Two New LEGO Books (Not by me this time!)
As you’ve seen in the past, publishers often contact me to help promote new LEGO books being released. I’m always happy to oblige! I love books! Here is a quick look at two books that are already available from Skyhorse Publishing, and my old pals DK Publishing. My apologies to both the publishers, and fans of a LEGO a day; these books have been available for a while but I have not had a chance to make a post due to some good old fashioned surgery. But all is well, and here is my long overdue look at these books.
The first is A Million Little Bricks: The Unofficial History of the LEGO Phenomenon. In it, British author Sarah Herman takes readers all the way back to the beginning, when The LEGO Group was in its infancy. From there, she explores not only the founding of the official LEGO Group, and its manufacturing ideas, but divides the succession of collectible sets into chapters cataloguing years of releases. Possibly one of the most interesting facts (I didn’t even know this) was that LEGO started out as a plastic toy company, with its bricks being a secondary product. It wasn’t until the mid-late 1950′s the bricks and sets we know today began to show their amazing potential and jumped to the forefront of their product line.
Chapters three & four chronicle the incredible boom of popularity of LEGO products from the late 70′s through the end of the century. This truly was the LEGO Group’s time of glory, though it’s obvious that tenacity for success has not died down. The final two chapters look at the LEGO presence after the year 2000, and begin to highlight how LEGO has expanded itself even further with a litany of accessories and related items. (Giant LED flashlights, anyone?) Of incredible interest to me, was discovering how new accessories began rolling into sets (such as animals, weapons, flowers, etc). While myself, a child of the 80′s, was quite familiar with the fantastical sets released during my childhood, I was of course not in the right mindset to be thinking about the addition of tiny new pieces. Also of interest to readers will be how many of the themes had roots almost all the way back at the beginning.
Herman’s book does a good job of sorting through the hefty sum of details associated with the rise of such a successful company. I will say at times my head was absolutely full of a million different dates, names, locations, and ideas – and that was just the first 50 pages explaining where LEGO even came from! The rest of the book catalogues the copious amounts of different themed sets (from City, to Bionicle, and more). It helps that Herman is a LEGO fan as well, not just a random author tasked with citing the company’s history of products. Herman’s insights from her own experience with the toys helps readers relate much better to the tone of the book. After all, if you’re not a fan of LEGO – why are you reading about it’s history in the first place?
The one downfall of A Million Little Bricks, at least to me, was the poor quality of many of the illustrations. The book is absolutely full of pictures to help readers along on their journey. While it is of interest, and commendable, that Herman thought to basically crowdsource the visual aspect of her book, it’s obvious many of the photos used were taken unprofessionally by children, or adults who can hardly find their way around a camera. Now, you’re probably saying “Dan, you’re just being critical because you’re a photographer yourself – lighten up.” Well, OK, I probably am being a little overly critical, but I feel it really takes away from the overall presentation of the book. Many of the photos have harsh, pop-up flash tones, or include sets with dirty bricks. There are terrible shadows, or distracting backgrounds. While I understand it would have been incredibly hard to include as many pictures as there are by only using professional grade photos, I do feel it could have been better. On a positive note, however, the older illustrations from the 1940′s-1960′s are quite good. Seeing firsthand the old sets and toys being used by people, and their rag-tag used boxes was very neat. But, it’s obvious that the deluge of digital cameras has made everyone and their mother a photographer, and thusly populating the internet with sub-par pictures. But I digress…
In the end A Million Little Bricks is a book for LEGO fans curious about the evolution of their favorite toy. It’s no short read, either – clocking in at just under 300 pages. I don’t think most children will fancy this, considering most of it is probably over their heads. But for young adults and adults with a thirst for as much LEGO info as their bricks can support, this unofficial illustrated history is a great resource. There are other books out there chronicling the LEGO corporation and its fans, but I haven’t read them, so I can’t offer you a true comparison.
Next, we have the latest in a series of themed LEGO books from our go-to publisher for awesome LEGO books. In the same vein as the LEGO Star Wars, & Harry Potter Visual Dictionaries, comes the first in the DC Universe Super Heroes collection: the LEGO Batman Visual Dictionary.
Like its predecessors, this book comes with a special collectible minifigure – in this case Electro Suit Batman. Personally, I would have loved a basic, yet special, traditional Batman figure with a cape. But, beggars can’t be choosers. Well, they can, it’s just that it usually won’t work out for them.
On the inside, the book is everything we’ve come to expect from this series. Large, colorful pages greet readers, chock full of details, details, details. Each set in the Batman theme is featured with a picture and a description. There are far more Batman sets than I ever knew – and some of them are pretty fantastic. The info moves from Batman, to Robin, to Batman’s foes, including the Joker, Catwoman, and Bane. Finally, readers get a look behind the scenes of the DC LEGO universe, and even get a look at two LEGO Batman video games. New, though, are a handful of two-page comics peppered throughout the book.
I suppose there isn’t much else to say about the book itself, as fans of the series will know exactly what to expect from the Batman Visual Dictionary. Like the previous books from DK in the series, it’s large format, and vibrant colors will attract the eyes of kids of all ages. Author Daniel Lipkowitz has done a great job of detailing the sets, as well as giving a short history of them – even some intriguing trivia. While the book may seem to most just a glorified picture book, it really is much more. For being less than 100 pages, the amount of text is staggering. I’m glad to have it as part of my DK LEGO collection. Here is a quick look inside:
Happy reading everyone!
And I can’t go without a shameless plug, of course. Remember you can get a copy of both of my books over at Blurb! (as soon as they send another coupon code, I’ll be sure to post it!)