Monday, December 13, 2010

Educational (but still fun!) Books for Christmas!

is for Educational!

Wait, where are you going?! Hey, come back here!

Seriously, educational gifts can be fun, too! You just have to sort through to find the best ones, the ones that align with your spouses, or child's, or friend's, or relative's interests!

Yes, I know, easier said than done.

Which is why I am here to help you! It's okay. I'll talk you through this.

So, when I was a kid, my parents Santa Claus used to leave comic books and paperbacks in our stockings. This was absolutely brilliant, because the rule was that, on Christmas morning, we could all attack our stockings BEFORE waking Mom and Dad (but none of the presents that Santa left under the tree).

So, we'd eat the odd candy or two, unwrap a small toy or pull out a (yay!) dollar bill, and then there'd be something to read. And we'd invariably open that up and at least read a page or two, and sometimes a whole chapter or an entire comic book, before we went in to wake up Mom and Dad.

That's right, they ended up with about another additional extra half hour's sleep with that little trick. Santa's pretty clever, isn't he?

So I like books as presents, and those are often educational as well.

One of my favorites each year is the Ripley's Believe it or Not and Guinness Book of World Records editions. My grandfather, bless his heart, used to always tell us stories about the tallest man in the world, and how he could wear a child's bracelet as a ring on his finger, and how Grandpa met this man at some time in his life. He LOVED the Guinness Book of World Records.

And the kids love Ripley's, because there is always something gross and/or bizarre in each edition.  So I can recommend both of those books, which have editions available at Amazon.com.

This year, I also had two new books that looked promising, Puzzle Baron's Logic Puzzles and World's Best Origami, to review in the Educational category.   


Logic puzzles are really great for keeping your mind active.


You know how these kinds of puzzles work, right? 


You are given a situation (picking one randomly from the book: a group of people running a race) and then a series of clues (all the racers come from different schools, each school has a colored uniform, and the one in red finished behind the racer from this school, etc.). 


I like the way Puzzle Baron's Logic Puzzles puts up charts so you can organize the information, fill in the chart and figure out a solution to each problem. This would have really helped me in school, and I think it would be great at teaching kids to organize their thoughts, eliminate unlikely solutions and come to the correct one through a process of logical deduction. +1 for getting kids to think! Also recommended for adults, especially anyone you know who likes Sudoku or brain puzzles. I'm thinking of putting one of these in the Engineer's stocking! (Puzzle Baron's Logic Puzzles is $10.17 at Amazon.com).


Unfortunately, I really can't wholeheartedly recommend World's Best Origami, though. This is because I feel that some of the directions are confusing. I tried out a few of the origami projects in the book, for instance, (to be fair, there are LOTS of projects in the book), first, a bird, and then a pig. Both of these are "Level 1" difficulty projects. I found the Bird quite easy to do. But with the Pig, I ran into difficulties with just the third step! Not only could I not figure out what I was supposed to do (it called for "sliding" the "right" edge of a basically equilateral triangle into the "left edge" layers), I called in my 17 year-old, and the Owl couldn't figure it out, either!


Okay, so that was frustrating, but that alone was not enough for me to give the whole book a bad review, though I did question the "Level 1" difficulty of the projects. I know I am not always the best at crafts.


No, what really curbed my enthusiasm for the World's Best Origami book was that, in trying to figure out how to complete the Pig origami project, I went online, hoping to see someone fold it in a video--and Every. Single. Video. I found used a different technique from the one in the book,  and they all used the same technique as each other, which makes me wonder why the book went in a completely different direction, one which, in my mind, made it more difficult to do. 


Add on to that the fact that I feel most kids would want to jump around, from project to project, doing the ones they found most interesting. I just can't see many kids sticking through to the more difficult ones if the Level 1 difficulty frustrated them they way it did me. So, no recommendation for me on this book. However, Amazon reviewers had different opinions, and you can check those out here.

I received both of these books to facilitate my review, but no other compensation for their inclusion in this guide, and my opinion is mine and mine alone.


1 comment:

Terra H. said...

The Ripley's Believe It Or Not! books looks like a fun read.

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