Free book for boys and reluctant readers

Minecraft Adventures - Books for boys

Flynn’s Log is free on the following devices

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Reading is important

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
–Maya Angelou

Most adults would agree that reading is important, but many kids detest reading. Video games, devices, and TV are preferred entertainment and escape. They provide instant gratification. Reading takes time. For some kids, reading isn’t engaging.

had this same problem with my son, so I solved the problem.

The classic stories I remember enjoying as a kid don’t interest my son and his immediate attention span. If he doesn’t enjoy the story from page one, he will not read further.

Minecraft Adventures - Books for boys

So how did I get my son to read?

I showed him how much fun it is to get sucked into a story.

Your book is amazing I can’t stop reading it
– Joseph Young via twitter

Contemporary and Classic titles alike don’t interest many kids. Don’t worry, the love of reading is learned. We need a starting point. We need that one book that is just as engaging on the first read as the fifth, just like a really great movie that kids want to see again and again. A positive association with reading will make kids want to read more.

A love of reading is cited as the number one indicator of future success. My son didn’t have the desire to read. He didn’t care about the books I chose to read to him, and was overwhelmed with the selection at the library. I want my son to succeed, so I had to do something. Since we struggled to find books he cared to read, I wrote one. An epic saga about the things he loves. I put it in a world he loves and addressed the issues he faces in his life.

I just love your books I’ve been reading them over and over again.
-Carson via twitter 

But it’s a video game book

Don’t worry; it’s not a book about video games, nor is it a game strategy book. Flynn’s Log is a hero’s journey that takes place inside the Minecraft world that today’s kids know and love. The protagonist, Flynn, naturally flows through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (builds shelter and tools, learns what to eat and discovers a digital friend) and faces questions about his destiny. He learns important life lessons about friendship, integrity, and trust. Flynn’s Log is good for kids without being boring.

Thank you so so much for the free ebook. My son loves Minecraft now with this book I can get him to read to me.
Jennifer Wilkins

Start your son or daughter on journey today, reading Flynn’s Log 1: Rescue Island. Free on available these devices and apps.

Minecraft Adventures - Books for boys

Flynn’s Log is free on the following devices

Choose your device

KindleiPad/iPod/iPhoneGoogle Play (Android Tablets)nookkoboRead Online

US$8.99 Paperback

Shop LocalAmazon-USAmazon-UKAmazon-Canada

Why is Flynn’s Log 1 Free?

My son loves reading — finally. If you have experience with a reluctant reader then I know your pain and I want to help. I’ve seen thousands of kids transform with this book. My readers, who don’t usually read books during the summer, couldn’t put Flynn’s Log 1 down.

Good book I thought I would never read a book on my summer but I feel I’m gonna finish it soon
– Multigamer 47 via twitter

Let this book change your kid’s life too. You have nothing to lose and an avid reader to gain.

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.

–Frederick Douglas

I am giving away Flynn’s Log 1 free because I want to give you a risk-free way to hook your reluctant reader.

Please and I mean PLEASE, WRITE MORE! I absolutely love it! They’re outstanding books.

-Devon123321 via twitter

What are Books for Boys?

I spend lots of time with teachers and parents. I hear parents ask, “How do I get my son to read? Do you have books for boys?”

I wrote the Flynn’s Log series for my son, and this book is interesting for boys. However, the series is a non-stop read for both boys and girls, especially those who are interested in Minecraft.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

—Dr. Seuss

What are you waiting for?

You have nothing to lose!

Minecraft Adventures - Books for boys

Flynn’s Log is free on the following devices

Choose your device

KindleiPad/iPod/iPhoneGoogle Play (Android Tablets)nookkoboRead Online

US$8.99 Paperback

Shop LocalAmazon-USAmazon-UKAmazon-Canada

News for Parents of Reluctant Readers

Get Reluctant Reader Book News from Stone Marshall

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A happy medium? Why screens are not all bad

Are screens innately bad for children? How much is too much? Is there anything good about children gaming? How do you stop it? Should you? We ask the experts.

Amother of two young children recently confided that she had come to realise “my main task as a parent is controlling the kids’ screen time”. She sighed. “It’s a bigger job than feeding them.”

Fortnite. Minecraft. Peppa Pig. How many bottom lips have bulged, tears been shed and tantrums chucked in clashes over time spent consuming entertainment such as this on digital devices?

Smartphones, tablets and computers shine their sleep-disrupting lights on all sorts of tensions in families today. Meanwhile, parents contend with an endless stream of guilt-inducing headlines – and the odd cafe owner – giving them the bad news on children and digital devices.

“The concept of digital abstinence, the idea that you pack it away and get rid of it, is in fact no longer really relevant or useful for families,” says paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes, director of the National Child Health Poll at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. “Almost everyone is online and that includes most teenagers and a lot of much younger children – it’s an aspect of how most people live now.”

The stats bear her out. Almost all secondary school children have their own tablet or mobile phone. So do two-thirds of primary school-aged children and a third of preschoolers, according to the hospital’s National Child Health poll. No wonder excessive screen time topped a list of parents’ concerns in an earlier poll by the hospital.

And it’s no wonder some parents have a tricky time navigating this area. As Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg mused, it’s rare in human history for parents to be grappling with the very issues they are trying to help their children manage.

“It’s almost like the blind trying to lead the blind, in a weird way, trying to see the light,” he says.

So are screens innately bad for children? How much is too much? Is there anything good about children gaming? How do you stop it? Should you?

Here’s what the experts say.

“Fortnite is a genius game,” says child and adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, “in that it combines the strategising, the building and the shooting, which are three things that people love to do online.

“Add to that it was free and that it was able to be played on multiple devices and that it has no save points – [and] it actually turned out to be a really, really dangerous thing.

“Number one, it’s not appropriate for children in primary school yet a lot of primary school kids are permitted to play it.”

Fortnite is rated for children 12 or older. (Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram all stipulate that you must be over 13 to join.)

“Second, it has no save points so that when Mum’s asking you to set the table or do your homework, in order for you to walk away you’d have to abandon your friends – and that’s just never going to happen.

I think it really does sow the seeds of some fairly compulsive play.

