Green Art Activity: ANIMAL HOUSE Furnimals from Reusable Materials

Are you in a school, a library, or even at home? Are you eager to make your very own "furnimals" based on Nathan Hale's amazing Animal House illustrations? Then look no further than your nearest recycling bin or trash can.

Chances are that you have everything you need to turn the above pile of reusable materials into...

...these adorable and loving literary companions.

The toucan of soda, cowch, and refrigergator were made by 3-5 year olds in Victoria Howard's incredible "Art & Stories" class at Barnsdall Junior Art Center last winter.

Mix a Pringles-like container with some stray buttons, construction paper scraps, and a piece of cardboard, and get a toucan of soda.

Shake together some loose buttons, a sheet of styrofoam, an empty soap bar-like box, felt scraps, construction paper pieces, and four corks to get a ....................... brand new cowch!

Don't forget to add the udder underneath. You need some way to be able to milk your cowch.

Gently toss some cute buttons, an Altoids-like metal container, a couple of corks, scrap pieces of felt, and left-over construction paper to get a handy-dandy new..................refrigergator.

Don't forget to stock your new refrigergator with yummy "food" buttons of all shapes and sizes.

So, the next time you see this (Note the pen-drawn reptilian scales on the empty applesauce-like container. Yes, it does look like a proto-skink)........................

.............try and turn it into this.

And the next time you empty a strawberry basket, can you imagine turning it into a chandeldeer? If so, I'd love to see a picture.

In the L.A. area and excited about creating green art activities for large numbers of kids? Check out Trash for Teaching, reDiscover, and CReATE STUDIO.

ANIMAL HOUSE Celebrates "Neighborhood Toy Store Day"

This year marks the first annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day on November 13th! The day is organized by ASTRA, the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, and will be held on the second Saturday of each November. ASTRA hopes to raise awareness about the advantages of shopping at locally-owned, independent toy stores.

Why does this excite me? Because I love supporting local, independent businesses! The Animal House Experience, my traveling amusement park for "small hands and big minds," is made almost entirely from critters bought at independent toy stores.

The refrigergator, I'm sad to admit, is the one exception. We rescued him from a mega-toy store corporation. He's so much happier now.

Here's an inside peek of the gorvilla, currently the main attraction at The Animal House Experience. Devoted fans will recognize the floormingos and whalepaper.

This beautiful silverback gorilla from Safari Ltd. was adopted from the amazing Dinosaur Farm in South Pasadena. Yes, they don't just carry dinosaur toys!

What do you get when you combine a gorilla with a villa?

A gorvilla, of course!

This Lakeshore giraffe was adopted from the Wear It Once, Wear It Twice children's resale shop in Burbank. They've got some real finds!

What do you get when you combine a giraffe with a roof?

A giroof, of course!

Okay, so the fish pictured above isn't actually a perch, but he was the right size. This sweet lantern fish was adopted from Mrs. Nelson's Toy & Book Shop in LaVerne. I can't seem to leave this store without picking up a toy or two.

What do you get when you combine a back porch with a perch? A back perch!

These critters are freshly adopted from the San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe in San Marino. I love their selection of Japanese erasers, toy instruments, and books!

The beaver comes from Safari Ltd., and the ray comes from Wild Republic. They await transformation into a BeaVo and RayStation, respectively. Of course, they will both need to be stored somewhere....

Enter this raccoon, a Wild Republic critter also adopted from the San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe. He will soon become a media storage rackoon, and he couldn't be more excited.

Photos to come...

In the meantime, run out to your neighborhood toy store and indulge your imagination! By the way, if you happen to find a semi-realistic looking plastic or resin snail, please let me know. The Animal House Experience is in desperate need of a fully operational snailbox. Thanks!

ETA: Oh, in case any of you were wondering who the master craftsman is behind The Animal House Experience, that would be my lovely hubby. Yes, he's more proud than exasperated whenever he declares, "Her inspiration is my perspiration." Gotta love him.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #21 Celebrate a Holiday

The Westchester-Loyola Village Branch of the L.A. Public Library held a festive Chinese New Year celebration this year, complete with red lanterns, yummy treats, story time, and art activities.
Beware of "The Dragon in Moo Boots."
The Camarillo Library got into the spirit of the new year with a traditional Chinese lion dance.

