Books Read in January 2023

Picture books

A Seed Grows
Antoinette Portis
Read for Librarian Book Group

Few words and simple illustrations depict the seed cycle.

Endlessly Ever After
Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat
Read for Librarian Book Group

A bevy of fairy tales in one book. Aside from being a choose your own adventure, it also had a very fun rhyme scheme.

A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn
Patricia Newman and Natasha Donovan
Read for Librarian Book Group

Explores the birth and death of the dams on the Elwha river. Includes some good life cycles including salmon, and the dams themselves. Illustrations were technical and flowery—something that is hard to pull off.

Polar Bear
Candace Fleming, Eric Rohman
Read for Librarian Book Group

Hang out with a polar bear and her cubs during the cubs’ first year of life.

Love in the Library
Tokuda Hall Imama
Read for Librarian Book Group

Minidoka is the camp where the subjects of the book are incarcerated during World War II, and Tama is the camp librarian. I wasn’t sure if the picture book audience would be interested in a story of two people falling in love, but librarians have told me they are. The illustrations really compliment the time period.

Young Adult

Wake the Bones
Elizabeth Kilcoyne
Read for Librarian Book Group

It’s already a good book, what with the Kentucky-based tobacco farm setting and a local girl who dropped out of college and is interested in taxidermy. But then there’s all this weird stuff that makes it even better. Plus, the writing is outstanding. Such a great start to 2023 reading.

We Deserve Monuments
Jas Hammonds

A good take on the dying grandmother story. When her family moves to her mother’s hometown to take care of Avery’s dying grandmother, she learns more about her mother and why her grandmother has been so angry.

How to Excavate a Heart
Jake Maia Arlow

Figuring out how much time to allot to a relationship is tough! This is a good exploration of that learning curve. Plus, a DC setting and an internship.

Nine Liars
Maureen Johnson

Stevie and the crew head to London to visit David and learn stuff. (It is an official school visit.) As is known to happen, Stevie is soon embroiled in a mystery. Johnson gets to write her manor mystery and provides an abrupt ending that begins the long wait for the next book.

Once Upon a Quinceañera
Monica Gomez-Hira (add to list)s

Carmen needs a summer internship to get her diploma, and working as a Dreams Come True Disney character also means getting hired for her cousin’s quinceañera. But her family has been estranged since Carmen’s own quinceañera was cancelled.

Aside from quinceañera details, there are a lot of feelings about family in this book. Nicely done.

Hope and Other Punchlines
Julie Buxbaum

I haven’t read many 9/11 YA novels. It’s possible that they were written before I started reading a lot of YA? I liked this exploration of being a face of 9/11 (as a one-year-old) and still being recognized fifteen years later. The back and forth narration is shared with a boy whose father died in the 9/11 attacks.

What to Say Next
Julie Buxbaum

Kat’s mourning her father, dead in a car accident. David has autism and is working hard to survive high school. This engaging book is about how their friendship develops.

I’m not the biggest fan of two main characters narrating, but Buxbaum does it well.

Young Nonfiction

The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs
Chana Stiefel and Susan Gal
Read for Librarian Book Group

The story of a woman who chronicled the losses of the Holocaust by putting together a monument to the town where she was born using the photos people sent to relatives.

Tree Hole Homes
Melissa Stewart, Amy Hevron
Read for Librarian Book Group

This book has the same problem The Universe in You did, but not quite to the same extent. The main story pulls the reader from page to page, and doesn’t pause to let the reader take in the extra facts. It was very difficult for me, as an adult reader, to make my way through this book.

The illustration style worked better for this book than for The Tidepool Waits, a previous effort of Hevron.

The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey
Jason Chin
Read for Librarian Book Group

As always, Chin’s illustrations are incredible. But the structure of the words in this book was frustrating. The ellipses pull readers along to the next page, but there were still many things to read on the current page. In a small font. It made for a very stressful reading experience.

Grownup Fiction

One True Loves
Taylor Jenkins Reed

I enjoyed the back and forth as we learn how Emma ended up with a fiancée and a husband and reflecting about how our lives change as we age.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength
Allison Bechdel

Bechdel explores how exercise came into her life (she’s just old enough to remember life before fitness became ubiquitous) and how it both helped and numbed her through life and life’s passages. She also connects us to how Romantic poets and Transcendentalists used exercise in their lives to support their art.

Zentangle ATC 1.29.2023

When I bought my super expensive (but amazing!) pencil holder at Kinokuniya, I also bought a Zentangle kit that came with pens and artist trading card–sized Zentagle tiles. I don’t know if ATCs are really a thing outside the Zentangle world (a brief skim of the Wikipedia entry tells me not really) but it is a nice size to work in for Zentangles.

