Posted in bookshop reviews, general and welcome

Getting arty this Christmas

I’ve been a little busy lately, trying to keep up with life at school and home, especially in the run-up to Christmas. It’s amazing how quickly things ramp up. I don’t think that we have many free days between now and the 25th, which is kind of exciting and scary in equal measure.

Therefore, I’m trying to catch up with some lovely books I’ve been sent lately and thought I would do several at once as they all appeal to artists. With the Christmas holidays coming up, what better time to take a break from routine and try your hand at something different?

  1. Harry Potter Celebratory Edition – The Best of Harry Potter Colouring and Harry Potter – Magical Places & Characters Postcard Colouring Book

It’s a shame that Holly feels she’s too old for these now, as they both fall under the new, popular trend of mindfulness colouring, which has a huge following amongst adults. Perhaps being a teen means that she’s not made that transition yet! (Though she’s asked me to keep these on standby for her in case she fancies a little distraction over the Christmas break.) The book is split into themes such as the flora and fauna and places featured in the Harry Potter books and films, as well as featuring the main characters, while the postcard book focuses exclusively on the characters and places, often combining the two.

The illustrations aren’t for they very young as they’re intricate and require patience and delicacy to complete (I’ve always been quite bad at colouring in the lines, so I might attempt this myself with much care!). This would be a fab present for Harry Potter fans aged 8+, and certainly would go down well with adults too! The postcards would make lovely thank-you cards for Christmas gifts and the fact that you or your child coloured them in makes it that bit more personal.

2. The Very Arty Box

Continuing their exciting collaboration, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Puffin Books have produced a nifty little arty box, full of postcards showing pictures of items from the museum’s collections and suggesting ways in which you can use them to get creative. For example:

  • the ‘Underwear’ card has a picture of knitted and embroidery stockings from Spain in the mid-18th century on the front, awesome facts on the back and a suggestion to take a pair of plain socks and decorate them in your own style.
  • the ‘Theatre Set Design’ card has a picture of the 1799 Toy Theatre on the front, and a challenge to create your own backdrop, furniture and props for your very own play.
  • theSpace Dog’ card tells us about Space Dog, the wind-up, clockwork tin dog, created in 1950 in Japan. Children are challenged  to make their own robotic sidekick by taking a large cardboard box and covering it with tin foil and personalising it further.

The box encourages children to visit the V&A and see (and draw) the weird and wonderful things they can find. There are also great tips on how to start your very own collection of anything from erasers and stamps to dried flowers and bottle tops. I’m keeping hold of this box to challenge myself to the projects and ideas inside!

3. Brick by Brick Space, by Warren Elsmore

This book is perfect for lovers of space and Lego and I know exactly who I am giving this to this Christmas. The book gives step-by-step instructions on how to create space projects with Lego bricks (obviously you’ll need a decent supply to do them!) that should keep children and adults occupied for hours. Additionally, there are pages of information about space (eg the Solar System) and the technology that’s got us out there (eg the Hubble Space Craft). Not being a very dexterous person, I’ve never really got into Lego but I can appreciate that this would be an ‘out of this world’ book for those who do (sorry about the terrible pun).

I’ll be back again soon with another selection of titles!

Posted in bookshop reviews

Review: Blackwell’s Children’s Bookshop, Oxford

Blackwell’s Bookshop, Oxford

(Not the best photo – I will try to take one sometime soon to replace this!)

Holly’s review: Blackwell’s is a really good book shop; it has all the books in the world. Well not really but most. It doesn’t only hold children’s books though it holds adults books as well. Blackwell’s was a lot of family fun during the Jubilee – you could come along with your family and do some Jubilee activities. The books they have are really good me and my mum sometimes go in and look at the books. Now about the books: when we went in there the other day and went to look at the kids’ section we were really overwhelmed at how many books there were that we hadn’t read. We bought two books that we thought might be good to read and I’m sure we will be reviewing them soon. You should visit Oxford because you can see all the wonderful bookshops.

Sam’s review: We decided to visit Blackwell’s during the Diamond Jubilee as there were supposed to be events going on to take part in. Apart from a couple of tables out and some craft materials there didn’t seem to be anything much, but that could have been because we arrived fairly early in the day. We made a couple of Jubilee-inspired things (decorated plates, bunting, Union Jacks and there were those lovely Queen’s knickers again!) and then went for a browse in the children’s department.

This takes up a small part of the entire bookshop but is attractive. Staff recommendations and bestsellers flank the non-entrance area (I say non-entrance as it’s not physically defined – it just gradually becomes the children’s section after the World Cinema DVDs). You then get into the area which has walls lined with children’s books – non-fiction and education, then fiction according to age. Picture books have their own separate book stands/shelves. The range of books is impressive but I do wonder if they offer as many titles and as much selection as Waterstones, their nearest rival, just a few minutes’ walk down the road. The Blackwell’s building is older, and therefore has nooks and crannies to deal with, but I think the children’s section could be adjusted and made more inviting if it were opened up to display the selection to its best advantage.

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