DIY Kids Jewelry—Waaay Better than Claire’s!

My daughter and her friends love jewelry but I do not love the tacky junk marketed to their age group.  With a bit of time and patience, I’ve found it’s easy to make necklaces and bracelets for girls and these make perfect, unique gifts.

Over the past year (and with those 40% off coupons), I collected the tools and findings needed for these kinds of projects, so I have two pairs of flat nose pliers, wire cutters, and a crimp tool.  I also have assorted charms and wire.

For the nerdy birthday girl (see yesterday’s post), my daughter decided on a color scheme and picked out these blue beads at a local bead store ($.40 each):

Then she created a pattern for a necklace and a bracelet incorporating some pink and silver seed beads that we had left over from another necklace.  I strung the beads and attached the findings, including a wire guard, crimp tube and crimp cover.  I haven’t mastered the art of photographing the process, so all I can share are before and after pics.

I love this because everyone benefits—my daughter uses her creativity, she and I do a fun project together, I spend less than I would at a jewelry store in the mall, and the birthday girl gets a one-of-a-kind gift.

Since I had all the supplies out, we went ahead and made another gift for an upcoming birthday.

And I even made the gift boxes.

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My Daughter’s Take on “Dress in Your Nerdy Best”

My daughter received an invitation that read, You’re invited to J’s Nerdy 7th Birthday Party!  Come dressed in your nerdy best.  Be there and be square!

Confused, my daughter asked, “Dressed in your nerdy best?” What does that mean?  Do I dress up like one of those nerd candy things?

After we googled Pee-Wee Herman, Paul Pfeiffer (of the Wonder Years), Revenge of the Nerds, and generic nerd costumes for kids, my daughter was wholly unimpressed.  She told me, I don’t want to dress like that!  Once when we were in a store, I saw a Nerds t-shirt

More googling led us to this picture and my daughter’s declaration:  I want to wear that shirt!

[Image source: http://www.itsugar.com/]

Well, this shirt is $16 and doesn’t come in my daughter’s size.  Luckily for her I had a few things on hand:

1) plain t-shirts in her size that I scooped up on clearance at the NEX

2) Avery Iron-on Inkjet transfer paper from a previous project

3) a Wacom Bamboo tablet

I cropped the photo of the pink nerd shirt and printed a copy to reference.  Then, I drew the purple nerd in Corel Painter Essentials 4, which was included in the free software bundle that came with the tablet.  I am sure there’s a newer, slicker version by now, but this worked fine for me.  After inserting my drawing into a Word doc, adding the heading, and flipping the images, I printed it out on the transfer paper and ironed it onto the plain white shirt.

Voilà! 

My daughter loves how her shirt came out and the party was a blast.

Next time I’ll share the present we made for the birthday girl.

  

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My first review published!

Exciting news:  since the summer I have been reading and reviewing books for VOYA magazine (Voice of Youth Advocates), and my first review has been published in the February issue.

VOYA is an excellent resource for anyone who works with books and/or teens, particularly educators, but parents who would like to get a clearer idea of what their teens are reading and what is being published for teens will find a great deal here too.

A digital copy of the latest issue may be downloaded from the magazine’s homepage.  (In case you’re just dying to read it, my review of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe starts on page 67.)

 

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How Bookstore Browsing Led Me to Knitting

Sometimes I like to wander around in a bookstore just for the heck of it.  Because as a  library science grad student I don’t spend enough time with books or something.  About two months ago, I was browsing in a local shop and came across this book:

Author Anna Hrachovec blogs about her impossibly adorable creations at Mochimochiland.

I decided then and there that I wanted to populate my home with many of these precious yarn-y beings. And I could give them as gifts to children.  And adults.   Of course, first I would need to learn how to knit.

The prospect of teaching myself to knit did not seem daunting to me because I had just that week completed 32 of these guys (you can see how the Teeny Tiny Mochimochi would appeal to me):

The turkeys were a modified version of a project from this book:

In my head I was saying something like, YES!  I have successfully made 64 yarn pompoms.  Therefore, I can learn how to knit.

Yeah, I cheated on my Logic final all those years ago.

So despite the fact that my household was in an uproar as my husband prepared to leave on deployment and the fact that I had a deadline looming on a 350-page reading assignment and related research project and the fact that I was in the midst of starting up a Daisy troop, I watched an absurd number of knitting tutorials on youtube and I learned how to knit!!!

