I have always wanted to be able to draw, to create beautiful and funny and quirky images with a quick flick of the pen. Alas, hand-eye co-ordination is not one of my gifts, and I have to make do with plodding copying from others’ work. I adore a series of books by Christopher Hart that teaches drawing based on a shape: Draw a Circle/Triangle/Square, Draw Anything.
And as if I didn’t already love Mo Willems enough, he earned a very special place in my heart when he said, in an interview with Leonard Marcus in Show Me A Story!, that when he creates his drawings, “It’s important to me that a five-year-old be able to reasonably draw the characters in my stories. The books themselves should be merely a point of entry for their own creations, based on copying my characters.” (The Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App lets you do that with your finger on the i-phone!)
Because I also want to enable my kids’ ability to express their creativity on paper, I have become addicted to doodle books: the kind of book that gives you a framework and lets you fill in the blanks. We’ve had fun with Once Upon a Doodle, which has scenes from dozens of fairy tales, fables and children’s stories. What I like about the format of that book is that it encourages the artist to change bits of the story: the fairy godmother gets her spell wrong, screws up the pumpkin to a carriage transformation, and the artist has to draw the result. Of course, as with many tellings of fairy tales, there are gender stereotypes, but there’s room to change those, too. Running Press has a whole series of doodle books, from large to pocket-sized, and from general doodles to themed collections for Halloween and Christmas.
And, because I’m nothing if not addicted to these things, we’ve also got My Beastly Book of Monsters on the go. I love monster illustrations, and this one has hundreds.
So, for those of us without a natural talent for illustration, these books work as wonderful starts to creativity. They give just enough instruction to get an idea off the ground and to let imagination soar.