The World’s Most Pointless Animals – Philip Bunting

It’s no secret how much I love books that tell me a whole bunch of fun facts about animals. My favourite facts in this book are:

  • Leeches have 32 brains.
  • Elephant shrews “are typically 15cm long, but can jump almost a metre in the air”.
  • An axolotl can regenerate its body parts when it’s injured.

I’m not sure how well this book will work with its target audience (one website says 4+, others say 5 to 8 years). I didn’t find the humour funny, although kids may. I think some references will go straight over the heads of many kids. Have kids that age even heard of The Beatles?

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Terms that adults would understand could confuse younger readers, especially without a glossary to refer to. A quokka is said to be a “pseudo-roo”. About the myotonic goat: “Somebody should teach them about the fight or flight response.” Do you want to explain to your 5 year old what it means for a stick insect to be “amorous”?

The illustrations are colourful and the animals are cute. I particularly liked the platypus and sloth.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Happy Yak, and imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The World’s Most Pointless Animals is a witty, quirky, colourfully-illustrated book featuring fascinating facts about some very silly animals … who we find are perhaps not so pointless after all.

From familiar animals like giraffes (who don’t have any vocal cords) through to those that surely should not even exist, such as the pink fairy armadillo (absurdly huge front claws, super tough protective shell in baby pink, particularly susceptible to stress), our planet is full of some pretty weird and wonderful animals. For example:

  • Koalas spend up to 18 hours a day asleep!
  • Pandas are born bright pink, deaf, and blind.
  • Dumbo octopuses flap their big fin-like ears to move around.
  • A Narwhal’s tusk grows through its upper lip – ouch!

With hilarious text throughout and bright, contemporary illustrations, this guide to absurdly awesome animals contains funny labelled diagrams and some excellent made-up Latin names (N.B. The jellyfish’s scientific name is not actually wibblious wobblious ouchii).

Carrying an important message of celebrating diversity and differences, The World’s Most Pointless Animals inspires a drive to conserve our amazing planet and the creatures we’re lucky enough to share it with.

A Little Bit of Courage – Claire Alexander

The Ploofers are back and they’ve continued to add some colour to their lives thanks to the SHOOF! Ploofer from A Little Bit Different. Now the Ploofers are ready to try something new. But Little One is scared of attempting this new thing.

Luckily Toasty, my favourite carb cheerleader, is also back and ready to provide Little One with some much needed support. I absolutely love that Toasty acknowledges Little One’s anxiety and reassures them that everyone gets scared.

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Little One isn’t left to face their fear alone. Toasty remains by their side, supporting and encouraging them as they bravely attempt the thing they didn’t think they could do.

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Toasty reminded me that it’s okay to accept help, that you don’t have to face the scary things in life alone.

My favourite part of Little One’s story is that he doesn’t overcome his fear on his first attempt. It is through perseverance that Little One succeeds. His fear doesn’t magically go away because he decides to try the scary thing; doing the thing even though you’re scared is what being brave is all about.

I need more of Toasty and the Ploofers in my life!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Happy Yak, and imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In this follow-up to the beloved picture book A Little Bit Different, the Ploofers are back for a heartwarming exploration of fear and finding courage.

The Ploofers have just learned a valuable lesson in celebrating differences and trying new things. They’ve been practicing something very special again and this time it requires extra teamwork… But Little One is too scared to go on this new adventure. Will some kind and encouraging words from Toasty help him find a little bit of courage?

With simple, striking illustrations and a cutaway cover design that adds tactile interest, A Little Bit of Courage picks up right where A Little Bit Different left off. With a subtle yet powerful message on overcoming anxiety and finding the courage to live life to its fullest, this book will resonate with children and adults alike.

A Little Bit Different – Claire Alexander

The Ploofers all PLOOF! Except for one, whose PLOOF! is a SHOOF! This Ploofer loves the thing that makes them different … until the rest of the Ploofers question it.

The other Ploofers all think the SHOOF! is weird. It’s outside of their comfort zone because they haven’t seen a SHOOF! before.

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The judgement of the other Ploofers makes the SHOOF! Ploofer sad. They wonder why the other Ploofers aren’t accepting of the thing that makes them different.

It isn’t until Toasty recognises the beauty of this Ploofer’s SHOOF! and encourages them to embrace their difference that the SHOOF! Ploofer regains their confidence.

