Meet Little Amal, the 12-Foot Puppet of a 10-Year-Old Syrian Girl, Who Has Been Touring the World

Lit­tle Amal is a 10-year-old Syr­i­an girl from a small vil­lage near Alep­po, a refugee and unac­com­pa­nied minor, who’s trav­eled over 9,000 kilo­me­ters over the last 15 months, hop­ing to reunite with her moth­er.

Lit­tle Amal is also a 12-foot tall rod pup­pet, oper­at­ed by three per­form­ers — one on stilts inside her mold­ed cane tor­so, to oper­ate her head, face and legs, with two more tak­ing charge of her hands.

As her cre­ators, Hand­spring Pup­pet Com­pa­ny co-founders Adri­an Kohler and Basil Jones, explain above, Amal’s pup­peteers must enter a group mind state when inter­act­ing with the crowds who turn out to meet her at free, com­mu­ni­ty-cre­at­ed events:

If the per­son inside on the stilts decides to turn left, the oth­er two have to respond imme­di­ate­ly as the arms would, so they all think the same thought.

Amal, who trav­els with three times as many pup­peteers as are required for any giv­en appear­ance and two back up ver­sions of her­self in case of mal­func­tion, is tru­ly a mir­a­cle of non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

As a child who doesn’t speak the lan­guage of the coun­tries she has vis­it­ed, she express­es her­self with ges­tures, and seem­ing­ly invol­un­tary micro-move­ments.

She bows gra­cious­ly in both greet­ing and farewell, tak­ing extra time to touch hands with lit­tle chil­dren.

She swivels her head, eager­ly, if a bit appre­hen­sive­ly, tak­ing in her sur­round­ings.

Her lips part in won­der, reveal­ing a row of pearly teeth.

Her big, expres­sive eyes are oper­at­ed by the per­former on stilts, using a track­pad on a tiny com­put­er.

The light­weight rib­bons that make up her long hair, pulled none too tidi­ly away from her face with a flop­py bow, catch the breeze as she tow­ers above her well wish­ers.

After stops in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzer­land, Ger­many, Bel­gium, France and the UK, Lit­tle Amal land­ed in New York City, where mem­bers of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera Orches­tra and Children’s Cho­rus ser­e­nad­ed her with Evening Song from Philip Glass’ opera Satya­gra­ha as she passed through John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tion­al Air­port.

The New York Times’ Matt Stevens described the scene as Amal came into view:

As her head peeked out from above met­al bar­ri­ers, Lit­tle Amal widened her eyes as she took in the arrivals ter­mi­nal at Kennedy Inter­na­tion­al Air­port on Wednes­day. She looked left, then right, clutch­ing her big green suit­case with its rain­bow and sun stick­ers. She was, as new­com­ers to New York City so often are, a lit­tle ner­vous, and a lit­tle lost…(she) appeared trans­fixed by the music — much like the many trav­el­ers strolling by with their suit­cas­es appeared trans­fixed by the 12-foot-tall pup­pet sud­den­ly tow­er­ing before them. Still, she was trep­i­da­tious, a tad reluc­tant to approach the orches­tra. At least, that is, until a cho­rus mem­ber — a girl wear­ing a sun­flower yel­low shirt — went up to her and took her by the hand.

With 50 events in 20 days, Lit­tle Amal had a packed sched­ule that includ­ed a nigh­t­ime vis­it to Jane’s Carousel in Brook­lyn Bridge Park and an ear­ly morn­ing trip along Coney Island’s board­walk. Unlike most first time vis­i­tors, she spent time in Queens, Stat­en Island and The Bronx.

A New Orleans style sec­ond line pro­ces­sion­al escort­ed her a lit­tle over a dozen blocks, from Lin­coln Cen­ter, where she inter­act­ed with dancers and per­for­mance artist Machine Daz­zle, to the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, above.

New York’s immi­grant his­to­ry was evi­dent in Lit­tle Amal’s tour of the Low­er East Side and Chi­na­town, with stops at the Ten­e­ment Muse­um and the Clemente Soto Vélez Cul­tur­al & Edu­ca­tion­al Cen­ter.

With every appear­ance, Amal’s incred­i­bly life­like move­ments and dig­ni­fied reserved turned adults as well as chil­dren turned into believ­ers, while bring­ing atten­tion to the tens of thou­sands of chil­dren who have fled war and per­se­cu­tion in their home coun­tries.

See pho­tos and read more about Lit­tle Amal’s past and future trav­els here.

Down­load a free Lit­tle Amal activ­i­ty and edu­ca­tion pack here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Jim Hen­son Teach­es You How to Make Pup­pets in Vin­tage Primer From 1969

The Hand Pup­pets That Bauhaus Artist Paul Klee Made for His Young Son

Albert Ein­stein Hold­ing an Albert Ein­stein Pup­pet (Cir­ca 1931)

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Enter an Archive of 7,000 Historical Children’s Books, All Digitized & Free to Read Online

5 Little PIgs

We can learn much about how a his­tor­i­cal peri­od viewed the abil­i­ties of its chil­dren by study­ing its chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Occu­py­ing a space some­where between the pure­ly didac­tic and the non­sen­si­cal, most children’s books pub­lished in the past few hun­dred years have attempt­ed to find a line between the two poles, seek­ing a bal­ance between enter­tain­ment and instruc­tion. How­ev­er, that line seems to move clos­er to one pole or anoth­er depend­ing on the pre­vail­ing cul­tur­al sen­ti­ments of the time. And the very fact that children’s books were hard­ly pub­lished at all before the ear­ly 18th cen­tu­ry tells us a lot about when and how mod­ern ideas of child­hood as a sep­a­rate cat­e­go­ry of exis­tence began.


“By the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry,” writes New­cas­tle Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor M.O. Gren­by, “children’s lit­er­a­ture was a flour­ish­ing, sep­a­rate and secure part of the pub­lish­ing indus­try in Britain.” The trend accel­er­at­ed rapid­ly and has nev­er ceased—children’s and young adult books now dri­ve sales in pub­lish­ing (with 80% of YA books bought by grown-ups for them­selves).

Gren­by notes that “the rea­sons for this sud­den rise of children’s lit­er­a­ture” and its rapid expan­sion into a boom­ing mar­ket by the ear­ly 1800s “have nev­er been ful­ly explained.” We are free to spec­u­late about the social and ped­a­gog­i­cal winds that pushed this his­tor­i­cal change.

Afloat with Nelson

Or we might do so, at least, by exam­in­ing the children’s lit­er­a­ture of the Vic­to­ri­an era, per­haps the most inno­v­a­tive and diverse peri­od for children’s lit­er­a­ture thus far by the stan­dards of the time. And we can do so most thor­ough­ly by sur­vey­ing the thou­sands of mid- to late 19th cen­tu­ry titles at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Florida’s Bald­win Library of His­tor­i­cal Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Their dig­i­tized col­lec­tion cur­rent­ly holds over 7,000 books free to read online from cov­er to cov­er, allow­ing you to get a sense of what adults in Britain and the U.S. want­ed chil­dren to know and believe.

Zig Zag

Sev­er­al gen­res flour­ished at the time: reli­gious instruc­tion, nat­u­ral­ly, but also lan­guage and spelling books, fairy tales, codes of con­duct, and, espe­cial­ly, adven­ture stories—pre-Hardy Boys and Nan­cy Drew exam­ples of what we would call young adult fic­tion, these pub­lished prin­ci­pal­ly for boys. Adven­ture sto­ries offered a (very colo­nial­ist) view of the wide world; in series like the Boston-pub­lished Zig Zag and Eng­lish books like Afloat with Nel­son, both from the 1890s, fact min­gled with fic­tion, nat­ur­al his­to­ry and sci­ence with bat­tle and trav­el accounts. But there is anoth­er dis­tinc­tive strain in the children’s lit­er­a­ture of the time, one which to us—but not nec­es­sar­i­ly to the Victorians—would seem con­trary to the impe­ri­al­ist young adult nov­el.

Bible Picture Book

For most Vic­to­ri­an stu­dents and read­ers, poet­ry was a dai­ly part of life, and it was a cen­tral instruc­tion­al and sto­ry­telling form in children’s lit. The A.L.O.E.’s Bible Pic­ture Book from 1871, above, presents “Sto­ries from the Life of Our Lord in Verse,” writ­ten “sim­ply for the Lord’s lambs, rhymes more read­i­ly than prose attract­ing the atten­tion of chil­dren, and fas­ten­ing them­selves on their mem­o­ries.” Chil­dren and adults reg­u­lar­ly mem­o­rized poet­ry, after all. Yet after the explo­sion in children’s pub­lish­ing the for­mer read­ers were often giv­en infe­ri­or exam­ples of it. The author of the Bible Pic­ture Book admits as much, beg­ging the indul­gence of old­er read­ers in the pref­ace for “defects in my work,” giv­en that “the vers­es were made for the pic­tures, not the pic­tures for the vers­es.”