I started with this:

And made my daughter this:

I’m now on to my second project, a rib knit grey scarf based on a pattern in this book:

Admittedly, I am nowhere near skilled enough to tackle any of the projects in the Mochi book yet but I am happy enough to have something to do besides read on the 16-hour plane flight I’ll be taking this summer.

Has bookstore browsing ever led you to take up a new hobby?  Are there any other crazy crafters out there who seize upon an inspiration and run with it, prior experience be damned?  I know of at least one—my BFF came across this book (how cute is that cat?!) and promptly taught herself to crochet:

Coming up soon—my daughter’s “costume” for a nerd-themed birthday party.

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Filed under Non-fiction, Random Acts of Reading

Pleasantville Public Library

In the 1998 movie Pleasantville starring Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon, David is a dorky high school student obsessed with an old black and white TV show called “Pleasantville.”  The show is set in 1958 and depicts a small town that proudly upholds family values, and has no homelessness and no inclement weather.  David and his sister Jen are transported into the show as the main character, Bud, and his sister Mary Sue.  The two must navigate this scarily “pleasant” world until they figure out how to return to the present day.  Jen in particular is quickly exasperated by the wholesome naïveté of Pleasantville residents.  She boldly invites the star of the high school basketball team to accompany her to Lover’s Lane, and after their evening together he starts to see in color.  Slowly, as a result of Jen’s and David’s presence, more and more of the townspeople begin to change from black, white and gray to vivid color.  The shift from black and white to color signifies an awakening for the character, and each character turns to color for different reasons.

The librarian in Pleasantville is significant by his/her absence.  On their first day in Pleasantville, David and Jen attend school and Jen ends up in the library only because she “got lost.”  Once there, she discovers that all of the books are blank.  The implication is that no one in Pleasantville has need of information, nor for a librarian.  Certainly, Jen’s classmates lack curiosity about the world outside of Pleasantville; their geography class focuses onMain StreetandElm Street, Pleasantville’s two major roads.

The books begin to fill in once more young people start to change into color.  They are suddenly more inquisitive and demonstrate critical thinking skills.  In one scene, the young people are queued up outside the library.  Jen (as Mary Sue) changes into color as a result of reading.  Some of the townspeople remark incredulously, “Now they’re going to the library!” and one man even responds, “Someone ought to do something about that.”   A town council of black and white people decides that “the area known as Lover’s Lane and the library are closed until further notice” while the elementary and high schools will teach the “non change-ist view of history.”

Once things start to become colored in Pleasantville, the library represents change and intellectual freedom, which some characters feel is inherently dangerous.  A book burning is depicted, with black and white characters looting the library and tossing the books into a bonfire in the street outside the building.  The characters who participate support the mayor who is the most resistant to any changes in Pleasantville.  The mayor argues that the values that make Pleasantville great are threatened by such scandalous acts as “thinking.”

Ultimately, the Pleasantville library is a positive force in the town; it is seen as a center of civilization and culture from which beauty springs forth.  By the end of the movie, the entire town ofPleasantvilleis in full color, and even with an uncertain future looming before them, the residents are happy.

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Filed under Library and Information Science, Reflections

Albus Dumbledore is a Censor

In honor of Banned Books Week 2011, a reflection on censorship and Harry Potter:

For more than a decade, discussions of children’s literature, libraries and censorship inevitably mention Harry Potter.  However, those discussions rarely—if ever—feature an analysis of the library and incidents of censorship within the series itself.  J.K. Rowling offers much to consider on both counts:

Madam Irma Pince, the librarian at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where Harry Potter receives six years of magical education, is described as a “thin, irritable woman who look[s] like an underfed vulture” (CS 163).  Forever “suspicious” of the students (CS 164), she “has been known to add unusual jinxes to the books in her care” (QA).  J.K. Rowling characterizes (and even names) Madam Pince with the stereotype of an old maid librarian whom the students think is “barking mad” (HBP 307).  A guardian of “her” books (QA), Madam Pince is often “breathing down [students’] necks” (SS 198).  She “brandish[es] a featherduster” at Harry during his very first visit to the library and demands, “What are you looking for, boy?” (SS 198).  Years later Madam Pince bewitches Harry’s own school books to whack him repeatedly over the head when she discovers Harry eating chocolate in the library (OP 655).  Though Harry and his friends frequent the library during their school years, they never ask Madam Pince for her help in their research.  Rather, they avoid her and discover information on their own.  They approach her on only one occasion, when they need her to retrieve a book from the Restricted Section.  Thus, as a character, the information professional is superfluous to the Harry Potter story, and Madam Pince ultimately reinforces the negative stereotype of a librarian.

