O Frabjous Day

go ask aliceThis year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland, and we decided to honor the occasion at Princeton University’s Community & Staff Day! Our event table was stocked with some super, yet simple-to-assemble, thaumatropes. There was also some breakdancing. Well, sort of. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see our mashup of Alice and the 1980s.

A thaumatrope is a Victorian optical toy. It consists of two images printed on opposite sides of a paper disc or card. When you twirl the thaumatrope, its two pictures appear to blend into one. Most thaumatropes are twirled using string. We decided to mount ours on pencils.

thaumatrope demoYou’ll need:

  • 1 Alice thaumatope template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 pencil (I ordered terrific ones from Oriental Trading Company)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Colored pencils (or crayons) for decorating

We offered 4 Alice-themed templates, drawn by our amazing student artist, Aliisa Lee.

thaumatropesFirst, select a template, and use colored pencils or crayons to color it. Then, fold the template in half (along its faint grey line).

folded thaumatropeFlip the thaumatrope over, and tape a pencil to the back of one of the panels like so:

thaumatrope step 2Fold the thaumatrope closed, then secure the panels together with a piece of tape. You’ll also want to tape both sides of the thaumatrope to the pencil, to make it extra sturdy.

thaumatrope step 3Hold the pencil between your palms and roll it briskly back and forth. Your thaumatrope will turn, and the two images will appear as one!

twirlingHere’s what our craft table looked like (and, if you’d like to explain a bit of the science behind how the device works, here’s a pdf of our thaumatrope table sign):

thaumatrope work tableWe also had some pens and blank thaumatrope cards on hand, just in case kids wanted to try their hands at making one from scratch.

blank thaumatropeOn the other side of our event tent, we loaded a table with optical illusions cards, tops, Photicular bookmarks, flip books, replicas of vintage thaumatropes, kaleidoscopes, and mini chess boards.

optical illusion tableWhile color print-outs of optical illusions work just fine, I highly recommend this pack of Usborne optical illusion cards. There are 50 illusions in the pack. They’re colorful, sturdy, and the science behind the illusions is explained on the back of the cards. The deck retails for $10.

optical illusion cardsNo event is complete without a little costuming, and Marissa and I raided both our closets and the Costume Shop at the Lewis Center for the Arts for our garb. This was completely unintentional when we snapped the shot, but…don’t Marissa and I look like we’re going to bust out some 80s breakdancing moves?

break danceMaybe it’s the shoes? The jaunty pose? Hmmmm. What if we adjust the backdrop a little…

welcome to the 80sOh yeah. I dare you to pin it.

Many thanks to the Costume Shop at the Lewis Center for the Arts for the costume loans, and to Aliisa Lee for triggering some totally radical 80s flashbacks.

A Fuse #8 Interview

fuse 8 setToday, I’m over on A Fuse #8 Production, a School Library Journal blog helmed by the amazing Betsy Bird! That’s her in the red dress, perched on a vintage Barbie Dream House chair. Alas, I didn’t have time to craft a house band, but Betsy assures me that if I did, they would be Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra.

Follow this link to the interview

Betsy has appeared on this blog as well! In 2014, I interviewed her about what it’s like to write and publish your first picture book. And, if you’d like to see the monstrously fun project I designed for her book, Giant Dance Party, twirl over here.

Pigs on Parade

pigs on paradeCue the marching music and rev up the float…it’s a pig parade! If, of course, the pigs cooperate. They might not, you know.

We read A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea, written by Michael Ian Black, and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Simon & Schuster, 2010). A pig parade might sound like fun, but this book will convince you otherwise. Pigs refuse to wear majorette uniforms, don’t care about floats (unless it’s a root beer float), prefer sad country music ballads to marching music, and can’t manage giant parade balloons. So let’s face it. A pig parade is a terrible idea. But a panda bear parade…well…! This book is hilarious and fun read-aloud. Hawkes’ illustrations are colorful and funny, detailing exactly what happens when a pig parade goes awry.

For the project, we made mini parade floats, adorned them with 3 pigs, and started marching to the beat of a kazoo. And wouldn’t you know it, those pigs cooperated very nicely. No problem with this pig parade!

finished floatYou’ll need:

  • 2 bamboo skewers
  • 2 drinking straws
  • 4 wheels (or wooden spools)
  • 2 small, flat boxes (mine were 1″ x 2.75″ x 2.75″  tape roll boxes)
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (mine was a 9.75″ x 13.75″ cake pad)
  • 1 small craft stick
  • A piece of string or yarn (mine was 27″ long)
  • 1 large tissue box
  • Parade float decorating supplies (more on those later!)
  • 3 toilet paper tubes
  • Pink construction paper
  • 1 kazoo (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll begin with the parade float’s wheels! We used plastic wheels from Kelvin Educational (originally purchased for this Richard Scarry program). But wooden spools also work. Cut 2 bamboo skewers to approximately 6″ (they might need an inch or two longer if you use wooden spools). Next, cut 2 drinking straws a few inches shorter than the skewers (my straws were 4″). Thread the skewers into the drinking straws, and slide wheels on the ends of the skewers.

wheel assemblyAs you can see in the above image, the skewer is the axle, and the straw is what allows the axle to turn freely (you might need to wrap the ends of the skewers with masking tape to keep the wheels/spools from sliding off). Tape each drinking straw to a small, flat box. I found that leftover tape roll boxes were the perfect size. Hot glue the tape boxes to the bottom of a corrugated cardboard base.

attached wheelsKnot a piece of string around a small craft stick, and tape the stick to one end of the base. This is the pull string for your float.

attached pull stringFlip the base over, you’re ready to decorate! To get the juices flowing, we suggested a number of parade float “themes,” such as:

When Pigs Fly
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
I Loves You, Porky
Pigs in Space
The 3 Little Pigs
Green Eggs and Ham
Little Piggies Go To Market
Piggie Tales
Some Pig
Bad Piggies (from Angry Birds)
Mad Swine-tists
It’s Hammer Time!

It was easier for kids to decorate the tissue box and base separately. But before we embarked on decorating, I had them trace the outline of the tissue box onto the base. Then I asked them to keep the area inside the outline free of art supplies. Otherwise, they might not be able to hot glue the box to the base at the end of the project.

Decorating supplies included construction paper, crepe paper streamers, large gemstones, pipe cleaners, sparkle stems, pom-poms, embossed foil paper, patterned tape, mesh tubing, and craft ties. Flags were created by pushing a short piece of balloon stick into a wooden bead, and then hot gluing the bead to the base. I also had a few small boxes available in case someone wanted to add yet another level to their float. And don’t forget a fringe of construction paper around the bottom!

finished floatNow for your piggy passengers! Wrap 3 toilet paper tubes with pink construction paper, and use some scraps to make ears and arms. I offered eye stickers, and pink dot sticker noses, but if you don’t have any handy, just use markers.

pigYou can also use the decorating supplies to fancy up your pigs. Such as these “Rock n’ Roll” pigs. Love how the artist stuck jumbo pom-poms in the top to create hair!

rock and roll pigsWhen the floats were finished, I handed everyone a kazoo and we marched around the gallery. 18 kazoos at once was…pretty interesting. I bought the kazoos from the party supply section at Target. Buy extra, because some didn’t work!

kazooAnd speaking of music and marching, major props to Marissa for crafting the pig band that started off the post. You can really appreciate the detail in this shot:

pig marching bandSeriously amazing stuff Marissa!