Elfin Rhymes

This is not an author, or per­haps a type of lit­er­a­ture, one might sus­pect, that thinks high­ly of children’s aes­thet­ic sen­si­bil­i­ties.  We find pre­cise­ly the oppo­site to be the case in the won­der­ful Elfin Rhymes from 1900, writ­ten by the mys­te­ri­ous “Nor­man” with “40 draw­ings by Car­ton Moorepark.” Who­ev­er “Nor­man” may be (or why his one-word name appears in quo­ta­tion marks), he gives his read­ers poems that might be mis­tak­en at first glance for unpub­lished Christi­na Ros­set­ti vers­es; and Mr. Moorepark’s illus­tra­tions rival those of the finest book illus­tra­tors of the time, pre­sag­ing the high qual­i­ty of Calde­cott Medal-win­ning books of lat­er decades. Elfin Rhymes seems like a rare odd­i­ty, like­ly pub­lished in a small print run; the care and atten­tion of its lay­out and design shows a very high opin­ion of its read­ers’ imag­i­na­tive capa­bil­i­ties.

Elfin Rhymes 2

This title is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of an emerg­ing genre of late Vic­to­ri­an children’s lit­er­a­ture, which still tend­ed on the whole, as it does now, to fall into the trite and for­mu­la­ic. Elfin Rhymes sits astride the fan­ta­sy boom at the turn of the cen­tu­ry, her­ald­ed by huge­ly pop­u­lar books like Frank L. Baum’s Wiz­ard of Oz series and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. These, the Har­ry Pot­ters of their day, made mil­lions of young peo­ple pas­sion­ate read­ers of mod­ern fairy tales, rep­re­sent­ing a slide even fur­ther away from the once quite nar­row, “remorse­less­ly instruc­tion­al… or deeply pious” cat­e­gories avail­able in ear­ly writ­ing for chil­dren, as Gren­by points out.

All Around the Moon

Where the bound­aries for kids’ lit­er­a­ture had once been nar­row­ly fixed by Latin gram­mar books and Pilgrim’s Progress, by the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry, the influ­ence of sci­ence fic­tion like Jules Verne’s, and of pop­u­lar super­nat­ur­al tales and poems, pre­pared the ground for com­ic books, YA dystopias, magi­cian fic­tion, and dozens of oth­er children’s lit­er­a­ture gen­res we now take for grant­ed, or—in increas­ing­ly large numbers—we buy to read for our­selves. Enter the Bald­win Library of His­tor­i­cal Children’s Lit­er­a­ture here, where you can browse sev­er­al cat­e­gories, search for sub­jects, authors, titles, etc, see full-screen, zoomable images of book cov­ers, down­load XML ver­sions, and read all of the over 7,000 books in the col­lec­tion with com­fort­able read­er views. Find more clas­sics in our col­lec­tion, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The First Children’s Pic­ture Book, 1658’s Orbis Sen­su­al­i­um Pic­tus

The Anti-Slav­ery Alpha­bet: 1846 Book Teach­es Kids the ABCs of Slavery’s Evils

The Inter­na­tion­al Children’s Dig­i­tal Library Offers Free eBooks for Kids in Over 40 Lan­guages

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Dolly Parton Reads Free Bedtime Stories to Kids: Watch Readings from Goodnight with Dolly

How­ev­er old you may be, you’re nev­er too old to have a chil­dren’s book read aloud to you by a paja­ma clad Dol­ly Par­ton.

So snug­gle up!

Every episode of Good­night with Dol­ly finds the coun­try music icon in bed, glam­orous­ly made up as ever, read­ing glass­es perched on her nose.

She intro­duces her­self not as Dol­ly Par­ton, but the Book Lady, an hon­orif­ic bestowed by the child ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Imag­i­na­tion Library, the non-prof­it she found­ed in 1995 to fos­ter children’s love of books and read­ing.

The selec­tions are all titles that Imag­i­na­tion Library par­tic­i­pants have received free in the mail, with the Book Lady’s com­pli­ments.

Once things get rolling, the cam­era shifts to the illus­tra­tions, with Dol­ly’s zesty nar­ra­tion as voice over.

She low­ers her voice to play Grand­pa in the late Floyd Cooper’s Max and the Tag-Along Moon and the freight train in the 90th anniver­sary edi­tion of Wat­ty Piper’s The Lit­tle Engine That Could.

If her dra­mat­ic recita­tions occa­sion­al­ly include a bun­gled prepo­si­tion, we can’t imag­ine authors tak­ing umbrage.

In addi­tion to the mil­lions of chil­dren who ben­e­fit from Imag­i­na­tion Library mem­ber­ship, authors and illus­tra­tors whose titles select­ed for inclu­sion reap incred­i­ble rewards in the form of increased vis­i­bil­i­ty, sales, sta­tus, and of course, the good feel­ing that comes from being part of such a wor­thy project.

