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Come to the carnival

MASQUERADE. Schemes of work for Art in the Primary School. By Judy Cam, Ruth Elia and Trilby Lawlor. The Visual Learning Foundation Pounds 25. From VLF, Robert Blair School, Brewery Road, London N7 9QJ.

At last, an art pack that isn't treading the same old ground but has found new territory. The front pocket of this teacher's pack holds 10 A4-sized colour reproductions that fall invitingly into the hand and immediately grab the attention: fantastic, unusual and provoking images from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.

The substantial accompanying teacher's book certainly delivers the goods.It provides intriguing historical and cultural information about what masquerade was and is, the educational rationale for the project theme, programmes of work, and clear practical instruction for how to create some tremendous 2D and 3D artwork.

Three case studies are related to the theme of masquerade: one based on the traditions of European carnival, one on Caribbean masquerade (culminating with making "house on the head" Jonkonnu sculptures) and one a "Mas" theme (which leads to constructing characters in street festival costumes based on birds). Each case study builds up through a sequence of imaginative activities with scope for pupils right across the primary phase.

The authors explain they want "to demonstrate, through documentation, the importance of planning for pupil achievement in art and design - a sequence of teaching objectives enables progress by encouraging children to add to and use previous experience".

The documentation is excellent: the book is plentifully illustrated with valuable photo-graphs of children in action and their artwork at different stages. And herein probably lies the true value of this pack: not just the masquerade theme and the artwork, but the authors' exposition of what a well-planned and challenging art project could and should look like. The book offers access to a way of thinking that could vastly enhance art practice in a primary school.

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