My house is a wasteland of children’s art projects. Well, not children. Child. One child. A little lefty named Jacob who is well on his way to 10,000 hours of drawing expertise. Little piles of his work can be found in drawers and on tables; in folders and portfolios. I try to take pictures of his best work for posterity, but it’s almost impossible to keep up. Plus, some of them are just too funny to toss. Sometimes I ponder how much mommy guilt Picasso’s mother felt, years later, after sneaking mountains of pictures into the paper recycling bin?
Earlier this year we went through a bit of a power struggle with this artiste. And whenever he would get mad, he would go to his room and draw pictures of us and then draw big circles around them and lines through them— banning us from his psyche. It’s probably a productive way of dealing with anger and frustration, though it is not good for parents to giggle when said drawings of themselves are silently stuffed under doors to communicate said frustration… unless you want more hate mail.
The other night during story time, Jake kicked his legs and accidentally jammed my finger and it really hurt. Instead of an apology, I got a picture of myself with tears springing off my face and a big, red throbbing finger that was crossed-out with the word “no.” Underneath was a smiling picture of me with a happy face and a happy finger and the word “lles”— which sounds like yes when you sound it out in Spanish. How can I not save these in little piles all around my house?
And speaking of drawing, my last review was of a real dud of a moose book, but just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, somehow the Book Elf skyrockets you to book bliss. And that’s exactly where we are with a book called The Boys’ Doodle Book by Andrew Pinder.
In a nutshell: The Boys’ Doodle Book is a heavy duty art book of creative and thought-provoking pictures to complete. The Book Elf likes to change it up now and then. It has sparse, simple text questions that a five-and-a-half-year-old can sound out. Mostly it’s filled with partial pictures and a prompt. Examples include things like: A boy looking over the side of his mattress and the caption: What’s under the bed? A strong looking man in his skivvies and his dog and the prompt: Design their superhero costumes. A page with three fierce lions running as a pack and the question: What are the lions hunting? Followed by a page with the lions looking back in fear and the question: What is hunting the lions? It’s full of pages with vikings and castles, pirates and aliens, pyramids, tunnels, caves and stampedes. It skews “boy,” but without being too stereotypical. One of the first pages Jake turned to had a frightened looking T-Rex and asked, “What scared him?” Jake’s answer: A skunk. Actually, a pack of skunks.
Why didn’t I think of that?
This book has kept him creatively occupied for hours in a calm, educational way, exhibiting model “we’re in public” behavior. Target audience is definitely the 5-7 demographic. The paper quality is great and the pictures are colorful and engaging with lots of white space. Nothing about this book impels one to color inside the lines. One reviewer on Amazon took hers to a copy shop and had them chop the binding off and make it spiral-bound so it lies completely flat. This might be worth it, though after a few days of use it seems to lay flat enough.
This past Saturday, we were invited to a last minute birthday party for Jake’s first best friend, Helen. In need of a quick present, I scoured the local specialty shop and Targét for The Girls’ Doodle Book or any of the books by this author, but came up short. I did find something close and we paired it with our favorite washable marker Pip-squeak carousel. Jackpot. I could hardly believe my eyes when after two-hours of trampolening, cheese pizza and frosting as thick as snow, six little girls made a circle on the floor and started coloring with the markers while Helen colored in her new doodle book. We also marveled that five out of the six were lefties… leaving us to wonder how Helen racked-up such a statistically significant number of left-handed friends. Several hours later, as we said our goodbyes, Helen was balancing the marker carousel on top of her book to take it upstairs and continue working. I’ve now found my go-to birthday present for 2015. Expect to see this reappear on next year’s No It All Gift Guide.
Families can talk about: Why do you like dragons and vikings so much? Are there enough pages where you can draw dragons? When the boy is looking over the side of his bed and says, “Oh crumbs!” is he referring to pie? Is that why you drew a monster eating a giant piece of pie? Is this like a regular coloring book or better? There’s a list of thirty seven other Doodle books by this publisher… how many hours of mommy quiet time does that equate to? Technically the pages rip out, but you don’t need to know that do you?
The Boys’ Doodle Book by Andrew Pinder