A Sad Day on Birdwell Island

by Amy Kraft on December 16, 2014


With great sadness I’ve learned that Norman Bridwell passed away. I didn’t grow up with Clifford books, but Clifford has been a massive part of my professional life.

In 1999, I got my first job in kids’ media working as an asset manager on a Clifford the Big Red Dog CD-ROM, Clifford Thinking Adventures. Incredibly, a sullen teenager has posted a YouTube video playing through this game. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, Shake666Productions!

As a character, Clifford was such fun to work with. His size allowed for great sight gags, and it was always a great challenge to give the Clifford games the heart that the books had. Emily Elizabeth and Clifford really loved each other. Since that first CD-ROM, I think I’ve worked on a total of 6? 7? Clifford games. I went from asset manager to game designer, producer, and writer, always trying to do justice to the world Norman Bridwell created.

One of my most recent titles, Clifford Ready-to-Read on Leapster, has become a favorite of Ozzie’s. What a treat to introduce my kids to Clifford. Out of nowhere tonight, Ozzie chose his Clifford toy to sleep with, and darn it if I didn’t get choked up a bit.

Clifford is a big presence in pop culture, too. I’ll always love this Louis C.K. bit about Clifford.

Thank you, Norman Bridwell, for my favorite big, red dog.


I’ll confess that as I receive books to review, my 9-year-old voracious reader works through them much faster than I do, so I asked Olive’s help with this gift guide. She endorses the gift-worthiness of this list.


Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi

I’ve only read the first few books of this beautiful graphic novel series, but I’ll say that it’s like a beacon to the kids who come over. It’s our most borrowed set of books, and more than once I’ve heard when the kids are looking at review shelf, “OMG IS THAT BOOK SIX HOW DO YOU HAVE BOOK SIX ALREADY CAN I BORROW IT?” Olive says what she likes about Amulet is how people who are your enemies can become your friends. I like that it stars a girl protagonist.


Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

This was one of my favorite books of the year. The latest graphic novel by Smile creator Raina Telgemeyer tells the story of her trek from only child to oldest of three, and a cross country road trip she took with her mom, sister, and brother. Maybe it hit a soft spot because the sibling genders and age split were almost identical to that of me and my siblings, but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a great book to hand to any kid with sibling struggles. I gave my copy, of course, to my sister.


Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger and Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

If you have a tween that has even a little awareness of Star Wars, these books are great. Both series deal with school and teachers and members of the opposite sex in a tween-friendly way while setting them in the context of Star Wars. In Tom Angleberger’s series, kids make origami versions of their favorite Star Wars characters to give each other life advice, particularly the wise Origami Yoda. Olive and I both recently read the hilarious Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, but The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee remains my favorite. Star Wars: Jedi Academy is a journal-like graphic novel that follows the funny, relatable adventures of a young padawan as he trains to be a Jedi.


Audrey (Cow) by Dan Bar-el

I bought this book for Olive because it’s illustrated by a high school friend (yay, Tatiana Mai-Wyss!). Olive tells me it’s about a cow that’s trying to escape the place where it lives where they want to kill it and make it into grocery store food. She likes that all of the different animals could talk to each other and understand what the people are saying, but the people couldn’t understand the animals. I noticed that while Olive was reading it she would often talk to me about the writing style, reading me passages that she thought were funny.


Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

This book is about a 4th grader named Phoebe who meets a unicorn that grants here one wish. After trying to wish for infinity wishes or infinity dollars, she settles on wishing the unicorn was her best friend. Olive says this book is “funny because the unicorn is walking in front of a whole bunch of people and the people aren’t all excited that it’s a unicorn. And the unicorn’s name is Marigold Heavenly Nostrils.” This book is also a nice study in making friends.


Loot by Jude Watson

Olive says, “it was interesting because it was about a thief that was raising a son, and the son has to figure out how to do things. Then the dad dies and the son is sad and needs money so he’s figuring out how to steal things with his twin sister that he didn’t know existed.” She says it’s a little sad but exciting.


Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection by Stephanie Milton

For any kid that wants to start or is relatively new to playing Minecraft, these guides are super handy. Minecraft wasn’t set up with kid tutorials in mind, and these books cover all of the necessary basic information to use the different tools and bricks to make masterful Minecraft creations.

My niece will also tell you to get anything by Rick Riordan.


For a comics-loving older teen or adult in your house, go for Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman. I’m reading it now and it’s fascinating, a deep look into our country’s feminist history and its most iconic female superhero.


For a design nerd that also happens to be a parent of young children, pick up Alphabetics: An Aesthetically Awesome Alliterated Alphabet Anthology by Patrick and Traci Concepcion. Pair with twee illustrations by Dawid Ryski is alliterative text for each letter of the alphabet. Paired with the cover image is: “Cc / colossal Cornelius captures curious carnie companions on his classic Contaflex camera.”


Gift Guide: Music

December 12, 2014

I’ve moved away from doing music reviews lately, but I thought I’d gather up some music love in a handy dandy gift guide. These albums are perfect to stuff stockings or download to all of those new devices the kids may be getting. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, The Perfect Quirk Secret Agent 23 Skidoo remains the undisputed king […]

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Gift Guide: Klutz

December 11, 2014

You can recognize my love for Klutz by giving the creator of kid kits its own gift guide. Whenever I’m stuck on what to get for a kid, I know that I can go to a store that sells Klutz kits and find something. They’ve gotten better and better at introducing skills and ideas that […]

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Gift Guide: Toys and Games

December 7, 2014

Gravity Maze We’ve been big fans of the game Laser Maze, so it’s no surprise we like Think Fun’s follow-up, Gravity Maze. Solve the puzzle on each cart by adding pieces to the board so the marble drops down in just the right way. Like many of the games we love, outside of playing the […]

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Gift Guide: Picture Books

November 29, 2014

First up for gift guides this year are picture books! These books are great for your younger readers, and some are super fun for grown-ups, too. You can find all of these an more in the Media Macaroni store. I’m Brave! by Kate McMullan, illustrated by Jim McMullan One of our favorite books of all […]

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Tiggly Toys: Counting on Your iPad

November 28, 2014

Every time I see toys that work in conjunction with the iPad, I tend to think that they’re a one-note cool trick. “Yeah, that’s interesting,” I’d thing, “But my kid would play with it for about three minutes.” Also, I’ve been hypothesizing that toys + screens are outside of kids’ play patterns. Why would they […]

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The High Line for the Vehicle-Obsessed

November 23, 2014

Last weekend, Olive and I were leaving Chelsea Piers and decided to walk the new north section of the High Line. If you’re unfamiliar with New York’s High Line park, it’s a park filled with beautiful plantings and cool design, built on old railroad tracks that run along Manhattan’s west side. It was a cold […]

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Highlights from the KidzVuz Holiday Party

November 22, 2014

Last weekend marked the 3rd annual KidzVuz Holiday Party, where the lovely people behind the tween review site KidzVuz bring together people, products, and sponsors with a kid-focus. Olive and I picked out some of our favorite things. Downtown Bookworks had a few new additions to their catalog that we loved. I know a bunch […]

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Who Needs Pictures in a Picture Book?

November 16, 2014

  You know, I kind of feel bad for celebrities. When they write children’s books they have to survive a higher level of critic and lit snob scrutiny than the average writer Joe. (They usually cry all the way to the bank, though, so I don’t feel too bad for the scrutiny.) Then there’s the […]

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