`YOU don't look too happy, Winnie," Mom said. I didn't know if I should tell. She stopped chopping an onion and looked at me.
"Remember how everybody on the block played baseball together last summer? Girls and boys both?" I asked.
"Yeah," she answered.
"Remember when I got the home run, and they called me 'Winnie Woman?' "
"Well, now they won't let me in their teepee."
"Who won't let you in their teepee?"
"Eddie and French Fry and Matthew and Tucker built an awesome teepee out of poles and blankets in front of Eddie's house. They said, 'No girls allowed.' "
Mom didn't say anything for a couple minutes. Then she started quoting poetry.
He drew a circle that shut me out.
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout,
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
I hate it when she quotes poetry. "What does that mean?" I asked.
"It means you call Amanda and ask her if she wants to build a fort, an awesome fort. Then when the boys come around asking to see it, you say `sure.' "
"I say sure?!"
Amanda was all for building a fort. Her mom even had a big box from their new stereo we could start with. And I remembered our neighbors had just bought a new washer, so I asked them for the carton.
Mom drove us to the market for more boxes. We bought a fat roll of duct tape, a bottle of glue, some string, and colored markers. Then we built the best fort the neighborhood had ever seen.
Mom was right about one thing. The boys did come around to look at our fort.
"Where'd you get this?" Tucker asked.
"We built it," I answered.
Nobody asked to come in. They just walked around the outside. I thought about what Mom had said, about drawing circles that took him in.
"You can come in," I said.
Amanda opened the front lookout window. "You have to come in Fort WinnieAmanda through the secret passageway," she said.
French Fry was the first. He poked in his head, then crawled through to the secret passageway. When he reached the inside of the fort he said, "Hey, Cool!"
That did it. The others crawled in after him. We had a great time together. The next day the boys let Amanda and me inside their teepee. They said we could play in it if they could share the fort. It was a good deal for the whole neighborhood. Pull Up a Carton And Build a Fort
Here's how to make Fort WinnieAmanda:
1. All good architects and builders get permission before they begin construction. Even vacant lots and empty boxes belong to someone. So there's one rule of thumb for this whole project: Check with an adult before you start.
Collect as many cardboard boxes as you can, but make sure nobody needs them for storage or moving. Sort all your boxes according to size and sturdiness. While you're sorting, remove any staples from the open ends of the boxes. Staples can be sharp, so use a screwdriver to pry them out. Throw the staples into the trash.
2. In one side of your largest box, cut a front door. Make sure you leave at least two inches between the door and the edges of the box for sturdiness. You can cut with a large pair of scissors (difficult if the cardboard is thick), or a knife or small handsaw. Cut cardboard with a back-and-forth sawing motion. Whatever tool you use, ask a grown-up to give you a hand. It's important that tools are handled safely: Don't fool around with them or leave them on the ground where someone could step on them.
Leave one side of the door uncut. Fold along the uncut side to make a hinge so your door can swing open and closed.
3. Find your next-largest box, which will be used for the first section of your "secret passageway." Cut openings into two opposite
sides of this box. Make sure you leave 2 inches along the sides of these openings, too. Remove the cut-out "flaps."
4. Place this "passageway" box next to the entrance box. Use a pencil to draw an outline of the passage opening onto the side of the entrance box. Cut along your pencil line and remove the flap.
5. Tape the entrance and passageway boxes together along all the edges where they meet. Silver duct tape works the best, but masking tape will do the trick, too. Be sure the openings line up.
6. Set aside one large box to use as an exit into your fort. Then with each of the other large boxes, cut openings into two opposite sides as you did in step 3 above. Line these boxes up next to each other and tape them together as in step 5 above. You can make your fort U-shaped, or S-shaped, really any shape you want. It might end up looking very different from the picture of finished Fort WinnieAmanda. You can add towers by stacking boxes on top of each other and then gluing them.
7. Using the box you set aside, cut openings in two adjacent sides to make an exit into your fort.
8. A small box fixed to the top of the entrance box can be used for a lookout window. To make a window cut an opening similar to the front door, with one side intact. You can make a handle for your window or front door with a piece of string. Poke two holes into the window flap about six inches apart. Thread string through the two holes and knot the ends together on the inside.
9. Once your fort is built, you can leave it plain or use your imagination to decorate it. Paints, markers, or crayons can make the outside colorful. You can draw pictures or add polka dots and stripes. A flag or two (made from a triangular piece of paper taped to a stick) might look nice on the towers.
10. Before you move in, have an adult check that your fort is safe and sturdy. THE TOOLS
Knife or small handsaw: A bread knife is best for cutting cardboard.
Note: Get an adult to help before using any of these! THE MATERIALS
Cardboard boxes: Markets and small stores are a good source. You'll need several boxes.
Tape: Masking or duct tape is best.
String or yarn
Paint, colored markers, or crayons EXTRA READING FOR FORT BUILDERS
Need some helpful hints? Here are some books to read:
Secret Spaces, Imaginary Places:
Creating Your Own Worlds for Play
by Elin McCoy
MacMillan Publishing Co.
Teepee and Moccasin
Indian Craft for Young People
by Liz Albrectsen
Ban Nostrand Reinhold Co. Inc.
The Kid's Fort Book
by David Stiles
Avon Camelot Books
Handmade Secret Hiding Places
by Nonny Hogrogian
'Kidspace is a place on The Home Forum pages where kids can find stories that will tickle imaginations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, always on a Tuesday.