It’s Elementary

elementaryCalling all consulting detectives…grab your sparkle stem magnifying glass and examine this most intriguing collection of 18th and 19th century puzzle cards. And, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, the answers to these cards are at the end of the post!

You’ll need:

Cut a drinking straw down to 3″. Gently fold a sparkle stem in half (soft fold, not hard) and thread the ends into the straw. Round the sparkle stem loop sticking out of the top of the straw. Done!

sparkle stem magnifying glassAnd what of those curious cards? They are reproductions of 18th and 19th century rebus puzzle cards in our library’s special collections. A rebus (also called a hieroglyphic) puzzle is created using pictures in place of syllables or entire words. Sometimes, the placement of an object is important to the puzzle as well.

Here are 6 cards from our vaults, all hailing from England. The top three cards are from Feronica’s Hieroglyphical Riddles (publisher unknown, circa 1840). Across the bottom row, from left to right, are cards from Peter Ponder’s First Pack of Puzzle Cards (J. Aldis, 1808), Wallis’s New Pack of Puzzles for 1798 (John Wallis and Champante & Whitrow, 1798), and An Entire Pack of New Puzzle Cards (W. and T. Darton, circa 1805).

Want to try these puzzle cards on a few young detectives? You’ll find a printable set here!

rebus cards, from the collections of the cotsen children's library, princeton university


The solutions, moving top row to bottom row, left to right:

Handsome is that handsome does
Better a little fish than empty dish
Awl is well that ends well
Two implements of an excellent sport: bat and ball (for Cricket, of course!)
What most people are fond of: toasted muffin
Troublesome insects: ant, caterpillar, snail, earwig, and ladybird

Sleepless in the Southwest

sleepless in the southwestSettle down Southwestern critters! As the moon rises over the cacti in this lovely construction paper landscape, it’s time for the birds, animals, and reptiles to find their special spots. Turn off the lights, and your moon and stars glow in the dark!

glowing moon in the southwestWe read Bedtime in the Southwest by Mona Hodgson, illustrated by Renée Graef (Rising Moon, 2004). Twilight has come to the Southwest, and it’s time to go to bed. But is everyone ready? The little hare is hopping on his bed, the skunk appears to be ignoring Mama, and the porcupine is poking quills in his pillow in protest. But eventually, everyone scoots, snuggles, and nestles down to sleep.

You’ll need:

  • A large, flat piece of corrugated cardboard (ours was 22″ x 25″)
  • Dark blue poster board
  • Orange poster board
  • Brown, green, white, and gray construction paper
  • Several pieces of green self-adhesive foam for cacti (optional)
  • A southwest critter template color printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Scissors, glue and tape for construction

This project was a step-by-step endeavor, as opposed to our more go-crazy-with-the-supplies-and do-anything-you-want projects (here’s looking at you, Roy). And while crazy art is fun, there’s also something soothing about methodical projects. That was definitely true of this project. It was very mellow. We even removed all the tables and chairs and worked in a big, relaxed circle.

working circleWe also prepped all the project items in advance, so it would be easier for the entire group to progress through the project together.

First, the backdrop boards! Glue a 7.5″ x 22″ piece of dark blue poster board to the top of the backdrop board. Then, cut mountain ridges in the top of a similarly-sized piece of orange poster board, overlap it a little with the blue poster board, and glue it in place. Glue a white card stock moon and stars to the night sky. Next up, your critter habitats!

sleepless in the southwestBut first, a word about the little pockets each critter gets tucked into. We had a ton of old archival mylar lying around, so we used that to create clear pockets. Overhead projector transparency sheets work too. But you can opt for non-transparent pockets and use good old construction paper. Also, your pockets needs a little wiggle room at the top for sliding the critters in and out. So leave 0.75″ of the pocket un-taped.

pronghornAs you can see, the pronghorn habitat is a small bump of brown construction paper with a pocket taped in front of it. Super easy! The coyote habitat is 3 brown dirt mounds, one cut to look like the entrance to a burrow. The pocket is taped behind one of the mounds.

coyoteThe roadrunner habitat is a big spiky green bush with a little construction paper nest in front of it (the pocket is under the nest). Then we we then covered the nest with (optional) brown raffia pieces.

roadrunnerThe gila monster habitat is 4 gray rocks, with the pocket behind 3 overlapping rocks.

gila monsterFor the hummingbird habitat, cut a branched tree trunk out of brown construction paper, then tape the pocket over a fork in one of the branches. Cut a tree canopy with a big hole in it, then glue it over the top of the tree trunk and the pocket, leaving plenty of room to slide the hummingbird in and out. The hare habitat is at the bottom of the tree. It’s a pocket covered by a fringed 6″ piece of green crepe paper (or just use construction paper).

hummingbird and hareFinally, the elf owl. Did you know that elf owls live in cacti? We wanted to capture that awesomeness, so Katie painstakingly cut holes in 2 dozen cacti. Tape the owl’s pocket directly to the board, slide the owl in the pocket, and then position the hole in the cactus directly over the owl’s face.

elf owlBecause you need to retrieve your owl, you only want to attach the bottom section of the cactus to the board. We used self-adhesive foam for our cacti, and solved the problem by leaving the paper backing on the top part of the cactus, but peeling and sticking the rest:

peeled cactusWe used self-adhesive foam for all our cacti. It gave them a terrific texture, and it was fun for the kids to peel and stick them wherever they wanted. But construction paper works too! At the very bottom of our background boards was a long mylar pocket to store the animals when they’re not tucked into their habitats. We slid some cool Southwestern patterned paper into the pocket too.

critters in bottom pocketYou might have noticed that we kept the names of the critters on our template cut outs. I also broke from tradition and presented them to the kids already colored in. That’s because we wanted the kids to see what the various Southwestern critters looked like, and to learn their names. However, if you’d like the same template in black & white, here it is!

critters with namesThe very last thing Katie and I did was go around with a bit of glow-in-the-dark paint and fill in their moon and stars. We also added optional shooting stars (by painting glowing lines behind one of the stars on the board).

painting the moon and starsAnd that’s it! I like to think that, later that night, little Southwestern landscapes were glowing softly across town as kids tucked the animals in and went to sleep. Goodnight, sweet Southwest.

glowing moon in the southwest

350 for 50

350 fo 50_2017Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I announce the winners of our annual 350 for 50 writing contest! Each writer was challenged to compose a short, 350-word story that included the sentence, “The taste was strange, but not unexpected.” Winners from each of our 3 age categories enjoyed a $50 shopping spree at Labyrinth, our local bookstore. Congratulations to this year’s authors!


A BOWL FULL OF WORDS
By Maia Ionescu, age 9

a bowl full of words artwork by aliisa lee

Penelope always bought lunch at school. She was unhappy about it and wished that her mom made food for her instead. Sometimes she saw that kids who brought lunch from home had a sandwich or a piece of cucumber cut into heart shapes, and then she felt jealous. Her parents were always too much in a hurry to make lunch for her. So Penelope would always go to the cafeteria with a sad face.

But on the last day of school, things changed. At lunchtime, instead of the usual white trays, everyone got a silver bowl. From inside each bowl came a faint noise as if a lot of people were whispering at the same time. Penelope peeked inside her bowl and saw a small heap of words. They were: probably, splendid, licorice, freckles, memory, pharaoh, brave, loneliness, merry-go-round, and admiration. They all came in different sizes and colors. Loneliness was small and grey, brave – big and vermillion, and merry-go-round – multicolored. The words smelled good too, especially licorice and admiration.

Penelope saw that other kids had already started eating, so she picked a word from the top of the pile – memory. She paused to look and listen. There was a faraway voice repeating the word memory. The first m was vivid teal, and rest of the letters were getting lighter and paler so that the y was soft blue and almost invisible. She took a bite. The taste was strange, but not unexpected. Just like its colors, lively at first, memory burst into a strong flavor (it tasted like the strawberry shortcake that her mom made one weekend), and then it started to fade until Penelope could hardly taste anything. It felt like chewing a Juicy Fruit or forgetting a memory from a long time ago. The word probably tasted uncertain, and Penelope almost choked on pharaoh (she missed that word in the Spelling Bee). After finishing up the words, there was an announcement that a new cook, the famous Lexi Plume, had been hired. Penelope couldn’t wait to find out what she would eat for lunch in fifth grade!


