Klutz Glitter Clay Charms Product Review

Glitter Clay Charms, by Klutz Press; $21.99, 48 pages, ages 8 and up. 

Klutz has built its reputation on building fun activity kits that encourage and stimulate open-ended creativity. We recently received the Glitter Clay Charms book kit and tested it. Here’s what we learned:

What it is: A 48-page design booklet with materials necessary to create sparkly charms: a metal link bracelet, charm loops, clay, even a drying rack complete the kit. Precise, easy-to-follow-instructions are Klutz’s hallmark, and cover every conceivable clay-related outcome here.

You will need: Patience. Plus a toaster oven to “bake” the charms.

Who it’s for: Children eight years old and up. Tiny metal pieces, polymer clay, and functional sharp points can puncture tiny fingers and other body parts. Less dexterous children should be supervised. Note that the book only comes with one metal bracelet, which could make sharing this project with others problematic unless another bracelet is provided.

The project: We were feeling adventurous so we skipped the simple charms and headed straight for the adorable orange fox. There’s no orange clay, so we blended a small pink ball and a medium yellow ball of clay, as instructed. Rather,  we tried to–this clay doesn’t blend well, and after about ten minutes of kneading, we still had clay in a darker shade of pink. No matter, we soldiered on, following the step-by-step instructions to mold the charm into the desired form. Even with minimal artistic skill, we were able to compose something that resembled the example in the book. Next we added the charm loop and then placed the fox on a foil-lined cookie sheet, which went in a 250°F toaster oven for twenty minutes. (This is where parental supervision is crucial.) After letting the charm cool, we attached it to the metal bracelet. The loop came loose from the charm, but Klutz discusses how to remedy that on page 13.

Here’s how our charm turned out:

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A rare pink fox on a charm, modeled by my assistant. 

Total time commitment: We spent roughly forty-five minutes (including twenty minutes baking) from start to finish creating one charm. The only frustrating moment we encountered was blending the clay into our desired shade of orange, but we worked through it.

The verdict: Detailed instructions encourage close reading and following directions. Creative types who love to work with their hands will enjoy this satisfying project. I found molding the clay especially soothing, even when the color didn’t blend as desired. Those easily frustrated by manipulating small objects may not enjoy Glitter Clay Charms. Parents will want to cover workspaces with newspaper and put kids in an old t-shirt or smock–polymer clay stains.

Would we do it again? Definitely.

Have you tried any Klutz products? Share your experiences in the comments below!

 

Brains Over Beauty: A Look at Two New Picture Books

Books about smart girls are sweeping the picture-book industry, and rightly so; saccharine stories about ditzy dumbos are a dime a dozen, and girls need industrious, adventurous role-models to admire. Merryn’s Journey (Brian Hastings, illustrated by Tony Mora and Alexis Seabrook; Sterling Children’s Books, $14.95, 40 pages, ages 4-7, October 4, 2016) hopes to join the girl power pantheon, but it doesn’t quite make the cut. In video game developer Brian Hasting’s first children’s book, Merryn is a faithful, hardworking young girl whose fisherman father goes missing. A vivid dream convinces her to craft a submersible and retrieve him. Along the way, the intrepid Merryn meets a giant sea spider, baby sea serpent, mermaids, and other creatures. Though well-intentioned, the story falls flat–it should sing, but rather, it focuses too much on providing a female character who is admired for her skill instead of her beauty. Admirable for its goals, this narrative feels forced and formulaic. Sometimes, stories can be saved by great art, but Tony Mora and Alexis Seabrook’s illustrations are proasic, surprising given that the book is a companion to the Song of the Deep video game starring Merryn and her subaquatic consorts–the illustrations should be dynamic. 

