Monday, June 30, 2008

How to Make a Handprint Plaque

Handprint plaques are great for Mother's Day, but they can be great at any time. For instance, one center where I worked moved the kids up from one class to the next each June. I would do all the children's handprints at that time and then we'd do another right before graduation to see how much they'd grown over the year.

I love this method, too, because it doesn't require plaster of Paris, which can be quite a challenge if you're working with toddlers. Enter panic mode!

For each handprint, you'll need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pie tin
  • pencil
  • Ribbon
  • Decorative materials like paint, markers, crayons, etc.

Making the dough:
  1. Mix the salt and water in a bowl and allow the salt to completely dissolve.
  2. Add the oil and flour and mix well.
  3. Knead the dough until very smooth.

Making the handprint:
  1. Press the dough into the pie tin until it reaches the edges.
  2. Have the child press their hand into the dough (though not too deep as to reach the bottom of the pan)
  3. Write the child's name in the remaining space around the handprint with a pencil or chop stick
  4. Make a hole in the top with a pencil so that a ribbon can be strung through (this is how it will hang on the wall)
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour, depending on the thickness (watch carefully to avoid over browning)
  6. Decorate with paints, etc. and string ribbon through hole and it's ready to go.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Book Review: Kitten’s First Full Moon

Like the similar tale, Where the Wild Things Are, this is a story with imagination and curiosity throughout and a warm meal prepared with love at the end. Predictable elements (“Still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting.”) are inserted between each misadventure of the little cat and punctuated by dark pencil drawings with thick, heavy marks. The cat’s facial gestures add punch to each page. The font chosen, Gill Sans Extra Bold in 22 glorious points, adds a second punch and echoes the lines of the illustrations. For children 2 to 6 years of age, this book will make either a wonderful introduction to or a pleasant diversion within the normally colorful sea of Caldecott Medal winners.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review: A Story — A Story

It’s a story so good it had to be named twice. Or is it? Here is the story of a man who knows how to depend on his brains rather than brawn to win the favor of a god. Gail E. Haley “studied African folklore and culture … to capture the flavor of the languages, the people, their customs and life styles.” She did manage to relay this, but perhaps too much so. The unfamiliar African words could have used a pronunciation guide in the text or in a glossary. Even some of the English words (flamboyant, calabash) may be beyond the reach of the younger child for whom this book is intended (ages 4-8). This coupled with the almost babyish language elsewhere in the book (“Gum baby, I’ll slap your crying place.”) create an awkward juxtaposition. The intriguing shapes and vivid colors in the wood cut illustrations (made by the author herself) redeem the book, however, and justify the Caldecott Medal it was awarded in 1971.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Book Review: It’s Like This Cat

This book is a stark contrast to coming-of-age stories like Shiloh that feature a lonely boy and a dependent, loyal dog who become fast companions. That’s because this book is about a boy and his cat. Both are fiercely independent and curious. That curiosity leads both into some scary yet exciting adventures. Author Emily Neville really captures the innocence and exhilaration of catch-as-catch-can life for the main character as well as those who cross his path. Her caricature of both cat and boy behavior is humorous and true-to-life. In addition, her romantic portrayal of New York City through the eyes of youth is magical. At the same time, one feels all the familiarity and intimacy of a small town as she weaves the chapters through landmarks like Gramercy Park and Coney Island and then back to “the neighborhood.” The matter-of-fact portrayal and acceptance of family dysfunction is refreshing in a book more than 40 years old.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Book Review: Shiloh

Newbery Award-winning Shiloh represents everything that readers love about a story that is at once a boy-meets-dog love story and a coming-of-age tale. The empathetic 11-year-old meets with all the classic predicaments (father / son confrontations, right vs. wrong, the spirit vs. the letter of the law, animal and human rights) and he prevails on every level. Sophisticated readers may find the book a bit clich├ęd, however, and the beliefs, mannerisms and attitudes of the characters, at times, make it feel like this book is set in the 1950s instead of the 1990s. The book is written in easy language (for children as young as 8 years old) and is narrated from the boy’s perspective which will allow older children (up to 12) to identify with both his simple day-to-day life and complex moral quandaries.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review: The Giver

Many who pick up this title will be mesmerized by the story of a curious yet brave boy who is chosen to bear the memories, and thus the pain and joy, for the bland, homogenized community in which he lives. More than a few readers will find this introductory taste of dystopian fiction their first step on the way to books like 1984 and V for Vendetta. It has earned a spot in the top 20 of the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books every decade since its release, possibly for the author’s treatment of subjects like death, sex and religion. Indeed, author Lois Lowry has many times made the Most Frequently Challenged Authors list for her other books as well. When the controversy dies down, this Newbery Award-winning book will surely be seen as an engaging, thought-provoking classic – required summer reading for children 9 to 12 – much like other older, esteemed books on the same list.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Review: Bud, Not Buddy (Audio)

This book, similar in content to Holes, will have readers rooting for the underdog. Bud, the main character, loses his mother early in life but she leaves him with the advice that one door closing means another door opening. The author does a superb job of building the anticipation as readers see this opening and closing take place, not always for the best. In this audio version the narrator’s upturned intonation at the end of many sentences is a bit off-putting, as if he’s not sure of his reading. In addition, the book is written completely from a 10-year-old child’s perspective, which will endear it to the reader 8 to 12 years of age, but the narrator sounds like a gruff older man, making the story feel less believable than audio books using children’s voices such as A Series of Unfortunate Events or Blubber. Narration aside, the writing paints a picture of every scene and emotion that will still leave readers engaged with the story in this format.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Book Review: Miss Mary Mack and Other Children’s Street Rhymes

This book of street rhymes and games is perfect for the child ages 6 to 10 who has outgrown Mother Goose and the nursery and graduated to the playground. Authors Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson bring to life the verses that the modern generation spent chanting on the bus or skipping rope to as kids. Like Mother Goose, they come complete with a little controversy, too. You’ll hear about slapping your sister, k-i-s-s-i-n-g and seeing London, France and of course, underpants. Included here are rhymes that are coupled with hand clapping and ball bouncing. That’s no surprise since the same authors wrote: The Eentsy, Weentsy Spider Fingerplays and Action Rhymes (in the same format as this book) proving that physical activity and books are not mutually exclusive. The authors also include a lengthy bibliography for children who yearn for more.