Author: clairelangdon

Wonderland BookSavers, Inspiring with Literature

By Claire Langdon

WBS HAI kids

These are the Haitian children who will receive these beautiful books!

Recently, team Wonderland BookSavers has been pursuing a new facet of our outreach: not only are we continually dedicated to our original mission to spread our love of literature by salvaging books and donating them to children globally, but we are also striving to generate a multiplied impact by connecting a global community over service and literature.

Over the past four months, our team collaborated with Mr. John McMillan’s French students from Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center in Chicago to address a problem facing schools in Haiti. Many schools, teachers, and students lack the literary resources needed to encourage a literate, educated community. To continue our preexistent efforts to bring books to schools in Haiti, as well as to involve our friends with similar goals in Chicago, we developed a relationship in which these students compose children’s stories in French, and we act as the conduit through which they can be successfully and usefully donated. Our community partner Susy Whitcomb at Haitian Education Initiatives will personally deliver the books to Jacmel, Haiti in March.

Not only will the recipients benefit from the practice and variety afforded by these books, but they will be the beneficiaries of impressive authorship and meticulous illustrations. The time and creativity that have very evidently been applied to these books are manifestations of the genuine care and interest going into the project and towards the Haitian children. Included below are a few of these books!

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As a result of this effort, two geographically separate communities are being connected with literature as the liaison. Our team is excited to further our mission by continuing to create a network not only within our immediate community, but with others across the world. We hope that another collaborative opportunity to illustrate books, write letters, or otherwise expand our global, literature-inspired community arises soon! Just as team Wonderland BookSavers is “inspired by literature,” we hope to spark that same inspiration in others across the world.

Reading for Rosebud



The Rosebud Children’s Garden on the prairie

By Claire Langdon

A few months ago, we attended an event held at our local library, Pequot, where Sage, a Lakota Indian who lives on Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, visited. He introduced us to his people’s culture with oral stories and native dances. Yet, despite this cheerful congregation, mission groups from two local churches, Southport Congregational and Trinity, told us of the crippling poverty rampant on the reservation. As education is frequently championed as a portal out of poverty, we decided to help by donating books to the children on South Dakotan reservations to facilitate their academic success, and to introduce them to the “magical awesomeness” of reading!
To make the book donations even more meaningful, and to experience the living conditions of our books’ recipients, we packed up and caravanned to South Dakota.


Over the span of our trip, we donated 70 boxes of books, each brimming with books on a plethora of topics and a range of reading levels

First stop: Rosebud Reservation

When we arrived in South Dakota, we were struck by the beauty of the landscape, enveloped by never-ending sky. However, the prairie was settled in many ramshackle homes and buildings, illustrating the poverty upon the reservation.


The Episcopal Mission’s church at Rosebud


Claire, Chair, and Pierce, Vice-Chair, delivering books to the Episcopalian headquarters


Brooks Barry, Pierce, Wills, and Emma delivering boxes of books

After meeting with the group from Trinity, we brought the books into the Episcopal offices on the reservation. They are taking the boxes we donated, and are distributing the books to twenty different locations across the reservation. The mission group is building shelves in each community center, so that children all over the reservation, which is about the same size as Maryland, will have access to a library.

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Meeting the Episcopalian mission with our books

Visiting Rosebud was an eye-opening experience. We witnessed the poverty of one of the areas to which we donate books, as well as the gratitude from the people involved. These in-person experiences continue to motivate our mission: to spread quality literature around the world, especially to those less fortunate.

Next stop: Pine Ridge Reservation!

Imagination and Idealization: The Grim Parallels Between Poe and the Salem Witch Trials

By Claire Langdon

On Friday morning, Madeline, Emma and I led a tour at Pequot Library, entitled the “Poe and Witches Exhibit”. The exhibit was centered around the theme of imagination and idealization, especially in reference to the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and the Salem witch trials: perfect topics, as Halloween is just around the corner!

When the elementary school class from a local town arrived, we began an architectural tour, as it is important to appreciate the unique patterns, art, and craftsmanship that can be seen throughout the library. On the library’s exterior, there are often overlooked dates chiseled above the arched, pink granite entrances, which read 1637 and 1887. The latter represents the year of the library’s opening, and the former represents the year of the first recorded event in Southport, Connecticut: the Great Swamp Fight. The battle marked the ending of the Pequot War, and it is believed by experts at the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation that many artifacts still lie beneath homes and wetlands in the surrounding area.

