Dumpling Days


Lin, Grace. Dumpling Days.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.

Pacy and her two sisters are headed to Taiwan to spend their summer vacation. They are not looking forward to spending a month in a country they’ve never visited before, don’t speak the language and don’t know the relatives they are going to live with.

And even though their mother has signed them up for art classes to encourage them to learn about their heritage, the visit doesn’t necessarily start off smoothly.  Pacy is artistic but painting bamboo for a week isn’t what she expected from a painting class. Plus, the girl sitting next to her in class isn’t nice to her at all.

Many Taiwanese don’t understand why Pacy doesn’t speak Chinese and show their displeasure. Pacy defends herself at least in her own mind. She’s an American and her parents never made her learn Chinese.  Pacy’s loving relatives introduce her and her sisters to the temples and neighborhoods of Taiwan, strange foods like chicken feet and quail eggs and the customs of Ghost month which go on during their month-long visit. At least, Pacy can eat her favorite dumplings every day.

By the time the month is up, though, Pacy realizes what her identity is: she is a Taiwanese-American even if she can’t speak Chinese and that her family loves her despite of that fact.


As a Greek-American, I easily understood Pacy’s struggle to identify as a dual American although I speak, read and write Greek. Having visited the countries of my ancestry, I also understood the clash of cultures that she experienced. I lived in my father’s village in Cyprus for seven months. There was no running water or modern plumbing of any kind, no electricity and little in the way modern transportation. There was a bus that went through the village in the morning and returned at night and one or two privately owned cars.  There were plenty of donkeys, though!

No one signed me up for painting classes but I did learn to pick fruit and olives during the harvest, make a fire and skin and gut freshly killed birds! (My aunt showed me how!)

So I empathized with the struggle to learn to even like the country of your heritage let alone identity with that heritage. There’s a lot of freedom that comes from eventually realizing and accepting what you are.


Pacy and her sisters’ ancestors are from Taiwan. To learn more about Taiwan and its culture check out the following links:




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Picture Book Month: Have a Too Cool Day!!

Picture Book Month: Have a Too Cool Day!!
Sunglasses - Too Cool!

Sunglasses – Too Cool!

Read Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by Kimberly and James Dean.

“Pete the Cat did not feel happy. Pete had never, ever, ever, ever been grumpy before. Pete had the blue cat blues.”

Grumpy Toad usually was grumpy but on the day he met Pete the Cat, he was wearing cool, blue, magic sunglasses which made him look at everything in a new way.

When Pete the Cat tried them on, he saw the world in a whole new way, too.

Walking along with his new attitude, Pete the Cat ran into his friends, Squirrel, Turtle and Alligator and lent them his cool, blue, magic sunglasses. They saw the world in a whole new way just like Pete the Cat and Grumpy Toad!

Isn’t that cool?

Then Pete the Cat fell and cracked his cool, blue, magic sunglasses.

What would he do without them?

The Wise Old Owl told him the truth: Pete the Cat didn’t need his cool, blue, magic sunglasses to see the world in a new way. “Just remember to look for the good in every day,” the Wise Old Owl told him.

Pete the Cat looks all around him and exclaimed, “Too cool!”


Decorate a pair of sunglasses to brighten your day like Pete the Cat and his friends.



Strong glue like gorilla glue


Paint in squeeze tubes or bottles


Make your sunglasses the coolest ever – you don’t have to paint your glasses blue like Pete the Cat’s! You can paint them any color or design.

*Remember: if you paint the lenses, you won’t be able to see through them!

 Additional Reading:
Lizzie Logan Wears Purple Sunglasses by Eileen Spinelli


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Picture Book Month: Groovy Buttons!!

Picture Book Month: Groovy Buttons!!
Groovy Buttons

Groovy Buttons

Read: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin.

“Pete the Cat puts on his favorite shirt with four, big, colorful, round, groovy buttons.”

But one by one, the buttons pop off and roll away. He realizes that he doesn’t have any buttons on his favorite shirt:

4 – 1 = 3

3 – 1 = 2

2 – 1 =1

1 – 1 = 0

Pete the Cat’s button less shirt opens up and what does he see? His belly button!

What can you do with your buttons?


Use buttons to decorate…anything! Use your imagination!

