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Books, Monsters, and Fun - Oh My!

Rebecca Millerjohn here - youth services librarian for Madison’s Central library and the Bubbler program. For the last year, I (and my brilliant colleagues at Madison Public Library) have had the pleasure of partnering with the Madison Reading Project to support making & learning in community spaces across Madison through the creation and distribution of Mini-Maker kits.

Born out of the pandemic necessity that limited our ability to do in person programming - our joint efforts, a small army of volunteers, and funding from the library’s Making Spaces grant has seen us distribute over 8,500 Mini-Maker Kits to kids across city of Madison since the summer of 2021. Thousands of additional kits have simultaneously been distributed to kids and families from our 9 library locations.

Why maker kits? It’s so much more than just crafting. We know that play, making, and tinkering are the hard work of childhood and how children make sense of their world.

Librarian Carissa Christner and I have designed these projects and collections of fun materials to allow for multiple iterations, different ways of approaching a suggested goal, and lots of room for deviation if the materials inside the envelope lead a child’s creativity in a direction we didn’t anticipate.

Our friends at Madison Reading Project pair these projects with engaging, diverse texts to inspire these little makers - reading books as part of their outreach, but also making those books available for kids to take home forever from their big red bus.

Reading an inspiring book, carrying those ideas into what you make, and playing with that object leads to kids creating their own stories. It’s a beautiful cyclical process that engages the head, heart, and hands, building what we call in the library world “multiple literacies” to support deeper engagement and learning.

October’s maker kit is no exception. We’ve designed an envelope of open ended materials with the wide open prompt of making a creature. With the envelope itself geared towards kids telling their own stories about what they have made. Madison Reading Project has paired this project in their outreach visits with great texts like Looking for a Jumbie - a spooky romp through a world of creatures from Caribbean folklore.

We cannot wait to see what spooky (and cuddly and weird!) creatures kids come up with inspired from their own interests, cultures, and creativity and the stories that they tell.

This cyclical, playful, and constant learning cycle is also reflective of Madison Public Library and the Madison Reading Project’s partnership. A shared love of books, community, and kids leads to new ideas, deeper conversations, and an ever changing and strengthening relationship between our two organizations. The more we do, the more we learn, and the more we do together!

You can find all of the instructions for previous projects and kits - in English and in Spanish! - here at the Bubbler’s website:

Looking for more monster and creature stories? Check out some of our favorites below and view the whole list on our Bookshop page.

Looking for a Jumbie

Author: Tracey Baptiste | Illustrator: Amber Ren | Publisher: Balzer + Bray

I’m looking for a jumbie, I’m going to find a scary one.

But Mama says jumbies exist only in stories. So Naya sets out on a nighttime adventure to find out for herself.

No such thing, say the friends she makes along the way.

But Naya is sure that jumbies are real. Some have big mouths. Or thick fur. Or glowing skin. Or sharp teeth. Kind of like her new friends.…

Looking for a Jumbie is a gentle, bouncy, and creepily fun read-aloud inspired by traditional Caribbean tales.

Boo Stew

Author: Donna L. Washington | Illustrator: Jeffrey Ebbler | Publisher: Peachtree

Curly Locks is a good-hearted girl, but she's an awful cook. All the townspeople of Toadsuck Swamp know to steer clear of her peculiar dishes—like batwing brownies and toad eye toffees. So it's quite a mystery when one of her dishes goes missing from her windowsill.

Next morning, chaos breaks out in town and word spreads how the Scares of Toadsuck Swamp are running wild and terrorizing the town at mealtime. They shriek "Gitchey Boo, Gitchey Bon! Gitchey Goo, Gitchey Gone!" and send folk running for their lives! But Curly Locks isn't frightened, and she has an inkling her unsavory cooking can help corral those Scares for good.

Exercising tremendous narrative skill, internationally known storyteller Donna L. Washington breathes a spirited new life into an old classic. Her clever, can-do protagonist and joyful language pair brilliantly with Jeffrey Ebbeler's fantasy-like illustrations. This enchanting read is a treat for any time of the year!

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Author/Illustrator: Flavia Z. Drago | Publisher: Candlewick

Gustavo is good at doing all sorts of ghostly things: walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. And he loves almost nothing more than playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo is shy, and some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye scream or making friends with other monsters. Whenever he tries getting close to them, he realizes they just can’t see him. Now that the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, what can he do to make them notice him and to share with them something he loves? With fancifully detailed artwork and visual humor, debut picture-book creator Flavia Z. Drago’s vivid illustrations tell a sweet and gently offbeat story of loneliness, bravery, and friendship that is sure to be a treat for little ghouls and goblins everywhere.

Monster Trouble

Author: Lane Fredrickson | Illustrator: Michael Robertson | Publisher: Union Square Kids

Nothing frightens Winifred Schnitzel—but she DOES need her sleep, and the neighborhood monsters WON'T let her be! Every night they sneak in, growling and belching and making a ruckus. Winifred constructs clever traps, but nothing stops these crafty creatures. What's a girl to do? (Hint: Monsters HATE kisses!) The delightfully sweet ending will have every kid—and little monster—begging for an encore.

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra

Author: Marc Tyler Nobleman | Illustrator: Ana Aranda | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

With its hilarious dialogue, trio of bumbling goats, and fantastically zany villain, this unique, laugh-out-loud story based on a legendary monster is sure to crack up kids and grown-ups alike.

Like most goats, Jayna, Bumsie, and Pep’s greatest fear is being eaten for dinner by the legendary chupacabra—it’s common knowledge that goats are a chupacabra’s favorite food! One night, tired of living in fear, the impetuous goats whip out their trusty candelabra and head off to find the beast and scare it away before it can find them. Little do they know that candelabras are the chupacabra’s third-favorite food . . . and he isn’t about to stop there. This chupacabra has quite the appetite, and the goats are in for a big surprise!


Author/Illustrator: Kevin Atteberry Publisher: HarperFestival

Story time for little ones has never been this exciting! When a friendly monster spots a group of bunnies in the woods, his delight is contagious. And when they're gone, how he misses them.

With bright illustrations and a simple text, this is the most fun type of read-aloud and one that mirrors most every toddler's emotional life. This board book edition is perfect for sharing.


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