December 01, 2005


How to Make Pompom Animals. By the editors of Klutz. Chicken Socks/Klutz. $9.95.

Hand Art. By the editors of Klutz. Chicken Socks/Klutz. $9.95.

How to Tell Time. By the editors of Klutz. Chicken Socks/Klutz. $12.95.

Rescue Trucks. By Julie Collings and the editors of Klutz. Chicken Socks/Klutz. $12.95.

     The Chicken Socks line of Klutz books – smaller, squarer and less expensive than other Klutz offerings – is still a bit too big to fit into most kids’ Christmas stockings.  But some of the books can be used to make things that would be ideal stocking stuffers.  So maybe these are gifts to give just a little bit early….

     How to Make Pompom Animals makes little things that are just too cute for words.  So the book is filled with pictures instead (okay, there are some words, too).  There are plenty of pompoms included in a plastic pouch attached to the book – which, like all Chicken Socks books, is spiral-bound to stay flat when opened.  All kids need to do is pick specific pompoms – there is a “what you need” note with each project to show which ones to use – and glue the pieces together (yes, the glue is included, too).  Make a turtle from one super-large dark green pompom, one medium green, four small green, and two googly eyes; or a butterfly from three medium orange, two medium red, one mini-red, two googly eyes, and punch-out paper wings (the punch-out section at the back of the book is a particularly nice touch for more complicated projects).  Frog, dog, cat, raccoon and others – you’ll find them all here.  When finished, they fit into stockings very neatly indeed.

     So does the hand-based art made with Hand Art.  The plastic pouch with this book includes crayons, pompoms, googly eyes and glue, and the instructions are the essence of simplicity: place hand on paper in a particular shape (every page shows which shape to use), trace hand, color with crayons, and decorate with the other included stuff.  Kids can make the traditional turkey or peacock by using their hands with all fingers splayed, or get even more creative to make a snail, cat, horse or bat (the last of which requires two hands and someone to help trace them).  There are plenty of other ideas here, too: octopus, alien, dragon, giraffe, elephant and more – all suitable for decorating a room or refrigerator, or even stuffing in a stocking.

     How to Tell Time is a more overtly instructional book than Klutz usually offers, but it is every bit as clearly written.  You could put the included watch in a stocking with a tag color-keyed to the wrapped book under the tree.  The book explains clearly and simply how to use the watch to tell time – and then offers some delightfully Klutzy illustrations of how long things take.  “Stuff that takes about 1 hour” includes “eating 12 ice cream cones,” while “stuff that takes about 1 minute” includes “two TV commercials” – featuring a picture of a girl walking away from a TV set.  The watch itself, with multicolored band and easy-to-read face, has clever elements of its own, including large numbers and red dots to be used when counting minutes by fives.

     Rescue Trucks is clever in a different way.  A plastic blister pack at the front contains four “rolling rescue rigs” that you could take out for stocking stuffing – again, color-coding a tag as a reference to the book under the tree.  The book contains fold-out road pages along which kids push the trucks to rescue cartoon characters.  One road runs through a city that is being attacked by silly-looking aliens.  Another runs through a swamp; another, through a jungle.  There are suggestions on decorating the roads to make them three-dimensional (“tape a square of paper to a flat toothpick to make a flagpole,” “cotton balls make great pretend snow”) and on using toy animals as part of the play.  There are even pages to color – all adding up to great fun for Christmas or any holiday…and even for non-holiday days.

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