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Klutz books is a true home grown business. It started out with 3 friends making up their own spiral bound books on how to juggle, which were sold on street corners with three cloth bean bags. The books have always been simple easy to understand books which empathise hands on activities. Klutz books are not meant to be read passively, you are meant to be actively involved. Klutz books have had a huge following among home educators for many years, but most of all among those who lean towards the unschooling side of things. Klutz books are so much fun - the children never realise they are learning. I follow a more structured approach to home education, but I still love books that the children can learn from while having fun. My son has no idea that I consider these books part of his school work. He just thinks I am being a kind and wonderful Mom when I let him take off school for the afternoon and get into a Klutz project. We won't tell him they are educational :)
WHAT'S IN THE BOOK
Klutz books usually come with something besides just the text and this is no exception. This book comes with a lump of plasticine, two googly eyes, several punch out props like mouths, paper doll bodies and a space back ground. You also get a free download of a the SAM Animation Programme, created by iCreate to Educate and widely used in American schools. The downside is that you only get a limited version of this software unless you want to splash out $30 US for the full version. Having read a number of negative reviews on the demo version ( although the paid version is meant to be grand) I decided not to download this at all. I do have another stop motion animation programme already, and would prefer to stick with what I have.
In addition to the wee extras, you get a really top notch book. This is a large book which is spiral bound, making it easy to prop up, and look as you go along. It is very easy to understand, even for a child. The steps are very clear and everything is spelled out, but it still manages to keep a fun light hearted air to it, and doesn't make the reader feel like an idiot. The book can not quite package and sell an imagination for you - but it comes pretty close. It gives the reader all sorts of wonderful ideas to get started in animation. This book will take you step by step through the creation of a number of simple animation projects, which you can follow exactly as the book lays out, or you can tweak to make more original creations.
Some of the short animations this book will take you through include a model car race ( Hot Wheels type cars), a spatula or egg lifter chasing an egg about, a sandwich which eats itself, a rock video starring a clay blob and clay evolution. After this we get a number of simple ink drawings which you can trace to make shorts such as a duck pooing on man's head. You can film this just as the Klutz authors did - or make it more fun by substituting a picture of your parents or siblings for the man who gets pooped on. There are paper doll bodies which you are meant to complete with a photo of your face, or a friend or family members. There are too many short animations to list them all, but another one we really liked is the talking fruit. You simply place fake eyes on a piece of fruit - or any thing else you want to animate. You can be gross and use underpants, fake dog poo or vomit, or nice and use a tea cup and tea pot, a flower, a football or anything else. Then you use the punch out mouths to give your creation the illusion of speech.
WHAT'S NOT IN THE BOOK
This book obviously requires a computer to be of any use. It is meant to work with a digital camera, but this will make things much more complicated. You really do need a web cam in my opinion. I have read that the demo version of software provided with this book only allows you to make 5 second clips - which wouldn't be much fun - so I would strongly recommend buying a stop motion software programme as well. I understand that you can also use Windows movie maker if you have that. You will also need a usb cable to connect the camera to the computer. You will also need two small cars if you want to make the race video, and anything at all to put a face on for the talking video. If a child really takes to this idea, they will likely want other props for films at some point, but this really does have everything you need to get started, other than the items mentioned above.
I do love Klutz books. They are so simple and easy to understand. My son has also enjoyed reading this and we are really looking forward to getting into animation through this. I think it is a wonderful way for my children to express creativity, learn about how animation works and have a bit of fun. Once you get really started - the possibilities are endless. The only real problem we have had with this book is that it does take ages and ages to get only a few seconds of animation. That is not the books fault. It is simply down to the fact that we are slow and inexperienced, and stop motion does take a lot of time. If you are terribly impatient though, this book may not be the best choice.
My sons are ages 7 and nearly 4. Both enjoyed looking at the book and choosing projects to make, but younger child is really only interested because his brother is doing it. As far as reading age, I would put this at about age 7-8, but I do not think this book will be of any use to a child that young without adult help. My recommendation on this book is age 6+ with plenty of adult help, age 10+ with some help, and age 12 + with no help. I would not put any upper age limit on this. If you are still young at heart enough to enjoy animations, and have the patience to work at, this book would be quite suitable for an adult. I would still think it would be a fun gift, just to get a few extra ideas for a teenager who is already experienced with stop motion as well, but the book is most suited for complete beginners.
My son is not a reluctant reader by any stretch of the imagination. We have a very wide variety of reading material, and I spend quite a lot of time and money choosing books that I feel will make my children want to read. So far, this strategy has proved successful and my children do really love books. I think books like this that tell a child how to do or make something are wonderful for motivating reading though, and I do believe this book would motivate even the most reluctant reader. In addition to providing motivation to read, I also feel that learning to read and follow instructions is a very useful skill. I really like that these books encourage my son to do just that - without him ever knowing that he is learning a useful skill.
I got a remarkable deal on this, under £3 from Amazon Warehouse deals including postage. It was meant to be damaged, but the only imperfection we can detect is a very slight dent in the plastic covering that holds the plasticine. You do pop this tiny plastic box out of the book to use the plasticine anyway, and it is not meant to be replaced, so we really got a bargain. Full price on this book is £8.31 from Amazon, including postage, which I feel is very fair. There are currently no reasonably priced used copies, or warehouse deals, but they do show up fairly often, so if you like hunting for bargains, it is well worth checking the site frequently. Used copies may or may not contain the plasticine and eyes, but these would be easily replaced. I would want to be certain the punch out props are all still intact before purchasing this used.