Pomp & Circumstance

It was a day of much celebration and fuss…after 11 months of renovation, the gallery of the Cotsen Children’s Library has re-opened. Cue the trumpet fanfare!

You might recall that Katie and I have been bunking in a multipurpose room for almost a year, driving each other crazy with our rock music and the way we chew our lunch salads. We did, however, host some fun off-site programs: a Tintin event, a Sherlock Holmes escape room, a Bhangra dance performance, and Pop Up story times in Rocky Hill, Pennington, and Bernardsville.

We wanted to welcome our community families back in style, so we devised a three-part celebration for our official reopening. First, we filled the front of the library with 34″ inch helium alphabet letters. Yup, we inflated 130 letters and let kids charge through them.

It was a huge hit! We ordered the balloons online from ACi Party ($4 each), and our balloon weights and ribbons from Oriental Trading Company ($8.50/dozen for the weights, $9 for a dozen, 60′ ribbon spools). The helium tank was donated by the good folks at Airgas, to whom we are very, very grateful.

It took 3 hours and 4 people to inflate, tie, and position 130 balloons. We are happy to report that, even with all the kids dodging in and out, we only had ONE balloon pop at the event.

The back of the gallery had a hands-on art extravaganza – decorating paper mache letters! This isn’t the first time we’ve trotted out this very popular project, though it is the first time we’ve done it on such a large scale. The 8″ paper mache letters were purchased from Consumer Crafts ($2 each). Some tape, glue, and a small mountain of art supplies later, the results were stupendous!

Here are my personal favorites: a fluffy butterfly E, a polka dot metallic duo, and a royal P!

Also, this L garden. My daughter insisted I tell the entire internet world that this is her personal creation. She made me pinky promise!

tree L 2The art area consisted of 3 tables piled with art supplies and a hot glue station. 6 smaller tables acted as work stations for the kids (exactly the same as this event, actually). Here’s a quick snap of the work stations at the very the beginning of the event. But mostly we included this photo because of the epic photo bomb.

The third and final part of the event were gift basket giveaways. There were 11 baskets in total (one for each month we were under renovation). Every basket had a literary theme, from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to Diagon Alley! Katie fell in love with the giant cheeseburger and squishy fries in the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs basket (we had so much fun shopping for these).

Every adult and child who came to the event earned a chance to win a basket, HOWEVER! If you came to the event in a literary costume, you earned an additional entry form. Did some literary celebrities show up? Absolutely! Here’s Little Red Riding Hood…

Mr. Harry Potter…

Some Hogwart’s students…

Pippi Longstocking…

Charlotte the Spider and Laura Ingalls Wilder…

And the cutest little Peter Rabbit, ever.

Katie and I were dressed up as well. Katie was a truly amazing Eloise…and I was the physical manifestation of the Dewey Decimal classification for Mythology (291.13 was written on my forearm in Sharpie).

At the end of the event, we encouraged families to take home the alphabet balloons. We later received reports of balloon sightings all over town. Balloons sailed past restaurant windows, bobbed down sidewalks, and filled up the windows of cars. I like the idea of a floating, traveling alphabet. We even sent a few home with Princeton University students.

And one balloon shucked its tether and ended up on the library ceiling. It’s sort of ironic that it’s the letter C that got stuck up there.

Amid the chaos, art supplies, and bopping balloons, we were delighted to see families taking time to enjoy stories together. And triple bonus points that these two are reading Betsy Bird’s Giant Dance Party.

It has been a long 11 months, but we are delighted to be back. Please come and say hi!

Dragon = Fireworks

dragon equals fireworks

It’s party time at the castle as two dragons provide some colorful fireworks… just pull the paper dragon to get the firework to “launch” from the top of the castle!

We read Over at the Castle, written by Boni Ashburn, and illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Abrams, 2010). A mother and baby dragon await nightfall outside a bustling castle. Page by page, the numerous castle activities count down until it’s time for the grand finale – a firework show, provided by the dragons!

You’ll need:

top of firework castle

Construction of this castle is very easy. First, use a box cutter to cut a drawbridge in one of the small boxes. Hot glue the drawbridge box to the top of a cake pad. Cut the top off a second box, and hot glue it on top of the drawbridge box. Decorate the castle and its base with metallic markers. We added silver mirror board battlements and some silver metallic dot stickers as well. Next, the dragon fireworks!

dragon firework constructionFold 2 sparkle stems into a V shape, then tape them to the bottom of a bunched 10″ x 10″ square of cellophane, Secure with tape. Knot one end of a 10″ piece of clear beading cord around the bunch, then secure with tape. Repeat these steps to create a second firework. Color and cut the mother and baby dragon from the template, then tape them to the free ends of the firework cords.

