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Notes from a Children's Librarian

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Making Things

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

Book Cover 123 I Can Sculpt

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


Need a respite from the summer heat? Cover the kitchen table with materials and get busy making stuff with these step-by-step crafting books.

The colourful photos in 1 2 3, I Can Sculpt, by Irene Luxbacher, are as delectable as candy: a snake, a crocodile, a giraffe. All will entice the age 5+ audience (with adult help) or the independent grade 3+. Requiring at-hand materials like foil, clay, egg cartons and fabric, each page introduces one new technique or art word, such as materials, form, texture, armature, balance, as well as clay-sculpting methods. The culminating Wow-a-Saurus combines all previously taught skills. There's also a pictorial glossary and a concise note to guide parents/teachers.

I Can Make Gifts

I Can Make Gifts, by Mary Wallace, also in colour, demonstrates how to make a “growing gift,” a Dad Fan Photo (transforming a photo of a parent), a locket, a baby rattle, a trophy, a family tree shaped like a house, or gift baskets with homemade bubble solutions, along with card-making and wrapping ideas for a grade 3–4 (or younger with parent supervision). 

Book Cover Make It With Boses

Make It With Boxes, by Joan Irvine, illustrated by Linda Hendry, includes black and white drawings for a grade 5–6 to follow. There are five types of constructions: boxes of various shapes; surprises in boxes, such as dioramas with moveable parts; games such as mini golf and a pinhole camera (look up Caine's Arcade for inspiration—the Grade 6s in my school create a cardboard arcade every year as a fundraiser); boxes you can wear, such as an airplane, triceratops, sports car, tin man (Halloween prep!); box puppets, music boxes and a shadow theatre.

The following are all part of a series by Kids Can Press for various age levels.

Book Cover Fun With Modelling Clay

Fun With Modelling Clay, by Barbara Reid, is divided into three sections: animals, people, and pictures. There are tips about what kind of clay to use and how to get it off the carpet pronto if the need arises! Reid does a great job of showing how to make key forms: ball, egg, pancake, tear drop, snake, sausage, cylinder, box, and ribbon. As the reader works his/her way through the book, s/he can't help but become proficient at identifying what shapes are necessary to make different items. The copy I read included the same book in French halfway through—turn it over for the French version.

Book Cover Corking

Judy Ann Sadler has several books in this series, including Knitting, Prints, etc. Three of my favourites are the following. 

Corking: Once you make a corker out of a toilet paper roll or tin can, nails, a yarn needle and tape, the whole corking universe opens up! Create a hair scrunchie, snake draft stopper, slipper socks, doll clothes, animal figures with pipe cleaner armatures.

Book Cover Beads

Beads: Another of Sadler's books, Beading, shows how to use store-bought beads, but this is the DIY version. For example: how to make rolled beads using magazine triangles, and beads from dough, straws, even carrot slices. Make them into a hair clip, attach to shoelaces, glue them to ball caps or make safety pin bracelets.

Beanbag Buddies

Beanbag Buddies: This teaches the basics in sewing, with patterns included for a beanbag frog or ladybug, a “buttons” bear, a sock bunny or sock lion.

Book Cover Papier Mache

Papier-Mache, by Renee Schwarz, has essential tips for success and decorative techniques to make very cute objects, such as a bird bowl, a money-muncher fish (piggy bank), and very cute cat and mouse bookends. I love Funky Junk by the same author, in which hardware store materials, such as hooks, screws, bolts, washers, springs, electrical wire, along with pliers and wire cutters transform into objects like Sharpie the Robot pencil sharpener. The piece de resistance is a Heavy Metal Chess set comprised of bolts, wing nuts and washers.

Book Cover Cat Crafts

Cat Crafts, by Linda Hendry, is a little more complex using a variety of materials to make all-things-cat, i.e., a spider cat-toy, a switch plate cover, a pussy cat placemat for food/water bowls. There's also Dog Crafts for canine-lovers. 

Native Crafts, by Maxine Trottier, uses a wide range of materials as well. These more complicated projects seem geared more toward a teacher of native studies or a junior grade crafter up for the challenge. There's a bull roarer made from a paint stir-stick on a cord (when spun, the head makes a moaning or wolf howl sound to ward off animals); a rasp (musical instrument that requires a grownup to carve notches in a wood stick); a hoop drum and drum beater (requiring leather); moccasins; a painted pinch pot; a corn husk doll; a paper totem pole; and a rosette necklace.

On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.