SIOUX CITY | During one of their weekly outings, DeeDee Johnson spent the afternoon with her 6-year-old grandson fostering his fascination with four fictional crime-fighting brothers and books.
Devin Riley became a certified Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in training at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Wednesday.
Though the boy likes Leonardo the most, the blue-masked leader hardly compares to his sensei – his grandma. He looked up from his TMNT coloring page and said, “I like to read.”
She’s been trying to instill that interest all summer long. She took him to the Wilbur Aalfs Library every Tuesday for story time with the therapy dogs and, most recently, surprised Devin with a trip to the bookstore for Get Pop-Cultured, a month-long celebration that brought to life customers’ favorite books, characters and pop culture icons with themed events.
About 60 children made masks and completed tasks to earn their ninja training certificate at the Sioux City retailer. The activities, based around the heroes in a half shell, led up to the Aug. 8 release of Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
The nationwide campaign concludes with an event at 1:30 p.m. Sunday featuring Big Nate, a comic strip-turned-into-a-series of children’s novels.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with it,” said Elisha Karr, community business development manager at Barnes & Noble. For the DC Comics Spectacular, a staff member dressed up as Superman disguised as Clark Kent, and during Marvel Day, the Starbucks café manager appeared as the Hulk.
The celebration of popular entertainment added to the Sioux City store’s regular lineup, which includes one hands-on learning event each month and story time at 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Jumping from page and screen, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles event created a flurry of excitement near the entrance of the bookstore as families streamed in from outside.
The fun-filled hour had crafts, cupcake-decorating and a themed photo booth for the kids. One of the workers passed around a platter of TMNT Frappuccinos, a vanilla bean beverage dyed green topped with whip cream and different colored sprinkles for each turtle – red, orange, purple and blue.
The Spieler sisters sat on the floor with sheets of paper, trying to solve Donatello’s word scramble and learn how to tell jokes like Michelangelo.
Jaiden, 5, wore a pink Disney princess T-shirt and cut out a purple foam mask proving there’s room in a child’s heart to love both ninja turtles and Snow White. She dressed up as Raphael, the tough red-masked turtle, for Halloween.
A cinematic reboot of the TMNT franchise has a way of connecting generations through culture.
Cory Harder and his wife took their three kids to the Barnes & Noble event. It was clear which two were the biggest fans in the family. Harder and his 3-year-old son Ryan wore green TMNT T-shirts. The toddler’s top outlined how to be a ninja: do karate, eat pizza, party.
And the blue mask he made was practically glued to his face. Ryan didn’t want to take it off.
“I’ve been watching since I was 4,” Harder said. “I just still get the kid feeling when I watch the cartoons or movies.”
He went to as many Get Pop-Cultured events as he could make it to throughout the past month and planned to return for Saturday’s "Star Wars" Jedi Academy, which was slated between a full schedule of lauding all things Dr. Who and learning to speak Dothraki from “A Game of Thrones.”
At the end of ninja training, Harder’s 4-year-old daughter Kirsten picked her turtle sensei from an activity sheet. Her favorite: Michelangelo. Just like Dad.