Under the microscope

Under the microscope
Elementary school librarian and columnist Jean Gillette if she were an amoeba.


In my first year as an elementary school librarian, the time came for the annual book fair. Some determined PTA volunteer handed me a red, curly wig and a dress patterned in stars and planets and said, firmly, “Here. Wear this. You get to be Ms. Frizzle for the book fair!”And so I did. You’d be amazed the response you get just by slapping on a red wig. I never had to courage to get up on stage, but this was the next best thing, and I was hooked.

Every year since, about 16 of them, the annual book fair has had a theme and I have cobbled together a related costume. I can’t remember most of them, but a few favorites include an ice queen, a full-body dog suit that I borrowed, a shark, a jungle explorer, a bee, a bug, a clown, a pirate, an alien, a cowgirl and Waldo of “Where’s” fame. It has been hilarious fun. There is no audience like 5- to 11-year-olds – and their wonderful parents. They are always enthusiastic, fascinated and ready to laugh out loud.

Many of them are astounded that I will spray my hair green or white or whatever. For me it’s not a big deal. It washes right out, but they applaud my silliness as if I had shaved my head. The kids adore it if I paint up my face with color and glitter, which I will do at the drop of a hat. It all satisfies a mildly frustrated artist deep within in me, and it beats the heck out of getting a tattoo.

That same low-talent artist loves to hit the yardage store, break out her hot glue gun and stick together a costume. I am the queen of quick and dirty. No fine seams or elegant presentation. I go for high humor and am big on the silly side.

The best example might be this very year’s fair just past. The theme was “Story Laboratory.” The décor was test tubes, lab coats, “Read-ioactive” Zones and such. I decided to be an amoeba or something you might see under a microscope, forgetting that most K through sixth-graders have not yet looked through microscopes.

I cut green vinyl into two wiggly, shapeless pieces and glued them together, leaving head and armholes. I decorated it with a nucleus and various vacuoles made of felt. I spotted my face and sprayed my hair to match and ta-da. Let the fun begin.

The majority of little ones thought I was green eggs and ham. After I stopped laughing, I figured that was book-related enough to be acceptable. I then launched into an explanation of an amoeba, which made their eyes glaze over. I decided to opt for a germ. That got their attention. A sprinkling of others guessed I was a booger (close enough to a germ) and vomit, which was visually pretty accurate. I couldn’t fault any of them and it kept my laughing all week.

The book fair was a grand success, although I doubt my amoeba outfit sold any books. It did, I think, add to the party atmosphere and convey my excitement about all things written and educational.

It’s quite enough to inspire me again next year and I’m stocked up on glue sticks.


Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who may have been a well-read court jester in a former life. Contact her at jgillette@coastnewsgroup.com



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