Only YOU!

There’s lots of dancing, singing, chatting, and partying out there in the world, but what happens if you just want to be a little quiet and alone time? What if what you really need is a calm nest and a good book? And who is that in our library tree? Could it be…the author of today’s book? YES!

We read Only, written and illustrated by Airlie Anderson (Hachette Book Group, 2024). The tree is lively with Singy, Squawky, Tappy, Flappy, Chippy, and Flippy, who are full of songs, games, and cheer. But it’s all too much for Only, who flies away to build a quiet nest, close the door, and read. While the other birds can’t figure out why Only wants to be quiet and alone, Squawky stops by for a visit. As it turns out, hanging out and doing things doesn’t always have to be loud. And, equally importantly, being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely!

We were so excited to have Airlie Anderson come to our library to share Only! Definitely  Check out my interview with her at the end of the post!

You’ll need:

  • 1 oatmeal container
  • Construction paper
  • 1 pipe cleaners
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

This project is a fairly simple oatmeal container bird, but as a nod to one of Only’s favorite quiet time activities, we added a little book! Did you notice the cover? That’s right! It’s one of Airle’s other books, Neither!

We added one more touch to the project. In the book, Only and Squawky listen to music together wearing headphones. We loved Airlie’s illustration so much, as well as the concept of sharing an experience quietly together, that we added foam headphones kids could wear too!

To make these, you’ll need some self adhesive foam and two pipe cleaners. Lay two sheets of foam on top of one another, then cut a pair of circles and two strips (for a total of 4 circles and 2 strips). Peel the backing off one set and lay everything sticky side up. Place the strip on top of the two circles, then lay the two pipe cleaners along the length of the strip like so:

Peel the backing off the remaining pieces, then place them sticky side down on the first set. Bend the pipe cleaners to fit around your head, and you’re done. Enjoy your time with your new friend!

I can’t recommend Airlie enough for a library visit. She is funny, engaging, wonderful with the kids, and jumps right into the craft project. In fact, this is the second time she’s come to a Cotsen story time and we hope to have her back for many more!

Hi Airlie! Welcome back to Pop Goes the Page! How are you doing?

I’m having a happy day, thank you! Glad to be back at Pop Goes the Page.

How did the concept of this book come to be?

The concept of Only came to me during quarantine, during which I discovered that I am not as much of an introvert as I once thought. Not only do I enjoy alone time, I also like being around crowds, in public. I wanted to make a book about experiencing both of those dynamics, and how different characters enjoy various levels of that.

In addition to Only, there are also birds named Singy, Squawky, Tappy, Flappy, Chippy, and Flippy. Which one is most like you?

I love this question! I hadn’t thought of that before. But now that you mention it, I’m most like Squawky. Squawky is the bird who ventures into the quiet nest because they don’t feel like playing bird ball at that moment.

Only the bird has a pretty amazing “quiet nest” stocked with toys and activities. What would your personal quiet nest include?

My quiet nest would look a lot like Only’s quiet nest, except that I don’t know how to knit! But I enjoy drawing balls of yarn. So definitely stacks of books (I’m currently reading one of Carrie Fisher’s memoirs), art supplies, headphones, and journals. I would add a yoga mat and one of those electric pots for making hot water for tea.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m “filling the well” of creativity, so for me that means reading lots of different kinds of books, for grown-ups and kids. I’ve been watching movies from the early Hollywood era — I feel quite drawn to them for some mysterious reason. Sometimes story ideas come from unexpected places, so I follow my bliss when it comes to that. Have you seen His Girl Friday? Amazing. The picture book that I have on deck is still developing, and it involves rodents. I am super excited about it!

Call it Home

Recently, we were honored to host author and Princeton University student Uma Menon who is also GRADUATING today! CONGRATULATIONS! Uma brought her gorgeous picture book, My Mother’s Tongues: A Weaving of Languages (Candlewick Press, 2024; illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell). In the book, Uma describes the beautiful dynamic of her family and the multiple languages they speak. So we designed this sweet home…

…that opens to reveal the names of everyday household items in all the languages mentioned in her book! Malayalam, Spanish, Hindi, French, and Tamil!

We used some flat boxes we acquired from our library’s upcycling program, but a folded piece of poster board works too! Just color and cut the household furniture template and household words labels, then glue them into your home. We also provided patterned paper for some extra fancy design elements.

After story time, I caught up with Uma to ask her about her experiences writing her picture book, and what’s she’s planning to do next:


Hi Uma! Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a senior at Princeton University majoring in the School of Public and International Affairs with minors in South Asian Studies, American Studies, and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Outside of school, I enjoy writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. My first children’s book, My Mother’s Tongues, was published by Candlewick Press in February, and it will be followed by a sequel next year, titled Our Mothers’ Names. Both books tell the story of a young Indian American girl who grows up speaking Malayalam and English, inspired by my own childhood. Previously, I wrote a poetry collection, Hands for Language, which was published by Mawenzi House in 2020, and I have also written essays and poetry for many publications including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The Progressive.

What inspired this book?

I began writing this book around high school graduation, when I was 16 years old. Growing up, I did not encounter any stories of children like me who spoke more than one language, so I wanted to write a book that represented this experience shared by millions of children of immigrants across America. As a child, speaking a different language doesn’t always feel like a superpower—it often feels like a point of difference. Through My Mother’s Tongues, I hope to celebrate the beauty and power of multilingualism while highlighting the wonder and confusion young children may experience.

Do you have any insights or reflections to share, growing up in a bilingual home?

Being bilingual is not easy. As we grow up, attend school, and interact primarily with English speakers, it becomes more difficult to maintain native fluency in our mother tongues. Yet, I realized that there is great value in making an active effort to preserve my knowledge of Malayalam. It has allowed me to connect more deeply with family members, consume diverse media and art, and access more cultural perspectives. Growing up bilingual taught me the value of being able to speak multiple languages and hence inspired me to become a lifelong language learner: inspired by my heritage, I decided to study Hindi while at Princeton. As with Malayalam, learning Hindi has allowed me to access a rich body of literature and film as well as understand more perspectives on the world.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

For me, writing is a valuable tool for personal expression and communication with diverse audiences. Throughout my life, reading and writing have allowed me to better understand my own identity and the perspectives of others. Books have made me a more empathetic and global citizen. As a writer, I hope to reach the hearts and minds of people across the world—those who have both similar and different life experiences as me.

What are you planning to do after you graduate from Princeton University?

In the fall, I will be attending Yale Law School, where I am excited to study international law and human rights. Of course, I will also continue writing across many genres, but I especially hope to begin working on more children’s literature this summer!

Day & Night

We recently discovered the coolest little easter egg (and book), and wanted to share it!

Fatima’s Great Outdoors (Kokila, 2021) is written by Ambreen Tariq – author, activist, and founder of @BrownPeopleCamping. The story follows Fatima Khazi and her family as they go camping for the first time. From building fires to fending off spiders, the family learns a lot about what it means to come together and learn new things. There are so many reasons to love and enjoy this book, and it’s beautifully illustrated by outdoor enthusiast Stevie Lewis, who we meet here.

The cover of the book is bright and charming, but when you remove the dust jacket…SURPRISE! The scene turns to night!

And yes, the back cover does that as well, but you’ll have to acquire a copy and see the lovely image for yourself! Better yet, turn this into a story time and activity with this simple (but SUPER popular) Dixie cup lantern…

this little light

Or you can put together this legal-size manilla folder backpack and supplies!

little camperDon’t forget to pack the marshmallows!