Author: Marissa DiBartolo

COMMENTARY: Moby Dick, or, The Card Game Brings an American Classic to Life

Moby Dick is considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. But more than just a classic tale, Herman Melville’s masterpiece leaves quite an impression on its readers, examining existentialism and obsession in a truly captivating way. Literary lovers of the classic tale can venture on the high seas in search of the White Whale in a new way. King Post has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Moby Dick, or, The Card Game, a dynamic, action-packed adventure for two to four players ages 12 and up. The game is adapted from Melville’s classic novel, and is brought to life with three decks of unique cards featuring original compositions, period portraits, and classic illustrations. The strategy-based game lets players live out the voyage of the Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. The Sea Deck contains adventures, creatures, and chapters adapted directly from the novel, including whales, giant squid, foreign ports-of-call, and pirate attacks. The Sailor Deck features characters including Ishmael, Starbuck, Queequeg, and Captain Ahab. The Whale Deck contains actions, defenses, and attacks of the hunted whales. In addition to the iconic imagery featured on each card, a quote from the novel ties the action of the game directly to the classic tale. The game also includes two dice and 40 oil markers. For fans of the novel, the card game brings the tale to life like never before, putting...

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COMMENTARY: Make ‘n Break Party Induces Fits of Laughter

A simple concept: Use 10 blocks to assemble a structure depicted on a card. Sounds simple enough, right? There’s one small catch: you can’t see the card. Instead, your partner must describe the structure to you as you attempt to build it. OK, still not so hard. Now, here’s a blindfold. Oh, and by the way, sometimes your partner can’t say specific key words, and other times you’ll have to build a structure with no description at all. Make ’n Break Party, from Ravensburger, is an ice-breaking, laugh-inducing, 60-minutes of team-play fun. I’ve never valued words including, “thingy,” “belly-up,” and “NO- THE OTHER ONE,” so much in my life. The game is designed for three to nine players ages 10 and up, and will be sure to pull your guests away from the chips and dip and get them bonding after the first few turns. Hilarity ensues as a player works to assemble a structure depicted on a card in one of four game variations: building according to team members’ descriptions, building while avoiding “taboo” words, building blindly, and creating objects such as truck, elephant, clock, and middle finger. Teams work together and race against the timer, and the more structures you build in one round, the farther along the game board you move and the closer you come to victory. But keep in mind, it doesn’t matter how...

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Alexander Doll Co. Celebrates 90 Years with New Offices, a Limited Edition Anniversary Collection, New Licensed Products, and a New Product Category

The Alexander Doll Co. unveiled its new mid-town location, new doll lines, and new licensed products yesterday in celebration of the company’s 90th anniversary. Since 1923, the company has grown to include collectibles, play dolls, and baby dolls for girls of all ages. For this 90th anniversary, the company has developed an assortment of six dolls to commemorate the company’s history. Re-introductions of classic sculpts and characters included in this collection are a 21-inch Cissy in a beaded dress, inspired by a photograph of Madame Alexander from 1923; an 8-inch Wendy with a Tony Sarg inspired marionette theater; a classic McGuffey Ana; and an 8-inch Wendy and a 10-inch Cissy both dressed to commemorate the anniversary. Each doll comes with a commemorative hang tag and Certificate of Authenticity. Also on the anniversary front, Madame Alexander has marked the 75th anniversary of two iconic movies, The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, which were among the company’s first and longest continuous licenses. Each and every year since 1938, new designs have been added to these special collections, and this year is no exception. The three doll sets for Wizard of Oz collectors include a 10-inch Wicked Witch of the West with three 5-inch Winged Monkeys, a 10-inch Glinda the Good Witch withthree 5-inch girls of the Lullaby League, and a 10-inch Dorothy with three 5-inch Poppy dolls. For Gone With the Wind...

