TIME Gadgets

Top Tech for Back to School

Back to School time is upon us. The yellow buses are all being tuned up and hosed down, the classrooms are getting that final coat of paint and the teachers are finalizing their lesson plans. It’s also the time for you to make sure your kids have all the supplies they need for a successful and happy school year.

These days, though, you need more than just a new pair of jeans, a handful of pencils and a new Trapper Keeper to get your kids ready. Here are our picks for the best – and most affordable – back-to-school tech.

Laptop: Acer Aspire E1

Acer

These days, a sturdy, reliable computer is a must when it comes to homework, research projects or just keeping in touch with friends from school. For these simple tasks, we recommend the budget-friendly Acer Aspire E1 Windows laptop.

Why the Aspire? First of all, we like the 15” size, which has a big enough screen for comfortable viewing, but still lends itself to better battery life, better portability and a lower price tag. We also like the Core i5 processor (for plenty of power), the 4GB of RAM (expandable to 8GB if needed) and the 500GB hard drive. Plus, it gets high marks from reviewers for long battery life and good performance for the price, and a respectable four stars on Amazon.

You can find the Acer Aspire E1 for $466.77 at Amazon.

Travel Mouse: Microsoft Arc Touch

Microsoft

Most laptops come with a capable touchpad, but they can be too touchy when there’s a lot of typing to do. That’s why we recommend the highly portable Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse.

The curious design of the Arc Touch Mouse is actually its best feature. It’s flexible, allowing you to flatten it when not in use for easy storage. Flattening also turns off the mouse, so you won’t waste the battery. The traditional mouse wheel is replaced with a small “touch scroll strip,” while the magnetic Nano transceiver easily stores on the bottom of the mouse when not in use. BlueTrack technology, meanwhile, allows the Arc Touch to work reliably on just about any surface – even carpet or rough wood.

The Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse is available for purchase at Amazon.com for $39.99.

Tablet: Sony Xperia Z2

Sony

Not every student needs a laptop. A tablet can be a better bet if your child needs to take notes or do some word processing and web-basesd research. Plus, a tablet can do double duty as an entertainment device. For a sturdy, solid device that best mixes work with play (and isn’t an iPad), we like the 10.1” Sony Xperia Z2 Android (4.4 Kit Kat) tablet.

The waterproof and dustproof (IP55/58) Xperia Z2 is just 0.24 inches thick and 15.5 ounces, giving it a sleek and easily portable design that’s great for going to class or around the house. It packs a powerful 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM for demanding gamers.

Sony.com is currently offering the 16GB version of the Xperia Z2 tablet for $499.99, which includes a free charging dock for a limited time.

Smartphone: Motorola Moto G

Motorola

Here’s a pretty common problem: Your teen is finally the right age for his or her first cellphone, but the thought of a $650 device being stolen from a locker or left on the field after practice has your heart racing with panic. What’s a parent to do?

We like the off-contract Moto G 4G ($99 off-contract at Verizon; $219 unlocked at Amazon) – it’s the perfect nexus of power and value. It’s a full-featured 4G LTE phone that runs the most recent build of Android. The device has Gorilla Glass for scratch resistance, and is water resistant enough to handle a few spills in the cafeteria. Kids, meanwhile, will appreciate the selection of $14.99 OEM shells that allow you to easily and seamlessly change the color of the phone to suit any style.

Portable Charger: myCharge Hub 9000

myCharge

If you send your kids to school armed with a phone “in case of emergency,” then it’s important to make sure his or her phone has enough juice when it really counts. That’s why we like the myCharge Hub 9000, Techlicious’s pick for the best portable battery charger.

The myCharge Hub 9000 has micro USB and Lightning connector jacks built in, so there’s no need to clutter backpacks up with easily tangled cables. The 9000 mAh battery charges in just five hours when plugged in to a standard electrical outlet, storing enough power to recharge most smartphones four to six times.

You can find the myCharge Hub 9000 at Amazon starting at $116.99; 3000 mAh and 6000 mAh versions are also available at a lower cost.