Here we have (from the top) Printemps (spiral things), Nekton (stacked alternating lines in groups of three), Static (nicely shaded zigzags, if I do say so myself), Knights Bridge (diamond checkerboard), Crescent Moon (half moon with radiating lines) and Nipa (spheres and wavy lines.)

I think I’ll send the finished ATCs along with my correspondence.

Requiem: Electric Kettle and Kitchen Scale

Many years ago, I was at Ace Hardware spending a gift card from the Friends of The Emerson School. I was electric kettle curious and it was free money, so even though I didn’t love my choices, I grabbed one thinking, well, I can try this out, and if I like it, I will replace it when it dies. Cue a long montage of calendar flipping. I loved the electric kettle—no more screaming kettle when the water boiled, just a quiet click. But I didn’t love that it was plastic and at 1.7 liters, it was much more electric kettle than I needed. So I patiently waited and eventually it did die. Thank you electric kettle for your many years of heating water for tea and for overwhelming oily things with hot water before I hand washed them.

This is the replacement and I have to say, I’m more or less in the same boat. I got it home and decided I didn’t like it. I have to unplug and replug it to fill it with water. The click of the kettle turning off is quieter than my previous one, so I’m more likely to forget I have tea in process. It doesn’t pour well. However, it is stainless steel, so that’s an improvement. I’ll wait around for this one to die, and perhaps my next one will be the electric kettle ideal.

I know I bought this kitchen scale in the downtown Kitchen Kaboodle (since closed) and I think I might have bought it with tax return money in 2004. That spring was a time for a lot of baking as I had very few classes to take. My non-academic goal was to perfect baking a loaf of whole wheat bread. As all the baking books say, it’s best to have a kitchen scale for that process. I bought one and it changed the way I cook and bake.

This fella has served me well. It came with a spiral bound books that translate standard ingredients from cups to ounces or fluid ounces. That let me look up common ingredients and mark up all my recipes so I could pour things, rather than put things in measuring cups and then pour. The big downside to this scale was that it rounds grams to the 5s place, so it isn’t super precise. It was also starting to become less reliable. So when the electric kettle died, I figured I would replace both.

Thank you, my first scale for so many years of baking and cooking support. And for helping measure out the cats’ food every Saturday morning for years on end.

Here’s the new model. This one does not round the grams. It also has a unit of pounds and ounces. The old scale I had to do mental math if ingredients were more than a pound. It also will let you weigh something, press the hold button and the remove the thing to check the weight. That is handy for when what you are weighing is bigger than the scale.

I don’t love the lack of actual buttons. I’m having trouble getting it to tare because I haven’t quite figured out the amount of touch needed to press the not-button.

It sure is pretty though, isn’t it? I do enjoy that.

What color is my sweater?

I asked this question to several people. They gave me different answers. What do you think?

Did you say black? If so, that’s the color I thought it was when I ordered it.

Did you say navy? If so, that’s the answer I kept getting.

It took some time before I noticed that the sleeves (left) were different from the front area (right).

Zentangle No. 4

I’ve learned that I need to be better at rotating the picture before I export. Tilt your head to the left to see the correct orientation.

These tangles are Shattuck (wavy triangles), Festune (circles that look a little like blood cells) , Poke Root (blobby-type things), Jonqual (stair step checkerboard), Crescent Moon (half moon with lines), and Hollibaugh (white pickup sticks on a black background), Nipa (spheres and wavy lines in the middle).

I especially loved Shattuck, and the good practice I’m getting shading.

More Input about the North Portland Aquatic Center

I attended the next meeting about the future of the North Portland Aquatic Center. Unlike the first one, this included a presentation and then small group discussions with reporting out.

The groups ranked the five remaining sites (St. Johns Park, Northgate Park, Charles Jordan Community Center, Columbia Park, and Columbia Annex) using a variety of criteria and then ranked overall our top three sites. We also weighed in about what kind of features we would want in the play area, and what we want to prioritize in the fast water (a.k.a. swimming) and fun water (a.k.a. water for playing in)

The Pier Park site was knocked out due to grant funded reasons. I stayed to the end of the reporting out because I was curious how the St Johns Park location would rank. Aside from the table where a person insisted that the circle around the St. Johns Park location was drawn incorrectly, no one ranked the St Johns location in their top three.

I think that the St Johns location, while convenient for residents of St. Johns, is inconvenient for the rest of us in North Portland. It’s almost as far away from me as Dishman is.

My quibble with this process is that Columbia Park has been split into two sites. Columbia Annex is right across the street from Columbia Park. They are the same site. By splitting that vote, it’s much more likely that Northgate or Charles Jordan will be chosen. Those are fine sites, but the Columbia Park split annoys me.

I’ve got my fingers crossed it won’t end up in St. Johns. That site is too far for me to be a regular.