Quill Pens

quill pensNeed a simple project for a big event? Perhaps these quill pens will do the trick!

Last Saturday, Cotsen hosted a table at Princeton University’s Community & Staff Day event. Because of the big crowds, we needed something simple, fun, fast, and literary. Last year, we made flying books. This year, we decided to make Harry Potter-esque quill pens.

We were, of course, dressed in hats and robes. Even though it was 85 degrees out. Because comfort never comes before costuming, am I right?

wizard robes   You’ll need:

First, twist a sparkle stem into the desired shape. We offered 3 different shapes to choose from (even though some kids made their own shapes of course):

stemsPlace the sparkle stem on top of the feather. Then use masking tape to attach the feather and the sparkle stem to the the top of the pen. You can continue covering the pen with tape if you’d like (just make sure you don’t accidentally tape the cap on). Done!

pen from sideBelow you can see the layout of our event table, including a display pen floating in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. It’s always a good idea to have an example of the project displayed somewhere. That way, kids can see what to expect and grown ups can get a jump on gathering the appropriate supplies.

table side 1On the opposite side of our event tent was a mirror activity. Here, kids could use their newly-created quill pens to do some inverted writing and try their skills at mirror mazes.

table side 2The mirror activity is very simple to put together. We duct-taped 6 bookends to the back of an inexpensive door mirror and stood it up on the table.

mirrorSince we weren’t able to staff the mirror activities during the event, we printed up some display instructions (here are my mirror writing instructions). I put the instructions in a double-sided plastic display stand.

instructionsWe stacked practice paper and 4 types of mazes (which we found using Google images) on either side of the mirror. The mazes were really popular, even with older kids!

boys writingLooking for a few more simple Harry Potter crafts? Try these PVC pipe wands, or this wrist owl (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the owl example). Defense Against the Dark Arts enthusiasts might enjoy this boggart!

Metamorphical Magic

meta magicFeed the caterpillar some leaves, place it in a chrysalis, and watch it dramatically emerge as a colorful butterfly! Thanks to the hidden elastic cord, the butterfly appears to soar on it’s very own! It’s a super simple story time project that combines science, art, and magic all in one.

We read Arabella Miller’s Tiny Caterpillar by Clare Jarrett (Candlewick, 2008). While climbing trees, Arabella Miller discovers a tiny caterpillar. She makes him a shoe box home, feeds him cabbage and parsley, observes him shedding his skin, and finally watches him spin a chrysalis. When he emerges weeks later, Arabella Miller discovers that he is something quite new! As he flies into the sky, she calls out an enthusiastic good-bye to her special butterfly.

You’ll need:

Begin with the butterfly! Wrap a toilet paper tube with brown construction paper. Attach sticker eyes (or draw them on with markers) and a smiley mouth (I used a piece of self-adhesive foam, but you can use markers too). Curl an 8″ piece of twistez wire (or pipe cleaner) and tape on the inside of the tube for antennae.

butterfly front Turn the body around, and punch a hole in the back, near the top of the head.

butterfly backCut the butterfly wings from the template (we used manilla card stock, and it looked great). Hot glue your butterfly’s body to the wings – just make sure the wings don’t cover the hole you punched in the back.

wings from backNow decorate both sides of the wings! I offered glue sticks, cellophane, embossed foil paper, tissue circles, dot stickers, and markers.

When the wings are finished, thread a 27″ piece of elastic beading cord through the hole. Knot the ends together, and wrap the knot with a piece of colored masking tape. The taped knot is an important part of the magic trick, so make sure you don’t skip this step! Your finished butterfly is now dangling on an elastic cord loop, secured with a taped knot.

butterfly on cordWe set our butterflies aside so the glue could dry. Just look at these little beauties (Katie shot this with the panorama function on her phone)…

butterflies Next is the caterpillar! Wrap a toilet paper tube with green construction paper, add some stripes with colored masking tape, and attach eye stickers (or draw some eyes on with markers). Use a 4″ piece of twistez wire (or pipe cleaner) to make antennae. Attach the antennae with tape.

caterpillarFinally, we distributed construction paper leaves (which we prepped in advance) and brown paper bags. All that’s left is the magic trick! To work some metamorphical magic, load your butterfly in the bag. Keep the taped knot near the front of the bag where you can easily see it.

taped knotNow “feed” your caterpillar some leaves (the kids LOVED this part).

feeding the caterpillarWhen it’s “full,” place the caterpillar inside the bag (a.k.a. the “chrysalis”). Keeping your hand inside the bag, locate the taped knot. Put the looped cord around your wrist.

the loop Bring your hand outside the bag and grab the top. The cord should still be looped around your wrist.