Backpack: Tylt Energi+

Tylt

Obviously, no back-to-school list would be complete without a backpack to haul all those books (and gadgets) to and from class. For tech-focused older students, we like the Tylt Energi+ backpack. It’s an attractive carry-all that doubles as a mobile recharging station.

The key feature of the Tylt Energi+ is its powerful 10,400 mAh lithium-ion battery and two USB ports, which allow your kids to charge their power-hungry devices as they move around from place to place. The backpack has a hard-lined pocket for sunglasses, a specially lined laptop pocket that fits and protects computers up to 15 inches, a side hydration sleeve and plenty of secondary tech pockets for phones and tablets. And yes, the 1,450 cubic inch backpack has plenty of room for books and pencils, too.

The Tylt Energi+ is available at Amazon for $128.99, and direct from Tylt.com for $199.99.

Headphones: UrbanEars Humlan

Urbanears

Most kids are experts when it comes to getting dirty. That means their tech gadgets get dirty, too. And while it’s easy to wipe down a sticky smartphone screen or a set of laptop keys, cleaning a pair of headphones can be incredibly difficult.

Incredibly difficult, that is, unless you own a pair of UrbanEars Humlan over-the-ear headphones. The colorful, stylish Humlans quickly disassemble, allowing you to throw the ear covers and headband in with the laundry. Humlans also come with a “Zoundplug,” which allows a friend to plug their headphones in and share the tunes.

You can find UrbanEars Humlan headphones in a wide variety of bold colors for $45 each at Amazon.com. For younger kids, you may want to check out the Etymotic Research EtyKids Safe Listening in-ear headphones ($39.99), which limit sound volumes to kid-safe levels.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME U.S.

Little Boy Battling Cancer Receives 30,000 Birthday Cards

He said all he wanted for his birthday were cards with his name on them -- and the world responded

Today, Danny Nickerson turns six. It’s been a tough year for him, as he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last fall and had to stop going to kindergarten, ABC News reports. The Boston area boy told his family that all he wanted for his birthday were cards with his name on them — and it looks like his wish has definitely been granted.

When people around the U.S. — and even around the world — heard about Danny’s story and his one birthday wish, they began to flood his family’s P.O. box. Danny’s mom told ABC News that she received messages from far as Switzerland, Germany, Australia, California, Alaska, Norway and Sweden, all asking how to send Danny a card or package.

The Nickerson family has been posting about the influx of mail on Facebook:

By the time Danny reached his birthday on July 25, he’d received more than 30,000 cards, Boston.com reports. In the meantime, the local post office is preparing for many more. If you want to send Danny a belated birthday card, here’s the address his family provided:

Danny Nickerson
PO Box 212
Foxboro, MA 02035

TIME Appreciation

Watch a 6-Year-Old Kid Rollerskate Under 39 Cars

Yes, really. It's called limbo skating

+ READ ARTICLE

For the past several years, this ridiculously flexible kid has been honing some pretty impressive rollerskating skills. He’s 6-year-old Gagan Satish from India, and he might have just broken a world record by skating under 39 SUVs.

But to him, 39 is nothing. His next goal is to glide under 100 cars. We have complete faith in him. (Seriously though, how? How does he make his body do this? What is happening?)

TIME viral

Watch a Toddler Learn He Can Rally an Entire Summer Camp With His Cuteness

All he has to do is wave his hands in the air

+ READ ARTICLE

When this 15-month-old boy stood in front of a crowd, he quickly realized that his charisma and charm could be leveraged quite easily. He claps, the people clap. He raises his arms, the people raise their arms.

Next step: complete world domination.

TIME Gadgets

The 6 Best Back-to-School Bags

Heavy textbooks may be on the way out, given the increased use of tablets, e-readers and other tech for students, but the weight of those laptops, tablets, chargers and other items adds up quickly. Choosing the right bag to carry your gear is key.

Whether you’re hiking across a big college campus or roaming the halls of your high school, you need a bag that’s functional as well as fashionable — after all, you’ll be lugging it around most of the day. We found half a dozen bags designed to carry the load and protect your electronic gear. Find the one that best suits your style.

