Ah ... 'Tis the season: Teachers are doing their super secret happy-dance on the grave of another school year; parents will soon be pulling out their hair for want of activities that will keep their kids independently entertained; and publishers are promising a carefree summer vacation if you buy their activity books.
Here's one thing I can honestly tell you about that last part: If the book involves crafts or cooking (and your kid is under 10) there is no way in hell you won't hear your name called at least 15,000 times in that familiar sing-song whine that makes you wish you could legally sell them to gypsies. ... So choose wisely.
IF YOU CAN'T STAND PAPER DOLLS do not buy "Paper Fashions Fantasy," Klutz, $22. Although this book is clever -- offering a bunch of different templates for tops, bottoms and accessories your budding designer can trace onto prettily printed papers, you will go out of your mind trying to figure out how to hang the fashions on the tiny wire hangers, which are provided.
Mom Rated: *Mommy Dearest Comes to MInd*
Kid Rated: *This is Totally Styling*
IF YOU HAVE A THREE-YEAR-OLD don't get "Eye Q Picture Puzzler," Downtown Bookworks, $12. It may actually keep the older one enthralled as you travel, but if you forget it's in your luggage and your graffiti-artist toddler finds it, you may be needing a visit from room cleaning service.
Kid Rated: *I Found the Rabbits!*
Mom Rated: *Where's the Pen?*
IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BUY SOCKS take a pass on "The Lonely Sock Club" by Laurie Goldrich Wolf, Simon and Schuster, $17. Because for all its "Green & Groovy" cache, your kid will not be satisfied until you part with some actual cash. The way she sees it, the cats made using old "dryer-ate-the-other-one" and "used-to-be-a-nice-color" socks will pale in comparison to the creatures featured in the book. Another tip? Ignore the no-sew directions if you want to save your sanity.
Mom Rated: *Thank GOD Target Sells Socks*
Kid Rated: *I Will Populate the World with Sock Kittens*
One final warning ...
Though your kid may not be able to MAKE the projects in the sock book without help, she WILL be able to dress them. You can estimate the resulting fashion show will keep you busy for at least an hour.