List of things to decorate with buttons:

Journal cover



Picture frame


Book bag or any kind of bag



Lots of buttons

Needle and thread (if you know how to sew)


Alternative Project: Make your own buttons


Modeling clay in different colors


Make small balls and flatten them. Poke four holes in the center with the pencil. What will you do with your handmade buttons?


*copyright Art work by Marion Constantinides 2015

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Picture Book Month: It Stinks!

Picture Book Month: It Stinks!
Can you turn this into a stinky sneaker into something else?

Can you turn this into a stinky sneaker into something else? 


Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers by Megan McDonald.

In this book, Stink and his friend enter a contest to win the prize for the world’s smelliest sneaker. Stink meets someone

who actually works using his nose at the competition. He asks Stink to be one of the judges! It means that

Stink can’t enter the contest but he accepts. None of the judges knows whose sneakers are whose. It’s a surprise to all

the judges especially Stink about who has the World’s Super-Stinky sneakers.


Everyone has a pair of stinky sneakers (including adults)! Challenge your friends to a contest to see who has the

sneakers that stink the most! First, read how Stink and his friend made their sneakers the worst ever and try to come up

with ideas of your own that are better than theirs! Then using the materials you assembled, make your sneakers stink!


A pair of old sneakers

Substances that will make the sneakers stink (Use your imagination but NEVER use anything that is dangerous!)

A fence or wall to display the sneakers entered in your contest (ask an adult for permission to use the fence or wall)

One or three judges (an odd number is best so there are no ties in the voting)

A trophy or similar prize for the world’s worst stinky sneaker



Make fliers to announce the contest and hang them up all over the neighborhood.

Then, make your sneakers the ones that stink the most! Bring them to the place where you will hold the contest. Make

sure the judges write their choice of a winner on a piece of paper so that the judging is secret. When the contest is over,

display the sneakers for everyone in the neighborhood to see. If you use a chain link fence, tie the shoelaces on the

fence and let the sneakers dangle. If you use a wall, keep the pairs together by tying the shoelaces together.

Wheew! Displayed together the sneakers really do stink all over!

Additional reading:
Want to know what else you can do to a sneaker or shoe?

Read: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean.


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Let’s Celebrate! El Dia de los Muertos Banner

Let’s Celebrate! El Dia de los Muertos Banner
El Dia de Los Muetos Banner Design

El Dia de Los Muertos Banner Design


Felt in various colors

Puffy paint in bright and metallic colors



Glitter glue (optional)

Hole punch

Paper in various colors (optional)

Scraps of material (optional)

Decorative gems (optional)



White glue



  1. Select a piece of felt for the background of the banner. Place the banner  vertically or horizontally.
  2. Using different colors of the felt and using the letter stencils, trace and cut three-letter E; one A; two L; one D; one I; two O; two S; one T; one U; and one R.
  3. Arrange the letters on the felt background. Glue. Allow to dry.
  4. Some objects associated with the Day of the Dead are skeletons, marigolds and skulls. Draw and cut flowers, skulls and skeletons out of the remaining felt or use paper or another material. Glue and let dry.
  5. Add sequins, glitter, beads, etc. to the overall design or add starburst, the sun or other symbols right to the holiday. Let dry.
  6. Punch holes in the top corners of the felt. Pass a piece of string longer than the length of the banner through one hole, tie a knot and then pass it through the second hole. Glue a strip of cardboard that fits between the holes and glue it to the back of the banner at the top. Let dry and hang up. Celebrate El Dia de los Muertos!
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Celebrate the Season: Spooky Pumpkin Head Banner

Celebrate the Season: Spooky Pumpkin Head Banner
Pumpkin Head Banner

Pumpkin Head Banner


Ages: 5 – 12 years

Time: one hour


Black craft foam sheet

(2) 10 mm wiggle eyes

White craft foam sheet

Excelsior (or moss or raffia)

Yellow craft foam sheet

Dark blue felt 14”x 20”

Green craft foam sheet

(3) ½” green or dark blue pompom

Orange craft foam sheet

Dowel Rod 22”

String – double the length of the dowel rod

Measure and trim dark blue felt to 14” x 20”.  Place the felt piece vertically. Make a loop by measuring and folding and ironing a 1” seam. Measure and fold a second 1” seam. Iron and glue the second fold. You will be inserting the dowel rod through this loop.

As this is drying, trace the following shapes from stencils or templates and then:

Cut the pumpkin out of the orange craft foam sheet.

Cut the pumpkin stem out of the green craft foam sheet.

Cut the witch out of the black craft foam sheet.

Cut the moon out of the white craft foam sheet.

Cut the scarecrow’s face out of orange craft foam sheet.

Cut the scarecrow’s jacket and hat out of yellow craft foam sheet.

Cut the scarecrow’s nose and mouth out of white craft foam sheet.

Cut the stars out of white craft foam sheet.

Apply tacky glue to craft foam pieces with a Popsicle stick and adhere to dark blue felt background as shown in the photo of the completed banner above.

Place a small amount of glue around the scarecrow’s neck.

Place a small amount of glue around the scarecrow’s neck. Add excelsior. Press and let dry.

Glue wiggle eyes to the scarecrow’s face. Glue pompom to the jacket.  Or using the patterns provided, cut eyes out of black craft foam sheet. and buttons out of green craft foam sheet.Glue nose and mouth to scarecrow’s face. Let all the pieces dry.

Glue the pumpkin pieces to the pumpkin’s face. Glue the green stem.

Insert dowel rod through the loop at the top of the dark blue felt background. Measure and cut a piece of string 22” x 24”.  Tie the string to each end of the dowel rod.

Enjoy your Halloween Banner!

VARIATION: The Halloween Banner design was inspired by traditional symbols but you can substitute your own Frankenstein, Dracula, witch, or ghost design.


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Celebrate the Season: Fall Banner

Celebrate the Season: Fall Banner
Fall Banner Design

Fall Banner Design


Ages: 5 – 12 years                             Time: ½ hour


Yellow felt 36” x                       36” Burgundy felt square      Orange felt square

Beige or Brown felt square        Green felt square


Measure and trim yellow felt to 14” x 20”.  Holding the felt vertically, fold a 1” seam and iron along the fold.  Fold a second 1” seam. Iron.  Glue down with tacky glue and let dry.

Using the patterns provided, cut one dark red, one green, and one orange leaf from each of the two large patterns. Do the same for the two small leaf patterns.  Arrange on the yellow felt background in a random pattern as if the leaves are falling from a tree.

Trace and cut two acorns from the beige Fun Foam.  Arrange on the banner.  Using a black marker or pain, draw a cross hatch pattern at the top of the acorns.  Draw vines down the centers of the leaves, too.

Glue the pieces with tacky glue.

Cut the dowel rod to about 16” x 18”. Insert through the top loop.  Cut the string to a length suitable for hanging. Tie a knot at each end of the dowel rod.

Your fall banner is ready to hang in your room!

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Indigenous Crafts: Mexican Bark Paintings

Indigenous Crafts: Mexican Bark Paintings
Mexican Bark Painting

Mexican Bark Painting

Latin American bark paintings depict birds, fish, sea horses, alpaca, armadillo, and flowers like marigolds, roses, hibiscus and sunflowers. Consider combinations of these objects when creating your design for the bark painting.


White drawing paper

Tracing paper


Permanent black fine-line felt-tipped marker

Acrylic paints – bright colors of choice

Paint brushes


Large paint brush

1/4 inch thick piece of plywood 8” x 10”


  1. Draw your design on a piece of white paper. Then place the tracing paper on the drawing. Trace your design on to the tracing paper.
  2. Blacken the back side of the tracing paper and place it blackened side down on the plywood. Tape it down.
  3. Go over the design on the tracing paper with a pencil by pressing down hard. Remove the tracing paper and go over the lines on the plywood with the black marker. (They should show up on the plywood. Take a peek under one corner of the papers first to see if an impression was made.)
  4. Color the designs with the paints. Make it colorful like real Mexican bark paintings. Allow to dry.
  5. Layer a coat of shellac over the painting to make it shine and to protect it. Mexican bark paintings are colorful. Hang it up in a prominent place.
Mexican Banana Bark Painting

Mexican Banana Bark Painting

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Indigenous Crafts: Dream-catchers

Indigenous Crafts: Dream-catchers


The Lakota hang dream-catchers where they sleep or over the cradles of babies. Good dreams go through the hole in the center of the dream-catcher while bad dreams are caught in the webbing like flies in a spider web.


