Adventure Awaits

adventure awaitsSolve the riddles, find 3 keys, and discover an ancient temple at To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for ages 6-8. Crawl inside the temple to find treasure, but be warned – the traps hidden within these dark walls will make your blood run cold. Unless, of course, you like traps. Then it’s going to be AWESOME!

We read Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes (Philomel Books, 2016). Addison Cooke and his younger sister Molly live in New York City with their  Aunt Delia and Uncle Nigel, who are world-renowned archeologists. Uncle Nigel has just discovered the first of three mythical Incan keys rumored to lead to a vast treasure. Unfortunately, Uncle Nigel’s nemesis, the ruthless Professor Ragar, wants that treasure very badly. He kidnaps Uncle Nigel and Aunt Delia, expecting them to lead him to the treasure. But what he doesn’t expect is the intrepid Cooke children mobilizing their friends and, with the assistance of Uncle’s credit cards, heading off to South America to beat Ragar to the treasure and rescue their family. Caiman-infested rivers, booby-traps in buried treasure vaults, limousines driven by panicky middle-schoolers…nothing can stop Addison Cooke when he sets his mind to something!

When the kids arrived at story time, I read them the first of 4 clues. This led them to a plastic box with a key and a clue to the next box (here’s the template for the keys if you’d like it).

clue box with key The 3 box locations were quite some distance apart on Princeton University’s campus, so there was a fair amount of excited running. Marissa went with the gang, and managed to get some great action shots.

prospect garden clueHere’s my favorite. Look at those feet coming completely off the ground!

feet off groundI don’t know about you, but I find rhyming clues really challenging to write. Especially when you want the kids to figure out where to go without being too obvious or clunky. I was, however, pretty happy with this one. Here’s a photo of the location:

chapel clue settingAnd here’s the clue that led to it:

It’s time to hurry! The last key awaits!
Next to the Chapel, in a special place.
Facing Firestone, peaceful and bright,
Benches of stone and flowers of white.

While Marissa and the kids were finding keys around campus, I was busy setting up the mysterious temple back at the library. It was a whopping 87″ long and 50″ high. We used 15 boxes, 2 tubes, 7 cardboard flats, multiple rolls of packing tape, and gray paint we had left over from this knight helmet project. The temple broke into three pieces so we could get it out of storage, hustle it through a doorway, and set it up in the gallery.

Incan templeHere’s a shot from the side so you can get an idea of the size and how we constructed it.

side of Incan templeThe ramp in the front of the temple lifted to reveal a felt-covered doorway. From there, kids entered a creepy, cob-web covered chamber illuminated with votive LED candles. One at a time, the kids crawled across a floor rigged with bubble wrap to snag a golden treasure box (which we lit from above with an LED light mounted in the top of the treasure vault box).

interior of templeThe minute the treasure left the vault, it triggered cardboard spikes dropping from the ceiling! That was me outside the box, manually raising and lowering the spikes from a slit in the ceiling. There was lots of laughing and screaming. Good times!

interior of temple with spikesThe characters in the book have a couple run-ins with caiman, so the final touch was an alligator puppet (operated by Marissa) that snapped at the kids as they exited the temple. The hard-earned treasure boxes were plastic jewelry boxes I found at the Dollar Store. They were loaded with plastic gemstones as well. Each kid received a treasure box, and, to make reloading the treasure vault easier, we cut a little trap door in the back of the box.

treasure box and gemsAfter everyone had received a treasure box, we opened the temple back up and just let the kids have fun entering and exiting, dodging the spikes. Some of the younger siblings tried too (sans spikes of course). And then there was this little baby who was totally fascinated by the interior of the temple. She hung out for quite a while!

brave babyAddison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas is a fantastic read-aloud. It’s hilarious, adventurous, faced-paced, with strong strains of Indiana Jones and The Goonies. Definitely looking forward to reading more books in this series!

Pit Sweet Pit

pit interiorAh, the comforts of home…a rug, a chair, a reading lamp, a good book, and a pit to put it all in. Wait…a PIT?

pit exteriorWe read Uncle Frank’s Pit by Matthew McElligott (Viking Juvenile, 1998). When Uncle Frank comes to visit, the family is somewhat incredulous when he claims – after some calculations with a coat hanger – that there is treasure buried in the backyard. Uncle Frank starts to dig. And dig. And dig. First, he brings in a ladder to help him climb out. Then a chair to rest in. Eventually, Uncle Frank moves into the pit – which is now fully decorated and wired with electricity. When the subterranean hot tub arrives, however, Dad puts his foot down. But the adventure isn’t over quite yet. Turns out Uncle Frank was right. There IS something buried in the backyard!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • Brown construction paper
  • 1 piece of green construction paper (approximately 3″ x 12″)
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 1 rectangle of felt (mine was 2.5″ x 4″)
  • 2 wooden beads
  • 1 beverage cap
  • 1 small box (mine was 3” x 3” x 2” but any small box will do)
  • 1 rectangular kitchen sponge
  • pit decor template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 small craft stick
  • Hot glue
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction

Start by covering the outside of the oatmeal container with brown construction paper. We created “dirt layers” with other shades of brown construction paper too, but that step is completely optional.

dirt layersFringe the piece of green construction paper and tape it around the mouth of the oatmeal container. This is the “grass” growing at the top of your pit. It’s OK if the grass doesn’t go all the way around the oatmeal container (after all, you need some room for your mailbox and front door!). I stuck flower stickers at the base of the grass to reinforce the idea that the pit extends underground, but flowers drawn on with markers work too.

The pit is complete, now for some interior decorating! Begin by using the patterned paper as wallpaper. Next comes the rug, which is a rectangular piece of felt, fringed on two ends (since little kid scissors don’t do so well with felt, we did the fringing in advance).

To make a lamp & table, color 2 wooden beads with markers. One bead is the lampshade, and the other bead is the lamp base. When the decorating is complete, hot glue the beads together. Then hot glue the entire lamp to the beverage cap “table.”

lamp and tableWe also made some tiny books (in advance) by folding construction paper over white copy paper and stapling the spine. I couldn’t resist adding an oh-so-relevant title to mine.

bookTo create a comfy reading chair, cut a small box into a couch-like shape (since our boxes were white, we decorated them with markers). Next, cut a kitchen sponge to create a bottom cushion, a backrest, two armrests, and two throw pillows. It’s best to attach the sponge pieces with hot glue (except the throw pillows, of course).

couch stepsThe throw pillows were a really nice touch, especially since they were created from the different sponge scraps already on the table.

Now for some art! Fill in the empty picture frames on the pit decor template and attach them to the walls with tape. And don’t forget to attach the interior ladder that leads up to your “front door!”

The last step to your fabulous dream pit is the mail box. First, locate the large dotted line.

mailbox step 1Then fold the paper downward, along the large dotted line, like so:

mailbox step 2Curl it over to the other side of the mailbox, and tape.

mailbox step 3 and 4Next, cut the template along the small dotted line.

mailbox step 5Then fold the two tabs down and tape.Finish by taping the flag on the mailbox and hot gluing the small craft stick onto the back of the mailbox.

flag and postThen hot glue the mailbox to the outside of the oatmeal container.Uncle Frank definitely finds something in the back yard, so as a final touch, I hot glued a “treasure” (i.e. an old foreign coin) at the bottom of each pit.

treasure