Olivia Helps with Christmas
Mouse Paint


Dear Readers,

As life returns to normal after the excitement of the holidays, we thought it would be great fun to celebrate colors during the bleak days of January. If you are like us, it seems like a long stretch until the thrill of Valentine's Day. Spending some time exploring and creating with colors seems like the perfect solution to keeping the winter doldrums at bay. 

Over the next few weeks we will make friends with mice that paint, an adventuresome square, a little girl who discovers new ways to create color in her life, and, starting today, a patchwork elephant. Can you think of a more fun way to start the new year?



by David McKee

Elmer is an extraordinary elephant who has the special gift of bringing joy and laughter to the other elephants in his herd, and he just happens to be covered in a beautiful, colorful patchwork.

Elmer - Off the Shelf

Although the other elephants in his herd are gray, Elmer never considers himself different, until one day he suddenly becomes quite self-conscious and begins to wonder if the other elephants are laughing at him instead of with him. Share Elmer with your young reader and discover how elephant-colored berries help Elmer realize how special and loved he is. 

Elmer - Off the Shelf

In this Issue



Patchwork Elmer

Patchwork Elmer - Elmer - Off the Shelf
While small hands often get frustrated with activities that involve gluing tissue paper, this project only requires water to make the colorful squares magically stick and leave a patchwork of color behind once dry. Depending on the level of your young reader, you may need to cut squares of tissues before starting the project, but having not-so-perfect squares only adds to the appeal of the finished Elmer.

Patchwork Elmer

What You Will Need

  • Tissue paper in a variety of colors
  • Paint Brush
  • Container of Water
  • Thick paper such as watercolor paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Crayons or markers

How To Do It

  1. Cut squares of tissue paper. We found it helpful to place the different colors in separate piles on a paper plate.
  2. Lay a sheet of thick paper on a flat surface and “paint” a section with water.
  3. Lay squares of tissue paper on the wet section of paper, applying more water if it begins to dry out.
    Patchwork Elmer - Elmer - Off the Shelf

  4. Once the paper is filled, leave it on a flat surface to dry completely.
    Patchwork Elmer - Elmer - Off the Shelf

  5. Remove the tissue squares.
  6. Cut the shapes from the patchwork paper to make Elmer – 1 large circle for the body, 1 small circle for the head, 4 rectangles for legs, 1 trunk shape and 1 ear shape.
    Patchwork Elmer - Elmer - Off the Shelf

  7. Glue the pieces to a sheet of construction paper and add a tail and facial features with crayons or markers.
    Patchwork Elmer - Elmer - Off the Shelf

  8. Your young reader may enjoy adding other elements such as additional elephants or a jungle scene.

Why We Like It

  • Builds fine motor skills
  • Explores a variety of ways to work with paper and color mixing
  • Encourages creativity

Elephant Ears

This is just about the perfect recipe: it requires only a few ingredients, all of which you probably have on hand; from start to finish, it takes no more that 30 minutes to complete; and there are lots of opportunities for young readers to be involved. The only downside is that it only makes four cookies, but that could be a good thing after the holiday eating spree! We recommend enjoying with a cup of Honey Hot Chocolate or Hot Vanilla

Elephant Ear Cookies - Elmer - Off the Shelf

Young Readers in the Kitchen

 Kids can help mix the dough, pat or roll into a rectangle, spread with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, roll dough into a log, and pat spirals flat. 

Elephant Ears

Adapted from Alpha-Bakery Children's Cookbook.

Makes 4.


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (you can sub in up to 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a cookie sheet.
  3. Melt 3 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, stir together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk and melted butter until dough forms.
  4. Lightly flour work surface. Turn out dough and knead 10 times. Use a rolling pin or hands to form dough into a 9x5-inch rectangle. 
  5. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. In a very small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry brush, brush dough with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. 
  6. Starting with a short side, tightly roll up dough and pinch edge to seal. Cut log into 4 equal pieces using a sharp knife. Place each piece on prepared cookie sheet and pat each into a 6-inch circle. 
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. 

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant

One Year Ago: Lois Ehlert uses her familiar found object collages to create a snowman family in Snowballs. Your young reader can create their own snowman with Shaving Cream Puff Paint or in edible form with Snowman Pizzas.

Two Years Ago: In The Hat, the adventures begin for Hedgie and all the animals on Lisa’s farm when a strong wind blows one of Lisa’s knit socks off the clothesline. Jan Brett beautifully illustrates this charming story.

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