New Artistic Adventures | Arts & Activities Series Nonfiction

This spring, arts and activity books are notably well designed and beautifully diverse—update your library with some of these titles.


After two traumatic years trying to teach the same old topics in new and difficult ways, many teachers are looking for new paths. Maybe those paths lead outside, in which case “Backyard Games” or “Forest School: Outdoor Adventures and Outdoor Play” are ideal, giving information gathering skills a dose of fresh air. Perhaps the move is to pull kids into nonfiction by means of their favorite leisure activities, as in “Slimy Science,” “Toy Stories,” and “All About Anime and Manga.” This spring, arts and activity books are notably well designed and beautifully diverse—update your library with some of these titles.



Dufresne, Emilie. Minibeasts. ISBN 9781636914640.
––––. Trees. ISBN 9781636914664.
Wood, John. Birds. ISBN 9781636914619.
––––. Creatures. ISBN 9781636914626.
––––. Rocks and Sticks. ISBN 9781636914633.
––––. Seed. ISBN 9781636914657.
ea vol: 24p. (Forest School: Outdoor Adventures and Outdoor Play). Bearport/Fusion. Jan. 2022. Tr $26.99.
Gr 1-3 –Exceptionally clear photos show readers what they should look for during their forest walks. Most of nature comes in shades of green or brown, so detailed pictures of tracks, seeds, nests, and droppings will help children identify evidence of life. Photos of woodland creatures bring kids close enough to see every whisker, stem, and beady eye. Textures are especially well-represented, allowing readers to imagine what a sleek deer or prickly seed casing feels like without touching them. Photos of people are also well-chosen—diverse children and educators show that everyone is welcome in the forest. Guidelines for respecting the environment, such as “stay on the path,” “let plants grow instead of picking them,” and “take away trash,” are included in each book. VERDICT Gentle, attractive books with superlative photos take readers for a walk in the woods.

Felix, Rebecca. Creating with Cardboard, Crayons & Duct Tape. ISBN 9781532196409.
––––. Creating with Felt, Craft Sticks & Clothespins. ISBN 9781532196430.
––––. Creating with Newspaper, Buttons & ­Paper Clips. ISBN 9781532196447.
Olson, Elsie. Creating with Chenille Stems, Bottles & Tissue Paper. ISBN 9781532196416.
––––. Creating with Egg Cartons, String & Straws. ISBN 9781532196423.
––––. Creating with Paper Tubes, Rubber Bands & Yarn. ISBN 9781532196454.
ea vol: 32p. (Makerspace Trios). Abdo/Super SandCastle. Jan. 2022. Tr $31.36.
Gr 2-5 –Readers who want to make toys, tools, functional items, or things that just look cool will find guidance in this series on how to make creative use of a variety of materials. These books encourage makers to consider each material’s properties and imagine how it could be used. Wrap it, smush it, turn it upside down, experiment, and tinker. Readers who prefer more guidance can try any of six medium-skill step-by-step projects. Examples of these finished projects are accessibly rough and ready, balanced with two pages of more aspirational examples of how artists and others have used these materials in the real world. Friendly design elements and pictures of diverse, smiling children add up to an appealing whole. VERDICT Makers who prefer open-ended prompts as well as those who are more comfortable with defined projects are respected in this series.