1. STM Aero Small Laptop Backpack

STM

If you’re looking for a lightweight backpack, the Aero Small Laptop bag fits the bill. Padded shoulder straps give it a comfortable, secure fit, and the water-resistant micro ripstop polyester means no worries if you get caught out in the rain. This isn’t a very bulky backpack, yet it safely holds up to a 13-inch laptop as well as chargers, books, headphones and everything else you need to carry.

It has two side pockets: one for your water bottle and the other for an umbrella on rainy days. I particularly like the organizers and key ring on the inside so you don’t have to dig through all the pockets — and there are many — looking for where you stashed your keys.

Price: $79.99 at Amazon

2. Ogio Lisbon Tote

Ogio

If you prefer a tote-style bag, the Ogio Lisbon transports your gear safely while still looking stylish. Its interior padded compartment can accommodate up to a 13-inch laptop with space for textbooks and notebooks, as well as organizer flaps for small, easy-to-lose items such as pens, chargers or even lipstick.

A zippered, padded pocket on the exterior securely holds a tablet or small devices, and two outside pockets provide room for items like keys and snacks. The bag is made of lightweight nylon and comes in a variety of colors. I particularly like the mesh water bottle pocket located on the outside of the bag — easy access for hydrating on the go.

Price: $99.99 at ogio.com, $94.50 at Amazon

3. WaterField Designs Muzetto Leather Bag

 Black Muzetto
WaterField Designs

When you’re in the market for something a little more upscale, look for the WaterField Muzetto Leather Bag. Made of soft, supple leather, it feels and looks sophisticated enough to wear out to a party after class is over. The bag is styled more like a messenger bag and holds either a tablet or laptop in vertical mode.

The adjustable shoulder strap feels comfortable and doesn’t fall off the shoulder when you’re walking. I appreciated the open sleeve on the part of the bag that faces your body, perfect for tucking away gym clothes or a light sweater. An inside zipper compartment reveals pockets for your phone or other small items that you might prefer to keep separate from your laptop.

What I like about WaterField Designs’ bags is you can custom order the size you want in any particular color combination. So if you only need room for an iPad or 10-inch tablet, choose the smaller (and less expensive) portable size. The 13-inch version seems to be the sweet spot if you have a MacBook or similar laptop and still want some room for pads, books, chargers and even a snack or two.

Another thing I really like about this company is the fact that the bags are made in the USA.

Price: Starting at $209 at sfbags.com

4. Tylt Energi+ Backpack

Tylt

If you can’t seem to make it through the school day without charging up your devices, the Tylt Energi+ Backpack will suit your high-powered needs. It’s a backpack with a battery built right in, turning you into a mobile charging station for all your devices. You get two USB ports for charging phones, one higher amp USB port for charging tablets and a 10,400mAh battery to recharge them all. Keep your device tucked into an external pocket, if you like, and simply route the cables to the battery inside. The battery itself will fully charge in seven to eight hours.

The inside of this backpack is roomy with a soft, lined laptop compartment than can hold up to a 15-inch laptop. A tablet pocket provides access to your device without making you open the entire backpack. This bag is loaded with pockets for snacks, water bottles and even a change of clothes if you’re headed to the gym.

Price: $199.99 on tylt.com, $129.99 at Amazon

5. Hex Outpost Cloak Backpack

Hex

If you call Seattle or a similarly rainy climate home, the Hex Outpost Cloak Backpack will keep your electronics safe and dry. Sure, it holds a 15-inch laptop and has tons of pockets for other gear, but I love the water-resistant exterior and the interior drawstring liner underneath the top flap that keeps rain from trickling in.

Hex products don’t come in bright, fun colors. Instead they focus on form and function with details like leather zip pulls and surplus-grade web straps in a handsome slate grey canvas. Another nice touch: Magnetic snaps provide easy access without your having to open and close the buckles on the straps.

Price: $99.95 at shophex.com and Amazon

6. ChicTech Leather Wristlet with Phone Charger

ChicTech

After a full day of classes, it’s time to head off to your job or internship or a night out with friends. You don’t need your backpack with all your school supplies, but you would like something to carry your phone, some money and credit cards, your keys and maybe some lip gloss.

