I've always loved singing, and the sound of a lot of powerful voices joined in harmony. So when a picture book celebrating Stan Rogers' song Northwest Passage showed up in the library, I was thrilled. Never heard of him, you say? Let me explain.
The name Stan Rogers resonates for generations of Canadians. A singer/songwriter who died at 33, he captured the romance of life across the vast landscape of the country. He sang about the prairie farmers, Nova Scotia fishermen, and Alberta oil field workers. His songs portrayed the struggles of average people as heroic. Perhaps that's why his music excites a pride that Canadians don't always exhibit.
I like how this picture book works on so many levels. Follow the lyrics at the top of each page to learn about the ill-fated Franklin and his crew who, in 1845, tried to find a Northwest Passage through the Arctic to Asia. If you want to know more, read the detailed history on each page. Matt James provides gorgeous illustrations that depict Stan Rogers and his dog in his VW van, contemplating Franklin's voyage while making his own cross-country jouney. And of course, those of you who know it can sing along.
This song has particular resonance for me. One day I was with a group musical friends in a cafe when the song came on over the sound system. We all joined in at the top of our lungs, because it's impossible to sing this song quiety. Nearby, a table of tourists commented 'how quaint'. Looking back, I see how incredibly geeky this must have seemed - especially for those who wouldn't understand the mythic status that Stan Rogers had for us.
If you've never had the pleasure of hearing the song, I present to you Northwest Passage, as sung by the great man himself.
Jane, Belmont Library's youth librarian, is reading Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. She says, "The biography of Ben Franklin's obscure and poor younger sister makes you think about how awful it used to be to be a woman. The dichotomy of their lives is amazing despite knowing that she could have been just as smart as he was."
Some parents sing "Rock a bye Baby" or hum "Brahm’s Lullaby" to help quiet their kids for bedtime, but my brother and I were rocked to sleep with songs like “Down in the Valley” and “Goodnight Irene”.
We lived in the Yakima Valley, and one of my grandma’s close church friends was named Irene, so I was well into grade school before I realized that these songs were not personally made up for our family, but were sung by one of my dad’s favorite groups: The Weavers. Pete Seeger, song writer, singer, activist was an important member of the Weavers. Born into a musical family himself, Pete popularized folk music in the best way possible - he got people to sing it. He made singing fun for people of all ages with stories like “Abiyoyo” and “The Foolish Frog” or by teaching his listeners about how things were in the world by sharing his favorite song "Guantanamera".
See the thing is, for Pete, every song was a singalong. He got his audience involved in a way that was copied by singers like Arlo Guthrie, Harry Chapin and John Denver. In our family we called it ‘The Pete Way’. Here is how the the ‘Pete Way' works. First Pete introduced the song with a story or background about it. Then he taught the chorus by feeding it line by line to the audience until they could sing it back to him. Then he taught the verses the same way, line by line. Then everyone sang it altogether. The main ingredient of the “Pete Way” was his enthusiastic energy: you simply could not ignore it. He had complete confidence that evil could be conquered by song. That singing was fun! There are some who called him a communist, a socialist, an atheist. Some who felt he couldn’t be trusted to be patriotic or true to his country. But Pete remained true to himself, to ideas about bringing freedom and justice to the world - one song at time. Because that is truly the “Pete’ way.
If you want to know more about Pete Seeger and listen to his music, take a look at my list.
Do people cause climate change? How will it affect us as we grow up? Here are three informative websites for students that explain the basics of climate change. They can serve as a starting point for your report and answer other questions you have.
First we have a site from NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Climate Kids. This site answers some of the big questions about climate, such as "how do we know?" and "what is the greenhouse effect?" There are also games to play and things to make, if you want to have fun.
The Environmental Protection Agency's A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change is full of information about the effect of climate change on the environment. Learn the basics, see the impacts, and begin to think like a scientist at this well organized site. It includes thoughtful answers to frequently asked questions, such as "Is climate change the same thing as global warming?" The video above was produced by the EPA to explain the basics of climate change.
The most scientific of these sites, Spark Science Education, has a wealth of information, and comes from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The focus is mainly on atmospheric issues. This site includes a section on climate change activites, to explore projects and data about climate change.
The library also has online resources and encyclopedias to help with your report. Look up "climate change" on Grolier Online, with material for students of all ages. You will need your library card number and PIN to use this resource from home or school.
Want to learn more? Ask a librarian online or at your nearby library.
Ben Franklin was always thinking and exploring new ideas. He was a practical man who invented things that helped make life better.
1. His kite flying experiments to study lighning and electricity are still famous today.
2. He was the first person in America to invent a musical instrument.
3. Lightning rods are still used today on buildings and houses.
4. Bifocal glasses allow people to use just one pair of glasses to see thing far away and close up.
5. The Franklin stove kept houses warmer and used less wood than fireplaces.
Ben Franklin invented or improved many other things as well. He never patented any of his invetions or made money from them.
If you want to discover more about Ben Franklin and his inventions watch this
I'm a big Blazers' fan. I watch pretty much all of the games on TV (the only reason my household keeps Comcast is so we can get channel 37 to watch all of the Blazer games) and try to go to at least a couple of games every season. An entire group of my colleagues went to the San Antonio game in February. Though we (I'm a 6th man all the way!) lost by 2 points, it was an exciting game. And we all got LaMarcus Aldridge glasses, though we were very sad that he had to sit out the game with an injury. And I made it onto the Jumbotron. Woohee!
I was really happy to see that Robin Lopez attended Comic Con this year and also posted a great video of his tour through Powell's Books. He's a super big comic book fan. I grew up reading comic books - Archie, Little Dot, even Spider Man and the Fantastic Four. Then I got older and put away my comics thinking that phase of my life was over.
However, while working at the library, I stumbled upon some amazing graphic novels. One of my favorite genres is memoirs and there are some absolutely fantastic memoir graphic novels. The first one I read was Persepolis, a memoir of Marjane Satrapi's childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I learned both about the history of Iran and the wrenching story of Satarapi's life in a terribly repressive society.
Another graphic novel that speaks directly to me is Ellen Forney's, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangolo & Me: A Graphic Memoir. Forney struggles with bipolar disorder and the most difficult part is her worry that her creativity is connected to the disease. She didn't want to do anything that would take away from her artistic passion. I think that many people can relate to this - are there qualities that we possess that hinder us in living our lives to the fullest but are those the same qualities that make us who we are?
It's pretty amazing to me that comic books can teach us so much about the world and ourselves. There are lots more graphic novels that will open up whole new worlds and not just where superheroes live.
Thia, a clerk at the Belmont Library, is reading The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter. "It's a complex discussion of the biology of trees," she says. "I'm learning a lot."
Is writing by hand a lost art in this age of typing and tapping our words? For some of us who are old enough to have been taught proper handwriting in elementary school, but young enough to have been composing our written works on the computer for most of our writing lives, the state of our handwriting may have gone deeply downhill.
Does it matter? The importance of handwriting is a subject that’s certainly open to a variety of opinions. Portland’s influential handwriting teachers and authors Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay (creators of the Getty-Dubay italic handwriting method and authors of Write Now: The Complete Program for Better Handwriting) say that poor handwriting is like “mumbling on the page.” In The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication, author Margaret Shepherd says that a handwritten note “says to the reader, ‘You matter to me, I thought of you…’” There’s certainly something to be said about the grace and character of handwritten words. You can read about the history of handwriting in Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, by Kitty Burns Florey, orThe Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, by Philip Hensher.
Indeed, there are resources for those of us who would like to improve our handwriting. Better Handwriting by Rosemary Sassoon is a brief, basic guide with practical tips. The aforementioned guide by Getty and Dubay has exercises for clear, legible italic writing. While you’re writing by hand, you might also enjoy making some fancy letters! Draw your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, and Make your Own by Tony Seddon, or Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design's Golden Age by Steven Heller might be fun. If you get really motivated, you could take a class at the Portland Society for Calligraphy.
Handwriting, of course, is distinct to each of us. What does your handwriting say about you? If you’re interested in deciphering the meaning of the loops and slants, you might enjoy The Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis: The Complete Guide to Interpreting Personalities, Detecting Forgeries, and Revealing Brain Activity through the Science of Graphology, by Marc J. Seifer. Or perhaps Your Handwriting Can Change your Life (by Vimala Rodgers)!
You may know her from the feminist manifesto The Second Sex. Or perhaps you're familiar with her circle of intellectuals (Albert Camus, Nelson Algren, Arthur Koestler) or her lover Jean Paul Sartre. But The Mandarins is much more than an autobiographical novel and a story of intellectual society and struggle after the occupation in Paris. You don’t need to know Simone de Beauvoir was a great philosopher. You don’t need to know about the relationship between her and Sartre, or the affairs. You don’t need to know about existentialist philosophy or postwar Europe. If you do, it may make the reading more meaningful. If you don’t, it will not take away from the story one bit. This is a story about friendship, loyalty, war and the consequences, the roles of women, marriage, death, breakdowns, and the breakdowns and death of marriage. It is about making hard decisions and rebuilding from the ruins. It is a love story.
It is a lengthy novel. This would usually have me muttering “still?” while madly flipping pages to see how far till the next chapter. (Don’t do this, by the way. The chapters are horrendously long.) My copy was an enormous first American edition hardback over 600 pages, and after dragging it around with me for weeks, it began to weigh what felt like that many pounds. But the heft was worth it, for I was transported during bus commutes and on those few cherished evenings reclining on the chaise longue. I haven’t had that experience with a novel in a long time. At first, the switch of narrators was jolting, but I think it contributed to keeping me interested and engaged in the long run. I found I actually cared about Anne, Paula, Henri, Robert, and the others. I was fascinated by their world and the choices they were making.
There are many elements that could bring you to this novel and keep you there…the setting, the era, the voyeuristic autobiographical aspect, the intellectual society, politics, ideology, love, or merely the writing. Whatever reason you decide to pick up The Mandarins, you will find it is not so easy to put down again. The characters will stay with you for a long while.
Donna, a library assistant at the Belmont Library, is reading Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. She says, "This cross-genre anthology is like a big box of chocolates, with original stories from the likes of George R.R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon and Jim Butcher. The theme is Dangerous Women, so you know there's going to be some good action going on! I'm savoring it, one piece at a time."
Let’s face it we all get distracted once and while. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens when key information is being conveyed in chemistry class. Or maybe you were paying attention but you just need a refresher. Where can you get the information you need for your homework right now? Try these great resources!
1. Watch a video from Khan Academy
Sometimes it’s easier to learn from a video than from a textbook. Khan Academy has high quality videos on a wide range of chemistry topics and includes useful questions and answers posted by other viewers. Did you miss your class’s discussion of acids and bases? Not sure what the word “stoichiometry” means? This is the place for you.
2. Take a look at the Mathmol Text Book from NYU
OK, so you don’t want to ask your friend what the difference between mass and volume is. That would just be embarrassing, right? But if you google it, you might get a horrible, unreliable site made by a third-grader. Instead check out the Mathmol Text Book. It includes lots of great basic information and you know you can trust it because it is prepared by the New York University Scientific Visualization Center.
3. Sign into Live Homework Help from Tutor.com
Did you know that every day from 2pm-10pm you can get help from real, actual tutors online? Well, you can! All you need is your library card and pin number to sign in from home. You can get rock star level help with your chem homework and you don’t have to bother that one friend of yours that you keep calling. Don’t have a computer at home? Come to a library and use one of ours!
The short answer is, Yes, people still try to ban books!
Here's a recent example right here in Oregon. In January 2014 some parents in Sweet Home challenged the use in an 8th grade Language Arts class of the critically acclaimed young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. According to an article in the Albany Democrat Herald, two parents asked for the book to be removed from the 8th grade curriculum.
The result? Again reported by the Democrat Herald, on February 13, 2014, after 3 hours of public testimony the Sweet Home School District reconsideration committee "voted Wednesday to retain the young adult novel, but [the superintendent] will be responsible for determining the appropriate grade level for its use..."
What's the fuss about?
"This work of young adult fiction tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to improve his future, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, [the book], which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings...chronicles the adolescence of one Native American teen as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live." --Amazon.com
Even though the book received the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, it's also been the center of controversy for profanity, racism, discussion of sex, abuse and alcoholism. But as one of the teachers said, "...it's use...prompts the most intense discussions about racism, bullying, tolerance and the daily choices students make in handling relationships."
I think that's worth keeping. What do you think?
And remember, if you need more help be sure to Ask the Librarian!
In March, we're looking forward to spring and all things sweet and bittersweet. Here are a few titles to welcome the season.
The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith is a collection of short stories haunted both literally and figuratively with ghosts. Publisher's Weekly says, "The stories shimmer with life. The heat and tumult of Vietnam's cities are palpable, and the awed wonderment of humans confronted with supernatural occurrences is artfully conveyed."
Precious Thing by Colette McBeth is getting rave reviews and is being compared to Gone Girl. Two childhood friends have grown apart and over time their roles in the friendship have been reversed. Then one disappears.
We don't really need to tell you why we are looking forward to Homemade Doughnuts: Techniques And Recipes For Making Sublime Doughnuts In Your Home Kitchen by Kamal Grant, do we?
Do you have a bunch of uncompleted projects lurking around your house like little pockets of guilt? Here comes Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects From 50 Successful Artists by Danielle Krysa. Maybe something will get done!
In the irreverant Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith - The main character, Austin narrates the end of the world "when a twist of fate sparks the birth of mutant, people-eating praying mantises. Austin not only records the hilarious and bizarre tale of giant, copulating bugs but his own sexual confusion and his fear about hurting the people he loves." (School Library Journal)
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd promises to be a fun story about a girl who lands in a quirky little town that just might be magical.
In Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, saturated colors and gorgeous artwork serve to illustrate the life of this artist and civil rights pioneer.
People love talking about the weather and this has certainly been the winter to do it. Epic storms in the East and droughts all over the West have been top stories nearly every day of the New Year. A lot of us had fun frolicking in our own mini-snowstorm earlier this month.
Usually, talking about the weather is considered polite conversation, a nice respite from politics and religion, or celebrity gossip. Of course, this isn’t always the case. As the drought seems to be subsiding (fingers-crossed) for us in the Pacific Northwest, California has little hope in sight and the gloves have come off.
The President has done his photo-ops, hundreds of millions are pledged for relief, and the fingers are pointing at the Republicans, the Democrats, the farmers, the cities, the Delta Smelt (ooh, what’s that?)… The news stories seem to be devoid of solutions for water scarcity, though many have been offered up over the years. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all detailed in Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner.
California is the main character in this sweeping epic, often the villain tormenting its neighbors. Other times, it is the victim of graft, its fragile ecosystems exploited by schemers and boosters. In riveting detail, the book recounts the long-held rivalry between the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of Interior) and the Army Corps of Engineers, the true story behind the movie Chinatown (Reisner’s recounting wins), Los Angeles’ plan to redirect the Columbia River, and many more fascinating and eye-opening chapters in the water wars of the west.
But wait! Here’s a plethora of books you could read in tandem, each one an exciting foray into water, the west, and/or land use planning (it’s all the rage with the kids these days).
March is Women’s History month and what better way to celebrate than learning more about the pioneering women from this great state? Three women you cannot ignore when doing any research are Lola Green Baldwin, Beatrice Morrow Cannady, and Abigail Scott Duniway.
On April 1, 1908, forty-eighty-year-old Lola Greene Baldwin became the first woman sworn in to perform public service for Portland, becoming a full time paid policewoman. She was put in charge of the new Women’s Protective Division and crusaded for the moral and physical welfare of young, single working women. Visit OPB to view a video about her. Oregon State University Press has an introduction online to the book Municipal Mother about Baldwin.
Beatrice Morrow Cannady was a renowned civil rights activist in early twentieth-century Oregon. She was editor of the Advocate, the state's largest, and at times the only, African American newspaper. View the OPB special to learn more about the numerous efforts Cannady launched to defend the civil rights of the African Americans in the state. Black Past, an online reference to Black History, features an excerpt from a book about Cannady.
Abigail Scott Duniway was Oregon's strongest voice for the cause of Women's suffrage. OPB has a film about her, as well as a piece on the Oregon Suffragist movement. Duniway was a true pioneer, known for her tireless efforts for women’s suffrage and women’s rights and as one of relatively few female newspaper editors and publishers of her time. The library resource Biography in Context has a biography of Duniway and a helpful resource list for more in depth research.
The Oregon Encyclopedia has detailed information and photos about these women and many more female pioneers in Oregon's history. The Oregon History Project, created by the Oregon Historical Society, is a great online resource for learning about Oregon's past and the people who shaped the state.
If you want to explore this topic more, or if you have questions, simply Ask a Librarian! We’re happy to help.
Football is my fave, but the start of spring training hearkens the eventual arrival of flowers, leaves on the trees, and blue (well, here in Portland, occasionally blue) skies. One of my most loved summer activities is taking in an MLB game or several, even though this east coast girl now has to travel outside of Portland to do so. Why do I love a baseball game? The pace is relaxed, the people watching is spectacular, and hopefully the play is on par. I mean, what could be better? Summer in all its glory captured in one evening.
Recreating this baseball mindset can be tough during the dark days of winter, but it is oh-so-rewarding when I can conjure up a June double header in December. How do I do it? You can find me hosting a tailgate party right after the new year, no matter if it's raining (or in this year's case, snowing!) on the grill and grill master. My reading selections also tend to skew towards all things baseball. I dig out my Pittsburgh Pirates jersey, and the Pittsburgh Steelers jersey is sent to the basement until fall. Pour myself a cold one, settle in for a few night's baseball reading, a few hours viewing of Ken Burn's Baseball, and I am ready for opening day! Say hi if you see me in Seattle this summer, I'll be the girl in the black and gold among the sea of blue Mariners fans.
Pardon my polite silence. I am not a plane talker.
On a recent trip to the midwest, the airport newstand held little interest and other entertainment options were exhausted.
Luckily, I remembered to look at Overdrive via my smartphone available through Multnomah County Library. Ten minutes later I’d downloaded David Rakoff’s Glass Half Empty
Boarding the plane with earbuds in place, I smiled politely at my neighbor and escaped into Mr. Rakoff's soothing voice.
If you’re interested in learning more about e-books look here or ask us in person. We're happy to help.
Maybe I'd even tell you about it when we're 30,000 ft in the air... Then again, let's wait till we've landed.
by Donna Childs
Peter Reader has made a career of helping people find and use information. Information is only useful if it can be accessed and organized—and that’s where Peter comes in. A Renaissance man, Peter grew up in Nome, Alaska, and majored in music in college. Music has been a lifelong love—he plays the accordion and sings with the Bach Cantata Choir. Peter lived in an Eskimo village and worked as a realtor. He started his 30-year career in Alaska and the continental US with the Bureau of Land Management and later moved into administration. He became fascinated with computers in the 60’s, long before the personal computer, and discovered that he loved programming. Among other things, he helped build a payroll system for Bonneville Power Administration. After retiring in 1994, he volunteered at his local NE Portland police precinct, building a database since they had none. This led to a dozen years of running his own consulting business.
When he retired a second time, he approached the Multnomah County Library to offer his skills. June Bass, Program Manager in Volunteer Services, put him to work on the volunteer database containing hundreds of volunteers from all 19 library branches. For the past 7 years, Peter has worked two days a week on the volunteer database, transferring and tweaking information, creating reports, entering volunteer information, and deleting anything redundant or outdated. The library has substantially overhauled its database twice during these years, keeping Peter especially busy. In 2009 he received a county-wide volunteer award for his work with the new database. June Bass says, “I cannot imagine any volunteer program implementing a new database without a person like Peter...” Aptly named, Peter Reader is also an enthusiastic reader, especially of science fiction. He and his wife have a library of more than 2000 books, in addition to an extensive collection of classical music CDs.
A Few Facts About Peter
Home library: Albina Library
Currently reading: I just finished Rick Atkinson’s trilogy on World War II.
Most influential book: No one book, but Tolkien blew me away in the 60’s.
Favorite book from childhood: A Treasury of American Folklore, ed. by B.A. Botkin (I have used up four copies.)
A book that made you laugh or cry: H. Allen Smith—anything by him.
Favorite section of the library: Science fiction
E-reader or paper book? Paper
Favorite place to read: In my room