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Artsy Parties Review by Deborah Burt

By Sharon Jeffus
Visual Manna
PO Box 553
Salem, MO 65560

Artsy Parties is designed to go along with Visual Manna's Artsy Animals series. The first book in the series (which I have not seen), How the Artsy Animals Became the Artsy Animals, explains how several animal characters audition for an animal theater troupe but don't make the cut. Raymond the Rhino decides to start his own little troupe called the Artsy Animals. The series is about these animals using their talents to teach good things.

Several books in the Artsy Animals series were designed to help new readers. Whenever a student finishes one of the Artsy Animals reading books, it is suggested the parents help the child throw a "party." Artsy Parties is full of party ideas to go along with the Artsy Animal books. Each party focuses on one of the characters from the reading books and also focuses on one of the arts: dance, singing, painting, playing an instrument, or acting.

The 83-page book is packed with ideas for 9 themed parties, including Raymond the Rhino gives a party for his best friend, Leo the Lizard gives a classical music party, Polly and Paddy Possum give a Tea Party, and Barney has a Beatnik Poetry Party. Let's take a look at Leo's Music Party to get an idea of what an artsy party can be like. An invitation in the form of a poem is included in case you'd like to use it to invite your friends. Ideas for making a drum-shaped or violin-shaped cake are provided. Craft instructions for making a top hat, a tambourine, a drum, and a horn are included. Suggested games are musical chairs and a game called Freeze (where participants listen to a song and freeze when someone calls out "Freeze."). There are little educational tidbits on Stradivarius violins and Ben Franklin's glass harmonica. Websites are provided for further learning about Louis Armstrong and how to play glasses filled with water as an instrument. The Bible story of Joshua and the Walls of Jericho is mentioned, along with a link to a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing "Joshua and the Battle of Jericho." Inspirational quotes about music are provided. One page tells how Laurence Welk blew bubbles when his orchestra played music and suggests kids at the music party do the same. Instructions are given for drawing a saxophone.

Besides the set of Artsy Animals reading books, I noticed two other resources on Visual Manna's website that go with Artsy Parties. One is a complete art kit providing all the supplies you need for 12 children to participate in all of the parties. The supplies are separated into projects to be handed out to each child. The kit is $179. The second resource that caught my eye is an elementary/preschool art set based on the Artsy Animals series. This set includes your choice of three Artsy Animals books and CDs, Artsy Parties, one free Artsy Animals Internet Workshop, and an art kit containing paint, stamps, and other craft supplies. It also includes Preschool and Early Elementary Art Basics and Preschool Bible. The cost for this set is $99.95. (The website is a bit difficult to navigate. I found these items on different pages while searching the site. If you have trouble locating these extras, you may want to contact Visual Manna for assistance.)

We do not own nor have we read the Artsy Animals reading books, but we still loved the ideas in Artsy Parties. My 9-year-old son was particularly enamored with this book. He loves crafts, art projects, and any excuse to party. Artsy Parties gave him lots of rainy-day ideas to keep him busy. Some of the ideas in the book would work for children's parties that are not centered on artsy animals. For instance, if we ever decided to have a party with an ocean or cowboy theme, Artsy Parties would provide lots of ideas for us.

Artsy Parties would certainly be useful for families already using the reading books in the Artsy Animals series. Some of the party ideas would not be of use to people unfamiliar with these characters. For example, how many people would want to have a Raymond the Rhino party, complete with rhino crafts and rhino jokes, if you aren't familiar with Raymond the Rhino?

Overall, I would recommend Artsy Parties to those who are already invested in the Artsy Animals series. Although the party ideas are interesting and fun, they are somewhat limited to the Artsy Animals theme; a more generic party book would be a better choice for those looking for general party ideas.

Product review by Deborah Burt, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2009