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2014 Award
Klutz String Art
(Klutz $19.99 Score:)

A book with a batch of art supplies that will keep hands busy for hours. The book includes clear directions, pins, threads, templates, foam boards and tracing paper to create some tricky looking string art. Kids can hang it up in their rooms or give it as gifts. Ideal for 10's and up who frequently get self conscious about their drawings not being as perfect as their expectations. This kind of art material gives them alternative ways to create and express themselves. It also challenges dexterity and stick-to-it-ness for projects tht are not instantly complete. These take patience. 10 & up

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Blue Orange Doodle Quest
(Blue Orange Games $24 Score:)

Most testers really had fun with this visual perception game that involves spatial relationships and the ability to look at a scene and then draw lines around or under images on a transparent sheet that is not on the picture, but near it. When you have finished you place your transparency on the image and see if you have accomplished the task. There are two sided cards, so younger kids and older ones (and parents) can play the same game. It comes with four dry erase pens, erasers, drawing boards and transparent doodle sheets. 6 and up, up, up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Diggin Circus Balancing Shapes
(Diggin $20.99 Score:)

Players will need a sense of humor as thy try to balance the playing pieces on the blue elephant. Take turns tossing the die to determine what shape stalk you are to put on the elephant. The wooden stalks are cut in square, semi-circle, triangular, and circles. But the pieces are long, so they give a new twist to the concepts of shape. There will be lots of rounds and plenty of laughter, we hope as everyone learns to stack their playing pieces with great care. It is a little trickier to balance these slender pieces than the classic pieces of Mr. Blockhead. They say 3 & up, but we think this is going to call for more dexterity. A better choice for older 4's and 5's.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Blue Orange Battle Sheep Game
(Blue Orange Games $24.99 Score:)

We had mixed responses to this game...very strong on both sides. The object of the game is to occupy the most number of pastures with your sheep. You do this by blocking off spaces or "pastures" with your sheep. A fun strategy game but it does take a certain amount of time to learn how to block and acquire depending on how you move your herd. Comes with 16 pasture tiles, 64 sheep chips (16 of each color). Designed for 2-4 players 7 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Mattel Hot Wheels Super Loop Chase Race Track Set
(Mattel $44.99 Score:)

Our tester's mom wrote "They love it. No big surprise there. The cars go upside down." Unlike earlier wall tracks it sits on the ground and is powered by a unit with batteries, so it is not going to damage wall surfaces or possibly fall on your kids. "It's straightforward to assemble as these usually are. Not fast to build but great directions." This tester had an earlier wall track version that was, as she put it... "amazing and a bit more interesting...better for more than one kid to play, but when a large ball bonked it, the large heavy part fell off the wall and removed some wall surface (in my mom's house). This one is durable, simpler & safer." The 3-foot loop comes with only one car and takes 4 D batteries. Kids can connect this to other Hot Wheels sets. Unlike the wall track sets that take no batteries and run on gravity and momentum, this is pretty much a high speed "load and watch" toy. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Maisy Plays Soccer
(Lucy Cousins, Candlewick $12.99 Score:)

For the many preschoolers who have known Maisy and her pals since they were toddlers, this "First Experience" book, reflects a slightly older Maisy. Like many 3-5 year olds, Maisy is learning how to play soccer with her friends Charley, Tallulah, Dotty, Cyril and Eddie. They divide up into teams and dressed in their uniforms, have fun learning the game. Cousin's cleverly puts the emphasis on the fun of playing rather than the competition or winning and losing--something preschoolers are not really ready for developmentally. This might be a winner for your young soccer player. 3 & up.

Age: . Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa!
(By Petr Horacek, Candlewick $7.99 Score:)

A true baby book designed for lap sitters and their readers. There is no real story here, but lovely illustrations with easy to lift shaped pages that tots will be able to do independently as they get older. Basically this is a knowing-and-naming book that builds language. Readers will want to ham-it-up as they make the animal sounds of these familiar creatures—a donkey, sheep, pig, dog, ca, goose, and cow. In time, children will like pretending they are reading it themselves.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Pigsticks and Harold
(By Alex Milway, Candlewick $16.99 Score:)

For that young reader who is hankering for a chapter book but not a heavy one with fine print, this makes a fun way to transition into the next stage of reading. It's a light adventure story featuring Pigsticks who wants to reach the ends of the earth and return safely and his innocent assistant, Harold, a hamster whose love for cake leads him to a job he never wanted. Told in breezy language, this just might make a reluctant reader less so. 2nd grade & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Otis and the Scarecrow
(By Loren Long, Philomel $17.99 Score:)

When the farmer put Scarecrow in the field, Otis, the tractor and his animal friends cannot get the frown off Scarecrows painted face, no matter how they try. After a while they stop trying and go about the business of the farm until one cold rainy day. Otis, seeing the Scarecrow all alone takes pity on him and decides to sit in the rain alongside him. The others follow Otis' example and in the process, Otis is almost certain he sees Scarecrow smile. A warm and lovely story about friendship and caring. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
What If...?
(Anthony Brown, Candlewick $16.99 Score:)

Joe has been invited to a party, but he lost the invitation and while they walk the block trying to discover the right house, Joe is besieged with the what-if jitters. Kids will relate to many of his worries as they step out into the bigger world. As always, Anthony Brown's far-out illustrations will be amusing to some but off-putting for others, since they picture a world that is even scarier than Joe's what if's. 6 & up

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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