The Cuddly Alphabet

soft sensory alphabet by environments

I’m always on the lookout for literacy, and this has to be the cutest alphabet set I have EVER seen. Sweet little stuffed alphabet letters in various patterns, colors, and fabrics. Best of all, some of the letters crinkle, some squeak, some rattle, and some jingle. Just…so…adorable!

We discovered this set while putting together our new library baby program which involves unstructured social time and soft playscapes. But we also wanted a way to work in our best buddy, the alphabet. Enter the Soft Sensory Alphabet by Environments. The set comes with a fabric basket, and each machine washable letter is 5″ tall.

soft sensory alphabet with fabric basket by environmentsThe set retails for $62 online at Discount School Supply. The price is a little steep, but we couldn’t find it less expensively through any other vendors. Etsy, of course, has some fabulous fabric letters, but I don’t imagine they’re machine washable like this set.

How did the set go over? The babies and toddlers loved it. They pounced, sorted, stacked, and rattled the letters. Some traversed the gallery, grasping a favorite. Others spent a good amount of time removing letters from the fabric basket and putting them back in again…

alphabet playtimeThis little girl and her grandparents were naming all the letters as she picked them up. It was incredible to see her grab one and proudly say “W!” all on her own. The Soft Sensory Alphabet by Environments is definitely recommended!

alphabet friends

The Bear Went Over the (Book) Mountain

bear book mountainThis intrepid bear marionette marches over all obstacles in our library landscape… searching for new friends and a cozy place to call home!

We read Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson (Disney Hyperion, 2011). Otto the Bear is a character in a book. He possesses the delightful ability to come to life and rove outside his book. Otto explores the house, reads, and journals on the family typewriter. When his book is tragically overlooked when the family moves away, Otto decides to strike out on his own. But it’s a big world for a tiny bear, and he soon grows downhearted. But what’s this? A building full of light, hope, and characters like him? Now, Otto lives in the library with tons of new friends and readers. He is a very happy bear!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (ours was 4″ x 4″ x 4″ – a small tissue box works too)
  • String
  • Brown construction paper
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • 2 large plastic buttons
  • 3 toilet paper tubes
  • Red felt (optional)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

bear mariontteThis marionette is designed with simplicity in mind! First, cut the bottom off a small box.Then cut the box down to about 2.25″ tall. Punch two holes in the top of the box, and thread a 29″ piece of string up and out of both holes like so:

bear marionette stringTie the free ends of the string to a wooden dowel rod. If the top of your box has a lid like ours did, make sure to tape it down tightly.

Next up, the bear’s face! The snout is half a toilet paper tube with a circle of brown construction paper covering one end. Hot glue the snout in place, then add a plastic button nose, a pair of wiggle eyes, and ears. We made the ears (and the bear’s tail) out of the extra cardboard we cut from the box earlier.

bear marionette faceTo make the bear’s legs, cut 2 toilet paper tubes in half. Punch 2 holes in the top of a half, then thread a 10″ piece of string through the holes like this:

bear marionette legRepeat the above steps with the remaining three legs, then tape all 4 legs to the inside “ceiling” of the box. Here’s a shot of the underside of the box with the leg strings taped in place.

underside of bear marionetteDid you notice the black button in the image above? We hot glued that to the inside rear of the bear to counterbalance the button on the bear’s snout. It helps keep the marionette from leaning forward too much.

In the book, Otto wears a handsome red messenger bag. We crafted our bags out of red felt, using hot glue to seal the sides. A little piece of black masking tape held the bag closed.

bear marionette bag When the bear marionettes were finished, we encouraged kids to pull books off the shelves and use them to create mountains, walls, ramps, bridges, and paths for their bears to travel across. A few kids also made cozy little places for the bear to nap. Awwwww!

hibernating bear

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.