Friday, August 23, 2013

Bringing Literature Alive: Breadcrumbs

During August, we read Breadcrumbs by Minnesota author Anne Ursu. Today, we met with a few other girls as part of a book club that we hosted during the summer.We did a variety of activities that tie into reading the book.

Sophia's trio of trees.

Since the majority of Breadcrumbs took place in the woods, the children created paintings using watercolors and crayons. The idea for the project came from this pin which leads to Art Projects for Kids. The pin and instructions said to divide the background into three sections. None of the girls wanted to do that - they all wanted to have one-color (rather than divided) skies.

We also didn't use paper-punch holes as snow. Rather, some of the girls used white or silver color crayons to make dots or snowflakes in the sky. This was a nice touch to their paintings.

The first step was to trace three different triangle shapes onto a piece of paper. Then, add a squiggly line at the bottom to represent the snow.

Olivia was painting the sky while 
another book club participant drew her design.

Next, add a line from the ground up through the tree to represent the trunk. Then, add "V" shapes to the trunk to represent branches.

Sophia rinsing out her brush 
as she painted her trees.

Now, it's time to paint. The girls used natural watercolors - some the color straight from the little circles and in other cases, they blended a couple colors to create their own shades.

Olivia painting the trees.

All of the girls painted the trees first and then the sky.

Sophia putting the finishing touches 
on her painting.

I'm always fascinated by watching children do art. Given the same art supplies, each comes up with such different images. It is a joy to watch them creatively express themselves.

Olivia's finished watercolor and crayon painting.

Origami/Paper Folding

On page 82 of Breadcrumbs, the author wrote about photographs of snowflakes taken by Wilson Bentley over a hundred years ago. They called him “Snowflake” Bentley, and he was the one who discovered that no two snowflakes are alike.

The children listened to the book Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin read to them. They also were able to see some of the snowflakes that Bentley photographed. The book, Snow Crystals by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys, has over 2,450+ illustrations of Bentley’s work.

After that, the children made an origami star/snowflake.

Olivia and another participant making a window star/snowflake
from German kite paper.

This is a simple and alternative version of paper snowflakes that some people hang in their windows in winter.

Sophia's trio of snowflakes.

To hang the star, the children will place a few loops of clear tape on the back of the star and press it onto your window. The light from the sun will illuminate the pattern.

Paper Cutting

Sophia making an origami snowflake and 
Olivia making a paper-cut snowflake.

Using origami paper in two different shapes (a square and circle), the children created two paper snowflakes by cutting shapes out of the folded paper.

Olivia's trio of snowflakes.

They found the square one easier to fold and cut while the circular one was more difficult to fold and conceptualize for cutting. Yet, the girls were almost equally split between preferring the square versus circular snowflakes.


We played “Melt a Snowflake” – a dice/board game that involves shaking two dice, adding the total dots, and coloring in a part of a snowflake on a game board. The pin for this idea leads to Mrs. Samuelson's Swamp Frogs and has PDF game boards to use.

Playing "Melt a Snowflake."

The children took turns and whoever colored in the most spaces on the game board won the game.

Counting the dots on the dice and 
finding the space to color in on the game board.

There are different versions of the game - one that can be played with two dice and one with three dice (to result in smaller and larger sums respectively).

It was a fun way to squeeze some math into the summer...disguised as a game.


Several times in the book, the author writes about Joe Mauer and the baseball that Jack gave Hazel. We looked at The World’s Greatest Baseball Players by Matt Doeden, and read a little about Joe Mauer.

The reason why he is such a great baseball player was lost on the girls. However, more interesting for them was the fact that he is 6 feet 5 inches tall!


The children were able to touch and try on (if they wanted to) a pair of pointe shoes that were mine when I was in junior high school.

Examining the pointe shoes.

This tied into the part of the book (on page 171) that was about the red “dancing shoes – real ballet slippers” that Hazel found in the woods. The shoes make reference to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale called Red Shoes.

Trying to stand on her toes.

We looked at some photos from the book Ballet for Beginners – Featuring the School of American Ballet by Mary Kate Mellow and Stephanie Troeller. The girls tried doing each of the basic positions (first, second, third, fourth, and fifth).

Learning the different positions.
This one is second position.


Since the story makes many references to snow, ice, and winter, I thought about one of the common ballets performed in December: The Nutcracker.

