Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Have you met Patience and Fortitude, the Lions flanking the steps and entrance of New York City's Public Library? These Magnificent Marble Cats stand sentry and have been greeting guests from all over the world since the landmark building was dedicated on May 23, 1911. I'm sure you've heard the saying, "If walls could talk."  But what if these Lions could talk... 
They've witnessed and survived the Great Depression (that's when they were given their present names - more on that below), they've watched over countless parades, been in movies, have been caricatured in cartoons, and even made into bookends!
These stern statues have been adorned with baseball caps, Christmas wreaths, graduation caps, and flowers...

And several children's books have been inspired by these famous "Library Lions":

ANDY AND THE LION by James Daugherty. Daugherty's retelling of Androcles and the Lion involves an imaginative boy, an imagined lion, and a local lending library. (The book's dedication is written to the New York Public Library Lions).  

LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen, with illustrations by Keven Hawkes.  
This story is about a librarian, Miss Merriweather, and a very loud lion who comes to visit and roars when storytime ends. Miss Merriweather reprimands him and he promises to reform.  In fact, he becomes her best helper! But when she falls and breaks her arm and the Lion ROOAAARRSS! for help, things get a bit confused and the lion is sent away.  But not to worry - everything works out in the end.

Want to read more about these historic statues?  Look for  TOP CATS:  The Life and Times of the New York Public Library Lions, by Susan G. Larkin.

According to Henry Hope Reed in his book, The New York Public Library, about the architecture of the Fifth Avenue building, the sculptor Edward Clark Potter obtained the commission for the lions on the recommendation of August Saint-Gaudens, one of America's foremost sculptors. Potter was paid $8,000 for the modeling, and the Piccirilli Brothers executed the carving for $5,000, using pink Tennessee marble. After enduring almost a century of weather and pollution, in 2004 the lions were professionally cleaned and restored. Unfortunately, the popular tradition of decorating the lions also endangered them, so the practice has been discontinued on the recommendation of the conservators.

Their nicknames have changed over the decades. First they were called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after The New York Public Library founders John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. Later, they were known as Lady Astor and Lord Lenox (even though they are both male lions). During the 1930s, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia named them Patience and Fortitude, for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the economic depression. These names have stood the test of time: Patience still guards the south side of the Library's steps and Fortitude sits unwaveringly to the north.


  1. I LOVE "Library Lion"! One of my favorites. :)

  2. I wish today's designers of municipal building would still include such "whims" as these lions - they make for great stories!

  3. I couldn't agree more! It's a bummer when municipal equals boring.

  4. Curious as to where you sourced the top image, with both Patience and Fortitude in the same image.

  5. It wasn't sourced, but I found it here: http://www.focusonlinecommunities.com/blogs/Finding_Home/tags/new_york_city_library

  6. This is one of my favorite spots to bring visitors to NYC.