The ChicTech Leather Wristlet holds all those items. Even better, you don’t need to worry about draining your phone battery while you’re out. The wristlet offers a built-in 4000mAh charger—enough juice to fully charge even the largest phones—with micro-USB, 30-pin and Lightning tips; simply charge your phone as you carry it with you.

The wristlet comes in purple, pink, black, ivory and red.

Price: $79.98 at qvc.com

This article was written by Andrea Smith and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME viral

Watch a Little Girl and Her Dad Dance to Ariana Grande’s “Problem”

This will make your day

+ READ ARTICLE

Most little girls ask their dad for a pony, or like, an iPad or another iSomething. But this little girl asked her father for a different gift: the gift of joining her in a choreographed dance to Ariana Grande’s hit song “Problem.”

As you can see, he was game — and the results are pretty adorable.

TIME White House

Michelle Obama’s Pro-Water (Soda Silent) Campaign Makes Waves

Michelle Obama
First lady Michelle Obama, a longtime supporter of healthier eating and physical fitness, is surrounded by children as she expands her push for America to drink more water, at a "Drink Up" event at the White House. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

“I’m confident that in the coming months and years we will see people across the country drinking more and more water."

First Lady Michelle Obama devoted Tuesday afternoon to telling Americans to drink less sugary soda, without actually saying anything bad about sugary soda.

It’s been nearly a year since the First Lady launched the “Drink Up” campaign, a subset of the signature effort to promote healthy choices for kids that focuses on water. But instead of attacking the sugary, carbonated drinks and juices that contribute to the widening waistlines of our nation’s kids, “Drink Up” attempted to flood the market with positive, pro-water messaging.

At an event in the White House State Dining Room, the first lady said those who have been involved in promoting “Drink Up”—from the American Beverage Association to the Obama’s Portuguese water dog Sunny —have succeeded in making water “cool.” “I’m confident that in the coming months and years we will see people across the country drinking more and more water,” Obama said.

Their efforts have been proof that when you market and promote healthy choices as fervently as junk food, “then kids actually get excited about these products, and families actually buy them and consume them,” Mrs. Obama added. Seven organizations, including Brita, Nalgene, Haws Corporation, and S’well bottle, recently joined the campaign to promote the consumption and accessibility of water. And so far, according to a study conducted by Nielsen Catalina Solutions on the impact of the “Drink Up” campaign, online ads have helped fuel a 3% lift in sales of bottled water, worth about $1 million.

It’s good news for a campaign that came out the gate to criticism from nearly all sides. Some argued Mrs. Obama’s messaging about the benefits of water, which she called a natural “energy drink,” was inflated. Others said she should be promoting drinking tap water over bottled for the sake of the environment. While many were critical of the fact that instead of vilifying soda companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi she partnered with them, which seemed contradictory given the direct link from sugary drinks to obesity.

“It’s less a public health campaign than a campaign to encourage drinking more water. To that end, we’re being completely positive,” Lawrence Soler, president and CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America, said at the time of the campaign’s launch. “Only encouraging people to drink water; not being negative about other drinks. “

A year later, however, tensions have cooled. “It’s terrific that the First Lady is working to make water more available, more cool,” said Margot Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Increasing the appeal is one part of what needs to be done to reduce the consumption of other beverages.”

And meanwhile, First Lady Obama has gotten tougher on her efforts to promote healthier lifestyles. Though Tuesday was about fun and positivity—a group of local YMCA kids on the South Lawn even “surprised” the First Lady with a 60-by-40 foot water drop made out of 2,000 “Drink Up” branded reusable bottles—the anti-junk undertones didn’t go unnoticed. She even took time to mention the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s healthy school lunch standards she championed in 2010 and has been fighting since May to protect.

On Tuesday, the general message was, “don’t give up on our kids.”

“We need to keep working together within industries and across industries to help our kids lead healthier lives,” the First Lady said. ” And if we do all that, then I am confident — I continue to be confident that we can give our kids the bright, healthy futures they deserve.”

This story was updated to clarify that the survey on Drink Up was performed by Nielsen Catalina Solutions, a joint venture between The Nielsen Company and Catalina Marketing Corporation.

MONEY Sports

Could 25-Year-Old Rory McIlroy Be Golf’s Long-Awaited Savior?

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds up the Claret Jug trophy
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds up the Claret Jug trophy after winning the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club, Hoylake, England, Sunday July 20, 2014. Scott Heppell—AP

He was the consensus choice as golf's "next big thing" even before winning the British Open over the weekend.

As a sport and a business, golf is stuck in a proverbial sand trap, probably the deepest and most difficult one ever encountered by the industry. Player numbers are on the decline, especially among young people, and golf course closings in the U.S. are trumping golf course openings by a stunning ratio of nearly 10 to 1.

There is some hope, however, that golf will experience a renaissance, even among kids who are now too accustomed to instant gratification and too distracted by smartphones and social media to bother venturing outside to play baseball or go for a hike, let alone try their hands at the time-consuming, frustrating “old person’s sport” of golf. And one of the big reasons for this optimism is that today’s most exciting players also happen to be kids, and none more exciting than Rory McIlroy, the 25-year-old winner of the 2014 British Open.

OK, so a 25-year-old isn’t exactly a child. But he’s a kid compared with the prototypical gray-haired, 50-something golfer out on the links. And his success couldn’t come at a better time. McIlroy is part of a much-needed youth movement in golf, notes Jim Frank, a contributing editor to Links Magazine who has covered the sport for three decades. Joined by emerging superstars Rickie Fowler, who is also 25 and is known for cool clothes and shaggy Bieber-like hair, and incredibly talented young female golfers like Lexi Thompson (19) and Lydia Ko (all of 17), McIlroy is seen as a fresh injection of energy, excitement, and—dare we say it?—perhaps even hipness into the sport.

“He supposedly took the first selfie of a British Open winner,” said Frank. Hey, that’s gotta count for something.

Perhaps the biggest contribution of McIlroy and the rest of the youth movement—besides their unwrinkled, photogenic faces and a generally cooler appearance compared with the usual grandpas on the links—is that they’re changing the perception of how to play golf and when one tends to peak in the sport. “In the past, the assumption was that you didn’t really hit your stride until your 30s, after you’ve worked out the kinks in your game,” said Frank. “Today’s young players are really powerful, they wrench their backs and really hit the ball hard. And they’ve been playing so long that by the time they’re in the late teens and early 20s, they can dominate.” (They can also get injured; just look at how Tiger Woods’s body has fared in recent years.)

Nonetheless, the excitement, power, and youth that McIlroy and his peers bring to the game has to be good for golf, right? Sure, to some extent. But Frank believes it will take more than one charismatic, curly-haired Irishman to turn the tide.

“Are 14-year-olds sitting in front of a TV on a Sunday morning at 10 o’clock watching Rory McIlroy?” Frank said. The answer, of course, is no. While some parts of the golf world are trying to make changes to become more appealing to younger players and families, Frank believes that some retrenchment is still needed, and that the sport will always remain a niche activity, and one that always skews older.

When people in the business talk about rejuvenating the sport, they sometimes ask, “What’s the snowboarding of golf?” said Frank. “Snowboarding brought young people back to the mountains, and it helped save skiing.” Unfortunately, because a sizeable faction of the golf world has no interest in changing the game or doing much of anything to appeal to younger people, “there may not be an equivalent of snowboarding. But that’s the way we have to think of it.”

The big irony, Frank said, is that right now, when golf seems to be struggling so mightily in its attempts to attract new players to the game, there has never been a better time to play. “The equipment has never been better, and there’s great value for what you can buy fairly cheaply,” said Frank. “You can get on almost any golf course in the world, or join almost any club if you want. There are no lines, and there aren’t people behind you telling you to play faster.”

TIME Books

The 5 Best Books for Your Kids This Summer (According to Other Kids)

Time for Kids asked its reporters to review new children's book releases. Here's what they had to say

Looking for an engaging summer read for your child? TIME For Kids Magazine asked its kid reporters to review the season’s hottest new books. The result is a list of kid-approved page-turners:

Credit: HMH Books for Young Readers

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile

By Marcia Wells

Reviewed by TFK Kid Reporter Max Siegel

Genre: Mystery

Number of pages: 240

What’s the basic story line?

