Out of the Bloffice

the prediction penI know we just returned from a holiday break, but the fates have determined that I’ll be out of the office this week. Not to worry! I’ll be back and blogging on Tuesday, January 24th.

Feel like messing with destiny and the alphabet? Check out our lipogram fortune cookie activity for 9-12 year-olds.

Little Free Library

little free libraryIt might look an elvish cottage, but this structure houses a mighty amount of knowledge! May I introduce you to the Little Free Library in Princeton’s Marquand Park?

In case you aren’t familiar with Little Free Library, it’s a non-profit initiative that functions as a free book exchange. Register your site, build (or purchase) a box to house the books, load it up, and off you go! Community members can borrow and donate books to their heart’s content. Given that there are over 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries around the globe, there’s a good chance you can find one near you (check out their searchable world map).

There are, however, a couple of things that make Marquand Park’s Little Free Library unique. For starters, it’s integrated into the giant stump of a magnolia tree!

front of tree libraryRobert Wells, founder and steward of the Marquand Park library, first spotted a Little Free Library while visiting the Outer Banks. Returning to Princeton, he realized that the park’s hollow stump, with its interesting curves, would be a perfect library location. He commissioned cabinet maker Gui Nelesson of Lost inStudio to build it, and a new Little Free Library was born! Here’s a shot of the back:

back of tree libraryThe size of this library is also unusual. Most Little Free Libraries are smaller than a copy paper box, and mounted on a post. The Marquand library can hold 300 books! It’s dedicated to children’s books, and even includes a interior bench for little readers to get comfortable.

interior shelvesIn case you’re wondering, you enter and exit the library through the window. The shutter gently swings shut to keep the books dry and protected. Not far away is a big sand play area, a playground, swings, picnic benches, walking paths, and lots of big open spaces to run around. And trees! Gorgeous trees!

fall treeMarquand Park is located on Lovers Lane in Princeton, New Jersey. Please come by for a visit – and perhaps you’d consider exchanging one of your gently used children’s book at a very special Little Free Library?

little reader

The Vegetable Kingdom

the vegetable kingdomCraft a castle packed with phytochemicals! Behold towers of corn, asparagus, and carrot. Admire the eggplant and pepper wall fortifications. Stride through the cucumber slice gates. Vegetables have never looked so noble!

We read Scarlette Beane, written by Karen Wallace and illustrated by Jon Berkeley (Dial Books, 2000). Scarlette Beane was born with special green fingertips. When she turned 5, her Grandfather gave her a vegetable garden. She eagerly gardens with her twinkling green fingers and WOW! Overnight, Scarlette’s garden blooms with massive vegetables! The entire village shows up with bulldozers, forklifts, and chainsaws to enjoy soup served out of a concrete mixer. However, the Beane’s house is so tiny, everyone must eat in the garden. That night, Scarlette has an idea. She plants seeds, and, with a flash of her green fingers, an enormous vegetable castle grows in the Beane’s meadow! So of course, they move in and live happily ever after.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (I used a 14″ cake circle)
  • Paper towel tubes
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Construction paper in assorted vegetable colors
  • Green tissue paper
  • 1 onion dome template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Optional: green craft ties & twisteez wire
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Hot glue

The nice thing about this project is that you can decide what, and how much, to add to your castle. I’ll instruct you in everything we made at our story time, and then the agricultural architect in you can decide how much to add to your own castle.

For starters, cut the lid off a large box (if you’re using a tissue box, cut the top off). Use a box cutter to cut a drawbridge in the front of the box. Hot glue the box to a corrugated cardboard base.

vegetable castle base And now for the giant vegetables! Here they are, in no particular order.


ASPARAGUS

asparagusWe used a toilet paper tube, but if you want a taller stalk, cut a paper towel tube to the desired height. Wrap the tube with green construction paper. Cut 4 serrated leaves out of green construction paper, and tape (or hot glue) them close to the top of the tube. Pinch the tips of the leaves together, then secure them with tape or hot glue.


CARROT

carrotCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with orange construction paper. Add a little green construction paper fringe to the top. Drawing black lines around the carrot are optional!


BROCCOLI

broccoliCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with green construction paper. Crumble up a piece of green tissue paper and hot glue it to the top of the tube. To make the broccoli’s “floretes,” crumble up 4 smaller pieces of tissue paper, then hot glue them to the tops of four, 1.5″ x 2.25″ pieces of green construction paper. Tape or hot glue the floretes close to the top of the tube.


CORN

cornCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with yellow paper. To make the corn’s “husk,” wrap a piece of green construction paper 3/4 of the way around the tube. Cut three points in the top of the green paper. Attach the husk with glue or tape, leaving the front of the corn exposed.


CUCUMBER

cucumberCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with green construction paper. We cut castle parapets in the top as well. Use a green marker to draw cucumber lines and bumps.


CUCUMBER GATES

cucumber gatesCut a 1.5″ ring off the top of a toilet paper tube. Cut the ring in half and cover the tops of both sections with green construction paper. Use markers to draw cucumber lines and bumps.


MUSHROOM

mushroomCut a toilet paper tube to the desired height, then wrap it with brown paper. To make the mushroom’s cap, crumble brown tissue paper and wrap another piece of tissue paper over the crumbles. Squish the tissue paper to make a cap shape, then hot glue the cap to the top of the tube.


GREEN ONION

green onionCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with green construction paper. Next, wrap the top half of the tube with white paper. To make the bulb of the onion, cut the onion dome from the template. As you can see, it resembles a flower with multiple points. Fold each point inward toward the center of the template, then open it back up again.

dome step 1 and 2Gather two of the points over the center of the template and tape the tips together. Repeat with the remaining sets of points until you have 3 sets altogether.

dome step 3Gently push the 3 sets together over the center of the template, and tape together.

dome step 4

Whilst creating this onion bulb, you might need to do a little curling, pushing, and adjusting to get the dome just right. But don’t sweat it if it’s a little lopsided. It’s going to look awesome no matter what! Hot glue it top of the tube.


When you’ve completed all your vegetables, hot glue them to the castle walls and the base. We added some construction paper eggplant, peppers, and tomato slices to the perimeter, as well as some green tissue paper bushes. Optional but fun: green craft ties and Twisteez wire “vines,” and cardboard mosaic squares (ordered from Discount School Supply – a pack of 10,000 squares costs $12).

the vegetable kingdomThe final touch is a little flag! We used rock candy sticks and construction paper, but a drinking straw or a wooden coffee stirrer would work too. However, to obtain a castle flag at our story time you had to play giant carrot hide and seek.

I had been hording 4 big tubes in the office (from 24″ – 72″ tall!), and Marissa just happened had some spare orange paint at her house. Thus, giant carrot Thursday. We hid the giant carrots around our library’s plaza. Behold carrot in a tree…

carrot by tree

Carrot, reclined in tall grasses…

carrot in tall grasses

Carrot, in bushes (those bushes are also the site of reported Sasquatch sightings)…

carrot in bushesCarrot, frolicking amidst flowers…

carrot in flowers

Once the kids found all four carrots, they won a flag. Three cheers for giant vegetables!