Houston, We Have a Squeaker

houston we have a squeakerBoldly go where no mouse has gone before. We created a rad rodent rocket, then flew it across the library on a mission to the moon! If you are ever looking for an excuse to bust out a pair of walkie-talkies at story time, this project is for you.

We read Mousetronaut, written by real-life astronaut Mark Kelly, and illustrated by C.F. Payne (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Meteor is smaller than the rest of the mice training at NASA. Imagine his surprise when he is selected for the next mission! From floating in zero gravity to gazing at Earth in the distance, Meteor loves everything about his journey. But when the key to the control panel is stuck between the monitors, the mission is in peril. Luckily, undersized Meteor can squeeze in and save the day. When the crew returns to earth, Meteor is given a hero’s welcome and a new title…Mousetronaut! Aspiring astronauts should definitely check out Mark’s essay in the back of the book. I especially enjoyed the bit about space bathrooms (including space showers, air toilets, foamless soap, and dry shampoo!).

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Grey construction paper
  • 1 mouse spacesuit template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • 3 piece of string for whiskers (mine were 1.75″ long)
  • 1 mini pom-pom
  • 1 box (I used a 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” box, a large tissue box works too!)
  • A box cutter
  • 1 cone water cup
  • A 5oz cup
  • A 9oz plastic cocktail cup
  • 1 rocket wings template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Red and yellow squares of cellophane (approximately 5″ x 5″)
  • A selection of metallic dot stickers
  • 1 Moon Mission game (more on this below!)
  • A selection of foil star stickers
  • Scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, the mouse! Wrap a toilet paper tube with grey construction paper. Use extra bits of the paper to fashion some ears. The uniform from the template gets colored in, then wrapped around the tube as well. Draw the eyes and mouth with markers. If you’d like whiskers, tape 3 pieces of 1.75″ string to the tube. Then hot glue a pom-pom nose on top (you can also just draw the nose and whiskers with markers).

finished space mouseSet the mouse aside for a moment. It’s time for the rocket!

finished mouse rocketThe trickiest part of constructing this rocket? Finding the right plastic cups for the “seat” and “cockpit.” The seat cup needs to hold mouse snugly, while still allowing it plenty of head room. I found some 5oz plastic cups that were just perfect.

mouse in cupUse a box cutter to cut a square hole in the lid of your box (if you’re using a tissue box, flip the box over and cut the square in the bottom). You want the hole to be big enough to slide the cup into, but not so big that the cup is in danger of dropping through (mine was 2.5″ x 2.5″). Slide the cup into the hole, then secure it to the box with tape. Place your mouse in the cup.

hole for seat cupThe cockpit cup needs to be wide enough to cover the hole, yet tall enough for your mouse’s ears. This 9oz clear plastic cocktail cup did the job very nicely.

mouse in cockpitIn the image above, you’ll notice that the cockpit cup is attached to the box with a single piece of tape. This is so you can open and close the hatch of the rocket. If you’d prefer your mouse to be sealed in, add more tape. Next, print and cut the wings template, fold along the dotted lines to create a tab, and attach the tab to the side of the box with tape or hot glue.

tabbed wing for mouse rocketTo make the rocket’s boosters, twist squares of yellow and red cellophane together, then tape the twists inside a pair of plastic cups (I used white, 3oz plastic cups). Hot glue the cups to the back of the ship.

boosters of mouse rocketThe nose of the rocket is a cone water cup. We hot glued our cones to unused, 3.5″ paper lids (the kind you get when you buy hot soup). But you can just go with the cone if you’d like.

nose of mouse rocketDecorate the ship with metallic dot stickers, colored masking tape, and whatever else strikes your fancy (we flashed things up with silver holographic tape). Also, did you notice the awesome bubble tea straw pipes down the side of the rocket?

finished mouse rocketBut wait, what about those red foil star stickers along the top of the rocket? Ahhhh! The star stickers were the prize for playing our Moon Mission game! Here’s how the game worked. Marissa made a big moon (22″ in diameter) out of poster board and a silver metallic marker (to make sure it stayed upright, I taped it to a plastic display stand – a book end might work too).

poster board moonMarissa also crafted this awesome Moon Base out of a tissue box, poster board, a sparkle stem, and a mini tin foil pie plate. Stashed inside the moon base were strips of foil star stickers, waiting to be claimed.

moon baseMarissa and I equipped ourselves with a couple of walkie-talkies. Marissa was Mission Control, stationed in the story time area…

marissa at ground controlAnd I was at Moon Base, waaaaay across the library’s cavernous lobby. Marissa and I couldn’t see each other and definitely couldn’t hear each other without using walkie-talkies. This was intentional. We wanted the kids to feel like they were traveling far away.

dr. dana at moon base

The astronauts (and mousetronauts) lined up at Mission Control.

ready for take offOne-by-one, they were treated to some “walkie-talkie space banter:”

Moon Base, do you read? This is Mission Control. Over.

