Wait!! What, the summers over!?!?
That’s right Ladies and Gents, school starts in a week, and once again I have let summer vacation pass by without any meaningful time with the nerdettes.
Every June begins with a daydream of all the fun family activities we will do and the great places we will visit. In my mind’s eye, I will be the perfect doting father teaching valuable life lessons while laughing and having picture perfect days under temperate Monet-esque skies. The reality, however… Well, let’s just say it’s not so picturesque. Mostly it includes watching my “grown-up” shows in the solace of my bedroom while the nerdettes re-watch their shows over and over again in the living room on an endless Netflix loop. Add in everyone in the house simultaneously playing on a handheld electronic device and that’s us in a nutshell.
So, excuse number one, its hot, like fry an egg on the sidewalk, center of the freakin’ sun sort of hot, and no sane person should go out in heat like that. Second excuse, I’m tired. It is not summer vacation for me, it is go to work every day and curse the fact that I’m an adult with adult responsibilities for me.
But, here’s the truth… I am kind of a lazy parent, probably even a lazy person. What life lessons am I teaching the nerdettes? I’ve taught them that it’s ok to stay in pajamas all day, eat hotpockets for breakfast and lunch, and playing on your phone/iPad through dinner is the way we do things.
Well, NO MORE I say, or at least let’s do these things less often. As a result, we at Dad vs the Nerdettes are rebooting our household. We are starting fresh with this school year, and we are gong to focus on getting back into the habit of being a family instead of a house with very small roommates. To this end we are instituting a series of rules meant to bring us together while also eliminating the Lazy Dad Syndrome that I have fallen into.
We actually started this near the end of the last school year to help keep Nerdette the elder focused on her schoolwork instead of trying to rush through it to get back to another episode of My Babysitter’s a Vampire (although I do give her mad props for choosing a show about vampires as her go to). When we started it last year we saw a near instant improvement in both her reading and writing skills.
This is more to do with my “dad bod” than anything the nerdettes do or don’t do. Although, Nerdette the younger may turn into a McNugget if we keep going the way we currently are. That child would live on nothing but nuggets and Gogurt if we let her.
Just before school let out we began reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone before bed. Unfortunately, we only got through about 1/4 of the book before we stopped. I’ve told the nerdettes they can’t go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando until we have read all 7. (That’s right, I’m not above bribing my children to love Harry Potter.)
This can be a game night, or a craft project, or even something as simple as baking a cake together. It doesn’t really matter as long as we are all doing the same thing at the same time without electronic interference.
Sometimes this will be going to a museum or play. Sometimes it will be a city park. Either way it can’t be at home and everyone must participate. No phones/tablets allowed even if there is a poke-stop nearby. Ok, maybe phones/tablets on the way or once we leave if there are poke-stops nearby because obviously we gotta catch em all. #TeamMysticRules
Ultimately, it’s no use waiting for next summer to come before we start to change what we teach the nerdettes about how to live a productive life. If I wait for another school year to end, then next August I will again be sitting here wondering where all the time went that I was supposed to spend with my family. In an attempt to keep ourselves on track, I will come back and post on our progress, both good and bad. I’m sure there will be times when we slip up and I’m equally sure there will be more rules that we want to tackle once we have these things as habits instead of goals. Either way I’ll let you know how it goes.
As you all know, I am a huge tabletop gaming nerd. I also have a passion for getting kids back into gaming. Tabletop games can teach kids a myriad of different things from math and critical thinking skills to social skills and being a good friend. As such, I am always on the lookout for more great games I can introduce to the nerdettes and that the nerdettes can introduce to their friends.
That is why I am almost always frustrated when I go into one of our FLGS (friendly local game stores). Within a 30 minute drive from where I currently sit, there is one of the largest game and comic book stores in the country. They literally took over an old grocery store and completely filled the space with great geeky items. However, in all that space there is only on row of children/family games and it is filled with mostly re-themes mass market title like The Lord of the Rings Yahtzee. They don’t carry any games from Blue Orange games or Habba, two of the biggest (and arguably best) children’s game publishers right now. In fact, there is not a retailer of games or toys within 2 hours of me that carries a decent selection of Habba games. If I want them I have to order them online.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my game stores. I believe that without local stores providing an entry point as well as a place to meet up and play, then instead of a growing hobby we would still be stuck with only Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and a million different versions of Monopoly. I just wish there was a place that I could take both my family and/or friends to get in on the next greatest tabletop experience.
Luckily, my friend Tim is trying to solve this exact problem with Golden Age Gaming. Now I wouldn’t normally ask people to help fund a project, but in this case I am making an exception for two reasons. 1. I know Tim personally and (although I am hugely jealous that he is getting to do this and I am not) I cannot think of a better person to make this a reality. His ethics and ingenuity are amazing and i am sure he will do a great job. 2. We really, really need a place for the younger generation of geeks to learn that there is fun outside of a screen. I believe tabletop gaming is one of the best options for that. Hopefully Golden Age Gaming will be successful enough to show a model to the rest of the gaming community and we can start a trend of family friendly game stores. That’s for the future though. First, here’s to getting this one store up and running.
