Categories
Book for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds

Judy Blume Fudge Series

superfudge

What is it:

The Fudge Series is a collection of four books written by Judy Blume between 1972 and 2002 about a relationship between 9-year-old Peter and his little 2-year-old brother Farley “Fudge” Hatcher.

The first in the series, “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” was published in 1972. This focused on Peter’s experience in elementary school. In 1972, Blume also published another of her famous novels, “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great”. This book exists in the same place and time as the Fudge books, and the book refers to some of the same characters.

These were followed by “Superfudge” in 1980, where the family moves and the boys have a new sister, Tootsie. Ten years later, in 1990, “Fudge-a-Mania” came out. In this third book Fudge is now 5 and Sheila and her family play a larger role.

Thirty years after the original “Fourth Grade Nothing”, Blume published “Doublefudge” in 2002. In this final book of the series, Fudge learns of a cousin with the same name who is obsessed with money.

Who is it for:

Any child in elementary school with a sibling will appreciate the themes and characters, but boys around 9 years old, with a younger brother, will have the easiest time relating to the main character, Peter.

What Kids Like:

Kids like the realism. Judy Blume is a master at conveying the absurdity and occasional cruelty of children, in a fun, funny, and relatable way.

The books are available as audiobooks on CD, read by the author herself. This is my kids’ preferred method of enjoying the stories. They listen to them on repeat.

What Parents Like:

I like that my kids can enjoy some of the same now-classic books I read as a kid. And these books have a lot of wholesome and relatable depictions of family life, that end up teaching lessons about jealousy, competition, selfishness, and more.

What the Critics Think:

Blume’s books are all well-received, getting 4/5 stars or higher on most rating sites.

There are good summaries and ratings at Judy Blume’s pages at Common Sense Media and Goodreads

Concerns/Flaws:

Not really any, but some scenes are a bit grosser or more realistic than I see in books published now.

Who Made it / History:

Judy Blume had her first book (“The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo”) in 1969 and is still at it. Her most recent novel (“In the Unlikely Event”) came out in 2015. All of her books are about the challenges and humor of siblings growing up together.

Her website has lots of information on her books and the stories behind them.

When I began to write our babysitter, Willie Mae Bartlett, brought me an article from the newspaper about a toddler who swallowed a tiny pet turtle. This was in the late sixties, when you could still buy turtles for pets. Willie Mae thought the story might inspire me. And it certainly did! I sat down and wrote a picture book called “Peter, Fudge and Dribble.” I submitted my manuscript to several publishers but they all rejected it. Two editors wrote personal notes saying they found the story very funny but one was concerned that it could lead to small children swallowing turtles, and the other found it too unbelievable to publish.

A few years later, my first agent submitted the story to Ann Durell, editor of children’s books at E.P. Dutton. Ann invited me to lunch. I was so nervous I could hardly eat but she was so warm and friendly I finally relaxed. Ann liked my story but she suggested, instead of a picture book, I consider writing a longer book about the Hatcher family, using “Peter, Fudge and Dribble” as one of the chapters.

I loved her idea and went home fired up and ready to write. That summer I wrote the book, basing the character of Fudge on my son, Larry, when he was a toddler. Though I still lived in suburban New Jersey, I set the book in New York City, in the building where my best friend, Mary Weaver, lived with her family. I changed the address but the elevator I describe in the book with its mirrored wall and upholstered bench is exactly as it was, and still is, in Mary’s building.

I proudly sent the finished manuscript to my agent but after she’d read it she said, “I don’t think this is anything like what Ann had in mind.” I was stunned and asked her to show it to Ann anyway. She did. Ann liked the manuscript and offered to publish it just as it was (I think it was the only book I’ve ever written that I didn’t revise). I was ecstatic.

We had a problem with my original title, “Peter, Fudge and Dribble,” because another book had just come out called “Peter Potts.” I couldn’t come up with anything I liked as well and finally sent Ann a list of twenty possibilities, among them, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. That’s the one Ann chose.

Where Can I Get it:

The books remain in print, as far as I can tell, but you may have an easier time finding them used or at the library.

Categories
for 3-year-olds for 4-year-olds for 5-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds Game

Sorry!

