Blogs:

When would you like to have lived? I sometimes wonder what I would be doing if I lived in a different time. What would my life be like? The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer has helped me learn about life in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, 1558-1603.

book jacket for Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan EnglandThis is a prosperous time in England. Towns and cities are growing. London’s population hits 200,000 by the end of Elizabeth’s reign. While I am visiting London, I would want to see Shakespeare's latest play. Many customs are very different. Even the Queen likes a good bear baiting. This is a much rougher time. Some things have changed more than others. Lawyers were just as skilled then as now, but doctors are much better in the 21st century. If I were sick in Elizabeth’s time, I would probably do better if I called a priest instead of a doctor. I also need to remember to pay heed to my social betters as this is a very class-conscious time.

There is lots of beer. It is safer than the water. I will be drinking about a gallon a day. Unless I am a gentleman, I won’t be able to afford wine. A strong nose and lots of perfume are helpful as there are many noxious smells. The growing populations only add to the problem. The Elizabethan people don’t enjoy the stink, but there often is nothing they can do.

Does Elizabethan England sound interesting? Why not take a trip back and see if it is for you.

Librarian Patricia is reading Estamos Hasta la Madre. Poet and activist Javier Sicilia analyzes Mexico's corruption and so-called "war on drugs," reflects on the Movement for Peace and Justice, and demands accountability from government.

our lady of the circus book jacketWhen applause fades and bleachers empty, the big top is a lonely place. The performers in the Mantecon Brothers circus know this all too well. Night after night, they showcase their stage personas, losing who they are once the spotlight dies. The road perpetually beckons. It’s a hard life, but the adulation of the crowd is a powerful drug.

When the brothers abruptly part ways, Don Ernesto and Don Alejo negotiate for performers. The latter bargains poorly and is left with eight sub par performers and a diving pig.  The circus seems all but finished, but their story is only beginning. The quest for survival and rediscovering who they are takes over fanfare-laden dreams.

Stumbling into the nearby town with all the pageantry they can muster proves futile.  Years of abandonment are visible, as is the lack of a sustainable habitat.  As reality sets in, the vacant houses offer an invitation of unknown normality to settle down and leave the transient life. What does permanence mean for people who only know the circus?  Who will they be if they aren’t performers?  What does their future hold?

It’s not pretty.

Bowtie Venn Diagram by H. Caldwell Tanner

 

If you’ve ever had to do a report you know that there are many ways to present what you want people to know. You can give a speech, write a 5 page paper, create a graph, make a movie or sing a song. A classic way is to make a poster.

 

A new spin on the poster approach are infographics. Basically, they put information in an organized and visual way that can make it easier to pull everything together and get the big picture. They can be complex like this chapter by chapter guide to The Great Gatsby or simple like the bowtie Venn diagram. They can be interactive like this wind map of the Earth or answer questions you may have never thought to ask like, 'how many teaspoons are in a cup?' (48, yeah I didn't know either.)

 

Here at the library we have made a set infographics about how to find good information online. Like this one:

 

How to Evaluate Websites

Why did we make infographics? So that you can look at research in a whole different way.

Want more information about research and infographics? Ask a librarian!

Wit and compassion are two qualities that do not always go together, but they always seem to mingle nicely in the work of David Rakoff. It was bittersweet reading his last book, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. I’d heard him so often on the radio, especially on This American Life, that I could hear Rakoff’s quiet, witty voice in my head as I read. Rakoff died of cancer at the age of 47 in 2012, and I miss him.

This novel in verse is short and sweet, sometimes dark, but leavened with rhymes that are so clever I’d sometimes have to stop and give a whoop of pleasure before returning to the story. At one point, a 1950s secretary named Helen, her affair with her unworthy boss having ended badly, is remembering the scene she made afterwards at a memorable office Christmas party.

...Where feeling misused, she had got pretty plastered,
And named his name, publicly, called him a bastard.
The details are fuzzy, though others have told her
She insulted this one, and cried on that shoulder,
Then lurched ‘round the ballroom, all pitching and weaving
And ended the night in the ladies lounge, heaving.


The story jumps through the whole 20th century through a number of loosely connected characters, and is more a series of character studies and vignettes than a novel. Terrible things happen to some of these characters, but what shines through more than anything else is Rakoff’s pleasure in life and his pleasure in observation.

Towards the end, a chapter about Clifford, a character who is dying of AIDS, ends with these lines:

He thought of those two things in life that don’t vary
(Well, thought only glancingly; more was too scary)
Inevitable, why even bother to test it,
He’d paid all his taxes, so that left… you guessed it.

Here you'll find a list of audio books by Rakoff and by other familiar voices from public radio. Please let me know if I forgot to include a good one.

Five years old by September? Sign up for school by June 1st!
 
If your child will be five years old by September 1st, he or she is ready to start school. Register at your school by June 1st to give your child a good start, connect to summer activities, and get access to free resources. School offices close for the summer, so don’t wait! When you register by June 1st, you have time to get to know your school and your teacher, and they have time to prepare the classroom for your child. To identify your school or get help with other childhood issues call 2-1-1 or email children@211info.org. Interpretation is available.
 
How can the library help you and your child get ready for kindergarten?  Bring them to storytime!  By the time your child is 5 years old, you may have heard many messages - on TV, in magazines, from other parents - about the importance of learning letters and numbers.
 
But kindergarten teachers care much more about having children who are ready and excited to learn.  Kindergarten readiness includes things such as playing well with others, following simple instructions and talking about feelings and thoughts.  There are lots of fun ways to develop these skills, and the library is here to help you!
 
