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Friday, May 24, 2013

Hi.  This is Wendy here from Portland Library.  I have never blogged before, but here goes.  I guess I will start off by saying a little bit about me.  Since I work in a library one of the most important things I should tell you is what I enjoy reading.  First, I must say the Harry Potter books are the best books ever written and if you haven't read them you should.  Some other series I have really enjoyed are Twilight by Stephanie Myers, The Vampire Academy and Bloodlines by Richelle Mead.  I also enjoy a good romance; Nora Roberts is one of my favorites since she has some great romances involving vampires, witches, and other fantasy beings and what is romance if not a fantasy. ;)  Actually, I pretty much mostly read romances of some kind.  Right now I'm reading Fifty Shades of Gray and, call me crazy, but I think it is actually really romantic if you look past the fact that Christian has a few issues.  I was pleasantly surprised that it actually has a interesting plot.  If you can't tell I typically like bestsellers, but hey they are bestsellers for a reason, right? Hunger Games was also a pretty good series but honestly I preferred the book one over the other two. Okay enough on what I like to read.  Here is a shocker I also like to write.  Right now I'm working on a young adult fantasy.  I attend a writing group held here at the library every Wednesday at 10 a.m. I really enjoy it.  We work on different types of writing, enter contests, and have a lot of fun. I also do programs in the children's department and a story time once a week.  Well I guess that's about it for now.  I'll try to blog again soon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We do more than shush

I feel like it can never be stressed enough that libraries (and librarians by association) are more than just book depositories and free internet. We offer information and services you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Essentially, we are information kiosks for entire cities. You could come to or all your local library and ask us almost anything. Need to find the post office? How to create a resume? I've even fielded calls asking where the best place in Portland is to go sledding. As a library, this is something anyone can take advantage of. That's what were here for; information.

But we offer so much more in services. We hold the history of Portland's newspaper going back more than 200 year. We are an easy to find source of tax forms. We offer rooms for public use for anything from girl scout meetings to counseling. We do more that just do community service, we technically are a community service. 

Today, I had a gentlemen com in who lives next door to our library. He is legally blind but that doesn't stop him. He had been behind our library the night before, fishing. He had stayed out too long and it had gotten dark, making it even harder for him to see. He had ended up off of what little beaten path there is in the dense foliage behind our library, and ended up falling and could not find his fishing pole. He told me it was valuable, whether he meant monetarily or sentimentally, it doesn't matter. Well, he couldn't find it with it being dark and his lack of vision and wanted me to keep a look out of anyone mentioned it, but he said his son would go look for it when he got home from school. It was only 10 in the morning, so it was going to be a while. I did him one better and offered to go find it for him. He and I went behind the building and after about 5 minutes or more of searching through the wet overgrowth, I was able to find it, alas, without its fly attached. He thanked me, knowing that I went out of my way to help him find something that in no way really concerned our library or my job. 

That above is an example of how libraries can provide services and help that isn't exactly listed anywhere. Librarians, yes, aren't fighting fires, stopping large amounts of crime, or rescuing the injured on a regular basis but we provide the information and facilities to further those people that want to spend their futures doing just that. 

So we aren't just free wi-fi, free movies, free music, free books. We're information attendants, guides, a workspace, a community hub and outreach center. We do more than shush.

Monday, May 20, 2013


On Saturday we had a fiesta in the children's area. Yes, I know that Cinco de Mayo was two weeks ago, but is there ever a wrong time for pinatas and Mexican food? Well, it turns out that the day of the city block party is not the best time to schedule a party of any kind at the library. Even though there was not a huge number of kids at the fiesta, the ones in attendance seemed to have a blast.

The children's area was decked out with papel picado, cut out fiesta pictures, books about Mexico and by Mexican authors, and tissue paper dahlias (Mexico's national flower). The fiesta ambiance was completed with an interloaned cd of Mexican music.

The kids snacked on sopapillas drizzled with chocolate syrup and sombrero cookies.

The sombrero cookies were not exactly a traditional Mexican treat, but they were so cute. I was going to bake sugar cookies for the brim, but then my husband suggested using vanilla wafers. I knew that I married him for a reason! It saved me so much time and the kids (and their parents) loved them.

Now no fiesta would be complete without a pinata, but last time we tried a pinata at the library it was a bit of fiasco. The library really has nowhere to hang a pinata so we resorted to two teenage boys holding the pinata on a poll. Luckily neither of the boys got whacked with a stick, but the pinata did get broken by the second kid in line. With twenty kids still waiting for a turn, it was a bit of a disappointment.

Luckily I found an adorable idea on pinterest for kids to decorate their own personal pinatas to take home. I filled up paper bags with candy, stickers, erasers, etc. and attached a long loop of string to each one. The kids got to decorate their pinata with multicolored strips and squares of tissue paper. It was such an easy craft, but so much fun! In addition to the personal pinatas and a couple of other crafts, the kids played Limbo, which is always a hoot to watch.

As usual, I took my camera and then forgot to take any pictures at the party. I did snap some pictures of my youngest son breaking open his pinata at home so I thought that I would post a couple of those. Please excuse my in-desperate-need-of-mowing grass. As you can see, it is always a good idea to have a wooden sword on hand just in case you need to bust open a pinata.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Best Literary Mamas

I feel guilty admitting that my ideal Mother's Day would probably involve my husband taking my kids away for the whole day too. In honor of the holiday I have shared a few of my favorite literary mamas.

I do not think that any mother can compare with Marmee from Little Women. In Lousia May Alcott's preeminent novel Margaret (Marmee) March flouts 19th century convention by encouraging her daughters to further their educations, pursue their talents and passions, and marry for love rather than money "...but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”  Despite their poverty, the March family abounds with love and happiness and this is greatly due to Marmee's kindness, patience, and wisdom.

 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is one my favorite novels. Now Katie Nolan may not seem like an ideal mother; she openly admits to preferring her son, Neely, over her daughter, Francie and she frequently comes across as cold, unloving, and harsh. Behind Katie's austere demeanor, however, is a fierce devotion to her children. She was forced to sacrifice her own joy and dreams to insure her children's survival; and when Francie is in danger, Katie is there to save her.

If you ever get the chance I also recommend watching the movie version. I usually do not like movie adaptations of books, but I am a total sucker for oldies in black and white.  Dorothy McGuire plays Katie and she is such a wonderful actress. Also the young actress (Peggy Ann Garner) who plays Francie is simply amazing; she is exactly how I imagined Francie when I was reading the book.

 I think that is impossible to read the Harry Potter novels without falling completely in love with the Weasley family. The pleasantly plump, red-headed family matriarch, Molly Weasley, is so loving and funny you cannot help wishing you were one of the Weasley children living in the ramshackle Burrow. Molly may be scatterbrained at times, but she is also a talented and powerful witch that will do anything to protect those she loves (just ask Bellatrix Lestrange).


As a child I loved the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. Ramona and Her Mother came out in 1979 and it explored Ramona's relationship with her loving and exasperated mother, Dorothy Quimby. Like Ramona, I have an older sister so I can understand Ramona's jealousy when she thinks that her mother loves Beezus more. Now that I am a mother of three, I can empathize a bit more with Mrs. Quimby and how you can love all of your children equally, but as individuals.  I really love that the Ramona books represent a real family; with parents that sometimes argue and moms that get annoyed and occasionally yell. In the end, though, the Quimbys are a close and affectionate family and Ramona learns that her mother needs both "her Beezus" and "her Ramona".

Since I work primarily with children's books I do not have much time for reading new releases in the adult section. One newer book that I did get a chance to read, though, was Room by Emma Donaghue and I was blown away.  The book is told from the perspective of five year old jack and Donaghue does a spectacular job of capturing the voice and mindset of a little boy. The premise of this book is quite apropos considering the current headlines coming out of Ohio. Jack has spent the entirety of his life in one room with his Ma as his only companion. Abducted and held captive since she was 19, Jack's Ma manages to raise the son sired by her captor with love, creativity, and intelligence. When the two finally escape it is a long and arduous journey to assimilate into the world outside of Room. When I was reading this book I was amazed at Ma's ingenuity and the things she was able to come up with to teach and entertain her young son in such a limited and confined environment. Ma also manages to protect her son from her captor and conceive of plan to facilitate escape. Room is a truly inspiring story of a mother devoted to her child.

I hesitate to put Gertie Nevels on this list, because Harriette Arnow's The Dollmaker is one of the saddest books that I have ever read. However, it is also one of the most moving books that I have ever read and Gertie Nevels is such a strong and sympathetic character. The Dollmaker takes place during the 1940s and chronicles the heartbreaking story of the Nevels family. Gertie Nevels  gives into societal pressure to follow her husband from her beloved home in rural Kentucky to the gritty streets of Detroit. The Nevels do not find happiness and prosperity in Detroit as the family is plagued by hardship and tragedy. Throughout it all Gertie remains hopeful and stalwart.

