Children’s Book Festival

princeton children's book festival 2018 poster by angela dominguez

Presented by the Princeton Public Library with sponsorship by jaZams. Poster art by Angela Dominguez

Friends! Romans! Tri-State Countrymen! Travel henceforth to Princeton this weekend for the Princeton Public Library‘s legendary Children’s Book Festival! Every year, scores of talented authors and illustrators gather under the library’s big white tents in Hinds Plaza, meeting fans and signing books.

My personal highlights over the past 12 years of the book festival…receiving writing advice from Rebecca Stead, seeing my buddy Galen Longstreth sharing her adorable book, Yes, Let’s, and having a breakfast chat with Pseudonymous Bosch before the event. My library was there in 2010 as well, doing a “Books Done Wrong” activity!

The public library always invites terrific authors and illustrators. Here’s the 2018 line-up if you’d like to see it. But if we may be so bold as to make a few blog connections to this year’s festival attendees?


Tracey Baptiste: The author of The Jumbies now has a sequel out called, Rise of the Jumbies. I interviewed Tracey in 2016. Her books are suspenseful, spooky, and straight up awesome.

Margery Cuyler: Margery’s Skeleton for Dinner is totally hilarious, and we hope we did her book justice with our dancing, glowing skeleton marionette project.

them bones

Ame Dyckman: Ame has had three featured projects on our blog! A robot marionette for Boy + Bot, a bouncing baby wolf for Wolfie the Bunny, and a raucous tea party game for Tea Party Rules. She’s inspired so many projects…probably because her books are so fun and amazing.

Steve Light: Master wielder of all things fountain pen, Steve caught our eye with Zephyr Takes Flight, and we just HAD to do a steampunk airship project. We had to!

one amazing airship

Zachariah OHora: Zachariah’s distinctive illustrative style has graced blog twice in books, once for Wolfie the Bunny and again for The Teacher’s Pet. We’re dying to do a project for The NOT So Quiet Library.

Lauren Magaziner: Lauren’s book, Pilfer Academy, was a featured book at To Be Continued in 2016. Our book-related activities involved lots of sneaking around, stealing things, and a green crepe paper streamer laser maze. Oh yeah.

navigating-the-lasers

Wendy Mass: I interviewed Wendy in 2009 and WOW has she been busy, including being on the New York Times Bestseller list for The Candymakers! She recently released Bob, a book she co-wrote with Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead.

Christopher Silas Neal: Christopher’s gorgeous, minimalistic, vibrant illustrations in Over and Under the Snow inspired a winter hibernation snow-scape project that was a huge hit at story time.

winter is coming

Anica Mrose Rissi: I just posted a hamster-rific blog project for her book, The Teacher’s Pet, along with an author interview. So now you have to go to the festival meet Nica and see all her other fantastic books!

Sean Rubin: I did a blog feature on Sean’s debut graphic novel Bolivar in 2017. Bolivar is an astounding work of art and really must been seen in person. Now’s your chance!

bolivar 6_artwork by sean rubin

Daniel Salmieri: Daniel has written and illustrated many books, but we loved his work on Meet The Dullards, and fashioned our boring-not-boring blog project on his playful artistry.

Liz Garton Scanlon: Liz’s book In the Canyon is full of playful, vivid rhymes. We tried to capture some of the wonder she evokes with our own enormous cardboard canyon.

hiking the canyon

Rebecca Stead: How often do you get to meet a Newbery winner? I interviewed Rebecca about When You Reach Me in 2011 and she has continued to write amazing, thoughtful, and deeply meaningful books.

David Ezra Stein: ‘Ol Mama Squirrel? Best. Book. Ever. I couldn’t stop laughing when I read it aloud during story time! And weirdly, the squirrel tree puppet project went viral in China. Wow.

puppet in action

Audrey Vernick: Buffaloes and drum sets. Need I say more? OK, how about winning a giant pet whale? Audrey’s hilarious books such as Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums and I Won a What? inspire us.

Rowboat Watkins: We made cake hats with attitudes for Rowboat’s fantastic Rude Cakes. But much to our delight, he popped up unexpectedly in this post about Books of Wonder in NYC.

headgear with attitude problems


The Children’s Book Festival is Saturday, September 22m from 11am to 4pm in Hinds Plaza of the Princeton Public Library, rain or shine. Books are available for purchase at the event through jaZams, our incredible, local, independent, family-owed toy store. We hope to see you there!

Amazing Airships

one amazing airshipIt’s sky-high adventure at a our steampunk story time! These amazing airships with matching goggles are a cinch, thanks to our ready-made templates and a few sparkly extras!

