The 641 Project: Gingerbread House Books at the Library


“The North Pole Library,” first place winner of the National Gingerbread House Competition, 2009.


If you’ve been following the 641 Project series The Gingerbread House Project, the talk about gingerbread and house building is making you think maybe about building your own house for the holidays.  I say, go for it!

Gingerbread house ideas, instructions and printable templates can be found easily on the web.  There are even videos that demonstrate different phases of construction.  If hard print is more your speed, the Clayton County Library System has a few books devoted to the art of the gingerbread house.  You may consult one or all of them to make a house or other goodies to show off your baking and decorating skills:

It’s a Gingerbread House : Bake it, Build it, Eat it! by Vera B. Williams

Carrie, Benny and Sam receive a gingerbread house from their grandfather.  When they eat it up before Christmas, they follow grandfather’s instructions for building a new house.

The story is an introduction to an excellent book for young readers/bakers.  With uncomplicated writing, kids should have no problem understanding the recipe and building instructions for baking and building a basic, seven inch tall house.  Like any recipe for any type of cooking, the recipe and instructions need to be read and studied thoroughly before beginning the project to achieve the best results.  The book suggests grown up assistance, especially when it comes to handling sharp knives and going into hot ovens.  Pictures show the tools, ingredients and assembly processes that should come in handy.

Making Great Gingerbread Houses by Aaron Morgan and Paige Gilchrist

Go ahead, say authors Morgan and Gilchrist, make a gingerbread house:  It’s good, messy fun!  Appealing to tactile, visual and olfactory senses, and even communal spirit, Morgan and Gilchrist convince the reader not to be intimidated by a seeming complex project, but to dive in and enjoy what is actually quite easy.  Step by step, they explain the basic house building process from mixing the dough to how to pipe icing.  From there on, your imagination’s the limit.

After the basics comes a full color gallery of gingerbread structure and tableaus.  The purpose is to inspire your own creations and/or how to achieve different effects (Patterns aren’t given for all of these houses, and in some cases not entire patterns).  The patterns given are not full sized:  You’ll need to enlarge many by two hundred percent on a photocopier.

The Gingerbread Book by Allen D. Bragdon

New to the Clayton County Libraries collection, The Gingerbread Book is a reprint of a 1984 book, and doesn’t appear to be revised:  the photos and print appear as they did nearly thirty years ago.  No matter really, because the ideas and most techniques have not changed significantly.

Bragdon’s premise is that gingerbread and gingerbread houses aren’t just for Christmastime.  To prove his point, he gives patterns for other holiday creations, ideas for party treats and centerpieces, and even some storybook scenarios.  He lists several different recipes for ginger cookies and cake – as well as for a building dough – and recounts an extensive history of gingerbread from the Middle Ages to the 1980s.

Sweet Dreams of Gingerbread by Jann Johnson

Author Jann Johnson believes as Allen Bragdon:  Decorated ginger cookies aren’t just a Christmas thing.  She too takes gingerbread around the calendar with the traditional holiday houses and décor pieces – such as a train, stockings, and Santa with sleigh and reindeer – as well as patterns for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Gingerbread men and women can be decorated for all seasons and occasions.

Johnson offers thorough but concise techniques for baking and building, with several different recipes for dough and icings for variety.  Color pictures and pointers accompany each project.  Attention must be given to copying patterns, as many overlap or must be pieced together from separate pieces.

This title is the one that I own and am using for my project (though I have gleaned tips and ideas from the other books listed).  It’s not in the CCLS collection, but can be requested through PINES; it’s also available from online book vendors.


Click the titles above to see the PINES catalog record for call number and availability.  Ask the staff at your nearest library for assistance.

Except for Making Great Gingerbread, these books direct the reader to trace the patterns from its pages.  I recommend photocopying instead to preserve the book; plus, it’s easier to make extra copies of templates.  If you must trace, lay a sheet of clear plastic over the page, then lay your tracing paper on top of the plastic and trace away.

Follow my baking adventure on The Gingerbread House Project blog.  Click here.


