"In the metropolis we will feed the most cynical whoring.  We will
destroy all logical revolt.
     On to the languid, scented lands!  In the service of the most
monstrous industrial or military exploitations.
      Farewell here, anywhere.  Conscripts of good intention, we will have
savage philosophy; knowing nothing of science, depraved in our
pleasures, to hell with the world around us ... This is the real
advance!  Forward ... March!"

Older Rimbaud as imperialistArthur Rimbaud is (too) often invoked as the poet of adolescence par excellence - an avatar of self-obsessed perpetual rebellion. Kristin Ross' thoroughly excellent The Emergence Of Social Space  invokes a very different Rimbaud.  Ross has no interest in the Rimbaud linked with Jim Morrison, Patti Smith, Dylan, and Richard Hell.  She instead historically situates Rimbaud's work in the context of the 1871 Paris Commune (he was a participant, partisan, and documenter) and re-reads his oeuvre - including his less recognized youthful work as much as his later "master works" - as an adjacent mode of resistance.  Especially as a means of materializing wildly new relationships and world-building much as the people of Paris began to invent new forms of living in the early months of 1871, before the Versailles government brutally put an end to the Commune, slaughtering 20,000 communards.

MCL has a handful of collections of Rimbaud's poetry, including  Rimbaud - Complete Works, Selected Letters : A Bilingual Edition and The Poems.  

Reading Rimbaud in the light of Ross' intervention, new connections are forged (a brilliant linking of Rimbaud's disgust with bourgeois compulsions to work and Paul Lafargue's overlooked The Right To Be Lazy).  Ross reads Rimbaud as a poet finally withdrawing from poetry.  Because so much poetry is a means of embodying and confirming that there are no alternatives (to labor, capitalism, imperialism, etc.), Rimbaud can only ever be the poet of immature insubordination for those who want poetry to stay exactly as and where it is.  Instead Ross reads Rimbaud as a force that hides, insults, reflects, flares, and eventually disappears.  

"Then, delivered from my straining boatmen,
From the trivial racket of trivial crews and from
The freights of Flemish grain and English cotton.
I made my own course down the passive rivers."
-from "The Drunken Boat"


Citizen scientists at work [Photo courtesy of Dennis Ward, Project BudBurst]Have you ever wished you could spend a little bit of time working as a scientist?  I have good news: you can do it, without having to quit anything you already do in your daily life, and without having to get an advanced degree. Scientists all over the world are enlisting regular folks to help them with big projects -- this kind of scientist-support volunteering is called citizen science.

There are so many different citizen science projects, there’s sure to be one that suits you!  No matter your age, your occupation or vocation, or your level of education, there is a citizen science project you can help with.  Here are a few of my favorites:

The annual Christmas Bird Count.  Join a group of Portlanders to participate in the local arm of a nationwide bird census.  This year, local bird-counters will be attempting to count every single bird within a 15-mile radius around Portland, on January 2, 2016.

Great Backyard Bird Count.  If you miss this year's Christmas Bird Count, don't worry, citizen ortnithologists are needed for the Great Backyard Bird Count every February.  Spend a little time in your backyard (or anywhere), and count the number and type of birds you see.  This year’s count takes place February 12-15, 2016.

Be a Martian.  NASA is looking for Earthling volunteers to help improve Martian maps, take part in research tasks, and assist Mars science teams studying data about the Red Planet.

Portland Urban Coyote Project.  When you see a coyote, report it to help scientists at the Portland Audubon Society and the Geography Department at Portland State University who are studying how coyotes have adapted to urban environments.

Project Budburst.  Observe and record when plants produce leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit, to help the National Ecological Observatory Network understand more about how plants respond to climate changes.

National Map Corps.  Edit information about buildings and other data features for the United States Geological Survey’s National Map -- all in the form of “challenges” in which editors are asked to map, edit, and peer-review new additions to the map.

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network.  Measure and map rain, snow and other precipitation, together with volunteers across the U.S. and Canada.


