Curtain bookjacketLike some parents, authors sometimes feel as if they have bitten off more than they can chew. Their creations take on a life of their own, becoming wildly popular among their readers who argue enthusiastically about their pros and cons. Unlike parents however, authors can killAngelica's Smile bookjacket off their creations with snickering glee and the only consequence is the wrath of their readers.

*Spoiler Alert*

Take Sherlock Holmes, for instance. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle felt the detective kept him from doing better things. 'What better things can there be?' his readers cried.  

Henning Mankell gave his long suffering  detective Kurt Wallander a fairy tale ending, with a dog, a house by the beach and his grandson to play with.  And then --  Alzheimers.  Nice... However, pressure from his readers prompted him to write An Event in Autumn which takes us into new territory. It is based on Mankell's short story, Händelse om hösten.  It contains a very sad sentence:  ‘There are no more stories about Kurt Wallander’

Agatha Christie finished her detective Her Poirot by having him kill a physcho killer, then himself. No resurrection there. Poirot passes away from complications of a heart condition at the end of Curtain: Poirot's Last Case.                                                                                                                                                   

As for Andrea Camilleri, creator of the popular Italian detective Montalbano a series of 17 books, several collections of short stories and a multi -episode TV series, he  says this about his brawny, intuitive hero, "I finished him off five years ago. That's to say, the final novel in the series of Montalbano is already written and deposited at the publishing that last book he’s really finished.”

As an enthusiastic reader of all these detectives, I hate to think that they are really 'finished'. Maybe they are just hiding on a shelf somewhere waiting to be ressurected in a new writer's imagination.



The Shadow Hero book jacketThanks to the award-winning Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese), we now have a look at the first Asian-American superhero. Yang's graphic novel The Shadow Hero starts with the spirits of China itself - Dragon, Tortoise, Phoenix and Tiger - lamenting what is happening to their people with the fall of the Ch'ing Dynasty and Imperial rule. How this gets to a mother in San Francisco's Chinatown dragging her dutiful son through 'superhero training' is all part of the fun. Yang's work always shines a light on racism but never preaches; now he and artist Sonny Liew rescue from obscurity a superheroic character by a Chinese-American artist of the 1940s. Don't miss the epilogue for fascinating background info!
If you are in the mood for more Golden-Age superheroics that you will never see in a big-budget movie, have a look at Green Lama. A hero of 1940's pulps and comics, he was a practicing Buddhist who gained his powers through his knowledge of 'radioactive salts'. He gained his martial expertise and mystical training in Asia, back when this was the only way to explain martial skills (other than boxing) to an American audience. Enjoy!

I like towers, roofs and cliffs - anywhere where I can get a birds-eye view. One of the most memorable views I have had is from the top of the dome on Florence’s Duomo, or more properly, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. This dome is there because of one man, Filippo Brunelleschi.

Brunelleschi's Dome book jacketHaving an impressive cathedral was one way that Florence wanted to show its importance and power. In 1296 they started on a new cathedral that was going to have the largest dome in the world. In 1418 the cathedral was finished except for the dome. The problem was no one knew how to build it. With a diameter of 143 feet it was too large for conventional building techniques. A competition was announced to find a design that would work. Fillippo Brunelleschi was one finalist and Lorenzo Ghiberti was the other. Ghiberti had beaten Brunelleschi years before in the competition to design the Cathedral’s Baptistery doors. Since then they were fierce rivals. The difference was that Ghiberti now had a solid reputation and Brunelleschi didn’t. Brunelleschi’s design was for a dome that would be self supporting while it was being built, but he would not divulge the details since he did not trust others not to steal his ideas. In the end Brunelleschi’s design was chosen, but since this was his first big project, the more experienced Ghiberti was assigned as his partner on the project. This greatly frustrated Brunelleschi who saw this as a lack of faith in his abilities and because it was his design, he was doing most of the work directing the construction of the dome. He finally got rid of Ghiberti by falling ill at a criticalPippo the Fool book jacket step in the building and while Brunelleschi was home sick everyone realized that Ghiberti had no idea how to build the dome.

The Duomo’s dome is still the largest in the world and you can read the whole fascinating story of the dome’s design and construction in Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King.

There is also an excellent children’s picture book Pippo the Fool by Tracey Fern that tells the story of Pippo Brunelleschi and his dome.

When you get to Florence, don’t forget to climb the dome.


Book Jacket: Family Life by Akhil SharmaI had just checked out Family Life by Akhil Sharma and thought I’d read a few pages over coffee before moving on to baking my pumpkin pie. A few pages in, I knew I had to see it through to the end.

Family Life is the story of the Mishras, who arrive from Delhi to settle in Queens in pursuit of a better life for their sons Ajay and Birju. Birju has just been accepted into the prestigious Bronx High School of Science when tragedy strikes, leaving Birju brain damaged. The focus of Family Life quickly shifts from achieving success in a foreign culture, to simply caring for Birju.  Sharma’s novel is a story of being an outsider, but it’s also an extraordinarily perceptive story of being a family.    

Family life is an excruciatingly honest book.  It’s insightful, funny and messy.  It’s tragic and hard to pull away from. It’s a lot like family.

This month Governor Kitzhaber proclaimed December 1, 2014 Rosa Parks Day in Oregon and encourages “all Oregonians to join in this observance.”

rosa parks

Why December 1st? On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested for civil disobedience. Contrary to popular lore Parks was not an elderly woman that just happened to be in the right place at the right moment in history. Rosa Parks was a dedicated activist and served as secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus as the driver demanded, and city law required, her refusal sparked a bus boycott that captured the attention of the world and breathed new life into the Civil Rights Movement.

To learn more, take a look at a timeline of the events that followed in the wake of her arrest. Often called the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” read about the event in her wordsThe National Archives has more primary source data on it's website as well, including the police report and Rosa Parks’ fingerprint cards.

The History Channel also has video about Rosa Parks with information you might not already know. 

Need more information? Check out the books below or ask a librarian.

Over thirty men and a woman and baby had to be fed on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Meriwether Lewis extensively planned what he would purchase in advance to supplement the meat they could hunt along the way. The food they packed onto the boats weighed thousands of pounds including the lifesaving portable soup.


If there was game to be hunted and killed, the Corps could eat a whole buffalo, an elk and a deer, or four deer in one day. Each person consumed between eight and nine pounds of meat per day! Meat was their main food source whenever available.

They also fished and caught salmon, trout, catfish and eulachon (smelt) which Lewis considered to be delicious. Another treat enjoyed by the Corps was beaver tail. Sometimes it was necessary to eat dogs and horses—in order to stay alive. Sacajawea was extremely helpful in identifying edible plants for the Corps.

There are plenty of recipes described in Expedition journals.Want to try your hand at paleocuisineology®? Check out these instructions for making pemmican or apple pudding.

Bon appétit!


I just finished Lila,  Marilynne Robinson's third book set in the fictional midwestern town of Gilead. Gilead is the first, and is told from the point of view of John Ames, a Congregationalist pastor who is at the end of his life. To John, Lila is his much younger wife, a blessing, remarkable for her energy and her steadfast love.

The new book is told from Lila's point of view and takes place about eight years earlier. It was startling to see her show up in Gilead for the first time with nothing but a knife and emotional baggage from her dark and lonesome past. John Ames is one of my favorite characters ever. He's not perfect, but he's kind, patient and extraordinarily open to the universe. I was worried as I read this new book that Lila wouldn’t be able to love Ames the way I wanted her to. I read on,  watching these two solitary people start to connect in spite of all the things that should keep them apart, differences in age, social standing and faith.

Robinson uses simple, specific language that is also quite sensual. Early in this book, there's a beautiful description of Lila washing her clothes in the river. Reading, I could smell the river and the soap, and I watched the clothes lose their shape in the water-- and in her words, it’s so vivid. Like Terrence Malick’s movies, like great music, like much of the best art, I find that reading Robinson’s writing makes me feel more awake in my own life. I have a feeling there’s going to be at least one more book by Robinson set in Gilead, and I will go back there with her gratefully.


Romeo the wolf loved to play with dogs. When he first appeared at Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier Park, he reacted to dogs in a play bow--front paws flat on the ground, rear end up, and a mischievous tilt of the head.  Romeo was an Alexander Archipelago wolf, a rare subspecies of the gray wolf.  As Romeo gained doggy and human followers/friends, some people thought humans should be protected from Romeo, or vice versa, Romeo should be protected from humans. Writer and wildlife photographer Nick Jans recently wrote a moving yet scientific account of Romeo's interactions, and photographer John Hyde also published a stunning photo history. Both men and their dogs got to know Romeo intimately. Still, the question remains: Why did a wolf seek out dogs for play?

Sunny, a rescue dog of mysterious origins, appears in our My Librarian photo. The latest scientific thinking suggests that Sunny’s ancestors broke off from the gray wolf line of the Canidae family, with gray wolves and dogs diverging perhaps 300,000 years ago. The similarities and differences between the two animals is a rich subject. Nick Jans points out that while dogs and wolves at first glance look similar, the wolf has a straighter back and a stouter muzzle. Yet Sunny still howls at ambulances and odd cell phone ring tones, and would give anything to gulp down a raw, whole salmon.

To really understand what we know about what makes dogs, and sometimes wolves, tick, try some of Sunny's suggestions! She's got a non-fiction list written for the adult audience and some great novels and fun books about working dogs for elementary aged kids--although I would recommend both lists for everyone.

Or, how a holiday celebrating friends and family became an exercise in crass commercialism.

Shoppers at Walmart on Thanksgiving Day 2013. Image from Wikimedia Commons.The confluence of Thanksgiving Day and the beginning of the holiday shopping season is pretty much a second-half-of-the-20th-century phenomenon, spurred by the burgeoning consumer economy that took off following the end of World War II. The Friday after Thanksgiving became “Black Friday” originally in 1961, coined by some disgruntled Philadelphia police officers who grew to hate the downtown traffic jams created by shoppers. It was only in the 1980s that the term took on a economic meaning: Success on this day sends retail businesses into the “black.” Big box retailers attract shoppers with deep discounts on popular gift items, discounts only available on Black Friday.

In this century, Black Friday just keeps creeping forward: 6 am on Friday morning, midnight on Friday morning, 8 pm on Thursday night, 5 pm on Thursday, to the absolute nadir (in this writer’s opinion) of 6 am on Thanksgiving morning. Kmart owns this dubious honor for 2013 and is repeating it this year. Of course, there’s a name for this: Brown Thursday or Gray Thursday.

Small Business Saturday

Using an if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em philosophy, smaller retailers gave into the Black Friday juggernaut in 2010, redirecting shoppers away from the big box stores by creating their own shopping “event,” Small Business Saturday. Sure, this event says, you’ll probably want to take advantage of those big sales at the big boxes, but -- while you’re still in the shopping zone --  wouldn’t you like to support a local business too? And many of these retailers (not all of them small businesses) can’t resist a poke at those open on Thanksgiving Day: We pride ourselves on letting our employees enjoy a day off with their families.

Portland, being Portland, has created its own version of Small Business Saturday: Little Boxes. Shoppers are gently encouraged to “welcome in the holiday season by discovering the quality and variety of Portland’s indie and local retail shopping scene.” Only in Portland do we have an “indie” shopping scene. Still, there are prizes.

Buy Nothing Day

A countermovement to Black Friday’s unfettered consumerism sprung up in the 1990s with Buy Nothing Day, created in Canada and spreading to the United States and elsewhere in the West over the past 20 years. Its founders encourage waggish bits of civil disobedience such as “whirl-mart” -- a conga line of empty shopping carts making its way through a mall or big box store (see video) -- and the “zombie walk” -- staggering through retail establishments with a blank stare.

For those of you who prefer to spend that Friday enjoying a roast turkey sandwich, some leftover pumpkin pie and a good book, here’s a reading list about shopping (or not) in America. And never fear, the library will be open!

Smiley Goat photo by Martin Cathrae on Flickr, license CC BY 2.0.Whether you are excited about having fresh eggs and milk and honey, or looking for a new pet that will also mow your lawn, backyard animals can be a wonderful addition to your home.

It can be tricky to figure out what is allowed in your neighborhood: How many ducks are too many? Can I have a pygmy goat and a peacock? Do my neighbors need to know about my hive? Is that a llama peering over my fence?

If you live in the city of Portland, the rules and regulations for keeping animals are enforced by Multnomah County Vector Control. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability maintains a site that lets you know which animals you can keep, when you need to apply for a permit, and what the requirements are to keep various animals. If you have questions, you can contact Vector Control at 503-988-3464.

If you live in Gresham, you'll need a permit for keeping chickens; the rules for other poultry and livestock vary. Questions should be directed to the Code Compliance Division at 503-618-2463.

The city of Wood Village has fairly clear rules for keeping chickens; for questions regarding other animals, contact the city at 503-667-6211 or

Live in Fairview or Troutdale? Both Fairview and Troutdale enforce Multnomah County's Animal Codes;  if you have questions, you can contact the Fairview Department of Planning Services at 503-674-6206 or the Troutdale Planning Division at 503-674-7228.

For Maywood Park, call 503-255-9805 or email

chicken.jpg by Tom Woodward on Flickr, license CC BY 2.0.The rules for unincorporated Multnomah County are enforced by Multnomah County Vector Control. They can be contacted at 503-988-3464.

Once you know the rules and you’re ready to start planning, the library has a lot of resources available for you! Below is a list of books that can help you prepare for your new additions. You can also search the catalog for “domestic animals,” “urban agriculture,” “bee culture,” or the particular animal you are considering. And you can always contact us for help; librarians are standing by!

P.S. If your chickens seem destined for more than just pecking and laying, perhaps it’s time they learn more advanced skills.


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