September 10, 2011
Until now, that is: I'd choose Marion Deuchars's Let's Make Some Great Art over any of the others. The British illustrator originally created these hand-drawn, real-art-inspired projects for her own kids, and it shows; this is a kid-directed interactive art primer with a sweet, personal touch. Its 224 pages include quick focuses on established art, from cave paintings to Damien Hirst—each offering children a chance to take their own crack at the style, reproducing Mona Lisa's smile, Hirst's shark, Jackson Pollock's action drips, and many more. Others feature concise lessons in technique—shading, form, perspective—often in the form of games or projects that feel like play rather than learning. Another bunch deal with content, presenting, for example, a small figure of a frightened person, and instructing the child/artist to create in this page's large blank space the reason for the fear.
It goes on and on like that, each page as simple and brilliant as the last. Deuchars has created the holy grail of activity books as far as culturally minded parents are concerned: deeply engrossing to kids, yet delivering far more than a mere distraction. The only trouble with Let's Make Some Great Art, really, is you may have to resist an urge to do some of the projects and exercises yourself—or, if you can't, get an additional copy so you can … as my wife is quite seriously considering doing.
[Photos: Whitney Webster]