The BiblioFiles Presents: Nidhi Chanani

the bibliofiles presents nidhi chananiJust posted! A webcast with Nidhi Chanani, writer and illustrator of the graphic novel, Pashmina.

Priyanka Das has many identities – friend, high school student, comic book artist. She also has many questions about her absent father, her single mother, and India, her mother’s home country. Unfortunately, her mom isn’t willing to give any answers. Then Priyanka discovers a beautiful pashmina hidden in a suitcase. When she wears it, she’s transported to a fantasy version of India, where an elephant named Kanta and peacock named Mayur are happy to show her the amazing sights, smells, and tastes of her mother’s country.

But there’s also a shadowy figure trying to send messages. Now, Priyanka is even more determined to travel to the real India to learn both her mother’s story, and the story behind the mysterious, magical pashmina.

Pashmina is Chanani’s debut graphic novel, and it is fantastic. Primarily drawn in greyscale, Chanani uses glorious bursts of colors whenever the pashmina casts its spells, accentuating the magic and wonder. Chanani tackles difficult subjects with empathy, honesty and a gentleness that is incredibly respectful to the characters, and to the readers. Pashmina is a powerful, uplifting story, particularly for girls and young women. An artist, illustrator, writer, and teacher, Chanani was honored at the White House as a Champion of Change in 2012.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview

Ham(ster) it Up!

ham it upSchool is in session, and it appears your teacher has a new pet…that could potentially eat him. Wouldn’t you rather have a sweet little hamster? We were delighted to have author Anica Mrose Rissi visit our story time to read her book, The Teacher’s Pet. There’s an interview with Nica at the end of today’s post, AND! We’re giving away 6 signed copies of the book to YOU, our blog readers!

We read The Teacher’s Pet, written by Anica Mrose Rissi, and illustrated by Zachariah OHora (Disney Hyperion, 2017). Everyone is excited when the class tadpoles hatch. Mr. Stricter, the teacher, allows the class one tadpole to keep as a pet. Except “Bruno” isn’t a tadpole. He’s a hippo who proceeds to grow at an alarming rate and run amok. Bruno eats schools supplies, breaks desks, and snores during silent reading. But Mr. Stricter won’t hear a word against his beloved pet. Until Bruno swallows him whole. The clever class rescues Mr. Stricter, but Bruno needs to retire to a place with more room. Perhaps Mr. Stricter would like a hamster?

We made hamster cages, complete with a jumbo pom-pom hamster. Thanks to the wonder of magnets, your hamster can scurry around the cage, motor up ramps, and ring a little bell!

finished hamster cage

You’ll need:

  • 1 aluminum food container with plastic lid (more on this below)
  • Poster board
  • Yellow crepe paper streamer
  • Construction paper
  • 1 wine cork
  • 2 button magnets
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom
  • 1 bell
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The key to this project is the container you use for the hamster’s cage. We found 10.5″ x 12.5″ aluminum food containers with plastic lids at our local dollar store that totally did the trick. Definitely opt for a larger container so you have room to attach the cage elements. Also, make sure the bottom of the aluminum container is somewhat smooth. Some are heavily ribbed, which makes it hard to keep the hamster/magnet connection going. The cage elements are simple:

hamster cage elementsWe made a water bottle out of a roll of construction paper and a snippet of drinking straw. The ramps and the little hamster house are poster board. The sawdust shavings are crumpled pieces of yellow crepe paper streamers (the clear winner out of testing a bunch of different types of paper). The food bowl is a tape core wrapped with patterned tape. And the bell is hanging from a little piece of curling ribbon.

The hamster is a jumbo pom-pom with wiggle eyes, construction paper ears, and a little self-adhesive foam nose (even though construction paper works for the nose too). Hot glue button magnets to the back of the pom-pom and one end of a wine cork and you have your hamster magnet wand, ready to go!

hamster magnet wandWe also found some alphabet letter stickers in the art cabinet. So we encouraged kids to spell their hamster’s name on the clear plastic lid of the aluminum container. Our hamster was named Twinkles, but there was also a Sparky, Bob, Ricky, and…I can’t quite pronounce this one…

hamster name To operate your hamster, place the cork wand behind the cage, connect it with the magnet glued to the pom-pom hamster, then drag the wand to lead the hamster through all of his/her activities!


