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From The Critics"Go fly a kite!" If you hear this often and feel the urge to take the advice literally, this book can get you into the sky in no time. It is chock full of kite history, customs, howtos and cautions.
Introductory chapters present some of the history of kites throughout the world and specifically in the United States. Small side boxes near pertinent text give definitions of difficult words. Blackandwhite photographs and color sketches accompany the narrative. While credits for the photos are given on the back of the title page, captions near the pictures would have enhanced their inclusion in the text. Sketches and pictures throughout the book reflect a diversity of race and gender. Examples are color photographs of a Chinese boy and a Maori native.
Succeeding chapters include descriptions and colorful sketches of all kinds of kites, as well as instructions for making three or four kinds of kites and wind socks. The descriptions are good and include some commentary on the origin of the various kinds of kites. One fullpage drawing clearly shows all of the component parts of a typical flat kite.
The howto chapter gives directions for making several kites from inexpensive, readily available materials. Borders include lucid descriptions of various types of knots to use during construction. Side boxes on these pages give definitions and advice for making and using the different parts of a kite. Blackandwhite drawings of each kite's construction clearly spell out the dimensions of each part. One drawback to the directions for constructing a given kite is that the diagram showing the placement of the parts of the kite may be located as many as two pages back from the directions. Boldlettering advises the young kite maker to ask an adult for help when dowels have to be sawed. However, the same cautionary note in regard to cutting a plastic bottle blends in with the plain type of the text.
The book concludes with advice and rules for flying kites and "Crazy Kite Facts," which adds a little more to the history and usage of kites. The advice on flying kites is extensive and includes color sketches of how to launch a kite, the types of wind one may encounter, and suggestions for troubleshooting problems. One feature I especially liked was a fullpage chart on kite safety that uses the words "always" and "never": "[a]lways fly your kite in big open areas..."; "[n]ever fly your kite in the rain or a thunderstorm!"
Colorful Kites mentions facts that could easily lead to integrated lessons touching on science, history, and art. I recommend this book to any child who wishes to take an entertaining, practical look at the world of kites. (from the Historical Toys Series.) Recommended, Grades 36. REVIEWER: Ellen McCabe (Memorial Library, SUNYCortland) ISBN: 0780790022