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Monday Book Review: “Chet the Architect,” “Chet the Architect Shows You New York City’s Museum Mile,” “The Day-Glo Brothers” and “Our House is Round”

August 13th, 2012

What happened to that book reviewer, Wacky Mommy? She must have taken the summer off or something…

Here I am, and Chet the Architect is first up on the review list. (“Chet the Architect” is a companion set from Butterfly Artistic Media, 2012. The learn-to-draw book is $14.95. The map and guide to nine New York City museums is $12.99. Unpaged. Both are written and illustrated by Kathryn Koller.)

Man, do I love New York. I haven’t been in many years now. This set of books makes me long to go back, and take the kids with me this time. “Chet” is a good introduction to art and museums, even if you don’t have a trip to New York scheduled in the near future. (The map is pocket-sized and handy to use.) You know what inspired my love of New York museums? Yep. “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” Thank you, E.L. Konigsburg.

Chet McGraw loves to draw. Follow his lead in this built-in sketch book, and learn about NYC’s Museum Mile along the way: Museum for African Art, El Museo del Barrio, Museum of the City of New York, the Jewish Museum, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, National Academy Museum & School, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Neue Galerie New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Have some fun with these books! Your budding artists will enjoy them. The books are aimed at younger children, but I think would be useful for big kids, too.

I am a little enamored of “The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors” (written by Chris Barton, with illustrations by Tony Persiani, Charlesbridge, 2009, unpaged, $18.95). I came across this book a few years ago, when it was first released. Did you know that Day-Glo colors were created by two brothers, in their family’s basement, circa 1933? I love a good biography, and this one fits the bill. Brother Bob was destined for medical school, but had a bad injury that damaged his eyes and memory and gave him seizures. He had to heal in his family’s darkened basement. Brother Joe spent time with him, trying to figure out more about light and fluorescence, in the hopes of coming up with some new effects for his magic act. They built an ultraviolet lamp, started playing with chemicals (I feel the need to insert, Kids don’t try this at home… even though it worked for the Switzers…) and voila.

It’s a great story for kids — and creative scientists — of all ages.

“Our House is Round” (written by Yolanda Kondonassis, illustrated by the aptly-named Joan Brush, Sky Pony Press, 2012, $16.95, unpaged) arrived in time for Earth Day, but got covered by the litter on my desk.

Sad but true. Ms. Kondonassis, a Grammy-nominated harpist, has released 17 albums; proceeds from some of the records have gone to environmental groups. She is founder and director of Earth at Heart, which is a non-profit organization “devoted to increasing earth awareness through the arts.” “Our House is Round” is aimed at the 5- to 9-year-old crowd.

Wacky Boy’s review: “It’s a good book and it’s good for all types of kids, but especially little kids. It uses not-too-big words, and teaches them big words, too.” The glossary is helpful, and the list of things that people can do to make a difference right away.

Our guest reviewer says that the ideas for helping to protect Earth are “good sense, and not too big of things. They are things that kids will be able to do.”

Guest reviewer 2, Wacky Girl, says, “‘Our House is Round’ is a good book for little kids to learn about pollution and how it’s bad for the Earth. The illustration are nice.”

(My disclaimer.)

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