Desert Companion

Fun & games: Hot ouside, way cool inside

When the air is on fire outdoors, these books, games and projects will keep the kids happy indoors


Six books that let kids of every age roam freely without leaving the safety of A/C Compiled by Drew Cohen of The Writer’s Block bookstore

(ages 4-7)

ABZZZZ …: A Bedtime Alphabet 

(Thames & Hudson, $14.95)

This one is for the illustration enthusiasts. Originally published in Portugal in 2014, ABZZZZ … is a bedtime alphabet designed to cajole children into sleep. Each page includes a fact or question (“Did you know that even the strongest bear purrs to sleep …?”). But it’s Yara Kono’s illustrations that steal the show: bright, scintillating and modern. 

(ages 5–8)

There Is a Tribe of Kids 

(Roaring Brook Press, $18.99)

Lane Smith’s latest depicts a young boy’s journey through a series of collective nouns: a colony of penguins, a smack of jellyfish, a trail of snails. As ever, Smith’s sponge-paint illustrations are beautiful and full of gentle humor, and the language deeply considered. There Is a Tribe of Kids is perfect read-aloud material.

(ages 10 and up)


(The Overlook Press, $11.99)

The third and final book in The Iremonger Trilogy, Lungdon brings the Iremonger family to London, and with them, a host of dark goings-on and supernatural intrigue. Edward Carey debuted this unusual series — a pastiche of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels, incorporating the art style of Edward Gorey and the sensibility of Lemony Snicket — a few years back with the superb novel Heap House. Essential reading for morbidly inclined, precocious youngsters.

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(ages 12 and up)

Quiet Power 

(Dial Books, $17.99)

You don’t see this often: popular psychology adapted for teens. This is a totally reworked version of Susan Cain’s hit book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, and it relocates the conversation from the workplace to school, extracurriculars and friendship. The book’s message will be empowering to kid and teen readers who will recognize themselves in Cain’s story.

(ages 12 and up)

Saving Montgomery Sole 

(Roaring Brook Press, $17.99)

Monty Sole is a book-smart girl in a small town, and a founding member of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club — a group dedicated to exploring the occult. As if this didn’t single her out enough, she’s got two moms and a gay best friend. Mariko Tamaki’s second YA novel is diverse without being self-congratulatory and combines two topics high on the teenage agenda: identity politics and astrology.

(ages 14 and up)

American Girls 

(Flatiron Books, $17.99)

While grownups are agog for Emma Cline’s The Girls, the teen set can check out Alison Umminger’s American Girls. Like Cline, Umminger revisits the Manson murders through the prism of the present, and through the gaze of Anna, a 15-year-old runaway navigating turbid waters of B-list Los Angeles. This is mature stuff, but written with an eye for the sensitivities of young-adult readers.



The family that plays (board games) together stays cool together Compiled by Timm Metivier of Meepleville Game Café

(ages 8-up)

Ticket to Ride

Settle in for this one — you’re in for 30 minutes to an hour of heat-avoiding fun. Bring a fresh brain, too; the website Board Game Geek says players make “intense strategic and tactical decisions every turn” as they build railroad empires across North America. Yet it’s simple enough for the two to five players to learn in a few minutes.

(ages 8-up)

King of Tokyo

Oh, no, there goes Tokyo! In this dice- and card-based game, giant, mutated monsters — avatars of the two to six players — compete to destroy the Japanese metropolis. Fiercest monster wins! Bonus detail: There’s a card that allows your monster a second life ... in the form of an extra head! Godzilla — and your kids — would approve.

(ages 8-up)


The basic dynamic? Players (up to four) take turns hanging thin, twisty metal rods on a central post. As the wires accumulate into ever-more elaborate, precarious shapes, who will be the player to make it fall? A quick and easy game in which kids and parents are evenly matched.

(ages 8-up)


Fast and simple, just like summer, Tsuro is a path-building game for two to eight players. You lay down tiles, creating a route for your dragon, while trying to run other dragons off the board or into each other. Last dragon on the board wins. Easy to learn, too.

(ages 10-up)


A card and dice strategy game for three or four players, Catan is all about controlling the island of Catan by civilizing it — building cities and infrastructure. Get comfy, as play might continue for more than an hour. But it’s time enjoyably spent, according to Board Game Geek, which says it’s “one of the most popular games in recent history.”

(ages 12-up)


In what is basically an illustrated game of “telephone,” four to eight players use small whiteboards to illustrate words, which the next player has to interpret and redraw, and then the next player, until everyone’s had a crack at everyone else’s whiteboard. Then you see just how far afield the iterations have taken you. Everyone wins!


Construction partyMake

Keep your little ones busy and creative with projects from these kids-craft websites

Compiled by Desert Companion child-having staff

Strike one: The website’s name; it sounds a little, er, dicey? Strike two: It hasn’t been updated since 2014. But it turns out that “filth wizards” is just an affectionate term for rambunctious/messy kids; and the site’s stasis doesn’t take the charm out of the step-by-step instructions for making loom bands, staging bathtub curling matches or fighting the battle of Hoth in an ice cream bowl.

Make a school of origami fish. Decorate some sneakers. Learn what “tabletop monoprinting” is (hint: it’s messy). This site tells you what you need and what you need to know for these and other projects that’ll make time fly.

If you aren’t put off by the ubiquitous brand awareness (though your kid probably won’t mind), there are plenty of fun projects here that run from easy (Dory notecards) to more complex (Marvel photo frames) to cross-stitching.

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

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