I was a huge fan of Ed Emberley’s drawing books when I was about 6 or 7. I would borrow them out from the library time and again and spend hours copying out the details of his step-by-step instructions. I recently rediscovered his books at a big chain store – 4 books compiled into one big compendium (a special printing for the store it seems as I can’t find them this way anywhere online) and I let AJ have a look. While they were probably slightly beyond her years she was entranced and produced a couple of liberal interpretations of her own.
Another fond childhood book memory I have is of a title called “Fingerprint Owls and Other Fantasies ” by Marjorie P. Katz published in 1972 which now seems to be well and truly out of print. It was a kind of grungy old black and white book with handwritten pages and a sloppy layout (extract below) but it was so inspiring when it came to creating images with fingerprints when we were small.
When I discovered that Ed Emberley had released his own version of a drawing with fingerprints book I couldn’t think of anything more engaging so I ordered it straight away.
Fingerprint Drawing Book is quite charming, far more sophisticated in it’s production than Marjorie P Katz’s, and has very easy to follow step-by-step instructions which Emberley does so well. We had a little experiment with finger printing last week which turned out to be pretty much disastrous due to our materials. Emberley suggests finding some non-toxic, water based ink-pads which we really should have heeded before heading into the deep end with waterproof inks. Yesterday I went out and invested in some slightly more expensive craft ink pads which not only come in beautiful colours in loads of shades, but seemed to have washed off after 24 hours. Emberley also has suggestions for experimenting with making your own inks using food colouring, poster paint or watercolour and cloth or paper towel.
While the book will be great fun for an older child (5+) for a 3.5 year old I would say it has limited appeal. She made one frog (above) and then spun off into freeform fingerprint expression. This was perfectly ok with me, as I do sometimes worry that the Emberley books are way too prescriptive for kids, limiting their own creative expression etc. etc., but as a springboard for building confidence, skills and ideas you couldn’t ask for anything more. If a child can take away the lasting impression that it’s actually very easy to create an expressive face or a funny camel or a complicated transit system with a few simple techniques then these books are totally invaluable. Hopefully they will go forth and create even more amazing things, or if not they are sure to have loads of fun and find great satisfaction in the meantime. The last message in Emberley’s book is about creating “something very special” and unique. He encourages his readers not to worry if the images they produce is not exactly as they appear in the book – “Much has been left to explore and discover”.