You are forgiven if you draw a complete blank on seeing the word “flibber.” Constructed out of newspaper and resembling a crazy cross between a drum major’s baton, a pompom and a palm tree, it’s the title project of the 1964 children’s book “How to Make Flibbers, Etc.: A Book of Things to Make and Do” by the author and illustrator Robert Lopshire.
A colleague of Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) at Beginner Books, the children’s imprint, Mr. Lopshire is best remembered for “Put Me in the Zoo,” starring a polka-dot creature that’s itself a wacky amalgam — part man, part bear, part chameleon, part who-knows-what. But Mr. Lopshire, a pilot and model airplane hobbyist, also had a passion for building things with his hands. His thoroughly delightful “How to Make Flibbers, Etc.” (now sadly out of print) shows kids how to make not only a Flibber, but 29 other inventive gizmos including a Humdinger, a Sweet Pete and a Clompy Clown, all using common household objects. Mr. Lopshire even followed up “Flibbers” with a second compilation, “How to Make Snop Snappers and Other Fine Things.”
But his Flibber is the standout. Who knew that such an object of extravagant whimsy could be created so quickly, using kindergarten-level skills and not even scissors or tape? Children instinctively grasp the Flibber’s multifarious uses: Impromptu parades, dress-up tails and low-risk, one-on-one combat are just the start. Meanwhile, more than one adult Flibber maker swears it is excellent for getting her dog off the sofa.
At any rate, that moment when you unfurl the Flibber in all its flappy glory? Pure magic.
What You’ll Need:
3 pieces of newspaper
Spread the pages of newspaper on the floor in a row left to right, with the left edge of the second and third pages overlapping the previous ones by a few inches.
Starting from the first page (on the left), roll all the pages into one single tube. Aim for the diameter of a paper towel tube or a little wider.
Tear one end of the tube about six inches, right down the middle. (You can use scissors instead of ripping the paper.)
Flatten out the tube and make another rip (or cut) of the same length right down the middle, so that the end of your tube is now divided into four quarters.
While holding the unripped end of the roll, use your free hand to pinch one of the inner flaps of cut paper. Carefully pull up and out.
Keep pulling slowly until your Flibber is fully grown.
Optional: Seal the unripped end with tape to make a sturdy handle.