Lovely Loons

Is there anything more beautiful then the sound of a loon calling? How about the fact that they carry their chicks on their backs when the little ones need a rest? Katie captured the loon love in this simple story time project AND provided the extra bonus at the end of the post!

We recommend reading Little Loon and Papa, written by Toni Buzzeo, and illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2004 – read aloud here by Hannibal Ferret Story Books). Papa Loon is trying to teach reluctant Little Loon how to dive under the water. When Papa disappears below the water’s surface, Little Loon swim away and gets lost. After bumping into several different animals, Little Loon hears Papa’s call and summons the courage to dive and reunite with his dad!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small tissue box
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Black, white, and brown paper
  • Scissors, glue or tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Common loons are easily recognizable by the unique markings on their feathers and their striking red eyes. They also have extremely identifiable calls, which you can often hear as background outdoor sound bites in TV shows and movies. And as you see here, adult loons will carry their young chicks on their backs to give the babies a break from swimming or to protect them from predators. Just AWWWWW!

Image courtesy of Wikicommons

To make the adult loon, cut a small tissue box down to approximately 1.5″ tall. Cover the box and a toilet paper tube with black paper. Snip 1/4″ slits into the sides of of the toilet paper tube, then slide it onto the box. For the feathers, you can use patterned and silver markers like Katie did, or just go with white paper. The beak is construction paper, as are the eyes (which you should definitely color in red!). The black pompom for the top of the head is optional.

mama loon_3

To make the loon chicks, cut a toilet paper tube in half, then wrap each section with brown paper. Add paper wings, beaks, and eyes – or simply use markers to add these features. Feather crests are an option as well! Place the finished chicks onto the back of the adult loon, and marvel in the cuteness!

baby loons_3

The inspiration for this project was an actual pair of loons, lovingly nicknamed Benny and Joon, who reside together on a lake in northern Wisconsin. Katie and her extended family vacationed on the lake this summer, and were treated to daily visits and concerts by Benny and Joon. Listening to the haunting call of the loons was one of the highlights of their trip, along with tubing, waterskiing and catching plenty of fish!

Ready for 30 seconds of total relaxation with Benny, Joon, and gentle, lapping water?

Pop’s Top 10: Literary Amusement Park Rides

moby dick ride_2To each their own thrills, be it the humble log flume (Dr. Dana) or the insane 128mph coaster that basically turns your face inside out (Katie). Inspired by my Moby Dick sighting on the Wildwood, New Jersey boardwalk, Katie and I had a lot of fun researching this post. The only criteria was that each ride had to be physical, not a virtual, IMAX, or 3D experience. So strap in…here are our Top 10 literary-themed amusement park rides!


#10 MAD TEA PARTY

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, photo by Ellen Levy Finch

Perhaps the most classic is Mad Tea Party, an Alice in Wonderland spinning tea cup bonanza at multiple Disneyland parks across the globe. Whimsical and charming, it also gained significant notoriety for being voted “most likely to make you hurl” by unfortunate family members on a grand day out.


#9 SWISS FAMILY TREEHOUSE

Image courtesy of ITM

Also in Disneyland is the amazing Swiss Family Treehouse walk-through attraction based on the famous novel J.D. WyssHmmmm. I wonder how long it would take them to actually discover me living in it à la Claudia Kincaid?


#8 SUPERMAN ESCAPE

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, by Chensiyuan

Leaping briefly over to comics, we have this awesome accelerator coaster at Warner Bros. Movie World in Queensland, Australia. It goes from 0-62mph in 2 seconds. Not quite faster then a speeding bullet, but WOOOOOOOOOOOSH!


#7 PETER RABBIT HIPPITY HOP

Image courtesy of Alton Towers

Located in Staffordshire, England in the Alton Towers theme park, this Peter Rabbit ride is just flat out adorable. Though the prospect of being taken “high into the sky” in a tiny plastic seat with my children and suddenly dropped is exactly the type of thing to give me nightmares 10 years on.


