Villainous Vegetables?

creepy carrotsThey’re coming…sneaking up on you with a soft tunktunktunk…breathing that awful carroty breath. That’s right, you are being stalked by CREEPY CARROTS (or, as my daughter calls them, “cweepy cawwots”)!

We read Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Jasper Rabbit loves to snack on carrots, and munches quite liberally on the ones that grow in Crackenhopper Field. Until the carrots start stalking him. It begins when Jasper is brushing his teeth. Glancing in the mirror, he sees three creepy carrots leering out at him from the bathtub. But when he whips around, the carrots appear to be nothing more than innocent orange bathtub items. The drama continues. Carrots appear everywhere, breathing their terrible carroty breath, stalking him (“tunktunktunk“) and generally driving Jasper mad. Finally, Jasper builds an elaborate fence (complete with an alligator moat) to keep the carrots from leaving Crackenhopper Field. The carrots rejoice. Their plan worked – Jasper will never be able to get into Crackenhopper Field for carrot snacks again!

We made some creepy carrots in a basket, oh yes we did. But then we challenged kids to  get their carrots into Crackenhopper Field. And sometimes, the carrots sneaked back out!

sneaky carrotsYou’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • 1 strip of tagboard (approximately 2.5″ x 14″)
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 piece of white construction paper (mine was 5″ x 8.5″)
  • 1 long piece of brown raffia (mine was 120″)
  • 3 paper towel tubes
  • 3 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ orange construction paper (or regular orange printer paper)
  • 1 small rectangle of white card stock (approximately 1.75″ x 5.75″)
  • Green raffia
  • Green crepe paper streamer
  • Green construction paper
  • Green paper crinkle
  • A selection of eye stickers
  • 1 creepy carrot mouth template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A few slivers of black self-adhesive foam
  • 1 Crackenhopper Field (more on that later)
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch

carrots in a basketWe’ll start with the basket, then add some creepy carrots! First, cut the lid and the tabs off the top of the box (or, if you’re using a tissue box, cut the entire top off).

basket step 1To make a basket handle, punch a hole in both ends of the strip of the tagboard. Then punch holes in the sides of the box. Attach the tagboard handle to the box using brass tacks. Finish by taping the tagboard handle to the interior of the box to keep the basket from wobbling on its handle.

To create a wicker effect on your basket, tape one end of a long piece of raffia to the outside of the box, then wrap it around the box. Tape the other end securely.

We also drew patterns on white construction paper and lined the bottom of the basket with a “basket mat.” You can see the taped handle, the raffia wrapping, and the basket mat in the photo below. Your basket is finished!

completed basketOn to the creepy carrots! Draw lines on a piece of orange paper.

carrot paperThe lines, of course, represent the bumps or rings on the outside of a carrot. Technically, those are called “lateral root scars” (thank you World Carrot Museum, UK. Did you also know that average person will consume 10,866 carrots in a lifetime?). Wrap the lined paper around a paper towel tube and secure with tape. Repeat these steps with the remaining 2 paper towel tubes.

To top off the carrots, we prepped a bunch of different types of carrot greens – fringed construction paper, pieces of raffia, swathes of crepe paper streamers, and crinkle.

carrot greensYou can attach these items to the interior of the paper towel tube OR you can try our patented carrot hairstyling technique. Namely, tape the greens to a small rectangle of white card stock…

carrot top step 1Then, flip the card stock rectangle over and apply glue with a glue stick.

carrot top step 2Gently circle the card stock, keeping the glue on the outside…

carrot top step 3And slip the card stock circle into the top of the paper towel tube. Push the glue onto the interior of the tube.

carrot top step 4The final step is creating carrot faces. You can simply draw the faces on with markers, or you can use eye stickers, mouths from the template, and small pieces of black self-adhesive foam for eyebrows. And there you have it. Creepy carrots.

creepy carrotsOff to Crackenhopper Field! The field doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, in can just be an empty box, bin, or paper grocery bag. But since we had a couple large, flat boxes on hand (and because I’m never one to “rein it in”) we built a fenced field with two little doors for carrots to sneak in and out of.

