Make Me! Arts & Activities | Series Nonfiction

Enter maker heaven with titles on Mindstorm, recipes straight from baseball stadiums, and books on how to draw fantasy galore—time to get your crafternoons ready.

1604SMS-ArtsActivitiesSynthesizing words and pictures is a skill of great importance when we navigate online resources or information-rich physical environments. Just try finding something to eat in a train station relying only on text signs. You might starve. Similarly, a text instruction like “fold a piece of cardstock into thirds” only tells half the story—you need to consult the photo or illustration in order to get your folds going the right way. A properly composed picture will give information about the nature of the folds— sharply creased or barely bent—the amount of precision needed, and even the color of the paper. Working through the steps of an illustrated craft or activity gives kids practice gathering information from these dual channels of input (text and image) simultaneously. Give your kids the best materials to practice with using our suggestions below.


Bath, Louella. Making Fire in the Wild. ISBN 9781508143215; ISBN 9781508143208; ISBN 9781508143222.

Decker, William. Getting Rescued in the Wild. ISBN 9781508143185; ISBN 9781508143154; ISBN 9781508143192.

Hicks, Dwayne. Finding Water in the Wild. ISBN 9781508143130; ISBN 9781508143116; ISBN 9781508143147.

Mack, Dave. Making Shelter in the Wild. ISBN 9781508143253; ISBN 9781508143239; ISBN 9781508143260.

Mack, Molly. Finding Food in the Wild. ISBN 9781508143093; ISBN 9781508143079; ISBN 9781508143109.

Puri, Devi. Making Tools in the Wild. ISBN 9781508143291; ISBN 9781508143277; ISBN 9781508143307.

ea vol: 24p. (Wilderness Survival Skills). glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. 2016. lib. ed. $23.60. pap. $8.25. ebk. $23.60.

Gr 3-5 –Readers are strongly cautioned against trying any of the activities mentioned in these books without consulting a parent or teacher first. That’s probably enough motivation right there to send any young fan of Survivor or Naked and Afraid straight into the woods with no delay. While these titles feature gorgeous photos of children and families of all ethnicities, ages, and body types enjoying outdoor activities, they are low on practical how to. Most students will need additional information on how to build a signal fire, make a deadfall trap, and tie knots once their interest is piqued by these books. Getting Rescued provides the best information, in the form of priority lists and mnemonics. VERDICT Good introduction to the concepts but little practical advice is found in this attractive series.

Corfee, Stephanie. Free Spirit Doodles. ISBN 9781491479452.

––––. Quirky, Cute Doodles. ISBN 9781491479445.

––––. Twirly Girly Doodles. ISBN 9781491479438.

ea vol: 32p. (Doodle with Attitude). glossary. illus. index. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $20.49.

Gr 3-6 –Challenging, design-focused coloring books have become increasingly popular. This series gives students tips and inspiration for making their own intricate designs. Each volume suggests six or seven exercises with plenty of projects that take doodles out of the margins and into the real world. There are phone and eyeglass cases to decorate, cards to make, and art to hang on the wall or shelf. Drawing borders and creating patterns, learning how to incorporate text or shapes, and shading techniques such as stippling and hatching are all covered. A low entry point encourages students who don’t think of themselves as “artistic” to get creating. VERDICT A good source of at-the-drop-of-a-hat craft ideas, but nonessential at best.

Felix, Rebecca. Cool Action Figures and Dolls: Crafting Creative Toys and Amazing Games. ISBN 9781680780451; ISBN 9781680772906.

––––. Cool Board Games: Crafting Creative Toys and Amazing Games. ISBN 9781680780468; ISBN 9781680772913.

––––. Cool Construction and Building Blocks: Crafting Creative Toys and Amazing Games. ISBN 9781680780475; ISBN 9781680772920.

––––. Cool Crayons, Chalks, and Paints: Crafting Creative Toys and Amazing Games. ISBN 9781680780482; ISBN 9781680772937.

––––. Cool Doughs, Putties, Slimes, and Goops: Crafting Creative Toys and Amazing Games. ISBN 9781680780499; ISBN 9781680772944.

––––. Cool Springy, Slinky, and Stretchy Projects: Crafting Creative Toys and Amazing Games. ISBN 9781680780505; ISBN 9781680772951.

ea vol: 32p. (Cool Toys and Games). glossary. index. photos. ABDO. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. ebk. $32.95.

Gr 3-6 –The crafts in each of these books will make for good classroom, club activities, and parties. The instructions are reasonably foolproof and with five to six per volume, a lot to choose from. The projects in Dolls are all about individualization and creativity, while others require scrupulous attention, such as the recipes in Crayons and Doughs. Many of these projects are made using easily accessible materials, although some ingredients—clear casting epoxy (Blocks), liquid starch (Doughs), and glow-in-the-dark powder (Crayons)—are special-purchase items. Fun facts about kid favorites like LEGO, Barbie, and Monopoly are liberally sprinkled throughout. VERDICT A strong choice.

Lim, Annalees. Creepy-Crawly Crafts. ISBN 9781508191032; ISBN 9781508191018; ISBN 9781508191049.

––––. Farmyard Animal Crafts. ISBN 9781508191070; ISBN 9781508191056; ISBN 9781508191087.

––––. Pet Crafts. ISBN 9781508191117; ISBN 9781508191094; ISBN 9781508191124.

––––. Sea Animal Crafts. ISBN 9781508191155; ISBN 9781508191131; ISBN 9781508191162.

––––. Wild Animal Crafts. ISBN 9781508191193; ISBN 9781508191179; ISBN 9781508191209.

––––. Zoo Animal Crafts. ISBN 9781508191230; ISBN 9781508191216; ISBN 9781508191247.

ea vol: 24p. (Creating Creature Crafts). glossary. index. photos. Windmill. 2016. lib. ed. $26.25. pap. $10.60. ebk. $26.25.

Gr 1-3 –The 10 projects per volume of this series are good for classroom or library use. Most can be fashioned from readily available supplies and are fastened with staples or double-sided tape, minimizing mess. There are times when you need a craft that has a low number of steps and can be assembled from a few pre-cut pieces of card stock, yarn, and googly eyes. However, dedicated crafters will find little to satisfy them here—the craft items are purely decorative, not functional, and may not hold together for long. The simple shapes involved and pared-down steps also mean that attractive results rely on a high degree of finesse or artistic skill. Large type and steps arranged in comic book–like panels invite new readers. VERDICT Gentle reinforcement for new or struggling readers, but throwaway craft results otherwise.

Meister, Cari. Totally Wacky Facts About the Human Body. ISBN 9781491483596; ISBN 9781491483688.

––––. Totally Wacky Facts About the Mind. ISBN 9781491483619; ISBN 9781491483695.

ea vol: 112p. (Mind Benders). glossary. index. photos. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $16.99. pap. $6.95.

Gr 3-6 –This series delivers some truly outrageous facts about the mind and body. Each title is formatted to have one fact on each page, rendered in large, sharp display text with graphic elements, including a few electron microscope pictures and archival photos. Many pages, however, would benefit from a related diagram or illustration. These are extremely fun, wacky facts, but facts in isolation lose a great deal of meaning. VERDICT While visually interesting, these titles do not provide enough stand-alone information.

Scrace, Carolyn. Drawing Animals. ISBN 9781625883438; ISBN 9781625885098.

––––. Drawing Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals. ISBN 9781625883445; ISBN 9781625885104.

––––. Drawing Fairies and Mermaids. ISBN 9781625883452; ISBN 9781625885111.

––––. Drawing Monsters. ISBN 9781625883469; ISBN 9781625885128.

––––. Drawing Robots. ISBN 9781625883476; ISBN 9781625885135.

––––. Drawing Things That Go. ISBN 9781625883483; ISBN 9781625885142.

ea vol: 32p. (Art Works). glossary. photos. Smart Apple. 2016. lib. ed. $21.95. ebk. $31.35.

K-Gr 4 –Any artist—even kids still getting a handle on their fine motor skills—will get good results by copying the simple shapes that make up the steps of these drawings. Breaking each drawing down into large masses gives kids practice with one of the fundamental techniques of representation. Art done in saturated colors and tactile art-supply textures—crumbly crayon, overlapping felt-tip marker lines, and rough paper—gives these books visual appeal. Perhaps Robots and Monsters provides the most leeway for improvisation, and the greatest margin of error, while Dinosaurs includes authentic details such as the Iguanodon’s thumb spikes and Parasaurolophus’s tubelike crest. Fairies and Mermaids appropriately represents the diversity of fairy and mermaid kind, although there’s only one boy fairy and no mermen. VERDICT Attainable results, lots of projects per volume, and an appealing look make this a good choice for very young artists.

