Adventure Awaits

adventure awaitsSolve the riddles, find 3 keys, and discover an ancient temple at To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for ages 6-8. Crawl inside the temple to find treasure, but be warned – the traps hidden within these dark walls will make your blood run cold. Unless, of course, you like traps. Then it’s going to be AWESOME!

We read Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes (Philomel Books, 2016). Addison Cooke and his younger sister Molly live in New York City with their  Aunt Delia and Uncle Nigel, who are world-renowned archeologists. Uncle Nigel has just discovered the first of three mythical Incan keys rumored to lead to a vast treasure. Unfortunately, Uncle Nigel’s nemesis, the ruthless Professor Ragar, wants that treasure very badly. He kidnaps Uncle Nigel and Aunt Delia, expecting them to lead him to the treasure. But what he doesn’t expect is the intrepid Cooke children mobilizing their friends and, with the assistance of Uncle’s credit cards, heading off to South America to beat Ragar to the treasure and rescue their family. Caiman-infested rivers, booby-traps in buried treasure vaults, limousines driven by panicky middle-schoolers…nothing can stop Addison Cooke when he sets his mind to something!

When the kids arrived at story time, I read them the first of 4 clues. This led them to a plastic box with a key and a clue to the next box (here’s the template for the keys if you’d like it).

clue box with key The 3 box locations were quite some distance apart on Princeton University’s campus, so there was a fair amount of excited running. Marissa went with the gang, and managed to get some great action shots.

prospect garden clueHere’s my favorite. Look at those feet coming completely off the ground!

feet off groundI don’t know about you, but I find rhyming clues really challenging to write. Especially when you want the kids to figure out where to go without being too obvious or clunky. I was, however, pretty happy with this one. Here’s a photo of the location:

chapel clue settingAnd here’s the clue that led to it:

It’s time to hurry! The last key awaits!
Next to the Chapel, in a special place.
Facing Firestone, peaceful and bright,
Benches of stone and flowers of white.

While Marissa and the kids were finding keys around campus, I was busy setting up the mysterious temple back at the library. It was a whopping 87″ long and 50″ high. We used 15 boxes, 2 tubes, 7 cardboard flats, multiple rolls of packing tape, and gray paint we had left over from this knight helmet project. The temple broke into three pieces so we could get it out of storage, hustle it through a doorway, and set it up in the gallery.

Incan templeHere’s a shot from the side so you can get an idea of the size and how we constructed it.

side of Incan templeThe ramp in the front of the temple lifted to reveal a felt-covered doorway. From there, kids entered a creepy, cob-web covered chamber illuminated with votive LED candles. One at a time, the kids crawled across a floor rigged with bubble wrap to snag a golden treasure box (which we lit from above with an LED light mounted in the top of the treasure vault box).

interior of templeThe minute the treasure left the vault, it triggered cardboard spikes dropping from the ceiling! That was me outside the box, manually raising and lowering the spikes from a slit in the ceiling. There was lots of laughing and screaming. Good times!

interior of temple with spikesThe characters in the book have a couple run-ins with caiman, so the final touch was an alligator puppet (operated by Marissa) that snapped at the kids as they exited the temple. The hard-earned treasure boxes were plastic jewelry boxes I found at the Dollar Store. They were loaded with plastic gemstones as well. Each kid received a treasure box, and, to make reloading the treasure vault easier, we cut a little trap door in the back of the box.

treasure box and gemsAfter everyone had received a treasure box, we opened the temple back up and just let the kids have fun entering and exiting, dodging the spikes. Some of the younger siblings tried too (sans spikes of course). And then there was this little baby who was totally fascinated by the interior of the temple. She hung out for quite a while!

brave babyAddison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas is a fantastic read-aloud. It’s hilarious, adventurous, faced-paced, with strong strains of Indiana Jones and The Goonies. Definitely looking forward to reading more books in this series!

Ghostbusters

ghostbustersWhat do you do when your dream house is haunted? Call in a professional ghost remover of course! We decorated a ghost box, whipped up 4 tissue paper ghosts, and then went a-ghost huntin’ in this custom 4-story cardboard house.

exterior house 1I hid each kid’s ghosts in various locations in the dollhouse and then invited him/her to find them and tuck them back in his/her ghost box!

ghost in atticWe read Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara (Square Fish reprint edition, 2010). A girl (and her cat) move into a new house but…oh my…the house is haunted by ghosts! The girl, however, happens to be a witch and quickly begins catching the ghosts. After a spin in the washing machine, the ghosts happily become curtains, tablecloths, and cozy blankets. This book was in the holiday section of my local library but it’s so sweet and fun, it really should be read year-round!

You’ll need:

  • A box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • Brown masking tape (or a selection of color masking tape)
  • 2 small pieces of mirror board (approximately 1″ x 1.75″ and 1.25″ x 1.25″)
  • Black permanent marker
  • Box decorating materials – I offered embossed foil paper, patterned paper, construction paper (blue, black, gray, purple, orange, pink), mirror board, small feathers, fabric leaves, white 6″ doilies, foil star stickers, and fabric flowers.
  • 12 squares of white tissue paper (approximately 6.5″ x 6.5″)
  • 4 pieces of white yarn (approximately 6″ long)
  • 1 ghost house (more on that below!)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by decorating a box for your ghosts to live in. The exterior should be quite minimal (the interior is where you go a little wild). I went for an old-fashioned steamer trunk with a padlock:

box closedIf you’re using a patterned tissue box, you might want to cover it with construction paper or paint first. Then use brown (or color) masking tape to create lines on the outside of the box.

To make a padlock, cut a rectangle of mirror board into an upside-down U shape. Use a black permanent marker to draw a keyhole on a square piece of mirror board. Hot glue (or tape) the U shape to the back of the keyhole square. Attach the padlock to the front of the box with hot glue (or tape).

padlockThe exterior of the box is finished, now for the interior! I decided to go for a classic “night sky inside a box” for my ghosts. I lined the inside of the box with black construction paper, added foil stars, and finished the look with a crescent moon.

box openSome kids replicated this look, but others used embossed foil paper, patterned paper, small feathers, fabric leaves, white 6″ doilies, and fabric flowers to whip up some amazing ghost domiciles.

With the box finished, it’s time for the ghosts! Take 2 squares of white tissue paper and lay them flat on top of each other like so:

ghost step 1Then crumple a third tissue square and place it in the middle of the flat squares.

ghost step 2Bunch the flat squares around the crumpled tissue and pinch tightly,

ghost step 3Flip the tissue bunch over and knot a piece of yarn around it to created your ghost’s neck. Trim off any excess yarn and use marker to draw a face. Repeat these steps until you have 4 ghosts.

ghost step 4You have a box, you have ghosts, now for the house! If you’d like to keep it super simple, hide the ghosts in different locations in a room, classroom, or library. You could even turn off the lights and use a flashlight for an extra spooky ghost hunt. However, if you’d like recreate our ghost house, read on!

My colleagues in Firestone Library know to call me if they’re about to dispose of any large or unusually shaped boxes (you can read more about our library-wide recycling program here). So this dollhouse began as a tall, 6″ x 33″ x 41″ box. I also had a couple old archive boxes to use up (you can see more of them in action in this post and this post).

just the boxFirst, Katie and I measured where the stacked archive boxes hit the tall box, and then cut a big hole in the tall box for the archive boxes to slide into. The leftover cardboard was used to make the roof (to which I added some tagboard shingles and a cardboard chimney).

Next, we sliced one of the archive box’s lids in half and hot glued the halves inside the two archive boxes. This created four “floors” in our ghost house. We finished by hot gluing the archive boxes inside the tall box, and added a few pieces of packing tape for good measure.

gluingTo keep the house upright and sturdy, we hot glued a 5.5″ x 17″ x 25.5″ box to the back as a base. We reinforced the connection with lots of packing tape too. We knew it was going to get bumped and bashed by the ghost hunters!

baseNext, Katie used pieces of corrugated cardboard to create the walls that divided the rooms, and tagboard to make the staircases. You can see the whole thing evolving here. And this is only the beginning of the mess we made that day. Oh yes it is.

dana and katie With the basic elements in place, we decorated the interior. For hours and hours. Katie’s son even stopped by at the end of the day to get in on the fun (my favorites are the laptop in the living room and the Angry Birds artwork in the kitchen). But rather than go into excruciating decorating details, here are photos of the different rooms of the house, as well as some ghosts demonstrating various hiding places.

Living Room

ghost in living roomDark closet under the “grand” staircase (spooky eye stickers courtesy of Katie’s son)

closet under the stairsSmall Staircases

ghost on stairsBedroom

ghosts in bedroomBathroom

ghosts in bathroomLaundry Room

ghost in laundry roomAttic (complete with Amityville windows)

ghosts in the atticAnd here is a photo of the tremendous mess we made during the building of the ghost house. Oh yeah.

tremendous messDuring story time, kids could play the ghost hunting game as many times as they liked. I came up with some pretty creative new places to hide ghosts (like the overhead light fixture in the kitchen, and the roof).

ghost on roofAt the very end of story time, interested parties put their names in a hat and the winner took home the ghost house! If, however, you’re still yearning for more dollhouses and miniatures, mosey on over here to see some truly spectacular Harry Potter creations.