field box finishedFirst, we taped the boxes together to form a rough rectangle (60″ long x 26″ high x 23″ deep). We left plenty of room inside the box for one of us to sit.

field box 2Then we used a box cutter to cut two small doors in the front of the box.

field box 1Next, Katie the Stupendous Assistant (you officially met her in this post) wrapped the front and two sides of the box in black paper (we left the back undecorated). I cut fence pieces out of white poster board and Katie hot glued them to the box.

field box 3She super-reinforced the little doors with packing tape so they would hold up to a bunch of kids tugging on them.

During story time, kids were challenged to toss their carrots inside the field or sneak them in through one of the little doors. I, however, was sitting inside the box, tossing carrots back, rocketing them through the doors, or making the carrots poke their heads above the fence and laugh in a semi-creepy way. I lost count of how many times I was bonked in the head by paper towel tube carrots but who cares…they loved it!

field 1After story time ended, a delighted parent took Crackenhopper Field home for further adventures (the blank side was going to be converted into a play castle for a party). I managed to catch them as they were heading out of the library. What a way to travel!

field goes home


Many thanks to Kendra Tyson for recommending this fabulous book! Is there a book you’d like to see us do at one of our story times? E-mail danas@princeton.edu

Find Somebunny

find some bunnyEvery magic show needs a rabbit…unless that rabbit pulls an unplanned disappearing act! Luckily, some glittering stars will help you find your friend!

We read The Magic Rabbit by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick, 2013). Ray is a street magician, and Bunny is his faithful assistant and best friend. The two friends do everything together. One day, however, Ray’s magic act is interrupted by a passing juggler. In the chaos, Bunny is chased by a dog and lost. Bunny searches and searches, but he just can’t seem to find his friend. As darkness falls, Bunny begins to despair. Enticed by a bag of popcorn, he suddenly notices a glittery star on the ground. It’s one of Ray’s stars! One by one, bunny follows the stars until he sees a very familiar figure on the subway platform. Reunited, the two friends walk home together.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • White construction paper
  • A square of white poster board for feet (approximately 6.5″ x 6.5″)
  • 2 rectangles of white poster board for paws (approximately 1.75″ x 3.25″)
  • 6 twistez wire (or pipe cleaners) for whiskers (approximately 3.5″ long)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 2 white cotton balls
  • 1 medium pom-pom for nose (mine was 1″)
  • 2 white construction paper rectangles for the ears (approximately 2″ x 6.75″)
  • A rectangle of construction paper for hair tuft (approximately 2.5″ x 3″)
  • A strip of felt, any color (approximately 1.25″ x 4.25″)
  • 1 large pom-pom for tail (mine was 1.5″)
  • A magic star template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • A black plastic top hat (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

This story time project involves making a rabbit, decorating some magical stars, and then finding your glittery stars in our gallery. We’ll start with…the magic rabbit.

finished rabbitWrap the oatmeal container with white construction paper. Cut feet from the square of white poster board. I recommend rounded feet with like the ones below (I used marker to add some “toe lines”).

feetHot glue the feet to the bottom of the container. To make whiskers, curl one end of each twistez wire (or pipe cleaner), and tape them to the front of the container like so:

face step 1Then hot glue two white cotton balls over top of the whiskers. Hot glue a small pom-pom on top of the cotton balls, and top everything with two hot glued wiggle eyes.

face step 2Next, cut paw shapes out of the small rectangles of white poster board, and draw little toe lines on them. Tab the ends and hot glue (or tape) them to the front of the rabbit.

paw stepsFor ears, round the ends of the 2 rectangles of white construction paper, use markers to add some color, then staple at the bottom. Hot glue (or tape) them to the rabbit.

ear stepsFor a snazzy bow tie, knot a strip of felt and round the ends with scissors if needed. Hot glue to the rabbit.

bowtieFinish everything off with a jumbo pom-pom tail, also adhered with hot glue. I had some extra black plastic top hats lefts over from this project and this project, and they worked really well as rabbit carriers. Set your rabbit aside for the moment.

Next up, magic stars! Each kid received 4 blank magic stars, printed from the template. Then I brought out the Bling Bin and encouraged kids to use markers and the Bling Bin materials to decorate the stars. As you can see, the results were VERY magical.

lots of magic starsWe collected all the stars, sent the kids off to a secluded part of our gallery, and asked them to cover their eyes while we hid all the stars in the gallery. Apparently, those plastic top hats made for some pretty good blindfolds!

waiting in treeWhen the stars were hidden, kids and rabbits went star-seeking in the gallery! Then the rabbits, hats, and stars went home for more games of magical hide and seek.

Perhaps you’re ready to try a magic show of your own? Look no further than this post!

Team Cupcake

team cupcakeMmmm…is there anything more enticing than a cupcake? How about four cupcakes artistically decorated with delightful toppings? Oh cupcakes, you complete me.

finished cupcakesWe read Cupcake by Charise Maricale Harper (Disney-Hyperion, 2010). One day, a cupcake is born. Topped with a plain creamy frosting top, Vanilla Cupcake is eager to meet his brothers and sisters. There’s Happy-Face Cupcake, Chocolaty Chocolate Cupcake, Pink Princess Cupcake, Rainbow-Sprinkles Cupcake, Stripy Cupcake, Polka-Dot Cupcake, and Fancy Flower-Top Cupcake. At the end of the day, however, only Vanilla Cupcake is left on the platter, completely overlooked. A plain little candle hears Cupcake weeping and can definitely empathize – what with his large and colorful family (there’s Number Candle, Stripy Candle, Letter Candle, Super-Long Candle…). Candle decides that Cupcake just needs something special on top. It’s not pickles, pancakes, peas, or a squirrel. Hmmm…I wonder what it could be?

You’ll need:

  • 1 white paper plate
  • 1 6″ white paper doily (optional)
  • 1 white paper cup
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A 21″ piece of shimmer ribbon
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • 4 rectangles of construction paper (approximately 1.5″ x 6″)
  • 4 coffee filters (the standard size, 7.5″)
  • A small handful of polyester fill
  • A selection of dot stickers
  • A selection of iridescent fabric shapes
  • A selection of mini pom-poms (mine were 0.5″)
  • A selection of self-adhesive foam shapes
  • A selection of fabric flowers
  • A selection of eye stickers
  • Scissors, tape, white glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin with your cupcake stand! It’s very simple. Cut a scalloped edge into your paper plate like so:

plateThen, flip a white paper cup upside down and wrap pattered tape around it.

cupHot glue the paper plate to the top of the flipped cup, and tie a piece of shimmer ribbon around where the cup and plate meet. For extra fanciness, glue a white paper doily to the top of the paper plate.

standThe stand is done, now for the cupcakes!  Decorate 4 construction paper rectangles with markers and patterned tape. We gave kids 4 choices of “cupcake colors.” Namely, yellow, brown, white, and pink. Cut the toilet paper tubes into four, 1.5″ pieces. Wrap the decorated construction paper rectangles around the tubes.

To make frosting, use the markers to decorate 4 coffee filters. You only need to decorate the center of the filter, not the entire thing.

frosting 1Flip the filter over and drop a bit of polyester fill in the center.

frosting 2Bunch the filter together around the polyester fill like a little bag. Then trim about 1″ of filter off the top.

frosting 3Push the gathered end of the bag into a tube and secure it to the interior of the tube with tape.

frosting tapeYou now have a cupcake with frosting…

frosting 4Which you are free to decorate with markers, dot stickers, iridescent fabric shapes, mini pom-poms, self-adhesive foam shapes, and fabric flowers. The final step is to add some eye stickers.

frosting doneThe thing I loved best about this story time was  how much personality the cupcake creations had. Here are a few I managed to capture with my camera!