Children’s Books for Adults

Jan recently wrote about classic children’s tales and reading to your kids. While I totally agree with her about story time with children should be non-ironic, I personally love children’s picture books that have hidden adult meanings, or children’s-style picture books written for adults. Here are some of my favorites; parental guidance is suggested!

The Amphigorey Series by Edward Gorey. These books are filled with fabulous black and white ink illustrations and dark humor at its finest. This will sound crazy if you don’t know anything about these books, but if you are a fan of morbid humor and the alphabet, you will be trying to buy these with your rent money after reading them.

Go the F* to Sleep by Adam Mansbach. Yes, here it is. The f-bomb in all its glory, I know. However, if you have children, you will most definitely identify with this story. Told from a father’s point of view, this lovely book is a rhyming plea for his child to just go to bed already. Just don’t read this when your kids are taking a nap…your laughter will surely wake them up.

It’s a Book! by Lane Smith. In a world of computers, smart phones, Bluetooth, iPads, and Skype, where do books fit in? I think they fit in quite well, if your brain isn’t too fried to read one. This book is okay for kids, if they are old enough to understand the humor at the end.

All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen. Aw, so sad! All Dinosaur’s friends are dead. All the pirate’s friends have scurvy. This is a book about the downside of being anything, which is funny and sad all wrapped up in a cute 96 page picture book.

Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown.  A very cute picture book written for kids, but is such a good one, I couldn’t resist it. Lucy the bear finds a boy in the woods and takes him home. Mama bear warns her that “Children make terrible pets.” The pictures are fabulous and the story hilarious. I honestly wish I could see a bear with a kid as a pet.

Dick and Jane and Vampires by Laura Marchesani. Written and illustrated in the style of Dick and Jane, this book includes (gasp) a Vampire!  Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending. Spoiler alert: you will also see Spot run.

Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd. A clever parody of Goodnight Moon, this book takes a peek at all the electronics in our everyday lives. Brightly illustrated and full of pop-culture references, it’s a fun, two minute read.

These are all humorous books that will lighten up any bookshelf in the house…just make sure that they’re out of the kids’ reach!


Reading Aloud to Kids

Obviously I love reading. I read on a daily basis and one of my goals is to spread the joy of reading. I decided, even before my oldest son, Tim, was born, that my kids would grow up to be readers. I bought Tim Dr. Seuss books when he was 2 months old. Last year, I think my youngest son, Zeke, was the youngest child enrolled in Summer Reading, as he was born the day after summer reading started! His room is even decorated in Dr. Seuss illustrations.

However, despite all of this, I was unsure of how to read to my kids, so I went on a library adventure to find a book on the subject. What I found was The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. This is just me talking, but I feel as though this is the definitive guide on reading to your kids. Here are some tips that I use everyday that I gleaned from this book:

Start early, but better late than never! Story time is a lot of fun, but you don’t have to be elaborate if you don’t want to be. A short book before bed is a great way to “ease into” the idea of reading together on a regular basis. I read with both my boys before Zeke goes to bed, and then I read with Tim again before his bedtime, as he listens to the story and doesn’t chew on the books like his brother. The only problem I ever have is when Tim throws a fit for me to read him another story. I suppose if I have to pick a problem to have, this would be it.

Read your own material in front of your kids.
Don’t allow them to think that adults don’t read! For example, you can read the newspaper at breakfast, and perhaps read aloud part of a story that may be interesting to them. You could read a recipe while cooking. Read a novel that you just picked up from the library on the couch. Kids learn by example, so show them that reading isn’t just for kids in school.

Don’t be afraid to read aloud to kids of any age. It doesn’t matter if your kid is 6 or 16, you can still take 5 or 10 minutes a day to have some quality reading time.

Don’t be afraid to read aloud because you don’t think you’re good at it.
Practice makes perfect! Your child will enjoy the time you spend sharing a story even if you’re not an audiobook-quality, read-aloud, voiceover artist. At first, I was afraid that Tim wouldn’t like the crazy voices that I used for the characters in Steven Kellogg’s Jack and the Beanstalk, but now he won’t let me read it to him any other way!

Make reading aloud fun! Little kids like to read the same books over and over again. At least do yourself a favor and spice up the way you read—use silly voices, do sound effects, ask questions about the illustrations. Really get into what you’re doing, and the child will definitely follow your lead.

Take your kids to the library! PPL’s children’s department is awesome. There are zones for each age range to play, toys for little guys, puzzles and games for all ages, and a quiet area for reading. Let your child pick a book for herself. Let her grab a shopping cart and watch the books fly off the shelves! Show older kids how to search Evergreen for subjects that they enjoy.

Turn off the electronics! Television and Internet are great things in moderation. Unplug for awhile and watch your kids become more alert, imaginative, pleasant, and talkative. Maybe they’ll even do their chores without a fuss too. Okay, that’s wishful thinking.

A great adult book about reading aloud is The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. It chronicles “The Streak” of reading aloud between a father and daughter for several years, and the profound impact it had on both of them. I only hope that the reading aloud that I do for my kids has the same effect!

Happy Reading!


A Visit to the Law Enforcement Academy

I grew up on the west end of Plainfield. It’s still weird for me to turn out of my parents’ driveway and see a stoplight in the distance and pass several subdivisions on US 40. When I was in school, kids used to ask me where the heck I lived, because they had never been past Dairy Queen before.

What I remember most about growing up out there is the soft orange glow of the lights during snowy nights from the Plainfield Correctional Facilities, and the sound of gunshots and squealing tires.

Wait, what?

Yep, that’s correct. I remember listening to the sounds of the Law Enforcement Academy. My overactive imagination didn’t allow me to think about the men and women who train there on a daily basis–keeping our streets safe by learning how to fire a gun, drive in an emergency, train and handle a K9 partner, among others.

I thought that they were learning how to bust a donut for fun in the police wagon on a hot summer day, as to squeal the tires so loud you can hear them two miles away.

I figured James Bond trained there, and ordered martinis at The Coachman afterward.

I hoped that no missiles would be fired into our living room. That would not be cool. Mom would not have been amused. Dad probably would have though, now that I think about it…

I assumed that with all the gunfire, that they were Civil War re-enactors practicing their firing techniques. Not sure why they would do that at a police academy, but remember: overactive imagination.

If you have ever wondered what goes on behind closed gates, here is your chance to find out! On Saturday, August 18th, PGTPL is having a field-trip to the Academy. Take a tour, and maybe even see some demonstrations of driving, physical tactics, or firearm use. Registration for each person is required, so sign up soon!

Just don’t tell me what really happens there. I’m sure it’s even more fantastic than I think it is.

Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, 1972. Courtesy of the Plainfield-Guilford Twp. Public Library Archives


Eat Your Veggies!

People that follow me on Facebook or Twitter know that I am a hardcore vegetable advocate. I don’t eat a 100% vegetarian diet, but I would rather eat roasted Brussels sprouts any day than a hamburger. Here are some of my favorite vegetarian/vegan cookbooks that you can check out if you want to include more delicious veggies in your diet…and you do…trust me!

Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz: *THE* end-all-be-all vegan sourcebook for simple, everyday foods. Veganomicon has been cited as one of the best vegan cookbooks by Goodreads readers, and I agree. There are many simple recipes in here that don’t require crazy ingredients. If you want to round out your cookbook shelf, this book would be my top recommendation.

The PDQ Vegetarian Cookbook by Donna Klein: Want to run to the pantry and whip up a great veggie meal? With PDQ, you can definitely do it! Klein makes it easy to make simple meals with ingredients that are already in your kitchen. The format is easy to follow, and the food is really good.

How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman: This book is HUGE but full of anything vegetarian that you could ever dream of. The chapters are very in-depth with many variations-on-a-theme type recipes. I learned how to make roasted Brussels sprouts from Mr. Bittman…he is one of my heroes!

Appetite For Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Most vegetarians or veggie enthusiasts are leaner than our Standard American Dieter counterparts. Moskowitz helps everyone out by compiling some skinny vegan dishes for us in one of her latest cookbooks. Along with Moskowitz’s humor, the book is a fun read and the recipes are delish.

The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without by Molly Katzen: This lovely book, illustrated by Katzen, is a delightful book to read. Her recipes are simple, and the vegetables’ characteristics aren’t lost in any of the dishes. If you have read any of the Moosewood cookbooks, and were put off by difficult recipes, this is much more pared down.

Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny: One of my new favorites! Matheny has two adorable kids and showcases family-friendly vegan meals in this fun cookbook. Try the roasted rosemary-lemon chickpeas…you will not be sorry, but you may eat the whole batch. (Not that I did that or anything…)

Simple Food for the Good Life by Helen Nearing: Next to Thoreau, Scott and Helen Nearing were “extreme” examples for the back-to-the-land movement. If you dislike cooking, and want super easy “recipes” to fill your belly, this is a quirky book for you. Try “horse chow” for breakfast: toss together oats and whatever else you have, then eat! Nearing also includes quotations from early cookbooks, complete with medieval spelling, to show how far we’ve come in the culinary world.

Check out some of these books, and eat your vegetables!


Living a Frugal, Simple Life

Even before I became a mom of two adorable boys, I have always been interested in home economics and frugality. Making dinner on a budget, running a household, fixing things, saving money are all subjects I can read all day about (but sadly, don’t get to).

I don’t feel like being frugal is a punishment, or something that should make one upset. I think being frugal is a way to live so one has more choices in life. For example, if you run up your credit card on widgets, and have to work overtime for a year for your widgets, you are a slave to your widgets. If you don’t buy all those widgets, perhaps you can take a staycation and buy one widget with cash. What the heck is a widget anyway?

Regardless of the size of your household and income, you can streamline your life by making the choice to do so. Here are some books about simplifying and being thrifty that have been the most helpful to me:

The Complete Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dayczyn. Dayczyn’s dream was to own a huge farmhouse in the country, have a brood of children (6!), and take care of business on her husband’s Navy income. She started a newsletter because she figured that other folks would have the same dream of having a good life on a shoestring budget, and the newsletter exploded into a phenomenon that she never imagined. The newsletters have now been compiled into one handy book, which is honestly my favorite book ever. The last issues were written in the late 90’s, so some of the information is out of date (Is it worth it to get the Internet, for example) but there are many tips applicable to today. And the general idea is still valid: if you want to live a happy life on less money, it’s definitely doable. You just have to keep the goal in mind and align your actions to reach it.

Miserly Moms and Frugal Families by Jonni McCoy. These books are “less extreme” than The Tightwad Gazette. McCoy basically states in the first few pages that she isn’t interested in making crafts out of dryer lint or reusing Ziploc bags, but she is willing to make less expensive choices to fit her budget. Personally, I don’t mind the “extreme-ness” of The Tightwad Gazette, but for people who want to ease into a more frugal lifestyle, these books may be a good choice for you.

America’s Cheapest Family series by Steve and Annette Economides. These books are relatively new and are very helpful for people who are just starting out on their frugal journey. The Economedes are a huge family, and employ many different methods to keep their costs down, such as grocery shopping once a month, and planning inexpensive fun for their family.

Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne. For the do-it-yourselfer in you, Making It is a modern guide to self-reliance. From making your own bath scrub, to keeping backyard chickens, there is a wide range of information packed in this volume. This book isn’t as much about frugality, but it will save you money, give you peace of mind, and make you feel accomplished all at the same time.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Simple Living by Georgene Muller Lockwood. I’ll go ahead and clarify, “simple living” does not always mean “frugal living,” however this book is a gem as well on this subject. What really matters to you? Do you want to have gourmet meals every day for the rest of your life? Do you want to travel extensively? Do you want to have a beautiful garden? This how-to is a great springboard to figure out what you really want and how to get there. It has multiple tips on how to save money in different areas, while using resources and time on what you really want and want to be doing.

The New Good Life by John Robbins. Robbins was the heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain, until he left it all behind when he realized the correlation of dairy products and illness in his family. In this book, Robbins tells all about his loss of life savings due to the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, and how he rebounded from it. More memoir than how-to, but there is a good story here, and Robbins does have a clear vision of what the “New Good Life” should be.

Personally, at times I am still working on my spendthrift ways. Some days I go to the grocery store and really just want to buy all junk food, which is neither frugal, nor healthy! However, I have learned that if you spend a bit of time learning about yourself, and how you relate to your home, family, and money, that you can achieve your most important goal of creating the life you imagine.


Are You Ready for Memorial Day Weekend?

Memorial Day Weekend: a time for spending with family…

…in the car…

for hours.

Why not read a book while you’re in the car?

Or are you like me, a control freak, and drive everywhere? No offense…

Or do you get carsick while reading directions when forced to be the trusty navigator?

Well here are some fabulous non-book options furnished by your fabulous library, to entertain you instead of being bored, sick, or forced to play the license plate game again.

Audiobooks: PGTPL has a fabulous collection of books on CD. Whether you like non-fiction, historical fiction, or even teen fiction and children’s books, we have something for you. Pop in a CD, and listen to great authors, actors, and professional voices read you great books. Many more audiobooks are available for download on Overdrive as well. My favorites: Beauty Queens, written and performed by Libba Bray via OverDrive; and Horton Hears a Who and other stories, performed by Dustin Hoffman available through Evergreen.

Playaways: If your trusty vehicle doesn’t have a CD player, don’t fret! We have these cute little do-dads called Playaways. You just plug a set of headphones in and listen to the story.

DVDs: If you have a fancy vehicle with DVD players, we can load you up with great movies from our collection. You can even find movies about wherever you’re going with our extensive non-fiction DVD shelves. One movie I like that’s good for all ages: IMAX Under the Sea, narrated by Jim Carrey. Popcorn not included.

CDs: Tired of trying to find a great radio station in the middle of nowhere? Grab a handful of CDs and create your own playlist. I enjoy exposing my kids to music that I like, so I don’t have to listen to the Hokey Pokey a million times. However, Barenaked Ladies have a great kid’s CD called Snacktime that rocks!

Especially for Kids:

Playaway Views: Got kids? Got kids that love Elmo, Arthur or fairy tales? We have Playaway Views in the Children’s room! These nifty handheld buddies are personal movie players. They are pre-loaded, so you don’t have to fuss with DVDs or extra pieces. Earphones can be plugged in, but aren’t necessary…unless Elmo’s voice will make the drive feel like Purgatory. My child’s favorites: Between the Lions and Strega Nona.

Kid Kits: Help yourself and help our children’s room staff flex their creative muscles by compiling a kid kit for your child. Stop by the children’s room a week or so before your trip and fill out a kid kit form. You will let the librarians know how old your child is, what his interests are, and what kind of materials he would like. Then, the librarian will pull together materials for your child to take with him on his trip! You can pick them up when convenient for you, and have all the items you need to keep your kid excited about being in the car for eight hours…well…maybe.

I hope you have a safe trip to wherever your three day weekend takes you. Me? I’m thinking a couch staycation is in order!


Michelle is a Cookbook Junkie!