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I loved the SHOOF! Ploofer and the message that it’s okay to be different. It can be scary to have the courage to be yourself, especially when the way you express yourself is outside of the norm, but there will always be those like Toasty who will value you for who you are.

Although the other Ploofers originally shy away from what is new, eventually they realise that different doesn’t automatically equal bad. By accepting the Ploofer who is different, the rest of the Ploofers learn acceptance and in doing so their own lives are brightened.

I naturally rebel against any system that asserts that because this is the way we’ve always done something, that’s the only way it can be done. You shouldn’t have to hide your unique gifts just because some other Ploofers are unwilling to think outside of the box. Meaningful change can come when we open ourselves up to possibilities we haven’t considered before.

I’m all for anything that celebrates diversity. In this book, it’s diversity of expression that’s addressed but this can be applied to all forms of diversity.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Happy Yak, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A light and fun story depicting the journey from ignorance to acceptance and celebration. A Little Bit Different by Clare Alexander is a beautiful story exploring acceptance and joy in being different. 

Meet the ploofers. The ploofers have been practicing something special which they all want to do at the exact same time – but wait! What’s that? One of them does something different! When one little ploofer goes against the usual flow of things, the rest of them turn their backs on him. But all it takes is for one person to recognise the beauty in being different to spark a change in attitude of everyone.

With simple and striking illustrations, A Little bit Different is a joyful reading experience for both you and your child, with the opportunity to spark more meaningful discussions about people’s differences and how we accept and value them. 

It’s OK Not to Be OK – Tina Rae

Illustrations – Jessica Smith

This is a good introduction to mental health for young readers. It provides basic information about some of the more common mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. There are also sections on bullying and discrimination.

While encouraging readers to seek help from a trusted adult if they are struggling, there are also plenty of ideas to boost their own mental health. These include self care, diet, exercise, managing stress, challenging negative thoughts and mindfulness.

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Tips for parents and caregivers and lists of resources (apps, websites and helplines) are included at the end of the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – words & pictures for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s OK Not to Be OK acknowledges and explores common mental health disorders such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety. Get the low down on these issues, why they happen and discover ways of looking after mental health in our fast-moving world.

This book will help children and young people develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Creature Files: Dragons – L.J. Tracosas

This book begins by asking if dragons were real (of course they were!) and exploring some of the commonalities between tales of dragons around the world. Twenty dragons are included in this dragon bestiary.

Information is provided about them, including the region, time period and habitat they were said to have lived, as well as whether they could fly or breathe fire. Attention is also given to their teeth and any special beliefs associated with them. Some were believed to be dangerous, while others were more benevolent.

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At the end of the book you’ll find some examples of animals that share some traits with dragons, like the dragonsnakes of Indonesia, which have scales and a mysterious nature.

The illustrations are quite detailed. Some children may find some of the pictures scary. There wasn’t as much information as I would have liked but it would be enough to whet the appetite of young readers. Some of the fonts used were difficult to read.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and becker&mayer! kids, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Whether they were real or myth, Creature Files: Dragons shows you the folklore of twenty dragons from around the world and what the people believed about them.

Do you believe dragons are nothing more than the scaly stuff of myths? Or do you think they really existed? Whatever side you’re on, this collection of twenty fascinating creatures is sure to spark your imagination.

In Creature Files: Dragons, you’ll take a tour through the world of fire-breathing, gold-hoarding, three-headed monsters and discover where and how these magical creatures came to be. Learn the unique folklore of cultures around the globe, from China to Russia to Eastern Africa, and see how people envisioned these otherworldly beasts through lush and evocative illustrations.

Included are many meaty facts to gnaw on – like which dragon had too many teeth to count, and which dragon had teeth as big as an adult’s arm – along with a realistic dragon-tooth necklace! And science lovers will also find something to sink their teeth into: facts about real-life dragons that exist today. These dragons may not breathe fire, but they share some of the same traits as their mythical brethren. 

Creature Files: Reptiles – L.J. Tracosas

One of my earliest memories of school is when I attended a talk about snakes in the school library. At the end of the talk we were allowed to touch one of the snakes. Even though I was scared, I gently patted this snake and it felt incredible! I’ve been fascinated by them ever since. Because I live in the land of deadly creatures, I have spotted both brown and red-bellied black snakes in my yard but thankfully none have made their way inside my home (that I know of).