Sorry!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorry!_(game)#/media/File:Sorry_diamond_edit.jpg

What is it:

Sorry! is a classic board game based on the ancient Indian game of parcheesi. Two to four players move colored tokens around a board, trying to be the first to get all of their tokens to the “home” base.

Who is it for:

The game is marketed for kids 6 and up, but I find that it’s a fun game to play with kids as young as 3, provided they play with an adult who can guide them through the process.

What Kids Like:

Young kids like showing off their ability to count and to feel like they’re winning (regardless of whether they actually are). Older kids like learning the strategy and like the competitive aspect of forcing other players back. My kids in particular like ganging up on any grown-up playing.

What Parents Like:

We like the way the game encourages younger players to practice counting and also like the level of strategic thinking involved. The strategy is at a level that even a 6-year-old can pick up on basic ways of improving their odds.

I also like that the game lends itself to quick games. We often play by an alternate rule where the first player to get any token to home (or sometimes the first to get two in) wins. This also shows how the game lends itself to other variants, such as team play, or the fire and ice power-ups in the newer rule set.

Something we often don’t think about with new games is how tolerant the game is to losing pieces. A chess set is difficult to play with more than 2 or 3 pieces missing, and a deck of cards with 49 cards isn’t good for much other than war. Sorry!, on the other hand, can lose cards or a few tokens and still be fun and very playable.

And of course, it’s nice to have an alternative to video games.

Concerns/Flaws:

The concern comes from the competitive nature of the game. It can be very frustrating to put a lot of time into moving a token toward the goal, only to have your brother move it back to start while laughing in your face.

At least for younger kids, what I have found is that it’s good to have an adult play along in order to help diffuse conflicts and go easy on younger players while pushing back harder against more aggressive older players. This is true for other competitive games as well – such as Monopoly. For older kids, these games can be great ways of learning good-sportsmanship – how to win and lose gracefully and graciously.

Who Made it / History:

From the Sorry! Wikipedia page:

William Henry Story of Southend-on-Sea filed for a patent for the game in England, where it was registered as a trade mark on 21 May 1929 (UK number 502898). It was subsequently sold in the United Kingdom by Waddingtons, the British games manufacturer who sold it from 1934. In the United States, U.S. Patent 1,903,661 was filed for Sorry! on 4 Aug 1930 by William Henry Storey. A Canadian patent followed in 1932. The US patent was issued on 11 April 1933. Sorry! was adopted by Parker Brothers in 1934. Hasbro now continuously publishes it.

Where Can I Get it:

Sorry! is available everywhere games are sold.

Categories
Audiobook Book for 10-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds

Charlie Bumpers

What is it:

Charlie Bumpers is a series of chapter books about a 4th grader and his problems at school.

There are audiobook versions of the stories, read by the author, that are fun to listen to in the car.

BOOK 1 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year
BOOK 2 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome
BOOK 3 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull
BOOK 4 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey
BOOK 5 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Puny Pirates
BOOK 6 Charlie Bumpers vs. His Big Blabby Mouth
BOOK 7 Charlie Bumpers vs. the End of the Year

Who is it for:

Ages 7 to 10 is probably about right. Kids younger than 4th grade may be interested but probably can’t focus on books with only scattered pictures. And older kids will no longer be able to relate to the problems of a 4th grader.

The audiobook versions of the books are more accessible to slightly younger kids.

What Kids Like:

The stories are funny and engaging, and they feel authentic. So much of media aimed at kids is a] heavily sanitized, and/or b] a representation of adults’ unrealistic and idealized vision of childhood. But not many depict issues such as bullying, or antagonism with teachers and parents and other kids in a realistic, but also fun way.

What Parents Like:

Again, the stories are funny. My first exposure was hearing an excerpt from one of the audiobooks and it reminded me of the scene from “Stand by Me” when the kid throws up at the pie eating contest. I also like the stories balance of wholesomeness with reality.

