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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 book 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.

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."

 

book cover of the mandarins american editionYou 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."

Brian, a page at the Hollywood Library loves The Flame Throwers for the beautiful writing, the insight into the NY art world of the 1970s, plus the bonus of autonomia operaia, which he's interested in.

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.

Cadillac Desert book jacketThe 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).

 

Sometimes kids get all the breaks. I ask you, when was the last time that you sat at the knees of someone who was willing to read to you, AND was able to read upside down so you could study the pictures? It happens for kids everyday in schools and libraries. 'All well and good', you might say, 'but who writes picture books for adults?' Maira Kalman, that's who.

I've been a fan of Kalman's work ever since I came across Ooh-la-la (Max in Love). The book, admittedly written for kids, tells the story of the poet dog Max, who goes to Paris, gains enlightenment and falls in love. At one point he is awakened by "a k-k-k-k-knocking" and into his hotel room enters "a long mustache followed by a man". The words 'long mustache' form the thing itself curled under the Parisian waiter's nose.

Kalman is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, and has since illustrated The Elements of Style. Yes! How? You'll just have to take a look at it - it's hard to describe.

But my favorite of her recent offerings is The Principles of Uncertainty. The book is a mix of memoir, philosophical musing and photographic record - but the photographs are actually paintings. Paintings of people caught in different aspects: of the museum guard who sits in Proust's room; of elderly New Yorkers walking the streets; of Kalman's sister sitting at a kitchen table eating honey cake and telling stories. And all of it accompanied by prose that is matter-of-fact and poignant at the same time:

MY sister and I go to Israel during the short, furious, the world-is-doomed war. For a wedding. Because you CANNOT postpone weddings in DARK TIMES - especially in dark times. Who knows when the light will come on again. Are things normal? I don't know. Does life go on? YES.

Through her pictures and words, Kalman captures what is essential about life. So think about it next time you feel like a little storytime.

Find more of Maira Kalman's art here.

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. 

Lola Baldwin, Oregon Historical Society

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.

 Beatrice Morrow Cannady, Oregon Historical Society

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 and Oregon History Project are a combined resource, searchable together or separately here, have detailed information and photos about these women and many more female pioneers in Oregon's history. The combined resource is a great online tool 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. 

Sunshine, popcorn, the smell of sunscreen, the crack of the bat, and maybe a beer (or two).  Another rainy day?  Take heart, spring training is in full swing!spring training book cover 

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. 

baseball stadium

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.State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

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.

Betsy a Library Assistant at the Hillsdale Library is reading Wild Tales: A Rock n' Roll Life by Graham Nash: "I like that he is narrating his own book and the stories behind the songs."

 

PDX pop now coverOnce upon a time, I went out to see bands play several times a week, I read Spin (remember Spin?) and I was on top of the local and national music scene. I had friends with encyclopedic music knowledge, and they lavished it on me. Now I’m old and I’m busy, and so are my friends who used to give me the heads up on music they thought I’d like. Babysitters are expensive, and I find that I like to be in my bed by midnight, book in hand. But although I’m not so interested in standing up in a club or music venue for hours and hours, I still love music. I’m especially always looking for new music to energize me as I take long walks around this city. There’s nothing like a new song I’m really into to get me up to the top of MountPDX pop now cover Tabor faster.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a CD in the library called PDX Pop Now! 2008, and I found that it was just one of a great annual series. PDX Pop Now is a local nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate local music. In 2004, they started having a music festival every year and releasing a CD of recorded music by the artists chosen for the festival. The music is wildly varied and the CDs don't really hang together as albums, but as a tool for finding something new to love right here in your own city, they are unbeatable. I found a band I’ll call Starf***er, who have three whole CDs of music to get me moving. I found Ioa’s song, called “The Boxcar Children”, which unites my love of kid’s literature and pop music ("Henry and Jesse lived under no rules at all in the little red boxcar..."). And there’s a rolicking song called “Let’s Ride” by Andy Combs and the Moth that always gets me up to the top of Mount Tabor really fast. This CD series might just add some excitement to your life as well.

As a child, my uncle Mike would pay me 25 cents to say ‘hello’. Once I said, ‘Hello Uncle Mike’ and got a fifty cent piece. I was an extraordinarily shy child, raised by an extraordinarily shy mother. It was a good partnership and suited me well, until I had my own child.  

My unabashedly sociablSoceity of timid souls bookjackete son liked to sit in other parent’s laps at library storytime. He chats up intoxicated passengers on airplanes and is absolutely confident that whomever sits near us at the neighborhood sushi house is dying to see his Lego minifigure collection. All of this sends me into a state of near panic. I’ve often felt that I ought to start a support group for shy and introverted parents of extroverted children. This was on my mind when I came across Polly Morland’s book The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to Be Brave.  

Polly Morland is a documentary filmmaker and this book reads exactly like the most captivating of documentaries. From meetings of anxiety-ridden concert musicians struggling to overcome stage fright in the 1940s, to interviews with modern military heroes and high line walkers,  Moreland explores the many different forms that bravery can take and how we define it as a society. What struck me most however, was the idea that some forms of bravery may be practiced and learned. I'm unlikely at this stage in my life to undergo training to fight a bull and let’s just forget about joining Toastmasters. Parenting however is one training I can't opt out of.  My uninhibited son is guaranteed to test my faltering social skills for the rest of my life. In doing so, he might just be training me to move one small step further from timid to brave.

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