My love of football began early in high school when my then favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, were rivals of the Dallas Cowboys who were my friend, Cheri’s, main football squeeze.  I won’t date myself by mentioning who the quarterbacks were, but they both were really good!  I also enjoyed going to high school football games.  Although I attended an all-girls school, our brother school had a team, and my friends and I knew some of the players and cheerleaders.  Don’t ask me if they were any good – it was mostly a social event where the action was as much in the stands as on the field! 

Not only do I like watching football, but my enjoyment of the sport extends to books as well. There are plenty of them out there that feature teens, and here are a couple I’ve read in the past month.

I love a goMuckers book jacketod underdog story, and the Muckers in Sandra Neil Wallace’s novel sure fit that description. It’s 1950 and the mines in Hatley, Arizona are running out of ore.  Layoffs are happening right and left and, as a result, the high school is closing down. This is the Hatley Muckers’ final opportunity to win the Northern title, go to the state championship and bring football glory back to the town.  Quarterback Red O’Sullivan and wingback Cruz Villaneuva are going to work their guts out to make it happen.Dairy Queen book jacket

Because I’m a female who likes football, I was really pleased when Dairy Queen came out a number of years ago.  I’ve been meaning to read it forever and finally got around to it in October.  D.J. is a girl in a family of boys – a family that loves, loves, loves football and has produced some darn good players.  Things are in a bit of an upheaval though, and D.J. is left to manage the family’s dairy farm one summer when her father is injured.  When Brian, the quarterback from the rival high school shows up to help out, D.J. is  miffed. Brian seems lazy and cocky and much more trouble than he’s worth. It turns out that Brian needs her help as much as she needs his though – help in the form of training for the next football season.  And exactly how is THAT going to work?

For more stories of teens on the gridiron, check out this list.

Mt Hood Winding home on the north bound #12, just at sunset, the bus is topping the viaduct before the 4900 block stop, when it happens... the Willamette Valley opens up all the way to the Cascades foothills, the river throws back glints of gold, and like a blueberry on top-majestic Mt.  Hood, blue and white in the receding light, dominates the scene. I hope I never fail to stop and look at this sight. It hits me then, this is home. I am a Portlandian.

I may not be one of your exalted (and rarely seen) ones: born, bred, never left, and never will. I am but one of thousands who through curiosity, family ties or sheer dumb luck ended up on the western edge of U.S. civilization. So it is time to bid a fond farewell to the southwest of desert dirt and endless sky which nurtured me. Time to embrace gray days, craft beer, thrifting and the new holy trinity: coffee shop next to sushi bar next to Thai restaurant as my new reality. Goodbye dust, oh no wait, dusty furniture is as much a fixture of NW life as it is in New Mexico. Go figure with all this rain.

Here, however is a list with no mystery. All but the first three are Southwest Books of the year Award Winners. The books run the whole gamut of what makes New Mexico a fascinating place to be and to be from. Native American art, the spirit life of the land, the kooks who find shelter in this forbidding and fascinating landscape will absorb you, astound you, but never bore 

White Sands


Adios! The Land of Enchantment. 


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!

Image of Symphony for the City of the DeadI have a never-ending fascination with stories and accounts of the human response to war and political oppression. I also have an obsession with stories of survival against overwhelming odds. And on top of all that, I have a deep love for classical music. So, what happens when I find a book that combines all three of these elements? It's a book that I'm going to rip through pretty quickly.

Born during the waning years of the Russian Empire, Dmitri Shostakovich's life would span most of the Soviet Union era. Through the years, he managed to escape imprisonment or death during Stalin's Great Purge of the 1930s, the Nazi Blitzkrieg of the 1940s, and the continued repression of post-war USSR. In M.T. Anderson's book Symphony for the City of the Dead, the author relates the story of this remarkable composer's life, focusing on the composition of his seventh symphony and the attempt to smuggle the work to the West for publication and performance.

Living in Leningrad during nearly two and a half years of siege by German forces, Shostakovich and his family endured continuous shelling, starvation, and sub-freezingImage of Dimitri Shostakovich temperatures in this city where mass death was part of everyday life. So it was amazing that he could complete this massive work at all under such conditions. Even more amazing was that the finished work was transferred to microfilm and safely transported by truck through the war-torn USSR, then by airplane to Egypt, western Africa, and Brazil, finally ending up in Washington, D.C. It would soon become a symbol of resistance to violence and oppression and a testimony to the human spirit.

A room full of excited elementary school-age kids got a sneak peak at Multnomah County Library’s new Discovery Kits on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Troutdale Library.

These hands-on projects are geared toward K-5 kids and their families, with interactive building projects that explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) ideas. “My son really wants to figure out how things work” so these kits are a perfect fit, said Sadie, whose twin 5-year-old boys were immersed in building robots.

The new Programming and Coding kit helps kids learn the basics of coding by drawing paths with markers that a programmable robot will follow. At Tuesday’s Science Squad, the kids wasted no time figuring out the patterns and colors needed to make a working path. And when the robot stopped moving, problem-solving kicked in organically, and the kids adjusted their “coding” by drawing thicker lines — all without a computer.

Building on success

The Discovery Kits project is made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation and reach through private support. And now the project is expanding from a successful pilot in 2013 that brought 30 kits to Troutdale, Hollywood and Midland libraries. With the addition of five new kit themes, the project is growing to North Portland, Rockwood and Belmont libraries, with a total of 120 kits in circulation.

The most exciting thing about the new kits? “They have circuitry and little robots!” said librarian Violeta Garza, who led the Science Squad meeting. “It’s not something you normally find at a library” And with support from The Library Foundation, Violeta added, the project has support to engage more young people in STEM learning.

