Archive | December, 2015

Package thieves: A Slice of Life Story

15 Dec


You can’t see our stoops from the street.

I smugly thought that would keep us safe from package thieves. Unless they actually come up the 10 steps to the courtyard of the 10-unit condominium where I live, package thieves won’t even know anything has been delivered.

I guess they are getting more brazen and devious because I was hit last week.

A few months ago, at our last Oregon Basset Hound Rescue meeting, I suggested we send out an end of the year appeal letter. As with most small organizations, the work falls to the person who made the suggestion, but I accepted it readily. I wrote the letter and wanted to include a small envelope so people could mail in their checks. I looked around in stores, but found none that fit #10 envelopes, so I decided to look online. I found the perfect envelopes at Amazon and ordered 300. Since I would also have to go out and buy 300 #10 envelopes, I decided to order them at the same time, assuming they’d all come in one package.

Well, Amazon sometimes works in mysterious ways and they were shipped separately.  The small envelopes came first and  I was tracking the progress of the larger envelopes. They were scheduled to be delivered last Monday, a day I had a late meeting and wouldn’t be home until after 8. It was also a day of the torrential rain that darted the flooding in Portland.

As I mounted the steps after my long day, I could see the box on my stoop. It was larger than I expected, but you never really know how things will come packaged.

As I got closer I could see that one of the flaps appeared to be open. Weird, I thought.

When I arrived at my door step, I saw that the box was completely open and all that remained inside was the packing material. I was confused and disheartened. How could this happen to me?

Once I had the box inside, my eye caught the address label. The box was not addressed to me. It was addressed to someone who lived two streets over and four blocks down. How did it get to my stoop? Was this a massive conspiracy? Are the holiday package thieves so devious they’d swap  large empty box for a smaller one?

I sent out e-mails to all my condominium neighbors. I’m our HOA secretary and have them all in my address book.

My neighbor on my east side works from home. He e-mailed me back saying he saw my package and had gone out around noon to put a plastic bag over it because of the rain. He has since offered to pick up any packages that appear, and  I picked up that last one I expected from him yesterday.

The whole thing has left me with a swirl of emotions. I feel disheartened and violated by the thief; strengthened and supported by my neighbors. And, I can’t help laughing, trying to picture the thief’s face as they opened the stolen box and found 300 envelopes.

The thing about knitting…

14 Dec

Knitting tends to be a solitary endeavor, unless you belong to a knitting circle. Even if you do, most of the work is done alone. But the cool thing about knitting is that, although alone, you spend a lot of time thinking about the person you are knitting for.

My mother taught me to knit, but it was my Danish host mother, Lis Pedersen, who taught me to make things and read a pattern. She also taught me to knit continental style.

I have a lot of happy memories tied up in knitting.

In Knit Together,  Angela Dominguez brings together a mother who knits with a daughter who wants to knit, but only creates tangles.


A lot of beginning knitters get frustrated while learning…it looks so much easier than it is.


Fortunately, our unnamed narrator has a patient mother who finds the perfect solution to this dilemma.

Goodreads Summary: New from an award-winning illustrator comes a sweet story of mothers and daughters, drawing and knitting, and learning to embrace your talents—just right for Mother’s Day.

Drawing is fun, but knitting is better—because you can wear it! Knitting isn’t easy, though, and can be a little frustrating. Maybe the best thing to do is combine talents. A trip to the beach offers plenty of inspiration. Soon mom and daughter are collaborating on a piece of art they can share together: a special drawing made into a knitted beach blanket.

For every mom and daughter, this is an arts-and-crafts ode creative passion and working together.

YALSA’s 2016 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Begins!

13 Dec


Let the Challenge Season begin!

This year, I’m only participating in the nonfiction portion of the challenge since I am on the Morris Committee and cannot comment on them.

I’ve read a couple of the nonfiction finalists already, but will reread them, looking at them with new lenses.

Here are the five finalists:

Symphony for the City This Strange WildernessEnchanted Air First FlightMost Dangerous

Here is how the challenge works. If it looks like fun, you can sign up for it here.

Challenge objective

Read all of the 2015 finalists for the William C. Morris Award for debut YA authors, all of the 2015 finalists for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, or both between now and the Youth Media Awards on January 11th.

Challenge rewards

Beyond experiencing the best of the best that new YA authors and YA nonfiction have to offer, everyone who finishes the challenge may use what they read toward our 2016 Hub Reading Challenge. The Hub Reading Challenge includes prizes (!!!), so by participating in the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, you’re getting a head start on reading some of the best books published this year and you’re giving yourself an advantage in trying to win those prizes. 

