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When John Marshall discovered gold on the American River in 1848, he tried to keep it a secret.   California was still a territory with a population of about  157,000 and he knew if word got out about the discovery of gold, it would change everything.

The secret proved impossible to keep and  “gold fever” started the  biggest migration in U.S. history. Just a few years later more than 300,000 people moved to California with hopes of striking it rich,  fast-tracking the territory to statehood. Take a look at the maps, letters and images from this remarkable time.

Most of  miners were American, but news of the discovery spread around the world. People came from Europe, Australia, China and Latin America, creating one of the first multi-ethnic workforces in the world.   Experience the Gold Rush from a variety of perspectives with this game.

Miners from different backgrounds working side by side.

Though miners discovered more than 750,000 pounds of gold between 1848 and 1853, more business entrepreneurs than miners struck it rich!

For more information on the California Gold Rush,  just ask a librarian!

​A few years back my husband was working in the storybook-beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Prague, and I had the chance to visit. He explained to me that I should not pet dogs belonging to strangers and I should keep my voice down when on the subway or bus. And it was true, voices were hushed on public transportation. One of our Czech friends explained that people became very worried about eavesdropping during the Soviet Era, so privacy was essential. 

Tram in PragueWhile the Czech Republic had the Velvet Revolution in 1989, there and in so many other Eastern European countries souls and psyches were scarred by years of corruption. On the other hand, they and other Eastern Europeans are still working to build a new kind of country.

For more about post-Revolutionary Prague, and a chance to look into the life of an American expatriate, Aaron Hamburger’s ebook The View from Stalin’s Head is essential. For an inside glimpse from Romania, watch 12:08 East of Bucharest where sixteen years after their soft revolution, townspeople all claim to have taken part in the protests in the square. Too bad the actual TV footage shows otherwise! Moving to East Germany, the stories in Ingo Shulze’s Simple Stories are not simple--they criss cross to build an intriguing novel that shows that blackmail, for instance, and other unsavory parts of life still lingered after the Berlin Wall.

Are you trying to understand how maps work? Or maybe you need to find one for a school project? If so, this post will get you pointed in the right direction!

Maps Maps Maps is a great video introduction to the different types of maps, the symbols found on them, and latitude and longitude.Image of map

Have you ever looked at all those funny symbols on a map and wondered what they represent? Reading a Map is an activity that explains topographic maps, including legends (which describe the symbols on a map), and scale. Or at Adventure Island, you can practice finding items from the legend on the map.

What does Never Eat Soggy Waffles mean? It’s a phrase to help you remember the cardinal directions (north, east, south and west). Try this activity to help you master them.

If you need a map to use in a project, try National Geographic Map Maker One-Page Maps. Choose a country, check the items you’d like included on the map, and print! If you’re feeling a bit more creative, try Map Maker Interactive, where you can make a map of your very own. Choose to include features like climate zones, population density, or even volcanic eruptions! For maps of regions or entire continents, try the World Factbook.

The Lands and Peoples encyclopedia includes an electronic atlas with many kinds of specialized maps. You can find historical maps (on topics such as ancient cultures or U.S. expansion), exploration routes, time zones, and climate data. If you aren’t at the Multnomah County Library, you’ll need to log in to the encyclopedia with your library card number and PIN.

Still lost and in need of direction? Trying contacting a librarian for more help!

Doctor ZhivagoHere are two stories that (still) inspire my soul.

In 1965 everyone was talking about a new must-see movie. Everyone that is, except me. My mother wasn’t sure it was appropriate for a 6th grader. I didn’t know what it was about exactly, but the trailer made it look exotic and full of passion and set to a soundtrack that blew me away like a flurry of weightless snowflakes. Its name was exotic too - Dr. Zhivago. Imagine my surprise when my mother agreed to let me go see it with the rough and rowdy Hansen family from down the street. It was  the first time I was allowed to go to a movie without my parents. So it was on a night dark and blue, my heart bursting with anticipation, that I began a love affair with Russia.

Not long after that I picked up a copy of the book Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I had never experienced poetry in a novel before. These poems  were like little stories themselves. As for the ending, it floored me: this wasn’t some contrived Romeo and Juliet tragedy; this was real life where true love doesn’t always win and many a good-hearted person dies.  Still what shines through is Dr. Zhivago's excitement and interest in life - harsh and tragic, but also achingly beautiful and exuberant. He says, "If you go near...a spark will light up the room and either kill you on the spot or electrify you for your whole life..." 

FAST FORWARD 40 YEARS...the year is now 2008.

I am reading about a new series on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. Kenneth Branaugh plays the lead, it takes place in Sweden and is based on a ‘wildly popular’  Wallander detective series by Swedish author Henning Mankell.  ‘Wildly popular’? I  consider myself a mystery connoisseur - why had I never heard of Wallander? In a frenzy I called the Woodstock brKurt Wallander PBS mysteryanch library.  Yes, they had it on the shelf, yes they would hold it for me.  Watching that first episode and reading Faceless Killers, the first book in the series, I fell headlong into a world stark and unkind, one so full of contrast and intolerance that it made my eyes ache. Enhanced by the sweet, melancholy theme music sung by Emily Barker, this was the story of detective Kurt Wallender, trying to solve a gruesome murder while also trying to connect with his elderly father and estranged daughter. But once again I couldn’t quit reading, couldn't quit listening, couldn’t quit watching the series over and over.

At one point, Wallender says, "These are our lives. And they're precarious. Miraculous. They're all we have". It made me wonder what is it inside me that lies dormant and asleep, waiting for just the right phrase or musical note or image to strike in a burst of fire and wake it up. It is hard to predict. All I can do is open my eyes and ears and heart. Tell you what I've found.  Maybe it is lying dormant, waiting inside you too.

We all know the scenario.   A few friends come over to visit, small talk fades, and everyone stares at one another in awkward silence.  Suddenly, the party erupts into excited cheers when someone suggests a game of “Thirst-Quench relay.”

“Four men or boys should be the runner in each of the competing teams for this, and they will have one girl partner.  She stands at the bottom of the lawn, with a tumbler and jug of water… but each runner when he reaches his team’s girl partner, must pause, and be fed by her with a tumbler full of water with a teaspoon.”  -- Games for Small Lawns by Sid G. Hedges

Sound like fun? No? Fine, be a spoil sport.   Maybe human croquet, tyre wrestling, or a good old fashioned shoe race is more your speed.  Books such as “Games for Small Lawns” offer a variety of entertaining options for your next social gathering.  The games are simple, require minimal equipment, and are guaranteed to turn the average party into something unforgettable.  After all, who doesn't’t love a good game of “nails”?

 

 

 

I have an embarrassing confession to make. For me, up until very recently, the name 'Biafra’ referred only to the former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra. I might have known it alluded to something larger, but I couldn’t have told you a thing about Biafra, the short-lived independent republic of Nigeria.  That only began to change when I picked up Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Image of book jacket: Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun was published back in 2006 but I was led to it via Adichie’s 2013 novel, Americanah.  I was so struck by Americanah's mixture of humor, social commentary and a heart wrenching love story, that I immediately sought out Adichie's other novels.  I’m in good company on this Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie love train. Beyonce has famously sampled portions of Adichie’s TEDx talk on feminism for the remix of her song flawless; and the increased publicity Adichie has received, paired with her own sharp musings on everything from fashion to Nigeria's new anti-gay laws, is quickly making her a literary ‘it’ girl for a whole new audience.

July 2014 promises to finally bring the film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun to the United States.  The story unfolds in late 1960s Nigeria, when a series of military coups, and the violent persecution of the ethnic Igbo population, led to the secessionist state of Biafra.  Adichie tells this emotional story through the eyes of two wealthy Igbo sisters, a shy British expat and a thirteen year old peasant houseboy. These different perspectives give a vivid and personal portrayal of both the euphoria of independence and the heinous brutalities of the resulting civil war.

One more thing- The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton. With no disrespect to the great acting accomplishments of Miss Newton, 2014 belongs to Chiwetel Ejiofor. The enormously talented British actor, born of Nigerian-Igbo parents, may not have taken home the Oscar this time around, but his powerful portrayal of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave demonstrated what he is capable of as an actor. The world already knew Beyonce was flawless. Chimamanda and Chiwetel have since joined her.  I have high hopes that the movie adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun will follow suit.  You have until July to read the book first- go!

