Drawing Cartoons Letter by Letter is the latest in a series of learn-to-draw books by Christopher Hart. I received a free copy in exchange for my honest review, so here it is!
The concept of using a letter or number as the framework for beginning a drawing is not new. In fact, I already had a similarly themed book in my collection. But several things set this book apart.
First of all, it’s a full 176 pages, featuring more than 130 upper and lower case letters and numbers 0-9. Other books of this type are not nearly this extensive. The cartoons are whimsical, colorful, and very stylized – more like drawings than quick sketches. What I like most of all is the sturdy spiral binding that allows the book to lay flat when you open it. There are few things as annoying as a how-to-draw book that keeps closing up on you as you try to follow the steps! When closed, the back cover is one long piece that folds over the front, covering the spiral binding and giving it a flat spine like the other books on your bookshelf.
However, as a book written for kids, I wondered if these highly-stylized cartoon characters would be too “sophisticated” for kids to be interested in them. It also bothered me just a little that like most books of this type, the characters being drawn did not begin with the letter being used (i.e. it used an “A” for a witch or a robot, a “C” for a dinosaur, etc.). And many of the pictures began with a letter that played a very minor role in the finished drawing.
But what do I know? I decided to call on some experts (kids!) to get their un-“adult”-erated opinions. Cecilia (age 4) and Arthur (age 7) agreed to test this book for me.
I gave them a few very brief instructions, some paper, and colored pencils, and let them run with it (so to speak).
What I learned was that they LOVED this book! They found the pictures engaging and fun. The step-by-step visuals made the drawings fairly easy to duplicate. Unlike me, it didn’t bother them at all that the names of the characters didn’t begin with the letters used to draw them. I gave Cecilia my copy of the more basic Drawing with Letters and Numbers by Syd Hoff, a book I’ve used with Kindergarten classes just learning their alphabet. It didn’t take much practice with these simple drawings for her to get the idea and be ready for more of a challenge.
Kids love drawing cartoons, but Drawing Cartoons Letter By Letter is not just for kids! All ages can enjoy it. Working through this book would be a great activity for kids to do on their own, but it could also be a fun project for kids to do with a parent, grandparent, or babysitter.
If I was an elementary grade-level teacher, I’d use this book for an occasional quick “draw-along”, demonstrating how to draw a cartoon on the board while kids follow along at their seats…. perfect for when you have just a couple of minutes to fill and you want to keep students focused and engaged. You could relate the drawing to a subject students are currently studying, or let them take turns choosing a letter for you to draw something from. Fun!
Most importantly, the step-by-step format of this book allows beginning artists to experience success, giving them the motivation to keep drawing. Learning to draw is all about training yourself to recognize the lines and shapes that make up the things you see, also called learning to “see like an artist”. By starting a drawing with a letter or number that’s hidden in its shape, students can learn the concept of looking for lines and shapes in everything around them.
I recommend this book for both kids and adults as a fun and engaging way to begin the adventure of learning to draw!