the legend of sir raleigh artwork by aliisa lee

THE LEGEND OF SIR RALEIGH
By Kevin Feinstein, age 11

He heard a vulture screech and watched the leaves as they blew through the forest all around him. Raleigh Christopher pulled his rapier from his sheath, eyes trained on the opponent standing before him. They circled each other. He cried out and the duel commenced. The vulture screeched again but not as loudly as the blades clashing. They fought viciously but eventually one man fell. The fallen man weakly raised his head and watched Raleigh vanish.

The man Raleigh had beaten was the “Right Hand Man” of Lord Clarke who Raleigh had sought for months. Three nights earlier he had spotted the villain at a tavern on the way to Gedwell Castle. After a long hike through green meadows and damp swamps, Raleigh finally arrived outside Gedwell. A trumpeter accompanied him to set the dramatic tone.

“Cue the dramatic music, George II!” Raleigh commanded his trumpeter.  Raleigh jumped upon his horse, and George II onto his donkey. Approaching the gates of the castle, a guard shouted “HALT!” with a haughty sense of authority.

“I am Sir Raleigh Christopher the Eighty Fifth!” announced Raleigh, proud of his heritage. The guard sneered, but was about to regret it, THUMP!! Raleigh charged, kicking down the door and dispatched the guard with his sword! Suddenly he spied Lord Clarke.

“IT IS I! RALEIGH CHRISTOPHER!”

“Hey! I’m not the sword type, how about we settle this with a classic ruse – the poisoned drink!?”

“Alright! I brought my own.” announced Raleigh, producing his own bottle.

“But who shall drink first?”

“We shall play tic-tac-toe to decide!” Raleigh cried! Clarke was very bad at tic-tac-toe, not knowing the rules. Raleigh won but his chivalrous nature compelled him to let Clarke pick first. Clarke agonized and finally chose. Raleigh picked up his glass and they drank.

“The taste was strange, but not unexpected!” blurted Clarke, “I have won!” Raleigh laughed. “Whats so funny?” he asked.

“This is just normal water!” Raleigh laughed. Clarke looked confused. “I poisoned your drink three nights ago!” said Raleigh.

“That’s why it…” Clarke thumped onto the ground.

Raleigh left, his mission over.


the kite flyers artwork by aliisa lee

THE KITE FLYERS
By Annie Wei, age 14

Miraculously, my cardboard and tinfoil kite had stayed in the air longer than Binh’s, whose kite was quite a work of art, strung with silk ribbons. It looked gorgeous on the wooden display table in front of our school, but out of place, sitting with the background of our shabby middle school.  It had all the wonderful shades of greens and blues, and shone so brightly when the sun lit on it. Mine resembled a flying shoe.

But of course, everything about Binh’s family was out of place in our rural neighborhood, for they were the only Vietnamese family for miles around.
When I walked up to him after the competition, he was sitting on the battered up tire swing hanging in front of the school. I was holding the sorry looking kite I had fashioned, its tinfoil wings flapping in the slight breeze.

“Your kite is amazing.” I stood in front of him while he stared at his shoes. “It stayed in the air for such a long time.”“

Binh looked up at me, his dark eyes wide and questioning.

“Sorry?” His accent distorted the word, and I realized he didn’t understand me.

I raised my kite above my head, and waited until a sudden gust of wind swept it from my hands. As it rose, I smiled at him and said, “Your kite,” gesturing at his which was laying on the ground. Binh stood there for a brief moment, hesitating, watching my kite flutter like a butterfly, then threw his up in a woosh of blue and green.

I laughed as his kite did a couple somersaults as it was released in the air; then it seemed to dance, curving and floating gracefully. The sight was so strange. A cardboard and tinfoil kite flying next to a blue-green silk one.  Binh laughed too, and when the kites came down, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small neatly wrapped package.

“Banh Gio,” he said, offering it to me. “Eat.”  I unwrapped it. The taste was strange but not unexpected.


Artwork by Aliisa Lee