Happiness Is Homemade | Arts & Crafts Series Nonfiction

These attractive books will take quarantine hobbies to the next level. Readers can cook up a storm, build projects out of recyclables, or peacefully draw. Also notable: New seek-and-find titles make vocabulary development fun for kids and parents.


 This fall, activity and craft books are more important than ever. Teachers are looking for fresh and dynamic STEAM projects that will work in the classroom and at home. Students and families are learning new ways to be resourceful and to make their own fun. These attractive books will take quarantine hobbies to the next level. Readers can cook up a storm, build projects out of recyclables, or peacefully draw. Also notable: New seek-and-find titles make vocabulary development fun for kids and parents.



Olson, Elsie. Make a Creepy Costume Your Way! ISBN 9781532193163.
––––. Make a Mini UFO Your Way! ISBN 9781532193187.
––––. Make a Pet Monster Your Way! ISBN 9781532193194.
––––. Make a Robot BFF Your Way! ISBN 9781532193200.
Thomas, Rachael L. Make a Haunted House Your Way! ISBN 9781532193170.
––––. Make a Space Alien Your Way! ISBN 9781532193217.
ea vol: 32p. (DIY Monsters & Mischief Makerspace). ABDO/Super Sandcastle. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
K-Gr 4 –Attractive photos and illustrations encourage imagination through design, materials selection, and construction so that young makers can create the creepy projects of their weird and wacky dreams. Basic rules of making—respect other people, materials, and spaces—are coupled with prompts that inspire outrageous ideas. Similar to the previous books in the series, the text provides many examples of the connection between concept and execution. For instance, in Make a Creepy Costume Your Way!, readers are asked, “Will you gross people out with a second head? Then you’ll need a sturdy strap to attach it to your body.” Useful tips and tricks provide methods to add finishing touches or overcome construction obstacles. VERDICT These books feature ­endlessly ­extendable concepts, delightful content, and an emphasis on problem solving and using found objects as crafting materials. Any child with a taste for the macabre will want to test out these accessible projects.

Schuette, Sarah L. Fairy Tales and Fantasies. ISBN 9781977122575.
––––. Let’s Celebrate! ISBN 9781977122599.
––––. School Days. ISBN 9781977122582.
––––. Spooky Sights. ISBN 9781977122568.
ea vol: 32p. (Can You Find It?). Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.32.
K-Gr 4 –Seek-and-find books are popular with kids and adults. They have hidden value: providing practice with concentration, working memory, and vocabulary. Learning to distinguish similar shapes is called visual discrimination. This is an important aspect of decoding; many letters in our Latin alphabet are quite similar in appearance. These imaginative volumes will refresh any collection. The spreads in each book feature cute miniature items, animals, and shapes, often organized by color against flat backgrounds. Diorama puzzles are also included, adding depth to the challenge. VERDICT These engaging and attractive picture challenges are great for pre-readers and readers alike.

Silver Dolphin, ed. Mega Machines. Jul. 2020. ISBN 9781684126712.
––––. Wild World. Aug. 2020. ISBN 9781684126682.
Steele, Philip. Big Builds. illus. by ­Brendan Kearney. Mar. 2020. ISBN 9781684126729.
ea vol: 10p. (Expandable Explorations). Printers Row/Silver Dolphin. Tr. $18.99.
Gr 1-3 –These big books are sturdy and packed with detail. The pages slide out to reveal more facts, interior views, and seven inconspicuous details for sharp eyes to find. Engineered books are often not worth the purchase in school libraries because of their fragility, but these books can be easily repaired even if the sliding panels become detached. Readers will learn about popular subjects in as much or as little detail as their interest dictates. Wild World stands out; ­every iguana, bear, and polar eelpout is drawn with googly eyes. ­VERDICT High-quality, information-dense titles with loads of appeal across age groups.



Bergin, Mark. Boats. ISBN 9781912904327.
––––. Cars. ISBN 9781912904334.
––––. Planes. ISBN 9781912904341.
––––. Rockets. ISBN 9781912904358.
––––. Trains. ISBN 9781912904365.
––––. Trucks. ISBN 9781912904372.
ea vol: illus. by author. 32p. (Easy to Draw). Black Rabbit/Book House. Aug. 2020. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 3-6 –Automobiles, planes, and trains are easy to replicate using the directions in this series. There are five steps per vehicle; text instructions identify the geometric shapes needed to complete the drawing. The clear drawings are easy to copy. Nine cartoon-style projects per volume will give artists practice with wheels, wings, flames, boxy sedans, curvy streamlined jets, and the people who drive them. Advice about how to create cartoon versions of images from magazines or the internet is included. Uncluttered designs feature bright, friendly colors. Readers will be able to easily track the progression of steps. VERDICT These easy-to-follow titles are visually appealing additions to the how-to-draw section.

