Return of the Katie

return-of-the-katieAfter a year of globe-trotting and fine chocolate, Katie is back! You might recall last year’s story time post about royal pizza. At the end of the post, I introduced Katie’s interim replacement, Miss Marissa. Here’s Katie passing along the crafting crown:

crowning marissa

So where did Katie go? Everywhere. Her husband was on sabbatical in Brussels, and the whole family went with him to experience the wonders of Europe. But if you’ve been following our Instagram, you’ll see that Pop Goes the Page was never far from Katie’s mind. Cue the music…it’s time for a photo montage!


Statue of King Leopold II, Brussels


Steen Castle, Antwerp


Fountains, Luxembourg City


White chalk cliffs in Etretat, France


Snaefellsjokull National Park, Iceland


Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, France


Eiffel Tower, France


London Bridge, England


The Matterhorn, Switzerland


Brandenburg Gate, Berlin


Limestone rock formations off the Algarve coast, Portugal


Mozart Memorial in Vienna, Austria


The Colosseum, Rome


Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris


Venice, Italy


Krka National Park, Croatia


Hans Christian Andersen statue, Copenhagen


Spis Castle, Slovakia


Flower carpet in the Grand Place, Brussels


Luggage packed, Brussels


The journey ends in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

What was your favorite travel destination?

I have to choose just one? I would have to go with Iceland. The unrivaled beauty of the island is amazing. Everywhere we went, we stopped to take a million photographs or more. There is unique landscape to behold, friendly people to meet, delicious food to eat, and rich history to learn. Something about that place touched a deep spot in my wanderlust soul and I must go back. My husband and son wholeheartedly agree.

What did you miss about the States?

My family and friends. It was very hard to be that far away. And peanut butter. We found peanut pate in Brussels, but it did not taste at all like good ‘ol fashioned American peanut butter.

What do you miss most about Europe?

I miss being able to jump on a train and be in a different country within a few hours. It was incredible to suggest going to Paris or Luxembourg City or Amsterdam for a quick weekend trip and just being able to go. I also loved the convenience of living in the city and not needing a car to go about my daily business. We had everything we needed within a five block radius of our apartment: our son’s school, several grocery markets, a bakery, a meat and cheese shop, a pharmacy, many retail stores, a movie theatre, and dozens of great restaurants. It was such a freeing feeling to not have to drive a car everywhere and that I really miss. When I returned to Princeton after not driving for nearly a year, I was dizzy from all of the crazy traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike!

Do you have any awesome travel hints?

Skip the preplanned tours (if possible) and explore on your own. It may require you to step out of your comfort zone, but you could end up in places you never knew existed. One of the last trips we took before coming back to the States, we went to Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic with little planned other than to explore the towns where my husband’s ancestors lived. We ended up stopping one night in an old walled city in Slovakia that dates back to the 13th century, and the next day we explored nearby Spis Castle. We hadn’t at all expected to spend a day pretending to be knights in an enormous castle, but it was well worth the unexpected detour.

If Dr. Dana could guilt trip you about your glorious year of travel while she remained confined to the States, what would be the most effective angle for her to take?

Hmmm, she could demand I deliver more Belgian chocolate, which I’m happy to do. And she doesn’t even need to share.

So Katie has returned to the library, and got back into the swing of things immediately. Here she is testing out a new photo backdrop whilst wearing a Charmander onesie. Yup. Just another day at the office.

katie-as-charmanderIn the spirit of full disclosure, I too was wearing a Pokémon onesie. It was very comfy.


Now that Katie has returned, must we say goodbye to Miss Marissa? Nope! She’s staying on while simultaneously working on her library degree. So you’ll be seeing both Katie and Marissa on the blog from here on out. Aw yeah.


350 for 50

350 for 50 typewriter popWe are delighted to announce the winners of our annual 350 for 50 writing contest! This year, we challenged young writers from 3 different age categories to pen a 350-word story that included the sentence “It unfurled slowly, then settled.” The prize? Publication, of course, and a $50 shopping spree at Labyrinth Books, Princeton’s local bookstore! Warmest congratulations to this year’s winners.

Creepy Night_artwork by Aliisa LeeCreepy Night

Rachel Glantzberg, age 9

The old man peered at his clock. It read 11:54 PM. The wind howled through a small crack in the window. He saw a swarm of bats glide across the bright full moon. A loud groan escaped his mouth. Oh the pain he had! His back was badly injured after the horrible fall he took yesterday in the garden.

This old man had such extensive pain, he pushed himself up with his thin, aching bones while reaching for his cane to take an extra dose of medicine. Finally out of bed, he waddled to the living room.

Suddenly, he heard a strange noise. No, it wasn’t the wind. It was, it was… he didn’t exactly know what it was. With mysterious thoughts in his mind, the man continued on his journey to take an extra pill. As he reached for the window pane to gain some desperately needed balance, he caught sight of his newly planted rose bush.

What only 24 hours ago was a lifeless, dormant collection of clenched buds appeared to be awakening. Or was it? Suddenly from the middle of the bush a single red rose began to rise. One inch. Two inches. Then three and four. Before long it was a full foot above the rest. Then it just stopped. It unfurled slowly, then settled.

The old man was so astounded he forgot all about his aches and pains. He dropped his cane as he scurried back to his bedroom. Quickly shutting the door behind him he jumped back into his bed. He didn’t sleep a wink that night. He just laid there counting the minutes ‘til daylight.

Word_artwork by Aliisa LeeWord
By Grant Weingaertner, age 11

“Stop playing video games. You’re going to go blind!” shouts Mom. “Do something productive. You have to enter the Picture Book Press 350 for 50 contest this year. It has to include the sentence, ‘it unfurled slowly, then settled’.”

“NOOOOOOO!” I shout.How am I supposed to think of something for that sentence and make it interesting? After a week I haven’t thought of anything. Maybe Mom forgot about it. Now it is spring break and I’m playing Pokémon on my 3DS.

“You can’t spend your spring break playing video games. Your thumbs will fall off.”
I pace around worried that I can’t think of anything. But being the forgetful person that I am, I start to play Pokémon again. I catch a Shuckle, a Noibat, a Skrelp, and a Metagross.

“You have to practice your piano and then write your story.”

This is horrid! Now, not only do I have to write but also I have to practice piano. I sulk to the piano and flail around on the keyboard.

Mom shouts, “Now write.”

Slinking over to the desk, I flop on the chair and lay down my head. Suddenly, an idea hits me. Why haven’t I thought of this before? I smile and type furiously. My story is about me trying to figure out what to write about. I’m typing so fast, my laptop might burst into flame.

Soon, I am bored.

I wander off and pace around for a while, and then I am drawn to my 3DS like a moth to a flame. I crushed the Elite Four with my Xerneas. I am declared the league champion. This is psychedelic!

Oops, Mom is walking past. I’m supposed to be writing. I hurry back to my laptop.
I finally reach the present in my story and I have run out of material. Maybe I should check the rules. It says “Stories must be no longer than 350 words.” Man! 350 words! That’s a lot for me. How many words do I have left? I check the word count.

I have 351! Guess I have to delete a…

Corrupted_artword by Aliisa LeeCORRUPTED
By Rennie DiLorenzo, age 13

Space. In the old days, everyone thought that there were lots of galaxies, full of wonder and hope. But being the patrol in the small quadrant of Aster-Delta 6, I found that looking at a galaxy for hours on end really doesn’t fill you with excitement. Or anything close to that. Instead, you begin to question your existence and the existence of others.

On my small, four-roomed ship (plus cockpit) called “Determination,” the most fun activity was releasing the air lock. Or playing Merio – a virtual-reality game. But seriously, after awhile, beating Browser again and again gets boring quickly. This is a lonely job.

One day, in the middle of one of my “questioning life and existence” sessions, my monitor
showed me that there was an incoming ship. The ship was small and Class 5, which was good because only Class 3 and up were allowed to dock here. My ship is a class 5.5c. I messaged him and said “What is your business in this zone?” The response I got sent chills down my spine: “CORRUPTED.”

This never happens. This would take an insane amount of damage/hacking to get this message typed. To put this in perspective, you would need a whole country of hackers on that ship to create half of the letter “c.” This message had only been managed once by a crew of 2 trillion and a space ship made from three small planets. The craft I was looking at couldn’t fit two people.

I stumbled and slapped myself to see if this was some cruel nightmare. It was not. I
messaged again: “WHAT?!” The response came from the snake like blaster hose at the top of the ship. It unfurled slowly then settled. Another message: “ CORRUPTED.”

I started shaking. I tried to contact Aster-6 headquarters. The message I got back terrified me to the bone: “CORRUPTED.” For the first time, I was truly alone. The blaster on the ship was charging up.

There was a blinding light and then sudden and utter darkness.

Artwork by Aliisa Lee

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