Monthly Archives: November 2009

November 30, 2009

Writing Prompt: Gifts for Fictional People

Posted by at 8:21 am in Writing Prompt | Permalink

Writingprompt_charactergifts We're coming up on the best time of year . . . the time for presents! I'm sure you're busy buying presents for siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!). And they're all happily buying presents for you.

But, enough about that. I don't want to know what you're *really* buying for people (or should I say, buying for real people). Instead, I want to know what you'd get for those best friends of yours that live inside the pages of a book.

What presents would you get for the characters of your favorite books this holiday season?

I'll start with . . .

Jamie Kelly (from Dear Dumb Diary by Jim Benton)

Glitter pens to make her (dumb) diary sparkle

The Cullens (from The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer for ages 12 and up)

A baseball bat, because you've got to break a lot of bats when the balls you hit break the sound barrier

Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling)

Books! (No explanation needed)

Now it's your turn. Leave your gift list in the comments!

—Carly H., STACKS Staffer

November 29, 2009

Kid Inventor, A True Story of Perseverance

Posted by at 9:42 am in Games, Kid Power | Permalink


As an inventor, I frequently get asked the same three questions. What did you invent? How did you come up with your ideas? And how does one become an inventor? The truth is inventing isn't rocket science. . . well it isn't ALWAYS rocket science. Anybody can be an inventor. All you need is a little creativity and the ability to persevere.

At first, nobody took my inventions seriously. When I told my 3rd grade teacher about how I planned to enter my invention in the science fair, she just snickered and told me not to bother. She said, “Nobody ever wins the science fair.” I didn't listen and entered the science fair anyway. I lost, but that didn't stop me. The next year I entered a new invention, Collar Cam. Collar Cam is a dog collar with a specially designed camera built-in so you can see what your dog sees. One year's worth of hard work paid off, and that year I won the science fair and proved my teacher wrong.

How did I come up with a winning idea? Well as Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Inspiration comes from problems that either affect me or the people around me. Take for example my invention, the Burn Free Oven Mitt. The Burn Free Oven Mitt is a unique oven mitt with built-in cooking tools such as a pair of tongs or a spatula. I came up with this idea after I saw my aunt burn her hand because it wasn't protected from hot splattering grease.

The two main ingredients for being an inventor are creativity and perseverance. If you come up with an idea that seems impossible at first, stick with it and keep trying until it works. As my hero, Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

—Nicholas Fornario, Kid Inventor

Nic_newphoto_dec09  Nicholas is the grand prize winner of the 2008 Akitas to Zebras Animal Challenge, sponsored by the Weather Channel. His winning idea Clean and Safe Pet Dish is a combination of dog or cat food and water bowl. Nicholas is a prolific kid inventor who has more than 20 inventions under his belt! Nicholas says that his inventions are to “help pets, seniors, kids and everybody else.” 

November 28, 2009

Percy Jackson Movie vs. Book

Posted by at 9:30 am in Movies & TV, Percy Jackson, Reads | Permalink

Pjato_130 The Lightning Thief movie is coming out February 12, 2010. Of course we are all super-excited, but the big question for fans of the book is: Will it be a lot different than the book?

Here are 3 different answers from 3 key people who are very close to the book and the movie. . .

Brandon T. Jackson, the actor who plays Grover, has this to say:
“Of course you can go into more detail, but it’s already two and a half hours. And it’s not long in a bad way but there’s only so much you can put in it. I think that they got all the major points of the story. That’s what makes it really cool. Chris [Columbus] is such a great director because he had to do it in a way where it really is entertaining and is also — you can’t take everything from the book. You’ll get some flak from a lot of the kids who will say, “I didn’t expect Grover to look like this.” “I didn’t expect Alexander to look like this.” But when you take it for the entertainment value I think the movie comes out to be really really cool from what I saw. It sticks pretty close to the book with the characters and everything the way they are. It balances out well for entertainment value for people who haven’t read the book, and for people who have read the book you can go back and draw your own conclusions and have your own magical experiences.”

