Most Uncommon

most uncommon

Coins, buttons, and yo-yos? There IS a connection between these three things. Granted, it’s a very uncommon connection…

We read The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence, written by Jennifer Bell, and illustrated by Karl James Mountford (Crown Books, 2017). When Ivy and Seb Sparrow’s grandmother breaks her wrist, it sets off a very unexpected chain of discoveries. The siblings quickly learn that a subterranean world exists underneath their feet. It teems with common objects that do uncommon things (flying vacuum cleaners, healing buttons, lemon squeezers the shed light, for example). Ivy and Seb also learn that they are part of a family with a dark, secret past…a past that is coming back to haunt them and threaten the lives of all the citizens of Lundinor.

This book was perfect for To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for kids ages 6-9. Time was tight towards the end of the book and our summer break, so I devised these quick activities for the hands-on portion of the program.

In the book, Ivy comes to possess a coin – a slightly bent one-pence piece made of silver that warms in her hand. The coin is very significant, as are other objects in the story. Happily, I had a large bag of old coins that were donated to the library by my lovely neighbor, Leonore. I spread them out on tables, and kids got to examine them and take home a pile for their personal collections. As you can see, they were VERY intent on this task!

kids examine coinsNext came a mysterious package tied with an old brass button (buttons have healing powers in Lundinor):

mysterious wrapped packageInside the package was a yo-yo. That’s right. A yo-yo.

In Lundinor, yo-yos are uncommon. Meaning, they are weapons that create whirlwinds to fend off murderous selkies and giant grim-wolves. I loved this concept and wanted to share it with the kids. But I didn’t want it to be just ANY yo-yo. So I bought Duncan “Lime Light” yo-yos that change color as you spin them!

duncan limelight yo yoI bought these directly from Duncan’s website for $5 a pop. And because it’s currently Duncan’s 90th anniversary (wow!) they were 15% off and free shipping. The kids loved them, of course!

yo yo lights

A Moving Map

a moving mapA shifting map full of flying horses, hungry demons, mystical landscapes, and the New Jersey turnpike? This could only be a project for To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for ages 6-8!

We read The Serpent’s Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond by Sayantani Dasgupta, with illustrations by Vivienne To (Scholastic, 2018). Kiranmala is a regular girl, living in New Jersey with her loving, if not slightly eccentric, parents. For example, they insist that every Halloween (which also happens to be her birthday), she dress as an Indian princess, complete with bangles, necklaces, and a silk sari. In fact, they insist she is a REAL Indian princess. Oh, and they also want her to sleep with the curtains open during a full moon, and dig a snake moat around the house.

Everything changes the day Kiran turns 12. Her parents disappear, a rakkhosh demon demolishes her house, and 2 princes on flying horses (one armed with a sword, the other with sarcasm) inform her that she is, indeed, a princess from another dimension. Now Kiran must rescue her parents, save her friends, and discover who she really is in the process.

In the book, Kiran and her “friend” Prince Neel (it’s complicated) use a moving map to locate Kiran’s parents. As the name suggests, the land masses in Kiran’s dimension don’t stay in one place, they shift – requiring a map that can shift as well. Hmmmm…a continuously shifting landscape? Sounds like a job for myriorama cards!

myriorama cards for the serpents secret combo 1Myriorama cards, which debuted in 19th century Europe, are these cool little decks of cards with matching skies and horizon lines (I review of a modern deck of myriorama cards in this post). No matter what order you put the cards in, they always sync to create a continuous landscape or story. See how I flipped the above cards around a little to make a new map below?

myriorama cards for the serpents secret combo 2You’ll need:

  • 1 pack of 3″ x 5″ blank white index cards
  • Pen and markers/color pencils

It’s easiest to use 3″ x 5″ blank index cards. On the first card, use a pen to mark where you want your horizon and land lines to go. Next, mark the other cards in the deck, making sure they all match. Now draw a landscape or scene on each card, always matching the horizon and land lines.

moving map stepsFor our story time activity, I gave each kid a colorful envelope bedecked with a silver embossed foil seal (a subtle nod to a moon maiden in the book). Inside the envelope were 6 finished myriorama cards to get the kids started (including characters and scenes from the book, of course!). The cards were black and white so the kids could color them in. There were 3 blank cards in the envelope, as well as a stack of more blank cards, so they could let their imaginations run free.

Also in the envelope? Some large gemstones – another nod to the book. One story time kid got the Serpent’s Secret reference right away. He grabbed a blank myriorama card and quickly sketched a moving map, then gazed through the Python Jewel to decipher it! #superproudliteracyeducator

moving map and the python jewel If you’d like the myriorama cards I drew, you’ll find the black and white template here, and the color template here. However! I will say the cards are not perfect. The horizon and land lines matched up when I drew them, but somehow between scanning them, setting them, and turning them into a pdf they don’t quite match up on the final templates. Did the kids care? They did not.

Also! I’m not a trained artist…even though I have to say, I liked how my rakkosh turned out.

Rangers at the Ready

rangers at the ready

Bust out your compass and conjure up some snaplights! The Blue Ranger Patrol is prepared for all eventualities…including the supernatural ones. Those handsome Squirrel badges and neckerchiefs were earned at To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for 6-8 year-olds.

We read Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by John August (Roaring Brook Press, 2018). After moving from place to place, Arlo Finch, his big sister Jaycee, and their mom have landed in Pine Mountain, Colorado. Pine Mountain is remote, the cabin is creepy, and Arlo’s Uncle Wade is even creepier. Also, something is wrong with the surrounding woods, beginning with the ghost dog that prowls the property. Arlo joins the Rangers, which is not unlike Boy/Girl Scouts until you factor in the seemingly supernatural abilities of his fellow patrol members. As time passes, Arlo and his friends learn not only the secrets of the Long Woods – they also learn its many dangers.

Arlo and his fellow Rangers have some memorable camp outs, so we decided to replicate that by setting up a tent (which you might recognize from this story time) in our gallery…

patrol in tentAfter “night fell” (i.e. I turned off all the overhead lights), individual campers journeyed to our gallery tree for a survival quiz. I queried them about 3 scenarios involving creatures from the book. You definitely have to read the books to know the answers (which are in bold below):

1) You’re camping with your patrol and see some dancing lights in the woods. Do you: a) Follow them; b) Take a photo; c) Tell your patrol leader you see something unusual?

2) A nightmare had just emerged from the woods in front of you! Do you: a) Run – they aren’t very fast; b) Throw salt at it; c) Conjure a snaplight.

3) A hag is chasing you through the Long Woods! Do you: a) Throw salt at her; b) Climb a tree; c) Throw Faerie beetles at her.

After correctly answering the quiz, campers were asked to demonstrate a “snaplight,” which is a short-lasting light Rangers can produce by snapping their fingers in the Long Woods. In our case, the snaplights were glow sticks, which do produce a very satisfying snap! before beginning to glow.

snaplightThe final activity was making a water compass using a sewing needle, a button magnet, and a bowl of water. I demonstrated how to do it, and then gave each kid a little kit to try at home (here are the instructions if you’re interested).

demo of water compassIn the book, Rangers earn patches for each level of accomplishment, and Squirrel is the first level. So, after completing the creature quiz, snaplight trial, and learning about compasses, campers were awarded a blue neckerchief (purchased for $2 each in the t-shirt decorating section of Michaels Craft store) and a a Squirrel patch (you can print your own set here):

squirrel patchArlo Finch in the Valley of Fire was massively popular with the kids in our program – it’s scary, suspenseful, and also very funny. I was delighted to learn that the sequel, Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon will be released February 2019. YES!