What holidays have you celebrated at your local public library?

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #20 Explore a Different Language

With a library card, you can explore an unfamiliar language online, in a newspaper, in reference materials, in a book, on a CD, or in a DVD.

Want to take your passion for Mexican wrestling to a whole new level? Read all about Lucha Libre in Spanish and see how there can never be too mucha lucha.

Interested in the books above? They can be checked out from the Hollywood Regional Branch of the L.A. Public Library.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #19 Play with Toys

Books and toys!!? It just doesn't get any better than that. Ask this patron at the new La Crescenta Library. (P.S. I want a Hungry Caterpillar rug of my own!)

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #18 Promote Literacy

Take part in a literacy promotion event at your local public library. This young reader/yoga practitioner participated in the October 8, 2009, "Read for the Record" event at the Eagle Rock Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.

In the above photo, he poses for Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar line, "In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf."

The 2010 "Read for the Record" event on October 7th will feature Ezra Jack Keats's The Snowy Day.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #17 Play a Game

The most exciting libraries go beyond bringing people together with books, they bring people together with people. Here's one way libraries make that happen-- National Gaming Day @ Your Library.

This year, National Gaming Day will be held on November 13th and promises to be" the largest, simultaneous national video game tournament ever held!" Wow, now that's some build-up. You gamers better get your thumbs ready.

Interested more in board games than video games? There will be plenty of the former variety offered on National Gaming Day, as well-- like this version of "Seuss Bingo" played at the La Pintoresca Branch of the Pasadena Public Library.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #16 Attend a Birthday Party

Is it the first week of March, and you've got nothing to do? Search the calendars of surrounding local libraries and you're bound to find one of them celebrating the birthday of Dr. Seuss. The above super-cool party was thrown by the La Pintoresca Branch of the Pasadena Public Library.

Although the beloved "Good Doctor" was born on March 2nd, libraries celebrate his birthday throughout early March.

Can't get enough of the amazing Dr. Seuss? Try celebrating his birthday Seuss-athon style. Click here to see what I mean.

Has anyone attended a library birthday party for a different kidlit author? Drop a comment.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #15 Share a Bonding Moment

Bond over a book at your local library. Take your child, nephew, neighbor, tailor, barber, date, mechanic, grand-niece, cousin, or favorite juggler and check out an exciting book together. Happy adventures!

The dragon-adventure above began at the Hastings Ranch Branch of the Pasadena Public Library and continues to this day...

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #14 Sit Down with a Rare Book and James Joyce

At the #42 position on the ALA's "52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" list is: "Check out a special collection of rare books."

I got cozy with this edition of James Joyce's The Cat and the Devil at the Los Angeles Central Library. I had to get cozy with it there because I couldn't take it home (and it had nothing to do with the $0.15 late fee on my account).

That's part of the definition of a rare book-- one you can peruse at the library but cannot check-out.

You can read more about my visit with Mr. Joyce and his contribution to kidlit by clicking here.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #13 Internet Literacy

"Find out how to navigate the Internet," is #11 on the ALA's list, "52 Ways to Use Your Library Card." This young library patron surfs the Net at the Montrose Branch of the Glendale Public Library.

Note the "pirate flag" mouse pad. Rumor has it that it also doubles as a treasure map. Where can all the treasure be found? At your local public library, of course!

"52 Ways to Use a Library Card" Challenge: #12 Curl Up with a Book

"Find a quiet spot, curl up with a book and enjoy."

Yes, this is the obvious one, #51 on the ALA's "52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" list. This photo was taken at the Pasadena Public Library's Hastings Ranch Branch.

The young lion tamer takes a reading break on a couch designed as an open book. The armrests are the spines of closed books. These cool couches can be found in libraries throughout the San Gabriel Valley of L.A. County. Give a shout-out if your library owns some, too!

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #11 Enjoy a Concert

"Enjoy a concert" is #40 on the ALA's list of "52 Ways to Use Your Library Card."

Appearing in the photo above is the UCLA Gluck String Quartet (yes, there should be umlauts above the "u" in "Gluck," but I'll be darned if I can make it happen).

