Relief, of sorts, has come with The Yarn Girls' Guide to Knits for Older Kids, by Julie Carles & Jordana Jacobs. (Please keep in mind the "of sorts.")
The subtitle of the book is "quick-to-knit patterns for four- to ten-year-olds," and that is exactly what the book provides. Nothing terribly fancy or challenging -- but rather quick-knitting patterns in larger sizes with fairly straightforward styling.
Contentwise, the first 40 pages or so are devoted to the ubiquitous "how to knit" stuff. This seems to me to be a waste of valuable book space: the same authors having already published a beginner's guide and a follow-up to the beginner's guide, do we really need another rehash of how to cast on? Timid book editors constantly assume that someone who's never picked up the needles before is going to start with this book. They are wrong. Better to omit the elementary stuff and add more patterns, or chop a few bucks off the price.
The patterns are organized in small sections; most have three patterns in each section, for a total of about 30 designs. Sections include Basic Pullovers, Beyond Basic Pullovers, Basic Cardigans, Beyond Basic Cardigans, V-Necks, Hats, Scarves, Just for the Girls, and Blankets & Pillows. As with prior books, each pattern is prefaced by a perky vignette describing a well-heeled Manhattan customer of the authors' knitting shop and how the pattern was designed to meet his/her needs. You may find them charming or you may occasionally retch.
The patterns themselves are quite basic. We're talking drop shoulders, simple necklines, no shaping -- which doesn't matter nearly as much for kids as it does for adults, and certainly will make the knitting go faster. There is a slight feeling of saminess to some of the patterns;
for example, in the Basic Cardigans section, two of the three patterns are very similar -- plain stockinette cardigans with contrasting buttonbands, collar and cuff -- except written for slightly different gauges. Likewise, all three hats in the hat section are all very simple round hats; the scarves are so simple that more advanced knitters will surely find patterns for them unnecessary. Basic may be just fine for you: sometimes it's nice to follow a pattern and not have to think about it. However, if you are handy at designing your own items, particularly if you have sweater designing software, you'll want to look carefully at the book to see if it's worth spending your money on.
Gauges for the patterns tend to be on the chunky side: 2 to 3 stitches an inch for a lot of the designs. Decide whether your kids like thick, chunky sweaters (if you live in a warm climate, think long and hard) before picking the book up or you'll be sorry. Style is, again, basic: lots of colorblocks and stripes, minimal cabling and intarsia. These designs probably won't look dated for a while and they are certainly un-dorky enough for most kids to wear without fear of mockery by their peers.
As with any chunkier yarn, if you use the recommended yarns, you'll pay dearly for the speed with which the designs knit up: for example, the Camping Out sweater, a basic design, requires 3 balls of Classic Elite Tigress for the larger sizes, at $34 a pop, with a total yarn cost of $102; the Waste Not, Want Not requires 15 balls of Bliss Cashmerino Aran for a total of about $135;
and the Supersize Me sweater, above, knit in doubled Koigu (which isn't chunky and so won't go as fast as a 2 to the inch yarn), will run you $144 for the 10-year-old's size. If this fits into your budget, swell. If not, you better be comfortable with yarn substitution. (I'm thinking a lot of these designs are going to end up being knitted in Encore and the like.) It also bears pointing out that many of the yarns used are NOT machine washable, which may be a deal-breaker for some people.
The production values of the book are high, as is usual with PotterCraft. I like the bright photos that show the garments clearly; each design (except the chapter for girls) is shown on both a girl and a boy, in different colors; schematics with measurements are given. I haven't yet made anything from the book, so I can't speak to the accuracy or clarity of the pattern-writing.