Library craft book

Book of Librarian Crafts

I’m starting a new project, with the working title of “Librarian Crafts.”

My idea is to have sections with different categories:

  • pre-school story-time crafts
  • school age crafts
  • crafts for adults using books and other library-themed items

The trick to that will be keeping it focused and not just a loose collection of unrelated things.  My instructions need to be consistent in style, illustration and tone.   I need to research a bunch of things: how to do layout, what constitutes original and not plagiarized craft ideas, how to take professional looking shots of my crafts and what comparable books look like in length.  I also need to make lists of crafts and decide what is going into the book.  Should I include (with permission) pictures of other people’s crafts?

Dear readers, I would love your input.  Tell me about what you think of the concept, what crafts you feel should be in the book, and ideas for putting the book together.

P1100208city scene

Hood for evil queen

Evil Queen

I made a hood out of a black t-shirt for my evil queen costume.  I used a hoodie to estimate the curve, cutting out two  pieces.  The bottom of the t-shirt was already finished, so I just had to sew the pieces, right sides together.  I tried the hood on and determined the right size for the widow’s peak point and the sides of my face.  I finished the edges of the face opening.

This hood was comfortable, but extremely warm- it is certainly good for winter wear around a damp, drafty castle while planning revenge on certain young, overly cute princesses.

This pattern could be adapted for other medieval style costumes, such as a jester.



Creators gonna create


The process and not the product

You worked really hard on something and it bombed.

  • no one likes the dinner you made (including yourself)
  • you sewed an outfit and it doesn’t fit
  • your sweater has one sleeve that is 5 inches longer than the other one
  • no one likes your story
  • your friends and family don’t want to hear about your new project
  • you got 3 rejections at once
  • you step back from your painting and see a huge mistake

Even if no one likes what you have made, or it doesn’t come out the way you wanted it to, that does not mean that you wasted your time.  It seems that way.   You didn’t get what you wanted, which was a finished product, payment or recognition.  True, but that experience of making, even if it was an epic failure, is better than inaction.

Creation of  a disaster is better than passive, sleep-walking nothingness.  Fear of rejection and embarrassment can block you from trying, and if you let it, will smother your spirit until you are not even sure who you are anymore.

There is a reason the movie Frozen resonates so much.  Let your creative powers out. Sure, you could accidentally lock an entire valley into eternal winter, but the alternative of shoving down ability doesn’t work so well.

I have a poster in my office, of Thomas Edison.  I look at it every time I feel discouraged, reminding me that it is only by making mistakes that we learn what doesn’t work.


Small Victories and acknowledging the good




When I reach the end of a roll of barcodes, I take a moment to acknowledge the accomplishment.  Each roll holds a thousand barcodes.  I do not share cataloging duties with anyone else, so when I complete a roll, that means that I have personally added a thousand items into our library collection.

My friend posted on Facebook something really brave- she acknowledged progress on her personal journey of self-improvement.  She’s lost weight, got a degree, tried new things, got out there and became a runner.  Taking a moment to step back and say “hey, I did that” is a wonderful thing.  It’s not bragging or crying for attention, that sounds different.  It’s not counting your blessings or expressing gratitude, although those are commendable things.  This kind of stating of deeds done is a counter-weight to all the negativity, the self-hate and the frustration of every day life.

It doesn’t have to be a great deed you acknowledge, and it doesn’t even need to be shared.  It could be as simple as stopping and looking at that basket of laundry you just folded, or the dinner you just made.  It could be taking a picture of the craft you just finished, or keeping track of your word count for writing.  You did that.  Like a child holding up a creation and shouting “ta-da!”, revel in your work done.  Achievement unlocked.  No false modesty.  You don’t hold back the punches acknowledging failure and regret, so don’t be ashamed to pat yourself on the back for a change.

So friends, stop and look back on your week, and find something you have completed.  Celebrate it.  Can’t think of anything?  Well, you survived the week!  Congratulations.


Dragoncon 2014- shh, everyone!

Dragoncon (Get off my lawn!)


This year I brought my whole family to Dragoncon.  There were over 62,000 people there, and it showed.  What happens is each year, everyone who attended tells their friends what an awesome time they had, and offers to split room costs for next year.  So more people come each year.

This is completely irresponsible.  We need to keep Dragoncon a secret.  So, all 62,000 of us need to tell everyone not to go.  The celebrities need to stop saying that this convention is better than Comiccon or PAX.  We need to stop posting pictures of all the fabulous costumes, referencing Dragoncon tv, talking about the wonderful panels, workshops and concerts, and generally saying it was the best four days of your year.

