Furry & Fabulous

glamsterWhy be a hamster when you can be…a GLAMster! With the proper hat, accessories, and a stunning pair of sunglasses, become a hamster who is sure to get noticed.

We read Glamsters, written by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic (Disney-Hyperion, 2008). It’s the big annual sale at Hamster World, and Harriet the hamster is worried that she and her sister Patricia won’t get noticed. When Harriet spots a magazine article about “glamsters” lining the bottom of her cage, she thinks she’s found the solution. She transforms herself with “high gloss-and-glo fur volumizer,” a new hat, and funky whisker extensions. Yes, Harriet’s feeling pretty glamorous until Patricia wakes up from a nap, sees Harriet, and screams. Definitely NOT the reaction Harriet was expecting. Patricia helps Harriet get back to normal and, best of all, the two hamsters get noticed by a lovely new owner. Just by being themselves.

You’ll need:

hamsterWe’ll begin with the hamster. Wrap the outside of a large oatmeal container with brown construction paper. Cut the feet from a square of tagboard (or brown poster board). I cut little toes as well.

hamster feetHot glue the feet to the bottom of the oatmeal container. Next, cut the hamster’s bib from the template (the bib is the white “fur” that forms the hamster’s tummy, cheeks, and forehead). You can leave the sides of the bib just as they are in the template, or you can use scissors to cut ruffles in the sides to resemble fur.

hamster bib rufflesHot glue (or tape) the bib to the front of the oatmeal container. Arms are next! The arms are  2 tagboard rectangles that are rounded at each end.

hamster armsAttach the arms to the body with hot glue (or tape). Hot glue on a pom-pom nose and a pair of wiggle eyes. Use markers to add a smile. Finally, use brown construction paper to make a pair of ears, and then hot glue (or tape) them on. You’ll notice that the ears are attached on the front of the container, above the eyes, and at a slight angle. This is so the hamster’s ears won’t interfere with the hat.

angled ear Your hamster is finished, now for some glamorous accessories! For the hat, I prepped a bunch of simple white origami hats. Start with a 9″ x 12″ sheet of construction paper:

hat step 1

Fold the paper in half downwards

hat step 2

Now fold the upper right-hand corner towards the middle of the paper like so:

hat step 3Then repeat with the upper left-hand corner.

hat step 4Fold one side of the bottom up

hat step 5Then flip the hat over…

hat step 6And fold the remaining side up at the bottom.

hat step 7Flip the hat back over, open it at the bottom, and secure it with 2 staples.

hat step 8The hat is ready, let the hamster makeover commence! I offered patterned paper, embossed foil paper, sparkle stems, craft-ties, heart stickers, small feathers, and dot stickers, as well as the Bling Bin. I also tested some glitter tape out on this project. I was dubious about its claim to not shed glitter, but it actually wasn’t too bad (see my issue with glitter in the FAQs).

Kids make hats, necklaces, belts, purses, ties, briefcases, etc. The final touch, however, was a pair of sunglasses. Color and cut a pair from the template, and perch them on your hamster’s pom-pom nose. Perfect dahling.

As you can imagine, we had some super glamorous hamsters at story time. I captured a few quick poses in my photo studio, and Katie whipped up some exclusive magazine covers…

Harper's HamzaarHAMQRolling WheelGood HamsterkeepingCheeselingersSqueek

 

Shadow Play

shadow playWe made these fantastic shadow puppets as part of To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for kids ages 6-8. We had just finished reading The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West (Dial, 2010).

Olive Dunwoody and her parents have just moved into an old house. And the house doesn’t like it. The house’s previous owner, Mrs. McMartin, was involved in witchcraft, and not very nice witchcraft at that. The house wants Mrs. McMartin, and the rest of her dark family, back. Olive soon discovers that she can enter the house’s enchanted paintings. She also discovers a trio of talking cats (who totally rock), a be-spelled boy named Morton, and the nefarious plans of Aldous McMartin, the evil patriarch of the ancient McMartin family. Can Olive and her friends fight off the shadows? This book is spooky, exciting, funny, and kept the kids in the group on the edges of their seats (or pillows, rather).

You’ll need:

I made two example puppets – a cat (because the cats are such fantastic characters in the book), and a ghost. But the kids could make anything they wanted. We had cats, ghosts, dragons, zombies, and some sort of monster with a detachable brain. Oh yeah.

The kids started by using markers to sketch their puppets on a sheet of tagboard. They cut the entire figure out first, and then made specific cuts on the portions they wanted to manipulate later (such as cutting the tail off and reattaching it with a brass tack).

cat with brass tacksWe used the hole punch to make eyes (you can use scissors to cut eyes and mouth holes too). I had some tissue paper, twistez wire, pipe cleaners, and cellophane handy to add some texture to the shadows as well.

cat with whiskersWhen it came time to put the sticks on the puppets, we used a wooden dowel as the central stick and a lighter bamboo skewer for the moveable part. We attached the sticks with tape.

