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Jane Kurtz’s Planet Jupiter Blog Tour

13 May

The sign on the Music Millennium store near my house says it all:

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Jane Kurtz’s new book, Planet Jupiter,  celebrates Portland’s weirdness while telling a beautiful middle grade story of family and belonging.

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Author’s Summary: Jupiter and her family have spent their lives on the road, moving from town to town in a trusty old van, making do, and earning their living busking for tourists. But when their van breaks down, Jupiter’s mother rents an actual house in Portland for the summer so that Jupiter’s annoying cousin Edom, recently adopted from Ethiopia, can stay with them. Luckily, Edom doesn’t want to be in Portland any more than Jupiter wants her there, and the two hatch a plan to send Edom back to her mother. In the process, Jupiter learns that community — and family — aren’t always what you expect them to be.

Clearly, Kurtz’s depiction of Portland is one of the things I love. She captures the farmer’s market culture and all of the quirkiness of this city I call home. But there are other things that make this an excellent middle grade read.

The fact that Jupiter and her brother, Orion, are named after celestial bodies might seem contrived, but it is very Portland – I have neighbors who named their children after various species of trees! But Kurtz uses the names effectively and weaves celestial metaphors throughout her writing. This is the sort of thing I love pointing out to my students!

Jupiter’s fear of change and her desire to help Edom leave are like a snapshot of how Americans feel about refugees and immigrants generally. Fear of the other, fear of change are overcome when we have the opportunity to get to know people.

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Jane Kurtz is celebrating the release of her new book, Planet Jupiter, with an event May 16, 2017, at 7pm at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland. Honoring the theme of music and busking in the book, she will be joined by special musical guests Colette and Madelaine Parry.

I hope to see you there!

 

Life’s little ironies

9 May

I placed my groceries on the conveyor belt and sighed. After a long day at work, I was almost home.

The cashier finished checking the people in front of me, but, as I pushed forward she said, “Give me a minute. I have a mess to clean.”

I looked to where she went, under the end of the conveyor, where you stashes the basket you carry by hand. The basket that had been stowed there was oozing eggs. The cashier made three trips to and fro, getting more paper towels and spray cleaner. She grumbled a little about people who don’t mention problems and leave messes for other people to clean and I commiserated.

I didn’t have many items, and I was checked out quickly, with two paper bags in the shopping cart. Portland is plastic bag free. I parked the cart and carried my bags to my car, looking back to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind. Nope. I was good to go.

When I got home, I quickly tossed the frozen berries into the freezer and the yogurt into the fridge, then took Lucy for our afternoon constitutional. I would unpack the rest of the groceries when we got home.

I fed Lucy when we got home, then started unpacking the rest. It went a little faster that I expected, then poured myself a glass of mineral water. It had reached 72ºF in Portland!

I don;t know what caused the niggle in my brain. But something called me back to the fridge. Hey, where were my lemons?  I pulled out my receipt and sure enough they were on there, but they weren’t in my fridge. Weird. I looked over the receipt once more. Holy cow!  Two other items on the receipt were missing: celery and carrots.

The grand total was just over five dollars worth of veggies, but the pain in my life was huge. I was in no mood to run back to the store (though I did check the car, just in case.) So, I took the only action I could – I sent an email using the comments form on the store’s website. A feeble effort, but I let them know that it wasn’t the value of the items, it was the value of my time that was the bigger loss.

In the aftermath, I thought about the fact that, driving home, I’d been thinking over the fact that I didn’t really have a good Slice of Life story.  Ha! I thought, too, about the cashier, who had complained about people not doing the right thing. Ha! Ha! Life sure is full of irony, isn’t it.

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The Greening of Portland

28 Mar

We’ve had a lot of rain this Winter & Spring.

A local TV station posts daily rainfall updates and I like to see how much above “normal” we are. Today’s stats are as follows:

MARCH RAIN to Date: 7.01″ Departure from Normal: +3.75″

Rainfall since October 1st (water year): 41.25″ Departure from Normal: +15.33″

As I drive home over the Marquam Bridge, I look at one of the  Portland’s many other bridges, the Hawthorne Bridge. It has numbered markings on its tower foundations and I use these to help me monitor the height of the Willamette River. The markings are now under water.

One of the really funny aspects of the wet Pacific NW climate is how non-living things turn green with moss.

The asphalt in parking lots has taken on a greenish hue,

as have the back steps of my home.

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These rocks in my garden are positively fuzzy.

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But the best bit of out of place greenery is growing on my neighbor’s car.

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Friday afternoon traffic

18 Mar

I could have left school during my end of the day plan period, instead I stayed and got ready for Monday. I knew I had to get home quick, walk Lucy, then head out again for Rocket’s vet visit and transfer to his new owners. Yes, it was a rainy Friday afternoon, , but how bad could the traffic be?

Really bad, I thought as I merged onto Highway 26 after navigating the suburban roads that got me there. I quickly began to rethink my master plan. If we kept crawling along at less than 10 miles an hour I’d never be able to make it. I could just go straight to the vet, though that would probably get me there too early. 

I kept driving in my lane and noticed that today, the other two lanes were moving faster. Although the lane I was in would take me my preferred route, I might have to take an alternate, I thought.  I could change lanes and drive through downtown. As we continued to crawl along, I started checking my driver’s side mirror. Suddenly a space appeared and I moved into the lane to my left.  Just one more lane to go.  Another space, much larger,  and I was driving the speed limit again.