#6 VOYAGE TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH

Image courtesy of Water World

A clear nod to Journey to the Centre of the Earth, this watery dark ride resides in Water World, Denver, Colorado. It’s got inflatable rafts, animatronic dinosaurs, and the thrill rating is “high.” What could possibly go wrong, Professor Lidenbrock?


#5 A DAY OUT WITH THOMAS

Image courtesy of Strasberg Railroad

This one’s for my son! He’s now a teenager, but back in the day he was a massive Thomas the Tank Engine foamer. Considering the ride is just over in Strasberg, Pennsylvania, I might take him there for his next birthday. Seriously. He might be game.


#4 TOM AND HUCK’S RIVERBLAST

Image courtesy of Silver Dollar City

More water fun! Mark Twain’s iconic rascals get their day at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Riverblast boasts 80 super soakers placed in strategic locations along the 567-ft river channel, making it “America’s Biggest Water Battle!”. Katie, game on!


#3 THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, by Rstoplabe14

Couldn’t leave THIS off the list! The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Resort in Orlando, Florida has an inverted coaster, a steel coaster, 2 dark rides, AND a full scale replica of the Hogwart’s Express. Plus butterbeer for later!


#2 DON QUIXOTE FERRIS WHEEL

Image courtesy of GaiJinPot Travel

OK, this one’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s SO cool we had to include it! The only ovular Ferris wheel in the world, patrons of the Don Quixote store in Osaka, Japan can enjoy a ride up and down the side of the building!


#1 DICKENS WORLD

Courtesy of Design You Trust

Before you get too excited, the Dickens World theme park in Kent, England closed in 2016. Here, you could watch live-action re-enactments of famous scenes, go through an interactive haunted house, take a Great Expectations boat ride, or turn the kiddos loose in the “Fagin’s Den” playground. Which, given Fagin’s role in the famous novel is, to say, rather…twisted.

The Best of the West

Recently, I was delighted to connect with writer and musician, Mifflin Lowe. His latest children’s book, The True West (Bushel & Peck, 2020), is a journey to the American West and focuses on the individuals often left out of the popular narratives. Here we meet African American, Latino, Asian, and American Indian soldiers, inventors, workers, pioneers, cowboys…AND cowgirls! Filled with historic photos, amazing facts, helpful definitions, and illustrations by Wiliam Luong, it’s a fantastic, fascinating, and dynamic resource. I lassoed Mifflin for a few questions about his work…

How did this project come to be?

I wrote a picture book and an animated film called The Awesome, Amazing, Occasionally Incredible Adventures of Cowboy Howie, about a mixed race boy from New York City who dreamed of being a cowboy. In his imagination the city’s canyons turned into the Grand Canyon, dogs became wolves, pigeons became eagles etc.

What was the research like for the book? Did you, for example, get a hankering to visit some Western locations? Saddle up Old Paint?

Research was fascinating. I did it mostly online and I learned a ton about the people and the life in the West. The people were all tough and I mean that in the best possible way — the were incredibly resilient from Calamity Jane to Stagecoach Mary Fields to Fox Hastings to Bass Reeves.

Mary Fields

Who was your favorite person to research?

Well maybe Annie Oakley – she was under 5 foot tall and could shoot a dime thrown in the air at 20 paces, and shoot while standing on the back of a galloping horse. Also, Bass Reeves who was a Black lawman who arrested over 3,000 criminals — more than Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp put together. Bass is supposedly the person the Lone Ranger was based on. Bass always left silver dollar at the scene of a crime he’d solved — like the Lone Ranger did with his silver bullets. Also, Jackson Sundown, the Native American rodeo rider who was probably the best ever and Mamie Hafely who used to jump off a five story tower on the back of her horse into a pool of water

Jackson Sundown

What’s one thing that surprised you when working on this book?

How strong, determined and hard working all these people were. They never gave up and never gave in.

Chinese Railroad Workers

In the Calamity Jane chapter, you mention the “flat-out cool’ nicknames from the Wild West. What would your nickname be?

Mr. Smartypants, maybe? Naw, I don’t know… maybe Muffin… like Mifflin…people sometimes make the mistake.

Muffin Lowe


Images courtesy of Mifflin Lowe and Bushel & Peck Books. Illustrations by Wiliwam Luong.