Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Unique and Unusual: 10 Novelty Books and Craft Books/Kits

Holiday unique books

Magical Menagerie, by Junzo Terada, Chronicle Books, $24.95. Build 20 enchanting animals with this unique kit of 3-D sculptures by Japanese artist Terada. Punch out paperboard pieces and fit them into slots to make whimsical stand-alone designs, including a lion with a heart-shaped mane, a deer holding its baby and songbirds sitting in a tree. Envelopes are included for mailing or storing designs. Terada's pattern and color combinations are spectacular!

The Encyclopedia of Immaturity: Volume 2, by The Editors of Klutz, Klutz, $19.95, ages 8 +, 200 pages. In this hysterical followup to 2007 manual of immature pranks and skills, The Encyclopedia of Immaturity, Volume 1, the editors of Klutz present an array of silly how-tos, from making a toiletgram to playing indoor Frisbee golf, and explore all manner of taboo subjects, including the truth about wedgies and the art of picking diary locks. (Couple this with the first volume and your 10-year-old boy will be deliriously happy.)

Made by Me, by Jane Bull, Dorling Kindersley, $14.99 respectively, ages 4-8 +, 48-62 pages. Girls will squeal with delight when they flip through this charming book of crafts with colorful tutorials that are easy to follow. Dress up a plain t-shirt with embroidered flowers, felt cupcakes and a button-trimmed collar or hand sew a two-sided doll with embroidered faces. Pair this with Annabel Karmel's Cook It Together (DK, $12.99) for a wonderful gift set.

Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia, by Christopher Paolini, Alfred A. Knopf, $24.99, ages 9 +, 32 pages. Wannabe dragon riders will delight in every page of this magical guide to the mysterious land of Paolini's Inheritance Cycle series by the creators of Dragonology. Explore a map of Alagaesia stolen from the elves' library, ink drawings of shape-shifting cats and wind-vipers and the training regimen of dragon riders, and touch the scarlet gem that lives in the chest of dragons.

My Little Fire Truck, Simon & Schuster, written and illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson, $19.99 ages 4-8, 16 pages. A wonderful segue into child play, this interactive book by Caldecott Honor-winning author Johnson encourages little ones to practice telling time and move sturdy parts on a fire engine: lift a gas nozzle and fuel the truck, test tire pressure, put away fire tools, start the ignition and steer, turn the siren light and ring the fire bell. Johnson is the author/illustrator of Alphabet City and My Little Red Toolbox.

Open Me Up: Everything You Need to Know About the Human Body, Dorling Kindersley, $24.99, ages 9-12, 256 pages. Open Me Up makes a trip through the human body feel like a walk through an amusement park with exciting graphics and fun write-ups. Readers observe scientists knitting strands of DNA on a couch, sneak a peak at the report cards of the Left Brain and Right and see white blood cells zap invaders in a video-game. (A perfect followup to three other stunning fact books, DK's Pick Me Up, Do Not Open and Take Me Back.)

Drake's Comprehensive Compendium of Dragonology, Candlewick Press, by Dr. Ernest Drake, edited by Dugald A. Steer, illustrated by D. Carrel, T. Tomic and N. Harris, $19.99, ages 9-12, 192 pages. Aged to look almost a century old, this magical compendium will make a dragon expert out of any reader. Explore ink drawings and descriptions of dragons and similar creatures, learn about their habits, biology and encounters with humans, and discover how to heal sick dragons, preserve their remains and sketch them in the wild.

Fairies: Petal People You Make Yourself, edited by Rachel Haab, Klutz, $16.95, ages 9-12, 40 pages. Make a dozen enchanting flower fairies with poseable bodies using wooden beads, colored florist wire, embroidery floss and and fabric flower petals in this easy-to-use kit that inspires kids to use their own imagination. (Pair this with Penguin's 2005 Fairyopolis, the secret fairy journal of Cicely Mary Barker, and Chronicle's 2008 folding play set, Fairy Tree House by Saviour Pirotta, for a magical gift collection.)

Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, by Simon Beecroft, contributed by Jeremy Beckett, Dorling Kindersley, $21.99, ages 7 +, 96 pages. Getting Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary is like receiving the best Lego catalog ever. Brick-building fans will delight in pictures and descriptions of every warship ever built, detailed diagrams of gadgetry, closeups of every minifigure to do battle, as well as an exclusive Luke Skywalker minifigure tucked into the cover and a flip-book element on the lower corner of every page.

Invasion of the Bristlebots, edited by Pat Murphy and scientists of Klutz Labs, Klutz, $19.95, ages 8 to 99, 40 pages. A delight for robot fans, this unusual kit comes with two motorized toothbrush heads that zip around like bugs, wire legs, feelers and beady eyes for accessorizing, punch-outs for a robot maze and a booklet with games and activities. This is the perfect choice for any child who's ever tinkered with a toy motor or pleaded to dissect an old watch.

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