Children's Books All Adults Should Read

Often the books we read as children are the ones that reappear in our life as we grow older - whether it's choosing a classic for that bedtime story for the little one, or looking for something easier and happier to read than the newspaper. Not that you need an excuse to reread your favourite childhood books again, but there are life lessons and learnings to take from the books we read back then - they just weren't obvious to our young minds. We may even enjoy them more this time around, or discover a book we missed out on growing up and find a new favourite.

Charlotte's Web - EB White

Often regarded as compulsory bed time reading, Charlotte's Web is a story about friendship, compassion, sacrifice and death. These huge issues in life are dealt with in a way a child can understand, and worth revisiting for even the most cynical adults amongst us.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit - Beatrix Potter

A classic that a surprising amount of people haven't read. Known for it's beautiful illustrations and for spanning the test of time (it was first published in 1902!), Peter Rabbit is the perfect introduction to literature at bedtime. When I read this aloud to a child, I could hear my father's voice in my head reading it to me all those years ago - a lovely tradition to carry on. It will continue to enchant children and adults for years to come.

Love You Forever - Robert Munsch

This book is often given as "baby's first book" to new parents to read to the addition to the family. The story shows how a mother's love spans the child's whole life, from infancy to adulthood and beyond. Those of us with a Friends addiction, will remember this as the book Joey gave a dramatic reading of at Rachel's baby's first birthday, having forgotten to get her a present - it's a tearjerker even then! It strikes a chord with everyone who has a loved one.

Oh, The Places You'll Go! - Dr Seuss

I remember reading this book when everything seemed possible. I was going to become a ballerina (despite not having had any classes!), Santa still visited me every Christmas Eve and my marriage to Leonardo Di Caprio was inevitable. Reading this as an adult reminds you that, even now, nothing is impossible for you. I'm still waiting on Leo to return my calls however...

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

One of my favourite childhood books and one I've read again very recently. The idea of a secret place, hidden away from adults, where children could do whatever they like, was one I adored. Even as an adult you find yourself saying, "Just one more chapter!", becoming as eager to find out more about the garden as the characters are.

What are your favourite children's books? Would you pick them up now for another read?

Monday, 02 March 2015

Pixar's 22 Rules For Storytelling

We are huge fans of all things Pixar in Rory's Story Cubes HQ. The movies and shorts involve, move and change us while we watch and always enthral us to the end. Their characters are well thought out, their plots layered and ultimately produce movies that you want to see over and over again.

So when we came across Pixar's Rules for Storytelling, we thought it would be great to share with all our storytellers looking to improve their tales!

Rules by Emma Coats

Images by Gavin McMahon

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Toy Stories - Children's Favourite Toys from Utah to Kenya

We came across this photography project called "Toy Stories" by Gabriele Galimberti, in which he takes pictures of children from all over the world with their favourite toys.

Everyone remembers their childhood toys. I can remember the names I alternated between for my Baby Born doll (Lucy and Abigail!) better than I can recall the names of my childhood next door neighbours. Here are a selection from the project and soon you will find yourself clicking through to the website for more, like we did!

No matter how much or how little they have, children will always create a new worlds and possible futures for themselves through play.

Alessia - Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy

Alessia was born and raised in the country, her family owns one of the largest farms in the city. She loves to play with animals and helps her grandfather with the farm work. With her small tools she brings food to the many Chianina cows.

Keynor - Cahuita, Costa Rica

Keynor was born in Cahuita, on the caribbean coast of Costa Rica. He has never left Cahuita, not even for a day. He lives 300 meters from the beach and sometimes his mother lets him swim there with his older brother Deynor. Keynor’s father has a strong passion for toy cars, collecting over 200. Every now and again his father gives him an old car and Keynor has started his own small collection.

Elene - Tblisi, Georgia

Elene was born in southern Georgia and grew up in Tblisi. She doesn’t go to school yet but she already knows how to read and write. Her favourite toys are all connected with school somehow. She loves pencils, notebooks, colour pens and much more.

Tangwizi - Keekorok, Kenya

Tangwizi was born in a Maasai village in the south of Kenya in a small hut made of dung and straw. His bed is made of a few rags on the ground. He plays outside with the other village children but every night he sleeps with his unique toy: a little cuddly monkey.

Norden - Massa, Morocco

Norden lives in Massa, a small village 40km south of Agadir. In the room where he plays and sleeps there is nothing but a carpet. Every day he wakes up early together with his family and goes to the valley where they have some pieces of land to farm. He spends most of his time playing with a dog outside. The toys in the photo are all he owns.

