Searching for Sasquatch

sasquatchA sasquatch is on the loose, and it will take 2 resourceful kids to find him! Our story time teams ventured into our gallery to find a hidden sasquatch. One team member had no idea where he was hiding. The other team member knew exactly where he was hiding, but could only give directions by saying “Hot” or “Cold.” The prize was a personalized “Certificate of Merit for Sasquatch Catching,” and a sasquatch ornament to take home! This activity was part of To Be Continued, our story time for kids ages 6-8.

ornament and certificateWe read The Imaginary Veterinary Book 1: The Sasquatch Escape, written by Suzanne Selfors, and illustrated by Dan Santat (Little, Brown, 2013). Ben Silverstein, age 10, has been exiled for the summer. While his parents work through some troubles, Ben is sent to stay with his Grandpa Abe in the town of Buttonville, middle of nowhere, USA. Once bustling, Buttonville is quickly sliding into disrepair after the enormous button factory shut down. But things are not what they seem. A giant bird swooping through the night sky looks a lot like a dragon. The “bat” Grandpa’s cat dragged in? It breathes fire! Eventually, Ben and his new friend, Pearl Petal, learn that the old button factory has been converted into a top secret hospital for Imaginary Creatures. And Ben accidentally lets the sasquatch out. Can Ben and Pearl catch the sasquatch before the whole town discovers the secret?

You’ll need:

First, print the big sasquatch. You can simply cut it out, or you can reinforce it with some  tagboard or poster board. Since my sasquatch was going to get a real workout, I reinforced it with tagboard and added a triangular base.

front and back of sasquatchHere’s a shot of the base from the side. I secured it with hot glue, but tape works too!

base of sasquatchTo play the game, divide the kids into teams of 2 (rather than let them team up with their buddies, I had them put their names in a box and randomly drew to create the teams). The first team member hid his/her eyes while I hid the sasquatch in the gallery. The second team member watched me hide it, so he/she knew exactly where it was. When I said “Go!” the teams started to search for the sasquatch. The first team member proceeded through the gallery, relying on the second team member to direct him/her towards the sasquatch using the words “Hot” (i.e. getting close to it) and “Cold” (i.e. moving away from it). Teams ran twice so each kid got a chance to find the sasquatch AND be the one to give directions.

When we were finished, everyone received a “Certificate of Merit” for catching the sasquatch – which is exactly what Ben and Pearl earn in the books! The frame clipart I used didn’t extend to a full-size page, so I trimmed the certificate down to 8.5″ x 9.5″.  I also fancied up my certificates with an embossed gold foil seal.

certificateKids also received a mini sasquatch ornament. Basically, it’s a smaller version of the big guy with a piece of twine taped to the back:

taped ornamentYou could, of course, give each kid a “full-size” sasquatch. Totally up to you!

I tend not to incorporate food into many of my programs because of food allergies, but another fantastic prize would be a bar of chocolate. In the book, a chocolate bar is an essential tool in the “Sasquatch Catching Kit” (along with a tranquilizer dart, blowpipe, net, fog bomb, and a sasquatch calling whistle). Just don’t ask the sasquatch any questions. It’ll make him angry.

A final word about The Sasquatch Escape. Not only did my story time kids love this book, my son and I are currently blasting through the series. They are funny, fantastical, unusual, and terrific to read-aloud. As one boy in the program said about halfway through the book, “This is the BEST book I’ve ever heard!” Absolutely worth checking out!

Beautiful to Behold

faraz kahnThis year, I invited Arabic calligrapher Faraz Khan to Cotsen Critix, our literary group for kids ages 9-12. Faraz is an immensely talented artist, with a mission to bring the beauty of the illustrated word to all. His hands-on workshop introduced the kids to the basics of Arabic calligraphy, provided a little bit of history, and finished with the creation of unique pieces for the group (including each child’s name!). The Cotsen Critix were completely entranced by this unique literary art form. Faraz also lectures to adults – you can see images from a recent workshop at the University of Oklahoma on his blog.

Please tell us a little about yourself!

I am a local resident artist and a teacher at the Arts Council of Princeton, New Jersey. I also work as an environmental specialist trying to protect and preserve wildlife habitats such as freshwater wetlands, streams corridors and riparian zones in the State of New Jersey. I love to hike and learn about the environment and ecosystems.

FarazKhanArt-fabiayyi-414x500Aside from the environmental field, art is my other passion. I paint and try to create work that is based on abstract design and Arabic calligraphy. I have taught calligraphy seminars at Princeton University and am excited about teaching a full 3 credit Arabic Calligraphy and History summer course at Rutgers University. I also plan to open an art studio in downtown Princeton to share and educate people about discovering different fields of Islamic art.

FarazkhanArt-alhamdo-ink-422x500What role does calligraphy play in the Arabic world?

Arabic calligraphy is a very fluid script that catches the viewers’ attention. There is a rich history of calligraphy development and artistic expressions in the Arab and Muslim world. Arabic calligraphy is used as a decoration in communication, sacred Quranic text, architecture, art installations, etc.

When did you first start learning calligraphy, and why did it intrigue you?

It was about five years ago when I wrote a paper for my liberal arts class – “How to Decipher 6 Standard Styles of Arabic Calligraphy.” When I would visit my Muslim friends and family, I would always find these beautiful calligraphy work hung on their walls. I would always ask to understand the meaning, name of calligrapher, style, place of origin. I learned that most people did not know the answers to my questions. Hence, when the chance came to study calligraphy I was really intrigued by the possibility of learning, practicing, and explaining it to others.

Farazkhanart-Allah-mod-592x500What tools and techniques do you use to create your art?

