Delicious Dim Sum

delicious dim sumHungry? We invite you to peruse the contents of this adorable dim sum cart. In addition to being stocked with deliciously delectable dishes, the cart is a bilingual matching game with an additional story time social twist!

dim sum cartWe read Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001). Follow a family as they sample the many little dishes served at a dim sum restaurant. Pork buns, fried shrimp, egg tarts…the carts have something for everyone! The book concludes with an excellent essay about dim sum – it’s history, traditions, and social aspects. Fantastic book!

You’ll need:

First, the cart! Use a box cutter to create a square in one of the short sides of a  box (leave the other short side intact). Next, cut hinged rectangular flaps in the long sides of the box. Fold the flaps down to create the lower “shelf” of the cart. Secure the flaps in place with tape or hot glue.

dim sum cart box cutAdd a wheel assembly to the bottom of the box (you’ll find instructions and alternative wheel suggestions here). Use leftover box cardboard to make a cart handle. We also added gold mirror board and patterned tape to make the cart extra fancy.

dim sum cartTime for the food! Color and cut the dim sum dishes from the template, then glue them on top of construction paper (or patterned paper) circles. Thanks to Lin’s awesome illustrations on the front and end papers of the book, the dishes are labeled with their English and Chinese names.

top of dim sum cartWould you also like to serve tea? The tea cups are leftover bits of card stock circled into miniature cylinders. To make the teapot, circle and tape the rectangular part of the template to create the teapot’s body. Then add a handle, spout, and bead knob on top! The circular part of the template becomes the teapot’s hinged lid:

paper teapot

The book mentions that an open teapot means you are requesting a fresh pot – something we really wanted to replicate for this project. When the carts were finished, it was time for the matching game. Each cart came with a menu (the template is here):

dim sum menu

To play the game, kids rolled the carts up to their customers. The customers would point to a menu item, and the kids had to locate it on their carts! Oh, and we also included a cute place setting for your customers (template here).

dim sum restaurant tableThe book mentions how social dim sum dining is, so we made a couple tables (i.e. brown poster board circles) and asked the story time grown ups to sit around them. Kids traveled to ALL the tables, playing the matching game with everyone’s grown up! If you decided to add this social aspect to your story time, just make sure the kids write their names on the backs of each of their dishes so they can be returned to the proper cart.

dim sum restaurantThe final touch on this awesome project? Our colleague, Dr. Minjie Chen, stopped by to write the kids’ names on their menus in Chinese characters. The absolutely loved it. Thanks Minjie!

minjie at story time

Magical Moving Stories

tara mcgowanDecember 7th was World Kamishibai Day, and we were honored to invite the amazing Dr. Tara McGowan for a special international story time at our library! While I have performed kamishibai in elementary school classrooms (and blogged about it extensively here) I am no match for the sheer talent of Tara – bilingual kamishibai historian, scholar, and artist extraordinaire!

tara performsIf you don’t have time to jump over my kamishibai post, I’ll quickly summarize: Kamishibai (pronounced kah-me-she-bye) is a form of Japanese storytelling that involves illustrated story cards and a small, portable stage (you can also perform without the stage). While telling the tale, you pull the cards out of the side of the stage to make the story progress.

It’s colorful, dynamic, simple, and absolutely intended to be enjoyed by an audience. And the art on the cards! Wow! Here is one from The One-Inch Boy:

The One Inch Boy illustrated by Hisao Suzuki

Issun-boshi (The One Inch Boy). Written by Joji Tsubota, illustrated by Hisao Suzuki

Tara began her story time with a little history. She brought a copy of Allen Say’s book, Kamishibai Man (which Tara wrote the afterword for by the way!) and talked briefly about the evolution of this art form. Then, with a little audience help, she launched into her performance, which consisted of four short kamishibai stories.

tara performs montageIt’s difficult to capture the liveliness of a kamishibai performance with photos (and I didn’t want to be obtrusive and shoot a video). But Tara is a MASTER storyteller. Seamlessly mixing Japanese and English, she uses her voice in an incredibly lively way, both to narrate and express sound and motion. She varies the way she pulls to cards to build suspense or depict action, and is in constant communication with her audience.

The story time kids also made tachi-e puppets (you’ll find the instructions here).

lantern ghostAfter story time, I caught up with Tara to chat about her work, and the art of kamishibai:


How long have you been performing kamishibai?

Since 2000, so almost 2 decades now.

Can you tell us a little about its history?

The kind of kamishibai commonly performed today was first introduced to the streets of Japan in 1929. The first street kamishibai of this type were based on films because silent films in Japan almost always had a movie narrator standing next to the screen, providing an oral soundtrack. These movie narrators, known as benshi, were enormously popular, so kamishibai storytellers on the streets tried to emulate their vocal style, while moving the pictures in the stage in tandem with their telling. When sound came to film, many former benshi are said to have turned to kamishibai instead. The puppet style of kamishibai, called tachi-e (standing pictures), began much earlier in the 19th century, inspired by magic-lantern shows. Both kinds of kamishibai were used to sell candy or other treats on the street corners, especially in urban areas.

What do you like about kamishibai storytelling versus other kinds of storytelling?

