August 04, 2016


Draw It 3D: A Seriously Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Mind-Melting, Eye-Popping Art! By the editors of Klutz. Klutz. $16.99.

Make Paper Lantern Animals. By the editors of Klutz. Klutz. $19.99.

     Klutz project books are not what they used to be, but they are still a cut above other arts-and-crafts project assemblages. Often more than a cut above. Klutz is now a Scholastic line, no longer a scrappy West Coast publisher with distinctly odd tastes and concepts (the firm once named a secondary line “Chicken Socks”). But bits of oddity continue to creep into some Klutz offerings, such as Draw It 3D. The spiral-bound, lie-flat instruction book offered here manages to include a fair amount of technical information about both art and science (since the way we see things, including art, is a matter of science) – all while showing young readers how to create three-dimensional-looking squid-fights-ape drawings, space sharks, photos in which zombies seem to crawl out from under grass, anamorphic drawings (ones that are only visible from specific angles), and more. In addition to all needed art materials for creating various, well, creations – that is, a mechanical pencil, pen, ruler and block eraser – Draw It 3D offers tear-out pages from which you punch out figures such as a UFO, a soccer ball and a TV set, then photograph the figures in such a way that they seem three-dimensional. There is also a genuinely fascinating object to be created here: a stereoscopic viewer, also called a 3D viewer, which lets your eyes see two slightly different pictures so your brain does the work of combining the views and, as a result, shows the two-dimensional scenes in what looks like 3D. The science behind this is straightforwardly explained: “The two pictures are printed side by side and look almost identical. But when the photos are separated by a special viewer, your brain has to do the work to put them together.” This is different from the way 3D movies work – and the book explains the difference. Also here are pages of “isometric grid” paper, “a special kind of graph paper made with triangles. All the triangles are measured at a precise 30 degrees.” This paper makes it easy to keep lines straight and angled the same way – so drawings look as three-dimensional as possible. But Klutz clearly explains, and shows, that for effective 3D creation, not all lines need to follow the grid: there is a dramatic example of a huge dragon looming over a castle, with the building following the grid and the dragon being off it but still appearing three-dimensional. Draw It 3D is a treat for budding artists (no significant prior art ability is needed to follow the directions); it is also great fun for would-be monster makers and future video-game designers – video games use the same isometric perspective in creating their worlds that artists such as M.C. Escher used to create “impossible” drawings whose puzzling features continue to amaze viewers. Kids seeking to create their own amazement will find a guide to it here.

     Matters are gentler and certainly less outrĂ© in Make Paper Lantern Animals. But this too is a Klutz everything-you-need-is-included offering. Attached to the back of a clearly written book of instructions is a box containing six mini paper lanterns, glue, tissue paper, facial features (eyes, noses, mouths), ribbon, stencils, and “pretty pattern papers.” What to do with all this? The idea is to make lantern-like objects to hang from walls and ceilings – but definitely not ones to illuminate anything, since they are, after all, paper: “Never, ever use a candle inside or around your lantern. Make sure to keep the paper away from flames or hot lightbulbs.” This is not a project for kids who tend to be on the clumsy side: the lanterns are delicate and rip easily. However, Klutz helpfully offers suggestions on what to do it a rip does occur: cover it with a decoration, glue on tissue paper in a matching color, or simply tell everyone you made the rip on purpose (the lantern-maker’s version of computer programmers’ “it’s not a bug; it’s a feature”). There is a certain charm to the instructions on how to assemble the lanterns: “Stretch the lantern and slide the rings over the pointy bits on the frame thingy, one at a time.” The illustrations actually make all this quite clear, and the “ingredients list” for each possible lantern makes it easy to assemble exactly the right parts for a specific project before starting it. There are 20 possible creatures here, so kids can choose their six favorites. Among the possibilities, in addition to the expected puppy, kitten, mouse and bunny, are a bat, flamingo, sea turtle, koala, toucan, walrus and others. The last and most-difficult project is a unicorn, and here the instruction book helpfully notes, “This one takes a little time, but what do you expect? Unicorns don’t come easily.” True enough – but Klutz continues to make crafts projects as easy as they can be, and as much fun as they can be, too. Klutz is not what it once was, but it remains something special: a producer of crafts projects that are not only enjoyable but also can be genuinely informative.

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