All Things Bright and Beautiful

all things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small gather in this colorful jungle city, which doubles as a beautiful sun catcher! This was such a simple project – clear sheet, tissue paper, glue, and scissors – but it’s been one our patron’s favorite story time projects this year!

We read Animal City by Joan Negrescolor (Chronicle, 2018). Nina loves to visit Jungle City and read stories to her animal friends. While each animal has a favorite (the flamingos, for example, like Mythology), the story they like best? The very book you’re reading! This book is absolutely gorgeous, and we tried to capture the artist’s color and shape play with our project.

You’ll need:

  • A clear plastic sheet (more on this below)
  • Tissue paper
  • Scissors and glue for construction

The key to this sun catcher project is the clear plastic sheet. We used 16″ x 20″ archival mylar sheets (one of the perks of being a rare books library!). But you can use thinner clear cellophane wrap, which is sold in the gift wrap section of Michael’s Craft store. Another possibility? Parchment paper, found in the supermarket baking aisle alongside the aluminum foil. It’s opaque, but still lets plenty of light through.

To create your sun catcher, cut, arrange, and glue the tissue shapes to your clear sheet. We purchased pre-cut tissue circles and squares, but also had larger tissue sheets available to customize. We recommend using glue sticks, which allowed for better control and dried perfectly clear (even the purple ones!).

sun catcher artist at work We also recommend markers, just in case kids wanted to add details, or draw¬† expressions on their animals…

animal expressionWhen your creation is complete, tape it to a window or door and admire the shapes and colors. It’s especially cool when the colors overlap!

sun catcher and artist


James Herriot fans…today’s blog post title was for you! Animal city, indeed!

Crunchy, Colorful Leaves

crunchy colorful leavesSchool has started, fall is around the corner, and the leaves are starting to change. So it’s the perfect time to post a simple sound and color story time featuring fall leaves!

We recommend reading Ska-tat! by Kimberly Knutson (Macmillan, 1993). Leaves are falling off the trees with a “Sh-kah sh-kah” sound, and there is so much to do! Scoop them up with a “Krish-krash! Ka-rak!” or jump into piles with a “Sha-shoo! Ska-tat!” This highly poetic book beautifully creates sound words for various fall leaf activities. It’s a fantastic and fun read aloud.

You’ll need:

  • Green, orange, yellow, and red cellophane
  • Scissors

First, a word about cellophane. While rolls of green, yellow, and red cellophane can be founds in most dollar stores (and this is a good, cheap option for tight budgets), the color orange can be a little elusive. Also, when you use rolls of cellophane, the shapes you cut out tend to curl back into their original roll positions. It’s rather annoying. So I was very happy when I discovered cello sheets:

cello sheetsI bought these 8.5″ x 11″ cello sheets at Discount School Supply ($7 for a pack of 48). The sheets are flat, so no problem cutting out shapes and having them curl up on you. The trade off, of course, is volume. In the above pack of 48 sheets, there are only 6 of each color. However! I did spot a 104 pack on Amazon with 13 of each color for $9. If you ultimately decide go with rolls of cellophane instead of sheets, try flattening the shapes under a stack of books overnight to see if that helps uncurl them.

four leavesFor the story time project, cut various leaf shapes out of cellophane. Then have the kids crumble and crunch them, crinkle them madly, stomp on them, toss them in air, slide with them under their shoes, put them over their eyes to see the world in red, yellow, orange, and green…in short, PLAY. When you’re done, tape the leaves to a window to brighten things up!

Books, Color, Chance

_mur0006The next time you see a telephone book, look beyond the phone numbers, advertisements, thin pages, and wobbly covers. Philadelphia artist Katie Murken did exactly that when she created Continua, a work that combines recycled phone books, color dye, math, elements of chance, and sculpture.

Gathering scores of old and surplus phone books, Katie stripped off their covers and dipped the 3 outer edges into dye. In total, she dyed approximately 1,560,000 sheets of paper with 24 different colors.

dye_readybooks_dryingThen she stacked the altered books into columns. However, the colors she used were determined by a customized color wheel and a pair of dice. A dice roll determined how she would stack the books.

murken_continua_2The result was 24 tall columns of vibrantly colored, gently wavy books pages, arranged completely by chance. And the color! The color! Katie used non-toxic dyes from a small company in California.

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Walking among the stacked pages was incredibly calming, yet energizing. It was also validating. To me, it felt like confirmation of what the knowledge inside books really looks like.

_mur0019If you’d like to see more images of Continua, or read interviews about Katie and her fascinating process, you will find numerous links on Katie Murken’s site.


Photographs courtesy of Katie Murken