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Book Reviews - Books by No Starch and DK Books






Oct 29, 2016 1:57 am
by Joe Meno
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Tiny LEGO Wonders, No Starch Press, $24.95 USD

Tiny LEGO Wonders is a book by Matthia Zamboni that is about building in a specific scale: microscale. One of the wonders of the book is how so many models are included - there are 40 different models that can be built depicted in the book. The models are all vehicles and range from construction vehicles to spacecraft. 11 builders from around the world contributed to this book.

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Mattia’s big contribution to the book is his renderings. The photography isn’t - it is all digital renderings done by Mattia. And it’s beautiful and complement the instructions perfectly. The instructions are done much like LEGO’s instructions and are clear and easy-to-follow. The only issue with the instructions are that the part lists are visual, which are great if you have the parts, but not so great when you have to go online and order the parts. Fortunately, you can go online to the Tiny LEGO Wonders page to get parts lists and descriptions.


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The book is a nice guide for building in microscale. While there are very few words, the techniques for building are easily seen in the instructions. Sideways building is used a lot in microscale to add detail and the models here are great examples of this building technique. As a result, this is a great book for the builder who wants to learn about microscale building and for builders who want to learn some sideways building techniques. Highly recommended.

You can buy Tiny LEGO Wonders from the publisher at: https://www.nostarch.com/tinylegowonders


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The LEGO Animation Book, No Starch Press, $19.95 USD

Authored by David Pagano and David Pickett, The LEGO Animation Book is a relatively rare book. It talks about LEGO building and another completely different discipline, filmmaking. Those who make movies with LEGO minifigures and other materials are much like the people who work with LEGO robotics - they have two things to do before they are finished with a project. For the robot builders, they build a robot then they program. For a brickfilmer, they build then they animate. It takes patience and experience to make a good brick film, and with The LEGO Animation Book, there is now an excellent printed guide to learn the skills needed to be a good brickfilmer.
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The book starts for beginners, with building a set space and advising what cameras to use. From there, it quickly picks up and expands to talk about film techniques, LEGO building and how to combine the two. There is more than enough information in the book about filmmaking to make this a nice introduction to film production. Stop-motion animation is explained in depth, with classic animation methods from Disney films adding another level of sophistication to bringing a minifigure or other item to life.

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One of the highlights of the book is the Pagano Puppet, a LEGO built stop-motion puppet that is specifically designed for filming. There’s a parts list and instructions to make the puppet, which is also a neat LEGO model in its own right. The LEGO Animation Book also has online resources, such as an example film, to help out the reader with methods and techniques.

This book is highly recommended for the person who wants to learn a bit about making a brick film. In fact this would be a great reference book to the new brickfilmer and experienced brickfilmer. The authors make this a fun and funny read.

You can buy The LEGO Animation Book from the publisher at: https://www.nostarch.com/legoanimation


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365 Things to do with LEGO Bricks, DK Publishing, $24.99 USD

DK Publishing has a growing collection of LEGO-oriented books. While most of them are aimed at younger readers, there have been a growing number of books meant for older audiences. 365 Things to do with LEGO Bricks is a great example of such a book!

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With 356 pages, this book does not come with the usual bag of bricks or special set that most of the other DK books. Instead, there is an electronic activity selector/timer in the cover. Batteries are provided, so it’s just a matter of pulling the tag in the back to start. With this book there is an assumption that the reader has a few (okay, more than a few) parts to build, so keep that in mind, or things can get a little frustrating.

What really shines in this book is the sheer number of activities inside. There is literally 365 different things to do, which make this a great book to spend a rainy day alone or with a group of friends or even a class! The activity can be randomly selected with the activity selector, or you can pick how ever you want. Some of the projects or games in the book are timed, so the timer comes in handy.

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The builders for the book are a collection of people from the US and Europe, so there is a diverse selection of projects to do, from building a microscale space base (#49) to building and playing a LEGO croquet game (#325). The activities themselves are assorted, so there’s a lot that can be learned from the book.

All of the projects are categorized in the contents, so one can go straight to a specific project to build if they want. For groups and classroom time, though, randomly selecting and building would be a great way to learn and play. 365 Things to do with LEGO Bricks is recommended for builders, groups of builders and teachers to use in class.

You can buy 365 Things to do with LEGO Bricks from the publisher at: http://www.dk.com/us/9781465453020-365-things-to-do-with-lego-bricks/


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Star Wars Complete Locations, DK Publishing, $35.00 USD

Star Wars: Complete Locations is an update by DK of its previous volume of the same name. Inside, photos, diagrams and layouts of the major locations in the movie trilogies are presented in a clear, concise manner. As with other DK books of this type, there is a lot of information presented in its 190 page, which makes this an invaluable resource for the Star Wars fan.

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Why is this book being reviewed here, though? For a Star Wars LEGO builder, having definitive information is important in making accurate dioramas and builds. Star Wars: Complete Locations is one of those sources. With approval from Lucasfilm, DK got access to sketches and files that were used to create the Star Wars universe to make these books. The result is a authoritative book the not only shows the locations but also talks about the cultures as seen in the movies.

The art alone makes Star Wars: Complete Locations worth buying. The book is chronologically laid out, so it starts with the prequels and continues to the Force Awakens. Detailed cutaway diagrams show the interiors of buildings and starships and also how various battles took place, including the Battle of Hoth. Gatefolds show some of the larger settings, including Mos Espa and Starkiller Base. Vehicle renderings are also throughout Star Wars: Complete Locations. With these rich graphics, the information is available to build detailed models and dioramas. The detail also extends to the areas that are not seen in the movies, so the reader discovers where Rey parks her speeder for the night, for example.

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For the Star Wars fan, this is a great look into the locales that were in the movies. For the Star Wars LEGO builder, it’s a great reference for building more than vehicles.

You can buy Star Wars: Complete Locations from the publisher here: http://www.dk.com/us/9781465452726-star-wars-complete-locations/