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Simple Activity Books for Shorter, Cooler Days

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Get your kids off their electronics and into more creative ways to wile away the hours. These new books are imaginative, clever modes of art and expression.

"The Goods by McSweeney's" from Big Picture Press/Candlewick Press; 44 pages; $22.99.

The award-winning McSweeney's team includes dozens of writers and artists, such as Jon Klassen, Mo Willems, Jon Scieszka and others, first thought up to contribute to an all-ages feature for newspapers. Forty-four installments of these unique games, puzzles and hard-to-classify diversions (labyrinths, fortune-telling, glaring penguins, made-up words) have been transformed into "The Goods." Truly for all ages, the uber-busy pages may each showcase up to 10 items. Page 22 includes etiquette tips by Prince Harry, a corgi mix-up game, a recipe for Kate's victoria sponge cake and a list of what the Queen stows in her trusty handbag — obviously, this page is royal-tinged.

Recipes for a banana nut mouth-shake and tear juice (?) share crowded space with how to learn magic from an actual unicorn and tips on how to test the limits of your body.

A crazy, innovative activity book for "big kids, little kids, and medium-size kids," "The Goods" are truly good!

"Paper Play" by Lydia Crook; RP Kids/Running Press; 110 pages; $12.95.

Every page of this refreshing black and white book can be used to play games and make fabulous paper creations — cool paper dolls, origami, amazing snowflakes, beads, flying whirligigs, even a paper town. The sturdy pages only need, occasionally, scissors, paper and glue. The easy instructions encourage readers to roll, tear, fold or snip pages until they become cool toys, tricks or games.

Young artists can create and share their art at www.mydoodlemasterpiece.com. Completely all-ages appropriate, "Paper Play" is groovy-cool.

"The Peanuts Gang Loves to Doodle!" by Charles M. Schultz; RP Kids; 126 pages; $12.95.

Schultz's Peanuts gang continues to be popular.

In this big drawing/doodle book, kids of all ages can complete colored prompts that say, "What does Snoopy see on his drive through the country?" "Lucy is playing doctor today! Who is coming to see her? How much does she charge?" and "Fall is in the air! Draw piles of leaves for Snoopy and Woodstock to jump into."

Plenty of big white space encourages young artists to get creative; and each page features Schultz drawings to lead off each prompt.

"Gorgeous Doodles: Pretty, Full-Color Pictures to Complete and Create" by Nellie Ryan, Annette Bouttell, and Josie Jo; RP Kids; 126 pages; $12.95.

With delicate and fun girly scenes on each page spread, "Gorgeous Doodles" helps kids fill out and decorate pages of customized cellphones, red carpet dresses, under sea koi, snow globes, ice cream cones and magical mermaid tails, to name just a few. Lots of zesty colors and a vast array of splendid scenes and designs should entice young artists to finish wall-hanging-worthy creations that are easily removable with perforated pages.

Brothers and sisters, cousins and friends will enjoy RP Kids' "Icky, Sticky, Slimy Doodles" by Andrew Pinder — "gross, full-color pictures to complete and create."

"Dot Jewelry" by April Chorba; from Klutz; 55 pages; $19.99.

Klutz, the masterminds behind such fashion-forward books as "Mini Capsters Jewelry" and "Wicked Cool Friendship Bracelets" comes this latest accessory trend, "sure to be spot on!"

With 1,500 pre-cut paper pieces in bright colors and prints — some hearts and stars but mostly beautiful dots — "Dot Jewelry" makes an activity kit sure to please. Kids glue the dots onto durable, clear cord to make one-of-a-kind jewelry that's graphically pleasing and mod. Klutz, as always, includes clear instructions for bracelets to statement necklaces. There's a 2-in-1 tool that picks up dots and crimps the cord ends to securely finish each piece, making them gift worthy and professional.

The perfect birthday or holiday gift for girls ages 8 to 12; "Dots So Cute!" is guaranteed for satisfaction.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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