Sooo, um.  Complain about the heat, the lines.  Mention missing panels, or being woken by drunken screaming at 1 am. ( I did actually have a nightmare induced by the noise that people were flinging themselves off the balconies at the Hyatt.)  Tell about getting a fairy wing in your eye, or the time you got stuck in an elevator with 3 Deadpools, a man with spiky armor and 8 other people.  Dragoncon has reached capacity.  I think they’ve taken over every hotel in the entire city of Atlanta at this point.  Stop gathering new recruits.

…..counting down the days until Dragoncon 2015.


Pikachu costume

I made a pikachu costume for my son.  I used a hoodie pattern as the base, and added ears tipped with brown cloth. The hood is lined, but I left the rest as one layer to keep it from getting too bulky to wear indoors.  P1100366

I put two brown ovals on the back of the shirt for stripes.  I used black, red and white felt to make the face. The eyes are slightly smaller circles than the cheeks, and the “glint” is about 1/3 size circle than the eye.  I’m not happy with the mouth- I would recommend making a felt smile if you are not proficient in embroidery.


Here’s my son, refusing to show his face for the camera.  I hope his dad got some better pictures.









Tween Craft Ideas #fizzboomread

Crafts for 8 to 10 year olds

This summer I’ve been running a weekly craft program for kids.  By trial and error over the years, I’ve developed a list of favorite go-to crafts, ones that are cheap, easy to explain and let the kids have fun.  I’ve also realized that crafts that work for 8 to 10 year olds are often too hard or frustrating for younger kids or ones that have problems with manual dexterity.  Since my program is an open one, with kids as young as three showing up (with their parents), I try to have an alternative, related craft.  Failing that, I try to have activity sheets.  These crafts are also successful with teens.


Decoupage is the art of placing cut pictures onto objects.  You can make so many things. I usually use recycled materials such as jars (both plastic and glass work).  This summer I purchased pencil boxes from Oriental Trading.  CAUTION: if using Mod Podge, do this project in a well-ventilated area.  For younger children, a mixture of watered down school glue can be substituted, but the results from Mod Podge produce a shiny, clear surface.

  • Mod Podge
  • sponge brush
  • colored tissue paper ( I purchased mine precut in tiny squares)
  • pictures cut out of magazines or printed

Start by applying tissue paper to your object with Mod Podge.  The pictures are then applied over the tissue paper. The biggest hurdle with this project is explaining that the “glue” goes over the top of the pictures.  Some children avoid getting the top of their picture messy and thus do not get the shiny, protective surface.  Other children go to town and apply way too much, leaving huge globs of Mod Podge and an uneven surface.  Gently apply a thin layer of Mod Podge, stick down the tissue paper, then swab more over the top of the paper.  Remind your class that you can go around corners- there should be no pieces sticking out.  Apply your cut out pictures and swab over them as well.  This project dries pretty  quickly, but can be sticky to the touch for about a day, so send your participants home with their project on a paper plate (check to make sure they have not glued their project to the plate by mistake!)  We get a lot of great pictures from women’s magazines, catalogs and celebrity magazines.  Kids can also cut out letters for a “ransom note” style sign.


Foil Art


  • thin aluminum foil sheets (I’ve found disposable lids for casserole dishes work well)
  • mouse pads or thick magazines to use as a surface
  • pieces of paper
  • pens
  • inspiration for pictures- drawing books, pre-made icons or examples
  • colored permanent markers (washable will not work)

Prepare before the class by cutting the aluminum sheets into pieces at least 5 inches square (rectangles work great too.)  CAREFULLY fold over the edges of the pieces.  These are seriously sharp.  A popsicle stick works great for smoothing the fold.  The object is to make the pieces safe.  For teens, they can do this step after a safety lecture.


Have kids draw the picture they want on a piece of paper.  The picture is going to be embossed, so simple images work best.  Put the foil piece on a mouse pad.  Place the paper over the front side of the foil piece, and trace over the outlines of the picture, pressing down hard but avoiding punching through.  Once the outline is clear, turn the piece over and use a retracted pen or wooden stylus to go back and forth inside the outline, which will create a raised surface on the other side.  When that is complete, turn it over and gently color the picture with Sharpie markers.  The pieces can be hung up as decorations.  A paperclip works great as a hole puncher, and pipe cleaners or thin wire work great for hanging.  A series of pieces could be hung together as a string.

Duct Tape Wallets


  • Duct tape- at least 3 rolls of regular grey, and 4-5 rolls of specialty colors and designs
  • black electrical tape
  • scissors

Duct tape can be a wonderful tool, or a frustrating sticky mess.  Working with Duct tape is best kept to kids 10 and older.  Why?  Even my 14 year old struggles to rip duct tape, and if you have to cut it with scissors, the likelihood of it sticking to itself increases.  Working with this material takes patience and care.  There are now many products to make working with duct tape easier, including flat sheets. After a very frustrating session, I realized I hadn’t done my homework.  Duct tape pros use a smooth plastic cutting board to stick tape down, they have tricks for making smooth edges and neat lines.

ducktivitiesplain-wallet-final_resizedDuck Tape Wallet instructions.

You don’t have to make a wallet- there are hundreds of duct tape books out there, showing you how to make bags, clothing, boxes and many other fun things.  I just made a bust of John Barrowman (don’t ask).  CAUTION: doing a google search may show you cases of both human and animal abuse.  NEVER put duct tape directly on your skin or on an animal.

Other ideas:

  • zentangle drawings
  • acrylic painting
  • braiding and paracords
  • learn a skill- hand sewing, knitting…
  • painting ceramics or metal figurines

Summer Reading Challenge #3- Second Grade

Second grade reading books

Here’s the school list for kids going into Second grade:

  • 39 Kids on the Block *  Marzollo
  • Amazing Grace  Hoffman
  • Amelia Bedelia SERIES  Parish
  • Arthur SERIES  Brown
  • Busybody Nora  Hurwitz
  • Cam Jansen SERIES  Adler
  • Chair for My Mother  Williams
  • Chrystanthemum  Henkes
  • Corduroy  Freeman
  • Fallen Spaceman *  Harding
  • Fancy Nancy SERIES  O’Connor
  • Flat Stanley SERIES  Brown
  • Fly Guy SERIES Arnold
  • Franklin SERIES  Bourgeois
  • Frog and Toad SERIES  Lobel
  • From the Black Lagoon SERIES  Thaler
  • Get ready for Second grade, Amber  Danzingen
  • Giving Tree  Silverstein
  • Henry and Mudge SERIES  Rylant
  • Horrible Harry SERIES  Kline
  • How Much is a Million?  Schwartz
  • Insect Detective  Voake
  • Ivy and Bean Make the Rules   Barrows
  • Magic School Bus SERIES  Cole
  • Magic Tree house SERIES  Osborne
  • Minnie and Moo  Cazet
  • Mr. Putter and Tabby SERIES  Rylant
  • Nate the Great SERIES  Weinman
  • Pain and the Great One  Blume
  • Poppleton SERIES  Rylant
  • Second Grade Friends  Cohen

Wow, this is all over the map.  We have picture books, early reader books, beginning chapter books, longer chapter books…. To add more confusion, popular characters now have books at all reading levels.  Arthur books are picture books, readers, beginning chapter books and longer chapter books, for example, so if a child says they like Arthur books, you need to do a bit of detective work.  I think kids who have finished first grade are expected to be able to read with some fluency, and begin to attempt chapter books.  Flat Stanley is a good entry-level chapter book.

The asterisks  are for books that are out of print.  The 39 kids on the block series looks a lot like the babysitter club series.  I know they came out in the 90’s, but realistic fiction gets old fast, and frightening as it is to realize, this is now historical fiction for 7 year olds.  This is when we have to decide if something is a classic or ephemeral.  One clue is if it keeps getting reprinted, like Judy Blume, L.M. Montgomery, or Louisa Alcott.

So from now on in this challenge, I will read 2-3 books on the list, instead of reading them all.


Dinosaurs Before Dark, by Mary Pope Osbourne.  This is the first book in the series, which is still going at #52 or more.  It is a chapter book using short sentences and easy vocabulary.  The idea of a tree house that is a time travel device is appealing, and it is certainly more exciting for children than some other chapter books I’ve seen.  The series connects with non-fiction books related to the topic, which I think is awesome.


How Much is a Million by David Schwartz.  I hate math, so loving a math book is great praise.  This nonfiction book helps children visualize large numbers with fantastic illustrations by Steven Kellogg.


Mr. Putter and Tabby Fly the Plane by Cynthia Rylant.  Cynthia Rylant has written over a hundred children’s books and has won Newberry and Caldecott honor awards.  The Mr. Putty and Tabby series are about an old man and his old cat, something you might not immediately think is appealing to 7 year olds.  This book is sweet and gentle.  It is a hybrid between a reader and a chapter book, having 3 chapters with only a few sentences per page.  This particular book was about Mr. Putter’s love of planes and his cat’s fear of them.

Books I would add to the list:

  • Anything your child is obsessed with- tv shows, movies, music, animals, trucks- if she can’t get enough, it will encourage her to read.  It’s ok, any reading helps.
  • fairy tales and mythology from other cultures
  • Association of Library Services to Children’s 2014 K-2nd grade list
  • Mercy Watson To the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty McDonald (reading this makes you realize how much has changed in child care since the 1940s.  Kids wandered around town, went to the movies, stayed home by themselves- that’s more amazing than the woman’s magic, in some ways.)
  • craft and cookbooks
  • World According to Humphrey by Betty Birney
  • Anything from my first grade list
  • parent read-alouds or audiobooks that introduce new vocabulary
    • The Hobbit by Tolkein
    • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
    • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
    • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
    • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Lunch Lady graphic novels by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

I remember reading the Hobbit by myself in second grade.  I’m not sure if that memory is accurate or something I filled in later.

Summer Reading Challenge #2- First Grade List

Summer Reading for First Grade, the Librarian Challenge Continues

So the end of Kindergarten is a tricky time.  Some kids are reading fluently, some kids are just getting started reading, some parents are reading to their children, and some parents think they are done and it’s the kid’s turn.  That makes a mess of a going into First Grade reading list.  Are kids supposed to be able to read by the end of Kindergarten?  Yes, according to the NY State Department of Education, they should be at least at the “emergent reader” level, which is things like sight words and “Mat sat on the cat.” (Great School’s answer.)

First, no matter how well their children are doing, parents should keep reading to their children.  If the parents are feeling out of their depth because of language or literacy issues, then audiobooks are a great alternative.  Audiobooks are good for any family, listening in the car, during quiet activity or for bedtime.  Listening to books beyond their reading ability improves vocabulary and comprehension. Talking to your children about the type of book is also important- fact or fiction?  Some things we take for granted have to be taught- reading is left to right, this is a book cover, an author is a person that wrote the book, and an illustrator made the pictures.  Many teachers give a tour of a book before they read it out loud.

826584Here’s our school’s list for First Grade:

  • Alexander and the Terrible Horrible …Day – Vorst
  • Amelia Bedelia SERIES  -Parish
  • Arthur SERIES – Brown
  • Bark, George – Feiffer
  • Berenstain Bears SERIES – Berenstain
  • Boy Who Turned Into a TV Set- Manes
  • Dragon SERIES – Pilkey
  • Frog and Toad SERIES- Lobel
  • froggy SERIES – London
  • George and Martha SERIES – Marshall
  • Henry and Mudge SERIES- Rylant
  • If you give a..SERIES – Numeroff
  • Junie B Jones SERIES- Park
  • Kids of Polk Street School SERIES – Giff
  • Little Bear SERIES – Minarik
  • Little Critter SERIES – Mayer
  • Magic School Bus books- Cole
  • Miss Nelson SERIES – Allard
  • Moonbear SERIES – Asch
  • Nature up Close SERIES – Himmelman
  • Olivia SERIES- Falconer
  • Pete the Cat – Litwin
  • Pinkalicious SERIES – Kann
  • Ugly Duckling – Anderson
  • 39 Kids on the Block – Marzollo

Some of the things on this list make sense, with books for early readers as well as books for caregivers to read to their children.  There are books for advanced readers.  Then there are books that baffle me.

The Boy Who Turned Into a TV Set was written in 1984.  I have never seen it on any list of children’s classics.  No one in our entire library system owns a copy of this out-of-print book, and it has one review on Amazon.  If the reason for keeping it on the list was to extol turning off the tv once and a while, the Berenstein Bears and Too Much Television would fit the bill just as well.  A more modern chapter book covering the issue is Zeke Meeks Vs. The Horrifying TV-Turnoff Week, (2012).  

I read Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (book 1).  I’ve seen these books around for years, but I’d never read one before.  Ugh.  What an ignorant, mean little brat!  Does the series get any better?

