A couple of weeks ago I participated in a literacy workshop organized by the St. Nick’s Alliance of Brooklyn. The event was held at Junior High School 126 and was made possible by the Brooke Jackman Foundation which works to improve literacy among the city’s at-risk students. The children I worked with ranged from grades 3-5. They had been participating in the program after school for 8 weeks, and the night I came to speak was the night of their graduation from the program.
I read (actually I sang it! lol) Hush Little Monster to them and talked about the process of making the book. I spoke about how revising and editing both the text and the pictures was a big part of the process. For example, originally, it was supposed to be a Halloween book. Then the publisher decided to change it to a good-night picture book. So we had to change the ending which originally read: “So scream little monster, small and green, for tonight is Halloween!”
Now the ending reads: “So hush, Little Monster, not a peep! The sun is coming out; now it’s time to sleep.”
After some Q and A, we all did an activity I created called Draw A Monster Game. I made three sets of colored cards with different characteristics pasted on top. Pink cards have general shape words (e.g. big, tall, hairy, etc.), Green cards have characteristics (e.g. antennae, fangs, wings, etc.), and Yellow cards have emotions (e.g. sad, happy, shy, etc.).
Each student chose one Pink card, two Green cards, and one Yellow card and used those to create a monster. I brought a ton of art supplies, ranging from pens and crayons and markers, to collage materials, such as sequins, glitter, feathers, dried pasta, yarn, etc. Some parents and the teenage counselors also wanted to take part! It was so cute to see this one “tough” guy in his early 20s with long sideburns, a brooding look and tattoos very meticulously put glue in spindly monster legs and carefully dust with glitter. I wish I had taken photos, but I was so busy running around helping students and talking to people, it didn’t even occur to me!
This is the monster I created as a demo. I got the cards “fat”, “three eyes”, “horns”, and “happy” for my words.
After the students created their monsters, they filled out a Monster Fact Sheet and wrote about their characters. I have to say, the Monster Fact Sheet was my son, Jamie’s idea. Before the event when I was trying to create an activity that went with the story, I ran it by him, and he suggested having the fact sheet! He even wrote one up for me on his own and insisted I use it, so I did. I typed it up and added one or two lines, but that’s it. So proud of my guy!
Everyone loved the drawing game. It is really fun to play. And all the monsters are SO different! All the children wanted to share them with the group. The stories they came up with were priceless. One girl drew a zombie cat monster who lived in “the pet cemetery in the sky”. Its favorite food is “bacon in the sky — which is ‘flying bacon'”. I love it!
For the graduation, the kids were presented with a backpack filled with books, including a signed copy of Hush Little Monster, and I passed out my mini monster cookies. These cookies appear in the book:
I developed this recipe for the book launch last year. But for this event, I revised the recipe to accommodate a large group. I doubled the amounts, omitted the peanut butter chips due to peanut allergies, and I made them a lot smaller. I ended up with over 80 cookies! I only had 11 gummy worms, however. It worked out though, because the gummies were pretty big. I cut each one into tiny pieces.
And added one or two worm piece to each cookie as they came out of the oven. If you can’t get the gummy worm to stick as the cookies cool down, just zap the worm on the cookie in the microwave for about 10 seconds and they will soften and adhere to the cookie.
If you’d like to try playing the game, all the elements (instructions, card words, fact sheet) can be found here at my NEWLY UPDATED WEBSITE! View my work, see my books, and check out the other fun freebies and craft and cooking ideas for kids I have there. Please take a look and let me know what you think— I’d love to hear from you!
Mini Monster Cookies
adapted from Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cookies from The Cookiepedia
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 egg white (I used 3/4 tablespoon liquid whites)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup mixture of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and dried coconut
1 cup potato chips and pretzels broken into pieces
About 6 gummy worms cut into small pieces
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. Mix to incorporate, scraping down sides of bowl.
3. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl.
Slowly add to butter and sugar mixture while mixer is running.
4. Add sweet and salty mixtures to batter and stir together.
5. Spoon tablespoonfuls of dough onto two baking sheets covered with parchment paper or Silpat mats. I could get 12 mounds on one sheet.
6. Bake for about 10-16 minutes, rotating pans halfway.
7. When cookies are golden, remove from oven and press 2 pieces of gummy worms onto each cookie. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.
Makes about 40 small cookies.
Recipe may be doubled.