A coloring book-- or rather, a series of coloring books-- that brings a unique perspective to a medium that, while popular, is actually pretty dull if you think about it.

Granted, most kids color inside the lines and are relatively satisfied with ordinary coloring books. The reassuringly heavy black lines keep the picture clear no matter how rough the zig-zagging smears of crayon become.

Coloring books bring contentment. Sort of like network television.

The Anti-Coloring Book coloring books, however, are more like old-school PBS. You don't just obey the heavy black line. You have to engage each page.

So instead of a faintly alarming, bubble-shaped pony dotted with stars, fresh from Saturday morning cartoons, a child opening the Anti-Coloring Book might see a line drawing of a crowd of people looking up at the blank page above them. The caption might read, "What do you think these people are looking at?" And it's up to the child to throw the creativity into gear, think of an idea, and draw and color it. Another page might simply show a mirror frame, and have the caption, "What will you look like when you grow up?" Or, "You're a reporter on the scene of the greatest story of the year. What do you see?"

There are occasionally pictures that some parents or children might find off-putting. There's one reference to a child getting a spanking, for instance. As with anything you put in front of your child, exercise your judgement. In my family, we talk to our child about what we find offensive and decide, together, what to do about it.

The first Anti-Coloring book was created by Susan Striker and Edward Kimmel and was published in 1978. It proved immensely popular among homeschoolers and other highly engaged parents. There are now at least eight coloring books in the series, most of which have creative titles like "The Fourth Anti-Coloring Book". (Okay, so I guess the authors saved up all of their creativity for the inside.)

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