Moon Base here, roger that Mission Control. Over.

Astronaut (kid’s name) is ready for take-off. Over.

Roger that. Good luck (kid’s name). See you on the moon! Over.

There would be a countdown and then the rocket would blast off out of the gallery, exit our library’s front door and enter the vast regions of outer space (i.e. the main library’s lobby)…

mouse in flightThe rocket would navigate the long journey across space…

the vastness of spaceAnd successfully touchdown at Moon Base! The pilot could then could select some star stickers to further decorate his/her rocket. I radioed back that the mission had been a success, and requested that the next astronaut prepare for launch.

touch down at moon baseOf course, while waiting for my next rocket to arrive, I couldn’t help treating Marissa to a few songs through the walkie-talkie: This is Ground Control to Major Tom…You’ve really made the graaade!

Because you know the folks at NASA sing in their headsets like that. And are Bowie fans.

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

sweet dreams are made of thisTravel through a cloud-covered dream tunnel which doubles as a magical oven for a pie full of sweet dreams. Dreams and pie…is there a book than can connect the two? Oh my yes.

We read Sweet Dream Pie, written by Audrey Wood, and illustrated by Mark Teague (Scholastic, 1998). Pa Brindle can’t sleep, so he begs Ma Brindle to dust off her magical, oversized pie-making equipment and bake a sweet dream pie. Despite repeatedly warning Pa that things could get out of control, Ma finally agrees to do it. The enormous pie is stuffed with sweets of all kinds, and the giant oven (which is set to “Special”), causes a heat wave on Willobee Street. Neighbors gather, ignore Ma’s warnings, and eat way too much pie. The result? Some of the wildest, out-of-control dreams imaginable (as only Mark Teague can illustrate!). Sighing, Ma Brindle takes her broom and sweeps the tempestuous dreams away. Ah well. She did warn them.

You’ll need:

  • 1 sturdy paper plate (approximately 8.5″ in diameter)
  • 1 rectangle of tin foil (approximately 12″ x 13″)
  • 1 circle of tagboard or poster board (approximately 6.25″ in diameter)
  • 1 circle of brown packing paper (approximately 11.25″ in diameter)
  • 1 paper bowl
  • Dream pie decorating supplies (more on that below)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • 1 dream oven (more on that below)
  • Hot glue

First, the pie! Place a paper plate on top of a rectangle of tin foil, then wrap the tin foil up and around the sides of the paper plate. The tin foil should just cover the edges of the plate, not the entire thing.

pie pan step 1Hot glue a tagboard or poster board circle to the center of the plate.

pie pan step 2Decorate the tagboard circle with your dream scene! First, we gave kids a quarter of a sheet of paper and asked them to draw a dream character or scene.

Once that was glued (or taped) in place, we offered supplies to fancy things up: iridescent cello, colored cotton balls, tissue paper circles, iridescent fabric shapes, self-adhesive foam, fabric flowers, foam beads, large gemstones, self-adhesive butterflies, pom-poms, small feathers, bits of embossed foil paper, mesh tubing, and metallic dot stickers.

Here’s Marissa’s dream scene, which involves stars, dusk, flying, and and ice cream clouds. Be-a-u-ti-ful.

marissa's dream sceneAnd here are the dream pies the kids made! We asked the kids to describe the dreams for us, but I must admit, those who did offer their interpretations were still somewhat vague. Below, see if you can spot a ballerina, Valentine’s Day, flying, unicorn wonderland, ghost, mountains, butterflies, Spider-man, a birthday party, “purple,” “Antiga,” “shy,” and hippo.

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When the inside of the pie is done, set it aside for a moment. Use scissors or a box cutter to cut slits in the center of a 11.25″ circle of brown packing paper (or brown wrapping paper). These are the “ventilation slits” for your pie.

pie crust step 1Next, roll the edges of the circle upwards and inwards (about 0.25″ should do it). These are the edges of your “pie crust.”

pie crust step 2Now to add the “dome” to the top of your crust. Flip a paper bowl upside down and press and smooth the crust over the top of the bowl. You’ll need some height here to cover that crazy dream scene you created.

pie crust step 3Place the crust on top of the paper pie plate. It’s very cool to see the dream scene through the little ventilation holes of the pie crust!

finished dream pieYou can stop the project there, or you can take it a step further and go through a dream oven! This doesn’t have to be fancy. You can drape a sheet over a table, or head into a darkened closet with some blue lights or glow sticks. But if you’d like to replicate our dream oven, here’s how we did it. Basically, it was a big box with door flaps cut out on both ends. On the outside, the box looked like an oven set to “Special.”

