Books read in December 2019

Picture Books

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
William Steig

Picture books in the late 1960s had so many words!

Sylvester learns to be careful what you wish for.

Freedom Soup
Tami Charles & Jacqueline Alcántara
Read for Librarian Book Group

Belle Learns how to make Freedom Soup, and I have a new New Year’s Day activity to try. Great illustrations.

What Color is Night?
Grant Snider
Read for Librarian Book Group

Grant Snider is an orthodontist by day, but during the early morning hours he wrote an illustrated this look at colors on display when the sun isn’t up. As a person who is up long before the sun for many months of the year, this resonated with me.

I enjoyed both the word usage and the illustrations.

Young Adult

Akweke Emez
Read for Librarian Book Group

It’s the future and everything is okay! No one lives in fear because all the monsters (drug abuse, child abuse, violence, etc.) have been vanquished.

But one day a creature appears saying there is still a monster to hunt.

The fable-like quality was distancing and one character’s large family was introduced in a jumble that was hard to follow. Still, the book has an interesting premise, was packed with all sorts of characters outside of the straight/white arena, and was very short, so I kept reading.

Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker
Read for Librarian Book Group

A witch & werewolf love story and mystery. Excellent blushing throughout.

The Downstairs Girl
Stacy Lee
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’ve missed a book since Under a Painted Sky, but I’ll have to loop back because Stacy Lee has got the historical fiction thing going on!

Atlanta, late 1800s and Jo Kuan has just lost her job at a millinery shop. I loved the historical details and reading historical fiction from a Chinese-American perspective. I figured out a few things before they happened, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this novel.

“The knowledge that the person to whom I am writing is also writing just one floor above me makes my shadow sit up straighter, and if shadows had smiles, I might see one reflected there.”

13 Doorways, Wolves Behind them All
Laura Ruby
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’m all about books set in orphanages, so that was a win. This book has two main characters, Frankie, the orphan and then also the ghost who checked in on Frankie and others.

Ultimately, while both of the characters’ stories were interesting, weaving them together diluted them and left me less interested in the book as a whole.

The stories didn’t seem to be building to anything even as they both were.

There were great period details and I liked all the characters, so it wasn’t for naught.

Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks
Read for Librarian Book Group

Despite many good experiences with graphic novels, I still approach them with a sigh. I have to look at pictures to find out what’s going on? I can’t just look at text?

However, this was a delightful graphic novel, from the map of the best pumpkin patch in the end papers to the zany last-day-of-work quest that happens within in the pages.

I’ve made a mental note to visit the Omaha area during pumpkin patch season. And I need to make some Frito Pie!

Ordinary Hazards
Nikki Grimes
Read for Librarian Book Group

A memoir in verse about Grimes’ harrowing childhood. I’m glad she made it through and we get the gift of her poems.

It’s also a good reminder to not write off abused and neglected children.

Fun fact: she gave herself the name Nikki.

American Girls
Alison Umminger

A re-read because I was in the mood for a subplot about hanging out on set with twin TV stars and because I love Alison Umminger’s writing so much!

I actually went looking to read her next book, but found she hasn’t yet published one. Hopefully something good is coming soon.

The Fountains of Silence
Ruta Sepetys
Read for Librarian Book Group

This time, Ruta Sepetys takes us to 1950s Spain, where Franco is the dictator. We get the story of David, who is from a wealthy Texas oil family, visiting Madrid with his family, and Ana, who works at the Madrid hotel where David is staying.

As always, Sepetys’s fiction is engrossing and all encompassing, and I felt like I was living in the steamy Madrid summer every time I picked up the book.

Like many people, I only have the barest hint of understanding of what Spain was like under Franco, so this book filled in a lot of gaps. Learning and a good story. That’s what makes Ruta Sepetys so great!

Young Nonfiction

The Women Who Caught the Babies
Eloise Greenfield & Daniel Minter
Read for Librarian Book Group

Some information about African American midwives kicks off the book followed by short poems with gorgeous illustrations.

The photos from the informative first part are from a publicly available documentary that looks interesting.

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace
Ashley Bryan
Read for Librarian Book Group

Ashley Bryan served in World War II with the 502nd Port Battalion which was a part of a Company C, comprised of all Blacks. He still has his letters home, and the sketches and drawings he made during the war.

Together, his memories of the war, the drawings and the sketches, and photographs tell his story of war, which included storming the beach on D-Day.

This is a great first-person account of World War II and should not be missed.

Grownup Nonfiction

Being Mortal
Atul Gawande

Most of us will experience declines in our health and well being before we die. Dr. Gawande thinks we should start talking about this. I agree.

This is a book that is engaging, both in subject matter and in writing style. Let’s start talking about end of life stuff more often. Start today.

Make Time
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

I’m a focused, productive person who likes to see how much more I can focus and be productive. I can see this method would work well for scattered people who would like to become more focused.

The section called Energy was a great addition. It’s always good to be reminded that we’re not just bodies to carry around our brains.

Pearl Bakery, RIP

The Pearl Bakery has closed.

My heart is sad. For nine years it provided me with sandwiches when I had no lunch, rolls with pats of butter when I had the hankering, and cookies when I needed a pick-me-up.

When I switched jobs and the Pearl Bakery was no longer in the same block, I still would wander down from time to time for a treat.

I loved their chocolate chip cookies, which had chunks of chocolate, bits of pecan (I usually don’t like nuts in my chocolate chip cookies) and orange flavor (I’m usually anti-fruit flavor in cookies) and were chewy and divine.

I have a current quest to make a chocolate shortbread as good as the Pearl Bakery’s. How can I complete this quest if I can’t continue to purchase a chocolate shortbread as a test case?

They had a black pepper and walnut bread that was amazing. I loved their multigrain rolls. Their roast beef and horseradish sandwich was delicious.

I will never eat any of those things again.

Their service was, well, not outstanding. I never felt like they wanted me to buy what they were selling. But what they were selling was so good, I didn’t mind.

One time, a parent gave a teacher a $200 gift certificate to the Pearl Bakery as a gift. (This was before we clamped down on that kind of giving.) I got a few free sandwiches when she treated me.

The Pearl Bakery was always a treat. I will miss them.

Best Photos 2019

Here’s this year’s retrospective.

Jim and Eileen waiting around before the Pride parade.

Sentinel reminding me that one of my duties is to feed him.

My seven a.m. trek to the Max. Only two other people had come before me.

Original hardware and glimpse of staircase at the AirBnB I stayed in when visiting Minneapolis. (Currently winning the award: City with the largest number of houses that leave me weak in the knees.)

Some chit-chat after SKS’s dissertation, with Barbie finding a nook to overlook the proceedings.

My favorite example of the mish-mash of change in Minneapolis. Foreground: 1950s-era basic building; middle ground, front: original house that makes me weak in the knees; middle ground back: newer office building; background: the prow of the new stadium.

The best picture I have of the hard work paying off, plus a reminder of how very good those cakes were.

My favorite People Taking Pictures photo of the year.

Sentinel enjoying the sun and fresh air on the back catio.

Our first visit to the Oregon Country Fair

My favorite representation of fair goers.

Baseball magic.

Redwoods magic.

My favorite performance this year: the Ukel Aliens at the Humboldt County Fair.

Best capture of how much fun making music together is.

4-H pig competition.

The best thing to come out of the endless building construction project of 2019.

My favorite Halloween costumes this year.

SKS Postcards from San Francisco

This postcard opens with “What do you think? When was this taken?”

Look at those white shorts and that hair! I agree with Sara’s call that this picture is from the 90s. She reports that everyone they’ve seen on the cable cars has had their phones out and on.

This next postcard is from the same day. It’s a very classic postcard message of what they were up to.

It sounds like a fun day of wandering, especially the de Young Sculpture garden.

But more importantly, this postcard marks the transition from postcard stamps being shells. Sara and I have both hated the shells and they seem to have been holding on as the postcard stamp for a much longer time than previous choices. Now we are into the tropical fish!

I’m not sure, but she may have bought a roll of 100 postcard stamps just to avoid another round of shells.

Plaque: Gunter Ernst Car

Today I rode on Car 205, better known as the Gunter Ernst Car. This was the first car of this type that was delivered.

The Gunter Ernst Car is one of the Type 2 Max train cars, which, according to MAX FAQs “have a raised upper deck by each of the cabs, and the sideways-facing seats in the middle of the train (called the C-section, though it has nothing to do with babies) are slightly higher, presumably to have room for the wheels, brakes, and sanding tubes underneath.”

The Type 2 is my favorite of the Max train cars. I like to sit in the raised upper deck.

Crane Coming Down

Would you like to make dozens of people look up? Even while walking? If so, install, and then disassemble, a crane. Not only was I looking up while walking past this, so was everyone else I encountered.

Also, look at this! The wheels aren’t even on the ground! They are being held up by these hydraulic lifts that extend from the crane dissembler thing.

Also. This isn’t a fast process. When I walked by at before eight a.m. they had started and when I left at 4:30 they were still going.

Note from the future. When the quarantine happened in March, the street had still not been reopened. It was close, but hadn’t happened yet.