A curly challenge for library students

Every wavy hair on this giant head is full of creative input from the primary school students – a multi-dimensional task! First, they were asked to think of a great first sentence for a story. Then they had to carefully handwrite their words around a spiral-shaped path. Then came the hardest bit: cutting around and around the curl – very tricky and good scissoring practice!

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Sail away on a story…

Tall Ship Mural

Pirate Ship Library Display

What’s not to like about a pirate ship? It embodies the spirit of adventure and brings to mind history, stories, excitement, action, romance and heroism. All the things that spark the imagination and encourage young readers to dive into a new book.

As I was painting this gorgeous vessel, I kept imagining the faces of the kids as they walked into the library to see it for the first time. I wasn’t disappointed – the gasps of delight were wonderful to hear.

Instead of asking the students to create their own artwork, or colour in a small picture as I usually do, this time I asked them to write a short imaginative line or two, as though dipping into the middle of an exciting novel. Thus, our lovely library ship is sailing on a wonderful sea of words. Kids come close to the artwork to read all the terrific ideas making up their ocean. Here are some of their efforts…

Words on the waves

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More words on the waves

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… and just a few more wonderful wavy words.

Pirate Ship Close-Up

Pirate Ship Close-Up

Wide view of our latest library display

Wide view of our latest library display

Hop into our library for some artistic inspiration!


Mother frog and baby tadpoles (or are they bookworms?)

A frog in the library? What else! As you can see, she’s a mother-of-thousands, and all her little tadpoles have a lot to learn. They’re reading up a storm, even before they get out of their eggs.

Our wonderful librarian read a book about the life cycle of frogs, then asked all the students to consider what type of book their tadpole would be reading. The kids came up with some great ideas that they incorporated into their artworks. Here are just a few…

How to Swim Underwater

Shakespeare (Tadpole Edition)

How to Make Green Friends

Froggy Potter and the Chamberpot of Tadpoles

How to Train Your Tadpole

How to Jump and Croak

This display gradually grew and developed over 8 weeks. Initially I painted just a large green frog, then I added some reeds, a large lilypad, then some more lilypads with a waterlily, then a dragonfly. Meanwhile, the kids were adding tadpoles… and more tadpoles… and more tadpoles! Take a closer look below.

Floating lily pads and water lily bloom

Water lily and lily pads

Dragonfly painting


Happy frog on a pond

Green frog painting on a large lily pad






A magma-nificent display of red-hot books

The explosive power of books!

The explosive power of books!

The kids were thrilled when a volcano appeared in the library at the start of the term… and intrigued as well. After all, what could they possibly add to the display, and how did it relate to the library? Some students thought they might have to add birds, or lava, or even aeroplanes. When I finally presented them each with a tiny little book to write themselves, they were more excited than I could possibly have predicted. Some dived in immediately and wrote wonderful little original stories, complete with full-colour illustrations. Many kids took more than one book so they could complete extra ones at home.

To give nervous kids more confidence to become the “author” of their miniature book, I gave a few suggestions. They could make a picture book for littlies, or a non-fiction book about their favourite sport or hobby, or an educational book, or a story book. The results were imaginative and varied. Some examples included: an illustrated book of different hairstyles, a book of car parts with diagrams, a wonderful adventure story, a tale set in a Minecraft computer game world, a first alphabet book, an animal picture book, a fairytale with a moral, a “how-to” book about Playstations, a book of colours and lots more. We were not only impressed with the wonderful work that the children produced, but also with the finished product on the wall. We all “lava” good book!

Volcano close-up

Kids' books close-up

A flight of imagination across the library wall

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I had no particular reason to choose a hot air balloon as this term’s topic for our library display… I just thought the kids would get a kick out of it. To relate the topic to reading, I gave one of the pilots a book to hold, and I painted a bookish banner across the balloon. Then I decided that each child could colour a little house, but I had trouble thinking of a way to relate houses to reading… until it suddenly occurred to me that each roof was book-shaped. Problem solved!

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Robot librarian teaches his minions

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Some of the students at our school are particularly keen on the big library displays I put up each term. One afternoon a kid pulled me aside in a corridor to give me his big idea for the next picture. His verbal description being highly detailed (he’d clearly thought about it for some time), I asked him to draw a sketch so that I knew exactly what he meant.

The very next day he delivered a beautiful drawing to my office – quite detailed and carefully drafted – and I said it would be my pleasure to take it on board as the next display. At that point I had no idea how difficult it would be to turn someone else’s pride-and-joy into a huge painting. It was extremely challenging to keep as closely as possible to his original idea, whilst at the same time adding the extra detail and adaptations I needed to make it work at a large scale. Anyway, this lovely robot was the result, all thanks to his inspired idea!

As the weeks of the term went by, I added a robot parrot, a robot dog, some robot snacks, a wind-up mouse and a robot instruction book. The kids each coloured or created a little robot minion of their own.

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(Don’t mention the elephant in the library…)

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Elephant display made from pages of a dictionary

I thought a full-size elephant display would have some impact with the kids, but I couldn’t decide how to relate it to books. Until, one day when I was working in the library and disposing of some old student dictionaries, I realised that the grey print of the dictionary pages would suit an elephant’s hide. I drew the outline of an elephant onto large paper, then pasted pages of the dictionary over the whole thing. By orientating the pages in different directions, I found that the stripes of the text gave some definition to different parts of the animal, then I simply painted in some shading to give some roundness to the end product.

To involve every kid in the school, I asked them to choose to decorate either a flower or a water drip, which I then individually blue-tacked to the wall. Their efforts gave the finished display both colour and movement, and they were delighted with the results.

To maintain interest in this display over the course of the term, each week I added a few little mice to the picture. Each mouse was reading, holding or playing with a book. Each class enjoyed trying to spot the tiny mice hidden on the display.

I suspect when we take this display down we’ll have lots of entries into the draw to win the elephant – most of the kids are very keen to put this one up on their bedroom wall!


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Olympic fever

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I painted this quick-and-easy display for the London Olympic Games. I simply found a couple of small pictures and, using a grid to ensure the figures were vaguely in proportion, transferred them onto large paper. Time was short, so I painted them quickly in flat colours.

To link the theme to the library, I gave the weightlifter a barbell made of books, and I gave the hurdler a large book to jump over. Then, to get the students involved, I drew a simple medal with the words “Champion Reader” written on it and photocopied it onto gold cardboard. Each of the kids in the school wrote their name on a medal, cut it out and punched a hole in it to attach a ribbon. It looked great when several hundred medals were hanging from the ceiling, swaying nicely in the breeze.

The display made a great backdrop when the school was visited by Paralympian Matthew Cowdrey. And when the display came down, each child proudly wore their own medal home.

A world of books for kids!


Planet earth library display


Close-up of Australia with popular children’s books














This display was more of a challenge than I expected. Most of the displays I had done to date were simply fun illustrations rather than accurate representations. After all, who would notice if a bridge were wider than it should be, or a tree was off-centre, or if a nose was a bit bigger than it really ought to be? But when I started drawing this poster I suddenly realised that if I left off an Indonesian island, or if Taiwan was in the wrong spot, or if my map of Australia was missing a bay… disaster! Anyway, it worked out OK in the end (or at least no-one in our multi-cultural school complained that I’d left off their birthplace) and my map-drawing skills improved to boot! Every child in the school decorated a star and placed it on the wall, so the end product looked great with around 400 colourful stars surrounding the earth.

Big friendly library display

Close-up of children’s artwork

Story Bridge

A friend and I had such fun making this display. The theme for book week was “Across the Story Bridge”, so we thought it would be appropriate to use the Sydney Harbour Bridge and involve every child in the school. I drew up four male and four female figures, each holding a book. Each child chose a figure and wrote their name and favourite book title on the cover. I’ve got to say, it was extremely awkward laying out so much paper across my friend’s dining room floor to paint the bridge. It was also very difficult to stick it up on the wall. And after all that, we also required lots of help from parent volunteers to cut out the figures for the littlies who weren’t so good with scissors. However, it was definitely all worth it in the end. The kids loved colouring their pictures and searching for their artworks after they’d been added to the display. Most importantly, they eagerly spent time discussing which book was their favourite. In the end, there were around 350 children represented, and it looked more spectacular than these photos show.