Gift Ideas: Middle Grade Books for Kids Who Love Sports

 

It is not always rainbows and butterflies when it comes to getting young people to read. We live in a world where there are so many things that are competing for their attention that it can be very difficult sometimes to convince them that books not only feed their brains, but they also can take you on wonderful adventures and captivate you with great stories. To me, the best stories, especially for young readers, are the ones that are are relatable. Stories that you can completely picture yourself in or someone else that you know can be some of the best stories that you have ever read. To see things that you know about articulated into an entire book can sometimes be gratifying as we often don’t know the right words to use to describe our experiences.

Which brings me to this latest post…

I have a friend who has a child that absolutely loves sports, but she struggles to find books that keeps his attention so I have been tasked with finding some books that he may like. I have seen a few books YA books in passing but never gave them a 2nd glance because I figured that Rahni would never read them because she’s really not into sports. I didn’t consider that just because there was a guy on the cover with a helmet on, that there may be a great story behind the cover. As I started doing my research and reading excerpts,  I found quite a few books that I not only think my friends son would love, but I also want to read them myself!

Below are some of the great books by some great authors that I have picked out during my search. If you have read any of them I would love to hear your thoughts and if you have any suggestions, please feel free to drop them in the comments!

If you have a reader that reads middle grade level books and loves sports, maybe they will enjoy some of these selections too!

*Synopsis are taken straight from the author’s or retailer’s site.

The Crossover

Synopsis: Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

Suggested for ages: 10 and up

Why I chose this book: Many reasons, but mainly because it is poetic prose and the summary sounds very interesting. Kwame Alexander takes a story about basketball and makes poetry of it in the form of a chapter book and to me, that is absolutely brilliant! While reading the excerpt, I found myself reading the verses first as regular prose and then as poetry, and it made the experience so much more exciting. I really think this is a book that readers can come back and find new meaning as they progress in age and maturity.

Other books by Kwame Alexander  similar to Crossover

Booked

Synopsis:Nick Hall lives and breathes soccer. But when he’s sidelined by an injury, his word-loving father takes the opportunity to try to instill a love of reading into his reluctant son. Nick’s mother leaves for a job out of state, he and his best friend hit the skids, he’s dealing with a bully, and on top of all of that, he has to navigate the highs and lows of a first crush.

The Playbook

Synopsis: Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes
and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

To read more about Kwame Alexander and his other books click here.

 

 

Heart of a Champion by Carl Deuker

Suggested for ages: 12 and up

Synopsis: Jimmy Winter is a born star on the baseball field, and Seth Barnam can only dream of being as talented. Still, the two baseball fanatics have the kind of friendship that should last forever. But when Seth experiences an unthinkable loss, he’s forced to find his own personal strength–on and off the field.

Why I chose this book: Again, I am a sucker for a great plot. After reading chapter 1 I found myself wanting to know more about Jimmy and Seth. I am not a huge fan of baseball nor do I understand it a great deal and the great part is that I don’t need to in order to enjoy this book. Friendship, growing up, loss, love, joy and pain- who cannot relate to those things on some level? Also, Carl Deuker’s storytelling is phenomenal! I think that like the books by Kwame Alexander, these are also great ways “sneak” in a little something extra besides just sports.

Other books by Carl Deuker similar to Heart of a Champion

Swagger

Synopsis: When high school senior Jonas moves to Seattle, he is glad to meet Levi, a nice, soft-spoken guy and fellow basketball player. Suspense builds like a slow drumbeat as readers start to smell a rat in Ryan Hartwell, a charismatic basketball coach and sexual predator. When Levi reluctantly tells Jonas that Hartwell abused him, Jonas has to decide whether he should risk his future career to report the coach. Pitch-perfect basketball plays, well-developed characters, and fine storytelling make this psychological sports novel a slam dunk.

Painting the Black

Synopsis: In his senior year of high school, late bloomer Ryan Ward has just begun to feel the magic of baseball—the thrill of catching a wicked slider, of throwing a runner out, of training hard and playing hard. His friend Josh, the star of the team, has helped Ryan push his limits. But when Josh clearly pushes the limits too far, Ryan is faced with a heartbreaking dilemma: he must choose between his love for the game and his sense of integrity.

To read more about Carl Deuker and his books click here.

 

 

The Walk On by John Feinstein

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Suggested for ages: 10 and up

Synopsis: Alex has the better arm, but Matt has more experience—and the coach’s loyalty. Alex finally gets a chance to show what he can do when Matt is injured, and he helps win a key game to keep the Lions’ bid for the state championship alive. But just when his star is rising, Alex gets blindsided—the state has started drug testing, and Alex’s test comes back positive for steroids. Alex knows that’s not right. But he doesn’t know if it’s a mistake—or if someone wants to make sure he can’t play. . . .

Why I chose this book:  As you all know from a previous post, I love good books that are in a series. Sometimes a story can be over sooner than we are ready to say good bye to our new fictional friends. Luckily for us, with this series called Triple Threat, we don’t have to. In this series Alex, the protagonist is a triple threat in high school sports. He is a new kid in a new town trying to prove himself and navigate through his new life. The story line is pretty solid and at times it deals with some heavier issues for a middle grade series, however, they are real life topics that a lot of kids deal with or go through. I think John Feinstein has done a great job of really creating great stories around the sports, not just about them. I can see some really great lessons and discussions coming from this series.

Other books by John Feinstein similar to The Walk On

The Sixth Man

Synopsis: It’s basketball season. And for once, triple threat Alex Myers is not the one in the spotlight. There’s a new new guy in town, Max Bellotti—and he promises to turn the Lions’ losing streak around and lead the team to a conference title.
Alex is psyched, but some of the older guys on the team resent being benched in favor of an upstart freshman. And when Max comes out as gay, not everyone takes the news in stride. Snide comments and cold shoulders escalate into heated protests and an out-and-out war with the school board. While controversy swirls around them, the Lions have to decide: Will personal issues sink their season, or can they find a way to stand together as a team?

The DH

Synopsis: Alex Myers’s football and basketball seasons were mired in controversy, and his dad’s been MIA since his parents split up. All Alex wants this spring is to work on his fastball and hang out with his maybe-girlfriend, Christine. But he runs into unexpected competition. Matt Gordon was suspended from sports after he admitted taking PEDs during football season, but the athletic board has decided to give him another chance. So he’s on the team—and he’s got something to prove. He’s also got his eye on Christine.
The question this season—is all fair in love and baseball? Or are some things truly unforgivable?

To learn more about John Feinstein and his books click here.

 

Gift Ideas: Boxed Book Sets

books3It is almost that time again and if you are anything like me, you are somewhat (read totally) lost as to what to get your kiddo or other kids on your list for Christmas. I used to try to rely on wish lists and dropped hints but my kid sometimes changes what she really, really wants from day-to-day, so I find the lists and clues to be somewhat unreliable. Also, I am attempting the 4 Gift Rule this year which is:

1. Something they want

2. Something they need

3. Something to wear

4. Something to read.

I am pretty sure that I can  stick to this rule, I just need to find Gift 1. Something she wants. Luckily, numbers 2 and 3 are my specialties, and also so is number 4…something to read.

Hence this post.

It is not that I cannot find her anything to read, the exact opposite is true. My biggest challenge is going to be only getting 1 book for her to read. I have said it before and I will say it again, this is such a great time to be a person, specifically a kid, who loves to read! There are so many great books out there by so many great authors with so many different stories to tell, it seems almost magical! I know for me, after reading a really good book, I have this urgent need to read something else. I immediately log into Good Reads or Amazon looking for another book by the same author or a similar story so that I can stay on that reading high that my last book took me on. There’s nothing like it! The best thing to me is reading a really good book only to find out that it is part of a series, and I may be wrong, but I assume that winning the lottery has the same kind of feeling as this discovery. 🙂

This Christmas, give your reader or other readers on your list the same feeling of excitement with some of these great box sets.

Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder

This set includes: Mercy Watson to the Rescue, Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, Mercy Watson Fights Crime, Mercy Watson: Princee in Disguise, Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig, and Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes

Suggested for ages: 5-8

Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book 10-Book Box Set

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This set includes: Amelia Bedelia Means Business, Amelia Bedelia Unleashed, Amelia Bedelia Road Trip!, Amelia Bedelia Goes Wild!, Amelia Bedelia Shapes Up, Amelia Bedelia Cleans Up, Amelia Bedelia Sets Sail, Amelia Bedelia Dances Off, Amelia Bedelia on the Job, and Amelia Bedelia Ties the Knot. Also includes a collectible full-color bookmark!

Suggested for ages: 6-10

This alt value should not be empty if you assign primary imageThe Judy Moody Uber Awesome Collection: Books 1-9

This set includes: Judy Moody, Judy Moody Gets Famous, Judy Moody Saves the World!, Judy Moody Predicts the Future, Judy Moody, MD.:The Doctor is In!, Judy Moody Declares Independence, Judy Moody Around the World in 8 and 189 Days, Judy Moody Goes to College, and Judy Moody, Girl Detective.

Suggested for ages: 6-9

The Spiderwick Chronicles

The Spiderwick Chronicles (the Complete Series)

This set includes: The Field Guide , The Seeing Stone, Lucinda’s Secret, The Ironwood Tree, and The Wrath of Mulgrath

Suggested for: ages 6-10

A Series of Unfortunate Events Boxed Set: The Complete Wreck (1-13)

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This set includes:  The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, The Miserable Mill, The Austere Academy, The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, The Carnivorous Carnival, The Slippery Slope, The Crim Crotto, and The Penul Timate Peril

Suggested for ages: 8 and up

The Complete Ramona Collection

The Complete Ramona Collection

This set includes: Beezus and Ramona, Ramona and Her Father, Ramona and Her Mother, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Ramona Forever, Ramona the Brave, Ramona the Pest, Ramona’s World

Suggested for ages: 8-12

Judy Blume’s Fudge Box Set

Judy Blume: The Complete Set of Fudge

This set includes: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania, and Double Fudge

Suggested for ages: 8-12

Judy Blume Essentials

This set includes: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret; Blubber; Deenie; Iggie’s House; It’s Not the End of the World; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t; Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself

Suggested for ages: 8-12

Wayside School Boxed Set

Wayside School Boxed Set

This set includes: Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Wayside School is Falling Down, and Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger

Suggested for ages: 8-12

The Essential Kate DiCamillo Collection

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The set includes: Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tiger Rising, The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and The Magician’s Elephant

Suggested for ages: 8-12

Special Edition Harry Potter Paperback Box Set

Special Edition Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (1-7)

This set includes: Harry Potter books 1-7

Suggested for ages 8 and up

The Baby-Sittercs Club Graphix 1-4

This set includes: The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels 1-4

Suggested for ages 8-12

Dork Diaries Squee-tastic Collection Books 1-10 (Hardcover Boxed Set)

This set includes:Dork Diaries #1: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life, Dork Diaries #2: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl, Dork Diaries #3: Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Star, Dork Diaries #3 1/2: How to Dork Your Diary, Dork Diaries #4: Tales From a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess, Dork Diaries #5: Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All
Dork Diaries #6: Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker, Dork Diaries #7: Tales from a Not-So-Glam TV Star, Dork Diaries #8: Tales from a Not-So-Happily Ever After, Dork Diaries #9: Tales from a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen, and Dork Diaries #10: Tales from a Not-So-Perfect Pet Sitter

Suggested for ages: 9 and up

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Boxed Set (Books 1-5)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Boxed Set (Books 1-5)

This set includes: Book 1: The Lightning Thief, Book 2: The Sea of Monsters, Book 3: The Titan’s Curse, Book 4: The Battle of the Labyrinth, and Book 5: The Last Olympian

Suggested for ages: 9 and up

Smile and Sisters: The Box Set

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This set includes: Smile, Sisters

Suggested for ages 9-12

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

This set includes: The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle

Suggested for ages 9 and up

Charlie Boxed Set

Charlie Boxed Set: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

This set includes: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

Suggested for ages: 13 and up

Summer Reading Book Haul

Just in case you guys did not know, we have started a You Tube channel!!

It has been a huge learning experience, but we are having so much fun! Please check out the page and subscribe!

We will post all of the videos here as well so that you can easily access them.

Thank you for your continued support!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6kauyzeexhS24WB7NV4jBg

May Book Club Pick Jacky HA-HA by James Patterson

We have tried to start a book club in the past with no avail because  either people were too busy or just not interested. So, instead of giving up, we decided to do something different and have a virtual book club. For the book club,  Rahni will pick out a book to read and then she will come back in a month to the blog and NEW YouTube channel and review the book. We think that this will make it a lot easier for both parents and readers as they don’t have to physically be at a place to meet, and also, if they miss this month’s pick, they can pretty much jump in whenever it is convenient for them.

The purpose of the book club is to inspire reading in all ages, but mainly to get other kids motivated and excited about books! When children see their peers doing things, it tends to make it look more attractive or fun, so the hope is that by doing more with the blog and YouTube, kids will find inspiration to pick up more books.

If you have suggestions on books to read, please do not hesitate to comment on the blog or on YouTube!

Thank you for your continued support and for stopping by!

 

10 Gift Ideas for Geeky Kids

GoldieBlox Ruby Rails Skydive Action Figure

(Click headings for more information)

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Price range: about $25
Age range: 5 years old and up

Goldie’s tech-savvy and stylish BFF Ruby Rails is ready to head out on a skydiving adventure. She has fully-articulated joints, hands that grip, and a kit to build her coder backpack and working fabric parachute – all she needs is you.

I was very excited when this doll came out for many reasons, but the main reason is because she looks like my daughter. I cannot stress enough the importance of positive images for children, and the importance of them seeing characters that look like them represented in the media and products. I think that Goldie Blox really won with this one, as she makes me more excited for all of the great products that they offer that promotes STEM curiosity in girls.

Also, check out
Ruby’s Sky-High cable car

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 Cloudbit Starter Kit

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Price range: about $89.99
Suggested age range: 14 years old and up

Take what you have and make it a smart device!

This kit includes the CloudBit plus 5 of our favorite prototyping modules; everything you need to create internet-connected devices in seconds. Recreate the most popular smart devices, use littleBits to prototype the next billion dollar idea, or invent a project that solves your own, unique problem.Perfect for hackers, designers, makers and tinkerers of all levels–without the programming, soldering and wiring normally required.

To find out more check out the video below!

 

 OgoSport OgoBild Animate It Studio Kit with Webcam
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Price range: $59- $75
Suggested age range: 6 years old and up

Looks can be deceiving! This is actually a lot cooler than it appears. Admittedly when I first saw it, I thought it looked pretty basic and boring. But the more that I have researched it and the more videos I have watched, I have discovered that this is actually pretty cool! The figurines, which look like add connector toys, are very conducive for stop motion as they are easily ,manipulated and have a wide range of motion due to their flexibility. Your child can create some pretty gnarly looking characters from what’s provided in the studio kit. There are also additional kits for character pieces that are sold separately.

If your child is interested in film, photography, or animation, this would be a pretty awesome gift!

Still not convinced?
Check out this video, that is sure to change your mind.

With the stop motion animation, you can virtually use anything as long as you have the proper equipment. There are many online tutorials and short films of people using various things from Minecraft to LEGO. Check out the videos below!

Meccano MeccaNoid G15

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Price range: $99-$200
$299-500 for G15 KS
Suggested age range: 10 years old and up

I just do not know where to start with this one. The MeccaNoid G15 is a personal robot that constructs up to 2 feet tall. The arms and legs are movable due to 6 motors. The MeccaNoid can mirror images, respond to voice commands, and comes pre loaded with over 1000 jokes, phrases, and fun facts. The android Meccabrain actually walks you through part of the assembly process..wow! The MeccaNiod can be controlled with the free MaccaNoid app installed into your smart device. There is also a motion capture feature that is used woth the MeccaNoid and your smart device to capture movement.

There is no way I can put into words just how amazing the MeccaNoid G15 or it’s big brother MeccaNoid G15 KS are so please, check out these videos below.

This is truly an awesome time to be a geeky kid!



LEGO Dimensions

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Price range: Starter pack $59-$99
Level packs: $14.99- $50
Suggested age range: 7-14 years old

LEGO Dimensions is a quest game that gives players the opportunity to mix characters and worlds as they journey to defeat Lord Vortech. The Dimensions brands include Back to the Future, DC Comics, Dr Who, Jurassic World, LEGO Chima, LEGO Ninjago, Portal 2, Scoooby Do, The LEGO Movie, The Lord of the Rings, The Simpsons, and The Wizard of OZ.
The game supports 2 local players and mixing of matching of characters and worlds.
To get started, you must have either an XBox, XBox One, PS 3 or 4, or Wii U and a starter pack. You also, need an internet connection.(The internet connection is for updates only right now.) After that you build your collection through various expansion packs with different characters and items from their worlds.
To see how you get started check out this awesome diagram from Gamestop.com

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Also, head over to LEGO for these really cool videos and FAQs!

Action Plates Drawing Set

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Price Range: $19-$25
Suggested age range: 5-12 years old

This is a little less bells and whistles, but to me it’s just as great because it lets kids use their imagination and creativity. We all remember the fashion plates sets from childhood, right? It had various templates of girl models with different out fits that you rub on the outline and color it in. I loved those things as kid! I would spend hours upon hours making different pictures planning how I would someday take the fashion industry by storm!  I recently  discovered this very cool activity set that features action heroes in place of fashion models. With the resurgence of comic books and super heroes into pop culture, this gift would be perfect for your little geek. I am not too excited about the crayons that comes in the set, but that’s easily remedies by using your own. And for about $20 it’s not such a bad choice t all!

Light Up Tesla Kit (Blue Tooth)

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Price Range: $85-$100
Suggest age range: 8 and up

This is one of the coolest toys that I would definitely recommend for any child whether they consider themselves geeky or not. LightUp introduces kids to engineering, tinkering, and coding with a construction kit that includes magnetically connected circuits.   There is an app that is used in conjunction to the kit. Using pre-designed, magnetically connecting circuits and switches, plus a large programmable microcontroller, kids get to build, rearrange, invent, and even program all kinds of real electrical circuits.

For more information watch the video below!


 

The Original Spirograph Deluxe Set

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Price range: $19.99- $25
Age range: 5 years old and up

Created by mechanical engineer, Denys Fisher – the Spirograph, originally a drafting tool, was an instant hit in the toy world. It’s been fascinating people ever since its first introduction in 1965.
Beautiful, intricate designs from the motion of gears around wheels – the mathematics and art of it are awe-inspiring.

Mighty Makers Home Designer Building Set

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Price range: $50-$75
Suggested age range: 7 years old and up

Who say’s girls don’t like to build?

K’Nex is another company that has launched products and campaigns geared towards promoting STEM for girls and it’s pretty awesome. They have an entire line of Mighty Makers with really cool construction kits that include an airplane, green house, Ferris Wheel, and more.

Build your dream house from the ground up with Brianna and Sophia in the Home Designer Building Set. Sophia loves building, while Brianna helps with the finishing touches of the interior. These best friends are a dynamic duo when it comes to building and decorating houses. Help them build different styles of houses – a colonial, a brownstone, and a ranch. Decorate the houses using the included accessories and make their home, your home with the Home Designer Building Set from Mighty Makers. Most models can be built one at a time.

View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack

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Price range: $27.99- $45.00
Suggested age range: 7-15 years old

This ain’t your mama’s View Master!

Mattel has partnered with Google Cardboard to bring VR technology to the youngest audience. Aimed at kids 7 and older, the VR Viewer works with a compatible smartphone to offer an immersive experience in space, landmark destinations, and cool wildlife.

http://www.amazon.com/View-Master-Virtual-Reality-Starter-Pack/dp/B011EG5HJ2%3Fpsc%3D1%26SubscriptionId%3DAKIAICE7LOAJMK3SSLPA%26tag%3Dpcm_bkmrklt-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3DB011EG5HJ2

Some of My Favorite Books Right Now

Sew Fab Sewing and Style for Young Fashionistas:
Author: Lesley Ware

ISBN-10: 178067404X
ISBN-13: 978-1780674049

Sew Fab is a great book about sewing, style, and designing. There are guides to help you pick your own style tribe, accessorize, and also how to choose your color palette. I love this book because I am really into fashion and clothes. One day I want to be able to use a sewing machine like my mom does to create pretty dresses and skirts to wear. There are also some really cool projects in the book, my favorite one is the After School Tote.

Another thing I love about the book is the illustrations. The pictures look like they are painted with watercolors and all of the girls in the book have on really cute outfits!  The colors are bright and pretty The girl on the cover has on Chuck’s and those are my favorite shoes. I sometimes use the book when my mom lets me pick my own outfits.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fashion or wants to learn more about sewing. It has helped me out a lot!

Jem and the Holograms comics :
Author: Kelly Thompson and Sophia Campbell

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I love comic books!

I just  started reading the Jem and the Holograms comics a few weeks ago. I read all 4 comics in one day and have read My favorite part of comics are the illustrations because I want to be an author/illustrator one day. I have seen the Jem cartoon that my mom used to watch when she was a kid and I loved it!

In the comics the main character is Jerrica Benton but her secret identity is Jem. Jem has a girl band called Jem and the Holograms and they give concerts and help out kids with the Starlight Foundation. Jem has a computer named Synergy that helps her and her band transform and it is super cool! I like the Jem cartoons and comics because all of the stories have a lesson and a moral that I can learn.

I would recommend these comic books to anyone who likes music, brightly colored graphics, and comics. There are 11 books in the series plus a holiday special.

The Witches:
Author: Roald Dahl

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ISBN-10: 0590032496
ISBN-13: 978-0142410110

My teacher read this book to our class and I loved it so much, I had to read it myself. I want to read all of Roald Dahl’s books because the stories I have seen in movies were great, and I am sure the books are too!
The story is about 2 boys, the narrator and a boy named Bruno Jenkins, who meet some witches and get turned into mice. With the help of the narrators grandmother, they try to find away to turn back into boys and get back at the witches.
I like this book because it is very funny and creative. The funniest part of the book to me, was when the witches were at their meeting and The Grand High Witch told them all that they could remove their wigs, gloves, and shoes.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes funny stories.

The Jigsaw Jones Mystery Books :
Author: James Preller

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I like these stories because they are funny and there are real mysteries to be solved. I like to watch NCIS, Sherlock,  and other mystery stories with my mom, but I don’t always understand what is going on. The Jigsaw Jones books are very kid friendly and easy to understand. Another thing I like, is that I can read the books easily in one day and still remember details.

The main character is Jigsaw Jones. He loves drinking grape juice and he has a dog named Rags. The story is written like Jigsaw is an actual detective and I like that a lot. It’s not just a kid trying to solve mysteries, he actually is really good at it. The book reminds me of Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mystery stories.

Kids in Tech: Raspberry Pi

If you were born in the late 70’s or early 80’s like myself, you probably remember the days of booting up computers and typing in commands to do simple things like open a file or a program. If your mom and/or dad was anything like mine, you probably had a computer that had a hard drive that very seldom had the cover on it because of the constant tinkering that took place in attempts to make it process more information faster. I grew up in a house with a computer geek. For fun, my mother brought home Punched cards and green and white striped dot matrix computer paper for my brother and I to play with. We spent plenty of weekend days in cold rooms that had servers and large reels of tape collecting massive amounts of data. To this day, old school white tiled rooms, surrounded by glass, and filled with enormous computers brings back memories of my childhood.

I grew up around computers, like a lot of kids my age. Even if most of us only used them for simple things like playing games from floppy disks, we had a familiarity with them and an intimacy that kids these days don’t. When I powered up my old IBM, there was no pretty icons that showed me what programs were available. There was no mouse that I could point and click and have information quickly at my access.There was no start menu with lists of software to choose from. All we had was the C prompt. That was it. We had to learn. We had to learn how to navigate and communicate with our computers. We had to learn to understand what it was saying to us and how to address the scenario should a problem occur. “Syntax error” meant nothing more than you did something wrong and had to ask for what you wanted again. In magazines, there were fun codes we could run. I remember a code I spent about an hour typing in just for something to flash across the screen. Our world existed on a black screen with a flashing cursor in DOS. It was THE life!

Then entered Windows and Nintendos. Bye floppy disks and C prompts! See you later!

If you haven’t already checked out my last 2 Kids In Tech posts, check them out here and here.

With the rise of the home PC and game consoles came a decline in kids needing or wanting to learn computer coding or about computer language. Super user friendly GUIs such as Windows does almost everything  so that most people only need to know how to click icons, right click, left click, and press buttons in order to get to what they want from their computers and other devices. PC’s don’t require the users to do anything at the boot level any longer, so simple tasks such as running a programs from a command prompt is lost on most kids. Many kids don’t even know what a command prompt is. This lack of interest/need, and in adequate school curriculum in computer programming language and coding has lead to a lack of skilled people in the job market.

This lack was noticed by 4 scholars at University of Cambridge in 2006 and they decided to do something about it. In an effort to make learning about computers and coding more accessible and affordable for people all over the world,  Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft, based at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory created the Raspberry Pi.

What is a Raspberry Pi? The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python.(Taken directly from www.RaspberryPi.org)

The Raspberry Pi is not meant to replace a pc/laptop. Though the processor is limited, it is still powerful enough to support some really cool projects at an affordable price. You could probably do the same things by buying all of the pieces and building a computer yourself, however, a lot of people don’t have the knowledge on where to start or how to begin. This simplifies the process by having the actual computing component already built with and OS and softawre. It comes with a Linux based OS called Raspbian. On the Raspbian the pre installed software is Python, Scratch, Sonic Pi, Java, Minecraft Pi, and more.

How much does a Raspberry Pi cost?

There are 3 versions of the Raspberry Pi:

(All prices are plus shipping and handling and tax.)

The Model A+ is the low-cost variant of the Raspberry Pi. It has 256MB RAM, one USB port, 40 GPIO pins and no Ethernet port. It costs $20.

The Model B+ is the final revision of the original Raspberry Pi. It has 512MB RAM (twice as much as the A+), four USB ports, 40 GPIO pins, and an Ethernet port. Itcosts $25,

Pi 2 Model B, the second generation of the Raspberry Pi. The Pi 2 shares many specs with the Pi 1 B+, but it uses a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU and has 1GB RAM. It costs $35.
The Pi 2 is completely compatible with first generation boards, and is the model we recommend for use in schools, due to its flexibility for the learner.

At home we have a wireless keyboard and mouse that we plug into one of the USB ports on the Pi 2. The keyboard and mouse both have AA batteries in them, which is awesome as they are not wired together.We also have a 8GB 4D SD card that was pre installed with NOOBS (New Out Of Box Software), camera, a wifi dongle, heat sink, power cord, and an HDMI cord to connect to our television. On the sight and various places on the internet, there are projects that you can do with your Raspberry Pi such as building robots, bird feeders, sensors, automated devices, the possibilities are endless. I will compile a list of some of the projects that I have found that seem like they would spark a kid’s interest.

Where can I get a Raspberry Pi? The Raspberry Pi can be Purchased directly from RaspberryPi.org or other online retailers. We purchased ours through Amazon.
There are also other retailers that offer different kits such as The Kano Kit, Cana Kit, and BrickPi.

The Raspberry Pi is so affordable, you can have more than 1 for various projects and not break the bank. These would also make awesome donations to community outreach programs and schools.

What do I need to get started? It depends on what you want to do and how much time and money you want to spend.

Below are some helpful links and books to get you started on your journey.

Helpful Links

RaspberryPi.Org

Geek Gurl Diaries

 Books

Adventures in Raspberry Pi by Carrie Anne Philbin aka Geek Gurl Diaries
Raspberry Pi Projects for Dummies by Mike Cook and Jonathan Evans
Raspberry Pi Users Guide by Eben Upton and Garath Halfacree
Python For Kids by Jason R. Briggs

Raspberry Pi Projects

Pi Pocket Raspberry Pi Gameboy
Retro Gaming Console
Home Monitor
Lego Robot
Another Lego Robot
Feeder Tweeter

Kids in Tech: Scratch


In my most recent blog post, I shared information with you all on different programs, books, and other resources for teaching kids or introducing them to computer coding. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting more specific information to give you more insight on what some of the resources have to offer. In this day and age it is imperatiove that our children have the tools that they need to be successful in their future. My goal is to share as much information as I can, to help you and children, so that they can be as creative, critical, and imaginative learners as possible. If we introduce our children to STEAM/STEM (science, technology, engineering, (art), and math) concepts early in life, while they are virtually learning new things every single day, the possibilities for where they can go and things they can do in the world will be endless!


The first program that I want to tell you more about it Scratch. I discovered Scratch from an online kid’s magazine called Kids, Code, and Computer Science Magazine . Scratch has been praised as a fun and easy way to get young people into learning more about computer coding. Rahni has taken a great liking to creating and remixing projects on the online community, which pleases me greatly. The website is designed simple enough for children who are pretty comfortable with electronic devices, but they may still need assistance until they become more acclaimated or confidant with the projects. Aslso, a parent or guardian should take the time to read over the FAQ and create the actual account as Scratch is an online community open to people of all ages.

What is Scratch?
Scratch is a programming language created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT media Lab with the mission of engaging young people to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively essential skills for life in the 21st century.

Here are some of the books that I suggested in an earlier post about coding. These books are specifically for Scrtach.


Scratch Programming in easy steps by Sean McManus

Super Scratch Programming Adventure by The LEAD Project
Learn to Program with Scratch by Majed Marji

Scratch for Kids for Dummies by Derek Breen

Who can use Scratch?
Anyone interested in learning more about computer coding. Though Scratch was designed especially around young people ages 8-16, many people of all ages are learning and contributing in the Scratch community. Many adults are using Scratch to not only teach their kids about coding, but also themselves. There is also Scratch Jr, aimed at children ages 5-7.

What can you do in Scratch?
In the Scratch online community, or with the Scratch offline editor, you can program your own games, stories, or other interactive media. There are many projects available for the Scratch community to “remix” and view to get ideas from. You can create projects within a project editor using building blocks of scripts, costumes, and sounds. The blocks are codes that tell the program what to do and how to do it. Users can modify or even create their own blocks to fit the project. The only limit is imagination.

How much does it cost to join the Scratch  community?
It’s free! The Scratch project receives funding from many foundations such as National Science Foundation, Intel Foundation, LEGO Foundation, and more. Donations are always welcome to support the project.

How much prior knowledge of coding is necessary to participate and create in the Scratch community?
None! Scratch is for learning and creating. Children and adults using Scratch can learn at their own pace and have fun while doing so. Also, there are plenty of projects created by other Scratchers for you to explore, giving you ideas on how to execute your project. In the online community, there are forums and a “Getting Started with Scratch” project that walks you through an interactive animation step by step. Once you get the hang of it, or decide that you want to learn more, there are other resources such as books and You Tube videos.

For more information, please visit Scratch.mit.edu

Follow Scratch on Twitter @scratch

ScratchED online community for Scratch educators

PCMag Scratch Review