Incendio!

Want to make your fire pit extra, extra, EXTRA cool this summer? How about featuring flickering flames in hues of purple, green, and blue? I’m always on the lookout for igniting things in the name of Harry Potter (see giant green fireball here) so when I found packets of Big Fire at our local fireworks store for a mere $2, I had to try them out.

Big Fire purports to add color to flames on any wood fire (and “Fireside Romance,” to your next date, apparently). It’s about the same size as a Kool-Aid packet. You don’t open the packet. You just toss the whole thing right on the fire and let the cupric sulfate, cupric chloride, and the polyvinyl chloride take the lead!

We had a small to medium fire, but what the heck…I threw in 4 packets at once. Within minutes, we had incredible green and blue flames, with little hints of purple too:


Were there any weird chemical smells? Nope! But the packaging is quite clear – this product is for outdoor use only in a well ventilated area. Also, I was expecting just a quick flash of color flames, but I am happy to report that the flames burned different colors for well over 30 minutes. And the flames were wildly beautiful.

Big Fire color flame packets are an inexpensive science experiment with extremely cool results. Definitely recommend tossing these in your backpack for your next campfire, Halloween shindig, or Harry Potter party.

A very special thanks to Mr. Fran P. Chismar for the experimental use of his fire pit. You make Gryffindor proud, sir!

 

Big Tree Library, Little Tree Library

big tree library, little tree library

Bookscape, our library’s gallery, has a giant tree kids can walk into and read (or take the secret stairs to the second floor and curl up with some pillows). The tree is so iconic, we are often referred to as the “tree library.” So when we were presented with an adorable picture book that featured a library in a tree, well, we just had to send a little of the magic home!

We read Red Knit Cap and the Reading Tree by Naoko Stoop (Little, Brown, 2014).
Red Knit Cap Girl and White Bunny are happily reading when Squirrel drops by to show them something interesting – a big, hollow oak tree. They have a brilliant idea. Why not turn the tree into a library? Soon all the animals are dropping things off (except Sly Fox – she keeps sneaking off with stuff). Beaver makes some shelves, Sheep brings snugly blankets, and Owl and Moon make a sign for the new Library. Now everyone can share a love of reading, even Sly Fox!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (ours was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (we used a 10″ diameter cake circle)
  • Brown wrapping or packing paper
  • A selection of construction paper
  • A selection of poster board
  • White paper
  • 6 mini craft sticks (ours were 2.5″ long)
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

finished tree library

First, cut the lid or bottom off your box, and hot glue it to a corrugated cardboard base.

tree library step 1Next, crumble up a swath of brown packing paper (ours was 25″ x 36″). The more wrinkly it is, the more it will look like bark! Wrap the paper around the sides of the box, anchoring it tape or hot glue. Hot glue the paper to the base as well. One thing to note – you want the brown paper to extend about 14″ – 16″ above the top of the box. This will give you nice, fat branches on your tree.

tree library step 2Cut sections into the paper, then twist the sections tightly to create branches. Notice in the photo below that the branch sections end 4-5″ above the top of the box. If you cut them too close to the top of the box, your branches will droop.

tree library step 3Add some green construction paper leaves, and your tree is done! We used the box lid to create shelves for the library, tucked a couple felt blankets in place, added a patterned paper rug, and made a library sign. Here’s a shot of our library’s interior.

interior of tree libraryWe wanted the library books to sit solidly on the shelves, so we hot glued mini craft stick spines to 2.75″ x 4″ pieces of poster board, then hot glued a couple 2.25″ x 3.25″ pages on top. It worked great!

tree library booksIt takes a little time to make the books, and we really wanted to fill the shelves, so we prepped 6 books per kid in advance (132 books total!). Behold the fruits of our labors…

buckets o books Finally, your library readers! We fashioned ours after the characters in the book, using 2 toilet paper tubes and construction paper. We couldn’t help making a red knit felt cap for the girl, too.

red knit cap girl and bunnyOur library tree has red lanterns so those were the final touch to our project. We recycled them from this Creepy Underwear project and hung them on the branches with ornament hooks.

finished tree libraryThis project is adorable, but it has special significance too. Like this robot project, Red Knit Cap and the Reading Tree was selected by a little girl who was a die-hard story time regular and was moving out of New Jersey. So we asked her to share a very, very special book with us, and this was what she selected. This project’s for you Vivian!

Want to see a real-life library tree? You’ll find it here!

350 for 50

350 fo 50_2017It is with great pleasure that I announce the winners of our annual 350 for 50 writing contest! Each writer was challenged to compose a short, 350-word story that included the sentence, “The surface began to move.” Winners from each of our 3 age categories enjoyed a $50 shopping spree at Labyrinth, our local bookstore. Congratulations to this year’s talented authors!


IMPACT
By James Bertrand, age 10

Impact artwork by Aliisa LeeI checked the clock. 11:59. One more minute until I turned eleven. Beep. I sat up, bumping my head on the concrete wall above me. Groaning, I gingerly touched my forehead with my hand. Ouch, I thought. Dragging myself out of my bed, I thumped through the hallway and down the stairs. I didn’t think about the fact it was the middle of the night. I just crept through the ghostly rooms, silent. That silence was broken by an eerie creak when I stepped on a broken floorboard.

The pure blankness of everything was pretty creepy. I could see dust particles float and twirl in the slightly chilly air. I peered at the living room table. Then the surface began to move, pieces sliding and grinding away from each other. Then I remembered. Today was the meteor shower, right on my birthday. Traversing through the hall I found my presents. I was really tempted to open them right then and there, but I didn’t.

I stepped into the kitchen to find my phone lying on the counter, buzzing. I walked over to the island and I turned it on. I had tons of texts from my friends about my birthday and the comets. Then my phone beeped again. It was happening now! Climbing out the front door, I wondered how amazing this would actually be. As my feet touched down on the wet, soft grass, I heard sirens. Nothing unusual, I thought.

People were screaming and crying, sirens were blaring and my heartbeat sounded so loud, I thought people in China could hear it. I didn’t understand what everyone was so scared about until I glanced at the sky. Sure enough, there were meteors. A large white rock was hurtling across the sky, growing larger each second as it got closer to the ground. I didn’t have time to think when someone yelled “Brace for impact!” I dropped to the pavement and curled into a tight ball as bright light and the smell of smoke enveloped me.


Taken Literally artwork by Aliisa LeeTAKEN LITERALLY
By Jieruei Chang, age 12

Don’t fly into a rage, my father always said. I never knew he
meant it literally, until now. This is the story he told me.
One day, my father tripped over a rock.
“THAT ROCK!” He yelled, kicking it over and over.
At that instant, there was a blinding flash of light. The surface
began to move. He was lifted off the ground by an invisible pair
of wings, flew through the air and landed headfirst on a
deserted island.
“That rock,” he muttered.
As he brushed himself off, he noticed a sign that said,
“Welcome to Arage, where what you say is reality.”
As he looked around, a pack of hikers flew through the air and
landed in quick succession on top of him, still arguing when
they found themselves in a much hotter climate.
“How do we get out of here?”
“The only way is to swim.”
“Yeah, right,” another hiker responded with a sarcastic tone.
“As easy as falling off a log.”
The hiker fell off a log that had somehow appeared.
“Ow!” he said. “How’d it get here? I think I have a concussion now.”
“Quit that! There’s an elephant in the room! We have to get off
of this place called Arage!”
All of a sudden, they were in a room. An elephant appeared,
smashing through the door and waving its trunk in the air.
At that moment my father understood. “Whatever we say
actually happens.”
“So that means…”
“When the cat’s away the mice will play.”
Playful mice appeared. The elephant’s eyes nervously swept
side to side for a few moments before it crashed out the door,
making another hole in the process.
“Now that’s proof. I think I know what to do. We’re all in the
same boat on this, right?”
A boat appeared and they all were thrown onto it. “Well, let’s get out of here!”
And so they rowed through the night (and a knight for good measure) back to shore.
So hold your temper, or you really might fly into Arage – but at
least now you know what to do.


I CAN’T CONCENTRATE
By Abigail Reytblat, age 14

I Can't Concentrate artwork by Aliisa Lee“The surface began to move,” she says, and then stops reading.
“What?” she asks.
She’s annoyed. I can tell because of the way her eyebrow twitches, for just a moment, before she speaks.
“Nothing. I just coughed.”
She looks at me, for one, two, three moments, and then raises the textbook to her eyes again. “ The surface-”
“But,” I interrupt, “That sentence seems very cliche. I mean, it’s not descriptive at all. It’s redundant, actually. It’s already told us before what happens during an earthquake.”
She glares at me. She knows this game. It’s a dance I play, one that she hates. “Tam, it’s a history textbook. About an earthquake from 1906. No one cares if it’s well-written. All you have to do is read it.”
“I care. I think many other people would care about it more, too, if it was well-written.”
“Tam!”
I grin. She touches her glasses, compulsively, pushing them farther up on the bridge of her nose, so that for a moment her eyes are covered. “Fine. Do you want to read?”
“No, no. No, you keep on going. I’ll be quiet, I promise.”
“No, you won’t”
“No, I won’t be.”
“Tammie, this project is due tomorrow.”
I’m just saying that, perhaps, the author should have chosen her words more carefully.”
“No. Focus.”
“Focusing, Samantha, focusing.”
There is silence as she flips the pages, trying to find the right one. “The San Andreas Fault- what? ”
“Hmm? Nothing, nothing. Nothing at all.”
She starts the sentence over again “The San Andreas-” and now she’s the one who laughs. “Is it going to be like this all day?”
“Yup, pretty much. We should take a break.”
Her mattress creaks as she rises. “I’ll be back. Just getting some water. You want to come?”
“No,” I say, watching her. “No, I think I’ll stay here.”
In a moment, the sound of her footsteps have faded from the hall. I pick up the fallen textbook, running my hand over the tattered book jacket absentmindedly, before opening it- “The surface began to move.”
I’ve finished reading by the time she returns.


Artwork by Aliisa Lee