Posts Tagged ‘review’

Write a Review Wednesday: Lin Yi’s Lantern

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I reviewed Hammond‘s new release The Secret Life of Princesses (all age) written by Virginie Hanna and illustrated by Cathy Delanssay. This week my kids are in the mood for a little Chinese culture, since Chinese New Year is just around the corner (Feb 14), so we’re reading Barefoot Books Lin Yi’s Lantern: A Moon Festival Story. It’s written by Brenda Williams and illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe. I have to thank Rebecca at Barefoot Books for my review copy.

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Lin Yi is excited about the Moon Festival but first he must help his family prepare. He has to go to the local market to buy items for the family’s picnic: moon cakes, star fruit, rice, yams and peanuts for Uncle Hui. If he barter’s well, Lin Yi can use the money left over to buy a new red rabbit lantern for the festival. And boy would he like one.

At the market Lin Yi barters well, even his mom would be proud. Now he’s able to buy his lantern. But wait, he’s forgotten something — peanuts for Uncle Hui. Lin Yi now has a difficult decision: buy the red rabbit lantern that he so desperately wants or the peanuts for Uncle Hui liked he promised his mom he would get.

Even though the Moon Festival isn’t until the fall, my kids loved reading about it. Lin Yi’s Lantern gave the kids a peek into a great Chinese festival, like that of Chinese New Year. Brenda did a great job having Lin Yi repeat his shopping list as he travelled through the market. As we read the story my kids started to recite his also. When Lin Yi decided he was ready to buy his lantern, my kids were quick to point out that he forgot to buy peanuts. They loved being part of the story.

For added enjoyment the book includes Uncle Hui’s retelling of the Moon Fairy legend, plus a brief description of market life in China. Since most of the story took place in the market as Lin Yi bartered to save enough for his prized red rabbit lantern, this added a nice extension to the story. It took a fictitious account and added the reality of chinese life.

But I must admit the part my kids enjoyed most was the instructions to make a chinese lantern. After we read the story the kids made their own Chinese lanterns, even if they weren’t red rabbit lanterns, and enjoyed parading around the house with them. These will make great decorations for our Chinese New Year celebration.

You can add Lin Yi’s Lantern: A Moon Festival Tale to your home library by visiting your local bookstore or Amazon.ca. If you’re looking for other great kids books, read through some of the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Here Comes the Bride

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I reviewed Sterling Publishing’s be-bopping book The Daddy Longlegs Blues (age 4-7) written by Mike Ornstein and illustrated by Lisa Kopelke. The slight thaw we’ve been experiencing has my kids thinking of Spring. And with Spring comes weddings, like Tundra Books new release Here Comes the Bride (age 4-7) written by Beatrice Masini and illustrated by Anna Laura Cantone. I have to thank Sylvia at Tundra Books for my review copy.

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Filomena was a very fine seamstress. All the brides in town came to her to have their dresses made. As she cut and sewed Filomena dreamed of her own dress; she longed for when she would be a bride.

Her moment finally arrives when Rusty, the mechanic from next door, gathers the courage to ask Filomena to marry him.  Now she can start working on her own dress.

She adds bows and silk and rosettes and more and more. Filomena’s wedding day arrives and her dream dress is ready but no one recognizes her, not her sister, not her friends, not even Rusty who gets scared and runs away. It’s only then that Filomena realizes what’s truly important in her life.

My kids aren’t at the age to have fantasies about their wedding, even my seven-year old daughter, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t understand or relate to the underlying story. The idea of material things and outside appearances sometimes clouding our judgement of what’s really important, the person, is something my older two kids know about all too well. Here Comes the Bride was a fun way to start a discussion about that.

I really enjoy the multi-media images (it’s what drew me to the book in the first place). Part of the images used are wedding related words in English with their corresponding Italian words placed throughout the pages in various fonts and styles. The kids liked the idea that they were learning some Italian, sort of.

You can add Here Comes the Bride to your own personal library by visiting Amazon.ca. If you’re looking for other great book suggestions for your kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Daddy Longlegs Blues

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I reviewed Barefoot Books book and singalong CD Driving my Tractor (age 2-5) by Jan Dobbins and David Sim. Still in a musical frame of mind, I’m reviewing The Daddy Longlegs Blues (age 4-7) written by Mike Ornstein and illustrated by Lisa Kopelke. I have to thank Derry at Sterling Publishing publishing for my review copy.

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He’s Daddy Longlegs.
He’ll scat across your ceiling
and get funky on your floor.
Shake his booty down your hallway
and then shimmy out the door
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Mike Ornstein’s tale of a Daddy Longlegs reads lyrically, like a blues tune. Daddy Longlegs wanders around town bringing rhythm and soul wherever he goes. He bellows on his saxophone, bounces with his fiddle, shakes his booty with his base, hangs loose with his guitar, beats his drum and even boogie-woogies on his baby grand.

The Daddy Longlegs Blues does a great job introducing kids to various musical instruments through words and illustrations. You can’t help but feel like moving and grooving with words like boucin’ and boppin’ in the story. I found myself singing parts of the story in a bluesy tune, especially the lines: He has the blues. The Daddy Longlegs blues. (You were singing it too weren’t you? It’s catchy.)

Music is big in our house, especially jazz and blues, so my kids loved reading a story with a musical twist. Mike Ornstein did a great job weaving in truths about Daddy Longlegs. Did you know they’re not spiders? It’s now a fact my kids share with everyone.

Lisa Kopelke‘s use of font style and size also helps convey a fun, musical feel to the story. The words move in and around the illustrations like a song.

If you’re child is a music fan, there are also pages at the end of the story that cover a glossary of blues terms and a description of the musical instruments used in the story. I especially liked the last page which explains a little more what a Daddy Longlegs is as well as the Blues music genera. Mike Ornstein does an incredible job tieing the two things together.

Want to add a copy of The Daddy Longlegs Blues to your personal library? Visit Amazon.ca. If you’re looking for other great book recommendations for your kids, you can read past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Leapfrog Tag or Tag Junior

So maybe you’ve read my review on the Leapfrog Tag Junior and the Leapfrog Tag, but you’re unsure which is the best to get for your child. To try and make things easier I’ve put together this little side-by-side comparison chart:

Leapfrog Tag Junior Leapfrog Tag 
age range 2 to 4 yrs 4 to 8 yrs
books small sized board books, only a few words per page hard cover, paper paged books, more words per page like an early reader book, some game pages
reading tool larger ‘buddy’ that is easy for small hands to grasp and hold on to, the reading base is wider making it easier to come in contact with areas on the page a thick pen design, tip enables point to specific words in a story or selecting smaller interactive elements on the page
interactivity introduces kids to basic concepts like colours and size, single or small word count per page increases child’s vocabulary, touching elements on the page provides surprises like sounds or dialog and encourages kids to explore flexible with your child’s reading skills (can have whole story read or child can read and use the pen to get help with tricky words, games are included to help guage child’s understanding of the story, increases the child’s vocabulary, touching different parts of the page reveals more dialog or sounds and encourages kids to explore.
compatibility Can NOT read Tag books Can use the Tag pen to read Tag Junior books also (need to download the audio and the pen will read the book just like the Junior does – whole page at a time, versus word by word), there are also learning cards and interactive boards that are designed to work with the Tag too
Learning Path connect with Leapfrog’s Learning Path to discover your child’s favourite books and pages and what they are learning connect with Leapfrog’s Learning Path to discover what activities you child enjoys most, how long they’ve spent with a book, what they are learning and how that compares to where they should be at
cost Tag Junior:$39.99 Cdn
Tag Junior book:$9.97 Cdn
Tag:$59.99 Cdn
Tag book:$14.97 Cdn
Includes USB cable, Tag Junior reader, Learning Path connect software CD-Rom, one pre-loaded book USB cable, Tag reader, Learning Path connect software CD-Rom, one pre-loaded book
Review Tag Junior Tag

I hope you find this chart helpful. We’ve tried both the Tag Junior and the Tag. My kids love the interactivity and fun involved with them; I love that they are learning while having fun. And with the Learning Path program I can see just what they are learning.

Flip for the Holidays

In our house Christmas is for the kids. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I enjoy the holidays but I think we enjoy it so much more since having our own kids. There’s something about the excitement and surprise and wonderment that kids exude around the  holidays. And because they grow and change and mature, quickly, I want to capture as much of each stage as I can.

Pictures are great, they certainly show the changes kids go through and if caught at the right moment, they can show excitement and surprise and wonder. But somethings are best captured on video. There’s a whole other feeling and dimension to video.

The Flip Mino HD

In enters the Flip Mino HD. This compact, light-weight video camera weights 3.3 oz which is lighter and more compact than most cell phones. You can record up to 60 minutes of video at a resolution of 1280×720. The Flip Mino HD starts up quickly enabling you to capture impromptu video; you can start recording 3-seconds after the camera turns on. The Flip Mino HD has a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery that can charged with the pop-out USB connection or a power adaptor (sold separately). The USB is tucked into the camera itself and only pops-out when you want to connect to your computer. This ensures the USB doesn’t get damaged as it’s tucked out of the way.

And after you’ve recorded your video, you can edit it and share it with others using the pre-loaded software on the Flip Mino HD. You can also view your video on your TV with the supplied AV cables. The simple control buttons are on the backside of the camera; all that’s required is a light touch over them (they’re flat on the camera versus buttons that stick out which adds to the slim look of the Flip Mino HD). The buttons are also backlit in case you happen to be shooting in a dark environment.

Win a Flip Mino HD

Who wouldn’t want a video camera to record those holiday memories, special moments and just everyday events, especially a camera that’s small and light enough to fit into your pocket. Well Flip ( @flipvideocanada) and Mom Central Canada ( @mc_canada) want to give you, one of you at least, your own Flip Mino HD video camera. To enter all you need to do is tell me who on your Christmas list you would give a Flip Mino HD to and why.  But be sure to tell me before December 31, 2009 because that’s when this contest closes (open to Canadian residents 18 years or older).

Bonus Entry: tweet the following and come back and post a comment letting me know you did (only counts as one bonus entry)

I’d flip to win a Flip from @mc_canada and @flipvideocanada http://bit.ly/6Wb3v3 #flip4holiday

Flip Fridays

I just received my Flip Mino HD and at first sight it seem great, certainly based on everything Flip says it can do. Now the real fun begins. Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting my Flip Mino HD video camera to the test and with the holidays and three kids I’ll have plenty of material to work with. I’ll be posting my thoughts and a clip or two on Flip Friday (December 18 and December 25) so be sure to come back and read my posts.

Another Bonus Entry

If reading about my thoughts on the Flip Mino HD isn’t enough incentive, you’ll have a chance for another bonus entry, on each Flip Friday post. Tomorrow is the first Flip Friday too. That’s four (4) possible entries for your own fabulous Flip Mino HD.

Good Luck. Let the flipping begin!

Update: Random.org picked Rebecca. Congratulations. Thanks for everyone who entered.

Write a Review Wednesday: Christmas with Rita and Whatsit

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I looked at Sterling Publishing’s new book The Great Reindeer Rebellion (4-8), a funny Christmas rhyme written by Lisa Trumbauer and illustrated by Jannie Ho. Still keeping in the Christmas spirit this week, I’m reviewing Christmas with Rita and Whatsit written by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod and illustrated by Olivier Tallec. Published by Chronicle Books, I have Crystal at Raincoast Books to thank for my review copy.

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Rita is a little girl with a big personality. Whatsit is a dog without a name. Together they make the best of friends.

It’s Christmas Eve and there’s so much for Rita and Whatsit to do before Santa comes: write letters to Santa, decorate the Christmas tree, make no-bake Christmas gloop cake, howl a few Christmas carols, and hang a stocking (and a few shoes since Rita likes to think big). Finally it’s bedtime. It’s midnight and not a creature is stirring, except Whatsit, who can’t sleep. But what’s that? Whatsit goes to investigate a sound and lets out a his biggest dog BARK!  Oh no, did Whatsit scare away Santa?

My kids loved the characters of Rita and Whatsit. They loved the independence of Rita, a young girl in the story doing her own things to get ready to Santa. And Whatsit’s antics made them laugh: decorating his own treat with bologna or juggling tree ornaments. My oldest commented that her cats would do the same thing (except with a tree of fish).

The relationship between child and pet is one many families can relate to. Reading Christmas with Rita and Whatsit brings a wonderful child-like innocence and wonder to the whole Christmas preparation rituals. This is emphasized with the simple sketch drawings, punctuated only by Rita’s red dress and Whatsit’s red eye spot. This is a wonderful story about friendship.

You can add Christmas with Rita and Whatsit to your own personal library from Amazon.ca. You can also enjoy the antics of Rita and Whatsit in their other two books: Rita and Whatsit and Rita and Whatsit at the Beach. If you’re looking for other great books for kids, take a read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Review: Leapfrog Tag Reading System

In September we had the chance to review the new Leapfrog Tag Junior reading system, designed to encourage the love of books with kids 2 to 4. My two-year old enjoyed using the Tag Junior during her review; she still does. After that review I had a number of people ask me how the original Tag Reading System compares to the Tag Junior. So the wonderful people at Leapfrog Canada‘s public relations company sent along a Tag and the book Fly High, Fly Guy for a comparison.

Ready, Set, Read

When the Leapfrog Tag arrived my son was ecstatic. He has been using his younger sister’s Tag Junior but the reading material isn’t very challenging for a boy who is at the early reading stage. The Tag Reading System comes with the book Ozzie and Mack. The audio is preloaded on the Tag pen so my son could start using it right away, which of course he did.

Works with Tag Junior Books too

We discovered you can also use the Tag pen to read the Tag Junior books. This is great news if you already have a Tag Junior for either a younger child or your child is transitioning up to the Tag. You will need to download the audio from the Tag Junior books onto the pen. (On the audio download page, look for the Tag Junior picture on the bottom of the page). Keep in mind that the Tag will read the Tag Junior books the same way the Tag Junior reads them, as a whole page, not word by word. The Tag Junior however cannot read the Tag books.

Beyond Reading

The Leapfrog Tag Reading System can be used as a reading tool in a few different ways: you can have the whole story read to you with audio prompts to turn the pages as you follow along, you can have the story read page-by-page at your child’s pace, or your child can read and use the pen to help with the tricky words. The Tag can read each individual word that you point to.

But the Leapfrog Tag Reading System offers great learning and fun beyond just reading the story or having it read to you. Kids can use the pen to explore the page; touch elements or people in the story to hear dialog or sounds beyond the story. My son loved finding these hidden gems. He felt more involved in the story, choosing what to discover. There are also games and quizzes in the story. Your child can choose to play along or not by selecting the appropriate icon at the bottom of the page.

My five-year old son loves using the Tag. He can easily spend an hour quietly reading, learning and enjoying one of the Tag stories:

You can store a number of books on the Tag pen so switching from story to story is easy; just touch the page of the new story and the Tag pen finds the right audio clip. The interactivity of the Tag keeps the stories from becoming too repetitive and boring. Now my son loves to read along with the story. The Tag also gives my son time to explore and learn on his own, without any mom, dad or big sister looking over his shoulder.

Leapfrog’s Learning Path: Discover What your Child is Learning

Like the Tag Junior, the Leapfrog Tag Reading System is enabled with the Leapfrog Learning Path system. By connecting the Tag pen to your computer with the supplied USB cable you can discover what your child is learning. The Learning Path will tell you what books your child uses and for how long, what areas they excel in and what areas they need more practice, plus you’ll find out where they sit skill wise compared to standard levels by grade.  If you’ve never used the Learning Path program before, you will need to install the Leapfrog Connect software (CD provided).