“The games go for 20 minutes each and so once you’ve started you can’t really stop. So I think it really does sow the seeds of some fairly compulsive play, and I think that can impact on other aspects of their lives – their academic life, their social life and, of course, their family life.”

Yes, the very mention of Fortnite has been eliciting eye rolls in parents and teachers since it was released in 2017 – and rapt enthusiasm among its 200 million registered users.

That its makers have just announced a $140 million prize pool for weekly tournaments won’t hurt the game’s uptake either. Perhaps new rival game Apex Legends will make a dent – it attracted 25 million players in its first week.

But Dr Marcus Carter, from the University of Sydney, views Fortnite through a different prism. Dr Carter, who lectures in digital cultures, has studied the online play of children aged nine to 12.Advertisement

What I like about the complexity of games like Fortnite and Minecraft is that kids really can dive in and develop a deep knowledge.

“What I like about the complexity of games like Fortnite and Minecraft is that kids really can dive in and develop a deep knowledge,” he says. (An educational version of Minecraft is used in many Australian schools.) “These kids are building a curriculum for themselves in problem-solving, which is a more broadly applicable skill.”

Try playing Fortnite with your children, he adds, and “you’ll probably suck”. (This writer can attest to that.) “How many things are there when the kids are better than the parent?”

Dr Carter notes that when Fortnite team members chat during the game, it can be about a range of topics and not just the game itself. “That’s what hanging out with your friends is about,” he says. For children who may struggle socially in school “being an expert in Minecraft is empowering and confidence building”.

Context may well be key. Dr Carr-Gregg says that while some parents regard Minecraft as the “the crack cocaine of the internet”, he has used it therapeutically with a boy who “could express himself through Minecraft much better than anything else”.

And passions wane, as Dr Carter points out. “Fortnite will probably drop off and be replaced by the next thing.” One 13-year-old former Fortnite fan we spoke with concurred. “I’m bored with it. For me it’s dead, and probably for my friends.”Advertisement

As University of Melbourne social researcher Jane Mavoa notes, screen time in itself is not a “monolithic construct” from which you can infer certain outcomes. “The reality is there’s a huge difference between a kid playing [online] with their dad for a bit of one-on-one time, just having fun building and creating, versus, say, watching a TV show.”

Rather than being a gateway to moral ruin, digital activities can nourish children’s play in complex ways, as Ms Mavoa has found in her PhD study of six- to eight-year-olds. Children will play together, adopt characters, invent scenarios and build obstacle courses to navigate within the world of Minecraft; in a playground, they might act out a Minecraft scenario using gumnuts as stand-ins for blocks. “Kids don’t reproduce verbatim what they’ve watched. They take these elements and reshape them and mix them up.”

A passion for Minecraft can propel children who otherwise wouldn’t read into consuming books on the game. They might even get stuck into Minecraft crafting. Parents can facilitate creative crossovers, too. One father we spoke with noticed his two sons viewing Japanese animations online and reading a high turnover of manga comics. The father went online himself and found a Japanese manga artist in Melbourne. She now tutors the boys once a week in (screen-free) drawing techniques and conversational Japanese. “They’re usually very rowdy but during the lessons you can hear a pin drop,” the father says.

But what to do when your child just won’t switch off?

A UK television host last year confessed she smashed her two boys’ tablets on a table leg after they defied her and kept playing Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). “We’d made all sorts of rules and all sorts of times – and all of those rules got broken. And, in the end, I said, ‘Right, that’s it!’”

Most parents who’ve had to prise a tablet from a wailing child’s grip, or endure aggressive backchat from an otherwise polite adolescent who has been asked to switch off, will have strategies of their own. They might range from pre-emptive boundaries about when it’s OK to log on – weekends, once homework is done – to putting in place parental controls on what apps can be used and for how long. Then there are other tactics such as limiting video-game chat to friendship groups (and not strangers); or disallowing in-app purchases on family devices (the company behind Fortnite made $3 billion last year, including in-game “micro-transactions” – alarm bells ringing?).

UNICEF’s 2017 Children in a Digital World report cautions parents not to assume that any digital activity is prima facie wrong, and notes that “tension around these restrictions can also damage trust between parents and children”.

I plead with parents on a weekly basis that for every hour of screen time there be at least two hours of green time.

Dr Carr-Gregg, who headed the recent review that led to smartphones being banned in NSW primary schools, has this to say: “Young people aren’t very good at self-regulation and I think one of the things we need to do as parents is remember that we are their frontal cortex. We need to be the fully developed part of their brain that isn’t. We need to set limits and boundaries.

“I plead with parents on a weekly basis that for every hour of screen time there be at least two hours of green time.

“Kids need to be outdoors, they need to oxygenate their brain, they need to exercise. And staring at screens for 13 hours a day is not OK.”

(Thirteen hours a day may well amount to a gaming disorder, which the World Health Organisation has controversially added to its list of diseases.)

If I was in the middle of coffee with friends and someone tipped it out while I was halfway through and said, ‘Now go and set the table’, well, I would probably get pretty agitated.

Professor Susan Edwards, who recently co-wrote a statement of guidance on digital technology for Early Childhood Australia, tries to work with children towards “a happy medium” and says a bit of empathy can go a long way.

“If I was in the middle of having a coffee with my friends and someone came and tipped it out while I was halfway through it and said, ‘Now go and set the table’, well, I would probably get pretty agitated.

“So before they even start, it’s like, ‘OK, you’re going to have 10 minutes of this, or ‘When that episode of Peppa Pig is finished, Mummy’s putting the phone away.’ ”

One mother we spoke with bemoaned the loss of good old-fashioned boredom for children in modern life. Rather than having to entertain themselves, they simply reached for the nearest smartphone.

So when Pasi Sahlberg, who is professor of educational policy and deputy director at the UNSW’s Gonski Institute, says parents and educators need to think much harder about how to entice children away from digital devices, he also concedes that this can be very hard work.

“We’re dealing with an extremely powerful opponent,” he says, “so very few of the conventional, traditional means will be enough.”

