Allison's Book Bag

Making Books & Get Writing by Paul Johnson

Posted on: July 22, 2015

“Pop-ups are easy!” So my students tell me. Except when they attempt to make pop-ups, my students find that maybe they could use some help. For that reason, I like to have handy books by Paul Johnson on creative paper-making projects. Johnson’s books are also useful in adding variety to the literary crafts I can introduce to my students. Today I’m reviewing Making Books and Get Writing, each of which boast over twenty book-related ideas.

Johnson is both a book artist and a teacher. He combines this knowledge to create guides that will prove fun and entertaining at home, as well as educationally useful in the classroom. Each of Making Books and Get Writing include a chapter on how to make basic book formats such as a concertina or zigzag book and origami book. Both guides includes templates, as well as tips on how to plan a book’s structure, design a cover if desired, and teach young people about folding techniques and needed tools. Finally, Johnson also explains how such projects relate to school curriculum and to literacy. In doing so, he even provides a chart that lists the type of writing required by each project, as well as possible themes.

Now what about those projects? Despite its title, Making Books actually has a great variety of crafts. Besides books, one can find instructions for making cards, brochures, fliers, frames, and diaries. The difference between Johnson’s crafts and those you might find in a graphic design or desktop publishing book is that these are aimed at students. The crafts also all involve playing with paper. Take for example, the invitation card. You might envision a project that involves folding paper twice, writing the invitation on the outside, and providing details on the inside. Instead Johnson explains how to create a folded card with the added bonus of a flap. Another perk about Making Books is that Johnson includes information about age range, intended goal, preparation, and hours needed for each project.

As for Get Writing, it focuses exclusively on creative book projects. Books can take on different structures such as folded, pop-up, varied shapes, pocket or wallet size, and bound or sewn. All of these build on the basic formats such as the aforementioned zigzag book and origami books. Such projects have been related to the curriculum by adding themes such as families, animals, theater, or puzzle. One project that Get Writing inspired for me is the teaching of basic fiction elements of people and places by use shape books. By using Get Writing, one could also create a theater with cast, props, and backgrounds.

Each book contains step-by-step instructions accompanied by diagrams. Although at times I wished for another person to guide me through them, I did end up creating samples of all the basic books to show my students. I also successfully completed some of the more complicated crafts. Then I enjoyed composing stories to fill the pages of my handmade projects, as will no doubt young people—even the most reluctant. Thank you, Paul Johnson, for encouraging creative use of words and paper.

My rating? Bag them: Carry them with you. Make them a top priority to read.

How would you rate these books?

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Spring Reviews

Almost a year after I announced that it was time to take a step back from this blog, Allison's Book Bag is still here. I'm slowly working back up to weekly reviews again. Each week, there will be one under any of these categories: Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, religious books, or diversity books. Some will come in the form of single reviews and others in the form of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Freddy the Frogcaster and the Terrible Tornado by Janice Dean
  • The Distance Between Us by Reya Grande
  • Hearts of Fire from The Voice of Matyrs

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