Virginia - American Fork, Utah

Virginia lives in American Fork, a little in Utah. She loves to play baseball with her little brother. He launches the ball and she hits it, it can never be the other way around! Her family keeps some animals in their garden, like goats and chickens. She has a favourite goat and always wants to play with her.

Shaira - Mumbai, India

Shaira was born in Mumbai 6 years ago but she lived the first 3 years of her life in New York with her family. Now she lives in Mumbai but her first language is still English. She knows just a few words in Hindi, because her babysitter speaks that language. Shaira loves board games. She spends a lot of time playing games with her family. From her bedroom window, on the 18th floor of a new building, she can almost see the whole city.

All photos by Gabriele Galimberti.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

10 Movies Based on Games & Toys

This post led to a lot of debates in the Studio as to what constituted a movie based on a toy or a game similar to the chicken and egg argument. What came first - the movie or the toy?

Eventually we settled on ten movies that we all agreed on, which took a while. So we stress that these are in no order as it would have taken a week for everyone to settle on that!

What are your favourites? Have we left any good ones out?

1. Pinocchio (1940)

Pinocchio is a classic that most of us have seen at one point or another. The plot involves an old wood carver named Gepetto who carves a puppet named Pinocchio. The puppet is brought to life by the Blue Fairy, who informs him that he can become a boy if he proves himself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish.

Pinocchio's efforts to become a real boy involve encounters with a host of unsavory characters and some more savory ones like Jiminy Cricket. And, of course, the one thing about Pinocchio is that when he lies his nose grows!

Cue shouts of "I'm a real boy!" and sing songs of "When You Wish Upon A Star".

2. Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

The Dungeons and Dragons movie is, of course, based on the famous role-playing game of the same name. The Empire of Izmer has long been a divided land. The Mages - an elite group of magic-users - rule whilst the lowly commoners are powerless. Izmer's young Empress, Savina, wants equality and prosperity for all, but the evil Mage Profion is plotting to depose her and establish his own rule. However, the Empress possesses a scepter which controls Izmer's Golden Dragons.

Often lamented as one of the worst movies of all time by online critics, the movie did bring the game to the big screen, and prompted two further straight to DVD follow-ups. There is currently a legal battle ongoing as to whether Warner Bros or Universal have the rights to bring out the next big budget D&D movie. Let's hope this one stays truer to the game!

3. Small Soldiers (1998)

Small Soldiers is a classic for the 90's children amongst us. Frightening and enthralling at the same time - we had always wanted our toys to come alive...but had never thought that our toys would be the bad guys!

The son of a toy store owner tries out some new action figures: The Commando Elite vs The Gorgonites. However, the toy company that created the figures has used military grade microchips to make the little guys talk, it turns out that this was unwise. Shocking!

They've underestimated the power of the chips and this comes to light when the two opposing toy factions start thinking for themselves and engage in real combat. The Commando Elite attempt to wipe out The Gorgonites and don't mind that they might take humans out too.

The Commando Elite were truly scary and you really felt for the Gorgonites! I'm hoping they do eventually find their homeland of Gorgon.

4. Toy Story (1995)

The ultimate toy movie and one we couldn't possibly leave off the list, the first feature length computer animated film from Pixar is a triumph. The toys pretend to be lifeless whenever the humans are around but once Andy and Co. exit the room, that's when the real fun begins. Woody, the talking cowboy doll, and Buzz Lightyear, the spaceman action figure, lead a host of toys through escapades in and out of the house, all unknown to their loving owner Andy.

We've decided to compile the whole Toy Story series into one spot on the list. Each movie brings us our miniature heroes in a new adventure with enough emotion to make us burst out laughing or crying at different points. Definitely one for the DVD collection!

5. The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)

A little boy is given a cupboard and a key for his birthday (I would have thrown a tantrum!). Unaware of the cupboard's magical powers, he locks his toy Indian in it overnight and in the morning discovers that it has come alive and has a name: Little Bear, and they soon form a friendship.

The little boy's best friend brings over his toy cowboy, Boone, to try in the cupboard, which leads to lots of tension and fighting between Boone and Little Bear in typical Cowboys and Indians style.

A classic toy movie, which led to toys being locked in cupboards in homes all over the world. Sadly I haven't heard of any real life cupboards having the same effect!

6. Jumanji (1995)

The line "A game for those who seek to find, a way to leave their world behind" still gives us chills to this day. When two kids find and play a magical board game, they release a man trapped for decades in it and a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game - which isn't as easy as it seems! Cue hordes of screaming monkeys rampaging through traffic and bats chasing little girls from houses.

Intended as a kid's movie, the realistic nature of Jumanji scared the bejeezus out of us, and still is a little creepy now. However, saying that, it stands the test of time and is one to pull out of the collection on a rainy day, though it may make you scared of that dusty board game in the attic!

7. Transformers (2007)

The big budget action film series is based on the Transformers action figure line. The Transformers toy's parts can be shifted about to change it from a vehicle, a device, or an animal, to a robot and back again. The films reflect this but in classic Hollywood style with everything on a bigger scale.

When the father of a teenager gives him an old Camaro, he has a chance to give a ride to his schoolmate love interest and also to participate in an ancient war of robots on Earth. His car is actually the Autobot Bumblebee, led by Optimus Prime, and they are in war against the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron. Both races are seeking the mystical Allspark talisman with opposite intentions: the Autobots intend to protect the human beings, while the Deceptions want to destroy them.

With some pretty spectacular fight scenes, it's exactly how we imagined the skirmishes going when we played with our own Optimus Prime on the living room carpet.

8. Labyrinth (1986)

When I hear "Labyrinth", I always think of the creepy Goblin King David Bowie plays. Sarah goes through the huge, otherworldly maze known as the Labyrinth to rescue her baby brother, who's been captured by goblins. All through the story, she encounters creatures that all bear strange resemblances to the toys she has in her room.

Though not a massive hit in the box office upon release, it has since gained a cult following and is often found by younger generations by rifling through old VHS collections or stumbled upon on the TV on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, and did we mention it has musical numbers?

9. The Lego Movie (2014)

Perhaps one of the biggest releases for the younger generation recently - The Lego Movie. The movie based on the staple playroom toy that is Lego, spawned even more toys based on the movie. Toys based on a movie based on a toy - simple!

Focusing on the Lego line of construction toys, the film tells the story of Emmet, an ordinary Lego minifigure. However, things start to get interesting for Emmet when the wizard Vitruvius predicts that a person called "The Special" will save the world from the tyrannical Lord Business. And "The Special" just happens to be Emmet!

The Lego Movie is enjoyable for all ages with lots of laughs and great animation, with spin offs and sequels planned already. What are the odds it becomes a classic?

10. Wreck It Ralph (2012)

We were struggling to agree on a tenth, with lots of people's suggestions being shot down really quickly - getting to ten was harder than it looks! We were about to post a list of nine, which doesn't have the same ring to it, when Shona, our 8 year old visitor to the studio, piped up with Wreck It Ralph. A lightbulb moment - thank you Shona!

A great concept for a movie, you'll see everyone from PacMan to Sonic The Hedgehog in Wreck It Ralph. When a games arcade closes every night, the various video game characters leave their normal in-game roles and are free to travel through the power cables to other games consoles. Wreck It Ralph is tired of being a villain in his game, so he's convinced that if he can win a medal, he can become a hero. This leads to Ralph trying to win a medal in another game and causing lots of trouble for lots of other characters!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Creativity Hub at SPIEL, Essen

SPIEL, held in the town of Essen each October, is one of Germany's two major game conventions, the other being the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg each February, which we also attend. While Spielwarenmesse is a trade show – and therefore strictly business – Spiel is open to the public. It draws roughly 150,000 people over four days, and believe us it feels exactly like 150,000 when you're trying to navigate the halls quickly! Hundreds of new games were introduced at Spiel 2014, and many more older games were revisited by their fans.

This year we attended and took our very own stand for the first time. We introduced The Extraordinaires Design Studio to an audience that had never seen it before, and also took Rory's Story Cubes to a fan base that was excited to see if we had anything new to offer. As you will see from our timelapse video of Day 2 of the fair, we were rushed off our feet!

The Creativity Hub at Essen from The Creativity Hub on Vimeo.

Our new Rory's Story Cubes Mix titles for 2014 - Intergalactic, Score and Medic were debuted at SPIEL and quickly proved very popular with fans, with many snapping up all three to add to their collection. These will be available in stores at the end of November and on very soon. Guaranteed to provide lots of laughter, judging by the response in Essen!

The Extraordinaires Design Studio also proved successful, with a whole wall of inventions being filled up. Some were complex and intricate, others were simple and to the point, with, of course, a lot of concentration and research thrown into each one! Whole families pulled up chairs to see who could design the best solution for their Extraordinaire.

SPIEL has the reputation in The Creativity Hub studio of being the best fun to attend, so each day we all took turns to wander and look at all that the fair had to offer (and make a few purchases...). There's never enough time to view everything! However, we still managed to buy enough games that we had to ship them home as they wouldn't fit in our many suitcases. Nobody tell Amanda that's why the pallet cost was so high!

We can't wait for next year. Were you at Essen? What were your top picks from the fair?

Monday, 03 November 2014