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Images used with permission from Sterling Books. Text 

© 2016 Brian Hastings Images 

© Tony Mora and Alexis Seabrook

Parents looking for a truly superb picture book celebrating young girls and their talents would do well with the recently published Cleonardo: The Little Inventor (Arthur A. Levine Books, 48 pages, $18.99, ages 4-8, August 2016), by Caldecott Honor winner Mary Grandpré. Here too, is a celebration of brains over beauty–little Cleonardo is the granddaughter of master inventor Leonardo da Vinci (here charmingly referred to as “Grandpa Leo”). Cleonardo’s dad Geonardo is a tinkerer, with plans to enter the town’s Grand Festival of Inventions. Cleo wants to help, but Geonardo pushes her away. Determined to impress her father and show that she’s equally capable of inventing, Cleonardo enlists the help of Grandpa Leo to enter her own creation in the fair. Will father and daughter realize that two heads are better than one? An outstanding ode to the value of collaboration, determination, and ingenuity,

Grandpré’s paper collages and acrylics bathe the characters in that famous Italian luminescence, each page richly in textured and full of nuance, just like family dynamics.

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Images from Cleonardo, The Little Inventor written and illustrated by Mary GrandPré. Used with permission from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic.

(Children’s) BookNotes, June 22, 2016

Summer is officially upon us, but that doesn’t mean we should ditch all our books completely. Here’s a round-up of headlines in the world of children’s picture books this week.

We here at Literary Features Syndicate trumpeted our summer schedule last week: http://bit.ly/28Qq4rq

A pristine first-edition of Alice in Wonderland failed to sell at Christie’s: http://bit.ly/28Qq0Il

 USA Gold pencils announced the winners of the USA Gold Poetry Contest.
Each child won a cash prize of $500, plus $50 in U.S.A. Gold® pencils. Teachers of the winning students also received a $150 American Express® gift card, plus $100 worth of stationery products including U.S.A. Gold® pencils, an electric pencil sharpener and erasers.

Full list of winners here: http://bit.ly/28NbwNv 

(Children’s) BookNotes, April 27, 2016

Find out what’s happening in the world of children’s books this week!

May 2-8 is CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK. Check out the bi-coastal events at the Children’s Book Council’s official website. Free posters and bookmarks available while supplies last.

Captain Underpants author Dav Pilkey gives out a new book to every student in one school in each state as part of a summer reading campaign contest co-sponsored by Scholastic. (Check out the winning schools here.)

(Children’s) BookNotes, April 13, 2016

Beverly Cleary turns 100, and Scholastic announces a poetry contest.

Publisher’s Weekly interviewed beloved children’s book author Beverly Cleary, who turned 100 on April 12.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Scholastic and
U.S.A. Gold®

Pencils company announces a student poetry contest for public school children in grades 1-6. Read the details here. (Hurry! The contest ends April 29.)

Staying in the Lines

Coloring books have reached the zenith of sophisticated stress-release and mindfulness for adults – one need look no further than the pricey pattern tablets offered with creamy Faber-Castel colored pencils – but coloring books for kids offer inexpensive, portable, and decidedly screen-free ways to relax and pass the time. The following three selections are the best of the pack:

I Heart Cute Coloring, by Jess Bradley; Price, Stern, Sloan, $9.99, 128 pages, ages 6-9.

Yes, this chunky tablet delivers exactly what the title promises: page after page of unicorns, reindeer and bathing penguins. The vaguely anime style lend the book an air of cool no pre-tween can resist. Rather than swipe your kid’s copy, adults can pick up the companion volume, I Heart Coloring, by Felicity French.

Merry Christmas, Hello Kitty! Grossett & Dunlap, $9.99, ages 3 and up.

64 pages of puzzles, mazes, seek and finds, and a pull-out poster all starring the global phenomenon Hello Kitty. Does it matter that the illustrations are Christmas-themed? Not in the least. If you have more than one Hello Kitty fan at home, better get two copies.

Harry Potter Coloring Book, Scholastic; $15.99, ages 9-14. (release date: November 10, 2015)

This coloring book cast a spell on me; filled with all the magical creatures and places from the film series, it will enchant Harry Potter buffs, too. The final 16 page spread includes fully-colored illustrations of emblems as well as photo stills from all the movies. Aparecium!