November 19, 2017

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Make It!: Arts & Activities | Series Nonfiction

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Craft and activity books entice active kids who would rather do an activity than read about it. Whether they’re making a mask, drawing a truck, or mixing up a batch of popcorn balls shaped like brains, they’re learning as they’re reading and following instructions. Not only that, arts and crafts titles are also an ideal source for examples of instructional writing. Students learn all about connective words, such as first, next, and finally, and how to use imperative, or bossy, verbs…make it!

Elementary

Bernhardt, Carolyn. Duct Tape Animals. ISBN 9781512426687.

––––. Duct Tape Costumes. ISBN 9781 512426670.

––––. Duct Tape Fashion. ISBN 9781 512426694.

Felix, Rebecca. Duct Tape Survival Gear. ISBN 9781512426663.

ea vol: 32p. (Create with Duct Tape). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Mar. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 2-5 –Versatile, durable duct tape is combined with cardboard, newspaper, and other humble supplies to make an astonishing number of decorative and utilitarian items. However, the nine projects per book are a little uneven. For instance, some of the crafts in Fashion are pretty unconvincing—readers could spend the better part of their day making a T-shirt entirely out of duct tape, but would they want to wear it? A standout is the trophy head activity in Animals, but overall, Costumes is perhaps the best title here for anyone in need of a quick shield for a knight or superhero outfit with no drying or setting time required. Front matter includes good tips about keeping work areas clear—and never sticking duct tape to bare skin. VERDICT Somewhat uneven but lots of ideas for using this light, inexpensive craft material.

Bird, Benjamin. Animal Doodles with Scooby-Doo! ISBN 9781515734055.

––––. Food Doodles with Scooby-Doo! ISBN 9781515734079.

––––. Monster Doodles with Scooby-Doo! ISBN 9781515734062.

––––. Vehicle Doodles with Scooby-Doo! ISBN 9781515734086.

ea vol: illus. by Scott Neely. 32p. (Scooby-Doodles!). photos. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $27.99.

Gr 3-5 –Who doesn’t love ol’ Scoob and those meddling kids? An “official Scooby-Doo artist” uses the familiar characters and animation style to show kids how to draw a variety of objects and animals. Best art practices are demonstrated and encouraged, such as quickly sketching multiple variations, creating patterns, and drawing the same thing over and over. Amusing images of characters and objects from the TV show can be copied with moderate concentration—or, by using the techniques demonstrated. Each book includes an example of copying an image using a grid and building figures up from basic geometric or anatomical shapes. VERDICT Better-than-average cartoon drawing instruction with techniques that extend to other art subjects. Consider for aspiring artists and Scooby Doo fans.

Felix, Rebecca. Mini Decorating. ISBN 9781512426328.

––––. Mini Holiday Crafts. ISBN 9781512426335.

––––. Mini Science Fun. ISBN 9781512426342.

––––. Mini Wearables. ISBN 9781512426359.

ea vol: 32p. (Mini Makers). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Feb. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 2-5 –Anything “mini” is bound to elicit coos of delight, and this series is no exception. Nine projects per volume are explained through easy-to-follow instructions laid out in a clear sequences, accompanied by ultra close-up photography. The projects in Wearables, Holiday Crafts, and Decorating allow for a broad range of customization. And although many of the little items in Decorating would seem at home in a dollhouse, the book does not make this reference, keeping it as gender-neutral as possible. Each title starts with tips about lighting, small containers, and tiny tools (toothpicks and tweezers). Back matter includes a welcome reminder to clean up afterwards. Bright colors and glossy textures pop against the series’ clean design. Although the author counsels patience and practice, some of these adorable crafts require an impressive amount of manual dexterity, as well as precision cutting and glue application. VERDICT Detail-oriented crafters will adore these books.

George, Anna. Origami Birds: Easy & Fun Paper-Folding Projects. ISBN 9781680784466.

––––. Origami Dinosaurs: Easy & Fun Paper-Folding Projects. ISBN 9781680784473.

––––. Origami Farm Animals: Easy & Fun Paper-Folding Projects. ISBN 9781680784480.

––––. Origami Insects: Easy & Fun Paper-Folding Projects. ISBN 9781680784497.

––––. Origami Pets: Easy & Fun Paper-Folding Projects. ISBN 9781680784503.

––––. Origami Zoo Animals: Easy & Fun Paper-Folding Projects. ISBN 9781680784510.

ea vol: 32p. (Super Simple Origami). ebook available. glossary. photos. ABDO. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

K-Gr 3 –Origami books are ideal for reinforcing print concepts, as readers flip back to the introductions to refer to the instructions for basic folds and following steps in order. These titles offer a little extra help, providing an unobtrusive dotted line path from one step to the next. Six folded paper models per volume are presented in rough order of complexity, from a seven-step fox (Zoo Animals) to a 20-step pteranodon (Dinosaurs). Instructions include a photo, fold notation, and description, and are at a high level of detail, helping to insure success. An uncluttered design that doesn’t interfere with the instructional process is a plus, and the palette of bright, pleasant colors keeps things lively. VERDICT For beginner origami with a high likelihood of success.

Harbo, Christopher. Easy Origami Decorations: An Augmented Reality Crafting Experience. ISBN 9781515735854.

––––. Easy Origami Greeting Cards: An Augmented Reality Crafting Experience. ISBN 9781515735878.

––––. Easy Origami Ornaments: An Augmented Reality Crafting Experience. ISBN 9781515735861.

––––. Easy Origami Scrapbooking: An Augmented Reality Crafting Experience. ISBN 9781515735847.

ea vol: 24p. (Origami Crafting 4D). further reading. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 2 Up –Intermediate folders can learn five origami models per volume and then combine those models into three functional crafts, such as greeting cards or scrapbook pages. Reference guides at the front of the books demonstrate the basic folds that will be used in the models through color photos and text descriptions. What really distinguishes this set, though, is the coordinated video content. Like putting on eyeliner and doing home repairs, origami, with its difficult-to-describe folds, inversions, and squashes, is perhaps best demonstrated in motion. The Capstone 4D app works on tablets and smartphones. Navigation is simple: focus the device’s camera on any page with instructions, and the app will bring up a series of short videos in which a pair of steady adult hands demonstrates each step. VERDICT Next-level origami instruction ideal for classroom or club use.

Kuskowski, Alex. Cool Bacon Recipes: Main Dishes for Beginning Chefs. ISBN 9781680781328.

––––. Cool Chicken Recipes: Main Dishes for Beginning Chefs. ISBN 9781680781335.

––––. Cool Fish Recipes: Main Dishes for Beginning Chefs. ISBN 9781680781342.

––––. Cool Hamburger Recipes: Main Dishes for Beginning Chefs. ISBN 9781680781359.

––––. Cool Sausage Recipes: Main Dishes for Beginning Chefs. ISBN 9781680781366.

––––. Cool Wild Game Recipes: Main Dishes for Beginning Chefs. ISBN 9781680781373.

ea vol: 32p. (Cool Main Dish Recipes). ebook available. glossary. index. photos. ABDO. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 3-6 –It’s all protein in these vocabulary-rich cookbooks—vegetarians need not apply! Recipe instructions are detailed enough for novice chefs, providing good descriptive text in each step and photographs of key moments in the process. Kids will gain practice with basic techniques, such as frying, baking, and sautéing, and can experiment with casseroles, braising, and roasting. Wild Game notably covers nongrocery meat, and Fish contains especially useful tips for selecting out fresh fish, freezing fish, and removing bones. Veteran kids’ cookbook author Kuskowski packs these dishes with an amount of flavor that is unusual for this age range; ingredients like cumin, ginger, black pepper, hot pepper flakes, cayenne, Old Bay spice mix, and curry paste will appeal to the appetites of families for whom the bottle of hot sauce is never far from reach. VERDICT Gender neutral cooking instruction for meat eaters with an extra punch of flavor.

Lajiness, Katie. Aircraft. ISBN 978168 0785197.

––––. Cars and Trucks. ISBN 9781680785203.

––––. Cats. ISBN 9781680785210.

