Johnson builds a unique children's book

Kansas University alumnus taps into imagination

A Lawrence native has been hard at work so children can build upon their knowledge.

School's almost starting again and it's time to get down to work. But that doesn't mean you can't have a little fun while you hammer away.

Artist and author Stephen T. Johnson, who grew up in Lawrence and earned a bachelor's degree in painting from Kansas University, has fashioned a boxy little number that would do any trades-worker proud. "My Little Red Toolbox" is an interactive work that features pop-out, die-cut cardboard tools, work spaces and loads of imagination.

The sturdy two-dimensional tools can actually do some "work" � the saw can make ripping sounds as it "cuts" a board in two, the wrench can tighten "bolts" that just barely stick out of a page. Of course, children will just be going through the motions, but the creative magic is still there. Johnson's narrative serves as a sort of shop manual � one that would probably make master carpenter Norm Abram proud.

Along the way, Johnson ensures that young readers learn something about project planning, as well as the fundamentals of counting and shapes. "My Little Red Toolbox" (Red Wagon Books/Harcourt) even includes a magic slate so children can draw their own projects, or if they choose, go back to the drawing board.

"My Little Red Toolbox," for children ages 3 to 7, rings up at $14.95, a fraction of what it costs to stock a real toolbox. But it's worth every 10-penny nail.

It's not so bad having beady eyes, especially if you're a beadling.

"Beadlings," a new creative book by Julie Collings and Candice Elton and produced by the people at Klutz Press, features the how-to and all the supplies needed to make a variety of tiny colorful beaded creatures.

The book is a perfect foil for bored children on those summer days when a day at the pool is out of the picture, or it's simply too hot to spend time outside.

Inside "Beadlings" ($16.95) are instructions for making all-sorts of jewel-hued insects, as well as little people, mermaids and dainty creatures of the deep � decidedly feminine fare. Although boys are less likely to lean toward these creative offerings, there are directions for making beaded skunks, spiders, frogs and lizards.

All of the instructions are easy to follow and projects appear to be placed in order of complexity. But your results may vary. (Remember what they told you in band class and gym class: Practice makes perfect.)

Prepare to be beadazzled by "Beadlings."

You don't have to be from the South to know that a Moon Pie is something special. All you have to do is follow Jimmy Zangwow on the ride of his life.

Author and artist Tony DiTerlizzi has created a master work of colorful illustration and drama with "Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-This-World Moon Pie Adventure."

Young Jimmy craves nothing more than a simple Moon Pie as a predinner snack. His mother puts the kibosh on that idea. While a regular child might throw a fit or whine, Jimmy Zangwow follows maternal direction and goes outside.

Maybe it's hallucinations brought on from Moon Pie withdrawal or perhaps it's the irrefutable power of a Moon Pie wish, but strange rumblings begin to shake Jimmy's wooden crate jalopy. Soon, Jimmy is soaring, as if on a Moon Pie-induced sugar high, to places he's never been before: the moon, the Milky Way, Mars.

The moon is kind enough to share some of his bumper crop of Moon Pies, but it seems everywhere Jimmy goes others, even the dreaded Grimble Grinder, want a taste of his captivating snack.

Will Jimmy escape the hungry Grimble Grinder? Will our young hero get to eat even one of his Moon Pies? Will he make it back home in time for dinner?

"Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-This-World Moon Pie Adventure" (Simon & Schuster, $16) is a story children ages 5 to 8 can sink their teeth into.

All types of things are growing under the briny blue sea.

Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers have created "One Lonely Sea Horse," a fascinating counting book that combines the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau with an acre or two of the Victory Garden.

"One Lonely Sea Horse" (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $15.95) is a simple rhyming story that counts from one to 10 and shows the little sea horse she's not alone after all.

What makes the book really rise to the surface is the remarkable seascape illustrations created almost entirely from fruits and vegetables. Pineapples become textured turtles, bananas are rendered into graceful dolphins or flowing octopuses. Cantaloupes become coral. Freymann and Elffers explore every avenue of vegetable inventiveness.

"One Lonely Sea Horse" is a charming library addition that gives a wholesome new meaning to surf and turf.

� Jill Hummels is assistant features and arts editor of the Journal-World and the mother of Haley, 8, and Tess, 7. Her phone number is 832-7150. Her e-mail address is


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