Turnbull, Stephanie. Beauty Blitz. ISBN 9781625883766; ISBN 9781625885340.

––––. Bedroom Makeovers. ISBN 9781625883773; ISBN 9781625885357.

––––. Cool Crafts. ISBN 9781625883780; ISBN 9781625885364.

––––. Fabulous Food. ISBN 9781625883797; ISBN 9781625885371.

––––. Fun and Games. ISBN 9781625883803; ISBN 9781625885388.

––––. Wardrobe Makeovers. ISBN 9781625883810; ISBN 9781625885395.

ea vol: 24p. (Sleepover Secrets). illus. photos. Smart Apple. 2016. lib. ed. $18.95. ebk. $27.10.

Gr 3-6 –The ingredients for a truly great sleepover include lively games, clever crafts and activities, yummy snacks, and maybe a beauty experiment or two. All these and more are covered in these colorful volumes. Familiar standbys such as T-shirt throw pillows (Bedroom Makeovers) and blueberry pancakes (Food) are included, along with a variety of new ideas that youthful party planners may not have thought of such as a campout sleepover (Fun), sewing felt cookies (Crafts), and hand massages (Beauty). As this series is produced by a Canadian publisher, the occasional use of slightly unfamiliar vocabulary such as nail varnish, biscuits (instead of cookies), and dribbling a football might be confusing for American readers. Adults might take issue with the overtly gendered nature of this series—after all, boys have sleepovers, too, and they eat food, play games, and do crafts. VERDICT A serviceable choice.

Middle to High School

Bow, James. Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Graphic Design. ISBN 9780778722502; ISBN 9780778722625; ISBN 9781427117199.

––––. Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Robotics. ISBN 9780778722540; ISBN 9780778722663; ISBN 9781427117212.

Levete, Sarah. Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Animation. ISBN 9780778722441; ISBN 9780778722564; ISBN 9781427117168.

––––. Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Fashion. ISBN 9780778722465; ISBN 9780778722588; ISBN 9781427117175.

Sjonger, Rebecca. Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Games. ISBN 9780778722489; ISBN 9780778722601; ISBN 9781427117182.

––––. Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Music. ISBN 9780778722526; ISBN 9780778722649; ISBN 9781427117205.

ea vol: 32p. (Be a Maker!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Crabtree. 2016. lib. ed. $27.60. pap. $8.95. ebk. $41.40.

Gr 6-8 –This series combines introductory material such as history and analysis with a good breakdown of the steps involved in planning, process, and evaluation of creative projects. Generous design with lots of white space, lists, sidebars, and pictures make reading a breeze. However, most kids interested in these subjects will be impatient with the six to 12 pages of front matter, which includes superfluous discussion of the motivations of makers. With only three projects per volume, students may be disappointed. The projects themselves are notably low-tech, including a robot hand made of cardboard and straws. These are regular craft books updated by using variations of the word “maker” as often as possible. VERDICT Libraries invested in maker culture may want to save their budget dollars for books that cover coding and tool use.

Hixon, Rena. Mindstorms: Level 1. ISBN 9781634705240; ISBN 9781634706445; ISBN 9781634707046.

––––. Mindstorms: Level 2. ISBN 9781 634705257; ISBN 9781634706452; ISBN 9781634707053.

––––. Mindstorms: Level 4. ISBN 9781 634705271; ISBN 9781634706476; ISBN 9781634707077.

––––. Mindstorms: Level 3. ISBN 9781634705264; ISBN 9781634706469; ISBN 9781634707060.

ea vol: 32p. (21st Century Skills Innovation Library: Unofficial Guides). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Cherry Lake. 2016. lib. ed. $20.95. pap. $10.95. ebk. $32.95.

Gr 5-8 –Clear and well-organized, these books start with enough atomized step-by-step instructions to confidently set up beginners. The projects covered work well when combined with hands-on practice—photos of the EV3 LCD screen and screen captures from the programming software show users exactly what their progress should look like. There’s an appreciable leap in complexity between levels two and three, but this does reflect the way that Mindstorms skills level up. By level four, readers who are good enough at Mindstorms that they’ll be interested in the topics covered—multitasking, the Gyro Sensor, and data logging—will have probably figured them out for themselves, but seeing instructions laid out in print may inspire kids who are not quite there yet to make that leap. The only caveat is whether these books will become outdated when the EV3 brick or Mindstorms programming software gets updated. VERDICT Great for club or classroom use, or for kids exploring Mindstorms at home.

