Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

The overconsumption of dandelions

Posted on | November 12, 2009 | 16 Comments

Photo: Sara Bjork

Photo: Sara Bjork


M has always loved dandelions. The first song she ever made up by herself went something like (this may lose a little in translation – it’s normally only ever sung in Dutch):

DAN-DE-LION!
DAN-DE-LION!
There wasn’t a rabbit any more!
There wasn’t a duck anymore!
DAN-DE-LION!
DAN-DE-LION!

Now music publishing houses may not be rushing to sign up M as the next Irving Berlin or Ivor Novello, but this song will always be one of my favourites. In addition to providing inspiration for musical delights, dandelions are good for picking by the armful, making tea and perfume, giving to mummy, making snail house and of course, telling the time. J too has developed this passion for them – is it because they are so bright and breezy? Or because their fat stems are juicy and easy to pick? I don’t know – do you have any idea?

Photo: Jonathan Gill

Photo: Jonathan Gill

Anyway, this love affair with the dandelion ensured that since the girls came across Christoper Nibble (“in a tale of a dandelion derring-do!“) by Charlotte Middleton at the library, it has become required bedtime, mealtime, anytime and everytime reading for over a week now.

reading_christopher_nibble

If there was on thing Christopher Nibble loved more than football, it was… eating dandelion leaves. He ate dandelion leaves… at breakfast time, at lunch time, and at dinner time. And if Christopher felt peckish between meals, he ate…MORE dandelion leaves!

Indeed all the guinea pigs in Dandeville share Christopher Nibble’s passion for this favourite food, which is fine and well until one day dandelion leaves begin to become scarce.

Soon the worst thing imaginable happened… all over town the dandelions had been munched to nothing more than bitten-down stalks, and the guinea pigs had to make do…with chewy cabbage instead!

Things are not looking good in Dandeville. Unbeknownst to the rest of the town, however, Christopher Nibble has found what may be the last dandelion in the whole world, growing outside his own bedroom window.

Christopher Nibble is hungry. Christopher Nibble is no doubt fed up with chewy cabbage. So what should he do? Should he lick his lips and enjoy it… or….?

reading_christopher_nibble2

With this lovely book Charlotte Middleton has written a fantastic introduction for kids to the concept of sustainability, showing them the perils of over consumption with a lightness of touch that completely avoids sounding preachy and yet nevertheless manages to drive home the importance of managing our resources and looking after our environment.

Middleton’s illustrations are a delight – her guinea pigs are adorable, and her illustrative style is not unlike that of Lauren Child’s in the Charlie and Lola books – the pictures have the feel of a collage, with clips taken from photos of real object and fabrics mixed with line drawings and plenty of colour.

All in all a really fun, cheerful book, which nevertheless delivers and important and serious message.

Photo: Vince Alongi

Photo: Vince Alongi

As the season for dandelions is almost over in our part of the world, we decided that we would have to make our own dandelion meadow to play with. If you’d like to make your own meadow this is what you’ll need:

  • Some eggcartons – ours happened to be green so we didn’t need to do anything to them, but you may wish to paint yours green or brown.
  • PVA glue
  • green tinsel or strips of crepe paper
  • pipecleaners
  • yellow tissue paper
  • stapler and staples
  • cotton wall balls
  • green (construction) paper
  • 1. First of all we prepared the ground for the meadow – we took our eggcartons and covered them in glue before sticking green tinsel onto them. The green tinsel was meant to look like blades of grass.

    dandelion_field7

    2. Then we made our dandelion seed heads – for each seed head M gently and only every so slightly pulled apart a cotton wool ball. She then dipped a pipecleaner in some glue and stuck the gluey end into the middle of her puffed up cotton wool ball.

    dandelion_field6

    3. Next we prepared our dandelion leaves. I cut out some dandelion leave shapes from green paper and M put a pipecleaner between each pair of leaves and stapled them all together, leaving a short length of pipecleaner poking out at the bottom. We could have glued the leaves together instead of using the stapler, but we didn’t want to have to wait for the glue to dry.

    dandelion_field5

    4. M prepared her dandelion heads. I cut lots of sheets of tissue paper (each about 8cmx15cm) and held 5 or 6 of them together (on top of one another) whilst M snipped through them with the scissors, making sure she didn’t cut all the way to the end of each strip. She then wrapped the frondy tissue paper around a pipecleaner and stapled it in place.

    dandelion_field4

    5. M separated the petals of the dandelions by gently teasing apart and pulling down the tissue paper fronts from the middle.

    dandelion_field3

    6. Once our dandelion blooms, leaves and seed heads were ready…

    dandelion_field2

    … the girls “planted” them in the prepared ground (I poked a few holes in the egg cartons they’d covered with grass earlier).

    dandelion_field1

    7. M and J then made the finishing touches by bending the pipecleaners into different positions to make sure the dandelions were positioned perfectly.

    completed_dandelion_field

    christopher_nibble_frontcoverChristoper Nibble: 2star

    Our playlist to go with this book has included Dandelion Bouquet
    by Merrily Wright and Dandelion Fairies by Cheri Dale.

