Moby Dodecahedron

moby dodecahedron

Call me Cryshmael. Some weeks ago – never mind how long precisely – having money in our purse, Katie and I found something particular of interest to us at the store, and we thought we would test it and see the narwhaly part of the world. Yes, whenever we find ourselves growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly October in our  souls, we account it high time to test Klutz’s “Grow Your Own Crystal Narwhal” kit as soon as we can.* Take it away, Katie!


Klutz designed the “Grow Your Own Crystal Narwhal” kit for children ages 8 and up and it retails for $12.99. If narwhals aren’t your favorite, Klutz also has kits to grow a crystal fox, unicorn or dragon. But it’s science! It’s crystals! It’s a narwhal! And who doesn’t love adorable narwhals?

klutz grown your own crystal narwhal kitThe kit provides the basic pieces to get started. Namely an instructional booklet, 2 pipe cleaners, crystal powder, a plastic narwhal figurine, and a little paper backdrop to pose the finished product on.

klutz narwhal kit contentsHowever, you will have to fill in some gaps with items you may or may not have already at home: 2 heatproof glass jars with lids (I used old jelly jars, but Bell jars would totally work), measuring cups and spoons, a plastic plate, and a pot holder or trivet. Most importantly, you need to use distilled water to make the crystal growing solutions. I bought a gallon of distilled water at the grocery store for 99 cents.

You start by making a crystal “seeding solution” and saturate the pipe cleaners you’ve attached to your narwhal in the solution. I also saturated 3 pom-poms to create “icebergs” and tried to turn the remaining white pipe cleaner into “coral.” Let the narwhal (and optional icebergs and coral) dry overnight.

narwhal phase 1Next, you make a crystal “growing solution” and let the narwhal soak in the solution for 4-8 hours. If you made the solution correctly, crystals will grow on the pipe cleaners. Let the narwhal dry overnight, then do a second round of soaking in the growing solution. If your experiment worked, you finish with a beautiful narwhal with a crystal tusk, water spout and tail!

narwhal phase 2One suggestion…I had to get a bit creative with my glass jar because there wasn’t enough growing solution liquid to fully cover my narwhal. I simply rolled up a dish towel and rested my jar at an angle so the pipe cleaners were submerged.

soaking narwhalAnother suggestion is using something other than your fingers to remove the narwhal from the liquid after it is done soaking. I used a wood skewer, but you can also use a plastic spoon or tongs. In fact, every time I handled the narwhal or any of the experiment materials, I thoroughly washed my hands to remove residual crystal powder (which is aluminum potassium sulfate, or alum).

Place the crystal narwhal on the provided paper backdrop, and you are done!

finished narwhal on backdropIt took me 4 days to finish the project. But I allowed extra soaking time for the pom-pom “icebergs” to grow bigger crystals, so technically you can wrap up the experiment in 3 days. There is a great deal of adult supervision to complete this kit. I fully agree with the suggested age range of 8 and older with adult assistance. There is no way a child should work with stove tops, microwaves, boiling water, and chemicals without an adult present.

Here are my rankings…

KIT: 4 out of 5
Being asked to supply so many additional items in order to get the experiment to properly work is a bit of a bummer.

INSTRUCTION MANUAL: 5 out of 5
Klutz does a great job with the manual. It thoroughly explains how to do the experiment, the science behind crystals, fun facts about narwhals, important safety information, and provides a detailed troubleshooting guide if your crystals aren’t properly growing.

EXPERIMENT: 3.5 out of 5
There are a lot of tedious steps that could possibly frustrate the younger experimenters. You also have to commit several days from start to finish.

AWESOMENESS: 5 out of 5
You grow crystals! So cool!

KATIE SAYS:
This crystal narwhal kit shines! Recommended!


*All due respect to Moby Dick by Herman Melville. We couldn’t resist!

Once Upon a LEGO

once upon a legoIt started with an excited text from Katie: “Check out this LEGO set!” The accompanying image made my heart go pitter pat. LEGO has created a fairy tale pop-up book. I think it took oh…maybe 15 seconds for me to order one for blog testing? The set was Katie’s discovery, so she gets to do the honors. Take it away, Katie!


The brilliant folks at LEGO have done it again. They created an honest-to-goodness pop-up book out of LEGO bricks!

Before I go any further, I will fully admit that I was quite skeptical when I saw the “Once Upon a Brick” Pop-Up Book from LEGO’s Ideas line set in my son’s new 2019 LEGO catalogue. It claimed it was the “First pop-up book in LEGO history” and features two fairy tale stories: Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. Awesome, but would it work?

lego once upon a brick boxThe set retails between $50-$70. There are 859 pieces in the box and the suggested age range is 12+. The instruction manual is a novel in its own right, weighing in at a hefty 162 pages. I loved that at the start of the instruction manual, LEGO introduced the fan designers who came up with the original idea for the pop-up book, as well as the LEGO designers who helped bring the book to LEGO life.

lego once upon a brick fan designersLEGO also provided the history of pop-up books, which date back to the 13th century, and briefly discussed the two fairy tales that are a part of the set. Along with words of encouragement to “Create your own fairy tale!” and “Build your own story…,” the instructions to build your LEGO set starts.

There are six bags of LEGOs to build the pop-up book. I found the instruction manual was straight-forward and easy to follow. There were only a few times when the instruction images were a bit tricky and forced me to slow down to pay close attention to the details. There are also lots of little pieces, especially when building Jack and the Beanstalk, so have your nimble fingers ready to attach small LEGOs to each other.

see katie build legoThe instructions have you build the Little Red Riding Hood cottage first. As I attached the pieces inside the book covers, I wasn’t sure the cottage would properly fold down and create the pop-up book illusion. But it really works!

little red riding hood lego set


After carefully removing the cottage from the book, I built the Jack and the Beanstalk tiny town and the beanstalk itself (complete with the giant’s castle at the top!). The town is adorable, surrounded by puffy white clouds, and the beanstalk grows when you open up the book. You read that right: the beanstalk grows as you open up the book.

jack and the beanstalk lego set


The attention to detail with this LEGO set is remarkable. You get the feeling that you are handling a real book when you have it in your hands, and the ease of how the pieces pop-up when you open the covers is stunning.

once upon a brick lego bookMy *only* complaint – and perhaps it is merely a humble suggestion – is that the little windmill blades in the Jack and the Beanstalk tiny town should have been a different color. They sort of blend into the white clouds surrounding them.

windmill suggestionIt took me about three hours to put the LEGO set together. I do agree with the suggested age range of 12+. The complexity of the set would be tough for younger kids to complete on their own, but they could probably build it with assistance from an adult.

My rating for the newest book in the Cotsen Children’s Library special collection: 5 out of 5 stars!

Let’s Get Small

lets get small

Book lovers dream of that big, beautiful library with the cozy chairs and the rolling ladder. But books can tend to take up quite a bit of space. Today, we have a solution for you! It’s the My Miniature Library kit by Laurence King Publishing, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (ages 6+, retails for $20). Katie took the miniature kit for a tiny test drive…

my minature library kit by laurence king publishingThe packaging for My Miniature Library is a delightful cardboard box in the shape of a book. When you open the box, you are greeted with a small instruction booklet, 18 sheets of books covers and pages, and a cardboard punch-out bookshelf.

kit contents of my miniature libraryThe 9″ x 12″ box containing the kit (and this is really cool) is also the set of the library. Prop it up on its side, and it becomes your library, complete with chevron hardwood floors, birds in flight wallpaper, and a window framed with fall leaves. When you are done playing with your miniature library, you simply pack everything inside the box, close the lid, and slide the kit on a shelf until next time!

set for my minature libraryThe kit contains the makings for 30 tiny books: 20 pre-written (both fiction and non-fiction), 8 books with title prompts you can author yourself, and 2 completely blank books for whatever topic you desire. Here’s a set of the pre-printed book sheets (which were primarily fairy tales):

ready made book sheets for my miniature libraryAnd here’s a set of the design-your-own sheets:

make your own book sheets for my minature library kitGenerally, the instructions are very clear, concise, and easy to follow. Especially the cardboard bookshelf. The books are where I started to run into some trouble. To create a miniature book, you first cut out the 2 strips that become the book pages, and the cover of the book. Then you carefully accordion-fold the book pages together, and glue them inside the front and back of the book’s cover.

book folds You have to carefully cut the 2 page strips in order to not lose any of the text or images. You also have to cut out the cover. For 30 books, that’s 90 pieces of paper to cut. That’s a lot of cutting.

Also, folding the 2 page strips is a bit tedious. These books are small (1″ x 1.5″), so it takes nimble fingers to make sure the tiny pages are folded just right. The covers have a tiny spines that require more nimble finger work.

It took me around 6.5 minutes to make a book from start to finish. Multiply that by 30 and you are looking at well over 3 hours to make all 30 books. Also, the packaging doesn’t mention needing glue to attach the pages to the cover. That piece of information is buried deep within the instructions.

However, when finished, the library is positively adorable. The stories are cleverly edited, so nothing is lost in the retelling. I love the option for children to write and draw their own books. The quality of printing is top notch, and the book illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini are just incredible. Here’s an illustration from Hansel and Gretel:

hansel and gretel illustration by daniela jaglenka terrazziniAnd here is the finished library, bookshelf and all. We placed my toilet paper tube portrait of Johnathan Swift (who you first met here) in the library so you can get an idea of the size ratio.

finished my miniature libraryHowever, I disagree with the recommended age of 6+. I think children 10+ are better suited for the complicated cutting and folding to put these books together. With an estimated 3 hours to craft all 30 books (and that’s after all the cutting is done), I can imagine many children would give up well before all of the books are finished. Children under 10 might also have trouble writing small enough for the design-your-own books portion of the kit. Still, there’s no denying the awesomeness of your very own library with readable books and gorgeous hardwood floors!

Recommended, with caution. Be prepared with good scissors, strong cutting and folding fingers, a glue stick, and lots and LOTS of patience.