Activity books are fun, and retro ones can be even more enjoyable for many reasons.
First: They can bring us back to a “simpler” time where educational things can be enjoyable. The whole learn the lesson while having fun idea.
Second: They can show a different perspective or provide a different manner of teaching.
Third: They can be cheesy and nostalgic.
That being said today I am reviewing a book called The Young Architect by Buki Ltd. This book was part of the “Draw-a-Line” series. Intended for ages 5 to 11, it was first published in 1974 and still being printed in 2005.
The concept behind it is fairly simple. Teach children how to design buildings. This is done by offering a series of simplistic seeming drawings, each on a single page, with a space for the child to draw it. Included is a plastic “shape maker” which will allow the younger children the chance to trace the shapes instead of free handing. There are also a few pages of backgrounds so that the children can see how the design will fit in each setting.
For someone who wants to learn to draw, this is a good book to start. While the results will be somewhat cartoonish, it does help the child learn to see the shapes that can make a design.
Now most used copies are missing pages or the shapemaker, but that doesn’t lessen the appeal.
After all there is a reason this book has been in print for so long.
Personally I will say that this book should be geared more towards ages 3-7, but even eleven year old’s should be able to garner some enjoyment from it.
Children’s Books are a difficult category to review. Especially as the age between the selected audience and the reviewer is separated by decades.
That being said,
What does one expect of a board book?
Sturdy. These books are designed to be held and chewed upon by small pre-readers. So they cannot be delicate.
Colors. They must attract the untrained eye of the prereader.
Compact. They must get to the point quickly and in an entertaining manner.
What does one expect of an Alphabet book?
The parent/guardian/reader wants it to be engaging, yet they expect it to be very simplistic. A will always be Apple, B will be Banana, C will be Carrot and so on. If you are lucky there will be a rhyme or a verse. Traditionally these books will have just one fruit on a page, a simple 1 to 2 color illustration or a glossy photo.
Over the decades as more fruits & vegetables have become widely available, some have snuck in: C is coconut, P is Pear or Potato or Peach or Pumpkin. Different countries highlight different ones depending on the dominate cultures. For example G can be Grapes, Guava or Grains. But on the whole most of these books tend to keep the items to one or two (or even three) syllables to make it easier for the child to learn them.
This is where Mrs. Peanuckle has changed the game.
From the art work on the cover you can see the cute smiling vegetables: Peas, Peppers, pumpkin, and a turnip? Wait three Ps? What is the deal?
She first starts out with the familiar A is for Asparagus B is for Beans and …. wait Cucumbers?
Okay. so being a vegetable only alphabet book you cannot expect apples and bananas, but asparagus? Why has she changed the game? What is with all of these things?
Honestly I think it is a great idea. It helps to introduce the different vegetables to the child and allows them to accept them as normal. This will help a child be more willing to try a different item and expand their palate from the very beginning.
Mrs Peanuckle’s Vegetable Alphabet is an amazing inviting board book full of cute, inviting illustrations and some informational rhymes, that will please the reader and the listener. For Board Books, this is a step up in the game and will be difficult to match.
The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag. This graphic novel is drawn in the more modern styles (like the w She-Ra) The plot is about a boy who lives in a divided task world. Males are shifters, females are spell casters and both stay away from the humans. The main character does not have the ability to shift and tries to use magic. This means he is ostracized for being true to himself. His attempts to do what he cannot and can causes turmoil and then, sorta of saves the day.
A nice story about gender rules and conformity issues.
Like in Jordan’s Wheel of Time series there is a good reason for males not to do spell casting. In Jordan’s works it is because males are too powerful & goes insane it, in Ostertag’s book it is because males either lack the gene that allows it or, in the case of a fraternal twin, the male lacks the ability to control it. In both cases the magic warps into something determined “evil” or “wrong.” Either way it is very disruptive. In Ostertag’s book this is proved by the female twin showing that she can shift as well as cast, but her shifting is poor and not easily controlled. This proves that there is a valid reason for the parents of the main character to be worried about him not shifting.
Does that mean he should not learn spell casting? No. It just means that he should be aware of the risks he will create. It also shows that the educational system these people have is flawed as both sides tend to keep secrets from the others.
A bit heavy handed in the message of being who you need to be, but fails to deliver with any empathy or understanding about why the situation is the way it is and how difficult it will be to adjust it. Perhaps the next books in the series will cover this.
All in all I would give this a 5/10. The plot was decent, character growth was started, but the majority of the characters were one dimensional & the world was not fleshed out.
