Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling - July 31

Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling - July 31

2014 will be remembered as the year J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter first cast its spell upon our family. My oldest daughter read through all the books with a group of friends at school. Her enthusiasm for the books prompted my oldest son to ask for me to read him a chapter every night until we finished the first three books of the series. Even my little ones joined in the excitement by running around the house yelling, "Wingardium Leviosa!"

In early April my daughter hinted at her desire to have a Harry Potter birthday party (her birthday is in May) and invite all her friends that read the books with her. My wife decided that if we were going to have the party for a bunch of third graders that knew everything about Harry Potter we would need to start planning immediately! By the middle of April she had poured through Pinterest for ways to pull off the party on a budget.

We were so thankful for the many friends who provided materials at no cost like graduation gowns for cloaks, chopsticks for wands, and unique glass bottles for potions!  This party turned out to be an amazing 9th birthday party that my daughter (and her friends) will never forget!


The first project was to make wands for every child that would attend the party. My wife found instructions on Pinterest, but below is how we made them.

Homemade Harry Potter Wands via
Wooden chopsticks, hot glue, and plastic beads were used to make wands for every child to use at the party and then take home once the party was over.
Homemade Harry Potter Wands via
My wife broke apart the chopsticks.  Then, she covered the bottom of the chopstick with hot glue. To cool the hot glue she rolled the chopstick between her hands.  She added beads and more hot glue until she reached a unique shape for each wand.
Homemade Harry Potter Wands via
The family had a painting party once the hot glue was dry. We used inexpensive acrylic brown paint.
Homemade Harry Potter Wands via
A cake pop holder was used to hold the wands upright to dry.
Homemade Harry Potter Wands via
On the day of the birthday party each wand chose a wizard at Ollivanders.
Nimbus 2000:

I found a decorative broomstick at garage sale. I added a coat of brown paint on the handle and a Nimbus 2000 logo in gold paint.

Harry Potter's Nimbus 2000 via
I couldn't wait until the party to give this to my daughter, so she received the Nimbus 200 on her actual birthday!
Harry Potter's Nimbus 2000 via
The Nimbus 2000 was ready for a Quidditch match.

My wife harnessed the power of Facebook to put out a request in search of small glass bottles. A friend responded that we could have all of these unique glass bottles of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Wow!

Harry Potter's Potions Class - Homemade potion jars via
All these bottles needed were aged labels. Those were found on Pinterest too!
Harry Potter's Potions Class - Homemade potion jars via
The labels were printed on parchment and decoupaged onto the bottles. 
Harry Potter's Potions Class - Homemade potion jars via
They turned out fantastic.
Harry Potter's Potions Class - Homemade potion jars via
Our potions cabinet -- Snape would be jealous! The bottles in the bottom left were labeled "Phoenix Tears". Every child who attended the party would receive one of these to take home.
Sorting Hat:

My wife envisioned the party to have a sorting hat ceremony, so she needed to make THE SORTING HAT. She found this pin on Pinterest to help!

She started with a witch hat and covered it with a long piece of brown paper. We had this paper from a recent package that had come in the mail.
Homemade Sorting Hat via
She wrapped the brown paper around the hat. Then she stapled it to make it appear to have a face, just like the Sorting Hat in the books.
Homemade Sorting Hat via
The brown paper was painted with thin decoupage that was also used for the potion bottles.  It was painted on with a medium paint brush and left to dry in the sun. It took 2-3 different applications to make all the paper "stiff".
Homemade Sorting Hat via
The Sorting Hat looked ready to sort the party attendees into Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin!

My wife used a baby monitor inside the hat to make the sorting hat talk.  I stood in the bedroom and waited for the signal from my sister that the group was ready.  Although the baby monitor did not stay in the hat the whole time, after going on and off of 10 different heads, it worked well just placing it next to the sorting hat for the rest of the ceremony.

My daughter wanted a cake decorated like the cake that Hagrid gave Harry for his 11th birthday. She saw this cake on Pinterest!
Harry Potter Birthday Cake from Hagrid via
In this photo she is instructing me on the misspellings Hagrid made on the cake.
Harry Potter Birthday Cake from Hagrid via
I think she was happy with the results.
Other Elements of Preparation:

The Great Hall for birthday party via
This was our great hall.  My wife went to the local thrift shop and found goblets and fancy glasses for dinner (pizza and chips).
King's Cross Station sign via
I made a King's Cross station sign with sidewalk chalk to greet the wizards when they arrived.
Hogwarts Express Ticket
All of my daughter's friends were sent a letter from Professor McGonagall which included their ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express. (Here is a link to the image we used.)
Platform 9 3/4 via
Everyone had to enter through the wall at Platform 9 3/4! (Inspired by this pin.)

After a month of preparation it was time for her birthday party!

Graduation Gowns for Harry Potter Cloaks via
Every wizard was given a black cloak upon entering Hogwarts. My wife asked friends for their old graduation gowns. She cut the sleeves short and cut off the bottoms of each robe.  The kids got to take the robes home with them too!  They also visited Ollivanders for their wand that they took home too.
Graduation Gowns for Harry Potter Cloaks via
My wife dressed as Professor McGonagall and provided the house rules for the day.
The Sorting Hat with Baby Monitor via
The sorting ceremony took place in The Great Hall. We used a baby monitor to announce the sorting. I was lucky enough to be the voice of the sorting hat to read the script my daughter wrote. My daughter was sorted into Ravenclaw.
The Sorting Hat with Baby Monitor via
My son was sorted into Slytherin! We pinned house crests on their cloaks after they were sorted. Then it was time to feast!
Tranfiguration Class - Ivory Soap Experiment via
After the feast came Transfiguration class. We transfigured Ivory soap in the microwave.
Divination Class experiment via
Divination class predicted every one's future.  Before the party my wife put a small amount of food coloring in the bottom of a cup and it dried before the party.  As the children assembled downstairs, they were called up to the front of the class. A small amount of 7-up was poured into the cup.  The color that the soda changed to predicted the student's future.  (Directions for this can be found here).
Potions Class Experiement via
Potions class provided lots of excitement!  My wife made labels, using Harry Potter style fonts, for the materials.  Baking soda became crushed bicorn horn and green food coloring and vinegar became dragon blood.  The students used their wands to place spells as the reactions occurred. We did this class in the garage!
Quidditch Field Closed Due to Weather via
Quidditch was cancelled due to weather, but I don't think we would have had time for a match anyway.
Honeydukes Sweet Shop
Everyone filled a bag full of goodies from Honeydukes Sweet Shop before they left. We had traditional sweets, but then we also made chocolate owls!
It was an amazing birthday for my daughter and it was fun reminiscing today on J.K. Rowling's birthday. Rowling's birthday has peeked my son's interest in starting to read the series again. Will we reread the first three books or start The Goblet of Fire? I'll let him take the lead!

Did you know that today is Harry Potter's birthday too? Scholastic is celebrating with a virtual event today July 31, 2014, starting at 12pm EST!  Click Here to find out more!

1. J.K. Rowling's Website
2. Pottermore Website
3. Follow J.K. Rowling on Twitter and Facebook
4. Harry Potter website from Scholastic
5. JK Rowling Biography -
6. Oprah Interviews J.K. Rowling - YouTube

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Kathleen Krull - July 29

Happy Birthday, Kathleen Krull - July 29

When we had our third child the response was "I am so happy for you. It is so wonderful that you now have three children. Congratulations."  When we were expecting our fourth child it went a little like this, "Oh my! I am so sorry. Four kids? Whoa!"

The truth is a few things have changed with four children; we had to move to a bigger house, we had to buy a bigger van, and I will be a stay-at-home dad a little bit longer. Everything else pretty much stayed the same. Our life was already in self-inflicted chaos and adding a fourth child really didn't change it all that much.  All in all -- having four children is fabulous. I have four fab children. They are my FAB FOUR!

We started our birthday celebration for Kathleen Krull, author of forty books for children, by reading The Beatles Were Fab (and They were Funny) which she co-authored with her husband Paul Brewer. Reading this book taught us how quickly Beatlemania took shape and how humor played a role in the Beatles' success. We were excited to find out that the Beatles loved jelly babies, an English candy that wasn't available in the United States at the height of Beatlemania. Fans from the U.S.A. threw jelly beans on stage which were much harder than jelly babies! (Read an interview where the Beatles talked about how awful it was to have jellybeans thrown at them.) This book was fun to read and it inspired some creativity with my Fab Four.

We went to the basement, turned on Birthday by the Beatles (in honor of Kathleen Krull), and started to design our own homemade rock band equipment.
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
On the floor in the back, next to my daughter, you see the microphone we made from a paper towel tube, a ball, aluminum foil, and tape.
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
Next up was the drums. We used a cardboard box and oatmeal containers. My oldest son came up with the idea of cutting the box to insert the containers.
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
The Fab Four dressed up with items from the "Dress Up" box and were ready to rock!
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
They are FAB (and they are funny)!
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
"They say its your birthday! We're gonna have a good time!"
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
Jelly beans were thrown on our stage during their performance! They said, "Just eat them!"
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
A great book and our favorite candy! 
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
My daughter was the lead singer and the drummer!
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
My youngest son didn't play an instrument but he sure had good dance moves.
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
My oldest son was the lead guitarist.
The Beatle Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull activity provided by
My youngest daughter made sure all the jelly beans were eaten.
Kathleen Krull is one of the most recognizable authors writing non-ficition and biographies books for children. She continues to publish titles in the successful Giants of Science series (illustrated by Boris Kulikov) and Lives of... series (illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt). Kathleen has joked that she loves writing biographies because she is "nosy" but also notes that "biographies are stories -- dramatic, enthralling, inspirational, some of the best stories ever -- and they're true."  (Scholastic).  Her career in children's literature started by working as a children's book editor for eleven years. She managed to publish many books while she worked as an editor including her first book The Bugs Bunny Book in 1975. In 1984, she became a full-time writer and received numerous awards during those 30 years including the Pura Belpre Honor Award and a Christopher Award for Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award and Golden Kite Honor Award for Lives of Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought)

Our family enjoyed being "nosy" when we read the biography The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. We learned that L. Frank Baum started his life growing up in a rich family, but struggled to find success on his own. He failed at many business ventures, endured many low paying writing jobs, and published many unsuccessful books. He had four children that he loved spending time with and enjoyed telling them stories. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a result of L. Frank Baum finally realizing he should write like he was telling stories to his children. Reading this book also made me realize that my children never watched The Wizard of Oz movie. This is one of my favorites from my childhood. I remember what a big deal it was to watch it each year when it was shown on television broadcast.

When I told my children it was almost time for family movie night my boys decided they needed to make tickets. This tradition for family movie night was created by my parents when my children spend the night at their house. At my parents house they make tickets, concession signs, and the whole night becomes just like going to the movies.
Two brothers worked together on the tickets.
Wow! It cost $5 per ticket! When The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939 tickets were 25 cents for adults and 10-15 cents for kids! (Source)
We read The Road to Oz together as a family before the showing. 
My daughter was so interested in the book that she took notes to help her write a summary paragraph for her summer reading assignment for school! 
Tickets, please! Watching the movie was a great way to end a fun day of reading books by Kathleen Krull!
A special thanks goes out to the librarian at our local library who went out of her way to pull out all the books she could find by Kathleen Krull. Without her we would not have discovered the two books we featured today!

Check out her latest books, What's New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos and Lives of Explorers (Pre-order, release date - August 26, 2014):

1. Kathleen Krull's Website
2. Video Interview - Reading Rockets, Meet Me at the Corner
3. Text Interviews - School Library Journal (2014), Scholastic, Harcourt, Books We Love, Kidsbiographer's Blog, Children's Book Review, California Library Assoc., The Write Chris blog
4. 2004 National Book Festival - Library of Congress
5. Audio Interview - ReadWriteThink
6. Lives of...Teacher's Guide - Scribd

Birthday References: Popular Nonfiction Books for Children by Flora Wyatt, Anita Silvey's Book-a-Day Almanac, Perma-Bound Birthday Calendar, Elmer L. Anderson Library University of Minnesota

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