Crafty Cousins

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Cousins Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri are known for their HGTV shows and home makeovers, and now, their next project is a children’s book.

In an effort to teach young children all about tools and working with your hands, Carrino and Colaneri co-authored the picture book What Can You Do with a Toolbox? Filled with narratives about tools, safety, and playtime, book characters Carrino and Colaneri work on a project and ultimately answer what you can do with a toolbox: Build a playground.

Carrino and Colaneri are most well-known for their various television shows, including “Kitchen Cousins,” “Undercover Cousins,” and “Grand Designs with the Cousins.” Now the two are venturing into the world of children’s books, an idea that came about after Colaneri visited his wife’s preschool class two years ago.

After seeing how engaged the children were during the visit, Colaneri’s wife, Jennifer, suggested he write a children’s book.

book cover

“I thought it was a crazy thought, because we were talking about always doing a book but we never thought about doing a kids’ book,” Colaneri says. “She was like: ‘I think it’s got to be kids, no one’s done it yet.’”

Looking to fill that void in the market, Carrino and Colaneri set out to write What Can You Do with a Toolbox? Carrino says the book not only introduces tools and construction to young children, but also encourages kids to help their community. “A playground is something the entire community can enjoy, can draw benefits from, so teaching kids to use the skills that they have or learn to give back to their communities and to help their neighbors is something we really wanted to instill in them,” Carrino says.

In addition, Carrino and Colaneri are proud to create something that encourages children’s imaginations.
Colaneri has a daughter of his own, and says he can see how her imagination stems from the books they read together. “My daughter has a huge imagination. In all honesty, I feel books do that for children,” Colaneri says. “It makes them create this world that they have control over and they think of it, they can do anything with it.”

For Colaneri, carving out the time to read to his little one, Lily, age 3, every night is an important ritual that he hopes will have a positive impact on her later in life. “It allows me to have a one-on-one connection with her and just have our time,” Colaneri says. “I think for any parent it’s something that’s special…to just pull back, relax, and do something that makes an impact on your child.”

According to the Cousins, Lily loves seeing her dad and Uncle Anthony come to life on each page of their new book. However, Colaneri jokes that Lily’s not too fond of seeing him play with other kids in the book’s pages.

In addition to engaging imaginations, Carrino and Colaneri say that they are excited to create content that doesn’t come from a screen. “To know that we’ve created something that limits screen time, that takes them away from objects that are moving in front of them and allows them to use their own creativity and their own imagination to create a scene with their parents and interact is something that personally I’m very proud of,” Carrino says.

While the book may be limiting screen time, that doesn’t mean it won’t be interactive. The Cousins partnered with Novel Effect to make certain aspects, like the sounds of tools, come to life. The phone app uses voice recognition to trigger construction sounds, an original score, and the voices of Carrino, Colaneri, and Lily as families read.

As Lily gets older, the Cousins say they hope to make more books following her age group, all while encouraging construction, and of course, imagination.