When textile designer and illustrator Lena Corwin lucked into a big, bright Brooklyn studio space, she invited some of her favorite artists to use it for teaching their own classes. Lena Corwin’s Made by Hand is the book version of this concept, wherein 13 of Corwin’s colleagues share techniques for a satisfying variety of homemade projects, from jewelry to olive oil soap, fabric arts to beeswax birthday candles. The 26 delightful projects are scrumptiously photographed as step-by-step tutorials, creating the impression that we, too, are in the light-filled studio among the generous and pleasant makers. The thread that connects each project is a need to maintain the balance between control and serendipity: Can we attend to technical details while remaining receptive to the unexpected? And can we have fun along the way? Of course we can. As Corwin advises, “It’s best to keep an open mind about your end result and enjoy the imperfect nature of the process.” All of these carefully curated projects will result in products that are perfect in their own unique way, each one a blend of beauty and utility.

Every project in Yellow Owl’s Little Prints is about sharing our hearts with the babies and kids we love. Artist and author Christine Schmidt asks us to “use this book to create pieces that will deepen the bond between you and the children in your life—first to brighten their every day, then to be cherished for many years to come.” What sorts of pieces? The subtitle lists the trinity of techniques at hand: Stamp, Stencil, and Print Projects to Make for Kids. But image transfer and decoupage are represented, too. The extensive range of materials includes papers, tote bags, clothing, pillows, containers and wood, plus plastic wrap salvaged from the recycle bin—all of which can be combined in seemingly endless variations. Each of the 26 toys and accessories hums with the catchy Yellow Owl Workshop vibe. Simplicity is key. Take the super-easy Alphabet Block Rubbing: Line up the blocks that spell your kid’s name, cover with paper and rub with colored pencils to make instant wall art that’s ready to frame. Other projects include a tooth fairy pillow, a woodland mobile and a custom baby blanket.

“Gallimaufry,” says my dictionary, is “a confused jumble or medley of things.” It’s also the word McSweeney’s chose to describe its own marvelous mess, The Goods: Games and Activities for Big Kids, Little Kids, and Medium-Sized Kids. What makes The Goods marvelous is the lineup of contributors from the world of children’s literature: dozens of authors and illustrators with unfair advantages in imagination and skill (including some Caldecott Honor winners). Every page of this oversized activity book is sliced into asymmetrical sections and marginalia blaring “tiny word searches, massive ready-to-draw monsters, average-size chickens, a recipe for hero milk, and more.” It’s a visual treat and assault at the same time. I haven’t located the hero milk yet, but the Cook with Your Face recipe is fabulously gross, and I prognosticate many quiet moments with paper and pencil thanks to the semaphore secret message key. Here’s an idea: Turn off the smartphone and tablet on the next car trip and give your favorite kid a brain-stretching, boredom-busting break.

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