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Dig into History

Explore the history and myths of ancient Maya cities with Mayan Mysteries, a puzzle-based game for the iPad. The game turns children ages 11+ into archaeologists who must catch a secretive thief by cracking codes, visiting excavation sites, finding hidden artifacts and using the Maya number system. Game founder Suzi Wilczynski drew on her experience as a former archaeologist and middle school teacher to ensure the game is age-appropriate and accurate. $22 for approximately 12 hours of game play.

— Jeanette Der Bedrosian

Read. Talk. Explore.

At Start with a Book, a new website by WETA's Reading Rockets, parents will find summer themes that match the curiosities and interests of children ages 3-9 and get them actively exploring dinosaurs, bugs, birds, planes, music, sports, superheroes and more! Each theme connects young readers and their families to great fiction and nonfiction books; hands-on activities that support reading, writing and critical thinking skills; and links to other websites, video and apps with related content. Parents can also sign up to receive text message reading tips delivered all summer long (in English or Spanish).

— Margaret Hut

Book Reviews

By Mary Quattlebaum

babies / tots

Stripes of All Types

Looking for the perfect gift for Father's Day? Pair a striped tie or T-shirt with this playful book about striped creatures. A badger, a surgeonfish and a zebra are but three of the intriguing animals introduced through lively verse and depicted in their natural surroundings. Maryland author/illustrator Susan Stockdale has won many awards for her beautiful art (some of which is available in coloring books and puzzles through Pomegranate publishing company). This engaging, educational book should prove as popular as her other nonfiction titles Bring on the Birds and Fabulous Fishes. For Father's Day and year-round fun, you and your child might search for the striped animals in your own environment.

ages 3 - 7

Doodle Washington D.C.

This delightful, interactive guide to our nation's capital is part scavenger hunt, part sketchpad. Washington author Laura Krauss Melmed, known for her stunning picture books (The Rainbabies, Little Oh) takes kids to landmarks (Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial), into the Smithsonian museums, and even to the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown and the Easter Egg roll at the White House. Violet Lemay's lively pen-and-ink illustrations invite kids to add their own drawings to the scene. For example, Lemay's picture of a Metro train is accompanied by a request to "doodle" some passengers, and another of the National Zoo asks for a few tropical birds on empty branches. On outings, you might capture memorable moments, reflections and sketches from the whole family by having everyone create, sign and date a doodle.

ages 8 - 12

Perfect Game

A Nats game and a new baseball book by Fred Bowen are both great ways to spend a summer afternoon. In Bowen's latest sports novel, protagonist Isaac Burnett wants to pitch the perfect game, a game in which not a single runner gets on base. Isaac's hard-driving dad is full of advice on how to do so, but Coach Park can see that the boy needs to lighten up. The coach invites Isaac to help out with a basketball team that he coaches. When he shows up, Isaac realizes that the team is a Special Olympics Unified Sports team that includes players with intellectual disabilities. In first practicing with and then befriending a withdrawn youngster named Kevin, Isaac comes to focus less on perfection and more on doing his best and connecting with others. A combination of fast-paced action, sports savvy young characters and authentic situations makes this novel a winner. Look, too, for Bowen's weekly sports column, The Score, in the KidsPost section of the Washington Post.