The information in this book will entirely freak you out, give you more respect for these cold-blooded creatures, or both. For each of the twenty reptiles featured, you will learn their scientific name and some fun facts, along with details about where they live, and their length and weight. There’s also a Danger Gauge and a Fang File, which includes a description and photograph.

I loved this book! I’m quoting my favourite fact for each reptile, although there’s plenty more where they come from.

Gila Monster – “Thanks to their fat-storing tails and their ability to digest really slowly, some scientists think these reptiles need to eat only three times a year!”

Gaboon Viper – “Instead of striking and releasing, like other snakes, the gaboon viper sinks its teeth in and holds on – injecting more venom into its victims than any other snake.”

Black Mamba – “These swift serpents are the fastest land snakes in the world, sprinting at speeds of up to 12.5 miles (20 km) per hour.”

American Alligator – “A single alligator can go through 3,000 teeth in its life.”

King Cobra – “While these deadly snakes can inject venom powerful enough to topple an elephant, they prefer to dine on other snakes.”

Rattlesnake – “Every time the rattlesnake sheds its skin, it gets another “ring”.” (on its tail)

Green Iguana – “they can swim underwater for up to 30 minutes.”

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Emerald Tree Boa – “You’ll usually find them coiled around a branch in a loop with their head in the middle.”

Inland Taipan – “The inland taipan is considered by many to be the world’s most venomous snake.”

Black Caiman – “Like other crocodilians, the black caiman has a broad snout filled with about 76 teeth.”

Tuatara – “A tuatara has two rows of teeth on the top jaw and one row on the bottom.”

Bush Viper – “This big-eyed snake has rough scales to help it grip the trees it climbs while hunting.”

Red Spitting Cobra – “Despite their name, spitting cobras don’t actually spit – they’re really shooting venom out of tubes in their fangs. The spray can reach up to 8 feet (2.4 m).”

Indian Gharial – “An Indian gharial has about 110 needle-like teeth lining its narrow jaws.”

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Boomslang – “If a boomslang thinks it’s been spotted, it will freeze, usually with the front of its body extended off the tree. They’ll even sway slowly, just like a tree branch moving in the breeze.”

Copperhead – “Copperheads have keeled scales, which means each scale has a ridge on it.”

Nile Crocodile – “Most reptiles leave their eggs and babies on their own, but Nile crocodiles guard their nests, help their babies hatch, and even keep an eye on them until they’re about two years old.”

Green Anaconda – “Weighing more than an adult lion and longer than a giraffe is tall, these colossal constrictors have an appetite for big prey.”

Komodo Dragon – “Dragons use their forked yellow tongues to smell, and they can catch the scent of a dead or bleeding animal up to 6 miles away.”

Leatherback Sea Turtle – “Out of 1,000 hatchlings, only one baby turtle will grow to be an adult.”

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and becker&mayer! kids, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Get nose to nose with twenty of the fastest, strongest, stealthiest, and most poisonous reptiles the planet Earth has to offer, with Creature Files: Reptiles.

From the deadly gaboon viper, with the longest fangs in the world, to the venomous Gila monster that lurks underground, reptiles have an extraordinary assortment of survival skills.

Fangs and venom aren’t these cold-blooded creatures’ only weapons: some are camouflaged to hide in plain sight, and others, like the Komodo dragon, have powerful claws for slashing prey. Still others use their awesome strength to overpower victims, like the green anaconda and its deadly squeeze or the saltwater crocodile and the 3,700 pounds of sheer force it puts into every bite!

Creature Files: Reptiles features twenty of the world’s most extraordinary reptiles, with reptilian profiles brought to life by vivid photographs and a host of intriguing facts. Each slithering or stalking animal comes with a Fang File to give you the lowdown on how it uses its teeth to pierce, crush, poison, or munch its meals. Can you match the three replica teeth included to the reptilian mouths they belong to?

Amazing World: Stars & Planets – Paul Beck

Astronomers thinks almost all galaxies have black holes at their centers.

This book is a good introduction to the universe for astronomers in the making. It includes facts about the sun, terrestrial planets, gas giants, ice giants, dwarf planets, moons, comets, nebulae and galaxies. You’ll learn a little bit about each of the following:

  • The Sun
  • Mercury and Venus
  • Earth and Mars
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn
  • Uranus
  • Neptune
  • Pluto
  • The Moon
  • Europa
  • Titan
  • Comets
  • Orion Nebula
  • Eagle Nebula
  • Bubble Nebula
  • Ring Nebula
  • Cat’s Eye Nebula
  • Crab Nebula
  • Andromeda Galaxy
  • The Milky Way
  • Sombrero Galaxy.
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On a dark night away from the city lights, you can see the Andromeda Galaxy without a telescope. It looks like a faint smudge in the sky. At 2.5 million light-years away, it’s the biggest, farthest thing you can see with your eyes alone.

I enjoyed the bite-sized pieces of information. I would have used this book as a resource for a school project but likely would have needed additional books to supplement it.

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As the moon travels around the earth, it turns so that the same side is always facing the planet.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and becker&mayer! kids, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There is more to outer space than what we can see in the night sky. Explore it all with Amazing World: Stars & Planets and be a real space traveller.

How is a star born? Why does it die? What is the difference between a star cluster and a planetary nebula? Discover the answers to these questions and more in Amazing World: Stars and Planets! This exciting exploration is a door to the infinite realm beyond the pale blue dot we call home.

From stellar nurseries, to glowing green clouds, to spiral galaxies, find out about the dramatic lives of these explosive players in our universe. This is the perfect introduction to the great celestial bodies of outer space for science lovers and their children. Kids will love the gorgeous, bright images, and will also learn quickly from the easily digestible bites of information on each page.

Amazing World: Stars & Planets also includes a collection of glow-in-the-dark stickers to put on notebooks, folders, bedroom ceilings, anywhere!

Amazing World: Sea Creatures – Lee Martin

I’ve been fascinated by anything that glows in the dark since I was a child so when I first heard of bioluminescence I was enthralled. Even now I react with childlike wonder whenever I see sea sparkle photos.

The word bioluminescence is made up of two parts – bio, which means “living thing” and luminescence, which means “light” – so, living light.

This book provides some fun facts about twenty living lights:

  • Dinoflagellates
  • Velvet Belly Lanternshark
  • Gulper Eel
  • Anglerfish
  • Lanternfish
  • Shortnose Greeneye Fish
  • Hatchetfish
  • Firefly Squid
  • Glass Squid
  • Bioluminescent Octopus
  • Atolla Jellyfish
  • Crystal Jelly
  • Lined Seahorse
  • Bloodybelly Comb Jelly
  • Bobtail Squid
  • Giant Clam
  • Long-Armed Brittle Star
  • Midwater Jellyfish
  • Sea Pen
  • Sea Slug

Although they’re not officially one of the twenty, pyrosome, “the unicorn of the sea”, were also mentioned. I had to look them up because they sounded so interesting. (More info here)

Some of the facts were really interesting.

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The Atolla uses its light to attract predators rather than chase them off. It is nicknamed the “alarm jelly” because when threatened, the Atolla flashes blue, bioluminescent light around its ring, like a police siren. It can project its light as far as 300 feet (91 m). When it flashes, curious larger predators come sniffing around and are drawn to the predator that was stalking the jelly.

Others were nightmare fuel.

As a young fish, the male latches onto a female anglerfish like a parasite. After the male digs his sharp teeth into the female, its mouth releases a special chemical that sort of melts her flesh. Over time, the male’s body joins with the female, and he loses all of his internal organs except for his reproductive organs. A female anglerfish can carry more than six males on her body!

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Stats provide facts about the length of each sea creature and their diet, as well as the depth and parts of the ocean they are found. Readers will be able to easily visualise the length of each creature because they’re compared to objects like soda cans, baseballs and ice creams. There is a glossary at the end of the book.

As a child I would have probably only used this book for a school project. Adult me loves all of the photos and fun facts. As I’m getting older I’m finding that I’m paying more attention to the beauty that surrounds me. Being able to read little tidbits about different plants and animals only adds to my awe of nature. There are quite a few sea creatures included in this book that I need to learn more about.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and becker&mayer! kids, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Some ocean animals have the incredible ability to make their own light! Amazing World: Sea Creatures shows off twenty of these unique animals with facts and photos.

From the lanternfish, to the Atolla jellyfish, to the glowing bioluminescent octopus, the ocean is filled with animals that gleam and glow. Go on an electrifying journey to see how these living lights use bioluminescence, fluorescence, and symbiotic bacteria to light up! Amazing World: Sea Creatures reveals the fascinating lives of strange and amazing marine animals.

