Summer Reading: Kid-Friendly Woodworking Books

Summer reading isn’t just for grown-ups.  With the kids out of school, it’s just the time for everybody, young and old, to do some reading for fun.  As a woodworking father of four young children, I’m always on the lookout for good children’s books that relate to woodworking.   Here are a few good ones I’ve found.  These are not how-to books, but rather books that offer children a positive depiction of the craft.  (Click on the publisher’s name to get your own copy.)

Grandpa’s Workshop by Maurice Pommier–from Lost Art Press

If you haven’t yet seen this gem, you really must buy it, even if you don’t have kids.  It is the story of a little boy, Sylvain, awakening tools that have long lain asleep in an old chest in his grandfather’s shop. It is also the story of Sylvain discovering his family’s long history, as well as his own vocation as a woodworker.  There are tails of travels and fights and wars, and even a dragon!

The book is lavishly illustrated in full color, and both text and illustrations are absolutely accurate depictions of woodworking tools and practices.  (I reviewed the book on this blog awhile back.)

 

The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean–from Eerdmans

Although this is a Christmas-themed book,  you can read it any time.  A crotchety old woodcarver is hard at work in a church, carving out a Jesse Tree, and every day he is pestered by an inquisitive little urchin.  Reluctantly, the woodcarver tells the Bible story represented by each of his carvings.  In the process, we learn a little about the boy, a little about the woodcarver, and a lot about how Bible stories build on each other.

The woodworking content is not strongly developed–it is mainly a frame for the Bible stories that the old man retells.  Overall, though, I am impressed with the quality of these retellings.  The stories are recast imaginatively, but they retain many the originals’ essential details.  Plus, woodworkers who get interrupted frequently in the shop will come to sympathize deeply with the frustrated narrator who just wants to go on carving.

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli–from Scholastic

Winner of the 1950 Newbery Medal, this charming novel tells the story of young Robin, a 14th-century nobleman’s child.  When Robin’s legs become useless, he falls in with a kindly friar who teaches him to use his hands to carve wood.  Through a series of harrowing adventures, Robin comes to understand the value of persistence, fidelity, and courage.

I am impressed with how faithful the story is to its Medieval setting.  While the depictions of Medieval crafts are not highly detailed, they are certainly believable.  The story and characters are themselves well-crafted.  Children as young as first grade will enjoy hearing this story read aloud, though older children will probably get more out of it.

Early American Trades and Early American Crafts and Occupationsfrom Dover (here and here, respectively)

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Who doesn’t like a really good coloring book?  These two coloring books include detailed illustrations of many wood-related crafts, including pit sawing, carpentry, coopering, and furniture making. The illustrators have taken pains to make each detail in the pictures historically accurate, and each book covers a wide variety of trades and crafts.  (For readers who would like a little more explanatory text to go with the pictures, I think that A Reverence for Wood by Eric Sloane and Country Furniture by Aldren Watson are excellent counterparts to the images in these books.)   If you have children, get two copies of each–one for the kids to color and one for yourself.  Then get yourself a good set of colored pencils and get started!

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2 Responses to Summer Reading: Kid-Friendly Woodworking Books

  1. Flo Schuler says:

    If you have these books on your children’s books shelve, I really must read them the next time I visit.

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