Do you want to see even more citizen science projects you might help out with?  Here are some great places to look for projects that need volunteers:


Remember, you can talk to a librarian about your science questions (or any questions!) whenever you’re at the library in person -- just ask the librarian on duty.  Or, call or email a librarian to get personalized help with via email, text, phone or chat.


Three wrapped gifts

At a loss for some good books to give to your 2-year-old niece, the 9-year-old who walks your dog, or the 16-year-old who keeps showing up at your dinner table? Multnomah County Library to the rescue!  To make your lives a bit easier, here are some excellent gift suggestions from 2015.  

We've put together lists for preschool ages, grade schoolers, and tweens and teens. They're also great for adults who appreciate a good book no matter the age range. Filled with titles guaranteed to appeal to the readers (and non-readers) in your life, these full-color lists are also printable for your shopping convenience. Want more? Don't miss our Best Books of 2015 list.

And be sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more fantastic book fun all year round!


Portland City Archives: A2001-004.94 : 219 N Cherry StNearly every house history researcher wants to see old photographs or drawings of their house.  Who wouldn't, right?  Unfortunately for Portland-area house history buffs, this can be one of the hardest bits of house history ephemera to track down!  But don't despair; there are surviving photographs of some houses and it is possible (sometimes) to find them. 

The challenge is that there has never been a comprehensive house-portrait project in Portland -- or any other city or town in our area -- so there is no treasure trove of photos of local homes that you can dig through.  You might wonder, if there's no big archive of house pictures, where should you start?  There are a few possibilities:

First, ask your neighbors or the people in your neighborhood association.  People who live on your street may have their own old photographs of family events, parties, or other occassions which include your house in the background.  And a bonus -- when you find that long-time resident and photo-saver, they may share stories about past residents of your house or other interesting neighborhood lore!

Houses sometimes appear in the background of photographs taken to record activity on the street.  The city of Portland has a lot of photographs of infrastructure and maintenance work they've done over the years.  City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A1999-004Many of these images are carefully preserved in the Portland City Archives collection. These images usually show city workers doing something in the neighborhood (such as repairing the sewer like in the photo at left) or were taken in connection with city planning work, like a street scene before the installation of a new traffic light.  You can search for records (including photographs) using the Archives' catalog, Efiles, and some have been published on the archives's Vintage Portland blog -- see below for more about that! But, most photographs in the collection aren't available online.  To look at photographs in person, you'll need to visit the Archives reading room downtown (1800 SW 6th Ave., Suite 550; 503.865.4100).  Be sure to read the Archives' policies and tips for researchers before you visit!

The Oregon Historical Society library is another treasure trove for house history researchers.  Their collection includes more than 2.5 million photographs and negatives of people, communities, commerce, and life in the Pacific Northwest -- the photograph collection doesn't have a section devoted to house portraits, but you may find photographs of your street, or photographs indexed under the name of a former owner of the house.  Some of the library's photographs have been digitized and can be viewed in the library's catalog, but most are available only by visiting in person (1200 SW Park Ave.; 503.222.1741).   Again, be sure to read the library's policies, hours and tips for researchers before you visit!  (And a note: Multnomah County residents can use the Oregon Historical Society library for free if they show picture i.d.; most others must pay an admission fee.)

Another potential source for house portraits and street scenes is the Vintage Portland blog, run by the Portland City Archives.  Every weekday the site features a different historical photograph (or sometimes a map or drawing) of Portland.  The posts are sorted into categories for neighborhoods, street names, time periods, and topics.  For example, if you are curious about the development of your neighborhood as well as the history of your house, you might want to look at the blog's many aerial photographs; or you might try looking at a neighborhood street like Foster Rd., Powell Blvd., or 82nd Ave.

If the house you're researching happens to be in the Albina district, you may find a photograph of it in The History of Albina, by Roy E. Roos.  The book begins with a brief a history of the district (and former city), but it also includes brief architectural history for a selection of houses and other buildings that are representative of different eras in Albina's development.  Many of the brief house histories are illustrated with contemporary photographs or have no pictures, but some have historic photographs or drawings.

Have fun hunting for a historic photo of your house!


  Questions? Ask the Librarian.

If you are a high school senior who is college bound, January is the month to begin applying for federal financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the path to financial aid, Pell Grants, scholarships, and federal and state student loans, and many colleges require it for merit-based scholarships.

We carry FAFSA paper forms at our library locations, in English and Spanish, and our staff can help you find the online forms. If you don't have access to a computer, you can use the public library computers to work on the online form. And if it takes more than one session to complete, you can save your information at the bottom of any page of the application.

College filing cabinet 1900

Get help

If you want help filling out the FAFSA, be sure to look at the free government website Federal Student Aid from the Department of Education. It has videos, fact sheets, loan information and web tools to address every question you might have.

You can get free hands-on help for filling out the FAFSA by attending a College Goal Oregon event.

Don't assume you won't qualify for any type of aid. The Department of Education webpage shows that most people are eligible. You can go to their website to estimate your eligibility for federal student aid

Get organized

According to the College Board, a not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success, you'll need, at minimum, these two items to get started:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned.

You'll also need to create an FSA ID and password. This identifies you for your student aid account. You provide your email address and password, and parents can create their own account using a different email address and password. Learn how to create an FSA ID.

Apply early

January 1 is the first day you can file, and you should plan to file as close to this date as you can. You want to be among the first to be considered. Some grants, like the Oregon Opportunity Grants, are awarded only until funds are depleted. 

Local deadlines may be much earlier than federal deadlines, for example, in some states, the application deadline is March 1. You can check the state deadline for Oregon on the Department of Education's webpage. 

A Manual for Cleaning Women book jacketSometimes discovering a new author is the best part of discovering a new read.  Such is the case with Lucia Berlin, whose collection A Manual For Cleaning Women has recently been published.  I had never heard of Lucia Berlin before reading this collection and it seems until now she was one of those unknown writers who produced a startling collection of work during a short, often tumultuous life but never received the recognition she deserved.  Berlin was born in 1936 in Juneau, Alaska.  As the child of a mining engineer, she spent much of her early life in mining camps there as well as in Idaho, Montana, Arizona and Chile.   She moved around a lot as an adult as well living in New Mexico, New York City, Los Angeles and Colorado.   Berlin was married three times and had four sons, whom she mostly raised alone while working a variety of jobs including cleaning lady, E.R. nurse and switchboard operator.

Berlin lived a varied and colorful life which provided inspiration for her stories.   They are stories of everyday life, about work and family and love and the absence of all those things.  Berlin’s writing style is direct, clean and non-judgmental.  Her stories are often conversational in tone and reading her work feels like having a chat with a good friend, one who understands us and knows and values our interests.  Lucia Berlin started publishing late in life and was never a bestselling author.  This has kept her under the radar for far too long, but the publication of A Manual For Cleaning Women has finally brought her the attention she deserves and will introduce her to a legion of readers who will appreciate and savor her work.

In June of this year I brought home my first ever canine companion. My daughter named him SodaPop, and at one year old he is a bundle of energy. A bundle of energy who loves to go on long walks around the neighborhood. I’ve always enjoyed listening to audiobooks, but now that hour long walks are a regular part of my daily routine, audiobooks have become a necessity. When you are going for lengthy foggy morning and rainy evening strolls, the perfect companion is a good horror story. 
It audiobook coverStephen King’s It is a monstrous audiobook, both in length (clocking in at 45 hours long) and in the amount of chills that it is sure to give you. It is the story of a small town that has been haunted by an evil shapeshifting entity and the seven children who face this nameless horror. The narrator, Steven Weber, does a fantastic job of embodying the voices of each of the many characters in this horror classic; from young Ben Denbrough’s stutter and Trashmouth Tozier’s impersonations to the nightmareish voice of Pennywise. It will give you many hours (days) of entertainment...but when you are out walking in the rain, steer clear of the storm drains.
Heart-Shaped Box audiobook coverI can’t really talk about Stephen King without talking about his son, Joe Hill, another one of my favorite masters of horror. Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box centers around Judas Coyne, an aging death metal rock star and collector of the macabre. When Judas buys a suit that is said to be haunted by its recently deceased owner, he gets a lot more than what he paid for. Narrator Stephen Lang’s deep, somber voice is the perfect match for this spine tingling ghost story.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a few months of long, rainy days and nights ahead of us. May I recommend that you spend some time wandering around our fine city, bundled up and warm while listening to a chilling story. 

You know the kind.

They make me stay up all night.

Next day I stagger into work, elicit suspicious looks and sniffs as I smile at nothing but the words lingering in my mind.

And I count it all joy.

Here are a few of my friends, gold ones, the old ones. 

Some are well-known, some not so, but all moved me.


Writer's Market 2016Writers work hard to find an appropriate home for their work, a publisher they can trust with the very important job of connecting the written work with the eyes of readers. This can be a process fraught with emotion and frustration!

First off, there are bound to be a lot of rejections - I haven’t been able to nail down an authoritative number, but I keep hearing that the average rejection rate for writers is 90%, or 95%, or 97%. Submission guidelines are strict and picky, and reading periods are these little windows of time when your submission will be admitted for consideration… if you miss the window, you may have to wait another year for that particular submission.

But how does one decide where to submit their work in the first place?

Book publishers

If you have a book that’s ready to meet the world, you might be seeking an agent or a publisher, or researching small presses that accept submissions, either as part of a contest or an open reading period. Books like the Writer’s Market and the Poet’s Market are classic sources for information about publishers, updated in annual editions. These are pretty basic listings, with description of what’s published by different publishers, as well as contact and submission information. There’s also the Literary Market Place (LMP), an in-depth directory of the book publishing industry. A little more practical and personable advice can be found via Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. Poets & Writers magazine has an excellent database of small presses, which allows you to search using criteria such as form, genre or style, submission fees, payment (if any), and reading period (try the advanced search!).

Wait, what are these small presses you speak of? Generally speaking, they are book publishers that operate on a smaller scale of business than the Big Five Publishers - either they make less than a certain amount of money per year, and/or they publish a smaller number of books per year. There are lots of them, and they may have open reading periods and/or contests. You don't need an agent to get your manuscript into their hands. Many are members of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), which also maintains a useful searchable directory of its members. For a helpful overview about choosing between small and large publishers, and the self-publishing option (see below for more on self-publishing!), you might enjoy this article from The Huffington Post. It's published by the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, another handy resource for the process.

Literary magazines or journals

What are literary magazines? In short, they’re print or online magazines publishing a variety of authors all at once. These are especially found in conjunction with poetry and short stories, although essays, reviews, and novel excerpts may be found in them as well. Literary magazines cannot be summarized, such is their variety in terms of readership, distribution, and style. The library maintains subscriptions to some excellent literary magazines.

The Review Review is an online magazine dedicated to literary magazines - news, reviews, and a database of magazines. Lynne Barrett’s essay “What Editors Want,” published in The Review Review, is a must-read if you are considering submitting your work to literary magazines! Poets & Writers magazine has an excellent searchable database of literary magazines, too. Both of these can be searched by many criteria to narrow down the wide world of literary magazines to some of the magazines that publish work like yours.

Entropy Magazine is another excellent online source for info about where to submit work that’s ready right now: it has listings for literary magazine, chapbook and book publishers’ reading periods. It also has a top notch small press database.

Don’t forget that when submitting your work to a literary magazine or book publisher, your chances are best if you have some understanding of the style and type of writing that they publish. That means you have to read the magazine, and read the books published by the press! While the library can’t carry everything published by small presses, can do our best to help you find the publications you seek, whether it’s on our shelves, online, in bookstores, or via Interlibrary Loan. Please ask us!