The 641 Project: The Gingerbread House Project

A real live sugar shack: Can he make one?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written an article for the 641 Project, my series of food and food related topics.  I’m now about to renew the series with a baking adventure!

The Gingerbread House Project” will journal my attempt to construct my first ever gingerbread house.  After years of thinking about it, I’m finally doing it! and will chronicle the steps from prep, dry runs and experiments to baking, construction and finally decorating a classic gingerbread house.  You’ll see everything, warts and all!  I’ll include some history, trivia and other educational stuff, too, along with pictures and links to relevant web sites.

Check  The Gingerbread House Project on Tuesdays and Fridays for the next six weeks to read the latest postings.  Just click on the name to connect to the blog site.  And look to see new 641 Project postings here starting in January 2013!

The 641 Project: What’s New in Haunted Haute Cuisine!

Three years ago, I wrote here about the cookbook Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.  Filled with recipes and illustrations of the foods named in Dahl’s books, some dishes are so odd and gross that they may suitable for a Halloween party table.  Revolting Recipes is not intended to be a Halloween cookbook; however, I recently found a relatively new book in our collection that fits the bill perfectly.

Ghoulish Goodies is called a frightful cookbook, and rightly so!  Cookbook author Sharon Bowers creates spooky and whimsical recipes for Halloween get togethers, whether a party with finger foods (pun intended) or a sit down meal.

The recipes are imaginative and not difficult to make.  Plus, as the color photos indicate, the finished products look darn cool!  How about bringing Monster Eyeballs, Chocolate Mice and Ladies’ Fingers (not lady fingers!) to the table, or cupcakes resembling the space aliens from The Simpsons, a cake modeled on Edvard Munch’s The Scream or a Jack O’Lantern?  Maybe Eyeball Meatloaf with a side of Orange Rice or Ghostly Mashed Potatoes is a tamer menu for you!  There are even a few recipes for using leftover candy.  Bowers also provides practical advice on working with ingredients, party planning and little Halloween history.

Though part of our children’s collection, Ghoulish Goodies is probably intended for adult cooks, so the young chef will require adult supervision; pre-teens and teens with some kitchen experience should be okay with even the more challenging dishes.

Between these two books, you’ll find foods for your Halloween party that will delight and fright your guests!


Ghoulish Goodies and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes are available at CCLS libraries.  Click the titles above for availability, or ask a librarian at your nearest branch.

Other Halloween cookbook books are available at CCLS.  Click here to see available titles in the PINES catalog.

VRP 2008 – Computer Bugs!

 The 2008 Vacation Reading Program “Catch the Reading Bug” is in full swing, and there are plenty of activities at the Clayton County Libraries to add to the fun of reading!  Here is a couple of bug themed websites to visit and add to your VRP experience!


Alien Empire is an interactive site inspired by the PBS Nature mini-series of the same name.  The suite is divided into six topics, each covering a number of different insects and their fascinating characteristics.  Each topic features articles, games, educational presentations and videos relating to a specific insect.  Spend some time here and learn about the insect world!


If you seen any of our past displays at Forest Park, you know that they usually feature a paper model or two from Canon’s Creative Park.  In the Science Museum section is a number of insect patterns for you to build your own bug models!  Click the button labeled Insects to see nine different bugs to make.  These models are very challenging, but there are easy models to build on the Science page.  Stop by the Forest Park branch to see some of the models in our VRP display!

Published in: on June 25, 2008 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Santa Claus Is Back In Town!

It’s the holidays, and our International Santa Claus collection is back on display!


We revived last year’s North Pole scene with the jolly old elves descending on Santa Claus’ gingerbread house for a pre-Christmas Eve get-together.  We added a few new touches to enhance the appearance, and to make room for two new figurines!


El Nino - Mexico.2 El Nino - MexicoEl Niño, the gift giver from Mexican tradition, is new to our collection.  El Niño – The Child – is the Christ Child who rides on the back of a gentle burro that is adorned with Mexican-print blankets and bells, bearing holiday gifts.  We already have Pancho Navidad, a fairly recent addition to Mexican Christmas lore. 


