Playing by the book

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

Dragons

Posted on | November 23, 2009 | 13 Comments

Photo: Wili Hybrid

Photo: Wili Hybrid

Although I’ve started honing my book searching skills and am beginning to build up a good repertoire of techniques for finding great books for the girls, there’s nothing I love more than when a wonderful book arrives in my lap out of the blue. Tell me a dragon by Jackie Morris isn’t a book I’d heard of and I certainly wasn’t on the look out for a dragon-themed book, but when I saw Tell me a dragon on the library shelf I knew it was one that was destined to become a new family favourite.

Tell me a dragon isn’t a story book, but rather a compendium of imagined dragons. Each double page spread is filled with a pre-raphaelite-esque portrait of a different dragon, accompanied by a line or two describing it. The first dragon we meet is

made from the sun and the stars.
Sparkled with stardust,
all night he follows the silver moon-path
across the sky.

Later we meet a sky dragon who rides “the secret music of the wind” and an ice dragon whose “breath is snowflakes.”

Some dragons in the book are bold and fierce, but none are menacing or frightening – instead this book reclaims them as majestic, magical and mythical creatures, dragons which will (almost literally) give your child’s imagination wings.

tell_me_a_dragon_inside

The format of this richly illustrated book reminds me of Castles by Colin Thompson (here’s my review) – both books open up the worlds of possibility and move away from widespread, caricatured disney-like images, to something much more creative, powerful and awe-inspiring. At the end of this book we’re invited to imagine what our own dragon might be like – and this was the perfect platform for M to fly off and create some dragons of her own. Here’s what we did.

1. We gathered together

  • some card
  • some glue
  • some glitter and shiny things for sticking on the dragons
  • some scissors
  • some long strips of paper about 5cm wide (blue and pink in our photo)
  • some sellotape
  • some pens
  • some craft sticks (you could use lollipop sticks, straws or even chopsticks!)
  • making_dragons1

    2. For each dragon, M took 2 pieces of card. On one piece she draw a dragon head and on the other piece she draw a dragon tail. I cut out the heads and tails, leaving a little extra card where the dragon’s head and tail would attach to a body.

    making_dragons2

    3. M made a body for each dragon by taking 2 long strips of paper each about 5 cm wide. She folded the paper strips over themselves – first one strip, then the next and so on, to create a sort of accordion effect. I sellotaped each end of the accordion body so that they didn’t unravel.

    making_dragons3

    4. M decorated her dragon heads and tails with glue, glitter and shiny things. She also added googly eyes – always popular!

    making_dragons4

    5. I attached the heads, bodies and tails to each other with sellotape, and than stuck on a craft stick at either end of the body, so that the girls could hold the dragons and make them move. (In this photo they’re stuck in egg cartons to keep them upright).

    making_dragons5

    6. What the girls *loved* was dancing with their dragons to music!

    making_dragons6

    making_dragons7

    The endpieces of Tell me a dragon are stunningly illustrated with hundreds of dragon eggs. This inspired me to create some for the girls to find one morning at breakfast…

    tell_me_a_dragon_eggs

    I put the following in a saucepan:

  • 1 cup of sand (NB by cup I mean about the volume in a teacup)
  • half a cup of corn flour (US: cornstarch)
  • three-quarters of a cup of water
  • some food colouring (I used colouring paste rather than liquid for a stronger colour)
  • some glitter – perhaps about 2 tbs but I didn’t measure this
  • dragon_eggs1

    Whilst heating all the ingredients up I kept stirring until everything was well mixed and some of the water had evaporated – perhaps a couple of minutes.

    I then scooped out a handful of the mixture and moulded it around a small plastic dragon (well, actually a dinosaur as that’s what I had to hand, but we’ll pretend it was a dragon), to make an egg shape. I had enough mixture to make 5 eggs, each approximately the size of a duck egg.

    dragon_eggs2

    I left the eggs to cool and harden over night. In fact I left them for two nights to make sure the eggs dried properly but I imagine I could have sped this up by putting them in a very cool oven for an hour or two.

