Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Peppermint Candy Craft

This is a great craft to do during the holidays. You can make a peppermint candy ornament or decoration using toilet paper rolls, striped peppermint candy-like wrapping paper, cellophane paper, tape, and ribbon and/or yarn.

This cellophane has snowflakes on it.

Wrap the wrapping paper around the toilet paper roll and secure with a piece of tape. Cut a piece of cellophane larger than the toilet paper roll and wrap around the toilet paper roll and secure with tape. Pinch the ends like a candy wrapper and tie a piece of yarn to create the candy wrapper look. You can also use ribbon if you prefer, or use ribbon to make a loop to hang the candy from your tree. 

Too cute!!


Mario Alberto Zambrano

Eleven-year-old Luz hasn't spoken since it happened; instead, she uses a deck of Lotería cards and writes a journal entry for each card (minus one, which is missing). The entries are related to the cards and slowly we come to find out more about Luz, her older sister Estrella, her mother and father, her aunt Tencha, and their family friends. We discover that Luz loves to sing with her father, who has a job at a plant but who has always wanted to be a painter. We learn that Estrella acts like a young lady even though she is not a teenager yet, that the family comes from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, where they still have family. The card for La Muerte foreshadows the destruction of the family, without even a death occurring in that chapter. Throughout the book you wonder why Estrella is in the hospital, why Luz is being kept at a center, why she hasn't spoken, why her father is in jail, and where her mother is. Some of the stories are too short and, I feel, should have been longer in order to include the symbol on the card more solidly in the story, but the book is very well written and the story is a heartbreaking one.

One a personal note, I was caught by surprise when I realized that the story takes place in the neighborhood where I grew up, and the family is from a region in Mexico near where my own family is from. At times, I thought I might have known the author, the story was so familiar.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

SLJ's Top 10 Latino-themed Books of 2013

School Library Journal has a list of their Top 10 Latino-themed books for 2013.

These books are all so great, I especially want to read Niño Wrestles the World and Yes! We Are Latinos.

Check out the full list here:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day of the Dead, Count Me In!

Day of the Dead
Tony Johnston
Jeanette Winter

This beautiful little book contains so much. One of the most noticeable things about the book is that it is so small - it is nowhere near the size of a regular picture book. The title is in large letters and the illustrations remind me of papel picado - cut paper that is traditionally used as decoration. I have looked over several Day of the Dead books recently and what I love most about this one is the detail it goes into regarding the traditions of the holiday. The food gathered for the occasion includes: empanadas, fruits, sweet bread, pan de muertos, tamales, sugar skulls, and mole. The family gathers the traditional marigolds and they take all these treasures to the cemetery with them. I love how the houses look built from adobe or dry clay, and the tias and mama are shown cooking with tools such as a molcajete. The book shows as much of the tradition as it tells. Small details, such as the angel bringing out the stars and taking them back up when the sun is about to rise, are really lovely to find. And finally, I love how the family visits their grandparents and brings these colorful treasures to share with them. A very brief but concise book about the Day of the Dead.

Count Me In!
A Parade of Mexican Folk Art Numbers in English and Spanish
Cynthia Weill
Ceramics by the Aguilar Sisters: Guillermina, Josefina, Irene and Concepción

This bright book focuses on a festival called the Guelaguetza (Zapotec, “to share”), a festival that takes place in July in Oaxaca, Mexico. The illustrations are photographs of ceramic people dressed for the parade and in traditional Oaxacan clothing. Each page has a number that corresponds with the ceramic figures in the photograph. The people are introduced (the balloon holder, the gigantes, the observers) through the photographs and text that tell the story of the festival. The reader can learn about this tradition, what it means, the participants, and numbers all at the same time. I love that the text is translated into Spanish, so you can learn the numbers from one to ten in both languages. And finally, I really love that the book includes information about the Aguilar Sisters, who create very detailed ceramics focusing on the people of Oaxaca. From the first end paper to the last, the book includes new information about Oaxaca, ceramics, the Aguilar Sisters, counting, and more.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Holiday Bulletin Boards

For the main holiday bulletin board, I wanted to make a gingerbread house scene:

The bottom says "Reading is Snow Sweet" in candy cane font.

I made five snowmen to put over the computers. They are made out of plain white computer paper, construction paper, candy cane-striped wrapping paper, with google eyes and pipe cleaner hands. Their smiles are made out of tiny hole-punched silver and gold dots.

I found the pipe cleaner snowflakes in the craft cabinet we have, and I made the phrase "Season's Readings" with the candy cane-striped wrapping paper. 

I was originally going to include the phrase "Season's Readings" in this Christmas lights font, along with these book trees I made, but I ultimately went with the snowmen and the snowflakes. 

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mexico ABCs

Mexico ABCs
A Book About the People and Places of Mexico
Sarah Heiman
Illustrated by Todd Ouren

This book offers much more than an alphabet of Mexico. Included are facts about the words that make up the alphabet, as well as quick facts about Mexico. You will learn about the history, traditions, foods, and animals that help make up Mexico. Colorful illustrations decorate the pages, and each Spanish word is followed by a guide to help you say it yourself. The book ends with instructions on how to make crepe-paper flowers. This is a must read for everyone – by the time you finish reading this book, you will have gained a small fortune in knowledge about Mexico.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Turkey Bulletin Board

The Thanksgiving Turkey Bulletin Board
Why yes, I did use Microsoft Clipart

I wanted to use this image last year but didn't get the chance.
Last year's slogan was "Gobble Up a Good Book"

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sky Color

Sky Color
Peter H. Reynolds

This third book in Peter H. Reynolds’ Creatrilogy (along with The Dot and Ish), focuses on Marisol, a young artistic girl who is helping her class paint a mural in the library. She loves to paint (and does so beautifully). But when there is no blue paint for the sky, Marisol goes home troubled. How will she paint the sky? As the sun sets and day turns to night, Marisol really sees the myriad of colors that make up the sky, and she brings that beauty to the mural the next day. This books is really breathtaking; the paint colors are in bright and colorful, while surroundings and people are in grey, which makes a truly lovely combination. I love that Marisol is a multicultural character, which is why I decided to review the book here. The Dot and Ish also feature multicultural characters, and Ish is on the Reading Is Fundamental 2012-2013 STEAM Multicultural Booklist for Grades Pre-K – 5.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem
Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Domi

With the arrival of the holidays (and during other special occasions) comes the arrival of delicious tamales. Tamales are cooked frequently throughout the year, often for special occasions. These can include the Dia de Muertos, Thanksgiving, Christmas, to celebrate Los Reyes Magos, and more. Tamalitos is a bilingual book telling a little bit about the history of tamales, including their place in Mesoamerican cultures centuries ago, and giving directions on how to cook tamales. The illustrations look like beautiful watercolors, and the ollas and other pans that are used in the story look just like the ones you might find in your own home. What I love about this book is that it is also a recipe for making tamales – you can follow the directions and have your own tamales in no time! The soft poetry language tells you how long to steam, how to roll the masa into the husks, and contains illustrations to match. A very useful book, and a delicious one to read and enjoy. Once you have read this book and have cooked the delicious tamales, all you have to do is add good family and a Cantinflas movie and you have a good day.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Turkey Craft

Toilet paper roll Turkey craft
Materials: toilet paper roll, google eyes, waddle (red construction paper), beak (orange construction paper), pipe cleaners for the feet, feathers
Supplies: tape, glue sticks

I love how goofy mine came out!

You can also use pine cones for the body.

Cuento de Noche

Cuento de Noche
Roberto Aliaga
Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer

Cuento de Noche reads like a soft, quiet, beautiful poem. At first, as I read the book, I thought it was the child’s mother who sat by his bedside and read him a tale every night. When I discovered that it was the night that was coming to the child’s side, bringing him the different dreams – he never knew which was next – it felt even more clever and beautiful. The night touches us every evening and gifts us with a mysterious, unknown dream that may make us happy or terrify us. One of the illustrations featured the boy on a bed with tall legs, walking through the desert, and it reminded me of Salvador Dali’s art work. A very lovely book, highly recommended.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dia de los Muertos

In honor of Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos, here are two wonderful books focusing on The Day of the Dead.

The Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras
The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead
Luis San Vicente
Translation by John William Bird & Bobby Byrd
Originally published in Mexico in 1999, this edition 2002

El Festival de las Calaveras is a little book that holds a beautiful amount of information. The illustrations are both in color and black and white. I particularly love the chalk-like illustrations at the beginning and ending of the book, and especially the one with a skeleton man and his skeleton dog. The book is a sort of lovely poem that follows the skeletons on the Day of the Dead as they head to the cemetery, sing and dance and enjoy the offerings given to them. The illustrations, particularly the black and white skeletons, are breathtaking. The book includes a history of the Day of the Dead, information on celebrating this festive time - including building an altar -, and recipes for making Pan de Muerto and Sugar Skulls. There is a beautiful translation from an ancient Nahuatl poem at the end, and I love the inclusion of a small altar at the front and back of the book with a photograph in a frame. A great book to share with loved ones, especially children.

The Day of the Dead / El Dia De Los Muertos
A Bilingual Celebration
Bob Barner
Translated by Teresa Mlawer

Just as El Festival de las Calaveras does, The Day of the Dead also includes a sort of lyrical poem in both English and Spanish, but this one follows a family as they get ready to celebrate this tradition. The pages include dancing skeletons, flowers, colorful illustrations, music, and dancing. The family gathers the offerings and makes their way to the cemetery, and the skeletons are shown enjoying and dancing with them. The celebration ends with the family thinking of their loved ones, and leaving the cempazuchitl petals on their loved ones' graves. There are informational pages at the end describing the history and traditions of the Day of the Dead.

These books are so alike and yet so different. They are filled with all the beautiful aspects of this tradition, Calaveras de dulce, pan de muerto, marigolds, skeletons, and a rich source of information on the holiday. The illustrations are both so unique, and the lyrical writing inside the books tells similar stories but from different perspectives. These books would be great to use together and to read aloud, and especially to use on a unit on El Dia de los Muertos.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Dog Who Loved Tortillas

The Dog Who Loved Tortillas / La perrita que le encantaban las tortillas
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Illustrated by Geronimo Garcia

Little Diego and his sister Gabriela both want a dog of their very own. Their parents agree, but tell them they must share. They pick a beautiful white dog with brown spots and name her Sofie. When their parents’ backs are turned, they argue over who Sofie really belongs to. They begin taking Sofie for walks and training her with delicious tortillas, which Sofie loves. But when Sofie gets sick, Little Diego and Gabriela stop fighting and comfort each other and Sofie. They sleep by her side and Gabriela tells Diego she will be okay, even if she is crying inside. Sofie finally gets better and runs off with a tortilla, Gabriela and Diego chasing after her.

I loved this book because it is about a dog, and dogs are my kryptonite. The little dog in the story actually reminds me of two very special dogs I know. I think the book does a beautiful job of showing how it feels when your beloved dog is sick – nothing else matters, nothing. Next to a pet who is ill, everything else seems so unimportant. This is what Gabriela and Diego learn – they find out that Sofie belongs to both of them and that it doesn’t matter who saw her first or who named her, as long as they have her with them. The illustrations are made out of photographs of clay creations and are so detailed and very fun to look at. I especially loved the clay marranito with the cup of coffee that the parents were enjoying.

The text is presented in English and Spanish. This is a great book to read silently or aloud, perhaps to a pet of your own.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Biblioburro

Biblioburro: a True Story from Colombia
Jeanette Winter

Both of these books follow Luis Soriano Bohórquez, a schoolteacher in Colombia who loads books onto his two burros, Alfa and Beto, who help Luis carry them to children, many of whom only get their books from Luis. This is a mobile burro library that brings knowledge and dreams and hope and literature to many people. Both feature beautiful illustrations, although they differ in content delivery method. While Biblioburro is more of a nonfiction narrative, Waiting for the Biblioburro follows the fictional character of Ana as she waits for the Biblioburro like many other children.

