Carousel of Champions

carousel of championsWant to take a spin on an amazing carousel? Ride on Duck, Horse, Golden Fish or everyone’s favorite…Gator! Thanks to a little brass tack, this carousel actually turns!

We read Gator by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2007). At the amusement park, a carousel spins, and Gator is the happiest animal on the carousel. He loves the lights, the wind in his face, and the laughter of the children. But when business slows and the amusement park closes, Gator becomes lonely and sad. He decides to leave. He travels through a deep, dark forest, falls into a stream, and stumbles upon some relatives in a zoo who are a lot bigger and scarier than he is. Completely disheartened, Gator slumps on a bench, crying. But suddenly, he is spotted by a little boy and his father, who recognizes Gator from the old days. Encouraged, Gator leads a crowd back to the carousel, which leaps to life once again, surrounded by the sounds of laughter and happiness.

You’ll need:

We’ll build the carousel’s spinning mechanism first. Decorate the sides of a small box with colored masking tape and patterned tape (or markers). Don’t decorate the lid of the box and definitely don’t tape it shut. You’ll need to open the lid in a few steps.

baseUse a box cutter to make a little slit in the top of the box’s lid, right in the center.

slit in boxThen make another small slit in the center of a cake circle.

slit in cake padPush the brass tack through the slit in the cake circle. Next, open the lid of the box and push the brass tack through the slit on the lid. Open the prongs of the brass tack to secure it in place.

platform to baseClose the lid of the box, and tape it shut. The spinning platform for your carousel is done!

finished platformThe next step involves a paper plate, but I wanted to say a quick word about the plate before we get started. You’ll definitely need a sturdy paper plate with a deep well and sides that slant upwards. The cheaper, flatter paper are simply too floppy, especially when you need to attach the carousel animals later. So think sturdy! That said, punch 4 holes in a paper plate. When punching your holes, keep them close to the edge of the plate like so:

holes in plateHot glue a paper bowl to the top of the plate. You now have a canopy for your carousel!

canopyDecorate the canopy with colored masking tape and patterned tape (or just markers). If you cover your holes with tape while your decorating, don’t worry. Just re-punch the holes when you’re done.

decorated canopyCut a paper towel tube down to 8″ and wrap with patterned paper (or white printer paper). Don’t, however, wrap the paper all the way to the top and bottom of the tube. Leave a little bit of the tube exposed at both ends. This will make it much more sturdy when your hot glue the tube to the platform and the canopy of the carousel.

poleHot glue 2 mirror board ovals to the sides of the pole (these carousel “mirrors” are optional, but the kids really got a kick out of seeing themselves reflected in them). Now hot glue the tube to the center of the cake circle platform. Then hot glue the paper plate canopy to the top of the tube. Use lots of hot glue…you don’t want this coming apart later! Your carousel will now look like this:

finished canopy and platformTime to attach the carousel animals! I’ll use the horse as the example for the steps below. First, cut and color the horse from the template. You’ll notice that the horse has a tab extending from its top and bottom. Each tab has a circle on it, as well as a dotted line. Use a hole punch to punch out the circle, and fold each tab along the dotted line.

horse tabsThread a drinking straw through the holes, and add a piece of tape to the back of the animal to keep it from sliding down the straw.

horse on poleIf you get stuck using clear plastic drinking straws like I did (I had a bunch leftover from this Cinderella program) you can use colored masking tape to add stripes to it. Just make sure to leave the very top and the bottom of your straw tape free.

To attach the horse to the carousel, stick the top of the straw “pole” through a hole in the carousel’s canopy. The pole might stick up a little, but that’s totally OK.

top of poleNext, line the bottom of the pole up with the cake circle platform. Punch a hole in the cake circle platform underneath the bottom of the pole.

punched hole bottomTo keep the pole from slipping downward, stick a piece of masking tape underneath the platform, right under the hole. Sorry about the awkward photo, but here you can see the underside of the platform, with 3 punched holes covered by pieces of red masking tape:

tape on platformNow drop the bottom of the pole into the platform hole. I also recommend putting a little dot of hot glue on the bottom of the pole before you slide it into the hole, just to keep it extra secure. If you don’t feel like messing with a hole punch and masking tape, just attach the bottom of the pole directly to the platform with tape.

Finally, cover the canopy hole with masking tape to make the pole nice and snug. Repeat the above steps with the remaining 3 carousel animals.

horse final tapingDecorate the carousel with metallic dot stickers, embossed foil seals, and foil star stickers (anything shiny really). Hot glue a jumbo pom-pom to the top of the canopy, and hot glue 2 large gemstones on the sides of the pom-pom. If you want to add a bit of ruffle to your carousel’s canopy, cut the rounded edges off 2 coffee filters, and hot glue (or glue stick) the filters to the underside of the paper plate canopy.

final touchesTo spin your carousel, hold the box base firmly in your hand, grab the cake circle platform, and turn! These looked absolutely awesome, but if I was to do this project again, I would change 2 things: 1) I would cut all the carousel animals from the template in advance; and 2) I would make the carousel animal templates double sided so they would look good from all angles. If you’d like to try doubled-sided animals, here is a reversed carousel animals template. Just slide the reversed image onto the corresponding pole, secure with tape, and you’re good to go!

Looking for a circus to go with the carousel? Take a look at this little big top! Or perhaps you’d like some delicious fairground refreshments?


The artwork for the carousel animals was inspired by Randy Cecil’s amazing, warm, and wonderful illustrations. You go Duck!

Biblioburro

Luis-Humberto-Soriano-Col-Ejemp-Cultura-1800x1200-05032014In the early hours of the morning, long before the sun rises, primary school teacher Luis Soriano Bohorque selects books, loads them on his two donkeys, and journeys to remote villages in Colombia. His mission is to bring books and educational programs to over 300 rural children, many of whom have no access to reading materials. The program is called Biblioburro, and Luis has been operating it for over 14 years.

I got in touch with Luis after reading the splendid picture book Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane Books, 2010). Our interview has been translated from Spanish to English (you can read the original Spanish version here).

We are grateful to Paloma Moscardó-Valles from Princeton University’s Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures department for her translation work. ¡Muchas gracias Paloma!

You began this program in 1990. How did you come up with the idea for Biblioburro?
This idea was born in 1997. My community was in need of many things: there were no schools, nor teachers, the children couldn’t go to school, many of them worked. This is how I started this adventure with Alfa and Beto (my two donkeys) that we called BIBLIOBURRO (Donkey Library). Today it is a great blessing for more than 300 children of many communities in the department of Magdalena in Colombia.

aigo F300Describe a typical work day with this program.
A typical BIBLIOBURRO day starts at 3:00 a.m.: I choose the books and I start the journey. It can take up to 2 to 6 hours including the trip, getting the kids together, and starting the literacy and learning work. I return home before 5:00 p.m.

Please tell us about the children you visit.
The children that I visit live in a vulnerable situation, with few economic resources, many of them don’t have parents because they were killed in the Colombian Conflict some years ago. These children are full of dreams and hope and they want to move forward.

aigo F300Can you name a few of your favorite books from childhood?
Margarita de Baile (Margarita of Dancing), Cuentos y Aventuras para Niños (Stories and Adventures for Kids), Rin Rin Renacuajo ( Rin Rin Tadpole), among others.

How many books do you currently have in your library, and what kinds of books do you have?
Nowadays there are 6,000 books – stories, novels, fables, contemporary literature, encyclopedias, dictionaries.

What are some of the most popular titles with your patrons?
The most popular books are children stories, encyclopedias to search about important topics, and reference books.

What is one of your greatest hardships?
The biggest difficulty is not having resources for this task. We put great effort and sacrifice into our work. We need to repair the Library, to buy new equipment for the Biblioburro Digital, and I need a new prosthesis for my leg [Editor: Luis lost a leg in a traffic accident, but continued the program].

BiblioburroCould you tell us a little more about the Biblioburro Digital?
Biblioburro Digital is a program of learning reinforcement through computer and virtual educative programs. Books are still important for us. Biblioburro Digital has another program called “Countryside Movies” which are movie days for kids. It’s a very special moment to share. We have 5 computers and a projector. We urgently need a television for our library, and a new projector. We put in a lot of effort and dedication.

What are your plans for the program’s future?
In the future we’d like to have a Digital Library, better work tools, and more educational materials to strengthen the program.

What part of your work brings you the most joy and satisfaction?
All of my work gives me joy and satisfaction, seeing the kids happy when I arrive with my two donkeys is priceless. I love my job despite all the adversities and problems, and I always have a good disposition and attitude when facing the circumstances.

Caminos con Biblioburro


If you’d like to learn more about Luis and his program, you can visit the Biblioburro FaceBook page. All images are used with permission of Luis Soriano Bohorque.

Go Snail Go

racing snailOn your mark…get set…GO! The race is on with these fantastic pull string snails and tabletop race track. But it’s not speed that counts in this event. Sweet victory goes to the slowest snail in the race!

go snail goWe read Snail Boy by Leslie McGuirk (Candlewick, 2003). Meet Snail. He’s as big as a pony! Being big and extremely rare, Snail spends most of his days hiding from snail hunters. At night, he is plagued with nightmares about being captured. But one day he has an inspiration! If he can find just the right owner, he’ll be safe from snail hunters forever. Venturing to the park, Snail spots a boy and introduces himself. While the boy is reluctant to have a giant snail as a pet (snails are way too slow for his tastes), Snail finally convinces him by performing some excellent tricks. Plus, he has a private clubhouse on his back! The two friends ride off slowly, slowly, sloooowly together.

The boy in the story is reluctant to adopt Snail because of his lack of speed. I thought it would be fun to have super slow snail races to show that slow is just as fun as fast!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large rectangle of tagboard for snail body (approximately 2″ x 11.5″)
  • Hole punch
  • A 68″ piece of yarn
  • 2 small rectangles of tagboard for eye stalks (approximately 0.5″ x 2.25″)
  • 2 squares of white poster board (approximately 5.5″ x 5.5″ each)
  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • A Bling Bin
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • Construction paper (we offered orange, green, yellow, red, and purple)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A 28″ piece of ribbon
  • A 2″ gold embossed foil seal (or use metallic paper)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll start with your snail! Round both ends of a large rectangle of tagboard. Fold the rounded rectangle twice – once to create your snail’s head, and twice to create your snail’s neck. Your snail’s body should now look like this:

snail step 1 Punch a hole in the snail’s body, right at the base of the neck. Thread one end of a 68″ piece of yarn through the hole, and tape it tightly to the snail’s body.

snail steps 2 and 3Round the ends of 2 small rectangles of tagboard and tape (or glue, or hot glue) them to the back of your snails head. Use markers to draw a pair of eyes on the ends of the stalks.

snail eyesNow for the shell! Round three sides of a white poster board square. Use a marker to draw a spiral on the shell. Repeat with the other white poster board square.

shell stepsHot glue a box to the top of your snail’s body, and then hot glue both pieces of shell to the sides of the box. The flat part of the shell pieces should align with the bottom of the box. Don’t let it extend beyond the bottom of the box, or your snail will have trouble sliding later.

snail shell step 2 and 3Finally, use markers and the Bling Bin to decorate your snail’s shell! We also whipped up a flag for demonstrating your team spirit. It a 9″ triangle of construction paper taped to a wooden dowel with colored masking tape. Decorate the flag with markers if you like.

flagNow for the race track! We created our track on a 6′ plastic-topped table (the same type of table we used to make these sled runs actually).

race track First, I used colored masking tape to create 3 racing lanes, a starting line, and a finish line. I also used the tape to number the lanes (you can see the numbers in purple all the way to the left on the picture). I attached 8 wooden dowels to the sides of the table using packing tape, and then I strung the dowels with kite string. Katie and I used colored masking tape to make flags along the kite string (just double a 2″ piece of tape over the string, then snip the tape with scissors to make it triangular). We finished by attaching construction paper flags to the dowels by the start and finish lines.

Ready to race? Have the kids place their snails behind the starting line in lane 1, 2, or 3. Then have them walk down the table to the finish line and stand in their snail’s lane. Leaving the snails at the starting line, deliver the long pull strings to the waiting hands of the snail jockeys. A quick tweet of a starting whistle, and they’re off! The slowest snail wins!

super snailThe hilarious thing about this activity is that it’s nearly impossible for kids to go slow in a race. Especially when people are waving flags and yelling in excitement. Most of the snails burned down the track in seconds. But some snails were Olympians of slowness. You can see one of the record breakers in the photo above, finally approaching the finish line.

The prize was a gold medal on a ribbon. We mounted a 2″ gold foil seal on a circle of poster board, then taped a 28″ piece of ribbon to the back. Everyone received a gold medal for finishing, regardless of how their snails placed in the race!

medal