Tara Binns – Books That Empower Little Girls to Dream Big

One of my issues with princesses has always been this. The role is not a career aspiration. I live in an actual monarchy, where there really are princesses, and there is even a possibility of our daughters becoming one. But I think we can all agree it’s a fairly narrow life path to target.

I suppose it’s a more realistic aspiration than being a superhero, but at least most of them have real jobs as journalists, lawyers, wealthy industrialists, Amazon princesses… er, where was I…?

Anyway, of the many characters aimed at children, male ones tend to be the only ones tied to a profession. Think Postman Pat, or Fireman Sam. Female characters are far more likely to be more fantastical.

In a clever twist, tying the two together, is the Tara Binns series. Created by Lisa Rajan and illustrated by Eerika Omiyale, these books have the tagline of “Giving Little Girls Big Ideas”. The format of each tale involves our eponymous girl hero playing dress ups in her attic, and being magically transported into a fantasy (or is it?) involving the profession one of her outfits.

From 'Tara Binns - Eagle-Eyed Pilot' written by Lisa Rajan and illustrated by Eerika Omiyale
From ‘Tara Binns – Eagle-Eyed Pilot’ written by Lisa Rajan and illustrated by Eerika Omiyale

In Tara Binns – Eagle-Eyed Pilot, she suddenly becomes a jumbo jet pilot – in mid-flight – and quickly has to learn not only how the cockpit works, but also has to navigate a storm and wrestle with a moral dilemma involving old pirate treasure.

The next book is Tara Binns – Crash Test Genius, where she becomes an engineer who quickly learns how the application of science benefits us all, and is inspired to invent a new concept of her own.

Coming soon is Tara Binns – Double Choc Doc, where she has to deal with everyone’s winter nemesis – the common cold!

My 3-year-old daughter loves being read these books, and requests we revisit them regularly. She is full of questions about the professions themselves as well as the way Tara deals with the dilemmas and opportunities presented to her. She’ll often ask questions about them out of the blue, when we’re not even reading one. They have clearly made an impression, and an immensely positive one at that.

The prose is bright and snappy, and the illustrations whimsically delightful. Tara, as both herself and when she’s exploring her various professions, is a great role model. One that is thankfully a world away from fairy princesses.

These books would be terrific for any child – but parents of girls in particular may find these to be essential bookshelf additions.

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Tara Binns Man vs Pink Giveaway

This giveaway has now ended – but Tara Binns – Eagle-Eyed Pilot, and Tara Binns – Crash Test Genius, can be purchased from Amazon.

Keep up to date with all the latest news about Tara Binns on Facebook and Twitter.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive these books free of charge.

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What profession would you like to see Tara Binns explore next? Please comment below.

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DC Kids Super Hero Creator Giveaway

Like many, my daughter is into superheroes and really loves creating her own. DC knows a thing or two about superheroes as well, and they have a cool new interactive Super Hero Creator for you to try. My daughter came up Green Dragon (pictured above), and Water Shark (below).

DC Super Hero Creator - Water Shark

Also check out some of the new videos from Warner Bros, including favourites such as Scooby Doo  & Batman Unlimited.

They seem pretty active with their video content at the moment. Subscribe to their channels – DC Kids Channel and WB Kids Channel – to see what else is coming up.

Win An Amazing Gift Set From Warner Bros.

To celebrate the launch of the DC Kids Super Hero Creator, they have this great prize on offer. It includes Teen Titans Go Action Figures & T-Tower Set, A Batman Unlimited Action Figure, DC Super Friends Gift Set, and Batmobile.

Win An Amazing Gift Set From Warner Bros., Including Teen Titans Go Action Figures & T-Tower Set, A Batman Unlimited Actions Figure, DC Super Friends Gift Set and Batmobile

Good luck! Let me know what heroes you or your kids come up with.

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This is a collaborative post.

A Stay-At-Home Dad’s Netflix Duvet Day

Last week I had manflu was sick. Really really sick (*cough *cough *manflu *cough *cough).

Before being a parent, feeling like that would’ve resulted in calling in sick to work and spending a day or two in bed or on the couch, eating bad food and watching TV between naps.

When you’re an at-home parent of a pre-schooler, calling in sick involves taking industrial strength cold & flu remedies and hoping your kid will give you a break for a change. They rarely do.

However, something wondrous happened. My unwellness coincided with my daughter’s scheduled time at nursery. Normally, I would spend these days catching up with blogging stuff and freelance work, but this week I thought to hell with it… I really need a duvet day, the kind I used to have before being a parent. So I treated myself…

Actually, one thing was different about this duvet day. Netflix. So I took this opportunity to explore some of the content that my daughter can’t watch with me, and my wife won’t watch with me.

Orphan Black (2013-present)

OrphanBlackSarahProfileStreamTeam-Netflix-Sep-2015

This is one I’ve been meaning to check out for some time. It’s a BBC America sci-fi show about a woman called Sarah Manning, who discovers she has an identical double. This immediately leads to her being thrust into a world of intrigue, deception, violence, death, and some great character led drama. We soon learn that Sarah has many doubles, as she is – surprise surprise – a clone.

Central to the series is an amazing performance from Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany, who plays Sarah Manning and all her doubles with such skill that it is easy to believe they are different people.

The story so far has remained engaging and frequently edge of your seat. Needless to say I am hooked, and shall be checking out the rest of the show when I can – like tonight while my wife’s at the hairdressers. While she does like some sci-fi (such as the amazing Battlestar Galactica), I thought it likely this would be one of those shows that she would end up disengaging with, so having the chance for me to sample it properly was great.

Frank (2014)

Frank StreamTeam-Netflix-Sep-2015

This was a movie I had wanted to see, but my wife already had (on a plane), and thought it was weird. Unenthused, it was never going to be a joint watch.

Inspired by the real life music and comedy persona of Frank Sidebottom, I’d say weird is a fair assessment of the movie, which is also funny, engaging, and rather endearing.

The story follows wannabe musician Jon (played by Domhnall Gleeson, soon to be seen in The Force Awakens), and how he gets involved with Frank and his band. There’s clearly something different about Frank, and it’s not just about the large false head that he wears.

Co-authored by journalist and writer Jon Ronson, who was in Frank’s band in his youth, this is a touching and quirky movie, that does go down a bit of a dark path towards the end.

Battle of Britain (1969)

Battle of Britain-StreamTeam-Netflix-Sep-2015

75 years ago, England was under sustained attack from the Nazi Luftwaffe in what had already been named the Battle of Britain. I’m assuming this is why the movie popped up in the ‘Trending’ category on Netflix. Curious, I took a closer look.

I’m pretty sure I must have seen this as a kid, but it’s a distant memory. A glance at the cast list alone made this movie worthy of a look – one of those epic collections of actors that is unlikely to ever be repeated in the modern era: It includes Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Robert Shaw, Trevor Howard, Kenneth More, Edward Fox, Michael Redgrave, and even Ian McShane.

It was actually incredibly moving seeing this part of history depicted on film. I had a real sense of England – my England – being under attack, and had only a glimpse of how it must have felt to see this battle raging in the sky. The all too familiar English landscapes were particularly poignant – especially as one of the locations was a former airfield up the road from me (where Star Wars: Rogue One is currently shooting).

Another aspect that makes this movie worth watching are the incredible aerial sequences. In these pre-CGI days, filmmakers had to rely on models and real vehicles to bring these stories to life. Well, for this movie, over 100 actual planes were used to recreate the aerial battles. There is nothing like seeing sequences celebrating the iconic British warplane the Spitfire on film.

It’s a fairly workmanlike movie, directed by James Bond stalwart Guy Hamilton. But the cast, flying sequences, setting, and historical accuracy make this well worth watching, if only to bring alive Churchill’s famous  quote about the battle:

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.

And finally…

Monsters University (2013)

MonstersUniversityStreamTeam-Netflix-Sep-2015.jpg

All things must come to an end, and so did my time alone on the couch. I finally dosed up on cold remedies and picked up my daughter from nursery. But I still had a few hours of lone parenting ahead, so the couch day continued, and upon returning home, my daughter and I settled down to watch Monsters University, a prequel to Pixar’s Monsters Inc. (which had been my daughter’s first film – we put it on because one weekend we were all sick, and watching a movie was the last resort).

It was a nice idea to follow up Monster Inc. with a prequel – a sort of ‘Mike and Sully Begins’. They start out as rivals, but of course become friends.

It was fine. It lacks the greatness of a Toy Story sequel, female characters hardly get a look in amongst the new creatures, and it lacks the clarity of the original’s reversal of the ‘monster in the closet’ scenario. But the characters remained engaging, the animation is inventive, and it was a fun way for my daughter and I to interact without too much physical effort from me. So I’ll take that as a win.

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This month we have also been alternating between Narcos and Orange is the New Black, both of which remain great.

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program. Our household receives free Netflix for a year and I post about how our family uses the service.

If any of these grab your attention, please head over to Netflix to check them out.
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You Baby Me Mummy

Playtest and Giveaway: New LEGO Star Wars Buildable Figures

The latest LEGO Star Wars figures are a little bigger than the previously available ones!

This giant (in LEGO terms) Vader is one of a series of six new buildable figures from their Star Wars line – Jango Fett, Clone Commander Cody, Obi Wan Kenobi (Clone Wars) General Grevious, Luke Skywalker (Return of the Jedi), and Darth Vader.

Unlike the previous LEGO Star Wars sets, which have been in the classic LEGO format, these are more like Bionicle and other similar buildable LEGO figures. When constructed you have a fully poseasble and articulated Star Wars figure.

We chose Darth Vader, as he is probably my daughter’s favourite character after Princess Leia.

The set a seemingly manageable 160 pieces. But this was my first constraction set, and many of the pieces were unfamiliar to me – with only a few seeming LEGO-like. The build was a different experience too.