Garstecki, Julia. Furry, Funny Jokes about Pets. ISBN 9781623107048.
––––. Hugely Hilarious Jokes about Dinosaurs. ISBN 9781623107055.
––––. Secretly Treasured Jokes about Pirates. ISBN 9781623107062.
––––. Surprising, Goofy Jokes about Holidays. ISBN 9781623107079.
––––. Tastefully Silly Jokes about Food. ISBN 9781623107086.
––––. Zooming, Zippy Jokes about Vehicles. ISBN 9781623107093.
ea vol: 24p. (Just for Laughs). Black Rabbit/Hi Jinx. Jan. 2022. Tr $31.35.
Gr 2-4 –Homonyms, puns, and other wordplay give the brain a puzzle to solve, but outdated figures of speech and vocabulary can leave kids and English language learners feeling left behind. Some of these jokes books feature up-to-date idioms (“Why are fireworks so cool? Because they’re lit” ( Holidays) and “What kind of pictures do turtles take? Shell-fies” (Pets), but others rely on language that will leave many readers behind (“Why did the dinosaur go to the disco? Because he was a disco-saurus” (Dinosaurs) or “Why did the chef open a bakery? For the extra dough” (Food). Heavily illustrated with stock cartoon images by various creators, the effect is somewhat scattershot, tied together with a consistent design palette of saturated bright colors and faux loose-leaf paper backgrounds. VERDICT These books will do nicely to update any joke book collection.

King, Joe. Animal Jokes. ISBN 9781098209162.
––––. Gross Jokes. ISBN 9781098209179.
––––. Knock Knock Jokes. ISBN 9781098209186.
––––. Punny Jokes. ISBN 9781098209193.
––––. School Jokes. ISBN 9781098209209.
––––. Sports Jokes. ISBN 9781098209216.
ea vol: 24p. (Abdo Kids Jokes). Abdo/Kids Junior. Jan. 2022. Tr $29.93.
GR 1-3 –Some puns are cute and some are absolute groaners, but all the jokes in these books rely on everyday language and homonyms rather than Amelia Bedelia-style literal interpretations of figures of speech. Jokes make our brains work in order to reconcile competing meanings, pronunciations, or spellings: “How do we know the ocean is friendly? It waves!” ( Punny). Happy, diverse kids welcome readers from the cover; while inside, clean design is dominated by stock photos and colorful cartoon drawings. Knock-Knock Jokes is of particular note: clean jokes for kids tend to repeat from book to book, so any book with a few new ones is a find. VERDICT Great looking and plainspoken joke books for early readers.

Nelson, Louise. Colorful Slime. $24.60. ISBN 9781499489477.
––––. Crunchy Slime. $24.60. ISBN 9781499489514.
––––. Edible Slime. $24.60. ISBN 9781499489552.
––––. Magnetic Slime. $24.60. ISBN 9781499489590.
––––. Slimy Science (Set). $98.40. ISBN 9781499489811.
ea vol: 24p. (Slimy Science). Rosen/Windmill. Jan. 2022. Tr $24.60.
Gr 2-5 –Everyone’s favorite non-Newtonian fluid is here to teach readers a little bit about observation, materials science, color theory, and adjectival parts of speech. Basic recipes—one to four in each book—result in slime with special properties. Readers can experiment, observe, and compare as they enjoy slime’s unique sensory properties while learning to describe and document their experiences. Safety is highlighted throughout the books, with admonitions to keep most slime away from the face and dispose of it properly, although the repeated advice to “always make slime with a grown-up” is unlikely to be heeded at all times. Colorful images and “hand-printed” typefaces on a graph paper background simulate a student notebook. Photos of hands, mostly white, and a wide variety of slimes will have readers yearning to plunge their own fingers into some homemade squishy stuff. VERDICT These books mix skill building into slime along with glitter, food coloring, and foam beads.

Polinsky, Paige V. Pokémon: Satoshi Tajiri. ISBN 9781532197123.
Rusick, Jessica. Easy-Bake Oven: Ronald Howes. ISBN 9781532197109.
Slater, Lee. Barbie: Ruth Handler. ISBN 9781532197079.
––––. Board Games: Milton Bradley. ISBN 9781532197086.
––––. Crayola: Edwin Binney & C. Harold Smith. ISBN 9781532197093.
––––. LEGO: The Kristiansen Family. ISBN 9781532197116.
ea vol: 32p. (Toy Stories). Abdo/Big Buddy. Jan. 2022. Tr $31.36.
Gr 1-4 –Talk about shelf appeal! Graphically striking covers featuring favorite toys lure readers into these succinct overviews of the development and continuing evolution of each product line. And the eye-catching design doesn’t stop at the covers—interior spreads feature large typefaces and chunky display fonts, with plenty of white space and full-bleed captioned photos of products, manufacturing equipment, and creators. Although the text is spare, there is still room for some unexpected side trips and twists; for instance, readers learn that the company that made Crayola crayons also supplied carbon for tires, and LEGO used to be made of wood. A two-page time line, glossary, and index introduces new readers to essential reference book structures. VERDICT Clear winners in early reader nonfiction.

