Children’s Book Festival

princeton children's book festival 2018 poster by angela dominguez

Presented by the Princeton Public Library with sponsorship by jaZams. Poster art by Angela Dominguez

Friends! Romans! Tri-State Countrymen! Travel henceforth to Princeton this weekend for the Princeton Public Library‘s legendary Children’s Book Festival! Every year, scores of talented authors and illustrators gather under the library’s big white tents in Hinds Plaza, meeting fans and signing books.

My personal highlights over the past 12 years of the book festival…receiving writing advice from Rebecca Stead, seeing my buddy Galen Longstreth sharing her adorable book, Yes, Let’s, and having a breakfast chat with Pseudonymous Bosch before the event. My library was there in 2010 as well, doing a “Books Done Wrong” activity!

The public library always invites terrific authors and illustrators. Here’s the 2018 line-up if you’d like to see it. But if we may be so bold as to make a few blog connections to this year’s festival attendees?


Tracey Baptiste: The author of The Jumbies now has a sequel out called, Rise of the Jumbies. I interviewed Tracey in 2016. Her books are suspenseful, spooky, and straight up awesome.

Margery Cuyler: Margery’s Skeleton for Dinner is totally hilarious, and we hope we did her book justice with our dancing, glowing skeleton marionette project.

them bones

Ame Dyckman: Ame has had three featured projects on our blog! A robot marionette for Boy + Bot, a bouncing baby wolf for Wolfie the Bunny, and a raucous tea party game for Tea Party Rules. She’s inspired so many projects…probably because her books are so fun and amazing.

Steve Light: Master wielder of all things fountain pen, Steve caught our eye with Zephyr Takes Flight, and we just HAD to do a steampunk airship project. We had to!

one amazing airship

Zachariah OHora: Zachariah’s distinctive illustrative style has graced blog twice in books, once for Wolfie the Bunny and again for The Teacher’s Pet. We’re dying to do a project for The NOT So Quiet Library.

Lauren Magaziner: Lauren’s book, Pilfer Academy, was a featured book at To Be Continued in 2016. Our book-related activities involved lots of sneaking around, stealing things, and a green crepe paper streamer laser maze. Oh yeah.

navigating-the-lasers

Wendy Mass: I interviewed Wendy in 2009 and WOW has she been busy, including being on the New York Times Bestseller list for The Candymakers! She recently released Bob, a book she co-wrote with Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead.

Christopher Silas Neal: Christopher’s gorgeous, minimalistic, vibrant illustrations in Over and Under the Snow inspired a winter hibernation snow-scape project that was a huge hit at story time.

winter is coming

Anica Mrose Rissi: I just posted a hamster-rific blog project for her book, The Teacher’s Pet, along with an author interview. So now you have to go to the festival meet Nica and see all her other fantastic books!

Sean Rubin: I did a blog feature on Sean’s debut graphic novel Bolivar in 2017. Bolivar is an astounding work of art and really must been seen in person. Now’s your chance!

bolivar 6_artwork by sean rubin

Daniel Salmieri: Daniel has written and illustrated many books, but we loved his work on Meet The Dullards, and fashioned our boring-not-boring blog project on his playful artistry.

Liz Garton Scanlon: Liz’s book In the Canyon is full of playful, vivid rhymes. We tried to capture some of the wonder she evokes with our own enormous cardboard canyon.

hiking the canyon

Rebecca Stead: How often do you get to meet a Newbery winner? I interviewed Rebecca about When You Reach Me in 2011 and she has continued to write amazing, thoughtful, and deeply meaningful books.

David Ezra Stein: ‘Ol Mama Squirrel? Best. Book. Ever. I couldn’t stop laughing when I read it aloud during story time! And weirdly, the squirrel tree puppet project went viral in China. Wow.

puppet in action

Audrey Vernick: Buffaloes and drum sets. Need I say more? OK, how about winning a giant pet whale? Audrey’s hilarious books such as Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums and I Won a What? inspire us.

Rowboat Watkins: We made cake hats with attitudes for Rowboat’s fantastic Rude Cakes. But much to our delight, he popped up unexpectedly in this post about Books of Wonder in NYC.

headgear with attitude problems


The Children’s Book Festival is Saturday, September 22m from 11am to 4pm in Hinds Plaza of the Princeton Public Library, rain or shine. Books are available for purchase at the event through jaZams, our incredible, local, independent, family-owed toy store. We hope to see you there!