Artists in grades 6-12, two great opportunities! 

art by Carrie Anne Jones

Enter the Teen Summer Reading Gameboard design contest:

art by Carrie Anne Jones

Submit your work for the Teen Art Show sponsored by the Northwest Library Teen Council:

  • Any two-dimensional medium
  • No larger than 28" x 30"
  • Must be matted or ok to pin to wall
  • Deliver to Northwest Library by March 31, pick up after April 29
  • Questions? Contact Susan: 503.988.5560 or susansm@multcolib.org

 

 

The ReturnedLast week, I was immersed in zombies and honestly, I'm not really a zombie-loving-type person. Okay, I love Shaun of the Dead and when I was younger, I watched my share of The Night, Dawn, etc., of the Living Dead. But then I got older and people rising from the grave just became too creepy and scary for me. Then I found The Returned (Les Revenants). It's a French TV series that is amazing! It's like a beautiful French film only better because it's 8 episodes long! The basic premise is that random people have returned from the dead. I like to believe that it's pretty farfetched that the dead will come back to us in the same form they left, however The Returned seems a pretty realistic portrayal of how people might react. Some of the living view it all with disbelief or suspicion, hostility, joy, or as a sign from God. There are twists and turns throughout the season as the histories of the dead are revealed. There's a serial killer that returns, just to keep you on the edge of your seat. Mon dieu! And thankfully, there's going to be a second season. I can't wait! It's available on Netflix right now or you can add your name to the waiting list at MCL.

While I'm waiting for the second season, I might see what Resurrection, a new, heavily-hyped TV show is like. This show is loosely based on a teen The Returned bookbook called The Returned by Jason Mott (they changed the name of the show so that it wouldn't be confused with the French show). I zipped through this book in less than a day but I'm still thinking about it days later. In this version of the dead coming back, we see people (or some version of those people) appearing far from their homes. A huge bureaucracy has been set up to deal with the vast number of the returning dead. Some families want their loved ones back and some do not; some of the townsfolk are welcoming and some become openly hostile. It's a sweetly melancholy book and a page-turning thriller. I hope that the TV show, Resurrection, can pull it off.

And in the time between watching The Returned and Resurrection, try one of my favorite horror shows.

One thing to note:  I am not a Jane Austen fanatic.  I have not read all of her novels.  I do not dress up in Regency costume.  I visited the Roman Baths in Bath, England, but skipped the Jane Austen Centre.  Don’t get me wrong;  I enjoyed reading  Pride and Prejudice even though my high school English teacher (on whom I had a mild crush) loathed it.  Mr. Conner’s admission was a bold one to make at an all-girls school.  Frankly, Mr. Conner’s statement is a bold one to make anywhere because everyone and her twin sister seem to adore Jane Austen.  Here’s a book, though, that fans and non-fans alike can enjoy:  Longbourn by Jo Baker. 

Longbourn book jacketLongbourn, to refresh the memories of those for whom high school was a long time ago, is the name of the Bennet home. While the Bennets, the Bingleys, Mr. Darcy and various other characters well-known to P&P readers show up in the wings, the servants Sarah, Polly, James, Mr. Hill and Mrs. Hill take center stage.  In an author’s note at the end of Longbourn, Ms. Baker calls the servants in P&P “ghostly presences.”  In Longbourn, she “reaches back into these characters’ pasts and out beyond Pride and Prejudice’s happy ending.”  

She has done an amazing job of it.  I was totally invested in Sarah’s heartache, James’s plight, and the sheer slog of keeping five young ladies fed, in clean clothing and on time for all of their social engagements.  I still wanted to slap Kitty and Lydia and strangle various other characters who had irritated me in P&P, but I didn’t have to dwell on them much before I could move along to a more compelling character and story.  Jane Austen is dead.  Long live Jo Baker!

It is perennially fascinating to me to observe what children see and don't see. Taking Child the Younger shopping provided a teachable moment and lovely conversation about gender identity and sensitivity when he noticed a happy boy his age dressed in a long pink ball gown Cinderella would envy. Child the Elder recently failed to notice that he had spray-painted the cement walk in front of our house while priming some models or that he had permanently super-glued two of these same said models to my dining room table. (No one failed to notice my screaming when I discovered these tiny unwelcome dinner guests.)
 
The things and people closest to us are often the last things we see. I was in middle school before it dawned on me, only with the comment of a friend, that there was something immediately noticeable to everyone else about my father's appearance. Later in life I met someone who had a similar experience with her father. He got up and put on two prostheses each and every morning. This was the norm at her house. It never occurred to her that her dad was missing both his natural legs until a friend happened to mention it.
 
Wool book jacketWhat if normal means growing up in a vast underground silo? Wool by Hugh Howey was just the dark dystopian page-turner I needed while Portland was buried in snow. Juliette is a smart and scrappy mechanic from the "down deep" lowest floors. Her brief and tragic love affair and her loyalty to those she lives and works with counters the shadowy IT department that maintains control of the silo. The many generations and over one-hundred floors of the silo come complete with a unique history, class system, and form of justice. The story begins with Sheriff Holston investigating and processing the death of his wife. The secrets he uncovers about the silo go with him when he, too, commits the ultimate taboo and asks to go outside. Will Juliette survive becoming the silo's new sheriff? Will her human connections be enough to sustain her in a dangerous quest to save the only society she knows?
 
