In our school library, we’re back at it–creating new shoebox rooms to go with our favorite stories. Last year we made a fairy-tale themed high-rise. This spring we used a mishmash of recyclables to make a crypt (and aboveground graveyard!) for the Ink Drinker, Eric Sanvoisin’s ink-slurping, book-swilling vampire.
The Ink Drinker, a book about discovering an appetite for books, is beloved in our school. The kids supplied the crypt with coffins for the Ink Drinker (and a couple guests), books for guzzling, wallpaper made from words, and plenty of headstones.
If you haven’t encountered it yet, this skinny early-chapter book is well-pitched for a third-grade read-aloud. (Read it to second graders at your own peril. Those littles tend to FREAK OUT about the vampire element.) Because it’s slight, you can read the whole thing aloud in about 30 minutes.
If you find your audience is hooked, follow up with the next three stories in the series (A Straw for Two, The City of Ink Drinkers, and Little Red Ink Drinker). The stories are translated from the French somewhat choppily but I choose to believe that the bumpy translation adds to its charm.
This book. I’m not sure which is more beautiful: the words or the pictures. Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois (written by Amy Novesky; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault) was published a couple of years ago, but my appreciation for its cross-hatched reds and blues hasn’t abated, nor has my admiration for its quiet telling about an emerging artist.
For me, the illustration’s delicate inky stitches brought to mind sashiko, a Japanese form of embroidery that I’ve been spotting online a lot lately.
Sashiko is usually a running stitch; the word sashiko translates to “little stabs.” My attempt at sashiko was my own improvised version. I used fabric scraps I had on hand, denim pieces from old jeans and worn cotton patches I rescued a while back from a disintegrating quilt. I grabbed embroidery floss for thread and the sharpest needle I could find.
I didn’t make anything in particular. I’m not sure I will. But I found the stitching meditative and love the way the stitches & patches look: imperfect, wobbly, delicate, salvaged. I think the simplicity and improvisation would appeal to kids, too (although I’d probably use thinner cotton so that the “little stabs” are easier to make). I’m going to try it out in my school library after reading Cloth Lullaby aloud–I’ll let you know how it goes . . .
Here is the shoebox house the kids made in my library from scraps and bits last year. We are back in school (as of yesterday) and ready to resume construction. Each room represents a different fairy tale. You may be able to discern these tell-tale details:
Jack’s room (from his beanstalk)
The candy-laden gingerbread kitchen that lured Hansel and Gretel
Little Red’s bedroom complete with her hoodie hanging in the wardrobe
The three bears’ pudding cooling on their table and their well-made beds upstairs (pre-Goldilocks rampage)
I’m not sure where we go from here, but surely my students will let me know . . . stay tuned.
I haven’t made anything with matchboxes in a while, so I was overdue. This mini market was inspired by something similar (I think) that I spotted in the wilds of the internet but then couldn’t find again. Maybe it was just a dream (but a very particular and miniature kind of dream).
This tiny marketplace has a vaguely Mexican look thanks to the some bright 2″ origami paper and a nifty hole punch I got my hands on. Love that hole punch something fierce. I made a counter for the ice cream shop out of card stock and striped tape. Ditto the little table in the coffee shop (but this time I used checkered tape). The itty ice cream cones, donuts and penguins come from my son’s Japanese eraser collection (borrowed without permission!)
Who wouldn’t awake, hobbled with aches, after sleeping on this perfect pea? Even with the assorted mattresses, 22 in all?
I promised to post photos of the cardboard box storybook house the grade schoolers made in my library this year. And only months later, I’m keeping my word! Each room was paired with a fairy tale and kid-created with tape, glue stick, thread, and recyclables: scraps of fabric, felt, boxes, egg cartons. This room, of course, belongs to the Princess of The Princess and the Pea.
We read Lauren Child’s version of the tale for inspiration. (Lauren herself constructed exquisite miniature rooms and paper doll cut outs to illustrate the story.) Then we savored the spin-offs: The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane Auch and Mini Grey’s The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be.
The students used thread or embroidery floss and sewed pieces of felt or fabric scraps together. This involved a bit of prep–pre-threading needles so the kids could get to work. The bed is a paper-covered box with clothespin bed posts.
And this little table and chairs adds luster to the princess’s room, I think. Her crown is on a chest of drawers against the back wall.