Cozy, Cute, and Charming

snowman bulletin boardTo modify a line from Tolkien, “Even the smallest library can change the course of the future.” This is absolutely true of the children’s room at the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library in Rocky Hill, New Jersey. It’s small, yes. But it is filled with books, fun, and sunshine. It’s the perfect place to instill a love of books in future readers.

Here’s a bookshelf that’s just begging to be browsed. And look at those adorable wall decals! The staff update them from time to time to keep the room fresh and interesting. Decals are an easy, inexpensive, and non-permanent way to jazz up a space. The farm decals you see below, for example, are $13.99 on All Posters.com (and the company’s almost always running 15% off deals).

shelvesIn addition to a big sofa and two comfy armchairs, the children’s room has three sets of kid-sized tables and chairs. They are nestled in front of the sunny windows, which overlook trees, grass, and the town’s main street.

farm tableThe children’s room also has toys for kids to play with. They’re kept in a centralized area that allows for quick and easy clean up. My kids are partial to the castle set, the giant foam blocks, and the vehicles. There are also activity towers for babies to explore.

back cornerAnd speaking of babies, here’s one of my favorite touches in the room…

baby surprise 1I call these “baby surprises.” Scattered throughout the room, at infant eye level, are images for babies to discover and revisit. Fantastic idea!

baby surprise 2And don’t forget to give Brownie, the room’s resident bear, a big hug!

big bearOutside the children’s room are shelves containing materials for older readers.

author tableThere are awesome touches here, too. Like this fabulous ship.

ship in stacksThe staff change the library’s bulletin boards every month. Sometimes, they’re seasonal, sometimes they’re thematic, and sometimes they’re matched to a library program. Often, the staff will post games like “Vote for your favorite Dr. Seuss story” or display kids’ artwork.

maker day bulletin boardLet’s get a closer look at that splendid box robot, shall we?

robot I love everything about this guy. The steel wool hair, the tea strainer eyes, the plastic cup ears wrapped with pipe cleaners. Youth services librarian Katie Winjum is responsible for this handsome fellow. She also does the bulletin boards and general decor. Like this super-sized snowman door. Fun!

snowman doorA few summer’s ago, when the library had a “Dig Into Reading” theme, Katie hand-rolled a zillion paper cone stalactites and attached them to the ceiling! The shelves were adorned with things like head lamps and gold bars (i.e., boxes wrapped in gold foil). I was seriously impressed. A tip of the crafting hat to you, Katie!

I’m obviously not a professional photographer, but I sincerely hope the library’s welcoming atmosphere comes through in these photos. When you walk in, you immediately know that you’re invited to make yourself comfortable and read something wonderful. It’s the perfect place for little readers.

amazing space

Have Pie, Will Travel

have pie will travelBaking an apple pie that requires ingredients from exotic locales? This cute plastic bottle airplane will get you there! The plane is equipped with a “pie hook” to carry home the perfect pie to share with your friends. Apple pie not your favorite? No problem. We have two other flavors ready for take off!

We read How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994). Apple pie is a simple enough to make. Just grab some basic ingredients from the market…uh oh…the market is closed. No problem! Dash to Italy for semolina wheat, France for eggs, Sri Lanka for cinnamon, England for milk, Jamaica for sugar cane, and Vermont for apples. After milling, grinding, boiling, cracking, churning, mixing, and cooking, the pie is finally ready to eat. Invite some friends over, and dig in. But wait! Wouldn’t the pie be extra tasty with some ice cream? Just nip out and pick some up at the market. Uh oh. The market is closed….might be best to eat it plain!

You’ll need:

  • A 1 liter plastic soda or water bottle, with cap
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 drinking straws
  • 1 airplane parts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A selection of dot stickers, round labels, or construction paper circles
  • 1 pie template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 3 twisteez wires, each approximately 4.5″ long (pipe cleaner pieces work too)
  • 3 small paperclips (mine were 1.25″ long)
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 1 world map for a “Pie Fly” activity (more on this later!)
  • Tape and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

My plane project is a modified version of an airplane bank Katie spotted online (if you’d like to see the original inspiration, it’s pinned on my “Ideas & Inspirations” Pinterest board). My version isn’t a bank, doesn’t have jet engines, and I created a template of airplane parts that would be easy for 3-5 year-old to cut and attach to the plane. I also added a windshield, and of course, a pie hook.

Ready to get started? Empty a plastic bottle and allow the inside to dry out. Wrap colored masking tape around the top portion of the bottle. Make sure you don’t tape the cap to the bottle! You’ll need to remove it later when you attach your propeller. Wrap a piece of white card stock around the bottle. You’ll most likely need to trim off a portion of the card stock so it doesn’t extend past the bottom of the bottle.

bottle steps 1-3Turn the bottle around so the paper seam is facing you. Tape 2 drinking straws on either side of the seam (again, trim the straws if they extend past the bottom of the bottle). The 2 straws should be about 1.5″ apart. The straws will keep the plane steady when it’s sitting on a table.

straws on bottomRest the bottle on top of the taped straws. Cut and decorate the plane’s tail, horizontal tail fins, and wings from the template. You can use markers or colored tape to decorate. If you use colored masking tape on the wings, don’t use more than 2 pieces per wing. Otherwise, the tape makes the wings heavy and they start to droop. Feel free to decorate the body of the plane as well!

