Give ‘Em the Old Razzle-Dazzle

If you’re going to write something, why not make it extra fancy, glowing, blinking, AND neon? I absolutely love anything that lights up, so I was thrilled to test drive the Crayola Widescreen Light Designer. It was fun!

This toy is intended for children ages 6+ and retails for about $18 on Amazon. We’ve tested Crayola products on the blog before (including an airbrush kit I was very skeptical about but it totally worked!). I have to say, Crayola never disappoints. Their products are solid, easy to use, and the colors are always vivid. This light designer was no exception.

Out of the box, the light designer is 18″ tall (the actual drawing screen is 9.5″ x 15″). There’s an easel stand built into the back, as well as some clever little holders for the six markers that come with the set (blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, and white). You can also see the holes that allow you to mount the light designer to a wall.

Load in a couple AA batteries, flip the on the power switch, press the light button on the front, and start drawing! The colors go on beautifully with a lot of vibrancy. You can also press the front button multiple times to change the light settings (blinking, fading in and out, etc.). Three small quibbles: 1) The blue marker came out of the box bone dry, so I was unable to use it; 2) You have to cycle through seven light settings to get back to the original solid glow one, which seemed a bit excessive; 3) Wiping the marker off the screen with a dry paper towel took a LOT of elbow grease. Definitely use a slightly damp paper towel when it’s time to erase.

Essentially, this is a white board you can use in a darkened room with neon colors and blinking lights. But the little kid me would have been SO excited to see my artwork and writing presented in this unusual dynamic way. It just makes your drawings and announcements all the more special.

And speaking of Crayola light designers and razzle-dazzle special announcements…

Everyone, this is CLEO! You met Katie’s rescue pup Finley in 2021, and now I’m delighted to introduce the newest member of my family. Cleo recently joined us from SAVE animal shelter. She is 7.5 years old, 18 pounds, and the undisputed Queen of the Household.

Long may she reign!

Go Big! It’s Broadway!

Clap your hands, stamp your feet, and get ready to boogie woogie with Latte the dalmatian dog…it’s a massive parade down Broadway, and you’re invited! We were delighted to host author and illustrator Laura Ann Trimble Elbogen, who wowed the crowds with her energy and enthusiasm. And don’t miss our chat with her at the end of the post!

We read Latte’s Broadway Boogie Woogie by Laura Ann Trimble Elbogen (Laura Ann Studio, 2023). Latte the dalmatian and the girl in red have a special horse-drawn delivery for a wedding. But as they encounter more and more musicians, the entire endeavor turns into a lively parade of trombones, clarinets, drums, piano, and dancing New Yorkers. Based on snappy beats of boogie woogie music, this book will get you up and marching!

At the heart of the book is a sweet dog named Latte, so for our project we made box dogs kids could pull on a clear elastic strings. Instructions for that project can be found here. However, we also added a sassy little plastic cape to the pup, just like Latte in the story. We also wanted kids to be part of the musicality of the book, so we distributed jingle bell bracelets as well (though some quickly became anklets!).

One of the interesting things about the book is that the illustrations are based on Dutch artist Piet Modrain’s painting “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” Laura brought a print of it with her, as well as examples of boogie woogie music. It was very lively!

I caught up with Laura after story time to chat about her book, and the fabulous inspirations behind it!

Hi Laura! Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a San Francisco based author-illustrator, artist founder of Laura Ann Studio, and mom of three. I studied art history and played tennis at Princeton. My husband and I are both Class of 2007 graduates. When we got married we led our own wedding parade from the Princeton University Chapel to T-Sweets ice cream.

At story time, you brought in a print of a painting that inspired your book’s artwork…can you tell us a little bit about it?

I fell in love with the painting “Broadway Boogie Woogie” (1942-43) by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian on my lunch break when I was an intern at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Mondrian moved to New York City from the Netherlands to escape World War II and he fell in love with American jazz. He painted in primary color squares and lines that in this painting are meant to evoke the bright lights and energy of the city, from the people and taxis to the jazz and Broadway theater district.

Can you also tell us about boogie woogie music and dance?

I used to boogie woogie swing dance with my grandparents who grew up with boogie woogie music and dance and it was so much fun! The term was coined by pianist Clarence “Pinetop” Smith in 1928, almost 100 years ago! His quick playing rhythmic piano blues style became so popular it evolved into the big band jazz and swing dancing era that Mondrian would have seen and heard in New York City when he painted “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” Maybe he heard Tommy Dorsey’s big band song “Boogie Woogie” when he was walking down Broadway?

We based our story time project on Latte, the little dalmatian dog in a red cape. Does this character have an origin story?

When I first moved to New York City after college it was like heaven for me! Born and raised in Indianapolis, I was a Midwest girl living the New York City dream working in fashion and the arts. On the weekends I really felt like I was living the dream if I could take a blanket to Central Park and camp out with a latte, the New York Times, and my sketch book. I also did a lot of Saturday morning sketching and latte drinking at a wonderful hole in the wall coffee shop called Arte Around the Corner on the upper west side where I would read, sketch, and people watch. I spotted a lot of great dogs in those days. Sadly I’m allergic to dogs, but of all the dogs I watched I loved Dalmatians the most for their curious, happy energy, the skip in their step, and the friendly wag of their tail.

Tell us more about New York City…how did the it inspire your writing and illustrations?

I love New York City so much! Much of my time there I spent living on the upper west side just behind Lincoln Center. One of my favorite things to do on a sunny summer evening was to walk home from work along Broadway through the great public parks and plazas. When I ran programs and organized a festival called Archtober, Architecture and Design Month in New York City, we ran “Building of the Day” tours all around the city. I was constantly observing, appreciating, and sketching the urban design and architecture of the city.

What other exciting projects are you working on?

Latte’s Broadway Boogie Woogie is the first story in the Latte and the Goldmatians series. Sequels are coming! I’m also excited about a commissioned watercolor painting series and product line that I’m working on that empowers women in politics. Stay tuned for when Laura Ann Studio turns 15 this fall!

Community Post Office: A Celebration of Ulises Carrión

This spring, the the Department of Special Collections at Princeton University Library hosted a fabulous exhibit, “Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond.” It was co-curated by Sal Hamerman, Metadata Librarian for Special Collections, and Javier Rivero Ramos, a recent Ph.D graduate from the Department of Art & Archaeology.

In addition to being a writer, Ulises Carrión was one of the most influential of all modern artists engaged in the book, and a vital force in the mail art movement of the 1970s. So in honor of the exhibit, we decided to bring the community together for a day of art, mail, zines, and collaboration! We also offered a children’s tour of the exhibit, lead by Sal Hamerman themselves. Sal encouraged kids to think about books as more than just “containers of words,” and asked them to observe the works of Carrión through the lenses of interactivity, composition, creativity, and community. Sal also touched on the challenging concepts of freedom of expression and censorship.

Sal Hamerman, Metadata Librarian for Special Collections

In the Cotsen Children’s Library gallery, we wanted to highlight Carrión’s mail art, as well as capture the excitement and collaboration of an artistic communities he cultivated. And speaking of, we hosted a FANTASTIC group of local artists from Princeton Comic Makers, who you will meet a little later in the post!

Princeton Comic Makers top row from left: Suyang Gong, Luther Mosher, Tyera Queen, Christina Castro, Olivia deCastro, Carrie Johnson; bottom row from left: Anita Hayden, Masha Zhdanova

For the hands-on portion of the event, we created an interactive “Community Post Office.” Kids started with a basic 4 page zine fold, and then we offered a ton of supplies to decorate it. In addition to glue, tape, and a variety of pens, we had large containers of old stamps, letters, pieces of magazines, vintage cards, ads, patterned paper, old maps. We discovered a few artists on Etsy who put together specialty packages of scrap booking material, and we were not disappointed!

We also had some phenomenal zine examples compliments of the Arts Council of Princeton. They loaned us a whole bunch by local artists, and also included a sampling of works by the Princeton Sketchbook Club (a very cool project initiative you can take a look at here – my daughter and I are part of it!).

Once the zine was complete, kids headed over to the Community Post Office buildings. They picked up colorful envelopes (and have a chat through the window with staff or a caretaker):

Then they could let their creations play a bit on the post office’s chutes and elevators….

Or contribute to our stamp wall (there was a stamp activity elsewhere in the gallery, we’ll get to that a little later in the post!).

The grand finale was to write your name on your envelope and drop it into the drop box that we rigged over one of the doors to my office/studio…

And THEN! Event volunteers would take their envelopes and give it two special “stamps.” One was a sticker of a logo Ulises Carrión created for his very own mail art community:

And the second was a rubber stamp featuring a quote from Lloyd Cotsen, benefactor of the Cotsen Children’s Library and champion of children’s literacy. It’s a quote from this PBS mini-documentary.

“I think reading, to me, was like opening the window and allowing you to look out and maybe fly out. Even if you couldn’t fly, your mind could fly.”

After the envelope was stamped the event volunteers placed it in a “CPO Box” constructed in a doorway on the other side of the gallery. So kids had to dropped their letters, follow arrows across the gallery, and then wait for it to appear in the PO Box, magically stamped!

As you can imagine, many kids did this activity repeatedly. I think the record for one little girl was 16 drops. Not too far away in the gallery was the “Mystery Box Drawing.” We asked kids to fill out a form, and then we put together (and mailed) them a very special customize goody box Can you imagine getting a box full of your favorite things?

Carrión was a huge cultivator of a global community of artists, and we wanted to bring that vibe to our event as well. So now we’d like to formally introduce Princeton Comic Makers, a outstanding conglomeration of local artists, who brought their talents, activities, and enthusiasm to the event.

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These folks TURNED IT OUT! They displayed their artwork, chatted, did live drawing demos, designed a “Create a Creature” project, made bookmarks, created stamps, taught kids how to fold zines, offered original coloring pages, and were just generally the most engaging and creative group imaginable! Here they are, in alphabetical order by last name:

Christina Castro is a Filipino-American illustrator and storyboard artist born in Manhattan, NY, and raised in central NJ. She graduated from Pratt Institute (2018) with a BFA in Digital Arts (2D Animation) and a minor in Creative Writing. Her work explores the intimacy of human culture and connection through intricate portrayals of food and warm social scenes, while paying homage to coming-of-age narratives, punk rock, and absurdist comedy. Clients include Storytime with Jeff, Smashbits Animation, and gal-dem zine. Christina is a co-organizer of the Princeton Comic Makers weekly Jersey Art Meetups and also leads the project management of several charity zines, collaborating with creatives all over the world.

Olivia de Castro is an illustrator based in Brooklyn, NY. She grew up in a Dominican-Colombian family in New Jersey and graduated from Pratt Institute (2018). Olivia’s illustration style combines traditional pen and ink brushwork with bright and juicy digital color palettes. People-watching on the subway inspires her to focus on culturally diverse and expressive characters in storytelling. She likes to capture the weirdness of everyday life, as well as black and brown joy. When she’s not illustrating, you can find her reading Every. Single. Plaque. In her local museum; or cooking in her tiny Brooklyn kitchen. Olivia is rep’d by Christy Ewers of The Cat Agency.

Suyang is a fine artist based in the Princeton area, who primarily works in graphite, ink, and various paints. She graduated with a BFA from Mason Gross in 2021. Her works are large and whimsical, using a spontaneous generative method to tap into unconscious thoughts and memories. Currently, she’s having fun tabling at various local conventions with friends and is a co-organizer of the Princeton Comic Makers weekly Jersey Art Meetups.

Anita graduated from Cedarville University with an Industrial and Innovative Design major and a Studio Art minor. The artwork Anita creates is a melding of her upbringing, her profession, and her style as an artist. Her natural inclination towards articulating structures and buildings is rooted in her upbringing, as both of her parents are architects. Her training as an industrial designer also inspires her to create artwork in a strong perspective. In contrast to the rigid sharp edges of her structures, Anita adds in elements such as organic shapes to represent life and movement. She tries to find the line between the rigid and the organic; the realistic and the abstract. She currently works as a Video Game Developer and Freelance Designer.

Visual artist, interior designer and emerging playwright, Carrie Johnson’s work explores the human condition and its impact through the fabric of society; its relation to family drama, mixed race love, intergenerational trauma, motherhood and the divine feminine. Carrie has built a career in the experiential marketing and events space spanning more than two decades, where she’s lead project teams for some of the world’s most notable brands including Adidas, Intel, IDG, and Olympus. Organizational memberships include Dramatist Guild and HonorRoll! She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The College of New Jersey.

Luther has wanted to be a comic artist since he was four. This passion led him to the School of Visual Arts in New York City where he earned a BFA in Cartooning & Illustration. Since graduating in 2010, he has worked professionally as a graphic designer and illustrator. As an artist, he has created storyboards for film, drawn children’s books, illustrated cover art for Ben Folds Five, and is currently finishing up his first graphic novel, Mars Lightning.

Tyera Queen–also known as “Three Guys That Paint”–is a multimedia artist creating whimsical, decorative, and functional art and sculptures. Her goal as an artist is to take up space in this crowded world, filling it with as much of her own creations without limitations. She uses her infatuation with color to portray her alternative outlook on life.



Masha is a lesbian cartoonist born in Moscow, Russia, and raised in central New Jersey. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sequential art from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2019. She received an MFA from the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont in 2022. She writes and draws original comics, teaches workshops about comics, and writes reviews of comics for a variety of publications, including Publisher’s Weekly, The Comics Journal, and Women Write About Comics. Her work is concerned with the intersections of diasporic and queer identity with elements of genre fiction. Most recently, she is a co-organizer of the Princeton Comic Makers weekly Jersey Art Meetups. She likes coloring and drinks seven cups of tea a day.

We would like to thank the talented Sal Hamerman for working with us to develop this fabulous event, and also for designing and leading the children’s tours! A very big thank you to the Arts Council of Princeton for loaning their fantastic zine and notebook library! Finally, we would like to send much love and appreciation to the wonderful artists of Princeton Comic Makers…Christina Castro, Olivia deCastro, Suyang Gong, Anita Hayden, Carrie Johnson, Luther Mosher, Tyera Queen, and Masha Zhdanova!