Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Book Review

the creative family

How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections

By: amanda blake soule

I've been waiting for this book to come out for so long! So when Papa Pan trudged up the walkway with that unmistakable brown box my heart did a little flip.

I don't read a lot of fiction. I get too wrapped up in characters and hate when the book ends and I'm left with an empty spot where they lived during the time I was reading. Also, I find it hard to follow stories when I am always being interrupted. (So far I've been interrupted three times in writing this) I like poetry because of this. I like non fiction, books that inspire me either with ideas and philosophy, or things to do. The best books combine all three. This is the kind of book you savour.

The book is smaller than I expected. This is not a bad thing, it's delightful actually. I decided long ago that good books should fit comfortably in a purse/diaper bag so that you can pull them out at random moments that present themselves during the day. They should not be so small that you need to squint to read them. They should have more presence than a paperback novel. They should be bound so they can stand up to life with children. Also, for some reason, square books make me happy, and this is very nearly a square book. It has built in bookmarks, very important with books that encourage you to make stuff. Judging a book by it's cover this is a very good book.

It is divided into 4 sections: gathering, playing, living, connecting. The projects are guided by four elements: self, child, family, community. There is a lovely balance to it all, a calm grounded feeling.

Yes there are suggestions for games to play, things to make, patterns, and lots of practical advise on creating an atmosphere where kids feel free to explore. Its also about how to create an atmosphere where children feel that you value their creative explorations and your own. BUT what I like best is the way Amanda invites you to look at the world fresh and new, the way your children do, to learn from your children's wonder.

There are lovely quotes on creativity sprinkled throughout by people like Plato, Rachel Carson, Einstein and the book is full of Amanda's beautiful family photos.

I already know, from reading her blog (Soule Mama), that Amanda and I share the same feelings about open ended natural toys and the value of unschooling. What she's accomplished with this book is to share how the philosophy works in real life without ever coming across as preachy or rigidly adhering to a single philosophy, or coming across as perfect. I can see this book inspiring all sorts of people in all sorts of families.

I've been involved with Waldorf inspired home education for a very long time so I was familiar with most of the craft projects she suggested. I'm totally enamoured with embroidering my children's art now, an idea that was new to me. The other thing that was new to me was the idea of craftivism - service projects that touch the local and global community through the act of making homemade necessary objects - like knitting hats and mittens for those in need. I have all sorts of ideas for projects now.

Some people might be wondering if they'll get anything new from this book that they can't get by simply reading Amanda's blog. The most valuable thing to me is that I can turn off the computer and tuck this book in my bag and read it in the stolen moments I get during the day. I can pull it out under a tree in the backyard while the kids set up their Little House on the Prairie scene , milking their imaginary cow (our dog is such a good sport). I can read it in bed while the Sprout nurses off to sleep. The kids can pull it out and pick a project and say "Can we do this today?". It can live in the pile of books on the coffee table and get dog earred being read so many times. This is definitely a book to savour.

1 comment:

monkey said...

i have been reading soulemama for quite awhile now and she's the reason i even started my own. it's so good to see how many people admire and respect her. and i can't wait for her book in my mailbox! of course, i suppose that means i need to order one first :-)