Traditional calligraphers would use a bamboo stick or reed pen dipped in ink to write calligraphy. Modern artists have taken this art to a whole new level with paint brushes, graffiti markers, flash light with the use of slow shutter speed camera techniques, and many other tools.

light calligraphy - loveWhat are the essential things you try to teach children in your calligraphy workshops?

Children are special. They have such amazing pure hearts and I always learn from their simple, fun approach to life. I myself have two amazing boys, Ziyad and Zayn and they are unbelievable amount of joy and happiness.

In my classes, I simply want children to develop a love for learning. Art is about connecting beauty inside our hearts, to the beauty in the world. I would like them to be on a mission to not only decorate their classrooms with beautiful artworks but to further develop beautiful speech, writing, personality to inspire us.

FarazKhanArt-heart-pink-398x500How have children reacted to your workshops and the artwork you were creating?

Children are amazing interpreters of art. I would draw the letter or a word in Arabic calligraphy and I can read an instant reaction on their faces. I love how imaginative children can be with Arabic calligraphy. When I do calligraphy some children find birds or ribbons or waves or a musical note in my artwork while I only intended to beautify Arabic calligraphy and not draw anything else.

Faraz Khan Art Studio - happinessAre there other works of art that inspire you?

There are so many wonderful works of Western and Islamic art and it is hard for me to name one or two. However as an American Muslim, Muhamad Zakariya’s Eid Greetings US postal stamp has a special meaning to me. I am so proud to be part of a grassroots effort to create and educate people about Islamic art.

stamp

The Eid Stamp by Muhamad Zakariya. United States Postal Service, 2001

Name one thing about the art of calligraphy that surprised you.

Arabic calligraphy is written right to left but I knew that for a long time. However, last year one of my students told me that she was dyslexic and had a tough time reading and writing English until fourth or fifth grade. Once she was introduced to Arabic writing in elementary school, and while her class struggled, she picked up reading and writing Arabic within a week. It was amazing to hear how diversifying our curriculum and methodologies could impact the life of our citizens.

shukran @douglas


Works of art reproduced with permission of the artist.

La Cucaracha

cockroach pizza boxDon’t panic! Those are FAKE cockroaches winding their way through a pizza box maze. The roaches crawl beautifully, thanks to a hidden magnet wand positioned underneath the box. This project is from To Be Continued, our story time for 6 to 8 year-olds. It was a big hit!

We read Measle and the Wrathmonk by Ian Ogilvy (Harper Collins, 2004). Young Measle Stubbs lives in a grim house on an abandoned street. His legal guardian, Basil Tramplebone, is a very strange man. He always wears black. His skin is ghostly pale. And oddly, whenever Basil goes outside, a raincloud follows him. But up in the attic of Basil’s horrible house is the world’s most amazing train set, and Measle desperately wants to play with it. He throws together a wild plan to get into the attic – and gets caught. While Measle certainly expects Basil to be angry, he doesn’t expect Basil to shrink him down to a half an inch and put him in the train set! Measle soon discovers he’s not the only victim trapped on the set. Can Measle and his gang put together a plan to defeat Basil?

I won’t give away too much, but there are some terrific giant cockroach chase scenes on the train table. For the project, I toyed with the idea of making a miniature train set obstacle course inside a box top. But then opted for something simpler and quicker to construct – a drinking straw maze. Building off a marble maze project I spotted on Pinterest (you can see it pinned to my board here), I decided to replace the marble with a magnetic plastic cockroach.

plastic cockroachYou’ll need:

  • 1 pizza box
  • 1 plastic roach (I purchased mine on Amazon – a set of 12 was $4.58)
  • 2 button magnets
  • 1 wine cork
  • Drinking straws
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

To make your magnet “wand,” hot glue a button magnet to the top of a wine cork, then hot glue a second button magnet to the bottom of the plastic cockroach.

cockroach magnet corkAfter some trial and error, we determined that using 2 different sized button magnets (0.5″ and 0.75″) worked best for our roaches and pizza boxes.

Slice Between, a local pizza shop, gave us a deal on 2 dozen pizza boxes (a copy paper box lid would work too, but I thought pizza boxes would be a better match for the creepy cockroaches). During the story time workshop kids cut, arranged, and taped drinking straws into maze configurations. Some kids expanded the maze to both sides of the box!

double box topTo navigate your cockroach through the maze, place the cockroach on top of the box. Hold your cork magnet wand against the underside of the box, directly underneath the cockroach. The two magnets will connect through the cardboard and you can mosey your cockroach through the maze!

Two hints for this project:

  1. When attaching the straws to the box, keep the tape as flat as possible. Bumps or raised bunches of tape might hinder your roach’s movement through the maze.
  2. When guiding your roach through the maze, move the cork wand slowly. If you go too fast, the magnets tend to break their connection.

I had markers handy in case anyone wanted to decorate their boxes (or make “Start” and “Finish” lines for their mazes), but some kids used the markers to create some fan art. Here’s Basil, his stinky Wrathmonk breath, and an indication of what happens to him later in the book:

wrathmonk fan art 1And here’s yet another portrait of Basil, with a little hint about his ultimate fate:

wrathmonk fan art 2Measle and the Wrathmonk (and its sequels) are fantastic. They’re fun, scary, creative, and even though Wrathmonks are horribly evil, they’re terribly funny too. Ian Ogilvy was a well-known English actor before he became a children’s author, and it shows in his talent for dialogue, pace and characterizations. Measle and the Wrathmonk is delightful to read aloud and had the kids hooked right from the beginning. Honestly, you could hear a pin drop when I was reading certain sections of the story!