Today’s book review is The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen. Paulsen is the author of many young teen novels including Hatchet,Brian’s Winter and The River.
First published 1998 this book is billed as a coming of age science fiction story. The story is told from the point of view of the main protagonist, Mark. Mark is a slightly unfit teen that is fascinated with hiking & wilderness survival. His parents finally allow him to go on a brief solo camping & hiking trip in the desert, but on his first night out he ends up being transported into an unusual world where he has to learn to survive.
While Mark’s adventures trying to determine what he can eat & how to survive is interesting, outside of the oddly evolved simians, the other humanoids are one dimensional and not well developed. One can argue that this is just how Mark, in his immaturity, see them, but there isn’t enough detail to determine this for sure. His continuing quest to discover a way home does fit with the mindset of someone attempting to survive. Unfortunately the big reveal is quite disappointing and the ending- set decades later – was disappointing.
Considering how well Hatchet and The River transcend the age of the reader, it was disappointing to come back to this tale and not be able to find the thrill of adventure in it.
So while this might be a good book for an 8 to10 year old, it can only hint at a better tale for anyone older.
This question has been a standard one for the majority of my life, and the answer has changed over the years.
When I was in middle school my answer revolved around being able to read anything I wanted at anytime. While I was in college, it was that I wanted to make sure there were affordable things to do that did not involve drinking. In my 20s it was the desire to be different and to start a revival of a simpler time of knowledge sharing. In my 30s it was a way to help parents find affordable information to educate the children with. Now in my 40s I have come to the realization that this is just in my blood and I shouldn’t have to justify it to anyone.
But the one thing that I have never gotten a clear answer to is “Why are you asking this of me?”
For some reason it seems that most of the people I have met are confused by my desire to live a life among the stacks. As a child I was told to dream big, and I did. Other kids would talk of owning horses or winning car races or becoming a teacher or a scientist and the adults all smiled and nodded. And that was that. Meanwhile my desire to own a bookshop with a living place on top of it was cause for concern. It alarmed them, and caused them to ask more questions.
“Are you sure?”
Of course I am.
“Why not dream a bit bigger?”
Well, I would always love to have a bigger shop or even a second one after a while.
“What about pets, or family or travel?”
Pets and Family can live with me without issue, why would owning a bookshop prevent this? As for travel —that would be a great way to get inventory!
“You’ll change your mind one day.”
“One day you’ll think of something less foolish to do for work.”
Okay? Like what? Mushroom farming or Beekeeping? Or raising Alpacas? I have guides books on how to do this and also books on business plans….
Not once in my young years did I have any encouragement with this plan. The idea of me running one, or even owning one, was considered to be far fetched and unrealistic. As the years passed the comments changed.
“What will you live off of?”
The money I make? I also grow my own food, and might start a Mushroom Farm for extra income.
“What about retirement?”
Nothing prevents me from saving, or investing or planning ahead. Besides I will love to do this until I die.
“ Why not do something meaningful?”
What can be more meaningful than owning and running a bookshop?
To me a Bookshop is the single most powerful place in the world. It offers shelter, information and comfort. It helps one define dreams and explore possibilities. It is the place that holds all whimsy, wisdom and wonders. A bookshop is where one can explore all the aspects of what was, what is, what will be and what would have been. A place where voices of the past can shimmer into the future causing new ideas to come to life. It is a place where the long dead, the recently dead and the non dead can come together.
Of course the smell of vanilla (from old paper) is a lovely addition.
As the owner/manager of a bookshop one becomes a dragon with a horde. A Bookwyrm who invites Book Worms to partake of the treasure.
But why is this such a thing for concern? Why do so many people need to hear an answer from me?
I believe it has something to do with the current state of Western Culture. The idea that someone could be happy without all of the trappings of modern society, that one does not need to be constantly connected, or distracted by the flash in the pan disposable life is strange to most people. To some it is a thing of horror, to others a thing of pity and, to a select few, an unspoken half formed desire. The question is asked for clarification, to allow them to justify their live and choices while judging others.
This creates a divide, a chasm, between the Bookwyrm and the others. One where the Bookwyrm is on the defensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a bridge made of paper and one can read the way over or not.
It is not the Bookwyrm’s job to convince the world of it’s validity. The actions of the Bookwyrm should do that.
Which is why, even in this digital age, Bookshops still exist.
My shop may be small, and the selection narrowly focused, but it is my shop and as the years pass onto decades my collection will be what tells people I was here. And I, the Bookwyrm, will live on in the heart of another.