1990 Caldecott Medal: Lon Po Po

Lon Po Po is (as it is subtitled) a Red-Riding Hood story from China. It tells the story of three sisters, left at home alone, when their mother goes to visit their sick grandmother. That night a wolf knocks on the door and pretends to be the grandmother. Although the younger sisters hurry to let in their beloved grandmother, the oldest sister, Shang, is suspicious and eventually figures out how to trick the wolf into leaving their house (without eating anyone).

Ed Young both wrote and illustrated Lon Po Po. Young was born in China in 1931 and came to the U.S. 20 years later to study architecture. He soon discovered his true love was art and switched his major! The first children’s book Young illustrated, The Mean Mouse and Other Mean Stories written by Janice May Udry, was published in 1962. More than 80 more followed! In addition to his win in 1990 for Lon Po Po, Young had Caldecott Honor Books in 1967 (The Emperor and the Kite) and 1992 (Seven Blind Mice).

His illustrations are based in the philosophy of Chinese painting. In Lon Po Po, Young used pastels and watercolors to create beautiful, shadowy illustrations showing how children might mistake a wolf for a grandmother. The illustrations are split into panels, with text appearing in just a small part of the page.

I love reading fairy tales from other cultures (Cinderella stories from around the world are a particular favorite, which means I’ll definitely have to check out Yeh-Shen which is a Chinese Cinderella tale that Young illustrated). The wolf is a menacing presence in this version of Red Riding Hood, but never gets to the “eat you up” point, which actually made my 4-year-old daughter confused about why then they tricked the wolf outside and killed it. May be a little more appropriate for slightly older kids.

One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my ninth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

1990 Caldecott Medal: Lon Po Po

2001 Caldecott Medal: So You Want to President?


So You Want to Be President? takes a humorous look at the lives, personalities, and commonalities among the first 42 presidents. A basic, non-fiction overview of the presidency, geared toward mid-to-late elementary schools.

The book was written by Judith St. George, who wrote over 40 books – both fiction and biographies for children focused on American History. She published her first book in 1970, and the last in 2009 – a forty year writing career! Judith St. George passed away in 2015 at the age of 84.

The illustrations in So You Want to Be President? are humorous, full of fun details. David Small is one of my favorite illustrators, and he has been nominated for the Caldecott Medal two other times – once for The Gardener (written by his wife, Sarah Small) in 1998 and then again in 2013 for One Cool Friend (written by Toni Buzzeo). He has illustrated over 30 books, 8 of which he also wrote. He has illustrated six books written by his wife, and I must admit those are my favorite.

So You Want to Be President? suffers from one common problem of historical surveys – it was almost immediately out of date. The line that “No person of color has ever been President” seems especially egregious. I wouldn’t choose it to read to a class or kids today for that reason – I’d rather have something up-to-date, or focused on just one historical President. But the illustrations don’t disappoint!

log cabin

One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my eighth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

2001 Caldecott Medal: So You Want to President?

2015 Caldecott Medal: The Adventures of Beekle


Born on an island for imaginary friends, Beekle gets tired of waiting for child to claim him and sets off to the “real world” to find a child of his own. It takes a while, but he does meet his friend and then they go on to have adventures of imagination together. A simple, sweet tale.

The illustrations in The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend are colorful, whimsical, and friendly. There is a clear contrast between the imaginary creatures (bright! vibrant! full of color!) and the “real world” (grey and stark). It’s a joy to watch the color spread once Beekle meets his friend. All of Santat’s illustrations are just a joy for the eyes, I have to say.

Dan Santat has been illustrating picture books for other authors for about a decade now – including one of our favorites, Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos, and has both written and illustrated three books total (Beekle, The Guild of Geniuses, and a graphic novel, Sidekicks, which is where I first discovered Santat a few years ago!). Santat also does commercial illustration, and created the Disney Channel series, The Replacements.

Simple enough to appeal to younger toddlers, with enough visual interest to engage preschoolers, The Adventures of Beekle is a winner!


One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my seventh post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

2015 Caldecott Medal: The Adventures of Beekle

Secular Tithing 2014

One of my life list goals is to give 10% of income to charity for one year – something I’ve been thinking of as “secular tithing”. I’m still a long way from that goal, but I decided to start this year by giving 1% of my take home pay to charity. Just trying to get in the habit of giving regularly. In 2015, I hope to up it to 2% and then maybe in a decade, I’ll be up to my goal amount. 🙂 Here is who I gave money to this year:

January: DC Central Kitchen
I hoped to focus my money locally this year (although you will see, I didn’t always), so I started with DC Central Kitchen, a wonderful organization that serves dual roles as a provider of meals to homeless shelters and transitional housing, and as a vocational program, training unemployed individuals for culinary careers.

February: Russia Freedom Fund
I love to watch the Olympics, but Russia’s treatment of LGBT individuals is truly horrifying, so I felt I needed to so something to offer some support and solidarity to queer folks in Russia, hence this gift.

March: St. Baldrick’s
My cousin shaved her head to support children’s cancer research, making this an easy choice for my March contribution!

April: Columbia Heights Community Market
Donations to this farmer’s market are used to provide matching funds for food stamp purchases – doubling the amount of fresh produce that those recipients can buy!

May: DC Abortion Fund
The DC Abortion Fund provides grants to women who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion. My gift in May was specifically to support a woman who was having to travel from out of state because she couldn’t get the procedure she needed where she lived, an all too common occurrence these days as a woman’s right to chose is restricted more and more.

June: ScholarCHIPS
ScholarCHIPs is a wonderful organization, founded by the granddaughter of the Education Director of Frances’ daycare. They offer college scholarships to children of incarcerated parents (CHIPs). This is generally a great idea, but became more relevant after I had federal jury duty in June. We convicted the individual charged, who had three children. Although convinced of his guilt and that our decision was just, it really struck me the effect that his incarceration would have on his family, and this seemed like a good concrete way to try to make life better for those affected – the innocent bystanders of the criminal justice system, if you will. If you are aware of other great organizations that support the children of incarcerated parents, please let me know!

July: Donors Choose: Barnard Elementary
I love Donors Choose – there is something so satisfying about funding projects for students/teachers. Barnard Elementary is our neighborhood DCPS school and even before I started my 1% project this year, I’ve tried to help fund at least one project a year.

August: Mary’s Center
Mary’s Center is a local non-profit that provides health care, social services and family literacy support. I gave to them though, for their support/creation of Briya Public Charter School, which I read about in the Washington Post and was totally inspired by!

September: Donor’s Choose: Barnard Elementary
Couldn’t decide who I wanted to give to this month, so I just went back to Donors Choose and found a different project at Barnard that needed funds.

October: Gilchrist Hospice
This was a donation that I gave in memory of a coworker’s mother. I will always support hospices though – they do great work, easing the end of our lives and supporting the families of the dying. So important.

November: ArchCity Defenders
Like a lot of folks, I have really been disturbed by what has happened this year at the intersection of race and law enforcement. This article in the Washington Post encouraged me to support ArchCity Defenders who represent low-income clients who are dealing with what can only be described as harassment (and a poverty tax) by their municipal governments.

December: Capital Area Food Bank
Another gift inspired by a Washington Post article. Given the struggles that many folks in our area are having getting enough to eat, it seemed especially important to give to the Food Bank this month.

Secular Tithing 2014

Life List #40. Do the 365 day photo project.

Long before I had a life list, I’ve wanted to do a 365 Photo Project. One day last summer, I just decided to start. It actually took me slightly longer than a year, because I occasionally missed a day, but I just kept on trucking. It’s fun to have these reminders of the past year. It’s going to be weird not to be taking a daily picture – but maybe it will help me have a little more distance from my phone as well!

Some of my favorites from the project are below. You can see the full project on Flickr.

Spinning with Grammie #365photoproject #day38Day 38. September 30, 2013.


