June 27, 2019
(++++) SELF-MADE FUN
Build Your Own Theme Park. By Lizz Lunney. Andrews McMeel. $18.99.
From the Films of Harry Potter: Origami. Illustrations by Patrick Spaziante. Origami design by Janessa Munt. Scholastic. $12.99.
All books are participatory – no reader = no communication – but some are participatory in a different way, requiring reader involvement to get anything at all out of them. In fact, those involved with such books are better described as “participators” than as readers, since about the only thing they usually get to read is a set of instructions. Build Your Own Theme Park goes a bit beyond that, however. Yes, its primary purpose is making something, or rather a set of somethings: a whole bunch of theme-park elements including a central castle, a carousel, a roller coaster, food and ticket stands, and more. Everything to be built is printed on thick, cardboard-like paper filled with amusing and sometimes witty cartoon illustrations by Lizz Lunney. When correctly put together – the directions on how and what to fold, how and what to attach where, are quite clear – the various elements combine to create “Lizzneyland” (sounds, of course, like Disneyland), for which Lunney creates the amusingly self-deprecating motto, “Fun for Half the Family” (presumably the “kid” half: the ticket-booth attendant, for one, looks decidedly grumpy). Lunney does not just offer buildings and rides in Build Your Own Theme Park, either: she provides park guests, in the form of cat-headed but upright-standing characters to place here and there among the attractions. Like everything here, the design of the guests is carefully considered: “The cat guests are single sided – no need to glue these! Just fold the base backwards to stand them up! Some cats don’t have a base so they can fit in the rides.” Yes, Lunney has thought of just about everything needed for a make-your-own-theme-park activity. The perforated pages come out of the book easily (although holding a ruler against the perforations helps prevent tears of pages and tears of frustration – and while the backs of most pages simply have designs on them, some page backs show fully assembled portions of the theme park, so budding theme-park architects can get an idea of what things should look like after all the folding, inserting, attaching and gluing has been done. And there really is material to read in addition to building to be done in Build Your Own Theme Park, because Lunney plays around with the whole theme-park concept – and encourages young builders to do so, too. Lizzneyland itself is described as “an imaginary theme park for your brain,” and an illustration of a smiling human’s head shows a brain inside with the word “Lizzneyland” toward the back: “The occipital lobe sits in the lower back part of your brain. This is where you will find Lizzneyland! Reality and imagination flow in different directions in the brain, so be sure to travel the correct way!” The book is full of little remarks like this. For example, one poster promotes the “Futuristic Nightmare Zone,” while another offers the “Human Zone: so boring, it hurts.” Most of the fun here does come from folding and assembling all the various theme-park elements, but some of the extras add to the enjoyment. Thus, at the end of the book, two cat characters, who were first shown introducing the whole project, talk about what they can do next, and Lunney provides space to think up additional theme parks, name their rides and attractions, design their logos, and even create souvenir T-shirts for them. Scissors, tape or a glue stick, and Build Your Own Theme Park add up to a considerable amount of self-made fun.
A very different sort of construction is the basis of From the Films of Harry Potter: Origami. The paper-folding art is here put at the service of 15 Potter-themed creations, ranging in difficulty from pretty simple to very hard indeed; the difficulty level of each item is given in lightning-shaped scars like the one on Harry’s forehead, ranging from one scar to five. There is more reading to do here to understand how to create things than there is in Lunney’s book: the projects have step-by-step instructions, and there are a lot of steps – even an owl, one of the easier items here, requires 31 creation stages. This is a book for Harry Potter fans who are patient and can follow directions closely – and will pay attention to “tips” that make the finished products look much better. The book is filled with text explaining the meaning within the world of Harry Potter of the origami items that can be created using the included paper. For instance, “a Howler is an enchanted letter that could probably just say its message quietly, but instead it, well…howls it…” And “Fluffy is a three-headed dog that guarded the Sorcerer’s Stone. Although Fluffy was vicious, he could be lulled to sleep with a bit of music.” The text goes on to tell a bit about specifically how each origami project fits into the narrative of the Harry Potter films – and there are stills from the films scattered throughout the book, along with illustrations. The number of steps required by each project does not necessarily reflect the project’s difficulty level: the one-bolt cauldron has 21 steps and the hippogriff has only 16 – but is a four-scar project because of the complexity of folding, rotating, pressing, reversing and crimping the paper to create it. Familiarity with origami is not necessary to enjoy From the Films of Harry Potter: Origami, because the book opens with careful explanations of the various types of folds required for the projects. plus illustrations showing just how each fold works and what has to be done to make each of them come out properly. Especially valuable in this introduction is a small box titled, “Practice Makes Perfect!” This recommends that origami novices warm up using their own, large paper before trying projects that require the paper included in the book: “Some of the pieces in this book are complicated and it will be easier to see the shapes and folds if they are bigger.” This is very good advice, because many of these projects – and not only the most-difficult ones – require considerable care and dexterity. Young Harry Potter fans who are willing to focus hard in order to create some rather intricate paper shapes will have a lot of fun with From the Films of Harry Potter: Origami. But this is not a book to try to grasp quickly, and there is no place here (or in origami in general) for impatience or undue haste. Even origami-experienced readers would be well-advised to start with the simpler projects here and work their way through to the harder ones – and in truth, even the simplest shapes in this book, when folded properly, come with a considerable measure of enjoyment for a job well (and patiently and carefully) done.