Monday, September 16, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Get into art: Animals by Susie Brooks

I'm still (well, always, really) on the hunt for the perfect craft book. I've started to think it's like the Holy Grail, the perfect book that only exists in my dream libraries. Yes, I have libraries I go to in my dreams. I'm a librarian.

Usually, I steer clear of art appreciation books. I admit that some of this is personal bias - I don't really have much interest in art myself, especially modern art, but it's also because most of these titles emphasize teaching kids about art and artists, which isn't practical or possible the way my art programs are run. Plus, people don't often check out books about art, it's just not a thing in my town.

This book though, after some initial doubt, I started to really like. It starts with some rather vague maundering about animals in art and how to choose paints, pastels, paper, and other art materials. Then, each spread features a single artist. At the right side of the right page, there's a lift the flap that covers about half the page and hides the project. The page has information about the artist's picture, their work in general, and their life. It also has art appreciation information. The craft project is given in simple steps and has more suggestions about thinking about art as you make it.

The projects include making a cut paper snake, like Matisse's The Snail, painting a dog (Landseer), paper monkey sculpture's (Alexander Calder's Crinkly Giraffe), seaside string prints (Georges Braque's The Bird), scraping paint to create a peacock like Edward Bawden's Peacock and Magpie illustration, a fish picture like M. C. Escher's Fish (E59), painting and sculpting like Joan Miro, Totem poles, painting a sheep to match Franz Marc's Yellow Cow, painting a plate to match a Chinese porcelain dish, a stencilled cat to go with Andy Warhol's Portrait of Maurice, and an Edgar Degas-style horse painting.

The final pages include a glossary of art terms and history, some information about complementary colors, and a list of all the materials you'll need for each project. There is also a brief index. The inclusion of the totem pole as an art project tipped me off that this was originally a British book - for some reason British children's books have a weird, 1950-esque attitude towards Native Americans. Although totem poles can be used to tell stories, they can also be sacred objects and it kind of annoyed me that they included it as a kids' craft.

Verdict: Despite the annoyance of the totem pole and the low circulation of art appreciation books, I will probably buy this one. The mixture of projects and art is very balanced and most of the projects are simple enough for kids to do on their own without a lot of instruction or assistance. The hardcover is a reasonable price and the animal theme will attract kids and parents.

ISBN: 9780753435762; Published August 2013 by Kingfisher/Macmillan; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's tentative order list

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