The Teacher’s Pet is fantastic and fun, and the fun multiplied exponentially when the Anica Mrose Rissi arrived to read it to us herself (whilst also sporting an awesome Mr. Stricter sweater).  Many readers know Anica from her charming Anna, Banana series, but she recently released her first YA novel, Always Forever Maybe.

anica mrose rissi at the cotsen children's libraryPlease tell us a little about yourself!

I grew up on an island off the coast of Maine, where I read a lot of books and loved a lot of pets. After college, I moved to New York City, where I worked as a book editor for more than thirteen years. Now I tell and collect stories, make up songs on my violin, and take long walks with my dog, Arugula, here in Princeton, where I’ve lived for the past three years.

Besides my picture books, chapter books, young adult novels, and essays, I also write lyrics for (and play fiddle in!) the electro-country band Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves. Princeton-area friends can see us play at two free, family-friendly shows this fall: We’ll be part of the Unruly Sounds Festival at Hinds Plaza on September 29, and we’ll be playing a record release show at Princeton Public Library on November 10, to celebrate our new album, The Best of Your Lies.

Thanks for coming to our library! What do you enjoy most about reading to kids?

Thanks for having me! Talking with kids about writing and reading is one of my favorite parts of being an author. I’m lucky to do a lot of school visits, at which the kids always ask fun and interesting questions. The best thing about reading stories to kids and talking with them about my creative process is that young kids are all creators too. I don’t know a single child who isn’t also an artist or storyteller (or both!), so the conversation is really one amongst peers. I can inspire and encourage them, but they inspire me with their creativity and imaginations too.

You’re best known for your Anna, Banana series, but The Teacher’s Pet was your first picture book. What inspired it?

The Teacher’s Pet is the story of a teacher who is so enamored of the new class pet, he can’t see all the trouble it’s causing. I wrote it because I wanted to play with the pun suggested by the title and tell a story about a teacher whose obvious favorite is an actual pet. And I was drawn to the challenge of writing it as a picture book—a medium with so much room for humor, yet space for so few words.

As for character inspiration…Mr. Stricter is perhaps the most autobiographical character I’ve written. I am not an elementary-school teacher, and I’ve never (yet) been swallowed whole (or sneezed back out!) by a creature like Bruno, but I am wildly in love with my own adorable but not always entirely well-behaved pet (the aforementioned pup, Arugula).

A fun fact about picture-book creation: Picture book authors and illustrators almost always work separately, and even though I wrote this book, I didn’t know that Bruno, the class pet, would turn out to be a [species redacted] until I saw the first round of Zachariah OHora’s hilarious artwork. When the early sketches for the story arrived in my inbox, I laughed with surprise. I never would have guessed that a tadpole would grow into a [!!!!!]. (Though I knew, of course, that Bruno would not be a regular frog.) It’s so much fun to write a story like this and get to see the extra layers—and humor—that the visual story created by the illustrator adds to the text.

This summer, you released your first YA book, Always Forever Maybe. I know you’re continuing the Anna, Banana series, releasing another picture book, and working on another YA novel. Sometimes, do you feel like you’re writing on different planets?

I feel lucky to get to write many kinds of stories for different audiences, and my brain likes to keep busy. I’m happiest when I’m working on several projects at once (though it’s best when each project is in a different stage of creation—I can’t, for example, write two first drafts simultaneously). But no, they don’t feel like different planets to me. Each story has a way it wants to be told, and when I’m writing a draft, I’m focused on figuring out the best way to tell it. That process feels both similar from book to book and wildly different. But I’m exploring similar themes across categories, genres, and age levels—almost everything I write, from picture books for kids to essays for adults, touches on ideas about friendship, animals, and love.

