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!

Folk Tale Fan Art

the-singing-turtle-artwork-by-aliisa-leeOld tales get a modern twist when we asked artist Aliisa Lee to re-image twelve folk tale (and fairy tale) creatures as manga characters! Aliisa’s drawings, of course, were stunning. Singing turtles, badger tea kettles, and feisty dragons? Absolutely. Below are each of the characters, along with a very quick synopsis of their stories.


the-banyan-deer-artwork-by-aliisa-lee

THE BANYAN DEER (India)

Once there was a golden deer who was King of the Banyan Deer. His herd lived peacefully in the forest alongside the King of the Monkey Deer and his herd. The Ruler of the country, however, was a man who loved to hunt and eat deer meat.  He surrounded the forest with a fence and told the Kings that every day, a deer from their herds must sacrifice his/herself to his table. One day, a mother deer was due to be sacrificed. She begged to wait until her baby was older. The Monkey Deer King would not consent to this, but the brave Banyan Deer King offered to go in her place. The Ruler was touched by the noble sacrifice of the Banyan Deer, and vowed never to hunt or eat deer meat again.

From Told in India, retold by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by Blair Lent (Little, Brown, 1973).


young-dragon-artwork-by-aliisa-leeYOUNG DRAGON (Taiwan)

Long ago, China was a great sleeping Father Dragon. Only the tip of his tail stuck into the sea. Nearby, three young dragons wrestled and played with each other. Eventually, they started nipping at Father Dragon’s tail, biting harder and harder until he awoke with a mighty ROAR. He lashed his tail so hard, the tip broke off and fell into the sea, trapping one of the naughty dragons underneath. Today, the tail tip is the Island of Taiwan, and the mountain range in the middle of the island is the trapped dragon. Father Dragon, now called the Himalaya Mountains, has gone back to sleep. The two remaining dragons continue to play in the Taiwan Straits and China Sea, causing storms and typhoons.

From Tales from a Taiwan Kitchen, written by Cora Cheney, illustrated by Teng Kung Yun-chang and others (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1976).


moon-rabbit-artwork-by-aliisa-leeMOON RABBIT (China)

An old hermit lived in a cave with a rabbit. Every day, the rabbit brought berries, herbs, and mushrooms for the hermit to eat. But then came a terrible drought. The rabbit traveled far, looking for food. When he returned to the cave, he couldn’t bear to tell his friend that he had failed to find anything. So he leaped into the fire, hoping the hermit would cook him and avoid starvation. But before the flames touched the rabbit, the Celestial Emperor lifted him to the calm surface of the moon. He praised the rabbit’s bravery and compassion, and sacrifice. The Moon Goddess was delighted to have such a noble companion. The next full moon, see if you can spot the outline of the Moon Rabbit!

From Cloud Weavers: Ancient Chinese Legends by Rena Krasno and Yeng-Fong Chiang (Pacific View Press, 2003).


the-firebird-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE FIREBIRD (Russia)

Tsar Vyslav Andronovich had a magnificent garden and a special tree that bore golden apples. But every night, a Firebird would fly into the garden and steal apples from the tree. Tsar Vyslav ordered his three sons to capture the bird, but only Ivan, the youngest, succeeded in plucking a feather from her tail as she flew away. A massive quest ensued, one that involved a gray wolf, a horse with a golden mane, a beautiful maiden, ravens, the water of death, the water of life, and two treacherous, back-stabbing brothers. Needless to say, it all ends well, with Ivan and Elena living happily ever after.

From The Firebird and Other Russian Fairy Tales, edited and with an introduction by Jacqueline Onassis, illustrated by Boris Zvorykin (Viking Press, 1978).


babe-the-blue-ox-artwork-by-aliisa-leeBABE THE BLUE OX (United States of America)

Winter can be hard, but this particular winter was so cold, the snow turned blue! One day, a giant lumberjack named Paul Bunyan went on a walk. He heard a little cry. Following the sound, he found a blue baby ox in the snow. Paul took the baby ox home and named him Babe. In time, Babe the Blue Ox grew to humongous proportions. But he was always a good and faithful companion to Paul Bunyan. By the way, do you know the Mississippi River was formed when a big ‘ol water tank wagon Babe was hauling sprung a leak? It’s true! I swear!

From American Folklore: Minnesota Tall Tales retold by S. E. Schlosser. Original source here.


anansi-artwork-by-aliisa-leeANANSI (Africa)

Nyame, the sky god, held all the world’s stories. Anansi the spider wanted those stories. So Nyame challenged Anansi to capture Hornet, Python, Leopard, and Fairy in exchange for the tales. Clever Anansi trapped Hornet in a gourd by pretending it was raining. He tricked vain Python into stretching out on a branch and then tied him to it. He bound Leopard in a web net, and stuck curious Fairy to a doll made of sticky gum. Nyame was overjoyed at Anasai’s success. He gave him the world’s stories, which Anansai shared with everyone.