I started out performing oral storytelling, without props, and I still like oral storytelling best for interacting with an audience and being able to tell more emotionally complex tales. As a performer, I experience the two forms very differently. With oral storytelling, the audience sees their own version of what the storyteller is evoking with his or her words and gestures, but, with kamishibai, the storyteller’s role is to bring the images on the cards to life. The interaction with the audience is less direct because the storyteller and the audience are all focused on the movement of the cards.

When kamishibai illustrations are designed well, they can work magic! But, just like with picture books, there are many poorly designed kamishibai out there. As a visual artist, I find designing my own kamishibai stories to be an ever-stimulating challenge, and it’s great to get immediate feedback from a live audience to know what is working or what needs changing. I also really enjoy working with people of all ages to create and perform their own kamishibai.

You’ve done scores of kamishibai workshops with kids and teens. What’s your experience working with them on their stories?

The most remarkable experiences I have had with teaching students to create and perform their own kamishibai is to see how it can bring even extremely shy kids out of their shell. When someone has spent a great deal of time creating and illustrating a story, they want to share it, and this becomes a strong motivation for overcoming stage fright. Also, because the cards are the focus of attention, the performer can take more of a backseat position. It is up to them whether they want to draw the audiences’ focus to themselves or keep it focused on the cards, and learning to direct audiences in this way is very empowering for young people and also a great skill to have!

You’re bilingual, and have traveled to Japan for both research and performances. What, in your experience, are some differences between kamishibai in Japan, and kamishibai in America?

One of the main differences I see is that many people in Japan have associations with kamishibai based on its sometimes troubling historical role, first as a street-performance art and then as a powerful tool for war propaganda during World War II. People outside Japan tend to romanticize the street-performance artists, but actually, they were not viewed at all favorably by many parents and educators at the time. The stories were considered violent and sensationalistic, much like video games today.

Kamishibai performers in Japan today continue to feel pressure to elevate the format and distance it from the negative aspects of its past. Since the war, the few publishers who still sell kamishibai tend to choose shorter and shorter stories for very young audiences, so kamishibai is increasingly viewed by people in Japan as a simple format only for small children. Of course, there are also many kamishibai performers in Japan who are trying to change people’s attitudes toward the format and forge new directions for the medium. Among tezukuri, or “hand-made,” kamishibai performers, you see stories of all genres and for all ages.

Outside Japan, performers don’t have negative associations, based on kamishibai’s past, but they do bring to the format their own cultural traditions. In Mexico, I saw many flamboyantly decorated stages, which I have never seen in Japan, and in Slovenia, I saw kamishibai used as a medium to perform songs and poetry. This is also something I have not seen as much in Japan.

Do you have a favorite kamishibai story?

I have many favorites, but, if I had to pick one, I think it would be “Nya-on, the Kitten,” illustrated by my dear friend Kyoko Watanabe. It is a simple story, but the sophistication of her design never ceases to amaze me. She is able to express changes in point-of-view visually by showing each scene from a carefully chosen camera angle, and the transitions from one card to the next are so clever. I use this story often, even with teenagers, to teach point-of-view in storytelling and how it can be expressed visually.


If you are interested in learning more about kamishibai, and possibly bringing it into your own classroom or library, Tara has written a book about this very subject (see below). It’s definitely worth checking out!

kamishibai classroom

Used with permission of the author (Libraries Unlimited, 2010).

Historical Hairdos

historic hairdosVC Salon, you are amazing. Last week, 5 stylists donated their time and significant skills to give 6 girls totally historic makeovers. And we don’t mean “historic” as in slang for “awesome” (even though the results were awesome). We mean historic as let’s-go-back-in-history-and-do-a-Marie-Antoinette-updo historic.

Located in Robbinsville, New Jersey, VC Salon & Spa (now renamed Coterie 17) was founded in 1995 by Angela Pantaleon. A quick peek at the salon’s about us page confirms the dedication, playfulness and fun they bring to their workplace. Also, look how gorgeous it is!

vc salon and spa 1vc salon and spa 2vc salon and spa 3The collaboration was lead by stylist Delia Salguero. We provided her with the models and pages of historic photos, and Delia recruited the stylists. The stylists then selected the model, the hairdo, and also put together costumes and accessories for the photo shoot.

vc salon and spa 4The models were volunteers Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary society. You might recognize one of the faces below. Yes, that’s Hope, our blog’s teen tester and Cotsen Critix alumna!

modelsAlong with the costumes and the hair came makeup, including one wicked pair of fake eyelashes. So…are you ready to see some historic makeovers?


model 1

Hair: Jennifer Bossert Graziani
Makeup: Delia Salguero


model 2model 2 side

Hair: Bailey O’Brien


model 3

Hair: Tatiana Rivadeneira
Makeup: Tatiana Rivadeneira


model 4model 4 back

Hair: Brenna Roth
Makeup: Tatiana Rivadeneira


model 5

Hair: Tatiana Rivadeneira
Makeup: Delia Salguero


model 6 side

Hair: Delia Salguero
Makeup: Delia Salguero


Many thanks to VC Salon for hosting historic hairdos! A big round of applause to stylists Jennifer Bossert Graziani, Bailey O’Brien, Tatiana Rivadeneira, Brenna Roth, and Delia Salguero for sharing your talent with us. Thank you to our models, who patiently sat in chairs, got fogged with hairspray, and in some cases wore eye makeup for the first time, all in the name of style. Finally, much appreciation and gratitude to Delia Salguero for coordinating the event.

delia and the girls

Delia and the girls. You rock!