Professor Sahlberg, who moved with his young family from Finland to Sydney last year, devises “winning proposals” to get his two boys outdoors and engaged. “Both our boys are extremely interested in Australian birds. I just need to say, ‘Do you want to take the bicycles and go and see cockatoos?’ and they throw everything else away and, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’ ”

He points out that Australian kids copped a D-minus overall in the latest Active Healthy Kids Australia report card, which crunches data from around Australia. One in five Australian children and teens get the recommended 60 minutes of “huff and puff” exercise every day. This, on its own, is a good reason to get kids up and active, he says.

“The older I get, the stronger believer I am in the power of high-quality play for children,” says Professor Sahlberg. “Playgrounds are undervalued places for the little kids nowadays. Australia has beautiful playgrounds. Go there for an hour. But go there without your iPhone.”

So how much is too much?

It’s probably fair to say, as the co-founder of the $35-billion Australian software company Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes, did last week, “If you entertain your kid 24 hours a day with an iPad, they are probably not going to turn out so great.”

Even experts who take the most nuanced views of how kids use screens would agree there has to be an upper limit, according to Professor Anthony Okely, who led the team that developed Australia’s screen-time guidelines. He says some parents believe that four or five hours of screen time per day for a four-year-old is perfectly fine.

The guidelines he developed are part of broader advice focused on limiting sedentary activities and encouraging children’s movement – and they’re based mostly on evidence about passive screen-based activities such as television viewing rather than, say, playing on a Wii. Professor Okely says he has taken a cautious approach – in the absence of sufficient evidence that new technologies cause no harm and, in fact, do good.

So in Australia, it’s recommended that children younger than two have no daily screen time; two to five-year-olds have no more than an hour; and five to 17-year-olds have no more than two hours of recreational screen time. (Four in five Australian children and teens exceed these recommended limits daily, according to the latest Active Healthy Kids Australia report.)

“Where it gets a bit grey is where we have more interactive screen-based technologies,” says Professor Okely, who is director of research at Early Start at the University of Wollongong. “Then the key question becomes: are the relationships with health the same as with passive technologies, or are they different? That’s where the point of contention is.”

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) has similar guidelines to Australia with some distinctions: it says video chatting is OK for children under 18 months, for example, because “back-and-forth conversation” improves language skills “much more than one-way interaction with a screen”. (In its tips for parents, the AAP also notes that it’s OK for teens to be online – “online relationships are part of typical adolescent development” – but they need to understand the importance of privacy and the dangers of predators.)

Professor Okely is disappointed that the UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health does not offer screen-time limits because the evidence of harm from screens is “too weak” and “often overstated”. Instead, the College suggests families ask four questions:

  • Is screen time in your household controlled?
  • Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?
  • Does screen use interfere with sleep?
  • Are you able to control snacking during screen time?

If parents can answer “in a way that satisfies them”, says the College, then they are doing well managing “a tricky issue”.

One thing that’s not contested – phew – is that the light from screens can prevent sleep onset in children and adults. Almost half of Australian children use a screen at bedtime, the Royal Children’s Hospital poll found in 2017. Infant TV viewing has been linked to shorter sleep duration (which has been linked to weight gain). Even the UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics prescribed a limit for this: switch off screens an hour before bedtime.

You’ve got a choice about how you think about tech. You’re not powerless against it.

Other things are not in dispute either. For very young children to develop visual depth perception, for example, they need to look at real three-dimensional objects and not just those on a two-dimensional screen. To develop fine motor skills, they need to manipulate three-dimensional objects through a range of activities (drawing, painting, modelling with clay) rather than just swiping and pinching at tablets.

Details such as this, along with the science on screens’ effects on eyesight and posture, are set out in Early Childhood Australia’s recent statement of guidance on digital technology. With a focus on lived experience, it acknowledges that screens can be useful as a handy distraction to help calm young children – say, in a waiting room – but they shouldn’t, for example, be used to distract children from their own feelings.

But the biggest takeout for parents, says co-author Professor Edwards – a former kindergarten teacher and now professor in early childhood education at the Australian Catholic University – is that there is more than one way to view technology and its place in your family’s life.

“You’ve got a choice about how you think about tech,” she says. “You’re not powerless against it.”

She suggests asking what you value as a family and then assessing how your family’s digital use supports that, or doesn’t. For example, playing games such as Minecraft can offer a way for children to stay in touch with friends who don’t live nearby.

What would Finland do?

The Nordic paragon of child education is also the home of phone pioneer Nokia – and it’s as divided as anywhere on whether to double down on technology or steer kids away from it, says Professor Sahlberg, a former director-general of Finland’s Ministry of Education.

He believes it’s critical for children to learn to self-regulate and that it’s non-digital activities that help fortify them against the infinite allure of the online world. Professor Sahlberg suggests parents make it a habit for kids to regularly choose and read paper books; and to handwrite letters once a week to, say, a grandparent. “Writing letters by hand is a great way to help young children concentrate.” And learning how to have respectful, face-to-face conversations takes practice.

If we know anything from the social research about what helps people during the course of their lives it is self-control.

“I think these are all habits that are at the heart of human existence and that help you to develop your self-control, calming down and thinking about what you can do.

“If we know anything from the social research about what helps people during the course of their lives it is self-control.”

(Conscientiousness, self-discipline and perseverance in children under 10 have been found to be the key indicators of health, wealth and non-criminality in adulthood, in a New Zealand study that has followed the lives of 1037 babies born in 1972 and 1973 in Dunedin. )

Professor Sahlberg, who started out teaching maths and science, believes that using digital devices can undermine children’s ability to self-regulate – “to sit down and think”.

“If you don’t know how to calm down and concentrate and focus, it’s actually a recipe for failure in maths and science.

“If you need my expert opinion on why NAPLAN results in Australia haven’t improved and why PISA results [the OECD’s international education tests] are declining in Finland, a big part of the reason is that kids don’t have this kind of patience any more to sit down and think about a problem.”

Put away your own device. Just be an example for your children. It’s gonna be hard for a parent. Put it away. Shut it down.

(The links between fine motor skills – which children develop by doing a range of activities with their hands and fingers – and later academic success, including in maths and reading, are still being unpacked by scientists.)

