Flipping the Book Experience

This month’s issue of ASK is all about bookmaking, and I can’t help but be excited about this because I love books. I love them so much that I learned to make them by hand, from start to finish. I could write a story and illustrate it, make the paper the story will be printed on, make plates and letterpress to print my words and images on my paper, and then I could bind it all together.


While I was studying graphic design in college, I never even knew these things were possible. Shortly after I graduated, I found myself between design jobs and came across an ad for a program in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts. I did not know what it meant, but I was intrigued. I met the director, and he showed me the studios for papermaking, letterpress printing, and bookbinding. I was blown away. Over the years, I had collected tons of visual books like Calvin & Hobbes, Far Side, and Non Sequitur, and the thought of creating my own was really appealing to me. I wanted in. I applied immediately, and was extremely lucky to get accepted. To flip my own experience with books – from reading them to conceptually and physically creating them – was very exciting.


Learning to make paper was the most unique aspect for me. It is a very wet process. Like panning for gold but with lots of water. I learned to make paper with different plant fibers, to sculpt with it, and to make pulp paintings. My favorite thing to do with paper was to make basic, cotton-abaca sheets, that were optimal for drawing and printing. Using these crisp, toothy, deckled-edge sheets in books was to me the very definition of a handmade book.


Paper Making


Letterpress printing was quite challenging. I did not have the patience and finesse with the machine and all its intricacies to master it with uniform consistency. As much as I appreciated setting individual type, I much preferred the speed – and irony – of using the computer to lay out entire pages with the fonts and art of my choosing and then making plates for printing. Though letterpress was not my strength, it was still extremely useful for my books, and I could never deny the joy of cranking that lever and seeing my own fully inked image on paper.


Paper Making


Bookbinding was definitely my favorite part of the bookmaking process. Some dormant section of my psyche must have awoken from handling the weird and scary tools and pieces of bookbinding equipment, from bone folders and awls to screw presses and guillotines. I picked up the folding, sewing, trimming, and pasting pretty quickly and even took a part-time job for the Paper Source, pasting up hundreds of covers for their albums and journals. Integrating these skills into making my own story come to life in a physical book is the icing on the cake.


I used quality materials like goatskin leather, quarter-sawn oak, and waxed linen thread to bind books that would endure for lifetimes. To do this with paper I made and printed on with my own story and art has been such a phenomenal pleasure. I finished the Book and Paper program a dozen years ago. I got married and still made books, but with each new child we have, the less time and space there is to do this. Making books requires specialized facilities, and though I have some of the smaller equipment and supplies to craft my own process, I haven’t quite the time anymore. Making kids and making them as high quality as possible seem to be the new pursuits.