    If life hadn’t moved on (as it has a habit of doing!) I would have loved to make the girls a guinea pig or two to play with in their dandelion meadow. Lenny the Guinea Pig by Jennadesigns would have been spot on – the use of patterned fabrics really makes Lenny look just like Christopher Nibble!

    Once dandelions appear again in the spring I shall certainly by trying Sycamore Stirring‘s Dandelion Curls, and of course Daisy Dandelion chains, as per this lovely post by The Crafty Crow, and even dandelion dye – Full Circle has instructions. I think M and J would definitely like to sign up as fully paid members of the Save the Dandelion brigade over at 5 Orange Potatoes, where there are many wonderful dandelion related activities including Dandelion syrup, Dandelion Cookies, and a really amazing dandelion seed activity. Next fancy dress party I may just have to persuade M and J to go as dandelions – check out this wonderful idea for a dandelion costume!

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    Comments

    16 Responses to “The overconsumption of dandelions”

    1. 5orangepotatoes
      November 12th, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

      LOVE it!!! Love the dandelion life cycle there! Thanks for the link, my posts really do go well with this post.

      lisa

    2. Kristine
      November 12th, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

      The flowers look beautiful. I love seed dispersal. There are so many different methods. One of my favourite is the woody pear (native), It has a seed with a long wing attached. If you throw the seed in the air it slowly spirals down like a helicopter.

      I use to do something similar with kids (6-8), where we’d collect native flowers and try and recreate them with playdough and collage materials. They use to make these intricate yet minute flowers.

      Are they M’s sunflowers in the background? They look very eye-catching.

      I find it crazy that I get out of bed and find you’ve just blogged and presumably gone off to bed.

      I’ve been thinking about your calendar blog so I’ll go back and comment when I get a chance. Right now I have two hungry mouths to make.

    3. Jenna
      November 12th, 2009 @ 11:33 pm

      Thank you for including my link! That book looks just wonderful and your projects are great! I’ll have to look for it at the library for my little ones, so that we can enjoy it as you have.

    4. Linda
      November 13th, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

      You absolutely HAVE to read the book “Sunny Holiday”! The main character in it loves dandelions, too. Your girls are too young for it now, but I bet you would love it.

    5. Zoe
      November 13th, 2009 @ 1:49 pm
    6. Kellyi
      November 14th, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

      We have real live guinea pigs and they are very sweet – have you seen the Charlie and Lola book about guinea pigs? It’s very sweet.

      Lovely lifecycle of the dandelions too – very pretty :)

    7. Sarah
      November 15th, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

      Thanks for your comment on my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed the Martinmas posts. Thanks for stopping by!

    8. vanessa@silly eagle books
      November 16th, 2009 @ 1:54 am

      I love this and am adding this book to our list of ones to look for! We just read Dandelion by Don Freeman (about a lion named Dandelion) and just loved it. The story isn’t really about the flowers, but at one point he picks a bouquet of dandelions for his friend the giraffe–maybe your girls would like to read it, if they haven’t already. Juliet loved it.

    9. Zoe
      November 16th, 2009 @ 7:36 am

      Hi Kelly and Vanessa,
      Thanks for the pointers on books. I don’t know the Charlie and Lola guinea pig one, though I can already be 100% certain that it will go down well in this home. The Don Freeman book isn’t in our library system, although I see it gets good reviews on Amazon, so I’ll put it on our list for looking for when we’re at 2nd hand shops! Thanks again :-)

    10. Almost Unschoolers
      December 12th, 2009 @ 12:14 am

      Terrific dandelion ideas – I can’t wait for the little heads to return in the spring!

    11. katherinemarie
      May 11th, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

      Really really LOVELY and FUN craft!!!

    12. Dandelion Crafts & Recipes | Okul Öncesi Akademik Bilgi Deposu - Okul Öncesi Eğitim
      May 12th, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

      [...] ::make your own paper dandelions::Playing By The Book [...]

    13. Get Crafty – June 2010 – Inspired by Nature « Redtedart's Blog
      June 1st, 2010 @ 6:54 am

      [...] without some dandelions?! Red Ted is loving dandelions and whenever we spot one it has to be picked!Playing by the book doesn’t only show us how to make our own dandelions, but Zoe and the girls review a fabulous [...]

    14. Roberta
      August 23rd, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

      Oh I love it! Reminds me of guinea pigs I had as a child. They truly do love dandelions. The book and the craft project look wonderful too.

    15. Red Ted Art's Blog » Blog Archive » Get Crafty – June 2010 – Inspired by Nature
      May 13th, 2011 @ 9:20 am

      [...] without some dandelions?! Red Ted is loving dandelions and whenever we spot one it has to be picked!Playing by the book doesn’t only show us how to make our own dandelions, but Zoe and the girls review a fabulous [...]

    16. Roberta
      September 5th, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

      Zoe,

      This is the same book as Nibbles: A Green Tale. I can see the pages are the same. Thank you for pointing it out.

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