I’ve wanted to write a little something about Roald Dahl for a long time. Yes, everyone knows him for his children’s books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, and Esio Trot seem to always have a permanent place on the bookshelves of many young readers. Yet there is more to Dahl than his beloved children’s books. His short stories for adults are among the best around. They are highly original, deeply engaging and filled with unusual characters who stand out from the ordinary but seem strangely familiar.
Dahl has been around for the long time, rising to eminence long before J.K. Rowling and writing before the days when series fiction was needed to draw young readers in. Roald Dahl appeals to children because he takes them seriously and endeavors to treat them well. Dahl created worlds where magic lived just along the edges of ordinary life and where a shove in any direction would turn that life upside down.
Dahl’s personal life was filled with its own share of the unexpected. His autobiographical books including Boy and Going Solo detail his early school days
Ah, the lost art of letter writing. I still find myself checking my mail hoping that there will actually be a personal letter mixed in with the credit card applications. But alas, I can’t recall the last time I received a real letter. When I want to immerse myself in the beauty of letter-writing, I shall open up Shaun Usher’s, Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of A Wider Audience.
Shaun Usher loves letters (and lists too. His second book, Lists of Note includes such wonders as Michelangelo's illustrated shopping list and Marilyn Monroe’s New Year’s resolutions written when she was 29-years-old.).
But back to the pleasures of letters. Usher has collected 125 letters from far and wide and long ago to more recent times. Many of the letters are from well-known figures but some are from everyday folks. All of the letters have a short introduction to put them into historical context and a good share of them include a reproduction of the letter itself. The effort and creativity that went into these letters - a 13-year-old boy at a school for the blind wrote in Braille to President Eisenhower. The sadness - Virginia Woolf’s note to her husband before she committed suicide. Witty, funny, artistic ones. Beautiful, heartfelt, poignant letters. They’re all here.
If you’d like to peruse even more letters, take a look at Shaun Usher's website where he has posted a whopping 900 letters; they’re indexed in various ways so one could spend weeks reading all of them. Or take a look at some of these books that are chock full of letters. I, however, think I’ll go write a letter to a friend.
So August marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Although it was thought that the war would only end with an all-out invasion of Japan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa ended up being the final fights with men against men; this was, of course, because of the atomic bombs being dropped on the cities of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9.
Interested in reading about the closing days of the war? Here is a list of books on the two final battles and the catastrophic events that brought the war to a sudden end.
Take a bite of an apple. Chew, swallow, and then presto, it comes out the other end! But how does it happen? How do our bodies turn an apple into fuel that helps us play sports, breathe, walk, and talk? The digestive system is the body system responsible for this process. The basic process is well understood by scientists but new research is coming out all the time changing the way we understand the inner workings of our guts.
The Multnomah County Library has science databases where you can search for topics, view videos and print pictures to help with school reports. Today's Science is a database that can help you answer questions like, "What is the latest research on the roll of bacteria in our guts?" or to ask more general questions such as, "how does the digestive system work?" For help using Today's Science, the library provides this useful handout. If you need to look up basic facts about the digestive system, but can't use Wikipedia, try using World Book, an online encyclopedia. Here you will find information for elementary, middle and high schoolers, great for writing school reports.
When you use the library databases outside of the library, you will need to log in with a library card. Try using key words like: "Digestive System," and "Body Systems." Topics that might include the Digestive System are "Human Anatomy & Physiology," "Nutrition," and "Health."
Check out this video from KidsHealth about the Digestive System from KidsHealth:
If you want to explore this topic more, or if you have more questions about any of this, Ask a Librarian! We’ll be happy to talk more about it.
Christina Hammett and Troutdale: A Perfect Match
by Donna Childs
In the best relationships, each believes they got the better deal. That is clearly the case with Christina Hammett and Troutdale Library. Christina thinks the staff and patrons at Troutdale are terrific, and library staff has the highest praise for her artistic know-how, her shining attitude, and her unflagging readiness to help.
Thanks to fond memories of participating in Summer Reading as a child, Christina began at Troutdale as a Summer Reading volunteer; now she is also a Branch Assistant and a Youth Program Assistant. She has really shone with youth programming, designing whimsically creative, interactive storyboards—often a couple a month--for the youth librarian to use in her storytime presentations. Because she is such a talented artist, the library has also asked her to make displays for other activities: Summer Reading, Lucky Day books, and the Lego group, for example.
Christina studied journalism at Mount Hood Community College, where she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper; she has also been a sports reporter and photographer at the Gresham Outlook. However, with the decline in print journalism, plus the tight job market for new grads, Christina is now taking stock and trying to figure out what to do, whether to go back to school and what to study. Meanwhile she has a retail job and the Troutdale Library where she feels useful and connected to her community. She loves the people at the library, working with books, and interacting with people who read and talk about books.
Every Wednesday, Christina goes through her 10-15 page list of holds requests. Like many volunteers, she finds this task a terrific way to discover new books she might not otherwise have known about.
Christina may be unsure of her future path at the moment, but her intelligence, poise, creativity, and cheerful enthusiasm will make her an asset anywhere. Meanwhile, Troutdale benefits from her many talents.
A Few Facts About Christina
Currently reading: The works of Agatha Christie and A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Most influential book: The Diary of Anne Frank
Favorite book from childhood: The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
A book that made you laugh or cry: The Green Mile by Stephen King
Favorite section of the library: Fiction and mystery
E-reader or paper? Paper
Favorite reading guilty pleasure: A Song of Ice and Fire (series) by George Martin and anything by Agatha Christie
Favorite place to read: My bed
Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.
As the father of four homeschooled children, books still play an active role in my life. As a family, we have traveled to Reichenbach Falls to visit Sherlock Holmes' place of death, to King's Cross Station where Harry Potter boarded the train, and followed the pioneer trail of Laura Ingalls Wilder. My family continues to plan trips based on our favorite characters, historical or fictional.
The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, by Paul Malmont
This book is a veritable who’s who of pulp fiction, early science fiction and horror. It’s such fun while reading to see cameo appearances of other authors and artists: Walter Gibson, Heinlein, Lovecraft and more become characters in the story. This book has it all — daring heroes, heroines, military intrigue, cliff hangers, and even a Chinese warlord anti-hero. This book takes me back to a time that never was. (Best read on the floor with a crème soda.)
Falcons of France by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
This book follows a young airman’s journey though the war, from learning to fly, to fighting, and becoming a prisoner of war, to shortly after the armistice. While the book is fictional, the events described are true and are derived from the author's experiences. Hall himself had a career that reads like a pulp novel come to life. He fought in the trenches for the British in the early days of WWI, before joining the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of Americans flying for France. The 2006 movie Flyboys was based on this squadron. After fighting under three different flags he began a writing career with Charles Nordhoff, another American who flew for France. Together they wrote The Lafayette Flying Corps, then went on to write The Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy. This book gives us a snapshot into the time and experience of young fliers in WWI as only they could tell it.
The Electric Michelangelo, by Sarah Hall
This story about an English tattooist working in Coney Island takes place during tattooing’s pre-golden age of the 20s and 30s. A good story with a great tattooing backdrop to give you a glimpse into its history as a sideshow attraction.
The Tattooed Lady: A history, by Amelia Klem Osterud
A lovely book, profusely illustrated and well researched. This book tells the stories of some of the lesser-known female tattooed attractions, as well as the bigger names and chronicles the changing times in which they worked. I love that most of these tattooed ladies, some tattooers themselves, were able to rise above discrimination and objectification to empower themselves on their own terms. These tough and independent ladies really blazed trails and paved the way for future generations.
For more great recommendations, customized just for you, try My Librarian.
Serials are big right now. Television epics like Game of Thrones or Mad Men are all serialized stories, with each episode leaving you hungry for the next. There’s the true-crime podcast titled simply (and rather unimaginatively, in my opinion) Serial. And if you want to get creative, even something like professional sports could be considered a serial: you follow the story of the Portland Trailblazers through regularly occurring games, newspaper columns, and blog posts, as the story of the season unfolds in all its promise and anticlimactic tragedy.
Serials used to be a big deal in written fiction, too. The dead white guy that everyone always talks about is Charles Dickens, but there were lots of other novelists whose works appeared monthly in literary magazines of the day: Arthur Conan Doyle, George Eliot, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Wilkie Collins, and even Oregon’s own Abigail Scott Duniway, to name but a few. More recently, writers like Michael Chabon and Laura Lippman have released serialized stories in the New York Times Magazine.
If you want to really experience it 19th-century style, take a look at the Victorian Reading Project from Stanford University: you can download PDF scans of story installments from Dickens and Doyle exactly as they appeared in the magazines of the time. Try reading one installment every week, and see if you can resist the temptation to binge-read the entire story.
I’ve made a reading list of novels, both old and new, which started life as installments. I invite you to sit down, pour yourself a big bowl of serial, and dig in. One chapter at a time.
- Free Geek - Free Geek offers free classes and one-on-one technology help appointments
- Portland Community College (PCC) - offers a wide variety of computer and IT courses, tailored to fit your situation - find out more about their computer education programs
- Mt Hood Community College (MHCC) - for East County residents, MHCC offers many in-person and online computer classes through their Community Education program
- Calagator - Portland's technology calendar for classes and events
Three dozen Head Start preschoolers loudly proclaim in unison, “1-2-3, we are awesome!”
The refrain was a fitting recognition of the hard work of these young artists, who contributed Andy Warhol-style self portraits to an art show at Capitol Hill Library in Southwest Portland. On May 5 the children gathered with families, teachers and supporters to show off their colorful art.
“When I first saw these self portraits, I was blown away,” said Neighborhood House Executive Director Rick Nitti. “They create a reflection of self and an expression of self esteem. This partnership with the library is fantastic.”
After proudly showcasing their work, the students joined Capitol Hill’s youth librarian, Natasha Forrester, for an interactive reading of Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh and sang a song about friendship with lyrics in English, Spanish, Somali and Swahili.
Each month, library staff (including Natasha or Suad Mohamed, a Somali-speaking library assistant) visit Markham Head Start classrooms to delight children with stories, songs and crafts. It’s part of Multnomah County Library’s mission to support and serve educators, children and families beyond the walls of the library. Many of the Head Start program’s students are Somali immigrants, and Capitol Hill Library is the first in Multnomah County to feature a Somali-speaking staff member. Suad leads the Somali Family Time program at Capitol Hill and she also selects books in Somali for Central, Midland and Rockwood libraries.
The partnership, one of many between the library and nonprofit agencies across Multnomah County, serves multiple purposes. It helps new immigrants become familiar with the services of the library in their native language and become comfortable in a setting that can help contribute to their success throughout their education and later in life.
“This is special,” said Head Start Program Director Nancy Perin. “It’s such a diverse, multicultural group and bringing them all together at the library, it’s special.”
The exhibition is expected to last through May 15.
Oregon Metro is my go to site for information on where to donate, recycle, or as a last resort dispose of as garbage. They have a database where you enter what you want to get rid of and it finds places to either donate, recycle, or dispose of it. There is also information on where to bring hazardous wastes, neighborhood collection programs, and tips on reducing waste in the first place.
211 Info is a clearinghouse of resources. Simply put in your zip code and "donation" in the search bar and it brings up a list of organizations that accept items ranging from glasses to camping gear. If you like more of a list format this is the website for you.
What about that growing collection of old electronics? Free Geek accepts donations of computers, phones, and other electronics. If able to be reused your device will be refurbished and donated back to the community, how cool is that! If it can't be reused your device can be recycled through Oregon E-Cycles. If you aren't able to make it to Free Geek, Oregon E-Cycles has many other collection sites.
If you aren't able to go to donation sites the good news is there organizations that can come to you. The Vietnam Veterans of America and The Arc of Multnomah-Clackamas both offer pick up services.
