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The Ultimate Lego Book Hardcover – 7 Oct 1999
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The book has a little of everything. You get a thumbnail background on the company's history, key dates for major innovations, how master builders are selected, major exhibits from the three LEGOLAND parks (in Denmark, the U.K., and California), and the latest in robotics, software and merchandise. The book also shows how Lego can be used to create scale models for explaining ideas (such as the ones for how Lego blocks are manufactured), as well as bringing major buildings to life (such as the 21-foot-tall Empire State Building). The final section shows how Lego blocks can be employed to create sculpture and artistic images.
"Our aim is to stimulate children to become masters of their own lives . . . ." And Lego has been successful at that. While most children start out slavishly following the kits, soon they jumble all of the pieces together and just start making up their own objects. That's when Lego's flexible potential becomes important. In fact, that's how master builders are qualified, by taking a random group of components and seeing what they can build in 45 minutes. In essence, Lego is a tool for creating something physical out of a mental concept using virtually identical pieces of different sizes and colors.
Many Americans will not have seen any of the LEGOLANDs, and the glimpses of what models are found there will probably whet the appetite for more, probably only to be satisfied by an actual trip.
The book could have been improved by providing more technical detail on some of the most interesting models, so that those who are interested in creating similar models would know what components are needed and in what quantitites (and at what cost). Another potential improvement would have been to have included sections about some of the best model builders, where they could describe how they think about creating models.
The main drawback of the model illustrations is that many are too small to give you a full sense of what the models look like. Fold-out pages with adults standing next to the Lego models would have helped in a number of cases.
On the other hand, I am unaware of any other book about Lego that approaches this one for quality, scope and reader interest. So, if you know some who loves Lego, you should probably give them this book as a gift before they buy it for themselves. You'll be a hero or heroine!
After you finish this book, I suggest you consider how you can establish greater Lego challenges that will help create more problem-solving ability. For example, you might encourage your child to see what models can be made with the fewest pieces or the smallest variety of pieces.
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There are some lovely touches throughout the pages, ten to twenty-three has a company time-line showing how Lego originated and as the years go by keeping up with new developments in technology so that now the little bricks come with chips. Pages thirty-two to thirty-seven explain how bricks are made and to illustrate this an assembly line of Lego was constructed and photographed.
Buyers of this book should know that it is not a how-to manual though, there are a few pages of things to make, including (pages seventy-one and two) a beautiful moving skeleton that looks like it has less than fifty pieces. As the basic Lego unit is an oblong brick, curves have always been a problem and model makers who join the company have to learn how to make round things out of straight things. I noticed that one area still defies a credible solution: lettering! Any letters have to be made of straight lines and with capitals like A and R they end up looking the same.
I think, for the price, this is a wonderful book that any Lego user will enjoy.
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