We have a few birthday traditions in this house (chocolate cake, of course, bunting and Dutch slingers – paper bunting / garlands often with words, shapes or characters – see here for some pictures), and last weekend we added what I hope will become a new tradition – a crown of flowers for the birthday person. The girls always love it when we do something with fresh flowers (remember the house of flowers?) and seeing as the garden is currently overflowing with nasturtiums, we turned some of them into crowns.
This is how we did it.
1. We gathered together:
2. We placed the long strip of paper at the edge of the table (in order that the flowers could lie flat, with their heads hanging over the edge), taped down each end and then lay flowers across the strip of paper.
3. The flowers were sellotaped into place.
4. The stems were cut off, so that none overhung the paper strip.
5. The two ends of the paper strip were brought together in a circle and sellotaped together. Voila – a finished crown These worked really well as crowns – the nasturtiums lasted maybe 3 hours before they started looking manky – but I think they would also work well as table decorations eg around candles or vases.
So having had such fun with the nasturtiums, I set about finding a book that had them in. First point of call was our collection of Flower Fairies books, where sure enough there is a Nasturtium flower fairy:
Nasturtium the jolly,
O ho, O ho!
He holds up his brolly
Just so, just so!
(A shelter from showers,
A shade from the sun;)
‘Mid flame-coloured flowers
He grins at the fun.
Up fences he scrambles,
Sing hey, sing hey!
All summer he rambles
So gay, so gay-
Till the night-frost strikes chilly,
And Autumn leaves fall,
And he’s gone, willy-nilly,
Umbrella and all.
Not the greatest of poems I’m sure you’ll agree; it certainly didn’t fill M and J with excitement. So off I set to find some other nasturtium related literary delight. Ted Hughes has a poem called Moon-Nasturtium in his collection The earth-owl and other moon-people, with the opening lines:
Nasturtiums on earth are small and seething with horrible
On the moon they are giant, jungles of them, and swarming
with noisy gorillas.
(click here for the full text). This was certainly more interesting for M, although we actually love the caterpillars that feed off nasturtiums – they are one of the reasons we grow them!
The earth-owl and other moon-people, which Ted Hughes wrote specifically for children, is an interesting collection of poems, although most of them are better suited for older primary school children, or young secondary school kids (other poems in the collection which I think could be enjoyed by younger school-age listeners include Music on the Moon, Tree Disease and Moon Tulips). The poems describe a fantasy world on the moon where strange and nonsensical creatures are the norm, and as such I think they are great for sparking kids’ imagination. The original illustrations by R.A. Brandt seem to me very much of their time (the collection was first published in 1963) – black, white and mostly only suggestive of their inspiration, and I think the poems could find a new lease of life if republished with newly commissioned illustrations that capture the Lear-esque, larger-than-life essence of Hughes’ poetry in this collection.
If Not for the Cat was definitely my most successful find as far as M and J were concerned. Prelutsky has written 17 short poems (technically each a haiku) about animals, without actually naming any given animal and so each poem works as a little riddle that M enjoyed solving. In addition to the enjoyment derived from solving the poetic puzzles, both girls loved the beautiful, painted illustrations, combining bold watercolour washes with perfectly placed detail.
A Flower Fairy Alphabet: Hmm, how to rate this? I suppose every young girl will enjoy the flower fairies at some point, but more for the illustrations than the poems, so I guess I’ll go for
The earth-owl and other moon-people: Another slightly tricky one to rate, though for different reasons. Great for adults and older kids, but not for preschoolers or younger, so again
If Not for the Cat: No difficulty here – fun poems, great interaction with guessing the animal, superb illustrations so
Whilst making our crowns we listened to Will there be any stars in my crown? by The Cox Family on the Down From the Mountain album and Wait Till I Put On My Crown by the The Delta Rhythm Boys. Before the nasturtiums are over for this season we will have to have a go at this Nasturtium Fairy Nectar, and I’d also like to use the crayon melt technique described here by Almost Unschoolers to make some of our own pictures of nasturtiums – I think the fiery autumn colours would be perfect for these flame-like flowers.
Now over to you – do you know of any beautiful nasturtium illustrations / stories / poems in kids books? And what about your favourite birthday traditions?