You’re So Dull (I bet you think this post is about you)

you're so dull

Today, we’re going to be boring. That’s right. The whole point of this project is to make your house look exactly the same as everyone else’s. No variations please. Will we be using bright, bold colors? No way. We’re using grey, brown, white, and black. Feel the dullness lulling you into a stupor…lull…lull…lulllllll. Until, of course, you turn the house around and look at the other side. Wow! It’s a wild, crazy plethora of patterns. A virtual riot of color! Dullness begone!

really exciting houseWe read Meet The Dullards, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (HarperCollins, 2015). The Dullard kids (Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud) are causing trouble. For starters, they’re – gasp – reading circus books instead of staring at blank pieces of paper! And last week, their parents caught them trying to play outside! Things are getting so chaotic, the Dullards decide to move to a less exciting neighborhood. But while Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are (literally) watching the paint dry on their news walls, the kids sneak outside to play circus. This is just too much! The Dullards move back to their old neighborhood. As Mr. and Mrs. Dullard fall asleep, they feel assured that their lives are finally back to being perfectly boring. The kids, however, have other plans. They’ve joined the circus.

You’ll need:

  • 2 rectangles of tagboard or poster board (approximately 7″ x 11.75″)
  • 1 house facade template printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • Rectangular white office file stickers (optional)
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of eye stickers (optional)
  • Construction paper (including multicultural construction paperr)
  • Decorating supplies (more on that below!)
  • 1 large tissue box
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by tracing the house facade template onto 2 rectangles of tagboard or brown poster board. Cut, and set one of the house facades aside. On the other facade, use office file stickers to make plain windows and doors. At our story time, each kid got the exact same pre-marked windows and a door (if you don’t have office file stickers, just use markers). I strongly (yet comically) encouraged the kids to make their houses look exactly like my example.

dull houseNext, we made a dull toilet paper tube person. Here, I used the book’s illustrations as a guide. Grey clothes, black hair, etc. I only offered one kind of eye sticker too! We don’t want any overstimulating variations on eyes now, do we?

dull personYour dull house and person are finished. Set them aside. Pick up the second house facade…and go CRAZY! We brought out the Bling Bin, a bunch of additional supplies, and encouraged the kids to decorate like mad. They also received more door and window stickers. Here’s Marissa’s super shiny house.

exciting houseOur decorating supplies included mylar, patterned paper, feathers, pom-poms, construction paper, large gemstones, craft sticks, foam beads, patterned tape, self-adhesive foam shapes, , and embossed foil paper.

While the kids were decorating their houses, they were also decorating a second, non-dull toilet paper tube person. Check out the yellow cellophane cape on this little lady!

exciting personWhen the exciting house facades are finished, hot glue them to one side of a large tissue box. Hot glue the dull facade to the other side of the box. Twirl the box around to view the dull and exciting sides. And speaking of exciting sides, check out these masterpieces…

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That’s not to say that dull houses that look exactly the same are necessarily bad. I mean, I hear that Camazotz is quite lovely this time of year. Especially if you’re looking to score a delicious turkey dinner. Leave your little brother at home though.

Olfactory Sorcery

dragons bloodEnter the realm of mystery, magic, spells, sorcery, and…smoked paprika. That’s right. Never underestimate the POWER of roast chicory! First, we made herbal amulets at our story time for 6-8 year-olds. Then we votes with our noses. The burning question? Which spice smells most like dragon’s blood?

We read Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow Books, 1977). When Cat Chant and his older sister Gwendolen become orphans, Cat is quite happy to settle down quietly in their village. But Gwendolen is set on ruling the world, and writes a mysterious letter to a powerful enchanter named Chrestomanci. To Cat’s surprise (and Gwendolen’s glee), Chrestomanci agrees to adopt the children and raise them in his magnificent castle. However, when Chrestomanci and his constituents fail to fawn over the spoiled Gwendolen, she launches a vengeful campaign to create magical mayhem. Things get even more complicated when Gwendolen departs to a parallel world, dragging her double (a girl named Janet), into Cat’s world. It’s up to Cat and Janet to set right all the problems Gwendolen’s created. But in the process, they uncover Gwendolen’s worst plot yet – one that puts Cat in grave danger.

For the hands-on portion of our program, we made these nifty herbal amulets. You can find instructions for that project here.

amuletBut there was an additional olfactory activity! In Charmed Life (and, in fact, all the books in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci series) dragon’s blood is one of the most powerful and dangerous substances in the known worlds. It’s described as having a powerful, distinct, and horrible odor, even when it’s dried into a powder.

So while purchasing the herbs for the amulets, I also bought several strong smelling, reddish-brown spices (it was an interesting shopping day, let me tell you). In the end, I decided on chipotle, roast chicory, smoked paprika, hot cayenne, and sumac. I put each spice in a plastic glass with a label. During the program, the kids sniffed the glasses and voted on which one they thought smelled like dragon’s blood.

There was quite a lot of yelling, laughing, and carrying-on, but in the end, we had our winner…sumac!

dragons blood votingIf you haven’t read Charmed Life, or anyone of the other books in the Chronicles of Chrestomani series, I can’t recommend them enough. I love how Diana Wynne Jones writes her characters and create her magic. I love her sense of humor and her amazing descriptions. The Pinhoe Egg is a book I re-read annually, because it’s like visiting family. Conrad’s Fate comes in a close second. It’s a bit like Downton Abbey…with magic!

The Four Little Pigs

the four little pigsLet’s see. There’s a pig in a house of straw, a pig in a house of sticks, a pig in a house of bricks, and a pig on a sailboat. Wait…what?!? A fourth little pig? On a sailboat?

We read Ziggy Piggy and the Three Little Pigs by Frank Asch (Kids Cab Press, 1998). Once there were four little pigs. Ted, Fred, Ned, and Ziggy. Carefree Ziggy invites his brothers to the beach for a swim, but finds them madly fortifying their houses of straw, sticks, and brick. The Big Bad Wolf is in town, and Ted, Fred, and Ned don’t have time to play. So Ziggy goes to the beach by himself. The Big Bad Wolf huffs and puffs and chases Ted, Fred, and Ned to the beach, where they pile onto Ziggy’s raft. But when the Wolf attempts to blow the raft to bits, Ziggy hoists the sail and the four brothers sail away to safety.

We made oatmeal container pigs, and then went searching for sailboat ride tickets in houses of straw, sticks, and brick. You had just a few seconds to find your ticket before the Big Bad Wolf appeared. Story time finished with a ride on a perfectly pig-sized sailboat!

You’ll need:

  • 1 oatmeal container
  • Pink construction paper
  • White construction paper
  • A square of white poster board (approximately 6″ x 6″)
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • 1 pink jumbo pom-pom
  • 2 small circles of self-adhesive foam
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

For the game, you’ll need:

little pig

To make a pig, wrap an oatmeal container with pink construction paper. The pig’s “shirt” is a 5″ x 18″ piece of construction paper decorated with markers. Cut a pair of “sneakers” out of poster board, decorate them with marker, then hot glue the sneakers to bottom of the oatmeal container. Use extra pink paper to make ears and arms. We offered a selection of patterned tape to liven things up, but you can also just stick with markers.

To make the face, hot glue the wiggle eyes to the oatmeal container (or draw eyes with markers). Hot glue a pink jumbo pom-pom on for the nose, and use 2 self-adhesive foam circles for nostrils. In the above photo, however, you’ll notice the pig has a pink cotton ball nose. So why do I suggest a jumbo pom-pom? THIS is why…

uh oh noseAs time passes, the cotton ball sloooowly unfurls, leaving your pig with a droopy nose. Definitely use a pom-pom.

And now for the game, which requires a set of 3 houses, a Big Bad Wolf, and sailboat. Marissa and I snagged three big boxes from the recycle bin, charged up our hot glue guns, and started building. In addition to the decor in the front, there is a small door cut into the back of each box. This is so later, during the game, I could sneak the sailboat ride tickets into the houses undetected.

house of strawhouse of stickshouse of bricksI drew a Big Bad Wolf on a piece of poster board, and taped him to a piece of PVC pipe. I tried to make him look not too scary. Not sure if I succeeded.

wolfFinally, the sailboat. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Seriously. A shoe box pulled on a string will work great. I just happen to have this awesome sailboat my Dad made for me.

sailboatOriginally, it was used at a Treasure Island event. One of the student groups at the event (Students United for a Responsible Global Environment, to be precise) wanted to demonstrate wind power. So I asked my Dad (hi Dad!) if he could build a sailboat that would roll down a table, propelled by a fan. It worked great!

sailboat at treasure islandOn windy days, we bring the sailboat out of the attic and take it outside. In a brisk breeze, you really have to run to keep up with it!

chasing the shipBut back to pigs. Here’s how we played the Ziggy Piggy game. I lined up the three houses and asked the kids to sit down in front of them. Then one kid covered his/her eyes while I hid a sailboat ride ticket inside one of the houses. When I shouted “Go!” and the kid had 10 seconds to find the ticket before the Big Bad Wolf rose from behind the houses. Sometimes I had to slow the count, but in the end, everyone won.

ticket and the wolfMarissa and I then ushered the kids and their pigs out to the library’s main lobby, where we sat in two groups. Marissa was “Dock 1.” This is where all the pigs gathered. Some distance away, I was “Dock 2,” where all the kids gathered. Between the two docks was the sailboat, rigged up on a loooong string. One by one, Marissa would call out a kid’s name and place his/her pig on the sailboat. The kid would come and stand next to me. Once I confirmed that their pig had a ticket, I would reel in the string, causing the sailboat to whizz over to the kid!

sailing pigWhen story time was over, we drew names to see who was going to take the 3 houses home. The winners are the little girls posing at the start of this post. They were super thrilled!