Jane Breskin Zalben

author / artist / illustrator


Mousterpiece Art Activity

Throw a Beast Bash Party

Poem Writing / Book Making

Questions on "Unfinished Dreams"

Beni's and Pearl's Activities

Print Making

Oatmeal Raisin "Ant" Cookies

Mousterpiece - Art Activity

1. Read the story and show the pictures. Discuss the artists in the backmatter. You can use a different artist each week, focusing on one style and movement.

2. Then have the class draw, paint or color, and cut out circles, squares, triangles, tiny dots and squiggles--or any shapes they choose.

3. Draw your own mouse character and make original modern art using different materials. Some suggestions: oil crayons, regular crayons, paint, pastels, colored pencils, markers can create interesting textures together. I have used sand, grass, leaves, fabrics, wool, feathers, bits of herbs and seeds, windex spray on oil paint, and detergents (baking soda even)with adult supervision to create texture.

4. Hang students' art on the wall. Have a show in the classroom or library "gallery" with an opening. Punch served with of course little cocktail umbrellas! Just like Janson, the budding artist.

5. "Little Artists" blog painting activity, click here or archived here.

6. "Albers" art project -- to do with kids to hang on their doorknob of their room:

Saturday Night at the Beastro Brainstorming - Throw a Beast Bash Party

To Eat:
Monster Muffins (See my To Every Season Cookbook)
Worm Souffle (Chocolate Pudding with Mashed Oreos and Gummi Worms)
Blood Punch (Cranberry Juice and Seltzer)

To Touch:
Frozen Eyeballs (grapes dusted in sugar or sea salt)
Monster Snot (Flour, Green Food Coloring, and Water)
Brains (Cold Spaghetti)

Create Your Own:
Beast Poems, Beast Songs, Beast Masks
Noisy Instruments - Put beans in empty raisin or oatmeal containers, and decorate with crepe paper, streamers, glitter, buttons, string, feathers, yarn, or pipe cleaners.

Go to your local library, and research famous beasts and monsters. Which ones are like the ones in "Saturday Night at the Beastro?" Which ones are different?

Imagine a new Beast. What does it eat? Where does it live? Who are its friends?

Extra Credit: Make a costume of your new Beast.

Paths to Peace: People Who Changed the World

Think of writing your own original poems and then illustrating them in multi-media to express your feelings about trying to make the world a better, friendlier place where people show compassion and understand each other instead of mistrust and pain. Collect all the poems of the class and sew them together into a 32-page book dummy. (Take 8 pieces of blank 16 by 10 inch paper and fold it in half.) Make a jacket and laminate it. If you do not have a machine for this application, then use 3M shrink wrap plastic from a hardware store (keeps out windy drafts in the winter!) and use a hair dryer to tighten around the piece of art. Wrap art around the class book dummy and present the book on a special author day for the children - a literary tea or luncheon or brown bag it with the parents - so that we all can "repair" the world by doing small acts.

Unfinished Dreams

Have you ever felt passionate about something, and you feel you need to do it more than anything else in the world?

Are there times in life that you feel different and you must follow your own path? Or are there times you feel you have to conform for fear of being different?

Have you ever come to anyone's defense? What happened because of it?

Have you ever had a teacher, a principal, a parent, or any adult that has supported your dreams? It is important to focus on how Mr. Carr supports and inspires Jason, and not his own disease ... how he shows him about life and dying with dignity and passing on an inheritance of love and caring. In the novel, we never find out exactly who destroyed Jason's violin. Who do you think destroyed it? Is this essential to the climax?

If you had a wish list of the things you needed and wanted in life, what would they be? Jason's teacher has the class do one at the beginning of the year and then at the end. It might be fun to do the same, seal them in envelopes in September, and open them up in June to see how maybe they have changed, or maybe how you've reached your goals. In that same vein, discuss any dreams that are unfinished, and how you can finish them.

Beni's and Pearl's Activities

For younger children, try the activities below, such as Print Making and Oatmeal Raisin "Ant" Cookies. Also visit Beni's Page and Pearl's Page and listen to the music.

Color Beni!

You can print this page and use colored pencils, crayons, and water colors. Or save the image below by right-clicking on the picture of Beni, then saving the image, and coloring it on your computer using Paint or Photoshop!

How to Plant a Tree with Pearl

Check with your local nursery to learn which kinds of trees grow best in your area and if you need to prepare your seeds in any way before you plant them. An apple tree like Pearl's must grow for as long as three or as many as seven to ten years before it produces any fruit.

If your soil does not freeze during the winter, you can plant seeds outside in a sunny spot.

1. Use three large seeds, or several small seeds.
2. Dig a small hole about 4 inches deep.
3. Add 1/4 teaspoon nitrogen fertilizer.
4. Cover it with 3 inches of soil.
5. Place seeds in hole. Cover them with fine soil.
6. Keep soil moist so seeds will germinate.

In a cold climate, plant your seeds in a flowerpot:

1. Keep flowerpot on a sunny windowsill. Water every day. Wait for seeds to sprout.
2. In spring when the soil thaws, plant seedling outdoors. Dig a hole twice the depth and width of the flowerpot.
3. Fill the hole and the flowerpot with water. When the water is drained, gently tap the flowerpot so that the seedling comes out with its soil around it. Loosen a few roots from the bottom of the soil before putting the seedling into the hole.
4. Fill the hole with soil so that the tree stands upright. Create a little well around the base.
5. Water the ground around the tree immeadiately and every day for a week. Then water twice a week. By late spring, the tree will have new growth.

Print Making

People have been making prints for centuries. The art of printmaking dates back to ancient times. The Chinese, Japanese, Egyptians, and Sub-Saharan Africans are among the earliest pioneers, printing on papyrus, rice paper, caves, and their own bodies. Here are some newer techniques of printing that are easy to create in your home.

Sponge Print
1. Find a 3" x 5" sponge.
2. With a marker, trace the outline of a shape you would like to create on the sponge.
3. With an adult, carefully cut along the lines you have drawn with a pair of scissors.
4. Dip the one face of the sponge in a shallow tray of poster paint.
5. Place the sponge on a piece of paper, paint side down.
6. Press lightly with the sponge.
7. Wait for paint to dry.

Potato Print
1. With an adult's help, cut a potato in half.
2. Outline a shape on the flat, white part of the potato.
3. Have a parent cut away the potato around the design.
4. Dip the potato in paint.
5. Press the print on paper, cloth, paper bags. Be creative!

1. Dip your hands, feet, tails, or anything in fingerpaint.
2. Place them on paper, or even decorate your room!

Oatmeal Raisin "Ant" Cookies

Pretend the rasins in this recipe are large ants. (There are people who actually eat chocolate covered ants as well as crickets, worms, grasshoppers, beetles, and other insects!) For variety, mix 1/2 cup dark and 1/2 cup light raisins. They might be less crunchy than your local insect, but I'd rather go with the raisins. If you like crunchiness, add chopped walnuts!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt (optional)
3 cups uncooked oats
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugars with an electric mixer. Add eggs, vanilla, and maple syrup into the mixture.
3. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to batter mixture. Stir in oats, raisins, and walnuts.
4. Line cookie sheets with parchment baking paper. Drop a tablespoon of batter for each cookie, about 1 dozen drops on each cookie sheet.
5. Bake about 15 minutes or until the edges are a light golden brown.
6. Cool 2 minutes on a rack. Place on dessert plate or in cookie jar.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies