You’re Gonna Make It After All

Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects: Build, Invent, Create, Discover by Jack Challoner. DK Publishing, 2016. 9781465451354.

Make: Props and Costume Armor: Create Realistic Science Fiction and Fantasy Weapons, Armor, and Accessories by Shawn Thorsson. Maker Media, 2016. 9781680450064.

I’m really happy that some libraries have started including makerspaces in their services. The hands-on exploration and learning of the maker movement is a great fit with the library’s more traditional learning methods via books and videos. Now that I’m offering maker activities at work, I have to ask myself “What’s a maker activity and what isn’t?” My own working definition is that it must have some problem solving or design decision involved, and that the learning aspect of the activity can be successful even if the final product isn’t beautiful or operational.

Maker Lab and Make: Props and Costume Armor really point to the huge spectrum in making. Maker Lab looks just like the experiments and educational activities that used to go in science fair books and kid magazines. Remember learning about growing crystals by making rock candy? Totally in there. Unlike the books I devoured in my youth, it also shows you how to make a cardboard amplifier for your smartphone. Make: Props and Costume Armor features near-professional-level fabrication, mold making, and painting. It looks like the sort of thing that the Mythbusters do when they’re not busting myths. After my first encounter with the 501st (at Dragoncon), I was curious how they made their armor. Turns out it involves softening a sheet of plastic in your oven and using a homemade vacu-former. Yikes! This book covers that and more: many are definitely the kind of projects that will expose you to toxic fumes and household fire hazards.


Love Your Clothes for Longer

Fix Your Clothes by Raleigh Briggs. Microcosm Publishing, 2017. 9781621069065.

If you want to opt out of the consumer-driven everything-is-disposable society (or just save some cash) you need to pick up this book on the basics of clothing repair. Its zine-style is friendly and empowering, a nice change of pace from those sewing books that assume you want to learn everything about clothing construction before you learn repair skills. It teaches basic stitches,  including how to start and end your stitching with easy knots. (I was always terrified of everything pulling out, but no more!) Then you’re on to buttons and repairing busted seams. Hole in your clothes? Fix it by sewing on patches (in your choice of nearly-invisible or quick and dirty punk-patch) and darning holes (a technique left out of a lot of sewing books). Love those thrift store pants but the legs are too long? Get a handle on hemming. Even if you never pick up a needle, you need this book for the section on how to fix a broken zipper. Added bonus: learn how to waterproof everything from tents to shoes.

I can think of a lot of friends who will love this book and it will make the perfect gift for young people newly out on their own.

If I Can Make It Then, I Can Make It Anywhen

Make: ReMaking History, Volume 1, Early Makers by William Gurstelle. Maker Media, 2016. 9781680450606.

(a book review in one act)

Man: Honey, why is there a pile of iron pipe on the front lawn?
Woman: Oh, little Dougie is learning about history! And science!
Man, looking worriedly out the window:  History of what, plumbing?
Woman: No, metalworking! He’s re-creating an Oliver, a type of mechanical hammer used by medieval blacksmiths! The book of projects he got is full of wonderful ideas based on ancient, medieval, and pre-modern technological breakthroughs: a working water-screw! a Tantalus cup! a circumferentor! We spent all day at the hardware store.
Man: He’s… not going to work red hot metal in the yard, is he?
Woman, laughing: Oh, of course not! It’s just a replica. I’m not sure what he’s going to hit with it.
Man: I’m just going to go find the cat.
(off stage)
Sound effect: A hammer striking iron.
Sound effect: Meeeeeooooowwww!

Infinite Playset

Let’s Go Camping! Crochet Your Own Adventure by Kate Bruning. Martingale, 2015. 9781604688153.

campingLet’s Go Camping provides you with ideas and crochet patterns to make camping-based playsets for Playmobil-sized people. The accommodations range from teepees and trailers to canal boats and cabins. Every accessory is included, down to tiny dishes in the trailer’s kitchen and ice cream cones sold from the ice cream truck. Even the landscape is included, with patterns for a lake playmat for canoes to cruise on, mountains, and trees. I picked it up looking for ideas for toys to make for kids, and was instead absorbed by the idea of creating and furnishing my own camper. I have absolutely nowhere to keep a camper, so one about the size of a small loaf of bread would be much easier to handle. I can make tiny rugs and bunting for it, wee cabinets, and bedspreads! I think the kids in my life may be out of luck: I will want to keep all of these toys for myself.

Tuesday Morning Cartoons

apeandamarmadillytakeovermayamakesamessApe and Armadillo Take Over The World by James Sturm. (Easy-To-Read Comics Level Three) TOON Books, 2016. 9781943145096.

Maya Makes A Mess by Rutu Modan. (Easy-To-Read Comics Level Two). TOON Books, 2012. 9781935179177.

I’ve been working on what may become a kids graphic novel, so I went through the Seattle Public Library’s catalog to find TOON Books that I haven’t read. (If you don’t know, TOON is a groundbreaking imprint of easy-reader comics.)

Sturm’s was the best of the lot. Friends Armadillo and Ape are trying to come up with an evil playtime plan for sneaking into a castle and stealing the Wizard King’s wand. Ape objects because Armadillo gets to do all the cool stuff, like flying away on a pegasus, while Ape has to do unpleasant things like walk through a sewer. When Ape comes up with his own ideas, Armadillo objects. (Armadillo REALLY wants to pretend to be evil, but Ape doesn’t want to blow up the world.) Can they learn to play together?

Sturm adds comic strips starring both characters to the bottom of each page, adding extra fun and moments of character exploration to an already great book. I have to say I’m a bigger fan of Sturm than ever — in addition to being an amazing comics creator (Market Day, Adventures in Cartooning, Satchel Paige) I recently found out he was also The Stranger’s first art director.

Modan’s Maya is totally hilarious. Maya’s parents are highly critical of her table manners. After her father says, “You need manners! What if you were eating dinner with the QUEEN?” Maya’s invitation to dine with the queen is announced by a royal page and she is whisked away in a plane. Maya’s parents would be horrified by the way she eats her pasta and ketchup with her hands, but it all works out for the best.

The subject matter is quite a departure from the other books by Modan that I’ve read — The Property, Exit Wounds — but she uses her straightforward narrative style to amazing effect. The crowd scene of all the royals eating with their hands would make an amazing placemat.

You Don’t Have to Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here

The Successful Bartender: Putting People Skills to Work by Geoff Colvin and Peter Battistella
Behavior Associates, 2007

successfulbartenderEvery training I co-led on how to deal with teen behavior problems in the library, someone would ask for examples of what to say in particular difficult situations. I avoided this and instead focused on building confidence and awareness of teen issues. If you were disappointed by my training, this is the book for you! While library staff can’t cut off someone’s supply of alcohol (we only ask that you keep it in a brown paper bag or out of sight), we can use bartenders’ tactics to deal with angry people, fights, and sleepers.

How to defuse confrontation between customers: “Look, I hope this doesn’t get out of hand, I don’t want any trouble on my shift.” Or “Listen fellas, we don’t want any trouble here, let’s cool it OK?” Or “Listen, take it easy would you? This needs to stop.” And to patrons who provoke others to fight: “OK fellas let’s leave it alone eh.”

This is really solid behavior management for the over-21s which focuses on awareness of the workplace, being present and visible to calm potential problems, using firm and direct language when addressing unacceptable behavior, calling the police when it’s needed, and documenting what happened afterward.

Cookbook Truth

Food52 Baking: 60 Sensational Treats You Can Pull Off in a Snap by the Editors of Food52.
Ten Speed Press, 2015.  9781607748014

food52bakingI had a library patron ask me where the cookbooks were (a common question), and when I asked her if there was a particular book she wanted she told me that she reads them to help her go to sleep! (If I was as honest as she was, I would say that I read cookbooks to pretend that I am the sort of person who lives in the pristine, beautiful homes in the photographs of the finished dishes.) Food52 Baking’s desserts are all photographed on a weathered wood table straight out of a farmhouse (or a really expensive New York City apartment) complete with antique-y props. The desserts I would try to make: Cardamom Currant Snickerdoodles and Brown Sugar Shortbread. Desserts I want someone else to make for me (too complicated): Pudding Chomeur, Baked Cardamom French Toast with Syrupy Meyer Lemons, and Hippie Crispy Treats.