Jorgensen, Katrina & Blake Hoena . The American League: Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods. ISBN 9781491482322.

––––. The National League: Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods. ISBN 9781491482339.

ea vol: 64p. (Ballpark Cookbooks). chart. photos. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $23.49.

Gr 6 Up –Readers will say yes to learning how to make crab-cake sliders like they do at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, yes to pineapple salsa to go with the Caribbean rice bowl while watching the San Francisco Giants play, and yes to the gravy-drenched combination of cheese curds and french fries known as poutine in Toronto. Updated stadium food is not as unhealthy as it used to be, and the 15 mini-menus in each of these books reflects that. Although there are lots of variations on dogs and fries, there are also plenty of slaws and corn, as well as fruity drinks and the occasional dessert. Recipes range from easy, like nutty chocolate drizzled popcorn and pizza-stuffed baked potato, to challenging ones such as Philadelphia’s cheesesteak sliders. VERDICT Especially if your readers have had success with the author’s previous Sports Illustrated cookbooks, you’ll want these gender-neutral collections of recipes.

Sautter, A.J. How To Draw Dragons, Trolls, and Other Dangerous Monsters. ISBN 9781491480236.

––––. How To Draw Elves, Dwarves, and Other Magical Folk. ISBN 9781491480274.

––––. How To Draw Griffins, Unicorns, and Other Mythical Beasts. ISBN 9781491480250.

––––. How To Draw Orcs, Goblins, and Other Wicked Creatures. ISBN 9781491480243.

ea vol: 32p. (Drawing Fantasy Creatures). illus. websites. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $20.49.

Gr 6 Up –Fans of fantasy role-playing or deck-building games will enjoy this series as they learn to draw their favorite mythical creatures. The basis of many of these projects shares the same kind of anatomical framework of limbs and joints used in realistic figure and animal drawing, allowing young artists the opportunity to rearrange their creatures into a variety of poses. The techniques learned throughout these titles allow for animal and human anatomical components to be swapped and combined to make unique chimerical creatures even beyond the examples demonstrated. VERDICT Solid, skills-based approach to drawing fantastic characters and creatures.

Zeiger, James. Minecraft: Mining and Farming. ISBN 9781634705219; ISBN 9781634706414; ISBN 9781634707015.

––––. Minecraft: Enchanting and Potion Brewing. ISBN 9781634705233; ISBN 9781634706438; ISBN 9781634707039.

––––. Minecraft: Redstone and Transportation. ISBN 9781634705226; ISBN 9781634706421; ISBN 9781634707022.

––––. Minecraft Beginner’s Guide. ISBN 9781634705202; ISBN 9781634706407; ISBN 9781634707008.

ea vol: 32p. (21st Century Skills Innovation Library: Unofficial Guides). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Cherry Lake. 2016. lib. ed. $20.95. pap. $9.95. ebk. $32.95.

Gr 3-8 –Minecraft users are an exacting audience: the game is frequently the first complicated thing they have figured out for themselves and with their peers, and they are proud defenders of that knowledge. These title could do with a little less explanation and a lot more pictures, recipes, and practical how-to. Crafting recipes are essential for beginners, but this beginner’s guide goes right to swords, torches, and shovels, rather than the very first things a Minecrafter needs. Redstone tells readers how to use a repeater to extend a signal, but leaves out an essential element, and does not include a recipe for making one. Farming includes a superfluous sentence describing what “a one in ten chance” means, and then gets it wrong, describing theoretical probability instead of experimental probability. VERDICT There are enough discrepancies here to turn off devotees.

Students can be very particular about their crafts. Errors and inconsistencies in books that cover high-interest, quantitatively oriented activities such as robotics or games can confuse first-timers enough that they lose interest, and will sabotage the trust of enthusiasts. On the other hand, details that reveal an author’s hands-on experience cement a book’s credibility. In Mindstorms: Level 1, Hixon counsels caution, “You might cause your EV3 to fall off the table!” My experienced student nodded sagely, “that has totally happened to me!” Black Rabbit’s “Art Works” and Capstone’s “Drawing Fantasy Creatures” provide visual and skill-building appeal. The addition of trivia-type facts in ABDO’s “Cool Toys & Games” makes this series stand out. Cherry Lake’s “21st Century Skills Innovation Library: Unofficial Guides” Mindstorms titles are so thorough beginners will become pros in no time.

Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

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