My daughter and I like building LEGO sets together, even if the recommended age is far older than she is. However, it soon became clear that this was probably going to be something I built myself – which was obviously no great hardship!

This is not a criticism, as the recommended age is 9+, but other sets we’ve built had a similar age recommendation and we were able to collaborate on. This set, with it’s different style, was a more complex proposition, plus it required gross & fine motor skills which she simply does not have at 3 years old.

However, the finished result is a great toy for her.

It has some cool custom features, such as the cape, the lightsaber, and the head is a great Darth Vader sculpt.

We only had access to Vader, one of the six sets, and while it’s pretty cool when constructed, I would say that General Grevious appears to be the most successful. As he is a robot, his body of metal struts and joints suits the style of these sets perfectly.

These sets offer a nice point of difference to LEGO’s Star Wars line, as well as the wider range of Star Wars toys available. This is a far more stylish Darth Vader toy than many of the other official figures you see out there.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive this LEGO set free of charge.

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These LEGO Star Wars buildable figures are available from Amazon

Or, enter our giveaway below for your chance to win a Jango Fett figure (UK residents only).

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buildable LEGO Star Wars Jango Fett #75107

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This set of buildable LEGO figures feature a mix of goodies and baddies. Which characters do you or your little ones like best in Star Wars – the heroes or villains?

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Family Fever

Playtest and Giveaway: LEGO Batman – Jokerland Set

My daughter recently declared that two of her favourite superheroes are Batman and Robin. As luck would have it, a few days later this was delivered.

We set to building it right away!

The first thing we noticed about this set is that it is almost like a series of LEGO play sets, which made it great fun to build and to play with.

The story behind ‘Jokerland’ appears to be an ordinary theme park has been taken over by the clown prince of crime and some of his villainous allies. Each of them has their own twisted theme park ride to torment our heroes.

The set has eight minifigs in total – Batman, Robin, Starfire, and Beast Boy are the heroes, while the villains are The Joker, plus his accomplices Harley Quinn, The Penguin, and Poison Ivy.
Batman, Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire, The Penguin, The Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, LEGO, minifigs, minifigures,
Batman, Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire, The Penguin, The Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, LEGO, minifigs, minifigures,

There are also a couple of bonus figures – a freaky clown robot and a penguin with some dynamite!

The Joker’s theme park is made up of these four main ‘attractions’:

Jokerland LEGO DC Comics Superheroes 76035 PENGUIN
The Penguin’s ‘Deadly Duckies’ – which sees Beast Boy taken prisoner

Jokerland LEGO DC Comics Superheroes 76035 Poison Ivy Starfire

Jokerland LEGO DC Comics Superheroes 76035 Harley Quinn 2
‘Harley’s Wheels of Fire’ – where she torments the boy wonder.
And of course, the Joker’s ‘Jokerland’ (with the ‘Toxic Tank’).
And of course, the Joker’s eye-catching ‘Jokerland’ (with the ‘Toxic Tank’). Not recommended if you have a fear of clowns!

My daughter and I construct these big sets in a few sessions, each one usually just one numbered of the bags these sets are divided into. That usually means we end a building session with only a part of the vehicle/set constructed.

While this set has over a thousand bricks, four of the six numbered bags contain one attraction each. We built a bag a session initially, so what was nice about this set was that each one ended with a finished attraction.

She’s only 3-years-old, and this set is recommended for 8-14, so it is pretty advanced for her age. But with a bit of guidance and encouragement (as well as patience!) from me, she eventually put together her very own Batmobile.

Overall, this set was a really fun build that was a great joint activity for us – especially on a rainy bank holiday Monday.

It has great playability when completed. Each attraction has interactive elements – The Jokerland slide into the Toxic Tank, as well as revolving eyes and tilting hat; Harley’s motorcycle launches down towards the flaming barrels; the Penguin’s Deadly Duckies turn; Poison Ivy’s ride falls suddenly to the ground when triggered; and there’s a cannon that fires cannonballs – or the Joker’s custard pie! Oh, and the Batmobile had spring loaded missiles too.

Jokerland’s also a playset – so it’s a great environment for children to create stories with the characters. We’ve had everything from Batman arriving to rescue Robin, to everyone enjoying a day trip to the theme park. Another big attraction for us was the number of female character minifigs included – even just one in a superhero set is a bonus, so getting three is fantastic. My daughter loves having more female characters to us with her LEGO.

“Everyone’s happy in Jokerland” stated my daughter. Not sure that was the Joker’s intention, but we’re very happy to have added this set to our LEGO collection.

Despite appearances :/

"Why so serious?" #jokerland

A post shared by Man vs. Pink (@manvspink) on

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Jokerland giveaway

This giveaway has now ended, but the LEGO Batman – Jokerland set (76035) has a RRP of £89.99, and can be purchased from Amazon.

Or, enter our giveaway – please see below (UK residents only).

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive this LEGO set free of charge. 

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I think it’s important for boys and girls that female characters are included in merchandise like this superhero LEGO set. What do you think?

Family Fever