will be one my whole family will enjoy for years to come, and I have no doubt that it will soon become a classic book read to children for many years to come.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Holiday Game Guide

It’s no secret that I love board games. The last time I wrote about board games here, I got a question on my facebook page (Have you liked the facebook page? It’s a great way to keep up to date on new posts!) about what games would be good for a very small child. Since we’re now fully into the holiday shopping season, I thought I would pass along a few more thoughts on what would games would make a great gift for someone in your life.

Animal Upon Animal in action–image courtesy of Boardgamegeek.com

AGE 3 & UNDER

It’s hard for children much younger than 3 or 4 to really get into games. Ability to understand and follow rules, take turns, and stay engaged for the entire length of the game all make it difficult for kids this young to really get it. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t try, and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean that you have to resort to Candyland (which frankly isn’t a game anyway) either! I recommend something light, easy, and that has value as a toy, even if playing as a game doesn’t appeal to the child at first: Animal Upon Animal, designed by Klaus Miltenberger. In Animal Upon Animal, players build a pyramid of animals, stacking them on top of each other, ala Jenga. Great fun, and your kids will love the animals.

AGE 4-7

At this age, kids should be able to handle more complex rule systems and stay involved with a game longer. However, I don’t want to leave the land of toys quite yet, so here I will recommend Pitchcar/Pitchcar Mini, designed by Jean du Poel. Better yet, if you can still find a copy of Cars 2 Sorry Sliders, go for it. It’s substantially the same game, but at a fraction of the retail of either Pitchcar game, even at full price. I picked up a copy on clearance last week at a Toys R Us (Cars 2 the movie did come out 2.5 years ago after all), so move fast if you want to go that direction! For more information on Pitchcar, I recommend reading the review I wrote about a month ago. In short though, it’s a fantastically fun game where players race around a track by flicking small “cars” on their turn. Kids this age particularly seem to love it (I picked up a copy of Cars 2 Sorry Sliderslast week and Sam’s 7 year old cousin couldn’t get enough of it!), even though people of all ages will enjoy playing.

Pitchcar Mini in action–image courtesy of Boardgamegeek.com

AGE 8-10

Now this is a great age for board gaming! This age group should be able to handle the complexity of most “gateway” or “casual” games, like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, or Pandemic. If you don’t already have those, they’re all great choices that no modern game collection should be without. However, I want to veer a little off the beaten path here and recommend Zooloretto, designed by Michael Schacht. Zooloretto is a great game and 2007 Spiel des Jahres (German game of the year, one of the highest awards given for board game design excellence) winner, about running your own zoo. Kids love the animals, and its light enough they will get it and enjoy it, but interesting enough adults won’t be bored.

AGE 11-13

This is the point when your options become very wide open. These kids should be able to handle most things, and are really ready for some complex interplay between game mechanics. I can’t think of a better choice than Dominion, designed by Donald X. Vaccarino. Dominion, another Spiel des Jahres winner (2009), is all about building a medieval kingdom. However, while the game can be enjoyed on a fairly simple level, a well planned strategy will always win out. At this age, most kids should be able to handle the game (it is also incredibly easy to explain), and will enjoy diving deep into the many strategies available.

TEENAGER/COLLEGE STUDENT

Again, anybody this age should be able to handle virtually any game, and some will be interested in playing the highly complex games of the world. However, by and large they will be more interested in playing light “party” style games with other people. To that end, I recommend 2 different games: Zombie Dice, designed by Steve Jackson, and Wits & Wagers: Party, designed by Dominic Crapuchettes. I don’t really know why, but zombies seem to be the pop culture flavor of the year, and Zombie Dice will suit your zombie fans perfectly. A fairly simple dice game where players play a zombie who, unsurprisingly, wants to eat brains and not get shotgunned. Roll dice hoping you get brains, but stop and “bank” your brains before you roll 3 shotguns. It’s fun, simple, can be played by any number of people, and leads to great moments when someone defies incredible odds as they roll the dice.

Wits & Wagers: Party is a new version of the modern party game classic Wits & Wagers. Really, either game would be a great choice, but the party version is designed to be simpler and easier to jump into, and without the vegas style betting system the original has. Both games feature number related questions where all players write down a guess, like in many trivia games. However, then players guess who actually wrote down the closest answer, so it really doesn’t matter if you know the answers or not–you can win simply by knowing who does know the answer. It’s another game that large numbers of people can pick up and play quickly, and your kids and their friends will love as much as you.

Of course, I may have missed some other great games that would make equally good gifts for someone in your life–or you might have a special case and you’re looking for some more insight into great games for your family. If so, write a comment! Let me know what I missed or what else you might be looking for.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: