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. 

Thrift Store Costume Challenge

thrift-store-costume-challengeThe challenge? To costume as many literary characters as you can in 180 minutes. The catch? You can only use what you find on the racks of Nearly New consignment and thrift shop in Princeton.

nearly-new-clothing-rackFor those of you unfamiliar with Nearly New, it’s an independently-owned consignment and thrift store with tons of fantastic stuff. Toni Maher, the owner, is always helpful when I drop by looking for costume items for work (or, heh heh, just shopping).

nearly-newToni’s also extremely accommodating when it comes to more unusual requests, such as  borrowing a mannequin for this Cinderella dress design event, or hunting for teacups and saucers for this Victorian Tea program. She didn’t even bat an eye when I asked her if she’d be up for hosting the costume challenge.

The other major player was Princeton University sophomore James Jared. Last year, James designed and sewed the Mathamagician’s robes for our Day in Digitopolis program (seen here on our Instagram, and in more detail in this post). He also works in the costume shop at the Lewis Center for the Arts. James is incredibly talented, and was totally game for the challenge. There’s an interview with him at the end of the post!

The big day dawned and Marissa and I headed to Nearly New with photo equipment and a long list of possible characters (we went with female characters because, as James so astutely pointed out, the women’s sections of thrift stores are much bigger than the men’s sections). James and 4 Princeton University students who agreed to model met us at Nearly New. Then it was full steam ahead. In 180 minutes, James costumed 9 characters. Are you ready to see his results?


#1 NANCY DREW

nancy-drew-costume


#2 VERUCA SALT

veruca-salt-costume


#3 THE GRAND HIGH WITCH

the-grand-high-witch-costume


#4 MS. FRIZZLE

the-frizz


#5 PROFESSOR TRELAWNEY

professor-trelawney-costume


#6 MRS. COULTER

mrs-coulter-costume


#7 DOLORES UMBRIDGE

dolores-umbridge-costume


#8 MISS TRUNCHBULL

miss-trunchbull


#9 THE WHITE WITCH

the-white-witch


James’ costumes look fantastic, but they’re even more fun when you learn some of the behind-the-scenes facts. Nancy Drew, for example, is wearing a belt in her hair because we couldn’t find a headband. Miss Trunchbull is wearing men’s shoes, men’s socks, and little kid’s jacket to make her look bigger and bulkier. Dolores Umbridge’s sweater was overwhelming her dress, but James expertly pinned it to a better length. Professor Trelwaney is holding a fishbowl. And the White Witch’s crystal daggers? Those are salad forks that she’s holding handle-side-out.

The other thing I didn’t really appreciate until we got there was the volume of items and how fast James had to sift through them. To find the perfect belt, James had to dig through dozens and dozens of belts while simultaneously looking for earrings, dresses, and boots. He did this while expertly delegating the models to bring him possible shirts, skirts, sweaters, and hats. Also, James could find an awesome dress, but if it didn’t fit the model, or match the personality of the character, it was out. Finally, I learned that it’s not easy to make pieces from different decades work together without just the right vision.


JAMES JARED

james-jaredWhat’s your costuming background?

I’ve always loved making Halloween costumes, but I officially taught myself how to sew in high school when I started to cosplay (make costumes based on characters from movies, tv shows, books, etc).

What was the costume challenge like for you?

I was very nervous going into the challenge because I’ve never done anything of the like before, and I was worried that the time constraint would prove difficult to work under. In the end, though, I had a fantastic time and I’m very proud of the costumes that we were all able to make together.

Did you have an overwhelming favorite?
I think my favorite costume had to be Trelawney from Harry Potter. There were so many scarves and shirts that fit the character in the thrift store that her outfit almost seemed to show up without having to look for it. It almost became less of a question of which scarf would be best and more how many scarves we could get away with throwing on her.

Which was the toughest character to costume?
The hardest character to costume was the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia. Her character description includes a crown, which the shop didn’t have, so it took a while for us to come up with a way to mimic the crown. Eventually we found a circlet that suggested royalty, as well as some spiky earrings that were reminiscent of icicles to use as a necklace.

If you had more time, which character were you hoping to do?
I would have loved to costume someone as Kate Wetherall, as the Mysterious Benedict Society was one of my favorite books growing up. Unfortunately, her costume is fairly specific and there isn’t much room for leeway.

What’s your major at Princeton University?
I’m just starting out in the Electrical Engineering department.

Do you see any connections between your major and costuming?
Interestingly, I once told an employee in a fabric store I frequent at home about my major, and she said that she often thought of sewing as a type of engineering. Though I’d never have put the two together on my own, as soon as she said that I knew she was right, and I think it applies to costuming as well.

In both costuming and engineering you have to pull materials together using techniques you’ve learned to create a final product that’s more than the sum of its parts. I think I enjoy sewing and costuming so much for the same reason I like engineering, which is that it’s a great feeling to have created something new out of basic materials. And that’s something I think anyone can do.


A big, enthusiastic “Huzzah!” to James Jared, costumer extraordinaire, who aced the costume challenge with style and flair. Warm waves of gratitude to the Nearly New for letting us overrun your store and create chaos in your racks.

And finally, many thanks to models Amanda Blanco, Ailyn Brizo, Joani Etskovitz, Grace Turner, and Marissa Warren. It wasn’t easy to keep a straight face through it all, much less glower, growl, look haughty, or stare intensely into the camera wearing shoes that were at least one size too small for you.

outtake