Finally here are my my personal favorites:
- SCRAP accepts a wide range of art and office supplies. Just be careful not to leave with more than you donated!
- The Rebuilding Center accepts building supplies and it's a fun place to wander around for hours. They also offer a pick up service.
What library blog would be complete without mentioning that the Friends of the Multnomah County Library can accept your book and DVD donations? If you have a small donation your local library will be happy to accept it.
Do you have questions about recycling, donating your unwanted posessions to local organizations, or anything else? Librarians love questions, so please call, email, or text us -- or just ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library in person. We'd be happy to help you get more information, or even just help you get your curiosity satisifed.
I started out writing screenplays and comics, and then, because I wasn’t actually making any money, I got a job writing history textbooks. Now I’m trying to make amends for that particular crime by writing nonfiction books for teens that are actually fun to read. When I visit schools and describe my job, there’s usually one kid who raises his hand and says something like, “Oh, so you do homework for a living?” It’s not true, though I guess I do spend a lot of days just sitting at my desk, reading and taking notes. I happen to love it. I think of the research process as a sort of nerdy detective work.
In my free time, or while traveling, I love to read crime and detective novels. Everything from the original stuff, like James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and the short stories of Dashiell Hammett, to Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley books and Richard Stark’s Parker novels. Right now my absolute favorite is the incredible Martin Beck mystery series, a set of Swedish police procedurals written by a wife-and-husband team in the late 1960s and early 70s. I’m also tearing through Shigeru Mizuki’s History of Japan, a series of four 500-plus page graphic novels (last volume due in July) combining the artist’s own lifestory with that of the last 80 years of Japanese history. Not too ambitious, in other words.
In terms of movies, these days I mostly go with my kids, 8 and 5. When I get a chance to watch a movie that doesn’t have Spongebob (don’t get me wrong, he’s cool) I go for 1940s noirs, like Out of the Past.
Though I like comedies too, and actually just the other night my wife and I decided to show our kids one of my all-time favorites, the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup. My five year old declared the opening scene “boring,” and marched off to bed. Then he came back ten minutes later, just to see how things were going, and he watched Harpo rolling up his pant legs and jumping into the obnoxious vender’s vat of lemonade, and he laughed so hard he literally fell off the couch. So I consider that a success.
I won’t try to list styles or music or bands, it’s too hard, but I’ll tell you a story about one of my favorites, Elliott Smith. I know he had Portland connections, but he also used to live in Brooklyn, where I was born, and lived for years as an adult. Once, after a move to a new place, I started getting mail addressed to Elliott Smith. Couldn’t be that Elliott Smith, I figured; this was the late 1990s, so he was fairly well known. But it turned out it was him. He’d just moved out, the women on the top floor told me, and the crazy landlady downstairs, this fake-orange-haired troll who’d come out of her room to shout “You’re nothing but a couple of waiters!” to the aspiring filmmakers on the second floor, used to berate Elliott too, and eventually drove him out of the building. I’ve always wondered if she shows up in any of his songs. Wish I’d gotten the chance to ask.
For more great recommendations, customized just for you, try My Librarian.
Let’s start with the fabulously good dialogue and concise description. Graham reveals character and relationships in deft strokes. Add a strong sense of place and accurate historical
In the first novel Ross Poldark returns home after fighting in the American colonies to a world where nobody is much interested in or affected by the war he fought in. He’s been gone so long that everyone close to him thinks he died. What does he find? His father dead and buried, the house he inherited in a squalid state. I’m not even going to tell you what his sweetheart has done!
In 1975 the BBC adapted some of the early Poldark novels into a tv series which was wildly popular. In June 2015 PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre will air a new BBC production starring Aidan Turner as Poldark. I plan to watch it with my dad, so we can compare the screen versions to the novels we love.
B. Traven (1890-1969) is considered one of the most international literary mysteries of the twentieth century, because he refused personal data to publishers. Author of 12 fiction novels and several short stories, most of his books were originally written in German and were first published in Germany. His real name, date place of birth and nationality are still begin questioned, which makes me think that he might be hiding his identity on purpose to gain more public attention or as a kind of strategic marketing maybe?
