Kid Tested Books

Still trying to catch up posting columns. This one ran in the Raleigh News and Observer and Charlotte Observer on August, 23, 2014

Longing for child input on a few recent publications, I asked friends with young children to “test drive” books I was considering for review. Their success stories follow.

Craft-minded: Amanda Kingloff, a former lifestyle editor at “Parents” magazine, wrote Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun(Artisian Books) after imagining how her son would respond to craft fun. I had a similar experience watching the mother of three children under 6 who thumbed through the book’s seven parts, from “Animal Kingdom” activities to ideas to launch “Abstract Expression” endeavors. Photographs and lists clearly describe materials and picture each project’s sequential steps.

My friend’s 3-year-old son wanted to build robots and bongo drums. His older sisters recognized materials they had at home that would make projects instantly possible. As their mother turned the pages, I noticed how the book’s excellent organization stimulated conversation and excitement. On this cloudy Sunday, the children hustled into their car seats and hurried home to create the “Newspaper Pirate Ship” before their father got home from work.

Sound-minded: “I can’t stop my children from arguing in the car, but an audio works wonders,” said a mother of two young children. So I loaned her a bunch to test. The most popular was Michael B. Kaplan’s Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake (Live Oak Media, 1 CD, 26 minutes). My friend’s 3-year-old daughter was fascinated by Betty Bunny’s quirky character and her bizarre decision to smuggle a piece of chocolate cake to school in her pocket. Her 5-year-old brother loved the subtle humor.

Katherine Kellgren’s skillful performance creates a perfect audio adaptation as she portrays Betty Bunny’s bratty, pouty and innocent moments. Sounds of temper tantrums and frustration add to Kellegren’s nuanced depictions of all supporting characters. Chris Kubie’s music follows the spectrum of moods and melds beautifully with sound effects. The only negative? The 3-year-old wanted to hear it again and again and is now requesting that her mum make up Betty Bunny tales.

Fashion-minded: I sent another friend home with two new Klutz-press activity kits for her 6-year-old daughter. I thought My Style Studio: Design and Trace Your Own Fashions would be too old for her. But the super clear lines of the fashionistas pictured in the book and tracing paper provided resulted in sketching success and her mother reported, “The kit kept her busy a long time!”

This little girl is mad for animals, so both her mom and I thought she’d prefer Pom-Pom Puppies: Make Your Own Adorable Dogs. The book gives directions for making a whole kennel of canines and has supplies of yarn, foam tongues, attachable noses and eyes and more. These projects required more parental assistance and the results were “a bit sad and droopy looking.” But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, for when my friend almost accidentally threw away what she thought was “a random bunch of yarn,” the little girl rushed to rescue, shouting “My puppy!”

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