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!

Order Up!

order-upGet your piping hot hamburger, crispy crinkle fries, and ice cold soda served over the counter of this awesome 1950s diner! The cook is taking orders, and our fun matching game insures that your customers will get exactly what they like.

We read Hamburger Heaven by Wong Herbert Yee (Houghton Mifflin, 1999).
Every Friday after school, Pinky Pig works at Hamburger Heaven. She’s saving for a new clarinet. But slow business means that Pinky might soon be out of a job! Instead of despairing, she gets to work, asking different animals what they like to eat. She puts together a new menu and then papers the town with ads for Hamburger Heaven’s new offerings. That Friday, a huge line of customers is waiting to try burgers with pine needles, burgers with worms, burgers with beetles, burger with slugs, snails, stinkbugs, crickets…there’s something for everyone! Hamburger Heaven is back in business, and Pinky’s clarinet dream becomes a joyful reality.

You’ll need:

  • 3 paper bags
  • 3 small plastic cups (ours were 5oz)
  • Brown, yellow, and orange tissue paper
  • 2 drinking straws
  • 3 pieces of white card stock (approximately 4.25″ x 5.75″)
  • 3 jumbo craft sticks (mine were 8″ long)
  • Brown, green, orange, red, and tan construction paper
  • A 1950s diner (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

diner-food-setThis project consists of 3 paper bags, 3 sodas, 3 sets of fries, 3 burgers, and 3 “customer cards.” First, cut the paper bags down to 7″, then decorate the fronts with your restaurant’s logo. To make the soda, squish three, 9″ x 13″ pieces of tissue paper into 3 small plastic cups. Add a half of a drinking straw to each cup (our straws were 4′ long). For the fries, accordion fold 1″ x 3″ pieces of yellow construction paper. We’ll get to the burgers in just a moment.

In addition to the play food, this project is also a game in which you match individualized burgers to pictures of your customers. To make the “customer cards,” draw 3 creatures on 3 pieces of white card stock. Then tape each “customer card” to a jumbo craft stick, like so…

crab-customer-cardNow for the matching burger! Each burger consists of 6 pieces of construction paper: 2 brown buns, 1 slice of cheese, 1 lettuce leaf, 1 tan burger patty, and 1 tomato slice. Since you’re making 3 burgers, you’ll need 3 sets of those 6 pieces.

six-burger-piecesTo customize the 3 burger patties, draw what each creature eats on a patty. For example, one of our creatures is a crab. Among other things, crabs eat fish parts and algae. So we drew them on the burger patty (here’s a creature diet information sheet we posted during story time to help kids).

customer-card-and-burgerUse tape loops to stack and secure your burgers (just make sure you can lift the bun a little and see what you drew on the burger patty). We used a brown marker to add some “sesame seeds” on the top of the bun as well. Grab your food, and your customer cards, and head for the diner!

front-of-dinerThis diner is Marissa in all her awesomeness. The front is a recycled box lid (first used for this ice skating story time). The diner door is a recycled box lid. The whole thing is covered with silver metallic poster board. Just look at her fantastic metal corrugations on the front! The vintage “Open” sign on a string! The oval door with diagonal push bars! This has to be one of my favorite Marissa creations (after the pig marching band of course).

Here’s what the diner looks like from the back. In the box on the left you can see the crinkle fries loaded into the “fry basket.” We prepped the fries in advance, refilling the fry basket, as needed, during the matching game.

back-of-dinerIf you don’t have time to make a diner, no worries. Use a tabletop, small desk, or even an overturned box! However, I do recommend including a counter bell (in the past, I’ve borrowed the bell from the library’s circulation desk). Since our bell was going to get repeatedly slammed by kids, I taped it to the counter. You might want to do the same.

