Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

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Holiday Gift Picks: 9 - 12 Years

Our Holiday Gift Lists By Age offer a sampling of some of our favorite products from the past year.
All Duct Out All Duct Out
Ages: 7 & Up
ALEX, $27.95

All Duct Out is a fun and unique craft activity that uses duct tape to make all sorts of items including purses, bows, bracelets, necklaces, shoe strings, and more. The craft comes with eight rolls of multi-colored duct tape, stencils, directions, and materials to make a purse earrings, key chains, and a brooch. While the directions are specific and detailed, we found it helpful to get online and watch the video instructions, too. The video instructions also provide additional ideas for other crafts you can make with the duct tape.

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Mike Jung    Illustrator: Mike Maihack  
Scholastic, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Vincent Wu is the 12-year-old president of the Captain Stupendous Fan Club. It's just him and his two friends, George and Max, but they know everything there is to know about Copperplate City's resident superhero. They conduct meetings, talk about girls, trade notes on the other fan clubs and race to battle scenes to cheer their hero on against monstrous robots and other super threats. It's all pretty run-of-the-mill, until Captain Stupendous starts acting really weird. And then Vincent's secret crush, Polly, starts acting weird, too. Like any good hero story, everyone pulls together when there's trouble-in this case a formidable nemesis who might finally do Captain Stupendous in.

Iron Hearted Violet Iron Hearted Violet
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Kelly Barnhill   Illustrator: Iacopo Bruno  
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Violet is an unlikely princess. She likes to mingle with commoners and roughhouse like other kids. With mismatched eyes and tangled hair, she doesn't look like a princess and her resulting identity crisis almost undoes the Kingdom. But Violet is strong and courageous and has a fierce and loyal heart. Iron Hearted Violet is a classic saga-it's sweeping and adventurous, tragic and heroic. The narrative is rich, the plot moves swiftly and the heroes are valiant. Iron Hearted Violet is simply a great read.

Morphology Junior Morphology Junior
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Morphology Games, $29.99

So many new games today borrow ideas and game play from previously successful games. Morphology Junior, the younger and simpler version of Morphology, is sort of like a cross between Password and Charades. You're on a team and start by trying to get your teammates to guess a secret word you've chosen by drawing a card. You can give one hint (provided by the card) plus any number of visual clues using the Morphology pieces, which include rectangular wood pieces, a black string, colored plastic blocks, wooden humanoid figures and fake gemstones.

The Universe of Fair The Universe of Fair
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Leslie Bulion  
Peachtree Publishers, $15.95 (Hard Cover)   

Miller Sanford's parents think he's too young to explore the annual town fair alone with his best friend. Hopeful that this year they will reconsider, Miller works extra hard to be nice to his little sister Penny and her friends. When his mother can't attend the Fair and his father has to cover her volunteer booth hours as well as his own, Miller ends up with more responsibility than he can handle. Instead of enjoying a freewheeling day on his own, he is drawn into a series of mishaps involving a string of tagalong first graders, his dad's prize-worthy lemon meringue pie, flying death heads, a giant jack-o'-lantern, and his ill-fated science fair project. Book Description

Electronic Labyrinth Electronic Labyrinth
Ages: 8 & Up
Ravensburger, $49.99

Electronic Labyrinth is a fun, strategic adventure for 2 to 4 players. It is comprised of a 25 x 25 inch square board with 16 fixed and 33 movable pathway tiles holding dwellers and objects. The object of the game is to move your colored playing piece through the enchanted labyrinth, collecting and delivering objects and collecting enough gems to fill a magical key to free the wizard who has been banished to a magical book. The game seems quite complicated, but it really isn't. You can collect lots of gems without meeting a dweller at all, and you don't have to worry about what each dweller wants, because the book will periodically remind you.

Ninjago Cole's Tread Assault Ninjago Cole's Tread Assault
Ages: 8 & Up
The LEGO Group, $39.99

LEGO Ninjago Cole's Tread Assault is a LEGO kit that builds a souped-up car that has expanding rear fins and a gravity-centered cockpit which stays upright regardless of the orientation of the vehicle. When the car is flipped over, it has the appearance of a snake vehicle. The set comes with two mini-figures, the ninja Cole and the evil snake Skales. It is a fun and challenging build, but the cockpit often sticks on rotation and the rear fins frequently bend instead of popping out, causing occasional frustration. But for pretend play it is, in one tester's word, "Amazing!"

