Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Handy Handbook

It would be impossible to calculate the number of hours I have spent guiding a circle through a maze as it gobbles up dots, all the time trying to avoid Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde.  Pac-Man was and is still one of my favorite video games.  Several years later I spent a considerable amount of time trying to navigate a lone bicycle rider through the hazards of a suburban neighborhood.  I can still see some pretty strange characters chasing after the Paperboy.  I did also manage to grab every opportunity to assist family, friends and students with tracking down the infamous mastermind in Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?  After completely vanishing into another world for every waking moment one summer playing Myst, I knew I had the potential to be a serious gamer.

Games, video games, can foster creativity, problem solving skills, desire to increase knowledge about a specific subject, healthy competition, and connections with like-minded people.  Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer's Alphabet (POW!, October 14, 2014) written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Joey Spiotto is a guide every gamer will enjoy.  It's a starting point to promote understanding of the basics.


While most people are aware of the definition of attack, they will become acquainted with the precision necessary to accomplish this within a game.  For those in the workplace the meaning in gaming associated with boss will definitely bring a smile or two.  Some of the most popular books in our school library are those associated with cheat codes.  You don't have to wait until a holiday to locate Easter eggs hidden by a creative developer.

Point of view, first-person and third-person, is not only for writing but crucial when playing.  Did you know there's a name for the person who gives you problems when you're engaged in a game together?  It's not your special name to protect your identity, handle, but Charlie Brown might understand.  You will be surprised at the interpretation given to certain words like instance or sandbox.

For older video game players the word selected to represent j might incite an outburst of laughter.  Explore a specific genre, master challenges, unleash your inventiveness and learn a new word for a new language as you journey through the alphabet.  Testers, collectors, and seekers can find a spot in this recreational (and professional) realm.

You can lose track of time in a RPG or cheer when you have become unlockable.  For history buffs a term used for designing graphics will increase their appreciation for using the simplest elements to achieve results.  Similar to a term heard in Australia, players can shadow another to learn more about the ins and outs of a game.  Amass XPs, acquire a YOKE and zerg the big guys to enhance your experience.  Learning the lingo letter by letter will have you racing to your next virtual adventure.

Chris Barton has selected twenty-six words either recognizable or unknown depending on your level of expertise as a gamer; defining those using concise conversational sentences.  His explanations use words easily understood by the youngest listener or earliest reader demonstrating his knowledge of the intended audience.  If in a comment he uses a word previously defined it will appear in all capital letters.

To further reader comprehension one of the final pages contains two sentences using all twenty-six terms.  Here is a single definition with a hint of advice.  Barton's narratives ring true of a mentor speaking with avid players.

Short for Role-Paying Game, and part of a longer acronym (MMORPG, for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game).  Filled with QUESTS, characters, strategies, and interactions, these are best played with people you like, because you could be at it for a long, long time.

From the first time you get a glimpse of the book case, it's as if you have entered into a game.  The blue in CHEAT CODE! on the front is carried forward to the opening and closing endpapers.  Using three different shades of the color Joey Spiotto designs four separate screens portraying a game in its various stages.  After an initial title page the formal title page is depicted on the right with our guide, an eager looking guy who begins talking to the reader, on the left.

A diverse, bright and engaging color palette is used throughout reflective of the definitions and the interpretive illustrations.  Many of the pictures extend edge to edge across two pages representing scenes from games.  Others supply pictorial examples of the definitions.  In the case of D IS FOR DEVELOPER Spiotto diagrams the processes to look like the inside of a computer.

Even the single page images flow one after the other, maintaining a reader's interest.  One of my favorite illustrations is for the letter j.  Spiotto features a cave man, wearing glasses, using a hammer and chisel to form the object being described.  The tiny cave paintings of hunters and their prey definitely look like they are straight out of a video game; an early game.

Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer's Alphabet written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Joey Spiotto is sure to peak interest, provide for discussion and get readers excited to begin or continue their gaming.  The size, just right for younger readers' hands, and the heavy paper which lies flat after page turns invite repeated inspections.  After reading this I can hardly wait to play the next round of Pac-Man. 

For more information about Chris Barton's books and Joey Spiotto's additional work (this is his first book) please follow the links embedded in their names which will access their websites.  Barton has a list of additional links taking you to informative interviews about his process in writing this book.  Here is a link to the publisher's website showcasing pages from the book.

Without Alyson Beecher's 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge each week hosted at Kid Lit Frenzy during this year, I would certainly be less informed than I am today.  It's fun each week to feature a title which has taught me more about a variety of subjects.


  1. I know I have students who will be excited to know this book exists! Thanks. ;)

    1. I hope they enjoy it, Crystal -- I'd love to hear how it goes over with them.

  2. I think you will too Crystal. This one seems to be going under the radar. I hope it gets some more attention. :)

  3. I am waiting for this one to come in. I WANT IT! Thanks for sharing it Margie.

    1. I learned quite a bit Alyson. As one of the interviews said it provides the perfect opportunity for non-gamers to talk with gamers. Let me know what you think, please.

    2. Here's hoping it's a short wait, Alyson!

  4. Margie, I so appreciate your posting this thoughtful review. Yes, "under the radar" sounds right to me -- but I've also come to appreciate that readers (kids as well as their librarians) discover books on *their* timetable, not on the schedule of authors and illustrators and their publishers.

    Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your enthusiasm for this book and helping get the word out.

    1. You are welcome. And you are so right about people discovering books on their own timetable. Sometimes a book others read months earlier or even a year ago will draw your attention. You will enjoy it so much you wonder why you waited so long or how you could have missed it.