One Whale of a Winner!

whale of a winner!

Yes, it’s a simple carnival goldfish booth. Except that our prizes are considerably larger…!

We read I Won a What? written by Audrey Vernick, and illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016). When a little boy’s parents promise he can keep anything he wins at a goldfish booth, he is thrilled. Especially when he wins a whale named Nuncio! Soon it’s wheelbarrows full of lunch, high spirited swims in the ocean, and rather complicated and unpleasant swimming pool maintenance. Mom and Dad have just about had enough, until Nuncio demonstrates his fantastic lifting skills and stupendous car washing abilities. It’s a touching story of a boy and his whale…especially the very last page of the book!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (we used a 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” box – a large tissue box works too)
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • 3 clear plastic cups
  • 2 large craft sticks (ours were 6″ long)
  • 1 Go Fish sign template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

go fish booth front

The goldfish booth is very easy to make! Decorate a box with color tape and/or markers. Hot glue 3 clear plastic cups to the top (we went with wide-mouth cocktail cups). You can draw your goldfish on orange construction paper and glue them to the insides of the cups, or you can do what we did, and use old orange mailing labels from the office supply closet.

Cut and color the booth sign from the template. We left an extra border around the sign’s edge and added metallic gold dot stickers “lights.”  Mount the booth sign to a pair of craft sticks attached to the back of the box.

go fish booth backThe “ball” for the game was a jumbo pom-pom, but ping pong balls or crumbled paper works too! To play the game, toss the ball into the cup. But what do you win? A WHALE!

story time whale watchingWe snagged a big flat of grey cardboard from library recycling, and Katie turned it into a fantastic whale. Like the books, kids were expected to take care of the whale. They took it on a little walk, wiped it clean with a cloth, and scooped its poop (i.e. brown jumbo pom-poms)! This part of the program was great for building physical skills – balancing, circular hand motions, scooping. Check out this pro at work:


After the kids successfully demonstrated their whale watching abilities, they took home a 3″ plastic whale (ours are “Lil Sailor Whale Squirt Toys” from Oriental Trading Company, $6.50 a dozen).

whale prizesIf you’re wondering why our story time area doesn’t look quite the same as usual, wonder no more. This was a guest story time at the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library in Rocky Hill, New Jersey! They graciously offered to serve as a pop up story time location while our library is under renovation. The Mary Jacobs Library has a full roster of children’s programs, fantastic (and highly artistic) staff, and one of my favorite children’s rooms of all times.

Thanks for letting us come to your library and have some fun Mary Jacobs!

Wish Fish

wish fishA goldfish is a lovely pet…unless, of course, you had your heart set on a pony. But what if the fish could talk and grant you a wish?

We read The Birthday Fish by Dan Yaccarino (Henry Holt and Co., 2005). More than anything else, Cynthia wants a pony for her birthday. Every year, she wishes for a birthday pony, and every year, she gets something else. This year, as Cynthia blows out her candles she wishes for a pony called Marigold. She gets a goldfish. Upset, Cynthia is about to pour the fish down the drain when it speaks! The birthday fish will grant her wish, but first she must take it to the lake and set it free. So Cynthia loads the fishbowl in her toy stroller and departs for the lake. During the journey, they meet and overcome many obstacles (bumpy roads, hungry cats, hot sun, etc.). At last, they arrive at the lake and…Cynthia decides she’d rather keep her new friend. She names him Marigold.

You’ll need:

  • 2 large clear plastic plates (mine were 10″ in diameter)
  • 1 small tissue box
  • A couple cups of uncooked rice (or aquarium gravel)
  • fish and castle template printed on a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 2 small paperclips (mine were 1.25″)
  • 1 large paperclip (mine was 2″)
  • Green construction paper
  • Fish decorating supplies (I used orange & yellow construction paper, cello sheets, crepe paper streamers, embossed foil paper, and patterned paper
  • A 5″ piece of clear clear elastic beading cord
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

We’ll begin with your fabulous fishbowl! Place 2 clear plastic plates rim-to-rim like this:

rim to rim plates Then tape the lower half of the plates together. Don’t tape the entire thing because you still need to put things inside your fishbowl!

taped-plates-3Now for the base. Cut a small tissue box in half. Recycle the bottom half. You now have a 2.5″ base with an opening at the top.

tissue box cut downIf there is any plastic around the opening of the tissue box, remove it. Then, on both sides of the box, cut from the opening to the edge of the box. Then cut diagonally downward into the sides of the box. This leaves your base looking like this:

cut baseDrop your fishbowl into the base. You might have to do a little cutting and adjusting to get the fishbowl to sit upright snugly. Secure the fishbowl to the base with tape. Pour some uncooked rice in the opening at the top of the plates. This is the “sand” for your fishbowl.

rice in baseNow for some fish-friendly decor! Both the castle and the aquatic plant are anchored in the rice by paper clip “stakes.” We’ll start with the castle. Color and cut the castle from the template. Make sure you keep it in once piece (later, you’ll fold it so it can be viewed from both sides of the fishbowl).

Flip the castle over and tape two small paperclips to one side. You’ll notice that I taped just the very tops of the paperclips to the castle. This is so there would be plenty of paperclip  to stick into the rice. Fold the castle in half and tape it closed.

castle tapedTo make the aquatic plant, cut 3 curvy plant pieces out of green construction paper. Make sure they don’t exceed 6″ in height (otherwise, they start to tip over in the fishbowl). Staple the 3 pieces together, then tape a large paperclip to the bottom.

stapled and taped plantOpen the top of your fishbowl and gently push the castle and aquatic plant paperclip stakes into the rice. I recommend placing the castle all the way to the right, and the plant all the way to the left to make room in the middle for your dangling fish.

And now…the fish! Cut and color the fish from the template. Like the castle, the fish is double-sided. So leave it all in one piece.

Flip the fish over to the blank side and decorate. I offered construction paper, cello squares, crepe paper streamers, embossed foil paper, and patterned paper in hues of orange and yellow. When you’re done decorating, tape a piece of elastic beading cord to one side of the fish:

fish with taped cordThen fold your fish over and tape it closed (to make my fish plump, I taped it shut using tape loops). Next, dangle your fish in the fishbowl, adjust for height, and tape the free end of the cord to the outside of the bowl. Tape the top half of the fishbowl closed. Done!

wish fishIf you have a little extra time, I suggest playing “Pin the Tail on the Goldfish” before taping your fishbowls completely closed. I whipped up a simple game poster and made some construction paper fish tails. A white bandana served as our blindfold (and kids who didn’t like things over their eyes had the option of simply closing their eyes).

pin the tail on the fishThe prize for playing – regardless of where the tail was pinned – was a lovely little sea shell for your fishbowl. The shells were dropped in and THEN we taped the fishbowls securely closed. There was some spilled rice, but a quick vacuuming took care of that.

Still hankering for a pony? Perhaps you should check out this post.

Fish in a Suitcase

not normanWe read Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, written by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick, 2008). A little boy is terribly disappointed when, instead of a dog or cat, he gets a goldfish for his birthday. However, Norman the fish’s goofiness, appreciation for the boy’s tuba playing, and his friendly presence when there is a scary noise at night wins the boy over. Now, he wouldn’t trade any pet in the world for Norman!

The boy pulls Norman around in a little red wagon, but I thought we’d go even more portable for our story time. Hence, a fish in a suitcase!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box with a window (I used a 7″ x 7″ x 3″ pastry box)
  • Blue construction paper
  • 2 green pipe cleaners
  • 4 pieces of green raffia
  • A selection of crepe paper streamers
  • Small shells (optional)
  • Orange poster board for fish
  • 1 piece of orange self-adhesive foam
  • 1 wiggle eye
  • Hot glue
  • 1 small piece of clear elastic beading cord
  • Markers, yellow cellophane, and golden paper for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • 1 tagboard strip for suitcase handle (mine was 12″ x 2″)
  • 1 luggage tag (optional)

The key to this project is finding a box with a window. I had a bunch of pastry boxes left over from another program, but you can find something similar in the bakery section of your local supermarket.

Cut the blue construction paper to fit the back of the box and secure with tape (or a glue stick). Draw in a few bubbles and waves with markers. The “water” is done…time to add some aquarium plants!

Plant #1: Cut two green pipe cleaners in half. Bunch the four pieces together and twist at the bottom. Give the pieces a little curl if you so desire. Then bend the twisted part into a “foot” and tape it to the bottom of the aquarium.

plant 1Plant #2: Knot four raffia pieces together. Tape to the bottom of the aquarium.

plant 2With the plants in place, it’s time for your “aquarium sand.” Crumple up some crepe paper streamers to give them a “sandy” texture, then hot glue them around the plants and the bottom of the aquarium. You can hot glue some little shells on the “sand” as well.

Now for the fish! Cut a fish shape out of orange poster board. To create fantastic fish lips, cut the piece of orange self-adhesive foam into an oval:

fish lips 1Then peel and stick it on the fish’s mouth:

fish lips 2Use scissors to cut a smile!

fish lips 3Secure a wiggle eye on with a dash of hot glue, then tape the elastic beading cord to the back of the fish. Decorate with yellow cellophane, gold paper, and markers. When the fish is complete, dangle it from the elastic cord, adjust for height, and tape the cord to the top/lid of your aquarium. Get the height just right, and your fish will wiggle and sway in a realistic way.

To turn the box into a suitcase, simply add a tagboard handle to the top. Originally, I used hot glue to attach the handles to the box, but they popped off pretty fast. So I would recommend using brass fasteners to really secure it.

With the handle in place, all your suitcase needs is a “luggage” tag. Write your new friend’s name on it and get ready for adventure!