As we continued to lead the group of children throughout the library, we arrived at the “stacks”. Originally donated by renowned town philanthropists, the Wakeman family, the stacks still house adult books in the extensive rows of books, which are bejeweled with Tiffany glass windows. The upstairs of the stack, which was most students’ favorite part of the tour, has a thick glass floor and retired gas lines, which, historically, would provide light for the readers on the floor below as evening fell.


Upstairs in the Stacks, Courtesy of

After the architectural tour, we lectured the students on the witch trials of the 1600’s. Though most of them had heard of the Salem witch trials, they were surprised to hear that Fairfield has a dark history of trying and dunking or hanging accused witches. After discussing the significance of primary sources with them, we read aloud from a book in the display case that entailed the ideas of witch trial proponents Increase and Cotton Mather. In relation to the theme of imagination and idealization, we discussed with the students how the imaginations of the people at the time, who had little proof of cause if anything went awry, might be fueled by influential writers such as the Mathers, or town leaders such as Rodger Ludlowe. Additionally, we discussed how the term “grim” is applicable to both the trials and Poe’s works, and how thematic parallels can be drawn despite the difference in time period. We finished by conversing about our current idealization of witches; how we imagine them to be evil with green skin and a pointy hat, or kind and fairy-like, as Glinda is portrayed in the Wizard of Oz.

Following out tour of the witch exhibit, we transitioned into Perkins Gallery to explore imagination and idealization in the context of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. Specifically, the focal point of the exhibit was Poe’s dark imagination, and what he triggered in our own imaginations, as well as others’. Alongside his own works, many of the artifacts were renditions of some of his famous works, such as cartoon posters of The Raven, a miniature cat jack-in-the-box version of The Black Cat, and tiny coffin-shaped copy of The Premature Burial. Grim daguerreotypes and compositions transported our imaginations back to the grim lifestyle of the Puritans during the period of witch trials.


The Black Cat


A quote from Poe, expressing the grim darkness that plagued his life and trickled into his literary works, as well as a blown up picture of his daguerrotype.

By exploring both the Salem Witch Trials and the works of Edgar Allan Poe in the context of imagination and idealization, as well as how our own imaginations are impacted by literary works, the students were able to make connections between two separate points in history. By exploring a common theme in the light of two different time periods and multiple different authors, parallels can be drawn between idealization and works of art and literature.

The Eric Carle Museum

By Claire Langdon

Recently, the Wonderland BookSavers visited the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. The picturesque facility sits on idyllic farmland, surrounded by verdant pastures and mountains. The museum itself boasts a countless variety of artwork by illustrator and author Eric Carle: the work ranges from large canvas paintings to small collages. Additionally, the Eric Carle Museum exhibits the art and literary works of other artists and authors, and houses a fabulous library, bookstore and an arts and crafts workshop.IMG_1520.jpegIMG_1569.jpeg

Above is a picture of the arts and crafts room. They taught us how to make our own creative stamps with which we could create our own prints! We took our inspiration from the colorful simplicity of Eric Carle’s collages.

This time, the special exhibits consisted of an exhibition of Beverly Cleary’s books and characters, as well as an intriguing exhibit on the works of Robert McCloskey, the author of childhood classics such as Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings. Cleary’s exhibit showcased drafts and developments on stories and characters such as Ramona Quimby and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. 

We found the illustrations, drafts and products of these prestigious authors to be inspiring to our own efforts in writing and art. As aspiring students and writers, we are often told that drafts are the key to potent and eloquent pieces, but seeing their processes incarnated this advice into reality.


Above are drafts of the illustrations for Make Way for Ducklings and the cover of Blueberries for Sal.

Within the exhibition galleries, there are always relevant books flanked by chairs and benched, encouraging children and adults alike to sit and read a book. This promotion of literacy is one reason that we love visiting the Eric Carle Museum: it demonstrates that literature and learning can be fun, and explores the impact of art on books.


IMG_1525.jpegOutside of the cozy library, there are large versions of some of Carle’s most recognizable characters from his widely cherished childrens’ books, including those from The Very Hungry Catepillar.

Overall, the Eric Carle Museum is host to a spectrum of engaging and enlightening activities and exhibits. The exceptionally curated exhibits are continually renewed with engaging exhibits laden with art and literature, and the Eric Carle Museum has become a favorite stop!


