February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Busy Hands, Engaged Minds, and Unfettered Imaginations: A Craft Book Round-Up

Summer vacation is the perfect time to try new things and get messy. In addition to being downright fun, craft projects and other hands-on activities fortify reading and visual decoding skills, encourage problem-solving abilities, stimulate creativity, and provide a sense of accomplishment. Refresh your craft-book shelves and stock maker spaces with this selection of how-to manuals packed with kid appeal.

CraftCampCraft Camp. Lark. 2015. pap. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-4547-0900-8.
Gr 1-6–A splendid resource for family use, this brightly illustrated book presents 40 projects designed for a wide range of ages and abilities. Arranged from easiest (Badge One) to more challenging (Badge Four), the activities are introduced with easy-to-follow directions, eye-catching photos, and helpful pictures. A captivating variety of techniques and materials will keep young crafters engrossed as they make illuminated houses out of milk cartons, fashion paper cup piñatas, melt crayon shavings into stained glass designs, or arm-knit a scarf.

CrochetCreative Kids Complete Photo Guide to Crochet. By Deborah Burger. Creative Publishing. 2015. pap. $24.99. ISBN 978-1-58923-855-8.
Gr 3-7–Patience and persistence are reinforced throughout this accessible how-to, which begins with the basics (slip knot and chaining) and progresses to more advanced stitches and techniques. Chapters introducing new skills include kid-grabbing projects that utilize each just-learned method, and the author also familiarizes readers with typical “crochet language” found in patterns. Clear, close-up photos of the processes and attractive images of young male and female artisans making and modeling the finished items give this book tons of visual appeal. Other titles in the series includes guides to knitting and bead crafts.

FacePaintingFace Painting. By Karen Harvey. Quarto Publishing Group. 2016. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781609929251.
K-Gr 5–After outlining required tools and basic techniques, Harvey provides step-by-step directions for creating 30 colorful designs that range from adorable animal faces and delicate flower and fairy embellishments to slithery dragons to appealingly ghoulish visages (a zombie, skull, witch, etc.). Each project is ranked for difficulty (from one star for “Quick and Simple” to five stars for “Masterpiece”) and includes numbered directions accompanied by clear photos of always-smiling multiethnic kid models.

I Can Make Dolls’ Clothes
. By Louse Scott-Smith & Georgia Vaux. Thames & Hudson. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780500650516.
Gr 3-6–Budding fashion designers will be itching to make all of these stylish outfits (included are nine wardrobe basics such as a tunic top, faux-fur jacket, skater skirt, party dress, and fringed bag) for their 12” dolls. Very simple, step-by-step instructions and clear illustrations take readers from tracing patterns (in actual size) to putting on the finishing touches. Tips for adapting the projects to create original designs are appended, as is a brief intro to threading and stitching basics.

ICanMakeThatI Can Make That!
By Mary Wallace. Owl Kids. 2014. Tr $18.95 ISBN 9781926973975.
K-Gr 4–Useful for a rainy day, this idea-crammed craft book puts an emphasis on both hands-on creativity and pretend play. Brief instructions and attractive photos invite youngsters to make costumes, puppets, nature crafts, toys, and games (how-to-play directions included). In many cases, everyday objects are transformed into imagination-rousing launch pads: two chairs and some cardboard add-ons become a spaceship; puppets are concocted from construction paper, a sponge, or one’s own hand (and tips are provided on making them come to life); twist ties are wrapped with embroidery thread to “Eensy-Weensy People;” balloons filled with sand (“Squishers”) can be used for juggling or hackeysack. This updated reissue of a 2002 title compiles content from five previously published “I Can Make” titles (now out of print).

Crafts6Knit, Hook, and Spin: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Fiber Arts and Crafts. By Laurie Carlson. Chicago Review Pr. 2016. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781613734001.
Gr 4-7–Pairing clear writing with enthusiasm, Carlson presents more than 70 finger-tantalizing projects along with an abundance of fascinating facts about the textile arts. Neatly illustrated sections focus on felting, knotting and braiding, spinning (by hand or with an easy-to-make spindle), weaving, knitting, crocheting, and dying. Chapters begin with brief histories of these ages-old art forms and incorporate pertinent sidebars so kids can weave a square of yarn on a baking rack while thinking about Viking ships powered by woven-from-wool sails, or learn about highly skilled guild knitters of the Middle Ages while perfecting their own basic stitch. Recycled projects and from-home materials are emphasized along with a sense of creative community, as youngsters get busy braiding rugs from old T-shirts, weaving flowers on forks, finger-knitting scarfs, or crocheting items ranging from boot toppers to beards.

LetsSewLet’s Sew. DK. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-1-4654-4508-7.
Gr 1-5–Perfect for true beginners, this intro to hand sewing opens with easy-to-follow instructions for threading a needle, mastering the running stitch and backstitch, and sewing on a button. The 12 simple projects that follow include making felt animals (elephants, birdies, etc.), bottle carriers recycled from old socks, drawstring fabric bags, button bookmarks, and more. Throughout, the numbered directions are accompanied by close-up photographs that make each step crystal clear, and decorative illustrations keep the layout interesting.

