Be YOU!

be youIt doesn’t matter if you are yellow, red, green, this, that, rather, or neither. Just be YOU!

We read Neither by Airlie Anderson (Little, Brown, 2018). Neither the green bunny bird doesn’t fit into the tidy world of blue “This” bunnies or yellow “That” birds. Not rabbity or birdy enough, Neither is asked to leave. After a long flight, Neither lands in The Land of All, where creatures of all kinds live and play happily together.  In The Land of All, everyone is welcome. And yeah, this book totally ROCKS!

We were sooooo excited to have author and illustrator Airlie Anderson visit our library for a fabulous story time. There’s an interview with her after the project part of the post. And after that? We’ll be giving away 3 signed copies of Neither to lucky blog readers!

You’ll need:

  • Poster board
  • Elastic string
  • Costume decorating supplies (more on this below!)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

We kept the construction of this project simple – ears and wings – so kids could dedicate all of their time to decorating. While you can easily make wings out of poster board, we decided to test out the “Colorations Decorate Your Own Wings” from Discount School Supply (set of 12 is $20). The wing span is 22.5″ wide. Here’s a poster board version so you can get an idea of the shape:

neither butterfly wings templateYou can also see how the wings are rigged with loops of elastic cord, so the kids can just slide them on like a backpack. If butterfly wings are not your cup of tea, you can easily turn the butterfly wing shape into bird wings like so…

neither bird wings template

The ears were a simple poster board head band with whatever ears you would like. As you will soon seen, bunny and kitty ears were very popular, though we did have a couple unicorns. We also has tails the kids could tuck into the back of their pants, or attach round their waist with elastic cord.

When your wings, ears, and tails are selected, decorate! We offered metallic , sparkle stems, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, construction paper, self-adhesive foam shapes, crepe paper streamers, iridescent ribbon, color masking tapee, and the Bling Bin! Airlie also walked around, Sharpie in hand, to customize wings and headbands:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I caught up with the amazing Airlie Anderson after story time, and asked her a few questions…

airlie andersonPlease tell us a little about yourself!

Hi everyone! I’m Airlie, named after my grandma whose parents were Scottish. I was born and raised in California, and now live just outside of Princeton, New Jersey. I love it here! Except when it’s humid.

I was that little kid who was always drawing, and just never stopped. One of my favorite things to do is to sit in a busy café and draw in my sketchbook. My studio is in a sort of hallway in our house, so I can work while our 2 year old son naps.

How did the concept for Neither first occur to you?

I had a dream about an animal that had a mix of characteristics, and in the dream I thought, “This should be a book, and it will be called Neither.” At the time, I was teaching art to a class of middle school students, and they were just so inspiring. That dream was definitely influenced by them!

When it came to designing the main character of Neither, there were so many animal combinations to choose from! How did you finally arrive at the bird bunny?

In my Neither Dream, the character was mostly cat and butterfly, and it was a grey color. But when I experimented with sketches of that character, it looked too precious, so cute. I wanted it to look slightly more awkward, with clear qualities of two different easily recognizable animals. So bunny bird it was! Also I felt that I could make the bunnies blue for some reason, and the birds could be yellow of course. Then Neither would be boldly green. It felt just right.

The colors in this book are gorgeous! What medium did you use to create it?

Oh, thank you! I used gouache, a super saturated an opaque watercolor. It reproduces nicely, doesn’t it? I like to sketch on regular ol’ printer paper and then use a light box to trace each drawing, with paint, onto watercolor paper. Then I put lots of layers of gouache on. Green is a tricky color to reproduce, though, especially Neither’s bright lime green coat. So the excellent people at my publisher suggested an extra ink in the printing process that would make that beautiful shade of green. I was thrilled by this news, and it turned out just delightfully.

What sort of feedback have you received about this story?

Oh, I have received the most wonderful messages about Neither, from people of many different ages and backgrounds. I recently received an email from a fifty-five year old gentleman who works in an LGBTQ community center in Florida, who said the book made him cry happy tears. I hear from parents of children who don’t feel they fit in, and they tell me how Neither is their favorite bedtime book. These messages mean the world to me — the thought of people sharing this story and having a lovely experience because of it is wonderful.

I heard a rumor that Neither is going to be made into a musical! Is this true???

Yes, oh my gosh!!! What a dream come true! Lifeline Theater in Chicago is producing Neither as a musical, to premier in the spring of 2020. Coincidentally/magically, the person writing the stage version has recently moved from Chicago to Princeton and works with mutual friends — so we get to share ideas over coffee!

What are you working on now?

I have two picture book sketches with my agent right now, one about the Easter Bunny and one about sea creatures. I’m also working on a graphic novel, which is a total passion project and has been shouting at me for years to be written. I’m finally listening!


And now it’s time for a FABULOUS book giveaway! We have 3 autographed copies of Neither (Little, Brown, 2017) to share! Just e-mail cotsenevents@princeton.edu with your name, and the initials of someone you think is unlike any other. We’ll put all the entires in a hat and draw 3 winners at random on Tuesday, July 2nd. Good luck!