Connecting online also enables you do download the audio for other Tag or Tag Junior books you own. Plus as your child completes sections of the book they will receive a reward, like a door hanger or maze you can printout. My son was always asking me to connect to the computer to discover what new reward he revealed. Using certain Tag books can also unlock online games for your kids to enjoy.

Fun, interactive learning

My son doesn’t have a long attention span, unless Lego is involved, but he could sit and listen, play, read and learn with the Leapfrog Tag Reading System for an hour or more. He loved interacting with the story and it’s helped him with word recognition in other stories.

Manufacturer: Leapfrog
Age: 4 to 8
MSRP ($Cdn): $59.99, includes reader, USB connection cable and one pre-loaded book
Additional Books ($Cdn): $14.97

Unsure if you should be getting the Leapfrog Tag or Leapfrog Tag Junior? Maybe my handy comparison chart will help.

Write a Review Wednesday: The Great Reindeer Rebellion

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I looked at a great new picture book for preschoolers, Meeow and the Big Box (age 2-4 ) fromSterling Children’s Books and written/illustrated by Sebastien Braun. With December just around the corner, I can’t help but get into the Christmas spirit all ready. And it’s easy with The Great Reindeer Rebellion (4-8), a funny Christmas rhyme written by Lisa Trumbauer and illustrated by Jannie Ho. Thank you Derry from Sterling Publishing for my review copy.

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‘Twas the week before Christmas,
and somewhere up north,
dear Santa was frantic –
he paced back and forth.

He had just heard some news
that he sure didn’t like:
It seemed that the reindeer
were going on strike.

Following the same rhythm as The Night Before Christmas story, Lisa Trumbauer spins a laugh out loud tale about Santa’s trials and tribulations on finding a new sleigh team. How hard could it be to find eight animals to help Santa and save Christmas. Not hard it turns out. Cats and dogs, flamingos and kangaroos, even elephants all offer their services to Santa; eager to pull the sleigh on that one magical night.

But Santa and the animals soon discover that not everyone is cut out to pull the sleigh. Fresh baked cookies, mice and even the Christmas presents seem to cause problems for sleigh team after sleigh team. It’s not until the reindeer offer a solution that everything back on track.

The first thing I noticed with this book is the page stock. Unlike most picture books, the pages are stiff cardboard making it easy for even younger readers (or lookers) to enjoy without much fear of page ripping. Although The Great Reindeer Rebellion isn’t a touch-and-feel book, some of the images are embossed adding a nice dimension to the pages.

Reindeer on strike!

Reindeer on strike!

All three of my kids loved this story. The familiar rhyme drew them right in. The pages are layed out in such a way that the kids enjoyed guessing what mess the new sleigh team fell into. The placement of the text also added to the lyrical feel of the whole story; it weaves wonderfully through the pages. Jannie Ho’s illustrations are bright and fun, adding to the feel of the whole story as they fill the page. She did a wonderful job carrying the reader from one sleigh incident to another. The kids loved seeing the background images of the flamingos with bandages in the background as the next sleight team made their attempt.

The Great Reindeer Rebellion is delightful Christmas story. When we were done reading, my kids went on at great lengths discussing and debating other animals that could pull Santa’s sleigh and if they’d be successful or not.

The Great Reindeer Rebellion will certainly have a spot on our holiday book shelf. You can add a copy to your personal library from Amazon.ca If you’re looking for other great book suggestions, read some the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Meeow and the Big Box

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I ventured into the realm of non-fiction with Enslow Publishers’ Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends At the Circus (age 6 to 9), written by Jill Anderson and illustrated by Amy Huntington. This week is about the younger set. Meeow and the Big Box (age 2-4 ) is a fun book from Sterling Children’s Books and written/illustrated by Sebastien Braun. Thank you Derry from Sterling Publishing for my review copy.

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Meeow is a black cat. Meeow likes the colour red. Meeow likes to make things. What will Meeow make with red paint, a big box, an orange chair and a blue mug. Clever Meeow!

