From the monthly archives:

November 2010

READ Poster: Egyptology

by Vicky on November 30, 2010

Our cat, Vanessa, is so very Egyptian and goddess-like.

She deigned to pose for me—noblesse oblige— so I seized the opportunity to immortalize her in a READ poster.

For me, she personifies the magic of discovering other times, other places, through books—the allure of lost civilizations and ancient Egyptian mysteries…

The book featured as a backdrop is Egyptology: Search for the Tomb of Osiris, by Emily Sands and Dugald Steer, and illustrated by Nick Harris et al.


The Tale of Two Bad Mice

by Vicky on November 30, 2010

Our Page Presents show featured Beatrix Potter’s story, The Tale of Two Bad Mice, on November 19.

I modified my backdrop, which had first been a church, then a library, and now a doll house.  The story begins when the two residents of the doll house, Lucinda and Jane, go out for a ride in their carriage. 

Tom Thumb and his wife, Hunca Munca, venture out from their hole and find that the door of the doll house is open.

They go inside, and, in my version of the story, Tom Thumb invites Hunca Munca for a dance before dinner.  (I added the dancing because Matt had been wanting to teach the kids how to polka.  Which he did!)

Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca dance to the opening section of “The Pizzicato Polka,” then decide to sample the delicious dinner laid out in the dining room.

They soon discover that the food is inedible and impossible to slice.  It is doll house food, made from plaster.  In the original story, the mice have a wonderful time smashing the dishes, but, alas, I had no doll house dishes to smash.

So, in my version the two mice just get really angry and decide to go upstairs and trash the house.

The pillow fight is beautifully messy!  I have to be careful that my hastily constructed mouse puppets don’t get too carried away with the pillow fight, as they weren’t designed for much roughhousing!

In Beatrix Potter’s story, the mice then proceed to steal some of the doll furniture for their own home, but I cut this section.  Lucinda and Jane return from their carriage ride and find their house in complete chaos.  But, in the end, Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca contrive to pay for the damage they have caused.  Tom Thumb finds a sixpence under the hearth rug and puts it into the dolls’ Christmas stocking.  And Hunca Munca visits the doll house every morning before anyone is awake to dust and sweep it clean.

After the story, everyone made Mouse masks!  These were inspired by the much more elegant design by Corinne Okada for florentine style rat masks (for a children’s theater production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin).

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Cool After School: Leonardo’s Ornithopter

by Vicky on November 30, 2010

Maxine Anderson’s book, Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself, was the inspiration for the November 17 Cool After School class.

I read an excerpt from Jon Scieszka’s Time Warp Trio series, Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci, to introduce the kids to Da Vinci in a fun, light-hearted way.  Leonardo thinks the time-traveling kids are spies, since they already know about his secret drawings for inventions that he has never made.

Then everyone made simple models of Leonardo’s ornithopter.  They made test flights and then modified their ornithopters in various ways to improve their flight.  We discovered that adding a nose cone really helped.

Afterwards, I got out my laptop and showed them video of the first human-powered ornithopter flight on August 2, 2010, with a craft designed and built by a team of University of Toronto engineering students.


Library Lion

by Vicky on November 30, 2010

I discovered this book when I was trying to prepare for a preschool visit for which I had been given quite a long list of  learning objectives, not the least of which was that my story should be about the letter L!  And lo! the book itself offered perfect jumping-off points for discussion about how to behave in the library, how to care for library books, and the importance of stories.  Better yet, I discovered that our branch has Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, and it also has the Spanish edition, Un Leon en la biblioteca (translated by Teresa Mlawer).

I also used this book with a visiting kindergarten group, whose teacher had prepared them astonishingly well for their visit.  Everyone in the class knew the names for every part of a book, including the dedication.  In Library Lion, the story begins and ends on the endpapers, which are different in the front and the back of the book.  And both the author and illustrator dedicate the book to a favorite librarian.

For my Page Presents puppet show, I transformed an earlier church backdrop into a library.

Page the Bookworm played the fussy Mr. McBee.

Our lion puppet was, of course, the Library Lion, and my Nancy Pearl Action Figure was the story lady.

I played the part of Miss Merriweather.

We had a record crowd of around 70 people for Page Presents, and the kids were overexcited by the presence of a large class of fourth graders who were also visiting at the time.

Against my better judgment I had yielded to the importuning teacher and had scheduled his class visit during the half hour before Page Presents.  For the fourth graders I had given a book talk on The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and then led the group in a tour of the library. 

The class was quite well behaved, but they were still present in the children’s room, browsing for books during my puppet show, and this turned out to be too much of a distraction for the preschoolers.  It was complete pandemonium.

Note to self: don’t give in to importunate teachers with last-minute scheduling demands!

Some out-of-town friends were visiting, and I had to tell them, “It’s not usually like this!”

Afterwards, the kids managed to focus long enough to make their lion masks.  I guess they got something from either the story or the possibilities inherent in the mask, because they immediately began play-acting!


Cool After School: Look! Look! Look!-ing at Art

by Vicky on November 30, 2010

Our November 10 Cool After School program was inspired by the book, Look! Look! Look!, written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, with Linda K. Friedlaender.

Full disclosure: my ongoing interest in teaching kids how to look at and talk about art stems from my experience as a college librarian.  Every semester we were besieged with frantic students panicked by an assignment that asked them to look at a piece of art and then describe it in their own words. 

My conclusion is that we need to start getting kids accustomed to doing this when they are young, and then keep them doing it so they don’t find it such a terrifying and alienating experience when they get to college and beyond.

In this delightful and deceptively simple book, a family of mice borrow a postcard that arrives in the post for the vacationing humans.  Kiki, Alexander, and Kat take turns using different methods to look at the Tudor portrait depicted on the front of the card, and then they use this information to begin interacting with the painting by creating different versions of their own, derived from the original image.  Through their analysis and investigations, art vocabulary is painlessly introduced.

I decided to pick two male portraits from the same period and get the kids to play with them using some of the same exercises in the book.  With the help of a couple of mothers, who got excited about the exercises and helped get their sons intererested too, it went surprisingly well.   After looking for simple geometric shapes within the two compositions, we attempted to make our own versions using the shapes.

One thing is certain, the kids enjoyed creating their own compositions!


READ Poster: Read to the Dogs

by Vicky on November 29, 2010

I made a new READ poster starring Skippyjon Jones, who is the Precious Peony of my friend and colleague Gail (star of my Halloween READ poster).  Gail brought Skippy in before the library opened one Saturday, and we did a photo shoot.  Since it happened to be the day before Halloween, I was wearing my Pied Piper costume, and Skippy was quite dubious about my steeple hat.  But once I shed the hat, she decided that I could be her friend.  Skippy is not an official Read to the Dogs therapy dog, but she makes a great poster child, doesn’t she?

Our Read to the Dogs program at the Tony Hillerman Library is every second Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Here is the adorable Emily Rose, surrounded by admirers.


The Paper Bag Princess

by Vicky on November 29, 2010

I discovered The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, because several kids had asked for a dragon story.  I thought that I must be one of the few people in the world who had missed this story, which was published in 1980, but most of the parents were not familiar with it.  Everyone thought preschool was a great time to expose their kids to this story of a strong princess who outsmarts the dragon, rescues her prince, and then decides not to marry the snobbish and self-absorbed prince after all.

Page the Bookworm loved the fact that he got to wear a dragon mask to portray his gargantuan relative. 

And I was thrilled to have a perfect use for the miniature paper bags one of the mothers had donated recently.  I have already talked about the wonderful doll pattern by Noreen Crone-Findlay, the Flat Fanciful Doll.  I also found this template for the princess’s head at My Activity Maker.

For the dragon, I adapted this simple finger puppet pattern from Craft Ideas for All.

It was easy for the kids to make, and they had fun playing with them.

For his music and movement segment of Page Presents, the wonderful Mr. Matt revisited baroque dance forms. And for my puppet show, I built a castle and cave out of the large foam puzzle pieces that we have for kids to play with in our children’s room. These tiles seem to be intended for flooring, but kids adore building structures with them.  They made an impressive castle for my puppet show that was also easy to demolish.  The section that was still standing became the dragon’s cave. 

After the story, the kids created their own dragon and princess puppets!


I’m a big fan of Jack Prelutsky’s poetry for kids, and the combination of this collection of wacky poems featuring portmanteau words with the equally zany collage illustrations by Carin Berger served as inspiration for our Cool After School program on November 3.

I introduced the kids to the idea of portmanteau words by reading Humpty Dumpty’s description of them from Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll.  Then I read them selected poems from Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant: And Other Poems and showed them the fabulous illustrations.

Carin Berger’s mixed-media illustrations for the book feature vintage print advertisements, cut-print media, and interesting paper textures.  I collected similar advertising images and some paper choices and turned the kids loose.  They had fun coming up with new portmanteau words, such as scorpowrench, clockathon, toasterbot, scorpoclock, housebot, and victroladog!


World Origami Days

by Vicky on November 29, 2010

We celebrated World Origami Days at the Tony Hillerman Library with two origami jewelry workshops in addition to our regular monthly workshop.

The Origami Cool Zone featured origami wreaths (the Chinese Zodiac Wheel from Origami Activities: Asian Arts & Crafts for Creative Kids, by Michael G. LaFosse).

For our first origami jewelry workshop, we made strip-folded stars into earrings and bracelets.  In the second workshop, we made origami scallop shell earrings and pendants (featured in Origami Jewelry, by Ayako Brodek).


Halloween Cats

by Vicky on November 29, 2010

For the Halloween edition of Page Presents, I told the story, “Wait ’til Martin Comes.”  Page the Bookworm was excited to get to play the part of the person who tries to spend the night in a haunted house.  I had three progressively larger cardboard cats to represents the cats who appear next to the fireplace and then say, to someone who can’t be seen, “Shall I bite him now?”  And a disembodied voice says, “No, wait!  Wait ’til Martin comes.”   The giant cat in the photo was actually the middle cat.  I had an even larger cat head, and my colleague Amy made this huge head loom up behind the gigantic middle cat, suggesting a truly colossal cat.

Mr. Matt played hoedown music and had the kids make up their own special moves.

The kids loved it.  And they got to make not one, not two, but three puppets to represent the three cats in the story.  The smallest was made out of a tiny paper bag, and the middle one was made out of a lunch-sized paper bag.  The largest was a bodi-puppet made from a large grocery bag, with a paper plate head, and fabric arms that tie to the child’s wrists.

Here are some of the scary cats!

And, just to give you an idea of the scale of the middle cat, here it is in our bay window on Halloween night!