6 inch embroidery hoop or large metal ring

2 yards of string or yarn

Beads, wood, feathers




  1. With a pencil make 8 equidistant marks around the embroidery hoop. If using a metal ring, make the marks with the black marker.
  2. Knot one end of the string or yarn on one of the marks. Leave about 3 inches hanging.
  3. Tie the yarn to the next mark and so on until there is yarn looped to each mark.
  4. Tie and loop the string from the middle of one loop to the middle of the next. Do not pull the string or yarn tightly. Continue to loop in this way making three or four rows of loops while occasionally stringing a bead. This is optional.
  5. When only a small “hole” is left in the center, pull the string tightly and knot the end of the string to the previous row. Tie a second knot to prevent unraveling. Trim excess string. A bit of glue will reinforce the knot. This is optional.
  6. Take the original 3 inch piece of string and tie it to the inside of the web. Tie a second knot and trim any excess. A bit of glue will reinforce the second knot.
  7. Tie a piece of string about 5 inches or more to the bottom of the dream-catcher. Toward the bottom half of the string loop two or three (or more) beads and tie a knot. Leave enough string to tie around the tip of a feather. You can make as many as two or three of these but vary the lengths to make a more interesting design.
  8. Reinforce the knots if necessary with glue. Insert feathers into the web of the dream-catcher. This is optional.
  9. Tie a loop of the string or yarn at the top of the dream-catcher so you can hang it up.


Native Americans imbued art into everyday objects: baskets, textiles/weaving and pottery. They placed all their hopes and fears into their art. Colors, patterns and symbols reflected their views of the creator and the inner spirit of people and animals.  These colors, shapes and symbols held different meanings for different tribes but some general meanings apply.


Blue: female, moon, sky, water, thunder, sadness

Black: male, cold, night, disease, death, underworld

Green: earth, summer, rain, plants

Red: war, day, bold, wounds, sunset

White: winter, death, snow

Yellow: day, dawn, sunshine


Curves and spirals

Parallel lines

Flowing lines, i.e. plants and flowers

Birds, fish and human faces

Triangles, rectangles, squares and other geometric shapes


Haslam, Andrew. Make It Work! Native Americans. Minnetonka, MN: Two Can Publishing, 1995.

Gooch, Randall and Temko, Florence. Traditional Crafts from Native North America. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1996.

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Quilling Project: Caterpillar and Caterpillar Note Card

Quilling Project: Caterpillar and Caterpillar Note Card



(4) 24” quilling papers of different colors

(2) 12” quilling papers of two of the colors used for the body of the caterpillar or choose contrasting colors




Glue the tips of the four quilling papers at one end. Curl slightly.  Leaving 1 ½” begin to fold the rest of the papers like an accordion. Fold tightly as you go along.

Leaving another 1 12” use your finger to make the antennae of the caterpillar.  Curl the tips.

Take the two 12” strips different colors and glue the tips. Curl into a tight coil. Use the one color first and then add the other or wind them together. When finished winding, glue the tips and glue below the antennae. Glue the caterpillar to cardboard or cardstock.



Cardstock of various colors



Glue stick

  1. Trim mounted caterpillar to an even length and width. The sample shown is 8” x 2 ½”.
  2. Measure and cut a piece of cardstock to 8” x 4 ½” doubling the height of the cardstock but keeping the width to 8”. (Cardstock used for scrapbooking is ideal.) Choose a color that picks up one of the colors of the caterpillar. Fold in half.
  3. Cut and measure a piece of cardstock of another color to 8” x 2 ¼”. Glue the three pieces together, trimming where necessary.
  4. Select a fourth sheet of cardstock. This piece of cardstock and compliment or contrast the other colors. Measure an area 6 ½” x 8 ½”. Then subdivide an area 8 ½” x 2 ½” and mark it lightly with a pencil.
  5. Above that measure an area 2 ½” x 8 ½” and mark it with a pencil.
  6. Above that measure an area 1” x 8 ½” with pencil, too. Fold the marked areas forming an envelope. Glue the three sides at the edges.
  7. Insert the quilled card in the envelope. You have a blank card to write a thank you or a thinking of you note.
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