Books Read in July 2022

Picture Books

The Every Baby Book
Frann Preston-Gannon
Read for Librarian Book Group

A day in the life of babies and the the families they live in. Provides a wide example of many types of families.

Because of You, John Lewis
Andrea Davis Pinkney and Keith Henry Brown
Read for Librarian Book Group

A short picture book that shows the connection between Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and Tybre, who is growing up in the time of Black Lives Matter

My Parents Won’t Stop Talking
Emma Hunsinger , Tillie Walden
Read for Librarian Book Group

I was initially put off by the faces, but the story of the many stages of waiting won me over in the end. Great representation including two moms, a mixed-race family, and hippie pants.

Every Dog in the Neighborhood
Stead and Cordell
Read for Librarian Book Group

There’s a turn at the end that elevates this from a charming census of neighborhood dogs to a more poignant story. The background story with grandma was also fun.

Luli and the Language of Tea
Wang and Yum
Read for Librarian Book Group

Tea is the unifier in a childcare setting with children from many nationalities. This book includes pronunciation guides both for what tea is called in various languages and also pronunciation guides for the children’s names. As someone who wants to pronounce things correctly, this was important.

The World Belonged to Us
Jacqueline Woodson, Leo Espinosa
Read for Librarian Book Group 

This isn’t the first time Woodson has written eloquently about her childhood neighborhood (and hopefully it won’t be the last). This captures the freedom of summer in a universal way. I didn’t grow up with summers like Woodson, but I could certainly relate.

The spiritual twin of this book is the opening to Spike Lee’s Crooklyn. It contains a montage of most of the same things we see in this book. The movie is also good, but that opening is summer gold.

Middle Grade

Swim Team
Johnnie Christmas
Read for Librarian Book Group

When Bree moves from New York City to Florida, her neighborhood middle school is named after the first Black woman to win an Olympic medal. Bree isn’t a swimmer. This is the story of how she becomes one. It also talks about the systemic racism that contributed to the reasons Bree was late coming to swimming.

As someone who started swimming before I could walk, I love a good swimming story, especially one that highlights why People of Color don’t have the same experience I did.

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster
Matt Phelan

A reread after watching a bunch of Buster Keaton films. I would have liked Keaton’s story to be the center, but this is a nice side way into Keaton and his style.

Little Monarchs
Jonathan Case
Read for Librarian Book Group

A hopeful dystopian story of a younger girl and her found-family aunt trying to find a vaccine for the sun poisoning that killed most mammals and drove the handful of remaining humans underground for fifty years. It’s fascinating on many levels—beginning with the Pacific City, Oregon, setting and including monarchs and world building. Weighty, but not depressing.

Young Adult

I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Casey McQuiston
Read for Librarian Book Group

For most of the book, this very long book is a cross between Paper Towns, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and that YA book set in DC where the girl uncovers a particular kind of scandal. It does forge a good path examining how a K-12 evangelical-based education can wreck havoc on sexual identity. It’s too bad it had to borrow from so many other stories in order to do so.

Button Pusher
Tyler Page
Read for Librarian Book Group

This graphic novel explores Perry’s experiences growing up with ADHD. It takes some graphically illustrated brain science tangents, too. I would have liked those tangents to not be so squished onto a two-page spreads.

Mostly, I came away astounded at what a jerk Perry’s dad was. It was well established that his father was living the ramifications of untreated ADHD, but when his rages affect three other people, my sympathy wanes.

Katharine McGee

So very well plotted! It’s hard to juggle four characters (even in a third book in a series) and keep things moving along. Great development of Daphne and Nina and an ending that had me wishing the next book was already here.

A Year to the Day
Robin Benway

A very interesting concept that ultimately didn’t work for me. Telling the story in reverse order meant that I hadn’t built the emotional connection to the events that I was reading about and thus was left puzzling things together. This turned into an exercise of me guessing what the next chapter would focus on. I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the movie Memento (essentially the same concept, but with a mystery, not a dead sister) totally works with this device. I came to the conclusion that in the movie, we are learning along with the character, who can’t remember things for more than a few minutes. This story feels like hearing the end of the story before the stage has really been set.