Logan Lerman, the actor who plays Percy, also weighs in:
“With portraying Percy I tried to keep it — I didn’t want to change that that much. Except for the fact that I’m a little bit older than the written character. But the truth is we changed a lot of the book. We changed a lot of things around to make the movie work because you have to make things a little bit different so it can be its own film and work on screen. We changed a lot of the things though. But I’m pretty sure that fans of the book will be able to appreciate Rick’s writing, and will still accept this as a different medium from the book that adds a whole different take on the book from another person’s eyes, from Chris Columbus’ vision and even makes it more grand, even more unique. It’s really cool.”

Rick_riordan And finally, Rick Riordan, the author himself offers his opinion of the movie on his blog:
“Will the movie be exactly like the book? Well to start with, I have never seen a movie that was exactly like the book it came from, so I think it’s safe to say no. Movies are a totally different medium. What you’ll be seeing is not The Lightning Thief book copied page for page onto the screen. What you’ll be seeing is Chris Columbus’ interpretation of The Lightning Thief story. . . Let the movie be the movie, and the books be the books, and try to enjoy the story without getting too worked up about any differences.”

So there you have it. What do you think? Will the movie be as good as the book? Let me know what you think in the Comments.

image from

Sonja, STACKS Staffer

Brandon T. Jackson and Logan Lerman interviews by Marie Morreale

UPDATE January 29, 2010:
Check it out! We’ve got more Lightning Thief cast interviews!

November 27, 2009

Skyrunners Movie

Posted by at 1:07 am in Movies & TV | Permalink

Skyrunner_130 The alien invasion trend continues with yet another movie about extraterrestrials. Skyrunners (rated TV-PG) premiers November 27 at 5pm (ET) on Disney XD.

Skyrunners begins as teenage brothers Tyler and Nick Burns discover a small UFO that crashed near their town. They soon realize that the spacecraft is “alive” and Tyler begins to develop superhuman abilities. When the brothers uncover an alien plot to take over Earth, Tyler gets captured by the extraterrestrials. Now, it’s up to Nick to rescue his brother and save Earth from destruction.

Joey Pollari stars as Tyler Burns, who develops superhuman abilities. Kelly Blatz, from the Disney series, Aaron Stone, stars as Nick Burns, Tyler’s older brother. We got exclusive interviews with boys boys. Read on to find out Joey’s favorite book and Nick’s favorite food. . .

Kelly_Blatz Q: Kelly, how would you describe your character Nick? Is he like you?
I’m a lot more like Nick than I am like Charlie in Aaron Stone. Nick is kind of the Ferris Bueller, very cool in his own unique way. He’s not the most popular guy in school; he’s not the jock but he’s cool in his own right and he’s the man of the house. He loves his little brother and he’s always chasing the girls and school’s not his first priority. Then this whole adventure ensues and his brother’s in danger and he has to rise up and rescue his brother. But he’s more of the adventurous risk taker, likes to rebel a little bit. So that was a lot of fun for me to play because he uses his humor and his charm but in a very unique way. So for me it was great because with characters I like to touch upon the aspects of myself, which I think I have many different personalities given the time of day and who I’m with. So it’s fun to just tap into that part of my personality and be free.

Q: Kelly, did you bring any experiences you had with your brother?

Kelly: Oh definitely. I have a little brother who’s three years younger to me, so I feel like my little brother to me is like he’s completely my responsibility and I have that protective nature over him. So for me, for most of this I used the feelings that I could come up with that I have with my little brother. Also, Joey Pollari we’ve known each other a long time and he became a little brother to me so in a lot of the stuff I also use him as well.

Joey Q: Joey, tell me about Tyler. What’s he like?
Tyler is a very nerdy but lovable geek and he’s an absolute brainiac. And he loves space, he loves science and when the UFO falls into his lap, it’s kind of a dream come true at the same time it is an absolute horror. Because Tyler never wants to get in trouble. He’s a good kid and while this is exciting, it poses a huge problem for him. He’s just really lovable. Tyler and I are so much alike. And I look out for my brother just like Tyler looks out for Nick and vice versa. So yeah, it’s just an easily connectible character for me.

Q: What are Tyler’s supernatural abilities?

Joey: Tyler has an emotional connection with the UFO and is able to understand what the UFO might want, but that’s not even a supernatural ability. He has super strength. The biggest thing is that he has a lot of agility. He can do flips and all these things, jump great heights. It’s not one specific category I guess. It’s more agility and strength.

Q: Joey, did you get to do your own stunts?

Joey: I did get to do a fair amount of my own stunts. Now, some things are of course things that I could never dream of doing because my stunt double was unbelievable, but the things I did get to do were really fun. Jumping on the trampolines and flying and getting wrapped up in a harness and flying across sets and kicking balls and all this super fun stuff. Just awesome.

Q: Was the harness comfortable?

Joey: Well most people would say that the harness was uncomfortable, but the funness factor overtook any sort of pain whatsoever. It was so awesome. I was pumped and I was so excited to do anything with the harness.

Q: Joey, is there a book that you think every teenager should read?

The-book-thief Joey: One of the ones I thought was really influential for me was The Book Thief (for ages 12 and up) and there’s never been a book that so much impacted me so much the way The Book Thief did. I was absolutely just torn and broken to pieces once it ended. It just tore me in every single which direction. If anyone says, “What book should I read?” I would say, “Read The Book Thief.” It looks like a long book, but as soon as you get into it it’s just absolutely engrossing and beautiful in every single which way.

Q: Kelly, almond butter and bananas? How did you discover that combination?

Kelly: That was the best discovery ever! I spent a
lot of time with a mountain biking friend from Australia. He introduced almond butter
to me after a bike ride and he just gave me a spoonful and I had no
idea that they made almond butter. And so after that I became obsessed
and I ate all the almond butter and they actually had to hide it from
me whenever I was in their house. In my oatmeal, just by the spoon, anything you can
make with peanut butter. So I started making it, because I researched
how to make it and it was very simple. So I started making my own
almond butter and sharing it with my family and friends. Almond butter
and bananas together is just unbelievable. If you have oatmeal and you
have a spoonful of almond butter and you just let it melt in there and
you cut up a banana it is just the perfect. It’s my favorite thing. I
have it every day.

— Sonja, STACKS staffer

Interviews by Marie Morreale

Photo of Kelly Blatz and Joey Pollari Copyright © 2009 DisneyXD/Bob D’Amico

Photo of Kelly Blatz Copyright © 2009 DisneyXD/Jae Frew

Photo of Joey Pollari Copyright © 2009 DisneyXD/Matt Klitscher


November 25, 2009

Book Review: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Posted by at 9:01 am in Reads | Permalink

Jeremyfink Hmm. . . before I turned thirteen, what were my main thoughts and concerns? I'm pretty sure I was worrying about starting junior high, making new friends, being able to get good grades, and not fighting with my brother. I certainly know for a fact that I wasn't having some existential crisis and pondering the meaning of life! That didn’t happen until I turned sixteen. ;-)

In the book, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, the idea of wanting to know the meaning of life plagues Jeremy Fink at the young age of twelve. This life-long question comes up when Jeremy receives a special box, as gift from father who passed away five years before, which apparently holds the answer to the meaning of life. Unfortunately the keys to open this one-of-a-kind box have been lost by the box's caretaker. So, in efforts to unlock and uncover the answer, Jeremy and Lizzy find themselves in some unique and life-changing experiences as their mission to unlock the box unravels.

I must say that I thought this book was excellent! A must-read for everyone, even adults. Mass expresses and reveals the important aspects of life which her characters learn throughout the book. Here are just a few quotes that I really could relate to in the quest for the so-called answer to the meaning of life.

  • Mr. Rudolph: “If you go along with the flow of life, without trying to changes others, or change situations that are beyond you, life is much more peaceful.” (p. 151)
  • Mr. Rudolph: “We all bring our own perceptions, needs, and experiences to everything we do. We will all interpret an event, or a sunset, different.” (p. 155)
  • Jeremy Fink: “Each choice I made, or Lizzy made, was based on who we were or what we wanted. That's all I ever have to keep doing, and not be so worried about choosing right or wrong, there's only what IS. And if I don't like the outcome, I just make another choice.” (p. 286)

I want to thank harryobsessed (Allison) for recommending this wonderful book. If you haven't read it yet, I highly suggest you do. You won't regret it.


—Carly M., STACKS Staffer

November 24, 2009

Trivia: Magic Tree House Thanksgiving on Thursday

Posted by at 11:37 am in Trivia | Permalink

Thanksgiving_on_thursday Yes, it’s true that Thanksgiving is this Thursday — but Thanksgiving on Thursday is ALSO the title of one of the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne! (I have been waiting all year to say that.)

If you’re not familiar with the Magic Tree House series, then before I get to the trivia question, I should tell you a little bit about the books: They’re about a tree house. It’s magic. Got it?

Just kidding! Here are the details: Annie and Jack are a brother and sister who discover that the books in their tree house transport them through time and space. They visit lots of different historical destinations, from Ancient Eygpt to the Ice Age to the Civil War. And — surprise, surprise — in Thanksgiving on Thursday, they travel to Plymouth, Massachusetts during the time of the pilgrims.

So, here’s my question for those of you who are familiar with the book: Jack and Annie try to help out with the turkey for the first Thanksgiving, but something goes wrong. What happens?

Leave a comment with your guess, and then check the answer. Have a very happy Thanksgiving! Or as your dinner would say, “Gobble gobble!”

— Karen, STACKS Staffer

November 24, 2009

Trivia Tuesday Answer: Coraline

Posted by at 7:59 am in Trivia | Permalink

Coraline_130 Congratulations Madison! You were the first person to get the answer to the Coraline trivia question right. If you’re just joining now, the question was:

In what toy did the Other Mother hide the souls of the three children in the closet?

In the book Coraline, Coraline goes through a mysterious door in her dreary new flat (flat is British for apartment) to a world that is almost exactly like her regular world, just much, much better. In this Other World, she has an Other Mother, who seems much better than her real mother at first. (She cooks much better for one thing!)

But when Coraline doesn’t do exactly what the Other Mother wants, the Other Mother’s other side starts showing. She punishes Coraline by locking her in the closet, where Coraline meets three other children who have also been lured into the Other World. They tell Coraline the truth about the Other Mother — that she just wants to steal Coraline’s soul! That’s what she did to the three of them. Which leads us to the trivia question:

The Other Mother hid the three children’s souls in marbles.

Can Coraline escape the Other Mother’s grasp? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

—Carly H., STACKS Staffer

November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Writing Prompt: I’m Thankful For . . .

Posted by at 9:16 am in Writing Prompt | Permalink

Writingprompt_thanksgiving Thanksgiving time! A time for friends, friends, football (Go Vikings!), and tons and tons of food. However, in addition to getting together with all of your family and the oh-so-painful food coma you endure after the meal, it’s also a time to reflect on what you’re most thankful for.

Here’s my list of what I’m thankful for:

  1. Awesome parents who care for me and whom I can talk to when ever I need to.
  2. A fun-loving brother and his wonderful wife who has turned out to be the best sister-in-law a girl could have.
  3. Great friends whom I wish I could see more.
  4. The public library. Without it, I wouldn’t have read most of the terrific books that I have read.

