DCPL Love: Takoma Park Neighborhood Library

I love public libraries. This may not seem surprising, as I am a librarian (although not a public librarian), but really, I love public libraries as a (heavy) user. They have been a happy place since I was a kid. I volunteered at the public library in middle and high school. I briefly worked at DCPL as a Sunday librarian, but mostly I use them: as a source of great reading material, music and movies. As a warm and friendly place to hang out, and NOW… as a wonderful! free! place to entertain my kid.

Last weekend, I checked out the Takoma Park Branch of DCPL. It was my first time there (even though it is pretty close to my house), and I think the word to describe it is charming. It was built in 1911 and was the first neighborhood library in the DCPL system (which was created in 1896). As the original “Central” library is no longer a library, this is now the oldest library building (and one of 4 “Carnegie” libraries) in the system. You can read more about the history of this branch on DCPL’s website, if you are curious.





The children’s picture book collection surrounds a fireplace, which just makes me so happy. A fireplace! There is a small room to the left of the children’s collection, which has the board books, some puzzles, some puppets, and the magical kid’s computer, which Frances adores and which is her first stop in every library that we go to. Plenty to entertain a toddler on a cold Sunday afternoon.

We managed to return a TON of library books (our house was in danger of being overrun!) and only check out one: What elephant? by Geneviève Coté, a sweet picture book about George and the elephant who appears in his living room one day. The book was as charming as the library!

One of my life list goals is to visit every library in the DCPL system. There are 26 libraries total, and this is the 5th one I’ve posted about. You can read the other posts here.

DCPL Love: Takoma Park Neighborhood Library

Lazy Mom* DIY: Scribble Mugs


1) Purchase one or more Porcelaine markers. Amazon has a bunch of colors. The internet suggests buying bullet tip over fine tip, as it’s easier for toddlers to use.

2) Purchase one or more white ceramic mugs. I got mine cheap from Marshall’s, but there are probably even cheaper options. If you have a white mug in your house, that works too, as does really any form of white ceramic tableware. Bowls? Plates? Go wild!

3) Adequately protect your toddler and furniture. A paint smock and newspaper over the booster tray were used in our house.

4) Let toddler scribble away. I spun the mugs around a little, so that she would get all the sides. But really? It’s their masterpiece. Don’t worry about it! And remember, smudges add authenticity.

5) Allow the mugs to sit out for 24 hours without being touched.

6) Bake at 300 degrees for 35 minutes. Voila! You have a dishwasher-safe piece of original art – perfect for your morning tea, or gifting to toddler-art aficionados (aka, Grandparents).

*The lazy mom I’m referring to is me. You certainly don’t have to be a Mom to do this craft. Access to a toddler helps though. They are much better at scribbling than grown-ups.

Lazy Mom* DIY: Scribble Mugs

Toddler Reads: Planes Trains & Automobiles


Pilot Pups. Written by Michelle Meadows, Illustrated by Dan Andreagen. (2008).

A sweet, rhyming tale about stuffed puppies in a remote control airplane. When the toy train breaks down, it’s pilot pups to the rescue! Lovely earth-toned oil illustrations.

Planes. Written and Illustrated by Byron Barton. (1986).

A brightly colored board book about different kinds of planes (jet planes, cargo planes, crop dusters and so on). This was perfect for Frances’ plane obsession phase!

Planes Fly! Written by George Ella Lyon. Illustrated by Mick Wiggins. (2013).

Another rhyming plane tale, about different kinds of planes and the things that they can do. The digital illustrations are reminiscent of 1930s travel posters.


and the train goes… Written and Illustrated by William Bee. (2007).

This is a good participatory read – all about the sounds made by a train and the people on it. The illustrations are bright and baroque. The decoration (and the car full of people drinking tea) remind me India, but it could just as easily be anywhere!

How to Train a Train Written by Jason Carter Eaton. Illustrated by John Rocco. (2013).

