Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2017 Part 4: Toys and Other Gifts for Kids and Parents

From Toys, Games, and Lego to Books, DVDs, and More

Nov 29, 2017 By Mark Redfern Web Exclusive
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As the father of a near 5-year-old girl and before that the uncle to various nieces and nephews, I have spent many an hour wandering the aisles of toy stores and browsing Amazon and other websites to find the perfect gift for the children in my life. Kids even as young as 3 and 4 have a pretty good idea of what they might want on their Christmas lists, based on what they've seen in toy stores, on toy commercials during their favorite cartoons, or via toys their friends already have. But it's up to the parent to decide what's best and also there are presents to be bought for other kids in the holidays, ones whose likes and interests might not be so readily apparent. With part 4 of our Holiday Gift Guide 2017 we have tried to curate a list of toys, games, books, DVDs/Blu-rays, household items, and one ugly Christmas sweater that would appeal to kids and those buying gifts for them. Whether you're a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle yourself, or are just looking for presents for children of your friends, we hope you'll find this guide useful. These are the 2017 children's gifts we researched, sought out, and had sent to us. But of course there are a multitude of other options too, we also recommend simply asking kids and parents what they are into and starting there.

We have previously posted part 1 of our 2017 gift guide (for music reissues, music box sets, and vinyl), as well as part 2 (for board games) and Part 3 (for DVDs and Blu-rays, plus there was a supplemental to Part 3 with several other DVD/Blu-ray suggestions). Over the next week and a half we'll also be posting more gift guides relating to collectibles, books and graphic novels, technology, video games, and household items and apparel. And don't forget that Under the Radar subscriptions also make a great gift. Plus donating to the charity of your choice in the name of the gift receiver is also a good way to go.

Toys and Games:

DropMix (Hasbro)

SRP: $99.99

DropMix is a new music mixing game from Hasbro and Harmonix. It comes with a game board and 60 game cards. Via Bluetooth you connect the game board to an app on your phone or tablet. Each card features the bass, beat, loop, or vocals of a specific song. When placed on the game board it plays that part of the song. There are five card spots on the board and so you can mix and match different parts of different songs, coming up with unique mash-ups à la Girl Talk. In Freestyle mode you can just mess around, but in Clash mode you can battle a fellow mixer. It comes with songs by Bruno Mars, Childish Gambino, The Weeknd, A Tribe Called Quest, Carly Rae Jepsen, and others. You can buy bonus 16-card packs for various genres, including rock, pop, hip-hop, and electronic, which adds in artists like MGMT, Weezer, The Jackson 5, Rick James, Miike Snow, OutKast, Salt-N-Pepa, and others. The recommended age is 16+, but we don't see why younger teen music fans couldn't get into this as well. It seems perfect for a holiday party. If you've ever fancied yourself a DJ or mash-up master, here's your chance to test and showoff your skills while also having a blast with your music-loving friends. Our only hope is that they add more indie rock music into future bonus card packs (Buy it here.)

Marvel Swing & Sling Spider-Man (Just Play)

SRP: $39.99 

Spider-Man has remained a favorite superhero of both kids and adults since his comic book debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. 1960s kids had ABC's Spider-Man animated series with its iconic theme song. 1970s kids had both the character's wordless live action appearances in the Spidey Super Stories skits as part of PBS' The Electric Company and CBS' live action TV series starring Nicholas Hammond. For 1980s kids there was the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends animated show and '90s children got the more adult Fox Kids' Spider-Man cartoon. Then there were the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films in the 2000s, followed by Andrew Garfield as the friendly neighborhood hero in the recent two Amazing Spider-Man movies. Finally, Tom Holland made his debut as a teenaged web-slinger in last year's Captain America: Civil War and this year's Spider-Man: Homecoming. There's been a Spider-Man for every generation and Just Play's Marvel Swing & Sling Spider-Man toy should be a hit with current boys. He has web lines coming from his hands that you hold onto while Spidey swings in the air, hangs upside, tumbles forwards and backwards, and does a 360 backflip. He also speaks various phrases and sings the "Spider-Man Theme Song." Long live good old Spidey! It's recommended for ages 3 and up and comes with four AA demonstration batteries, but eventually more long lasting batteries will be required. (Buy it here.)

My Little Pony: The Movie Seashell Lagoon (Hasbro)

SRP: $39.99

What little girl doesn't like My Little Pony? And there are seemingly lots of adult men who are also fans of the magical four legged friends. Hasbro has released a new line of toys to tie into this fall's My Little Pony: The Movie, which featured the voices of Emily Blunt, Zoe Saldana, Kristin Chenoweth, Liev Schreiber, Michael Peña, and others, alongside Tara Strong and the other regular voices of the main ponies. In the movie they visit Princess Skystar's underwater home of Seaquestria and get turned into seaponies. The Seashell Lagoon set includes a Pinkie Pie seapony figure and 14 accessories. It lights up and if you add water to one part it creates bubbles to give the effect of actually being underwater. The impressive looking playset is sure to delight any kid of any age when unwrapped on Christmas morning, although it's recommended for ages 3 and up. It comes with three AA demo batteries, but eventually more long lasting batteries will be required. (Buy it here.)

