Monday, January 28, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Cool trash to treasure series

 I've been looking for a new craft series and this one was noted in SLJ's series edition. Each book begins with a section on getting permission, being safe, being prepared, and a generic recycling note, tailored to fit the particular types of material used in the book.

I always find these safety sections annoying. If a child needs to be told to be careful using "knives, scissors, or other sharp objects" and reminded to ask for help and permission, they probably are not old enough to use those items on their own anyways. But I suppose the publisher has to put those warnings in. The other thing that often annoys me in these recycled crafts books is the number of tools and materials that few people are likely to have lying around their homes. However, grumbling aside, it's time to look at the books!

Cool Odds and Ends starts out with a list of tools and materials. Mostly standard craft tools, but again the warning at the beginning of the book and the book's size - 8x8 picture book type style - is at variance with needing a craft knife, acrylic paint and sealer, hot glue gun, and jewelry supplies like ear wires and hang rings. The projects include making a dresser tray out of an old picture frame, a kitty bed out of a basket, gazing ball with a bowling ball and flat marbles, pencil art, swirly cd art, game piece jewelry, and dragonflies out of old screens. The dresser tray is something a younger child could do with help, the kitty bed seems rather pointless to me - who's going to have a basket big enough just sitting around and would a cat actually sleep on that? The gazing ball requires a bowling ball and you'd probably have to buy the flat marbles, the pencil art was rather a strange, the swirly cd art very young, the kind of thing a little kid would think was cute, and the game piece jewelry and screen dragonflies need high dexterity levels - a teen would probably really enjoy those last two projects.

 Next, we have Cool Plastic Projects. Plastic recycling projects always make me doubtful - does anybody really have that many little bits of plastic lying around? We certainly didn't when I was a kid, but my parents were kind of hippies. Apparently, most "normal" people with kids do have random bits of plastic. The projects - A button bouquet (do people have extra buttons anymore? Probably not that many cute ones). Bracelets made out of gift tags and jump rings (I'm pretty sure you'd have to buy most of the items for this, which defeats the recycling purpose). Necklace out of bag tags (would take a while to save up that many, and again you'd need to buy the jump rings, but I can see middle schoolers liking this). Frames made out of cd jewel cases - I think only adults like this kind of thing. Beach bag made out of a mesh produce bag - not really anything to this project. Calendar made out of old keyboard keys. Art made out of old bottle tops (and "decorations", again something you'd have to buy).

Cool Fabric Projects has a pretty good range of skill levels. Covering earbud wires with yarn, making a simple scarf out of leftover novelty yarn, decorating cards with fabric scraps, a coiled basket with a clothesline and fabric scraps, covering stains on a t-shirt with a stencil and paint splatter, phone or glasses pouch out of old ties, felted wool headband out of an old sweater. The stencil paint splatter t-shirt looked ridiculous - I cannot see any kid wearing that over the age of about 7. The felted sweater was silly - how many kids have old, 100% wool sweaters lying around? And the energy needed to wash it in very hot water and dry it in a hot dryer multiple times would use up any environmental benefit to recycling one sweater. Just buy some felt!

Glass and Ceramic Projects requires the use of a lot of jars. The first project is wrapping an old glass vase with tissue paper and modge podge. The next is sticking things to a glass jar with contact paper to make a candle holder. The "Remarkable Jar" was a pretty good idea - painting chalkboard paint to make a reusable label for a jar. Canning jars with pincushions in the lid was silly - I can only think of one or two kids whose parents sew and would even have pins. The tile coaster pre-supposes extra tiles - how many people have random tiles lying around, and cork board? Too many things to buy. I've done something similar to "Bottle Bling" painting the inside of a jar with acrylic paint, then adding decorations to the outside. It's fun, but you need a lot of jars for the number of people I normally have at a program. The birdfeeder made out of a teacup was a lot of work for something that will be difficult to clean. It would require a lot of patience and I'm not sure I want the kids using "Weldbond" some sort of heavy-duty glue? Same thing for the cupcake tiers, gluing dishes together.

Verdict: The Odds and Ends title has a couple projects I might like to use with teens, Plastic had nothing really useful, the Fabric book had a pretty good balance of projects for different ages and interests, Glass was almost all decorating jars. All the books are attractively designed, but lacking in content. There were several other titles, but I thought this was quite enough for a representative sample (metal and paper I think). Ultimately, none of these books are worth the price of library bound editions ($22). I will continue looking elsewhere for new craft books.

Published August 2012 by Checkerboard Library (ABDO); Borrowed from another library in my consortium.

Cool Odds and Ends; ISBN: 978-1617834356

Cool Plastic Projects; 978-1617834370

Cool Fabric Projects; 978-1617834325

Cool Glass Projects; 978-1617834332


laurasalas said...

That's really the problem with so many "leftovers" crafts books--nobody actually has those leftovers. Unless a project is made out of just toilet paper rolls and bottle caps (not the metal kind, but the plastic kind on milk or soda bottles), you end up having to buy everything for it!

Jennifer said...

I KNEW I was not the only person lacking these things! I have a huge craft storage room at my library and I save all sorts of stuff, but I never have any of this!