The Reference Reptile

the reference reptileWow I hear that new librarian is a total dragon. Like…literally.

We read The Library Dragon, written by Carmen Agra Deedy, and illustrated by Michael P. White (Peachtree, 1994). Miss Lotta Scales, the new librarian at Sunrise Elementary School, is, in fact, a dragon. A dragon who takes her book-guarding duties very seriously. The students (and the staff) are all but exiled from the library, lest they face the wrath of Miss Scales and her fiery temper. Then one day, little Molly Brickmeyer wanders into the library, looking for her lost glasses. She happens across a book and starts reading aloud. Shocked but entranced, the other students gather in the library to listen. Mean Miss Scales moves in to grab the book…but then stops. Hmmm. The children appear to be enjoying themselves in the library. And the book is about a magic dragon so…Miss Scales finishes the story herself. And as she reads aloud, her formidable scales fall off, revealing Miss Lotty, the new, and very kid-friendly, librarian.

We transformed into dragons with wings, tails, and heads with crackling tissue paper flames that activated with a quick puff of air!

dragon in the libraryYou’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 dragon head left section template, printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • 1 dragon head middle section template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • 1 dragon head right section template, printed on 8.5 x 11″ paper
  • 2 sheets of green poster board
  • Dragon decorating supplies (more in this below)
  • 2-3 rectangles of orange & red tissue paper (approximately 4.5″ x 7.5″ each)
  • Hole punch
  • Green yarn
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, cut the lid and tabs off one side of a box (or, if you’re using a large tissue box, just cut the entire top off). Set the box aside for a moment.

We spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to make the dragon head template fit easily over a box. The final template turned out to be over 22″ long, so I broke it into 3 separate pieces to create a printable template for you.

Print all 3 paper template pieces and cut them out. Place the middle section down first, then lay the left and right sections on top of it, using the curves of the dragon’s nose as guides. Secure the 3 template pieces together with tape.

assembled paper dragon templateNext, lay the paper template on a piece of poster board (we ultimately decided to use light green). Trace the template on the poster board, then cut the entire thing out as one big piece. You’ll notice that there are 2 dotted lines on the paper template. Fold the poster board template downwards along the dotted lines. Then slide the poster board template on top of the box, and hot glue the sides of the template to the sides of the box.

dragon head step 1Next, hot glue the middle section of the template to the top of the box.

dragon head step 2Trace the forehead template onto green poster board, and tape it to the front of the dragon’s head.

dragon head tapedNow decorate! We used markers to create spots, slivers of self-adhesive foam for nostrils, some embossed foil paper for hair, 2 sparkle stems for horns, gold mirror board pieces on the forehead, and a craft tie curly whisker. Our eyes were 2 jumbo pom-poms with self-adhesive foam pupils. You could also just use markers or construction paper to decorate the head.

decorated dragon headTo create flames, cut 2-3 rectangles of tissue paper into flame shapes, then staple them together. Hot glue (or tape) the flames to the underside of the nose. Make sure to attach the flames to the end of the poster board nose, not the end of the box. Otherwise, the flames won’t flutter properly. Here’s a shot of the underside of the box, so you can see where the flames are attached.

attached flamesTry your head on. If it’s a little loose, stuff the back and front of the box with sheets of tissue paper. To breath fire, simply blow upwards and outwards on the tissue paper flames!


Now for the wings and tail! Unfortunately, the templates for these were too big to fit on a printable page – you’ll have to freehand them. We drew half a wing, then traced it onto a folded piece of poster board. Unfolded, our wings were approximately 12″ x 22″. Bendy straws make awesome wing ribs, and so long strips of mirror board. Punch 4 holes in the wings and run yarn through them. Knot the yarn around your shoulders like backpack straps!

finished dragon wings with bendy strawsHere’s our dragon tail, which was roughly 6″ x 19″. We decorated ours with a couple pieces of mirror board (some kids went with drinking straws or just markers).

dragon tailYou’ll notice that the tail in the above photo has a 2.25″ fold at the top. The folded end tucks into the back of your pants (or, if you’re wearing a dress, punch a hole in the tail and run a yarn belt through it).

tail tucked in placeIf you’d like dragon claws (and some kids really liked this part), wrap a 3.5″ x 4″ piece of green paper around your finger, then secure the tube with tape. Wrap one end of the tube with green masking tape and cut the  masking tape into a point. Here’s Marissa modeling a fine set of claws and a truly awesome dragon onesie.

dragon clawsNow go forth dragon, and guard some books!

Test Your Mettle

test your mettleOne of our regulars called this her “most favorite project, ever.” It’s amazingly simple to do, yet has fantastically beautiful results. Best of all, if you use the right markers, your metallic marvel of a dragon will illuminate under a black light! Get ready to test your metal at To Be Continued, our reading program for 6-8 year-olds.

glowing dragonWe read Lily Quench and the Dragon of Ashby, written by Natalie Jane Prior, and illustrated by Janine Dawson (Puffin Books, 1999). The town of Ashby Water used to be peacefully ruled by a King and Queen. But then the Black Count invaded, usurped the throne, tore up the botanical gardens, and built a grommet factory. Now the town is filthy, the river is polluted, and the people are suffering. To make matters worse, a dragon has landed on the grommet factory, and doesn’t appear to be leaving. Captain Zouche and Miss Moldavia (the baddies in charge), demand that young Lily Quench (a dragon slayer only by inheritance), defeat the dragon. But rather than slaying the dragon, Lily befriends it. With the help of Queen Dragon, Lily learns that there just might be a chance to defeat the Black Count, find a lost Prince, and rescue Ashby Water from ruin.

In the book, Queen Dragon explains to Lily that dragons eat metal, not people. In fact, gold is like rich chocolate to a dragon (mmmmm, gold chocolate). I wanted something dragon, metallic, and fiery for the To Be Continued kids to try. This project totally fit the bill!

You’ll need:

  • 1 dragon image, printed on white card stock
  • A piece of tagboard or cardboard
  • Tin foil
  • Tape
  • Sharpie permanent markers in assorted colors
  • Hot glue

Begin by printing a dragon image on card stock (I found my image as a free download here). Use tape to attach the image to a matching piece of tagboard or cardboard. This step really is important! You want a nice firm base for your image, since you’re going to be pressing down on it quite a bit.

This project looks best with lots of different crevices to color, so we made a few extra on the original image. Below, for example, you can see that we drew spines along the tail. Those weren’t on the original image.

metal dragon step 1Next, outline the image with hot glue. The more outlines you make, the better the final drawing will look.

metal dragon step 2Once the hot glue is dry, cover the drawing with tin foil. Secure the tin foil to the back of drawing with tape – not hot glue! The hot glue will create unwanted ridges later. Below you can see exactly what we presented to the kids – a mysterious sheet of metal for them to explore with their fingers.

metal dragon step 3Use your fingertips to gently, but firmly, press down on the tin foil. As you press, the hot glue ridges will pop out, revealing a raised outline of the the image underneath!

metal dragon step 4Here’s another shot that shows the ridges a little better…

metal dragon step 4 closerSome kids liked the idea of the image revealing itself from a “blank slate,” but other kids liked having an image to guide them. So have a few copies of the original image on your work tables, just in case.

Next, use Sharpie permanent markers to color the drawing (alas, non-permanent markers smear on the tin foil). Try not to press too hard, or your tin foil will rip. If it does rip, you can always put a fresh layer of tin foil over the drawing and start again.

finished dragon 2I was excited to learn that certain packs of neon color Sharpies fluoresce under black light (you’ll know because it says so right on the package). Awesome! I totally wish I had used them when we made this dancing black light skeleton! The kids were already delighted to see their metal dragons taking shape, but the glowing highlights – just made it.

finished glowing dragonThe final step is optional. I punched a hole in the top of each project and looped a ribbon through it so kids could hang their metallic creations up at home.

Come On Get Snappy

get snappySnapdragon anyone? I’ve offered this simple project at a number of programs in the past, and it’s always well-received. “Snappy” has decorated the edges of a swamp at a Halloween party, hid in an Alice in Wonderland garden, and grown out of pots at a “Primordial Plants” event table!

event tableYou’ll need:

  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 small rectangle of green construction paper for head (approximately 1.5″ x 3″)
  • A sliver of red construction paper for tongue
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • Hole punch
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Extra green construction paper for leaves

First, fold the green construction paper rectangle in half to form Snappy’s mouth. Tab the ends of the mouth, then cut out teeth.

mouth stepsMake sure to leave a gap in the lower teeth (this is where the tongue will rest later).

gapNext, punch a hole in the back of Snappy’s head…

punched holeThen thread a green pipe cleaner through the hole. Twist the pipe cleaner around and thread it through the hole once again. Pull gently to tighten, then curl the end.

stem steps Cut the sliver of red construction paper to look like a forked tongue and tape (or glue) it into the mouth.

tongueUse markers to draw eyes. I added my eyes at the very end, but younger kids might have an easier time drawing the eyes earlier, such as before they attach the head to the pipe cleaner stem.

close up of faceTape the pipe cleaner stem inside the paper cup. Use extra green construction paper to add foliage. Done! Perhaps you can test out your new Snappy skills with this garden story time?