 

Tangled: The Series Spin 'n Style Rapunzel Doll (Hasbro)

SRP: $19.99

Tangled, Disney's delightful 2010 feature film take on the Rapunzel, came to TV this year with a sequel TV series (fittingly titled Tangled: The Series). It features the return of most of the movie's original cast, including Mandy Moore as Rapunzel and Zachary Levi as her boyfriend Eugene Fitzherbert (formerly known as Flynn Rider) and features the continuing adventures of the longhaired princess, as well as new songs from Alan Menken, who wrote and scored the original movie. To tie into the show, Disney and Hasbro have released a new line of Tangled dolls and playsets, most featuring Rapunzel. The Spin 'n Style doll comes with a brush, six hair plug-ins, and two clips. When you squeeze the doll's dress it spins, allowing you to style Rapunzel's long hair as it spins around to make fun new hairdos. It's recommended for ages 3 and up. (Buy it here.)

Transformers: The Last Knight RC Autobot Sqweeks (Hasbro)

SRP: $79.99

Put aside your feelings on the Transformer movies and enjoy this fun tie in to 2017's latest movie, Transformers: The Last Knight. Sqweeks was a new character introduced in the movie. In the film he is a small badly damaged Autobot who could not transform and due to a broken vocal processor he can only speak a single word. The cute little robot has been turned into a Hasbro remote control toy. He's got light up eyes, you can make him use his blaster for fighting, he can talk, and you can even make him dance. It requires 6 AA batteries (not included) and is recommended for kids ages 5 and up. (Buy it here.)

 

DC Icons Superman Rebirth Action Figure (DC Collectibles)

SRP: $28.00

The DC Icons line of action figures has a new Superman figure in his current costume from 2016's Rebirth relaunch of DC Comics' characters. This figure was originally part of a 7 pack of Rebirth action figures, but now it's available solo. Sculpted by Steve Kiwus, the figure is 6.25 inches tall. Also available is Batman. (Buy it here.)

 

itty bittys Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Finn (Hallmark)

SRP: $6.95

Itty bittys are Hallmark's line of small and cute stuffed animals that have a rounded lower half rather than legs. All sorts of iconic branded characters have been turned into itty bittys, from superheroes to Disney princesses to even President Obama. There have been Star Wars itty bittys before and this year there are some tied into the latest film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Finn debuted in 2015's long-awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The former First Order stormtrooper turned resistance fighter is played by British actor John Boyega in the movies and gets his own itty bitty. (Buy it here.)

itty bittys Star Wars: The Last Jedi - First Order BB-9E Unit (Hallmark)

SRP: $6.95

BB-8 was standout droid of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and in Star Wars: The Last Jedi there's a less friendly version, a First Order BB-9E unit. He now comes to Hallmark's itty bittys line of small and cute stuffed animals. (Buy it here.)

 

itty bittys Star Wars Chewbacca Christmas Card with Stuffed Animal (Hallmark)

SRP: $9.99 

Hallmark are of course known for their greeting cards, but more recently they've been known for their itty bitty small and cute stuffed animals. This combines the two. It's a Christmas card that comes with a Chewbacca itty bitty that is shrink-wrapped and expands when you open it. The message inside: "Hairy Christmas chew you!" (Buy it here.)

 

itty bittys The Walking Dead Collector Set (Hallmark)

SRP: $29.95

Obviously only older teenagers and adults should be watching AMC's scary and intense zombie show The Walking Dead, so this toy is not intended for younger kids. The Walking Dead come to Hallmark's itty bittys line of small and cute stuffed animals. This collector set includes fan favorites Rick Grimes, Michonne, and Daryl Dixon, as well as a walker (aka zombie). Young kids will still enjoy playing with all but the walker toy, but this is really geared towards fans of the show and for them this will be an amusing gift. A Negan itty bitty is also available. (Buy it here.)

 

itty bittys The X-Files Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (Hallmark)

SRP: $14.95

FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully come to Hallmark's itty bittys line of small stuffed animals in this set that includes both paranormal investigators. Youngsters may not be quite familiar with the show, but older kids and teenagers might have watched Mulder and Scully finally return to TV for 2016's 10th season and might also be gearing up for season 11, which airs in January. Or you can pair it with Quirk's The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird kids picture book (see below) to appeal to younger kids. (Buy it here.)

 

Lego:

Lego has really come a long way since when we were kids. Until Legoland California opened in 1999 you had to travel all the way to Denmark or England to enjoy one of their theme parks (and the British one only opened in 1996). The Danish plastic interlocking bricks have been around since 1949, but in the 21st century they have branched out to partner with various famous brands, incorporating iconic characters from Star Wars, DC Comics, Marvel, Disney, and others into their line of building toys. And in recent years they've launched video game franchises, TV shows, and several successful movies (including 2014's The Lego Movie and this year's The Lego Batman Movie). Lego has always been a toy that doesn't go out of fashion, but of late they have found many new ways to be timely and appeal to today's kids (and their parents). Here is a selection of 2017 Lego sets that we like, but there are many, many more to choose from. And while the ages range from 5 - 14, depending on the set, any of these could be friendly for kids 4 and up, provided the parents help with initial assembly.

Lego Architecture London

SRP: $39.99

This 12+ set is definitely recommended for older kids, teenagers, or even adults. It features 468 pieces and is essentially the London skyline, although in condensed form. It features such London landmarks as Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, and the National Gallery. It would make a great gift for any kid who's already traveled to England's capitol city (or dreams of going there). (Buy it here.)

Lego BrickHeadz Batgirl

SRP: $9.99

Unlike the mini Lego figures that come with each set, the BrickHeadz line are small standalone sets where you build a bigger character, including characters from Marvel (various Avengers), Disney (Beauty and the Beast), and Star Wars (Finn). We're partial to Batgirl from The Lego Batman Movie, where she was voiced by Rosario Dawson and more than held her own with the Caped Crusader. It's recommended for age 10+ and is 99 pieces. (Buy it here.)

 

Lego DC Super Hero Girls Lashina Tank

SRP: $14.99

The DC Super Hero Girls toys and movies have been empowering young girls for a couple of years now. They began with Barbie type dolls and short online videos. But soon there was the first action figure line developed just for girls, as well as straight to DVD movies, graphic novels, and plenty of books. The concept is simple-most the female characters in the DC Universe (Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Bumble Bee, Katana, Starfire, and others) all go to a special boarding school called Super Hero High where they learn how to harness their powers and be better heroes. The character designs and personalities are fairly non-sexualized and are appropriate for girls of all ages. The DC Super Girls have also come to Lego, both with building sets and a TV special. If you're looking for a more affordable option, then the Lashina Tank set could be the way to go. It features the villain Lashina, as well as Krypto, the super-powered dog belonging to Supergirl and Superman. It features 145 pieces and is recommended for ages 7-12.

If you have a bigger budget then there's the impressive Eclipso Dark Palace $99.99 set featuring Wonder Woman and her invisible plane, The Flash, and the baddie Eclipso. For $59.99 there's Lena Luthor's Kryptonite Factory, featuring Supergirl and her boat, along with Lex Luthor's evil sister and her factory. Other sets also available include Batgirl Secret Bunker, Harley Quinn to the Rescue, Super Hero High School, Bumblebee Helicopter, Batgirl Batjet Chase, Harley Quinn Dorm, and Wonder Woman Dorm. (Buy Lashina Tank here.)

Lego Marvel Super Heroes Thor vs. Hulk Arena Clash

SRP: $59.99

This fall's Thor: Ragnarok movie was a complete delight. Not only was it clearly the best of the three Thor movies, it was also one of the funniest Marvel movies, thanks in large part to New Zealand director Taika Waititi, making his superhero movie (and big budget movie) debut. Those who knew him for his hilarious 2014 vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows may have been better prepared for the humor he brought to the Marvel universe, both as director and as the character Korg. But that's not to say Thor: Ragnarok was an out and out parody, its action scenes still carried weight thanks to heavy duty award-winning actors like Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, and Idris Elba, alongside Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Mark Ruffalo's Hulk. And Jeff Goldblum nearly stole the show as relaxed villain Grandmaster. Lego's Thor vs. Hulk Arena Clash set recreates the scene where Hulk and Thor first battle each other in Grandmaster's intergalactic arena, famously featuring Thor's pleasant surprise when his adversary is revealed to be his old buddy ("He's a friend from work!"). The 492-piece set includes mini figures of Hulk, Thor, Loki, Grandmaster, and a Sakaarian Guard. It's recommended for ages 7-14. (Buy it here.)

Lego Star Wars: Desert Skiff Escape

SRP: $29.99

There are lots of Star Wars Legos tied into the new movies, such as this year's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but parents might appreciate this set's throwback to the original Star Wars trilogy. Desert Skiff Escape recreates that scene in Return of the Jedi where Han Solo and Chewbacca are about to be thrown by Jabba the Hutt and his men, including bounty hunter Boba Fett, into the desert Sarlacc pit featuring a monstrous tentacled creature. Luckily they are saved by Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, Princess Leia (at first stuck as Jabba's slave girl), R2D2, and C3PO. Boba Fett ends up in the creature and our heroes live to fight another day. This 277-piece set includes the skiff ship and the Sarlacc pit, along with figures for Boba Fett, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a Skiff Guard. It's recommended for ages 7-12. (Buy it here.)

Lego Super Heroes Mighty Micros: Spider-Man vs. Scorpion

SRP: $9.99

The Mighty Micros range each feature one superhero figure and one supervillain figure, each with a vehicle. At only $9.99, they'd make good stuffy stockers. Here we highlight Spider-Man vs. Scorpion, which has 79 pieces and is recommended for ages 5-12. Also available are Iron Man vs. Thanos, Wonder Woman vs. Doomsday, Batman vs. Killer Moth, Hulk vs. Ultron, The Flash vs. Captain Cold, Captain America vs. Red Skull, Robin vs. Bane, Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin, Wolverine vs. Magneto, and Superman vs. Bizarro. (Buy Spider-Man vs. Scorpion Tank here.)

The Lego Batman Movie The Penguin Arctic Roller

SRP: $29.99

Talk about synergy. There was already Lego Batman toys and video games before the hero made his appearance 2014's The Lego Movie, as hilariously voiced by Will Arnett. But this year Arnett's Dark Knight got his own hit movie, the very funny and well liked The Lego Batman Movie. And of course toy shelves were armed with a slew of new Lego Batman tie-in toys. With all his gadgets, vehicles, sidekicks, and adversaries, Batman was tailor made for an expansive toy line and Lego doesn't disappoint. There were obvious sets, like The Batmobile and The Batwing. There were expensive ones, like the $149.99 Arkham Asylum and the $269.99 The Joker Manor. We're quite partial to The Penguin Arctic Roller, which is the fowl fiend's rather stylish looking roadster. The trunk of the car opens up to reveal a Penguin jet-ski escape pod. It is recommended for ages 8-14, features 305 pieces, and contains both Batman and The Penguin figures. (Buy it here.)

 

Books:

Coloring DC: Justice League - An Adult Coloring Book (DC)

SRP: $15.99

To tie into this year's Justice League movie, DC Comics have released another in their line of Coloring DC books, which are described as "adult coloring books," but could also be enjoyed by young and teenaged artists as well. Really, any superhero fan that can pretty much color within the lines will enjoy this book, which features black & white versions of classic and current comic book covers and splash pages featuring DC's flagship superhero team. Parents and more diehard comic book fans might be interested to know that it includes art by Darwyn Cooke, Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, Mike Allred, George Pérez, Andy Kubert, Tony S. Daniel, Gary Frank, Nick Cardy, Yanick Paquette, and others. Kids can bring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Cyborg, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, and many others to life. And if the child is a promising artist (especially one who wants to draw comic books) then this could be a great way to encourage them. (Buy it here.)

Dave Croatto (Illustrated by Tom Richmond): Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day (Mad Books)

SRP: $14.99

Last year MAD and DC put out Dave Croatto's Goodnight Batcave, a funny parody of Margaret Wise Brown's classic 1947 children's book Goodnight Moon in which all of Batman's villains invade the Batcave one night. This year Croatto and MAD have set their sites on Judith Viorst's 1972 children's classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Superman is the butt of this joke and the day starts poorly when he gets soap in his eye, causing his heat vision to blow up his shampoo bottle. When he changes from Clark Kent into Superman to fight Doomsday, while on the way to work at the Daily Planet, he realizes his costume is inside out. Things continue to go badly, both as Clark Kent and as Superman. He sits in gum, the Justice League give him chores, and everyone likes the rest of the Justice League more than him. This amusing read would appeal to young readers who like Viorst's original book, but also have an affinity for superheroes. (Buy it here.)

Hayao Miyazaki: Castle in the Sky - Picture Book (Viz Media)

SRP: $19.99

1986's beloved Japanese animated Castle in the Sky, written and directed by the master of the genre, Hayao Miyazaki, has been turned into a picture book. The film and book both feature the adventures of Pazu (voiced by James Van Der Beek in the 1998 English language version) and Princess Sheeta (voiced by Anna Paquin in the 1998 English language version), as the kids try and keep a magic crystal away from some military agents while also still looking for the fabled floating castle of the film's title. The book includes images and dialogue from the film, as adapted into English by Jim Hubbert. The film is also available on Blu-ray via GKIDS. (Buy it here.)

 

Kim Smith: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Quirk)

SRP: $18.99 

Quirk, the company behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and other amusing titles, have a new series of illustrated storybooks based on classic movies and TV shows. So far they have released ones on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Home Alone, and The X-Files, with a Back to the Future one announced for next year. Each one is like the hardcover Little Golden Books we used to read as kids and each one features new delightfully retro looking illustrations by Kim Smith. Based on the beloved 1982 film written by Melissa Mathison and directed by Steven Spielberg, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook tells the story of Elliott, a 10-year-old boy who befriends a stranded alien on Earth. It's the perfect way to introduce young kids to E.T. (or if they've already seen the film, then they'll enjoy it even more). (Buy it here.)