Enz, Tammy. 10-Minute Game and Gadget Projects. ISBN 9781496680907.
––––. 10-Minute Upcycled Projects. ISBN 9781496680914.
Harbo, Christopher. 10-Minute Drawing Projects. illus. by Lucy Makuc. ISBN 9781496680891.
––––. 10-Minute Origami Projects. ISBN 9781496680884.
ea vol: 32p. (10-Minute Makers). Capstone. Aug. 2020. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 3-5 –Ten-minute crafts? You might be skeptical. However, the 13 projects in each of these books can be accomplished in 10 minutes, as long as crafters start with their materials assembled, their hot glue guns warmed up, and some expertise or adult help. There are familiar activities here, such as a cup-and-ball game and a folded paper boat, but there are also some innovations, including a cell phone sleeve made from a necktie (10-Minute Upcycled Projects) and a tiny Skee-Ball game (10-Minute Game and Gadget Projects). 10-Minute Drawing Projects seems a bit out of place among the other titles, which offer 3-D crafts. Step-by-step instructions are accompanied by photos and line up vertically, making them easy to follow. VERDICT Lots of projects to try for beginning and intermediate crafters.

Gagliardi, Sue. Cardboard Castle Challenge! ISBN 9781532167911.
––––. Cardboard Robot Challenge! ISBN 9781532167935.
––––. Cardboard Rocket Challenge! ISBN 9781532167942.
Mattern, Joanne. Cardboard Armor Challenge! ISBN 9781532167904.
––––. Cardboard Creature Challenge! ISBN 9781532167928.
––––. Cardboard Roller Coaster Challenge! ISBN 9781532167959.
ea vol: 32p. (Makerspace Cardboard Challenge!). ABDO/DiscoverRoo. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 2-5 –Informative text guides readers through a series of prompts designed to get young makers thinking about form, function, materials, and construction. Photos and examples of finished projects provide inspiration and entertainment. QR codes link to activities, media, and other resources for readers and teachers, including correlations to Common Core and National Science Education Standards. VERDICT Amply supported by fun and useful information, this series offers a great balance between learning and making.

Jorgensen, Katrina. Adventurous Eats. ISBN 9781496681010.
––––. Cheap Eats. ISBN 9781496681003.
––––. Grab-and-Go Eats. ISBN 9781496680990.
––––. No-Fail Favorite Eats. ISBN 9781496680976.
ea vol: 32p. (Easy Eats). Capstone. Aug. 2020. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 3-5 –The 12 kid-friendly recipes in each of these cookbooks are simple, but they incorporate from-scratch components that are useful additions to every cook’s repertoire. The instructions for adapting recipes for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets do not rely on an abundance of processed ingredients. Process photos are few, but one large, appetizing photo of each finished dish whets the appetite. Adults are recruited for oven and stove duties and when a sharp knife is used, but all techniques are well within the capabilities of beginner cooks. VERDICT A standout. This series accommodates food sensitivities and preferences.

Kissock, Heather, ed. Military Vehicles. ISBN 9781791119874.
McGill, Jordan, ed. Animals. ISBN 9781791119799.
––––. Dinosaurs. ISBN 9781791119836.
––––. Pets. ISBN 9781791119959.
––––. Space. ISBN 9781791119751.
PRATT, Laura. Monsters. ISBN 9781791119911.
ea vol: 10p. (You Can Draw). Weigl/AV2. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.99.
Gr 4-6 –This series covers a lot of ground. Each book walks artists through six drawings in nine steps, starting with a stick figure armature connecting geometric shapes. Each drawing subject gets a spread, which includes pertinent vocabulary. Busy, somewhat dense information pages with lots of access points contrast nicely with uncluttered, clean drawing pages. A quiz at the end adds an extra challenge. VERDICT A good purchase if your budget allows just one new drawing series to refresh your collection.

Owen, Ruth. Aliens. ISBN 9781647471903.
––––. Ghosts. ISBN 9781647471859.
––––. Monsters. ISBN 9781647471873.
––––. Spiders. ISBN 9781647471897.
––––. Vampires. ISBN 9781647471880.
––––. Witches. ISBN 9781647471866.
ea vol: 24p. (Creepy Crafts & More). Bearport/Create!. Aug. 2020. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 3-6 –The projects described in these books include a costume item, a decorative piece, an edible object, and a toy. Readers try folding origami, mixing slime, sewing, and baking. Step-by-step instructions feature a photo or two, although they don’t show hands executing the actions involved. In some cases, as with the sewing required for werewolf paws (Monsters), a diagram might benefit some readers. One page of fun facts completes each book. Materials are mainly household items or art supplies, although candy eyes, fake fur, or black poster board may require special purchase. Many of these crafts must dry overnight or cool. The series uses engaging graphics. The fonts reinforce the creepy theme, while projects are executed in bright colors. The pages use a different thematic border for each project. VERDICT These appealing books showcase a variety of projects that may tempt the makers in your library.

Keep your collection fresh: ­Activity books with up-to-date designs and clear photographs are much more inviting than old or dull books. Look for titles with rich online content like “Makerspace Cardboard Challenge!” (ABDO/DiscoverRoo), or series with projects that allow for wiggle room in selecting materials. “Easy Eats” (Capstone) is a great cookbook series that respects diverse dietary needs. Don’t sleep on the new offerings in the seek-and-find genre. “Can You Find It?” (Capstone/Pebble) and “Expandable Explorations” (Printers Row/Silver Dolphin) will be just as popular as your “I Spy” books.

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