The Drama Book Shop

By Claire Langdon

This past Thursday, I was in New York City for an audition. Before the appointment, we walked around the Theater District and Times Square in order to find a book store so that we would have something to read in the waiting room. It was then that we stumbled across a very unique book store: The Drama Book Shop. 

As suggested by its name, the shop carries merchandise related to show business. Entire plays by a spectrum of authors await the hands of voracious actors, authors and directors alike. Often, actors pass the time before auditions in the rickety yet comfortable assorted chairs and couches, because the overall atosphere of the Drama Book Shop is amicable and inviting. 

The merchandise itself includes scripts from the newest Broadway plays, to books on costume making, to guides on the lighting of Wicked the musical. There are even examples of elaborate and avant garde costumes of such originality, that one would only see anything like them in the tiny “theater world” nestled within the shop’s walls. 

Personally, we settled for the classics; there was an entire wall dedicated to Shakespearian plays in a variety of different publishers. On our way to the register, we even found a print of William Shakespeare completely composed out of phrases and titles from his plays. The timelessness of his plays go to show the integral role that quality literature plays in the lives of individuals and audiences, even over the course of centuries. 

The Drama Book Shop is a very original and unique store. Conveniently located on the outskirts of Times Square, it provides a familial atmosphere and a source for the inspiration and study of all things theatrical. 

Shakespeare Family Festival

On Friday, the Wonderland BookSavers ventured to Pequot Library for Shakespeare-themed tours and family fun night. The day began with a tour of Pequot’s primary and secondary Shakespearian sources by Susie Whitcomb and Beth Beaudin, both of Yale University. As we peered over the protective glass cases at ornate illustrations and fading folios of William Shakespeare’s plays, Susie Whitcomb, who is also our community partner at Haitian Education Initiatives, spoke in great depth about the history of the books. Each folio, quarto and octavo had a unique historical background; the folios were printed of the Gutenburg press, which implies that Shakespearian texts were highly sought after, since printing on a press would have required a vast conglomeration of resources and effort. Some of the smaller books were even used as social props for learned people to attract scholarly suitors!


IMG_9491After talking about the origins of the texts, including the interesting fact that no text is exactly alike, due to thousands of corrections made over printing, the conversation took an intriguing twist; the guides began talking about the significance of costume as portrayed in every individual performance of any Shakespearian play. Many groups try to maintain historical accuracy by donning costumes reflective of the Elizabethan era. Contrarily, other groups often pinpoint a certain era from which parallels can be drawn between happenings of the period to happenings in the play, or choose to work in completely modern attire, figuring that that is what Shakespeare would have strived for even in the Elizabethan era; modern clothing. As Dr. Whitcomb phrased it, “they thought they were being cool”! Some of the books relayed these messages for themselves; one book, published circa 1935, sported figures drawn in such Art Deco fashion that they were reminiscent of figures found on Greek and Roman pots. Overall, the analysis of costuming practices throughout Shakespearian literature brought engaging depth to the tour.

Following the dissipation of the group, we visited the remainder of the exhibition, including a fascinating canvas covered with common saying that we have derived from William Shakespeare’s plays.


IMG_9493A few hours later, we returned for Pequot Library’s Shakespeare Family Festival. Among the activities were guest speakers, fencing demonstrations, recitations, and crafts. First, we listened as Elise Broach, author of Shakespeare’s Secret, delved into the history behind her novel, including the perplexing arguments on whether William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays that he is credited with writing, or whether they were the work of someone else. Afterwards, we headed for the auditorium, alive with drama clubs reciting sonnets and acting out scenes, and the sword fighting demonstrations.

The Shakespeare Family Festival at our local library connected a community through a simple yet beautiful prospect: to fuel the flame of enthusiasm over Shakespeare’s immortal works by renewing interest in the history embedded within his texts. This event provided continued motivation for us to spread quality literature worldwide, as we witnessed the effects of an author who lived over 500 years ago.