Personally, I prefer Biblioburro: a True Story from Colombia a little bit more because it feels a little more simple, but in a very good way. Sometimes simplicity is so beautiful. That is not to say there is anything wrong with Waiting for the Biblioburro, however. This book has its own beauty as well.

Both books include information about Luis and the Biblioburros, and Waiting for the Biblioburro includes a wonderful link to CNN Heroes which features information and a video of Luis and the Biblioburros.

Waiting for the Biblioburro
Monica Brown
illustrated by John Parra

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming
A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens, Tuesday 15 October 2013 09.51 EDT

"They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally."


"A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It's a community space. It's a place of safety, a haven from the world. It's a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.

Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.

Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open."


"We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside."


Round is a Tortilla: a Book of Shapes

Round is a Tortilla: a Book of Shapes
Roseanne Greenfield Thong
Illustrated by John Parra

Round is a Tortilla is a perfect book for reading quietly or out loud. The text rhymes wonderfully and it flows smoothly from one sentence to the next. We visit a beautiful neighborhood, a bedroom, a plaza, a park, and we eat delicious tortillas, quesadillas, paletas, and sandia, all while learning about different shapes. The illustrations and the words go together beautifully; the wonderful colors add to the vibrant culture in the pages as we see mariachis, dogs, cats, and a beautiful scene with a young girl and boy in traditional dress dancing around a sombrero. You can almost hear the music coming from the trumpets!

And, if you enjoy this book, check out Ms. Thong's book Round is a Mooncake, illustrated by Grace Lin.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, 2013
Meg Medina

Piedad "Piddy" Sanchez and her mother move away from their apartments after the stars collapse. That is the last straw, according to her mother, and they pack up and move, forcing Piddy to switch schools in the process. Piddy feels that her world is crumbling around her and that she will fall down and through, just as the stairs in their old complex did. Not only is she forced to face the fact that her best friend Mitzi is forming a new life in her own new home, but that she will never be included in the Latina group at her new school. Yaqui, the head of the group, is jealous of Piddy's curves and sends one of her lackeys to tell Piddy that she better be ready, because Yaqui is going to kick her ass. At the same time, Piddy struggles to hide this from her mother, who works hard lifting televisions and other electronics. Piddy also wants to know more about the father that left her and her mother so long ago.

Yaqui's group hounds Piddy until they catch her, and it is such a heartbreaking scene. Piddy is conflicted with what she should do: should she go to her aunt, her mother, the administrators at school? Her fear over comes her, a very realistic portrayal of how it feels to be bullied, and she runs from it. This book has such an interesting array of characters, from those who love and care for Piddy at home and school, to those that don't. What I particularly love about this book is that it shows that even though one may have loving people to turn to, turning to them is not always easy. Fear is very real in this book, as it is in real life. Additionally, there is no excuse for Yaqui's behavior. Even though Yaqui lives in a rough neighborhood, the author does not use this to excuse her behavior towards Piddy. If anything, the fact that Yaqui and Piddy share similar characteristics shows the reader that it is possible to be like Piddy, to turn away from people like Yaqui who are mean just to be mean. And finally, there is no easy solution, just as in life. 

This book has already created some controversy, as reported by School Library Journal.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Quiet Place

The Quiet Place
Sarah Stewart
Pictures by David Small

It is 1957 and Isabel's family have said goodbye to her Aunt Lupita and their native Mexico to travel North. Isabel writes letters to her aunt, where she discusses her attempts to use new English words, her school, the parties her mother cooks for, and her new quiet place: a cardboard box where she writes her letters in English. As the picture book goes on, Isabel's quiet place and her vocabulary both grow beautifully. The illustrations really complete the story, everything from the stray dogs so familiar in the streets of Mexico to the beautiful cardboard place that Isabel has created and nurtured. As a side note, I love how the creators included a small teddy bear that goes everywhere with Isabel; it is small details like these, and like the decorations on Isabel's quiet place, that really made me enjoy this book even more.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Author Gary Soto: Why I've Stopped Writing Children's Literature

A beautiful and heartbreaking article featured on The Huffington Post discusses why Gary Soto has moved away from children's literature.

