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

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

But I just had to see the desert. 

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

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

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

Image of a rain puddle.

Winter in Portland brings short days, long nights, holiday celebrations, extra expenses, and So. Much. Rain. Here are some ways to take care of yourself, your family, and your neighbors near and far.

Note: For the most up-to-date information on resources all over Oregon, contact 211info by dialing 2.1.1 (toll free), texting your zip code to 898211, emailing, or searching 211info's online Community Resource Directory

Keep warm

Find holiday meals and food boxes

  • Radio Cab Foundation's Turkey Project will be delivering Christmas turkeys with all the fixings to people living in Greater Portland. If you know a family in need these holidays, or are in need yourself, fill out their Dinner Request Form
  • Lift Urban Portland will have a Christmas meal open to all on December 25 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm; call 503.221.1224 for the address.
  • SnowCap will also have a Christmas meal open to all, from noon to 2:00 pm at Rockwood United Methodist Church (17805 SE Stark St.).

Image of small child in the rain.

Get toys and gifts for your kids

  • On December 22 from 1 to 5 pm, Sisters of the Road Cafe will host a Winter Wonderland Kids Day full of gifts, games, movies, food, and arts and crafts.To reserve a spot on the gift list, call 503.222.5694 ext. 120.
  • Portland Toy & Joy Makers is providing gifts for children of low income families. Call the Toy Request Line at 503.231.8697 between 9 am and 3 pm from November 16 thru December 20.

Help out your community

Donate money

There is no shortage of organizations that could put your charity to good use, so how do you choose where to give?


Questions? Call, text, or email a librarian to get personalized help -- or ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library.  We will do our best to find the right resource or service for you!



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

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

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

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

Clues to climate change, from the Environmental Protection Agency


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




Big 3 -- all about climate

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

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

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


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


3 more -- frequent questions

How hot is it getting?
Climate monitoring from the NOAA temperature monitoring site , including worldwide data, as well as data from the United States.

Is the ice really melting?
Snow, ice and climate change from the National Snow and Ice Data Center

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


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

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

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

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

Photo of a bench in a park, covered in snow [by Benson Kua, via Wikimedia Commons]Winter is here and the weather is getting cold.  Do you need a safe place to warm up? 

All Multomah County Libraries are heated (even when there's not a cold snap!) and they're great places to visit when you need a break from the cold.  All Multnomah County Libraries are open seven days a week -- and there's a handy map you can use to find the library nearest to you.

From November to March, local governments and nonprofit organizations offer additional shelter beds for men, women, and families.  In addition, daytime warming centers open up across the metro area.

211info is the best place to find up-to-date listings for warming centers and overnight shelters during winter's cold weather.  Their severe winter weather alerts page lists day and nighttime shelters that offer extra space during the winter.  You can reach 211info by phone at 2-1-1 (toll-free from most phones).  Or, pick up a free paper copy of the Rose City Resource -- a great all-around guide to local public services and public assistance -- at your neighborhood library.

If you are part of a family with children under 18, you can find a place to stay or a place to get warm in Multnomah County's list of shelters for families.

Would you like tips on safely "weathering" a cold snap?  Take a look at the American Red Cross's information on cold weather safety, or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's advice about staying safe and healthy in winter.

If you have a pet, you want to take care of them too!  Both the ASPCA and the American Veterinary Medicine Association have some helpful cold weather safety tips for pets.

If you need help paying your heating bill or are looking for assistance with other winter needs, we have more information on getting and giving assistance this winter.

Questions? Call, text, or email a librarian to get personalized help -- or ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library.  We will do our best to find the right resource or service for you!



Young Bilingual VolunteerVolunteer Mia Strickler

by Donna Childs

Mia’s parents adopted her from China and made sure she learned about the culture and language of her birth country. She has visited China, and she went to schools with Chinese Immersion programs. At Woodstock Library, Mia helps Amber Houston, the Chinese bilingual staff member who does storytimes, with behind-the-scenes work, such as props, arts and crafts, and keeps track of participants. She also leads the craft activities. Woodstock was the first library in Multnomah County to offer a Chinese-English storytime. Amber reads stories in Chinese, and then retells them in English. Participants include English speakers who want to learn Chinese and Chinese speakers learning English.

Now a senior at Cleveland High School, Mia is considering pursuing a career in medicine. She attended a medical camp at OHSU to explore career possibilities in the medical field. According to her, despite her love for Woodstock Library, she reads science blogs more than she does books.

Her volunteer involvement extends far beyond the walls of the library. She has volunteered at her church, for the Heifer Project, served meals at a food kitchen and at her church, and created and sold ornaments and cards made from her original photos to earn money for the Oregon Food Bank. She is active in her school’s National Honor Society. All this, and she is only 17!

A Few Facts About Mia

Home library: Woodstock Library
Currently reading: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
Favorite book from childhood: The Harry Potter novels
Favorite section of the library: The DVD section
E-reader or paper books: Paper
Favorite place to read: In my room, on my bed

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Every week, new books  are added to my ever growing "to be read" pile.  While it’s a pleasant hazard of the library profession, the looming tower of unread tomes has grown a bit too tall for comfort. However, after a recent search through the new titles joining the collection, I think there's some room left. Here are a few I'm excited about.

cook it in cast iron cover



America's Test Kitchen breaks down the cast iron pan in their signature style. They did the work, you reap the delicious meals!




7th man book cover


Urban Horror that'll keep you up at night long after you close the book.






curse of jacob tracy cover


St. Louis in 1880 is full of ghosts, and Jacob Tracy can see them all...






Check out the whole list here!

Sailing Alone Around the World book jacketThe end of the nineteenth century saw new kinds of travelers, traveling on their own and driven by a sense of adventure instead of as part of an expedition with an official purpose. One of these adventurers was Joshua Slocum. He was the first person to sail a small boat around the world and  he did it alone in a little over three years. This would be a remarkable feat today, but in 1895 without radio, GPS or an autopilot and with limited charts this was amazing.

Slocum wrote a book about his adventure Sailing Alone Around the World. It has remained in print and it continues to find new readers.  I have enjoyed reading about his trip and imagining myself sailing off on an adventure, especially going through Tierra del Fuego. What an incredible place to see from your boat!The Hard Way Around book jacket

I hope I have gotten you interested in Joshua Slocum. Here are some ways to learn more about him:

You can watch a 30 minute documentary DVD: The Extraordinary Life and Epic Journey of Joshua Slocum.

A good recent biography, The Hard Way Around, by Geoffrey Wolff will help you to understand his life and travels.

For kids and teAround the World book jacketens:

Born in the Breezes, the Seafaring Life of Joshua Slocum by Kathryn Lasky. Lasky, who has sailed across oceans herself, wrote this picture book of Slocum’s life.

Around the World, by Matt Phelan is a graphic novel about three circumnavigators. Joshua Slocum, Thomas Stevens who bicycled around the world, and Nellie Bly who traveled by ship, train and burro beating Jules Verne’s fictional Phileas Fogg by making it around the world in 72 and a half days.

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


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