Tag Archives: children’s nonfiction

Mix It Up!

Author/Illustrator: Hervé Tullet

My rating: 4 of 5

We are presented with a page, completely blank save for a solitary gray spot. Invited to tap said spot, we do and are presented with an explosion of spots of all colors. And now that we have colors to work with, we’re challenged to try combining them to see what happens when we mix it up.

Mix It Up! is certainly not the sort of picture book to which I am accustomed. It isn’t actually a story at all. I’m honestly at a loss as to how to even categorize it. It’s an interactive experience for kids presented in book format; that’s the best explanation I can come up with. A bit more complex that your usual “name the colors” book, Mix It Up! visually and experientially teaches kids color theory, what happens when you mix different colors, how to create shades and tints, that sort of thing. It’s all very vibrant and interactive–rather than didactically telling the reader what’s happening, it invites us to see and discern for ourselves. This book is great for kids that need a bit more interactivity as it asks them to tap, shake, squish, and tilt the pages as they go along; fortunately, the pages are actually sturdy enough to withstand this kind of abuse. As far as recommended age goes, I think Mix It Up! is best suited for a slightly older demographic than most picture books, although it could be pretty flexible. My two-and-a-half year-old niece enjoys the first half, but the latter parts where more inductive reasoning is required are a bit beyond her appreciation yet. I’d say around five would be the ideal age for this book, but it would depend on the kid. For any age, it’s a great introduction to color theory.

 

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The Skiver’s Guide

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Illustrator: Ros Asquith

I think the Weasley twins would be proud. In The Skiver’s Guide, renowned author Diana Wynne Jones crafts a witty how-to book on avoiding unnecessary work in all aspects of life. It covers everything from general techniques like acting dreamy or becoming ill to specifics like tips for avoiding homework or dealing with specific family members. This book is delightfully multi-layered. On the one hand, it is written in an extremely straightforward manner–and could be taken quite seriously. Actually, there probably are tips in it that you could put to good use. On the other hand, there’s definitely a tongue-in-cheek feel to the whole thing–you could read it as one big gag (I did). Either way, I think you’ll find The Skiver’s Guide to be an interesting and intelligent little volume.

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Rembrandt

Author/Illustrator: Mike Venezia

Rembrandt van Rijn was a painter who lived in Holland during the 1600s. Some consider him the most influential painter of the Renaissance. He might even have been one of the greatest artists ever. But how much do you really know about Rembrandt and his work?

Ever since I was in grade school, I’ve enjoyed and admired Mike Venezia’s “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” books, including Rembrandt. In this book, Venezia presents Rembrandt van Rijn’s story and art in an open, accessible way that’s really refreshing. The text is simple, light, and fun, yet presents the most important information about the artist, his times and country, and his works in a way that you don’t even realize you’re learning (plus it’s only about 30 pages long, and can easily be read in one sitting). Venezia uses humorous comics to punctuate certain points, to great effect. Interspersed with these are actual samples of Rembrandt’s work, carefully chosen to both be interesting and clearly show what made his paintings important to the world of art–as well as tying them in with his historical and personal context. Rembrandt is a fun, fascinating way to learn about this great artist–one that is accessible for both children and adults alike!

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