The books cover important themes, including Friendship, Following rules, Overcoming fears, Learning lessons, Kindness, Making good choices
(this list is from the publisher’s teacher’s guide)

What the Critics Think:

Goodreads gives the books an average of 4.0 out of 5

Some of the books have won awards. The first one got:
2013 Parents Choice Award (Fall) (2008-Up) — Fiction (Recommended)
2014 Delaware Diamonds Award — Grades 3-5 (Nominee)
2015 Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award — Grades 4-6 (Nominee)
2015 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award — Children’s Book (Nominee)
2015 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award — Grades 3-6 (Nominee)
2015 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award — Grades 3-6 (Nominee)
2015 South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award — Children’s (Nominee)
2016 Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award — Intermediate (Nominee)
2016 Golden Sower Award — Intermediate (Nominee)
2016 Sequoyah Book Award — Children’s (Nominee)
2016 Virginia Readers Choice Award — Elementary (Nominee)
(from fictiondb)

Who Made it / History:

Bill Harley is a performer who travels to schools, singing, telling stories and entertaining.

More of Adam Gustavson’s art can be found on his website

Where Can I Get it:

The books are easy to find, although the publisher, Peachtree doesn’t have the same reach as Scholastic, so you won’t find these books at school book fairs.

Peachtree has excerpts of the books as well as little videos that give a sense of the mood and tone of the stories.

Categories
Album for 3-year-olds for 4-year-olds for 5-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds

Caspar Babypants

What is it

If you ever wanted to hear the band The Presidents of the United States of America play Beatles covers and nursery rhymes, then have I got the band for you.

Chris Ballew, the lead singer and basitarist of P.U.S.A. has a side gig as Caspar Babypants and has put out eleven albums under that name.

Who is it for

Most of the songs are simple (covers such as the Baa Baa Black Sheep nursery rhyme, or Beatles tunes such as Hello Goodbye) and a few of the originals are slightly more complex, but all have a very professional arrangement and production. So, while kids of various ages may like the songs, older kids and adults can appreciate the musicianship.

What Kids Like

We discovered Caspar Babypants on WXPN’s nightly kids’ music show, Kids Corner where the host, Kathy O’Connell, played Caspar Babypants’ Crooked Crows. My kids became transfixed and asked to play the song over and over on youtube when we got home.

They like the simple, kid-friendly lyrics, but also like that the songs don’t sound like typical kid songs, which usually have very spare arrangement.

What Parents Like

I like that there is music for kids that I can actually enjoy, rather than merely endure.

What the Critics Think

Caspar Babypants was nominated for a Grammy in 2019 and got a PEPS award in 2016

Who Made it

Chris Ballew has led an interesting and enviable life (more on his Wikipedia page)

Fatherly has an article titled How Presidents of the United States’ Chris Ballew Became Caspar Babypants

He is married to artist Kate Endle

History

From the Caspar Babypants Wikipedia page:

Ballew’s first brush with children’s music came in 2002, when he recorded and donated an album of traditional children’s songs to the nonprofit Program for Early Parent Support titled “PEPS Sing A Long!” Although that was a positive experience for him, he did not consider making music for families until he met his wife, collage artist Kate Endle.[1] Her art inspired Ballew to consider making music that “sounded like her art looked” as he has said. Ballew began writing original songs and digging up nursery rhymes and folk songs in the public domain to interpret and make his own.[2] The first album, Here I Am!, was recorded during the summer of 2008 and released in February 2009.

Where Can I Get it

Caspar Babypants has a YouTube channel and is available on Spotify and other streaming services.

Categories
for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 12-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds Video

Good Eats

What is it

Good Eats was and is a half-hour cooking show hosted by Alton Brown on the Food Network. Good Eats distinguishes itself from other cooking shows in 2 ways. The video editing and styling is very modern compared to the static camera typical of traditional cooking shows. In Good Eats, the camera is often placed inside the over or in a cabinet, and is often moving. The other way is that Alton Brown gets much deeper into cooking chemistry than most other shows, talking about why 350° is the magic number for baking, why sugar turns brown when you cook it, the difference between baking soda and baking powder, etc.

From the producer:

Equal parts smart and sardonic, creator and host Alton Brown uses a combination of classroom methods and wacky comedy sketches to explain not just how to whip up an excellent dish, but also why the ingredients interact as they do when you put them all together. Brown has said that the show’s inspiration is to combine Julia Child, Mr. Wizard and “Monty Python.”

Who is it for

This is a fun show for families to watch together, especially if the kids are interested in cooking.