And the list could go on and on. (For more, you can see the STACKS Thanksgiving word cloud here.) Now I want to know what you’re most thankful for.

— Carly M., STACKS Staffer

November 22, 2009

Define and Refine Your Invention

Posted by at 7:40 am in Games, Kid Power | Permalink

Lightbulb In previous blog posts, we described the first few steps to becoming an inventor. Now it’s time to take your invention to the next level!

You need to think of something totally original so people will be interested in using your invention in daily life. That means that you need to make it one-of-a-kind with completely new, interesting features. So after you have come up with your main idea, you must define and refine it. It’s time to get technical with your invention and figure out just how it will work and look. With this step, you will begin to see your creation finally taking shape.

The first step is to draw out what your invention will look like. Make a drawing of the whole invention and separate drawings of any special parts. For instance, if you designed a new kind of action figure, how would it look all put together? And, if it had some accessories that snapped on and off, how would each of those look? Draw details where the accessories connect so that you can envision how they will work.

Drawings are good for helping you define your invention, but they won’t tell you how your invention will feel and function. Your next step is to make some models. Building a scale model of your invention using clay or a modeling mold is highly recommended. A scale model is smaller than a full-sized model and will give you a general yet efficiently portable idea of what your creation will become. Before we made our body board invention, we made several small models out of clay to help us figure out the best shape.

Once you think you have a good idea of just what your invention should look like, try to build a life-sized model using cardboard, Styrofoam, or any recycled materials like paper towel rolls or cereal boxes. This will give you a tangible sense of what your final product will look like and where its different features should be placed. Each model helps you define and refine your invention a little bit more.

After you have a model for how your invention looks, think about its function. Imagine how the invention will work exactly. Try to work out every detail of the “working parts” of the invention: Where will the batteries go? Does it light up? Are there switches, buttons or handles that need to be added? Where will these go? How do the pieces fit together? Details are what make the best inventions successful.

Try to think of new ideas as you design your invention. Remember, the possibilities are endless. In the end, your final idea will probably end up looking way different from your original vision, but it’s okay! Refining is all about making your invention the best it can be, so those improvements mean you are doing your job!

— Alyssa Hansen & Kaycee Johnsen, Kid/Teen Inventors


Alyssa Hansen and Kaycee Johnsen, both 16, began inventing when they were just 10 years old. They, along with their siblings and friends, have created Boogie2Boogie, a new kind of wave-riding toy and the Underwater X-treme, a challenging pool toy that solves the problem of everybody peeking when playing Marco Polo. Both inventions won the National TOYchallenge and are currently being marketed by By Kids For Kids. Alyssa and Kaycee have been writing a regular column for creative kids since 2006 and have co-written a book and activity kit that teaches kids how to invent. 

November 21, 2009

World Hello Day

Posted by at 7:25 am in Kid Power | Permalink

Hello_day People always talk about how they want world peace, but how often do they really do anything about it? Well here is something that you (yes, YOU!) can do to help create world peace. November 21 is annual World Hello Day and all you have to do is say “Hello!” to ten people.

But how is that going to create world peace? Think about it. If everyone in the world stopped fighting and actually just started talking to each other, we would have instant peace!

Try it. Instead of automatically snarling at your little brother first thing in the morning, give him a big hug and say hello. Instead of grumbling at your parents because you’re tired and in a bad mood, give them a cheerful “Good morning!” Instead of walking past that person in the lunchroom who you normally would never talk to, smile and say hi. If you have been holding a grudge against someone, ignoring someone, been mad at someone for no real reason, give it up and just say hello. Say something nice to someone on the Message Boards. Or send a shout-out to someone’s STACKS profile. Really, there is no harm in just saying hello.

Ten people. That’s all. Find ten people today and give them a friendly greeting. If everybody did this every day, then maybe we really could have world peace! Leave a Comment to let me know how it goes.

Sonja, STACKS Staffer