November 17, 2005


Shadow Games. By the editors of Klutz. Chicken Socks/Klutz.  $9.95.

Room Lanterns. By Anne Akers Johnson and Kate Paddock. Klutz. $19.95.

Utterly Elegant Tea Parties. By Julie Collings. Chicken Socks/Klutz. $12.95.

Quilting: Design and Make Your Own Patchwork Quilts. By Barbara Kane. Klutz. $21.95.

     Intentionally or not, those strange-but-wonderful creative types at Klutz have recently developed some products that seem to come in little-kid and big-kid versions – perfect for a younger and older sibling (or maybe parents will buy one when a child is young and remember to pick up the other a few years later).

     In-room play for younger children, for example, is what Shadow Games is all about.  Klutz gets extra credit for including a flashlight with batteries.  The Chicken Socks line offers smaller, less expensive, spiral-bound Klutz books that are just as well and cleverly made as the company’s traditional line.  Shadow Games does two basic things: it shows kids how to use their hands to make shapes on the wall, and it provides clever cutout pages that kids hold at the wall and onto which they shine their flashlight.  Shine the light at the special cutout of a city skyline, for instance, and you’ll see shapes of (not-very-scary) space monsters among the buildings.  The book also explains how to put on a shadow-puppet play – and offers a two-page stage on which to do so, plus cutouts from which to make the puppets.

     More elaborate room play – for older kids – is in Room Lanterns, which comes with a string of lights and many pages of punch-out patterns for shades.  Carefully punch out the paper patterns, use snaps and rings (included, of course) to put them together, and you can make seven different lanterns, from a pinwheel to a water lily to a kukui – the Hawaiian candlenut tree.  The project requires some time and attention, making it perfect for older children kept indoors by bad weather or even a not-too-serious cold.

     Back in the land of Chicken Socks books is one to help little girls put together the perfect tea party.  Utterly Elegant Tea Parties comes with a complete tiny tea service for two, menus and place cards for guests, suggestions for tea-party themes (such as doll, princess or fairy), and – this is a very nice touch – recipes for “Real Food (real small)” that requires no cooking and is both cute and tasty.  Girls who would stage tea parties anyway will enjoy them even more with this book.

     Similarly, older girls who would be interested in quilting anyway will find it easier to do and even more fun with the Klutz take on the subject.  Quilting has a very clever design element: the included fabric lets kids design with triangles but sew with squares – a much easier shape to handle.  The book contains a “design deck” of cards that have an instant quilt pattern on one side and can be flipped over and used to make a design of your own – another clever idea.  The basics of quilting are well covered in the instruction book; and with batting, thread, pins, needles, thimble and pressing tool included, Quilting provides older girls with everything they need for a hobby they can take up when they’re a bit too old for tea parties – one can stay with, if they wish, all the way into adulthood.

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