While I found this to be a swing and a miss, I appreciate the swing. And it would have been a great dead sister story if presented in chronological order. So maybe read it backwards?

No One Is Alone
Rachel Vincent

Michaela loses her mother abruptly and also learns that her father isn’t a perpetual bachelor, but that she is his love child who has been hidden from how family that includes a wife and three children. Integrating with her new family is hard, but in a way that no one is actually the villain. Great family dynamics, plus a spring musical performance of Into the Woods.

Lamar Giles

Both a mystery with an up-and-coming DJ found dead and a slow burn friendship of the two young women who try to find the murderer. Very nicely done, Mr. Giles!

My Name is Jason. Mine too.: Our Story. Our Way.
Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

Art (written and visual) made by the two Jasons who were roommates in New York City when they were younger. I enjoyed reading this and am glad they have found recognition for their work. It’s not super memorable otherwise.

Private Label
Kelly Yang

A solid duel narrator story of two kids finding their way in a rich California beach community. One is an American-born daughter of an up-and-coming designer mother born in China, the other is a recent immigrant. Yang has really great child/parent scenes and what seems to me a very optimistic view of stage 4 cancer.

Grownup Fiction

The Tangleroot Palace
Marjorie Liu

Eight short stories by Liu that demonstrate her creative imagination, strength with word choice, and expose her deep distrust of forests.

Young Nonfiction

Call Me Miss Hamilton
Carole Boston Weatherford and Jeffrey Boston Weatherford
Read for Librarian Book Group

It took a Supreme Court case to affirm that all people in court should be addressed by their honorifics. Thanks systemic racism. Here’s the woman behind that story.

I enjoyed the scratchboard illustrations backed with photos. The story itself left me wondering about Miss Hamilton’s life. The text mentions that she went to collage, but that information doesn’t appear on the time line. It may be that they don’t have that information, but even adding that a fact is unknown is helpful.

Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild
Jacqueline Briggs Martin, June Jo Lee, and Julie Wilson
Read for Librarian Book Group

An intro to the man who brought fermentation into US mainstream in the early aughts.

Solitary Animals: Introverts of the Wild
Joshua David Stein and Dominique Ramsey
Read for Librarian Book Group

I feel a bit iffy about applying a human label, introvert, to animals. Also, the illustrations depict an eagle looking at an octopus, a panther, and a sloth at the same time and I don’t think that’s possible. I found myself wondering if this was a complete list of solitary animals. I suspect not.

The Tide Pool Waits
Candace Fleming and Amy Hevron
Read for Librarian Book Group

Detailed information in picture book form about life in tidepools. I wish the words had been matched with an illustrator who painted clear pictures.

How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps
Pamela S. Turner, John Gurche
Read for Librarian Book Group

Turner clearly maps out seven evolutionary steps to get us to humans. This is backed with a solid array of photos and illustrations.

Murder Among Friends
Candace Fleming
Read for Librarian Book Group

Fleming takes us along with Leopold and Loeb as they plot to murder and collect a ransom on a boy in their neighborhood. The book covers the sentencing phase and contains the many details Fleming is famous for.

I was interested to note that Fleming regularly used the term “teenagers” to describe Leopold and Lobe given that we know that white males who are 18 and 19 are often called “teenagers” while male people of color the same age are routinely characterized as “men.” I’m curious if Fleming put thought into using this word. Leopold and Lobe were still teenagers, but did that change the way readers saw them? If Leopold and Lobe were Black, would we still be calling them teenagers.

Out of the Shadows: How Lotte Reiniger Made the First Animated Fairytale Movie
Fiona Robinson
Read for Librarian Book Group

Illustrations and text work together seamlessly to show the creation of one of the first animated films and the woman who created it.

The Whale Who Swam Through Time
Alex Boersma and Nick Pyenson
Read for Librarian Book Group

I find most stories about whales are a complete bummer because there’s either the whaling industry to contend with or climate change. This one was no different. But I did learned about this long-lived species of whale.

Grownup Nonfiction

Radically Content: Being Satisfied in an Endlessly Dissatisfied World
Jamie Varon

Varon makes the case that being happy is a revolutionary act. Most of the advice consists of making your own way, rather than measuring yourself against others.