The Washington County Library has CDs available of different orchestras playing Tchaikovsky’s music. We listened to the CDs while the children worked on their activities. Two pieces that directly tied into the book were: Nutcracker and Marie Depart of the Pine Forest and Waltz of the Snowflakes.


We sampled two different types of food today: Turkish Delight and Meringue Snowflakes. In the book, there were references to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

In one part, the White Witch asks Jack if he wants some Turkish Delight. This is a recipe the children tasted. It’s from Aslan - Adapted from The Chronicles of Narnia by Frederic Thomas.

Turkish Delight

Turkish delight.

3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
½ cup cold water
½ cup hot water
2 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon extract
About ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Soften the gelatin in the cold water. Set aside. In a saucepan, bring the hot water and granulated sugar to a boil, stirring all the while. Lower heat. Add the salt, and stir in the softened gelatin until completely dissolved. Cook at a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon extract. Rinse a 6 inch square pan with cold water. The pan should be wet but not have standing water. Pour the mixture into the pan. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to stand in a cold place overnight.

Sift some of the confectioners’ sugar onto a plate. Moisten a knife in very hot water and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the candy. Invert the pan over the plate. It may be necessary to work on the edges a little to loosen them enough to turn the candy out on top of the sugar.

Cut the square into equal-width strips. Roll each strip in sugar; and then cut into cubes. Roll each cube in additional sugar to coat well.

The girls ready to taste the Turkish delight 
at the same time.

The children also tried meringue snowflakes that were flavored with mint extract. They were a hit! The girls all asked for seconds...and thirds. The pin for the recipe leads to a lovely image of a meringue snowflake. None of ours turned out as well visually. Oh well...the children didn't mind.

Meringue Snowflakes

Meringue snowflake that Sophia made.

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon flavored extract, such as lemon, peppermint, orange, or almond
2 tablespoons colored sugar or edible glitter

Heat the oven to 200º. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy, about 3 minutes. Set the mixer speed to high and beat another 3 minutes or so until the eggs whites are fluffy.

Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until the egg whites are stiff and glossy, about 5 minutes. Then beat in the extract.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a pencil to draw snowflake patterns on the paper. The meringues will not spread, so they can be drawn fairly close together. Turn the papers printed-side down and stick them to the baking sheets by dabbing a little meringue in each corner.

Spoon the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip and pipe it, erring on the thick side so the snowflakes will be less fragile, onto the paper-lined sheets following the patterns. Sprinkle the meringues with colored sugar or edible glitter.

A meringue snowflake.

Bake the snowflakes until dry but not browned, about 1 hour. Carefully slide the parchment paper from the baking sheets to wire racks and let the meringues cool completely.

Using scissors, cut the paper between the meringues to separate them. Then gently peel away the paper from each one, keeping one hand under the snowflake to support the edges. The meringues will stay crisp for up to 2 weeks if stored in an airtight container at room temperature (do not refrigerate them). Makes about 20.

Olivia checking out the meringue snowflake.


Breadcrumbs referred to many fairy tales in the story as well as has one part in which Hazel and her friend are creating their own fairy tale.

The girls in costumes.

So, today the children were able to try on a variety of costumes and have fun creating their own story based on Breadcrumbs as well as any other ideas they came up with.

Enjoying an impromptu play.

This was the last book club meeting of the summer, so having a chance to dress up and play together was a highlight of the morning for the girls.

Having lots of fun with the costumes and 
play they are making up as they go along.

To hear and see how quickly they could come up with a story and act it out was fun to watch.

Sophia the fairy queen holding 
a fairy princess.

Thinking back to the first book club meeting we had in June, the girls were so quiet and reserved since they didn't know one another. Seeing the smiles on the girls faces this morning made me realize how much they had enjoyed spending time together this summer learning and doing activities with one another.


Rita said...

OMGosh! You have all been so busy! I loved all of it. The girls are very talented and look like they had a lot of fun. :)

calli said...

Ann, seriously this is exactly the blog post I needed to see. I am not a huge blog reader and honestly I am not exactly sure how I got to this page (Pinterest link) but I am so grateful for the detail you put into it.

I want to homeschool my girls but had little to no idea where to start so I appreciate this post so much! I only wish you could brain zap all of your experience/ ideas over to me. :)

Thank you again for sharing and I would love to ask you more questions if you're up for it.