Skip to main content

Mega Mash-Ups, by Nikalas Catlow, Tim Wesson and . . . you! 75 pp, RL 2

Mega Mash-Up: Robots vs. Gorillas in the Desert
Brilliant! Just Brilliant! That's what Mega Mash-Ups are! The minute my seven year old got his hands on Aliens vs MAD Scientists Under the Ocean he grabbed a pencil and got busy. I have never seen him remain dedicated to a singular project (that does not involve electronic media) for so long! For that, I thank you, Misters Catlow and Wesson! 
The premise of this series of books (there are three now, more to come) is genius. Catlow, creator of a few of the really great doodle books that have hit the shelves lately (Do You Doodle? and Oodles of Doodles and Doodle Bugs) illustrates a story, which I'm guessing Wesson helps to write. The reading level is somewhere around second grade, though there is not as much text as in a Captain Underpants book, if that means anything to you. I'd say the amount of text in this book is more akin to Dav Pilkey's Ricky Ricotta books. The unique part of these stories is that every page leaves blank space for the reader to fill in the illustrations on the page. Most pages require that the story be read before the illustrations can be added, making it a bit like medicine that comes with a spoon full of sugar. Of course, adding illustrations to these books has infinitely more educational value than sugar does nutritional value. The page above is a perfect example of the way these books work.

And, as you can see by the spread above, the illustrations sometimes require the reader to add dialogue as well! But, to make this all work the stories have to be good, as do the illustrations. Catlow and Wesson score high marks in this area as well. Clearly, these books are aimed at boys, although I'm sure girls will gravitate to them as well (why is it always the girls who are expected to like everything but we only ask boys to take interest in stereotypically boy pursuits. In the 50s no one expected girls to like monsters and trucks, but now we do. When will we naturally expect the same diversity from boys? More on this later...) Besides the brilliant concept of a doodle-story, the authors throw mash-ups into the mix, along with a fantastic website (Mega Mash-up.com) where kids can share their drawings. Aliens are great, but aliens and mad scientists under the ocean are even better. Robots? How about robots and gorillas in the desert! Dinosaurs? Naturally they'd be fighting Romans on Mars. Best of all, Catlow the artist wants to encourage the young artists reading his book. The first two pages of every book introduce the characters while the next two pages introduce the drawing tools necessary (pen, pencil, crayon) AND give examples of nine different textures (crayon rubbing on the floor, crayon rubbing on wood floor, pencil rubbing from wooden door, pencil dashes, scribbly pencil) that the reading-artist can use to fill in the blanks. On top of all that, the books end with a Picture Glossary that gives the reader-artists ideas on how else they can fill in those blanks. Like I said at the start of this review, brilliant, just brilliant! Thank you, Mr Catlow and Mr Wesson, for adding these fantastic new books to the frequently dreary world of beginning chapter books!!





Comments

Anonymous said…
My 2nd grader loved the one he received last week- read & drew for hours:) Than wanted me to read it.
Tanya said…
Excellent! That's so cool that he wanted you to read his story, too.

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started books4yourkids.com in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …