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Review: Howtoons: The possibilities are endless!

I have to confess.  I am not handy.  I don’t enjoy building things or using tools.  I have no desire to hang out in workshops or garages, smelling sawdust or organizing wrenches.  The worst part of owning my own home is not having a landlord to call when something breaks.  So imagine my surprise when I ended up reading Howtoons cover to cover, and finding I’d actually like to give some of the projects in the book a try.

Howtoons: The Possibilities are Endless
Authors: Saul Griffith, PhD, Nick Dragotta, Joost Bonsen
Illustrator: Nick Dragotta
Age Rating: 8-12
HarperCollins, $15.99

Bored siblings Celine and Tucker are told by their mother to go “make something other than trouble.”  Taking these instructions to heart, they turn a corner of the basement into a workshop and get to work.   Together the two complete a series of kid-friendly projects using easy to find materials.  Each short chapter includes a quick story about the kids that sets up the project, safety tip, or how-to pointer.  From making their own ice cream and learning to count on their fingers in binary, or building a marshmallow shooter and a whoopee cushion, Celine and Tuck use their imaginations, some ingenuity, and a little bit of science, to have a whole lot of fun.

One thing to keep in mind is that kid-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean easy, and each new project builds on the skills learned by doing the projects that came before, so adult supervision is recommended, but adult help isn’t always necessary.  This isn’t the kind of kid’s how-to book where an adult project has been über-simplified.  These are projects designed for kids to be made by kids.  The authors have done a great job in presenting the material in such a way that kids can actually accomplish the projects on their own or with only a little bit of help.  Nick Dragotta’s drawings are so clear even knot tying makes sense, and making safety goggles is one of the first projects in the book.  And by presenting the material in graphic novel format, kids are able to both read the instructions and see how the end result is supposed to look, step-by-step, panel by panel.

I often hear librarians complain that non-fiction graphic novels don’t circulate as well as fiction graphic novels do.  Well, duh.  Non-fiction anything doesn’t circulate as well as fiction anything does.  But non-fiction graphic novels do circulate, at least they do in my library, and this is one of the more popular titles.  This book does everything right, from the attention grabbing cover, to the humorous exchanges between Celine and Tuck, to the launching of a homemade rocket at the end.  Highly recommended for ages 8 and up.

Eva Volin About Eva Volin

Eva Volin is the Supervising Children's Librarian for the Alameda Free Library in California. She has written about graphic novels for such publications as Booklist, Library Journal, ICv2, Graphic Novel Reporter, and Children & Libraries. She has served on several awards committees including the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. She served on YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee for three years and is currently serving on ALSC's Notable Books for Children committee.

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