Stargazing

stargazingThought these might come in handy for your summer reading “Universe of Stories” theme…with a historical twist!

Below are 3 cards from Urania’s mirror, or a view of the heavens, a deck published in London in 1825. The full set consists of 80 constellation illustrations based on Alexander Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas. The cool thing about these cards is that when you poke pinholes into the stars, then hold the card up to the light, the constellations twinkle through. You’ll find these cards, and many more, in our library’s special collections.

Urania’s Mirror, or A View of the Heavens. Published in London,1825. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University LibraryDid you catch that the 3 cards I pulled from the deck are Harry Potter references? Sirius, Draco, and Scorpius, respectfully. So a little stargazing, a little history, a little literacy, and an awesome bookmark for your summer reading books to boot.

Here’s the printable template for the three cards. Enjoy!


Urania’s Mirror, or A View of the Heavens. Published in London,1825. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library

Dragon = Fireworks

dragon equals fireworks

It’s party time at the castle as two dragons provide some colorful fireworks… just pull the paper dragon to get the firework to “launch” from the top of the castle!

We read Over at the Castle, written by Boni Ashburn, and illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Abrams, 2010). A mother and baby dragon await nightfall outside a bustling castle. Page by page, the numerous castle activities count down until it’s time for the grand finale – a firework show, provided by the dragons!

You’ll need:

top of firework castle

Construction of this castle is very easy. First, use a box cutter to cut a drawbridge in one of the small boxes. Hot glue the drawbridge box to the top of a cake pad. Cut the top off a second box, and hot glue it on top of the drawbridge box. Decorate the castle and its base with metallic markers. We added silver mirror board battlements and some silver metallic dot stickers as well. Next, the dragon fireworks!

dragon firework constructionFold 2 sparkle stems into a V shape, then tape them to the bottom of a bunched 10″ x 10″ square of cellophane, Secure with tape. Knot one end of a 10″ piece of clear beading cord around the bunch, then secure with tape. Repeat these steps to create a second firework. Color and cut the mother and baby dragon from the template, then tape them to the free ends of the firework cords.

To create the firework show, gently tuck the fireworks into the top of the castle, but let the attached dragons dangle down the sides the castle. Grab a dragon and yank it upwards, sending it – and the attached firework – flying into the air!

dragon fireworks


Many thanks to the Hopewell branch of the Mercer County Library System (proud home of Fang the Spider) for allowing us to do pop up story time while our library is under renovation! We really appreciate it!

A Good Knight’s Kiss

a good knight's kiss

Helmets! Shields! Dragons! And…kiss-catching nets? That’s right! The royal kiss has gone amiss, and these natty young knights must find it, posthaste!

We read The Kiss That Missed by David Melling (Barron’s Educational Series, 2002). When a busy King hurriedly blows a good night kiss to his son, the royal kiss misses its mark and flies out the window. A great hullabaloo is raised, and the King orders his Knight to find the errant kiss. Unfortunately, the kiss appears to have strayed into the wild wood, which is dark, smelly, and chock full of horrible creatures. Things are looking bad for the Knight when the kiss bounces past, causing all the horrible creatures to settle down to sleep. Except for a dragon, who hoists the Knight and his horse into the sky. Things are looking bad – again – when the royal kiss streaks right up the dragon’s nose. Ah! The dragon decides he doesn’t want to eat the Knight. He wants to kiss him goodnight, instead. They head back to the castle where the kiss is restored to the Prince, and everyone settles down for a good (and much deserved) night’s sleep.

You’ll need:

  • A piece corrugated cardboard for the shield
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • A box cutter
  • 2 brass fasteners
  • 2 strips of heavy-duty poster board
  • Hole punch
  • 1 jumbo popcorn bucket
  • Silver poster board or mirror board
  • A snippet of a toilet paper tube (approximately 1″ tall)
  • A bit of tin foil
  • 1 full sheet of tissue paper (ours was 19.5″ x 29.5″)
  • 1 butterfly net
  • 1 royal kiss (more on that later!)
  • Scissors, stapler for construction
  • Hot glue

The project consisted of a shield, helmet, and a kiss-catching net. Look, I beg of you, at this adorable knight:

adorable knightYou will find the instructions for the shield in this post. For this particular story time, we used a 12″ cake circle)s, color masking tape, and metallic and glitter markers. And here’s the template for 6 large emblems for the fronts of the shields.

round shieldNext came the helmets! Gentle lords and ladies, I found the most amazing DIY knight helmet at the blog Meaningful Mama. Jodi Durr, genius crafter, made one out of a jumbo popcorn bucket!

knight helmetThe instructions for Jodi’s helmet are here. We did, however, make some modifications. We used gray primer paint instead of metallic spray paint. We used silver mirror board for the visor. Jodi has 8 slits on her visor template, we only have 6. Also, instead of using brass tacks to make the visor move up and down, we held it in place with glue dots.

Finally, instead of a feather plume, we folded, then fringed, a 19.5″ x 29.5″ sheet of tissue paper. Then we rolled it up and hot glued it inside a tin foil-covered bit of toilet paper tube. Then we hot glued the plume to the top of the helmet.

paper plumeOur jumbo popcorn buckets were 8.5″ tall and the mouths were 7.5″ in diameter. Even so,  many didn’t slide easily over the kids’ heads. No problem! To make more room, cut a strip out of the back of the bucket until it fits. Here, for example what the back of my helmet looked like:

back of bucket helmetI’d like to send a big shout out to the Princeton Garden Theater for donating 25 jumbo popcorn buckets to our knightly cause! Last year, we collaborated on a How To Train Your Dragon event (check it out here!) and I do believe we’re going to have some more movie fun in the not-too-distant future.

Your last piece of knightly equipment is a kiss-catching net. I used butterfly nets I found in the $1 section of Target (you might recall seeing them in this post). I’ve also seen them at the Dollar Store. A little color masking tape around the handle helped me coordinate the net with my shield.

kiss catching netAll you need now are some kisses to catch! Given visor visibility and catching abilities, we wanted ours to be fairly large and substantial. We stuck gold embossed foil seals on the lids of 2″ favor tins, and dropped 6-8 flat glass marbles inside. Then we pinched four, 1.5″ x 7.5″ strips of gold mylar table cloth under the lid. Behold! A royal kiss, ready to be caught!

royal kissNow for the best part. Marissa is the proud owner of not one, but two dinosaur onesies. Ever since she sported one at this story time photo shoot, I’ve been looking for a reason to suit up. Dressed as “dragons,” Marissa and I lead the kids outside and had them form two lines. When we said “Go!” a kid from each line would chase me or Marissa.

knight gives chase to dragon danaWhen they caught us, we tossed a kiss in their net!

knight catches kiss from dragon marissa

Important! Keep the chase as orderly as possible. The last thing you need are 20 excited 3-5 year-olds with reduced vision running in a herd with with long sticks. As I mentioned, we had the kids form 2 lines. But we also had a parent volunteer stand at the front of the line to insure the kids wouldn’t all take off at once. Some kids elected to run without helmets (or shields), which was perfectly fine.

the kiss is caughtIt allowed me to see those beautiful smiles when the kiss was caught!