I manoeuvred through the Pearl District, crossed the Broadway Bridge and then… flashing lights in front of me. A fire truck was sideways, blocking access. A big accident? I couldn’t see as I turned and took the detour.

I got home a little later than I’d hoped, but not as late as I feared I’d be. Poor Lucy, got a “hello”, a poop walk, and dinner. then I was out the door.

As I started driving towards the vet, another journey that required highway driving, I worried about the slow traffic I’d encountered on the way home. Fortunately, it was smooth sailing South on I-5. For drivers, going North, it was a different story. They were at a stand still. I filed that info for the trip home.

Everything went well at the vet. The new family was super excited. The daughter of the owner, who had been keeping Rocket was weepy.

I took an alternate way home to avoid the I-5 traffic jam. It looped me back to Highway 26, which, two hours earlier had been slow. By the time I returned to it, it was clear sailing home.

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Water Woes

15 Mar

 

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I arrived home yesterday to this message that started a conversation among the residents in my ten-unit condominium.

What the heck? How can that be? I wondered as I hustled to the kitchen and turned on the faucet. Nothing.

I shot off an email letting people know my water was off too and called the water bureau’s emergency line. Apparently, a contractor in our neighborhood had hit a water main and created a “water emergency”. Well, that would explain the work crew and the “road closed” sign I’d  seen down the block when I got home. The woman I spoke with wouldn’t say when work would be finished. When I told her I was thinking I should go to the grocery store and get some water she said that they anticipated the repair would be done by evening.

Okay. Maybe I don’t have to make a water run, but I decided to take stock of what I had.

Nothing.

No bottles of water. No three-day emergency supply. Not even ice cubes I could melt. I did have some cans of flavored mineral water in the fridge… I was failing basic preparedness.

What would I do if it took longer, and I couldn’t shower tomorrow morning? What would Lucy drink?

I thought about all the comedies I’d seen where water is cut off and the characters use water from the toilet bowl. They never think about the water in the tank, which could be boiled. Is that potable? I could boil it to be sure there was water for Lucy. Could I bathe in that? The ick factor is high, even from the tank. So many unanswered questions.

Fortunately, the water came back on just after seven.  I am glad I won’t have to shower in toilet water, but I think I should get some emergency water. Maybe I should start building a real emergency kit while I am at it.

 

 

HUB Reading Challenge Check-in 2/19

19 Feb

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I’ve spent the last two weeks putting books on hold at the library. Several things came in this week and I managed to read two of them, both excellent graphic novels.

First, I read Lowriders to the Center of Earth by local librarian, Cathy Camper, which won a Pura Belpré Award.

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Publisher’s Summary:The lovable trio from the acclaimed Lowriders in Space are back! Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria, and El Chavo Octopus are living their dream at last. They’re the proud owners of their very own garage. But when their beloved cat Genie goes missing, they need to do everything they can to find him. Little do they know the trail will lead them to the realm of Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of the Underworld, who is keeping Genie prisoner! With cool Spanish phrases on every page, a glossary of terms, and an action-packed plot that sneaks in science as well as Aztec lore, Lowriders to the Center of the Earth is a linguistic and visual delight. ¡Que suave!

I read the first book in this series, but forgot how wonderful it was. The way Spanish is naturally incorporated into the text makes this a fun read for beginning Spanish speakers of all ages.Raúl the Third’s illustrations capture the flavor of  lucha libre and the Aztec underworld.

The second graphic novel I read was on YALSA’s 2017 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. Brian Vaughn’s We Stand On Guard  incorporated French into its text.

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Publisher’s Summary:SAGA writer BRIAN K. VAUGHAN teams with artistic legend and MATRIX storyboard artist STEVE SKROCE for an action-packed military thriller that will have everyone talking. 100 years from now, a heroic band of Canadian civilians must defend their homeland from invasion…by the United States of America! The hyper-detailed combat between badass freedom fighters and giant f***ing robots .

Unlike Lowriders, the French text is not translated, so I fell a little bit superior to monolingual (American) readers. You know the old joke:

Q: What do you call a person who speaks three languages?

A: Trilingual.

Q: What do you call a person who speaks two languages?

A: Bilingual.

Q: What do you call a person who speaks one language?

A: American

Sorry for that digression, but I love that joke!

We Stand On Guard is an excellent graphic novel, that captures the eternal Canadian concern over their neighbor to the South.

Hope Springs

14 Feb

This morning in the merry, merry wood

The trees with laughter shook.

They’s seen old Winter hobble past

A-leaning on his crook.

The crocus called good-bye to him

And the violet from her nook,

For Spring is here in shoes of green

Everywhere I look.

Our grade eight vocal ensemble sang this madrigal in three-part harmony. It was the late 70’s so I doubt any recordings remain, but the lyrics spoke loudly to me this weekend, from decades long past.

I had stepped out my back door to take out the trash, when my eye caught sight of something unexpected.

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What was the source of that splash of green under the leaf debris? Upon closer inspection, my hopes were realized.

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The daffodils are coming up!

It has been a hard winter. Unexpected snow and ice had us miss 10 days of school. Last week, we had torrential downpours that have caused landslides. The weekend gave us sunshine and you could feel the hearts of the city rise.

Saturday, as I took Lucy for a longer walk that we’ve had in a while, I heard birdsong. Actual birdsong! I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I had heard anything other than the cawing of crows. My heart swelled with this mellifluous sound.

I know we are in for more rain, and true Spring is still a few weeks off, but this little foretaste of Spring has put a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

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