From Children’s Book of Mythical Beasts & Magical Monsters (DK Publishing, 2011).


the-mechanical-nightingale-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE MECHANICAL NIGHTINGALE (Denmark)

A nightingale lived in a forest. Her song was so beautiful, the Emperor demanded she perform in his court. When she sang for him, the Emperor wept. He commanded her to stay in the palace, but the bird soon grew unhappy. Then one day, a gift arrived. It was a mechanical nightingale, one that sang when you wound it up. It quickly replaced the real nightingale. Time passed, and the Emperor grew very ill. When death came to claim him, the Emperor turned to the mechanical bird for comfort. But it remained silent, for there was no one to wind it. Suddenly, there was a glorious burst of song! The real nightingale sang away death, and the Emperor and the nightingale became good friends.

From Ardizzone’s Hans Andersen: Fourteen Classic Stories, selected and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, translated by Stephen Corrin (Atheneum, 1979).


bayamey-artwork-by-aliisa-leeBAYAMEY (Australia)

When Ocean disobeys Bayamey, the Maker of the World, Bayamey transforms into a giant frog and swallows all the Earth’s water.  Earth’s creatures, fearing for their lives, try to make Bayamey laugh and release the water. Kookooburra Bird, Turtle, and Bumble Bee all do funny things, but nothing works. Finally, the Eel Sisters try an amusing dance. In doing so, they accidently tie themselves together and start arguing. The creatures laugh at their antics, and Bayamey just can’t help himself. He laughs and laughs! The water bursts forth and returns to Earth.

From Eleven Nature Tales: A Multicultural Journey, written by Pleasant DeSpain, illustrated by Joe Shlichta (August House, 1996).


the-good-fortune-kettle-artwork-by-aliisa-lee

THE GOOD FORTUNE KETTLE (Japan)

A poor junkman frees a badger from a trap. The grateful badger transforms himself into a fine teakettle and crawls into the junkman’s basket. The junkman, hardly believing his good fortune, sells the kettle to a temple priest.  The priest is shocked, however, when the kettle grows legs and a head and starts dashing around the room! He returns the kettle to the junkman. Next, the badger teakettle suggests that he and the junkman put together a show and become rich. After many performances, the now-affluent junkman returns to the temple, explains his story, and offers the kettle to the priest as a gift. Rumor has it the kettle still resides at the Monrinji Temple!

From Told in Japan, retold by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by George Suyeoka (Little, Brown, 1967).


the-troll-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE TROLL (Norway)

Once there were three billy goats named Gruff. There was a hillside full of rich grass they wanted to eat. But first, they had to cross a bridge, and underneath that bridge lived a big, ugly, nasty troll. The youngest brother had just started across the bridge when the troll lunged up, roaring “WHO’S THAT TRIP TRAPPING OVER MY BRIDGE? I’LL EAT YOU UP!” The first brother assured the troll that the second brother would make a better meal. The second brother insisted the oldest brother was even bigger and meatier. The oldest brother got right down to business. He charged the troll and tossed him into the stream. And the troll was never seen again!

From Favorite Fairy Tales Told Around the World, retold by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Little, Brown, 1985).


the-fox-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE FOX (Greece)

One morning, a fox was looking for a bite to eat. She spotted a crow perched high in a tree, holding a piece of cheese in her beak. Calling up, the fox began to praise the crow for her shiny feathers, bright eyes, and strong beak.  The fox lamented, however, that she couldn’t hear the crow’s beautiful voice. The crow was feeling quite flattered at this point (and, it must be said, growing quite vain). She opened her mouth and croaked “Caw! Caw! Caw!” The cheese fell out of her beak. Quick as a flash, the fox gulped it down. The lesson to be learned? Never trust a flatterer.

From Aesop’s Fables by Jerry Pinkney (SeaStar Books, 2000).


the-singing-turtle-artwork-by-aliisa-leeTHE SINGING TURTLE (Haiti)

Everyone in the village is starving except Kanzo. His garden is bursting with peas! Some hungry birds decide to sneak in and have a feast. They loan their good friend Turtle feathers so he can fly with them. The secret snacking continues for days until suspicious Kanzo surprises them and captures turtle. But Turtle amazes Kanzo by bursting into song! Soon, people are paying money to hear Kanzo’s singing turtle, and Kanzo becomes rich. The King demands to hear the Turtle (and secretly plans to steal it for himself). But someone has switched the singing turtle for an ordinary one. The King is enraged at being made a fool of, and Kanzo and his family flee. And the Turtle? He’s probably still singing!

From When Night Falls, Kric! Krac!: Haitian Folktales, by Liliane Nérette Louis, edited by Fred Hay, Ph.D. (Libraries Unlimited, 1999).


Original artwork by Aliisa Lee