A list of literary mothers would not be complete without Laura Ingalls' Ma, Caroline. Even though she is not as exuberant or garrulous as Charles (Pa) Ingalls, Caroline is the true strength behind the Ingalls family. Always patient, hardworking, and calm Caroline does so much more than clean and cook. Most importantly she insures that her children are being educated whether they are traveling across the country in a covered wagon or living in a log cabin hundreds of miles from anyone.

There are hundreds of great literary mothers, so please let me know which ones I missed. I only mentioned "good" moms so maybe next time I will start a list of best "bad" moms. If you are a busy mom I hope that you are able to snatch some free time for yourself to read.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

New in the Short Stacks

Since I am responsible for ordering the Juvenile Fiction (JF) books I thought that I would take a few moments to share some of the fun, new selections in the short stacks.

I confess that I was first drawn to this new series, because the spiky-haired hero looks so much like my youngest son, Zane. However, after reading the reviews I believe that these spacey, illustrated books are perfect for kids just beginning to read chapter books.  Both Kirkus and Publishers weekly compare Galaxy Zack to the Jetsons, and who doesn't love them? Readers will feel Zack's pain when he is forced to leave his friends and home on Earth, and they will delight in all of the gadgetry and zaniness he encounters on his new home planet, Nebulon.

 Zane and I have already read book one together, and he cannot wait to check out book two, Journey to Juno.  Four more titles in the series will be released over the summer.

I'm going to stick with humor and tell you about another illustrated chapter book series, Ninja Meerkats. This series immediately caught my attention because the title is so ludicrous (especially the "Small. Furry. Deadly." at the top of each cover). The giggles just kept coming when I read that the four members of the Clan of the Scorpion are named Jet Flashfeet, Chuck Cobracrusher,  Donnie Dragonjab, and Bruce Willowhammer.

Now I am a child of the eighties so I grew up watching and playing with Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. I have no qualms saying I that I love Gareth P. Jones furry, little warriors infinitely more than Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael.  Kirkus Reviews calls this series "fast, funny, and charming". Kids of all ages will get a kick (hurray, I got to work in a pun) out of these quick and hilarious books.

I have been eagerly awaiting the next adventure of Egg (short for Egbert) and his more than slightly deranged friend, Guts. Deadweather and Sunrise is jam packed with dastardly pirates, ancient treasures, conniving villains, and even a touch of romance.

Rick Riordan, author of The Lightning Thief series, says that Deadweather and Sunrise "is a rip-roaring debut. It is Lemony Snicket meets Pirates of the Caribbean, with a sprinkling of Tom Sawyer for good measure." I could not agree more and  I am sure that the Geoff Rodkey's second Chronicle of Egg book, New Lands, will be another rollicking adventure.

Yes, another Nancy Drew reboot, but this one looks promising and it is to sure introduce America's favorite girl detective to a whole new generation. According to Simon & Schuster, the Nancy Drew Diaries is more reminiscent of the original series with Nancy, George, and Bess using their wits and sleuthing skills to unravel mysteries.

The cover art will definitely attract young girls and I love that Nancy and her friends rely on their intelligence rather than cell phones and lap tops.

Two more new books that feature a girl protagonist are My Life in Pink & Green and My Summer in Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald. Both of these have received star reviews and tween girls will have no trouble identifying with the sweet and intrepid heroine.

The once popular pharmacy owned by Lucy Desberg's family is facing foreclosure and the twelve-year-old problem solver launches a campaign to save it.  With determination and an extensive knowledge of beauty products, Lucy is able to transform the pharmacy into a successful "green" spa. Girly girls will enjoy the beauty tips and make-over stories, but at heart these are books about loving and supporting your family and community.

This series has been requested several times so our patrons will be happy to learn that PDL now has all five of the Emily Windsnap books. For girls that have outgrown the Rainbow Magic Fairies, but still want something fun and magical this series is perfect.

In the series opener Emily Windsnap is shocked to learn that she is half-mermaid. So begins her journey into a magical undersea world to discover her father. Subsequent adventures in the series feature Emily waking a Kraken, going on missions for King Neptune, and battling ancient sea curses.

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes talking with me about books is going to learn that I adore Roald Dahl. In fact, I more than adore him. In my my mind the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda (my personal favorite), The BFG, etc. is the unrivaled king of children's literature.

The title and the setting of an abandoned chocolate shop along with quirky characters and that distinctively British humor all pay homage to Dahl. However, this book also contains the fantastical world of Harry Potter and the action of James Bond.

Fantasy lovers of all ages are in for some scrumdiddlyumptious fun when they read The Whizz Pop Chocoalte Shop!

There are so many outstanding new books and if I had more time I would describe them all. Hopefully, a trip to PDL is in your near future so you can check some of them out.