They played at the Echo Park Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library this past March. From Mozart to Irish folk tunes, the "Music and Munchies" concert was a special treat for the ears and tummy.

Heard any great music lately at your local public library?

Random Acts of Publicity: Shout-Out to Merrily Kutner's Z IS FOR ZOMBIE

As part of Darcy Pattison's Random Acts of Publicity Week, I'm giving a well-deserved shout-out to friend Merrily Kutner's picture book Z Is for Zombie, illustrated by John Manders.

Selected as a "Read On Wisconsin!" book by that state's First Lady, Jessica Doyle, Z Is for Zombie will be read and discussed by elementary school students across Wisconsin during the month of October. Also, the book has recently been reissued in paperback by publisher Albert Whitman. Just in time for Halloween!

Light a spooky Halloween candle for Z Is for Zombie during the upcoming Banned Books Week. Back in 2002, the book was challenged in a library in Oregon for having "graphic illustrations inappropriate for young children." Fortunately, the book was retained and the freedom to read prevailed. (And now you're all going to have to get your hands on a copy to see what all the fuss was about!)

For more villainous verse sure to turn any reluctant reader into a bookworm, check out Merrily's The Zombie Nite Cafe, illustrated by Ethan Long. Looking for something a little less spooky? Try Merrily's "fuzzy bunny" book (as she calls it), Down on the Farm, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand.

Love picture books and want to learn how to write your own? Merrily is teaching an online course through UCLA Extension this fall. You can take it from anywhere in the world. Click here for more info.

Random Acts of Publicity: Book Review of Diane Browning's SIGNED, ABIAH ROSE

As part of Darcy Pattison's Random Acts of Publicity week, I'm spotlighting a friend's book, Signed, Abiah Rose. You can read more about my friend, author/illustrator Diane Browning, by clicking here.

Abiah speaks to anyone who's ever had to struggle to claim part of their identity.

Despite prevailing attitudes towards women in the 18th and 19th centuries, Abiah Rose perseveres in her conviction that art exists above any category that society can impose on it. With rich, folk art-inspired illustrations, author/illustrator Diane Browning crafts a fictional account of the likely history of many anonymous female artists from early America.

Conforming to social norms of the day, members of Abiah's family dissuade her from signing her own work. "Best not, Abiah Rose," they would tell her, "Serious painting is not girl's work." Instead, Abiah signs all of her work secretly, with a hidden rose on each canvas.

Guided only by her passion for painting, Abiah does everything she can within the constraints of her society to nuture her artist's spirit and take charge of her creative life. With sheer determination, Abiah sets a course for her life's path. The destination is the day she can write the following words, "Signed, Abiah Rose," upon the work of her own hands.

Whether or not Abiah, or others like her, ever arrived at that place of acceptance remains unknown. The fact does remain, however, that they helped make it easier for the rest of us to do so.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #10 Hire Mr. Plumbean to Do an Extreme Home-Makeover

Taking the #13 spot on the ALA's "52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" list is: "Get new ideas for redecorating your house." With the combined forces of your library card and the imagination of Daniel Pinkwater, you could do wonders for your home.

Look no further than the picture book The Big Orange Splot. Inside is a wealth of home decorating ideas, all executed by design guru Mr. Plumbean (with a little assistance from a mysterious, paint-can-carrying seagull).

Incorporate some of these Plumbean design elements, and you can't go wrong:

*big orange splot
*little orange splots
*elephants and lions
*pretty girls and steam shovels
*clock tower
*palm trees, baobabs, thorn bushes, onions, and frangipani
*nice, tall glass of cool lemonade

And this is just for your home's exterior! I hold out hope that Mr. Plumbean will invite us all inside his amazing home someday-- Inside the Big Orange Splot, if you will.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #9 Tailless Monkeys and Online Databases

It happens to all of us. You wake up in the middle of the night with a keen urgency to research "tailless monkeys." You can't get back to sleep until you discover whether or not tailless monkeys ever inspired restaurateurs to open "South Sea" styled nite clubs in Los Angeles during the 1940's.

Well, Zamboanga!! You're in amazing luck if you follow through with #47, "Learn how to use a database or computerized catalog" on the ALA's "52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" list.

