Tutorial: Dust Jacket Puzzles

So, am I the only one who doesn’t get why they put dust jackets on children’s books? They seem pretty pointless, generally, but especially on books intended for toddlers. Unsurprisingly, I have a sizable collection of dust jackets that Silas has pulled off of the book, stepped on, crumpled, and mangled. I feel bad just throwing them out, though. He likes the cover illustrations, because he adores the books and the characters. I decided to come up with a way for him to interact with them more positively.

I should note that this is partly inspired by a tutorial I saw on how to make a magnetic puzzle out of a book cover or other illustration. I opted not to do it that way because I had all the materials for the way I show below on hand, and also because Silas isn’t so great yet at picking magnets off of a flat surface, especially if they’re the thin kind of magnet that that project creates. The concept of a jigsaw puzzle is very new for him; I didn’t want to further magnify the frustration potential of this activity.

So, I started with the following materials:

A dust jacket

part of an old Borax box

Modpodge

I think practically any scrap cardboard would work here–I’m going to try using a cereal box for my next attempt. But the Borax box was really a nice weight. Also, in place of Mod Podge, you could probably use just plain white glue–anything that dries clear should work.

Anyway, world’s simplest tutorial:

  1. I put a layer of glue on the cardboard. 
  2. I trimmed the cover to just the main image and set it on the glue, pressing out the air bubbles. 
  3. I added a layer of Mod Podge on top, to seal it. This was probably unnecessary, but it might offer some protection from a destructive toddler. 
  4. I left it to dry overnight.
  5. I used some scissors to cut it into five pieces. I chose not to do interlocking pieces (again, first real puzzle, didn’t want to make it frustrating). If I had made them interlock, I might have gone all fancy and gotten out the Xacto knife and self-healing mat.
  6. I gave it to the test lab.

In my next iteration, here’s what I’m going to do differently:

  1. Not be a lazy bum. Actually get out the Xacto and the mat and cut it so that the picture has a frame. As you can see in the picture above, my husband is holding the pieces in place, because Silas got really frustrated when they shifted.
  2. Try fewer pieces (maybe with a smaller image). Many dust jackets, including the one that I’m doing next (from Owl at Home), have, in addition to the cover image, smaller images on the flaps or back. I’m going to take one of these and make it into a little three-piece puzzle, which I think will be more manageable.

Overall, though, I think this was a success. We talked about using the picture as a clue, and, after only three tries, Silas said that he wanted to start the puzzle by “Make Hen kiss Little Bear!” and then found the piece with the bottom section of Little Bear’s body and added that. The other two pieces are harder, probably because they’re mostly text and he just doesn’t always know what upside-down text looks like. Tomorrow, I’m going to pull out the actual Little Bear book that we have  so that he can practice using a reference picture to solve a puzzle.

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