The BiblioFiles Presents: Nadia Hashimi

Just posted! A webcast and podcast with Nadia Hashimi.

Born to Afghan parents who immigrated to American in the 1970s, Hashimi began her career as a medical doctor, but also wrote stories about the rich and complex experiences of Afghan culture. This resulted in a number of  bestselling international novels for adults and the two books for children we will be discussing today – One Half From the East, and The Sky at Our Feet.

One Half from the East is the story of Obayda the youngest daughter of an Afghan family living in Kabul. When her father loses his leg in a car bombing, the family moves to a remote village. As her father retreats further into depression, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the family to live. This is when Obayda first hears the term bacha posh, which is the practice of turning a girl in the family into a boy by cutting her hair, dressing her in boy’s clothing, and changing her name. Ohbayda, now Obayd navigate this completely different world.

In The Sky At Our Feet, we meet Shah, whose American name is Jason. On his mother’s birthday, Jason learns that his father did not die in a car accident as his mother has always told him. His dad is a murdered Afghan journalist, and his mother has been living on an expired visa, terrified she will be discovered, deported, and separated from her son. When her worst nightmare happens, Jason is left alone. His only hope, he believes, is to find his mother’s friend in New York City and ask for help.

Hashimi writes with richness, emotion, and empathy, enfolding the reader into her characters’ lives and families. Difficult topics such as violence, racism, poverty, and misogyny are handled deftly, clearly, and with compassion. She applies the same powerful brushes to her beautiful themes as well, like friendship, identity, inclusion, and acceptance. The result is an intimate and uplifting reading experience.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview


In accordance with State and Princeton University measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, the gallery of the Cotsen Children’s Library is closed until further notice, and our children’s programming as been suspended during this closure. Until our library reopens, the blog will post once a week. So every Tuesday, please check in to see what we’re up to…from story time projects to awesome interviews!

The Snack of the Swan

My son is bird-obsessed these days, so I presented him with E.B. White’s classic, The Trumpet of the Swan. He loved it and I was soon fielding questions about swans, trumpets, and what watercress sandwiches taste like. I’m not a swan or a trumpet expert, but watercress sandwiches? That I can do!

A quick Google search reveled 559,000 recipe results. In the end, I went with the simplest one: white bread, mayonnaise (or in our food allergic house, Vegenaise), and fresh watercress. I did have a little trouble locating the watercress, but finally found success in the produce section of Whole Foods.

And what did my son think of the sandwiches? Here’s his full report…

To be honest, it did not have much of taste, sort of like spinach. But it did have a bit of spicy aftertaste. Which was not much compared to the mustard cabbage I once tried. That was a dark day. I am obsessed with waterfowl (scientific name Anseriformes). And in one part of the book, the swan eats some watercress sandwiches, and it is said in the book that all the swan really wanted was the watercress. I guessed that waterfowl eat watercress, and other stuff that grows underwater. So we tried it to see what it tastes like. So overall, it wasn’t bad or anything. Just a little bit tasteless. Maybe next time I’ll try bird seed.

Yes, I was a bit surprised. Watercress is a tad spicy. Not unlike arugula. However, the spice added a nice kick to counter the creamy mayo. Nom nom nom. Watercress is also a gorgeous green. I couldn’t resist garnishing Fred Marcellino’s illustration of Louis being presented the bill for twelve watercress sandwiches, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Boston (Harper Collins, 2000 paperback reissue).

If you are looking for a few more recipes, yummies, and challenges heading into the holiday season, you might want to try some rock cakes, say hello with this chocolate pen, or take our literary food quiz!

Fly the Friendly Skies

When my son was younger wooooo did we read a lot of transportation and construction books. To this day, I still excitedly point out backhoe loaders, simply by reflex. I think we wore out not one but THREE copies of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, and my son was the inspiring mind behind this event. Today’s post is also my son’s invention…a simple zip line tram car!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • String or yarn
  • 2 chairs (plus books to weight them down)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Construction paper, markers for decorating
  • Hole punch

First, the tram car! Flip a large tissue box upside down, and decorate the side with construction paper and markers. Cut a paper towel tube down to 7.5″ then attach firmly to the roof of the tram car (I used hot glue AND tape).

Next, turn the box on it’s side and punch a hole in the back. Knot a 15-24″ string through the hole. This is the string that your kid will use to pull the tram car up and down the zip line. Otherwise, it’s going to be YOU doing it. Probably the very moment you are trying to get lunch on the table while answering work texts during a Zoom meeting while also searching for your daughter’s lost LEGO figurine.

Next comes the zip line! I used kite string, but we tested yarn and it works as well. We  rigged our zip line on stairs, but a tree in the yard or a tall chair & shorter chair works too. Two very important things: WEIGH BOTH CHAIRS DOWN WITH BOOKS. There will be quite a bit of kid traffic on and around the zip line. Weighing both chairs reduces the chance of nudging or tipping.

Next very important thing: if you are doing this on a stair case, SET BOTH CHAIRS BACK FROM THE STAIRS. Especially if you have two or more kids. You don’t want anyone falling down, or tripping up, the stairs. Below is the minimum I would set the chair from the top of stairs. More so for younger kids and.or multiple kids.

Once the chairs are set up and weighted down, thread the zip line string through the paper towel tube on your tram car, then tie the string to the backs of both chairs. Make sure there is plenty of tension in the string so your tram car really zips!


One more helpful hint…if you need to “park” your tram car for a moment, simply tuck the pull string into one of the books weighing down the chair, as demonstrated in the photo below: