I always hate it when people do all those one-word sentences like: Best. Idea. Ever. But I can think of only one way to describe Shojo Beat's Manga Artist Academy: Best. Manga. Drawing Book. Ever.
But I'm a little insecure, because I don't know if I should put a period between Drawing and Book.
Two things make this book different from the 1-2-3-learn-to-draw variety: First of all, it's written in Manga format. It reads right to left and follows a little panda through the adventure of creating a marketable Manga. It includes advice like this: "Love is the magical essence that eventually glues your audience to your work!" But it also gets into the nitty gritty of proportion, perspective, etc.
Second, it tells you how to develop your craft rather than how to draw a particular character by putting lines here, here, and here.
And that's why this book is my new secret Manga club cookbook. Today we started with the first piece of advice: "It's always good to have a role model in the beginning." In other words, copy the masters! So I photocopied a page of Manga and cut it into pieces, and I gave each kid a piece of the picture. Then I had them draw their piece at about four times the original size. We put all their pieces together and it looked ... pretty bad.
But what I like about projects like this is the element of tension: What is this actually a picture of? Will my piece fit with everyone else's? Will everyone laugh at me?
Actually, I always participate in these activities, so if anything gets laughed at, it's definitely my feeble efforts.