In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, November 19, 2010

School book projects

Dear Aunt Debbie,

The exchanging of heads!  An absolute memory explosion for me as well.  I read very few of the later Oz books, but I had a good friend who had them all, and when I borrowed them this scene was one of the ones which stayed with me.  So fascinating and creepy, and somehow playing into both the idea of dress-up and the understanding of having different moods in a deeply compelling way.

I've been trying to remember my own book-related projects, and am not coming up with much.  I know there were dioramas in shoeboxes, and can remember watching Shrinky Dinks curl up and flatten out and setting them up as people in my scene -- but what book was that for?  There was the time in fifth grade when my friend Matthew and I, obsessed with Daulaires' Book of Greek Myths, decided to make a model of Mount Olympus, complete with little dolls of the gods and goddesses sitting on top.  I wanted to start by making the dolls, but Matthew was convinced we needed the mountain first, so we made a four-foot tall model out of chicken wire in Mrs. Forrest's classroom and covered maybe one-quarter of it with papier-mache before we lost steam and moved onto something else.

Oh, and then there was Elizabeth Blackwell, First Woman Doctor (I'm linking to the Alibris page of the book it probably was -- there are a lot of bios of her out there, but this one, published in 1966, seems likely to be what I had from the school library).  For her, I mounted a doll made of stockings stuffed with cotton and dressed in a lab coat with a homemade stethoscope onto a thin round wooden frame which I think came from a wheel of cheese.  That one stayed up in my room for a long time.

I hope my girls get to do crazy, slightly pointless artistic stuff like that in school too, along with the test prep they're no doubt headed for.  Of course, I can always supplement with ideas from Playing by the Book at home....

Are there any projects from your childhood or Lizzie and Mona's that stand out for you?

Love, Annie


  1. I'm not quite sure where to post this comment, which is actually a question, but I am wondering if you can recommend any picture books for our not quite 4-year old twins boy and girl. We are looking to do a better job of teaching them about kindness, compassion, gratitude, helping others, etc. I have the classic, Stone Soup, and the more recent book, One. But I'd love some other suggestions...any ideas?
    Thanks so much!

  2. I remember doing a book report on Pippi Longstocking. For the cover, I made her pigtails out of red yarn for a 3-D, multimedia effect. That was probably the height of my creativity, then or since. When we got married, I told my husband that when we had children, he would be in charge of dioramas. Doing it once as a student was enough for me!