Pancake Power

pancake power

We’re serving up fast flapjacks in this fun duel-player racing game! But who will take home the golden syrup pitcher trophy? Check out our high-action video at the end of the post!

We read Hey, Pancakes! written by Tamson Weston, and illustrated by Stephen Gammell (Harcourt, 2003). Mom and Dad are sleeping in, so the kids (and the dog) head to the kitchen to cook up some amazing, sticky, super yummy pancakes! Yes, it’s a mess, but a little maple syrup never hurt anyone!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 corrugated cardboard rectangle
  • 4 small paper plates
  • 3 paper cups
  • 2 jumbo craft sticks (ours were 8″ long)
  • Tin foil
  • 1 knives and forks template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 2 corrugated cardboard circles
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

To make your pancake game table, hot glue a large tissue box to the bottom of a corrugated cardboard rectangle (we used a 10″ x 14″ cake pad).

pancake tableSet the tabletop with 2 small paper plates, 2 paper cups cut down to 2.25″, and the knifes and forks from the template. Optional: adding cotton ball “liquids” inside the cups, paper napkins, and decorating everything with construction paper, color masking tape and patterned tape.

top of pancake tableWe recommend NOT attaching anything directly to the tabletop. Later, when you’re playing your race game, it’s much funnier when things go flying off the table!

To make your pancake skillets, hot glue jumbo craft sticks to the backs 2 small paper plates, then cover everything with tin foil. The pancakes are 5″ diameter corrugated cardboard circles. Definitely use cardboard. Poster board and construction paper pancakes don’t fly through the air – they just flutter disappointingly. Add a self-adhesive foam foam pat of butter if you so desire:

pancake skillet Finally, the golden syrup pitcher trophy! This is a paper cup. We added a gold mirror board handle and spout as well. And a gold embossed foil seal for extra bling.

golden syrup pitcher trophyTo play the race game, set the table, then have the two players sit some distance on opposite ends. On “Go!” both players must attempt to toss their pancakes to the plates. Keep tossing until a pancake lands on a plate. First one to the plate wins the trophy!


Many thanks to Franny Zawadzki, our new office jill-of-all-trades, for shooting the video. We are delighted to have your talents at Cotsen, including your previously untapped sports announcer skills!

Be YOU!

be youIt doesn’t matter if you are yellow, red, green, this, that, rather, or neither. Just be YOU!

We read Neither by Airlie Anderson (Little, Brown, 2018). Neither the green bunny bird doesn’t fit into the tidy world of blue “This” bunnies or yellow “That” birds. Not rabbity or birdy enough, Neither is asked to leave. After a long flight, Neither lands in The Land of All, where creatures of all kinds live and play happily together.  In The Land of All, everyone is welcome. And yeah, this book totally ROCKS!

We were sooooo excited to have author and illustrator Airlie Anderson visit our library for a fabulous story time. There’s an interview with her after the project part of the post. And after that? We’ll be giving away 3 signed copies of Neither to lucky blog readers!

You’ll need:

  • Poster board
  • Elastic string
  • Costume decorating supplies (more on this below!)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

We kept the construction of this project simple – ears and wings – so kids could dedicate all of their time to decorating. While you can easily make wings out of poster board, we decided to test out the “Colorations Decorate Your Own Wings” from Discount School Supply (set of 12 is $20). The wing span is 22.5″ wide. Here’s a poster board version so you can get an idea of the shape:

neither butterfly wings templateYou can also see how the wings are rigged with loops of elastic cord, so the kids can just slide them on like a backpack. If butterfly wings are not your cup of tea, you can easily turn the butterfly wing shape into bird wings like so…

neither bird wings template

The ears were a simple poster board head band with whatever ears you would like. As you will soon seen, bunny and kitty ears were very popular, though we did have a couple unicorns. We also has tails the kids could tuck into the back of their pants, or attach round their waist with elastic cord.

When your wings, ears, and tails are selected, decorate! We offered metallic , sparkle stems, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, construction paper, self-adhesive foam shapes, crepe paper streamers, iridescent ribbon, color masking tapee, and the Bling Bin! Airlie also walked around, Sharpie in hand, to customize wings and headbands:

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I caught up with the amazing Airlie Anderson after story time, and asked her a few questions…

airlie andersonPlease tell us a little about yourself!

Hi everyone! I’m Airlie, named after my grandma whose parents were Scottish. I was born and raised in California, and now live just outside of Princeton, New Jersey. I love it here! Except when it’s humid.

I was that little kid who was always drawing, and just never stopped. One of my favorite things to do is to sit in a busy café and draw in my sketchbook. My studio is in a sort of hallway in our house, so I can work while our 2 year old son naps.