And we sin­cere­ly hope even the prick­li­est gram­mar stick­lers won’t blow a gas­ket over the odd “ain’t” and region­alisms born of Dolly’s East Ten­nessee moun­tain roots. In addi­tion to com­ing from an authen­tic place, they’re deliv­ered with a lot of heart and zero affect.

Though a word of cau­tion to par­ents plan­ning to let Dol­ly take over tonight: the series may be billed as bed­time sto­ries, but Parton’s mis­chie­vous sense of humor is liable to have a non-soporif­ic effect.

“Are you still awake?” she crows direct­ly into the cam­era after There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bot­tom of the Lake, author-illus­tra­tor Loren Long’s crowd pleas­ing com­ic spin on the cumu­la­tive camp song sta­ple. “I want to throw you in a lake if you don’t get in bed!”

The Book Lady is also fond of shar­ing a high ener­gy snip­pet of what­ev­er song the evening’s tale has put her in mind of.

Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Mar­ket Street, with award win­ning illus­tra­tions by Chris­t­ian Robin­son, inspires a few lines from Poor Folks Town, from 1972.

Come on down

Have a look around

Rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

We got no mon­ey but we’re rich in love

That’s one thing that we’ve got a‑plenty of

So come on down have a look around

At rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

(“If that won’t put you to sleep, I don’t know what will,” she teas­es, after.)

After Dol­ly bids her lis­ten­ers good­night, the book’s author or illus­tra­tor is usu­al­ly giv­en a chance to have a word with the par­ents or care­givers, to stress how read­ing aloud deep­ens famil­ial bonds and share child­hood mem­o­ries of being read to.

De la Peña, whose book fea­tures a grand­moth­er point­ing out the sort of non-mon­e­tary rich­es Dol­ly’s moth­er also val­ued, takes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to thank the self-effac­ing star’s efforts to “reach work­ing class com­mu­ni­ties” — pre­sum­ably through rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as well as books intend­ed to cul­ti­vate a life­long love of read­ing.

Enjoy a playlist of Good­night with Dol­ly episodes here.

Learn more about the Imag­i­na­tion Library here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Dol­ly Parton’s Imag­i­na­tion Library Has Giv­en Away 186 Mil­lion Free Books to Kids, Boost­ing Lit­er­a­cy World­wide

Dol­ly Parton’s “Jolene” Slowed Down to 33RPM Sounds Great and Takes on New, Unex­pect­ed Mean­ings

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


A Brief History of Dumplings: An Animated Introduction

Dumplings are so deli­cious and so ven­er­a­ble, it’s under­stand­able why more than one coun­try would want to claim author­ship.

As cul­tur­al food his­to­ri­an Miran­da Brown dis­cov­ers in her TED-Ed ani­ma­tion, dumplings are among the arti­facts found in ancient tombs in west­ern Chi­na, rock hard, but still rec­og­niz­able.

Schol­ar Shu Xi sang their prais­es over 1,700 years ago in a poem detail­ing their ingre­di­ents and prepa­ra­tion. He also indi­cat­ed that the dish was not native to Chi­na.

Lamb stuffed dumplings fla­vored with gar­lic, yogurt, and herbs were an Ottoman Empire treat, cir­ca 1300 CE.

The 13th-cen­tu­ry Mon­gol inva­sions of Korea result­ed in mass casu­al­ties , but the sil­ver lin­ing is, they gave the world man­doo.

The Japan­ese Army’s bru­tal occu­pa­tion of Chi­na dur­ing World War II gave them a taste for dumplings that led to the cre­ation of gyoza.

East­ern Euro­pean pel­menipiero­gi and vareni­ki may seem like vari­a­tions on a theme to the unini­ti­at­ed, but don’t expect a Ukrain­ian or Russ­ian to view it that way.

Is the his­to­ry of dumplings real­ly just a series of bloody con­flicts, punc­tu­at­ed by peri­ods of rel­a­tive har­mo­ny where­in every­one argues over the best dumplings in NYC?

Brown takes some mild pot­shots at cuisines whose dumplings are clos­er to dough balls than “plump pock­ets of per­fec­tion”, but she also knows her audi­ence and wise­ly steers clear of any posi­tions that might lead to play­ground fights.

Relax, kids, how­ev­er your grand­ma makes dumplings, she’s doing it right.

It’s hard to imag­ine sushi mas­ter Naomichi Yasu­da dial­ing his opin­ions down to pre­serve the sta­tus quo.

A purist — and favorite of Antho­ny Bour­dain — Chef Yasu­da is unwa­ver­ing in his con­vic­tions that there is one right way, and many wrong ways to eat and pre­pare sushi.

