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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic of children’s literature, and as such, I feel a little guilty admitting I’ve never read it. It’s true. I felt even more so and a bit foolish when I finally got around to reading The Making of a Marchioness. It seems wrong to have ignored such a charming story for so long. It is a Cinderella story for grown ups. I can’t quite believe I’m championing Cinderella for adult women, but there you are. I think perhaps that particular fairy tale gets a bad wrap. I’m a feminist, I get it, but there are times in a grown woman’s life that call for just that (I know because I’m having one just now).

cover image of the making of a marchionessEmily Fox-Setton is a strong capable woman in her own right who has her default set to happy. She is a character you can admire and one for whom you wish all good things. It may not be politically correct, but it does have the power to make you forget you’ve been working as hard as a scullery maid yourself and only just making it. Yes, it is a love story and yes she essentially becomes a kept woman. Is it a practical or wise thing? No, possibly not. But it makes her exquisitely happy while it lasts, and let’s admit it...it is nice to have things taken care of once in a while. There is nothing wrong with a happy ending, and when you can’t quite pull one off in real life—try fiction, it’s easier.

Buffalo SoldiersToday I wanted to showcase the prolific versatility of the great storyteller, Joe R. Lansdale. Known primarily for his mystery and suspense novels including the Edgar Award-winning The Bottoms, A Fine Dark Line, Edge of Dark Water, The Thicket, and his Hap and Leonard  series, the consistently entertaining East Texas author started out writing in every other genre, mainly horror, sci-fi, and Weird Westerns. I champion writers who continue to create the short story and Lansdale is a master of the form, using its limitations to sharpen his reliable trademarks of great dialogue, suspense, irony, violence, humor, and diverse, breathable characters.  His novella Bubba Ho-Tep  was adapted into a hilarious film starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis.  

 As of this post Multnomah County Library has over 130 materials featuring his words. They include seven graphic novels, twenty-one digital titles (two are e-book only), one young adult novel, and his stories are featured in no less than fifty-eight  anthologies, four as editor. It was difficult to choose which type of booklist I was going to compile for this post, as there are so many wells to siphon in his body of work. In my opinion, Lansdale perfected the Weird Western tale and I highlighted his offerings in an earlier blog post and booklist(s). His mystery-suspense canon would take up at least four to five lists so I decided to show MCL’s collection of his horror tales and comic scriptsContains "The Nightrunners"

No matter the setting, characters, plot, or pace, Lansdale writes with a blazing, maverick style and he will make sure you get your money’s worth. But his narratives aren’t cheap, lazy, or hacky, his characters you can relate to whether you love or hate them. He is a breed of storyteller that you want spinning yarns by the campfire on a spooky wilderness night or one that reminds you of a vibrant, jolly uncle who always has a tale at the ready. Buy the ticket and explore them all, his imagination has a selection for all readers.  

 

 

rook book cover

 

Ever wake up and feel... different?

Myfanwy (pronounced like "Tiffany" with an "M") Thomas knows the feeling.  Waking in the rain with black eyes and bruises, she has no memory. Is this the plot of the best Lifetime movie you've never seen starring former Saved by the Bell starlet, Lark Voorhies?  Sadly, no. However, thanks to a recommendation via twitter during a reading rut it’s the main character in Daniel O'Malley's The Rook , one of the most fun and engaging books I’ve read in the past six months.

 

Armed with an envelope of instructions, Myfanwy learns three things about her former self:

1. Someone is trying to kill her.   

2. Things are not always what they seem

3. She works for a secret organization dealing with the supernatural

Part thriller, mystery, and Ghostbusters, The Rook is an addictive adventure.  The more Myfawny delves into her former self, the more complicated life becomes as she exposes corruption and herself to the person who’d love to see her dead. Myfany's fate is in her hands.  If she wants to live, she better make some quick decisions .

Dear Summer Vacation,

What is it about you that makes my children bound out of bed at 6:00 a.m., ready for action and aiming their destructive laser beams at any hilariously misguided idea I had for a few minutes of extra sleep? School Year never did that. 

All is entropy and my house looks like that not-so-mythical gyre of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean: Nerf darts, boomerangs, water balloons, molecule models, yo-yos, pieces of Risk and Stratego and little Monopoly houses and those dastardly Danish blocks I fully expect will one day require surgical extraction from one or both my feet. 
 
And the sopping wet piles of clothing and towels--what's up with that, Summer V.? My children don't even bother with swimsuits any more. Because they're not going swimming. At some point during the day, every day, they just go outside and turn the hoses on one another while fully clothed. Because they can. Because of you, Summer Vacation.
 
