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Wild and Wonderful Life at the Limits

by Amy Kraft on April 3, 2015

One of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on is Animal Genius, where I got to spend my days researching and designing games around animals. I developed a deep, deep love for weird animals. Axolotls, narwhals, Tasmanian devils … the weirder the better. It follows, then, that the American Museum of Natural History’s latest show, Life at the Limits, is my favorite exhibition they’ve ever done.

Imagine if Marvel were to create animals, giving them strange superpowers. You can really think of the animals in this exhibit as the X-Men of the animal world, or as President of the museum, Ellen Futter, more eloquently put it, “ambassadors of the great story of evolution.” At the exhibit preview I attended curators Mark Siddall and John Sparks talked about these animals that live int he most inhospitable places on Earth, adapting through the power of natural selection. For instance, they talked about two different species of blind cave-dwelling parts that developed the ability to communicate via electric pulses in different parts of the world. These tenacious creatures that have extreme physical and physiological limits may provide a window to what life on a goldilocks zone planet might look like.

Judging by the squeals of delight and horror I heard from the kids in the exhibit, kids are going to love this show. There’s a lot of reading, but it’s totally worth it to discover wild facts like these:

  • A flea can jump 200 times its body length.
  • Cockroaches can move up to 50 body lengths per second.
  • A treehopper has evolved a bizarro disguise, looking like it’s an ant from above.
  • Axolotls can regrow lost limbs. (There are live axolotls in the exhibit! I’ve never seen one in person before.)


  • A mantis shrimp can punch clams with the force of a bullet. (There’s a live mantis shrimp in the exhibit. You can’t fully realize the coolness of this animal until you’ve seen The Oatmeal’s Mantis Shrimp comic.)


  • Bacteria in caves can form disgusting snottites. (Ew!)


  • Tardigrades can survive the radiation and vacuum of space.


The exhibit does a nice job, too, of talking about how humans are sometimes at the ends of the natural bell curve. How weird is it that we generally only have 1-2 babies at a time, and we take a really, really long time to care for them before they can survive on their own? Or, what’s with this walking on two legs thing?

Kids can also climb atop a Hercules Beetle or play Kinect games where you try to pet a skunk or defend yourself against a mantis shrimp.


There are some videos of the animal kingdom that will delight and disgust. They even showcased one of my favorite animal defense mechanisms, the horned lizard’s ability to shoot blood out of its eyes. (Ew!)

You know how you exit into the gift shop and it’s hard to get out of there without buying anything? I was ready to spend all of my money and I didn’t even have the kids with me. Axolotl t-shirts! Tardigrade toys! Mantis shrimp plush! I want them all.


Life at the Limits opens tomorrow, April 4, and runs through January 3, 2016. Seriously, don’t miss this one.


NYICFF and the Secret of the Universe

by Amy Kraft on April 2, 2015


I recently rounded up the short films we loved at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, and Olive and I caught one more show before the festival ended, the Girls POV shorts.

There were beautiful, thought provoking shorts that Olive and I talked about well after the show ended. Layla’s Melody provided a heartbreaking picture into Afghanistan, following an 11-year-old girl who lives in an orphanage away from her mother as a way of exploring her dreams as a musician and avoiding forced marriage in her village. Ugh. Beach Flags is an animated short of girls’ lifeguard competition in Iran, but forced marriage rears its ugly head into their tale, too. Other shorts dealt with friendship and independence and beauty. Always thought-provoking, those Girls’ POV shorts.

One perfect little gem is In the Beginning, which makes a compelling case that a little girl might have had a role in the creation of our universe.

Thanks for the beautiful curation, NYICFF!


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The Light Princess Defies Gravity

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Toy Fair: Best of the Rest

March 1, 2015

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Toy Fair: Games

February 27, 2015

It’s like I’m not even close to being done with telling you about all of the cool things I saw at Toy Fair. Now it’s time for some games. Laser Maze Jr.  We love the original Laser Maze in our house. At 4, Ozzie discovered it and loves to set up the pieces just like it […]

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Toy Fair: Cool Tech Toys

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Toy Fair: Girl Power

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As I’ve already shown with Lego, toymakers are happily starting to move beyond the if-it’s-for-girls-it’s-girly way of thinking. There’s nothing wrong with girly girl toys, but girls should have choices beyond them. Here are some cool finds from Toy Fair. I Am Elemental I not only want these for the kids, I want these action […]

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