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TPiB: Story Terrariums (guest post by Erinn Batykefer at The Library as Incubator Project)

Every Friday in March we are teaming up with The Library as Incubator Project to bring you a new craft idea that you can do with your tweens and teens.  Today, Erinn Batykefer is walking you through making Story Terrariums.  Next week: Instagram crafts.

“Beneath the Surface” is such an evocative theme. Some of the most captivating YA literature I’ve read in the past few years delves into the idea of everyday reality concealing a mysterious other world–a world that is just barely hidden beneath the surface.

Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone has become one of my favorite books (as has the brutal and nuanced follow-up, Days of Blood and Starlight) precisely for this reason. Now, when I see art students with wildly colored hair carrying sketchbooks around at coffee shops or at the library, I wonder if perhaps they wished their hair green or pink, and what strange other worlds their sketchbooks might illustrate. It makes my world more exciting to wonder if there really is an Eretz, and whether Karou might be opening a magical door and stepping out into our world, onto my street, right this moment.

I’m also smitten with the imagery of the book and thought it would work well as a story terrarium. Terrariums in general make a fantastic “Beneath the Surface” craft– if your teens have green thumbs and you partner with a local greenhouse, you might even make some pretty awesome living terrariums— but creating a Story Terrarium reinforces the point of the Summer Reading Program, which is literacy. It allows teens to engage with a story they love while creating a kind of 3D collage, one that allows them to “bury” certain images under rocks, sand, shredded paper, or other terrarium filler, so you can literally “read” the story in the terrarium.

Here’s my Daughter of Smoke and Bone Story Terrarium, in pictures:

My crafternoon started at the local thrift store, where I found a great terrarium jar for 60 cents (BYO jar is definitely the way to go here). I brought it home and washed it up, and then assembled my materials. As you can see, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was an obvious choice for my Story Terrarium. Who else do you know who collects feathers and bones, or who actually kept the mold the orthodontist made of her teeth in 7th grade? Me. That’s who.

I began by building the “beneath the surface” aspect of my story. Objects from my stash that represent the mysteries of Daughter of Smoke and Bone— what Brimstone does with all those teeth, why he wears a wishbone necklace, the true meaning of Karou’s name in the chimaera language– are all buried under these cool, dark rocks I had laying around from another project (just as they are buried and then slowly revealed in the story).

Once I had my subterranean layer down, I moved on to other aspects of the novel. I covered the hideous design on the wooden lid of my thrift store jar with a circle of interesting travel-themed scrapbook paper to represent Karou’s constant travel. I also used a see-through sheet of vellum to draw a hand with a hamsa tattoo in bright blue ink (to represent Karou’s hair). On the other side, I glued a blue dove and two feathers from my feather jar (YES, I have one of those); the dove represents the dream of peace that Madrigal and Akiva shared, and the white and dark blue feathers represent each of them and their wings.

After preparing all the pieces, I assembled them and sealed them in the jar. Looks pretty cool right? This took about 45 minutes to assemble (and I was being super-careful and photographing as I went). There are lots of ways to customize / hack this idea for your library, depending on your audience and other programs you might have in place. It could be a really fun way to engage with a teen book club, for instance, and you can recommend teens BYO jars and other materials to cut down costs.

Want More?

This month, we’re delighted to partner with our friend Karen Jensen of Teen Librarian’s Toolbox to share Teen Summer Reading Program craft ideas for National Craft Month. Kick-start your “Beneath the Surface” craft plans with us all month long:

Are you planning any awesome “Beneath the Surface” crafts for your Teen Summer Reading Program? Share with us in the comments and on social media!


  1. Tess Young says

    Hello There,
    I just wanted to see if you were currently interested in additional guest bloggers for your blog site.
    I see that you've accepted some guest posters in the past – are there any specific guidelines you need me to follow while making submissions?
    If you're open to submissions, whom would I need to send them to?
    I'm eager to send some contributions to your blog and think that I can cover some interesting topics.
    Thanks for your time,

  2. Hi Tess, we do welcome guest posts. Contact Karen if you have a topic in mind and she can work with you. Her contact info is here: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/p/meet-tlt.html


  1. […] stunning cover and original fantasy setting make it a good pairing for Teen Librarian Toolbox’s story terrarium craft program. The librarian can model building a story terrarium using craft items that represent […]

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