Pas de Deux

pas de deuxTwirl and whirl with this beautiful ballerina marionette! Not so into pink tutus? No problem. We also have a pirouetting prince!

two dance togetherWe read Miss Lina’s Ballerinas and the Prince, written by Grace Maccarone, illustrated by Christine Davenier (Feiwel & Friends, 2011). Miss Lina’s ballerinas are delighted to learn that a boy will be joining their ballet class. A boy! Each girl imagines that she will be the one to dance a pas de deux with him at the end-of-year show. But the boy arrives and he’s not having it. With a leap and a bounce, he’s out the classroom door and dashing towards the zoo with the girls in pursuit. It becomes abundantly clear that the boy can dance, but not quite the way anyone expected. Eventually, the dancers learn to work together and all ten of them (Christina, Edwina, Sabrina, Justina, Katrina, Bettina, Marina, Regina, Nina and Tony Farina) perform brilliantly together at the end-of-year-show.

We’ll mainly use the ballerina for the instructional images below, but I’ll jump in every once in a while with something “prince specific.” And just in case you’re wondering, we did have some boys who choose to make pink ballerinas, and some girls who decided to make princes!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large rectangular box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”) a large tissue box works too
  • A box cutter
  • 2 small craft sticks (mine were 2.5″ long)
  • 2 pieces of curling ribbon (approximately 36″ each)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Pink construction paper (or blue for the prince)
  • 1 small square box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”) a small tissue box works too
  • Brown, yellow, red, or black construction paper for hair
  • 2 white poster board rectangles for arms (approximately 1.75″ x 7.5″)
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Construction paper for ballet shoes (pink for ballerina, black for prince)
  • 2 white poster board rectangles for legs (approximately 1.5″ x 11.5″)
  • Plastic cellophane lace (pink for ballerina, blue for prince) Tissue paper works too!
  • A small gold or silver embossed foil seal (optional)
  • An 8.5″ piece of PVC pipe
  • 1/2 of a pipe cleaner
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, you’ll need to attach the string to your puppet. These puppets are going to do some bouncing and twirling, so I made sure to really anchor the string inside the box. To make the anchor, knot one end of a 36″ piece of curling ribbon around a small craft stick. Then reinforce the knot with masking tape.

anchor stickThen use a box cutter to cut a small slit on each side of the large box (aim for the the top, middle part of the box).

slit on boxUse scissors (or the craft stick) to enlarge the slits a little. From inside the box, push the curling ribbon outwards through the slit. Pull the ribbon until the anchor is flush against the inside of the box. Now thread the ribbon through the slit on the other side. But this time, you’ll start outside the box and push the ribbon in. Knot the unattached end of the ribbon around a small craft stick and reinforce the knot with tape. You now have a loop of curling ribbon that is anchored inside the box by two reinforced craft sticks.

finished stringNow for the ballerina’s leotard (and the prince’s jacket). For the ballerina, wrap a piece of  pink construction paper around the large box and tape it in the back. If you’d like, you can cut a little scoop in the top of the pink paper to create a neckline.

leotardFor the prince’s jacket, wrap a blue piece of construction paper around the box and tape it in the front. If you’d like, fold the tops back to form the “lapels” of the prince’s jacket. If you have extra construction paper hanging down the back of the box, consider cutting them into a jaunty pair of coat tails!

coatThe head is next! Fringe a piece of construction paper (we offered brown, yellow, black, and red) and hot glue (or tape) it around the top of a small square box. If you’d like to make a ballerina ponytail, gather the fringes together towards the back of the head

ponytail step 1Staple the fringes together, trim off any excess, then cover the staples with a masking tape “barrette.”

more ponytail stepsDraw a face on the front of the box (and ears on the sides) and attach the head to the body with hot glue.

faceNow for the arms. Round the rectangles of poster board at both ends. If you’d like, you can use scissors to shape a little thumb as well.

arm stepsFor the prince’s arms, wrap most of the arm with blue plastic cellophane lace (or blue construction paper) to create jacket sleeves, and then hot glue (or tape) to the box.

prince armFor the ballerina, simply hot glue (or tape) the unadorned arms to the sides of the box. Curl or fold them into whatever position you like.

To make the legs, wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with construction paper (pink for ballerina, black for prince). These will become your puppet’s dancing shoes. If you’re making a ballerina, draw some toe shoe ribbon on the white poster board legs strips (I started drawing mine about 0.5″ from the bottom of the strip).

lacingHot glue (or staple, or tape) the poster board legs to the inside of the toilet paper tubes. I had about 9″ of poster board leg extending above the top of the tube shoe.

finished legIf you’re making a prince, skip the ribbon and hot glue (or staple, or tape) the poster board legs to the inside of the tubes.

To attach your dancer’s legs, tab the top of the poster board strip and hot glue to them bottom of the box. You can see my leg placement in the image below (you can see the ballerina’s ponytail at the very bottom of the image). Make sure that one leg is attached at an angle. This is the leg that raise and lower later on a puppet string.

legs on boxNow for some finishing touches! If you’re making a ballerina, wrap and tape a long piece of pink cellophane lace around the bottom of the box to make a tutu (I had a spare roll of it left over from this princess dress program). My piece of cellophane lace was approximately 8″ x 39.5″. You can also make a tutu with tissue paper. We tested a 20″ x 26″ piece of tissue paper. We folded it in half (until it was 10″ high) and then wrapped it around the box. It looked great!

Stick a small foil seal to the front of the ballerina’s leotard for decoration (or decorate the leotard with markers). For the prince, use colored masking tape to make a belt around the jacket, and stick a small foil seal on the front as a belt buckle. If you have any extra blue cellophane lace (or even a Kleenex), make an ascot!

finished puppetsI have to share this fantastic prince puppet. This is a “Captain America dancer.” Love the shield, but I especially love the buttons down the front of the jacket! Why didn’t I think of buttons? They look awesome!

captain princeTo attach the puppet to its stick, hold the curling ribbon loop up to the bottom of a piece of PVC pipe and secure it with masking tape.

If you’d like your puppet to raise and lower a leg, follow these steps. First, twist 1/2 of a pipe cleaner into a loop, then knot a 36″ piece of curling ribbon onto it. Slide the pipe cleaner loop onto the PVC stick and tape the unattached end of the ribbon to the heel of your dancer’s shoe. Remember to attach the ribbon on the angled leg! When you’re ready to operate your puppet, slide the loop off the stick and move the leg up and down.

finished ballerinaAt the end of story time, I played some music from the Nutcracker, and kids danced a pas de deux with their puppets. There was plenty of creative and enthusiastic twirling, whirling,  and leaping going on, lemme tell you!

dancing

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

Them Bones

them bonesWhat’s cooler then a skeleton marionette that glows? How about a skeleton marionette that glows, attaches to your feet, and dashes around with you?

marionette bonesHere’s my assistant, Katie, showing off some fancy skeleton footwork…

foot loops in actionWe read Skeleton for Dinner, written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Will Terry (Albert Whitman & Company, 2013). Big Witch and Little Witch whip up a tasty brew and decide to invite skeleton to share it. “We must have Skeleton for dinner!” is what they say, but Skeleton, who is strolling nearby, thinks they mean that HE’S on the menu! Panic ensues, which soon envelopes Ghost and Ghoul (who are also on the invite list). Finally, Clever Crow figures out the problem, sets things straight, and the friends enjoy a tasty meal together.

