A craft book about building robot costumes out of cardboard boxes, Viv Schwarz’s book is like no craft book we’ve read before. It’s a bedtime story as well as a round-the-kitchen-table manual. It’s a fill-with-breakfast-toast-crumbs kind of book whilst you start planning the instant you wake up. Indeed it’s very much an I-can-DO-this-and-I-want-to-do-this-RIGHT-now kind of book. Oh, and it is funny. VERY funny.
A comic strip / craft instruction mash-up, Welcome to Your Awesome Robot is packed with detailed ideas for transforming a large cardboard box into the robot of your dreams. What makes this a head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest activity book is its totally unpatronizing approach to kids having control of what they make and how they make it. This isn’t a book to encourage parents to neaten, and spruce up their child’s creation (no glossy, perfectly presented photos in here); this is a book which genuinely gives the child the inspiration, the space and the practical advice to enable them make something of their own, as per their vision, not that of their grown-ups. Yes, parents are encouraged to get involved, but with a knowing wag of the finger – to get involved as an assistant, a facilitator, not as a taker-overer.
The book is beautifully produced – it’s very tactile with a raised title, smooth, inviting card covers and a slightly retro and stylish colour scheme. Schwarz’s illustrations are full of spunk. Unlike any other craft book I’ve every seen there’s a girl in a hijab, and another character in a wheelchair. I have to admit I already want to dress up as the main protagonist for next World Book Day.
But I shouldn’t be talking about my response to this book. What really matters is that both the girls were incredibly excited by this book. They couldn’t wait for me to find cardboard boxes for them. It was like the agonising wait before Christmas or a birthday! And they’ve returned time and time again to the book. Having woven the comic strip story of child/adult combo making a robot into the manual, this book works so well as a reading-for-the-sheer-joy-of-it book as well as a creating-chaos-with-ducttape-and-scissors kind of book.
Of course, of course, we couldn’t wait to make our very own awesome robots. First we set up our robot making workshop…
I tried several white goods shops for large cardboard boxes but didn’t come up trumps. Eventually I dived into our loft to retrieve some boxes from moving house. If you have difficulty finding large cardboard boxes you could try Freecycle, “a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns” – I have it on good authority that Freecycle is a great source for such boxes.
I put on some music (see below) and we all sat down to make our own robots. I tried very hard to keep my hands off my kids’ work – and the best way to do this was to create my own robot (sometimes being a parent is such a trial!!).
Then it was time to do the robot walk… all around our neighbourhood!
I’d like to think not too many of our neighbours knew it was us, but I do wonder if they had their suspicions!
Whilst working in our workshop we listened to:
Other activities this book might inspire you to try include:
Now, what are you waiting for! Go track down some large cardboard boxes!
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publishers. I was not obliged to review this book nor was I paid for this review.