––––. Dinosaurs. ISBN 9781680785227.

––––. Dogs. ISBN 9781680785234.

––––. People. ISBN 9781680785241.

ea vol: 32p. (First Drawings). glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 1-3 –This series builds on subject interests to introduce young artists to elementary drawing practices. Each book offers five drawings to copy from basic geometric shapes. Kids will learn how to sketch guidelines, establish an outline, add details, create texture and shape using shading, and add color. Key vocabulary is repeated often in the simple sentences that accompany each drawn demonstration. Steps are arranged horizontally from left to right—no navigating up and down on the page, which is helpful for beginning readers. The drawing steps are attainable and logical, without too much of a gap between the preliminary steps and that all-important “Now finish your drawing” step, at which point, in many books, the drawing metamorphoses from a series of ovals and triangles to the Mona Lisa. VERDICT Reading and art practice in one package; a fine selection for elementary schoolers.

Owen, Ruth. Handmade Christmas Crafts. ISBN 9781482461558.

––––. Handmade Easter Crafts. ISBN 9781482461565.

––––. Handmade Halloween Crafts. ISBN 9781482461572.

––––. Handmade St. Patrick’s Day Crafts. ISBN 9781482461589.

––––. Handmade Thanksgiving Crafts. ISBN 9781482461596.

––––. Handmade Valentine’s Day Crafts. ISBN 9781482461602.

ea vol: 32p. (Handmade Holiday Crafts). glossary. index. photos. Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 2-5 –Budding crafters can create wreaths, garlands, cards, and other decorations using the clear, detailed instructions. The five to seven projects in each title rely heavily on staples and glue—no tricky techniques and no craft material more complicated than perler beads. These are activities that can be completed in a single sitting, making them good choices for seasonal, library, or classroom events. Clear photographs in each stage of creation give kids a visual guide to their progress and amplify the information. The linear structure and vertical orientation of the instructions keep things simple for rookie readers, although the busy design, “handwritten” typeface, and textured backgrounds detract from readability. VERDICT A reasonable update if your holiday craft books are looking a little tired.

Plomer, Anna Llimós. Paper. ISBN 9781911242079.

––––. Plants and Seeds. ISBN 9781 911242086.

––––. Recyclables. ISBN 9781911242093.

––––. Stones and Stuff. ISBN 9781 911242109.

ea vol: illus. by José María Casanova. 32p. (Make It With…). photos. Black Rabbit/Book House. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $21.95.

Gr 1-3 –Large trim size enhances the appeal, high-quality printing makes the textures and colors lifelike, and cute doodlelike calligraphic cartoon embellishments add whimsy. Twelve projects per volume are augmented by suggestions for variations and customization. No special skills are required to combine standard art supplies and found objects into decorative and functional items with a natural look. Plants is notable for incorporating material on a variety of climates, so there is something here for kids who live in temperate regions as well as those for whom a maple tree is unfamiliar. Plants and Stones are superior to Paper and Recyclables, for including more original projects and making better use of the stated supply. A note in the back of each title suggests tips for adapting each craft project for older or younger children, stretching the potential age range down to preschool, although not much higher than third and fourth grade. VERDICT Consider Plants and Stones where needed.

Vega, Ali. Brains, Brains, and Other Horrifying Breakfasts. ISBN 9781512425789.

––––. Cat Litter Cake and Other Horrifying Desserts. ISBN 9781512425741.

––––. Mummy Dogs and Other Horrifying Snacks. ISBN 9781512425758.

––––. Tombstone Sandwiches and Other Horrifying Lunches. ISBN 9781512425772.

––––. Witches’ Brew and Other Horrifying Party Foods. ISBN 9781512425765.