How did the concept for Neither first occur to you?

I had a dream about an animal that had a mix of characteristics, and in the dream I thought, “This should be a book, and it will be called Neither.” At the time, I was teaching art to a class of middle school students, and they were just so inspiring. That dream was definitely influenced by them!

When it came to designing the main character of Neither, there were so many animal combinations to choose from! How did you finally arrive at the bird bunny?

In my Neither Dream, the character was mostly cat and butterfly, and it was a grey color. But when I experimented with sketches of that character, it looked too precious, so cute. I wanted it to look slightly more awkward, with clear qualities of two different easily recognizable animals. So bunny bird it was! Also I felt that I could make the bunnies blue for some reason, and the birds could be yellow of course. Then Neither would be boldly green. It felt just right.

The colors in this book are gorgeous! What medium did you use to create it?

Oh, thank you! I used gouache, a super saturated an opaque watercolor. It reproduces nicely, doesn’t it? I like to sketch on regular ol’ printer paper and then use a light box to trace each drawing, with paint, onto watercolor paper. Then I put lots of layers of gouache on. Green is a tricky color to reproduce, though, especially Neither’s bright lime green coat. So the excellent people at my publisher suggested an extra ink in the printing process that would make that beautiful shade of green. I was thrilled by this news, and it turned out just delightfully.

What sort of feedback have you received about this story?

Oh, I have received the most wonderful messages about Neither, from people of many different ages and backgrounds. I recently received an email from a fifty-five year old gentleman who works in an LGBTQ community center in Florida, who said the book made him cry happy tears. I hear from parents of children who don’t feel they fit in, and they tell me how Neither is their favorite bedtime book. These messages mean the world to me — the thought of people sharing this story and having a lovely experience because of it is wonderful.

I heard a rumor that Neither is going to be made into a musical! Is this true???

Yes, oh my gosh!!! What a dream come true! Lifeline Theater in Chicago is producing Neither as a musical, to premier in the spring of 2020. Coincidentally/magically, the person writing the stage version has recently moved from Chicago to Princeton and works with mutual friends — so we get to share ideas over coffee!

What are you working on now?

I have two picture book sketches with my agent right now, one about the Easter Bunny and one about sea creatures. I’m also working on a graphic novel, which is a total passion project and has been shouting at me for years to be written. I’m finally listening!


And now it’s time for a FABULOUS book giveaway! We have 3 autographed copies of Neither (Little, Brown, 2017) to share! Just e-mail cotsenevents@princeton.edu with your name, and the initials of someone you think is unlike any other. We’ll put all the entires in a hat and draw 3 winners at random on Tuesday, July 2nd. Good luck!

Beautiful Butterfly Surprise

beautiful butterfliesJust a quick, clever little flip…and your giant leaf reveals a gorgeous butterfly mobile!

We read Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld (Harper, 2019). Mama is slowly waking, but wild baby orangutan is ready for an adventure – with or without her! As mama tries to keep up, wild baby doesn’t quite realize the trouble he’s causing…or the danger he’s in! When mama finally does catch up, baby gets a big scolding. But then he reveals a beautiful present for her, resulting a heartfelt hug.

You’ll need:

At the end of the book, it’s revealed that wild baby has been collecting butterflies to give as a present to Mama. She opens a big leaf and they fly into the sky. We definitely wanted to capture that surprise with our project!

Begin by cutting a leaf from green poster board. Then fold it in half, lengthwise. Note: the leaf has to be fairly large to hold and shelter all the butterflies. Our finished leaf was 16″ long, and 11″ wide.

big green leafNext, knot 4 pieces of clear elastic beading cord around a wooden dowel. The strings need to be fairly long (15″ or so) to allow the butterflies to dangle well below the edges of the leaf. Once all the strings are attached, hot glue the dowel along the spine of the leaf.

leaf with attached dowel Now your leaf needs a finger loop. Fold the leaf in half, then use a box cutter to make a small hole in its middle. Thread an 8″ piece of twisteez wire or pipe cleaner through the slit, then circle the wire to make the loop (you can also use markers to draw veins on the outside of the leaf like we did!).

finger loop on leafNow for the butterflies! Color and cut the butterflies from the template. The way I positioned the butterflies on the template allows you to fold them double sided. But you can also go single sided if you like! Arrange the butterflies on the elastic beading cord, then secure with tape.

attached butterfliesTo operate the mobile, tuck the butterflies into the leaf. Slide your finger in the loop, and, keeping the butterflies tucked, hold the leaf upwards. Find the person you’d like to surprise, then quickly flip the leaf upside down, releasing the surprise butterflies!


You can also simply hang the mobile from the finger loop, and enjoy the butterflies dancing in the breeze.