From the monthly archives:

December 2010

The Father Christmas Letters

by Vicky on December 7, 2010

Last week Page Presents featured a puppet show based on the 1976 edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Father Christmas Letters.  I’ve owned a copy of this for a long time, and I love it.  I love Tolkien’s paintings and the different styles of calligraphy used by the various characters who contribute to the letters.  I relish his attention to detail, including a number of different stamps and delivery methods for posting from the North Pole.  I especially love the vivid characters who reappear year after year, particularly the North Polar Bear (Karhu), and his irrepressible nephews (Paksu and Valkotukka).

So I cobbled together a story based on several of the letters.

The major parts were played by my Father Christmas doll, my North Polar Bear teddy, and my Cave Bear puppet.  I also created a Goblin puppet riding on a bat.

I re-used the same backdrop that has recently been a church (King 0′ the Cats), a library (Library Lion), and a dollhouse (The Two Bad Mice).  I made color copies of three illustrations from the book, and added a frosting of snow to the roof, and the set became Father Christmas’s splendid new home at the North Pole (built after the North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole to retrieve his cap, causing the pole to break and crash through the roof of Father Christmas’s original home, where it proceeded to melt and flood everything).

Reading between the lines, the Father Christmas letters seem designed to explain any problems pertaining to Christmas presents, including delays, mix-ups, breakage, scarcity, and any other conceivable mishap.

Which is actually quite a stroke of genius!

The North Polar Bear is frequently involved, directly or indirectly, in the chaos and mayhem that Father Christmas has to cope with every year.  In later years, depredations by goblins  account for an increasing number of problems.

After the puppet show, we made North Polar Bear masks from paper plates, as well as Polar Bear paper dolls.


Cool After School: Leonardo’s Notebooks

by Vicky on December 7, 2010

For our Cool After School program last week we made invisible ink and then made our own notebooks!

Drawing inspiration (again!) from the book, Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself, we experimented with two different invisible inks: milk, and lemon juice.

Here are a couple of examples.

The first was written in milk, and the second was written in lemon juice.

As you can see, the inks appear different.  The consensus was that, at least at the concentrations we were using for our experiment, lemon juice made the better ink.

The first is a message, which reads: “I love you (unclear) Nic, Nash & Mom.”

The second is a scene of a snowman, with snow falling around him.

Then we made our own notebooks.  First we created a signature, or set of pages, by folding an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper, first vertically and then horizontally.  The cover was cut from a brown paper grocery bag and folded in half.  Then we punched two holes near the fold and hooked a rubber band up from the back side and over the top and bottom end of a twig to form a very cool binding.

I learned this binding from the book, Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist & Turn: Books for Kids to Make, by Gwen Diehn.  You can also find a great  online tutorial.

The kids were really excited about both projects.  Here are some of their notebooks.