Can’t resist a subsequent Strega Nona connection on this blog, however. Check out the amazing marzipan pasta-infused confection from our Gingerbread Cottage Challenge!
My admiration for Marissa the Dyslexic Librarian is endless. Also apparently endless? Her creative energy! Recently, I learned that while finishing library school AND working full time, she crafted a children’s literary exhibit just for, you know, fun!
Intrigued, I grabbed my camera and headed to The Gallery at Chapin School, a private elementary and middle school in Princeton. The school regularly welcomes community artists to exhibit and teach students about their artwork. In her exhibit statement, Marissa’s described her inspirations for the exhibit, beginning with brainstorming and crafting story time projects at our library:
Part of my job at the Cotsen Children’s Library was to help develop story time projects. Once I started thinking about art and books in 3 dimensional ways, I couldn’t stop. I progressed from construction paper and card stock to eventually cardboard and paint as my projects became increasingly larger. I began to think about how I could turn the world into cardboard. I think there is something so charming and captivating about normal everyday objects being turned into art using unexpected materials.
These beautiful stick puppets are just toilet paper tubes, dowels, construction paper, and pen. Look at the lips on the cow!
This is the one piece in the show that was not directly related to a book. However, I am officially awarding it the “Golden X-Acto” award for the incredible detail work around the legs.
You might not be able to tell, but behind Miffy is a rack of cardboard clothes. The clothes and the figurine have little velcro dots so you can change her outfits and hats!
I will use this dinosaur sculpture technique for a story time project. It will be so.
The photo doesn’t quite capture it, but this adorable portrait is almost 6 feet tall!
This is my favorite piece in the show. I want to hug the upside-down ghost fish.
Again, the scale! That’s a bench at the bottom of the photo. Marissa went big with these beloved characters.
At first glance, these might look like simple framed illustrations. But they are actually shadow story panels Marissa created for a story time. While the book was being read, she would shine a light through the various scenes.
Above you can see the details of one of the shadow story panels.
Right. Now it’s GAME ON for all those summer reading bulletin board displays!
Melissa Warren’s work was exhibited at The Gallery at Chapin School Princeton. Many thanks to the school for allowing us to visit and photograph!
New York City is quite the literary town, but there is one place I hear about repeatedly in my line of work. The famous, fun, and fabulous children’s bookstore, Books of Wonder. On a recent trip to the city, Katie and I stopped by their 18th Street location to bask in the stuff of legend.
Independently owned and operated, Books of Wonder first opened its doors in 1980. Originally slated to sell antiquarian children’s books, the stock soon expanded to encompass new children’s books as well. In 37 years of business, Books of Wonder has moved, expanded multiple times, coordinated events both large and small, launched a publishing division, and become the keepers and champions of Frank Baum’s Oz books. Another interesting fact – Books of Wonder inspired the setting for the children’s bookstore in You’ve Got Mail, right down to being measured, photographed, and rebuilt on the movie’s sound stage.
Books of Wonder is PACKED with a huge selection of books. The books are so enticingly displayed, you just want to grab one and read it right away (and plenty of readers were camped out on the floor and in little chairs, doing just that). They have quantities of signed copies too.
Katie left with not one but two signed copies of The Girl Who Drank the Moon (the 2017 Newbery winner). Once I torn myself away from the stacks, I turned my eyes to the quirky and inviting decor.
Layered on endcaps, tables, walls, and bookshelves are posters, original artwork, and characters from illustrated books. It almost feels like you’re inside some sort of awesome pop-up book. Do you recognize the dragon in the image that started this post?
Yup! It’s by author and illustrator Steve Light, wielder of the fountain pen extraordinaire (we made these fantastical steampunk airship for his book, Zephyr Takes Flight). The artwork pops up in unusual places too. Curious George swinging from a light fixture…
A street scene on the floor of the gallery:
The back wall of the store is dedicated to Books of Wonder’s extensive antiquarian and rare books section.
Here you can find an amazing array of your favorites. If you’re wondering how much a first edition of Where the Wild Things Are (inscribed, with an original sketch) is going for these days, it’s $22,500.
Not far from the rare books, I was delighted to find a real live author signing books! In fact, I shouted across three shelves of retail space to tell Katie that Rowboat Watkins was in the store. Rowboat is the author and illustrator of Rude Cakes (which I love, and which we story timed here). His newest book is Pete With No Pants. Not only did I get a signed copy of Rude Cakes, Rowboat let me model his awesome headgear.
Moving towards the front of the store, I soon discovered “Blind Date With A Book.”
Essentially, it’s a book wrapped in brown paper with a suggested age range, genre, and enticing teaser. YES!
I almost bought this one…
One more fantastic detail. At the front of the store are thank you illustrations from visiting artists. It reminded me of the fabulous conference room walls at the Mazza Museum (which you can see at the end of this post).
Here’s my personal favorite:
Katie and I spent a happy hour shopping Books of Wonder before we had to dash to catch our train. My only regret is that I spotted this cool canvas logo bag as I was walking out the door. Too late to go back and snag it, darn it!
But not to worry. I’ll definitely return. In fact, in September a second location will be opening on 217 West 84th Street. If you’re in town, definitely make Books of Wonder a destination. Just be prepared to leave with LOTS of books. This store is bursting with love for children’s books. How can you resist taking some of the love home with you?