May 25, 2006


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

Building Cards: How to Build Pirate Ships. By Doug Stillinger. Klutz. $12.95.

It’s All About Me! By Karen Phillips. Klutz. $14.95.

     There are always a few Klutz releases that don’t quite fit into the company’s standard crafts categories.  They’re a bit quirkier than other Klutz books (which is really saying something), a bit harder to pigeonhole, and tend to offer fun in some unexpected ways.  Here are three of them.

     Penny Games actually costs only $9.70 – a bargain! – because it is packed with 25 shiny pennies in a cleverly designed plastic package that fits onto the front of the spiral binding of the book.  Like other Chicken Socks offerings, this one is for kids as young as four, so the games have to be simple.  And so they are – but that doesn’t prevent them from being clever.  Try “Penny Bump,” in which six cutout spokes of a game board provide tracks in which you place pennies to shoot toward the board’s center – the object being to land on the central circle or knock away someone else’s penny that’s already there (it’s a little like shuffleboard).  Or play “The One Cent Slide,” in which you try to slide a penny through a maze from the outside ring to the center.  Games with bound-in boards alternate with ones that don’t require using the book at all (well, except for the instructions). As a nice bonus, there’s an explanation of how to make dull pennies almost as shiny as the ones packed with the book.  It’s easy to do, and it really works.

     How to Build Pirate Ships is the second Klutz Building Cards book – the first showed how to build castles – and it’s loads of fun for what is essentially a set of instructions on creating a house of cards (okay, a ship of cards, but you get the idea).  The cards come bound together and perforated.  You break them up into various shapes (“skinnies,” “trapezoids,” “biggies” and so on), then use the shapes to create pirate ships.  A plastic pirate is included to remind you of what you’re doing, and the book includes amusing asides, such as “How Ye Talk Pirate”: hearties are friends, booty is treasure, “arrr!” means “I am a pirate,” and “yarr!” means “arrr!”  The main event, the building, is less guided than in other Klutz books – there are no specific plans to follow, but there are step-by-step instructions for using the cards, followed by “a gallery of galleys” that you can make with the cards.  This is for the patient, self-directed builder who may have a future in nautical design, though hopefully not in nautical naughtiness.

     It’s All About Me! is all about…well, whoever buys the book or gets it as a gift.  It’s a set of personality quizzes, starting with a page labeled, “Introducing the World’s Most Fascinating Topic: You!”  This is not a book for the modest.  A good sense of humor helps a lot, though.  In one quiz, you find out what kind of cookie you are – gingersnap, chocolate chip or sugar (each gets a personality interpretation).  Another test offers “8 Ways to Tell if Your Parents Are Extraterrestrials” (hint to parents: you’re definitely ETs).  There’s a lucky number page, an inner artist page, a test about being psychic, a naughty-or-nice quiz, and much more.  At the end is a bound-in pad of paper for taking the quizzes, taking notes, doodling, or otherwise having fun.  This is a book for girls – the pink plastic overlay and included pink pen give it away, as do the illustrations, which are all of girls – and it’s enough fun so maybe guys should ask Klutz to make one for them.  Or would that be too quirky?

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