    I made a nest out of shiny paper and pipecleaners, filled it with the eggs, found a mother dragon to sit on the brood, and waited till the girls woke up.

    dragon_eggs3

    Delighted, the girls cracked open the eggs to find baby dragons!

    dragon_eggs4

    dragon_eggs6

    dragon_eggs5

    tell_me_a_dragon_frontcover

    Tell me a dragon:3star

    The dragons and the girls had great fun dancing to Dragon Breath by Keith Munslow, Puff the Magic Dragon (of course!) – our version is by Kevin Roth, and the catchy Dragon with a Flagon by Max Tell.

    Other dragon-related activities we think would be fun include

  • making this beautiful dragon designed by Louise Elliott (scroll down to find the dragon) – we’ve already printed off and coloured in the lovely free pictures.
  • this dragon mask from Kansas City Public Library
  • this amazing dragon kite – not a project for little kids, but still inspirational – from gddweb kites (check out his homepage for a great photo of the dragon kite)
  • Now, over to you! What’s your favourite dragon story?

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    Comments

    13 Responses to “Dragons”

    1. Sarah N.
      November 23rd, 2009 @ 11:51 am

      I think my girls would love this book and the projects too. I’ll have to look for it at our library.

    2. Kristine
      November 23rd, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

      Definately “Discovery of Dragons” by Graeme Base. It’s probem about 5 years too old for your eldest. It features the discovery of 5 dragons, from different continents. It’s told as a serious of letters telling about each dragons discovery and the funny misfortunes the explorer experienced. It also has funny little features like a dedication and author’s notes which suggest that it’s real. It also is beautifully illustrated as you’d expect by G Base.
      I would have loved to have seen your girls expressions when they discovered the nest and the goodies within. How exciting.

    3. Stacey
      November 23rd, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

      I have just disovered your blog and love it! I can’t wait to try this project with my girls but have to ask… what is sellotape? It sounds like a life saver!

    4. Zoe
      November 23rd, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

      Hi Stacey,
      So glad to see you here! Sellotape is (I think) the same as scotch tape – it’s what we use to wrap presents. Does that sound right?

    5. Zoe
      November 23rd, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

      Thanks for the tip Kristine!

    6. Stacey
      November 24th, 2009 @ 1:19 am

      Oh yes… It sounded extra sticky- I thought I had made a great new discovery but yes… I can see how scotch tape would work!

    7. vanessa@silly eagle books
      November 24th, 2009 @ 3:00 am

      I love the dragon egg idea!! Juliet would love that. One of our favorite books that features a dragon is Jack Kent’s There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon. I remember reading it with my parents when I was a child and now Juliet loves it as well.

    8. Ashley
      November 24th, 2009 @ 11:51 am

      This book is definitely going on my “to buy” list, the illustrations are just gorgeous!
      Love the dragon egg idea, you always manage to come up with the best ideas, you have such lucky children.

    9. Dan
      November 24th, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

      Ok, now I’m going to have to do that Dragon Egg thing. Very cool indeed.

    10. Andi
      November 24th, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

      Dragons are one of my favourite creatures and this book looks fantastic. I know my students would love it, and I think they would enjoy making their own dragons, too! I have lots of favourite books with dragons in them (The Hobbit, Harry Potter, The Paper Bag Princess) but can’t recall any books that I have read that feature dragons – I’m looking forward to reading this one!

    11. jackie
      May 11th, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

      Thank you for this. Lovely to see my book out there having fun with children!
      jackie recently posted..Women’s Work.

    12. Zoe
      May 11th, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

      Thank you Jackie! Your books are treasures – exquisite and magical. Thank YOU :-)

    13. Rhonda
      January 16th, 2014 @ 9:06 pm

      I want to tell you how absolutely brilliant you are. I do children’s programming for a small public library and stumbled upon your blog several months ago. I have loved Tell Me a Dragon since it was first published and have always entertained the idea of doing a program around it. When I saw your amazing post I thought “voila” and a children’s program was born. 16 kids came to the program and in addition to Morris’ book we read Martha and the Brave Dragon by Susan Roth. Afterwards they made some incredible dragons based on your art activity and of course they left with some “dragon eggs.” When I was first making the eggs I thought this will never come together but of course they did beautifully. Thanks for sharing all of your fantastic ideas… again you are brilliant!

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