We all know that the DIY/Maker/Hacker movement is exploding in a big way right now. It’s a combination of many factors – a desire to save money in these troubled times, to fix and re-use existing stuff instead of just throwing it all into a landfill somewhere, to learn new and interesting things – all which have brought the movement more and more into the mainstream. Events like Maker Faire see thousands of people coming together to learn from each other. Books like GeekDad editor Ken’s trilogy collect together simple (and not so simple) projects for us to enjoy with our children. And sites like DIY.org give them a fantastic place to show off their creativity.
Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen, is great new addition to the movement. The hardbound tome is an activity book for children aged 8 and up, with over 350 beautifully designed and illustrated pages that encourage kids to use their natural curiosity and skills to be creative and to try to change the world. It’s split into four chunky chapters – You, Home, Society and Adventure, each split into smaller sections. All of them have a really good mix of activities to do, games to play and things to make – some that we’ve seen before like LED Throwies and the good old Diet Coke and Mentos Geysers, and others that are a bit more wacky – like how do de-skunk your pet or spray-paint your bedroom. My daughter is currently obsessed with ‘The Sailor Went to Sea…’ and was over the moon to find a whole page of other clapping songs. I can’t decide whether this is a good or bad thing. On the one hand we don’t have have to listen to the same one over and over again, but on the other hand we have to listen to four or five different ones over and over again!
However, it’s the ‘extras’ in each section that help to make Unbored stand out from the crowd of maker-type books. There are Q&As with people with relevant knowledge – from the inventor of Twister and Nerf to Polar Explorer Ann Bancroft – to offer the reader a different perspective on the world. Excerpts from classic literature such as Dracula’s Voyage and Around the World in 80 Days, to inspire them. Fun lists covering subjects such as ‘Best Ever Graphic Novels’ and ‘Best Ever Car Free Movies’, and recurring ‘Train Your Grownup To…’ and trivia sections. Quizzes, comics, how-tos, recipes and subjects including writing, music, electronics, travel, crafts, and gardening mean there really is something for everyone here. And refreshingly, there’s no ‘Boys’ section and ‘Girls’ section here, everything is for everybody.
The tone throughout is light-hearted and jovial, never patronizing – even when suggesting that there are safe way to wrestle your friends, as long as you follow the ‘Rules of Combat,’ or dealing with the trials of puberty. They never say ‘you must do it this way,’ but rather encourage experimentation and participation. The authors aren’t shy of tackling issues such as bullying and politics, and suggest many activities which at first glance seem may seem risky to some, such as one article titled ‘Run Away From Home’ which in reality is about gap years and traveling. The design, by Tony Leone, is pleasing on the eye too, and Mister Reusch and Heather Kasunick’s illustrations are friendly and fun. The book has a companion website at unbored.net which has some excerpts from the book and features a few of the projects, but is also growing into a reference resource of its own, with additional content and features from the forthcoming UK version.
Unbored is a wonderful collection of activities, inspiration and knowledge, beautifully presented, and well worthy of a space in any GeekKid’s library. They might even let you have a look at it now and then.
Bloomsbury kindly provided GeekDad with a review copy of Unbored and they also have another three copies to give away to lucky GeekDad readers (in the US and Canada only unfortunately). To enter, just leave a comment on this post before midnight on December 12th and we’ll pick three random winners next week.
Note: The competition is now closed and the winners have been notified