Friday, December 9, 2011

Tutorial for Making a Betsy-Tacy Activity Book

This year for Christmas, I made my nine-year-old sister a Betsy-Tacy activity book. Since this blog is for all things Betsy-Tacy (and Tib!), I thought it might be fun to share a tutorial of how I made it. I was thinking about linking to a PDF of the book, but I want to protect the copyright of these images. The good news is that you can make your own! As long as you don't sell it or start mass-producing them, I'm pretty sure that it still respects the copyright (correct me if I am wrong).

First, I scanned a bunch of images from the books. They needed a little post-scanning editing work but it was easy enough that even I could do it. I cropped and rotated the images and then used the BW Threshold setting in Photoscape (or you could use Photoshop, or most other photo editing programs. It's a very basic setting) to make sure there was a clear contrast; I didn't want them to be grayscale. (I hope that explanation makes sense. I'm not very computer savvy and I was able to figure it out. But it's easier to show than explain.)

I then arranged the images in a Word document, shrinking the margins to fit them in better. I made the pictures as big as I could without running into the margins. I also made simple cover. I actually opened two windows in Word--one for vertical and one for horizontal, as I wanted both layouts in the book.

Next, print the pages and arrange them in order (I put the pictures from the first book first, etc.). Most of the pictures I used were from the first four books (Lois Lenski's drawings), because I think those would be better for coloring. However, I did include some of Vera Neville's illustrations, because I thought my sister might like coloring some of the dresses and hairstyles in those.

I just noticed recently that the paper here is called the Free Press (the name
of the real Mankato newspaper) instead of The Deep Valley Sun, which it is
known as in all subsequent books.
It would have been fun to add quotes and titles to each page but I decided to
keep it simple.

I divided the two sections with some great activity pages I found on the Betsy-Tacy Society website. They also have a few coloring pages that you can download and print (in case you don't want to scan your own). In my book, I included the word search, the personality quiz, and the crossword puzzle. You can find links to downloads for all of those pages (and more!) here. (There is some really fun stuff on the site: ideas for a Betsy-Tacy book club, games, a page for how to have a birthday like Betsy, make your own journal, etc.)

Kudos to the people who made these. What a great idea!!!
The finished book is 30 pages.
My sister has only read the first four books, but I thought she would enjoy
coloring some of the later illustrations, too.

I used a binding machine to put all of the pages together, but you could just hole punch them and put it in a small three-ring binder, or even a folder. If you would like to bind it but don't have access to a machine, you may wish to check at your office supply store (like Staples or Office Depot) to see if they do binding. Many of them do.

This picture shows the plastic overlay on the cover.
This is the back cover, also with plastic. Under the patterned paper is a piece
of cardboard.

To protect the covers I put a sheet of plastic on both ends. I also placed a piece of cardboard on the back to reinforce it. Over the cardboard I put a sheet of patterned paper to make it look a little prettier (my mom's idea).

Tada! The finished book!

This was a really simple and easy thing to make (although it might sound complicated), and I think my sister will really enjoy it. She loves to color!

While I was making this I couldn't help but think how fun a real published activity book like this would be (with a lot more pages, obviously). I know for the American Girl franchise they have several of this type of activity book (my sister has a few and really enjoys them). There are a lot of possibilities--period games, recipes, and pastimes that young kids could do...but also things like word searches, quizzes, and maybe even stickers, punch outs, etc. I think it would be really fun, and a great way to enrich the reading experience for young fans. Hmm... In the meantime, however, you can make this activity book!


  1. I want one for ME. But I would share with my daughter!

  2. I know! I admit to thinking it would be pretty fun to color one of these myself. :D

  3. Thank you! It was fun to make. :)

  4. I love this idea! I designed a Betsy Tacy lapbook (also called a folderbook -- a series of mini folded or cut out paper books assembled into a folder). The file to make one is available here:

    I used to have pictures on my blog of it...but sadly my hubby did not renew our web hosting and we didn't get it transferred anywhere free so I think that blog is no more!

  5. Oh, wow, what a great idea! Thank you for sharing that. I've never heard of lapbooks before, and I'm having kind of a hard time picturing how it all goes together. I love all the prompts, info, and background, though!

  6. I remembered I have pics of the finished product up on photobucket -

    My daughter and I assembled it together when she was six. I had read the first two books to her. She helped with cutting out the mini books, drawing pictures and deciding what we were going to write inside, and I did most of the writing since she didn't know how to spell most of the things she wanted to say. :-)

    I showed her the pictures of your activity book, and she wants me to make one for her now (she's seven and a half now, and has read the first four books on her own now, more than once I think!)

  7. I love this...I seriously want to make one for myself :) Maybe 26 year olds don't usually need activity books, but this one does!

  8. Do you know what would be wonderful?? If you posted the Illustrations that you scanned so people could download them! You did such an excellent job on editing them. I'm simply inlove with this blog... I love all things Betsy~Tacy. ...and Tib!
    Lovely job!

  9. Thank you for the compliments. :) I would love to share the images, but since I don't own the rights I'm not sure if I can do that...

  10. I discovered this blog yesterday and thought your coloring book was a such a cute idea! Thoughtful gifts like these are so charming and meaningful. I'm a young student and a longtime, enormous Betsy-Tacy fan, and coloring is one of the ways I wind down and relieve stress. I purchased the Kindle versions as soon as they were released, and now I read them on my iPad. When I saw this, I went into my iPad and found that I could click on the illustrations and they "pop out" in a white background (although the background was already white), and I could adjust the size to my liking. Generally I found, smaller = sharper, so I'm curious as to how you got such large, crisp images. Any particular program you used?

    Anyway, then I took screenshots, transferred the images to my computer, and although I haven't done this yet, am sure they will print out nicely on paper without any editing. I've never met anyone in real life who loves these books, and recently found out via Internet that there exists a pretty considerable fan base! :)

  11. That's a great idea to use coloring to relieve stress. I'm trying to remember what I did for these images. I think I just scanned and cropped them, and adjust the brightness and contrast--nothing too fancy. I probably scanned them to a pretty high resolution (this was a year ago so I'm not exact on just what that was), and I think that resulted in the large, clearer images. There are also a few coloring pages that you can download on the B-T website (

    I remember how excited I was when I found out there were other people who also loved these books. We're so lucky to have them recently reprinted! Have you heard of the Maud-L Listserv? It's a web network of fans. It's quite extensive and members' posts come through the email. It just finished the annual holiday B-T themed gift exchange, and right now we are in the middle of a group read of all the books. Members also post about other stuff, but lots of people just tune in occasionally. You can find more about how to join that here:

    Thank you for the nice comment!

  12. Thanks so much for the tips! I'll definitely be looking into it :D

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