Monday, November 8, 2010

Drawing Fun with Syd Hoff

Syd Hoff (1912-2004) wrote and illustrated many classic early readers, the most famous of which is Danny and the Dinosaur. A cartoonist who sold his first cartoon at age 18 to The New Yorker, Hoff strongly believed that anyone could learn to draw. To this end he published several books on drawing and cartooning that are perfect for beginning readers.

Drawing with Letters and Numbers is especially appropriate because children this age can always use extra practice mastering the alphabet. The book demonstrates how the letters A through Z (capital and lowercase) and the numbers 1 through 9 can be transformed with a few strokes into something else entirely. The capital letter A becomes a clown's hat. Lowercase h is the arch of a cat's back. The number 5 morphs into the mouth of a fierce lion.

How to Draw Cartoons provides simple instructions on how to create cartoons. The book starts with asking kids to draw a circle. Add eyes, a nose, and a mouth and you've got a face. Next Hoff shows how to add detail, such as hair, a mustache, even a double chin. With a few broad strokes a face can be happy or sad. But what good is a face without a body? Hoff goes on to demonstrate how to draw proportional stick figures. Then he makes those figures walk, run, and jump. The book also includes instructions on how to draw animals.

Both books are out of print and can be hard to find. I own my copies, but my local library does shelve How to Draw Cartoons. And, of course, there's always Amazon's used book sellers. While I also highly recommend all of Ed Emberley's drawing books, I find they work better with older children. For beginning readers, stick to Hoff.

 Today's host for Nonfiction Monday is Shelf-employed.


  1. I'm so glad I found you through Nonfiction Monday today! My life is consumed by picture books these days, but I have an early reader now and am always trying to locate more high-quality books for her to read. She also loves to draw, so she would have a ball with Drawing Letters and Numbers. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sadly, my library no longer owns any of Syd Hoff's how-to-draw books, but thanks for sharing.