Some of the passages that reverberate with me the most:

"Instead, mother explains tenderly their move by saying that the family wants another kind of life for themselves, a yard for instance. Migration makes sense for them, just as migration from Mexico to Chicago, Houston, New York City and my hometown of Fresno also makes sense for others. Life is not stagnant."

"Marisol returns to my book "A Simple Plan." She opens it again, reads another poem, and sees enough there to take it to the front counter. The young woman takes my book home, me the lost father who brought her to life.
I have stopped writing children's literature. At my age, the genre is too dangerous."

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Can You Do With...?

I am always excited when I find picture books focusing on Hispanic heritage; they are always so bold and vibrant and full of color and life. These two glowing picture books are both by Carmen Tafolla.

What Can You Do with a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Amy Cordova, 2008
This book contains beautiful illustrations, especially of the clothing. The main character dances La Bamba in a beautiful white traditional dress while holding the rebozo. Even though the words do not rhyme, they do not need to, they fall in perfectly. We meet the narrator's family - mother, father, sister, brother, dog, and more while she also introduces us to the creative ways one can use a rebozo, or Mexican shawl. The story flows from one idea to the next seamlessly.

What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Magaly Morales, 2009
We are introduced to the neighborhood with the illustrations, and to the culture with the wonderful words.
The paletero opens his mouth wide and I can almost hear him shouting "PALETAAAS!" Again we meet the narrator's family - brother, dog, mother - and we can almost feel the tightness in her chest as she struggles to decide what flavor of paleta she would like. The illustrations are quite different from the first book, but equally breathtaking. They remind me so much of places I have lived and visited, and when I see the fence on the cover of the book I see my grandmother's house.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Talk Like a Pirate @ the Librarrry!

Earlier this month, in honor of the 19th being Talk Like a Pirate Day, we had a pirate preschool activity where the children created spyglasses and decorated pirate hats and swords. Tomorrow we will be having an elementary aged activity where the children will be creating their own treasure boxes (and spyglasses if they'd like). We've asked the staff to dress up as pirates, and if the children show up wearing a pirate costume (or something pirate-related), they win a prize (a small pirate beach ball).

There are a bunch of grrreat (couldn't resist!) ideas dealing with pirate crafts. The kids will be making their treasure chests first, and if they'd like they can make a spyglass. They then can bring their treasure chests over to a table that will be set up with beads and jewels that they can take and place in their treasure chests. They'll be able to take these home with them. I have a few eye patches, so if there are enough then each child can also have an eye patch. I also put together a "pirate code" book that has information on the crew members of a pirate ship, the parts of a ship, and a pirate dictionary so they can talk like a pirate! ( has The Code craft and template).

DLTK's Crafts for Kids has a great printable and instructions for the treasure chest. Youth Online has another similar template. If you want to get really detailed and crafty, Ashlee's Art has another treasure chest example. And a really cute one featuring a Raven can be found at Ammey's Art Attic.

For more Arrrty craft ideas, make sure to sail towards these sites:
First Stage - this site has a great handout where we got our pirate dictionary and ship and crew sheets

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I've decided make this post on September 15th. I hope that this will become a hearty blog full of recommendations and reviews of Hispanic literature.

I'd like to start off with one of my most favorite books: The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales. Reading this book, and her previous book, Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales, was like stepping into my own past. Sofia's family, her relationships with them and her fears and concerns for her future, are all things that I can heavily relate to. The descriptions - everything from the cascarones to the sugar skulls to the relationship between Sofia and her father - are written beautifully.

The climax and ending of this book caught me completely by surprise. Reading the beginning I could not imagine what would happen, I never would have thought it. But then, life is this way sometimes. This is a very heartbreaking book that you will not easily get over, but with a beautiful message of hope and endurance. I can see why it won the Pura Belpre award; I only wish Viola Canales would write another. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mini Easter Baskets

I got the idea to create these baskets from the Easter Animal Self-Adhesive Basket Craft Kit at Oriental Trading. We had some cardboard circles that made great bodies for the bunnies and chicks. The handle is made out of pipe cleaner and the rest out of construction paper. All that was needed to put the kit together was tape, a glue stick, and a marker to decorate the bunny's face. For extra fun, a cotton ball can be used for the bunny's tail.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Presidents' Day Activities

These are just some of the many creative activities that can be done for Presidents' Day.