You’ll need:

  • 3 paper towel tubes
  • 5 toilet paper tubes
  • Black construction paper (or black paint)
  • A rectangle of white card stock for the skull (approximately 4.25″ x 5.5″)
  • 12, 4″ pieces of twistez wire (pipe cleaners work too)
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • String for puppet’s head & arms
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 2 medium rubber bands
  • 1 arms, legs, hands, feet template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 ribcage, pelvis template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom (mine was 1.5″)
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors, tape for construction
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue
  • Black light (or custom glow-in-the-dark glue…more about that here)

If there’s ONE thing that would make this project faster to assemble, it would be to paint all the tubes black. We can’t do paint in our library (see the FAQs), so we wrapped all of our tubes in black construction paper. It took some time!

tubesFor the assembly photos in this post, I decided to show you unwrapped rolls on a white background with red twistez wire, red yarn, and red rubber bands so all the pieces would be more visible. On  the actual skeleton the tubes were black, connected with black twistez wire, and I used white string. So please excuse the blah assembly photos. I just wanted to make sure all the steps were clear!

We’ll start from the legs up. Cut a paper towel tube in half. Punch holes on the top of one tube half, and the bottom of the other tube half. Thread twistez wires though the top and bottom holes on each side of the tubes, joining them together. Making sure to leave some space and twist the ends of the wire together.

legRepeat the above steps with the second paper towel tube. You now have two legs that bend at the “knee.”

two legsThe third paper towel tube is your skeleton’s torso. Attach the legs to the torso by punching holes on the bottom outside of the torso tube, and the top inside of each of the legs (it’s easier to see this step in the image below). Attach the legs to the torso using brass tacks.

legs to torsoMaking an arm is just like making a leg, except you’ll be using toilet paper tubes instead of paper towel tubes. Punch holes in the top of one toilet paper tube and the bottom of the other toilet paper tube. Thread twistez wires though the top and bottom holes on each side of the tubes, joining them together. Twist the ends of the wire together.

armRepeat the above steps with 2 more toilet paper tubes. You now have two arms that bend at the “elbow.” Attach the arms to the torso by punching holes on the top outside of the torso tube, and the top inside of the arms (again, it’s easier to see this step in the image below). Attach the arms to the torso using twistez wire.

arms to torsoTo make the skull, draw a face on a rectangle of white card stock (alas, white construction paper doesn’t fluoresce under black light). Wrap the skull face around a toilet paper tube. To attach the skull to the torso, punch holes in the front and back of the bottom of the skull (i.e. the base of the neck and the skeleton’s “chin”). Punch matching holes in the front and back of the torso tube. Attach with twistez wire.

headThe tube body is done, now for the strings! Quick note: I used red yarn for the instructions below, but for the actual skeleton, I used thin white string.

stringFirst, wrap the wooden dowel with colored masking tape. Now punch a hole in the back of the skull tube, near the top of the head. Thread a piece of string through the hole and knot. Attach the other end to the middle of the wooden dowel.

head stringNext, punch a hole in the “elbow” of each arm tube (i.e. the outside bottom of the top arm tube). Knot a piece of string through the hole.

arm stringsBut wait! Before you tie the arm strings to the wooden dowel, may we introduce one delightfully dynamic option? If you want to be able to move your skeleton’s arms, follow the following steps:

Cut a pipe cleaner in half. Bend the half pipe cleaner into a loop and twist the bottom together tightly. Tie an arm string to the loop, then reinforce with a piece of colored masking tape.

loop stepsRepeat with the remaining half of the pipe cleaner.  You now have 2 pipe cleaner loops that slide on and off the wooden dowel, allowing you to manipulate your skeleton’s arms!

finished bodyFinally, punch a hole in the “heel” of each leg and loop a rubber band through it.

foot loopThe rubber band stretches over your shoe so you can walk your skeleton around!

foot loops againWith the body all rigged up, the last step is the bones! Color the bones in the template, then tape (or hot glue) them to the fronts of the tubes. Pop a jumbo pom-pom in the top of the skull tube to round off the look (I secured the pom-pom with a little hot glue)

bones We rigged up a black light and mirror in a storage closet and invited kids to march in and  watch their skeletons boogie. They absolutely loved it – especially when their skeleton’s feet matched their own dancing feet!

night bones