Kim Smith: Home Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Quirk)

SRP: $18.99

Home Alone was a monster hit when it was released in 1990 and was the highest grossing live action comedy of all time worldwide until 2011's The Hangover Part II took the crown. It was written by John Hughes post all his classic 1980s high school set movies and was directed by Chris Columbus before he turned Robin Williams into Mrs. Doubtfire and also helmed the first two Harry Potter movies. Macaulay Culkin starred as Kevin McCallister, a young boy who is accidentally left home alone for Christmas when his entire family goes to Paris for the holidays and who is left to defend his house from two bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). It's definitely a film ripe for storybook adaptation and the book would appeal to both kids who have and haven't seen the film. (Buy it here.)

Kim Smith: The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird (A Picture Book) (Quirk)

SRP: $18.99

Young kids definitely aren't ready to watch The X-Files. The whole motivation behind FBI agent Fox Mulder is the alien abduction of his sister and the show is in general incredibly creepy. But while you may not be able to sit down and watch the show's 11th season with the kids in January, Kim Smith's X-Files picture book can plant the seeds for a future love of the adventures of Mulder and Scully as they uncover governmental conspiracies and stop secret alien invasions. The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird imagines that Mulder and Scully were childhood friends and it features pint-sized versions of the heroes as they have an innocent sleepover in a backyard tent. But then they hear strange noises in the forest. This book is billed as being silly, rather than scary. (Buy it here.)

 

Various: Hello Kitty & Friends Coloring Book (Viz Media)

SRP: $16.99

Coloring books have been back in a big way in recent years and now here's a nice one from Viz Media featuring the iconic Japanese kids character Hello Kitty. Featuring illustrations from various different artists, the book includes some incredibly detailed pages for kids to color, with Kitty and her friends in various different settings and scenes, from hot air balloons to the beach to rainbows and umbrellas to underwater settings and more. (Buy it here.)

 

Downtown Bookworks DC Super Heroes:

Downtown Bookworks have a great line of young kid-friendly DC Super Heroes books. All familiarize children to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and their various friends and foes. Some are educational too, teaching kids the alphabet and numbers and colors and shapes. The artwork is usually of the retro variety, pulled from old DC comic books from the 1980s mainly (but also the '60s, '70s, and beyond). Below is a selection of their best titles.

David Katz, Morris Katz, and Julie Merberg: DC Super Heroes Little Library (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $49.99

This box set collects 10 board books, each on a different theme. Opposites teaches the differences between push and pull, front and back, and more, each using different heroes to illustrate the examples. Girl Power highlights all the female DC heroes and their various powers. Colors and Shapes and ABC 123 have self-explanatory titles. And Even Super Heroes Sleep is a great tool to get the little ones off to dreamland. Also includes Superpowers, On the Go!, Busy Bodies, Super-Villains, and Super Heroes Have Friends Too. Recommended for ages 0-3. (Buy it here.)

Matthew Mead: The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook - Deluxe Edition (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $26.99

I used to have a different DC Super Heroes cookbook when I was a kid and enjoyed it greatly, so I'll be excited to share Downtown's new The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook with my daughter. It includes various superhero themed and styled recipes, from a cheeseburger with the cheese cut in the shape of Superman's shield and the "S" written in ketchup and Holy Guacamole and Caped Crusader Chips to Golden Lasso Smoothie and Plastic Man Pudding. The Deluxe Edition includes three superhero symbol-shaped cookie cutters (for The Flash, Batman, and Superman), seven superhero symbol stencils for decorating cookies, and 28 character cutouts for food styling. Beyond making cooking fun for kids, the book could also be useful if you ever plan to throw a superhero-themed birthday party. It's recommended for kids 8 and up, but we think with adult supervision younger kids could enjoy it too. (Buy it here.)

Julie Merberg: The Big Book of Wonder Woman (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $16.99

Downtown Books have three new nice sized hardcover books, each with a shiny foil cover and each dedicated to a different superhero: Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman. The Big Book of Wonder Woman introduces young readers to the Lasso of Truth, the Invisible Jet, the Amazons, her origin story, her superpowers, her friends, and that time Wonder Woman ran for president (who knew). For kids 4 and up. (Buy it here.)

Noah Smith: The Big Book of Batman (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $16.99

The Big Book of Batman tells kids all they need to know about The Dark Knight, without getting too dark. You learn about his origin, his partners Robin and Batgirl, his various gadgets, The Batmobile, and all the colorful foes he's faced. For kids 4 and up. (Buy it here.)

