Royal Pie

royal pieThe challenge…to make a pizza that will please Her Royal Highness. The prize? To be proclaimed the finest pizza maker in the land and be adorned with a gold pizza making medal!

We read The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane and Herm Auch (Holiday House, 2002). Princess Paulina’s father has decided to give up his crown and open a wood-carving shop. Paulina does her best to adjust to her new life, but she misses things like princess-waving from carriages and walking peacocks. But Paulina perks up when Queen Zelda of Blom announces that her son, Prince Drupert, is to marry. Paulina arrives at the palace (along with a crowd of other hopeful suitors) and passes a number of princess tasks (sleeping on a pea, fitting into glass slippers, writing an essay about the virtues of the odious Queen Zelda). The final task is to prepare a royal feast, but Paulina only has flour, yeast, water, tomatoes, a chunk of cheese, a bit of garlic, and some herbs. So she invents…pizza. Paulina’s pizza wins the contest, but she no longer wants to marry the prince.  Instead, she opens “Princess Paulina’s Pizza Palace.” And guess who her most loyal royal customers are?

You’ll need:

  • A large circle of brown wrapping paper (mine was 22″ in diameter)
  • An oval of red construction paper (mine was 12″ x 13″)
  • An oval of yellow construction paper (mine was 11.5″ x 12.5″)
  • Extra red, green, yellow, and brown construction paper for pizza toppings
  • A strip of yellow poster board for crown (approximately 4.25″ x 22″)
  • A selection of large gemstones (optional)
  • Stapler, scissors and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating

crownWe started off by making beautiful bejeweled crowns. Cut crown points out of the top of a strip of yellow poster board. Then decorate the crown with markers. I used Crayola glitter markers. They were awesome.

glitter markersOnce you’ve decorated the crown, circle it around your head and staple it closed. Use hot glue to add some jewels if you like. You are now fully prepared to make a royal pizza…

pizzaLay a 22″ circle of brown wrapping paper on a tabletop. Slowly roll the edges of the paper inward, rotating the circle as you go. This creates your pizza “crust.”

pizza crust stepsGlue a red construction paper oval to the crust. This is your “sauce.” Glue a yellow construction paper oval (i.e. “cheese”) on top of the sauce. Finally, cut a variety of construction paper toppings and glue them to your pizza. We offered pepperoni, green pepper slices, brown mushrooms, and little scraps of extra cheese. We also offered black olives, which started as reinforcement labels:

reinforecement labelsReinforcement labels are used patch up torn holes in pieces of paper. But when you color them with a black Sharpie marker, they make an awesome set of pizza olives!

pizzaTo make the pizza-making portion of the program extra fun, we placed the toppings in different areas of our gallery. Then we drew a map of “The Magnificent Kingdom of Pizza.” Kids journeyed to the “Mushroom Cave,” the “Well of Endless Cheese,” “Pepperoni Pond,” “Green Pepper Fields,” and the “Black Olive Forest” to collect their toppings. Then they  glued them to their pizzas.

While the kids were traveling around the gallery, Katie and I suited up in our Medieval garb. I was the queen, and Katie was the herald. Placing a hefty leather chair in the gallery, Katie proclaimed it to be the throne. Then she announced that when the queen arrived, all kids would present their pizzas to Her Royal Highness. If she approved, they would be declared Royal Pizza Makers. I emerged from a side door, sauntered over to my throne, and was seated.

One by one, the kids were announced (loudly) by Katie. Each kid walked up and presented me with his/her pizza. I examined the pizza and then decreed (equally loudly) “This pizza doth please me very much. I hearby appoint you Royal Pizza Maker of the Realm!” I put a pizza medal around their necks, and used a plastic sword to tap their shoulders and head.

royal pizza makerThe pizza medals were similar to the medals from this snail race. Attach a large gold embossed foil seal to a circle of poster board, and hot glue a ribbon between the seal and the poster board. The only change we made was to glue a picture of a pizza on top of the poster board circle.

medalMany thanks to the costume shop at the Lewis Center for the Arts for loaning us the splendid costumes! Katie looked especially impressive.

katie with pizzaAnd speaking of Katie, you might have noticed some mysterious photos appearing on our Instagram with the hashtag #whereiskatie. Well folks, Katie is in Europe. For a year. A YEAR! Her husband went on sabbatical, and the family decided to go with him. So Katie’s going to keep sending shots of splendid places, and I’ll keep popping them into Instragram while growling softly with envy.

steen castleBut now I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to Marissa, who will be my assistant while Katie is away! Marissa has rolled her sleeves up and jumped right in – crafting pigs in majorette uniforms, mixing batches of fake blood, researching Viking jewelry, and dressing up as the White Rabbit. Here is the official “passing of the crown” ceremony we had at Katie’s cupcake sendoff!

crowning marissaWelcome aboard Marissa! Katie, send me some chocolate already! Geez!

