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While away an afternoon with 'Miss Hickory' crafts

Each fall while walking among brilliant yellow leaves of the hickory trees and watching squirrels snatch fists full of nuts, I am reminded of the nature fantasy "Miss Hickory," by Carolyn S. Bailey.

With a little imagination, children can relive the story among the hickory trees in your neighborhood.

November is the ideal time to read "Miss Hickory." The story opens in the season of autumn as Miss Hickory, a country doll with a hickory nut head and apple twig body, prepares for a New Hampshire winter. The adventures of Miss Hickory and her wildlife neighbors - Squirrel, Crow, Bull Frog, Ground Hog and Mr. T. Willard-Brown - take place outdoors from fall to spring.

The author's keen descriptions allow children to visualize and recreate the world of Miss Hickory. Many of the natural objects in the story are underfoot in backyards, school yards and woodlands. Excerpts from the Newberry Award-winning book prompt the craft projects outlined below.

MISS HICKORY DOLLS

"Her head ... was a hickory nut ... with an especially sharp and pointed nose. Her eyes and mouth were inked on. Her body was an applewood twig formed like a body. ... She wore a blue-and-white checked gingham dress."

Materials needed: hickory nuts, felt-tip markers, assorted twigs, pressed fall leaves, hot glue gun, fabric glue, carpenter's glue, gingham fabric, scissors, pieces of bark, moss or lichen.

Directions:

- Children draw facial features on the nut using felt-tip markers.

- Glue nut onto twig's neck to form the doll.

- Use fabric or carpenter's glue to attach dry pressed leaf skirt or gingham fabric dress to twig body.

- Glue small pieces of bark to tips of the feet for shoes.

- Glue moss or lichen cap onto doll's head.

- With a roomful of dolls, children can retell the sequence of the story, re-enact Miss Hickory's conversations with her friends or introduce Miss Hickory to their outdoor world.

CORNCOB HOUSE

"Miss Hickory's house was made of corncobs, notched, neatly fitted together and glued."

Materials: dry corn cobs, hot glue gun, nails, wire, plywood, balsa and natural roof shingles.

Directions:

- After defining the dimensions of the corncob house to accommodate Miss Hickory and sizing the cobs, glue the cobs together, strengthening them with nails and wire.

- Children can find suitable natural scraps such as bark, pine cone scales or flat pods for roof shingles to glue onto a balsa platform.

- Display the house atop a plywood base.

MISS HICKORY'S DISHES

"Her acorn cup and saucer, neatly washed, stood on a shelf above the stove."

Materials: Variety of acorns with caps, Mod Podge, paintbrushes

Directions:

- On walks in the school yard, backyard and woods, collect acorns from a variety of oak trees.

- Clean acorns with a damp sponge to remove surface dirt and dry thoroughly.

- Brush a thin layer of Mod Podge on the surface of the caps and nuts to give a ceramic shine.

- Children should arrange Miss Hickory's dishes for different social events pertaining to the story - for example, a doll's tea time, a Thanksgiving dinner or a Ladies' Aid Quilting Bee.

QUILTING

"A bright quilt of patched sumac leaves was ready for pleasant dreams."

Materials: a variety of colorful fall leaves, newspapers or telephone books, laminating contact paper or film, craft glue, scissors.

Directions:

- Press leaves between newspaper or telephone book pages, applying pressure. Paper may need to be changed several times to dry leaves thoroughly.

- Arrange dry leaves overlapping each other in the shape of a bed quilt for Miss Hickory.

- Use craft glue to attach overlapping leaves to each other.

- When glue is completely dry, laminate the leaf quilt and cut with scissors to reshape.

- Display individual quilts on bulletin board or refrigerator or group together to form one large autumn leaf quilt.

- Individual quilts may be hung on windows as sun-catchers or used as place mats or doilies.

If a hickory nut and an apple twig became the delightful world of Miss Hickory, what connections will your children create from observing the wonders of nature?

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