He’s far from prig­gish, instruct­ing cus­tomer Joseph George, for VICE Asia MUNCHIES in the prop­er han­dling of a sim­ple piece of sushi after it’s been light­ly dipped, fish side down, in soy sauce:

Don’t shake it. Don’t shake it! Shak­ing is just to be fin­ished at the men’s room.

Oth­er take­aways for sushi bar din­ers:

  • Use fin­gers rather than chop­sticks when eat­ing maki rolls.
  • Eat­ing pick­led gin­ger with sushi is “very much bad man­ners”
  • Roll sushi on its side before pick­ing it up with chop­sticks to facil­i­tate dip­ping
  • The tem­per­a­ture inter­play between rice and fish is so del­i­cate that your expe­ri­ence of it will dif­fer depend­ing on whether a wait­er brings it to you at a table or the chef hands it to you across the counter as soon as it’s assem­bled.

Explore TED-Ed’s Brief His­to­ry of Dumplings les­son here.

For a deep­er dumpling dive, read the Oxford Symposium’s Wrapped and Stuffed Foods: Pro­ceed­ings on the Sym­po­sium: Foods and Cook­ery, 2012, avail­able as a free Google Book.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Japan­ese Restau­rants Show You How to Make Tra­di­tion­al Dish­es in Med­i­ta­tive Videos: Soba, Tem­pu­ra, Udon & More

How to Make Sushi: Free Video Lessons from a Mas­ter Sushi Chef

How the Aston­ish­ing Sushi Scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Was Ani­mat­ed: A Time-Lapse of the Month-Long Shoot

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the author of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Julia Child Shows Fred Rogers How to Make a Quick & Delicious Pasta Dish (1974)

Julia Child and Fred Rogers were titans of pub­lic tele­vi­sion, cel­e­brat­ed for their nat­ur­al warmth, the ease with which they deliv­ered impor­tant lessons to home view­ers, and, for a cer­tain sec­tor of the view­ing pub­lic, how read­i­ly their per­son­al­i­ties lent them­self to par­o­dy.

Child’s cook­ing pro­gram, The French Chef, debuted in 1963, and Roger’s much beloved children’s show, Mis­ter Rogers Neigh­bor­hood, fol­lowed five years lat­er.

Rogers occa­sion­al­ly invit­ed accom­plished celebri­ties to join him for seg­ments where­in they demon­strat­ed their par­tic­u­lar tal­ents:

With our guest’s help, I have been able to show a wide diver­si­ty of self-expres­sion, the extra­or­di­nary range of human poten­tial. I want chil­dren and their fam­i­lies to know that there are many con­struc­tive ways to express who they are and how they feel. 

In 1974, Child paid a call to the neigh­bor­hood bak­ery presided over by “Chef” Don Brock­ett  (whose lat­er cred­its includ­ed a cameo as a “Friend­ly Psy­chopath” in Silence of the Lambs…)

The easy-to-pre­pare pas­ta dish she teach­es Rogers — and, by exten­sion, his “tele­vi­sion friend” — to make takes a sur­pris­ing­ly opti­mistic view of the aver­age pre-school palate.

Red sauce gets a hard pass, in favor of a more sophis­ti­cat­ed blend of fla­vors stem­ming from tuna, black olives, and pimen­tos.

Brock­ett pro­vides an assist with both the cook­ing and, more impor­tant­ly, the child safe­ty rules that aren’t always front and cen­ter with this celebri­ty guest.

Child, who had no off­spring, comes off as a high-spir­it­ed, loosey-goosey, fun aunt, encour­ag­ing child view­ers to toss the cooked spaghet­ti “fair­ly high” after adding but­ter and oil “because it’s dra­mat­ic” and talk­ing as if they’ll be hit­ting the super­mar­ket solo, a flat­ter­ing notion to any tot whose refrain is “I do it mySELF!”

She wise­ly reframes tasks assigned to big­ger, more expe­ri­enced hand — boil­ing water, knife work — as less excit­ing than “the fan­cy busi­ness at the end”, and makes it stick by sug­gest­ing that the kids “order the grown ups to do what you want done,” a verb choice the ever-respect­ful Rogers like­ly would have avoid­ed.

As with The French Chef, her off-the-cuff remarks are a major source of delight.

Watch­ing his guest wipe a wood­en cut­ting board with olive oil, Rogers observes that some of his friends “could do this very well,” to which she replies:

It’s also good for your hands ‘coz it keeps ‘em nice and soft, so rub any excess into your hands.

She shares a bit of stage set scut­tle­butt regard­ing a let­ter from “some woman” who com­plained that the off-cam­era waste­bas­ket made it appear that Child was dis­card­ing peels and stems onto the floor.

She said, “Do you think this is a nice way to show young peo­ple how to cook, to throw things on the floor!?” And I said, “Well, I have a self clean­ing floor! …The self clean­ing is me.”