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COMMENTARY: Storytime and Playtime Collide

Storytime Toys Fuses Play Houses with Classic Fairy Tales It can be really difficult to get kids enthusiastic about reading at a young age. When I was young, my mom gave me an enormous, leather-bound book full of fairy tales. Each page was laden with beautiful graphics and trimmed with gold. After having the stories read to me over and over again, I would use the tales and characters as inspiration for playtime, making my Barbie dolls act as Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. New specialty toy company Storytime Toys, is making it even easier for kids to incorporate reading into playtime. Kara Dyer and Sara Argue have created a line of toy houses and storybooks based on classic fairy tales. Now, kids can read along to fairy tales including Goldilocks & the Three Bears, Hansel & Gretel, and The Three Little Pigs, while they build a house (or three, in the pigs’ case) that corresponds to each story. Each house features stunning, hand-painted imagery and comes with furniture and dolls for extended creative play. The pieces of the house can be assembled easily by kids ages 3 to 6. The stories are age-appropriate and will allow kids to associate playtime fun with the concept of reading. The houses and accessories are made from card stock and EVA Foam. These materials allow for durability, but are...

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COMMENTARY: Box Play for Kids Gives Imaginations a Boost

Little ones have the power to turn the most basic objects into adventure props with their own minds. Sometimes, large and high-tech toys are cast aside for the box they came in. I remember making guitars to play with out of old tissue boxes and toilet paper rolls when I was young. Now, Box Play for Kids is bringing colorful fun to recyclable, around-the-house objects, including milk cartoons, egg crates, and mac-and-cheese boxes. Box Play for Kids makes eco-friendly stickers that can be applied to cardboard items that would otherwise be thrown away. The stickers are printed on 100 percent recycled paper and are made in the U.S. Helping to inspire creativity and imagination, Box Play for Kids has more than 35 different designs available. Kids can make anything from a barn to a pair of binoculars to a school bus with these adorable stickers. Now in its second year of business, Box Play for Kids is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign. With a goal to raise $12,000 by May 8, Box Play is hoping to increase their inventory, hire additional staff members, and attend trade shows. To back Box Play for Kids on Kickstarter, click here:...

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COMMENTARY: Taking the Stress out of Travel

Seemingly endless construction and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Dead batteries in the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS. No wi-fi connection and nothing good on the radio. Uncomfortable seatbelts and restless little bodies. Though road tripping is a great option for a large family looking for an affordable summer getaway, sometimes a long journey in a crowded car can make a vacation more stressful than it’s worth. Portable gaming systems can be great (especially when coupled with headphones), but sometimes battery-free options are a safer bet for long journeys. For parents just looking to relax, there are a few great products on the market sure to keep little ones occupied in the car for extended time periods. Brain Box Animals, from University Games, is great for on-the-go fun. Players ages 8 and up choose a card from the box and study the picture on one side until the timer runs out. Then the players flip the card over to the question side and try to answer as many questions about the picture side as they can. The player who can answer the most questions correctly wins. Brain Box Animals helps kids stay entertained while practicing memorization and recognition and learning new information. Uncomfortable seatbelts are always a complaint with younger kids, but with SeatPets, from Jay at Play International, kids’ seatbelts stay in place. SeatPets are soft, cuddly animals that attach to...

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COMMENTARY: Turning a Complaining Kid into a Knitting-Whiz

This winter has been a brutal one for New Yorkers (and I’m not even sure it’s over yet). I for one was more than willing to load up on the cold weather gear, donning a new bubble coat, an oversized infinity scarf, and fingerless gloves with mitten covers in a concerned effort to keep out the cold and stave off the flu. Long johns were even necessary on a few of the more brutal days this year. Though most adults are eager to be as warm as possible during the winter months, it can be difficult to get kids to bundle up willingly. My niece and nephew whine and whine about putting on their winter’s finest: “The zipper pinches my chin!,” “I can’t breathe!,” “I can’t see with this hat on,” etc., etc. A good way to combat the incessant complaining and layering reluctance is to let kids make their own cold weather accessories. With Threadz, from PlaSmart, kids as young as age 6 can weave and knit with ease. With three kits available, kids can create their own beanie hats, scarves, or purses in just two hours. Knitting Beginnings, from Manhattan Toy, is great to teach kids how to knit as well. Kids ages 8 and up can make an owl hat with this kit, which teaches casting on, simple stitches, binding off, and pom-pom making. The Quick...