Do Your Own Thing

sheep-gridOne of these sheep is not like the other! Revel in your creative individualism by designing a fluffy cotton ball sheep that is utterly unique.

We read Woolbur, written by Leslie Helakoski, and illustrated by Lee Harper (Harper Collins, 2008). Woolbur doesn’t do what the other sheep are doing. He likes to run with the dogs, card his own wool, and dye himself bright blue. Despite Grandpaa’s assurances that there’s nothing to worry about, Maa and Paa spend many sleepless nights fretting. Finally, they take Woolbur aside and explain that he must be like everyone else. That’s what sheep do. Woolbur’s solution? He teaches everyone how to do the different things he was doing. Now, everyone is happily playing, exploring, and experimenting just like Woolbur!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 4 toilet paper tubes
  • White construction paper
  • 1 paper (or styrofoam) bowl
  • 1 oval of tagboard or brown construction paper
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • White cotton balls
  • Sheep decorating supplies (more on this later!)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

plain-sheepBegin with the basic sheep. Wrap 4 toilet paper tubes in white construction paper, then hot glue the tubes to the bottom of a box. Hot glue a brown oval nose and 2 wiggle eyes to a paper (or styrofoam) bowl, then hot glue the bowl to the box. Attach a pair of construction paper ears with tape (or hot glue). Finish by gluing white cotton balls to the box.

Once all the story time kids had completed a basic sheep, we brought out the art supplies so they could individualize them! In addition to the Bling Bin, we offered ribbon, color cotton balls (yellow, blue, and pink), iridescent fabric shapes, fabric flowers, fabric leaves, pipe cleaners, craft ties, and sparkle stems. Don’t forget to draw a smile on the face too!

decked-out-sheepThe results were fantastic. There were anklets, headdresses, bows, decorative wooly coats, and some very interesting tail modifications. Here’s our happy herd!

 

Copying…It’s Not Just for Cats

copy crocsCopy cats? How about copy crocodiles? What happens when everyone has to copy at least ONE element from a highly artistic crocodile? Ravishing repetitious reptiles of course!

We read The Copy Crocs, written by David Bedford and illustrated by Emily Bolam (Peachtree Pub Ltd, 2004). Crocodile is sick and tired of being bashed about in the croc pool by all of his friends. So he slips away to be alone. But everywhere he goes – slippery mud, a sun-filled river bank, a floating log in the river, even the top of a mountain – the copy crocs follow and do exactly what he’s doing. Finally, Crocodile manages to shake his friends and enjoy the splendor of his pool, all alone. But is he really enjoying it? It turns out that having some friends around is actually pretty wonderful. But so is being alone – every once in a while.

Each kid built a crocodile and decorated it, but while decorating, he/she also had to copy at least one thing from my model crocodile. We’ll begin, as we did at story time, with building the crocodile body first.

plain crocYou’ll need:

  • A rectangular box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • 4 small rectangles of poster board for the legs (approximately 2″ x 3.5″)
  • 1 medium rectangle of poster board for the tail (approximately 3.5″ x 11.5″)
  • 1 large rectangle of poster board for the mouth (approximately 4″ x 15″)
  • 4 small strips of white construction paper for the teeth (approximately 1.5″ x 4″)
  • 2 small rectangles of poster board for the eyes (approximately 1.5″ x 2″)
  • Materials for decorating (more on that later!)
  • Scissors, tape for construction
  • Hot glue

First, cut crocodile toes in one end of 4 small rectangles of poster board. Bend the bottom of the poster board to make a foot, then bend the top to create a tab

legs 1Squeeze some hot glue on the top of the tabs, and attach each leg to the bottom of the box. For the tail, cut a medium rectangle of poster board into a pointed tail, tab the non-pointy end, and then hot glue (or tape) the tab to one end of the box. For the mouth, fold a large rectangle of poster board like so:

mouth step 1But before you attach it to the box, round the upper and lower edges to make it look more like a crocodile snout.

mouth step 2Hot glue the mouth to the box. If you’d like to add teeth, cut pointy tooth shapes into strips of white construction paper (definitely use construction paper, poster board is too heavy). Tab the tops of the tooth strips, the hot glue or tape inside the mouth. Last step – the eyes! We found that a tall and slightly rounded eye shape looked best.

croc eye shapeCut the eye shapes out of the small poster board rectangles, tab the bottoms, and hot glue (or tape) them to the top of the box. Done!

plain crocAt this point, everyone had the same croc. So we turned the kids loose with plenty of art supplies and let them decorate. Again, the only rule was to copy at least one thing from my example croc. And we made sure there was no lack of options…

decorated crocDecorating supplies included:

The resulting crocs were magnificent. I would guess that the pom-pom eyes, sparkle stem eyelashes, and the self-adhesive foam fruit shapes inside the crocodiles’ mouths were the most copied elements.

gang of crocsWhen everyone was finished, we celebrated by taking our crocs for a swim in our cozy crocodile pool (i.e. a blue sheet sheet stretched on the floor)!

swimming crocs