Of course you have your good points, S. V. You've got your trips away, and dinner on the grill almost every night (mostly, it must be said, because the cook can park her rear in a lawn chair outside with a book and ignore the screaming children in the house), and ice cream, and that holiday with its permissions to play with fire and blow things up. Hello, sticky s'mores and raspberries growing in the backyard and fuzzy bumblebees in the lavender.
 
If I had any skills in photography I would take pictures before you get away again, Summer Vacation. There are a million books I could read, but looking at pictures seems the right thing to do now, while the sun shines and gifts us all with extra daylight. Here are a few recommendations should you find yourself in an Adirondack chair under a leafy tree with a tall glass of iced tea (or, like me, caught between a grill of burning hot dogs and a leaking half-full kiddie pool soup of toys and grass and dead or dying insects while holding someone's drippy purple popsicle):
 
Summer Food book jacketSummer Food: New summer classics by Paul Lowe is that rare cookbook--photography gorgeous in its own right, with the added bonus of recipe after delicious-sounding recipe. The recipes are simple and straightforward without a bunch of strange "where the hell do I get that and what is it anyway" ingredients. I want to make almost everything in this book. But even if I never do, the pictures are enough. Just don't eat the book. I'll want to check it out again.
 
This Is the Day: The March on Washington is a striking photo-essay by Leonard Freed documenting the historic March for Jobs and This is the Day book jacketFreedom on August 28, 1963 which included the "I Have a Dream" speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave at the Lincoln Memorial that day. Freed's images seem illuminated from within by a moral beauty and the human dignity so central to the civil rights movement. This book is not about Dr. King or his speech or famous events but about the ocean of ordinary people who marched in peace for justice and ultimately carried the day and the movement.
 
Once Upon a Playground book jacketOnce Upon a Playground: A celebration of classic American playgrounds, 1920-1975 by Brenda Biondo is a time capsule. Careful: you may be transported to that park that you could walk to by yourself when you were nine, the one with the giant metal rocket you could climb. This book is a visual tribute to the iconic play structures rapidly vanishing from the collective cultural landscape. The book juxtaposes contemporary photos of structures along with vintage catalog advertisements, postcards and photographs of the same structures. The result is a ride on a haunted merry-go-round.
 
I can't decide whether I want you to spin faster or slow down, Summer Vacation. Just don't ever disappear.

Floods, earthquakes, snow, volcanoes, and landslides! Trying to think of and prepare for every possible catastrophe that might occur in the Pacific Northwest can be daunting!

Thankfully there are many resources available from your Multnomah County Library and other government agencies to help you plan for any situation. Karen T. and Catherine M., both parents and library staff put some of these resources to the test, using them to prepare themselves and their families for some of the most likely disasters.Urban Search and Rescue - FEMA/David Fine/2011

Karen’s family makes a plan and adjusts to the realities of getting everyone on board

Karen, using online federal resources from FEMA.gov and Ready.gov,  introduces the project of making a family disaster plan and the need of assembling an emergency supplies kit to her family. She finds that it is a challenge to get the entire family to buy into the importance of being prepared. They have other priorities.

She doesn’t let that stop her, after letting her family stew on the project for a bit she breaks it down into manageable parts and recruits family members to take ownership of some of these tasks. She uses a new ploy, Mother’s Day, to get action. Whatever it takes to get everyone involved, reason or guilt, at least the family now has a plan!

With the new plan in hand Karen gathers everyone to look at it and make minor changes (one of the emergency meeting spots was to be on top of a huge in-ground water storage tank...which seemed a bit too precarious in the event of an earthquake).

A real-life mini-emergency takes place, Portland issues a boil water notice and the grocery stores quickly run low on bottled water. This underscores the need to plan ahead and store enough clean water for the whole family (don’t forget pets!). Karen learns how to properly disinfect drinking water from the EPA emergency disinfection instructions. Do you know how much water you really need to get through a short term emergency?

For her own assignment, Karen makes a  home emergency kit and a few mini-survival-kits to keep in easily accessible spots like backpacks, gloveboxes, and winter jacket pockets.  As the final part of her work Karen spreads the word so that co-workers, extended family, friends and neighbors are equally prepared, thus maximizing the potential for positive outcomes no matter what happens. Karen lives the motto, “Be prepared, stay informed, make a kit, and get involved.”

Answering Questions about Family Preparedness, FEMA/Marvin Nauman, May 2006, New Orleans LA

Catherine’s Three Levels of Preparation at Work

Catherine’s family has emergency supplies both at home and in the car.  However she usually takes public transportation to work.  In the event of a major natural disaster and transportation disruption she could easily find herself stranded away from home.  She needs to plan for a safe hike home or to shelter in place at work if necessary.  To do this she has three levels of preparation: everyday carry, get home bag, and overnight necessities.

The Everyday Carry

The everyday carry is just what it sounds like, basic items to have on your person at all times. Catherine travels light but packs a bottle of water, a snack, a small first aid kit, a dust mask, a small flashlight, cell phone, an emergency information/contact list, and a book to pass the time.  She, like most librarians, also wears sensible shoes (ones she could easily hike home in).  Her son also has a few items in the bottom of his school bag to make up a basic everyday carry for children. What does your everyday carry look like?

The Get Home Bag and Overnight Necessities

The next level of preparedness is the get home bag, a small backpack of necessary supplies to keep at work for an unanticipated hike home.  Multnomah County has a helpful Get a Kit page that has some ideas. Since Catherine takes the bus her get home bag includes a second bottle of water, a poncho, some pocket change, an extra pair of socks, and a second set of keys.  She keeps her get home bag in a secure place at work where she can easily grab it and “get home.” She also has a predetermined meeting place if crossing the Willamette River is impossible due to seismic bridge damage or severe traffic issues.  This pre-planning will get the family back in contact with each other ASAP after an emergency.  You can also look at ideas for a get home bag or workplace plans from Ready.gov. How would you get home to your family?

There may be a situation where it is unsafe or impossible to hike home so Catherine has a few overnight necessities at work.  In addition to the everyday carry and the get home bag she also has enough bottled water for 48 hours, nonperishable snacks, a few toiletries, a small blanket, a change of clothes, and an extra phone charger stored in a work locker. She shares with her coworkers so they can also make a plan.  What would you need if you were stuck at work overnight?

Each family’s disaster readiness plan is going to be different based on what events you prepare for, the everyday situations you and your family find yourselves in and the special needs and makeup of your family.  Karen and Catherine teamed up to encourage each other to meet their family goals.

These online government resources were most helpful: Ready.gov, Multnomah County Office of Emergency Management, and the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. You can access all of the online resources in this list: Multcolib Research Picks: Disaster Preparedness Online Resources.  Additionally, there are some great preparedness books geared especially toward parents: Multcolib Research Picks: Disaster Preparedness Books for the Whole Family.

Canine Recovery Team, FEMA/Marty Bahamonde, April 2014, Snohomish County, WA

Stay Informed

Most librarians would agree that, “knowledge is power.” This holds true in times of disaster. Be aware of what the most likely events may be, know ahead of time where your family will meet up, and sign up to be notified through the CENS Public Alerts Emergency System by voice or text in the case of a local emergency.

If you would like more information about preparedness resources do not hesitate to contact a librarian. You are also welcome to share your own disaster preparedness planning adventures in the comments below. Can you answer the question, Are you prepared?

 

 

Studio Olafur Eliasson Encyclopedia bookcover A glowing orb hangs in a dense mist. You descend a ramp and enter a great hall. Golden light fills the heavy air. Your mirror image swims far above you, along with the images of hundreds of other viewers of the spectacle. You sink to the floor, waving and gesturing, watching the limbs of the crowd as they wave and gesture far above, like the feathery tongues of sea creatures trapped at the bottom of some deep ocean pool.

 

This unusual scene is what you might have encountered if you saw Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson’s installation, The Weather Project, which can be glimpsed on the artist’s website . Eliasson and his studio create sculptures and installations that combine architectural elements with natural materials such as light, mist, water, ice, wind, scent, even lichen. The Weather Project so enraptured viewers that they lay on the floor of the Tate museum basking in the radiance of its strange sun, and even inspired a recent Marc Jacobs fashion show. Of the installation’s allure, the artist says,

"I don't mind making things that look great or seem very seductive, because to me, rationality and seduction are not mutually exclusive. For instance, you can be rational about your seduction, as in The Weather Project [2004], or in Beauty [1993]. The quality of the experience really depends on the combined performativity of the installation and the person; if the situation allows for a very individual experience, I'm not afraid of the work being called "beautiful." I don't think beauty can be generalized, even though many people seem to suggest just that by insisting on a type of beauty that would be immanent to the works. "Beauty" is a very complex term..." - Olafur Eliasson [p. 75].

 

Find out more in Studio Olafur Eliasson.

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Will Cuppy'Just when you're beginning to think pretty well of people, you run across somebody who puts sugar on sliced tomatoes.' Will Cuppy is a master of the written word. Now, maybe your family doesn't put sugar on their sliced tomatoes. But if they do, like mine, then you understand the genius of this quote. 