Star Wars Folded Flyers Star Wars Folded Flyers
Ages: 8 & Up
$19.99 (Hard Cover)   

Star Wars Folded Flyers by Ben Harper and Klutz is a tightly themed and creatively adapted paper airplane kit based on the most popular spacecraft from the Star Wars franchise. While this book is described for grades 3 and up, I would pay a lot of attention to the "& up." Star Wars fans of any age will appreciate the level of authenticity and detail the author and paper airplane engineers have gone to in translating the film's vehicles from the screen to flat cut & fold flying objects. Similarly any paper airplane-making fan is likely to appreciate the designs used specifically in adapting the Star wars crafts to traditional designs.

Asara Asara
Ages: 9 & Up
Ravensburger, $39.99

Asara is a strategic board game for two to four players who each assume the role of an architect in a magical realm of "thousands of towers." Think Aladdin the Architect and you won't be far off in concept. The rules are extensive and complicated, at least at first, requiring several readings to get the drift. But don't let that intimidate you, because the actual game play is relatively simple going forward. Part of that learning curve relates to the number of pieces, which include many high-quality cardboard cards, and the multiple options a player has during each turn. But once players get the hang of it, the game flows well. Ultimately, this is a successful strategy game that requires players to focus hard on somewhat complex rules and options while glimpsing ahead to what future moves are needed to out-build their opponents' towers.

Mini Capsters Jewelry Mini Capsters Jewelry
Ages: 10 & Up
Scholastic, $21.99 (Hard Cover)   

Kids can make their own bottle cap jewelry with this new book from Klutz. It includes 15 mini bottle caps, 3 big bottle caps, 250 art punch-outs (for decorating the caps), beads, sequins, jewels, cord, jump rings, clasps, earring wires, and custom Klutz glaze for holding the designs together. Toothpicks, scissors, needle-nose pliers, paper clips, and nail polish are not included, though these supplies can all help to fine tune and finish the jewelry. Projects include a locket, a beaded bracelet, chandelier earrings and more.

Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen
Ages: 10 & Up
Her Interactive, Inc., $19.99

The storyline: Seems that 60 years ago, British archaeologists in search of Queen Nefertari, The Lost Queen of Egypt, found the tomb thanks to a mysterious sandstorm that revealed it. Problem was, neither the team of scientists nor the tomb was ever seen again. But when history repeats itself, and Professor Jon Boyle is injured while another mysterious sandstorm uncovers Nefertari's tomb, Nancy Drew goes in search of Mummy Dearest-to find out who, or what, bludgeoned her friend the professor. Not only is the game fun and exciting for its sharply designed point-and-click environments and high-suspense story line, it requires nonstop thinking each step of the way. This is one pyramid scheme worth buying into.

The Midnight Zoo The Midnight Zoo
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: Sonya Hartnett   Illustrator: Andrea Offermann  
Candlewick Press, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Twelve-year-old Andrej and nine-year-old Tomas are in trouble. They need food for themselves, and fresh milk for their baby sister Wilma, but most of all, they need a safe place to rest from their travels. Ever since the Germans rounded up their parents and the rest of their clan, leaving the two children hiding in the woods to run away, Andrej and Tomas have realized that the war is spreading everywhere. Few adults have any food to spare, and many are suspicious of Rom children and little inclined to help. But when the children pause in an abandoned zoo one night, they realize they have much in common with the caged, desperate animals, and gain a brief sense of the family they have been missing.

Kinect Star Wars Kinect Star Wars
Ages: 13 & Up
Microsoft Studios, $49.99

Turn up the iconic Star Wars soundtrack and shake the rust off your lightsaber moves. With R2-D2 and C-3PO as your lighthearted guides, the Kinect Star Wars game draws from the first Star Wars prequel through the third to create a storyline and several action-packed play modes. To start, players take the basic Jedi training from Yoda. After that, Jedis accelerate into interactive modes, which unfold scene after scene. The challenges are lifted straight from the prequel trilogy, and they include a terrific high-speed Podracing mode, a Death Star attack, a Rancor Rampage (you control of a gigantic Rancor and smash towns and settings), and the many Duels of Fate lightsaber battles.

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