GetOutsideNational Geographic Kids Get Outside Guide: All Things Adventure, Exploration, and Fun! by Nancy Honovich & Julie Beer. National Geographic. 2014. PLB $23.90. ISBN 978-1426315039; pap. $14.99. ISBN 978-1426315022.
Gr 3-6–Packed with high-quality photos of natural wonders, flora and fauna, and kids engaged in outside activities, this book encourages youngsters to investigate, experience, and enjoy the great outdoors. Sections are divided according to habitat: “Let’s Get Wet” (oceans, rivers, streams); “Journey through the Trees” (different types of forests); “Explore Your Backyard;” “Nature Around Town” (city and playground); and “Let’s Go to the Park” (local and national). The book provides an inviting blend of general information (seasons, wildlife, and locales across the globe are highlighted), fun facts and photo quizzes, and lucidly presented activities and projects (youngsters can make an underwater scope, a terrarium, a solar oven, a kite, and more). “Explore” pages focused on the various terrains appear throughout, consistently encouraging kids to observe, record, and savor their surroundings.

ThNittyGrittye Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book: Projects for All Seasons. By Kari Cornell. Photos. by Jennifer S. Larson. Millbrook. 2015. PLB $26.65. ISBN 9781467726474.
Gr 3-6–Easy-to-follow instructions, helpful illustrations and diagrams, and visually appealing photographs empower kids to get their hands dirty, imaginations humming, and senses satisfied. An introduction outlines gardening benefits (flavorful fresh produce, observing and aiding the local ecosystem, a sense of accomplishment) and basics (evaluating space, testing soil pH, mapping sunlight, watering and feeding). Arranged by season, projects can be adapted to a variety of outdoor and indoor spaces and include starting seeds in homemade newspaper pots (the whole thing can later be transplanted into the ground), planting a strawberry basket, making a container butterfly garden, and creating an herb window box. Photos of finished products and a multiethnic cast of hard-at-work young gardeners encourage readers to dig right in.

PaintItPaint It: The Art of Acrylics, Oils, Pastels, and Watercolors. By Mari Bolte. Capstone. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-62370-009-6.
Gr 3 Up–This elucidating guide introduces each medium along with basic tools and tips, before launching into projects that help novices explore artistic techniques, concepts, and styles while also building skills and flexing their creativity. The activities are paired with crisply reproduced images that clearly illustrate the outlined progression of steps. Throughout, sidebars provide brief glimpses at well-known artists and movements. Youngsters can experiment with watercolor washes, use sgraffito to scratch out a Mayan-inspired image, create a batik-like resist painting of a sun, or layer oils to render an impasto owl. This book’s can-do presentation, handsome layout, and wide coverage of artistic methods and styles make it a stand out.

JunkReThunkScrapKins: Junk Re-Thunk. By Brian Yanish. Christy Ottaviano/Holt. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-62779-133-5.
Gr 2-5–Welcome to Scrap City, where six brimming-with-personality creatures—including the messy and malodorous Itcher, the smart and speed-loving Swooper, and the uber-organized Stacker—dedicate their lives to “scrap-venting” (transforming discarded materials into useful objects). Along with lively profiles of the ScrapKins (and a whirlwind of cartoon-style illustrations, comics, games, and puzzles), Yanish presents 24 fun-to-do projects that recycle thrown-away items (cardboard tubes, bottle caps, plastic jugs, etc.) into an array of moveable puppets, cool masks, exciting-to-race vehicles, and imagination-inspiring items (e.g., a cereal box treasure). Sidebars introduce scientific concepts, suggest modifications, and encourage creativity. Kids will see trash with fresh eyes and embrace the ScrapKins’ always-inventive, dream-big spirit.

StickyFingersSticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects. By Sophie Maletsky. Zest. 2014. pap. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-936976-54-6.
Gr 4 Up–Easy-to-follow directions, step-by-step photos, and an alluring array of duct-tape delights make this volume a craft-shelf must-have. Consistently encouraging kids to be creative, Maletsky begins with basic tools and techniques and then presents projects on a variety of skill levels. Designs are organized into logical categories: quick-to-make items (tassels, bows, flowers); wallets (six different styles); bags and carriers (including an irresistible watermelon purse and felt-lined smartphone case); wearable art (bracelets, belts, and more); stylish school supplies (bookmark, pencil case, etc.); and room decor (personalized dry-erase board, frames, etc.). The book ends with suggestions for using up duct tape remnants (and even the cardboard roll!).

Other recent articles in SLJ‘s “Great Books” series by Joy Fleishhacker include “Green Thumbs and Bountiful Imaginations: Great Books about Gardens” and “Great Books To Welcome Spring.

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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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