A Moving Map

a moving mapA shifting map full of flying horses, hungry demons, mystical landscapes, and the New Jersey turnpike? This could only be a project for To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for ages 6-8!

We read The Serpent’s Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond by Sayantani Dasgupta, with illustrations by Vivienne To (Scholastic, 2018). Kiranmala is a regular girl, living in New Jersey with her loving, if not slightly eccentric, parents. For example, they insist that every Halloween (which also happens to be her birthday), she dress as an Indian princess, complete with bangles, necklaces, and a silk sari. In fact, they insist she is a REAL Indian princess. Oh, and they also want her to sleep with the curtains open during a full moon, and dig a snake moat around the house.

Everything changes the day Kiran turns 12. Her parents disappear, a rakkhosh demon demolishes her house, and 2 princes on flying horses (one armed with a sword, the other with sarcasm) inform her that she is, indeed, a princess from another dimension. Now Kiran must rescue her parents, save her friends, and discover who she really is in the process.

In the book, Kiran and her “friend” Prince Neel (it’s complicated) use a moving map to locate Kiran’s parents. As the name suggests, the land masses in Kiran’s dimension don’t stay in one place, they shift – requiring a map that can shift as well. Hmmmm…a continuously shifting landscape? Sounds like a job for myriorama cards!

myriorama cards for the serpents secret combo 1Myriorama cards, which debuted in 19th century Europe, are these cool little decks of cards with matching skies and horizon lines (I review of a modern deck of myriorama cards in this post). No matter what order you put the cards in, they always sync to create a continuous landscape or story. See how I flipped the above cards around a little to make a new map below?

myriorama cards for the serpents secret combo 2You’ll need:

  • 1 pack of 3″ x 5″ blank white index cards
  • Pen and markers/color pencils

It’s easiest to use 3″ x 5″ blank index cards. On the first card, use a pen to mark where you want your horizon and land lines to go. Next, mark the other cards in the deck, making sure they all match. Now draw a landscape or scene on each card, always matching the horizon and land lines.

moving map stepsFor our story time activity, I gave each kid a colorful envelope bedecked with a silver embossed foil seal (a subtle nod to a moon maiden in the book). Inside the envelope were 6 finished myriorama cards to get the kids started (including characters and scenes from the book, of course!). The cards were black and white so the kids could color them in. There were 3 blank cards in the envelope, as well as a stack of more blank cards, so they could let their imaginations run free.

Also in the envelope? Some large gemstones – another nod to the book. One story time kid got the Serpent’s Secret reference right away. He grabbed a blank myriorama card and quickly sketched a moving map, then gazed through the Python Jewel to decipher it! #superproudliteracyeducator

moving map and the python jewel If you’d like the myriorama cards I drew, you’ll find the black and white template here, and the color template here. However! I will say the cards are not perfect. The horizon and land lines matched up when I drew them, but somehow between scanning them, setting them, and turning them into a pdf they don’t quite match up on the final templates. Did the kids care? They did not.

Also! I’m not a trained artist…even though I have to say, I liked how my rakkosh turned out.

Sip n’ Spell

sip n spellWe’ve all eaten our words from time to time, but how taking a cool sip of your favorite beverage through them? Katie and her son tested this intriguing concept with Spell & Sip customizable straws by Spelly (Amazon, $15).

spell and sip straws by spellyThese BPA free straws are advertised for ages 4-99. The set contains 44 pieces. This includes an assortments of alphabet letters, 4 straw ends, and 2 sets of symbols.

spell and sip straws box contents

Our package had four A’s, no V’s and four emojis (2 hash tags and 2 hearts). We thought the letter selection to be bit strange, particularly when many names have multiple vowels or consonants. A child named Violet or Victor would be way disappointed receiving Spell & Sip as a gift.

As you can see, each letter and symbol is skewered with a hollow plastic tube connector. To make a custom straw, snap together your letters, add 2 straw ends, and you’re ready to go!

katie and dana straws

Katie’s son took the lead with testing. Water was first, followed by milk. Both were easy to drink, although there were some bubbles at mouth end of the straw at first. Turns out her son hadn’t attached that end of the straw tightly enough. Once fixed, the bubbles disappeared and there was absolutely no leaking (despite the fact that the connection was still somewhat semi-loose).

Next up, a chocolate milkshake from Mooyah, his favorite burger joint. Unfortunately, the thicker consistency of the liquid caused difficulties. With some effort, but he was eventually able to get the shake into his mouth. But the test straw was soon abandoned for the restaurant-provided wider straw (and faster consumption of the shake).

milkshake testNow the real test…cleaning! Katie put the used letters and pieces into the silverware basket of her dishwasher, closing the basket lid secretly praying the hot water wouldn’t melt anything. This was doubly risky because there was absolutely nothing on the product’s box that mentioned cleaning or being dishwasher-safe (only a statement that the company is “Not responsible for any damage caused by improper use or care”).

letters in dishwasher

However, success! The straw pieces emerged cleaned and not melted. They were still pretty wet, and required extra drying time on a paper towel.

Ultimately, the testing team felt Spelly’s Spell & Sip customizable straws were a fun and super clever way to reinforce letters and spelling (though younger kids may need help with taking the pieces apart). Given the difficulties with milkshake, they don’t suggest drinking thick liquids with this product. Another major issue: the missing letter V in the set. Finally, clean the used straws as soon as possible to avoid any residue drying inside the letter pieces – they tend to stay wet for awhile.

Recommended, with thin liquids like water and juice!