children, creativity, science

This Book Thinks You’re an Inventor

Author: Jon Milton
Illustrator: Harriet Russell
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children / Science
ISBN: 978-0-500-65176-6
Pages: 96
Price: $14.95

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Kids may not realize it, but they might be able to think like an inventor. If they’ve ever thought there was a better, faster, or smarter way to do something, or if they’ve ever thought about creating a useful tool to make their lives easier, they just might be an inventor. This Book Thinks You’re an Inventor taps into kids’ creativity to explore this concept.

This is no boring science book that kids will read cover to cover. Instead, they dive right in with exercises and experiments that teach them how to see things differently. Are they a doer, a refiner, or a dreamer? They can take the quiz to find out their own inventor style. Tinkering with bridges, engineering a new hairdo, or building paper skyscrapers with minimal tools are just some of the experiments they will enjoy.

Kids love to be creative, and they will have loads of fun with This Book Thinks You’re an Inventor. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

creativity, writing

The Writer’s Roadmap

Author: Leigh Shulman
Publisher: The Future is Red
Genre: Writing
ISBN: 978-0-9996973-0-6
Pages: 106
Price: $12.99

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Building the perfect writing life may seem out of reach – but it can be done, if you have the right plan. Leigh Shulman is living the life of her dreams, and she wants to share her secrets with other writers.

Using what she calls the OGSM, she guides writers through a step-by-step method of planning their ideal writing life. First, the Objective defines, in one sentence, what an ideal writing life looks like. Then Goals are the dream projects that support it. Strategy is the itemized list of things that need to be accomplished. And Measures provide feedback on whether the Strategies are working.

At each step in building the writer’s own OGSM, Shulman asks probing questions designed for thoughtful rumination. Blank pages provided in the book are a perfect place to make note of these answers.

Shulman acknowledges the realities of work, family, and other time constraints that keep writers away from the page. But this OGSM process allows for all aspects of a writer’s life – not just writing. She also has created a writing group called The Workshop where writers can network and continue to learn from each other. I highly recommend The Writer’s Roadmap to all writers who want a better focus in their writing life.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

art, children, crafts, creativity

Proggy Menagerie

Author: Hayley Smith
Publisher: Good Books
Genre: Crafts
ISBN: 978-1-68099-337-0
Pages: 128
Price: $14.99

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Have you ever imagined making your own soft and snuggly rag rug animals? This process isn’t as hard as it might seem. Using simple supplies like fleece and burlap, you can build adorable critters. Proggy Menagerie will show you how.

In this unique craft book, you’ll learn how to make woodland creatures (fox, badger, hedgehog, squirrel), farmyard favorites (lamb, pig, bat, duck), perfect pets (kitten, puppy, bunny, tortoise), feathered friends (parrot, owl, robin, penguin), and water babies (clown fish, seal, turtle, frog). The creation of each animal is demonstrated with pictures and written instructions explaining each of the steps. Reduced-size patterns (with instructions for enlarging) are provided for cutting the pieces to be assembled.

Although I didn’t attempt one of these adorable proggy animals, I felt confident in reading the detailed instructions that I could have easily created them. Children will need an adult’s assistance in assembling these, but will easily grasp the proggy technique. I highly recommend Proggy Menagerie.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

art, crafts, creativity

Knit, Hook and Spin

Knit, Hook and Spin
Author: Laurie Carlson
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Genre: Crafts
ISBN: 978-1-61373-400-1
Pages: 144
Price: $14.99

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Fiber crafts are a fun way to use our hands to create pretty and useful objects. In Knit, Hook and Spin, author Laurie Carlson walks kids through the process of crafting several interesting projects using yarn and fabric.

Yarn crafts begin with spinning and dying, and kids are taught how to manufacture their own yarn. Felting, knotting and braiding, weaving, knitting, and crochet are introduced, with a brief description of each process. Within each section, a few fun projects are presented, so kids can turn these new techniques into hand-made objects.

Although this book is meant for kids, I felt the desire to create some of these cute items, myself. But I found the directions and pictures accompanying the projects to be skimpy and vague. While Knit, Hook and Spin may give kids the interest in exploring new fiber crafts, they may need to turn to more detailed instructions to master these intricate techniques.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


The Trickster’s Hat

The Trickster's Hat
Author: Nick Bantock
Publisher: Perigree Trade
Genre: Art / Creativity
ISBN: 978-0-399-16502-3
Pages: 208
Price: $20.00

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When our creativity seems to have deserted us and we feel like we’re making the same piece of art over and over again, it helps to have a fresh perspective. Exercises designed to pull us away from the rut we’re stuck in can point us in a new and exciting direction. Nick Bantock knows all about these ruts, and has provided us with a guide to getting unstuck.

The forty-nine exercises in this book provide unexplored territory for our creativity to run riot. Using magazines, paint, postage stamps, and other assorted collage materials, we’re encouraged to be haphazard in our approach and to think outside the box. Our intent is not to produce art, but we may be surprised by the results of our activities.

Although this book is written for all forms of creativity, those who specialize in the visual arts will probably find it most helpful. Other creative folks won’t have some of the materials on hand or a good understanding of the concepts presented, but may still enjoy dabbling in unfamiliar territory as a means of loosening blocks. The Trickster’s Hat is chock full of fun projects that will stimulate the creative urge and open us to new possibilities.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


The Art of Getting Started

The Art of Getting Started
Author: Lee Crutchley
Publisher: Perigree Trade
Genre: Creativity
ISBN: 978-0-399-16407-1
Pages: 160
Price: $15.00

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Do you have trouble starting a new creative project? Is the blank canvas or screen too intimidating to face, so you try to avoid it? Do you wish and hope you could be an artist, but never follow through on your dreams? If so, The Art of Getting Started might be able to help you in your creative pursuits.

This unique book on jump-starting creativity doesn’t spoon-feed good ideas and suggestions for moving past blocks. Instead, it’s chock-full of exercises designed to get you out of your head and onto the page. While encouraging us to make messes and allow our work to be less than perfect, it forces us to take action and not sit around waiting for inspiration to strike.

It’s risky to start a new project when we don’t know the outcome. But if we never start, we can never know the joy of completion and the chance of success. If you work through the exercises in this book, you may find some of your creative blocks vanishing, leaving you free to create.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

art, creativity, parenting

The Artist’s Way for Parents

The Artist's Way For Parents
Author: Julia Cameron
Publisher: Tarcher
Genre: Creativity / Parenting
ISBN: 978-0-399-16372-2
Pages: 288
Price: $26.95

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The Artist’s Way is one of the best-selling and most helpful books on developing creativity. But a special book was needed to help parents teach their children to honor their own creative gifts. In The Artist’s Way for Parents, Julia Cameron shares some of the secrets she learned in being the parent of a creative daughter.

The basic structure of this volume is similar to other “Artist’s Way” books. Broken down into twelve chapters with headings such as Cultivating Curiosity, Cultivating Limits, and Cultivating Independence, Cameron explores sub-topics within this framework. An exercise for parents and/or children is included after each lesson. Familiar tools are utilized, such as morning pages and creative expeditions (artist’s dates) along with something new – sharing highlights of the day with your child.

Allowing a child to have a safe environment to create in is key to maximizing his highest potential. But this may not come naturally, and guidance from an expert can be helpful. If you want to nurture your child in exploring his creativity, The Artist’s Way for Parents would be a valuable resource. I highly recommend this book and the others in the “Artist’s Way” collection by Julia Cameron.

Reviewer: Alice Berger