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A fascinating information book, The Colours of History takes readers to different places at different times to show how humans have used colour in art, politics and trade. They’ll learn how indigo, made from plants that grow in Asia, began to be traded round the world in the 15th century, how hundreds of years later it was used to colour a type of cloth in Nîmes, which eventually became known as ‘denim’. It explains how pink has been regarded as a ‘boy colour’ and a ‘girl colour’, and why, in the US in the early 20th century, margarine was pink. And it describes how the discovery of a new mineral in a Russian gold mine transformed Van Gogh’s paintings. It’s an unusual and vivid way to demonstrate how interconnected the world has always been, and mankind’s endless ingenuity too.
The Story of Art Picture Book is a great way to foster children’s interest in art. With masses of colour reproductions of paintings and artworks, it’s full of information on the way painting has developed over the centuries, from the cave paintings of Lascaux to the modern art of Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor. The text is short and easy to read, and highlights details in the various artworks that will have particular appeal to children, occasional cartoon illustrations adding extra snippets of information – Rembrandt pulling faces at himself in a mirror for example, to help him draw different facial expressions. You can take special virtual tours of art galleries too via links on the Usborne website. ~ Andrea Reece
This clever, stylish picture book is an excellent and very accessible introduction to different art styles, from the earliest cave paintings through to Cubism and contemporary art. It is also a neat celebration of human diversity, acknowledging that we are all unique, and all works of art. In appealing lines of rhyming text, Mark Sperring presents a series of statements guaranteed to make readers examine the artworks represented in Rose Blake’s illustrations: “We might look rather classic” for example, under a painting of an Ancient Greek sculpture. It’s ingenious, fun to read and revisit, and just the sort of book to prompt a family trip to the local art gallery too. ~ Andrea Reece
This striking, energetic series of which this is one of the titles, takes a rapid-fire ‘look and learn’ approach to subjects suitable for children aged 8 and over and each title makes the learning experience really fun. With fascinating topics ranging from Dinosaurs to Art, from Myths to Science, each of these books presents a key subject in a fresh and fascinating format. The subjects in each title are explained in 30-second sound-bites, supported by 3-second flash summaries. And if all that isn’t stimulating enough, the 3-minute mini-missions included will further challenge lively young minds. With colourful, original explanatory artwork on every page and text from a range of expert authors, these books are loaded with fun information and fast-track facts.
As 2017 dawns it’s hard to think of a better book to slip into your pocket than 100 Hugs by Chris Riddell. This neat little hardback contains 100 black and white illustrations by Riddell, a virtuoso of the form, and each one will amaze with its delicacy, skill and fluidity. There’s fun to be had in spotting characters – Pinocchio and Geppetto, Alice and the White Rabbit, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the three little pigs – but the real joy comes just from enjoying the beauty and emotion packed into each drawing. It’s a book that will surprise and entertain no matter how many times it’s opened, and one that will leave readers feeling they too have been hugged. ~ Andrea Reece
There’s a lot more to science than lab coats, test tubes and text books as this stimulating interactive activity book demonstrates. All you need is a pen or pencil to try out the more than 30 different projects contained within its bright pages and children will learn about all sorts of things, from plant reproduction to scientific phenomena such as light and mirrors. There are lots of really fascinating brain-bending puzzles to attempt too – science doesn’t get much cooler! ~ Andrea Reece
September 2016 Fascinating Facts Book of the Month Anything you can imagine, you can animate says this stimulating book, and it explains clearly and simply the ten key skills readers need to become expert animators, starting with flipbook loops and ending with special effects, lighting and camera skills. The instructions are carefully worded to be friendly and easy to follow, while the colour illustrations on every page help to explain the different processes, and keep it all feeling fun and uncomplicated. There are lots of extra handy tips in text flashes, a page of useful links and a glossary with definitions of technical and unfamiliar terms. This is an inspiring and really useful guide for young would-be animators. ~ Andrea Reece
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