We read Zephyr Takes Flight by Steve Light (Candlewick Press, 2012). Zephyr loves airplanes. She draws them, plays with them, and aims to fly one someday. But when an exuberant triple loop-de-loop spectacular ends with a crash in the living room, she is grounded in her room. That’s when Zephyr discovers a door behind her dresser that leads to the most wondrous place she’s ever seen. A hangar filled with paper, pens, plans, and amazing flying machines! She takes a test flight, but is forced to crash land in mountains inhabited by flying pigs. There she meets Rumbus, a little pig who can’t fly. Clever Zephyr builds Rumbus some wings, and in exchange, Rumbus and his family help her fly back home. She arrives just in time to hear her parents calling her for a triple-hug, triple-pancake, spectacular.

You’ll need:

  • 1 rectangle of white poster board (approximately 8.5″ x 11″)
  • 1 paper bag
  • 1 small box (mine was 2″ x 3″ x 3″)
  • 4 pieces of twisteez wire for the airship’s basket (approximately 5.5″ long)
  • 1 piece of twisteez wire for the airship’s carrying loop (approximately 9″ long)
  • 1 piece of twisteez wire for goggle strap (approximately 17″ long)
  • Templates, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock (more on these later!)
  • A selection of sparkle stems
  • A selection of metallic dot stickers
  • Hole punch, scissors, tape, stapler, glue for construction
  • Metallic markers for decorating

We’ll begin with the poster board framework that houses your airship’s balloon! Start with an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of poster board in landscape orientation. Fold the poster board from left to right.

airship step1Starting from the folded end, make four, 4.25″ long cuts. Each cut should end about an inch from the end of the paper. These will form the “struts” of your airship’s framework.

airship step2Unfold the poster board and flip it over. Currently, your struts have 1 central crease. You’re going to need to add 2 more creases on each strut (one on either side of the central crease). The new creases should be about 2.5″ away from the central crease.

Below you can see the poster board with 1 central crease. The strut at the very bottom, however, has 3 creases.

airship step3Crease all the struts, then circle the poster board and staple both ends. Your airship framework should now look like this:

airship step 4Punch four holes in one of the struts. This is where your airship’s basket will attach later.

airship step 5Now for the balloon! Open, then crumble, a paper bag. The more wrinkly the bag, the better it looks! Keeping the bag crumpled, slip it between the struts. Gently fluff the bag to fill out the framework.

Originally, I asked the kids to pull the bag apart with their fingers. But one mom came up with this clever maneuver. She pulled the opening of the bag through one end of the framework and briskly blew into the bag to inflate it. Genius!

puffing up the balloonI have to say, that’s got to be the weirdest blog photo yet. And that’s saying a lot. Come to think of it, doesn’t it look a bit like a steampunk asthma inhaler?

Time to attach the basket! If necessary, cut the lid and tabs off a small box, then punch a hole in each corner. Secure four, 5.5″ pieces of twisteez wire to the holes. Attach the other ends to the holes in the strut.

finished airshipYou’ll notice that the airship in the above photo has a hanging loop at the top. That’s a 9″ piece of twisteez wire circled around the top strut. Secure the loop to the underside of the strut with tape.

At this point, your ship is done and it’s time to decorate! There are tons of things to choose from in the templates below:

Bird wings, butterflies, gears template
Gears, little wings template
Big wings, little wings template
Medium wings and rudders template
Goggle template
Assorted propellers

Originally, the templates were created by artist Aliisa Lee for a steampunk hat craft (except the assorted propellers, airship wing and rudders – I, ahem, drew those chunky little things).  We reused the templates for this miraculous mechanism. Now we’re using them for airships. It just goes to show the elegance and versatility that is steampunk.

To allow kids lots of creative time, we prepped the airship frameworks in advance. We also cut out various items from the templates and stuck them in individual buckets and baskets for easy browsing.

basketsIf you’re using a bucket, it helps to stick a little picture of the item on the front, for kids who are too short to lean over and peer inside.

bucketsThese buckets are great for organizing art supplies. I found them in the bulk candy section of Party City when I was researching red buckets for this Kate Wetherall project. As Kate has proven time and time again, they are super handy! We also offered sparkle stems, metallic markers, extra twisteez wire, and metallic dot stickers for a little bling.

fully decorated airshipTo make goggles, simply color a pair from the template, punch holes on the ends, and knot a 17″ piece of twisteez wire through both holes. Adjust for size, and perch the goggles on top of your head like a headband. Some kids, however, cut holes in their goggle’s eye pieces, which were incredibly adorable. Look at this duo!

fantastic goggles