I became a bit obsessed with trying to know more about Traven. My quest began with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre a book that was adapted to a film of the same name. The film won an Academy Award in 1948; another of his remarkable works is The Death Ship”: The story of an American Sailor written in German and then translated into 12 languages including English. Both books led to him to international popularity.
It’s estimated that he used at least twenty seven aliases and many researchers are convinced that he is more than one person.
It’s amazing how books connect us with other important events and characters. I started by reading a Chicano writer and followed my curiousity to learn about B. Traven. Something else I found out going through this journey is that Macario, one of my favorite movies ever, was adapted from a short story by B. Traven -- or whoever the real person was.
Often we need to contact government officials or agencies but knowing where to start can be daunting. Here is a quick list of useful contact numbers and websites to help you reach who you need in government:
- City-County Information Line: 503-823-4000
- Oregon Metro: 503-797-1700
- Metro is the regional government for the Portland metropolitan area. It is responsible for managing the region's solid waste system, determining the urban growth boundary, and administering many of the region’s parks and natural areas. It also oversees the Oregon Zoo, Oregon Convention Center, Portland'5 Centers for the Arts and the Portland Expo Center.
- Trimet: 503-238-7433
- Trimet is the regional mass transit agency. Call for bus, light rail, and streetcar information.
- Multnomah County Sheriff
- The Multnomah County Sherriff’s Office provides law enforcement services to unincorporated areas of the county as well as the cities of Wood Village and Maywood Park.
- Emergency: 911
- Non-Emergency: 503-823-3333
- General Information: 503-988-4300
- Portland Police Bureau
- The Portland Police Bureau provides law enforcement services within the Portland city limits
- Emergency: 911
- Non-Emergency: 503-823-3333
- General Information: 503-823-0000
Mutnomah County is, of course, more than just Portland. The following cities in the county have websites and general information phone numbers where you can connect to agencies and officials specific to those communities:
- Gresham: 503-661-3000
- Troutdale: 503-665-5175
- Fairview: 503-665-7929
- Wood Village: 503-667-6211
- Maywood Park: 503-255-9805
- Governor’s Office: 503-378-4582
- State Legislature: 503-986-1848
- This phone number connects to the legislature’s administrative office. You can look up contact numbers for your legislative representatives on the website.
- Oregon State Supreme Court: 503-986-5555
Looking for more information about Oregon government? Try the Oregon Blue Book.
USA.gov is the place to start online when looking for any information related to the federal government. Among other things, it includes links to find services, agencies and a telephone and email directory.
- The President of the United States
- Comments: 202-456-1111
- Switchboard: 202-456-1414
- The Supreme Court: 202-479-3000
- United States Congress: 202-224-3121
- There is no separate number for the House and Senate. This number routes calls to your requested destination.
- The United States Senate
- Oregon’s Senators (scroll down to find the Oregon Senators)
- The United States House of Representatives
- Oregon’s Representatives (scroll down to find the Oregon Representatives)
In print you can take a look at the Federal staff directory for an extensive list of who’s who in the Federal government.
What about states other than Oregon? Caroll’s Publishing Company prints an excellent set of contact information guides for the Federal government as well as nationwide County, Municipal, and State governments.
As always, Multnomah County Library staff is happy to help you find the information you’re looking for. If you have any questions about this topic or anything else please let us know!
Crossing the Mexican border to the USA is a controversial topic and there have been books, documentaries and other art that portrays the narrative of this crude reality. The Golden Cage is different in that it presents documentary elements and uses real-life participants; at times you can feel a special connection and compassion for the protagonists. The director Diego Quemada-Diez, who also wrote the screenplay, never imagined that this production would earn him and his cast one of the most recognized awards in the world at the Cannes Film Festival in the category of “Un Certain Regard”. Quemada-Diez spent 10 years compiling testimonials and creating the content of the story. He found three talented non-professional actors after casting around 3,000 people. A girl disguising herself as a boy opens up the story, and short dialogues emerge in a neutral tone at times without expressions. The dialogues all have something in common -- “dreams of gold”. Find more stories of border crossings and uncertain futures here.
Here are some reflections on a variety of books I have been reading. Please feel free to send me your questions and comments.
While there are thousands of volumes written about the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence from as many perspectives as one can imagine, the pages of Princeton philosopher Danielle Allen’s reading of the Declaration are filled with rigor and passion. Allen walks us through the document, helping us understand and appreciate the significance of various ideas and making a case the true freedom is not possible without equality. Each chapter is nicely organized in manageable lengths for easy reading.
I highly recommend reading the book, especially today as we are working through several social and political challenges.
What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel
In this book, Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, author of the New York Times bestseller Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?, takes up some of the moral dilemmas we are encountering more and more in our society -- fighting wars, selling admission to colleges, drug testing -- and subjects them to moral scrutiny. Sandel argues that in the end, to separate markets and economics from morality “is not good for democracy, nor is it a satisfying way to live.”
The book is an excellent resource to get us thinking about the issues we face today. It also illustrates how philosophers go about doing philosophy.
Is everything, including mind/consciousness, ultimately reducible to material/physical substance and process alone? Or is there something more to it? Philosophers and theologians have been debating this question for centuries, if not longer. Ever since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), the debate gained new life, especially with those who pushed to explain mental phenomena in terms of material processes.
In Mind and Cosmos, renowned philosopher Thomas Nagel, makes a provocative proposal that arguments to reduce mind/consciousness to a physical foundation is, as he puts it in the title, “…almost certainly false.” The book has given rise to some interesting and, in some circles, even acrimonious exchanges. In reviewing the book, the Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker wrote that Nagel’s thesis is the “…shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.”
Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene
Human beings may be unique in facing moral dilemmas. While historically there have been answers galore as to how one ought to behave, modern cognitive science and neuroscience are challenging and offering new insights into what constitutes morality and where we get it. In fascinating book, Harvard social scientist Joshua Greene explores how the human brain processes morality, shaped by evolution and cultural forces. In this very accessible book, he offers a moral framework, to help us examine and inform our moral quandaries.
The book will be of interest to all those who are interested learning about how new sciences can and are shaping our sense of morality.
Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science by Sissela Bok
The last few decades have seen increased interest, attention, and research focused on happiness, a fundamental human emotion. While philosophers have discussed the concept for centuries, new research is shedding fresh light on how happiness can enhance and shape our wellbeing in society. In Exploring Happiness, philosopher Sissela Bok offers a philosophical overview of happiness from Aristotle to what neuroscience is telling about this subject. In The Politics of Happiness, Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University, offers a broad survey of how new research on happiness can help us address some of our vexing social and economic problems. He touches on such challenges as income inequality, marriage and families, and quality of political leadership.
The Boks articulate a complex subject clearly and I recommend the books to anyone interested in understanding the present human condition, and perhaps why we need to rethink our approach to solving some of our personal, social, and political challenges.
Here are some other books on my bookshelf (outside of my professional reading):
The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O Wilson
Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris
For more reading recommendations customized for you, try the My Librarian service. My Librarian and our featured guest readers are made possible by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to The Library Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation, and reach through private support.
We wrap up this week’s fashion theme with a book recommendation, author Ben Arogundade’s Black Beauty. As stated on Amazon:
“Through over 150 color and black and white photographs and an engaging, informed text, Black Beauty discusses the position of blacks within the beauty hierarchy of the West, as well as the kinds of work available to black models within the past century. Author Ben Arogundade also offers insight to the ways in which certain styles of black beauty have been promoted above others. In considering black icons and celebrities from Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker, and Muhammad Ali to Billy Dee Williams, Grace Jones and Lauryn Hill, Black Beauty reveals the many differing images of those who have embodied black beauty in our culture. Portraits by Herb Ritts, Albert Watson, Richard Avedon, and other eminent photographers are included in this stunning compilation.”
Available at Multnomah County Library: Black Beauty by Arogundade, Ben