My Favorite Activity Books Review


I’ve been collecting activity books. I’ve been doing this practice for awhile, visualizing my own books on the shelf. I consider these authors my mentors and inspiration. I also like to analyze things to improve what I create by learning from the best, so here’s a pros and cons list of these books from my collection.

1. The Scribble Diary by Lisa Currie (Penquin)

Cute format — “the scribble diary is your own playful, personal doodling space – to vent your thoughts, reflect on your day and jot down what’s in your brain right now.” Each page has deceptively simple line drawings to fill in like, “trying to grow this,” or “next on my bucket list.” My only complaint is I wish the pages could be cut out and added to your journal, but I don’t want to cut out the pages on the other side of the pages. Pretty powerful and ingenious idea and great for visual thinkers. I like activity books that make me think.

2. Doodle Paris by Rob Merrett (Dog and Bone Books – Ryland Peters)

I want to go to Paris but I don’t have the air fare money right now, so I guess the next best thing is to doodle my way through a virtual visit and imagine. I had a blast sketching french pastries, and decorating a store window with poodles. I have to say, love the paper that the pages are printed on — my color pencil drawings richly stood out. Complaints would be the spine didn’t have the name of the book so it could get lost on the shelves, and this book is too cute to be ignored. I would also remind the editor to re-look at the copy. “How many french tarts do you know?” had me giggling for a few hours, but maybe I am the only one with a naughty mind.

3. Ballpoint book (Asuka Shinsha) Found this book in Etsy and have no idea what it says as it is in Japanese but it’s bloody brilliant. It’s a pen drawing doodle book that has these whimsical drawings presenting a world this whimsical mind wants to jump right into. Think Japanese Ed Emberley book.

4. Archi-Doodle by Steven Bowkett (Laurence King)

Now you are talking! Mr. Bowkett, I dig this book and I am not even into architecture! I am learning a ton about architecture and I am even allowed to draw and color. Win-win. Who would have thought there are so many considerations designing a window. This book would be awesome for a young architect in the making. It was also fun for adults to play with and learn so I would assign this as a mandatory book for college students. Complaints? Too advanced for younger kids, and I would make directions bigger because my adult eyes need bigger words, but still a cool book.

5. Play and Color in Black and White by Marie Fordacq (Twirl distributed by Chronicle)

Found this book in Bookman’s (a used book store that is a highly addictive visit). It’s a french book and it’s innovative. There’s stickers in the back to add to the pages! The pages are in black and white so your job is to add color and basically learn design as you practice design elements without realizing you are learning how to use color. It’s visually striking. It was probably cheaper to print because it’s all black and white, but those stickers might have been costly. Only because I am a teacher and I think like a teacher, I would have liked to see a lesson in how to use or add color in the beginning. Maybe even add some “adding color” tips throughout the book. I like feeling my hand is held when I experience these books.

6. Doodling with Jim Henson  by Jim Henson (Walter Foster)

The man was a genius. I adored his work and grew up with the Muppets as if they were my brothers and sisters. Love the character named “Bore,” and the idea of drawing your inner characters. His doodles are spread out all over the book and a delight. The directions are a little vague, and if you are anal like me, you want specifics and I want to know what exactly what I need to draw. But, hey, this is Jim Henson’s work! He could have drawn on a napkin and I would have been in awe. It is also nice to see him live on in these pages.

7. My Beastly Book of Monsters by Arnaud Boutin (Owl Books)

Who doesn’t want to draw what is in a monster’s belly? Instructions aren’t too difficult, like, “draw a monster in pink.” There are a few “give it a second glance” instructions, like, “draw a monster on the toilet.” Excuse me? How did that get pass the sensors? This author is funny. “Draw a monster and cut it out and put it in under your bed.” Reminds me of the Simpsons, where the audience is kids, but the grown-ups are having a ball too. Not sure if Arnaud wrote that copy too or just illustrated the book. I like the big drawings spread out on the pages too, and I did stretch my imagination.

So, there you have it. Some fun books to check out and play with. I hope soon to have my own books on this list. In the meantime, I will have to do grueling market testing and research. Off to draw a monster on the toilet…or maybe not.


Be sure to check out my free activity page on the blog where you can dress a giraffe, and who doesn’t want to do that? It’s over here.

Categories: Creative Curriculum, drawing design exercises | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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