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.

Urban Legends and Myth Busting


Eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda at the same time causes your stomach to explode.  A woman was warned of a home invader by her chocking Doberman Pincher.  Microsoft will give you $245 for every third person to whom you forward a certain e-mail. 

You’ve heard stories like these before, either through word of mouth or forwarded e-mail.  They are urban legends, a kind of American folklore that, like tales of old, is kept alive through word of mouth and occasionally media reports.  The rise of the internet and e-mail has helped to spread these tales globally at the blink of an eye.  Urban legends typically contain elements that are strange and fantastic, but are so realistic and plausible that you would believe them to be true.  But the reality is that these tales are at best exaggerations of actual events, and at worst, hoaxes.   

Jan Harold Brunvand, a former professor who taught courses on folklore and studied urban legends as a hobby, calls urban legends an integral part of American culture, just like traditional folklore.  Urban legends, however, appear to be validated by witnesses or other reliable sources, so “the most sophisticated ‘folk’ of modern society” believe they are true. (from The Vanishing Hitchhiker)  Being a folklorist, Brunvand does not look to debunk these stories.  His series of books simply explore the origins and evolution of urban legends.  Similarly, The 500 Best Urban Legends Ever! divides the tales into different categories and presents them without additional commentary:  Just plain, fun reading! 

Proving or disproving urban legends is the job of two highly visible and notable sources.  On the Discovery Channel series Mythbusters, special effects experts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage take urban legends, myths, rumors and historic oddities and test them scientifically.  Faithful crash test dummy Buster is often on hand when Hyneman and company recreate the myths, some involving elaborate machines, props and explosions!  After observation and examination of applicable data, the myth is declared confirmed, plausible or busted! 

Barbara and David P. Mikkelson do the same job as the Mythbusters, only without the splash!  Their website Urban Legends Reference Pages at verifies or disproves urban legends, “common fallacies, misinformation, old wives’ tales, strange news stories, rumors, celebrity gossip, and similar items” (from FAQ) by going the source of the legend – personal accounts, media or historical reports and/or physical evidence – to determine its validity.  The findings are presented in short essays where the legends are rated as true, false or undetermined.  The sources of the research are often included. divides the legends into forty-four categories, including a search option.  The Computers category is especially useful for finding the truth behind those pesky mass e-mails that friends and family forward to you.  You know the ones:  They warn you about computer viruses, pending threats and disasters, and show pictures of fantastic phenomena like pink dolphins.  The next time you get one of those mailings, check Snopes to see if it is worth forwarding to everyone in your address book! 

Other books on urban legends are available at CCLS and through PINES.  Many more sites can be found on the web by searching the term “urban legends” or “urban tales.”


Published in: on August 22, 2007 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment

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

Jazz Appreciation Month – A Great Day in Harlem

Harlem 1958
Harlem 1958 first appeared in Esquire Magazine in January 1959.


CCLS does not have any jazz related media materials in its collection, except for one item. And it’s a jewel!

A Great Day in Harlem is a sixty-minute documentary about the day in 1958 when photographer Art Kane gathered about 57 jazz greats of the era together for a group photograph. I saw this film at the Clark Atlanta University Film Festival around 1995, and was one of the most memorable films that I saw. This was about the time that my interest in filmmaking was growing, and I listened to jazz regularly. It was a great thrill to see my favorite subject told on a medium of which I was starting to love.

A Great Day in Harlem details how Kane was commissioned by Esquire magazine to shoot the photo, and interviews the surviving musicians who give their recollections of the day. Also included are archival performance and home movie footage and interviews with the neighborhood kids who sat in the photo along with the musicians. Quincy Jones, who at the time was an up and coming composer/band leader, narrates.

On the same videocassette is a second documentary. The Spitball Story chronicles Dizzy Gillespie’s antics that lead to his firing from Cab Calloway’s band. It seems that Gillespie was as big on practical jokes as he was on talent: In A Great Day, he recounts how his teasing fellow trumpeter Roy Eldridge caused him to turn away just as Kane snapped the picture (Eldridge and Gillespie are on the far right in the photo). The Spitball Story also features musician interviews and performance footage.

A Great Day in Harlem has been called “one of the best documentaries on jazz music.” Not only are the events leading to this iconic photograph documented, but the relationships, musical styles and even work habits of the jazz giants are told directly from their mouths: A history of the era by the people who lived it. Director Jean Bach garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary, Features in 1995 for A Great Day.

CCLS’s holdings are on VHS videocassette only, and just a few copies are available. Act fast to reserve and view this superb film.

Link to A Great Day in Harlem in PINES:

Related websites: – A great site to see and learn about the musicians in the photograph. is the site for the DVD release of the movie (available through online vendors), along with biographies of the musicians and little known facts. – The website for the Art Kane Archives.



Published in: on April 13, 2007 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Animated book reviews for kids

Hey kids,

The Clayton County Library System now subscribes to an online service called Read the Books that makes finding a good read easy and fun at the same time. Simply go to our home page and click on the Read The Books!

Read The Books