A cute, smart tale about how to capture and tame your very own pet train. I appreciated that both boys and girls are pictured with their pet trains. Lush, full-page illustrations with lots of whimsical details for kids to enjoy.

The Little Engine that Could. Written by Watty Piper. Illustrated by George & Doris Hauman. (1930).

A classic that’s still enjoyable to read today – all about the Little Blue Engine who thinks she can. The book was reissued last year, with new illustrations by Loren Long, but I enjoy the original version that I read as a child – especially the page with the smiling apples and oranges!


Alphabeep: A Zipping, Zooming ABC. Written by Deborah Pearson, Illustrated by Edward Miller. (2003).

A colorful and fun alphabet book focused on vehicles. From ambulance to Zamboni, the book gives a sentence or two about each mode of transport or traffic sign. I especially liked the drivers and other individuals in the illustrations are diverse in terms of both gender and skin tone.

Bus Stops. Written and illustrated by Taro Gomi. (1988).

Follow the bus from stop to stop as it lets its passengers off. The book has great, double-page illustrations, and just a few sentences of text per page. The bus travels a much wider route than any I’ve been on, but that’s what makes it fun! We end in the garage, saying Good Night to the bus, which makes it a good pick for bedtime.

Toot, toot, beep, beep. Written and illustrated by Emma Garcia. (2008).

A simple tale about the sounds that different vehicles make (“‘Beep beep’ goes the little red jeep.” “‘Chugga chugga goes the old green camper van.”) Bright, collage-like illustrations add appeal to this noisy tale.

Toddler Reads are aimed at children 0-3. All of these books have been Frances-approved.

Toddler Reads: Planes Trains & Automobiles

1965 Caldecott Medal: May I Bring a Friend?

may i bring a friend.pdf

May I Bring a Friend? was written by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers and illustrated by Beni Montresor. The book tells the story of a young boy who is invited to tea by the King and Queen. He asks “May I Bring a Friend?”. In rhyming text, the boy calls at the castle for a series of visits with an succession of wild friends (giraffes, lions, and elephants to name a few), all graciously welcomed by the King and Queen.

It’s interesting to see how books reflect their time – and how much styles of illustration go in and out of vogue. The pictures in this book scream 1960s to me. The look is bright, but in a limited color palette: pink, red, yellow and orange, representational, but not overly realistic.

The Caldecott Medal is awarded to the “artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year”. So while, de Regniers wrote the book (and over 50 others), the Medal was won by Beni Montresor. (No glory for the writers of pictures books who aren’t also illustrators!). Montresor was an Italian illustrator and set and costume designer. Although he illustrated a number of children’s books, his life’s work was the theater, and he moved to the United States in 1960 to design sets and costumes for various opera companies. He was nominated for a Tony Award 4 times for his designs.

As a side note, one of the “also rans” for the 1965 Caldecott was a totally trippy book called Rain Makes Applesauce, that made me believe as a child that everyone in the 60s really WAS on drugs.

May I Bring a Friend? would probably appeal most to preschool-aged kids. Frances let me read it to her once, but hasn’t ever asked for it since.


One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is the second post about a Caldecott book. You can read about the 1949 winner here.

1965 Caldecott Medal: May I Bring a Friend?

Update: Read it or Lose it

Last January, I selected 20 books in my house that I had been meaning to read, but just hadn’t gotten around to. I vowed that if I didn’t read them in the next year, I would give the unread books away. In the end I finished 9 of the books on my list.

The books I finished were:
The Book That Changed My Life edited by Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen. Finished March 2013.
Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food by Gary Paul Nabhan. Finished May 2013.
Daughter of Heaven by Leslie Li. Finished March 2013.
Defiance by Carla Jablonski. Finished January 2013.
Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang. Finished January 2013.
Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter by Ruth Rendell. Finished August 2013.
The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez. Finished February 2013.
The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family’s Legacy of Infidelities by Katharine Weber. Finished January 2014.
Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull. Finished December 2013.

Started but never got in to:
Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels by Jill Jonnes
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Lewis & Clark by Nick Bertozzi
Radio On by Sarah Vowell
Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History by Sidney Wilfred Mintz
To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America by Lillian Faderman

Never even picked up (guess I didn’t want to read them as much as I thought):
Lies Across America by James W. Loewen
Origins by Amin Maalouf
Trash by Dorothy Allison
What You Call Winter by Nalini Jones

Didn’t finish, but giving myself an exception and keeping, because I make the rules, dammit!
The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich

All the books I didn’t finish are getting donated. If any are on your To Read list, and you’d like me to send them to you, just let me know!

Update: Read it or Lose it

1949 Caldecott Medal: The Big Snow


The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader is a quiet book. It tells the story of the preparations of wild animals preparing for Winter (likely in New York State, where the Haders lived). The book talks about the birds that stay North and those that migrate, the animals that store food and those that continue to forage, the animals that hibernate and those that stay awake. The book culminates with the arrival of the Big Snow, and the subsequent hunt for food by those animals still around and awake.

This book definitely feels like it is from an earlier time. The illustrations are realistic, and only some are in color. The story is simple. The animals don’t talk or have human characteristics, they are, quite simply, animals. It’s lovely, in a very muted way.

Berta and Elmer Hader were a married, illustration team. They began their careers illustrating magazines, but switched to children’s books in the late-1920s. They wrote and illustrated dozens of books together, and illustrated books for other authors as well. They were nominated for the Caldecott Medal twice (in 1940 for Cock-a-Doodle-Doo and in 1944 for The Mighty Hunter), before winning in 1949 with this book.

Interestingly to me, the Haders beat out Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal in 1949, which is definitely a better known book today. I had never heard of the Haders before starting my Caldecott quest, but they were definitely well-known and prolific illustrators (and writers) in their day.

This is not a book for toddlers. Frances listened to a few pages, before losing interest and wandering off. I imagine it is a best fit for early Elementary School students – those who have begun learning about things like hibernation and migration. I could see a young nature-lover really poring over the illustrations.


One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of post talking about each book.

1949 Caldecott Medal: The Big Snow

2013 in Book Statistics

This post is my yearly indulgence of my nerdy love of both books and statistics. Thanks for humoring me, dear reader.

Total Books Read in 2013: 75

  • Number Read in Best Month: 11 (January)
  • Number Read in Worst Month: 3 (October)

Total Books Read in 2012: 64

Total Books Read in 2011: 130

Total Books Read in 2010: 130

Total Books Read in 2009: 200

Total Books Read in 2008: 80

Total Books Read in 2007: 122

Total Books Read in 2006: 70

Fiction/Non-fiction Split:

2013: 60%/40%

2012: 72%/28%

2011: 70%/30%

2010: 68%/32%

2009: 84%/16%

2008: 63%/37%

2007: 50%/50%

2006: 59%/41%

Percentage of Books by Women (Overall/Fiction/Non-fiction):

2013: 68%/69%/67%

2012: 61%/67%/53%

2011: 59%/58%/62%

2010: 55%/54%/59%

2009: 44%/44%/ 42%

2008: 68%/70%/67%

2007: 60%/57%/68%

2006: 74%/88%/55%

Kindle vs. Print Books:

2013: 53%/47%

2012: 73%/27%

Books by New (To Me) Authors: 60% (This is the first year I’ve looked at this, but I saw it on this blog post, and I got curious about what that number would be for me. I feel like I tend to read the same folks all the time, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was branching out more than expected).

Five Star Books of 2013:

(After I wrote this list, I noticed that fully half of the books are children’s/YA! I really gave myself permission to read what appealed to me this year, instead of what I felt like I *should* read and I think this list reflects that!)

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.

2013 in Book Statistics