dream ovenBut inside, it was a fantastic dreamscape! Marissa lined the box with blue paper, hot glued white felt clouds to the walls, rigged up dangling polyester fill clouds, and dotted the whole thing with mirror board stars. She used packing tape to attach a strand of blue LED rope lights to the ceiling. It was…so…awesome.

inside the dream ovenGrasping their dream pies, the kids entered the oven and scooted through the tunnel, “cooking” their pies amidst clouds and stars. Some kids charged through the tunnel and lined right back up for another turn. Others meandered slowly through the tunnel, pausing to take in the dreamy atmosphere (I took a turn too!). Sweet dreams!

meandering dreamer

 

Race Around the Clock

race around the clockGo beyond Hickory Dickory Dock with this clever crank clock!  Turn the handle on the back to send the characters dashing around the numbers and through the big red barn (scroll to the bottom of the post to see it in action)!

We read The Clock Struck One, written by Trudy Harris, and illustrated by Carrie Hartman (Millbrook Press, 2009). It’s 1pm and a mouse makes an untimely dash at just the wrong moment, catching the attention of the cat. A chase ensues that involves the mouse, the cat, the dog, some bees, the hen, the farmer’s wife, the farmer’s son, and the farmer! By 11pm, everyone is exhausted. By midnight, everyone is asleep. But at 1am, the clock strikes, and guess who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time again?

Kids loved this clock project, but parents were especially thrilled. Many sought me out after story time to thank me for such a fun introduction to numbers, clocks, and time.

You’ll need:

Begin by stacking both circles on top of one another, and using a box cutter to cut a slit in the middle of both. The top cardboard circle is the clock face. The bottom cardboard circle is the back of the clock.

First, the clock face! Cut, color, and glue (or tape) the numbers from the clock numbers template to the first cardboard circle. You can use markers to add flourishes to the clock face as well (we, for example, added a striped border). Next, trace the barn shape from the clock pieces template onto red poster board. Use markers to add outlines to the barn.

clock barnAttach the barn to the back of the clock face, right above the number 12. I highly recommend attaching the barn with hot glue. You really want the barn to stick because later, it can be used as a carrying handle for your clock! Here’s what the finished clock face looks like:

finished clock faceSet the finished clock face aside for a moment. Cut four, 1.5″ tabs in the end of a toilet paper tube. Then bend the tabs outward and hot glue the toilet paper tube to the back of the second cardboard circle:

clock handleYou’ll notice that the toilet paper handle gets glued on the perimeter of the cardboard circle. We experimented and found that was the best handle position for cranking the clock.

clock handle placementCut and color the animals from the template, and tape (or glue) them onto the ends of the craft sticks. Make sure there’s plenty of room at the bottom of the craft sticks – you’ll need some space to attach the sticks to the clock.

finished clock animalsTape the craft sticks to the cardboard circle. Note – the craft sticks need to be on the same side as the toilet paper tube handle. If the sticks are taped on the opposite side, they will rub and bump into your hand while you’re operating the clock. If you want to follow the order of the characters in the book, the mouse should go first, followed by the cat, dog, bees, and hen.

attached animalsThe back is done, time to put two clock circles together! Push a brass fastener through the clock face’s slit (you might need to enlarge the slit a little with a pair of scissors). Thread 2 foam beads on the fastener’s prongs:

clock tack step 1Push the prongs through the second circle’s slit, then unfold the prongs and secure in place with tape. Depending on your cardboard, foam beads, and brass fastener, you might have to do a little adjusting to get the circles to rotate smoothly.

clock tack step 2

Cut the minute and hour hands from the clock pieces template, then trace them onto red poster board. Arrange the hands to your preferred time, then attach them to the head of the brass fastener with a glob of hot glue. I say “glob of hot glue” because you want the hands to rest on the glob, slightly above the head of the brass fastener. If the hands are pressed flat to the head, they’ll get snagged on the clock numbers later. We stuck green mini dot sticker at the intersection of the clock hands. Done!

finished clockTo operate the clock, grip the clock face firmly at the bottom. Use your other hand to crank the toilet paper tube handle. You might have to adjust the animals a little, or bend the clock hands upward a bit, if they snag on the barn door or the numbers. But eventually, you’ll have a smooth race around the clock!


A quick word about a construction issue. You definitely need a 1.5″ brass fastener and foam spacers to get this project to work. You need that space in between the two cardboard circles in order to grip the clock, turn it, and have it operate smoothly. If the circles are too close together, animals repeatedly knock against your hand while the clock is turning. We experimented with shorter brass tacks, fewer foam beads, handles made out of 8″ craft sticks. Nope. The 1.5″ brass fastener with the 2 foam bead spacers is the combination that worked best!

Want to see my favorite project involving a brass fastener? Check out this little carousel!