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Not For Parents New York City Book for Kids

In an ongoing effort to a) engage my children in helping to plan our family trips and b) encourage my son to read something other than the Wimpy Kid books, I got ahold of the brand-new Not For Parents New York City published by Lonely Planet. It’s designed for “young adult” readers, according to Amazon.com. I argue it’s a bit simple for teenagers, but I think the colorful photos, drawings and short snippets of information about the history and sights of the Big Apple are ideal for ages 8 to 12.

Author Klay Lamprell argues on the first page that this is not a guidebook, and I agree that it’s not a comprehensive listing of all there is for families to do in New York City. But the slim paperback (96 pages) does make the city incredibly interesting to curious kids, especially those who appreciate wacky facts and funny stories.

I’ve asked my children to flip through the book to check for any “must see” things they want to do on our trip to the city next month. I’ll be sure to pack the book, too, so they can read the facts pertaining to stops we’ve already planned: Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Broadway and Little Italy. For example, did you know that Lady Gaga is the daughter of an Italian New Yorker, and that her real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanota? (I didn’t.)

Other fun stuff: The original 1907 taxis in NYC were painted shiny red and green, but fleet owner Harry Allen wanted them to stand out, so he painted them yellow. Toilet paper was invented by a New Yorker. The imaginary location on Sesame Street was inspired by buildings on Amsterdam Avenue, and on November 10, fans visit the area to celebrate the long running kids’ show; the same actor has played Big Bird since 1969!

Yep, my kiddos love these little bits of trivia, and I hope the book will inspire a love of New York City, as well.

Other Not For Parents city guides include Paris, London and Rome. Purchase on Amazon.com for $11.10.

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The Klutz Book of Inventions

Klutz is a wonderfully vibrant company that produces activity books for kids. I’ve written about the brand before here at Practical Travel Gear, as I’m a huge, huge fan. Klutz books, games, puzzles and building kits have entertained my kids for hours — not only on our travels, but also on quiet afternoons at home. I adore Klutz so much, I included its products as one of my top five picks for holiday gifts on the This Week in Travel podcast (special holiday gift guide edition) this week.

Some books and kits are for “doing” while others are just books. Well, not “just” books, but pages that elicit a ridiculous amount of laughter from the back seat of a car — like The Klutz Book of Inventions. This is a hilarious collection of nearly 200 wacky inventions — silly, creative innovations that might never see an Amazon.com sales page, but are certainly funny to read about and envision in real life.

Take, for example, the “Mirror Fork,” so you can check to see if you have spinach in your teeth while you’re eating dinner, or “The Rubber Stampshake”: shake someone’s hand and leave an ink impression of your contact info — no need to carry business cards. Then there are the “Pocketless Velcro Pants”:  no need for pockets if you can stick your keys, wallet, iPod and other stuff directly to your thighs. My kids are fond of the “Lawnmowing Tricycle” and the toilet-clearning “PogoPlunger.”

What’s cool is that Klutz brainstormed with a renowned product-design firm IDEO to come up with these clever items, and they actually built them in the IDEO workshop before being photographed for the book. Each product has its own page with a full-color image of it in use, with a funny sales pitch on what it’s supposed to be used for.

A couple of the items — if they were truly for sale — are even appropriate for review on Practical Travel Gear. There’s the “Human Roller Bag,” for wheeling kids where they need to go (say, through big airports), the “Outboard-Powered Floaty” for resort swimming pools, the 4-inch “Travel BBQ,” and the “Seat Saver Sign,” which says “Ask Me about my Hemorrhoids” and you hang it around your neck to scare away anyone from taking that empty seat next to you on the bus.

This hardcover, spiral-bound book would make an excellent holiday gift for any silly 8- to 11-year-0ld on your shopping list. The book by John Cassidy and Brendan Boyle retails for $19.99 on the Klutz website, but you can purchase it for $13.59 on Amazon.com.

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