241 – Beyond Board Games – Reading with Rajani LaRocca!

Rajani LaRocca

We’re starting something new on The Family Gamers Podcast. We’re intentionally going to do more interviews that have nothing to do with board games. (We’ve done this a few times before. If you go far enough back you’ll find episodes with LEGOs and artists and things like that, but we are intending to do it about four times a year going forward.)

We’ve invited a friend of ours who is a children’s book author to talk about her books.

241 Fact – Americium 241 is used in ionization smoke detectors.

Sponsor – There are a lot of similarities between engine building in board games and financial engine building in real life. If you need help figuring out how to get that engine started, First Move Financial might be able to help. Head over to FirstMoveFinancial.com/familygamers to see how First Move Financial can kick start your financial engine today.

What we’ve been Playing

King of 12 (Lucky Duck Games) – This is a game of social deduction with a die and cards. The die forms a sort of “tableau” that you are manipulating by the card that you play. Try to get the highest die value each turn, but the rules might change depending on the cards that are played!

Calico (AEG) – Fun with quilts and cats. The achievement system in the back of the rulebook keeps us coming back to try new strategies.

Unmatched: Little Red & Beowulf (Restoration Games) – Little Red feels very different than any other character we’ve played with before. The board has a new mechanic of “doors” that can open and shut. Beowulf wants to get hit (it increases his “rage”), but for as little damage as possible.

Hedgehog Haberdash (HABA) – looking forward to trying it with a preschooler we know.

The Key: Sabotage at Lucky Llama Land (HABA) – This real-time deduction game actually rewards being deliberate rather than being fast. Review coming later today.

A New Place To Find Us

We’ve been included in the ‘Ultimate List of Top Tabletop Gaming Resources’. https://news.goblingaming.co.uk/tabletop-gaming-resources/. There’s a lot of great content creators here; if you’re looking for something fresh, this would be a great place to start.

Welcome our New Members

Welcome to the Family Gamers Community on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/groups/familygamersaa/permalink/2896061727349965/

Magnetic snail from Snail Sprint!

SNAP Review – Snail Sprint!

Elliot helps us explain this game from HABA for ages 5+. Race the magnetic snails up and over the metal tin; the true winner is a secret until the points are tallied at the end, making a nice twist in a kids’ game. Our whole family enjoys it.

See the video or read the transcript on our website.

Books with Rajani LaRocca

We’re starting something new on The Family Gamers Podcast. Once a quarter, we are going to welcome a guest to the show who has NOTHING to do with board games, but is still awesome. This week, for our first episode of Outside Board Games, we are absolutely delighted to welcome author Rajani LaRocca.

About Rajani

Rajani is a doctor (a practicing internal medicine physician), but during her spare time she writes books for kids: middle-grade novels (ages 8-13) and picture books (ages 3-103).

She got into writing about a decade ago once her kids were in school full time and she was well established in her medical practice.

Her first novel was Midsummer’s Mayhem and her first picture book is Seven Golden Rings… and she has six more books coming out in the next year!

How has the family fared during the pandemic?

A small benefit of the pandemic is that Rajani is getting to spend a lot more time with her college-aged children then she thought would be possible.

It wouldn’t be the Family Gamers Podcast if we didn’t ask about board games. Do you sometimes play board games together as a family? If so, what games?

When he was little, Rajani’s son loved Monopoly (and she hated it). As he got older, they played Mastermind and Sorry and other classics most of us would be familiar with. Rajani tells us about a game called Wise and Otherwise which involves guessing the second half of an old saying or proverb. Now they’ve graduated to games like Catan and Among Us.

Where did your love for writing come from – and how did you hang onto it through medical school and children?

It started as a love for reading. Rajani was the kind of kid who would read everything you put in front of her.

“While I was in school, I kept writing… [short things] but I really enjoyed it!” She kept reading and tried to read a little bit for fun even in medical school.

When her kids were older, she started thinking about what she could do to foster her creative side again. Starting with online classes and workshops for fun, her writing improved and she started to wonder if maybe she could get her work published.

Midsummer’s Mayhem

Our daughter loves this book. It’s basically Cupcake Wars crossed with Shakespeare – what?

Rajani thought – “what if the person who came back (from a business trip) wasn’t my dad, but looked just like him? How would I know the difference?”

If only one child in a family would notice, why? Maybe because it’s a big family. In Midsummer’s Mayhem, the youngest is trying to prove herself in a baking contest – and then her dad comes home from a business trip and starts acting really strange…

Find the book on Amazon: Midsummer’s Mayhem.

Seven Golden Rings

This is a picture book that teaches a lesson – just like our favorite games, the book teaches through the story and then in an epilogue. What does it teach? How to count in binary!

We discuss the difference between understanding a concept and being able to explain/teach it.

The story first explains through examples, then in the author’s note, Rajani explains why it works, why we use it in computers, and encourages kids to try counting in other ways.

Rajani tells us her story is inspired by her son’s experience with a picture book called One Grain of Rice, also set in India, which teaches about the powers of 2 (doubling).

Seven Golden Rings also ties in an analogy between music (counting beats) and binary. We love it!

Find the book on Amazon: Seven Golden Rings.

Red, White, and Whole

This is very different than any of Rajani’s other books. It’s set in free verse (poetry) in the early 1980s. It’s the story of a teenage Indian-American girl who is torn between her Indian blood / family and her American highschool.

Then her mother is diagnosed with blood cancer (leukemia) and she feels incredibly guilty: if she can be the daughter that her parents want, maybe she can save her mom’s life.

This book combines 80’s music, poetry, science (biology), and Hindu mythology. “It is a book of my heart.”

The tension of the teen years is trying to be like everyone else and also stand out; trying to figure out if you’re an adult or a kid. But it’s a time when so much growth occurs.

“Red, White, and Whole” references blood (parts of blood), what red & white mean in American culture, in Indian culture, and the American flag.

Find the book on Amazon: Red, White, and Whole.

Much Ado About Baseball

Andrew can’t resist asking about this one!

There’s baseball, and math puzzles, and Shakespeare. What’s not to like?

This one is coming out in June. Set in the same town as Midsummer’s Mayhem, there’s a new cast of characters here, but you’ll recognize a few shared references if you read them both.

In this one, there are math competition rivals (a girl and a boy) who end up stuck on the same AWFUL baseball team. But something changes and suddenly the team can’t be stopped. What’s going on?

Pre-order the book on Amazon: Much Ado About Baseball.

One more book to talk about

Rajani was chosen to write My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris! It’s such a privilege and honor. And Rajani’s family and Kamala’s come from the same region of south India and both speak Tamil.

Pre-order the book on Amazon: My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris.

Find Rajani Online:


Twitter: @RajaniLaRocca
Instagram: @RajaniLaRocca

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