Sneak Peek: Victorian Tea

ladies of the manorVery shortly, my library will be hosting a Victorian Tea program. It will be a combination historical lecture/tea party/stand-up comedy for kids ages 10 & up. You’ve been getting little hints of the program here and here on Instagram, but I thought it was time for a sneak peek at the costumes!

annaFirst up is Anna, who is a sophomore at Princeton University. She gamely stepped up to play our maid. Just in case you think we were being snobby and excluding Anna from the group shot that started this post – take heart! Anna’s photo shoot was in the afternoon, when she arrived for her library shift. The rest of the ladies were photographed in the morning. No Victorian class system at work here, no sir.

joaniThis is Joani, a junior at Princeton University. You might remember her from some previous posts (here she is as a flower, and here as a phoenix wrangler). Joani will be singing some period songs after the tea party concludes and we proceed to the parlor for games and entertainment.

marissaOur very own Miss Marissa will be keeping it real in scores of lace. Have you ever seen someone rock a straw hat so well? No, I think not.

dr danaFinally, there’s me. I’ll be playing the matron of the house. Which means I needed a really, really, really big hat. There’s actually an interesting story to the hat. It was designed by Rodney Gordon, who did all the hats for the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford.

greatgatsby74-daisywhitehatImage originally resides on Frock Flicks

To make an even further connection, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, was a student at Princeton University (class of 1917). The Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections Manuscripts Division has his papers, including Fitzgerald’s working files on The Great Gatsby, and his personal annotated copy of the first edition of the book.

We would like to express our extreme gratitude to Cindy Thom and the ladies at McCarter Theater’s Costume Shop for locating and lending us these most excellent threads. Many, many thanks!

A School of Sharing

school of sharingJoin this beautiful school of fish with their bright, sparkling scales! These easy-to-make fish were created with poster board and construction paper. Then we grabbed a set of sparkling rainbow scales and had a glittery share-fest. That’s right! You could only stick your scales on other peoples’ fish!

We read The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (North-South Books, 1992). With his sparkling silver scales, Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in the ocean. He’s also the most stuck up, making it clear that he’s too beautiful to accept invitations to play. When a little fish dares to ask for a silver scale, Rainbow Fish rudely tells him to go away. That does it. The other fish decide to ignore the snobby Rainbow Fish. With no audience to admire him, Rainbow Fish grows lonely. Seeking the council of the wise octopus, she advises him to give his shining scales away to the other fish. Only then will he discover what happiness is. So Rainbow Fish gives away his silver scales, and as he sees them glittering and flashing around him on the other fish, he realizes that he finally feels at home among his new friends.

You’ll need:

  • Poster board
  • A piece of self-adhesive foam (mine was a 1.75″ x 3″ oval )
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • Hole punch
  • Construction paper
  • Small bits of cellophane
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Rainbow scales (more on this below!)
  • Scissors, glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Cut a fish shape from poster boar (we offered a choice of dark blue, purple, and light blue poster board). Because we wanted to leave plenty of room for decoration, our fish was extra-large (16″ from nose to end of tail). Here’s the outline:

fish shape

If you’d like a fish that fits on an 11″ x 17″ piece of paper, here’s the large fish template. Need something smaller? This small fish template fits on an 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of paper. I recommend cutting the fish shapes out in advance of story time. Another thing to cut in advance? Construction paper scales. We offered strips of purple, yellow, dark blue, and pink.

fish scalesTo create puffy lips for your fish, start with an oval of self-adhesive craft foam.

fish lips step1

Peel and stick it over the fish’s mouth.

fish lips step 2

Finally, use scissors to cut a smiley face in the foam.

fish lips step 3

Glue (or hot glue) a wiggle eye on both sides of the fish, and punch a hole in the top fin.

hole punch and fish eye

Decorate both sides of your fish with the construction paper scales and pieces of cellophane to add some shimmer (we offered blue and iridescent cello to add some shimmer). Just make sure you don’t cover the hole you punched in the top fin! Use markers to add some designs if you’d like. The final step is to loop a pipe cleaner through the hole so you can carry your fish easily.

completed fishNow for the sharing game…and…duh duh DUH…an EPIC STORY TIME CRAFTING FAIL!

rainbow scalesLook at these beautiful glittering scales! I found some sheets of self-adhesive hologram paper at Party City. Marissa painstakingly cut and peeled zillions of scales, and stuck each set on mylar. We tested peeling the scales off the mylar to make sure kids could do it quickly and easily.

It worked! Great. No problem.

To play the sharing game, we first gave kids a silver scale to start their fish off. Then we gave them a set of 4 scales (as seen above). The kids mingled around the gallery, sticking scales from their set onto other kids’ fish, making sure to share each color with a new person. At the same time, kids were accepting scales from other kids (the only rule was that you couldn’t accept a repeat color). Marissa, Joani and I circulated with extra sets of scales, to make sure no fish were going to be left out.

At least, that’s how we planned it.

Somehow, overnight, the hologram paper cooked onto the mylar. They were now impossible to peel off. Look at the scales again. Do you see how wrinkled the red one is at the top? That’s from me scrabbling at it with my fingernails, going “Nooo! No! NOOOO!”

rainbow scale failNo scale stickers meant no sharing game. Refusing to admit defeat, I sent Marissa and Joani over to quickly cut the strips of scales into individual scales. To buy them some cutting time, I whipped a roll of hologram smiley face stickers out of the cabinet.

smiley stickersI asked the kids to line up and, one at a time, tell me something nice that they had done for someone recently. Their good deed earned their fish a smiley face sticker AND a trip to see Marissa and Joani to get a set of scales hot glued onto their fish. Sure, it wasn’t the sharing game, but you still got a sparkly fish in the end.

one fishIf I was to do this again, I would definitely do the original sharing game. But I would use metallic dot stickers cut in half to replicate fish scales.

dot sticker fish scalesBecause I’ve learned my lesson. Peel the stickers off the original paper they come on. Don’t stick them on anything except the final product. Oooooooh yes.Interested in some other sharing and cooperative story times? Try this flower pot exchange, or these awesome viking vs. pirate cooperative games.

Misako Rocks!

misako rocks Manga fans, sharpen your pencils! We were delighted to host Misako Takashima (popularly known as Misako Rocks!) at an intensive drawing workshop for 10-14 year-olds. Check out our interview with Misako at the end of the post!

misako's workThe workshop primarily focused on character development, as well as a little history on Japanese culture and manga. After a hilarious PowerPoint presentation about growing up in Japan and coming to America, Misako jumped right in to the art. Wielding a variety of markers, she demonstrated how to structure faces and make mouths, eyes, and even hair expressive.

easelsThe kids were loaded up with paper and pencils so they could sketch along with Misako.

kids working 2My favorite part, however, was when Misako would circulate among the young artists, commenting on their work, making suggestions, and giving mini-lessons to help improve their drawings.

kids working 3Another fabulous thing about the workshop? The kids’ art! In addition to some spur-of-the-moment sketches, many of them brought their portfolios with them. Here are just a few…

manga twinsblonde braidwolvescharactersyellow houseposterguitarred girl


In addition to publishing her own work, Misako has been featured in magazines and newspapers, including Elle Girl and the New York Times. The BBC and TV Asahi featured her in a documentary about her comic book life, and her Instagram flows with photos, sketches, and artistic exuberance.

misakoWhen did you first start drawing manga, and why did it intrigue you?

I started drawing when I was 8 or 9 just like any girls copied their favorite characters. But professionally I started drawing in 2004. It was my first dream that I wanted to become a puppeteer in Broadway (to work for Lion King musical!), but I gave up on myself.
Then I noticed that Japanese pop culture (anime and manga) was getting pretty popular around that time. I thought that I had to switch my career when this was pretty trendy! That’s how I started making my story and drawing.

Describe the steps you take to draw a single page in one of your books.

First I roughly draw panels and add lines to the characters. At this time I don’t draw backgrounds. Then I start polishing each page: 1 draw with blue pencil. 2 draw with calligraphy brush. I draw background separately. Scan everything and color with Photoshop.

What’s more difficult for you…writing the story, or drawing the art?

Writing the story is more difficult for me, because English is my second language. I am still learning! My study will never stop! But I do have so many ideas, so I don’t have any problems to come up with a theme!

Name some other artists you love!
Yukari Ichijo is my favorite manga artist, Klimt, and Charles Burns, the graphic novel artist of Black Hole. Art Spiegleman, the graphic novel artist of Maus might be my No1!

What’s one of the most unusual things you’ve received from a fan?

A photo of her tattoo…she used my illustration!!! I was blown away by it.

What’s your advice for young artists who want to draw manga?

In order to make stories, I always advise them to go outside and have fun! Because those days really help them to create interesting and exciting stories. Also give yourself 1 min sketch practice. I sat on a bench in a park to draw people sit in front of me for one minute! I kept doing a lot to develop my drawing skill.

What are you working on now?

I am working on my weekly web comic: BOUNCE BACK. The theme is a school bully, racism, friendship, finding identity etc, etc. But it has a fantasy character, so it’s still entertaining! I bet readers will feel related to my characters Lilico and Paige.

Also I am working on Japanese manga comic too. I go to Japan often to be on TV and radio show to talk about my projects. Sometimes I visit schools to give a motivational speech. This is very exciting!


Artist photo courtesy of Misako Takashima.