Wilson, Lakita. My Amazing Makeup. ISBN 9781728404219.
––––. My Awesome Hair and Nails. ISBN 9781728404202.
––––. My Cool Jewelry. ISBN 9781728404233.
––––. My Fierce Fashion. ISBN 9781728404226.
ea vol: 32p. (Searchlight—My Style). Lerner. Jan. 2022. Tr $30.65.
Gr 3-5 –Style is for everyone! Upbeat and inclusive, filled with fascinating facts and photos of cool kids and famous folks, these style guides are brimming with shelf appeal. Far from dictating materialistic trend advice, the focus here is on self-expression and experimentation. Vocabulary and styles are as inclusive as the models— Hair and Nails talks about Marsai Martin’s box braids and baby hairs as well as Ariana Grande’s high pony. My Amazing Makeup features photos of male-presenting models as well as celebs Adam Lambert and Prince looking terrific in a variety of makeup looks. Clean, colorful design coordinates well with the stylish, eco-friendly, and healthy messages throughout. VERDICT Words to live by: “The only opinion that matters about your look is your own” (Makeup).


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Alaraj, Evangelene. Bocce. ISBN 9781791142230.
––––. Croquet. ISBN 9781791142261.
Coupé, Jessica. Cornhole. ISBN 9781791142209.
––––. Tetherball. ISBN 9781791142179.
Gillespie, Katie. Horseshoes. ISBN 9781791142124.
ea vol: 24p. (Backyard Games). AV2/ Nonfiction. Sept. 2021. Tr $28.55.

Gr 3-7 –Outdoor games requiring minimal equipment have enjoyed a spike in popularity in recent years; capitalize on that attention with these bright, well-designed books. An abundance of photos, including archival images, depict players and equipment in a variety of settings, often captured in the act of throwing, rolling, or whacking. Multiple access points, such as diagrams, fun facts, captioned photos, player profiles, and time lines entice readers of all types. Quantitative information as well as narrative explain all the details of each popular pastime. Each book concludes with a quiz and a brief glossary. Subscription-based supplemental media, citations, and quizzes are available online. VERDICT Everything a reader needs to know to set up and play these fresh-air pastimes.

Bow, James. Making Graphic Designs. ISBN 9781791123529.
––––. Making Robots. ISBN 9781791123604.
Levete, Sarah. Making Animation. ISBN 9781791123406.
––––. Making Fashion. ISBN 9781791123444.
Sjonger, Rebecca. Making Games. ISBN 9781791123482.
––––. Making Music. ISBN 9781791123567.
ea vol: 32p. (Make It!). AV2/Nonfiction. Jun. 2021. Tr $29.99.
Gr 6-8 –This series breaks down and explains the components of musical instruments or robots, the process of designing a game or making animation, or the history of fashion. These books incorporate a variety of text elements, including sidebars, captioned photos, biographical profiles, and one or two loosely outlined activities. Animation is a standout here, with lots of pictures of appealing stop-motion models, settings, and art. Music and Fashion are somewhat wordy, and Games includes much information that appears in similar books. Photos of diverse kids and grown-ups making stuff add energy. ­VERDICT Fill out collections of maker books with these short, fact-packed books.

Currie-McGhee, Leanne. Anime and Manga Fandom. ISBN 9781678202163.
Kallen, Stuart A. The Art and Artists of Manga. ISBN 9781678202200.
Nakaya, Andrea C. The History of Anime and Manga. ISBN 9781678202224.
Steffens, Bradley. The Art and Artists of Anime. ISBN 9781678202187.
ea vol: 64p. (All About Anime and Manga). ReferencePoint. Mar. 2022. Tr $31.95.
Gr 6 Up –Turn readers who enjoy manga and anime into true fans with these deep, deep dives into the history of these entertainment forms and the artists whose work is most widely known. What influenced the fighting style of “Dragon Ball?” Was the artist entirely satisfied with the ending of “Attack on Titan?” Learning the stories behind the stories creates a sense of ownership and pride, and these books are dense with anecdotes, quotes, and mini biographies. Limited illustration and text features mean readers will work for bragging rights to this authoritative knowledge. In addition to learning about the art forms, readers of the whole series will develop an interesting understanding of modern Japan. VERDICT Packed with information for manga and anime devotees.

Olson, Elsie. 10-Minute Crafty Projects. ISBN 9781663959041.
––––. 10-Minute Kitchen Science Projects. ISBN 9781663959010.
––––. 10-Minute Nature Projects. ISBN 9781663959027.
––––. 10-Minute No-Sew Projects. ISBN 9781663959034.
ea vol: illus. by Lucy Makuc. 32p. (10-Minute Makers). Capstone/Press. Jan. 2022. Tr $31.99.
Gr 3-6 –It might be surprising what someone can come up with in ten minutes with a few standard art supplies and some odds and ends from the recycling bin, scrap bag, or yard. The largely decorative projects in this series, 13 per volume, require basic skills such as gluing, cutting, and design—beyond that, the reasonably foolproof projects are only limited by the crafter’s creativity. Seed art, made by gluing seeds to a stiff backing, can be stick figures or professional-level (Nature). Flannel flowers can be simple four-petal posies or layered and frilled like peonies ( No-Sew). Fitting so many projects into each book results in a somewhat cramped, though still readable, design. VERDICT Give crafters lots of new ideas with this series.

Rathburn, Betsy. Cardboard Crafts. ISBN 9781644876398.
––––. Egg Carton Crafts. ISBN 9781644876404.
––––. Glass Jar Crafts. ISBN 9781644876411.
Sabelko, Rebecca. Old Art Supplies Crafts. ISBN 9781644876428.
––––. Plastic Bottle Crafts. ISBN 9781644876435.
––––. Trash to Treasure Crafts. ISBN 9781644876442.
ea vol: 24p. (Easy Upcycled Crafts). Bellweather/Express!. Jan. 2022. Tr $26.95.
Gr 3-6 – Making something out of nothing is an irresistible and cost-effective premise for crafters. These books offer eight crafts per volume, grouped by material, including two books of crafts made with miscellaneous surplus items. Projects are relatively simple to complete, but not foolproof. A steady hand, good color sense, or precise cutting will be required in order to achieve attractive results, and adult assistance is often needed to use a power drill or a sharp knife. Fun facts introduce each craft, and “Top Tip” sidebars offer ideas for customizing creations. Some projects are less thrifty, such as a pencil cup made from scrap paper and a lot of glue ( Trash to Treasure), or ice cream cones made from an egg carton and large pom-poms (Egg Cartons). VERDICT These attractive books will fill the gaps in any upcycled craft offerings.

Hands-on activities and books that hit readers right in their area of interest are a breath of fresh air in the library. Inspire them to make their own fun with “10-Minute Makers” (Capstone), “Make It!” (AV2), or “Makerspace Trios” (Abdo). Capitalize on their TikTok and celebrity obsessions with the inclusive and healthy “My Style” (Lerner) or encourage corny, but clean, interactions with “Kids Jokes” (Abdo). Inventive readers will be happy with this season’s offerings.

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