You can use construction paper to make a George Washington hat that can be decorated with markers or cutout stars. Artists Helping Children has a great and easy tutorial on how to make these hats. Slightly Nerdy Sometimes Cool also has instructions, complete with a cute plush dog wearing a hat.

The Lincoln hat can be made in a variety of ways and with different materials. The one shown here was made with construction paper, a toilet paper roll, and yarn. The toilet paper roll was cut so it was about three inches tall. Two black circle cutouts with tabs were made so that the tabs could be taped to the toilet paper roll. The roll was then covered with a piece of construction paper about 3" wide by 6" long. The bottom was then taped to a larger black construction paper circle. I hole-punched the circle and added string so that the children would be able to wear this adorable hat.

Enchanted Learning has a great instruction page for this hat that includes images and is very helpful. 

If you don't have too much time to create this Lincoln top hat, there are many other activities you can create to celebrate this day. You can create a Lincoln Log Cabin to celebrate and remember Lincoln's upbringing, and this Lincoln Penny Pendant is also a really creative idea. You can create a Washington pendant, or even a simple star pendant with multiple or single stars. The possibilities are endless!

Have a Presidential Day!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Two Great Books for St. Valentine's Day

If you're looking for some books for St. Valentine's Day, look no further. These two books have beautiful stories with breathtaking artwork, and would complement each other wonderfully.

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

Snowy Valentine by David Petersen

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Valentine's Day Ideas

One of the ideas I have always had for Valentine's Day is the creation of a Valentine Mailbox utilizing either a shoe box or a Kleenex box (especially as Kleenex boxes already have built-in slits for Valentine cards to go through). The book Queen of Hearts by Mary Engelbreit gave me some of the ideas for the Valentine mailbox. If you haven't read it, please do! It's one of the best Valentine picture books I've come across, and it introduced me to Mary Engelbreit. I have now fallen in love with her dog and Scottie illustrations.

Ask for donations of Kleenex boxes early to make sure you have a good amount for the number of children you expect at your St. Valentine's Day event. You can cover the boxes with construction paper beforehand, or allow the children to cover them on their own. Use die cuts to create shapes such as hearts, castles, fairies, dragons, and other Valentine-related shapes. These can be used to decorate the box. The children can then use the box as a mailbox for all of their Valentine cards.

I have not yet managed to collect the 30 boxes I was hoping to have by Valentine's Day, so I came up with a quick and easy craft that children could do if there were not enough boxes. As it turns out, I love this craft just as much, and I'm not sure which of the two is my favorite. This craft consists of cutting the top of a brown paper bag about an inch or so, and decorating it with a Cat, Dog, or Giraffe template and heart. I found this adorable idea over at Craft of the Day, a daily craft blog from the makers of The Best Kids Book Site. There is also a very cute Panda Bear template you can use as well.

You can also check out this adorable Dog Box for Valentine Cards from DLTK.

And finally, this last craft was originally from Family Fun (by Disney, which is now Spoonful, I believe). You take the Conversation Hearts by Brachs or Sweethearts (there are also some small Valentine tattoos at the stores that would work), and you cover them with construction paper and an iPod template to create the illusion that it is an iPod. You can pretty much use any candy, however. There was a box of 30 Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers (15 of each) that was much cheaper than buying conversation hearts, and that is what I decided to use. The candies were covered with construction paper and tape, and the iPod template was glued on the front. The adorable iPod template was incredibly hard to find, especially with the moving around on the Family Fun crafts site to the Spoonful site, but I was able to find it. I can't find the exact link I used, but I did find it available for download on this site. The iPod (or iLove) shows Valentine songs, but you can edit the template to add your own songs. For this craft, I added the following book titles: Bunnicula, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter. 

You can see Reese's candy because you can add two strings to the iLove and attach one Reese's peanut butter cup (small) to each string to create headphones! Very cute indeed.

You can visit these websites to see how others have created Valentine iPods.