Describe writing in 6 words.

Fun terrible surprising exciting wonderful drudgery :)


If you’d like to meet Anica, she’s going to be at the Princeton Public Library’s Children’s Book Festival this Saturday, September 22nd from 11am to 4pm. Go say hi!

We also have 6 copies of The Teacher’s Pet to give away, signed by Anica AND the illustrator, Zachariah OHora (who will be at the book festival too)! Just e-mail cotsenevents@princeton.edu with your name, and the name of your favorite pet growing up. We’ll put all the names in a hat and draw 6 winners at random on Tuesday, September 25th. Good luck!

Pop Turns Five (and Ian Says Goodbye)

pop turns 5It’s August! It’s Pop‘s fifth birthday! That’s right…5 years and 422 posts strong we be. Five years is also how long Ian has worked at our library, but ladies and gentleman, it is a bittersweet announcement I’m making today.

Ian, our Curatorial Assistant, is moving on.

But being Ian, he is moving along in the most awesome, stylin’ way possible. He completed his library degree at Rutgers AND is a newly minted Fulbright Student (he was also awarded a scholarship to Rare Books school in London this summer!). In short, Ian is shining, and we are so very proud of him.

So today’s post is a retrospective of all the things we convinced this intellectual powerhouse to do for the blog. But if you’re just here to see him smash birthday cupcake in my face, skip to the bottom of the post.

ian walks the dogWe first met Ian in this 2013 post. Usually, it only takes a couple weeks for me to ask people to start doing ridiculous things for me (like walk box dogs on invisible leashes). Ian made it 4 months. But once the flood gates opened…

ian

Ian tests printable tattoos

spreading the loveIan strews hearts

groverIan jams on pan pipes

penguin 1Ian is photobombed by a penguin

ians-cameoIan encounters the paparazzi

pudding taste testIan taste tests Harry Potter pudding

i heart robotAnd the grand finale…Ian gets shoved in a robot costume with low visibility and questionable foot gear. For the 5th birthday post/ Ian retrospective, we thought it appropriate to ask him 5 questions:


Where are you off to, Ian?

I’m off to Baku, Azerbaijan. For the other geography nerds out there: Azerbaijan is a small country on the eastern side of the Caucasus between Iran and Russia, and Baku is the country’s bustling capital on the west bank of the Caspian Sea.

Why Azerbaijan?

I chose to pursue my Fulbright in Azerbaijan because I am fascinated by the complexities of the region. Azerbaijan is a land of mixing and clashing cultures, a border land of influences and diversity since antiquity, positioned at a crossroads of migration, colonization, and cultural exchange. I wanted to be in a modern city, but one with an ancient and medieval past. I wanted to be some place less familiar and rewardingly challenging.

What will you miss about our library?

It has been a true privilege and a joy to work with the rare books and other materials here at Cotsen. Every day is filled with new discoveries, new learning, color, art, and mystery. I forget sometimes how lucky I am to get to experience what “old books” can show us and how the chance to do what I do for a living is rare indeed. I’m not sure I’ll ever work in an “office” this fun again. And I will miss my colleagues at Cotsen most of all because one will always miss their friends when they move away.

What was your favorite thing you did for Pop Goes the Page?

Definitely the time I got crammed into a robot costume. Not only did I get to dance the robot dressed as a robot, I was also really happy to be part of a story time activity featuring a really sweet book. The kids liked it too, I got a lot of hugs that day!

Who is cooler, Dr. Dana or Katie?

Dang, honestly I think they’re both nerds! Good thing for them that at the library, nerds are cool!


A birthday is nothing without sugared toppings, so I grabbed a couple cupcakes for Ian’s final blog photo shoot. Except that meant there were extra cupcakes sitting around. To be smashed into my face. Before final consumption.

cupcake smash montage

Ian, we are really going to miss you. Best of luck in your world travels, academic pursuits, hopes, and dreams! Waves of love and joy from us, your friends, to you – Ian the Indomitable.