Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ahoy - gifts for kids who love pirates and adventure! (ages 8 - 12)

Non-stop action, fearsome pirates and a cursed skull – it’s a perfect recipe. Add into this exciting story exciting artwork that pulls readers right in, and you have an instant hit. I'd highly recommend The Unsinkable Walker Bean, a eye-catching graphic novel, and a strategy game like Carcassone or The Settlers of Catan, for children and families that like complex, exciting fantasy stories and fun board games.
The Unsinkable Walker BeanThe Unsinkable Walker Bean
by Aaron Reiner
NY: First Second, 2010
ages 8 - 12
available on Amazon and at your local library
Young Walker Bean adores his grandfather, listening to his stories of adventure and working together to create new inventions. But now his grandfather is on his death bed, and he has a special request for Walker: to return a cursed skull to the depths of the ocean floor. Unbeknownst to Walker, the skull was stolen from a pair of wicked lobster mer-witches who will stop at nothing to get the skull back.
Walker takes the skull from his grandfather and is immediately chased by a mysterious “doctor”. Along with a few new friends, Walker keeps dodging the forces that are out to get the skull for themselves.

Aaron Reiner has combined a story with adventure, mystery and inventions with cartoon illustrations that draw kids right to it. Here is the first page - if you'd like to see more, head over to First Second's website where they have a great preview. I also loved seeing some of the early sketches on the great blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

I particularly loved Walker’s inventions, such as using an enormous black canvas to recreate the night sky to fool his captors and subvert the navigation of the ship. This is a perfect graphic novel for kids who love mythology and fantasy, swashbuckling adventure, cliff-hangers and complex, inventive stories.

CarcassonneThe perfect gift to combine this with is a strategy game. Our family has loved two strategy games: Carcassone for younger kids (ages 5 - 10) and The Settlers of Catan for older kids (ages 8 to adult). Both involve building roads and claiming territories, but they also involve strategy, cooperation and competition. We have played Carcassone with our 1st grader, with an adult's help. And we have played The Settlers of Catan with 4th graders with an adult's help.

The Settlers of CatanI first read about The Settlers of Catan in Wired Magazine, in an article called "Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines the Genre". We really had fun as a family playing this game, trading resources and figuring out ways to cooperate or compete with each other to build the most villages. Andrew Curry wrote in Wired, "Through the complex, artful dance of algorithms and probabilities lurking at its core, Settlers manages to be effortlessly fun, intuitively enjoyable, and still intellectually rewarding, a potent combination that's changing the American idea of what a board game can be."

If you have kids who enjoy complex fantasies and love the current trend for graphic novels, The Unsinkable Walker Bean and a strategy game like Carcassone or The Settlers of Catan are a great gift idea.

The review copy of The Unsinkable Walker Bean was kindly sent by the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.



  1. I love board games and as my 3y-old kids are growing fast, I'm looking at alternatives that will interest them as they grow up.

    Thanks for the tips! Much appreciated!

    Read Aloud Dad

  2. Thanks, Read Aloud Dad! I found it really interesting listening to Po Bronson talk about NurtureShock how games help our reasoning develop. One of my favorites for a wide age range is Blokus. Check it out!