To create the firework show, gently tuck the fireworks into the top of the castle, but let the attached dragons dangle down the sides the castle. Grab a dragon and yank it upwards, sending it – and the attached firework – flying into the air!

dragon fireworks


Many thanks to the Hopewell branch of the Mercer County Library System (proud home of Fang the Spider) for allowing us to do pop up story time while our library is under renovation! We really appreciate it!

Welcome Back, Potter

welcome back potterIt’s Harry Potter week at Pop Goes the Page! Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 will be released this weekend, and there will be launch parties and countdown events galore. I thought it would be helpful to compile all of Pop’s Harry Potter posts and projects, just in case you find something that might come in handy at your wizardly celebration.

Let’s start big. This is a Spell Simulation game Princeton University junior José M Rico created for our Wand Works event. It was amazing. You can see videos of the 6 spells, and find a free download of the game here.

wand works spell simulation game by jose m rico, background by jeremy goncalvesAnd now for more amazing-ness. This Magical Miniatures post features an interview with Sally Wallace, a miniaturist and artist who constructs astounding Harry Potter dollhouses and miniature scenes. Feast your eyes on Hogwarts!

greenhouse1 smallerHowever, if your magical real estate aspirations need to be on a slightly smaller scale, try this Gothic votive castle. See the greenhouse to the left of the castle? Peek inside and you’ll see that the mandrakes are ready for re-potting!

greenhouse3 smallerHerbology continues with this little dried herb amulet

amulet smallerAnd these dashing, yet simple, snapdragons. You only need a paper cup, construction paper, and pipe cleaners (more ambitious gardeners can try these magical “growing” box gardens).

get-snappy smallerAnother Harry Potter post I dearly love is this suitcase boggart. I designed it for a Defense Against the Dark Arts table. The secret to making the suitcase thump and bump convincingly? A battery-operated pet toy called “The Weazel Ball!”

the-perfect-boggart smallerWe’ve also made plenty of dragon and monster projects in the past, from this food chain to a black light tin foil dragon. Representing the forces of good, however, is this phoenix puppet. You can make it out of a tissue box, and stroll around with it cradled in your arms.

fantastical-phoenix smallerMoving on to school supplies, try these simple, but immensely popular, quill pens.

quill-pens smallerIf it’s a wand you need, take a look at the custom wands we made at our Harry Potter Wand Works event (and if you’d like to meet Lane O’Neil, a real-life wandmaker, take a look at this post).

wizard with wand

Also necessary for any Hogwarts student is an inexpensive PVC pipe wands (with your choice of core, of course). There are also flying books, and things that fly OUT of books.

these butterflies can book

And don’t forget your wrist owl to deliver the mail (but not a Howler)! These handsome little fellas are made out of toilet paper tubes and pipe cleaners.

wrist owl examples

Once your school supplies are assembled, hit the classroom with the Chemistry of Magic!

chemistry-of-magic-web- smallerOr, learn some smaller spells. A pair of Slytherin students joined us at our School for Scoundrels program and taught kids Aparecium, Furnunculus, and Inanimatus Conjures. But Confundo was definitely the most popular. Also, there’s this special paper that allows you to set your spells on FIRE and watch them fly!

And, if Muggle Studies is full this year, you can always take a look at our online exhibit, which includes photos and information labels on everything Muggle.

muggle studies 101

Deluxe Chicken Grooming Kit [c.2011]

There’s also this post, which features a DIY Harry Potter party put together by Hope, our kid tester. Here, you’ll find inexpensive decor ideas, templates, recipes, and useful links. One more extra to add to your party pile? Inexpensive packets that actually change campfire flames different colors!

header 5

And what would Harry Potter be without some treats? Check out the gourmet pumpkin pasties crafted by Melody Edwards, a Princeton University graduate who is currently in culinary school. They were yummy.

birthday potter croppedWe also tested a couple recipes from the The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz (Adams Media, 2010). Including Hagrid’s famous rock Cakes!

rock cake testingThose wanting a more academic perspective on Harry Potter (not to mention a look at some goodies from our rare books vaults) should check out the Harry Potter and the Mystery of the Author’s Name post on Cotsen’s curatorial blog. It shows the different ways J.K. Rowling’s name has been spelled (and misspelled!) over the years.

If you’re wondering about the image that started this post (like how I magically manage to appear 9 years younger?), it’s a promo photo from a Harry Potter event we hosted in 2007. You can read more about the image, as well as some of my hints for promoting programs, here.

I also mentioned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Well ladies and gentleman, Katie, Marissa, and I actually went and saw the play on Broadway. You can see our complete (and spoiler free!) post here.

full theater 2