Never heard of Will Cuppy? Allow me to introduce you. An American humorist and journalist, Cuppy was best-known for his mock-scientific observations of nature. Born in 1884 in Indiana, Cuppy lived and wrote for many years in New York, before taking his own life in 1949. Writing funny but factual magazine articles was Cuppy's real talent. Many of Cuppy's articles for The New Yorker and other magazines were later collected as books, including How to Attract the Wombat, one of my personal favorites. I mean, who doesn't want to know how to swat a fly? This book will tell you just that, in an article in which Cuppy codifies the essentials of this simple activity in ten hilarious principles. These articles are not necessarily factual though they are equally not untrue. Cuppy writes short, darkly humorous articles, perfect for when one only has a few minutes to read, and needs a laugh. We also read them out loud in our house, and that is real hoot!

Cuppy was reclusive and cultivated the image of a curmudgeon, but he had many friends in New York's literary circles. If you are a fan of writings from the golden age of humor (late 1920's-early 1950's), writers such as Robert Benchley, James Thurber, and S.J. Perelman, then I urge you to seek out Will Cuppy's works. Multnomah County Library owns several, and our friendly staff is always available to help you locate more Will Cuppy via Interlibrary Loan. Happy reading!

 

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Quick! What’s the commutative law of addition?

 

Can’t remember? It just means you can add numbers in any order and get the same result.

 

2 + 3 = 5

3 + 2 = 5

 

You may have learned this concept in school. You probably remember the rule, but the name may have slipped your mind.

 

Why does this matter? Maybe you’d like to help your child with homework, or perhaps you’re going back to school and need to take a math placement exam.

 

A great place to brush up on old math skills (or to learn new ones) is The Saylor.org Foundations of Real World Math course.

 

The course is free. It uses videos from Khan Academy and portions of College of the Redwoods’ Pre-Algebra Textbook, 2nd edition and Denny Burzynski and Wade Ellis’ Fundamentals of Mathematics.

 

The course is made of seven units. It covers basic math concepts, like the commutative law of addition, and advances through negative numbers, percentages, ratios and graphs and charts. The goal of the course is “not just to help you learn basic algebra and geometry topics, but also to show you how these topics are used in everyday life.

 

Book cover: The Disappearing Spoon

A while back I told all ya’ll about The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Keane. Loved it. It inspired me to order up a poster of the periodic table and stick it on my living room wall, thinking that if it was in front of my eyeballs, there may be some passive absorption. It kinda worked--I learned the noble gases, but really it was just the pressure of a pub trivia team that inspired that. Still I want to understand this stuff at a level higher than my C in high school chemistry.

In an effort to up my game I watched Hunting the Elements by PBS/NOVA. I’ll be honest, based on the boring cover, my hopes were not terribly high. It was ~amazing~. One dude actually made a wooden periodic table, the size of a real dining room table, and gave each element its own little compartment.  If I had that in my house I could pick up and hold a sample of molybdenum. Super cool and very practical. There are enough violent explosions and deadly gases throughout to keep things lively, plus who wouldn’t love to see how gold bricks are made?

Book cover, The Periodic Table: A Visual Guide to the Elements

The book, The Periodic Table: A Visual Guide to the Elements,  is essentially a field guide, just two pages per element--one a color picture of the element and the other its most interesting info. Platinum, for example, is a precious metal used all the time in jewelry, as we know, but it’s also essential in your car’s catalytic converter.

So, in my expert opinion as an armchair science girl, I think anyone with an interest would love the dvd. Have a kid who loves kitchen-science experiments? Watch it with them. But also, anyone who may struggle with a chemistry class in the near future might like both in combination. Perhaps even as a preemptive strike at understanding before the struggle begins. Seeing and hearing info in a different way can make a huge, helpful difference . It certainly did for me.

 

        1. You can be as brave as the pioneers. Those hearty, independent people didn’t shy away from the sometimes elusive, convoluted language of the Bard. In fact they often packed it right next to that other elusive convoluted book, the Bible.

       2. You can amaze your friends and confuse your enemies by the brilliance of your insults. Instead of shouting out F*** you when you are nearly sideswiped on your bike you can calmly cry out “Hast thou never an eye in thy head?” (Henry IV, pt.1 )  

...Or maybe your roommate eats the last piece of your favorite pie- you shake your fist and bellow:                                        

“Thou elvish mark’d, abortive rooting hog”(Richard III) and walk dismissively away.

 3. You can gracefully free yourself of all that anger directed against the teachers who made you hate Shakespeare. Perhaps some teacher made them hate it too.

 4. Shakespeare is packed with the excitement and adventure of human passion. His stories breathe with as much energy and meaning as when they were written 300 years ago. Sure, the language can be a challenge, but remember they ARE plays - meant to be seen and experienced. Try the many film representations - especially those by the BBC. Or for a more complete experience, watch a play performed live.

 So go ahead.  Read Shakespeare. You might just wonder why you waited so long.

 

           

                                                  

 

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