The show is definitely not vegetarian or vegan, so young cooks avoiding meat and dairy will not find as much to enjoy.

What Kids Like

The editing and pacing is fast enough to not be boring. Alton Brown is avuncular and fun as a host. And the content has the right mix of humor, science, and cooking instruction.

Even if you don’t cook, or are not interested in the dishes being prepared, there is enough knowledge and entertainment to want to watch.

What Parents Like

I like that there is a show that I can watch with genuine interest along with my kids.

I also like that the explanation is about WHY to do something, not just HOW. Most cooking shows focus only on the how.

What the Critics Think

The show has been very popular since it debuted in 1999

9.4/10 on IMDb

8.7/10 on TV.com

and 92% by Google users

Concerns/Flaws

I don’t know whether this opinion is widely shared, but I much prefer the “classic” Good Eats episodes from the early 2000s. Alton Brown was more earnest then, still trying to prove himself. Brown’s persona now seems much more smug and often condescending. There also were more wacky antics with homemade props like you would see in a twisted episode of Mr. Wizard.

The older shows also had a wide open field of subjects, while now, twenty years later, he has to repeat himself or focus on more esoteric subjects.

So my recommendation is to watch the older episodes first.

A more general criticism is that there are often factual errors in the show. Not many, but enough that I (not a chef or chemist) have found a few.

And a final concern is that there are few if any vegetarian or vegan dishes prepared.

(Brown’s bio says he was born in L.A. but he speaks with a slight southern accent and is (or at least was) a big celebrity in the Atlanta area in Georgia. When I went through the Atlanta airport in 2009 there were huge [30+ feet high] banners of Alton Brown and Ludakris hanging from the ceiling. I mention that only to explain why I think the Good Eats menu seems to favor down-home country cooking. Another aside: the first time I went to Georgia I ate at some greasy spoon and noticed that the menu had a “veggie burger” only to discover that it meant the burger came with lettuce and tomato.)

Who Made it / History

The show began in 1999 by Alton Brown, who had made a name for himself as a videographer (he ran stedicam on an R.E.M. video). The ’90s were a busy time for the new Food Network, and many cooks (Emiril, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali) became household names.

The show ran from 1999 through 2012. In the intervening years, Brown has had many food TV roles, including as announcer for Iron Chef America as well as taking Good Eats as a touring road show. He has also had a surprising number of voice acting roles

The show has resumed production in 2019.

Where Can I Get it

Good Eats is shown on TV on the Food Network, and online on Hulu and YouTube TV. And you can buy individual episodes on YouTube and iTunes.

Categories
for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 12-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds Game Website

Prodigy math game

What is it

Prodigy is an online game that relies on math to engage in battles with fantasy creatures. The game is a MORPG (multiplayer online role-playing game) and there is a limited social element where players can interact with other players. The game is free but the user is occasionally bombarded with in-game ads for the full membership.

Membership costs $8.95 per month or $59.88 per year. Membership removes ads and allows the player to do additional things in the game. These things (e.g. permitting a player to have more than 8 in-game pets) seem trivial to me but may matter to kids.

Prodigy is essentially gamified flash cards. Prodigy does not teach math, but instead drills players with grade-appropriate questions. Getting the question correct allows the in-game character to use some kind of spell in a battle. Winning battles earns credits, which can be used to level up armor, buy pets, etc.

Who is it for

Our kids don’t play any other MORPGs, so this is the game that permits them to have that experience. A kid who already plays online RPGs would probably find Prodigy to be inferior.

The educational part of the game is essentially identical to ALEKS. But while ALEKS has almost zero visual design or user feedback, Prodigy has loads. So a kid who needs/wants math drills but is frustrated by the flaws in ALEKS, might enjoy Prodigy.

Prodigy is in no way a substitute for a math course. It is useful as an ancillary activity, reinforcing the concepts that a child has learned elsewhere.

What Kids Like

My kids loathe ALEKS and love Prodigy. They enjoy the virtual environment, having an in-game character that they can name, dress, etc. They like all the game aspects of leveling up and earning credits. The math part is sometimes frustrating – because there is never explanation of how to solve the problems – but the fun of the game is usually enough to motivate them to continue.

What Parents Like

I like that instead of just playing a game, the kids are getting some math practice. We’ve tried other forms of math exercise, but Prodigy is the only one anyone has stuck with.

I have not used these features, but Prodigy allows parents to set goals for the kids, and set the rewards. It also allows parents to monitor progress and receive Report Cards.

What the Critics Think

Prodigy has loads of critics. The fact that the game does not actually teach anything, and solely relies on drills, is a frustrating surprise for some.

Common Sense Media has very mixed reviews, but ultimately gives Prodigy 4/5 stars.

Concerns/Flaws

• The excessive pressure to buy a membership can be annoying. There are not ads for other things, as there are in many of the apps my kids play, but still the ads for Prodigy membership may be enough reason to not play it.

• The game relies on a thirst for violent competition. The violence is very cartoon-y, without blood or gore. And the competition is not really different from what you would see in a game of chess.

However, most math-education tools/games rely on the desire to solve problems as the motivator. Prodigy uses the desire to win as the motivator. This may seem a subtle distinction, but it will appeal greatly to some students and not at all to others.

Who Made it / History

Prodigy was founded in 2011 by Rohan Mahimker, Alex Peters and is now developed and maintained by a rather large (70+) team based in Toronto.

Where Can I Get it

The Prodigy game website

Categories
Book for 5-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds

Children Just Like Me

What is it

Children Just Like Me is a book with profiles of children from around the world. Each profile includes a photo of the child (typically aged between 7 and 10) and family, a description of where they live, what they eat, how they play, and what they learn in school. It’s a fun, easy format that shows both how cultures and regions are distinct from each other as well as how most children have a lot in common.

From the publisher’s (DK) website:

A favorite in classrooms, libraries, and homes, Children Just Like Me is a comprehensive view of international cultures, exploring diverse backgrounds from Argentina to New Zealand to China to Israel. With this brand new edition, children will learn about their peers around the world through engaging photographs and understandable text laid out in DK’s distinctive style.

Highlighting 36 different countries, Children Just Like Me profiles 44 children and their daily lives. From rural farms to busy cities to riverboats, this celebration of children around the world shows the many ways children are different and the many ways they are the same, no matter where they live.

Meet Bolat, an eight-year-old from Kazakhstan who likes to cycle, play with his pet dogs, and play the dromba; Joaquin from New Jersey who enjoys reading and spending time with his family, and whose favorite food is bacon; or Yaroslav from Moscow who likes to make robots. Daily routines, stories of friends and family, and dreams for the future are spoken directly from the children themselves, making the content appropriate and interesting to draw in young readers.

To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this special project, all-new photography, maps, and facts give unique insight to children’s lives in our world today showing their homes, food, outfits, schools, families, and hobbies.

A passport to a celebratory journey around the world, Children Just Like Me is perfect for children who are curious about the children of the world and their stories.

Who is it for

Any kid who is curious about other children, is learning to understand the differences between peoples, could enjoy the book. It is most popular with our 6-year-old.

What Kids Like

Just like babies like looking at pictures of other babies, elementary school age kids like seeing pictures of other kids their age and learning about them. They are at an age when they are discovering the concept of “normal” and sometimes wonder whether they are normal, and who else might be normal, or not, and whether it matters. And part of that process is seeing the limits of what normal is, and also seeing that what is normal in one country may be very strange to us, and vice versa.

Honestly, when I first saw the book, I thought it was one of those books that parents and teachers think will be good for kids, but that kids wouldn’t actually like. But to my surprise, the kids like it. It’s frequently pulled off the shelf and handed to me for bedtime reading.

What Parents Like

I like that the kids learn about other cultures in an easy, fun way. My kids don’t have the patience to sit through a documentary and foreign travel is expensive. This book gets to the essence of geographical and cultural studies by showing what makes different nationalities distinct from one another.

What the Critics Think

Common Sense Media gives it 4/5 stars. They also say it is for ages 9+, which doesn’t seem right to me.

Who Made it / History

From the Amazon page:

Published to coincide with UNICEF’s fiftieth anniversary, a celebration of children around the world is based upon interviews with young people from all walks of life and reveals their diverse cultural backgrounds and universal similarities.

After the original book was published in 1995, several more related titles and an updated version have been published.

There are now a total of 9 books in the series.

