Our good friend Rebecca Dunn is back on the Library as Incubator Project with another great post in her popular Pages to Projects series! She shares how to incorporate elements of art education and appreciation into storytime; if you’ve been inspired by Rebecca’s projects or have used her storytime plans at your library, we’d love to hear about it!  Share your experience in the comments or on social media. ~Erinn

My Heart Is Like a ZooPages to Projects: HeARTs!

by Rebecca Dunn

Love is in the air, and hearts are everywhere! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, providing the perfect opportunity to talk with youngsters about shape; specifically the heart! So, whether you’re hosting a special Valentine’s Day storytime next week, a future shape-themed storytime, or just looking for an engaging, process-based craft– look no further.

My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall is a versatile story on how the emotions of the heart can feel like a few favorite well-known animals. The illustrations reveal a curious surprise: each animal depicted is playfully constructed entirely of heart shapes. Before reading this book I like to talk about what a heart looks like with my audience. I hold up a paper heart and explain that a heart shape has two bumps on the top, a point on the bottom, and we sing “This is a Heart” together. I ask them to pay extra close attention to see if they can identify any hearts in My Heart Is Like a Zoo (which of course they do!). Something else to love about this book is its ability to act as a gateway read for talking with children about feelings. Prompt kids to mimic “silly as a seal” or “angry as a bear”.IMG_0233

After learning and reading about hearts, it’s time for art! This Suncatcher Heart Collage promotes expression and play with our featured shape.


  • Wax paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Paintbrushes


How to make a Suncatcher Heart Collage:

  1. Many libraries have large windows that are at a level for storytimers to peer out of, so why not tape sheets of wax paper to them for makeshift easels? The mess will be nothing a few spritzes of Windex can’t handle when it’s time to clean up. If windows aren’t an option, tape the sheets of wax paper to a craft table.
  2. Precut a bunch of hearts out of various colors of tissue paper in various sizes. Hint: Stack multiple sheets together to cut out hearts. Less work and more hearts!
  3. Add a couple tablespoons of school glue to cups, small enough for kids to hold while painting.
  4. Using school glue and paintbrushes, have the kids paint glue onto the sheets of wax paper, and place the tissue paper hearts onto the wet glue. They can also use the glue to paint over the hearts so that the hearts lay flat on the wax paper.
  5. Remove tape once finished.

I like to remind children and caregivers that there is no right or wrong when making these suncatchers. You can cover the wax paper with hearts or only paint one on. Something else to mention is that overlapping the hearts plays with shape like the illustrations in My Heart Is Like a Zoo. It also lends for an opportunity to dabble in color theory. What happens if you place a yellow heart over a blue? A blue over a red? Or a red over a yellow?

What books or projects do you hold close to your heart?

Check out similar books about hearts and shapes:

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IMG_2347Rebecca Zarazan Dunn is a Youth Services Librarian Assistant for the Lawrence Public Library, and was recently named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker for 2013.  When she’s not at the library or running after her 3-year old daughter, she is most often found at her blog home, Sturdy for Common Things, where she writes about books, library programs, and living the simple life in Lawrence, Kansas.

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