Many years ago I had the opportunity to see the great violinist Isaac Stern in recital at what was then called the Civic Auditorium -- now the Keller Auditorium. It was of course an evening of great music making, but I only remember one piece that was played. After the intermission, I returned to my seat as Mr. Stern and his accompanist launched in to Béla Bartók’s second sonata for violin and piano. I had never heard music like this before and was mesmerized -- I think my jaw may actually have dropped! This was the beginning of my love of Bartók and my introduction to the music of the twentieth century.

Bartók was born in 1881 in the village of Nagyszentmiklós in the Hungarian Empire -- today, the town is part of Romania. He spent time in his early career traveling the countryside recording folk tunes of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria -- music that would inspire much of his later work.

So what continues to fascinate me about this music after 40 years? Certainly its folk-inspired nature. But more than that, I think it’s simply the raw energy in pieces like his first two piano concertos, his fourth string quartet, and Contrasts -- a piece for violin, clarinet and piano, which was commissioned by Benny Goodman.

Bartók toured the United States in 1927-28 and as part of his west coast travels he made an appearance in Portland. Here is an image of the program from that evening. This image and other images of early concerts in Portland can be viewed in Multnomah County Library's The Gallery.

Book Jacket: The City of Palaces by Michael NavaA handsome doctor, tortured by his dark past, returns home from exile in Europe to perform house calls for bored, rich housewives.

Robbed of her beauty by smallpox, a spinster countess in a crumbling palace, swallows her own pain by devoting her life to God and caring for the downtrodden in the city’s worst neighborhoods.

An upper class gentleman, shunned from the city as a “sodomite” returns as an openly gay revolutionary who refuses to apologize for his politics nor for whom he loves.

It’s the end of the 19th century and the setting is Mexico City under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. The Eurocentric old guard are losing their hold on the city, but who or what will replace it remains uncertain.

The book is The City of Palaces by Michael Nava; A finalist for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards. As a devout chilangophile, I’ll read anything set in Mexico City, but this particular book took my breath away. The surprising cast of characters sucked me in right from the start and Nava's talent for storytelling carried me straight to the heart of a country on the brink of revolution.

If you need a page-turner to read this Summer with amazing characters that breathe life into history, check out The City of Palaces

For a lot of people, the pleasure of reading is enhanced when they can discuss books with friends or family. But children, teens and adults can't always read the same books. If you'd like to amp up the conversation at your dinner table, explore some of these titles grouped by themes and subject.

To begin, if your family enjoys stories about real people, here's one that is available in formats for beginning readers to adults. William Kamkwaba is a Malawian innovator. As a teen living in poverty, he devised a windmill that provided first electricity and then drinking water to his community.

Talking about animal welfare can be a challenge, for both kids and adults. Here are three stories for varying age levels that examine our treatment of animals.

If you're off on a camping trip this summer, what better time to discuss wilderness, courage and the will to survive?

Are you waiting with bated breath for Go Set a Watchman? Read, (or re-read) To Kill a Mockingbird, while younger readers get engrossed in The Lions of Little Rock, and then talk about civil rights and the power of friendship to bring people together.

In the early 1900's, Edward Curtis traveled North America taking photos of Native people, an obsession that almost destroyed his life but left us with an amazing historical record. Here's his story told for both adults and kids.

Looking for some creative inspiration? Syllabus is essentially a college course on connecting to your inner artist; My Pen encourages artists of all ages to draw. Just add blank paper.

Happy reading and discussing!

Japan's World Heritage Sites book jacketFrom Miyazaki to manga, ramen to robot restaurants…Japan is a varied country indeed. I just returned from a trip there, and my head is still spinning with visions of cherry blossoms, moss-covered gardens, golden temples, doll-like lolita fashions, a mountain full of fox spirits, Tokyo's neon cacophony… the list goes on.  And then there are the things I wish I could have experienced: misty cryptomeria forests, hot springs, cat islands, rabbit islands, fox villages… hmm, I think I may be going back!Bye Bye Kitty book jacket

So how best to prepare for such a trip? Check out loads of stuff from the library, that’s how, and not just travel guides - why not immerse yourself in everything from classics to cult films? As the date of our departure drew closer, my traveling companion (who’d been there before) and I did just that. I read The Kangaroo Notebook by Kobo Abe, about a man who discovers radish sprouts growing from his legs, and my friend said with a straight face, “You might see that in Japan.” On the plane we saw Parasyte, a manga-based movie about an alien who takes up residence in a student's hand, and he said "You've got to watch out for those in Japan." Of course he was joking, and I saw neither of these (if only!).

As for things you might actually see in Japan, Bye Bye Kitty!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art introduced me to the windswept grotesques of photographer Miwa Yanagi, the detailed microcosms of illustrator Manabu Ikeda, and sculptor Motohiko Odani's macabre Noh masks. And there is nothing more magnificent than Japan's World Heritage Sites, a lavish book full of large-scale photos of temples, gardens, castles, and more that I pored over for hours. And of course there's more... just see this list.

Link to whatslegaloregon.comIn November 2014 Oregon voters approved Measure 91, allowing the possession and sale of cannabis by adults 21 and older for recreational use. (Here is the full text of Measure 91.) Deciphering the details of the law can be tricky, especially if you are considering starting a marijuana-related business.

The most reliable source of information about the laws surrounding recreational marijuana is the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). Their What’s Legal? Educate Before You Recreate site lays out what you can and cannot do starting July 1, 2015.

The OLCC Rules Advisory Committee & Subcommittees on Recreational Marijuana are having a series of public meetings in their main office at 9079 SE McLoughlin Blvd. in Portland. For questions about accessibility or accommodations for persons with disabilities, please call 503-872-6366 or email You can look up agendas and listen to audio of past meetings online.

If you are considering starting a marijuana-related business, start with the OLCC’s frequently asked questions on marijuana licensing. The OLCC will not be accepting applications for recreational marijuana licenses until January 4, 2016, and the rules are still being written; to stay up-to-date, subscribe to receive email alerts from the OLCC.

Measure 91 has no impact on Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act. You can apply for a Medical Marijuana card through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), or apply to be a medical marijuana dispensary through the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program.

To stay informed, you can find the OLCC's updates on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to receive OLCC updates by email.

Link to Legalization of Marijuana booklistIf you’re curious about how Oregon’s recreational marijuana plan compares to those in Colorado and Washington, here’s a side-by-side comparison (pdf). If you’re interested in looking at the broader issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana, check out this blog post on legalizing marijuana that my colleague Cathy wrote before the election.  And here are some books that go more in depth into the pros and cons of marijuana legalization and medical use.

Always use caution when searching for information and make sure your sources of information are credible; the Southern Illinois University Law Library has a great guide to Evaluating Websites and Other Information Resources. And remember, you can always ask a librarian for help; we love questions!

As I write this, my coworkers and I are all a little excited. Our boss, who we really like, will any minute now become a father for the first time. The parents who work here are especially delighted because we’ll be reminded of our own experiences of becoming parents, and maybe we'll get to share some hard-won wisdom with the new dad.

One thing I’ll definitely share, when the time comes, is Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.

Feeding babies and children can be really fun. I remember the summer that my first child was able to eat real food; the parade of summer fruits she got to experience for the first time--strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches. We got marionberries that were as big as her fists, and she ate them with concentration and joy, purple juice dripping down her chin.

But feeding small children can also be hugely frustrating. One day they love scrambled eggs. The next, they are affronted that you would even suggest they eat such a thing. Many parents react by feeding their children only the tried and true favorites, which can lead to a pretty limited diet, and there’s frequently a lot of stress and discord around feeding issues. Child of Mine can really help. The main thing I got from this book was a firm grasp on what should be my responsibility and what should be my children’s. My job is to provide a variety of healthy foods at regular intervals -- so I decide “what” and “when”. My kids decide if they’re going to eat and how much. I haven’t followed this perfectly, but it kind of set us on our course, and my kids definitely eat their fruits and veggies. So if you have a small child and feeding is an issue -- which it is for just about everyone at one time or another -- check out Child of Mine.

Once upon a time...

Last month we at the Hollywood Teen Book Council explored our forever love of fairy tales, folklore and myth. From the time we were young, and building our reading skills on Daisy Meadows’ Rainbow Fairies, to today with Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, fairies, witches and dark forests still capture our imagination.

Alisa Folen, student at Grant High School and Hollywood Teen Book Council Chair, shares her review for National Book Award Finalist The Witch; and Other Tales Re-Told by Jean Thompson.