So what does Professor Sahlberg say to fretful parents who want to limit their children’s use?

“Look at yourself first. Put away your own device. Just be an example for your children. It’s gonna be hard for a parent. Put it away. Shut it down.”

Children don’t just model behaviour on parents and older siblings but on family attitudes to aspects of life such as technology. Professor Sahlberg says digital devices should be understood by children to be tools “to live a healthier and safer life and do good things” – and not a treat.

“Young kids think these hand-held devices are entertainment, a treat – ‘If I’m nice, I’m going to get Daddy’s iPhone’. That’s something I find problematic because it creates behaviour and thinking that may end up being difficult.”

To keep some kind of balance for children, Professor Sahlberg is convinced that “play and spending more time with your children is the key”.

“If we can do this in Finland – go and play with our kids and use the cold and frozen nature to do that – you should be able to do that many times better in Australia.

“This is a perfect setting for raising children without technology,” he says, “because the beauty is just unbelievable.”

Students to present vision of Western Sydney Airport using Minecraft

Primary school students across Western Sydney, Australia, have been given the chance to share their vision for Western Sydney Airport through an innovative design competition coordinated by the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education, the video game Minecraft and Liverpool City Council.

Students will be asked to tackle some of the real-world challenges involved in creating a greenfield airport and will create their answers using the popular electronic building blocks from the video game Minecraft.

Now in its second year, the design competition has a new ‘gold sponsor’ with Western Sydney Airport coming on board to provide a portion of the prize money.

Combined with sponsorship from Liverpool City Council, students will be competing for prizes worth A$40,000 (US$29,000), which can be spent on science and technology projects at their school.

“We are delighted to support such an exciting learning opportunity for the students of Western Sydney,” said Graham Millett, CEO, Western Sydney Airport.

“These primary school students will be finishing school the year the airport opens. It’s exciting to think that many may one day be working at the airport. We can’t wait to see what their imaginative young minds will dream up for Western Sydney Airport.”

The NSW Department of Education and Minecraft will run free professional learning days for teachers at Campbelltown, Liverpool, Penrith and Parramatta. These sessions will be hosted at the city campuses of Western Sydney University (WSU), which is a supporter of the competition.

Students will submit their entries online with the top schools invited to present their ideas to a judging panel of industry experts in August 2019.

“We are so proud of the success of the Minecraft Design competition,” said Liverpool Mayor Wendy Waller. “We launched it last year at a local level because we saw the importance of connecting the students of today with the opportunities the new airport would create. We had hundreds of students from 12 schools involved and our competition was highlighted on Minecraft’s global education site.

“This year, with the great support of WSA, WSU, NSW Department of Education and Minecraft, we have been able to expand the competition for students across Western Sydney. I am sure thousands of students will relish the opportunity to be involved.”

Students signing up for summer camps

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — With no school and limited responsibilities in the summer, kids often find a hard time finding something to do. Parents who want their children to spend their free time constructively might consider sending them to one of Northeastern State University’s Summer Youth Academies or Summer Day Camps.

“This isn’t a baby-sitting service,” said Jerreth McLaughlin of College of Extending Learning. “This is something that’s really cutting-edge and exciting for these kids.”

Both the NSU Day Camps and Youth Academies will be held in June, and registration is now open. Parents won’t want to wait long to sign up, though, because all the spots can fill up quickly. McLaughlin said the programs typically have between 300 and 400 participants.

The Summer Youth Academies are each one week long, offering a variety of camps for different ages. The first week – June 3-7 – has an Up, Up and Away camp for 4- and 5-year-olds, a Minecraft camp for 6- to 8-year-olds, The Magic of Coding camp for 6- to 8-year-olds, and The Art of Photography camp for 9-year-olds and up.

“Minecraft is always very popular,” said McLaughlin. “The Minecraft camps usually sell out quick and go right up to the maximum number. I would say it probably gives them a leg up on school, thinking, and keeping their analytic skills sharp during the summer.”

The second week of Summer Youth Academies – June 10-14 – features a camp for 6- to 8-year-olds called Imagination Station. Kids will get to play with Legos, building blocks, Lincoln Logs and more, but the camp involves more than just playing with toys.

“We’ve got master teachers involved with this,” said McLaughlin. “So it’s not like a kid’s at home, sitting there playing with Legos. No, they give them different ideas and different creative approaches. They give them idea starters for designing and engineering.”

Several of the Summer Youth Academies involve space exploration. Academies include the Comets, Planets, & Space, Oh My, for 4- to 5-year-olds; Space: NASA, for 9-year-olds and up; Space, the Final Frontier, for 6- to 8-year-olds; and Exploration Space, for 6- to 8-year-olds.

“Last year, Barbara Fuller got to visit NASA and got a bunch of stuff from them,” said McLaughlin. “So they’re basing their camps off of material she got from NASA. I think it’s going to be state-of-the-art and cutting edge.”

Instead of paying for a whole week of Summer Youth Academies, parents might want to send their kids to NSU for only a day or two.

Last year, NSU held a pilot program for its Summer Day Camps program at the Tahlequah campus only.

It was so popular that it has expanded to the Broken Arrow campus.

Each day of the week throughout June is dedicated to a different camp. Monday is for Jewelry Creation, where kids can make their own treasures; Tuesday for Live in Your Own Virtual Reality, offering students a chance to use a green screen and make their own movies; Wednesday for Roller Coasters and Amusement Parks, giving campers a chance to build their own amusement park; Thursday for The Art Studio, a student can learn about textures and create projects; and Fridays, for The Science of Science, where kids will conduct experiments.

Both the Summer Youth Academies and Day Camps give kids a chance to explore new subjects and find new hobbies.

“Children sometimes don’t even know what they like,” said McLaughlin. “This is an opportunity to try something, and after a week if they don’t like it, they don’t have to try it again. They may decide this is really cool, or they at least have an idea of what it is and what it does.”

Get involved

For more information about the NSU Summer Youth Academies or Day Camps, contact Continuing Education at 918-444-4610, or visit

‘Black Widow’: Marvel Reportedly Considering ‘Moonlight’ Star Andre Holland for Villain Role

Marvel Studios is hard at work on Black Widow, finally giving actress Scarlett Johansson her first solo movie in the MCU. And now we might know who she’ll be going up against.

According to a report from That Hashtag Show, Moonlight star Andre Holland is in the running to play the villain for Black Widow. The actor earned critical acclaim for his role in Moonlight, as well his starring role in Hulu’s Castle Rock.

“Marvel [was previously] seeking a male with open ethnicity in his 40s to portray the film’s villain, who is described only as ‘exciting.’ The studio is now looking for either a Black British or African actor, 30-45, to portray a ‘tough, dangerous and mysterious’ villain,” stated the report.

There’s no word yet on who the character could be, though some have theorized it could be another character with red in their ledger such as Taskmaster or Red Guardian.

There were previous rumors that Black Widow would be rated R. caught up with Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige and confirmed the film would not get a mature rating.

“Yes. Correct… It never was going to be,” said Feige. “Somebody writes, ‘I hear it’s R-rated!’ And then everybody writes it up.”

There have been rumors over the more mature label being slapped on Black Widow ever since news broke of Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox, and chairman Bob Iger confirmed the R-rated Deadpool movies would continue. But it seems like Black Widow, despite her past as an assassin, will still be the typical PG-13 fare Marvel Studios is known for.

This week has seen a lot of rumors crop up for Black Widowincluding the possibility of Emma Watson being cast in a role. We’ll find out soon if Watson and Holland actually join the film.

For now, fans can next see Black Widow show up when Avengers: Endgame premieres in theaters on April 26th.

The best Minecraft mods

What are the best Minecraft mods? It’s a question that’s been asked for generations – since a young Plato attempted to tweak his game at the knee of Socrates. Or something. As new Minecraft mods have been steadily flowing out since the game’s first public release, there are a whole heap to choose from.

Minecraft is a blocky phenomenon. It’s the only game to ever exist that allows you to construct a castle the height of Jack’s famous beanstalk and fall through an increasingly challenging abyss for an eternity – but it could do with some Minecraft mods to improve things. From interface changes to tools to aid your hours of exploration, you have the option to make Mojang’s classic even better on PC.

The following list compiles some of the best Minecraft mods out there right now. All  are divided into sections, depending on what you want to do with the game – from simple changes to deep, intricate Minecraft mods you can get lost in for months.

These are the best Minecraft mods by category:


Every Minecraft mod on this list comes with its own installation instructions that you should follow closely, and you’ll likely also need to downgrade your Minecraft version for many of them – in most cases, version 1.7.10 works best. To help with that, you can try MultiMC– a useful bit of software that lets you manage multiple Minecraft mod installs.

Alternatively, if faffing around in obscure folders isn’t your cup of tea, then grab a modpack instead – which comes with everything preinstalled and preconfigured. We recommend either Feed The Beast’s Direwolf20 1.7.10 pack (which comes with a YouTube series that’ll teach you how to use many of the included mods), the Tekkit Pack, or making your own modpack with Curse Voice. If you have trouble with any of them Google is probably a good bet.

Shall we dig into our list of the best Minecraft mods?


When you’ve got lots of Minecraft mods installed you’ll probably find that Minecraft’s default UI doesn’t cut it any longer. The following downloads make playing modded Minecraft a more pleasant experience.

Minecraft mods - Optifine


Got a beefy computer? Make Minecraft look incredible with Optifine, which adds support for HD textures and more control over graphical options. Alternatively, if you’re playing on a potato, grab Fastcraft– it significantly improves performance on lower-end machines, particularly with lots of Minecraft mods installed.

Minecraft mods - Journeymap


Everyone likes to know where they’re going. Journeymap maps your world as you explore, lets you mark waypoints of interest, and can even warn you when mobs are sneaking up behind you. View the resulting map in-game as a minimap, or in fullscreen, or even in an external web browser.

Minecraft mods - Not Enough Items


If you need an antidote to the pain of alt-tabbing to a wiki while playing Minecraft then turn to Not Enough Items (or NEI). It lets you look up the recipe for any item from any installed Minecraft mod through a nifty interface on Minecraft’s inventory screen.


WAILA stands for “What Am I Looking At,” and it’s a godsend when you’ve got loads of mods installed. Simply point your crosshair at a block, and it’ll tell you what it is, and which mod it comes from. With newer mods, it can also tell you about the state of that block – how full a tank of water is, for example, or the charge level on a battery. You’ll need NEI to run it.


Install Inventory Tweaks and you’ll soon wonder how you lived without it. Tools that run out of durability are automatically replaced in your hotbar, stacks of blocks are automatically refilled, and a simple middle-click will sort your chests and inventory. It’s also endlessly customisable.


For many people, crafting awe-inspiring structures is what Minecraft is all about. The following mods will dramatically expand your creative options, from new types of wood to proper furniture.

Minecraft mods - Chisel 2


Minecraft only has one cobblestone texture. Chisel 2 has 24. In fact, it adds alternative textures to a huge number of the game’s default blocks as well as blocks that come with other mods in this list – letting you create any decor you desire in your in-game constructions.

Minecraft mods - Carpenter's Blocks


Cubes are great and all, but occasionally you want a slope, right?Carpenter’s Blocks delivers those slopes, alongside beds, buttons, doors, flowerpots, torches, and more, all of which can be customised with the texture of any other block. Ever wanted a netherrack ladder? This is the mod that’ll do it.

Minecraft mods - Decocraft


If you’d like a bit more variety when it comes to decorating your world, Decocraft is the mod for you. It adds craftable chairs, tables, bowls, bottles, lamps, stuffed toys, beer kegs, and even a kitchen sink. The full list is almost endless, so dive in to the Wiki to see the full range of options.

Minecraft mods - Bibliocraft


Bibliocraft also offers a bunch of aesthetically-pleasing blocks, but these ones come with their own functionality. Display cases and shelves let you show off your trophies, while a printing press lets you copy in-game books. It even adds a monocle for the distinguished gentlemen amongst you.