More Cowbell

more cowbell

Is that a drum solo? Or the sound of a massive stampede? YOU decide when your buffalo finger puppet performs on this awesome drum set! It took a little work, but we figured out how to get this entire drum set on a single sheet of paper. Just cut, color, fold, and rock out!

We recommend reading Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums, written by Audrey Vernick, and illustrated by Daniel Jennewein (Balzer + Bray, 2011). From the first time you brought that baby buffalo home, you knew he was destined for great things. So order a drum set and wait for the magic (and don’t forget a couple cases of earmuffs for the neighbors)!

You’ll need:

First, cut the drum set from the template. It will looks like this…

drum set step 1Decorate it with markers, and don’t forget to write the name of your band inside the circle of the bass drum! When you’re done coloring, flip the drum set template over:

drum set step 2Roll the lower drums inwards, and tape them to the back of the set.

drum set step 3Next, fold the tabs downward along the dotted lines. These are your drum heads. Use scissors to shape them to the tops of your drums, then secure them with tape.

drum set step 4Repeat the same process with the upper drums.

drum set step 5Now fold the long base of the drum set upwards, tucking the cymbal stands between the lower and upper drums.

drum set step 6Turn the set around, and stick small tape loops to the tops of each cymbal stand. Pinch two circles of tin foil onto the tape loops. Your cymbals are ready, and your drum set is done!

drum set step 7Use scrap paper from your template to fashion a pair of drum sticks and finger loops. Tape the sticks to the finger loops, and slide them over your fingers.

drum sticksFinally, your buffalo drummer! Cut and color the buffalo finger puppet from the template (or use the full color version here). Cut finger holes in the chest. Then ready your drum sticks, step behind the drum set, and JAM!

more cowbell

One Whale of a Winner!

whale of a winner!

Yes, it’s a simple carnival goldfish booth. Except that our prizes are considerably larger…!

We read I Won a What? written by Audrey Vernick, and illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016). When a little boy’s parents promise he can keep anything he wins at a goldfish booth, he is thrilled. Especially when he wins a whale named Nuncio! Soon it’s wheelbarrows full of lunch, high spirited swims in the ocean, and rather complicated and unpleasant swimming pool maintenance. Mom and Dad have just about had enough, until Nuncio demonstrates his fantastic lifting skills and stupendous car washing abilities. It’s a touching story of a boy and his whale…especially the very last page of the book!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (we used a 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” box – a large tissue box works too)
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • 3 clear plastic cups
  • 2 large craft sticks (ours were 6″ long)
  • 1 Go Fish sign template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

go fish booth front

The goldfish booth is very easy to make! Decorate a box with color tape and/or markers. Hot glue 3 clear plastic cups to the top (we went with wide-mouth cocktail cups). You can draw your goldfish on orange construction paper and glue them to the insides of the cups, or you can do what we did, and use old orange mailing labels from the office supply closet.

Cut and color the booth sign from the template. We left an extra border around the sign’s edge and added metallic gold dot stickers “lights.”  Mount the booth sign to a pair of craft sticks attached to the back of the box.

go fish booth backThe “ball” for the game was a jumbo pom-pom, but ping pong balls or crumbled paper works too! To play the game, toss the ball into the cup. But what do you win? A WHALE!

story time whale watchingWe snagged a big flat of grey cardboard from library recycling, and Katie turned it into a fantastic whale. Like the books, kids were expected to take care of the whale. They took it on a little walk, wiped it clean with a cloth, and scooped its poop (i.e. brown jumbo pom-poms)! This part of the program was great for building physical skills – balancing, circular hand motions, scooping. Check out this pro at work:


After the kids successfully demonstrated their whale watching abilities, they took home a 3″ plastic whale (ours are “Lil Sailor Whale Squirt Toys” from Oriental Trading Company, $6.50 a dozen).

whale prizesIf you’re wondering why our story time area doesn’t look quite the same as usual, wonder no more. This was a guest story time at the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library in Rocky Hill, New Jersey! They graciously offered to serve as a pop up story time location while our library is under renovation. The Mary Jacobs Library has a full roster of children’s programs, fantastic (and highly artistic) staff, and one of my favorite children’s rooms of all times.

Thanks for letting us come to your library and have some fun Mary Jacobs!