You’re So Dull (I bet you think this post is about you)

you're so dull

Today, we’re going to be boring. That’s right. The whole point of this project is to make your house look exactly the same as everyone else’s. No variations please. Will we be using bright, bold colors? No way. We’re using grey, brown, white, and black. Feel the dullness lulling you into a stupor…lull…lull…lulllllll. Until, of course, you turn the house around and look at the other side. Wow! It’s a wild, crazy plethora of patterns. A virtual riot of color! Dullness begone!

really exciting houseWe read Meet The Dullards, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (HarperCollins, 2015). The Dullard kids (Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud) are causing trouble. For starters, they’re – gasp – reading circus books instead of staring at blank pieces of paper! And last week, their parents caught them trying to play outside! Things are getting so chaotic, the Dullards decide to move to a less exciting neighborhood. But while Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are (literally) watching the paint dry on their news walls, the kids sneak outside to play circus. This is just too much! The Dullards move back to their old neighborhood. As Mr. and Mrs. Dullard fall asleep, they feel assured that their lives are finally back to being perfectly boring. The kids, however, have other plans. They’ve joined the circus.

You’ll need:

  • 2 rectangles of tagboard or poster board (approximately 7″ x 11.75″)
  • 1 house facade template printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • Rectangular white office file stickers (optional)
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of eye stickers (optional)
  • Construction paper (including multicultural construction paperr)
  • Decorating supplies (more on that below!)
  • 1 large tissue box
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by tracing the house facade template onto 2 rectangles of tagboard or brown poster board. Cut, and set one of the house facades aside. On the other facade, use office file stickers to make plain windows and doors. At our story time, each kid got the exact same pre-marked windows and a door (if you don’t have office file stickers, just use markers). I strongly (yet comically) encouraged the kids to make their houses look exactly like my example.

dull houseNext, we made a dull toilet paper tube person. Here, I used the book’s illustrations as a guide. Grey clothes, black hair, etc. I only offered one kind of eye sticker too! We don’t want any overstimulating variations on eyes now, do we?

dull personYour dull house and person are finished. Set them aside. Pick up the second house facade…and go CRAZY! We brought out the Bling Bin, a bunch of additional supplies, and encouraged the kids to decorate like mad. They also received more door and window stickers. Here’s Marissa’s super shiny house.

exciting houseOur decorating supplies included mylar, patterned paper, feathers, pom-poms, construction paper, large gemstones, craft sticks, foam beads, patterned tape, self-adhesive foam shapes, , and embossed foil paper.

While the kids were decorating their houses, they were also decorating a second, non-dull toilet paper tube person. Check out the yellow cellophane cape on this little lady!

exciting personWhen the exciting house facades are finished, hot glue them to one side of a large tissue box. Hot glue the dull facade to the other side of the box. Twirl the box around to view the dull and exciting sides. And speaking of exciting sides, check out these masterpieces…

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That’s not to say that dull houses that look exactly the same are necessarily bad. I mean, I hear that Camazotz is quite lovely this time of year. Especially if you’re looking to score a delicious turkey dinner. Leave your little brother at home though.

Olfactory Sorcery

dragons bloodEnter the realm of mystery, magic, spells, sorcery, and…smoked paprika. That’s right. Never underestimate the POWER of roast chicory! First, we made herbal amulets at our story time for 6-8 year-olds. Then we votes with our noses. The burning question? Which spice smells most like dragon’s blood?

We read Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow Books, 1977). When Cat Chant and his older sister Gwendolen become orphans, Cat is quite happy to settle down quietly in their village. But Gwendolen is set on ruling the world, and writes a mysterious letter to a powerful enchanter named Chrestomanci. To Cat’s surprise (and Gwendolen’s glee), Chrestomanci agrees to adopt the children and raise them in his magnificent castle. However, when Chrestomanci and his constituents fail to fawn over the spoiled Gwendolen, she launches a vengeful campaign to create magical mayhem. Things get even more complicated when Gwendolen departs to a parallel world, dragging her double (a girl named Janet), into Cat’s world. It’s up to Cat and Janet to set right all the problems Gwendolen’s created. But in the process, they uncover Gwendolen’s worst plot yet – one that puts Cat in grave danger.

For the hands-on portion of our program, we made these nifty herbal amulets. You can find instructions for that project here.

amuletBut there was an additional olfactory activity! In Charmed Life (and, in fact, all the books in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci series) dragon’s blood is one of the most powerful and dangerous substances in the known worlds. It’s described as having a powerful, distinct, and horrible odor, even when it’s dried into a powder.

So while purchasing the herbs for the amulets, I also bought several strong smelling, reddish-brown spices (it was an interesting shopping day, let me tell you). In the end, I decided on chipotle, roast chicory, smoked paprika, hot cayenne, and sumac. I put each spice in a plastic glass with a label. During the program, the kids sniffed the glasses and voted on which one they thought smelled like dragon’s blood.

There was quite a lot of yelling, laughing, and carrying-on, but in the end, we had our winner…sumac!

dragons blood votingIf you haven’t read Charmed Life, or anyone of the other books in the Chronicles of Chrestomani series, I can’t recommend them enough. I love how Diana Wynne Jones writes her characters and create her magic. I love her sense of humor and her amazing descriptions. The Pinhoe Egg is a book I re-read annually, because it’s like visiting family. Conrad’s Fate comes in a close second. It’s a bit like Downton Abbey…with magic!