(Rogers appears both amused and relieved when the ulti­mate punch­line steers things back to the realm of good man­ners and per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty.)

Trans­fer­ring the slip­pery pre-cooked noo­dles from pot to serv­ing bowl, Child rem­i­nisces about a won­der­ful old movie in which some­one — “Char­lie Chap­lin or was it, I guess it was, uh, it wasn’t Mick­ey Rooney, maybe it was…” — eats spaghet­ti through a fun­nel.

If only the Inter­net had exist­ed in 1974 so intrigued par­ents could have Googled their way to the Noo­dle Break at the Bull Pup Cafe sequence from 1918’s The Cook, star­ring Roscoe “Fat­ty” Arbuck­le and Buster Keaton!

The fun­nel is but one of many inspired silent spaghet­ti gags in this sure­fire don’t‑try-this-at-home kid-pleas­er.

We learn that Child named her dish Spaghet­ti Mar­co Polo in a nod to a wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed the­o­ry that pas­ta orig­i­nat­ed in Chi­na and was intro­duced to Italy by the explor­er, a bit of lore food writer Tori Avey of The His­to­ry Kitchen finds dif­fi­cult to swal­low:

A com­mon belief about pas­ta is that it was brought to Italy from Chi­na by Mar­co Polo dur­ing the 13th cen­tu­ry. In his book, The Trav­els of Mar­co Polo, there is a pas­sage that briefly men­tions his intro­duc­tion to a plant that pro­duced flour (pos­si­bly a bread­fruit tree). The Chi­nese used this plant to cre­ate a meal sim­i­lar to bar­ley flour. The bar­ley-like meal Polo men­tioned was used to make sev­er­al pas­ta-like dish­es, includ­ing one described as lagana (lasagna). Since Polo’s orig­i­nal text no longer exists, the book relies heav­i­ly on retellings by var­i­ous authors and experts. This, com­bined with the fact that pas­ta was already gain­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty in oth­er areas of Italy dur­ing the 13th-cen­tu­ry, makes it very unlike­ly that Mar­co Polo was the first to intro­duce pas­ta to Italy.

Ah well.

We’re glad Child went with the Chi­na the­o­ry as it pro­vides an excuse to eat spaghet­ti with chop­sticks.

Noth­ing is more day-mak­ing than see­ing Julia Child pop a small bun­dle of spaghet­ti direct­ly into Fred Rogers’ mouth from the tips of her chopsticks…though after using the same imple­ments to feed some to Chef Brock­ett too, she real­izes that this wasn’t the best les­son in food hygiene.

In 2021, this sort of boo-boo would result in an auto­mat­ic reshoot.

In the wilder, wooli­er 70s, a more press­ing con­cern, at least as far as pub­lic tele­vi­sion was con­cerned, was expand­ing lit­tle Amer­i­cans’ world­view, in part by show­ing them how to get a com­mand­ing grip on their chop­sticks. It’s nev­er too late to learn.

Bon appétit!


There are a num­ber of vari­a­tions online, but this recipe, from, hews close­ly to Child’s orig­i­nal, while pro­vid­ing mea­sure­ments for her eye­balled amounts.

Serves 4–6


1 lb spaghet­ti 

2 table­spoons but­ter 

2 table­spoons olive oil 

1 tea­spoon salt black pep­per 

1 6‑ounce can tuna packed in oil, flaked, undrained 

2 table­spoons pimien­to, diced or 2 table­spoons roast­ed red pep­pers, sliced into strips 

2 table­spoons green onions with tops, sliced 

2 table­spoons black olives, sliced 

2 table­spoons wal­nuts, chopped

1 cup Swiss cheese, shred­ded 

2 table­spoons fresh pars­ley or 2 table­spoons cilantro, chopped

Cook pas­ta accord­ing to pack­age direc­tions. 

Drain pas­ta and return to pot, stir­ring in but­ter, olive oil, and salt and pep­per. 

Toss with remain­ing ingre­di­ents and serve, gar­nished with pars­ley or cilantro.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Julia Child Shows David Let­ter­man How to Cook Meat with a Blow Torch

Watch Antho­ny Bourdain’s First Food-and-Trav­el Series A Cook’s Tour Free Online (2002–03)

Tast­ing His­to­ry: A Hit YouTube Series Shows How to Cook the Foods of Ancient Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, and Oth­er Places & Peri­ods

Sci­ence & Cook­ing: Harvard’s Free Course on Mak­ing Cakes, Pael­la & Oth­er Deli­cious Food

MIT Teach­es You How to Speak Ital­ian & Cook Ital­ian Food All at Once (Free Online Course)


- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Draw Along with Beloved Cartoonist & Educator Lynda Barry: Free Drawing Exercises Online

How do you res­cue a day that’s gone pear shaped?

