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):
There wasn’t a rabbit any more!
There wasn’t a duck anymore!
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?
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.
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….?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. M separated the petals of the dandelions by gently teasing apart and pulling down the tissue paper fronts from the middle.
6. Once our dandelion blooms, leaves and seed heads were ready…
… the girls “planted” them in the prepared ground (I poked a few holes in the egg cartons they’d covered with grass earlier).
7. M and J then made the finishing touches by bending the pipecleaners into different positions to make sure the dandelions were positioned perfectly.
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!