Minecraft mods - Pig Manure


If Minecraft can be accused of lacking one thing, it’s poo. This humble Minecraft mod solves that problem with aplomb, not just making it so your pigs drop a steaming pile of the proverbial every now and again, but instead providing you with a new resource to master in Minecraft. Collect the droppings and you can use them instead of bone meal to fertilize your crops. Alternatively, you can fire them in a furnace and produce bricks that you can use to build a house – just don’t use them with white wool.

Minecraft mods - Bacteria Mod


Bacteria simply never goes out of fashion, so it’s about time Mincraft modders brought it into the creative sandbox. This mod lets you cultivate a range of different bacterias, each of which will perform different tasks – destructive or creative – and set them loose on the world. Just be sure to contain it properly, especially if you’re experimenting in your own base.

Minecraft mods - Pam's HarvestCraft


Bring some serious variation to your Minecraft diet with this produce-laden mod that adds over 1,100 new foods and items, including 60 crops, 17 types of fish, tofu for vegetarian and vegan dishes, and 36 fruit or item bearing trees. The end result is a Minecraft diet that’s equal parts lavish and balanced. If you want to make this a necessity rather than just a fun extension to vanilla Minecraft, use it alongside Hunger Overhaul and The Spice of Life, which both punish your poor eating habits.


Some people prefer the life of a nomad to that of a builder. The following mods either spice up world generation, add new worlds to explore, or give you the tools you’ll need to explore them. To the Far Lands, and beyond!

Minecraft mods - Biomes O'Plenty


Let’s start with the Overworld. Biomes O’Plenty adds a ridiculous 80 new biomes and 12 sub-biomes to Minecraft – from Alps to Wasteland. It also adds a little more variety to tools, armour, food, colour, and adds a few extra blocks to build with.

Minecraft mods - LotsOMobs


Working in much the same way as Biomes O Plenty, LotsOMobs adds a staggering 25 new mobs to further enrich your Minecraft world and make your biomes that bit more realistic. Gone are the days when squid were the only creature in the sea and chickens roamed free across the savannah. If you’d like giraffes, narwhal, seagulls, elephants, and even dinosaurs to appear in your game, then this is the mod for you.

Minecraft mods - CandyCraft


Here’s a great exploration mod for people who avoid the Nether on the grounds of it being just a bit too demonic and hellscapey. CandyCraftoffers sweet-toothed Minecrafters a new realm to explore that’s made entirely of candy. There are sugar-coated critters to kill, marshmallow tools to equip, and honeycomb armour to wear as you make your way through this sickly sweet realm. Eat your heart out, Hansel and Gretel.

Minecraft mods - Galacticraft


Boldly go where no Steve has been before with Galacticraft, an expansive mod that let’s you travel to, explore, and even colonise an entire solar system. Aside from all the interplanetary sightseeing, the main draw of this mod is the sheer amount of effort you’ll have to put into it in order to escape Earth and its famously surly bonds. It’s a compelling and brilliantly constructed series of missions that rewards you with gameplay opportunities, like building a moonbase, pimping out your spaceship, and fighting evolved mobs on Mars.

Minecraft mods - Quiverbow


Not nearly enough mods focus on improving that most ancient and beloved of weapons – the bow and arrow. Quiverbow overhauls the options available to budding archers by providing them with a bounty of projectile-based weaponry. From basic additions like the humble crossbow to snow cannons and firework launchers, this is the ultimate mod for any aspiring Minecraft sniper.


There’s nothing like a good factory setup in your Minecraft base – automatically mining and producing resources so you never run out. The following mods offer everything you need to fully automate almost every aspect of modded Minecraft, and work best in conjunction with some of the deeper mods in the final section.

Minecraft mods - Rope Bridge Mod


Chasms are a constant inconvenience for Minecraft explorers: you spend minutes jumping up the highest mountain only to find an annoying series of gaps between its peaks. Make mountaineering easier for yourself by installing this handy mod, which provides you with a portable grappling gun that will automatically build a bridge from where you’re standing to where it’s aimed. It’s also particularly useful for building tree-top fortresses.

Minecraft mods - Caterpillar


Digging is the bread and butter of Minecraft, which is why someone made this automated tunnelling machine, freeing you of the chore so you can explore, kill mobs, and meticulously redecorate your base. You’ll have to build it yourself, but once you do, you’ll be saving hours in virtual labour. The drill head is upgradable too, with different materials offering their own benefits, so there’s some scope for you to get really stuck into this miner’s delight.

Minecraft mods - Progressive Automation


This mod adds basic automated devices for everything from farming to forestry. The best bit about Progressive Automation is that each machine can be upgraded as you progress, meaning fewer enormous rebuilds further down the line.

Minecraft mods - Applied Energistics 2


After staying a while in a large base storage starts to become an issue. Applied Energistics 2 lets you turn matter into energy, storing items on hard drives that can be accessed wirelessly from anywhere in your base. It’s fantastically useful, especially for the hoarders amongst you.

Minecraft mods - Big Reactors


Ever wanted to be a nuclear engineer without learning about physics and going through multiple years of higher education? Then Big Reactors is the mod for you. Big Reactors allows you to build massive, fully configurable reactors in order to cope with the power demands of all those other industrial mods you’ve been tinkering with. Better still, it’s designed to interface with ComputerCraft, meaning you can monitor, regulate, and program your power station from a safe distance – should you tinker too much and cause a meltdown that is.

Minecraft mods - ComputerCraft


Finally, we’d be remiss not to mention ComputerCraft. Itadds fully-programmable computers and assorted peripherals into the Minecraft world. It also adds RFTools, which lets you monitor and maintain a complex power network. Both are vital tools for any kind of automated base.


That just leaves the largest mods – the ones that reward a significant time investment with substantial changes to vanilla Minecraft. We’d recommend tackling just one or two of these at a time, even if they’re bundled together in a modpack, for your sanity more than anything else. By the time you reach their endgame you’ll be the master of all you survey.

Minecraft mods - Draconic Evolution


If you’ve managed to clad yourself in diamond and long for some new endgame gear to show off to your friends then you might want to install the Draconic Evolution mod. As well as adding heaps of new high-tier weaponry and armour, Draconic Evolution also has its own energy system that’s essentially Minecraft’s answer to cold fusion. Other features include a weather manipulation system, an enormous chest with built-in crafting facilities, teleporters, and mob spawners. In short, it’s the ideal mod for anyone who’s mastered vanilla Survival mode.