Father Christmas – India.2Father Christmas of India is the second new addition to our Santa collection.  Christmas is celebrated differently in various parts of India, and in some parts, Father Christmas will dispense gifts to children in villages by way of horse and cart with a lantern to light his way through the night.


The Branch acquired its collection of International Santa Claus figurines from a former Branch manager.  Starting with ten figurines, we added seven more over the last three years; mainly figurines that represent different countries and cultures that make up the Forest Park community.


You can see each of our Santa figurines in our photostream.  Click here to link.  But as always, it’s best to see the display in person at the Library!




Click here to see Santa Claus history .


The Santalady website also offers a brief Santa history, as well as a list of Santas and gift givers from around the world, and a listing and history of the International Santa Claus collection.


Santa collector Christiane La Crecelle shares pictures and video of her Santa collection on her blog.  The blog’s in French, but she adds a greeting in English.  (My thanks to her for editing her blog so I can link it here!)


On Christmas Eve, track Santa as he makes his ’round the world delivery run! 

And how fast does Santa have to go to make all of his deliveries?  The answer’s here!

Published in: on November 28, 2007 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Deliciously Disgusting! Horrific Hors d’Oeuvres for Halloween


Halloween will be here in a few weeks, and if you’re planning a party or celebration, take a look at Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes for some culinarily gross food ideas! 

Roald Dahl wrote books for both adults and children.  I’ve had the pleasure of reading his books for both audiences.  Dahl was a great story teller who liked to shade his tales with dark humor and ironic twists that O. Henry would envy.  He is best known for his children’s books, several of which were made into movies:  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and Giant Peach, Matilda and The Witches, to name a few.  According to Dahl’s widow Felicity, she suggested writing a book for children based on the foods that appear in his books.  Dahl found the thought daunting, but supplied his wife with a listing of every food from every book or story he had written.  After his death in 1990, Felicity collaborated with author/illustrator Quentin Blake and chef Josie Fison to create Revolting Recipes.  The menu of foods in this cookbook comes from the aforementioned books, as well as The Twits, The BFG, and the autobiographical Boy  

There are some recipes that sound quite delicious, and appear normal, like Strawberry-Flavored Chocolate-Coated Fudge, Nutty Crunch Surprise, onion rings, spare-ribs and chicken soup.  But then there are the truly revolting recipes: Stink Bug Eggs, Snozzcumber, Hot Frogs, Fresh Mudburgers and Hair Toffee to Make Hair Grow on Bald Men!  Yes, it’s all normal, edible food, but made in such a way to appear truly disgusting, and, though not Dahl or Mrs. Dahl’s intention, possibly suitable for Halloween! 


Enormous Crocodile from Roald Dahls Revolting RecipesThe recipe I’d like to make is the Enormous Crocodile, from the picture book of the same name.  It’s basically an egg salad sandwich styled to look like a crocodile with his mouth open, baring all of his almond-shaped teeth!  The recipe appeals to both the model maker and the cook in me. 

Check out this cookbook while considering the buffet for your Halloween get together, or anytime you want to serve something to gross out your guest!  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ More ghastly gastronomy can be found in the follow-up to Revolting Recipes, Roald Dahl’s Even More Revolting Recipes, available through PINES.  Click here to see Roald Dahl titles available at CCLS.

Even more macabre munchies are discussed in this recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Click here for the recipes, and see photos of the dishes here.

Still want more haunted haute cuisine?  Check out Ghoulish Goodies, a new collection of Halloween recipes available at CCLS.

papertoys emblem is a neat website that I found while searching for material for our VRP display. It is a free site where you can download and print templates from which you can build paper models of objects like cars, hats, musical instruments, historic buildings, and aircraft. There’s even a Bruce Lee paper doll!


The templates are nicely detailed and many are in full color. Assembly is fairly easy, and quick in some cases: Just cut out, fold and glue. Some models are fairly complex and take as much patience as building detailed plastic or wooden models. But your patience is rewarded with an attractive representation of the real thing.


I built a four different models using the regular 20 lb. paper and got good results. I would recommend using card stock if you want your model to last, and having a ruler, Exacto knife and tacky glue for tools is a good idea. Test fold and join pieces for correct fit, and take your time, just as you would building models with other materials.


Pictures of my models will be included with our display, which I hope to have completed in the coming week. Meantime, visit and have some fun!


Another site to visit is Creative Park.  The models here are more challenging and a bit more complex, but the results are amazing!

Check it out Reading Challenge

Registration for this event ended on August 1st, 2007

Kindergarten through 12th grade students:

Receive a free youth ticket to Atlanta Hawks or Atlanta Thrashers game just by checking out and reading at least one book from the library! Go to for more information. A free bookmark is available at all of our Branch libraries.

A parent or guardian must fill out the online registration form by August 1st, 2007.

Win a free ticket to to a hawks or Thrashers game

Shrek and the Reinvented Fairy Tale

 Shrek and friends


In his article “How Shrek Changed Fairy Tales” (May 21, 2007),  Time Magazine film critic James Poniewozik observes how fairy tales of old are a far cry from the nice, gentle treatments of the Disney animated movies.  Today, fairy tales are “parodied, ironized, meta-fictionalized, politically adjusted and pop-culture saturated,” making for glorious send ups like Dreamworks’ Shrek and its two sequels.  The morals are still there, but the damsel in distress doesn’t always wait for – nor need – Prince Charming on a handsome white steed to rescue her, the hero isn’t always a morally good lad, and the wicked witch isn’t really bad, just misunderstood.  And not that there’s anything wrong with that,   apart from the fact that the family movie market is becoming saturated with these parodies.  Fractured fairy tales are a refreshing shot in the arm versus the staid old originals.  Seeing the old formulas turned on their ears can be pretty fun.  Plus, they still have a happy ending.

Poniewozik also observes that the exposure to today’s reinvented fairy tales may take the place of the originals.  Kids get a kick out of Puss in Boots in Shrek 2 & 3, or the reinvented versions of the Three Pigs, Goldilocks and Cinderella, the likes of which appear in book form.  But have they even read or know the originals?  Are the laughs as big for them as they are for their parents and older folks, who grew up with the originals? 

Such a thought alarmed the librarian, children’s literacy advocate and purist in me.  I’m all for movie adaptations and parodies in any form – I’ve adapted literary works for film and stage myself – but they shouldn’t be taken as substitutes for the original work.  A whole generation not knowing Grimm’s fairy tales and Mother Goose in their true forms?  Not on my watch!


With this in mind, the Staff and I compiled a list of as many of the fairy tale characters as we could recall that appear in the Shrek movies and linked them to PINES title listings.  To see a list of books available at Clayton County Libraries, simply click on the character name or subject below.  The list of characters is not complete, and some titles intended for adults – likely parodies or allegories – are among the title listings.  Please ask a librarian if you need any assistance:

Puss in Boots

Three Blind Mice

The Three Little Pigs

The Gingerbread Man

Pinocchio – Original novel by Carlo Collodi and versions for young readers

Robin Hood and His Merry Men

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Little Red Riding Hood

Nursery Rhymes

Fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm

The original children’s book Shrek by William Steig – You may be surprised to know that no fairy tale characters appear in the original book at all!

Childhood Favorites: Rediscovering “The Gunniwolf”

About two years ago, I wrote a short screenplay about what I thought was a good and original premise. By original, I mean a story idea that comes out of my own head, not based on, inspired by or derived from another story, event, newspaper or magazine article. (Nothing’s really wrong with basing or deriving ideas from others’ works; it’s just that I tend to it more than I’d like.)

The screenplay is about a pop superstar who, while out walking in the woods, comes face to face with her childhood monster. In order to escape it, she must sing to it until it falls asleep and she can run away. But when the monster doesn’t hear her singing, he wakes up and chases her down, forcing her to sing it to sleep again.

Pretty original, no? Or does it sound familiar?

The idea began to sound familiar to me a few weeks after I finished the script. It turns out that my script bears some similarity to a story I read in fourth grade about a little girl who wanders into the woods, meets up with a monster and must sing to it until it falls asleep and she can run away. The monster wakes up and chases her down, forcing her to sing it to sleep again.

