human behavior

DIY Book Display for Kids

Posted in Crafts by humanb on November 20, 2013

booksPerhaps a newborn doesn’t have much use for children’s books. Still, it’s never too early to start building a child’s library and nurturing the habit and pleasure of reading.

With no available space on any of our bookcases, all children’s books will have to live on our bedroom windowsill for the foreseeable future. That means I’ll have the pleasure of designing a set of bookends, if time permits. 🙂

A look at the two oversized children’s books leaning inelegantly against the smaller ones on my window sill, however, made me reconsider how to display the larger books.

I’m a huge fan of displaying children’s books with their covers face forward, rather than their spines, but it only works with large expanses of wall (or tiny collections).


A single lectern, on the other hand, allows the display of a few large picture books in a small space.  Settled on making a lectern, I was determined to make use of any scrap wood or MDF that I already owned. For so small a project as this, I refused to spend any money on materials.

I used the largest piece of scrap plywood I had as a back rest, and cut two smaller pieces to act as a base and easel.


I joined the plywood with PVA wood glue and reinforced it with nails. The entire construction took a matter of minutes, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.

That left the question of how to decorate the thing.

Paint it? A solid colour? Stripes? Too boring.

Cover it? With a paper collage? I liked that idea. But what kind of paper? Newspaper? We don’t buy print newspapers anymore. Comic book images? Not my Buffy. No siree. Nu uh. (And not age-appropriate anyway.) Dictionary pages? Could have worked, but I didn’t have an appropriate dictionary I was prepared to cut up. Pages from a children’s book?


Last year I made my mother-in-law a book cover collage from the duplicate and battered copies of classics in her extensive library.


I knew I was right to keep the books after I’d used the covers. I was bound to find a use for them at some point, and the yellowed, crumbling pages of an old edition of Alice in Wonderland was just what I needed.


I’d initially thought to use the full pages with text and illustrations, but abandoned the idea of using text altogether with so many provocative illustrations at my disposal.  For the edges I cut out chapter titles.


This project was a simple cut and paste job with a layer of Mod Podge brushed over the surface to seal it.


But arranging the images to fit and overlap well was surprisingly time-consuming.


For that reason, I was sorely tempted to just paint the back and the bottom of the lectern… or cover it with felt… or leave it unfinished… or do anything other than cover it with more illustrations.  But I relented and tackled the back and bottom as well.


This enables the lectern to be displayed at any angle, after all.


Of course, the point of this lectern is to display books, not stand alone…


So very little of my collage is actually visible.


But that’s no reason not to make a lectern to be proud of. 😉



The Book that Moves People

Posted in Recommended Reading, Reviews by humanb on October 8, 2010

I wrote a post about a year ago about a children’s book I found here in Sydney called The Book that Eats People. I had bought the book for my two nieces (ages 3 and 6) back in Virginia to encourage a love of reading. I thought the book was bloody brilliant. Alas, the book was too convincing, and my nieces not only refused to be read the book, but refused to be in the same room with it. So The Book that Eats People was imprisoned in the back of my sister’s closet. Until this week…

My sister is now an elementary school Special Education teacher in Virginia. Her students have a range of special needs. One boy in particular was permanently disengaged from the class. Head always down, lids partly closed, face a mask of stone. This kid never talked. Never looked up. Never smiled.

One day my sister announced to the class:

Today class, I’m going to read you a book my sister sent all the way from Australia. It’s called The Book that EATS People.

And with that, one little boy woke up.

The boy was riveted. Eyes wide, mouth open, bum on the edge of his seat, face a picture of wonder.

She had his attention.

The class loved the book, but no one more than him. He made her read it every day. He begged her to let him take it home for the weekend. He implored his mother to read it to him and to all of his friends in the neighborhood. The kids at school all fretted about the possibility of the boy not returning to school on Monday because the book had eaten him.  And they rejoiced when he survived the weekend with book in tow.

How many books has that boy ever brought home, I wonder? How many things have ever filled him with awe?

One day the other teachers in the school complained to my sister that no one could make that little boy smile.

Have you ever see him smile? one teacher asked her.

Of course! He smiles for me all the time.

No need for the other teachers to know that my sister’s power lies entirely in a skinny red book with teeth.

Recommended reading: The Book that Eats People

Posted in Recommended Reading, Reviews by humanb on October 24, 2009

The Book that Eats PeopleI’ve always been a fan of children’s books. They’re fantastic morality tales and character-building tools told in simple, powerful language with provocative illustrations. The best of them are works of art, really.

I don’t have children, but I’ve become even more fascinated by children’s books since my sister had two little girls. They’re delightful girls but like all children, their moral compasses still frantically swivel, uncertain and frequently pointing in suspect directions.

The elder (age 6) has a frightening talent for manipulation and artifice. She’s a gifted faker. The younger (age 3) is highly attuned to her own wants – the hell with yours – and is not above using a bit of physical violence to make her point. My sister calls her a sociopath. In jest, of course.

The elder also went through a phase where she was obsessed with the morbid. I use to worry that it wasn’t normal for a child to be so fascinated by death and the means to get there. And since TV went to multiple 24 hour children’s channels on cable, both girls have become less interested in reading.

Enter the aunt. I periodically browse the children’s sections of Sydney book stores looking for interesting books for the girls that may not be available in Virginia. When I bring presents to the girls, the elder often flatly declares before a gift is even unwrapped “It’s a book.” I’ve dutifully sent them various books on Australian animals and the like, and some that feature Australia’s cruder, more irreverent humor. One such book with a scatological focus was deemed too crass for their American sensibilities, but it was pretty funny. The Australian sales clerk who sold me the book, a middle-aged woman, had assured me that it was appropriate and very popular with mothers, but she also cautioned that its Aussie humor may not go down well in America. She was right. It has joined a collection of books held by their grandmother in the “restricted section” of her bedroom closet.

My latest find is a real gem though.

bookeatsflap2It’s called The Book that Eats People and it’s wonderfully morbid and scary. I thought it was the perfect book to give a child with morbid fascinations to get her interested in reading again. I thought this book would illustrate that reading doesn’t have to be boring. Who wants to read about mom’s trip to the grocery store, or Sally’s visit to the bloody dentist? Let’s read about a book that eats little children and spits out their bones. Let’s read about a book that never gets caught. Forget honesty and tolerance. Let’s read about unadulterated gluttony, greed and evil, embodied in a book that eats people.

I’m very interested in the moral and character development of children. And I’m confused and fascinated by how some people manage to raise decent, intellectually curious, and well-adjusted children. How do they do it? Maybe a child doesn’t build character by just being told what is right, or by being told, “There are bad consequences if you don’t do what is right, so do it“. Maybe a child needs to see what is wrong too. Maybe they need to make their own judgments for their sense of right and wrong to really stick.

I’m not too sure about this book. I think it’s bloody brilliant; but I can laugh about the kids being eaten whole because I’m at a developmental stage where I think children being harmed in the real world is the most horrific crime imaginable. But should a 6-year-old laugh about it?

The book is also pretty scary. The point of buying the book was to get the girls excited about reading again, and a little less inclined to turn on Hannah Montana when they’re bored. The last thing I want is to make them afraid of books. But I wouldn’t mind their coming to appreciate their power.

The Book that Eats People by John Perry, illustrations by Mark Fearing

5 out of 5 stars

Elsewhere: The infamous book that eats people has a Facebook page.

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