The tail, horizontal fin, and wing pieces all have dotted lines to indicate where to fold them to create tabs. Later, you’ll use the tabs to attach the pieces to the plane’s body.

The tail piece, however, requires one extra fold. First, fold it downward on the center dotted line, then fold the little side tabs upwards. Hot glue (or tape) to attach it to the plane. The horizontal fins attach on the sides of the tail, the wings attach to the sides of the plane’s body:

tail and wing attachmentThe windshield is on the airplane part template too. Draw yourself in the pilot’s seat, and attach to the plane with hot glue. For the round windows of the plane, I used these 1.25″ color coding labels from Avery. They worked great!

avery color coding labelsIf you can’t find the Avery stickers (I purchased mine at Office Max), use dot stickers or simple construction paper circles.

windows and windshieldCut and color the propeller from the template, then use scissors to cut out the gray circle in its center. Remove the cap from the bottle, and slide the propeller onto the bottle’s neck. Screw the cap back into place. If you want your propeller to spin, play with the tightness of the cap a little.

propeller stepsThe final step for the plane is the pie hook. Bend a pipe cleaner in half, forming a tight “V.” Make a small hook at the bottom, then bend the top of the pipe cleaner forward, so it forms a right angle.

pie hookSlide the angled part of the pipe cleaner into the back of the plane, right between the bottle and the paper. You could also tape the hook to the bottom of the plane.

attached pie hookThe airplane’s done, now for your pies! The pies in the template have built-in triangular bases. Like the airplane parts, there are dotted lines to show you how to fold the pie bases. First, cut and color a pie from the template. Then, fold its tab backwards, right where it attaches to the bottom of the pie like so:

pie step 1Bend the ends of a piece of twisteez wire downward, then twist the ends together. This creates a “pie loop.” Attach the loop to the back of the pie with tape. Now fold the pie tab upwards along the dotted line, and tape the bottom of the tab to the back of the pie.

pie step 2 and 3Slide a paperclip onto the base of the triangle to keep the pie from tipping over. Done!

finished pieRepeat the above steps with the remaining 2 pies on the template. If you don’t have twisteez wire handy, you can use pipe cleaner pieces to make your pie loops. However, if you go with pipe cleaners, consider using larger paperclips on the base of your pies (pipe cleaners are heavier than twisteez wire).

On to the Pie Fly activity! Katie borrowed a HUGE map from her husband’s office (and by huge I mean 3′ x 6′). We spread it on a couple of tables and weighed the corners down with tape dispensors. Kids lined up at one end of the map. One by one, we placed their pies on various locations on the map. Then they “flew” their planes over the different countries, hooking the pies with their planes!

flying over the worldWe had a lot of fun with this story time. However, if I was to do it again, I might change two things:

  1. Use a paperclip pie hook instead of a pipe cleaner. Because of the age of my story time kids (3-5 years-old), I went with the soft pipe cleaner option. But for some kids, the floppiness of the pipe cleaner made it hard to hook their pies. Something sharper, like an unfolded jumbo paper clip, might work better.
  2. Raw ingredients. Instead of picking up pies, have the plane pick up the different ingredients for the pie, just like the book instructs (wheat, sugar cane, eggs, apples, etc.). You could even match the ingredients to the different countries they come from!

Character Books

fawkesDo red and gold feathers, priceless tears, and a box of matches remind you of anyone? If you guessed Fawkes, the phoenix from Harry Potter, you are correct! We had a blast with this “character book” activity at Cotsen Critix, our literary group for kids ages 9-12.

Basically, each member of the group was given a plain paper mache “book” and asked to fill it with objects and/or drawings that somehow relate to a character in a book. Words and writing were fine too, so long as they didn’t reveal the name of the character or the title of the book. Then, we put all the books on display and tried to guess who the characters were.

I purchased the paper mache books online from Discount School Supply. They call them “Papier-Mache “Secret” Books.” A set of 12 books costs $13.99.

paper mache bookMy favorite part of this project is the creativity and diversity of the books. Even if two kids chose the same character, it’s interesting to see the different elements they decide to include. Some even took on non-fiction “characters!”

ruby redfordRuby Redfort

apolloAncient Greek God Apollo (above photo shows both the cover of the book and the interior)

theresaTeresa Agnes

percy jackson 1Percy Jackson (recognize one of our Mythomagic cards in there?)

matildaMatilda

the wizard of ozThe Wizard of Oz

taylor swiftTaylor Swift (non-fiction biography…nice!)

percy jackson 2Percy Jackson

kate weatherallKate Wetherall (if you want your own red bucket with all the equipment, look here)

miloMilo

sadie kaneSadie Kane

jimmy gownleyJimmy Gownley (as depicted in The Dumbest Idea Ever, his graphic novel and memoir!).

annabethAnnabeth Chase (a Camp Half Blood map is drawn on the back cover of the book!)