Noah Smith: The Big Book of Superman (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $16.99

The Big Book of Superman gives children a crash course in Superman. The basics are all here, from how he escaped the doomed Planet Krypton as a baby and ended up being raised on Earth by the Kents to his secret identity as Clark Kent to his superpowers to info on Lois Lane and Supergirl. For kids 4 and up. (Buy it here.)

Sarah Parvis: Awesome Activities for Super Heroes (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $14.99

This fun activity book includes puzzles, mazes, codes to be broken, and more. There are spot the difference puzzles and crosswords. There are sections where there are comic book panels with empty speech and thought bubbles and the kids can fill in their own text and write their own story. There are half drawn pictures for kids to finish, pages to color, and memory tests. There are hours and hours of fun. This one is recommended for kids 6 and up and we'd agree with that, kids that can already read and write will get the most out of it. (Buy it here.)

 

Sarah Parvis: Color Me Powerful (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $14.99

Sarah Parvis has also put together another activity book that features similar puzzles, coloring pages, pictures to finish, comic book panels with empty speech and thought bubbles, and more. The difference is that Color Me Powerful is centered only on the female characters from the DC universe. It's also recommended for kids 6 and up and again kids that can already read and write will get the most out of it. (Buy it here.)

 

Michael Robin: DC Super Heroes My First Dictionary (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $15.99

This super dictionary contains over 500 words. Along with definitions of everyday words, each illustrated by a vintage comic book image, there are more super heroic words and phrases such as sidekick, secret identity, shrink, and Kryptonite, as well as entries for various superheroes and super-villains. You can never be too young to improve your vocabulary, so this one is recommended for kids 3 and up. (Buy it here.)

Noah Smith, Sarah Parvis, and Michael Robin: The Official DC Super Hero Joke Book (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $12.99

Whether you're hoping to groom a future standup comedian or are just looking to have a good-natured laugh with your kids, this joke book has you covered. I mean, obviously joke books are usually cheesy as can be and this one is no exception, but you might get some laughs out of the little ones. Sample jokes from the book include the following. "Who is Wonder Woman when she gets really nervous? An Amazon worrier." "Why did Beast Boy cross the road? He had turned himself into a chicken." "Does Hawkgirl know what she's doing for vacation this year? No, her plans are up in the air." "Why did Scarecrow skip dessert? He was already stuffed." It includes over 600 puns, riddles, and knock knock jokes to make any kid groan with laughter. It's recommended for kids 8 and up, but we think younger kids will get some of the jokes too, depending on their familiarity with the DC characters. (Buy it here.)

 

Apparel, Household, and Ornaments:

Balloon Dog Light (Bitten/NuOp Design/Uncommon Goods)

SRP: $25.00 

Here's a fun balloon dog that will never deflate and will instead light up a young child's life, literally. The Balloon Dog Light is a cute battery powered bedroom nightlight. You squeeze the dog's leg to turn the light on and off and it includes a 30-minute sleep timer function. The stylish Pop Art-inspired design is by the Hong Kong based Bitten and the light is imported by NuOp Design and sold on the Uncommon Goods website. It comes in red, blue, green, and glow-in-the-dark and requires two AA batteries that are not included. (Buy it here.)

Batman Holiday Hat Kids Ugly Christmas Sweater (Fun.com)

SRP: $39.99

The aptly named Fun.com have an amusing line of holiday sweaters, including this kids Batman one. The Dark Knight does Santa, what more do you want from a geeky Christmas sweater? It'd be great for school, winter playdates, or ugly Christmas sweater parties (although we think it's quite cute). (Buy it here.)

Star Wars BB-8 Mug With Sound (Hallmark)

SRP: $22.95

BB-8, the standout droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is now a mug. As cool as a BB-8 shaped mug would be, this one also has a fun feature. When you remove the lid (aka BB-8's head) to this 10 oz. mug the droid makes cute little BB-8 sounds, from various different noises that rotate. Since most young kids aren't drinking tea or coffee yet, this might be better for teenagers, although you can also fill it with milk, apple juice, or the liquid of your choice. (Buy it here.)

 

Table Top Cornhole (Uncommon Goods)

SRP: $45.00

We're not quite sure when Cornhole became so popular. An early version of the game has been around since at least 1883 and the modern version was popularized in a 1974 Popular Mechanics article on how to build your own Cornhole game, but the beanbag toss game seems to have become even more ubiquitous at summer lawn parties and the like in the last decade. The winter weather, on the East Coast at least, isn't all that conducive to outside play, and throwing full size beanbags in your living room seems like a recipe for something getting broken. So to get your Cornhole fix in the winter months we recommend this wooden tabletop miniature Cornhole sold by Uncommon Goods. It comes with small beanbags that you try to flip or catapult into the holes. The distance between the two holes is adjustable for skill level. It's hours of family fun on your dining room table or living room floor. (Buy it here.)