Paper Making


As a designer for Cricket Media, I am blessed to do work that is quite similar to making books. It is fantastic to help create and market the best kids’ magazines on the planet. And my book (and magazine) experience flips again as I acquire and share with my kids the amazing stories and illustrations found in Cricket Media magazines, trusting that they too will one day will make their own great stories. As for me, I know I’ll get back to making my books soon…


~~~more info on interdisciplinary book and paper arts at:


Get Ready to See the Super Moon

On November 14th, anyone with a clear evening sky will be lucky enough to see a “super moon”. A super moon happens when the moon is full at its closest point to the Earth, and this month’s super moon is the closest the moon has been to Earth since 1948. According to space.com, the moon will look 15 percent bigger and 16 percent brighter than a typical full moon. To get the best super moon effect, experts recommend that you view the moon when it is near the horizon. This is because of a well-known effect called the “moon illusion,” which means the moon looks larger when viewers can easily compare it to nearby buildings.


For even more about moons, read the attached free article, “Making Moons” from ASK Magazine. You can always count on ASK to answer the questions your kids have been ASKing about topics in the arts and sciences, including why animals sleep, what are tides, and how the solar system formed. Full of fun facts, informative scientific articles, and hands-on activities, ASK Magazine launches curious kids into hours of happy exploration. To make sure you don’t miss a single issue, but sure to subscribe to ASK today.

ASK Magazine Looks at the Science of Sugar

By Tyler Thompson, Licensing Manager, Cricket Media


Sugar. Maybe you’ve heard of it. When Cricket Media receive licensing requests from State Education departments, they specify they can only license articles that do not mention sugar, sweets, candy, ice cream, or cookies. Several states have passed legislature banning the sale of soda and sugary drinks in public schools, and lawmakers New York and in California are trying to emblazon sodas with a message that looks very similar to one you see on cigarette packages and alcohol bottles.


In this month’s issue of ASK, “Why Do We Love Sweets?”, Editor Liz Huyck takes a completely different approach. Since you can’t really keep children away from sugar, why not tell them everything there is to know about it? Rather than demonize sugar, why not educate children on how it works and we need it? The issue covers everything from the history of sugarcane (people have had a sweet tooth for at least 10,000 years), Napoleon Bonaparte’s sugar dilemma, the low-down on artificial sweeteners (yikes), a child with diabetes separates diabetic fact from fiction, sugar addicts in the animal kingdom (hummingbirds, yo), when it’s okay to eat glass, and a virtual tour through a candy cane factory complete with delicious photos.


ASK even breaks down the molecular structure of sugar and shows how your body converts it into energy in a fascinating section called “Sneaky Sugar.”


Check this out:

“By 2018, food makers will have to tell you have much sugar they add to your snack. Even if you read the list of ingredients, it can be hard to spot! Some can by sneaky. See if you can find any of these in your kitchen or lunch box—they’re all different names for sugar:


  • Agave
  • Barley malt
  • Cane juice
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit nectar
  • Glucose
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape juice concentrate
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Nectar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle”



Enjoy the attached article “I [heart] Sugar” as our free gift to you. We hope it will give you a taste of how sweet an issue of ASK can be.


For more in-depth looks at topics your kids are ASKing about, be sure to subscribe to ASK.

Looking at Dinosaurs Through a Child’s Eyes

Every time I think about dinosaurs I feel the need to reread one of my daughter’s favorite books: Oh My Oh My Oh DINOSAURS! by children’s writer and artist extraordinaire Sandra Boynton. With simple pictures and just a few words of text, Boynton has captured exactly what makes dinosaurs so interesting to kids: they’re big, they’re spiny, they’re good…or maybe they’re bad, it doesn’t really matter because for the many toddlers and preschoolers who obsess about them, there is nothing more exciting, interesting, or fun to pronounce.


Adult often like to humor a child’s fascination with dinosaurs. We think it’s “cute” that our 3-year-old memorizes the complicated names of these creatures or that our 5-year-old can quote facts about them that would make a dinosaur expert proud. But it’s not cute at all. It’s important learning.  It’s perhaps a child’s first foray into thinking deeply about the natural world and it could spark a lifelong love of science that could lead to a career as a paleontologist, scientist, researcher, doctor, engineer, or any of a dozen other science-related fields.


So why do kids love dinosaurs so much? Some experts believe it is because while they may be big and scary, they are also extinct. To a child, this makes them akin to imaginary creatures such as unicorns or gryphons because you can paint them any way you want, give them any type of sound you want, and make them look any way you want and no one can say definitively that you are wrong.


Another benefit of being extinct may be that unlike tigers or hawks or gorillas, you can never see a real dinosaur in real life. This has the effect of making them feel “safer” to a child.


In my own experience with little kids and dinosaurs, I think the hugeness of their skeletons is a big selling point. You walk into that museum, you see that huge skeleton, and it is awe-inspiring. No wonder kids can’t take their eyes off of it. I feel the same way.