Appetites, Balloons and Culture

After reading the book The Twenty-One Balloons, The Wonderland BookSavers noticed the unique restaurant-government that the people of Krackatoa conformed to. Each family, (whose last names were actually letters ranging from A to T) alternated the days of each month hosting everyone on the island at their family’s restaurant. Each family prepared cuisine that coordinated with their letter. For instance, Mr and Mrs. F had a French restaurant, which they hosted at their French-inspired home. Similarly, Mr. and Mrs. C cooked Chinese food on their night of each month. The restaurant government consisted of each family contributing a proportionate part to the community by providing dinner once a month.

So, the Wonderland BookSavers researched countries and cultures that began with the same letters as our names. 

Reid prepared beef stroganoff and tea, a meal similar to one found in a Russian tearoom. 

Brooks created a Bolivian salad. It was colorful, cultural and enjoyable!

 Claire made spicy Cuban chicken with a citrus glaze. 
Emma stewed an Equadorian quinoa soup and assisted Brooks Morgan in making origami sailboats out of the napkins. They made for a very summery centerpiece!

Finally, for dessert, Brooks Morgan made us lemonade and Belgium chocolate mousse. It was a delicious end to our delectable dinner!

Once finished with our meal, the Wonderland BookSavers focused on a different aspect of the book: the inventions. The Twenty-One Balloons, as its title suggests, is inspired and laden with inventions that feature balloons, such as Professor William Waterman Sherman’s balloon- supported home, or the escape platform that saves the lives of the Krackatoans. So, we set out to create an automated marble track

However, after a while, the pool and summer weather beckoned to us.  We pulled on our bathing suits and hopped into the pool as an end to our book meet!


The Goose River Exchange

By Claire

We recently visited Camden, Maine. Friends of ours, recognizing our love of literature and used books, recommended a unique antique bookstore called The Goose River Exchange.

As we entered, we were greeted with posters from all eras, prints of every kind. First edition and rare books were clustered on the panoramic shelves of the tiny shop. The next room brimmed with archived magazines and historic political propaganda. 

After situating ourselves on the rickety stools in the back room, we spent almost an hour leafing through the books and magazines.  We admired the intricate illustrations of old treasured books, whose illustrious wisdom shines just as bright as it did in its era, despite sitting neglected on a dusty shelf for so long. 

Perhaps some of the most exciting finds at the shop were two books that we had read for our book club. These were John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, and one we recently read, William Pene Du Bois’ The Twenty One Balloons. 


The ancient, fabric-clad edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress from 1898 was bedecked with stunning illustrations. I was reminded of the tedious work of medieval monks as I flipped through the visually astounding pages. 

The second edition of The Twenty-one Balloons looked almost like the modern hardcover edition available today. Yet, with a closer look at the faded pages, we discovered that it was signed by the author!

The Goose River Exchange is a truly unique bookstore, with attentive and knowledgeable staff. The plethora of books contained within the walls of that tiny shop are diverse, informative, and beautiful. We definitely recommend that you visit!

Time Butterflies When You’re Having Fun

By Claire

Today on this dreamy summer afternoon, after reading the book Wings of Light by Stephen R. Swinburne, Wonderland BookSavers teamed with junior members to create our very own butterflies.

After reading the book, our little siblings were captivated by the descriptive language and beautiful illustrations, all of which contributed to portraying the journey of the little yellow butterflies on their way from the rainforest up to Vermont. This inspired the WBS Junior members to make their own (rather messy) renditions of the art.

To make your own book-inspired butterflies, you will need:

  • Paper
  • Paint( we used blue, yellow and pink)
  • Containers or plates for the paint
  • Paint brushes
  • A surface that you don’t mind messing up( we used cardboard)
  • Glitter( optional)
  • And, most importantly, cute little hands that don’t mind getting messy!

First, paint your hand. Get creative!  We made stripes, hearts, polka dots and swirls using the paint and brushes. Little Wills even stamped his hand on the plate of paint without making a specific pattern. His butterfly turned out to be very abstract!

 Next, stamp your hand on one side of your paper. Be sure to press down hard and try not to move your hand too much, as this helps to keep the design clearer.

After stamping your first hand, you can either paint your other hand and stamp it as you did with your first hand, or you can fold the paper in half and press it down to make the same design on both wings. The Wonderland BookSavers experimented with both, and both methods turned out wonderfully.

Once you have completed both wings, use your fingers or the paint brush to make a head, body, and antennas for your little butterfly. To enhance the effect, sprinkle some glitter over your wet paint.

  Voila!  Your book-inspired butterflies are finished. Time Butterflies when you’re having fun!