I am a cookbook junkie. I probably read cookbooks more than I actually cook. Not sure what that says about me, but I digress. I do love cooking though, and it makes me sad that some people don’t like to do something as simple as feeding themselves healthy eats that don’t come out of a box. Here is a list of a few cookbooks that make it super simple to make yourself a great meal that doesn’t consist of ramen or powdered cheese! By the way, this is not by any means an all-inclusive list. Many of these books are available here at the library, but some are not. But never fear! You can still place these titles on hold using your library card number. Other libraries in the consortium that have them can ship them here for you to pick up!
  1. How to Cook Everything The Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food by Mark Bittman. Start here. Don’t know how to boil water? Bittman will give you directions, and even a picture. Not. Even. Joking. This book is a clearly written, easy guide to many everyday foods.
  1. Anyone Can Cook! and Anyone Can Bake! By Better Homes and Gardens. These books are similar to your Grandmother’s BHG red and white checkerboard cookbook only in title. The Anyone! books concisely guide one through the recipe, and even have an Ask Mom list on the bottom of each page for reference.
  1. Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook by Sandra Lee. Ms. Lee is one of the “celebrity chefs” who actually teaches people how to cook the way people are, well, actually going to cook. She uses 80% prepared ingredients, and 20% fresh ingredients, so if the phrase chop an onion makes you hyperventilate, Sandra won’t judge, and will allow you to buy pre-chopped veggies.
  1. The PDQ Vegetarian Cookbook: 240 Healthy and Easy No-Prep Recipes for Busy Cooks,  and Supermarket Vegan, both by Donna Klein. I have listed these both for those lazy veggie people out there (myself included). These are the best veg cookbooks I have read. Klein uses readily available ingredients to whip up some delicious meals…no extra trip to Trader Joe’s needed…even though we all know we’ll go anyway for the Two Buck Chuck.
  1. Everyday Food: Fresh, Fast, Flavorful and Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart Living. Don’t mistake these with Martha’s other cookbooks unless you’re feeling saucy and want to make a four-course Thanksgiving dinner (no-thank-you). These books are compilations of recipes in the Everyday Food magazine (which is great as well). Recipes are simple; the hardest part will be gathering the ingredients. If you aren’t a cook, you may not have paprika just hanging out in the spice cabinet. Well, you probably don’t even have a spice cabinet…but anyway….onward!
  1. Fix it and Forget It series by Phyllis Pellman Good. If you don’t cook, slow cookers will be your best friend. This series of books reads like a church cookbook: the recipes are from ladies (and a few gentlemen) around the nation, and are all compiled for your crockpot pleasure in these books. Most of the recipes consist of 1) Get the ingredients together, and 2) Turn the slow cooker on and wait. Almost as easy as takeout.
Happy cooking! You can do it! When your meal turns out well, let me know. (If you make cookies, feel free to, you know, share!)


Tales of a Library-aholic

Michelle Peltier

Hello all. I’m Michelle, and I’m a Library-aholic. 

I have loved coming to the library since I was young. I remember walking into the old children’s room and seeing Paula Gilmour’s smiling face at the desk. I remember the yellow and orange paint. I remember picking out Mary Poppins to watch with my grandma. The library was always a fun place when I was little.

Fast forward to 2007…I just moved back to Plainfield after an out-of-state move. I was a new mom, new wife, and moving home after being away for six years was a little scary. I began stopping by the library as often as I could because it felt familiar, even though the building, staff, and I had changed. I took comfort in knowing that I could learn something new every time I checked out a book: from trying to figure out how to raise a kid, to learning about how to deal with financial stress, to figuring out how to cook dinner without making something from a box every night.

I have been jealous of my friend Laura Brack, the PPL Tech Goddess, because of her library gig she started over 10 years ago. In October 2010, Laura informed me of a 12 hour per week job opening in Youth Services, so I jumped at the chance to interview even though I was already working 40 to 50 hours per week. I scored the position, started in November 2010, and continued to work my full time job and part time at the library until the day before I gave birth to my youngest son. After I came back to work from maternity leave, I left my full time job and took the Librarian’s Assistant position in area T. I now work primarily with the YA fiction collection.

Even though I work at the library, I still bring my kids in on my days off. I feel like it’s important to instill a respect and admiration for libraries, learning, and play. I love reading to my oldest son at bedtime, and I hope to add my youngest to our book club when he’s old enough to not chew on the books when he sees them.

And even though I’m busy with two kids under the age of four, a husband, a dog, a job, a garden, I could go on…I still make myself read every day. I think if one stops reading, one stops learning, and that’s important enough to me to keep on.