So over a month ago I was talking to a friend of mine who has children of the nerd persuasion, ad we were talking about different fantasy and sci-fi books that her kiddos have read. Her kids are all boys and two of them are significantly older than the nerdettes so their taste in literature is a lot closer to what mine was when I was their age. At the end of the conversation I promised to get back to her with a list of books to check out, but alas I am not that great of a friend. So today’s post is all about fulfilling my promise. Sorry it took so long.
This is a list of books I feel are both awesome and appropriate for pre-teen to teen-aged kids. As always, use your own judgement on what is appropriate for your kids. Read the book before you let your children, or even better, read some of them together.
*Oh and for full disclosure, the links included in this post are affiliate links. This mean that if you purchase anything through these links I receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. It is my intent to use these affiliate links to help offset the cost of running the blog and I guarantee they will never affect the decision of which products to review. That decisions will solely be based on whether or not I think it will be successful with the nerdettes.*
20. The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney – This set was recently turned into an absolutely horrible movie called the 7th son. However, don’t let that deter you as the books themselves are quite enjoyable. It is a great introduction to fantasy that is not strictly swords and sorcery.
19. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull – Here is a series that takes what ever kid thinks of with regard to magical creatures and turns it on its head. Two kids discover their grandfather is actually the groundskeeper for a magical creature preserve, but their meddling soon leads them into all sorts of trouble. These books are a little heavy on the vocabulary, so make sure your kids know they can ask you for help with words or get them a good children’s dictionary.
18. A Spell For Chameleon by Piers Anthony – This was probably the very first fantasy book I ever read as a kid. At its heart, it is a standard Hero’s Journey but through a magic land made of puns. There are a ton of books in this series but the first has always been my favorite. I would especially recommend this series for anyone who doesn’t take their reading too seriously.
17. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Truly one of the classics, the Hitchhiker’s Guide is a funny snarky commentary on society, set in space, with a depressed robot. What’s not to love.
16. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey – This series is one of several written by Mercedes Lackey set in the land of Valdemar. My favorites are actually he Last Herald Mage and Darian’s Tale. However the Arrows of the Queen was her first and is still the best starting point for this series. I will admit that it will get a little sappy at times, but i can still lose myself in the pages of any of the Valdemar books.
15. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett – The first of the legendary discworld novels, this book will draw any kid into a deep love of all that is great about fantasy. Perched squarely between silly and greatness, Terry Pratchett should be required reading for all pre-teen kids.
13. The Legend of Drizzt by R A Salvatore – This series is the definitive series based in Faerun. R A Salvatore mixes common dungeon and dragons lore and exception characterization to create a thrilling story that you typically do not get from novels based in pre-made worlds. As an added bonus, these books can help shape any budding dungeon masters for their next D&D campaign.
12. The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis – No young adult list would be complete without the Chronicles of Narnia. This series takes everything that is right about high fantasy and throws in a moral lesson as a bonus.
11. On Basilisk Station by David Weber – If you are looking to introduce your young one to the wonders of space operas, then there is none better than the Honor Harrington Saga by David Weber. Budding history nerds will also appreciate spotting the parallels between this series and the french Napoleonic period.
10. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – The antichrist is delivered to the wrong address and hilarity ensues. This book is a boatload of fun and humor. Fair warning, however, this book does poke fun at religion in general and christianity in particular. I laugh ever time i read it, but as one reviewer notes “if you’re of the mindset that God can’t take a joke, well, you’re probably better off with a different book.”
9. Dune by Frank Herbert – Part sci-fi, part fantasy, and part dystopia, Dune blends all the best of the three genres into a deep and lasting story that both older children and adults can re-read over and over to find something new. ”
8. Ashtown Burials by N D Wilson – not quite as dark as Harry Potter but much grittier than Percy Jackson, the Ashtown Burials series is the perfect transition between books that are just for kids and more sophisticated novels. I am anxiously awaiting the next in the series.
7. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander – You may recall the Disney movie The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition” target=”_blank”>The Black Cauldron from the 80s. This series tells the tale of Taran the assistant pig keeper in its entirety. One of the greats in terms of fantasy and mythology, The Chronicles of Prydain are for Wales what the Arthurian legends are for England.
6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – This may be the best of the recent rash of dystopian novels written for teens. The series has been made even more famous by the movies, but the books are far and away better than anything the movies have tried.
5. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – while this is the book that started it, I could just as easily have put the Kane chronicles or Magnus Chase. Rick Riordan has found a way to make ancient mythology relate-able without butchering the original stories like so many others have.