Looking at Dinosaurs Through a Child’s EyesA few years ago I worked with dinosaur experts Carl Mehling and Jason Brougham at the American Museum of Natural History in New York to write a book called Inside Dinosaurs. These two gentlemen are the wide-eyed preschool dinosaur lovers who never grew up. To them, dinosaurs seem as real as elephants or rhinos. Books about dinosaurs are an important part of a child’s library. From the aforementioned board book by Sandra Boynton to the nonfiction, dino-name-heavy books like the one I helped write, every child should have a chance to learn about these amazing creatures. Another great source of dino magic for kids are magazines. Magazines like CLICK and ASK have covered dinosaurs in their own unique way.  Check out our dinosaur theme pack or subscribe to your favorite magazine to make sure your child doesn’t miss a dinosaur-themed issue.


If your child is one of the millions who can’t get enough of these prehistoric creatures, count yourself lucky. Take this opportunity to go to a museum, read magazines or books about dinosaurs, and go fossil hunting right in your own town. But most of all, remember to not make light of your child’s fascination with these creatures. It could be the start of a lifelong love of science.


Resources to Inspire a Future Astronomer

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! (No.) It’s a plane! (No.) It’s a planet? (Possibly…let’s find out.)


Asteroids, super moons, eclipses, and satellites have all been in the news lately and this may have prompted your junior astronomer to make statements like the ones above. If you are a layperson when it comes to astronomy, the difference between a planet and a star, a constellation and a star cluster, Venus and Mars may be as unclear as the difference between a crocodile and alligator or a stalagmite and a stalactite: there is a difference for sure, but it sure isn’t obvious.


Discover the Wonder of Astronomy


Luckily, there are resources out there to help you help your child discover the wonder of astronomy. Here are a few simple ways to make stargazing even more enjoyable for everyone in your family:


Google Sky is a free app available for both Android and iPhone users that turns your phone or iPad into your own personal planetarium. Just download the app, point your mobile phone at the sky, and Sky Map will name everything in the vicinity. You’ll see planets, stars, constellations…you name it. No more guessing if those three stars in a row are part of the Big Dipper; now you’ll know for sure.


NASA.gov should be your go-to source for information on satellites, rocket launches, meteor showers, and new discoveries from the very edges of space. Plus, NASA has amazing photos and lots of info made especially for kids, including a NASA Kids’ Club with activities and games for kids of all ages.


Discovery Kids has a library of videos answering questions such as “Is the sun actually yellow?” and “What Happens Inside a Black Hole?” You know, the kinds of things kids actually ask and we parents have no ideas about.


Ask Cover - AstronomyAstronomy magazines for kids are a great way to get up-to-date information delivered straight to your mailbox. Unlike books, which can easily be made obsolete by new discoveries, monthly magazines are better able to update their content, giving young readers timely and relevant information about upcoming celestial events. For example, look for upcoming issues of DIG INTO HISTORY, CLICK, and ASK from the Cricket Media family of magazines related to the first total solar eclipse that passes part of the the US (Hawaii)  in 26 years and the first to go coast-to-coast in 99 years. Subscribe now to make sure you get these informative issues.


The real lesson here is that it doesn’t matter whether you have your own telescope or not, whether you live in a place dark enough to see the Milky Way or a place with so much light pollution that it is hard to make out the moon, whether there is a planetarium around the corner or across the state, today’s technology makes educating future scientists about the wonders of space easy and accessible, leaving even more time for your whole family to just contemplate exactly what might be out there.

The Humor of Children has Groan in Significance

People like to be laughed at… when they are telling a joke. Even kids. Unfortunately, little kid jokes are not often funny. They don’t quite get timing… or delivery… or the joke itself – they’re often just parroting something they heard other people laugh at, so they assume it’s funny. Nothing kills a joke faster than a punchline delivered with a question mark on the end.


Sadly, I laugh at my kids for being unintentionally funny way more often than when they try to recite some witticism they heard.


This is partly because there is a limited amount of “safe” jokes that little kids can remember, so by the time they’re six, you’ve heard the full gamut of knock-knock gags, including all the same ones you told when you were six. By the time your second and third kid comes along with the “don’t cry, it’s only a joke” line, you might actually be in tears.


The other part of it is because a lot of word play doesn’t make any sense to kids. Puns might be the lowest form of humor, but you have to have a fairly solid grasp of language, phonics, and vocabulary in order to find them funny (or not). English is already full of quirks, weird spellings, words that shouldn’t rhyme but do, and words that don’t rhyme but should (bomb, tomb, comb…why don’t they rhyme?!), so when you make intentional word play jokes, they may go right over a child’s head. Kids might not understand why eating a clock might be time consuming, or why it’s funny to learn that a fiend who rings doorbells could be called a knock-less monster.


How to Tell a Joke - The Humor of Children has Groan in SignificanceWhat might make six-year-old humor a little more bearable is to share the “How to Tell a Joke” article that appeared in ASK Magazine’s “What’s So Funny?” issue. The issue is full of different kinds of jokes from practical to visual, but this particular article really gives the lowdown on how to get an actual (as opposed to a pity) laugh. In particular, explaining why the jokes are (supposed to be) funny can help a child hone their sense of humor and hopefully sometime soon they’ll be able to come up with their own unique and never-before-heard perfect one liners that will have tears running down your cheeks the right way.


Cricket Media Mama attributes her first pun to a kindergarten theatrical performance about vocabulary. Essentially, it was just a play on words.