Our children, too, are growing up with a new normal. Our day-to-day behavior as parents seems largely invisible and unimportant--unnoticed--until something The Big Disconnect book jackethappens and we realize our children are constantly watching and learning from our actions, large and small. One child, a seven-year-old in a play therapy session, had this to say in Catherine Steiner-Adair's book The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age: "My parents are always on their computers and on their cell phones. It's very, very frustrating and I get lonely inside." Clearly, we need to take a hard look at how our use of technology is impacting the fabric of family life. This is an important book. As the author says, "We can't afford to wait and we don't need to wait to see this much of the picture clearly: Technology, social media, and the digital age have converged on the American family, first transforming it and now threatening to replace the deepest and most vital human connections that children need to grow and thrive." The good news is that we can, as parents, mindfully use technology as an ally to strengthen family bonds instead of allowing it to erode them. This is the best parenting book I have seen in a long time--timely, interesting, easy to read and full of practical advice with a positive and hopeful outlook on our connected age.
 
Corvus book jacketSometimes the birds that don't stand out for their songs or plumage are the ones we should be noticing. Corvus: A Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson combines anecdotes of raising and living with corvids with beautiful prose. Set in her town near Aberdeen, Scotland, Woolfson describes her life with Chicken the rook, Spike the magpie, Ziki the crow and a whole cast of supporting doves and other more conventional pet birds (including a crabby cockatiel named Bardie.) The total brain-to-body mass ratio of ravens, crows, magpies and other members of the Corvidae family is equal to that of great apes and whales and only slightly smaller than that of humans. These birds recognize faces, mimic speech and sounds, and use tools. Their impressive capacity for long-term memory and complex problem-solving has been proven. Woolfson's close proximity and careful study of the birds in her life provides a rare glimpse into their fascinating minds. Read this and I promise that the ordinary crow you curse for picking open the garbage bag on trash day will never look the same.
 
Because now you see it.

Northwest Passage bookjacketI'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.

Lori, a regional librarian describes her latest read, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: "Nao, A Japanese teenager navigates the rough road of life by writing to a future reader in her diary. Meanwhile ( but also later) Ruth, a writer in Canada with angst of her own is reading the diary she found washed up on the shore. Time, self and relationships play a big part but great characters keep me reading. A healthy dose of Zen philosophy and a bit of Proust also keep it interesting!"

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."

 

TigerA year or so ago, I started having a frequently recurring dream that I was living with something dangerous, usually a big cat, a tiger or a lion. In the dreams, I would try to go about my business while being conscious that the dangerous creature could lunge at any moment. It took me a while, but I realized finally that the dreams were about my teenage daughter. I knew long ago that my oldest, who I will call Thing One, would be a difficult teenager, and I tried to ready myself, but I was not ready. So I dived into the world of parenting books at the library until I found Laura Scribner Kastner's Getting to Calm. I find that I need to keep it around and go back to it again and again in order to keep my head in the right place and keep my cool when Thing One is behaving like the little girl in The Exorcist.

Getting to Calm doesn’t just throw theories at you; it actually walks you through conversations between teens and their parents, showing not only the content, but also the process, analyzing each participant's responses. It points out mistakes that parents make and explains what parents should avoid, and shows how to be more successful talking with teenagers.  With the help of this book, I stopped seeing my daughter's resistance to rules and instruction as a personal rejection, but as something she simply has to do, part of the process. Mind you, I have to remind myself of this again and again, because sometimes my gut response is that I’m living with a demon.

Getting to CalmI've accepted that there’s not an answer that will magically make everything go smoothly. It feels kind of like my idea of Buddhism. Being a parent is something you practice from day to day, as mindfully as you can. And keeping this book close will help me do the best I can, along with deep breathing, counting to ten, conversations with other parents who have already lived through this, and occasionally, a glass or two of wine. I might make it through Thing One’s adolescence. By then, Thing Two, a little over three years younger, should be in the thick of his own teen years.

By Kavallines, James, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsSome 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.

He called it the Glass Armonica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Lightning rods are still used today on buildings and houses. Lightning rod from the Franklin Institute

 

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

documentary from the History Channel, or ask a librarian.

 

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.

PersepolisHowever, 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 Marblesdisorder 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)!

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