Splat Art: Blops & Dribbles in Need of Your Scribbles. By Andrew Pinder. Klutz. $12.99.
Star Wars Folded Flyers. By Benjamin Harper and the Scientists of Klutz Labs. Klutz. $19.99.
Buzz Lightyear Foam Gliders. By the Editors of Klutz. Klutz. $16.99.
Make Your Own Disney Princess Tiaras. By the Editors of Klutz. Klutz. $16.99.
In our increasingly virtual age, where objects that once had physical reality – books, music storage mechanisms such as CDs and vinyl records – have been more and more often replaced by their digital equivalents, it is good to know that there remains a place for kids to have actual physical interaction with matter. That would be the Klutz “books-plus” line, in which guided crafts projects are presented with the materials needed to complete them. Or so it is most of the time. Splat Art is, on the one hand, very much in line with typical Klutz approaches for ages eight and up; and on the other, differs in one important respect. Its amusing, irreverent tone, featuring multicolored blots and blobs, old photos taken deliberately out of context, collages, and pictures of common objects (ribbon, leaves, rotten tomatoes), is pure Klutz. What it tells children to do with those objects is pure Klutz as well: use them as the basis of creative drawings, whether of colorful ants, companions for “a lonely splodgeosaurus,” fingerprint flowers, dolphins with banana bodies, or “spooky tissue ghosts.” Each set of objects or splotches or blots comes with one example of how kids might create something, and it is up to each child to decide whether to follow the suggestion or come up with an approach of his or her own. Either way is just fine – this book is all about artistic creativity, whether guided or free-flowing. It does differ from typical Klutz offerings in one significant way: it does not include anything with which to make the drawings. But since a few simple pencil lines can make considerable transformations here, pencils or crayons or pens are not really necessary; kids can supply their own, in line with their own imagination.
More typically Klutzian is another project book for ages eight and up, Star Wars Folded Flyers. Here the “guided” element is much stronger and in fact must be followed for the 30 (yes, 30) paper starfighters to emerge from the included foldable pages to fly and loop around the room or outdoors. Some ships from the Star Wars films will be immediately recognizable, such as the Millennium Falcon; others may need some introduction, such as the BTL-B Y-wing. No problem: each ship gets an intro that includes information labeled “About My Ship,” “Weapons and Defense,” and “In Battle,” along with ID cards for the pilots. There are “tips from a master” (Yoda) about assembly, and decidedly Klutzian comments inserted here and there: “Created for the Rebel Alliance by the Incom Corporation, the X-wing was kept secret from the Empire. Fortunately for you, Klutz Labs was able to obtain copies of the top-secret plans.” This is not a book for the impatient: folds have to be done carefully, and small adjustments are required (and inevitable) once the paper craft are put together and given a chance to fly. Klutz anticipates this: there are only six designs of starfighters, with plenty of extra pages provided so additional ones of the same design can be made. There are also pages to fold into display stands – a nice touch. All that is needed to make the flyers is in the book, including tape (provided as a sheet). Of course, Star Wars Folded Flyers is only for devotees of the film franchise, but it seems safe to say that there are plenty of them around (adults as well as kids).
A different franchise – the Pixar/Disney Toy Story sequence – is the basis for flying of a different kind, for younger kids (ages four and up). Buzz Lightyear Foam Gliders includes a Buzz rocket plus gliders associated with Woody, the aliens, Hamm and Emperor Zurg. The pieces punch out of cardboard and are very easy to assemble, and plastic nose caps weight them toward the front so they fly quite well. There is also a sheet of Toy Story stickers for decorating the gliders with lights, characters, glider names and more. Boys too young for Star Wars Folded Flyers (or ones who are not fans of the Star Wars films) will enjoy assembling these planes, which take much less time to make than do those in the Star Wars book. And what about girls? Klutz has a Disney tie-in for them, too – Make Your Own Princess Tiaras, which, like the Toy Story project, is for ages four and up (but not up too far). There is more to do in this book than in the Toy Story one, even though there are only three tiaras (a yellow one for Belle, a blue Cinderella model and one called Ariel Pink). The reasons for the extra activities are, first, that there are lots of decorations included (stickers, jewels, “princess cameos,” pom-poms and sequins, plus glue to attach things); and, second, that Make Your Own Princess Tiaras also contains other projects – mini tiaras for dolls, “wand toppers” to attach to drinking straws, and a tiara stencil that can be used to cut out additional tiaras comparable to the ones supplied by Klutz. There are also jewelry bases: cardboard cutouts that can be used to make rings and bracelets. As with the projects tied to the Star Wars and Toy Story films, Make Your Own Princess Tiaras is only for kids who are fans of the films featuring the characters highlighted by Klutz. But parents who are not enamored of any of the tie-in books can always turn to, say, Splat Art, which is not tied into anything except a child’s imagination.