One Two Books

It’s a story line, an illustration exercise, and an optical illusion all wrapped into one simple project! “One Two Books” is an activity I like to do for Draw With Dr. Dana, our Zoom illustration program (you can sign up for it here)!

You’ll need:

  • 1 piece of paper
  • Markers and/or pens

To begin, fold a piece of paper in half like a card (I use the heavier stock 9″ x 6″ paper from the inexpensive sketch books Target sells in their office supply section). Label the front of the card with a number 1:

Then open the card and, in the exact same position in the interior, label it with a number 2:

Now decide the story you want to tell. One Two Books only have 2 pages, so I encourage kids to think about a simple action, reaction, or scenario. The younger the artist, the simpler it should be. So here we have a sleeping dog and a grumpy bird on a window sill…hmmm…

Flip open the card for the action…a shouting bird and a shocked, no longer sleeping dog!

One Two Books are a great way to think sequentially, but they are also a terrific way to teach you to think logically and visually. For example, in order for the image to work, the window, rug, and floor line need to occur in the same place on both pages. If color is used, it needs to be consistent between pages. Your characters need to be in somewhat similar orientations or the story won’t make sense. And for the older kids, I show how dialogue or emotive lines adds to the scene (example: the “zzzzz” for the dog on page 1, and its surprised reaction lines on page 2).

The books are also optical illusions! Flip them quickly open and shut to see your characters in motion. Here’s the bird dog story:


And here’s a goldfish story I did with another young illustrator…


The visual action of One Two Books are similar to thaumatropes, which are fantastic optical toys from the Victorian era. Check out this post, which features our awesome Alice in Wonderland thaumatrope project, complete with instructions and printable templates!

thaumatrope demo

Unlike thaumatropes, however, One Two Books allow you more space to create. You can have several action sequences happening on the page at once, for example. Or more elaborate backgrounds. You can have dialogue between two characters as well.

Another interesting storytelling form to try is kamishibai, which originated in Japan. You can find more information about its history and instructions on how to illustrate stories here.

just the cards

There’s also a Japanese version of thaumatropes called tachi-e puppets. You’ll find instructions for those here!

Fly Me to the Moon

fly me to the moonThree, two, one…blast off! We head to the moon using this rocket ship dashboard, which includes a custom steering wheel, fuel gauge, gravity level, destination dial, and flashing light. This was a special story time for the Bernardsville Public Library, who won our Pop LIVE blog contest. Scroll to the bottom of post to see their truly adorable children’s section!

We read The Crimson Comet by Dean Morrissey and Stephen Krensky (HarperCollins, 2006). When the light in the moon goes out, it’s up to Nora and Jack to jump in their home-made rocket and lend a hand. It might look like a toy wagon cobbled together with household items, but the Crimson Comet gets the job done.

You’ll need:

  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (we used a 9.5″ x 13.75″ cake pad)
  • A few brass fasteners
  • A few foam beads
  • Poster board, card stock, tagboard, or construction paper
  • Dashboard decorations (more on this below!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

dashboard parts

The corrugated cardboard dashboard is designed to sit comfortably in your lap during space flight. Moving clockwise – the destination dial is a mini aluminum pie pan, and the fuel gauge hand is a snippet of bubble tea straw. Both attach to the dashboard with brass fasteners.The gravity level is a little piece of mesh tubing that slides up and down a silver paper drinking straw.

The flashing light is a silver LED votive with a plastic shot glass over it (who knew they would fit together so perfectly?). We wanted kids to be able to turn the light on and off, so the whole thing slides into a 1.25″ piece of toilet paper tube that can be taped or hot glued to the dashboard.

dashboard lightThe steering wheel is 2 silver circles hot glued together and then attached to the dashboard with a longer, 1.5″ brass fastener (or use a bit of balloon stick). We used 2 foam beads to lift the steering wheel off the board a bit. Here’s a shot from the side:

dashboard steering wheelWe also had markers, silver foil paper, mesh tubing, foil star stickers and geometric stickers on hand for decorating. The geometric stickers are “Funky Geometric Shapes Rolls of Stickers” from Oriental Trading Company (6 rolls of 900 stickers are $10).

1 dashboarddashboard 2dashboard 3Once the decorating was done, we fired up ye olde overheard projector and took a trip to the moon! I drew different scenes on overheard transparency film and interchanged them as we progressed from the landing strip, to the sky, to outer space, to the moon, and back to earth again. Along with way, we dodged birds, weather balloons, comets, and the International Space Station!

trip to the moon This story time was hosted by the public library in Bernardsville, New Jersey. Look at their charming children’s section, which was the gift of Estella and Jay Parsons:

benardsville public library children's sectionIt’s full of beautiful hand-painted trees, botanical touches, and forest animals. Look at the deer standing next to the little wicker chair in the corner!

benardsville public library cornerThis little singing bird is Katie’s favorite:

benardsville public library little birdThe preschool area (a gift of the Bonaventura Devine Foundation) continues the outdoor theme with picnic-style activity tables with cute gingham covers and buttery sunshine-colored walls.

benardsville public library pre-school roomHere’s my favorite touch, however. The “Please Disturb” sign on the reference desk!

benardsville public library please disturb sign


Many thanks to the Benardsville Public Library and their enthusiastic staff for hosting us,  and for treating us to a delicious local lunch! You guys are awesome!