grabbing the bagSay something like “Behold the magic of nature!” Pull your hand away from the top of the bag. The cord around your wrist will pull the butterfly from the chrysalis as if by magic!

the big reveal

Breakfast with Bosch

breakfast with boschLast weekend, in an undisclosed location on the East Coast, I managed to track down the elusive Pseudonymous Bosch as he received his morning coffee and oatmeal. Mr. Bosch, who concluded his bestselling Secret Series in 2011, has a new book. It’s called Bad Magic.

bad magicYears have passed since Max-Ernest, Cass, and Yo-Yoji finally triumphed over the Masters of the Midnight Sun. But for Max-Ernest’s little brother Clay, things are getting bad. First, Max-Ernest disappears. Second, a graffiti mural bearing the words “Magic Sucks” appears on the wall at school – with Clay’s name on it. Clay didn’t do it. He did, however, write the words “Magic Sucks” in a worn leather book his language arts teacher gave him. But how did the words get from the book to the wall?

Clay is suspended from school, threatened with repeating sixth grade, and sent to Earth Ranch, a summer camp for struggling youth that happens to be on an isolated volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean. The story unfolds in the bizarre, unconventional, hilarious, and highly enjoyable manner that only Pseudonymous Bosch can deliver (and aptly footnote as well).

25It’s been approximately 3 years since you finished the Secret Series. When you were finishing it, did you know that you were going to continue the adventure with Max-Ernest’s little brother Clay?
No…as far as I was concerned, the series was done. I’d gone through all 5 senses, and it seemed senseless to continue. That’s the first time I’ve made that joke [laughter]. But I kept hearing from readers wanting to hear more because of course, the last book in the Secret Series, You Have to Stop This, was so complete and answered all questions and left nothing dangling and was such a perfect book in every way that all the readers were totally unsatisfied and wanted to hear more [laughter]. So a few of them asked me “Well, if you’re not going to continue the Secret Series, what about a new series with Max-Ernest’s little brother Clay?” And I said “No way, I never take ideas from readers. I have my artistic integrity.” Anyway…I decided to write a series about Clay.

Did you go to an isolated volcanic island to research this book?
In truth, I did go to a volcanic island to research the book. However, it isn’t all that isolated. Some people know it as “Hawaii.”

Did you go on a hike with a llama?
I went on a llama walk. Not a hike, a walk. There’s a llama ranch in California that offers llama walks. Which is much like, it turns out, walking a dog. The llamas are on leashes and you don’t ride the llama. You walk the llama. [laughter] It was an eye-opening llama experience.

13Did you spend time at a camp for juvenile delinquents?
Ah…I’ll take the fifth.

The Secret Series ended up being 5 books and took you over 4 years to write. What’s it like to stand on the edge of another writing project?
Even more intimidating because I know how hard it is. For me, writing never gets easier. It just changes.
 
How have you changed as a writer since you finished the first series?
I’m a much more self-conscious writer in every way now. That’s good and bad I guess. The Secret Series was very spontaneous. As you might remember, I wrote it as part of a volunteer program at an elementary school and I wrote it in installments through the mail with no particular plan or idea that the book was even going to get finished.

And there was a certain kind of wacky zaniness that lasted throughout the Secret Series. Once, in an interview, someone noted that it didn’t seem like I had any rules in my universe [laughs]. I didn’t know quite what to say to that because it’s a truism in fantasy fiction that your universe is supposed to have a very strict set of rules, and that’s what gives it believability. I guess the “rule of rules” is the rule that I’ve broken.

But now as a more experienced, as it were, writer…there’s more of a sense of the marketplace, more of a sense of my readership, more of a sense of how stories work, there are a lot more conversations running through my head as I’m writing. In some ways, it makes me more confident, but it other ways, it can be stifling to creativity.

Is it difficult to write as the narrator and the character? Do you ever struggle with the balance between the two?
Bad Magic is, I would say, a little bit more character-driven than the Secret Series – certainly it’s more inside one character’s head. Actually, the first draft was written almost entirely through Clay’s perspective. It was a different way of storytelling – because the voice of Pseudonymous Bosch is so strong in the other books. I wanted to try my hand at writing more of a conventional novel. Then, as I revised the book, I found myself adding more of the wacky Pseudonymous voice until I ultimately had to dial it back again.

17Do you still love chocolate?
I still love chocolate.

Do you still hate mayonnaise?
I still hate mayonnaise.

In five words, describe the next book.
Is it really about dragons?

If, by the way, you’d like to hear Mr. Bosch chat about his Secret Series (including admirably holding his own in a flurry of free association) you can find the interview here. He doesn’t have a website or blog. This site was obviously made by an imposter.


Cover art and illustrations by Gilbert Ford are used with permission of Little, Brown and Company.