A Priceless Little Doodle

006405What do you do with one of the most important books in the history of the English language? Well, if you’re Miss Elizabeth Okell, you do a little creative doodling on its pages.

The image above is from the First Folio (officially titled Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies). Published in 1623, the First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s work. Its significance to the world is monumental. Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed, and many were not published in his lifetime. It’s only through the First Folio that we were able to learn of plays like Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It. The Folger has 82 copies of the First Folio, by far the largest collection in the world (currently, just 233 copies are known to exist).

This particular First Folio bears the inscription “Elizabeth Okell her Book 1729,” on one of its pages. It was a family treasure passed down through the generations from 1630 to the late 1800’s. While it’s not entirely clear if Elizabeth made the doodles herself, someone did it. I especially like this one. It appears to be some chairs and a table with paintings on the wall. Maybe it’s a room? Maybe it’s a stage set?

first folio detailOh, and did I mention that the First Folio is worth 5 to 6 million dollars? Yup. That’s an expensive little drawing pad. I saw this First Folio and other absolutely amazing treasures during a visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

008928The Folger is the world’s greatest collection of Shakespeare materials. It also has major collections of Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art. Take a look at the library’s exhibit space, The Great Hall (which is open to the public and requires no admission fee):

2013-10-01 10.33.45And here’s an image of one of their reading rooms. Specifically, this is the Gail Kern Paster Reading Room. See the huge table in the foreground? It’s from the 17th century (and I got to pet it).

054568My absolutely favorite part of the Folger, however, is its theater.

FSL Interior: Folger Theatre View CWalking into the theater is like walking into a gorgeous, wood-paneled dream. It’s a beautiful acknowledgement that Shakespeare is meant to be acted, seen, heard, and felt. In fact, the Folger’s collections, its exhibitions, and its theater form the perfect trinity. Preservation of, education about, and devotion to the works of Shakespeare.

Not surprisingly, the Folger also has a stupendous Education Department, with a full roster of community, school, and teacher education programs. In 2016, the Folger is launching First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, an ambitious traveling exhibit that will take the First Folio to all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. In addition to the exhibit, the host sites (which include 23 museums, 20 universities, 5 public libraries, 3 historical societies, and 1 theater) will offer free educational programs and related events for the general public and families. It’s a huge undertaking, which is being deftly directed by Maribeth Cote, the Public Engagement Coordinator.

I asked Maribeth to give me a Shakespeare quote that describes her feelings about her endeavor, and she gamely stepped up to the plate:

“O, sir, you had then left unseen a wonderful piece of work, which not to have been blest withal would have discredited your travel.”

Antony and Cleopatra – 1.2.169

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf. The exhibition is a partnership between the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Cincinnati Museums Center, and the American Library Association.

All images courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Don’t Rock the Boat

don't rock the boatIt’s a delicate balance when NINE animals decide to pile into ONE little boat! This cute Noah’s Ark set doubles as a balancing game, complete with a paper plate game spinner.

animal game spinnerBut the best part about this story time? The author herself came to read! Check out our interview with Laura Sassi at the end of this post.

laura sassi readsWe read Goodnight Ark, written by Laura Sassi, and illustrated by Jane Chapman (Zonderkidz, 2014). It’s bedtime on Noah’s ark, and the animals are settling down for the night. Except for the boars. An incoming storm make them head to Noah’s bed for a little comfort. As the storm grows, the number of animals in Noah’s bed increases until the bed finally breaks with a big, splintering crash. Unfortunately, the noise startles the skunks, who react as only skunks can. Finally, by singing a lullaby, Noah gets everyone to sleep (and don’t miss the world’s most adorable sleeping tigers on the last page).

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 6″ – a small tissue box works too).
  • 2 large rectangles of brown poster board (mine were 5″ x 16″)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 6 toilet paper tubes
  • 1 small box for the elephant (I used a 2” x 3” x 3” box)
  • 1 small box for the turtle (I recycled 1″ x 2.5″ x 2.5″ tape roll box)
  • 1 circle of green poster board (mine was about 3.5″ in diameter)
  • 1 oval of green poster board (mine was 2.5″ x 3″)
  • A selection of eye stickers (optional)
  • A selection of dot stickers (optional)
  • Orange, white, and black pieces of self-adhesive foam (optional)
  • 1 animal game spinner, printed on a 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • 1 small paper plate (mine was 7″ in diameter)
  • A box cutter
  • A small piece of red poster board for game spinner (mine was 0.75″ x 2″)
  • 1 brass tack
  • Stapler, scissors, tape, and hole punch for construction
  • Markers for decorating

First, the boat! Cut the tabs and lid off your box (or, if you’re using a small tissue box, cut the entire top off). Set the box aside for a moment. Use a marker to draw horizontal lines on 2 rectangles of brown poster board (these are the “boards” of your boat). For a nice pop of color, put a strip of colored masking tape at the top of each rectangle. If you don’t have colored masking tape handy, use a strip of construction paper or markers.

boat step 1Place both rectangles on top of one another, staple the short ends together, and slide them over the box. Tape the rectangles to the sides of the box like so:

boat step 2Finish by adding some portholes to your boat! We used 1.25″ color coding labels from Avery (first seen in this bottle airplane post), but you can draw the portholes on with marker if you’d prefer.

finished boatNext up, the animals! To add texture and variety, we used eye stickers, dot stickers, self-adhesive foam, and a piece pipe cleaner. But you could also keep it simple and draw these features on with markers.

Also, since this was a stacking game, we didn’t add too many details. While I was dying to put cute little construction paper ears on everyone, they would have interfered with the stacking. Likewise with tails.

There’s quite a bit of tube wrapping in this project, and there are quite a few tubes! Since tube wrapping usually takes kids the longest, you might want to do all or part of the basic tube wrapping in advance (ex: wrap all the tiger tubes with orange paper).


Wrap a paper towel tube with yellow construction paper. To make the head, fold a 2″ x 6.5″ piece of yellow construction paper in half, and use scissors to round the folded end a bit. Add eyes, nostrils, and mouth before attaching it to the tube with tape. Tape a fringed, 1.5″ x 11″ piece of brown construction paper on the tube. Add spots with markers!


Wrap a toilet paper tube with orange paper. Add eyes, a nose, a mouth, and two ears. Add stripes. We used self-adhesive foam strips, but you can use construction paper or markers.


Cut the turtle’s body shape from green construction paper. Draw a pair of eyes on the head. Glue the body to a small box. Draw a shell design on an oval of green poster board and glue on top of the body.


Wrap a toilet paper tube with construction paper (we couldn’t resist using this patterned feather paper in the art supply cabinet). Add eyes and a beak made of self-adhesive foam (or construction paper).


Wrap a toilet paper tube with red construction paper. Then, wrap a smaller piece of black paper around the top. Add eyes, a nose, a mouth. Finish by drawing spots!


Wrap a toilet paper tube with brown paper. Add eyes. We used a large yellow dot sticker to make a mouth, and then overlapped a smaller dot sticker on top of it as a nose. Draw a curly tail on the back with a marker if you’d like!


Cut a circle of green poster board into a spiral, then use markers to add stripes and eyes.

polar bearPOLAR BEAR

Wrap a toilet paper tube with white construction paper, then add eyes, nose, ears and mouth.


Wrap a toilet paper tube with black paper. Add eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Stick a white oval of self-adhesive foam on the front as a tummy, and two strips on the back of the tube as skunk stripes (or just use construction paper).


We pre-cut 3 pieces for the elephant – 2 squares of gray construction paper to cover the  front and back of the box and 1 nose. The square that covers the front of the box is slightly modified to include two ears. Add eyes, mouth, details inside the ears, and lines on the nose. Glue (or tape) the nose to the box. Draw a tail on the back with markers.

OK! You have your boat and your animals. All you need now is the game spinner! Cut an animal game spinner from the template, and glue it to the underside of a paper plate (i.e. the part of the plate that is normally resting on the table). Use a box cutter to cut a slit in the center of the circle, making sure to cut all the way through the plate.

Make a spinner arrow out of poster board, and punch a hole in the non-pointy end. Thread a brass tack through the hole in the arrow, then push the tack through the slit in the spinner and the plate. Open the prongs of the tack, making sure to leave them just a little loose so the arrow will spin freely.

animal game spinnerTo play the game, empty out the boat. Then spin the arrow. Whatever animal the arrow points to gets placed in the boat. Keep spinning until all the animals are stacked in the boat (if you land on an animal that is already in the boat, just keep spinning). If you get all the animals stacked in the boat, you win! But if any of animals fall down while you’re stacking them, you have to start the game all over again.

I know that technically, there should be 2 of each animal on the ark. Since that would have resulted in some serious tube wrapping, we decided that the animals on the spinner would serve as the matches for their tube counterparts.

We had a fabulous time, and Laura was a truly charming reader. She also brought a basket of skunks with her. Yes, a basket of skunks! Read on for more details!

laura sassiPlease tell us a little about yourself!

I am former teacher who is now lucky enough to be able to spend my days writing and being mom to our two kids. When my kids were little, I wrote while they napped. Those stories, crafts, and poems can now be found in various children’s publications including Highlights for Children, Spider, Ladybug, and Clubhouse Jr.

Over the years, I discovered that I had a special passion for rhyme and telling humorous stories in rhyme, so when my kids started school, I started to add rhyming picture books to my daily writing schedule. Goodnight, Ark, published by Zonderkidz and beautifully illustrated by Jane Chapman, is the first official fruit of all those years of writing and honing my craft.  I am also thrilled to share that my second picture book, Goodnight, Manger, also illustrated by Jane Chapman, made its debut today!

What inspired the writing of Goodnight, Ark?

Personal experience. We’ve had some ferocious storms in recent years and when my kids were little, they and the dog all wanted to climb into our bed. Getting them back to their own beds in the midst of howling winds and pounding rain, however, was challenging. With that as my spark, but thinking that ordinary kids and pets in an ordinary bed, might be kind of boring, I kept switching up the setting until it hit me: Noah’s ark!

During your read-aloud to the kids, you mentioned that sometimes, illustrators like to put surprises in the pictures for readers. This leads to a hilarious aside about underwear on a clothes line. Did you have much input on the illustrations for the book? The illustrations are gorgeous by the way…

I was thrilled when I learned that Jane Chapman was going to illustrate Goodnight, Ark. I was familiar with Jane’s work from Karma Wilson’s Bear Snores On series and knew she would do a fantastic job.  But, believe it nor not, the first glimpse I had of Jane’s work for Goodnight, Ark was when I got an advanced peek at the cover.  A few months later I received the folded galleys and saw for the first time Jane’s wonderful lantern-lit depictions of tigers and sheep, boars and quail all scurrying up to Noah’s bed.

Even though no direct input from me was involved, Jane’s illustrations demonstrate that a lot of thought went into transforming my words into pictures and extending the story with little bits of added humor throughout.  I’ll never forget my daughter giggling the first time we read through the folded galley and she noticed polka-dotted boxers hanging to dry on a clothesline and a toothbrush in a cup on the sill.

Was it difficult choosing which animals would be featured in the story?

It was not difficult at all.  I knew I wanted my story to rhyme, and so once I had my setting, it was actually fun to brainstorm which animals might pile in and what might happen when they overloaded poor Noah’s bed. I decided to choose animals that were a bit unusual such as wild boar and quail.  I also chose animals that made great sounds – like squawks and grunts.

You were great with the kids…and you brought skunk puppets! Tell us about the skunk puppets!

Since a pair of the little stinkers play an important role in the story’s resolution, and figuring that some of my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be a fun way to introduce the story. Jane Chapman has very expertly  incorporated two skunks onto (almost) every page of Goodnight, Ark and as soon as my skunky companions challenge the kids to see if they can find the skunks on every page, everyone is ready to have a rollicking good time reading.

Afterwards, and I should have anticipated this, littlest ones invariably want to pet the skunks.  And as they do,  I ask kids what their favorite animals were in the story or answer any questions they, or their parents might have. Indeed, the skunks have been such a great hit, that I’ve decided to incorporate a puppet- this time a very loud rooster – into the readings for my next book as well.

What do you enjoy most about reading to children?

I love the way kids, and small children especially, are so able to totally engage with the story. They rock when the ark rocks and tip when the ark tips. I love hearing their thoughts and answers as we sometimes pause to look into the story more deeply. As a former teacher, I sometimes miss this engaged, curious interaction, so I have been thoroughly enjoying this stage of post-publication where I get to read with kids.  I’ve always loved writing and I’ve always loved interacting with kids and now I’m getting to do both. I am a happy camper!

Your latest book, Goodnight, Manger, was released today. What are you working on next?

I have several more picture book projects in progress and I always have a few poems percolating. If your readers are interested in finding out the latest, they can check out my blog.  I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo of Laura Sassi used with her permission. Thanks for coming to our library Laura!