It’s Elementary

elementaryCalling all consulting detectives…grab your sparkle stem magnifying glass and examine this most intriguing collection of 18th and 19th century puzzle cards. And, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, the answers to these cards are at the end of the post (and you can print a set of your own)!

You’ll need:

Cut a drinking straw down to 3″. Gently fold a sparkle stem in half (soft fold, not hard) and thread the ends into the straw. Round the sparkle stem loop sticking out of the top of the straw. Done!

sparkle stem magnifying glassAnd what of those curious cards? They are reproductions of 18th and 19th century rebus puzzle cards in our library’s special collections. A rebus (also called a hieroglyphic) puzzle is created using pictures in place of syllables or entire words. Sometimes, the placement of an object is important to the puzzle as well.

Here are 6 cards from our vaults, all hailing from England. The top three cards are from Feronica’s Hieroglyphical Riddles (publisher unknown, circa 1840). Across the bottom row, from left to right, are cards from Peter Ponder’s First Pack of Puzzle Cards (J. Aldis, 1808), Wallis’s New Pack of Puzzles for 1798 (John Wallis and Champante & Whitrow, 1798), and An Entire Pack of New Puzzle Cards (W. and T. Darton, circa 1805).

Want to try these puzzle cards on a few young detectives? You’ll find a printable set here!

rebus cards, from the collections of the cotsen children's library, princeton university


The solutions, moving top row to bottom row, left to right:

Handsome is that handsome does
Better a little fish than empty dish
Awl is well that ends well
Two implements of an excellent sport: bat and ball (for Cricket, of course!)
What most people are fond of: toasted muffin
Troublesome insects: ant, caterpillar, snail, earwig, and ladybird

A Real Howler

a real howlerMessed up on a test at school? Misplaced your toad? Stole your father’s flying car? Brace yourself – you might be getting a Howler in the mail.

You’ll need:

  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of red poster board (or red card stock)
  • Extra red poster board (or red card stock) for pop-up elements
  • A few pieces of white card stock
  • Markers, pens, and/or color pencils for writing and decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Optional (but fun!): sparkle stems, foil star stickers, and bits of red mirror board

While there are templates and patterns for the Howlers you see in the Harry Potter movies, some of them can get a little complicated. The folks who staffed the Howler table at our Harry Potter event wanted something kids could do with minimal instruction and assistance. As it turned out, kids of all ages loved making these simple pop-up cards. The table was hopping for 5 hours!

Our Howler is an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of red poster board (or card stock) folded in half. We offered 4 pop-up elements for the interior of the card: 1) Basic accordion fold; 2) Clustered accordion fold; 3) Spiral; and 4) Zigzag accordion fold.

four pop-up elementsTo make the basic accordion fold, take a strip of paper and fold it back and forth until it resembles a stair case. Attach one end to the card with tape. We cut a number of different size strips and let kids pick and fold the ones they wanted. We also had rectangular pieces available in case kids wanted to cut and fold a cluster of accordion folds.

To make a spiral, cut into a circle of poster board (or card stock), circling inwards until you reach the center. Attach one end to the card with tape. We prepared large and small circles in advance, and let kids pick and cut their own spirals.

To make a zigzag accordion fold, cut a zigzag into a strip of paper, and then fold along the straight points of the zigzag, like so:

zigzag foldWe had sparkle stems, foil star stickers, and little bits of red mirror board available to decorate the cards (the idea was to make it look as explosive as possible, so lots of red and gold)!  Finally, write magical crimes and consequences on pieces of white card stock and attach them to the card or pop-up elements. Feel free to add illustrations as well (like Marissa’s fantastic broomstick in the image below? And did you notice the little exclamation marks popping up on accordion folds?).

a real howlerTsk tsk tsk Beatrix. You really should be more responsible with your broom.