The Witch by Jean Thompson“This book is a collection of short stories featuring an array of characters. They are all re-tellings of some of the best known fairy tales. The author adds a modern twist and interesting creepy details to add depth to the classic tales you thought you knew. This book is well written because the author takes stories you heard as a kid and makes them more relatable for teenagers today. However, some of the chapters don’t really follow a fairy tale close enough for it to be recognizable which can be confusing. I would recommend this book to other teens, especially those who enjoy creepier books.”

For more of our favorites, check out this list.

The Unforgiving Coast book jacketSummer is here and as usual we are inundated with reading lists of the best summer beach reads. They are everywhere. Locally, The Oregonian has a list of 19 Must Read Beach Books and the Portland Mercury tells you How to Pick the Perfect Summer Book.  Nationally, Good Housekeeping has their Best Summer Beach Reads, Entertainment Weekly recommends 10 Big Fat Beach Reads, the New York Times offers Cool Books for Hot Summer Days and the Huffington Post offers a list of “titles to get you started whether you are at the beach or just wish you were.”Jaws book jacket

Well, I for one feel it is time to revolt against the tyranny of summer beach reading. Maybe you don’t like the beach or don’t live near the ocean. What’s wrong with staying inside and enjoying the comfort of your own home? Also, lots of bad things can happen at the beach.  Bad things like tsunamis, sharks, venomous jellyfish, shipwrecks, pollution, and crowds to just name a few. So I say let’s celebrate staying away from the beach with our reading this summer!  Try something from this list of books and enjoy reading in the comfort of your own safe and cozy home.

Summer is here and that means one thing.

What? You don't know? Why it's time to put on Out of Africa of course and indulge in Robert Redford, excuse me, I mean the glory days of the British Empire. Surely I cannot be the only one who opens all the doors and windows on the first properly hot day, puts in the dvd, and sits back with a G&T, fan circling overhead.

Or possibly I am.  

No matter. I'm in the mood for a little British East Africa kind of love. Anyone care to join me?


Zine creators, the Portland Zine Symposium is coming up in less than a month! If your world is ruled by an academic calendar, perhaps this may be a moment when you have just a bit more time to work on creative projects, like putting together the zine (or zines!) that you’ve been thinking up in recent months.

Or perhaps you are new to zines and have never made one. Zines are usually handmade paper booklets that anyone can create. Want to give it a try? Here are some directions for turning one piece of paper into a basic zine: a version to view online or a version to print. See below for more resources about making zines and books.

Whether zines are a new idea or an old friend for you, the library abounds with inspiration and resources for your creative project! Consider these:

Crap Hound 8 - Superstitions

The Central Library Picture File is an astounding resource: thousands upon thousands of magazine and book clippings, organized by subject. These can be checked out and photocopied or scanned (you can’t cut them up and paste them in your zine, though!). Do you need the perfect picture of a bluebird, or an ancient computer, or children’s clothes from the 1960s? Look no further! Ask about the Picture Files at the Art & Music reference desk on Central Library’s third floor.

Of course clip art can be found online, but clip art books are a real pleasure to browse and use. Many of these come with a CD containing image files that you can download to your computer for resizing, editing, etc. A real gem of a clip art resource is found in the series of books called Crap Hound - each volume is created around a theme or cluster of themes (Superstition; Church & State; Hands, Hearts, & Eyes are a few), and the images are laid out in the most appealing, artful way.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Part One by Annie MurphyThe library’s Zine Collection is a wonderful resource, full of examples of zines and minicomics made by zinesters and artists from near and far. Zines can be browsed online (use the subject heading Zines or search by author or title, or try our book lists), placed  on hold, and checked out just like other library materials. I recently read local zinester and artist Annie Murphy’s new zine I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Part One: My Own Private Portland - about River Phoenix, Gus Van Sant and his film My Own Private Idaho, Portland in the eighties and nineties, and the experience of growing up during this time. It is beautiful and moving, illustrated in moody black & white ink wash, and handwritten in tidy cursive. I think you should give it a try.

How to Make Books by Esther K. SmithFor more technical information about making zines and books, you might enjoy browsing some of our books about bookbinding - I recently stumbled upon How to Make Books by Esther K. Smith, which has instructions and lovely illustrations for a range of homemade books, from instant zines and accordion books to more elaborate stitched books and Coptic binding.

Also: July has been designated International Zine Month, and July 21 in particular Zine Library Day. So come to the library and check out some zines! Make a zine!


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