Doing Flips

We’ve all been getting quite a bit of screen time lately, but what about if we take it waaaaay back to the early days of screens and animation? Turns out, it can be pretty fascinating. Especially if you have the flipbookit, a DIY hand-cranked miniature movie machine. Katie took the kit for a test drive with some pretty amazing results…take it away, Katie!


The flipbookit retails for around $35 and comes with everything you need to build your own flipbook animation of the historic “Horse in Motion.” The kit contents include instructions, a box to house the animation, pre-printed cards, and plastic pieces to create the spindle and flipping mechanism. There’s no suggested age range printed on this particular kit, but I would say it’s great for kids 8+ to build on their own. Younger children would need parental assistance.

The instructions, which are clear and easy to follow, have you start by building the cardboard box that becomes the “movie projector” (I loved the attention to detail with the snap rivets, which provide a fun industrial vibe).

I had two major issues with the box: the first was making sure the snap rivets were tight and secure. The second problem was when I was trying to insert the spindle, the opposite bushing (the part that holds the spindle in the middle of the box) kept falling out. It felt like I needed a third hand in order to secure the moving parts of pieces, but after a few unsuccessful attempts, I was able to build the spindle and attach the crank pulley.

The flip-cards are a thicker die-cut plastic, which offers the perfect rigidity to spin and create the “moving picture” effect when you turn the spindle. As you remove the flip-cards from the full sheets, you must be careful to not bend the sprockets (the small tabs on the straight side of the card).

The sprockets insert into holes on the spindle discs and if one is bent or torn, the “moving picture” effect might be lost. There are 24 individual flip-cards to insert into the spindle. Start with number (1) and work your way through all of them.

This can be a tedious task, especially when you get to the final cards and there’s not much room to squeeze them into place. Once they are all attached, put the flipbookit on a table and turn the hand crank. Voila! You can watch “Horse in Motion” over and over and over again!


The company also offers a blank DIY card kit, giving you the opportunity to create your own animation. It retails for around $14 and provides 24 blank flip-cards and five sheets of blank white label paper for you to either draw or print your own animation.

On their website, flipbookit also has a free Maker Tool where you can upload a video or a series of photographs. The online Maker Tool will then transform it into an animation and allow you to preview, make changes and finally, it will create a .pdf for you to print onto the blank label paper.

It wasn’t hard to convince my son to help me create a short video for the flipbookit. We tried out several different scenarios and finally decided to have him kick a soccer ball down a hallway in our house. He went back and forth, doing various tricks and movements, which gave me plenty of choices for the animation.

I was amazed at how easy it was to put everything together. Our original video was almost two minutes and the final version that became our “Soccer in Hallway” movie is just 2.6 seconds long. You will need a printer, preferably color, to print the .pdf of your final animation. It took nearly 30 minutes to affix the printed labels onto the blank flip-cards, and then insert them into the projector box.

The time was well spent because the final product is fantastic! My son has officially claimed the flipbookit  and I regularly hear the projector spinning in his room, undoubtably playing “Soccer in Hallway,” while he should be working on his online schoolwork.


My rankings:

KIT: 4.5 out of 5
I loved the simplicity of the cardboard projector. However, it doesn’t assemble in minutes as stated on the front of the box and there are a few parts to the construction that are challenging.

INSTRUCTIONS: 5 out of 5
The creators did a fine job making the instructions concise and well written. The images were perfect to help better explain the written tasks. Plus, they have the instructions available on their website to reprint if your original copy gets misplaced (as I learned from personal experience!).

BLANK DIY CARD KIT: 4 out of 5
As awesome as it is to create your own animation, it’s rather expensive for just one kit. The cost would start to add up if you had several artistic children who all wanted to create their own animations.

ONLINE MAKER TOOL: 5 out of 5
This was, by far, the coolest feature of the entire flipbookit. I was able to test and create several animations before settling on our final movie.

OVERALL: 4 out of 5
flipbookit  is very cool. It is a brilliant way to introduce children to an early form of animation and moving pictures. However, the cost to purchase the kit and DIY cards can be prohibitive for some people. I can also see it losing its appeal when one grows tired of watching a “Horse in Motion.”


