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Holiday 2010 Review: "Mess - The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes" by Keri Smith

If you are seeking out a unique gift for a child in your life, have I got a great gift idea for you! It is not a toy and does not run on batteries, but can make a child grin from ear to ear. I'm referring to Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes by Keri Smith. This book allows a child to do what they have been conditioned all their life not to do . . . make a mess and be destructive. It is filled with one activity after another complete with instructions about what to do on (or to) each page.

Although most of the activities are easy, I highly recommend adult supervision. That will be the difference between making a somewhat controlled mess inside the book and an uncontrolled mess all over your house. Some of the activities call for sticky substances or liquids. Although sometimes foods are suggested, I tried to stay away from using anything that would mold, rot, or attract ants since I knew my six year old would like to keep this book to look back upon in the future.

Here are some examples of the activities found in this book. The very first activity asked my son to attempt to draw straight lines while someone bumped the book repeatedly. I have not heard my son giggle as much as he did while drawing those lines in a long time. The next one asked my son to coat the page with something sticky and then drop something powdery onto the page. We chose to use white glue and ground coffee. My son had as much fun spreading the glue out with his fingers and dropping spoonfuls of coffee onto the page as he did blowing off the excess coffee grounds into the kitchen sink. What a mess we made!

(Click any image to enlarge)

The photos below show my son trying to write on a page in the book after he had soaked it with water. He was delighted to see how the pen reacted to the wet paper and that the paper tore so easily just from his trying to write on it.

The concept of the book is so original. I think it would be a great gift to a child to use on a rainy day or for summer vacation. He or she could do an activity a day. Some of the activities require liquid, so you need to allow time for the book to dry before you can use it again anyways. I also think that this book is therapeutic for any adult, or even a child, who experiences anxiety around messes. I have to admit, I am one of those adults and I still had fun doing these activities with my son.

Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes retails for $13.95 and can be found at major book retailers such as, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and .

Thank you to the Penguin Group for providing a complimentary sample copy of this book for us to base this review upon.