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The art of science and the science of art


Staff member
Mar 22, 2024
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The Observologist by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press, 120 pages; grades 3-7). Giselle Clarkson defines observology as the study of looking and encourages kids to become observologists, closely examining the world around them. Following the introductory chapter, there are four sections, each focusing on a specific place to observe: a damp corner, pavement, a weedy patch, and behind the curtains. Each of these has several subsections that look at topics as diverse as how to relocate a spider, droppings and eggs, and things to spot at night.

Kids are encouraged to draw what they see, and the whole book has the look of a naturalist’s notebook, with lots of sketches and labels. The text and illustrations are both humorous and informative. It may take a dedicated naturalist to read this book from cover to cover, but it’s an easy one to browse. I could also see it being used as a textbook for a fun and fascinating observology class. The book concludes with a very complete index, in a font so small that this observologist was compelled to break out her magnifying glass to read it.

This Book Will Make You an Artist by Ruth Millington, illustrated by Ellen Surrey (Nosy Crow, 64 pages, grades 2-5). The title’s bold claim is supported by profiles of 25 different artists, with step-by-step instructions to make art projects based on each person’s work. It’s a diverse group of artists, starting with cave painters, and continuing through time to include famous artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, and Frida Kahlo, and those who may not be as well-known, such as Judith Scott, Liu Bolin, and Esther Mahlangu. There’s plenty of diversity in the art as well, allowing kids to create paintings, mosaics, collages, sculptures, and more. The introduction shows readers how to set up their own art studio, and the glossary will help with unfamiliar words that they may encounter throughout the book.

Just like The Observologist, this is a book that’s unlikely to be read from start to finish but could be used to teach a pretty awesome class combining art history and hands-on art. The projects all look like fun and are broken down into 4-6 easy-to-follow steps with illustrations. The pages felt kind of crowded, with information and illustrations about the artist taking up about 2/3 of each spread, and the directions crammed into the remaining portion of one page. The plus side of this is that each spread is chock full of information, ideas, and inspiration, and readers are likely to come away with some artwork they will feel proud of.
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