Book Review

Mini(bot) Reviews: Activity Books

I’m back today with more goodies from Workman Publishing. This time I’ve got some activity books and notebooks!

I received these books for free from Workman Publishing in exchange for my free and unbiased reviews.

Paint By Sticker – Dogs
Activity Book with art based on illustrations by Yin Cheng – 2020 – Workman – ISBN: 9781523509652

I’m 100% addicted to these paint by sticker books. The first time I tried one of these was years ago, when a friend sent a small picture and the stickers to me with a letter. Then after partnering with Workman, they sent me one of their Paint By Sticker books in the spring to help pass the time while many of us were at home. That was it – I was hooked.

After sharing with one of my sisters, she’s hooked too. She bought a different book so we could swap designs and then a friend sent me another for my birthday after I added a bunch to my wishlist. If it’s not obvious, I think these are a ton of fun! I love to do them while watching movies or TV (I have to have something to do with my hands) and I enjoy how intricate the designs become when the stickers get real small. I requested this dog book mostly for her, but claimed the husky for myself. It was satisfying, per usual!

I recently had a chance to try a different brand of paint by sticker and can say I prefer the Workman books. The other brand I’ve tried (Sticker Mosaics by Hinkler) is no less satisfying to complete, but when it comes to the layout of the sticker pages and the actual stickiness of the stickers, Workman has better quality. With the Workman books, it’s easy to see which sticker belongs to which letter and number group; the other brand’s labeling was small and cramped and I often found myself picking the wrong sticker. The stickers on the other brand didn’t adhere as well to the paper. Another bonus of the Workman books is that the design pages and the sticker pages are all perforated – this makes it easy to tear out a design and the corresponding stickers to share with someone (or just not have to work directly out of the book). The other brand’s sticker pages didn’t tear out and the stickers for the designs actually shared pages, so even when I tore the page out with brute force, I still had to go back to the book because some of the stickers I needed were on a page that mostly had stickers for another design.

This is a long-winded way of saying that while I think paint by sticker activity books are fun in general, Workman is the brand I’d prefer to spend my money on because they’re well-organized and easy to share! If you’re looking for an activity to pass the time that’s mess-free, relaxing, and doesn’t require a lot of space or any setup, I recommend these sticker books.

Artemis insisted on playing an active part in this photoshoot, lest I forget cats are superior.

Workman Publishing: WebsiteInstagramTwitter

Flow Stationery – All Good Things Are Wild & Free notebook set
Three notebooks with art by Valesca van Waveren – 64 pages each – 2020 – Workman/Flow – ISBN: 9781523509423

I’m a sucker for notebooks and while my hoard of them is nowhere near my book hoard, it’s still a hoard. I used to only buy a notebook based on the exterior design. These days, I actually pay attention to the paper quality and design of the interior, based on what I plan to use it for someday. Even if I never actually use it…

This little set is nice because it has a notebook with lined pages, grid pages, and dot grid pages. I started using the grid notebook almost immediately for my extra long lists that won’t fit in my planner and for sketches of homes I’ll probably never get around to designing in the Sims (3 with the Pets expansion, if you’re curious.) The paper is nice and smooth and I haven’t tested it with a variety of pens and markers, but the ballpoint pen I’m using for my lists doesn’t bleed through.

I might use the dot grid notebook for some journaling in the future, or maybe different types of trackers (reading, exercise, etc.). The lined notebook does have wider lines than I prefer, but even if I never get around to using it, it still looks nice!

I love the cover designs of all three and they’re nice and smooth as well – great for sticking some tabs to, which I’m using to mark my ‘active’ lists. I also appreciate that the books lay flat (something that’s become more important to me over the years.) This is a nice little set for fellow stationery lovers.

Valesca van Waveren: Website

A Book That Takes Time by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst
An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness – 218 pages – 2017 – Workman/Flow – ISBN: 9780761193777

Given my love of paper, notebooks, crafts, guided journals, guided sketchbooks, and activity books, I was instantly drawn to this book. Since making some changes in my personal life last year, and with the addition of the pandemic nightmare we’re all trapped in, I’ve also been looking more into the practice of mindfulness. This book seemed like a perfect combination of the things I enjoy doing. I can’t wait to play with all the foldey-interactive-papery bits.

The point of this book isn’t to rush headlong through every activity, so I’ve only read the first few pages, but I already found some quotes I wanted to highlight:

“Life can get crazy. Between plans, dreams, hobbies, children, friends, and more, the things that give us that buzz in life can also drain us.”

“Away time is time when your mind can be quiet for a bit. And it’s in moments like these that new things have room to bubble up; little or big solutions for the little or big problems in our lives.”

“…allowing ourselves to enjoy the beautiful, spontaneous moments of our lives is the real key to happiness.”

I started the first activity in the book – writing down little beautiful moments on the tear-out note cards the book provides. The idea is to keep them somewhere (I definitely have an empty mason jar somewhere) and then pull them out now and then to enjoy the memory. I had a few instances in the last week that I documented.

My plan is to work through this book a little at a time. Maybe reading a page a day, or revisiting an activity like the beautiful moments on, as I find more moments and memories to write about. The book also suggested putting some pictures in the jar to refer to, so maybe one of these days I’ll print out a few pictures (but let’s be real, ink is expensive!)

I think this book is going to be a good way for me to ease the idea of mindfulness into my life, while also hopefully sparking some creativity in me as well. Sadly, with everything going on in 2020, I’m finding it hard to be creative in any way – even blogging is hard. But I have been giving myself a break, not trying to force myself to be busy every moment of every day and this book is definitely a tool I can use to encourage that. If you or someone you know is looking to add some mindfulness to your days, this might be a book you’ll want to check out.

Irene Smit: Workman Page
Astrid van der Hulst: Workman Page

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