Children's Corner: Simple summer fun to keep kids busy

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Summer is a perfect time for kids to learn some new knock-knock jokes, jot down thoughts in a special notebook and create some "Star Wars" thumb doodles.

• Maisy, the cheerful mouse created more than two decades ago by author/illustrator Lucy Cousins, has collected millions of fans over the years. Now her latest generation of followers can enjoy some interactive fun with Maisy in two new books.

In "Maisy Grows a Garden" (Candlewick Press, $14.99, ages 3-5), young readers can pull various tabs to help Maisy plant, water, weed and pick her vegetables and flowers. And there's a special surprise at the end, as readers can pull the last tab and watch some colorful sunflowers bloom.

Summertime often is synonymous with fairs, and little ones can vicariously enjoy the experience with "Maisy's Fairground" (Candlewick Press, $17.99, ages 3-5). By pulling the tabs, readers can watch Maisy and her friends drive bumper cars, jostle together on a moon bounce and zoom along the roller coaster.

• Artist Ed Emberley is generally credited with the idea of using colorful thumbprints as the basis for creating all kinds of characters. For example, his book, "Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing Book" (Little, Brown, $11.99, ages 4 up), is a useful introduction for using a stamp pad, some markers, and lots of thumbprints to create everything from caterpillars to football players.

Now, in "Star Wars Thumb Doodles" (Klutz, $16.99, ages 6 up), author/illustrator Michael Sherman takes Emberley's thumbprint model and applies it to "Star Wars" characters.

The "Star Wars Thumb Doodles" book/kit comes with four ink pads, a black marker and a dual-tipped colored pencil, so young artists should have everything they need to craft their own world of "Star Wars" "thumbie" characters, including Yoda, Darth Vader and more.

• Kids also will love trying out a couple of other new Klutz kits:

First, there's "The Book of Impossible Objects" ($19.99, ages 8 up), in which kids are given the tools and directions for trying out everything from a "wobble stone" that reverses direction to a "mirror monster maker" that gives everyone three eyes.

Then there's "Dot Jewelry" ($19.99, ages 8 up), in which kids can use the 1,500 precut paper dots to craft one-of-a-kind jewelry.

• OK, so they're not the highest form of humor. But the 501 knock-knock jokes in "Who's There?" (Highlights for Children, $5.95, ages 5-10), with illustrations by Kelly Kennedy, are sure to delight young readers -- if not their parents. An example:

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"


"Me who?"

"You sure have a funny-sounding cat."

• More fun can be found in "Guess Again!" (Highlights for Children, $5.95, ages 5-10), with illustrations by Kevin Rechin. In this book, readers can enjoy such riddles as: "How do you know your dog has gotten into the blue paint? Answer: "There are blueprints all over your house."

It's silly but perfect for summer family fun -- and a great way to get your kids to read.

• Author/illustrator Petr Horacek combines colorful illustrations, clever paper engineering of pop-ups and a touch of whimsy to educate and entertain young readers in "Animal Opposites" (Candlewick Press, $15.99, ages 3-6).

Mr. Horacek's opposites range from a "short dog" paired with a "tall giraffe" to a "smooth frog" whose opposite is a "spiky porcupine." He makes the book interactive by showing one animal on the left side of each two-page spread and then hiding its opposite under a flap on the right side, thus encouraging preschoolers to participate in the reading experience by lifting the flap to see what is underneath.

The final two-page spread, pitting a "small ladybug" vs. a "big elephant," is sure to be a favorite with young readers, who will thrill to the way that their initial opening of the flap enables them to further unfold an illustration of an enormous pachyderm.

• Kids can add color to some truly smashing graphic designs in "Zolocolor!: Toodle-oo Doodle-oo" (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, $7.99, ages 3 up).

Designed and illustrated by Byron Glaser and Sandra Higashi, this is not your average coloring book, with boring, static black-and-white line drawings. Instead, Mr. Glaser and Ms. Higashi offer some bold graphic designs that beg for a bit of -- or more -- color.

• Young artists interested in a somewhat more scripted coloring experience might enjoy "Pretty Costumes" (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, $7.99, ages 3-8), created by Hannah Davies. In this book, Ms. Davies spotlights native costumes from various countries, inviting readers to color them, while also offering separate pages highlighting specific features of a country's dress, such as patterned jewelry from Kenya and an Aztec pattern from Mexico.

• With "Express Yourself" (American Girl, $9.99, ages 9-14), girls are encouraged to "use art to explore the emotions within yourself," according to the cover message.

What this means, in practice, is that each two-page spread in this spiral-bound notebook offers a creative suggestion for girls to explore more about their hopes and dreams. For example, they can draw themselves as an animal or picture themselves as a superhero.


Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at


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