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Sneaky Art

by Marthe Jocelyn

Aimed at kids ages eight and up, Sneaky Art is a craft book with an unusual twist: it encourages children to make public art. Each of the book’s 24 craft ideas is twofold, offering instructions on how to complete the project and how to display it. As the title suggests, these crafts are meant to be left in surprising places, with the intention of brightening someone else’s day. To wit: miniature houses set among tree roots in the park or a card-stock bird on a clothespin affixed to a winter branch.

The distinctive collage artwork featured in many of Marthe Jocelyn’s children’s books is often made with tactile objects like buttons and fabric, and a book about crafting seems a natural extension of the multi-faceted autor and illustrator’s talents. As with her own artwork, Jocelyn’s craft ideas make use of simple materials, including tin foil, sticks, stones, fabric scraps, and dental floss. (Our house is not overstocked with art supplies, but we had everything on hand to make all but a few projects.) Photographs and straightforward instructions help make crafts easy to recreate.

Jocelyn is careful to advise young artists on the ethics and risks involved in creating public art: “Sneaky art is NOT: mean, defacing, ugly, hurtful, messy, or permanent,” she explains. “Sneaky art IS: funny, clever, thoughtful, temporary.”

The two 10-year-olds who helped me test this book were intrigued by Jocelyn’s concept. Both were excited to try some of the projects – painting faces on small stones or putting baby socks onto chair feet – but uncertain about others. Would grocery shoppers be pleased or upset to find a “cork critter” amid the vegetables?

Ultimately, we agreed: this is a thought-provoking book that encourages engagement with the world around us. How lovely to make something purely for the pleasure of giving it away.