Science for everyone

Each kit contains games, hands-on activities, books and suggestions for school-age families to bring STEM concepts into home learning and play. No special science background or equipment is required. Many of the materials include instructions in Spanish, other languages and pictures. And the kits aren’t just for use at the library. As of Nov. 6, the Discovery Kits can be checked out and placed on hold at any Multnomah County Library location.

Multnomah County Library offers STEM programs for all ages, from nature-themed storytimes to activities at Rockwood Library makerspace to adult computer classes and more.

Science Squad next meets Nov. 17 at Troutdale Library. Registration is required.


The Bridge Over the River Kwai book jacketI often hear people say, “Oh, you should read the book. It’s so much better than the movie.” Is that always true? Filmmakers often Bridge on the River Kwai dvd coveradapt novels, but what they do with them, well; let’s just say the results can be mixed. It’s understandable. A novel is usually a singular effort that essentially has unlimited space and time whereas a movie is a collaboration with many limitations such as budget and run-time. Compromises are often the result and, if you love a book, the film may seem hollow.  I found myself pondering this question recently and thought I would revisit some of my favorite war movies based on novels. I experienced a revelation about the difference between text and film—namely that there is no definitive answer. I chose war movies because they are often broad is scope, very dramatic, but also lend themselves well to the visual medium of film. So, here’s some of what I discovered in my little personal exploration:

The Bridge Over the River Kwai: This is the perfect example of the movie far exceeding the book. The novel by Pierre Boulle is significantly different from the film. Honestly, the book feels dated in its Eurocentrism and writing style whereas the movie possesses superb performances by the leads, especially Alec Guinness who won an Oscar. You can safely skip this book and just enjoy the movie.

The Bridges at Toko-Ri: James Michener writes about an American pilot during the Korean War who weighs his sense of duty against his devotion to his family during a war largely unknown at home. The film follows the novel very closely so the difference comes down to taste. The book is exciting and well-written, whereas the movie, made with the cooperation of the U.S. Navy, possesses some thrilling flying scenes and solid performances. Both are worth your time.

Catch-22: Joseph Heller’s classic novel is a complex, scathing satire of war. The movie tries to capture that anti-war sentiment. I love this book, so maybe it colors my perception, but I found the film unsatisfying. There are many funny moments, strong performances and seeing all those airplanes satisfies my personal aviation obsession, but in their effort to capture as much of the book as possible, the filmmakers give us a hodgepodge of scenes and characters that are not fully developed. Unless you’ve read the book, a lot of the movie may not make much sense. In this case, at least read the book first. You don’t need to see the movie. 

There are plenty of war films based on novels out there. Here is a modest list you can explore and answer the question for yourself, “Is the book really better than the movie?”

We could sit and analyze it for a long time -- we could get really microscopic about it--but let's just admit that little, teeny tiny things are infinitely engrossing, and often adorable. Teeny-tiny cute! Teeny-tiny kittens...awww! Minature houses, miniature cupcakes...perfection! Eensy weensy characters having adventures? Bring it on!

For whatever reason, stories about microscopic worlds have always been appealing to kids. Maybe you were a fan of The Littles back in the day. Or maybe you go back, back to the days of The Borrowers. Would kids today love those stories? Yes, I think they would. If you have a beginning reader you'd like to introduce to the world of all things small, you might start with James to the Rescue, by Elise Broach, the story of a beetle family living in a house.

What does a beetle family like best of all? Going collecting! But collecting is dangerous work in a world that is so much bigger than you. When Uncle Albert gets hurt on a hunting expedition, it's up to Marvin, boy beetle, to enlist his human friend James to come to the rescue. Kids who are just getting started with longer chapter books will enjoy this story of suspense, resourcefulness and friendship.

If your young reader enjoys James to the Rescue, here's a very small door (in the form of a list ) into the world of all things small.

In July the CDC reported high levels of heroin use, up 63% in the last ten years.  Why is that?  Because people who become addicted to prescription pain killers find that heroin does the same job for less money.

Being an illegal drug, many addicts end up in jail.  But some places are trying different approaches.  Seattle is offering the LEAD – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – program to offer homeless drug addicts access to treatment, housing, and job training.  Massachusetts distributes Narcan, a nasal spray that stops a heroin overdose, to anyone who thinks they may need it to save a loved one or friend or client.   In Oregon, doctors are looking to turn off the spigot at the source and reduce opiod prescriptions for chronic pain.  Although maybe these more compassionate approaches are coming because heroin addicts tend to be white.

S.P.Q.R.: A History of Rome

by Mary Beard

Cambridge classisist Mary Beard presents the rise of Rome from a lowly village to an imperial city spreading its power from Syria to Spain by 63 BCE. Destined to be a standard work.

Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of the New Yorker

by Thomas Vinciguerra

The author revisits the early years of the New Yorker with stories of the colorful characters that made the New Yorker prestigious.

The Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words

by Randall Munroe

For anyone who has ever wondered how things work and why, the author humorously provides simple explanations for some of the world's most interesting things. Enjoy!

Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World

by Bill Nye

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, enthusiastically brings his scientific curiousity and optimism to the issue of global warming and presents possibilities for a cleaner future.

Forget raindrops and whiskers,  holing up with a good read has always been of my favorite things.

As a quiet and curious, kid, reading was my escape. These days I crack a book for a "few chapters" and find myself reluctantly setting it aside after realizing that it's one AM. The brief moment of contentment between the book hitting the nightstand and turning off the light reminds me why I read.

westinggame cover


It also makes me think of the books that kept me awake when I was younger, as well as a some recent reads that my ten year old self would have devoured until bedtime. These stories about adventure, unlikely companions, and some wackiness are great for reading together or curling up alone in a favorite spot.

My all time favorite? The Westing Game . For more, check out this list or ask me for a recommendation!



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