Happy Birthday Mr. Carroll

Today is the 185th birthday of Lewis Carroll, and we decided to celebrate with Katie’s Top 10 Alice in Wonderland cakes. And, if you need some party favors, we’ve listed a couple of our Alice-themed craft projects and activities at the end of the post!


Alice in Wonderland inspires all sorts of creativity, and I’ve definitely had a lot of fun coming up with Alice-themed projects over the years. In fact, in 2009 I coordinated a large-scale Alice event that included a giant chess set, Earl Grey chocolate gelato, a Snark Hunt, performances of Jabberwocky, flamingo croquet, Victorian history activities, giant mushroom bowling, horse-drawn carriage rides around campus, and more!

horse-drawn carriage nassau hallIf you’d like to see the event map, here it ’tis. The front of the map lists all the activities. The back features book quotes or informational blurbs tying the activities back to the books, Lewis Carroll, or Victorian England. Like all of our programs, the event was open to the public and free of charge.

On the blog, you can check out this playful, but incredibly easy-to-make Cheshire Cat grin.

cheshire cat grinOr this really cool Victorian visual toy called a thaumatrope. At the very bottom of the thaumatrope post, you can also see Marissa and I channeling our inner 80s – and I don’t mean 1880s folks.

thaumatrope demoAnd what about tea? 2016 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and we put together an elaborate Victorian tea program, complete with big hats, mini scones, and a generous serving of history.

tea instructionThe Library of Congress went all out for the 150th anniversary as well. In this post, you can see some of their activities, lecturers, and Miss Joani in a replica of Alice’s iconic dress.

caucus race at the LoC photo by shawn miller 2016However, the award for the most whimsical Alice connection goes to the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books (which I blogged about here). In their children’s loft, you can follow the White Rabbit down the hole…

rabbit-hole

And return to the main gallery via twisty slide!

mazza-gallery-slideDang. I want a twisty slide in my place of employment.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. CARROLL!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

paris postcardIt’s the ultimate global adventure that ends with custom postcards in your very own mailbox! We made classic blue mailboxes, then visited locations around the globe to create postcards to send home. And don’t forget the stamp!

We read Will Goes the the Post Office by Olof and Lena Landstrom, translated by Elisabeth Dyddegaard (R&S Books, 1994). Will is excited when the post office notifies him of a package that’s arrived from his Uncle Ben. At the post office, he discovers that the package is GIGANTIC! What could it be? With a little help from Karen, Peter, John and Susan, Will and the gang carry the package home and eagerly unwrap it. At first, it seems like the box is just full of paper…but then they discover a fantastic globe packed inside! And the globe lights up! The five children (and Mama) pile in the closet to see Will’s new globe lamp shine.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small tissue box
  • 1 box cutter
  • Blue construction paper
  • Blue poster board
  • 1 mailbox signs template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A selection of
  • 4 foam beads
  • 1 small piece of drinking straw (ours was 1.5″ long)
  • A blank postcards template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Print-outs of different locations around the globe
  • Small stickers
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

This project was created by Katie, and I have to say, the kids absolutely LOVED it. I mean, who wouldn’t love this cute little mailbox? The round top! The feet! The door at the bottom!

completed mailboxTo make a mailbox, cut the top off a small tissue box. Use a box cutter to cut a little door at the bottom of the box. The postcards are 3″ wide, so make sure your door is 3″ or wider.

mailbox step1Wrap the box with blue construction paper, then use the box cutter (or scissors) to re-establish the little door.

mailbox step 2The rounded sides of the mailbox are 2 pieces of blue poster board (ours were approximately 4.25″ wide, and 3.25″ tall). Secure them in place with tape.

mailbox step 3To make the top of the mailbox, cut a 3.5″ mail slot in the center of a 4.5″ x 9″ rectangle of blue poster board. Gently curl the poster board over the rounded sides of the mailbox, then tape in place. The curling and taping is definitely the toughest part of the project. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be perfect!

mailbox step 4Next, use colored masking tape to reinforce the edges of the mailbox, and to decorate it. Color and cut the mailbox signs from the template and tape (or hot glue) in place.

completed mailboxFinish by hot gluing 4 foam bead “feet” to the bottom of the box, and a small piece of drinking straw to the front of the little door. Your mailbox is done – grab it and get ready to travel!

a postwoman

Katie printed up photos of different places (thank you, Google image search!), and taped them up around the gallery. Katie wrote the names of the locations or landmarks, as well as the country, on the photos as well. Underneath each photo was a basket of color pencils.

taj mahal postcard

We invited kids to grab 6-8 blank postcards and visit different locations, sketching what they saw in the photos on their postcards. Here’s someone visiting London, England:

england postcard

And another traveler enjoying the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt:

egypt postcard

Ready to see some postcards from around the world?

grand canyon postcard

pisa postcardstonehengepostcardmaroon bells postcard

beach postcardWe even got postcards from places we didn’t include! Here’s a postcard from the Amazon, even though it wasn’t one of our photo locations. I think that’s a person on top of a giant tree with a ladder? Cool.

amazon postcardTo make the postcard activity official, Miss Melinda donned a stamp-selling visor and circulated the gallery, “selling” stamps that were actually cute little stickers.

melinda the stamp seller

Melinda joined us this fall – she’s a Cotsen volunteer who works at the Princeton Writing Program. I went easy on her the first couple weeks, but slowly, inevitably, Melinda will be drawn into the vortex of ridiculous story time tasks. Today, a visor-wearing stamp seller. Tomorrow, a giant paper cookie!

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!