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!

The Adventures of Tintin

the adventures of tintin

The blue sweater. The white dog. The hair swoosh. This could only be Tintin, one of the most iconic European comic book characters of the 20th century. We celebrated his globe-trotting adventures with the Princeton Garden Theatre, our local non-profit movie house extraordinaire. In 2016, we collaborated with the Garden on another book-to-film event, How to Train Your Dragon. It was so much fun, we decided to head back for another round!

princeton garden theaterFamilies entering the theater were greeted by a table covered with postcards (I found a pack of 92 vintage postcards at the thrift store for for $4 woot!) and a big world map.

postcard table and mapKids were invited to select a postcard and write their name and address on it. Then, they put the postcard in the red mailbox for a chance to win a stuffed animal of Snowy, Tintin’s faithful canine companion. Katie modeled the mailbox after the ones she saw in Brussels (birthplace of Tintin!). Isn’t it awesome? It has pom-pom feet!

brussels mailbox

The stuffed Snowy drawing happened at the event. But after the event, those same postcards were mailed to the kids with a special message from Tintin (and a paw stamp from Snowy).

postcard from tintinNext to the postcard table was a big map (50″ x 32″) mounted on foam board:

tintin location mapKatie selected some cool Tintin location images from the various volumes and attached them to the map. A line and a flag showed the actual location on the map.

tintin in peruDuring the event, kids were invited to add pushpin flags on locations they had traveled to. As it turns out, our crowd was pretty well traveled! Iceland, Australia, India, Thailand, Costa Rica, China, Hawaii, South Korea, Europe…

pushpin locations Around the corner from the postcard and map table were 2 additional activities: A Tintin head band with the iconic hair flip, and a pull-along box Snowy. The box Snowy was a 2″ x 4″ x 4″ craft box with a Snowy template taped to both sides. Add a clear elastic beading cord pull string and the Snowy followed you around the theater!

The headband was very simple…orange paper with a pre-cut hair flip to added to the front. Here’s an excited trio with the heads bands and a Snowy!

trio at eventNotice the little Captain Haddock key chains they’re holding up? Those were part of a trivia contest we were running. Our Tintin expert had a couple key chains on hand to give to kids who correctly guessed Snowy’s original name in the comics (which were first published in French).

tintin triviaIn honor of Snowy, we also had a very, very special performance. A live dog show provided by William Berloni Theatrical Animals, an amazing organization that trains rescue animals for movies, television, and theater!

bill and bowdieBill Berloni is a Tony-Award winner with decades of experience training animals. In fact, he trained the very first Sandy for the original production of Annie. He and his apprentice, Andy, brought 3 dogs – Marti, who plays Sandy in Annie (and this was the Sandy from the 2014 movie!), Nessa, who plays Toto in The Wizard of Oz, and Bowdie, who plays Winn-Dixie in Because of Winn-Dixie. Above is Bowdie. Below is Marti, waiting with Andy to go on stage:

marti and andyAnd here’s Nessa, the cutest, most enthusiastic Toto ever, racing down the aisle:

bill and nessaBill shared a little of his history, his training techniques, and the rescue stories of each of the dogs. There were plenty of demonstrations too, both on and off the leash. The thing that shone through the most however? How happy the dogs are, how much they love working with Bill, and what a tremendous advocate he is for rescue animals. He’s truly amazing. He’s also an author! After the event, he gave me a copy of his heart-warming book, Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescue Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars (Lyons Press, 2008), which has a foreword by Bernadette Peters.

Once the dog show ended, we rolled Steven Spielberg’s 2011 film The Adventures of Tintin, which he did in collaboration with Peter Jackson’s production company. Lots of thrills, chases, and fantastic loading dock crane battle. Yes!

adventures_of_tintin_the_secret_of_the_unicorn_ver5

Original poster image source: Imp Awards

As I was cleaning up after the event, I found a Tintin box a young fan had fashioned from 2 of our craft projects. The likeness is amazing…and it’s so cute…why didn’t I think of that?!?

tintin box

Original image source: Tintin Wiki


Many thanks to the Princeton Garden Theatre for being such awesome hosts, and to William Berloni Theatrical Animals for sharing your amazing canine actors with us!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

paris postcardIt’s the ultimate global adventure that ends with custom postcards in your very own mailbox! We made classic blue mailboxes, then visited locations around the globe to create postcards to send home. And don’t forget the stamp!

We read Will Goes the the Post Office by Olof and Lena Landstrom, translated by Elisabeth Dyddegaard (R&S Books, 1994). Will is excited when the post office notifies him of a package that’s arrived from his Uncle Ben. At the post office, he discovers that the package is GIGANTIC! What could it be? With a little help from Karen, Peter, John and Susan, Will and the gang carry the package home and eagerly unwrap it. At first, it seems like the box is just full of paper…but then they discover a fantastic globe packed inside! And the globe lights up! The five children (and Mama) pile in the closet to see Will’s new globe lamp shine.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small tissue box
  • 1 box cutter
  • Blue construction paper
  • Blue poster board
  • 1 mailbox signs template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A selection of
  • 4 foam beads
  • 1 small piece of drinking straw (ours was 1.5″ long)
  • A blank postcards template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Print-outs of different locations around the globe
  • Small stickers
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

This project was created by Katie, and I have to say, the kids absolutely LOVED it. I mean, who wouldn’t love this cute little mailbox? The round top! The feet! The door at the bottom!

completed mailboxTo make a mailbox, cut the top off a small tissue box. Use a box cutter to cut a little door at the bottom of the box. The postcards are 3″ wide, so make sure your door is 3″ or wider.

mailbox step1Wrap the box with blue construction paper, then use the box cutter (or scissors) to re-establish the little door.

mailbox step 2The rounded sides of the mailbox are 2 pieces of blue poster board (ours were approximately 4.25″ wide, and 3.25″ tall). Secure them in place with tape.

mailbox step 3To make the top of the mailbox, cut a 3.5″ mail slot in the center of a 4.5″ x 9″ rectangle of blue poster board. Gently curl the poster board over the rounded sides of the mailbox, then tape in place. The curling and taping is definitely the toughest part of the project. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be perfect!

mailbox step 4Next, use colored masking tape to reinforce the edges of the mailbox, and to decorate it. Color and cut the mailbox signs from the template and tape (or hot glue) in place.

completed mailboxFinish by hot gluing 4 foam bead “feet” to the bottom of the box, and a small piece of drinking straw to the front of the little door. Your mailbox is done – grab it and get ready to travel!

a postwoman

Katie printed up photos of different places (thank you, Google image search!), and taped them up around the gallery. Katie wrote the names of the locations or landmarks, as well as the country, on the photos as well. Underneath each photo was a basket of color pencils.

taj mahal postcard

We invited kids to grab 6-8 blank postcards and visit different locations, sketching what they saw in the photos on their postcards. Here’s someone visiting London, England:

england postcard

And another traveler enjoying the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt:

egypt postcard

Ready to see some postcards from around the world?

grand canyon postcard

pisa postcardstonehengepostcardmaroon bells postcard

beach postcardWe even got postcards from places we didn’t include! Here’s a postcard from the Amazon, even though it wasn’t one of our photo locations. I think that’s a person on top of a giant tree with a ladder? Cool.

amazon postcardTo make the postcard activity official, Miss Melinda donned a stamp-selling visor and circulated the gallery, “selling” stamps that were actually cute little stickers.

melinda the stamp seller

Melinda joined us this fall – she’s a Cotsen volunteer who works at the Princeton Writing Program. I went easy on her the first couple weeks, but slowly, inevitably, Melinda will be drawn into the vortex of ridiculous story time tasks. Today, a visor-wearing stamp seller. Tomorrow, a giant paper cookie!