The BiblioFiles Presents: Norton Juster

Norton Juster photo courtesy of Random House

Author photo courtesy of Random House

Just posted! It’s our first BiblioFiles webcast in front of a live audience, and our guest is Norton Juster, author of the legendary book, The Phantom Tollbooth.

Milo is a boy who doesn’t know what to do with himself, isn’t interested in much, and doesn’t see the point in anything. But when a mysterious package containing a toy tollbooth arrives in his room, everything changes.

Past the tollbooth are the Lands Beyond, which house places like Dictionopolis, the Valley of Sound, the Doldrums, Digitopolis, and the Mountains of Ignorance. Milo is soon joined by a pair of unusual travel companions, Tock and Humbug, as he attempts to bring Princesses Rhyme and Reason back to settle the warring kingdoms of Words and Numbers.

First published in 1961, The Phantom Tollbooth is wacky, smart, odd, fun, strange, and completely captivating. It is often compared to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in terms of its intelligence, word play, and impact on children’s literature. Now, in over 50 years of publication, The Phantom Tollbooth, with its iconic illustrations by Jules Feiffer, has been analyzed in scholarly papers, quoted in dissertations, included in graduate classes, documented on film, read aloud in elementary school classrooms, passed along through generations of families, and newly discovered by young readers. It is, and will always be, a seminal book in the history of children’s literature.

In addition to The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster has written The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, Alberic The Wise and Other Journeys, As: A Surfeit of Similies, The Hello, Goodbye Window, Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie, The Odious Ogre, and Neville. In 2011, The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, with introduction and notes by scholar Leonard Marcus, was released.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview

If You Build It…

house 3 glass roomThis winter, we had a couple of intense snow storms. Whenever it snows, my program attendance drops dramatically. And yet, there are always a couple of hard core patrons who don their snow pants and brave the drifts to come to story time. This causes a bit of a conundrum. You see, some of my projects involve quite a bit of prep work (a-hem! I’m looking at you candy factory and you haunted house). So the program is prepped and ready for over 20 kids. If I do it with just 3 kids, that’s a lot of prep work going by the wayside…so…

A few years ago, I decided that if fewer than 5 kids came to a snowy story time, the previously-prepped project would be bumped to the following week, and I would offer an unplanned, off-the-cuff creative project instead.

The project I’d like to share today is inspired by the fantastic If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen (Dial Books, 2012). The story is about Jack, a boy with big ideas for building his dream house. There’s a robotic machine that whips up meals, a bedroom at the top of a 200 foot tower, a anti-gravity room, a race track room, an aquarium room…the sky is the limit!

First, the kids and I made “blueprints.” I replicated the look with blue construction paper and silver metallic markers.

blueprintAs the kids drew their houses, I rummaged through the office for boxes, tubes, cardboard, items left over from other projects, and interesting odds and ends (including, of course, the Bling Bin). Then, out came the tape, glue, scissors, markers, and hot glue and off went the little architects, putting together 3D models of their blueprints.

house 1This house’s base is a box with a clear lid (leftover from this light box project). The architect turned it into a subterranean pond with fish! Perhaps this is our next Frank Lloyd Wright?

house 1 pond floorThe next architect went for wide and stacked, with multiple boxes for multiple rooms. I like the ladder to the second floor!

house 2She also forayed into interior design. That polka-dot couch is made out of patterned paper, pink and yellow cottons balls, and an Altoid tin!

house 2 interiorThe final house’s blueprint appeared to have a tree, a squiggle of water, and antenna. I was curious to see how the model would develop, and I was not disappointed.

house 3LOVE the fountain! And I’m not sure if you noticed that the “glass” room at the top has multi-color portholes made out of tape rolls with cellophane panes?

house 3 glass roomIf you don’t have an art cabinet to quickly rummage through, or you want to do this with a large group of kids, you could always go with Option #2. Collect a bunch of recyclables and stick them on a table. Then ask the kids to draw their blueprints from the items they see on the table (just make sure you have multiples of each item for each kid to use).

Or, you could do Option #3. Give each kid the same basic “set” of object (ex: a cake pad for a base, a tissue box, a paper towel tube, a cone water cup, and 3 squares of poster board) to build the basic structure, then have other art supplies handy to fancy it up. I promise, the results will be unique!

A Hidden Gem

index cIf you happen to be on Greene Street, on New York University’s campus, on just the right day, you might notice a parade of strollers and eager children piling into an inconspicuous brown brick building. There, on the 5th floor, is a beautiful little gem of a children’s library – the Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature.

index 2dThe library honors author, scholar, and late NYU Steinhardt professor Constantine Georgiou (you might recognize one of his books, The Clock, from this story time post). It houses, and continues to grow, Georgiou’s children’s literature collection, and is the home to NYU’s Clinical Literacy Practicum, which offers intensive tutoring for grade 1 through high school.

The library also offers community story times, programs, learning initiatives, innovative collaborations, and panel discussion (check out this one with Kwame Alexander!), which are developed, coordinated, and oft delivered by, super librarian Kendra Tyson.

image 2 copy aKendra offers three weekly infant and toddler morning story times. Twice weekly, she heads offsite to local schools to lead emergent literacy programs. Additionally, she hosts student field observations for the Office of Clinical Studies, facilitates events with the Office of Community Affairs, leads professional development workshops, and guest lectures in Teaching & Learning courses at NYU. She’s a busy, busy woman.

On a side note (but I have to mention it because it is so awesome) Kendra is launching a collaborative read-aloud program with historic homes, beginning with Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt’s family home in Long Island. She’s hoping that the pilot program, which merges picture book biographies with objects in the historic home setting, will be the ultimate primary source experience. As I said, awesome.

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The last time I was in New York City, I stopped by the Constantine Georgiou Library to snap a few pictures of this beautiful, charming space.

a hidden gemThough it has no windows to the exterior of the building, the room’s high ceilings, ample overhead lighting, and fresh natural and green colors give the little library a feeling of space and light. And check out those big, green, belly-flopping ottomans. Don’t they look like speech bubbles?

Running the length of two walls are rows and rows of book shelves. On some, the book are divided into sections of special interest.

shapes and math sectionsOn others, there stacked next to cute little flourishes and kid-friendly props. I especially like this little Egyptian statue with a sepia-tinted world map.

shelf decorThere’s also a section of flat shelves that allow you to display the books by cover. I would love some of these in my library! Nothing says “pick me up!” more than a colorful book cover!

display shelvesThe lower shelves of the library hold the board books, which are stored in clear bins for easy browsing.

board book binsAnd not too far away from the books are Kendra’s puppets, resting up for their next story time performance.

library puppetsAround the library, kid-size tables (and a few adult ones) are scattered, each holding toys to grab, or books to read!

library table 1library table 2

OK, this next photo’s not exactly glamorous, but the practical part of me loved it. The underside of a counter being used for extra chair storage. No ugly stacks of chairs threatening to topple on toddlers here!

under counter storageI’m a sucker for cute mobiles (as documented in this post). This airy geometric mobile offered the perfect pop of color in the corner.

library mobileJust outside the main door to the library is an open space for stroller parking, and wooden risers for larger performances or group visitors.

lobby of libraryHere’s a closer shot of the front entryway…

windowDon’t you love the built-in window that doubles as an exhibit space?

window exhibitI know New Yorkers have to do clever things with limited space, and this little one-room library is the perfect example of how to be big, spacious, fun, and fresh in a small space. They don’t mind getting messy either! Here’s a shot of a Jackson Pollock-style drip painting program complete with acrylic paints, canvases, paintbrushes, and ping pong balls (as well as read alouds of The Dot (Candlewick, 2003), and Action Jackson (Square Fish, 2007)).

IMG_9261 dThe Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature is open Monday-Thursdays, 9:00-4:00, and Fridays, 9:00-2:00. If you’re in the area, definitely go for a visit!

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Program images courtesy of the Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature.