My position as a music and culture blogger has afforded me the opportunity to meet some truly amazing talents. From Dr. Octoroc, whose gorgeous sprite work perfectly parallels his infectious chiptunes, to Doc Popular, a man that continually displays a nigh superhuman mastery of everything from the yo-yo and the camera lens, but perhaps none manage to leverage as wildly disparate a skill set as Mr. Marty Allen.
Marty‘s lifelong passions have included music, design and puppetry, and he employs all three in the multimedia experience that is sock puppet rock band Uncle Monsterface. Combining feel-good music with film, video games and the requisite puppet show, Monsterface continually ranks among my favorite concert experiences, and its members — including the sometimes sock/sometimes man-sized puppet that shares the group’s name — among my very favorite geek rockers.
In his recently released book Sock Puppet Madness, Marty instructs readers in both the art and science of puppet-making. By employing his trademark charm and unpretentious wit — and by using Uncle Monsterface and many of his other unique creations as sock puppet projects — he’s managed to author that rare craft book that always inspires and never intimidates.
Overall the book itself is based on a simple premise established in its brief introduction: sock puppets are magic. Because of the accessibility inherent in both their creation and their simple movement, they represent a kind of functional art that has entertained and inspired since the first time someone comically slid a hand into an old gym sock. As such, Marty Allen doesn’t teach his own brand of plush creativity so much as kindly advise the reader throughout the title’s 120-odd pages.
He begins by describing the required tools, most of which GeekParents likely already have lying around the house, before detailing the most basic methods of his madness in a chapter fittingly entitled “The Very Basic Basics.” From there he expands upon the concepts of safe hot gluing and detail edging by introducing several of his own easy-to-assemble puppet characters in “The Fancy Basics.”
The bulk of the book then shifts gears to Marty’s “Master Class,” a look at puppet types with more details, more deliberate assembly (involving components like eyeglasses and hair) and even more undeniable personality. Then the final section includes not only helpful templates for the work’s myriad of puppet types, but also encouraging musings on performance and narrative as well as an amazingly succinct introduction to comedy and comic acting.
Like his own inspirations Sendak, Seuss, Tolkien and Henson, Marty Allen succeeds through an enthusiastic blend of whimsy and wonder. Further, his engaging descriptions and minimal direction encourage novice creators to follow their own instincts and simply have fun. Sock Puppet Madness is truly a book that any rainy-day caregiver or elementary school teacher should have on his or her reading shelf. Moreover, it’s the perfect craft book for makers of any skill level and kids of all ages.
Review materials provided by: Cico Books