 

The X-Files Scully and Mulder Musical Ornament (Hallmark)

SRP: $17.95 

Every year Hallmark unveils a new set of Keepsake Christmas tree ornaments. Most feature familiar characters. 2017's ornaments included Moana, Star Trek, DC Super Hero Girls, Star Wars, The Lego Batman Movie, Airplane!, Elf, Beetlejuice, Aliens, Thor: Ragnarok, Zootopia, Beauty and the Beast, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and more. Some ornaments even light up, others make sound. This X-Files ornament features FBI special agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder and it plays Mark Snow's theme song to The X-Files. Make Christmas spooky. (Buy it here.)

Justice League Aquaman Ornament (Hallmark)

SRP: $15.95 

Jason Momoa's Aquaman was one of the highlights of this year's Justice League movie and in December 2018 we get a solo Aquaman movie. One of this year's Keepsake Ornaments is of Momoa as Aquaman looking badass and ready for battle, his trident in hand as he swims or leaps into the fight. (Buy it here.)

 

DVDs and Blu-rays:

Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

SRP: $39.99

Disney is making a good industry out of adapting its old animated movies into new live action ones. The new version of Beauty and the Beast is incredibly similar to the 1991 original, in terms of both the plot and also reusing most of the songs. But thanks to strong performances by Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as The Beast, along with a great supporting cast (Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Luke Evans), the film is the #1 movie of 2017 so far in terms of the domestic box office (although Star Wars: The Last Jedi, also a Disney film, hasn't come out yet) and the 10th highest grossing film of all time. If it ain't broke, then don't fix it. The Blu-ray comes loaded with special features, including deleted scenes featuring Stephen Merchant as a character understandably cut from the film, Monsieur Toilette, a servant who was turned into a toilet. This film appeals to fans of the original and current kids who dream of being a princess or a beast. (Buy it here.)

 

DC Universe: 10th Anniversary Collection Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)

SRP: $299.99

Fans of DC Comics may have had a mixed response to their big screen efforts (namely Green Lantern, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Justice League), but for the last decade Warner Bros. have also been making a lot of well-received straight to DVD animated movies. But these are no kids cartoons, most are rated PG-13 and a few are even R-rated, and the majority are faithful adaptations of specific comic books/graphic novels, including such iconic stories as Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Grant Morrison's All Star Superman, and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. This new deluxe box set celebrates a decade of these animated films and collects on Blu-ray 30 feature length movies and five short films. It includes this year's Justice League Dark, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, and Batman and Harley Quinn, as well as new commemorative editions of 2008's Justice League: New Frontier and 2009's Wonder Woman. The set also features over two hours of new special features, including a documentary about Mark Hamill's praised decades long voice acting portrayal of The Joker and a tribute panel to the late great Canadian comic book writer/artist Darwyn Cooke (Justice League: New Frontier), who passed away last year. There are also three collector coins (one each for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) and a 40-page adult coloring book featuring the covers of the original DVDs. Only two of the films are rated PG, most are rated PG-13, and a handful are even R-rated, so this set is definitely for older kids, teenagers, and adult fans. (Buy it here.)

Despicable Me 3 Blu-ray/DVD (Universal)

SRP: $34.98

The Despicable Me franchise has continued to delight kids since 2010's first film. Steve Carell voices Gru, a mean super-villain who adopts three girls from an orphanage. Despicable Me 3 is the fourth film in the series if you count 2015's Minions prequel, about Gru's little yellow helpers. By Despicable Me 3 Gru has settled down and renounced his evil ways, but when he is reunited with his long-lost twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell) he is tempted to return to a life of crime. Together they face up against Trey Parker's bad guy Balthazar Bratt. Balthazar will appeal most to parents, as he's a former child star from the 1980s still obsessed with his former character and who has a habit of performing the pop hits of the '80s on his weaponized keytar and engaging in dance fights. The film was another monster hit, grossing just over $1 billion worldwide and is the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time and the third highest-grossing film of 2017 so far. The Blu-ray includes an all-new mini-movie, The Secret Life of Kyle, as well as a deleted scene. (Buy it here.)

 

Doctor Strange Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

SRP: $22.99

It's somewhat understandable that The Jungle Book won the Academy Award the Best Visual Effects in 2017, considering almost all the characters are computer generated, but an easy case can be made that Doctor Strange deserved the award. Scott Derrickson's film sported several scenes of awe-inspiring visuals, seamless and trippy effects that leave the audience wondering "how'd they do that." Despite being the fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the filmmakers found a way to bring a fresh perspective and energy to the superhero genre (which should really be played out by now), mainly by focusing on the mystic arts. Marvel does magic. The cast features Oscar nominees Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Rachel McAdams, alongside Oscar winner Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen, all of whom help sell the potentially ridiculous material. Cumberbatch is Stephen Strange, a brilliant surgeon whose hands are damaged in a car accident, making it impossible for him to operate again. Having exhausted every other option, he heads to Nepal for alternative treatments and is taken in and trained by the Ancient One (Swinton), learning how to become a sorcerer and manipulate reality. The amazing New York City chase scene, in which skyscrapers bend and wrap around the heroes, is enough to recommend the movie, as is the incredibly cool climatic fight which occurs while time is reversing around the adversaries. There have been a lot of superhero films in the last decade and so it's always refreshing when one finds a more unique approach. The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes, director's commentary, a gag reel, a Thor short film, and other behind-the-scenes documentaries. With its PG-13 rating this is a better fit for older kids and teenagers. (Buy it here.) 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