I don’t get the appeal of Pete the Cat.  It’s a reader that is very bland and repetitious, which can be good for struggling readers, but the art is awful.  I much preferred Dragon Makes a Friend, which had full color pages, a sentence per page, but set up like a chapter book.  Kids can get in on the jokes.  The Magic School Bus just came out with revised books on the body, solar system, sea creatures, weather and planet earth, which are also available as e-books.  Is Ms. Frizzle a time lord or a wizard? The “If you give a…” series is cute and funny (If you give a mouse a cookie was the first, I think).  I’m not sure why just one fairy tale by Anderson is specifically listed- it would be good to have your child well-versed in fairy tales and mythology to prepare them for references in other books.

Books I would add:

the Association for Library Services for Children’s 2014 list


  • Bob books- these are tiny reader books in a set.  The art work is beyond horrible, but struggling readers can be proud that they read a whole book.  The series increases in difficulty as you go along. Other phonics book sets are helpful as well.
  • Max and Mo Go Apple Picking by Patricia Lakin
  • Bully by Laura Seeger – Bully the bull doesn’t realize that his words hurt, until…
  • browse the “reader” section of your library with your child (note that every publisher has a different criteria for reading levels) and have them try the first page.
  • Silly Milly and the Mysterious Suitcase- Wendy Lewison12233119129594
  • Starfall books- free online reading books with different settings
  • Between the Lions videos and activities.  Click on “parents” to get book lists and tips.
  • Reading Rainbow app

To read aloud to your child:

  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs- Judith Barrett (follow it with the Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord)
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales (flip through the book before reading it- some editions are the original, dark and violent versions, and some are watered down)
  • How Much is a Million? by David Schwartz
  • Classic Fairy Tales by Scott Gustafson (non-violent versions of the classics)
  • Arabian Nights by Wa’fa Tarnowska
  • Biography picture books: your library should have great books about famous people
  • How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
  • Any of your favorite childhood books- share your love of them
  • 365 Penguins by Jean Luc Fromental
  • Flotsam by David Weisner (amazing artwork in this wordless book)
  • the Empty Pot by Demi (great story about honesty)
  • Watr! Water! Water! by Nancy Wallace
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  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
  • Mythology, tall tales, fairy tales from around the world
  • science books about weather, time, animals, vehicles, dinosaurs…

I’m beginning to ramble again.  Enjoy your summer.   Be a role model and read some books yourself!


Alien Autopsy Craft at the Library #Fizzboomread

Gross Alien Autopsy for kids!

Here’s a cool program that involves gross stuff and aliens, two things that kids love.  They examine an alien corpse and make scientific observations.  The “corpse” is a jello mold full of strange objects.


I got this idea from Catherine Brenner of Bethlehem Public Library, who made a presentation for our summer reading workshop.  She did a whole series of programs centered around “grossology”.


The gelatin mold above is actually a British import for a “giant jelly baby”.  Other options would be a gingerbread man cake pan.

The recipe I used has about a half-bowl extra, which was fine with my family.

  • 2 6 oz. packages of gelatin mix (orange or lime)
  • 1 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • small plastic toys, jiggly eyes and boiled spaghetti

Pour the boiling water into a large bowl with the gelatin mix, stir for two minutes, add cold water.  Spray the mold with oil.  Pour the gelatin into the mold along with the weird objects.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.


To un-mold, run a knife along the edges of the mold to break the seal.  Put mold in a bath of warm water (do not submerge).  I used plastic shoe boxes to store the aliens.  Moisten the inside lid of the box and carefully flip the mold onto it, peeling it off.  Aliens should either be stored in the fridge or a cool, dark place.

For the program, make your kids into scientists.  I recommend plastic aprons and plastic gloves.  Remind the participants not to eat their specimen (to avoid accidentally ingesting toys, and also, ew).  Before they begin dissecting, have your scientists make observations, notes, and drawings.  Ask them to use their senses to describe what they see without using emotional words like yucky or gross.

WARNING: this consistency of gelatin is as sticky as glue- it can stick the fingers of your gloves together if you get too covered.


Great tools to have for the autopsy would be plastic knives and tweezers.


My exuberant five year old demonstrated to me why this program is best for ages 8 and up.  He was all about the texture of the jello and mashing it between his fingers, sending it everywhere.  For his age group, an ooblek project would work better (non-newtonian fluid).

Pair this project with nonfiction and fiction books about aliens, and possibly some about surgery or anatomy.  P1100120