In-Portland Vacation Meal No. 1: Firehouse Restaurant

Because we had a big and very fancy vacation in March, we opted to stay in Portland for our August vacation and go out to eat at the restaurants we’ve been wanting to try. First up: The Firehouse Restaurant.

I’d heard good things, but even with that background info, the quality of the vegetable sides blew me away. We ordered roasted carrots, fried cauliflower, and a beet salad and all were some of the best sides I’d eaten in a very long time. We ate them right up, as you can see by the empty dishes. The mushroom pizza was also delicious.

It was also a very hot day, but sitting on the patio, we had a very nice breeze.

Thanks, Fireside, for getting our vacation off to a great start.

Year of Stitch Sampler No. 5: Cleave Ever

I loved this #Yearofstitch sampler. The stitches this time: raised fishbone, lazy daisy, triple lazy daisy, figure eight knot, buttonhole wheel, woven wheel. Figure eight knots and fishbone stitch were new to me. I’m quite pleased at how things turned out. This one is getting framed!

I chose to use a quote from my stack of 3×5 cards of quotes I’ve collected over the years. When I went to write up an Instagram post, I googled to find out who said it and found that I had written it down wrong. Alfred, Lord Tennyson actually said, Cleave every to the sunnIER side of doubt. I was so very close.

I was glad the padded fishbone stitch worked. Shannon had a few tips that kept me on track. And I love figure eight knots. I think they look better than French knots.

This wasn’t my first woven wheel, but it was the biggest. That’s two skiens of black floss you are looking at there, just in that woven wheel. And I stopped a little earlier than I should have. I added one of those leaves to cover up that a few bits of the woven wheel framework that was still showing.

As with the other four #Yearofstitch samplers from Badass Cross stitch, this was incredibly fun.

JAW New Play Festival

After several years of thinking I would attend Portland Center Stage’s JAW New Play Festival, I finally went! Matt came too. It was a date. And a very cheap one as all the plays are free. We did buy cookies. I like PCS’s cookies. So that was $2.00. And we paid for parking. But a date for less than $5.00 is a win!

Also a win? The performance we picked to attend. It was very fun to see Larry Owens’s three different untitled things. One of them was the start of a play about a Black royal family that I would love to see a full production of.

By the time we signed up for our free tickets, they only had seating in the upstairs simulcast space. But I asked and the box office lady said to ask the house manager after all the ticket holders were seated. We didn’t have to even ask. We just hovered along with several other people. When the house manager said, Are you all standby? we said yes and we all got seats. That’s the win about free tickets. A lot of people don’t show up.

We also inadvertently sat next to the artistic director. That was handy because artistic directors tend to know when to clap.

Coming Prepared to Cinema 21

I’ve been attending Cinema 21’s Seven from the 70s series. It plays at 11:00 on Saturday morning and that is a perfect time for me. And for the various other gray-haired people who are perhaps revisiting the movies of their younger years.

This woman came prepared to wait for Paper Moon to start. And she brought her own book light.

I’ve done my fair share of reading before movies start. For a long time I could just tilt the book toward the screen and be fine. Now I need the assistance of my phone’s flashlight.

Two Cats

Back when we were a single-cat household, Sentinel gave me all the signs that we should be a two-cat household. He cried to go out every time he saw a cat outside—and it was, I want to be friends! not, I want to kill that cat. When my aunt’s cat came to stay while she was on vacation, they got along well.

And so a year later we brought Antares home and ever sense I have wondered off and on what kind of mixed signals Sentinel was giving me. Because Sentinel, now that we are a two-cat household, doesn’t really seem to be into sharing space with Antares. You can see here his foot placement. It’s more Go away! than Hooray!

He puts up with it, because he’s that kind of go-with-the-flow cat. But it’s usually Antares who wants to do social grooming and Antares who wants to sleep curled up together.

Maybe Sentinel just wanted to be the kind of cat who made the rounds and stared at all the other neighborhood cats until it was time to come home to his own place? Regardless, they’ve been living together for 13 years now, and I’m guessing it will be Antares who next experiences the single cat life. I wonder how that will be for him?