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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You don’t need your glasses to read this canteen sign!

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After the old junk-food advertisements were (thankfully!) taken down from above the school canteen, it was looking a little drab, so a friend and I painted this sign one weekend. I drew the lettering freehand on a large piece of paper, then cut out the letters to make a stencil. Unfortunately, it happened to be very windy on the day I tried to put it up on the wall, so my struggles with the enormous cut-out would have been hilarious if there had been any onlookers (though the swearing wasn’t pretty). Somehow I managed to stick it up long enough to draw the outlines on the wall… eventually.

I really like the fruit and vegetables we painted within the lettering, but in retrospect I think the bees buzzing around may be a little too suggestive of flies (or is that just me?). I also think the lettering is a trifle too large, and I regret not having painted the background. Overall though, it’s a big improvement, and the colours fit in nicely with the existing rainbow painting and the murals we painted on the nearby columns.

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Aboriginal mural brightens up a dull school wall

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I spotted this stunning mural on a wall at a local high school. Given that the architecture of this building is fairly basic, I can speculate that this mural has vastly improved its appearance.

The dramatic black borders and flowing river design give a coherent background which looks great at a distance, while the beautifully detailed designs of the animals sustain interest for closer viewing. I presume the students at the school were involved in the production of this mural, at the very least for the hand prints, but probably for a whole lot more than that.

(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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Giant “Tree of Topics” sprouts in our library

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Tree house

For some time, I had been quite keen on the idea of a tree in the library. It was only after I started to draw it that I realised how big an undertaking it was. Even without leaves it took up an entire wall of my house!

On the bright side, it didn’t actually matter if my drawing wasn’t accurate (unlike the time I chose to paint a representational picture of the Earth). On this occasion it didn’t matter too much how I drew or painted the branches – if they weren’t quite correct it just added to the charm. Being partial to the graphics used in the computer game “Plants & Zombies”, I shamelessly copied their grassy knoll as a base for the tree, and stuck the whole thing up in the library with Blu-Tak.

Every child in the school was given a leaf on which to write their favourite reading topic and decorate to their heart’s content, and it was exciting for them to see the tree “grow” as their efforts were added. Each week (along with their leaves) I added an extra part of the picture: a kookaburra, a koala, a possum, a treehouse, a tyre swing, a goanna, a worm and a beetle. By adding something week after week, I’ve found that these displays avoid becoming background wallpaper. When each class arrives in the library for their weekly lesson, the first thing they do is rush to the display to find the new addition.

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.