Challenge guidelines

  • The challenge begins at 8:00 AM Eastern Time on Tuesday, December 8 and ends at 7:45 AM Eastern Time on Monday, January 11. (And in case you’re wondering, the challenge ends on Eastern Time because the awards will be announced live at the 2016 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston.)
  • Participants may count the reading they have done since the finalists for each award was announced last week. If you read one of the finalists before the announcement of the shortlist for that award, you must re-read it for it to count.
  • Participants may read either all of the finalists for the Morris Award, all of the finalists for the Nonfiction Award, or both. The challenge cannot be completed simply by picking five titles between the two lists; participants must read the entire list of finalists for one or both awards.
  • Just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to participate. That means non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible! Non-US residents/citizens are eligible! (More eligibility questions?

How to participate

  • Ready to start reading? Great! Comment here announcing your intention to participate. If you’re going to be tracking what you read on your blog, Goodreads, LibraryThing, YouTube or some other site, include a link to your blog/shelf/channel/profile in your comment. If you’re not tracking your reading online, keep a list some other way.
  • Still undecided? It’s okay to take your time. You may register for the challenge by leaving a comment here and starting your reading any time during the challenge period.
  • The challenge is more fun when it’s social!  Encourage other fans of teen literature or librarians and library workers to participate. If you want to talk about the challenge on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr, use the hashtag #hubchallenge.
  • Every Sunday, we’ll publish a check-in post including a round up of blog posts, book reviews, or comments on social media using the hashtag #hubchallenge. Leave a comment letting us know what you’ve read since the last check-in post. If you’ve reviewed those titles somewhere online, include links to those reviews! Otherwise, let us know what you thought of the books in the comments. We are eager to hear your thoughts.
  • If you’ve finished the challenge since the last check-in post, fill out the embedded form with your name and contact information. Please fill out the form only once.

Happy 185th birthday, Emily Dickinson!

10 Dec


Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Throughout her life, she seldom left her home and visitors were few. She has, however, made it into several books, for young people of all ages.

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The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

c. 1862


Floods in the Portland area

9 Dec

Driving has been tough this week. Here are some clips of what’s happening on the metro Portland area.

Real Oregonians don’t use umbrellas.

8 Dec

It is a truth universally acknowledged: real Oregonians don’t use umbrellas.

I have one, but I keep it in my closet.


I’m not really a closeted umbrella user. I keep it there because I have fond memories of my umbrella. It is a Christian Dior. Seriously.

Photo on 12-7-15 at 7.44 AM

I keep it because my parents gave it to me one Christmas way back in the 80’s and I’ve managed to keep to through countless moves. I remember when we got them (my sister got one, too, only hers was red paisley) my twin sister and I felt like this was a grown up sort of gift to get.

I brought it with me when I moved to Oregon, but I’ve almost never used it here because real Oregonians don’t use umbrellas.  We mostly get by with a good hooded rain jacket. In fact, I don’t actually own a winter coat, I just wear a fleece or hoodie under my raincoat. Our winter rains are usually the misty kind and so this arrangement usually works perfectly fine.

But this week is different.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 7.53.50 AM

Heavy rain and floods are forecast and I wouldn’t have even thought about my umbrella, except that I have bus dismissal duty after school this week. The area I have to monitor isn’t covered and, I didn’t think my simple water-resistant shell + hoodie would cut it. So, I pulled my umbrella out of the closet and brought it to school yesterday.

I was grateful for it when I walked into school yesterday in a torrential downpour

I was grateful for it at 3:45 yesterday as I waved cars forward to pick kids up in the pouring rain.

I will be grateful for it most of the week, I think.

Some days, real Oregonians, need umbrellas.




Warming my heart with tea and books

7 Dec

Yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah. Last night’s tea from my advent calendar was Glitter and Gold.

Looking for a little star power? This sweet, spiced black tea is filled with pretty little gold star-shaped sprinkles. Take a sip and the slow suggestion of cinnamon will warm your body. Your toes will tingle and your mind will turn to fireworks, falling stars, late-night seduction. It’s basically magic.

Ingredients: Black tea, lemon peel, sugar sprinkles, sugar, cloves, natural and artificial flavouring.


My sister, the giver of the advent calendar,  was the one who explained to me that this tea was to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah. I love this cultural cross-pollination of the Advent calendar!

And that thought brings me to one of my favorite holiday books by Patricia Pollaco,  The Trees of the Dancing Goats.


Goodreads Summary: Trisha loves the eight days of Hanukkah, when her mother stays home from work, her Babushka makes delicious potato latkes, and her Grampa carves wonderful animals out of wood as gifts for Trisha and her brother. In the middle of her family’s preparation for the festival of lights, Trisha visits her closest neighbors, expecting to find them decorating their house for Christmas. Instead they are all bedridden with scarlet fever. Trisha’s family is one of the few who has been spared from the epidemic. It is difficult for them to enjoy their Hanukkah feast when they know that their neighbors won’t be able to celebrate their holiday. Then Grampa has an inspiration: they will cut down trees, decorate them, and secretly deliver them to the neighbors, “But what can we decorate them with?” Babushka asks. Although it is a sacrifice, Trisha realizes that Grampa’s carved animals are the perfect answer. Soon her living room is filled with trees — but that is only the first miracle of many during an incredible holiday season.
Based on a long cherished childhood memory, this story celebrates the miracle of true friendship.

This book will warm your heart more deeply than a cup of tea.

Extraordinarily Ordinary

6 Dec


This is a novel about a group of ordinary friends who want to have a normal life and graduate before their school blows up. The plot was pretty straightforward the only hints that something bad might happen were the chapter titles, which were mini-descriptions of what was going on with the indie kids (the Chosen Ones). the novel is s satire of YA novels in which kids save the world, but I think it sensitively sheds light on what it is like to just be an ordinary kid. And in a  way, just being an ordinary kids requires super powers.

Publisher’s Summary: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Finalists for YALSA’s 2016 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

4 Dec

Symphony for the City of the Dead:  Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad written by M.T. Anderson, and published by Candlewick Press

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony was completed during the horrors of the 900-day Siege of Leningrad during World War II. Anderson’s sweeping history of the first half of the twentieth century in Soviet Russia and his focus on the life of the slight, bespectacled composer is dramatic, challenging, and immersive. Political and cultural revolutions and upheavals enveloped Russia over the decades during which Shostakovich grew into one of the West’s most celebrated composers. Meticulous research and a captivating narrative celebrate courage, perseverance—and music.

Enchanted Air; Two Cultures, Two Wings, A Memoir written by Margarita Engle, and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Cuban? American? Lush island paradise or fast-paced city living? These are the two worlds that Margarita Engle eloquently describes through lyrical, free-verse poems as she attempts to define herself, her family, and her country within the context of being biracial during the United States’ invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The power of this book lies in the emotional connections and vivid imagery evoked by observing the simple differences between Engle’s two families as she deftly explores both cultures’ customs and traditions.


First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race written by Tim Grove,  and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS

In 1924, a team of American aviators embarked on a race to circumnavigate the globe. During their 150-day journey, the crew faced hostile weather, pesky reporters, mechanical failures, and agonizing disappointments. Drawing on archival materials, Grove enlivens this story of historical achievement with humor and fascinating travel anecdotes, while portraying the perseverance and dedication of the crew. This suspenseful tale is a visual feast with heart.

This Strange Wilderness:  The Life and Art of John James Audubon written by Nancy Plain, and published by University of Nebraska Press

John James Audubon traveled the length and breadth of North America in service of his monumental Birds of America, the work that marked his lasting reputation as a naturalist. Plain’s account, drawn from Audubon’s journals and letters, conveys the artist’s determination (some regarded him as a madman) to document the continent’s rich variety of birds and other wildlife. This elegantly designed book deftly blends art and ornithology, and includes lovely reproductions of Audubon’s work.


Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War written by Steve Sheinkin, and published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group

Sheinkin’s latest is a thrilling journalistic account of government insider Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers and exposed the questionable decisions that led to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. This cinematic work simultaneously recounts a history of the Vietnam War, details the complete reversal of one man’s loyalties, chronicles the downfall of a presidential administration, examines First Amendment rights, and explores honor and morality. A timely exploration of American history that crackles with tension and excitement.

The 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalists

3 Dec

After 10 months of reading, we are ready to announce the 5 finalists for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009. This award honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

Drumroll, please!


Because You’ll Never Meet Me written by Leah Thomas, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Ollie ​is allergic to electricity​ and lives in isolation with his mother. Moritz was born with no eyes​, has a pacemaker, and is bullied at school. ​They become pen pals and unlikely friends as they learn more about one another.



Conviction written by Kelly Loy Gilbert, published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group

Braden is firm in his convictions; he trusts his father, believes deeply in God, and is dedicated to a future playing baseball. His faith, truth, and justice are tested when his father is accused of murder.


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda written by Becky Albertalli, published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

On the brink of coming out, Simon’s plans are derailed by a scheming classmate who learns about Simon’s email exchanges with a mysterious boy that Simon may just be falling in love with.


The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly written by Stephanie Oakes, published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers

After spending most of her life in the Kevinian Cult, Minnow loses her family, her freedom, and her hands. Now Minnow is behind bars, recounting her life in the cult and facing what really happened the night the camp burned down, leaving the Prophet dead.


The Weight of Feathers written by Anna-Marie McLemore, published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press


Lace and Cluck are from rival performing families. The troupes only cross paths once a year, but tensions mount and fights break out. When tragedy strikes during a performance, fate thrusts them together and the star-crossed pair are forced to deal with their families’ feuding past.

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