Stop­ping to drink a glass of water is one of our long­time go tos.

If there’s a box of match­es handy, we might per­form Yoko Ono’s Light­ning Piece.

Most recent­ly, we’ve tak­en to grab­bing some paper and a trusty black felt tip to spend a few min­utes doing one of beloved car­toon­ist and edu­ca­tor Lyn­da Bar­ry’s all-ages draw-alongs.

Bar­ry began upload­ing these videos ear­ly in the pan­dem­ic, for “friends at home who are about to turn four or five or six or sev­en or any age real­ly.”

Each demon­stra­tion begins with an oval. There’s no pro­logue. Just dive on in and copy the motions of Barry’s slow mov­ing, refresh­ing­ly unman­i­cured hands, cap­tured in a DIY god shot.

Less than four min­utes lat­er, voila! A smil­ing croc­o­dile! (It’s mag­i­cal how a facial expres­sion can be changed with one sim­ple line.)

The sound­tracks to these lit­tle nar­ra­tion-free exer­cis­es are an extra treat. We’ve always admired Barry’s musi­cal taste. It’s a real mood boost­er to cov­er a chee­tah in spots to the tune of a marim­ba orches­tra.

Barry’s also a big cumbia fan, con­jur­ing a kit­ty to Lito Bar­ri­en­tos’ Cumbia En Do Menor, a lion to Los Mir­los’ Cumbia de los Pajar­i­tos, and a Stegosaurus to Romu­lo Caicedo’s Cumbia Cavela.

Now that you’ve got a chee­tah under your belt, you’re ready to progress to a Scor­pi­onLeop­ard, one of Draw Along with Lyn­da B’s “strange ani­mals.”

Bar­ry does offer some com­men­tary as these cryp­tids take shape.

We sus­pect her pio­neer­ing work with a group of four-year-olds in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wisconsin’s Draw Bridge pro­gram leads her to antic­i­pate the sorts of burn­ing ques­tions a pre-school­er might have with regard to these beasts. Her class­room expe­ri­ence is evi­dent. Where­as oth­ers might think a steady stream of bright chat­ter is nec­es­sary to keep very young par­tic­i­pants engaged, Bar­ry’s thought­ful words devel­op in real time along with her draw­ing:

This is a tough ani­mal. It has a big stinger on the back. This is a rough ani­mal… angry.  Put the eye­brows like this. It makes them look angry. What kind of teeth do you think this ani­mal has? I don’t think they have lit­tle bit­ty teeth. I think they have big fangs.

Oth­ers in the “strange ani­mal” fam­i­ly: a Cat­DogSeal­Fish, an octo­phant, and a cat­ter­fly (fea­tur­ing a cameo by Barry’s inquis­i­tive pooch’s snout.)

Draw along with Lyn­da Bar­ry on this YouTube playlist.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Lyn­da Bar­ry on How the Smart­phone Is Endan­ger­ing Three Ingre­di­ents of Cre­ativ­i­ty: Lone­li­ness, Uncer­tain­ty & Bore­dom

Watch Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Barry’s Two-Hour Draw­ing Work­shop

Lyn­da Barry’s Won­der­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed Syl­labus & Home­work Assign­ments from Her UW-Madi­son Class, “The Unthink­able Mind”

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Google App Uses Machine Learning to Discover Your Pet’s Look Alike in 10,000 Classic Works of Art

Does your cat fan­cy her­self a 21st-cen­tu­ry incar­na­tion of Bastet, the Egypt­ian God­dess of the Ris­ing Sun, pro­tec­tor of the house­hold, aka The Lady of Slaugh­ter?

If so, you should def­i­nite­ly per­mit her to down­load the Google Arts & Cul­ture app on your phone to take a self­ie using the Pet Por­traits fea­ture.

Remem­ber all the fun you had back in 2018 when the Art Self­ie fea­ture mis­took you for William II, Prince of Orange or the woman in “Jacob Cor­nelisz. van Oost­sa­nen Paint­ing a Por­trait of His Wife”?

Sure­ly your pet will be just as excit­ed to let a machine-learn­ing algo­rithm trawl tens of thou­sands of art­works from Google Arts & Culture’s part­ner­ing muse­ums’ col­lec­tions, look­ing for dop­pel­gängers.

Or maybe it’ll just view it as one more exam­ple of human fol­ly, if a far less­er evil than our predilec­tion for pet cos­tumes.

Should your pet wish to know more about the art­works it resem­bles, you can tap the results to explore them in depth.

Dogs, fish, birds, rep­tiles, hors­es, and rab­bits can play along too, though any­one hail­ing from the rodent fam­i­ly will find them­selves shut out.

Mash­able reports that “upload­ing a stock image of a mouse returned draw­ings of wolves.”

We can’t blame your pet snake for fum­ing.

Dit­to your Viet­namese Pot-bel­lied pig.

Though your pet fer­ret prob­a­bly doesn’t need an app (or a crys­tal ball) to know what its result would be. Bet­ter than an ermine col­lar, any­way…

If your pet is game and falls with­in Pet Por­traits approved species para­me­ters, here are the steps to fol­low:

  1. Launch the Google Arts & Cul­ture app and select the Cam­era but­ton. Scroll to the Pet Por­traits option.
  2. Have your pet take a self­ie. (Or alter­na­tive­ly, upload a saved image.)
  3. Give the app a few sec­onds (or min­utes) to return mul­ti­ple results with sim­i­lar­i­ty per­cent­ages.

Down­load the Google Arts & Cul­ture app here.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Google’s Free App Ana­lyzes Your Self­ie and Then Finds Your Dop­pel­ganger in Muse­um Por­traits

Con­struct Your Own Bayeux Tapes­try with This Free Online App

A Gallery of 1,800 Gigapix­el Images of Clas­sic Paint­ings: See Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Ear­ring, Van Gogh’s Star­ry Night & Oth­er Mas­ter­pieces in Close Detail

Tate Kids Presents Introductions to Art Movements: Cubism, Impressionism, Surrealism & More

Tate Kids has a sol­id grasp on the sort of hands on art-relat­ed con­tent that appeals to chil­dren — Make a mud paint­ing! Make a spaghet­ti sculp­ture! Pho­to fil­ter chal­lenge!

Chil­dren of all ages, grown ups who skipped out on art his­to­ry includ­ed, will ben­e­fit from their break­neck overviews of entire art move­ments.

Take cubism.

The Tate Kids’ ani­ma­tion, above, pro­vides a sol­id if speedy overview, zip­ping through eight can­vas­es, six artists, and expla­na­tions of the move­men­t’s two phas­es — ana­lyt­i­cal and syn­thet­ic. (Three phas­es if you count Orphism, the abstract, cubist influ­enced paint­ing style mar­ried artists Robert and Sonia Delau­nay hatched around 1912.)

Giv­en the intend­ed audi­ence, the fond friend­ship between the fathers of cubism, Georges Braque and Pablo Picas­so looms large, with nary a peep about Picasso’s nar­cis­sism and misog­y­ny. And it must be said that the narrator’s tone grates a bit — a bit too loud, a bit too wowed.

The Impres­sion­ists come off as the real cool kids, with a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tor, and nifty col­lage ani­ma­tions that find Camille Pis­sar­ro throw­ing horns and a Mohawked Alfred Sis­ley as they reject the Salon’s insis­tence on “myths, bat­tles and paint­ings of impor­tant peo­ple.”

Their defi­ant spir­it is sup­port­ed by crit­i­cism that most def­i­nite­ly has not stood the test of time:

Pure evil! 


Like a mon­key has got hold of a box of paints!

Kid pre­sen­ters seize the con­trols for an intro­duc­tion to the mid-cen­tu­ry Japan­ese avant-garde move­ment, Gutai.

Their con­clu­sion?

Smash­ing things up is fun!

As are man­i­festos:

Let’s bid farewell to the hoax­es piled up on the altars and in the palaces, the draw­ing rooms and the antique shops…Lock up these corpses in the grave­yard!


Those who are poor­ly equipped to stom­ach the nar­ra­tors’ whizbang enthu­si­asm should take a restora­tive min­utes to vis­it the muse­um oranges in hand, with 12-year-old Jae­da and 9‑year-old Fati­matu. Their calm will­ing­ness to engage with con­cep­tu­al art is a ton­ic:

When I start­ed art, I though art was just about mak­ing it per­fect, but you don’t have to care what oth­er peo­ple say. That could still mean an art to you.

Watch a Tate Kids Art Move­ments playlist on YouTube. Sup­ple­ment what you’ve learned with a host of Tate Kids activ­i­ties, col­or­ing pages, games, quizzes, artist bios and a gallery of crowd­sourced kid art.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Tate Dig­i­tizes 70,000 Works of Art: Pho­tos, Sketch­books, Let­ters & More

Watch the Tate Mod­ern Restore Mark Rothko’s Van­dal­ized Paint­ing, Black on Maroon: 18 Months of Work Con­densed Into 17 Min­utes

A 110-Year-Old Book Illus­trat­ed with Pho­tos of Kit­tens & Cats Taught Kids How to Read

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.