How to Screen Your Dragon

popcorn vikingVikings and Dragon Riders! Don your horned helmets, grab your shields, and get ready for the ultimate How To Train Your Dragon theater experience, complete with real reptiles!

blue-tongued skinkAfter watching How to Train Your Dragon with my kids, I was delighted to learn that the movie was based on the book series by Cressida Cowell. When the Princeton Garden Theater (our local, non-profit movie theater) gamely agreed to a book-to-film outreach collaboration, How to Train Your Dragon was the first on my list.

Our program had three parts. Viking activities in the lobby, a live reptile show, and then the film itself. We’ll start with the lobby activities first. There were tables for making helmets and shields, a replica of a Viking game, and a local artist making custom sketches of the movie’s characters.

Viking helmets were a must, and we needed something quick and easy-to-assemble. Here’s the gang, sporting some seriously awesome headgear.

the gangYou’ll need:

  • A long strip of silver poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 24.5″)
  • A short strip of silver poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 14″)
  • White poster board for your Viking “horns”
  • Stapler
  • Metallic dot stickers (optional)

First, circle the long strip of silver poster board around your head (we purchased our poster board online from Blick Art Materials). Staple it. This is your hatband. Next, staple the short strip of poster board to the front and back of the hatband. Tab and staple a pair of white poster board horns to the sides of the hatband (here’s our horn template if you’d like it). Decorate the hatband with (optional) metallic dot stickers.

viking helmet stepsIt never hurts to thrown in a little history, so we included informational table signs at all the hands-on activity tables. Here’s the table sign for helmets. Next up…shields!

shields

You’ll need:

  • 1 silver poster board circle (approximately 5″ in diameter)
  • 1 circle of corrugated cardboard (approximately 14″ in diameter)
  • 2 strips of poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 11″)
  • 2 brass tacks
  • Metallic markers
  • Hole punch
  • Stapler

Since we needed a slew of shields, we used cake circles and – believe it or not – the silver foil circles that fit onto take-out containers. Both were purchased at a local restaurant supply outlet. But you can cut a shield from any corrugated cardboard box, and the silver circle from silver poster board.

Hot glue a 5″ silver circle onto the center of a 14″ brown cardboard circle. Push the prongs of 2 brass tacks through the cardboard shield (one on each side of the silver circle). Decorate the shield with metallic markers.

viking shield stepsNext, loop 2 strips of poster board loosely around your forearm. Stapled them closed. Punch a hole in each loop, then thread the prongs of a brass tack through each hole. The back of your shield will now look like this:

back of shieldDone! And here’s the shield table sign. By the way, did you know that metal knob in the center of a shield is called a “boss?” I did not know that.

girl with shieldNot far from the helmet and shield tables was the very talented Keenu Hale, a local artist who is the master of quick cartoon sketches. The kids kept him very busy drawing their favorite Dragon characters (they got to take the sketches home too)!

keenu hale

Here’s a set I posted on our Instagram. Keenu drew these in minutes. Wow.

hiccup and astridThe final activity table was a replica of a Viking game. It was WAY popular. Marissa found it in Hands On America Volume 1: Art Activities About Viking, Woodland Indians, and Early Colonists by Yvonne Y. Merrill (Kits Publishing, 2001). It’s a snap to put together.

viking game being played

You’ll need:

  • 1 white bandanna
  • Fabric or permanent markers
  • Air dry clay

Use markers to draw the game board below on a white bandanna (I bought ours at Michaels Craft Store). The runes are optional, of course. Our runes spell out the names of the different types of dragons. Can you spot “Night Fury?”

game boardThe game pieces are little birds (about 2″ long), made with air dry clay.

game piecesTo play the game, toss the clay birds onto the game board.

You get 1 point if a bird lands upright anywhere on the board
You get 2 points if a bird lands in a circle
You get 3 points if a bird lands upright in a circle

Here’s the game table sign, should you need it. We offered winners 2 prize choices. The first choice was a plastic gemstone. Each gemstone was worth 1 point. Win 6 points, and you got to select 6 gemstones! We provided 3″ x 4.5″ cotton drawstring bags to hold your riches (I bought my bags from Nashville Wraps).

bag of gemstonesThe other prize was a chance to win a cardboard Toothless standee (purchased on Amazon for $30). Kids automatically got a chance to win when they first entered the theater, but at the Viking game table, 1 point equaled 1 extra chance to win. So 3 points equaled 3 more chances to win. The kids really liked that!

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Image courtesy of the Princeton Garden Theater

In addition to the hands-on activities, there was a reptile exhibit and live show by Enzo from The Lizard Guys. Enzo brought a terrific array of critters, and shared an astounding amount of knowledge with the kids and their parents.

reptiles

Here’s Marissa bonding with a blue-tongued skink. Soon, she will be a mighty Dragon Rider of Berk!

marissa pets the skinkFinally, it was time for the film. Having only seen it on my laptop, I can say I was completely blown away watching it on the big screen. The flying! The fire! The CLOUDS!

how to screen your dragon

I’d like to express my extreme gratitude to the Princeton Garden Theater for collaborating with us on this program. They were up for anything, and didn’t bat an eye when I asked if we could take over the lobby with multiple craft projects and bring in live reptiles. In fact, their response was a very enthusiastic “YES!” Thanks so much guys!

viking enjoying popcorn