Edmund Xavier Lonnrot (Eddie Red) is an average sixth grader. That is, if the average sixth grader has a photographic memory and can draw anything he sees. His whole life, Eddie has used these gifts for fun. But one day, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) seeks his help with a case involving some major art thieves. Eddie finally puts his extraordinary talents to good use.

Are the characters believable?

Although Eddie has some amazing talents, those talents are believable. A person can have photographic memory and great art skills, just as Eddie does. What is unbelievable about this book is the plot. The NYPD hires Eddie to work on a case. Although the police don’t intend this, Eddie faces major danger. I’m not sure about the legality or possibility of the NYPD—or any police force, for that matter—hiring a kid to help with a case.

Who would like this book?

Any kid who likes a good mystery with constant twists and turns—and who feels okay never knowing who’s good and who’s bad—would love this book.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you rate this book?

I would give this book an 8. It’s a clever mystery that will keep readers engaged. The huge plot twist at the end is surprising and really elevated the book for me. Plus, Eddie’s situation is compelling. He’s just a regular kid who has extraordinary talents.

Credit: Viking Juvenile

The Glass Sentence

By S.E. Grove

Reviewed by TFK Kid Reporter Kristen Rigsby

Genre: Fantasy

Number of pages: 512

What’s the basic story line?

In 1799, the Great Disruption threw the continents into different time periods. The once-mastered art of mapmaking became a great challenge, one suited for only the most experienced and trained explorers.

Nearly 100 years after the Great Disruption, Sophia Tims and Shadrack Elli, Sophia’s uncle and master cartographer, begin map reading and map writing in an attempt to find Sophia’s missing parents. But when Shadrack is kidnapped by fanatics looking for a memory map of the entire world called the carta mayor, Sophia must set out to find him too. With the help of her newfound friend, Theo Thackary, and a glass map that Shadrack left for her, Sophia ventures into the unknown. Along the way, she encounters a multitude of mysteries, creatures, and hazards.

Are the characters believable?

Some of the characters in The Glass Sentence are believable. Sophia Tims is an inquisitive and audacious 13-year-old who loves to explore, read maps, and draw. Theo Thackary is an adventurous and daring boy who often gets into trouble. Other characters in the book, however, are creatures of fantasy. The Lachrima, for example, is a ghostlike being that haunts people with its cries. Other main characters, such as Varessa and Martin, are part human and part plant.

Who would like this book?

Anybody who loves works of fantasy, especially the Chronicles of Narnia series, the Harry Potter series, or the Lord of the Rings, will enjoy exploring this unique and captivating world with Sophia and Theo.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you rate this book?

I would rate The Glass Sentence a 9.5. The alternate world of the Great Disruption is incredibly inventive. Sophia and Theo come to life, venturing through unknown terrain and uncovering the secrets of mapmaking along the way. The plot seamlessly ties the world and the characters together, taking the reader on a fascinating and wild journey. From the moment you pick up this book, you will not be able to put it down.

Credit: HarperCollins

Saving Lucas Biggs

By Marisa de los Santos and David Teague

Reviewed by TFK Kid Reporter Gloria Choi

Genre: Science fiction

Number of pages: 288

What’s the basic story line?

Thirteen-year-old Margaret O’Malley’s life is turned upsidedown when her compassionate father is sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs. Margaret’s father is innocent, and she sets out to prove it. As time ticks by, Margaret makes a devastating choice. She is forced to unravel her family’s deepest secret—a sacred super power. She uses her ability to time-travel to make a daring journey into the past, when Judge Biggs was just a boy. Can she change the course of history and prevent him from growing up to be a corrupt man? Or will she return to the present only to find her father is still destined for disaster? Luckily for Margaret, she has her friends Charlie and Grandpa Josh, who join her in the quest to save the person she loves the most.

Are the characters believable?

Characters like Margaret may not seem believable at first. After all, she has an incredible super power passed down from her ancestors. Super power aside, she is just another girl with a special gift. Everyone can relate to Margaret’s desire to help a loved one no matter how big the obstacles.

Who would like this book?

Anyone who favors a combination of science fiction (especially time travel), adventure, and fantasy will like this book. In particular, fans of the Hunger Games series, the Divergent series, the novel The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, or even the film Back to the Future will enjoy reading Saving Lucas Biggs.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you rate this book?

I would rate Saving Lucas Biggs a 9. The plot and characters are interesting, relatable, and captivating. The story exhibits a wide range of emotions, from sheer excitement to bleak desperation.

Credit: Candlewick

Three Bird Summer

By Sara St. Antoine

Reviewed by TFK Kid Reporter Camryn Garrett

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of pages: 256

What’s the basic story line?

For his entire life, 12-year-old Adam has spent summers at his Grandma’s cabin in Minnesota. But this year things are different. His parents have divorced. On top of that, Adam’s cousins won’t be vacationing at the cabin with him. Also, Grandma seems to be acting differently. At first, she’s just a bit more forgetful than usual. But after spending more time with her, Adam realizes Grandma is “slipping.”

There are new neighbors at the cabin this summer, including a girl Adam’s age named Alice. At first, Adam isn’t interested in spending time with her. But as time goes by, their friendship flourishes. Throughout this unusual summer, Adam searches for hidden treasure with his new friend and begins to uncover family secrets as well.

Are the characters believable?
The characters are believable because they don’t have cookie-cutter personalities. Adam is quiet and shy and finds girls difficult to understand. Alice is adventurous and unlike any girl he has ever met. Readers will likely see aspects of their personalities in the characters and recognize their friends too.

Who would like this book?

Anyone who appreciates memories of family vacations or summertime in general will enjoy the vivid imagery that fills Three Bird Summer. Readers will fall into the story, almost as if they’re actually spending the summer exploring Three Bird Lake with Adam and Alice.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you rate this book?

I would rate this book an 8, because the imagery is astounding, allowing readers to feel like they are experiencing the story along with the characters. The plot didn’t begin to pick up until the middle of the novel, but the relatable characters create enough interest in the story to compel readers to keep turning the pages.

Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Poached

By: Stuart Gibbs

Reviewed: by TFK Kid Reporter Graham Ross

Genre: Mystery

Number of pages: 336

What’s the basic story line?

Teddy Fitzroy lives at FunJungle, the world’s largest zoo. He has a reputation for being a troublemaker. FunJungle has recently acquired a big moneymaking attraction—a furry koala named Kazoo. Unfortunately, the adored koala goes missing, and all fingers point to Teddy! A security guard nicknamed Large Margeis sure Teddy is guilty, and she will stop at nothing to prove it. Teddy must find the real thief before it is too late. Will he find the real koala-napper, or will he be framed and sent off to juvenile hall?

Are the characters believable?

Some of the descriptions are exaggerated. For example, an eighth grader is described as having “biceps as thick as Burmese pythons.”Other than that, the characters do seem pretty believable. Teddy acts like an average kid who is trying to fit in at a school where he is an outcast. Large Marge acts like a typical person with a grudge. She sees Teddy as a nuisance and is fixated on catching him red-handed.

Who would like this book?

Anyone who enjoys thrilling stories with plot twists on every page would love this book.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), how would you rate this book?

Hands down, I would certainly give this book a 9. I appreciated how author Stuart Gibbs made even the tensest parts of the book humorous. I especially enjoyed the suspense created by the twists and turns on every page.

See the full list of book reviews from Time for Kids’ kid reporters here.

TIME Internet

A 13-Year-Old Built His Own Google Glass and It’s Pretty Impressive

Take that, glassholes.

+ READ ARTICLE

Who needs to shell out $1500 for a pair of Google Glass when you can just make your own? Clay Haight, 13, created his own (quasi-functional) pair as a part of a DIY project.

According to Make:

Clay’s DIY “Google Glass” uses the sensors on the Arduino Esplora along with the Arduino LCD screen and a 3D printed frame. He can use voice commands to bring up a calendar with his schedule, local maps, and temperature and weather info. A headband on the back keeps it from tilting to one side.

(h/t: Daily Dot)

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