SRP: $39.99

No one expected Guardians of the Galaxy to be such a monster hit when it was released in 2014 and went on to become the third biggest film of that year. Sure, Marvel already had a good track record at that point, but a film featuring relatively obscure comic book characters and starring Andy from Parks and Recreation (Chris Pratt, who got in shape for the role), wrestler Dave Bautista, a foul mouthed, gun-totting raccoon, and a walking tree who only says one phrase over and over again, and released at the end of summer, didn't seem likely to fare so well. But Marvel did it again, combining the superhero drama with space opera, large doses of comedy, and a retro cool soundtrack. This year's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was pretty much just as fun as the original and was an even bigger box office success. Kurt Russell joined the cast as Peter Quill's long lost alien father, but the highlight for children of the 1980s was a cameo by David Hasselhoff in full Knight Rider mode. The Blu-ray includes a music video starring the Hoff, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a making of documentary, and commentary from director James Gunn, who is already planning Vol. 3 for a 2020 release. With its PG-13 rating this is also a better fit for older kids and teenagers. (Buy it here.)

Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away Blu-ray/DVD (GKIDS/Studio Ghibli)

SRP: $25.00 Each

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the true auteurs of film animation (or even just film in general). The Japanese director has been working since the late 1960s and directed his first feature film, The Castle of Cagliostro, in 1979. It was his mid to late '80s films that started to garner him attention outside of Japan-1986's Castle in the Sky, 1988's My Neighbor Totoro, and 1989's Kiki's Delivery Service. 1997's historical epic Princess Mononoke was, at the time, the biggest film ever in Japan, a feat matched by 2001's fairly scary Spirited Away. John Lasseter of Pixar (a big Miyazaki fan) helped oversea Spirited Away's English translation and in 2017 The New York Times named it the second best film of the 21st Century So Far (and in a 2016 poll of 177 film critics worldwide it came in at #4 in their list of the best films of the 21st century so far). It also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Disney previously released the films of Studio Ghibli (Miyazaki's company that releases not only his films, but also other Japanese animated films in a similar style), but now GKIDS, the New York-based distributor of award-winning animated films, has taken over and re-released Miyazaki's films on Blu-ray. His movies usually feature a young girl as the protagonist and involve fantastical elements. 1988's My Neighbor Totoro features two young girls, sisters Satsuki and Mei, who in 1958 have to move to the countryside with their father to be near their sick mother, who is receiving treatment in a nearby hospital. They befriend a giant rabbit-like creature in the forest they name Totoro. The superior 2005 English language version features the voices of real life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning. 1989's Kiki's Delivery Service is about a 13-year-old trainee witch Kiki and her talking black cat Jiji. Kirsten Dunst voiced Kiki in Disney's 1998 English dub of the film. 2004's Howl's Moving Castle takes place in a fictional land where both magic and 20th century technology exist and two kingdoms are at war with each other. The English dub features the voices of Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, and others. 2008's Ponyo is about a magical goldfish from the ocean who falls in love with a five-year-old human boy and longs to become a human girl. The English dub features an all-star voice cast, including Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, Cloris Leachman, and Liam Neeson. Each Blu-ray is loaded with special features and these timeless gems will appeal to both current children and their parents.(Buy Howl's Moving Castle herebuy Kiki's Delivery Service here, buy My Neighbor Totoro herebuy Ponyo herebuy Princess Mononoke hereand buy Spirited Away here.)

Moana Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

SRP: $24.96

As the father of an almost 5-year-old girl I can personally attest to the popularity of Moana amongst young girls (both my daughter and her friends are obsessed with it). The beautifully animated film features Moana, the daughter of a Polynesian tribal chief, embarking on an ocean quest with the aid of demigod Maui (a very amusing Dwayne Johnson) to save her village by reuniting a mystic relic with a goddess. The movie is refreshing for focusing on a culture largely ignored by Hollywood (except as side characters in Hawaii Five-O), plus the songs (partly written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame) are damn catchy and Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement plays a singing giant crab. The Blu-ray edition includes deleted scenes, a deleted song, and various featurettes about the film's music, costume design, and how the heritage of the islands influenced the story. After your child (or Disney fan friend) thanks you for this gift, you can sing your response in the voice of Maui: "You're welcome." (Buy it here.)

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