zoo tycoonWhen I was younger, the Tycoon series of games was really popular. Everyone seemed to be playing them and after several months of begging, I was finally able to convince my mother to purchase a copy of Rollercoaster Tycoon. As I was looking over the videogame section at the library, imagine my happiness when I found Zoo Tycoon, a build-your-own-zoo game put out by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 in 2013.

Looking online and also talking to other gamers results in a wide variety of definitions for the term “tycoon games”. In tycoon games, instead of just controlling one character, you are acting instead like “the manager” who is in control of a wide variety of people or animals, as well as the place where all of the activity is happening. That is very true in Zoo Tycoon. Here the game offers you tutorials, so you aren’t flying blind into how to operate and run your zoo. As the over-seer of the whole zoo, you need to remember to play smart because the guests who visit your zoo, as well as the animals, will ultimately decide just how well you are doing as a zoo tycoon.

This interactive game lets you design your zoo, build, and then manage it to make sure more and more guests keep coming and visiting. Once you build your zoo, you then get to have face time with all of your animals. You are allowed to adopt and care for your animals with the ultimate decision for you to then release them into the wild.

This game was interactive for me and definitely brought back memories of the older tycoon games that I had played. Check it out and let me know what you think!

As a personal challenge, I have taken on the task of reading all of the Iowa Children’s Choice 2013-14 nominees before voting ends in March 2014.  I am currently seven books down, with 18 books left to read.  I’m really fascinated to see how my reactions to the books compare with the voting of Iowa’s 3rd-6th graders.  I am taking this opportunity to highlight some of the books that stand out from the pack.

belly upTwelve-year-old Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy lives in a zoo.  And not just any zoo, but FunJungle, the largest animal amusement park in the world, where his parents work.  When the FunJungle mascot, Henry the Hippo, turns up dead, Teddy is convinced that it was murder. Written by Stewart Gibbs Belly Up, is a funny, clever first novel.

Stewart Gibbs has a degree in biology, and worked in a zoo while in college (at one point he was the foremost expert on capybaras).  He has also written a number of screenplays.  These two occupations are evident in his writing.  This book is filled with interesting animal and zoo facts, cleverly sprinkled throughout the story. The action in the novel is fast paced, well-timed, exciting. Overall, the book feels a lot like a well-informed animated movie, which seems to be a pretty great selling point for a children’s mystery novel.  I would recommend this book for fans of Swindle by Gordon Korman, Scat by Carl Hiaasen, and M.T. Anderson’s Pals in Peril series.

Everyone has a dream, even an elephant.

Hannah has been living at a tiny, second-rate zoo in Washington state since she was brought there when she was two years old. She has not seen another elephant in 40 years. And although she has received kind and loving care from her devoted zookeeper Sam, the poor conditions of the zoo is seriously affecting her health. But the arrival of Neva, a new assistant elephant keeper, begins to shake things up. Neva knows of an elephant sanctuary in California that might be able to take in Hannah, but they need to find a way to transport her, pay for her maintenance and, hardest of all, convince the hard-hearted zoo director – who sees the elephant only as a source of revenue – that moving Hannah is the right thing to do.

Fun and inspiring Hannah’s Dream will keep you on the edge of your seat as Hannah’s friends fight the odds with a little help from a legacy from the past.

Because dreams can come true. Even an elephants.