Sharing her animal crackers with Mommy #365photoproject #day73
Day 73. November 7, 2013.

Thanksgiving is for friends. #365photoproject #day91
Day 91. November 29, 2013.

Elephant! Christmas has begun. #365photoproject #day114
Day 114. December 25, 2014.

Sunday #365photoproject #day125
Day 125. January 5, 2014.

Snow day! #365photoproject #day159
Day 159. February 13, 2014.

Pedicure. #365photoproject #day178 #goodday
Day 178. March 5, 2014.

At the playground with Pop Pop and Grandma #365photoproject #day221
Day 221. April 19, 2014.

Mother's Day at the zoo. #365photoproject #day243
Day 243. May 11, 2014.

Computing like Mommy. #365photoproject #day254
Day 254. May 22, 2014.

Sibling and significant other dinner! #365photoproject #day262
Day 262. May 30, 2014.

Happy Thursday everyone. #365photoproject #day281
Day 281. June 19, 2014.

Friday night at the spray park. #365photoproject #day303 #nofilter
Day 303. July 11, 2014

Water lilies in Rock Creek Cemetery. #nofilter #365photoproject #day319 #loveDC

Day 319. July 27, 2014.

"Say cheese,  little baby" #365photoproject #day336
Day 336. August 13, 2014.

Watch out, DC! There's a dinosaur on the loose. #365photoproject #day359
Day 359. September 6, 2014.

Life List #40. Do the 365 day photo project.

Life List #32. Make homemade ice cream.

I have long desired an ice cream maker. I started saving ice cream recipes to a Pinterest board over a year ago for the day when I could make all those yummy treats myself. Then, at the beginning of the month I just decided: THE TIME HAD COME. I tweeted:



My thought was that I would add it to my Wish List, and maybe someone would get it for me for my birthday. BUT THEN, my fairy godmother (aka my friend Marcella) replied and offered me her ice cream maker, which was just taking up room in her closet. AMAZING.

Last week, I made my first batch of homemade ice cream. I picked peach, because our CSA had yummy ones just begging to be used.

Here’s how it went:

Chop up peaches, mix with sugar, let sit for 2 hours, so they get nice and juicy:


Always do what Ben & Jerry tell you:


Mix, mix, mix:


Transfer to freezer container and freeze solid:


Consume (bonus point for cute ice cream model):


It’s super tasty! It was super fun! And now we have tons of peach ice cream in our freezer, because I am actually counting calories at the moment. Wah. Wah. STILL! Two thumbs up for homemade ice cream. Just got the Jeni’s Ice Cream book out of the library and can’t wait to make more!

Life List #32. Make homemade ice cream.

2000 Caldecott Medal: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat


Written and illustrated by Simms Taback, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat tells the tale of Joseph and his overcoat, which, as it wears out is turned into a progression of smaller and smaller items – the overcoat becomes a jacket which becomes a vest which becomes a scarf and on and on. It is, as my mother described it, “the ultimate tale of reuse”, which is a pretty great message to share. The book is based on a Yiddish song from Taback’s youth.

The illustrations in the book are full of saturated color. There is lots of detail (you could even call the pages busy) and some pages include collage elements. The main visual conceit of the book is the ever shrinking overcoat. Each time a transformation is made, it is done through a cut out – so that the new object is quite literally using the illustration of the old object for it’s substance. (You can see the outline cut-outs if you look closely at the scans at the end of the post). His illustration style is engaging and humorous. Perfect for kids!

Simms Taback started out at as a commercial illustrator and, in another claim to fame, he illustrated the first Happy Meal box (one of which resides in the Smithsonian). He wrote and/or illustrated over 40 children’s books. In addition to winning the medal in 2000, his version of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly was a Caldecott Honor book in 1998.

Frances LOVED this book. Really appealing, colorful illustrations – and cut outs, which are a current favorite. What’s not to like?



One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my sixth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

2000 Caldecott Medal: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat