This series of books by Toronto artist-teacher Irene Luxbacher is geared toward parents and preschool teachers who are hoping to encourage a positive art experience for preschoolers. Luxbacher, author-illustrator of The Jumbo Book of Art, has designed these books in a format that’s friendly to small hands. The layout of text and illustrations is appealing, with whimsical line drawings of smiling children (including children in wheelchairs)
decorating the pages.
For the most part, directions for the projects are clear and accompanied by illustrations or photographs. However, with the print-making projects, some of the final steps are grouped into paragraph format, and careful reading is required in order to make finished artwork like that shown in the book. For example, in making the bumblebee print project, three numbered steps are clearly spelled out on a single page. And then a single paragraph on the next page describes three more significant steps required to finish the project (adding stripes, drawing legs and antennae, and adding flowers and leaves).
Both books are focused on a single theme. 123 I Can Draw is dedicated almost exclusively to teaching how to draw the human form, while the projects in the printmaking book are all insect-themed. This narrow focus is a serious shortcoming of the series.
The print-making book has merit in that it will guide parents and teachers through the necessary steps of making prints. But the drawing book has limited value, especially for very young children. As soon as they can hold a pencil or crayon, most children go through a natural progression all on their own, starting with scribbling and moving into drawing stick figures. Just exploring the materials is enough to encourage a young child’s creativity. Even Picasso himself recognized the natural creativity of children when he said, “It took me four years to learn to paint like Raphael and a lifetime to paint like a child.” Parents of children four and five years old would be better off spending their money on art supplies and giving their child the space, time, and tolerance for mess that a fun art project requires.