This beautifully illustrated and photographed book for kids explores twenty incredible creatures you’ll only find under the sea. You will learn how each of these underwater animals create their own light, and how they put it to good use. Is that wasn’t enough, Amazing World: Sea Creatures even includes a sheet of glow in the dark stickers!

You won’t believe all the cool, beautiful, and sometimes downright weird animals that live under the ocean. They’re not aliens; they’re sea creatures!

The Cursed Castle – L.J. Tracosas

Illustrations – Turine Tran

I’ve wanted to explore an escape room ever since I first learned of their existence. The need has been even greater since I saw Escape Room and watched the Roses navigate one in Schitt’s Creek. After reading this book it has become abundantly clear that I should never be allowed to enter one.

See that skeleton in the Alchemy Room? That’s me. It took a little longer than expected for me to solve the puzzles. Please say ‘hi’ to me on your way past.

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Make sure you pay attention to both the words and the details in the illustrations in each room. Although none of them will explicitly say, ‘Hey, you! This is how you solve this room!’, there are clues that will tell you what you need to do. Some are much harder than others and attention to detail is key. There are word, sudoku, counting and logic puzzles included, so it helps if you’re a bit of an all-rounder.

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Handy Hint: You’ll find clues for solving each room’s puzzle near the end of the book. It would have been super helpful had I known this earlier. In the print version, these will be hidden pull tabs.

And if all else fails … there are answers at the very end of the book. If you’re really stuck please know you have the option to cheat your way to the next room. You don’t need to become a skeleton like me!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and becker&mayer! kids, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Part choose your own adventure, part seek and find, part escape room, The Cursed Castle: An Escape Room in a Book features 48 pages of detailed illustration and puzzles in both art and text. Savvy sleuths will identify missing pattern pieces and break complex codes. Hidden pull tabs reveal hints when readers get stuck and confirm the answers to solved puzzles.

All the fun of an escape room, held in one hand! Travel into a medieval world and face the cursed castle. Before he disappeared, the old king left clues all over his castle, from the courtyard to the dungeons. Can you solve his puzzles to save him? Or will you become another victim of the castle’s curse? Challenge your mind with sudoku, ciphers, word searches, logic puzzles, mazes, code-breaking and more! Solve the puzzles, break the codes, and detect the patterns to save the king and escape the castle!

Geek Ink – Inkstinct

My first tattoo was a prize from a cereal box. I’ve been fascinated by tattoos ever since. The main reason I don’t actually have one is because I change my mind so frequently about the designs that I love. I do have a pretty extensive collection of temporary tattoos though, so I get to change my mind and designs every week.

I love the idea of this book. The first part features the work of twenty-five tattoo artists from around the world. The second part showcases tattoos grouped by theme. They’re advertised as geeky tattoos so this should have been the tattoo book of my dreams.

There were some amazing designs and some extraordinarily talented artists in this book but a good portion of them weren’t anything close to what I’d call geeky. There were plenty of Star Wars and Harry Potter tattoos and others from well known movies and TV series, along with some maths and science designs. I really liked the gorgeous flowers and realistic animals but they didn’t seem to belong in this book.

A short bio of each featured artist is accompanied by their Instagram name and links to their portfolio and website (where available), along with a selection of their work. Although I liked at least one example from each artist, the artist whose work I enjoyed the most was David Cote from Canada.

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My favourite designs in the second part of the book were:

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Inverted Mandalas by Matteo Nangeroni
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Beetlejuice by Little Andy
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Darth Vader by Felipe Kross

My favourite design that I don’t consider geeky was:

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Swallow in Flight by Diana Severinenko

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Race Point Publishing, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Exhibiting cutting-edge designs from the most sought-after and acclaimed contemporary tattoo artists worldwide, Geek Ink presents magnificent ideas for tattoos on themes from science fiction and fantasy, as well as a wide range of topics across science, mathematics, literature, and philosophy.

With commentary from creators of the Inkstinct project – which connects people with the finest tattoo art from 380,000 studios worldwide and has an Instagram fan base of more than 1 million – as well as interviews with world-renowned masters like Eva Krbdk, David Cote and Thomas Eckeard, this is the definitive tattoo inspiration sourcebook for hipsters, bookworms, scientists, academics, engineers, and, of course, geeks!