4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere is like Alice in Wonderland but with way more dirt and grime and less of a happy cartoony feel. There are some more mature themes and scenes so this recommendation is strictly for the older set. That being said, you will not find a better urban fantasy anywhere. This is one of my favorite books of all time.
3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Whatever you do, please do not judge this book by the movie because thebook is so much more. What could be described as a coming of age story, if you came of age at 11 and were expected to mastermind an attack to wipe out a whole alien race. This book will resonate deeply with anyone who has ever felt over their head or picked on. At the same time, it shows the future through the eyes of genius children destined to change the world.
2. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien – The granddaddy of fantasy and still one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. J R R Tolkien set out to create a mythology for a land that he felt had lost its way after the war. What came of that is in my opinion one of the greatest things to happen to the English speaking world.
1. Harry Potter by J K Rowling – I am sure that it comes as no great shock to learn that my number one suggestion for pre-teen and teens is Harry Potter. In fact it is my number one suggestion for almost anyone. In fact I have started reading them to the nerdettes. Words cannot describe how I feel about these books. They have been with me for almost half my life and are still the books I turn to when I need to escape into a happy place.
Well there you have it, my top 20 books/series for pre-teen and teen nerds to be. There are many books that I left off because I do not think they fell into this age range and I might look into making another list like this for younger kids as well as adults. Is there anything I missed or anything you think doesn’t belong? Let me know in the comment.
I have not been very faithful in writing here and for that I am sorry. I have worked some in the background trying to make some changes to formatting and moving to a different design, and to be honest, I am not very good at it. As a result, the process has taken much longer than I wanted and life has once again gotten in the way.
However, I could not let today go by without writing down my feelings and I figure sharing them would be the best thing I could do. As I am sure you are all aware, we lost one of the greatest actors of his time today. Alan Rickman died at age 69 from cancer. Just typing those words has me feeling very sad and depressed in a way that surprised me deeply today. There are many many wonderful articles that came out today detailing the life and legacy of this great man. This is not meant to be one of those. This is me saying goodbye to someone who has inspired me and mourning in the best way I know how. From the point my wife texted me, to now as write this, I have been depressed over the loss of someone I never met. Not only someone I have never met, but someone I really had no chance of meeting. It has affected me profoundly, to say the least.
Now I am not generally the type to mourn for people I have never met. To be honest, there are very few celebrities that I can even name on sight, and fewer still that I care to try. For me it has always been the characters that matter. The people who portray them are the props that inspire the imagination and move the plot. Now don’t get me wrong, I respect and admire them for their skills. It is not easy to inspire imagination. It is not easy subsume yourself into another character and transport an audience into a different place or time. Please don’t think that I don’t recognize the talent that these actors have. I just don’t really care to know who they are in real life. I am much more interested to know the characters they want to show me.
Alan Rickman was different. Now I am sure by now you are assuming that he was different because he portrayed a certain professor in the most awesome fictional universe ever created. But honestly, you would be wrong. Now before you start the outcry, you are not wrong that the Harry Potter universe is the most awesome fictional universe ever created. Nor are you wrong that Alan Rickman was amazing and will forever be remembered as Severus Snape – The Half Blood Prince. However, that portrayal is not what made me adore Alan Rickman. In fact, the casting of Alan Rickman as Snape has always felt the most natural of any of the actors from the Harry Potter movies because I was already a huge fan of his. As a matter of fact, I have been a fan of his since I was 9. To this day, when I hear his name the first thing that comes to mind is the Sheriff of Nottingham threatening to cut out Robin Hood’s heart with a spoon because “it’ll hurt more you twit” In fact it seems like I have grown up watching Alan Rickman in things that I love. From Colonel Brandon to Judge Turpin, the Voice of God to the voice of Absolem I have loved them all. Snape is the just another in a long list of characters he portrayed that captured my heart.
None of this, though, is why Alan Rickman’s death has affected me so profoundly today. The fact is that there is one movie that he played in that I have never cared for, and yet it is his role that inspires me the most. That is his portrayal of Hans Gruber in Die Hard. This is widely regarded as his breakout moment in acting, and he was 40 years old. In fact he didn’t start acting at all until he was almost 30. Prior to acting he was a successful graphic designer. The idea that someone could turn their entire life around and still be so talented and successful is inspiring. It was not long after learning this, that I decided I needed to write more. I started this blog soon thereafter and began writing ideas for prose. Unfortunately, I have not, as of yet, lived up to the inspiration.
I am sad today because one of my personal heroes has died. I am sad because the world lost a wonderful actor. Mostly though, I am sad that I have allowed “life to get in the way” of my living up to my potential. I will try to turn this around and hopefully I will succeed. In the meantime, I will say Goodbye to Alan Rickman. You will be missed. Always.