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!

Delightful Diner

delightful diner

Bacon, eggs, and donuts anyone? Or how about a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice? This little diner set features a compact countertop, fully-stocked kitchen, and mini Post-It Note pad for taking orders!

We read Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino (Henry Holt, 2007). Every Friday morning, rain or shine, a boy and his Dad navigate the city and have breakfast at their favorite diner. Pancakes, coffee, smiles…see you next Friday guys!

You’ll need:

  • 1 rectangle of corrugated cardboard (we used a 9.5″ x 14″ cake pad)
  • 1 large box (we used a 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” box – a tissue box works too)
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 strip of white poster board
  • 2 craft sticks (ours were 4.5″ long)
  • diner breakfast template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 3 plastic sample cups
  • 1 plastic cocktail cup
  • 1 medium pom-pom
  • 4 cotton balls
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 mini Post-It Note pad
  • 1 pencil
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by hot gluing the corrugated cardboard rectangle on top of the box. This is your “countertop,” which divides into 2 sections: dining area and kitchen. To divide your countertop, tape a craft stick to each end of a strip of white poster board (our strip was 2.5″ x 14″) . Use the box cutter to make a slit in each end of the countertop, then slide the craft sticks into the slits to anchor the divider in place:

diner dividerIf you like, you can use color masking tape and embossed foil paper to fancy up your divider and countertop. Here’s the dining area…

diner dining areaThe plates, utensils, food, and menus are on the template. We used patterned paper for the place mats, fancy plastic shot glasses (with bits of drinking straw and cotton ball “milk” and “juice”), and wooden beads for the salt & pepper shakers. We even included some snippets of paper towels for the napkins, AND made a napkin holders:

diner napkin holderBasically, these are triangles of silver mirror board with the center cut out to accommodate menus and napkins. On the other side of the diner is the kitchen:

diner kitchen area The donut dome is a plastic cocktail cup that has been cut down to 1.5″ and has a small pom-pom hot glued on top. There’s mirror board plate underneath it, and a mirror board griddle as well. There’s also a plastic sample cup mixing bowl with spatula (that’s a bit of silver mirror board taped to a mini craft stick). The pancakes are construction paper. Oh, and we included a fridge made out of a little box, but that’s totally optional.

The set isn’t complete without a mini Post-It Note pad to take orders, and a golf pencil. The Post-It notes stick right up on the kitchen wall! Here’s a bird’s eye view of the finished diner.

bird's eye view of dinerMiniature food sets are REALLY popular at story time. Sometimes, I hear about kids who are still playing with their sets months – sometimes years! – after story time (specifically our ice cream truck, sushi set, donut shop, and crêpe cart). The kids put a lot of love into creating and customizing their sets, but every once in a while, one set will blow us away. Like this one…

purple diner counterLook at the gorgeous purple decor! The carefully detailed salt and pepper shakers! The purple stripes on the bacon!

purple diner kitchenWhich are only surpassed by the purple donuts. And then the black polka dots! LOVE.

The Neverending Story

mystery mansion the neverending storyA mysterious phone call, a revealed trapdoor, a suspicious red envelope, a missing portrait. This is the world of “The Mystery Mansion,” a storytelling card game by Magical Myrioramas ($20).

Also known as “endless landscapes,” myriorama cards were popular toys in Europe in the 19th century. No matter what order you put the cards in, they always line up to create a continuous landscape. You can arrange the cards for visual fun, or you can arrange the cards to tell a story. The Mystery Mansion set has 20 cards, which means there are 2,432,902,008,176,640,000 possible combinations. That’s a lot of mysteries to uncover!

mystery mansion box and cardsThe set comes in a neat-o box that opens like a book, with the cards and 2 sets of instructions nestled inside. One set of instructions give short, enticing descriptions of the cards. Example: “He should be a loyal member of the household, but his face belies a bitter grudge…” The second set of instructions repeats the same card descriptions from the first set (which is rather redundant), but it also gives suggestions for various game play.

The cards are beautifully illustrated by Lucille Clerc, in a style that reminds me of Edward Gorey. They are printed on heavy card stock, so they’re very sturdy. Here’s my favorite. A bookshelf, of course.

mystery mansion single card There is no suggested age range listed for this product, but my 7 and 9 year-olds played with it quite happily. The dominant color is light pink, but that didn’t seem to bother my son one bit. The theme IS murder, so it might not be an appropriate topic for all kids. But in my opinion, the imagery isn’t too terribly disturbing. Here, in fact, are the 3 most intense cards.

mystery mansion three most intense cardsMagical Miroramas also has “The Hollow Woods,” which is very Brothers Grimm and graphically speaking, lot more sinister. They are also releasing “The Shadow World” this August, and that looks very cool – all sci-fi and steampunk!

This is a really beautiful and interesting set – beautifully illustrated, carefully thought out, nicely printed, and well packaged. It’s highly portable, and who can argue with the potential for endless narratives and stories of your own making? This would make a terrific and unusual gift for a reader or writer. Recommended!