The Verdict: Kids Like to Make Books

Last week we went back to Williamstown for our 15th reunion.

Various cow-related shenanigans ensued.

Purple cow-related, I should add.

The kids were ok with the idea of the cow in the abstract. But once we met the real, live thing on Saturday morning, things got a little dicey. Ephilia geared up for a high-five, but Kato left her hanging.

August was indifferent.

And Alden? She was too busy with her recently decorated “cowboy hat” to worry about cows.

It was time for the parade.

A beloved ritual of reunion, the parade sees all attendees march with their class from the steps of Chapin Hall to the heart of Spring Street. It is festive and lively. A tear or two of nostalgia were shed. It was good to gather with my oldest friends, in spite of Robbi, who has no respect for the dignity of the moment.

After the parade, it was time to get ready for our big event: a children’s book reading and book making workshop. There was so much uncertainty. Would the children like our books? Would they want to make books of their own?

We were worried, but Kato was not. He took the stage and started to present.

Fortunately, the audience had yet to arrive.

The children came, and we did our reading. To our surprise (and delight), the kids all sat quietly and listened as we talked about the process of making books and then read our work. In fact the only child who misbehaved was Kato.

After we finished reading My Henderson Robot (http://store NULL.idiotsbooks NULL.com/ProductDetails NULL.asp?ProductCode=IBX04-01), we paused to teach the kids how to play a card game we made up. A bit of focused bedlam ensued.

The game in question, called Simple Jim, is played with one bent playing card.
Since it plays a central role in the first volume in the Bobbledy Books series (the second book we read for the kids that afternoon), we wanted them to understand how it works.

We’ll do a longer post on exactly how to play Simple Jim at some point down the line, but it looks a little something like this:

After the Simple Jim mayhem, we asked the kids to come sit down again. And they actually did! We read The Girl with Frogs in Her Ears, and they laughed in all the right places. Once the reading was done, it was time to make books. We divided the kids into two groups: big and small, and set them loose.

The smaller kids made simple “saddle-stiched” books, which is basically a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ paper folded in half with two staples along the bound edge. With a piece of colorful card stock as a cover, of course.

Such a simple process and such a simple book. We had no idea if the kids would like it. But they did!

They really, really did!

For the older kids, we got ambitious, designing a template that would let them create their own mix-and-match book in the style of Build Your Own President (with slightly less cynicism).

Would it make sense to them? Would it be too complicated?

The kids dived in with zen-like concentration.

And a palpable sense of satisfaction.

They drew wonderful, amazing things.

When they were done with their drawings, we trimmed them into strips.

And bound them with our special machine.

Which made the kids (and their parents) so happy.

It was fun watching the kids faces as they flipped the panels and saw their drawings change.

In addition to the pictures, I wrote stories that would recombine, leaving Mad-Lib-style holes for the kids to fill in with their own ideas.

They also got to design their own covers.

The kids stayed for a full two-and-a-half hours, not leaving until people came to set up the next event. We were blown away by how they dived into the challenge and by what an amazing job they did. Thank you, kids, for being so affirming. We will make books with you any time.

Perhaps no one enjoyed the event more than Kato, who pretended to make books while devoting the bulk of his creative energy to wooing the two “Reunion Rangers” who had been assigned to help us run the workshop.

Thanks also to Holly Kohler and David Turner, who generously volunteered their time. And to intern Tilly, who traveled all the way from Chestertown to join the fun. And if you haven’t already, check out Holly’s web comic, The League of Lost Causes (http://www NULL.leagueoflostcauses NULL.com/). I have a feeling that you could use a laugh today.

And be hereby notified that if you (or anyone you know) is ever in need (or want) of a 2-3 hour workshop for kids from 2-12 years of age, we have a workshop we’d be happy to show up and run. It was only a sample of one, but we think we’re onto something.

Kids like to make books.