Where Can I Get it

The publisher’s page has links to the book’s pages at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and IndieBound

Categories
Book for 4-year-olds for 5-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds

Parts – Tedd Arnold

What is it

Parts is a book about a kid who thinks his body is falling apart.

There are also two sequels: “More Parts” and “Even More Parts”

The book is written in rhyme:

“I stared at it, amazed, and wondered,
What’s this all about?
But then I understood. It was
My stuffing coming out!

And has whimsical, cartoon-ish full-page illustrations.

Who is it for

Kids from 4 to 8 are the core group, but younger kids might enjoy it. There is a bit of gross-out humor (boogers and ear wax) so kids of the age to enjoy that are the right age.

What Kids Like

The book is funny. The character gets increasingly anxious as he thinks he’s discovering evidence that his body is falling apart. The pictures are fun in their detail.

Part of the pleasure is having an anxious kid finally realize that there’s not really a problem after all

I’m not sure what the magic ingredient is for this book, but it’s one of the few that gets pulled off the shelf at bedtime every few months. The kids remember it, even after months have passed, which is much more than can be said of most of their books.

What Parents Like

There is just a hint of education in the book, with simplified explanations of the relationship between skin and bones and teeth and guts. It’s not much, but it’s enough to spark curiosity about anatomy and lead to conversations about it.

What the Critics Think

Parts gets 4.3/5 on Goodreads

and 4.7/5 on Amazon

There is a review at the-best-childrens-books.org

Who Made it / History

Parts was written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold and published by Picture Puffin Books.

Arnold is probably best known for his “Fly Guy” series.

Categories
for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 12-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds Game Puzzle Website

Brain Bashers

What is it

Brain Bashers is a collection of free logic puzzles updated every day.

The puzzles come in easy, medium, and hard varieties and are implemented in JavaScript so can be played on any computer or smart phone.

Puzzles include: Sudoku, 3-In-A-Row, ABC Path, ABC View, Battleships, Bridges, CalcuDoku, Fillomino, Futoshiki, Hitori, Kakurasu, Killer Sudoku, Light Up, MathemaGrid, Neighbours, Net Slide, Network, Nonogrids, Nurikabe, Range, Skyscrapers, Slants, Slitherlink, Sudoku, Tents, Tracks, and Web Words.

Most of these are so-called Japanese-style paper-and-pencil logic puzzles that you see in many newspapers.


Who is it for

Anyone who likes puzzles will like the site. Kids need to be old enough to think abstractly so I would say 7+ for some of the easier variants of the simpler types of puzzles.

What Kids Like

Puzzles are fun, and kids like mini-challenges that don’t take much time but make them feel smart.

Web Words is fun. The New York Times has a similar (and slicker) version of this, called Spelling Bee.

Nonogrids is like a paint-by-number puzzle.

The site also has various brain teasers, optical illusions, and word puzzles.

The site also saves your progress, if you want, without requiring an account.

What Parents Like

It’s free! And there is a huge amount of content. You could spend hours every single day on the site since it’s updated daily. I have to assume the creator has a program that generates all the puzzles automatically.

Logic puzzles are a great way of exercising the brain and I’m happy to let my kids spend as much time as they like on it.

Many sites have logic puzzles on them, but require you to print them out. Brain Bashers let you play right on the screen

Concerns/Flaws

The interface has not changed all that much since it was started and it now seems a bit clunky, and not quite as mobile-friendly as other sites. This site really ought to be an app at this point.

Who Made it / History

The site began as Puzzles4U way back in 1997 by Kevin Stone

More here

Categories
Book for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 12-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds

Secret Coders

From graphic novel superstar Gene Luen Yang comes Secret Coders, a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic coding instruction with a page-turning mystery plot! Follow Hopper and her friend Eni as they use their wits and their growing prowess with coding to solve the many mysteries of Stately Academy.

What is it

Secret Coders is a series (6 as of October 2018, and I think they are done) of graphic novels where kids have to fight bad guys using programming concepts.

This may sound dry, but the writing and drawing is compelling and the education value is high, but never at the expense of storytelling.

Who is it for

This is for kids who can understand abstract thinking. 7 may be too young, depending on the kid, 8 and up is probably right. A kid who has shown an interest in chess or writing code, is probably old enough and a good match.

