jared aldwin crooksQ: In a previous post, you mentioned creative programs & projects students have done in the past for your library…can you share some of them?

A: We’d love to! Over the years, we have worked with so many incredibly talented students at Princeton University. From developing in-person community events, to designing exhibits, to headlining blog posts, to working with our young visitors – the students’ energy, ideas, enthusiasm, and dedication is always next level. Need a gang of literary villains? Trying to find the perfect recipe for Pumpkin Pasties? Would you like Alice to read you a chapter from her adventures in Wonderland? Want to learn about cloud science? How about a Rube Goldberg machine? Or perhaps Gandalf can lead you on a quest? Here’s a round up of some of our favorite collaborations on Pop Goes the Page:


ricky 3Our Seuss Mini Golf event was fun chaos, but the show-stoppers were the golf holes and magnificent Onceler Tower designed and constructed by Ricky. Legend has it that the Onceler Tower is still standing in a Princeton University campus building (I checked a couple years ago)!


robes 2The Day at Digitopolis event was massive (we had to split it into a post 1 and post 2), but a big shout out goes to Casandra Monroe for playfully covering the Mathamagician’s robes with artistic equations. But definitely check out the two blog posts – you’ll also meet Emile Oshima and Rei Mastsuura who ran abacus races, Matt Smith and Demi Zhang who taught musical fractions, and a number of student groups who contributed their considerable skills!


muggle artifacts curator, tea wimer

It’s not everyday you meet faculty of Muggle Studies, but Téa was just that! She developed an exhibit for our Wand Works event, and was there to answer even the most ridiculous wizarding questions about the mysterious and mind-boggling world of Muggles.


jose m rico

Also part of Wand Works was the insanely talented José, who designed an EPIC interactive Harry Potter spell game and premiered it at the event. You have to see it to believe it. And you can download and play it free here!


fairy godmotherBe careful…this fairy godmother grants wishes EXACTLY as you make them, thanks to Sylvia’s tongue-in-cheek literalness and rainbow wings. An oft-requested visitor at our children’s literary society, she wielded her star wand with grace and a wicked sense of humor!


james-jaredThis particular post shows up on our favorite lists a LOT. James had 180 minutes to costume as many literary characters as he could at at local thrift store. Spoiler alert…he rocked it. The post also features student models Amanda Blanco, Ailyn Brizo, Joani Etskovitz, and Grace Turner, who were simply amazing!


self portrait_artwork by aliisa lee

The most magical thing about this student? She still works for us! Artist Aliisa Lee was a student illustrator at our library for four years, and in that time she contributed everything from thaumatropes, to literary Pokemon, to book perps, to the logo of our podcast! Aliisa is also the official illustrator of our annual 350 for 50 writing contest, which is currently in its 15th year. We love you Aliisa!

summer announcement logo_artwork by aliisa lee

Also! Starting off the blog post was Jared Crooks, an undergraduate AND grad student in science who not only wrote a picture book, he came to our story time to share it and build awesome robots.

Four Stories of LEGO

Leave it to LEGO to do something so charming and enchanting! While researching items to include in Cotsen’s latest exhibition, “Once Upon New Times: Reimagining Children’s Classics,” Katie came across four incredible miniature fairy tale LEGO sets we had never seen before. After some super sleuthing, she not only tracked a full set down, she uncovered their very interesting origin story, which she’s sharing today. Take it away, Katie!

In 2009, LEGO started collaborating with Toys R Us and kicked off a month-long promotion called Bricktober. Every week during the month of October, customers who purchased a LEGO set valued at a certain dollar amount would earn a free Bricktober collectible. The sets changed yearly and ranged from one-of-a-kind LEGO minifigures to little cityscapes to DUPLO bricks with unique images on them which, if you collected all four, would create a special Halloween picture. Following the 2018 bankruptcy and eventual closure of most Toys R Us storefronts, the availability of the Bricktober LEGO sets became very scarce. The promotion continued, but only in the Asia-Pacific region where Toys R Us was still in operation.

In 2021, the LEGO Bricktober sets were a collection of four different fairy tales: Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Little Red Riding Hood.

Not only is each LEGO design mounted on a book, they each have moving pieces incorporated into the depiction of the fairy tale. The sets also included fold-out story books that tell the fairy tale using charming illustrations of LEGO minifigures.

eBay proved to be the best source for these elusive LEGOs. We purchased our complete collection from a seller located in Malaysia, and waited (im)patiently for the box to arrive. Once they were delivered, it didn’t take long for two of our colleagues to volunteer to help us build the adorable sets (no one wants to grow up, we are all Toys R Us and LEGOs kids!). And these adorable LEGO books did not disappoint! Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland features a rotating tea table loaded with sweets:

Little Red Riding Hood is a cottage that spins around to reveal an interior with a disguised wolf:

Hansel and Gretel is Dr. Dana’s favorite, and the roof opens to reveal a little witch and oven in the interior:

And the Jack and the Beanstalk is simply epic. A rotating mini farm scene, cloud mounted on a clear brick, gold-embellished castle, and twisty beanstalk:

The 2023 Bricktober sets are a Mini Hobby Series, highlighting bowling, music, car racing, camping, baking and gaming (and we’re eagerly awaiting the announcement of the 2024 sets!). For our Asia-Pacific blog readers who are lucky enough to get their hands on these rare LEGOs, we’d love to see pictures of your builds!

Many thanks to Princeton University Library staff Minjie Chen and Charles Doran for their expert LEGO building skills!

Beautiful Lights, Beautiful Night

It’s a simple project, but oh-so-beautiful! Design your own aurora borealis in Arctic skies, then light it up for a creative and colorful glow box!

We read The Lights the Dance in the Night by Yuval Zommer (Doubleday Books, 2021). Beginning as specks of dust from the sun, the story follows them as they whirl to Earth and change into gleaming, shining, lights for Arctic animals and people! Poetic and gentle, this book is just lovely to read and share.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box with a clear lid or window (more on this below!)
  • An assortment of tissue paper
  • 1 string of LED mini lights
  • White, blue, and yellow poster board
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction

The box for this project will need to be a good size, sturdy, and have a clear lid or window. I found some 12″ x 8″ x 2.5″ cake boxes on Amazon that totally did the trick (20 boxes cost $19).

Now for the aurora borealis! Open the box and glue tissue paper snippets on the interior side of the window. We found glue sticks to be the best way to adhere things, because you can clearly see the glue going on and it dries clear! When the sky is finished, tape a string of LED mini lights to the back of the box like so:

Close the box and use poster board to create a landscape on the front of the box. We used cool Arctic colors: light blue, dark blue, yellow and white. The boxes turned out great…especially this one with a FLYING UNICORN!!!