Books Read in July 2020

Picture Books

An Ordinary Day
Elena K. Arnold
Read for Librarian Book Group

One street, two kids playing, two houses, two visitors, and Magnificent the Crow continuing her declarations about everything. This is how picture books are done!

My Best Friend
Julie Fogliano & Jillian Tamaki
Read for Librarian Book Group

There are poeple who don’t mind all lowercase text, but I am not one of them. Especially in picture books.

Outweighing my the lack of punctuation are the great illustrations. I loved the panel of turning leaves into skeleton hands.

The Paper Kingdom
Elena Ku Rhee & Pascal Campion
Read for Librarian Book Group

Daniel’s parents are night janitors. One night he must accompany them to work. Gorgeous illustrations and a story about people who often don’t get to tell their stories.

Snail Crossing
Cory R. Tabor
Read for Librarian Book Group

Snail is cabbage bound and nothing will get in his way. Or so he thinks.

This book is funny.

Chapter Books

Planet Omar, Accidental Trouble Magnet
Zanib Mian & Nasaya Maffaridik
Read for Librarian Book Group

The style of big illustrated words among normal text took some getting used to, but I enjoyed this hybrid graphic novel format. Maybe we can call it text with extra pop?

The experiences with the neighbor felt spot on. The book was called “The Muslims” in Britain. I hope books like this will help the US move through the stage of giving suspicious glances to our Muslim neighbors.

Young Adult

Girl Unframed
Deb Caletti
Read for Librarian Book Group

There have been a smattering of books in the past few years touching on the point when a girl’s body starts attracting the attention of the general public—that changeover from being a girl to being an object.

This book is about that, and is more complicated than most because Sydney’s mother is a fading actress known for her body. Thanks to Caletti’s talent this book is full of uncomfortable (yet so familiar) situations, some fine art analysis, and a good love story.

Go with the Flow
Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
Read for Librarian Book Group

Four friends work to change their high school’s practice of not stocking the feminine hygiene dispensers as well as to talk more about periods. The graphic novel’s color palette is marvelous and there are good observations about differing needs among friends.

Six Feet Over It
Jennifer Longo

While we can all agree that abusive parents are terrible, I also find parents who check out of their parental duties to be harmful to the health of children and adolescents. Two such parents populate this novel.

I’m always interested in the stories of teenagers who take on adult responsibilities too early as Leigh has. She’s been put to work selling grave sites at the cemetery her father has purchased on a whim. The Pre-Need people are okay. The At-Need Customers are a lot for a fifteen-year-old to take on. She’s also mourning the loss of her town, her friend, and keeping all of this all under wraps because of her older sister’s illness.

Calling My Name
Liara Tamani

Sometimes books aren’t anchored around a plot, but move through a period of a character’s life. This is the story of Taja from about age eleven to eighteen. It’s about faith and changed beliefs and love and finding what’s good for you, rather than what you should do.

Story of a Girl
Sara Zarr

Zarr is great at capturing dysfunctional family life as with Deanna, who was caught by her father at age 13 having sex with her older brother’s friend. She’s had the label of school slut ever since, and her father still can’t look at her, three years later.

What was interesting was the day-to-day of living with that label. Deanna has plans for escape, but they depend on her job and her older brother.

This was a good read that ended abruptly.

Sara Zarr

Oh man, the food feelings! No book has ever captured them as well as this one.

Also, if food feelings aren’t your thing (or you have no idea what I’m talking about) there’s a great friendship that starts in elementary school but is cut off abruptly.

As always with Zarr, the parents just aren’t quite plugged in.

What We Lost
Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr’s examination of imperfect parents continues with Samara’s dad, a pastor who has no time for his wife and child. Plus, her mom’s in rehab.

When an acquaintance goes missing and is believed to be lost, Sam feels lost. There are a lot of good levels of uncomfortable in this book.

The Best Laid Plans
Cameron Lund

I love a punny title and this one is a winner! I also love books about virginity and its loss. I didn’t love that I predicted every plot turn of this novel.

Being Toffee
Sarah Crosson

In this novel in verse, Allison runs away and ends up living with Marla, a woman living with dementia, who thinks Allison is Toffee, a woman from her growing-up years.

It was unsatisfying to not find out more about Marla’s life and who Toffee was, but this was probably realistic.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye
Cynthia Hand

Oh suicide. How your effects ripple through the world.

Lex is finishing her senior year and still grieving her brother’s death. Cynthia Hand hits all the feelings.

Between this and the How and the Why, I’m completely on board with anything Cynthia Hand writes. (I was already on board for her collaboration that has resulted in the Janey books.)

Since You Asked
Maureen Goo

Spend a year with Holly Kim, copyeditor of her school’s newspaper. The September-to-June format threw off my three-act pacing feel, and I found it had some miscues at some points.

But for hanging out with a sophomore girl find her way, it’s a solid book.

Grownup Fiction

Standard Deviation
Katherine Heining

We take the temperature of a marriage that’s perhaps in its middle age. Graham is pondering his role as father to Matthew, husband to Audra and ex-husband to Elspeth.

This was one of the most amusing books I’ve read in a long time, thanks to Graham’s observations of his wife’s verbal vomit and his musings about life.

