Monday, April 1, 2013

Review + Giveaway: eeBoo: Familiarity and Playfulness Go A Long Way

It's not a workbook.  It's not a textbook. It's a 32 page-teacher and the school is open whenever you want it to be.

WHAT: eeBoo's Learn to Draw by Lizzy Rockwell and Learn to Draw Animals by Kevin Hawkes
DOES: bookz that teach drawing and inspire thoughtful expression- look at the pictures- I have proof!
INVEST:  $5.99 each (seriously... it doesn't get any better than that)
AGES: 5+ and 7+ respectively- if your child is not used to drawing, then especially at those starter ages of 5 or 7 (depending) on the book, I suggest you sit with them for moral support.
TOOLS:  Express Yourself
EXPERT OPINION: Petra Pankow,  Manager of Tours and Gallery Interpretation, Montclair Art Museum and independent museum arts educator at various institutions (MoMA, Guggenheim)

GIVEAWAY:  Win the entire trio of eeBoo's drawing books, see below! 

I remember when I was in grade school, kids admired my artwork.  They liked it so much that they would come up to me with their notebooks and ask me to draw one of my manga girl faces on their books. I think I drew the same face over and over again but maybe with different hair.  Still, it was nice to be sought after for my skills.

In high school, I was a champion "parent signature forgerer."  Kids I barely knew asked me to sign their parent's signature on letters that their parents never wrote.  "Dear Attendance Office: Please excuse Janey.  She had a doctor's appointment and so she had to miss school yesterday.  Sincerely, (Insert:my amazing replica of Janey's mom's signature)"

Uh, is that the point of this art book review?   Learn to be a master at forgery?  Of course not.  But mastery is an important word.  I learned from experts here that kids between the ages 6-11 are sometimes called "latency kids" (Industry vs. Inferiority) because they're at a stage where they develop a  tremendous acquisition of skill sets and are being industrious in their practice at becoming good at something.  I really believe this is true.  This is one of the reasons why I have stressed that they learn how to draw.  It's a skills that is expressive, can be done just about anywhere at anytime and the finished product can leave a child feeling very competent.

The week prior he watched eggs hatch in his classroom.  I love that he tried drawing it here. He's done it nowhere else!

Number 1 drew this for me.  I find that this is incentive for encouraging him to not push his pencil down on the paper so hard.

All of the Toys are Tools testers have tried at least one eeBoo drawing book and these 32 page books that cost only $6 have been treasured and reused over and over again by the kids.  Why? I think it's because they are not workbooks (use and discard), and they're not text books (tools used by a teacher), I consider all three of the eeBoo books to be teachers themselves.  Kids are attracted to good teachers and always want to show them their new skills.

It's so smart to channel children's familiarity and enthusiasm of their favorite toys to get the kids drawing.

Maybe you probably think I'm being too fluffy but don't just take my word for it, ask Petra Pankow, the Manager of Tours and Gallery Interpretation at the Montclair Art Museum and a museum arts educator at landmark museums such as the Museum of Modern Art , and the Guggenheim She loves the eeBoo books.  She has tried them with children including her own daughter who is now in Kindergarten.

That little line in the middle of the flower pot is a magical line.

It helped my son draw his first cylinders!!!! Thank you Lizzy Rockwell! He was so thrilled with himself.

Petra loves when books are open-ended and so I was a little surprised that she liked the Learn to Draw book by Lizzy Rockwell because in this book, the approach appears more step 1-step 2-ish. "I’m naturally a little bit skeptical of that," she told me when we discussed this type of approach. "At the same time, what might happen is that the liberation happens after."

How cute is this robot but will the liberation really take place like Petra said it would?
Oh dear, I think it certainly did.  Robot Ninja courtesy of Number 1

Kids Want to Draw What They Know

I honestly feel like Petra was in my living room watching my kids use this book because that is exactly what happened!  My kids saw "Learn to Draw" and I could see they were intimidated by it but I sat down with them and tried with them and they started becoming more adventurous.  Soon, my kids were drawing things they never did before!!!  The Learn to Draw book also skillfully uses familiarity to help the kids get drawing.  The kids learn to draw the things they see everyday like things in their room, their kitchen, their backyard... it's so cool! The pages are what makes this book magical!

After Number 2 learned how to draw a cylinder, he went crazy drawing cups and bowls everywhere!  Both Petra and I really like these special pages where kids are encouraged to practiced what they learned in a meaningful setting.

First of all, my kitchen does NOT look like this. The microwave is on the other side of the kitchen and our cellphones are charged elsewhere.  Other details however are accurate... even down to the Stevia.  Is this how my children see my kitchen?  argh!

Focusing on Fun to Draw Animals

But what about animals?  Do kids really want to draw animals?  I don't know if it is a developmental thing but kids in third grade seem to really enjoy it.  My son's favorite television show is Wild Kratts. I think drawing animals is definitely easier than trying to draw humans.  Drawing humans is so serious.  Number 6 tested this book out.  Both she and her mom really liked it.  So did Petra!

"I liked it a lot.   It’s a book with a mission.  It’s very varied, in an of itself.  It poses challenges," Petra said.  She also felt this book by Kevin Hawkes was great for older elementary school students.   

I love how the pages show all different perspectives.  Kids can replicate the position that is easier or harder.

Petra also liked that this book used animals to explore a playful side to drawing.   She said that it was a generous gesture on the part of the book to make fun of mistakes. "It gives the book a lightness," she said, noting that the book encouraged kids to celebrate trying things out. 

But there really is serious art instruction here too.  There are pages that focus on things like skeletons and joints and other concepts but the way in which it's presented is the key difference.  Number 5's mom noticed it right away.  (She's also a librarian and kinda knows books very well..... really well).


Playfulness Goes a Long Way

When I showed her the eeBoo book, she immediately pulled out another book that teaches animal drawing and the difference was obvious.  The non-eeBoo book was not playful, did not show animals in various positions, and it kind of looked like, "this is the way you draw a lion and that is that."  But she told me that in the Kevin Hawkes book, you don't get that sense at all.  It's like you can't really make a big mistake or that mistakes can easily be forgiven.  

I wish I could explain this better except to say that I think Petra has a real point.  By leaving things playful, something happens.  The student is not just trying to copy the body and details, the student is trying to also emulate the playfulness of the photo.  

I see that Number 5 has stressed the most humorous part of this drawing.  Maybe that means something?
Number 5 did an amazing job, didn't she?  Take a look at that frog!  Very playful!

I think that is really ingenious.   I think we are apt to see better results this way.  I would liken it to drinking a glass of wine and becoming able to tell a great story at a dinner party.  We are focused less on performance and more on enjoyment and usually it's in this dimension that the magic takes place.  Kids obviously do not need the wine but the book shows that a little playfulness can go a long way.


About a year ago, Number 2 couldn't draw anything- not even stick figures.  Then we gave him an eeBoo book- The Drawing Book by Melissa Sweet.  This is the first lesson: Squiggles.  He was drawing with mostly markers then.


This was taken less than two weeks ago.  He drew "his version" of the NYC subway system on a sheet of paper four times his size.  Thanks eeBoo.  I think it's fair to say that your books work.... they work very well.

Pssst... In case you missed it, check out my review of The Drawing Book by Melissa Sweet here
And check out my interview with Melissa Sweet: I Do Believe Anybody Can Draw here.

NOW.... you can experience the magic in your own home.   Enter to win all three eeBoo drawing books. 

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to buy on Amazon right now? Use my link to support Toys are Tools.

If you dislike these prices, check out your neighborhood toy store eeBoo is a huge supporter of neighborhood toy stores.  Believe it or not, when I buy my eeBoo books at neighborhood toy stores, I will always get them at the suggested retail price of only $5.99.  And I've paid no shipping.  But if you are going to have to get it shipped, please use my Amazon link!  

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturer for the publication of this review.  The two items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised.  The giveaway prize is being donated by the manufacturer.

This post is dedicated to the Toys are Tools' testers and their parents.  Their approach to play and learning gives me guidance.  Their reliability saves my children from being jaded by Toy Tester-itis. 


  1. Drawing is an important skill. Right now we're more into writing stories but they include illustrations.

  2. As someone who makes their living drawing, obviously I think it's an important skill. As someone who spent a significant time teaching children how to express their thoughts, solve problems, and communicate, I KNOW it's an important skill. These are wonderful products my two would LOVE to have, as drawing is part of our daily life. :)

  3. my son is making comic books now. just drafts but it is a start!

  4. thank you for this great comment! The quality is really great. We keep our books and go back to them all the time.

  5. Some kids can only express themselves by drawing.

  6. how very true. thank you for this very important comment