Please, sir, I want some more…

dr dana oliver twist

Countless articles, numerous treatises, and dozens of dissertations have been written on the role food plays in children’s literature. And we have certainly done more then a few posts on it (see: top secret fooj, gingerbread house contest, and Harry Potter recipe testing).

With glorious fictitious edibles in mind, I developed a quick activity for Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary society for 9-12 year olds. The task was simple: match the food to the literary character. However, the list ranged from easy to challenging, thanks to the invaluable assistance of librarians on the ALSC listserv. They came up with tons of clever matches.

Below is the game, and here is the pdf version (and NO answer key! Mwah hah hah!):

characters and foods game

If you’re wondering where on earth we found a Victorian-esque dining hall for the blog photo, the answer is Proctor Hall. It’s the dining room for Princeton University’s Graduate College. It’s absolutely gorgeous, with wood paneling, oil portraits, and a massive stained glass window.

proctor hall princeton university graduate collegeI couldn’t resist busting out a little Oliver! at the end of the shoot. If you look closely, you can see that I truly got into character by smearing mud all over my London orphan face.

Disclaimer: I have NO vocal training, and am famous for messing up song lyrics.


Many thanks to Marybeth Shippole for graciously allowing us to visit Proctor Hall, and to all the ALSC librarians for their invaluable contributions to the game!

Mission: Hugs for All

hugs for allIt’s a big world out there. A world with lots of things in it. And those things need HUGS. The question is…are you up to the task? Are you a Hug Machine?

We recommend Hug Machine by Scott Campbell (Atheneum, 2014). Prepare yourself world. The Hug Machine (a little boy in a striped shirt and red rain boots) is on a mission to cheer people up, calm people down, and make things right. Tree? Hug! Park bench? Hug! Crying baby? Hug! Even a spiky porcupine gets a special padded hug. It’s impossible to read this book without smiling. Highly recommended!

Today’s simple project was designed by Jennifer Hyde, an ingenious teacher in Logan, Utah. Jennifer’s “Paper Hug” was featured in Family Fun magazine many years ago. I modified it only slightly for today’s post.

You’ll need:

  • Poster board
  • Scissors
  • Markers

Trace your left and right hands at each end of a 5.5″ x 27″ strip of poster board. Keep the hands connected as you cut them out of the poster board.The result is a long “hug.” Decorate the hug with markers (or use color masking tape like we did).

poster board hugOK, you’re ready to start hugging – and by hugging we mean go forth and find things to wrap your poster board hug around! You can just use the paper hug, or get right in there and use your arms too. Always dedicated to seeing a project through, Katie and I hit the streets on a rainy afternoon to share the love with Princeton.

Hugging John Witherspoon, Founding Father and past President of Princeton University…

witherspoon statue hug

The classic tree hug. It was a little damp, but who cares?

tree hugA mailbox clearly in need of a hug.

mailbox hugHugging a roaster and barista pal at our awesome local coffee shop, Small World.

small world coffee hugA hug for House of Cupcakes, who sell me donuts and cupcakes. Like, everyday.

house of cupcakes hugHugging a rainbow narwhal at JaZams, our stupendous local toy store.

jazams hugNo park bench escapes me…

bench hugNor jungle-like foliage…

leaf hug

A super-sweet hug from the folks at the Bent Spoon, best bakery in the world.

bent spoon hugAn attempted hug of one of Princeton’s famous black squirrels…yeah, no go.

attempted squirrel hugFinally, a hug from a random person who totally rocked the love. Awwwww!

random person hug


Sending hugs to those experiencing devastation and loss in Florida following Hurricane Michael. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Princeton Writes

From left to right: Princeton Writes Director John Wereen, Carla Zimowsk, Dana Sheridan, Dianne Spatafore, and Melissa Moss

Every year, for the past three years, Princeton University’s Princeton Writes program has sponsored a staff writing contest. Well, guys, uh…this year I won the contest! So please forgive a bit of horn tooting. I put blood, sweat, and more then a few tears into my entry, and I’m a proud essay mom.

The Princeton Writes program focuses on non-academic writing and clearness of communication. They offer classes, tutorials, writing retreats, and an annual essay contest in collaboration with the Office of Alumni Affairs and the Humanities Council. This year’s contest topic was to “describe an encounter or relationship that has given you a new perspective.” The results were truly moving.

All of us gathered at a reception earlier this month, and I was invited to read my essay out loud. Which was terrifying.

But the whole gang showed up to get me through. Full disclosure: they served wine and mini cannoli at the reception.

The links to the essays are below. We also recorded us reading them in a studio (very cool!). So if you scroll to the bottom of each page, you’ll find a sound file as well. If you’d like to read more about the authors, please see this article by Adrianne Daponte.

Princeton Writes Prize:

Dana Sheridan – She Still Hasn’t Told Me Her Name

Honorable Mentions:

Melissa B. Moss – Two Autumns
Dianne D. Spatafore – Untitled
Carla M. Zimowsk – Arkadas

I often feel like I’m writing in a void. Therefore, it’s incredibly encouraging and validating when someone likes and honors your work. I’d like to sincerely thank – from the bottom of my heart to the tips of my typing fingers – the Princeton Writes program for allowing writers a chance to channel and share their thoughts. Thank you so much.


Photos by David Kelly Crow