I’m one of ‘those’ annoying parents.
I try to make sure my children read a book before seeing its movie counterpart, when at all possible. I won’t let them have smart phones yet and, most importantly, I limit their video and computer game time.
For these reasons I am always reluctant to let them try out the online game worlds, until I got to try out one of new islands on Poptropica.
For those unfamiliar with the world of Poptropica, the site consists of countless islands (Steamworks Island, Zomberry Island, Spy Island, Monkey Wrench Island for new players, etc.) with a few odd colonies, carnivals, boardwalk areas, and other realms of adventure mixed in. Many of these are book- or character-related, from Peanuts’ Great Pumpkin to Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate.
For now, I was venturing to one of the newer islands based on graphic novel series Galactic Hot Dogs, created by Max Brallier with high-powered art by Rachel Maguire and Nichole Kelley. This crazy, spunky story follows Earth boy and intergalactic food truck owner Cosmoe, his alien friend Humphree, all-purpose symbiotic side-kick Goober, the self rescued (or abducted) half-evil Princess Dagger, and pet robot F.R.E.D. (think a kid-friendly Firefly, Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Spaceballs all rolled into one).
The worlds of Galactic Hot Dogs and Poptropica come together via StoryArc Media, under the creative direction of someone who knows the young mind well: Jeff Kenney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series. StoryArc is also responsible for the free educational online service, Funbrain.
My daughter is going into second grade this year, and although I still read chapter books to her, I want her to start trying out a few non-picture books on her own. Kids’ comics and graphic novels have been a great help in this effort.
On its own, the first two volumes in the Galactic Hot Dogs graphic novel series is a frenzy of action-packed fun. My daughter loved the strong-willed and tough Princess Dagger. I also appreciate that character, who demonstrated it’s okay to go against a preconceived path to choose one’s own destiny in the age-old “good versus evil” struggle.
Her favorite character, however, is Humphree. Hailing from the planet Bronkelia, Humphree is a “pretty mellow chilled-out” retired space pirate who is now Cosmoe’s right-hand alien. He proved to be the source of many giggles, whether my daughter was reading on her own playing the online game. She thought he was adorable in both forms.
Even though Galactic Hot Dogs series bills itself as a graphic novel, there really is so much more to it to make both young readers and parents happy. There are several elements of prose throughout to help young readers ease into the world of chapter books. There are also maps, cross-sections,”F.R.E.D. Facts,” and other diagrams to make the Galactic Hot Dog universe more interactive. There is even a Galactic Hot Dogs menu for readers’ dining pleasure, but they shouldn’t get hopes up too high for the 498-pound Mega-Dog. It’s out of stock. You’ll have to read the book to discover the story behind this massive dog.
The online counterpart on Poptropica takes the action even further. In addition to the games, and online activities, there is a wonderful little guide characters, ships and places, book chapter samples, access to the Galactic Hot Dog blog, videos, and my personal favorite, printable activities like coloring pages, games and bookmarks.
I strongly suggest reading the books first so you can get a good idea of the story before setting off on your online play. Like other Poptropica worlds, Galactic Hot Dog Island will take your player along for the ride with the characters, which means, of course, spoilers!
Many activities are free, but membership is required to get into the adventures with unlimited island and store access, more closet space, and realm-building opportunities. Poptropica is also KidSAFE certified, assuring a secure gaming environment for kids. Membership is $3.95 a month, with three- and six-month subscriptions offered. There is also a free app available, perfect for travel.
The entire Poptropica and Galactic Hot Dog experience is recommended for young tweens, but it does it work for younger kids as well? For my family, at least, it was ideal.
My daughters fall on both sides of the “tween” spectrum. My oldest just turned 14, and my youngest has a few years go before her tweens to at age 6.
My older daughter had actually used a Poptropica account in her elementary school, and when she saw my youngest navigating her personalized little character around the tablet screen, she did something she hadn’t done in awhile. She sat down next to her little sister, and played with her (without us asking). She showed her games she remembered, encouraged her to try new worlds, then read a little bit to her from the books.
Above all, both my girls laughed. A bunch! The laughed at the noises, at the goofy situations, and changing character costumes. It was nice to see their hot weather down-time not being spent on their respective beds or comfy chairs, but together enjoying a story, games and learning opportunities.
This together time, if nothing else, is worth the cost of membership.
Hot dogs have always been a summer staple at our house during the summer months, and I was more than pleased to let Galactic Hot Dogs “serve up adventure on a bun” onboard the good ship Neon Wiener.
I recommend anyone with young readers who want to learn and laugh do the same.
GeekMom received copies of the products for review purposes.