Bestseller

bestseller

The objective? To arrange the books so that the top shelf is perfectly level. But you can only use certain books, in certain orientations, with a minimum of 2 books touching the top shelf at any time. Oh, and leave some room for a little black cat!

Today, I’m reviewing By The Book, a stacking puzzle for ages 8+ (Brainwright, $18). The game consists of 40 challenge cards, 12 wooden books, 2 wooden shelves, 1 plastic cat, and 1 balance level made to look like an adorable red flower pot.

by the book gameTo play, select a challenge card (which are graded as beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert). The face of the card tells you which books you can use, if they need to be placed horizontally or vertically, or if they can’t touch at all. Sometimes, the card will require the cat to be included on the shelf as well. The back side of the card has the solution. Here are a couple examples of card faces and solutions:

challenge cardsOnce you’ve gathered all the relevant pieces, lay the bottom shelf on a level surface, then try configuring the books to the card’s specifications. Put the top shelf in place when you think you’re done, then place the balance level on top to see if your solution measures up. And remember – a minimum of 2 books much be touching the top shelf at any time.

If your solution passes the level test, flip the card over to see if matches the official solution (and the rules do mention there may be other ways to solve the challenge). Some of the solutions, however, are not what you expect! Look at this creative configuration!

stacked solution

When playing this game, it’s important to work on a level surface. If your work table is tilted, you’ll never reach a solution. So use the level to make doubly sure you’re nice and even before you start playing.

So, what did our kid testers (ages 6, 8, and 10) think of By The Book? They loved it! The game requires analysis, trial & error, testing, and re-testing, but it’s very calm, non-competitive, and you can take as long as you like to reach the solution. By The Book is labeled as a 1 player game, but our kid testers found ways to collaborate. The cat adds a nice touch, and the kid tester found it very satisfying to put the level on the top shelf to see if their clever arranging worked!

testing a solution

By The Book is the best (a “bestseller,” if you will). It’s fun, intelligent, works with a large age range of kids, and the pieces are really nice quality. This would be a terrific classroom chill-out activity, the perfect addition to library game nights, or an awesome gift from that super cool librarian aunt or uncle. Plus, it comes with a CAT! Five out of five stars.

Going Cordless

going cordlessI use hot glue. A lot. And the projects on this blog? 99.9% of them use hot glue in some way, shape, or form. Hot glue is the perfect solution when you don’t have much time, but need something to stick quick. The drawback, of course, is that hot glue guns need to be plugged into an electrical outlet in order to operate.

That’s fine if you’re making a project at your desk. But not so fine when you need to glue projects for 22 kids and their caregivers. During out workshops, kids either have to carry their projects to hot glue stations, or I have to walk around the program area, dragging a cumbersome daisy chain of extension cords behind me.

That was why I was so very, very excited to learn that hot glue guns were going cordless.

Today, I’m reviewing the Imaginisce i●bond cordless hot glue gun. It retails for around $30 and requires 4 AA batteries to operate. I’ll cut to the chase…it doesn’t really work that well. The Imaginisce burns through batteries like crazy. Just one hour of use and the batteries are dead (I tested this twice, with new batteries each time). Also, the batteries just don’t seem to have the same oomph my plug in glue guns have. The glue isn’t as hot, and it dries quicker with less adhesive properties. I tested this with the glue sticks that came with the gun, and with another brand of stick.

Interestingly, Imaginisce added an LED light to the end of their glue gun, presumably to illuminate your work area. But if you’re working in sunlight or with a light on, you can already see your area clearly, right? Unless you like to craft in the dark?

glue gun lightSo the LED light wasn’t very useful. Mostly, it allowed me to take cool pictures like this:

glue gun in vault

I will admit, the cordless aspect of the glue gun was sheer heaven. I could go anywhere! No dragging cords! No knocking things over on my desk! But the trade off was a glue gun that didn’t heat up or last very long. If, however, you have a small job to do in a limited amount of time, the Imaginisce glue gun could work for you. But I since I use my glue guns for heavy construction, this cordless model’s batteries just didn’t produce.

Looks like I’ll remain tethered for the time being.

Poetry, Like Water Flowing

soaked poetIt all started when Marissa ask me if I wanted a shower notepad. Whaaaat? It turns out that, yes, there is a writing device specifically designed for the shower. Intrigued, I donned my black beret and turtleneck and headed to the bathroom to pen some poetry on the Aqua Notes Waterproof Notepad.

aqua notes waterproof note padAqua Notes retails on Amazon for $8. The set includes a 40 sheet pad that’s perforated for easy tearing, and an “aqua pencil.” The pad (which is 3.5″ x 5.25″) has two suction cups on the back. The pencil has a suction cup holder as well.

I expected the paper to feel a little waxy or stiff. Nope. It just seemed a little thicker and smoother than your typical computer printer paper. There was no indication that it was waterproof at all. The notepads are recyclable and non-toxic, with soy based ink and wind energy fueling the printing process. Which is really cool. But does it work? YES IT DOES.


As you can see, I was able to write with no trouble. The pencil and the notepad magically deflected all water, and the lettering was sharp and crisp with no smudging.

initial pad testRipping the pages off the notepad, however, was considerably more difficult than a regular pad. You had to line up the perforation just right. Unintentional bonus for those of you composing long poems – the wet pages stuck to the walls of the shower like a felt board. They stayed up there too! Pages stuck to my shower wall at 1pm were still going strong at 9pm. I removed them, noting that they peeled off easily and left no marks.

One problem I did notice was that after its initial use, the pad stays damp and the pages clump together. You really have to pull them apart. You can remedy this by taking the pad out of the shower for a day to dry out. But I will say this – even soaking wet and clumped together, the pad still worked!

The aqua pencil has an eraser, so we tested that too (writing in the shower is funny, but editing in the shower really gave me a chuckle). When erasing, the writing first appears to liquefy like ink. A quick brush of the hand or a spray of the shower nozzle, and it’s gone!

the eraser testIn terms of hardware, the suction cups held up well. For two weeks, the notepad clung to the wall, even after my kids discovered it and were sliding it, pulling it, and enthusiastically illustrating on it. Their testing efforts also revealed that once an individual page is removed from the shower, it takes about 45 minutes to completely dry.

shower artworkAnd just in case you are wondering:

  1. Does the aqua pencil write and erase on regular paper?
    YES, very well!
  2. Can the special paper handle ballpoint, gel, permanent, and washable marker ink?
    YES! However, the washable marker went on smudgy and took longer to dry.
  3. If you submerge the pad in a tub filled with several inches of water, does it still work?

testing in tub

The product test was a success, but would you actually use this in the shower? That’s totally up to you, but I will say that Katie found an online review in which a husband and wife used the notepad to jot down potential baby names. Eventually, one of those shower-inspired names became the baby’s name.

I defy you to find a cuter use of the Aqua Notes Waterproof Notepad.