––––. Zombie-Gut Chili and Other Horrifying Dinners. ISBN 9781512425734.

ea vol: 32p. (Little Kitchen of Horrors). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Apr. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 3 Up –Eyeball hors d’oeuvres, Jell-O snot, and at least three varieties of edible poop—it’s not really a party until someone runs screaming from the room. The nine novelty recipes in each of these cookbooks, while in some cases requiring a little extra prep time, pay off in the ick factor. Fearless chefs can choose dishes that require only cutting and assembly (Tongue and Tooth Bites in Mummy Dogs) or more complex recipes, such as Superslimy Bat Wings in Tombstone Sandwiches. There is some reliance on processed items, but many recipes are made from whole foods or scratch. Most of the base recipes have utility beyond their gross-out potential—kids can learn to make deviled eggs, ramen, or popcorn balls—and most are fairly appetizing, but others, such as Muddy Earthworm Spaghetti, made with black beans, barbecue sauce, and red pepper jelly, sound as awful as they look. Front matter, duplicated in each volume, encourages kids to get creative with punny names and startling props to emphasize the nasty nature of their gross grub. VERDICT Kids will learn a variety of preparation techniques in this amusing series. An easy pick for Halloween programs.

Middle to High School

Andrus, Aubre. Bathe, Buff, and Beautify: DIY Crafts and Recipes for Natural Body Care. ISBN 9781515734468.

––––. Gloss, Floss, and Wash: DIY Crafts and Recipes for a Fresh Face and Teeth. ISBN 9781515734475.

––––. Lotions, Potions, and Polish: DIY Crafts and Recipes for Hands, Nails, and Feet. ISBN 9781515734451.

––––. Spray, Smooth, and Shampoo: DIY Crafts and Recipes for Healthy Hair. ISBN 9781515734444.

ea vol: 48p. (DIY Day Spa). further reading. photos. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $31.32.

Gr 4-8 –“Looking beautiful is all about feeling beautiful!”proclaims this upbeat, pastel compendium of mixtures that cleanse, moisturize, and style every inch of a young person’s epidermis and hair. The author, the crafts editor at American Girl magazine, keeps each of the 12 projects per volume safe, clean, and simple, counseling readers to wipe surfaces right away, dilute any essential oils, and to never use products that look or smell funny. Tweens will make pretty gifts, fun party projects, and crafts that promote self-care using natural ingredients—most recipes rely on varying combinations of shea butter, coconut oil, and/or beeswax mixed with kitchen ingredients or tiny drops of essential oils. If melting has to happen, readers are instructed to do it slowly in the microwave, using heat-safe glass bowls. VERDICT Beauty crafts that emphasize health and well-being over appearance—well done!

Antram, David. Draw Caricatures. illus. by David Antram. ISBN 9781911242208.

Bergin, Mark. Draw Cats & Kittens. illus. by Mark Bergin. ISBN 9781911242215.

––––. Draw Dogs & Puppies. illus. by Mark Bergin. ISBN 9781911242222.

––––. Draw Horses. illus. by Mark Bergin. ISBN 9781911242239.

––––. Draw Tanks & Other Military Vehicles. illus. by Mark Bergin. ISBN 9781911242246.

––––. Draw Warplanes. illus. by Mark Bergin. ISBN 9781911242253.

ea vol: 32p. (Step-by-Step). photos. Black Rabbit/Book House. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $21.95.

Gr 4 Up –Students who are serious about improving their art skills will find a lot of methods and techniques to learn and practice in these subject-focused drawing books. Good demonstrations of single-point, two-point, and three-point perspective and light source—not only for the hard-edged objects, such as tanks and warplanes, but in the animal books, too. Dogs, Cats, and Horses demonstrate how to draw each creature from life, a photo, and basic shapes, which is par for the course in drawing books for this age group. Going one step further, each of these titles shows how to build drawings of animals up from the underlying musculature, which is unusual for works aimed at readers of this age. Tanks and Warplanes offer tips on where to find drawing subjects—museums, airfields, and drawing from models. VERDICT Hardcover competition for Lee Ames’s “Draw 50” series.

Heitkamp, Kristina Lyn. Creating with Digital Sewing Machines. ISBN 9781499465082.

Hinton, Kerry. Creating with 3D Scanners. ISBN 9781499465020.

Kamberg, Mary-Lane. Creating with Laser Cutters and Engravers. ISBN 9781499465044.

Leavitt, Amie. Creating with 3D Printers. ISBN 9781499465006.

Porterfield, Jason. Creating with Milling Machines. ISBN 9781499465068.

Small, Cathleen. Creating with Vinyl Cutters. ISBN 9781508173502.

ea vol: 64p. (Getting Creative with Fab Lab). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen Central. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $34.45.

Gr 6-8 –Although each volume contains a few exercises that would be useful in getting to know the capabilities of equipment students are likely to encounter in maker spaces, labs, and workshops, these are not strictly activity books. Rather, they provide reasonable conceptual introductions to the machines—and the cool things that can be done with them. Given the rapidly evolving nature of maker technology and the ever-increasing accessibility of high-tech fabricating machines, it probably makes more sense to take this more general approach. Topics address the collaborative nature of maker culture, the autonomy that young people are given to pursue their projects, and the career opportunities that open up once students have gained experience with computer-aided design and fabrication. Ample resources are provided for finding a camp, group, or space that allows free or low-cost access to fab lab–type equipment. VERDICT Great resource for those interested in maker technology.

Huff, Abby. Draw Your Own Animal Zendoodles. illus. by Angelika Scudamore. ISBN 9781515748403.

––––. Draw Your Own Fairy Tale Zendoodles. illus. by Lizzie Preston. ISBN 9781515748427.

––––. Draw Your Own Lettering and Decorative Zendoodles. illus. by illus. by Pimlada Phuapradit. ISBN 9781515748410.

––––. Draw Your Own Nature Zendoodles. illus. by illus. by Pimlada Phuapradit. ISBN 9781515748434.

ea vol: 48p. (Draw Your Own Zendoodles). further reading. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $31.32.

Gr 4-8 –Not everyone is an artist, but anyone can doodle. This series uses doodling to teach art concepts such as positive versus negative space, symmetry, and foreground versus background. About a dozen projects per book urge kids to try new patterns, tools, and materials in order to make and decorate objects that reflect their own individual aesthetic. Creativity habits are encouraged, too, among them creating and keeping a pattern library and drawing every day. Readers can use their doodles to decorate jars and gift boxes, make jewelry using shrink plastic, paint their nails, or make their own coloring pages to share. This collection skews rather sweet—missing among all the stars, feathers, and leaves are the flames, skulls, diamonds, and gothic writing found in most students’ notebooks. VERDICT A fine choice where interest exists.

Omoth, Tyler. Campfire Chef: Mouthwatering Campfire Recipes. ISBN 9781515738138.

––––. Grill Master: Finger-Licking Grilled Recipes. ISBN 9781515738152.

Ventura, Marne. Bacon Artist: Savory Bacon Recipes. ISBN 9781515738145.

––––. Disgusting Eats: Nasty, but Tasty Recipes. ISBN 9781515738121.

ea vol: 32p. (Kids Can Cook!). further reading. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $27.99.

Gr 4-8 –Who knew there was a need for a grilling cookbook for kids, one that teaches them how to make a cooking fire on a campout—and whip up breakfast, lunch, and dinner, too? While Disgusting Eats focuses on construction and presentation, relying on mostly prepared foods, Grill Master provides good instructions for lighting and cleaning the grill and adding smoky flavor. Extremely tempting photographs do a nice job showing what the recipes look like at key steps in the process, although there are few if any pictures of the finished products. The 11–12 recipes in each title are perhaps a little heavy on the starches and fat, but these are not necessarily dishes for every day. VERDICT This useful, appealing series covers cookery genres that are rarely found in books for young people, and have a play-focused appeal.


Notable series in this section include Capstone’s “Kids Can Cook!” especially the Grill Master and Campfire titles, which may fill a gap in collections; and Capstone’s “DIY Day Spa,” which satisfies the demand for beauty how-to without placing undue emphasis on physical appearance. The maker activities in Rosen Central’s “Getting Creative with Fab Lab” are not only in line with the maker movement but are also likely to spark students’ interests. All right librarians, it’s time to get young test chefs outside to make grilled donut ice cream sandwiches (Grill Master) right now!

Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson

For the latest nonfiction series reviews,
check out the Spring 2017 Series Made Simple

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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