Minecraft mods - Thaumcraft


Being a wizard is pretty awesome, and that’s no different in the world of Minecraft. Thaumcraft lets you manipulate the magic energies found in every in-game item to create powerful wands, golems to do your bidding, and essence-infused items and tools. It hooks beautifully into several other mods.

Minecraft mods - Simply Jetpacks


Jetpacks make everything better. Everything. That’s why this humble mod isn’t looking to burden you with countless new systems and recipes to remember, it’s just trying to give ordinary Minecrafters the gift of instantaneous flight. Soar into the skies powered by Redstone Flux, letting you avoid hazards and move around the map much quicker. Higher level jetpacks will also act as armour and even negate fall damage, so there’s plenty of reason to invest a little time into this nifty add-on.

Minecraft mods Blood magic


Occasionally, Minecraft is all a little too cute and fluffy. That’s where modders come in, introducing some ritualistic dark arts to give the vanilla game some edge. Blood Magic– that most heinous of all magics – introduces a few new systems and mechanics based around drawing power from the blood of mobs. Once you’ve harvested enough life essence you can use it at a Blood Altar in order to craft new items like a Dagger of Sacrifice.

Minecraft mods - Minefactory Reloaded


Arguably the best all-round technology mod is Minefactory Reloaded. It adds heaps of machines and devices that allow you to automate almost everything – from breeding cows to playing in-game records. As an added bonus, it also works particularly well with many of the mods in the previous section.

Minecraft mods - BuildCraft


Mining by hand is a thing of the past and everyone knows it. That’s why there’s BuildCraft, a hugely expansive mod that essentially allows you to put vanilla Minecraft through its own industrial revolution. From automated quarries to autocrafting tables that will pump out any desired item with the right ingredients on tap, this mod let’s you go full scale with your production lines.

Minecraft mods - Hats


From the ridiculous to the sublime, this cosmetic mod adds over 100 hats to Minecraft, ensuring you’ve always got some way of surprising and, in some cases, shocking your friends. You’ll have to spend some time hunting the hats down, though, as they’re programmed to randomly spawn on mobs around the world – expect to see a squid with a phone booth on its head or a creeper sporting a sombrero.

Minecraft mods - PneumaticCraft


PneumaticCraft swaps out power for pressurized air making for a mod that’s both highly volatile and incredibly rewarding. Whether it’s air cannons, programmable drones, or a range of assembly machines, this mod adds a host of mechanical and automated options to Minecraft.

If those are not are the best Minecraft mods, we don’t know what are. These improvements and tweaks will transform your blocky bundle of joy and keep you playing even longer, much like the Minecraft maps that will transport you absolutely anywhere and the Minecraft servers that further keep things fresh. For now, though, we’re ready to get lost in Minecraft all over again.

‘Minecraft’ Fan Built ‘Avengers’ Villain Thanos in the Game

Josh Brolin’s Thanos made quite the impression in last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, and he’s even making his way into the video game world.

And no, we’re not talking about Fortnite.

Reddit user DovahhhSama recently shared a screenshot, which shows off a recreation of Thanos in the world of Minecraft. As a comment attached to the photo jokes, they spent two hours on the recreation only to get a small number of upvotes (something that has changed since the post went viral).

Thanos will return (in a much less blocky form) in next month’s Avengers: Endgame, where the ramifications of his “snap” will be further explored. Now that Thanos has turned half the universe into dust, the remaining heroes will have a lot on their plate when it comes to fighting him.

“They’ve been misused by people who didn’t understand their true power.” co-writer Christopher Markus said in Infinity War‘s art book last year. “And now that the real master of them, Thanos, has shown up we can see what they actually do. The problem is, as you can imagine, as you gain control over these things, your story just goes haywire because why are there ay stakes for the man who can control time, space, reality, your mind, your soul and power? He can reset as many times as it’ll take. So you have to build in a lot of bumps in the road or maybe keep one stone away from him for long enough in order for the thing to have any dramatic structure at all.”

And as it turns out, Thanos’ snap almost occurred much later in the overall storyline than what ended up being onscreen.

“It wasn’t just, well, we’ve got too much story, we’d better chop it in half,” Markus revealed. “But what we realized is, it would feel more like a cliffhanger than we intended. It would be a continuation of exactly what you were watching before. [But it needed to] be as big as it wants to be, and as sprawling… [So we went with a script] that went all the way to a tragic ending. And then one where mysterious things happen that I can’t tell you about.”

What do you think of this Minecraft version of Thanos? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Avengers: Endgame will be released on April 26th. Other upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universemovies include Captain Marvel on March 8th, and Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 5th.

PewDiePie’s unlikely rise to the top: From Minecraft and brofists to T-Series and making YouTube history