As a precautionary measure, Princeton University closed the gallery of the Cotsen Children’s Library until further notice, and our children’s programming as been suspended during this closure. Until our library reopens, the blog will post once a week. So every Tuesday, please check in to see what we’re up to…from story time projects to awesome interviews!

The How Did It of Who Done It

It’s official…Katie’s virtual Sherlock Holmes escape room is a smash hit! We’ve had thousands of visitors from all over the United States, including Alaska, Montana, Maine, Louisiana, Kansas, West Virginia, Kansas, Texas, South Dakota, Oregon, and Wisconsin. We’ve also had visitors from all over the globe…India, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Nigeria, Ireland, Spain, Israel, Greece, and France!

In addition to some terrific fan mail, we’ve also received questions about how Katie put the escape room interface together. Today, we present a “how to” video, narrated by Katie, so you can craft your very own virtual escape room (and if you do, send us a link)!

READY TO WATCH THE VIDEO? YOU’LL FIND IT HERE!

A couple additional tips from Katie:

  1. Make sure the images and files you use are either original, or free use. Katie primarily used images from Wikicommons. Her image credits can be found on the last slide of the escape room.
  2. Pilot test your escape room! Katie’s son, nieces, and nephews were her very enthusiastic test team (thank you guys!). And Katie did adjust a few things based on their feedback.
  3. Troubleshoot your escape room in different browsers, and make sure to note (especially in the instructions for your participants) that the Google sites interface is difficult to use with touch screen devices.

As a precautionary measure, Princeton University closed the gallery of the Cotsen Children’s Library until further notice, and our children’s programming as been suspended during this closure. Until our library reopens, the blog will post once a week. So every Tuesday, please check in to see what we’re up to…from story time projects to awesome interviews!

To Blend or Not to Blend

to blend or not to blendAlways on the lookout for literary and word games, I spotted this fantastically stylish box on the shelves of JaZams, our local independently-owned toy store. The game came highly recommended by their staff, and has won several awards to boot. Did it live up to the hype? Read on!

“The Chameleon,” released by Big Potato Games, retails for around $15. It’s a card and category game for 3-8 players. But it’s also a game of deception, because the whole point is to fake out the other players when you are the “chameleon.” The game includes 40 topic cards, 14 code cards, 2 chameleon cards, 2 die, a marker and custom card, instructions, and one super awesome Big Potato Games logo sticker. Here’s a sample of the box contents:

chameleon box contentsLet’s say there are 4 people playing this round. As you can see below, there are 3 identical Code Cards, but only 1 Chameleon Card. Each player randomly chooses a card and keeps it secret from the other players.

chameleon cardsThe dealer flips over the Topic Card and rolls the yellow and blue die. Players with Code Cards quietly match the die roll results to the appropriate category of the Topic Card. So, in the case of the roll below, the secret category is “The Three Little Pigs.”

game playStarting with the dealer, each player takes a turn describing the secret category with one word. But if you are the chameleon, you are faking your little heart out, trying to come up with a word to describe a category you have NO idea about. But you can listen to the other players and wager a pretty good guess, all the while keeping a straight face.

When everyone has said a word, the players have to guess who the chameleon is.

Having played a couple rounds, I can say that this game is a LOT of fun! The creative word usage, fake outs, shifty looks, pointing fingers, and increasingly bold accusations make it low stress, non-competitive, and utterly hilarious. The more players involved, the funnier it gets. Bonus…there’s also a blank laminated Topic Card and dry erase marker to make a custom Topic Card!

chameleon blank topic cardThe game manufacturer’s recommended age range is 14 & up, but we test ran the game with the 9-12 year-olds in Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary society (we just made sure we pulled out some of the more mature Topic Cards, like ones that included the names of alcoholic beverages). After just a touch of trouble with the instructions and locating the secret category from the dice roll, the kids were off and running!

They liked the various topics, coming up with the description word, and how funny it was to both be, and try to figure out, the chameleon. As one kid so aptly put it “Something is fun about lying to your friends’ faces.” Hah!

The beautiful packaging, clever concept, interesting topics, clear instructions, and devious social nature of this game make it extremely enjoyable. 5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended!