Tweet Tweet! Reading is Sweet

tweet-reading-is-sweetWhen it’s time for your next library visit, perhaps you’d consider bringing a canary with you? I hear they’re friendly, quiet, and quite avid readers. Make a sweet little canary on a perch and a sparkly, decorative birdcage to go with it. And don’t forget that mini library book!

We read Quiet! There’s a Canary in the Library! By Don Freeman (Viking, 1969).
One day, at the library, little Cary wonders what it would be like if animals and birds could visit to the library and browse.  She imagines the canary would arrive first, followed by lion, bear, elephant, peacock, turtle, giraffe, porcupine, a family of monkeys, horse, and cow. Things are going pretty well until the mice arrive and chaos erupts. Thankfully, clever canary sings that it’s time for everyone to leave, and it works! Whew!

You’ll need:

  • 1 circle of poster board (approximately 7″ in diameter)
  • Hole punch
  • 8 silver sparkle stems
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Yellow and orange construction paper
  • A few small feathers
  • 1 small piece of poster board (1″ x 3.75″)
  • 1 small piece of tagboard (0.75″ x 6″)
  • 2 silver craft ties
  • A few scraps of white printer paper for mini book
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished-birdcageWe’ll begin with the birdcage, and finish with the reading canary! Punch 8 symmetrical holes into a circle of poster board, then decorate the poster board with markers (we used Crayola metallic markers and they looked fantastic).

birdcage-step-1Wrap the ends of 8 sparkle stems through each hole.

birdcage-step-2Gather the free ends of the sparkle stems together over top of the poster board circle. Adjust the stems, as needed, to create a birdcage, then twist the ends of the stems together. We also added a decorative silver embossed foil seal in the center of the poster board circle, but this is optional of course.

birdcage-step-3To make the canary, cut a toilet paper tube down to 2.75″ and wrap it with yellow construction paper. Add a small feather crest, and use markers to draw a beak and eyes (or use eye stickers and a self-adhesive foam triangle like we did). Cut a pair of yellow construction paper wings, and hot glue them to the sides of a little book (which we made by stapling white paper inside a green construction paper cover). Position the book in front of the canary’s face, then hot glue (or tape) the wings to the body.

bird-holding-bookCut a tail out of yellow construction paper (our tail was about 2.75″ long). Hot glue (or tape) it to the canary’s body, and add a small feather on top. We covered the top of the feather with a yellow dot sticker, but this is optional.

bird-tailNow for the perch! Punch a hole in each end of a 1″ x 3.75″ piece of poster board. Cut a pair of orange canary feet from construction paper, then hot glue them in the center of the perch. Finally, hot glue a 0.75″ x 6″ strip of tagboard on top of the feet. Bend both ends of the tagboard strip upwards to create perch “prongs.” Your perch should now look like this:

perch-step-1Slide the prongs into the bird tube, then secure them to the inside of the tube with tape.

perch-step-2 Next, wrap a silver craft tie in each hole of the perch. Bring the ties over the canary’s head and twist them together. Note! Because of the height of the birdcage, you’ll need to twist the craft ties fairly close to the top of the canary’s head. Finally, curl the little orange canary toes over the edge of the perch.

perch-step-3Slide your perched canary inside the cage, adjust for height, and then wrap the free ends of the craft ties around the top of the cage to secure it in place. Circle and twist the extra craft tie to create a carrying handle for your birdcage.

finished-birdcageYour canary is ready to go to the library! I hear section 598 is pretty interesting…

This Is My Story

this-is-my-storyYou love books. You think it’s a clever idea. You’ve picked it up while shopping and mused over it a dozen time. But each time you put it back, thinking…do those make your own book mail-in kits really deliver the goods? Well, ponder no more! Today, we’re reviewing the IlluStory Make Your Own Book kit by Lulu Jr.

illustory-kitThe kit retails for around $20 – $30. It includes 10 washable markers, 20 blank book pages, 2 blank cover pages, a mailing envelope, and detailed instructions. It also has multiple prompt sheets to get young writers going (including – and I really liked this – nonfiction stories and biographies). The kit price includes the production of your book and shipping costs from, and back to, your house (USA only). The final product is a 7.25″ x 9.25″ hardcover book with an illustrated story that is a maximum of 18 pages long.

illustory-kit-contentsGetting started, you have two creation options with this kit: 1) Draw the book by hand; or 2) Design it online using templates, backgrounds, and digital stickers (you can also upload drawings and photos). We went as low tech as possible and chose to create the book by hand. The 8.5″ x 11″ story pages have a big box for illustrations, and 5 lines for text. Since your story can’t be over 18 pages, there are a couple of extra pages, just in case you mess up.

Marissa bravely agreed to write and illustrate a story she titled Arnold’s Birthday Party. She reports that the markers were “awesome.” IlluStory recommends using dark pencil or pen. Marissa used ballpoint pen for her illustrations and text, which worked just fine.

page-of-storyWhen the book was finished, we turned to the order form. Here, we were presented with two options: 1) Produce the book using your handwritten text; or 2) Have the company convert your handwritten words to type (but there is a 20 word per page limit, and they don’t correct spelling or edit). We went with hand lettering.

Make sure you read the kit instructions and the order form carefully! Because otherwise you might miss that you need to number the pages, in pencil, on the back of each page (otherwise, they’ll just print them in the order received). You need to write “Cover” on the back of your cover page. And you definitely don’t was to miss the free options to add a dedication page, or author photo and bio on the back of the book!

Ready to send it off? You have two options: 1) Send it via snail mail in the prepaid envelope; or 2) Upload scans of your cover and story pages to the IlluStory website. We stayed low-tech and went with snail mail.

illustory-mailing-setIlluStory say the books are printed less than 2 weeks from the date received, and ship 3-5 days after printing. They were right on the money. In just under 3 weeks, Marissa’s book was back. It looked fantastic.

2-page-spread-of-storyI was worried that the binding might look cheap. Nope. This is a real, honest-to-goodness book. Glossy white cover, crisp printing, text well clear of the binding margins. The author photo we sent was reproduced nicely. They even put the title and author’s name down the book’s spine! There’s a title page too. It looks really cute:

title-page-of-bookYou also have the option to purchase additional copies and send them to your adoring fans (copies of our book, for example are $14.99). You can order multiple copies in advance, or use the info printed on the back of the book to order copies later.

Beware, however. The production on this kit is quite literal. If you did what I did, and fill out the dedication and author bio in ALL CAPS on the order form, the production team will put those in ALL CAPS IN YOUR BOOK. Also, remember to write the title on the cover of your book. They don’t do that for you. Marissa’s book cover is missing a title, but it sort of adds to the mystery of the big package, doesn’t it? What’s in that big package anyway?*

cover-of-bookIn summary, the IlluStory Make Your Own Book kit is terrific! It’s easy to put together with really nice, professional-looking results. Make sure to read all the instructions and fine print and remember – what you send is exactly what is printed. If you know an aspiring author or illustrator, or are looking to create something special for someone, this kit is a sure bet.


*Spoiler alert. Inside the present is a colossal spider – a gift from an eccentric aunt. The spider runs rampant through the town, swatting helicopters, before Arnold shuts it down with bug spray.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

hello-darknessAfraid of the dark? Nah! With this fantastic, illuminating friend, you can discover how much fun the dark really is! And if you’re still not convinced, join us for a glowing balloon bounce bonanza!

We read Orion and The Dark by Emma Yarlett (Templar Books, 2015). Orion is scared of everything, but he’s especially scared of the dark. Imagine his surprise when one night, the dark comes alive and drop right into his room! It turns out the Dark is actually a fun and playful friend. Together, they explore Orion’s house and town and he learns that the things he was afraid of…aren’t that scary. They’re actually kind of cool! In the grand finale, Orion and the Dark endeavor to conquer Orion’s final fear – outer space. Far from scary, outer space is simply magical. The friends return to Orion’s house just as dawn breaks. The Dark must go, but he promises to never be far away. In fact, he’ll be back every night for a visit!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Some tagboard or strong cardboard
  • Blue construction paper
  • A selection of foil star stickers
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • A small piece of white pipe cleaner
  • Glow-in-the-dark paint or glue
  • 1 paintbrush
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

project-viewed-in-light

Begin by wrapping a large oatmeal container and 2 toilet paper tubes with blue construction paper. Set them aside for a moment. Cut a pair of oval feet (our were approximately 2.25″ x 3.75″), then cover the tops of the ovals with blue construction paper. Hot glue the feet to the bottoms of the toilet paper tube legs, toggle the legs a bit to get the balance just right, then hot glue them to the bottom of the oatmeal container.

Finish by adding a circle of blue construction paper to the top of the oatmeal container, construction paper arms on the sides, and foil star stickers everywhere.

Now to add the glow! We had a bottle of this non-toxic glow pigment in the cabinet, so we went with glow glue. I’m sure you’d also get great results with glow-in-the-dark paint as well (it’s sold at Michael’s Craft Store for $3 – $5 a bottle). We covered our work tables with paper, gave each kid a little cup of glue and a paintbrush, and let them create a night sky on their projects.

painting-the-projectThe neat thing about the glow glue is that it dried semi-clear, so there’s a bit of a dramatic reveal when it illuminates:

project-viewed-in-light-and-darkNotice how the eyes and mouth of the project are glowing too? Those are glow-in-the-dark wiggle eyes (available through Oriental Trading Company – a pack of 100 is $3) and a snippet of white pipe cleaner painted with glow glue. We were dubious at first, but the glue stuck to the pipe cleaner very nicely and dried quickly. It also stuck to Katie’s hands, giving her awesome alien fingers.

glow-fingersWhile the kids’ projects were drying on the tables, we decided to capture the spirit of the book by having lots of fun in the dark. We blew up a bunch of LED balloons (which you first encountered in this post), turned out the lights, blasted some Enya, and had a big, glowing balloon bounce party.

glow-balloon-partyWe also had a little black light closet set up, so kids could get a preview of what their creations would look like later than night.

inside-glow-room

one-glow-designtwo-glow-designSome of the balloon revelers ended up in the black light closet too. Because why not?

balloon-in-black-light-room