What Kids Like

The kids like the fun, funny, exciting storytelling. The content is easily digestible and the experience of reading the books is similar to watching a cartoon on TV.

What Parents Like

I like that the educational aspect is deeper than many other STEM-focused books. These books cover topics such as binary trees, if/else statements, variables and other essential computer science concepts. But again, not in a way that takes away from the pleasure of reading.

The books are a great introduction to computer science, and there are really very few of those. Most CS intros for kids just start with a bunch of code without that initial hand-holding and explanation that many kids need, especially with such an abstract subject.

There is a website for the series: secret-coders.com with activities related to the books, and readers can download a simple coding language called Logo and try some of the code presented in the books.

In Secret Coders, Hooper, Eni, and Josh learn Logo, an ancient and nearly-forgotten programming language! You can learn Logo, too, by downloading and installing UCBLogo! UCBLogo is a Logo interpreter — a piece of software that allows your computer to understand the Logo language. You can download it for free here.

What the Critics Think

The box set and the 5th book in the series (Potions & Parameters) get 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon, which is very high.

GoodReads rates the books with an average a little over 4/5 The ratings on Amazon and GoodReads go up as the series progresses.

Common Sense Media gives the series 4/5

Winner of the Mathical Book Award in 2015.

(The Mathical book list is a great set of good books, organized by age.)

Concerns/Flaws

The illustrations are black-and-white (or really, black-and-white-and-green) and it’s possible that some kids, who are used to saturated colors in all their media, will be turned off by this. But that is a minor concern.

Who Made it

The books are written by Gene Luen Yang

From the Macmillan author bio

Gene Luen Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. As the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, he advocates for the importance of reading, especially reading diversely. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second Books, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints won the L.A. Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award Finalist. His other works include Secret Coders (with Mike Holmes), The Shadow Hero (with Sonny Liew), New Super-Man from DC Comics (with various artists), and the Avatar: The Last Airbender series from Dark Horse Comics (with Gurihiru). In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. National Book Awards Finalist

And illustrated by Mike Holmes

Mike Holmes has drawn for the comics series Secret Coders, Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time, and the viral art project Mikenesses. His books include the True Story collection (2011), This American Drive (2009), and Shenanigans. He lives with a cat named Ella, who is his best buddy.

The books are published by First Second, an imprint of Macmillan, with many beautiful and interesting titles, including the ongoing Science Comics series.

History

The first book came out in 2015 and the others were published about every 6 months after that.

Secret Coders (Volume 1)
Gene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and is a MacArthur Fellow, a recipient of what’s popularly known as the MacArthur “Genius” Grant. Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes! From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!

Secret Coders 2: Paths & Portals
Hopper and Eni are back in the second volume of the exciting new computer-programming series by New York Times-bestselling author Gene Luen Yang.

Secret Coders 3: Secrets & Sequences
The coders are back in the third volume of the exciting new computer-programming series by New York Times–bestselling author Gene Luen Yang.

Secret Coders 4: Robots & Repeats
Dr. One-Zero has added a new class to Stately Academy’s curriculum. But in “Advanced Chemistry,” they only teach one lesson: how to make Green Pop! While their classmates are manufacturing this dangerous soda, the Coders uncover a clue that may lead them to Hopper’s missing dad. Is it time to use Professor Bee’s most powerful weapon: the Turtle of Light?

Secret Coders 5: Potions & Parameters
Dr. One-Zero won’t stop until the whole town—no, the whole world—embraces the “true happiness” found in his poisonous potion, Green Pop. And now that he has the Turtle of Light, he’s virtually unstoppable. There’s one weapon that can defeat him: another Turtle of Light. Unfortunately, they can only be found in another dimension! To open a portal to this new world, Hopper, Eni, and Josh’s coding skills will be put to the test.

Secret Coders 6: Monsters & Modules
The Coders always knew their programming skills would take them far, but they never guessed they would take them to another dimension! Or to be accurate, one dimension less—to save humanity, Hopper, Eni, and Josh must travel to Flatland, a dangerous two-dimensional world ruled by polygons. If they can return home safely with a turtle of light, they might just stand a chance in their final showdown with Dr. One-Zero!

Where Can I Get it

Amazon and everywhere else