The next day after school Howie arrived on the Quimby doorstep with two sets of tin-can stilts. “I made them!” he announced, proud of his work. “And Willa Jean wanted some, so I made her a pair out of tuna cans so she wouldn’t have far to fall.”
“I knew you could do it!” Ramona, who had already changed to her playclothes, stepped onto the cans and pulled the twin loops up tight before she took a cautious step, lifting a can as she lifted her foot. First the left foot, then the right foot. Clank, clank. They worked! Howie clanked along beside her. They clanked carefully down the driveway to the sidewalk, where Ramona tried to pick up speed, forgot to lift a can at the same time she lifted her foot, and, as Mrs. Swink had recalled, fell off her stilts. She caught herself before she tumbled to the sidewalk and climbed back on.
Clank, clank. Clank, clank. Ramona found deep satisfaction in making so much noise, and so did Howie. Mrs. Swink, turning into her driveway in her dignified old sedan, smiled and waved. In a moment or daring, Ramona yelled, “Pieface!” at her.
“Pieface yourself!” Mrs. Swink called back understanding Ramona’s joke.
–from Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
Oh, Beverly Cleary, how you have enriched our lives. Henrik and I are on our second run through Beverly Cleary’s Henry, Ramona and Ralph series books. I wrote about our love of Beverly Cleary’s books here. A few months ago I discovered that the Multnomah County Library stocks the books on CDs of all these great Beverly Cleary stories. I think we have about six of them checked out right now. Henrik has reached an amazing developmental milestone because while listening to a story on a CD in the living room, I can actually accomplish small projects. Even when we are not listening to the stories, we are still in their presence as Henrik quotes paragraph after paragraph verbatim.
Beverly Cleary’s stories are heartwarming and so entertaining and they have infused themselves in so many ways. Henrik loved the tin can stilt story. I always think it is great to learn about kid’s toys that dominated before TV became the dominant form of childhood entertainment. So, we were very lucky when Rob stumbled upon some 2 lb cans of Muir Glen tomatoes at were being opened for “pizza day” at his school last year. He immediately thought of tin can stilts. He was even luckier that his classroom assistant, Millie, is an amazing artist and that she agreed to decorate the exterior of the cans for Henrik. Rob attached the old bicycle tubes as handles.
Henrik now has a set of beautifully decorated and wildly entertaining tin can stilts.
The learning curve wasn’t too steep, though this tumble did require some reshaping of one of the cans.
Henrik mastered the grass quickly and then moved out to the sidewalk. He also sings “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” while playing with the stilts just like Ramona and Howie.
If you can procure a pair of large cans and are looking for a simple craft that will offer “deep satisfaction” for your child, make a pair of tin can stilts and enjoy the “clank, clank”, and maybe a song too, on your sidewalk.