It just so happens that the library in my own backyard, L.A.P.L., carries a "Menu Collection" database online. Whew, no more insomnia! I can follow the trail of tailless monkeys 'til the cows come home, all with my handy-dandy library card.

Characters for my next picture book? Hmmmm........

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #8 Create a Passport to F(read)om

This is my "Robot with a Rocket" Passport to FREADOM. Without my library card, it would just be sci-fi eye candy, another cute notepad.

With my library card, it becomes an inter-galactic governmental document, allowing me passage to all corners (and curves) of the universe.
Most of my stamps come from the stellar outposts of Los Angeles Public Library branches.

But, wait, there's more......a passport to FREADOM is free! It just takes a single library card (robot is optional, but extremely cool).

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #7 Miniature Golf Ball Marker

I neglected to mention in the previous post, that when you're biking home from the library, you can make a scheduled stop at your local miniature golf/Mongolian grill hang-out.

In the northern steppes of Los Angeles, for example, you can meet-up with your own Golden Horde at Golf 'n Grill. Bein' the library lovin' folk that you are, you'll definitely want to drop down your library card as a ball marker.
Even the koi in the nearby pond will stand up and take notice, especially if they see flashy colors. If there's a lot of red, a hummingbird might even dive down for a look.
On the outside chance there's a Genghis-spotting, just concede that he has the cooler library card. It's kind of a miniature-golf/Mongolian-grill-etiquette thing. Plus, he's known for being a bit ill-tempered at times. You can ask the 13th century Chinese about that one.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #6 Become a Spoke 'n Word Advocate (Use As a Spoke Card)

Painstaking research by library card scientists has revealed that library cards secretly covet the lifestyle of another kind of card -- the spoke card.

Now it's not that library cards don't want to be library cards anymore, it's just that they wouldn't mind getting out on the open road now and then with the wind whipping against their barcodes and the smell of bike grease in, well, whatever it is they breathe through.

So, wedge your library card (or probably a color-photocopied and laminated version) between your spokes, and turn your velo-ride into a bikebrary (or biciloteca for the Spanish-speaking among you). Added bonus: your velocity will help create Velo City, and the Earth will thank you for it.

*No library cards were harmed in the staging of this photograph. The cards appearing are two Los Angeles Public Library cards and one Glendale Public Library card. And yes, they all get along famously together.

**Blog post author is not advocating that you should stick a library-card spoke card on your bike and enter an alleycat race a la fixed gear/bike messenger folk. Blog post author is advocating that you stick that special spoke card on your bike and head to the nearest library to research the history of library cards and bicycles.

ETA: Too funny! I came across this event hours after publishing this post. "The Library Bike Ride," hosted by the Bicycle Kitchen, will take riders past several libraries en route to the West Hollywood Book Fair on September 26th.
Too bad I'll be getting ready to jump on-stage at the very same book fair when the ride is underway. Get this-- they're even gonna have limited edition spoke cards available! I've gotta try and get my hands on one of those.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #5 Make a Book Do the Walking (Use Inter-Library Loan)

Those of you in "the know" recognize my #5 as the ALA's #35 -- "Get a book from interlibrary loan." Truly, I feel like a wizard when I whip out my library card and command books from all over Los Angeles to march their leafen legs to my local L.A.P.L. branch.

Both of these books came from beach-area branches to take a two-week vacation with me up in the mountains. They came in smelling like salt air, and they'll go back smelling like dusty trails. If they're good, they might even get to stay longer. Ah, the power of renewal.

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #4 Make a Fashion Statement

We may never be as fashion-forward as this hip teen. Witness the library key-card dangling from his left ear (by a paper clip, no less). And to give it that extra zing of coolness, it's a highly-sought after L.A.P.L. piece. He's got bookshelf cred to spare.

Still, I'm sure you all could style your very own biblio bling. There's just one thing you need to do it-- a library card. Get to it!

"52 Ways to Use Your Library Card" Challenge: #3 Eat Something Adorably Yummy

Sometimes I think books are just an excuse for librarians to throw parties....and, boy, can they throw 'em. Just ask this young patron and her owly friend at the Los Feliz Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.

By the way, just for the record, I could never eat something that cute. But nothing's stopping you! Seek out Party Central, otherwise known as your local public library, and find something equally cute to devour. Bon Appetit!

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