I came by this novel because I emailed the library asking for reading suggestions. I told them 10 grownup fiction books I’d liked over the last few years and within a day I got a list of books that were on the shelves at my library and suited to my tastes. If you haven’t taken advantage of your local library’s wealth of knowledge, please do not hesitate to contact them.

Young People’s Nonfiction

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera
Candice Fleming & Eric Rohman

We travel with Apis as she is born and carries out her honeybee duties.

Gorgeous illustrations and an engaging narrative. Note that the back matter encourages people to “..write your congressman and senators…” I was surprised this gender-specific and inaccurate description of someone serving in the US Congress made it through the various rounds of editing. Currently, there are 101 women and 4 territorial representatives serving.

Grownup Nonfiction

The Middle Finger Project
Ash Ambrige

Ash wants you to find your thing and she will tell you how she did it, and made tons of money.

This was inspiring and GREAT unemployment/pandemic reading.

If you are starting your creative business and you want more Ash, she has a 25-day email series that is top-notch and free.

The Police Union Building

Among the things I’ve learned in 2020? That the nondescript building not far from my house is the headquarters of the Portland Police Union. How do I know this? Because it’s become a regular site for nightly protests in my neighborhood.

Though I’m close enough to walk to this corner in ten-ish minutes, I don’t ever hear the protests, or smell the tear gas. But sometimes on my morning walks I see the remnants of the previous night’s protest.

I think the fastest way for the police to end the protests is to stop acting aggressively when faced with people protesting that the police are too aggressive.

Another thing I learned in 2020? A lot of times (especially this summer) when police declare a protest a riot it means they want everyone to go home.

Midsummer Trip to the Grotto

I needed an afternoon off, so I rode my bike to the Grotto, where I passed a very peaceful couple of hours. Some things I saw:

This statue, which I only took a picture of because Matt’s brother is named Thad.

This great brass casting.

The difference between the stones in the labyrinth. The lighter ones are the path, the darker ones are the lines.

One of My Favorites on the Block

It’s the development notice sign. Which means it’s time to get out the camera and take a picture of something that soon will cease to be.

When I first moved to Portland, someone pointed out how Portland had so many little apartment complexes, ones like this that are single story and have both parking and greenery. I always thought I would live in one someday. But I’d better act fast, because they are being replaced by taller structures with no parking and little greenery.

This complex has been one of my favorites. I’ve featured it before. In the picture above, you can see (if you squint) where several paint colors were sampled. Those paint samples have been there for years.

I’m worried for this tenant. She always has a ton of potted flowers. I’m guessing she will have to relocate when they start building the new place and I hope her next place has opportunities to grow things.

The plus of the coming demolition is that this new complex will be affordable housing located very near a Max station and a Fred Meyer. But I will miss this little spot. And I don’t look forward to a year of walking in the bike lane after they fence off the sidewalk.

On Your Mark, Get Out of Town, Go!

After several months of quarantining, I wanted a day trip. So Matt and I drove to Long Beach, Washington (I’d never been) for a quick day trip.

On the way, we stopped to take in the view and I found this graffiti. I googled “country bike tour 2009” and came up with this website, which probably has nothing to do with these vandals, but was fun to read about.

Look at that sun! Enjoy it now. Also, do enjoy the lovely Rolling Rock litter.

There’s that bridge that heads over to Washington. I’m not sure if I’ve ever crossed it. Today is not the day, though.

The first of many self portraits. Two pair of sunglasses, one mask.

And now we’re in Long Beach. The sun disappeared just as we got close to this lovely tourist town.

Two masks, one pair of sunglasses.

We walked down to get a picture of the crowds. I’m guessing this was a small fraction of the usual number of people here on a July Saturday. Then we walked the boardwalk, which I have no pictures of, but which surprised me by being very far away from both the ocean and the main strip.

Matt says hello from the world’s largest pair of chopsticks. One mask, one pair sunglasses.

After we walked the length of the main drag, we bought fish and chips and found a picnic table. One sunglasses, no mask.

Then we walked back across the boardwalk and drove home. But not before taking one more picture. Two masks, one pair of sunglasses.

Out and About in North Portland

This is my first time walking on this sidewalk. Prior to this building being built, I had no reason to walk on this side of the street as it was fenced off, and maybe it didn’t have a sidewalk? But now the corner of N. Interstate and N. Argyle Street has a huge affordable housing complex, which I’m quite happy to see. And the sidewalk is great for walking on.

This house has been one of my favorites. It’s just down the street, anchoring N. Watts, right before the street loops and turns into N. Minnesota for one short block. When I first moved to the neighborhood, I’d guess that the house was owned by an older couple. They did a great job keeping it tidy, and they planted a garden in the empty adjacent lot every spring.

The house has been sold and the new owners aren’t as fastidious. [Checks Portland Maps] As I suspected, it’s owned by the Gates Family Trust, and the address is out of state. So it’s a rental. They’ve also sectioned off the lot next door, which sold for $74,900 in 2015. The owners of the lot aren’t fastidious at all, nor do they plant a vegetable garden. Instead, they seem to apply pesticides to kill the weeds now and then.

The sale of this section of land had me crossing the little green house off my list of next places to potentially live. I wouldn’t want to move in and then immediately have all my light blocked by new construction.