O Tannenbooks

Reuse, repurpose, and redecorate this holiday season! Katie crafted this clever little book tree using 6 recycled books, wrapping paper, a cake support rod, and a bit of drill work. The results? Fa-bu-lous!

You’ll need:

  • 5-6 books
  • Mod Podge
  • 1 foam paint brush
  • Green wrapping paper
  • 1 cake support rod
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base
  • An electric drill for construction

Katie was inspired to do this project when she spotted this beautiful book tree at Drumthwacket last year. Drumthwacket is the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey, where Katie proudly serves as a docent for their historical tours. Every December, local gardening groups deck the halls, and this little tree stole her heart. She was determined to craft one of her own.

Let me start by saying that Katie selected six OLD books for this project…retired editions that had torn pages, faded covers, and ripped bindings. Because otherwise we would have been cringing during the first step of the project…drilling holes in the spines of the books! Katie used the largest drill bit in the set – a 5/16″ bit to be exact – to drill holes in the center of the books’ spines. Next, she used a bottle of Mod Podge and a foam paint brush to glue wrapping paper onto the covers of the books. We went all schmancy and bought our wrapping paper from Paper Source.

While the book covers were drying, Katie construct the tree base. She glued together two, 12″ cake pads, then glued wrapping paper on the top circle. She again drilled a hole in the center of the base, then threaded a cake support rod upwards, through the hole.

If you are like me and have NEVER heard of cake support rods until today, they are metal or plastic rods and bases used to build multi-tier cakes (think wedding cakes or elaborate Kardashian baby showers). Katie found her rods in the cake decorating section of Michael’s craft store. The rods a package of fourteen, 12″ rods costs around $8.

Annnnd here’s the finished base, ready to support some books!

Since the initial holes Katie drilled in the books were covered with wrapping paper, she carefully re-drilled them. Then she threaded the books onto the support rod. Almost immediately, she noticed a problem. The books sagged down the smooth rod and flattening out! Katie quickly fixed the problem by wrapping rubber bands around the rod to brace each book.

When the books were stacked, Katie added a star to the top. This was a cheap ornament with a sparkle stem wrapped around the ornament’s loop. The sparkle stem was threaded inside the cake support rod, then the star/rod connection was reinforced by a second sparkle stem. Add a strand of lights and you are done!

Big Tree Library, Little Tree Library

big tree library, little tree library

Bookscape, our library’s gallery, has a giant tree kids can walk into and read (or take the secret stairs to the second floor and curl up with some pillows). The tree is so iconic, we are often referred to as the “tree library.” So when we were presented with an adorable picture book that featured a library in a tree, well, we just had to send a little of the magic home!

We read Red Knit Cap and the Reading Tree by Naoko Stoop (Little, Brown, 2014).
Red Knit Cap Girl and White Bunny are happily reading when Squirrel drops by to show them something interesting – a big, hollow oak tree. They have a brilliant idea. Why not turn the tree into a library? Soon all the animals are dropping things off (except Sly Fox – she keeps sneaking off with stuff). Beaver makes some shelves, Sheep brings snugly blankets, and Owl and Moon make a sign for the new Library. Now everyone can share a love of reading, even Sly Fox!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (ours was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (we used a 10″ diameter cake circle)
  • Brown wrapping or packing paper
  • A selection of construction paper
  • A selection of poster board
  • White paper
  • 6 mini craft sticks (ours were 2.5″ long)
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

finished tree library

First, cut the lid or bottom off your box, and hot glue it to a corrugated cardboard base.

tree library step 1Next, crumble up a swath of brown packing paper (ours was 25″ x 36″). The more wrinkly it is, the more it will look like bark! Wrap the paper around the sides of the box, anchoring it tape or hot glue. Hot glue the paper to the base as well. One thing to note – you want the brown paper to extend about 14″ – 16″ above the top of the box. This will give you nice, fat branches on your tree.

tree library step 2Cut sections into the paper, then twist the sections tightly to create branches. Notice in the photo below that the branch sections end 4-5″ above the top of the box. If you cut them too close to the top of the box, your branches will droop.

tree library step 3Add some green construction paper leaves, and your tree is done! We used the box lid to create shelves for the library, tucked a couple felt blankets in place, added a patterned paper rug, and made a library sign. Here’s a shot of our library’s interior.

interior of tree libraryWe wanted the library books to sit solidly on the shelves, so we hot glued mini craft stick spines to 2.75″ x 4″ pieces of poster board, then hot glued a couple 2.25″ x 3.25″ pages on top. It worked great!

tree library booksIt takes a little time to make the books, and we really wanted to fill the shelves, so we prepped 6 books per kid in advance (132 books total!). Behold the fruits of our labors…

buckets o books Finally, your library readers! We fashioned ours after the characters in the book, using 2 toilet paper tubes and construction paper. We couldn’t help making a red knit felt cap for the girl, too.

red knit cap girl and bunnyOur library tree has red lanterns so those were the final touch to our project. We recycled them from this Creepy Underwear project and hung them on the branches with ornament hooks.

finished tree libraryThis project is adorable, but it has special significance too. Like this robot project, Red Knit Cap and the Reading Tree was selected by a little girl who was a die-hard story time regular and was moving out of New Jersey. So we asked her to share a very, very special book with us, and this was what she selected. This project’s for you Vivian!

Want to see a real-life library tree? You’ll find it here!

Beware of Squirrel

beware of squirrelIt might look like an innocent tree…but beware! This leafy vision of loveliness has a feisty squirrel puppet hidden inside it. Get too close and you’ll receive a serious scolding!

squirrel in treeWe read ‘Ol Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013). ‘Ol Mama Squirrel is super-protective of her babies. Any cat, owl, or dog who even shows the slightest interest in her family gets a serious scolding (“Chook! Chook! Chook!”). This treatment also applies to kites, airplanes, and an innocent man who comes to prune the tree. But when a grizzly bear shows up, ‘Ol Mama Squirrel is outmatched. But not for long. She rallies mama squirrels from fire escapes, under the tracks, in the tree tops, and all over the park. Together, they scold the bear right out of the park!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • A box cutter
  • A 9.5″ x 17.5″ piece of brown construction paper
  • A sheet of green tissue paper (mine was 20″ x 29″)
  • A 1.75″ x 6″ rectangle of tagboard for tree branch
  • A square of green tissue paper (mine was 6″ x 6″)
  • Extra tagboard pieces for “wooden” hearts
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • A 3″ x 4.5″ rectangle of tagboard for the mouth
  • A pair of 2″ x 2.25″ rectangles of brown construction paper for ears
  • A 1.25″ x 1.75″ rectangle of red construction paper for the tongue
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • 1 small pom-pom for the nose (mine was 1″)
  • A 1.5″ x 2″ rectangle of white card stock for the teeth
  • A 3.5″ x 7.75″ rectangle of tagboard for the tail
  • Tape, stapler, and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by taking the lid off the large oatmeal container. Then use the box cutter to remove the circular cardboard bottom from the container. You now have an oatmeal container tube.

tubeUse markers to draw lines of “bark” on the brown construction paper and then wrap it around the oatmeal container. The important thing to remember is that the plastic ring around the top of the oatmeal container is also the top of your tree. The cut end of the container is too ragged and will catch your squirrel puppet as it pops in and out of the tree.

wrapped treeGently bunch one end of the sheet of green tissue paper together, then securely tape it to the tree, just underneath the plastic ring. Wrap the tissue paper repeatedly around the top of the oatmeal container, stopping every once in a while to secure it to the tree with pieces of tape.

tape treeMake sure that the tissue paper doesn’t hang over the edge of your plastic ring and droop into the oatmeal container. Otherwise, your squirrel puppet will get caught in the foliage as it pops in and out of the tree. I found some butterfly stickers in the art cabinet and we added those to the foliage for a little extra color.

Next, cut the first rectangle of tagboard into a branch shape. Use markers to add some “bark” lines, and fold on one end. Staple a crumpled green tissue paper square to the other end. Then tape (or hot glue) the folded end of the branch to the tree trunk.

branchCut two “wooden” hearts out of tagboard and write names in them. I suggested “Mama” or “Mom” and then the child’s name or a simple “Me.” Tape (or hot glue) them to the front of the tree.

treeAll this tree needs is a fiercely protective squirrel inside it! Cut your second tagboard rectangle into this shape:

mouthThen fold it lengthwise to create your squirrel’s mouth.

folded mouthHot glue the mouth inside the paper lunch bag

mouth in bagYou could skip the tagboard mouth entirely, but I found that it made the puppet easier to operate. The rest of the squirrel’s face is very simple.

front of squirrelMake two ears out of brown construction paper and tape (or hot glue) them to the back of the bag. Use red construction paper to create the tongue, and tape (or hot glue) it into the mouth. Hot glue wiggle eyes and a pom-pom nose to the bag. Use markers to add eyebrows and eyelashes. Last come the teeth – basically, a piece of white card stock folded and cut like so:

teethAttach the teeth to the mouth with tape (or hot glue). The face is done – all that remains is the tail! Cut the third tagboard rectangle like this, and scribble all over it with marker.

tailStaple to the back of the squirrel.

back of squirrelReady to load your squirrel puppet in the tree? Put your hand into the puppet, then gently insert it into the bottom the the tree. Guide the squirrel up the tube and push it slowly and gently out the top (you might have to squish it’s head a little when you’re doing this).

To operate the puppet, use your free hand to grab the bottom of the tube. Then pop your squirrel puppet in and out of the tree. Don’t forget to scold!

puppet in action