String Figures and how to Make Them: A Study of Cat's Cradle in Many Lands
At some time in your youth, no doubt, you took a loop of string and made a "cat's-cradle," a "Jacob's ladder," or some other type of figure by looping and crossing the string between the fingers. But perhaps you were not aware that this is actually an ancient form of amusement, that it is practiced in all parts of the globe, and is especially popular among primitive tribes. And you probably didn't realize what a great variety of figures can be formed by a single loop of string.
This book describes, in a simple and easy-to-follow manner, how to make no less than 107 different string figures, just as they are made in their land of origin. It is the only book on the subject in English that gives a thorough and readily understandable treatment, so that a beginner can follow the steps and make the figures without the help of a teacher. The figures offer an excellent means for developing manual dexterity and coordination between brain and hand, and present challenge to personal inventiveness, too, since they are capable of infinite variations. These games are fun for people of all ages: intelligent children can do them easily, and adults find great enjoyment in them. Two people can play the string games together, one using his left and the other his right; and many of the games even require four hands.
The description of each figure and the process of making it is accompanied by several simply drawn sketches that show each distinct step as it would be viewed by the person making the figure. The illustrator has taken great care to show in each sketch all the loops, all the intertwinings as they should appear at each stage in the process, so that there is no reason for anyone to have undue difficulty in making any of the figures.
Besides those who simply want to use the book as a source of amusement, the book will be of great interest to anthropologists and collectors of string figures, since it greatly increases the knowledge of string games and their distribution around the world.
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When I was a teenager I spent hours and hours poring over this book and learning some of the figures. My sister did too, and we would see how fast we could do Jacob's Ladder or the Apache Door. The descriptions are clear enough that you really can learn the figures from the instructions and drawings (if you are motivated--we didn't have i-devices to amuse us). Along with some really cool string figures, the reader will get the message that many cultures play string games--both the similarities and the differences are instructive. A classic, and a versatile and valuable book.