A Guide to Princeton’s Wonderland

Matthew Eaton, Office of Admission

Honorable Mention

2016-2017 Staff Essay Contest


There is a place on campus not everyone knows about. Its rooms are filled with treasure, history, and knowledge. Be warned, you may encounter danger there, and not everyone you meet will be kind. However, if you choose to make the journey, know that the reward will be well worth it in the end. No ID or fee is required to visit. You need only to bring your imagination. This guide will help show you the way.

To reach this wonderful part of Princeton University, you will first need to find the entrance.

Seek out the stone arches covered in fire, pass beneath them and then through heavy doors. Once through, you will set foot into a great foyer where there will be many paths to choose from. The correct path will lead you 9 ¾ of the way down the northeast corridor.

The entrance you seek will be guarded by a large tiger with a ferocious appetite perched high above! Don’t be frightened. He is friendly, polite, and already stuffed. Smile warmly, offer him tea if you have it, and keep eye contact with him as you move through the entrance.

Make a wish.

As you enter, take note of the wonderful rare treasures, some pleasant and some Grimm, from times long past on display behind enchanted looking glass.

The monkey watching you curiously from behind the kangaroo tree means no harm, but stay alert. Wild Things are roaming nearby. It’s best to keep moving if you can.

Proceed past the old street lamp to the modest home addressed 24 Cotsen. Inside, amongst the shelves, you will find one precious ring that is better left untouched. There will be chairs inviting you to stop and rest for a while. It’s okay to sit. No one will trouble you here. Before moving on, read Instructions for inspiration, check that you have the correct time, and be sure to leave everything as you found it when you arrived.

For a better perspective of the magic that surrounds you, look for the enormous nearby bonsai tree. It can’t be missed. You can climb to the top if you prefer, but the magic carpet is the quicker way up. The Dr.’s cat can show you where to find it.

From the top of the tree, you will have a clear view of this vast enchanted world.

Not far away, lit by a fire that has forged vorpal blades, rests a giant book of gardening secrets. Do not try to move it. It’s way too heavy and rests on that very spot for a reason.

Closely examine the grounds surrounding the bonsai tree and you may discover a bread crumb trail that leads to an old water well. If you can reach the well safely and guide the white rabbit at the bottom to his velveteen friend, there is a chance, just a small chance, that your wish will come true.

Keep on the lookout for three missing tails. If you find them, return them. The owners will be ever so grateful.

When you depart the branches of the great bonsai, look for the secret passageway to the tree’s trunk. There you will discover a small room visited by countless adventurers before you. Fight the urge to sleep on the queen’s royal pillows even if they feel just right. The Lost Boyz have been in this room before, and so has a certain honey-loving bear. They have left their marks for all to see. They are still close by. Others are, too. And they are all waiting for you to visit.

It’s best not to travel here alone. If you are able, bring a special child in your life to share this journey. A child’s imagination will help you see things you may have missed and find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

This is the magic and wonder of Cotsen Children’s Library. From the moment you step inside, the playful interactive landscape makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to an entirely new world. It’s a special space on campus where a child’s imagination has no limits. The Library, also home to an impressive collection of rare books and materials, provides children of all ages with not only a fun place to read, but a number of free programs, events, and other resources. Cotsen Children’s Library is a truly special place on campus not everyone knows about, but everyone should.