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!

Protecting Our Most Precious Companions

protecting our companions

Today’s simple project is the result of a news photo I saw the other day…an exhausted-looking mother in NYC, pushing a heavily covered baby carriage. She was wearing a medical mask. Gripping tightly to her other hand was a little boy, also in a mask, toting a stuffed dog.

But the stuffed dog wasn’t wearing a mask. And my daughter has the exact same stuffed dog. Something in my heart just pulled.

So here’s how to use two common household items to make a mask for those most beloved companions. The ones your children reach to for comfort and reassurance. And hey, if you want to give Domino the Dog a quick cuddle yourself, you just go and do that.

You’ll need:

  • 1 flat bottom/basket style coffee filter
  • 2 rubber bands
  • Scissors

Apologies for the image quality…I’m shooting from my not-so-camera-ready home studio!

Stuffed animal heads, noses, and ears vary wildly, so you might have to cut the coffee filter down a bit. Same goes for the rubber bands! You can see how I shortened my rubber band below:

shorter rubber band

Flatten the coffee filter, then fold the top and bottom inwards like a burrito. The size of the folds will, of course, vary with the size of your stuffed animal’s head.

Now tightly bunch both ends of the folded coffee filter. Use scissors to snip a small hole in the bunching on each side (and aim a little ways in from the ends so the rubber bands don’t tear through). Finish by looping rubber bands through the holes.

Slide the mask over your stuffed animal’s nose and face, and the rubber bands behind its ears. Adjust as needed. Stay safe, little friend!

Seeds of Love

It’s a simple project bursting with love…a mama tree hugging her baby seed!

We read The Little Tree, written by Muon Van, and illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi.The smallest tree in the forest watches time pass, the land change, and wonders what will happen to her little seed. Finally, with the help of a world-traveling brown bird, she releases her little seed to the skies. Then she waits and worries about her little seed. Then one day, a gift arrives…a leaf that belongs to the tallest, strongest, and brightest tree the brown bird has ever seen. Yes, it’s the Little Tree’s precious seed, grown up strong and beautiful!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • Brown poster board
  • Green poster board
  • Tree decorating supplies (more on this below!)
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, cut 2″ off a paper towel tube, then hot glue it to the top of a small box. Glue 2 circles of green poster board to 2 sets of brown poster board branches (our branch template is here), then hot glue everything to the top of the paper towel tube. Add a pair of brown construction paper arms to your tree, and tuck a green poster board “seed” into them. Finally, decorate your tree with markers, or use green construction paper, embossed foil paper, fabric flowers, gold mirror board, and shimmer ribbon like we did. Done!

The Little Tree is a very touching book. In fact, Katie and I had a bet that I wouldn’t be able  read it aloud without crying (it was a draw – I did choke up at one point!). Even more touching, however, is the author’s note at the end…

The book is a tribute to Muon Van’s mother, who fled the post Vietnamese-American war regime with her two children. In America, she gave birth to five more children. Even though she only had a third grade education, she put them all through college, and in some cases, grad school. Van lovingly praises her mother who, like the Little Tree, was brave enough to override her fears, doubts, and limitations and provide her children with a life she could not imagine for herself.