The Hogwarts library, however, is essential to the plot of the entire Harry Potter series.  On two occasions (SS & GF), Harry uses his invisibility cloak to sneak into the library after hours to do research, and Harry’s best friend Hermione Granger spends more time in the library than any other main character.  Hermione, the best student in Harry’s class, utilizes the library not only for schoolwork, but also to research issues of personal interest and to help Harry as he confronts various challenges.  Indeed when Harry and Hermione, along with Ron Weasley, prepare for their most dangerous challenge in the final book, Ron jokes that the three will be “hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library” (DH 95).  By continually referring to the library (or books retrieved from the library) as a source of key information, Rowling highlights the significant contribution of a library to one’s formal and informal education.

The most referenced and quoted incident of censorship in the Harry Potter series occurs when Ministry of Magic representative turned Hogwarts professor Dolores Umbridge instates “Educational Decree Number Twenty-seven,” banning an alternative magazine called The Quibbler which features a controversial interview with one Mr. Harry Potter.  As Hermione points out, “if [Umbridge] could have done one thing to make absolutely certain that every single person in [the] school will read [Harry’s]  interview, it was banning it!” (OP 582).  Rowling reveals the ineffectiveness of censors and the shrewdness with with young people circumvent them.

Another, less noticeable incident of censorship serves as a significant plot point in the series:  Rowling reveals that Tom Riddle, who becomes the dark wizard Voldemort, learned a great deal of dark magic from books in the Hogwarts library.  In the case of Horcruxes, which involve murder, “Voldemort g[ets] all the instruction he need[s] from [a library book]” (DH 102).  Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore removes all of the Horcrux books from the library, but not until well after Tom Riddle has attained access to them.  Here, Rowling illuminates an ethical dilemma for librarians in regard to equal access to information:  when he is underage, Tom Riddle uses information he found in the school library to commit crimes against other people; Dumbledore makes the choice to censor that information by removing it from the library collection, yet Harry and his friends have no hope of defeating their foe without access to that same information.

Considering the psychology of the censor, Dumbledore’s decision merits deliberation:  Dumbledore consistently demonstrates wisdom and is widely believed to be a talented educator and leader, yet he freely admits to weaknesses, to the capacity for grave errors in judgment.  Certainly Dumbledore has his critics.  Does this example make a case for some censorship being acceptable?  Moreover, the Hogwarts library contains the aforementioned Restricted Section (which is where the material in question was shelved in the first place):  is this, in effect, a form of censorship that is acceptable? 

Key:

SS=Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

CS=Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

GF=Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

OP=Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

HBP=Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

DH=Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

QA=Quidditch Through the Ages

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Filed under Library and Information Science, Reflections, YA Literature

A Cricket in Times Square

Written by George Selden.  Illustrated by Garth Williams.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1960.  132 pages.  Tr. $17.00.  ISBN 10:  0-374-31650-3/ISBN 13:  978-0-374-31650-1.

While tending his family’s newspaper stand in the Times Square subway station, a young boy named Mario hears an unusual sound—the chirping of a cricket!  Mario rescues the cricket from a dirty corner of the station, elated to have a pet at last.  The cricket quickly becomes a fixture at the newspaper stand, though Mario and his parents disagree over whether it is lucky or not.  Meanwhile, the cricket—whose name is Chester—befriends Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat, who also live in the station.  As Chester adapts to his new life, far from his country home, his talent for music is revealed and suddenly throngs of people are marveling at the rarity of a cricket in Times Square.

Enhanced with drawings by Garth Williams, this charming story will leave a lasting impression on readers of all ages.  A perfect read-aloud for younger children eager for more complex stories and a good selection for confident readers ready for chapter books.

Other Information:

Other in-print formats available for this title:

  • Selden, G.  (2008). The cricket in Times Square [unabridged CD].  New York: Macmillan Audio.

Awards won by this item

Author biographies

Illustrator biography

Subjects/themes that could be used in programming

  • New York
  • Subway
  • Friendship
  • Home

Series Information:  The original story spawned sequels and a prequel featuring Chester Cricket and his friends:  Tucker’s Countryside, Chester Cricket’s New Home, Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride, The Old Meadow, and Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse.

Programming Ideas and/or lesson plans

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Filed under Chapter Books, Middle Grade Books