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!

The BiblioFiles Presents: Norton Juster

Norton Juster photo courtesy of Random House

Author photo courtesy of Random House

Just posted! It’s our first BiblioFiles webcast in front of a live audience, and our guest is Norton Juster, author of the legendary book, The Phantom Tollbooth.

Milo is a boy who doesn’t know what to do with himself, isn’t interested in much, and doesn’t see the point in anything. But when a mysterious package containing a toy tollbooth arrives in his room, everything changes.

Past the tollbooth are the Lands Beyond, which house places like Dictionopolis, the Valley of Sound, the Doldrums, Digitopolis, and the Mountains of Ignorance. Milo is soon joined by a pair of unusual travel companions, Tock and Humbug, as he attempts to bring Princesses Rhyme and Reason back to settle the warring kingdoms of Words and Numbers.

First published in 1961, The Phantom Tollbooth is wacky, smart, odd, fun, strange, and completely captivating. It is often compared to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in terms of its intelligence, word play, and impact on children’s literature. Now, in over 50 years of publication, The Phantom Tollbooth, with its iconic illustrations by Jules Feiffer, has been analyzed in scholarly papers, quoted in dissertations, included in graduate classes, documented on film, read aloud in elementary school classrooms, passed along through generations of families, and newly discovered by young readers. It is, and will always be, a seminal book in the history of children’s literature.

In addition to The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster has written The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, Alberic The Wise and Other Journeys, As: A Surfeit of Similies, The Hello, Goodbye Window, Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie, The Odious Ogre, and Neville. In 2011, The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, with introduction and notes by scholar Leonard Marcus, was released.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview

If You Build It…

house 3 glass roomThis winter, we had a couple of intense snow storms. Whenever it snows, my program attendance drops dramatically. And yet, there are always a couple of hard core patrons who don their snow pants and brave the drifts to come to story time. This causes a bit of a conundrum. You see, some of my projects involve quite a bit of prep work (a-hem! I’m looking at you candy factory and you haunted house). So the program is prepped and ready for over 20 kids. If I do it with just 3 kids, that’s a lot of prep work going by the wayside…so…

A few years ago, I decided that if fewer than 5 kids came to a snowy story time, the previously-prepped project would be bumped to the following week, and I would offer an unplanned, off-the-cuff creative project instead.

The project I’d like to share today is inspired by the fantastic If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen (Dial Books, 2012). The story is about Jack, a boy with big ideas for building his dream house. There’s a robotic machine that whips up meals, a bedroom at the top of a 200 foot tower, a anti-gravity room, a race track room, an aquarium room…the sky is the limit!

First, the kids and I made “blueprints.” I replicated the look with blue construction paper and silver metallic markers.

blueprintAs the kids drew their houses, I rummaged through the office for boxes, tubes, cardboard, items left over from other projects, and interesting odds and ends (including, of course, the Bling Bin). Then, out came the tape, glue, scissors, markers, and hot glue and off went the little architects, putting together 3D models of their blueprints.

house 1This house’s base is a box with a clear lid (leftover from this light box project). The architect turned it into a subterranean pond with fish! Perhaps this is our next Frank Lloyd Wright?

house 1 pond floorThe next architect went for wide and stacked, with multiple boxes for multiple rooms. I like the ladder to the second floor!

house 2She also forayed into interior design. That polka-dot couch is made out of patterned paper, pink and yellow cottons balls, and an Altoid tin!

house 2 interiorThe final house’s blueprint appeared to have a tree, a squiggle of water, and antenna. I was curious to see how the model would develop, and I was not disappointed.

house 3LOVE the fountain! And I’m not sure if you noticed that the “glass” room at the top has multi-color portholes made out of tape rolls with cellophane panes?

house 3 glass roomIf you don’t have an art cabinet to quickly rummage through, or you want to do this with a large group of kids, you could always go with Option #2. Collect a bunch of recyclables and stick them on a table. Then ask the kids to draw their blueprints from the items they see on the table (just make sure you have multiples of each item for each kid to use).

Or, you could do Option #3. Give each kid the same basic “set” of object (ex: a cake pad for a base, a tissue box, a paper towel tube, a cone water cup, and 3 squares of poster board) to build the basic structure, then have other art supplies handy to fancy it up. I promise, the results will be unique!