The Snack of the Swan

My son is bird-obsessed these days, so I presented him with E.B. White’s classic, The Trumpet of the Swan. He loved it and I was soon fielding questions about swans, trumpets, and what watercress sandwiches taste like. I’m not a swan or a trumpet expert, but watercress sandwiches? That I can do!

A quick Google search reveled 559,000 recipe results. In the end, I went with the simplest one: white bread, mayonnaise (or in our food allergic house, Vegenaise), and fresh watercress. I did have a little trouble locating the watercress, but finally found success in the produce section of Whole Foods.

And what did my son think of the sandwiches? Here’s his full report…

To be honest, it did not have much of taste, sort of like spinach. But it did have a bit of spicy aftertaste. Which was not much compared to the mustard cabbage I once tried. That was a dark day. I am obsessed with waterfowl (scientific name Anseriformes). And in one part of the book, the swan eats some watercress sandwiches, and it is said in the book that all the swan really wanted was the watercress. I guessed that waterfowl eat watercress, and other stuff that grows underwater. So we tried it to see what it tastes like. So overall, it wasn’t bad or anything. Just a little bit tasteless. Maybe next time I’ll try bird seed.

Yes, I was a bit surprised. Watercress is a tad spicy. Not unlike arugula. However, the spice added a nice kick to counter the creamy mayo. Nom nom nom. Watercress is also a gorgeous green. I couldn’t resist garnishing Fred Marcellino’s illustration of Louis being presented the bill for twelve watercress sandwiches, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Boston (Harper Collins, 2000 paperback reissue).

If you are looking for a few more recipes, yummies, and challenges heading into the holiday season, you might want to try some rock cakes, say hello with this chocolate pen, or take our literary food quiz!

Operators Are Standing By

Hey, how are you doing? The answer to that question may vary hour to hour, but here’s a chance to voice those feelings on your very own “Feel-O-Fone” line! All you need are a few household items to chat with your head and your heart.

We recommend reading The Boy With Big, Big Feelings, written by Britney Winn Lee, and illustrated by Jacob Souva (Beaming Books, 2019). Read here by Hannah Michahelles. A boy’s emotions are so big, he worries he can’t hold them in, deal with them, or make friends. But he soon learns that big hearts are better then ok, they’re the BEST!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 toilet paper roll
  • Construction paper
  • 1 large paper clip
  • A bit of string, ribbon, shoelace, or wire
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Wrap your tissue box and toilet paper tube with construction paper, then decorate your phone with markers. I used pushpins to create textured buttons on my phone, but you can also glue on clothing buttons, bottle caps, or draw the buttons with markers.

The toilet paper tube is the phone’s “receiver.” To hang the receiver, slightly unfold a large paper clip, then tape it to the side of the box. The receiver tube slides onto the bent paperclip:

Connect the receiver to the phone box with a piece of ribbon, string, or a shoelace (I used the cable from an ancient set of ear buds). Hang the phone on the wall, and you’re done! To operate the Feel-O-Phone, unhook the receiver and simply talk…tell it how you’re feeling! Happy? Sad? Scared? Worried? Silly? Share away, operators are standing by…

Hello, World!

Everyone’s world feels a little smaller these days, and today’s simple project is a reminder of the blessings we have in the four walls around us, the family and friends by our sides, and the life that exists, beautifully, outside our windows.

We recommend The Hello, Goodbye Window, written by Norton Juster, and illustrated by Chris Rashka (Hyperion Books, 2005). Read here by Sankofa Read Aloud. A child fondly narrates Nanna and Poppy’s “Hello, Goodbye Window.” It might appear to be a regular kitchen window, but it’s so much more…it’s for waving hello, it’s a mirror, it’s for viewing stars, it’s for family to share, it’s for new discoveries, and it’s for special visitors who could come by at any minute. Maybe even the Queen of England…but more likely the Pizza Guy!

You’ll Need:

  • A window
  • A set of window crayons, or washable markers

While the Hello, Goodbye Window in the story appears ordinary, this project jazzes things up a tad…I draw a special window frame to gaze out of! Specifically, I used these awesome Crayola window crayons, which can be purchased for around $5-$7 (I snagged my set at Michael’s Craft store with a 20% off coupon).

However, I also tested regular markers (Target’s washable brand for under $4) and they work on the glass too (and most importantly, cleaned right OFF with a standard glass cleaner, no problemo).

You can draw your window frame just about anywhere…in draw as many as you like! Draw one for each family member, draw one for the dog! Best, of all, if you line yourself up juuuuust right, you can step outside to create a lovely portrait for your delighted viewers.

Norton Juster is also the author of The Phantom Tollbooth. I had the honor of interviewing him in front of a live audience in 2016, and you can find the full interview here!