PewDiePie is known to just about everyone as the biggest name on the internet – and for good reason. The Swedish gamer boasts a following of almost 88 million, giving him the title of the most subscribed channel on YouTube – a spot which he’s held since 2013, years longer than anyone else. With Indian music label T-Series inching ever closer to his crown, the 29-year-old has beaten the odds, and managed to hold onto his position for a whopping six years. But, with friends who will spend eye-watering amounts of money on billboards, and loyal fans who dub themselves ‘soldiers’ willing to go to extremes for him, how did he get there? He’s held YouTube’s top spot for years longer than anyone else managed to (Picture: Jonas Ekstrmer/TT) Pewds – real name Felix Kjellberg – started out on YouTube fresh-faced in 2010, making his first video to show off about something funny he found on Minecraft. Although he was at university at the time, he later dropped out and put all his effort into his YouTube videos, working at a hot dog stand to fund his passion. And, despite already building an audience, it wasn’t until 2011 that the gamer started showing his face in his videos. It was around this time that he first started dating Marzia Bisognin, who also created a YouTube channel. The pair later got engaged in 2018. Already having his high-pitched ‘PewDiePie’ catchphrase down, he seemed a bit baffled as to how to define his videos, titling one ‘Video Commentary / Vlog – Partnership? Livestream?’ Whatever they were, they were working, with Felix’s channel reaching more than a million subscribers by July 2012. From then on, the numbers skyrocketed, with his channel overtaking comedy duo Smosh to become the most subscribed on YouTube just a year later. It’s hard to put your finger on why exactly the gamer’s channel grew so rapidly. It could have been anything from the rapid rise of gaming on YouTube, to the family feel he gave his corner of the internet, referring to his fans as ‘bros’. And by the time he’d taken the top spot, he had developed his own trademarks – the PewDiePie shriek and the ‘brofist’ included – and his channel wasn’t like any other around. His popularity only grew, with him taking the starring spot in YouTube Rewind 2014 – a role that this year was controversially given to Will Smith. By 2016, Felix had taken his spot in cultural history, being named as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People, and having a genuine impact on the gaming industry, with sales for titles he played shooting up. He’s not afraid to cross boundaries (Picture: YOUTUBE / DRAMAALERT) However, with the start of 2017 came the beginnings of controversy. After he hit headlines for using anti-Semitic imagery and cracking Nazi jokes, during a live stream in September, Felix dropped a shocking racial slur. ‘I’m disappointed in myself because it seems like I’ve learned nothing from all these past controversies,’ he said after the comments. ‘It’s not that I think I can say or do whatever I want and get away with it, that’s not it at all, I’m just an idiot, but that doesn’t make what I said or how I said it OK,’ Kjellberg continued. ‘It was not OK. I’m really sorry if I offended, hurt or disappointed anyone with all of this. Being in the position I am, I should know better … and I owe it to my audience and myself to do better than this.’ However, he and fans moved on quickly – far too quickly, according to some – and his channel was largely unaffected by the scandal. He later launched his show Meme Review, which recently featured an appearance from Elon Musk, straying away from his gaming roots. Team 10 member Justin Roberts bought the gamer a billboard in Times Square (Picture: Youtube/ Dean Noroozi) Part gaming, part vlogging, and part comedy skits, PewDiePie’s videos are still incredibly difficult to define – but that never held his fans back, with his numbers only increasing towards the 100 million mark. But his biggest success was more recent, when it looked like music label T-Series was set to overtake him as the most subscribed channel on YouTube – and his fans and friends immediately snapped into action. American vlogger MrBeast started off a campaign which led to billboards (even one in Times Square), radio adverts, and fans hacking video games. Felix gained support from the most bizarre of places, including Ukip and Pornhub, with the phrase ‘Sub to PewDiePie’ being well and truly branded into our brains – and making an appearance in this year’s underwhelming YouTube Rewind. The world’s biggest YouTubers, from Alfie Deyes and Logan Paul to JackSepticEye and Markiplier, urged their fans to subscribe to the gamer for fear of a corporation holding YouTube’s top spot for the first time in its history. In the first four months of 2019, the gamer’s channel grew more than it did in the entirety of 2018, with him gaining tens of millions of subscribers. As for now? Currently, he’s edging towards 90 million subscribers, having held the music label at bay since November.

Which Minecraft edition is best for you?

Minecraft is one of those games that is timelessly appreciated by all ages. It has stayed incredibly popular since its creation, and has evolved into a large and diverse community.

As the game has grown, it has branched into a few different versions. Players are primarily familiar with the PC edition, as it was the only one for a long time. However, the console and pocket editions are surprisingly different compared to the PC version of the game. Deciding between these three can be a difficult choice if you’re trying to consolidate which platform you’d prefer to play games on. Here are the main differences between each one.

Which edition of Minecraft is best for you?

PC edition

The original edition of Minecraft, it often is the first to receive new content. The graphics are more advanced on the PC edition, and there are hundreds of third-party mods that can be used on your servers. Along with these mods, you can get third-party addons for UI changes to really customize your gameplay. The multiplayer is diverse, and you can play with any community members who share their servers and realms online. It also has the easiest controls of any edition.


On the downside, the PC edition is obviously not portable. It also isn’t very friendly to new players. The other editions feature some easily accessed tutorial information, and often allow the player to start with a map. There is also very little support in terms of parental control without using some type of third-party application.

Pocket edition

As the most popular versions of Minecraft, it’s clear that the Pocket edition has some appeal to it. Primarily, people play this version for the obvious convenience of having it on the go. Other than the Nintendo Switch, there are no other editions of Minecraft that are quite this portable. It does provide add-on and mod support, although not quite to the extent of the PC version. There are easy parental control settings, and the multiplayer is just as extensive as the PC edition.

Minecraft – Pocket EditionDOWNLOAD9

There are, unfortunately, quite a few factors working against the Pocket edition. Third party mods are discouraged by the program, so you can only reasonably use the ones provided by Minecraft. The controls are probably the worst of any edition, and they can be incredibly difficult to adjust to.

Console edition


All of the major console retailers (Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo) have Minecraft adaptations for their main consoles. They also continue to put Minecraft on each console that has come out since its creation (such as the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch). Unfortunately, the console edition is the most limited in terms of functionality. The main benefit of each console is the ability to have local co-op capabilities. While there are some local co-op options for PC and Pocket editions of the game, the console version is much easier to access.In fact, the console version is a pretty great option for new players, since every aspect of the game is easily explained, the controls are intuitive, and it’s easy to play with offline friends.

The local co-op features are really the only thing the console editions have over the other two. All worlds on console editions of the game are finite, unlike the other editions, and there is pretty much no mod supportfor any version. The Switch is the only portable console you can use, and the multiplayer on it is far more limited compared to the other editions (though thankfully the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have some decent multiplayer options). There is just far less customizability and optionswhen it comes to the console edition, and the only real major benefit is how easy it is to use.

Bottom line

Of course, the right edition to use all comes down to preference. We suggest using the PC version if you want to use third-party mods, and want the newest features right away.

The Pocket edition is great for young gamers, who parents wish to monitor their gameplay, and gamers who want to play on the go and don’t mind the touchscreen controls.

Finally, console versions are ideal for local co-op, and those who prefer using a controller. No matter which version you choose, Minecraft is an excellent game and we’re sure you’ll enjoy playing it on any platform.