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COMMENTARY: Breaking the Ice: Adult-Appropriate Party Games

It’s Saturday night (undoubtedly after a long work week). A friend is throwing a huge party for the big game, or a birthday, or just because, you know, it’s Saturday. So you set off on an adventurous evening, teeming with excitement, even braving the seasonal elements if necessary. Your friend welcomes you with a cheery embrace, but as you look around the room, you come to the realization that you don’t know a single soul. You know the moment. How do you make your way into a conversation without coming across as anything but your cool, confident self? Luckily, there’s a saving grace for these types of scenarios: party games. Party games are a great device to ease the awkward tension of an unfamiliar crowd. There are a few classic favorites out there, like Cranium, Catch Phrase, and Apples to Apples. But there are also some new games hitting the market that will be great for breaking the ice. The perfect game to figure out which party goer is the most similar to you, What’s It?, from Peaceable Kingdom, is a guessing game where players try to think alike. Players roll a category die and flip over a doodle card featuring an abstract outline of something. Players have 30 seconds to write down what they think the doodle looks like and score points for matching answers. A cooperative game, players all...

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COMMENTARY: Everyone Has One, But I Want Mine to be Unique

Last Friday marked my niece Courtney’s eighth birthday, and what was she hoping for most? An iPod. Now, in my opinion, an 8-year-old doesn’t have much business with an iPod, but kids today are getting into electronics at a much younger age. Though part of Courtney’s argument for “needing” an iPod was, “everyone has one except for me,” the first thing she did when she got it was personalize it. Before even putting a song on it, she slapped a peace-sign sticker right on the back of it—10 minutes out of the box (hence why 8-year-olds probably shouldn’t have iPods). But, this was her way of making it her own. For parents buying their children expensive devices such as smartphones, iPods, or even portable gaming devices like the Nintendo 3DS or the PS Vita, there are some awesome products on the market that will allow kids to dazzle and personalize their devices without placing a never-gonna-come-off, gooey-backed sticker on said device. Plugy, from Hashy, is a universal 3.5mm plug that fits snuggly into all standard headphone jacks. Plugys come in more than 40 different styles, including zoo animals, robots, and glow-in-the-dark options. Plugy has something for everyone, including a rainbow, Eiffel Tower, and an apple stem, and allows kids to  take their smart device to a more personal level in a not-so-permanent way. Plugys are made of rubber and...

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COMMENTARY: MindWare Games Test Brain Power Without Words, Numbers, or Trivia

There are so many games on the market that get the gears moving in your brain, including Scrabble, Bananagrams, Trivial Pursuit, and Boggle. But what about those of us who didn’t major in English in college or don’t have a plethora of interesting facts stored away for a rainy day? MindWare has the answer… or well, answers. Cirplexed! is a 360-degree game of strategy that doesn’t include numbers, facts, or words. Each tile features quarter circles of different colors. Each player creates his or her own game board by drawing and placing tiles, in an attempt to create the most single-color circles. It sounds simple, but even at 23 years old, I could only match about eight circles total. Though the game is designed for two to six players, it can be played solo, as well, to put your brain to work when friends and family members aren’t around. Another game from MindWare, Q-Bitz Extreme, tests players’ neurological abilities with no prior knowledge required. Unlike Cirplexed!, where players can take their time placing tiles, Q-Bitz Extreme is a game of speed as much as strategy. In basic game play, each player gets 16 six-sided blocks, each side featuring a different shape. One player draws a card and places it where all of the players can see. Then, players must arrange their blocks in a specific pattern to match the image...

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