Beasts from Bricks [Review]

Beasts from Bricks: Amazing LEGO Designs for Animals from Around the World is the latest LEGO instructional book from Quarry Books, authored by LEGO artist and designer Ekow Nimako. This is the second book in the series following Birds from Bricks. The 144-page book presents illustrated step-by-step instructions to build 15 animals from around the world: Africa, Europe, Asia, Antarctica, Oceania, Central/South America, the Caribbean, and North America. Each set of instructions includes a couple of paragraphs of information about the animal’s characteristics and habitat. Also included is a bonus gallery of Ekow Nimako’s more complex, large-scale animal designs.

Beasts from Bricks is available on Amazon for US$17.83 (currently with 29% discount) / UK£16.99/ CDN$ 28.09 (currently with 15% discount). The book is a “flexibound” 144-page volume with nice thick matte pages and high quality images. There are at least two animal models included for each of the locations, which range from the Koala to the African elephant and the slightly less exotic Suffolk sheep.

Each beast has an intro page showing an image of the completed model, a few paragraphs about the animal, its habitat, and a fun fact or two. There is a parts colour key and a parts list of bricks needed for each model. The parts list has the LEGO part number next to an image of each brick, but not the names.  A knowledge of the part numbers or at least a method of working out exactly which part they correspond to is advantageous (eg. a site like Bricklink where you can type in the part number and see an image and description of the part).

The first beast I chose to build was Peale’s Dolphin. I thought this one looked particularly nice in the image and appealed to me. There are a couple of bricks that might not be in everyone’s LEGO box, for example the Black Hinge Bucket 2 x 3 Curved Bottom with 2 Fingers (Part 4626) appeared in 11 sets between 1988 and 1996. It is inexpensive to buy on the secondary marketplaces but it might be important to think about this if you were giving this book as a gift.

There was one small error in the instructions when I built the dolphin model but I was easily able to use a work around. The part 3678b (2x2x2 Slope 65 with bottom tube) is listed in the inventory, but this is not compatible with the final model, nor was it used in the image shown on the dolphin’s information page. This sloped part sits just below the dorsal fin on the final model and needs to be bottom tube free to allow the SNOT connection. The solution is to use either part 3678a (2x2x2 Slope 65 without Bottom tube) or two part 60481 (2x1x2 Slope 65). Both the actual build on the information page in the book and my own model use the second method.

The dolphin model is lovely and manages to give the impression of movement while remaining a very sturdy, stable model to display. There are some clever SNOT techniques used and the hinged tail and fins are ideal solutions to give a natural shape. This model is sitting proudly on my desk now!

The other model I built was the bare-nosed wombat, a cute little character from Australasia. I chose the wombat as he mainly uses slopes and bricks, with no obscure or retired parts at all. This time the instructions were perfect and the final model captures the essences of this odd little marsupial. I actually learned that the average size of the wombat is 1 meter and 26kg in weight so not really the ‘gerbil-esque’ little chap I imagined.

The 15 models in the book are fun and use some clever building techniques that will please young builders and adults alike. I especially like the sense of character and movement that Ekow has brought to each of the animals. Another good point is their sturdy nature as each has a display stand of varying style,  making them perfect little desktop buddies. If I was buying this as a gift, I would be tempted to source the bricks for one or two of the models to give with the book. This way, it would be immediately possible to build a model as there are one or two models with more obscure parts as  I mentioned earlier. While I came across a small error with the dolphin instruction, it was easily remedied and I did pass this information on to the publisher to address.