My kids love cats so they fell in love with Meeow even before we opened the book. My youngest loved the velvety feel of Meeow on the front cover of the book also; to her Meeow felt fuzzy like a real cat. The story of Meeow taking simple household elements like a brown box, a blue mug and an orange chair and using imagination to convert them into something fun, is something all kids do and can relate to. The type is big, clear and uncluttered making it easy to read. The dialog is like the a conversation the parent may have with a child, simple yet descriptive. Each step Meeow takes is described. Primary colours are used in the simple illustrations and in describing the elements Meeow uses; instead of just a chair it’s an orange chair.

I could see my two-year old trying to figure out what Meeow was trying to build. With each page turn a little more was revealed. The way the pages are layed out, the dialog encourages kids to think and guess what Meeow could be making before it’s revealed at the very end. And I love how the last page illustrates what Meeow sees the actual creation to be.

While reading Meeow and the Big Box my kids made guesses like a rocket ship or a car or a house. I love the simplicity of this story and the warm, fun, child-like nature of Meeow, but the best part of the story to me was when we finished reading. The book done, my kids went away and started making their own in home creations out of chairs and pillows and blankets. A book that impresses upon kids beyond the reading experience has to be one worth adding to your own personal library.

What is Meeow making?

You can also read the review on Meeow and the Little Chairs.

To add Meeow and the Big Box to your own personal library, visit Amazon.ca For other book suggestions checkout the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Review: Jumpstart Escape from Adventure Island Wii Game

PhotobucketNot that long ago our family had a chance to review JumpStart’s 3D World, an online learning environment, as well as JumpStart Pet Rescue Wii game.

We’re big fans of JumpStart so the kids were tickled pink when given the chance to review Knowledge Adventure‘s newest Wii game: Escape from Adventure Island.

PhotobucketGame Synopsis

During an emergency landing on Adventure Island the blimp you and Frankie were traveling in gets damaged. Now you’re on a mission to collect sand dollars, which you’ll trade in for helium tanks to fix your blimp. Complete challenges to earn either white or gold sand dollars.

Story and Practice Modes

The game is played in Story Mode, where you help Frankie complete various challenges, like letter recognition, math problems or just following instructions, and earn a sand dollar. There are various levels to each challenge making it easily adaptable to your child’s skill level now and as they improve. You can practice some of the skills you will need to complete the challenges with educational games in Practice Mode.

On Land or in Water

JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island has two main areas: the Island Hub, where kids play and learn above the water or the Scuba Hub where your jumpee is dressed in scuba gear and you can explore and play under water. Both of my kids loved the Scuba Hub in this game; this environment wasn’t something offered in the JumpStart Pet Rescue game. My son spent most of his time underwater. My son wanted to get right into the game; he didn’t even adjust or customize the default jumpee character.

My daughter missed the fact that there weren’t worlds to explore (in JumpStart Pet Rescue there were more locations to jump to). She also missed the pet adoption aspect. But I think it’s great that the two games are different; you would play them for a different experience.

Improved Use of the Wii-mote

I remember one of my disappointments with the JumpStart’s Pet Rescue game was the lack of intuitive use with the Wii-mote. Well that isn’t an issue with JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island. Watching the kids play, they turn and twist and point the Wii-mote; they seem more involved in the game.

But What do the Kids Think

Rated E for Everyone

The JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island game for the Wii has been rated Everyone (E) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board which means ‘it has content suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.‘ The game play seemed pretty similar to the JumpStart Pet Rescue which received an Early Childhood (EC) rating.

In Stores

JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island for the Wii (recommended for ages 5 to 9) will be available in major retailers starting November 17, 2009 for $29.99US

Time to Escape and WIN

Knowledge Adventure, the creatures of the JumpStart games is running an amazing contest. Visit their blog and tell them how your family uses imagination to escape the everyday and turn life into and adventure. Your story could win one (1) of fifty (50) copies of JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island or maybe even one (1) of the three (3) Grand Prize Family Escape Packs (valued at over $1000). Contest closes November 16 so be quick.

* a review copy of JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island was provided by Knowledge Adventure