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.

My son, who is eleven, had a hard, hard year at school. He had the kind of teacher who even assigned seats during lunch. When the kids did self-portraits to hang up for Back-to-School Night, she told my son that he should draw some eyelashes on his picture of himself, and when he refused, she drew them on herself. (I am not even kidding.) He’s wildly relieved that summer vacation is here, and I know he envisions himself playing Minecraft twelve hours a day.

Not so fast, pal. I love the lazy days of summer, but I’m still mean enough to limit screen time and insist on fresh air, exercise, and reading. He likes to read, so this won’t be too hard for him, and, if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at finding books for him. While I'm all in favor of books that are just plain entertaining, I’m especially happy when I can find books that are full of facts about history and science that are so much fun, he won’t mind that he’s learning as he reads. Check out this list I made of books that meet this criteria and find some treasures-- a hilarious graphic novel about the Presidents of the United States-- a book about dolphins who use tools-- and a book that takes crazy questions ("What would happen to the Earth if the Sun didn't exist?" or ""How much space does the Internet take up?"), then answers them with rigorous science.

A friend told me a few years ago that his son-- who is right around my son’s age-- acted like he had to learn, immediately, exactly how the world and everything in it works. One of the things that I love about kids is this kind of endless curiosity, and one of the things I love about my job at the library is that I get to help satisfy it.

The True Meaning of Smekday came out in 2007, so this spring's sequel, Smek for President, was an unexpected joy. I read both books with my 11-year-old son, who still lets me read out loud to him, although at this point, I'm afraid that every book is going to be the last. If you've already read the first book, then you'll want to read the second one, which is almost as good as the first. If you haven't yet read The True Meaning of Smekday, here are some reasons that you should give this kid's book with crossover appeal a try:

1) The main character is named "Gratuity"-- her mom liked the sound of it-- but is nicknamed "Tip". This kind of offbeat cleverness runs through both books.

2) Tip is a strong, smart, resourceful girl, AND a girl who just happens to be biracial, in a book that's not about race at all, really.

3) There's an alien from the planet Boov whose name on Earth is inexplicably J-Lo, even though he has nothing to do with Jennifer Lopez-- and he is extraordinarily funny. Seriously. Several times while reading these books, my son and I laughed until we couldn't breathe and our faces were wet with tears.

4) Wildly inventive comics are scattered throughout the book like little treats waiting to be discovered. 

5) J-Lo and Tip team up to save the world in an insanely goofy and original way.

6)This story has at its heart a deep and beautiful friendship. It doesn't matter that Tip is human and J-Lo is an alien. They're true to each other.

7) Both books are wonderful read-alouds for an adult and a child to experience together. Honestly, even if you read it to yourself, you're going to want to read parts of it aloud to anyone who happens to be in the room.

I suppose I should mention that there’s a movie based on the first book which was also released this spring. I’m afraid to see it because I can’t believe it’ll be as good as the book, but let me know if I’m wrong, okay? And in the meantime, here’s a list I made of absolutely wonderful read-alouds for a parent to read with children who are perfectly capable of reading to themselves-- but they’ll still allow you the pleasure of reading to them. 

I first met my husband, Neil, when we were both working about a hundred hours a week in a fish cannery in southeastern Alaska. When the salmon slowed down and we had some free time, we loved to explore the island’s beautiful scenery. I was always desperate for sun, but he liked to linger in the dark, damp parts of the forest-- looking for mushrooms. I thought this was completely weird at the time, but I’ve since been converted and we’ve found lots of mushrooms together. I love to eat them, but I also love how I experience nature more deeply, and perhaps in the way that human beings are meant to experience nature, when I'm intent on finding something out in the wild. The forest floor leaps into detail you don’t ordinarily see unless you’re looking for just the kind of moss and pine needles that chanterelles seem to prefer.

We harvested these on private property that belonged to a friend, so we were allowed to get this many.Morel season is happening on Mount Hood right now, people! Please be safe-- some mushrooms are deadly. It’s best to start with an experienced mushroom-hunter. But if you’re ready to do some research of your own, check out this list of books recommended by my husband. Neil has thoroughly investigated the library’s collection, so I thought I’d share the fruits of his research with you.

 

I loved the 2013 novel Life After Life, which told the story-- stories-- of Ursula Todd and all the lives she might have had, many of which involved surviving the London Blitz. I was delighted this year to find that author Kate Atkinson has written A God in Ruins, a companion piece to Life After Life, which expands on the story of Teddy, Ursula's brother. I love this character, a man who survives real horror, and who, as the pilot of an RAF bomber plane, drops horror on countless others. After surviving when so many pilots have not, he decides that after the war, he must be kind. And he mostly succeeds in being kind to the people around him for the rest of his long life.

Author Kate Atkinson writes so beautifully that she makes me want to stop the endless stream of books flying at me and have myself a little Kate Atkinson festival. It's always so delicious to discover an author you love who's already written tons of books. Maybe I’ll do it. A God in Ruins is glorious, a book about flight, about the terrible cost of war in terms of lost lives, about the value of one single life, about time itself. The narrative skips backward and forward in time and tells stories from Teddy's life and from the lives of the people he loves. But then, within each story, you find yourself shooting backward in time and sometimes forward into the future, so all of that past and future informs the present. I kept thinking about time, how it changes us-- and sometimes can't change us one bit-- about how every moment can be affected by all the moments before-- and how, in our memory, those moments can be colored by everything that comes after, too.

I've read and watched a number of things lately in which time has been used to allow you to get to know the characters in deep and interesting ways. I loved Richard Linklater’s wonderful movie Boyhood, shot in twelve consecutive summers. And then I happened to come across Here, a fascinating new graphic novel set entirely in a corner of a single living room over years and years. It became apparent that I needed to make a list of books and movies in which time plays its very important part, and you can find that list right here

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