One hint about the stick placement. It’s best to attach the stick that manipulates a part of the puppet (like an arm or tail) at a slight angle. This will give it a better range of motion.

cat with sticksHere’s my ghost puppet. I made one arm moveable, cut out the eyes and the mouth with scissors, and added tissue paper drapery.

ghost puppetFor the grand show, I lowered all the shades, turned off the lights, and fired up the overhead projector (you can read more about the joys of overhead projectors here). I pointed the projector at wall and…magic!

finished puppetsNeedless to say, we had a total blast playing with our shadow puppets. The program ran for less than an hour, but it would have been interesting to keep it going for a few more – experimenting with different types of puppets, textures, and launching into spontaneous narratives. There are some interesting multicultural angles to shadow puppetry as well. Hmmm…maybe a more extensive weekend workshop is in order?

more shadows

Tick Tock Squeak

the clockThis friendly grandfather clock houses a squeaky surprise. A sweet little sock mouse that curls up inside with a pillow, blanket, and piece of cheese!

We read The Clock, written by Constantine Georgiou, and illustrated by Bermard Lipscomb (Harvey House, Inc., 1967). Inside a farmhouse, a clock ticks. Throughout the day and night, the clock stands in the hall and tells time. A little mouse lives and sleeps inside the clock. One night, however, the clock stops and it’s up to the mouse and the clock to get things fixed before the family wakes up!

You’ll need:

  • 1 rectangular box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 square box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4” – a small tissue box works too)
  • Brown construction paper or paint (if needed, to cover boxes)
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of tagboard (or brown poster board)
  • 1 clock door and face template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ manilla (or white) card stock
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 large button
  • 10-12 gold foil star stickers (optional)
  • 1 white baby sock (I used Target brand low-cut socks for 6-12 months)
  • A small ball of polyester fill
  • A 6″ piece of white yarn for mouse’s neck
  • 1 rectangle of white stiffened felt (approximately 1.75″ x 3.5″) for feet & ears
  • A 3″ piece of white yarn for tail
  • 1 mini pom-pom (mine was 0.5″) for nose
  • Black permanent markers (I used Sharpie fine tip, and ultra-fine tip markers) for eyes & whiskers
  • 1 white cotton ball
  • A rectangle of fleece cloth (mine was 3.5″ x 5″)
  • A small triangle of orange or yellow kitchen sponge (mine was 1.5″)
  • Scissors, tape, white glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • A box cutter
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

clockThe clock is first! The boxes I used for this project were brown. But if you’re using non-brown boxes, you’ll need to cover them with brown construction paper (or paint) first.

My rectangular box had a lid that I used to create the clock’s door. If yours doesn’t have a lid, you’ll need to use a box cutter to cut one in the side of the box. Once the door has been cut, open your clock and glue (or tape) a piece of patterned paper to the back wall. This is your mouse’s wallpaper.

wallpaperFor the exterior of the clock, we wanted lots of texture. So we pre-cut 14 tagboard clock pieces, as well as the card stock clock face and the “glass door” from the template. We put each set of clock objects in an envelope (along with 2 brass tacks).

During story time, each kid was given an envelope and we went step-by-step, announcing the item they needed to find in the envelope and where/how to attach it to the boxes. Here are all the pieces laid out (everything can be attached with white glue, hot glue, or tape):

clock piecesYou certainly don’t have to get this elaborate. In fact, you can skip the tagboard flourishes and just put on a clock face, the clock hands, the glass door, and the pendulum and be done. Here’s how we did those particular steps.

First, cut the door and the face from the template. Use markers to draw a friendly face on your clock. Then use a box cutter to make a small slit in the clock face and the glass door like so:

door and face step 1Take your pendulum piece (a tagboard strip with a hole punched in one end) and your clock hands (2 small tagboard arrows with holes punched through the blunt ends) and thread a brass tack through them. Push the brass tack through the slits like this:

door and face step 2Glue, tape, or hot glue the glass door and the face to your clock boxes. Then hot glue the two clock boxes together. Hot glue a plastic button on the bottom of the pendulum…

buttonAnd add some gold foil star stickers to the outside of the clock. Or, skip the star stickers and decorate the clock with markers. You’re done with your clock, now for the mouse!

finished mouseStuff a white baby sock with some polyester fill. Don’t over stuff the sock. You definitely want to leave a little room at the bottom, where the sock opens. Gently roll the opening of the sock upwards and inwards (in other words, roll it into the sock). The rolled up part is now the base of your mouse.

sock steps

Stand the sock up on its base and gently knot a 6″ piece of yarn around the top to create a “neck.” You don’t need to knot it super tight – just enough to suggest a neck. Trim the extra yarn off.

neck knotPut the sock aside for a moment, and cut the mouse’s feet out of a rectangle of white stiffened felt (use the leftover felt to make 2 little ears). Hot glue the tail to the mouse’s feet. The tail is a 3″ piece of white yarn, knotted on the unglued end so it wouldn’t unravel later.

feet and tailHot glue your mouse body to the feet. Then hot glue a mini pom-pom nose and 2 stiffened felt ears to the head. Use a fine point Sharpie marker to draw eyes, and an ultra fine Sharpie to draw whiskers. Done!

The mouse in the book sleeps in the clock with a pillow, blanket, and piece of cheese. We used a white cotton ball, a piece of blue fleece, and a triangle of orange kitchen sponge for the cheese. Sweet dreams little mousie!

sleeping mouse