At storytime we read stories and sing songs.  We talk about the things we’ve read.  We work on following directions with shakers and scarves and simple group games. Storytimes are a great opportunity for your child to learn to socialize with other children in adults.  In storytime they also learn to ask questions and function well in a group; develop language and problem-solving skills; and perhaps most importantly, discover that books and learning are fun!
 
What else you can you do?  Read, talk, sing, write and play!  

 

Register for School by June 1st

Have you heard the news that Spain is expected to relax its citizenship requirements to make it easier for people who can prove they have Sephardic roots to attain Spanish citizenship?

A copy of the 1492 Alhambra Decree, which required Jews to convert to Christianity, or be expelled from Spain. [Wikimedia Commons]In 2012, Spain passed a law with special provisions for people of Sephardic heritage to become Spanish citizens.  Now the Spanish parliament is considering a new law that would allow people who can prove Sephardic heritage to become dual citizens of Spain, and speed up the process.  This relaxing of citizenship rules is intended as partial reparation for a “historic mistake” -- in 1492, Spanish Jews were given an awful choice by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand: convert to Christianity, or be forcibly expelled from the country within four months.

If you have Sephardic heritage, or think you might, this is a great time to begin to research your family history!  The Sephardic roots booklist below should help you get started -- and it includes several general books about Sephardic history as well.  The library also has lots of books about general Jewish genealogy research.

Perhaps you want more background about Spain’s 2012 citizenship law and the revisions currently being considered?  Here are some basics to get you started:

You may also want to mark your calendar for the upcoming exhibit at the Oregon Jewish Museum: Viva Sephardi: A Century of Sephardic Life in Portland.  The exhibit opens June 11th, 2014.


Do you have more questions about genealogy research?  Are you working on your own family history?  If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

I have decided my poetry is so bad that I mustn’t write any more of it.”
- Cassandra from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

BeingStaying alive bookjacket a lapsed poet myself, I thought it important to take the time for a blog on poetry for National Poetry Month. Lapsed poet? Lapsed, meaning I studied it at university, have been published, won a competition, but have all but given it up. Sounds sorrowful, but truly it isn’t. More to the point, it is a changing of priorities. I only write when I feel like it. And often times, I feel like going for a walk instead, laying in the sun, reading, watching a film, trying a new recipe, or learning something new like the cello. You can see how poetry begins to take a backseat. 

What I do now to keep my fingers in the poetry pot, is to use the poetry post in front of my house to post poems out into the neighborhood on a regular basis. Sometimes I post my own and sometimes it is another’s work that moves me at that particular moment. This keeps me reading poetry, which often leads to feeling like writing it myself. And the cycle continues…last year I purchased three new volumes of poetry, so perhaps I am warming up again to the idea of being a poet. If you are new to poetry or coming back to it after a break, why not pick up Staying Alive by Bloodaxe Books? In this perfect anthology you will find both the old standard and contemporary poets, easily digestible and applicable sections, and approachable poems about everyday topics.

One April I thought I would write a poem each day to celebrate National Poetry Month. It ended badly. How will you celebrate?

Witch of little Italy bookjacketMy journey as My Librarian began with a witch novel. I love novels. I love information and sharing information. Information is power. That’s why I went to library school and got a master’s degree in library science.

I've been working as a librarian for eighteen years. I have been involved in projects over the years. I heard about the My Librarian project. I thought about applying. Then I read a novel I loved. I had to share! I wanted to spread the love. My Librarian is about spreading the love of reading. I especially love novels about witches - witches that succeed and dispel evil or dark forces - witches who, against all odds, disarm evil.

Ok, maybe you're wondering what the novel is that turned my head. The Witch of Little Italy by Palmieri made me excited again about this genre. The story is about Eleanor Amore who returns to her grandmother and aunt’s home in the Bronx. She is pregnant and needs the comfort of home with her estranged family. Oddly enough Eleanor doesn’t remember her life before that tenth summer that she spent with her family. She is hoping they have the keys to her memory loss. If you liked Witches of Eastwick and Practical Magic, try The Witch of Little Italy.  Also check out my list of Witchy novels.

April's not such a cruel month when there's so much good reading to do. Here are a few titles our selectors are looking forward to.

Chop Chop bookjacketAdult fiction:

Chop chop by Simon Wroe is a first novel set in a London restaurant with a head chef who sounds like a extreme Gordon Ramsay. The only thing better than eating good food is reading about it; this one should be fun for the foodies, and anyone who enjoys Anthony Bourdain.
 
Adult non-fiction
The Oregon Shanghaiers: Columbia River Crimping From Astoria To Portland

Imagine you're just a working guy, trying to get a drink after a long, hard day of labor. You take a seat at the bar and the next thing you know you find yourself sold into service on a commercial ship, with part of your wages going to the 'crimper' who got you into this fix in the first place. Historian Barney Blalock examines the underbelly of the thriving 'shanghaiing' trade in 1890's Portland.

Teens:
Watch out for The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, a mix of fable and magical realism that tells the story of a girl who is ordinairy in all respects except one - she was born with wings.
 
Kids:
The idea of weasels taking over the world is ridiculous and yet that's just what happens in Weasels, by Elys Dolan. Throw in drawings that are full of delightful details and you've got a winner for both young readers and their companions.
 
Music
Out Among the Stars was a labor of love for John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter. The album contains two duets with Johnny and June, and Cash also sings with Waylon Jennings on the Hank Snow classic, "I'm Movin' On".

 

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