Chicka Chicka Classic

Climb little alphabet, climb! You know those letters, you know that coconut tree, and you know this beloved book. We added a simple dynamic pull string effect to an iconic classic, and the results were boom-tastic!

We read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault; illustrated by Lois Ehlert (Simon & Schuster, 1989). The alphabet letters are feeling playful as they race and scamper up the coconut tree. But as it gets more and more crowded, they discover it’s not all fun and games!

You’ll need:

  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 small box (ours was 4″ x 4″ x 2″, but you can cut down a square tissue box)
  • Brown and green construction paper
  • 6 wood or foam beads
  • String
  • 3 wooden letters (paper works too!)
  • 3 small paperclips
  • 3 brown pom-poms
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, the coconut tree! Wrap your paper towel tube in brown construction paper, then add green construction paper fronds to the top. Hot glue brown pom-pom “coconuts” under the fronds, then hot glue the finished tree to the top of a small box.

Next, hot glue 3 foam or wood beads to the top of the tree. Then thread 3 individual pieces of string through each bead:

Tie one end of the string to a bead, and the other end to a small paperclip. Next, decorate your letters with markers. We used leftover wood letters from this project, but paper works just as well. Slide the letter onto the paperclip, then pull the bead to watch it climb the tree!

You might ask – why not just permanently tie the letter to the string? You could definitely do that. But we wanted the kids to have multiple interchangeable letters (conveniently stored in the box base of the tree). This way, they can follow along with the story, and send different letters up the tree as they’re mentioned in the story!

Give ‘Em the Old Razzle-Dazzle

If you’re going to write something, why not make it extra fancy, glowing, blinking, AND neon? I absolutely love anything that lights up, so I was thrilled to test drive the Crayola Widescreen Light Designer. It was fun!

This toy is intended for children ages 6+ and retails for about $18 on Amazon. We’ve tested Crayola products on the blog before (including an airbrush kit I was very skeptical about but it totally worked!). I have to say, Crayola never disappoints. Their products are solid, easy to use, and the colors are always vivid. This light designer was no exception.

Out of the box, the light designer is 18″ tall (the actual drawing screen is 9.5″ x 15″). There’s an easel stand built into the back, as well as some clever little holders for the six markers that come with the set (blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, and white). You can also see the holes that allow you to mount the light designer to a wall.

Load in a couple AA batteries, flip the on the power switch, press the light button on the front, and start drawing! The colors go on beautifully with a lot of vibrancy. You can also press the front button multiple times to change the light settings (blinking, fading in and out, etc.). Three small quibbles: 1) The blue marker came out of the box bone dry, so I was unable to use it; 2) You have to cycle through seven light settings to get back to the original solid glow one, which seemed a bit excessive; 3) Wiping the marker off the screen with a dry paper towel took a LOT of elbow grease. Definitely use a slightly damp paper towel when it’s time to erase.

Essentially, this is a white board you can use in a darkened room with neon colors and blinking lights. But the little kid me would have been SO excited to see my artwork and writing presented in this unusual dynamic way. It just makes your drawings and announcements all the more special.

And speaking of Crayola light designers and razzle-dazzle special announcements…

Everyone, this is CLEO! You met Katie’s rescue pup Finley in 2021, and now I’m delighted to introduce the newest member of my family. Cleo recently joined us from SAVE animal shelter. She is 7.5 years old, 18 pounds, and the undisputed Queen of the Household.

Long may she reign!

Go Big! It’s Broadway!

Clap your hands, stamp your feet, and get ready to boogie woogie with Latte the dalmatian dog…it’s a massive parade down Broadway, and you’re invited! We were delighted to host author and illustrator Laura Ann Trimble Elbogen, who wowed the crowds with her energy and enthusiasm. And don’t miss our chat with her at the end of the post!

We read Latte’s Broadway Boogie Woogie by Laura Ann Trimble Elbogen (Laura Ann Studio, 2023). Latte the dalmatian and the girl in red have a special horse-drawn delivery for a wedding. But as they encounter more and more musicians, the entire endeavor turns into a lively parade of trombones, clarinets, drums, piano, and dancing New Yorkers. Based on snappy beats of boogie woogie music, this book will get you up and marching!

At the heart of the book is a sweet dog named Latte, so for our project we made box dogs kids could pull on a clear elastic strings. Instructions for that project can be found here. However, we also added a sassy little plastic cape to the pup, just like Latte in the story. We also wanted kids to be part of the musicality of the book, so we distributed jingle bell bracelets as well (though some quickly became anklets!).

One of the interesting things about the book is that the illustrations are based on Dutch artist Piet Modrain’s painting “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” Laura brought a print of it with her, as well as examples of boogie woogie music. It was very lively!

I caught up with Laura after story time to chat about her book, and the fabulous inspirations behind it!

Hi Laura! Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a San Francisco based author-illustrator, artist founder of Laura Ann Studio, and mom of three. I studied art history and played tennis at Princeton. My husband and I are both Class of 2007 graduates. When we got married we led our own wedding parade from the Princeton University Chapel to T-Sweets ice cream.

At story time, you brought in a print of a painting that inspired your book’s artwork…can you tell us a little bit about it?

I fell in love with the painting “Broadway Boogie Woogie” (1942-43) by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian on my lunch break when I was an intern at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Mondrian moved to New York City from the Netherlands to escape World War II and he fell in love with American jazz. He painted in primary color squares and lines that in this painting are meant to evoke the bright lights and energy of the city, from the people and taxis to the jazz and Broadway theater district.

Can you also tell us about boogie woogie music and dance?

I used to boogie woogie swing dance with my grandparents who grew up with boogie woogie music and dance and it was so much fun! The term was coined by pianist Clarence “Pinetop” Smith in 1928, almost 100 years ago! His quick playing rhythmic piano blues style became so popular it evolved into the big band jazz and swing dancing era that Mondrian would have seen and heard in New York City when he painted “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” Maybe he heard Tommy Dorsey’s big band song “Boogie Woogie” when he was walking down Broadway?

We based our story time project on Latte, the little dalmatian dog in a red cape. Does this character have an origin story?

When I first moved to New York City after college it was like heaven for me! Born and raised in Indianapolis, I was a Midwest girl living the New York City dream working in fashion and the arts. On the weekends I really felt like I was living the dream if I could take a blanket to Central Park and camp out with a latte, the New York Times, and my sketch book. I also did a lot of Saturday morning sketching and latte drinking at a wonderful hole in the wall coffee shop called Arte Around the Corner on the upper west side where I would read, sketch, and people watch. I spotted a lot of great dogs in those days. Sadly I’m allergic to dogs, but of all the dogs I watched I loved Dalmatians the most for their curious, happy energy, the skip in their step, and the friendly wag of their tail.

Tell us more about New York City…how did the it inspire your writing and illustrations?

I love New York City so much! Much of my time there I spent living on the upper west side just behind Lincoln Center. One of my favorite things to do on a sunny summer evening was to walk home from work along Broadway through the great public parks and plazas. When I ran programs and organized a festival called Archtober, Architecture and Design Month in New York City, we ran “Building of the Day” tours all around the city. I was constantly observing, appreciating, and sketching the urban design and architecture of the city.

What other exciting projects are you working on?

Latte’s Broadway Boogie Woogie is the first story in the Latte and the Goldmatians series. Sequels are coming! I’m also excited about a commissioned watercolor painting series and product line that I’m working on that empowers women in politics. Stay tuned for when Laura Ann Studio turns 15 this fall!