Here’s how to play the matching game. Kids gave their grown-ups (or siblings) the 3 customer cards. Then they sat behind the diner counter, food at the ready. One by one, the customers “walked” up to the counter.

lion-customer-cardKids matched the customer to the appropriate burger, took a drink order (we offered cola, lemonade, or orange pop), and grabbed a generous serving of crinkle fries.

adding-crinkle-friesThey bagged everything, briskly dinged the bell, and shouted “Order up!” Once that customer had left, it was on to the next customer until every creature had been matched to a burger. Did we have fun? Oh yeah! In fact, we left the diner up for 20 minutes after story time for repeat customers. There was lots of enthusiastic bell dinging and BIG smiles!

smiling-cookWant to supersize that? Check out these giant burger relay races at our Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs story time!

Illustrated, Dedicated

pinkerton-tileEven though winter is almost here, I’d like harken back to the golden days of July and share a trip I made to Findlay, Ohio this summer. The purpose? To teach two creative workshops at The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books’ summer conference.

The Mazza has an astounding collection of original picture book art. It also has mission to educate, endorse, and share the joy of art and the picture book with everyone. In addition to two annual conferences, they host a number of programs, workshops, and initiatives for adults and children alike. During a break between my workshops, I dashed over to the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion to check out the galleries.

mazza-gallery-1The main gallery is absolutely packed, almost from floor to ceiling, with children’s book illustrations.

mazza-gallery-2Notice the little black binders near the floor? That’s information about the different authors on display, along with reading copies of the book. Such a terrific idea.

mazza-gallery-3My favorite display, however, was a small side gallery containing displays of pop-up books.

pop-up-displayLike the main gallery, there were plenty of reading copies on hand. Here’s the Young Naturalists Pop-Up Handbook of Butterflies by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda (Hyperion, 2001). I also spotted some of Reinhart’s original My Little Pony sketches.

butterfly-pop-upBack in the main gallery, there are some terrific whimsical touches. Like this Mother Goose flying from the ceiling:

mother-goose-in-galleryAnd an Owl and the Pussycat sailboat docked on the gallery floor!

mazza-gallery-4Did you notice the natural light filtering down in the above image? The central gallery has a large skylight that is partially blocked by an extensive loft area. Inside that light-filled loft is the MOST AWESOME PLACE EVER…a children’s space!

puzzle-chairsHere, you’ll find plenty of comfy, kid-sized seating and a number of hands-on activities.

dragon-tableThere’s a building table, a wall of gears, word games, drawing activities, some felt boards…and do you recognize this iconic library with the lions?

library-lionsTo exit the loft, you could take the stairs back down. Or, you could nip into the rabbit hole…

rabbit-hole

And ride down the twisty slide!

mazza-gallery-slideElsewhere in the building is an art studio for kids, a teacher resource center, multiple display of children’s artwork, and a gift shop with a big central area that encourages extensive browsing.

mazza-gift-shopIn the gift shop, I found a book so ingenious, I swear we have to do this for the Cotsen Children’s Library. It’s a custom picture book called Mazza from A to Z by Jenny Hanf (University of Findlay, 2016).

mazza-from-a-to-z-coverA class of adorable animals visit the museum and makes their way through the ABCs of visiting. Guess what the letter S is?

mazza-from-a-to-z-interiorBut the very best Mazza treasure I saved for last. Deep within the staff offices is a conference room filled with original illustrations, sketches, and notes from children’s book authors and illustrators.

mazza-conference-roomEvery inch of the wall is covered. It’s amazing to think of the talent that has stood in this very room, Sharpie in hand, sketching on the wall.

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The love, admiration, and dedication to picture books, illustrations, and education is clearly evident at the Mazza. Their conferences are intimate and well-thought out, with a wonderful array of talent. The Fall 2016 conference, for example, featured Tony Abbott, Brian Biggs, Nikki McClure, Sergio Ruzzier, Dan Santat, and David Wiesner. Simply splendid.


Many thanks to the Mazza for inviting me to teach at their summer conference, and for graciously allowing me to photograph their galleries and offices.