That tale from my grade school days is The Gunniwolf, an American folktale as told by librarian/folklorist Wilhelmina Harper. The origin of the tale is uncertain. I recall hearing somewhere that it is an Appalachian tale, yet a website I found states that it is African-American. There is a myriad of variations on the tale, which suggests that it has roots in many cultures. The only certainty is that the story was passed down through oral tradition.

The Gunniwolf is a favorite of storytellers because of “its cadences, onomatopoeic words, and dialect songs.” (Upton, 2003) The little girl’s song “kum-kwa, khi-wa” varies from version to version, as does the “pit-pat, pit-pat” of her running and the “hunker-cha, hunker-cha” of the gunniwolf’s pursuit, but elements such as descriptive sounds and cadences are maintained. The repetitiveness of story elements – the chase, phrases of dialogue and the girl’s song – makes it a favorite of very young children.

The main difference between The Gunniwolf and my screenplay is the theme or moral (There are several minor differences as well that I won’t go into here). The Gunniwolf is a cautionary tale – a story created to entertain children and adults, as well as to scare or warn against certain actions or behaviors – that warns children of the dangers of wandering away from home or into the woods alone. My screenplay instead looks at how the pop star who, having never grown out of her childhood fear, comes to see the irrationality of her anxiety: There’s nothing to fear, not even fear itself.

Though ultimately the stories are different, I was at first a little bummed that I hadn’t at last come up with a truly original story idea. But I was more amazed that I had somehow incorporated elements of The Gunniwolf into my screenplay after not having thought about it for many, many years: I didn’t even remember the title until a few weeks ago! It goes to show the power of a good story!




The 1967 (left) and 2003 editions of The Gunniwolf

PINES lists two editions of The Gunniwolf by Wilhelmina Harper. Harper’s text is the same, but each edition has a different illustrator – William Wiesner and Barbara Upton – whose artwork has a profound impact on the story. Similar to some of Maurice Sendak’s work, William Wiesner’s illustrations are like line drawings colored with earth tones. Despite it being an American tale, Wiesner creates a world that bears some Asian influences (or so it appears to me). This is evident in the look of the girl, the gunniwolf, her home and the jungle (as it is called in the text). I wonder if Vietnamese culture might have had any influence on Wiesner, as the edition was published in 1967, during the Vietnam Conflict. By contrast, Barbara Upton’s illustrations are done in colored pencil, creating a beautiful, colorful rural American setting. Frogs, mice and rabbits populate the jungle where the little girl picks many types and colors of flowers: A complete opposite of Wiesner’s dense, motionless jungle. The gunniwolf itself draws comparison. Wiesner’s gunniwolf resembles a lion, or a poodle with a bad haircut; Upton’s looks more like a wolf, but comes across as a big friendly dog. Critics feel that while indeed more aesthetically pleasing, Upton’s artwork doesn’t reflect the threat and danger of the jungle and the gunniwolf as does Wiesner’s.


Girl and gunni

“Little Girl, why for you move?” Compare Wiesner’s illustration (left) with Upton’s


The Gunniwolf with illustrations by Barbara Upton is available at 5 CCLS libraries. The Gunniwolf with illustrations by William Wiesner is available through PINES. Please ask the staff at your library branch for assistance. Below are some resources available on the web:


Read editorial and user reviews posted at

Turner South’s Learning Through Storytelling uses a version of The Gunniwolf as a tool to teaching listening skills:

An audio version of the tale read by Bonnie Pierce in mp3 format:


Richard Thompson’s The Story Vine provides resources for parents and story tellers. His version of The Gunny Wolf (note the variation in spelling) is interactive with sounds:


Ms. Garden Plum lists several tales for girls, including this version of The Gunny Wolf (again, note the variation in spelling):



My screenplay, titled Fear Itself, won’t be available for a long time, but I plan to produce a film version next year. I’ll keep you up on its developments.

Published in: on May 10, 2007 at 4:31 pm  Comments (1)