Of course, you could self-publish your book - this option is getting easier and more popular all the time. See our blog post about self publishing, and our reading list

You might also enjoy these other blog posts about self care and practical matters for writers:

The Care and Feeding of the Writer

The Business of Writing

The Last Kingdom book jacketIf you are a Doctor Who fan (or one of BBC America in general), you may have seen a new series called 'The Last Kingdom' that follows it on Saturday nights. It's the story of Uhtred, a young Saxon lordling who (due to Viking raids and betrayal by his uncle) is taken away to be raised by the Danes. He eventually makes his way back to Britain and begins a very long quest to regain control of Bebbanburg Castle, his rightful home, and crosses paths with Alfred, later called The Great. Getting good reviews, I hear (but I missed the first episode and now I have to wait until they re-air it to find out for myself). 

That's not what I need to tell you about. What I need to tell you is: it's based on a book.  In fact, it's based on the first book in the second-longest series by one of my favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell. You may know him from the Napoleonic-era 'Sharpe' series. Three things to tell you about Mr. Cornwell: 

  1. He loves England and its history. He's got works set in King Arthur's time, the Crusades and all the way back to the building of Stonehenge. (Mr. Cornwell does in fact write some books that are not about England. There are at least two set in revolutionary America, a Civil war series, a few modern thrillers, and a non-fiction book about the battle of Waterloo.)
  2. He does his homework. Nearly every work has an author's note explaining exactly which liberties he had to take with history so as to tell a rousing story, but he never takes many. 
  3. He writes excellent battle scenes. Not for the faint of heart, to be sure, because up-close personal warfare with swords, knives and axes caThe Archer's Tale book jacketn be gruesome, but he doesn't write to deliberately horrify. He writes to make it real, and he definitely succeeds. The fact that I actually know what they were fighting about at Agincourt, which three armies were at Waterloo, and anything at all about Alfred is due to Mr. Cornwell's research, location visits and gripping tales. 

If you like exciting and accurate historical fiction, battle scenes you can smell, or simply a far more fun way to learn English history than textbooks, have a look!

United Kingdom flagBeing in a bi-continental relationship can be challenging.  You can go months without hanging out in person, date nights consist of Skyping, and although theUnited States flag frequent flier miles add up quickly, it’s still pretty darned expensive to fly across the pond several times a year.  There definitely are benefits, though, including international travel, being immersed in a different culture, and having a sweetie with a groovy accent, not to mention the joy of reunions. Additionally, you don’t have to experience each other’s annoying habits on a regular basis (not that we have any of those!).  Because I’m in the middle of a British-American experience, I’m drawn to stories where Brits and Yanks get together in a romantic sort of way.  Here are a few of the books and movies I’ve been enjoying lately.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake book jacketThe Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
This book reminded me of last summer when I introduced the Scottish Lad to the wonders of the Pacific Northwest.  In Coconut, Lou shows English transplant Al around her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  A certain chemistry develops during their “non-dates” at a custard stand, a museum and various festivals. What  Lou doesn’t know is that Al, a food writer, just  trashed her restaurant in a particularly harsh review. The thing is, Al doesn’t know it either!  He has no idea (at least for awhile) that Lou is the owner of Louella’s, the French bistro where he had his disastrous meal.  Will the truth come out and if it does, will Lou be able to forgivThe Holiday dvd covere Al for wrecking her dream?

The Holiday
I’m looking forward to my British trip around the holidays. To help me get through the waiting period, I recently watched this fun flick featuring two women who trade homes at Christmas in order to provide a diversion and get over their ex-boyfriends.  Jude Law and Jack Black are standing by to help the healing! I met my guy on a holiday, so this movie particularly resonated!

I couldn’t help myself - I just had to include a book with a Scot.  In Some Like it Scot  by Donna Kauffman, Graham needs a wife asap in order to maintain his claim of laird of the small Scottish island on which he lives. Unfortunately, the only suitable bride lives in America.  Will she agree to marry him before his 40 day time limit expires? Follow up with the sequel, Off Kilter. Remember Calendar Girls?  This time it’s Scottish men, and they’re dropping their kilts for the “Men of the Highlands” calendar.  Uh huh – I had you at “dropping their kilts”, so will leave it at that!

For more romantic encounters between Brits and Yanks, check out this list.


Song of the Sea dvd coverWhen I was little, I loved bugging my mom and grandmother for stories about mumo (ghosts), mermaids, duwende (dwarves), and aswang (vampires). I wanted all these things to be real, even if some of these creatures were malevolent.
In the animated film Song of the Sea, two siblings, Ben and Saoirse, learn that all their Celtic bedtimes stories are true in 1980s Ireland. Six years after their mother's disappearance, Saoirse makes an amazing discovery that revives the fairy world. Yet, her mission is thwarted by an awesome villain: Macha, the Owl Witch who simply has good intentions.
A masterful weaving of a tragedy, sibling dynamics, and magic, Song of the Sea is my new favorite children's movie. If you like the narrative depth and art of Studio Ghibli films, you are sure to enjoy Song of the Sea, which is a treat for all ages. 

Photo of a stormtrooper reading a book.It is only a matter of days until the premier of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (!!!!!) So how am I getting ready? By stocking up on new CoverGirl Star Wars makeup? Um, no, but maybe I should!

What I am doing is reading the official Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens books which fill in the gaps between the events in the previous movies (episodes IV, V, and VI) and give hints and teasers about the story that will be coming in episode VII.

Thrill as Leia climbs up space-rat infested tunnels on a secret mission between episodes V and VI!

Shudder as Wedge gets captured by Imperial officers who aren’t ready to accept that their Emperor is dead and the Death Star destroyed!

Take in more Star Wars trivia than your brain can possibly handle!

Find them all at the library with my reading list, Multcolib My Librarian Ross: Journeying to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And until December 18th... may the Force be with you!


Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!


Four Welcome to Reading color coded kit bags and bookmarks

Learning to read is an exciting time. Finding books your child is interested in at the right reading level can be a challenge. Library staff is always ready to help. We've just added another way to make that process easier for you and your child: Welcome to Reading Kits!

Multnomah County Library has kits at four levels: Starting Out (yellow), Building Skills (blue), Reading More (red), and On My Own (purple). Each color-coded bag contains 5 fun books and an information sheet on how to determine your child’s reading level, how to order more kits, and other activities you can do to help your child become a stronger reader. Some kits have books on a specific theme, like Comics, Dogs and Cats, or For Real! Facts. Many kits are called Five to Try, and contain a variety of books at the reading level. Explore several kits and help your child discover what he or she loves to read.

The kits are housed at our Albina, Gregory Heights, Gresham, Hillsdale and Woodstock locations, but you can place and pick up holds at any library location. Ask library staff about Welcome to Reading Kits today! 

Welcome to Reading Kits are made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation.

Many years ago I had the opportunity to see the great violinist Isaac Stern in recital at what was then called the Civic Auditorium -- now the Keller Auditorium. It was of course an evening of great music making, but I only remember one piece that was played. After the intermission, I returned to my seat as Mr. Stern and his accompanist launched in to Béla Bartók’s second sonata for violin and piano. I had never heard music like this before and was mesmerized -- I think my jaw may actually have dropped! This was the beginning of my love of Bartók and my introduction to the music of the twentieth century.

Bartók was born in 1881 in the village of Nagyszentmiklós in the Hungarian Empire -- today, the town is part of Romania. He spent time in his early career traveling the countryside recording folk tunes of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria -- music that would inspire much of his later work.

So what continues to fascinate me about this music after 40 years? Certainly its folk-inspired nature. But more than that, I think it’s simply the raw energy in pieces like his first two piano concertos, his fourth string quartet, and Contrasts -- a piece for violin, clarinet and piano, which was commissioned by Benny Goodman.

Bartók toured the United States in 1927-28 and as part of his west coast travels he made an appearance in Portland. Here is an image of the program from that evening. This image and other images of early concerts in Portland can be viewed in Multnomah County Library's The Gallery.

If you'd like to learn more about Bartok, join us at the Central Library on Saturday January 23 at 1:30 p.m., when Professor Peter Kupfer will present a lecture in conjuction with local performances of Bartok by the Jerusalem Quartet. 

Book Jacket: Tracks by Robyn DavidsonHave you ever ditched a book in favor of the film?  I was half way through Tracks by Robyn Davidson when I put it down to watch the film instead.

Make no mistake, the book is great: Witty writing, poetic descriptions of the Australian outback, and an inspiring personal journey to rival Wild.

But I just had to see the desert. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Robyn Davidson was a young twenty-something bohemian living in Sydney, who moved to a remote town in the Australian outback.  Her single goal was to acquire, train, and trek, with feral camels across the central Australian desert to the sea. 

Tracks is a visually stunning film that really lets you experience the beauty and solitude of the Australian desert and Mia Wasikowska portrays Davidson’s quiet determination flawlessly. So much so that it has inspired me to finish the book. Because now that I’ve seen the desert, I’m dying to know more of what was going through Davidson’s head as she approached the sea.  

Ready for more solo female travel in remote corners of the word? Check out To the Moon and Timbuktu by Nina Sovich. Or consider watching The Motorcycle Diaries for more gorgeous scenery (beyond Gael García Bernal) that is guaranteed to give you the travel bug.

When I heard that the BBC miniseries based on Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was going to be available soon, I decided to reread the book before enjoying the treat of the miniseries.

The year Jonathan Strange came out, I bored all of my friends by going on about it. It’s just the kind of book I like, a big story with fantastically rich characters and plenty of wit that takes its time to unfold. It's written with assurance and with great plotting, a lot of little stories beautifully folded up in the big one. It offers the same kinds of pleasures offered by Dickens-- but without the occasional over-sentimentality or distressing racism. And there’s magic-- absolutely dazzling feats of magic. From the moment that Mr. Norrell brought all the statues in York Cathedral to life in order to win a bet, I was entranced.

When I reread it this year, I loved it all over again. When I finished, I watched the miniseries, and it was fine--some good performances and gorgeous sets-- but it turned out that rereading the book was the real treat.

If you need a little magic in your life, consider reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you need more options, this list might be just the thing. And if you need even more ideas about what to read, feel free to ask me.

Clues to climate change, from the Environmental Protection Agency


Want to show what climate change is doing to the planet? Here you go! While one drought or bad wildfire season does not mean that the world is going up in flames, here are some websites from teachers and scientists that will get you started and help your report stand out.




Big 3 -- all about climate

Learn about climate
Climate information from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This up-to-date educational site includes links to many stories about the climate.

Impacts of climate change
See the Impacts of climate change at this page from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Effects of climate change from NASA
NASA scientists describe consequences of climate change, including more droughts and heat waves, stronger hurricanes, and rising sea levels.

Did you know?
The world's oceans are warmer now than at any time in the last 50 years.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency

3 more -- frequent questions

How hot is it getting?

Climate monitoring from the NOAA temperature monitoring site , including worldwide data, as well as data from the United States.

Is the ice really melting?

Snow, ice and climate change from the National Snow and Ice Data Center

What about the endangered species?

Biodiversity as an Indicator of Global Climate Change, from Exploring the Environment from Wheeling Jesuit University.
This page was designed for teachers, but has information and links about endangered species.


News Flash!

2015 is likely to be the warmest year on record.
Source: World Meteorological Organization

You can also consult a database like Today’s Science. You will need your library card number and PIN to login from home. Click on the Topic Index at the top of the page, which contains a wide range of headings, or you can use the search bar. This database, from Facts on File, is for high school and older students. 

Remember, if you need help, you can ask a librarian online, or at your neighborhood library.

George bookjacketMelissa hopes more than anything that she can play the part of the wise spider Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web in the school play. But for some reason she isn’t even allowed to try out, although she knows the part well and is a convincing actor.  Actually, not just for some reason, but because her given name is George and she was born into a boy’s body.  George knows she’s really a girl inside. She longs for the chance to at least play the part of a female. Getting there will require her to convince everyone around her that she really does feel like a girl named Melissa, and that it’s not the same as being gay.  You and your child will be convinced too, after finishing this simple but moving book.

If you want to share more stories about kids who feel like outsiders , try some of the titles in the following list.