In which The Five-Year-Old celebrates an unexpected windfall

That's right, bookshelves. Your overstuffed days are numbered.

That’s right, bookshelves. Your overstuffed days are numbered.

It’s time for the decennial pruning of the books here at Caterpickles Central, during which we cull the one-time airplane reads, brain candy, travel books, baby books, potty training manuals, and other books we’ve outgrown in order to make room for the stacks and baskets and tote bags full of books in our various to-read piles.

While I was sorting through one of our shelves of white books upstairs (we organize our books by color because with this many books in the house, there’s really no other viable system), I came across a baby names book.

The Five-Year-Old, pouncing: “Don’t donate that, Mommyo. I have a use for it!”

Mommyo, carefully: “Why do you need a book of baby names?”

The Five-Year-Old, matter-of-factly: “I need names for my stuffed animals.”

Mommyo, surprised: “Oh. That is a good use for it. Here, it’s yours.”

The Five-Year-Old carted the book off a little way across the room — just far enough to give her time to escape in case I changed my mind — and sat down on the floor to examine her prize.

The Five-Year-Old, reading: “The Big Book of Baby Names. Sixty hundred — no, that’s thousand — sixty thousand baby names.”

The Five-Year-Old, excitedly: “Great! I’m rich with baby names! I’ve got 60,000!”

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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