Lipogram Fortunes

lipogram fortuneNo one can predict what wisdom a fortune cookie will reveal. Except in this case. We can say with absolute, 100% certainty that this fortune will not contain the letter O. Because hidden inside this cookie is a carefully crafted lipogram fortune.

The lipogram fortune cookie activity is always a crowd-pleaser at Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary group for ages 9-12. First, we introduce the lipogram – a type of writing in which the author leaves out a letter (or letters) when crafting a sentence, paragraph, or story. Then we write fortune cookie fortunes that cannot include the letter O. Here are a few pearls of wisdom, future predictions, and unusual directives, all with nary an O in sight!


Making beds creates happy parents everywhere.

Beauty is great, but brains are better.

Never give up.

Rain will fall where it never falls.

Life is filled with crazy bananas!

Washed feet are always appreciated.

Beware the lizards. They bite.

Quick! Buy all the chunky peanut butter in Alabama!

Surprise hug the dude sitting nearest the exit.

There will be an alien kidnapping.

Marble will crack and the universe will be put in small terms…beep…beep…beep…shwee, shew, whee!

The future that lies ahead isn’t paved yet.

Saturday night is finally live.

Rip up this paper immediately.

Read this!

Be clear and direct – a Giant Space Laser can be disabled with the right steps.

Buy bad cheese.

Ye with withstand danger.

Child, eat the asparagus in the plate because it is amazing!

Never try being smart in class.

Leave this Chinese restaurant.

Be safe in life, but carefulness is an inadequate skill.

Have a nice day.

Beware jumping chipmunks.

Falling is a bad idea.

The difference between happiness and sadness is this: the happy man has a warm puppy.


We do the lipogram activity early in the program. Later, it makes a triumphant comeback during our QUEST, which occurs at the very end of the program. The QUEST is super elaborate cross-campus race that involves teams solving riddles, encountering student actors, following maps, and unearthing clues. One such clue is hidden inside a bunch of lipogram fortune cookies.

You may already be aware that you can order fortune cookies with special messages. They say things like “It’s a Boy!” or “Will you marry me?” or “Happy Anniversary!” But you can order custom messages too.

We ordered cookies with 4 custom messages. Each message was missing a particular letter (or two). In the QUEST box, next to the 4 cookies, was a letter wheel and a golf pencil (here’s the letter wheel template if you’re interested).

letter wheelFirst, the QUEST kids had to recall the lipogram activity. Then, they had to figure out that the missing letters spelled out a QUEST clue (the letter wheel and the golf pencil helped them keep track). Here’s a solved wheel, pointing the kids to their next destination:

letter wheel solutionI buy my cookies online from Fortune Cookie Planet. They are peanut free, tree-nut free, vegan, and preservative free. 50 cookies with 4 custom messages costs $20 (plus shipping). Another option is to obtain fortune cookies locally, use tweezers to pull out the fortunes, and carefully inset your own message inside. Just make sure you have a few extra cookies on hand. Sometimes they crack apart during the fortune-swapping process!


Illustration of fortune cookie used on letter wheel template is by Coffee Addict on wikiHow.

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!

Spring Chicken

spring chickenNo spring chicken? We got your spring chicken! The drinking straw “sticks” on this little bird puppet allow it to flap its wings and soar across the big blue sky! I designed the project for a weekend story time event for 50 kids. It needed to be inexpensive, appealing to ages 2 – 6, constructed without white glue or hot glue, and easy to put together with minimal adult assistance. For the full effect of the bird’s flight, check out the video clip at the end of the post!

You’ll need:

First, cut the bird’s body and wings from the template and color them with markers. Tape a jumbo craft stick to the back of the bird’s body (an 8″ craft stick work best). Make sure to leave approximately 1.5″ of space above the craft stick. Later, you’ll need that space to attach the bird’s wing.

bird on craft stick  with typeYou could also wait until the end of the project to tape the craft stick in place, but I found that the early placement of the stick helped kids attach their wings in the right place (i.e. close to the top of the bird’s body instead of the middle).

Next, fold each wing downwards along the dotted line, then attach the wings to the body with long pieces of tape. It’s important that the entire fold of the wing is covered with tape. I used orange masking tape to demonstrate this in the image below, but I used clear tape on the actual project.

taped wingNow stick an additional piece of tape over the bird’s back and wings like a “tape saddle.” Again, I used orange masking tape to demonstrate it below…

tape saddleUse tape to add feathers to the head, tops of the wings, and tail. Finally, tape the short end of a flexible straw to the underside of each wing, close to the wingtips (if the straws are too close to the body, the wings won’t flap properly). Use scissors to trim the ends of the straws so they don’t extend past the wings.

taped drinking straw with typeTo operate your bird, hold the craft stick in one hand, then gather the two drinking straws in your other hand. Holding the straws straight behind the bird, use them to flap the wings of the bird up and down!

Since my audience was primarily preschoolers, I read Birds, written by Kevin Henkes and illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books, 2009). It’s a lovely book with simple text and plenty of opportunities for audience participation (such as naming the colors of birds, naming the types of birds, and yelling “Surprise!” on one of my favorite pages). The illustrations are colorful, pretty, and, in some places, extremely imaginative and delightful.