Posted in Children's Activity Books

Book Review: Where’s the Ballerina?

Where’s the Ballerina? 

By Anna Claybourne and illustrated by Abigail Goh (Quarto Group UK)
HB RRP $19.99     ISBN 9781782404507

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Some of the greatest stories in the world are presented as ballets, but their meaning can be lost amongst young audiences. ‘Don Quixote’, ‘Swan Lake’ … even ‘The Nutcracker’ can seem confusing. When I first picked up this charming, full-colour picture book, I thought it would simply be a look-and-find, ‘Where’s Wally’ style of activity book.  I was glad to discover it was much more than that – it is also a kid-friendly reference guide to ten different ballet productions.

The ballets presented in the book are: ‘Swan Lake’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Giselle’, ‘The Nutcracker’, ‘La Bayadère’, ‘Coppélia’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Don Quixote’ and ‘Cinderella’. Two double-page spreads are devoted to each ballet. The first is an introduction. It features a plot synopsis, setting description and full-colour storyboard, accompanied with text, depicting seven main scenes from the ballet. The second double-page spread offers the look-and-find activity for that particular ballet. The illustration for the task is always a scene from that ballet, and readers need to find 5 – 7 hidden characters from that ballet. (For example, for ‘The Nutcracker’, they need to find Clara, The Nutcracker Prince, Dr Drosselmeyer, The Mouse King, The Snow Queen, The Sugar Plum Fairy and Mother Ginger.) As an added bonus, there is always a hidden peacock lurking amidst the scene, along with a ballerina in a white tutu. The answers have been included at the back, and are cleverly presented as darkened stage scenes with spotlights shining on the hidden characters.

This beautifully presented hardcover book is suitable for 5–8 year-olds, and would make a beautiful gift for a child about to start dance lessons or who is generally interested in ballet.

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Children's Activity Books

Book Review: Labyrinth – Find your way through 14 magical mazes

Labyrinth: Find your way through 14 magical mazes

By Théo Guignard (Quarto Publishing Group UK)
HB RRP $24.99     ISBN 9781847809988

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘The king has laid down the red carpet for his royal guest. Can you find the way to his throne? On the way, look out for: someone looking out of a window; a roof with a crescent shape; a clock tower; a lady in a violet dress, and two pairs of sentries on guard.’

This amazing hardcover collection of geometric mazes by Théo Guignard is a true feast for the eyes as well as the brain. Young readers (aged 5 and over) will enjoy solving the mazes and finding the hidden items in each double-paged spread, whilst adult readers will appreciate the book as an eye-catching compilation of artwork.

Guignard is a renowned French graphic artist, best known for his film and television animations. His style, a calculated positioning of kaleidoscopic shapes and patterns, evokes a powerful depth of field that gives his work a 3D feel. Forget your concept of a basic maze … this book is, indeed, a collection of challenging labyrinths, each progressing in difficulty.

Be prepared to audibly gasp as you turn the pages. There is so much to see! Wind yourself through the rooms of the ‘magical mansion’, a maze formed by interlocking cubes with varied numbers of doorway options to confuse your path. Or try your luck at making a path through the dragon’s lair by selecting the appropriate staircases, tunnels and underpasses to guide your way. Help the police hunt down a red robot by sorting through the mess of overlapping roads – a definite workout for the eyes! There is also a castle scene, a beach, a town and a factory, amongst others.

As you progress through the book, the overlapping of shapes becomes far more intense to suit the difficulty level. I imagine people of all ages will find satisfaction in solving these mazes. The book has become quite a favourite in our household, and captures the attention of visitors too. Thankfully, for those of us that simply ‘give up’, an illustrated bird’s eye view of the answers has been included!

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Children's Activity Books

Book Review: Doodles Activity Book

Doodles Activity Book 

By Ludo Studios (Allen and Unwin)
HB RRP $16.99     ISBN 9781760295448

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘Draw, Snap, Send, Laugh’ … simple, right?

This interactive activity book is a fun accompaniment to the Australian, Emmy-Nominated TV show, Doodles, currently screening on ABC ME. The idea is that kids use the prompts in the book to draw a picture, take a photo of their creation, and upload it to the Doodles website. If their picture is chosen, Ludo Studios (creators of the show) will turn it into a micro-movie and screen it on TV.

With 176 pages of activities, divided into various topics, there is bound to be something that sparks the imagination of budding artists. Sections are titled: Monsters, Aliens and Space, Robots and Technology, Magic and Fantasy, Dinosaurs, Superheroes and Make Your Own Movie. There are also blank ‘Whatever-You-Like’ pages for freeform drawings.

All pages with the ‘Draw, Snap, Send, Laugh’ icons at the bottom can be uploaded to the website if desired. In and around these drawing activities are plenty of other tasks too. There are find-a-words, join-the-dots, fill-in-the-blanks and spot-the-differences. There are those with a modern flavour, for example tasks requiring kids to use emojis to complete a text message. There are some wonderful creative writing exercises included as well.

The design of the book is fantastic and sure to appeal to the target age group (5–12). The front cover is a collage of real drawings by kids, labelled with their names and ages. The activities, by Daley Pearson, are written in a very kid-friendly voice and are quite funny. For example:

‘Robots need a place to live too! Build a house for this robot to live in … unless you want this robot to be homeless. Wait! Do you want this robot to be homeless?’

The amusing activity prompts are perfectly complementary with the whimsical outlined pictures by Francis Stanton, begging for some colour.

It is not necessary to upload pictures to the website, of course. However, kids of all ages and abilities are encouraged to have a try, with an introductory note reassuring them that ‘there are no good or bad drawings’!

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Children's Activity Books

Book Review: Alison Lester’s Wonderful World

Alison Lester’s Wonderful World 

By Alison Lester (Allen and Unwin)
HB RRP $19.99     ISBN 9781760293130

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

I’ve managed to stay detached from the adult colouring-in craze, but it turns out I just hadn’t met the right colouring book. This breathtaking collection of black and white pictures by Australian Children’s Laureate, Alison Lester, has me rushing out to buy a set of pencils, pronto. Oh, but isn’t it for children, you say? Sure it is – for children aged 4 to 100! Fans of Alison Lester’s work (ahem, yours truly) will delight in the opportunity to — dare I say it — live vicariously, by personally recreating the beautiful spreads we loved in Magic Beach, Kissed by the Moon, Noni the Pony and Imagine.

There are fantastic tips from Alison for budding artists that make this more than just a colouring book. The endpapers are collages of Alison’s works, annotated with suggestions like ‘always leave a little bit of white in eyes to make them sparkle’ or ‘you can colour smoothly or roughly’. There’s also an introductory section, ‘My Drawing Tips’, with some background info on Alison’s love of drawing. She demonstrates the effect of different mediums by illustrating the same bird with a biro, paint brush, wax crayon, charcoal, etc. She encourages readers not to ‘stay inside the lines’, but to add their own drawings in amongst the pages.

Some will open up their favourite Alison Lester book and set it up beside their picture, copying the colours and textures as best they can. Others will completely reinvent the spreads with their own interpretations. Regardless, it is wonderful that she has offered us a chance to do so … and shared some of her artistic secrets too!

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website: