Tag Archives: Portland

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!

 

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No Regrets

28 Jun

The portable toilets were the first to arrive and the last to leave.

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Of course, they were nice toilets, not the blue plastic ones that give everyone the creeps. These untippable beauties were parked on the corner by my house, awaiting the film crew.

We’d been contacted about a week ago asking if a film crew could use our courtyard to film a Toyota commercial. In the time it took the unit owners of our small condominium to make a decision, they’d chosen another building nearby. This is a neighborhood full of small complexes built in the 1940’s after all.

Although I’d ultimately said yes to the project, I was relieved we weren’t the chosen ones.  As we discussed the prospect, I surprised myself by asking questions about liability and contracts. Where did I get the wisdom to ask these sorts of questions?  The amount we’d have been paid wasn’t huge and we would have had to use back doors all day, since the front doors lead right into the area to be filmed.

And so the fancy toilets arrived Friday night. The film crew started arriving around 8 Saturday morning. People and trailers slowly filled the street that intersected mine. Lucy and I took several walks to see what was happening, though we never walked past the courtyard where the filming was being done – just too many people there.

My takeaway is this. There is a lot of standing around and waiting in the film industry. As a teacher, I know wait time is important, but it seems that is all these people did. I sometimes wonder what it is other people do at work all day. I look thorough bank and office windows and wonder, are they really busy, as they type on their computer or shuffle papers. And I think even my worst day at school is more exciting than this. I haven’t ever seriously regretted going into teaching  and the older I get, the more I feel it keeps my brain sharp and my heart young.

The toilets were finally taken away Monday morning and my whole summer vacation stretched before me. Definitely no regrets.

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Why don’t you turn on the dawnzer?

12 Apr

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Beverly Cleary turns 100 today.

It is hard to believe that this woman wrote books that I liked as a kid, and my students still enjoy.  I am not embarrassed to admit that I like to quote Ramona. So, for this Slice of Life post, I will share my favorite Ramona quotes, in no particular order

  1. “Why don’t you turn on the dawnzer?” – Ramona, thinking she was quite smart, thigh that dawnzer was a synonym for lamp. She learned it in the national anthem: “Oh say, can you see, by the dawnzer lee light.” Brilliant!
  2. “Sit here for the present.” Ramona’s teacher says this to her on the first day of school. Ramona follows her directions perfectly, expecting a present for doing so. I like to say this to kids and I snicker when I do. I think they think I am crazy.
  3. “Pieface!” Mrs Swink, an elderly neighbor, and Ramona call each other this in a good-natured way.
  4. “I am too  a Merry Sunshine.” Ramon says this when she is accused of not being one. You can imagine the tone f voice she used when saying this.

I am lucky to live in Portland, where the Ramona series is set. My local public library is right in Ramona’s neighborhood, and has a huge map on the wall of all the places Cleary mentions in her book. You can get a walking tour map from the librarians and take yourself on a tour of the neighborhood.

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There really is a Klickitat street.

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Grant Park, has a statue garden with Clearly characters.

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So, on this auspicious day, I hope you turn on a dawnzer, do something for the present, and shout “Pieface!” at someone you love.

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.

Happy I Love Yarn Day!

17 Oct

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It is a rainy Saturday in Portland, a hot bed of knitting, so it is a perfect place to celebrate I Love Yarn Day. I have several yarns stashes around my house, but this is my display stash

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Literature’s most famous knitter is probably Madame Defarge   from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

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There are other books where knitting plays an important role. The first that comes to mind is Knit Your Bit  by Portland’s own Deborah Hopkinson.

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I met Deborah at the 2013 Rose City Yarn Crawl and got my copy signed.

Publisher’s Summary: Mikey’s dad has left home to fight overseas during World War I, and Mikey wants to do something BIG to help. When his teacher suggests that the class participate in a knitting bee in Central Park to knit clothing for the troops, Mikey and his friends roll their eyes—knitting is for girls! But when the girls turn it into a competition, the boys just have to meet the challenge.
Based on a real “Knit-In” event at Central Park in 1918, Knit Your Bit shows readers that making a lasting contribution is as easy as trying something new!

Older readers will enjoy Boys Don’t Knit by T. E. Easton.

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Publisher’s Summary: After an incident regarding a crossing guard and a bottle of Martini & Rossi (and his friends), 17-year-old worrier Ben Fletcher must develop his sense of social alignment, take up a hobby, and do some community service to avoid any further probation.

He takes a knitting class (it was that or his father’s mechanic class) with the impression that it’s taught by the hot teacher all the boys like. Turns out, it’s not. Perfect.

Regardless, he sticks with it and comes to discover he’s a natural knitter, maybe even great. It also helps ease his anxiety and worrying. The only challenge now is to keep it hidden from his friends, his crush, and his soccer-obsessed father. What a tangled web Ben has weaved . . . or knitted.

Last Saturday, I started my Christmas knitting. I can’t post a picture in case the recipient sees this post. Just know, I will be celebration I Love Yarn Day in a very appropriate manner.

Connecting stories

5 Oct

A couple of weeks ago, I was on Facebook and noticed a message in a friends timeline that referenced someone named Bonnie-Sue who had a connection to salmon and Alaska. I knew there was no way that this Bonnie-Sue could be the same Bonnie-Sue I met at ALA. We met at that fantastic dinner at The Waterbar where guests were introduced to three YA debut novelists in a panel hosted by David Levithan. You can revisit my post about that evening here.

It turns out it was the same Bonnie-Sue.

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was my friend Sandy’s college roommate. She is also the author of The Smell of Other People’s Houses, which is scheduled to be released in February 2016.

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Bonnie-Sue sat next to me through one course  of the dinner and we had a great chat about Portland and a somewhat funny discussion about my poor sense of smell and the fact that San Francisco smelled of marijuana and urine to my not so sensitive nose. Little did we know then that we had Sandy in common.

I just finished reading the galley of her book, a debut I can talk about because it will be released  after my Morris tenure is over.

It is heartbreakingly beautiful, the intertwining stories of four teens with difficult lives. The content is mature, without being graphic, and the stories feel real. The prose is spare but beautiful, in the same way that the Alaskan landscape can seem wide open and empty, even as it teems with life.

Publisher’s Summary: In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.

Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable book is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.

I have no idea what the 2017 Morris committee will think of this novel, but I hope they give it some serious consideration.

Smokey detour

23 Aug

Yesterday the sky was eerie, due to wildfire smoke that was blown down the Columbia River Gorge and into Portland. It truly transformed the city. It also got me thinking about books with smoke on the cover, in pictures or words.

Although it is not smoke from a wildfire, the cover of Looking for Alaska by John Green is quite striking. This is my absolute favorite John Green novel. I loved TFIOS, but this one is even better!

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Publisher’s Summary: Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.

Local author Laini Taylor captured my attention a few years ago with The Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

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Publisher’s summary: Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Ellen Hopkins followed up her novel in verse Burned, with a sequel entitled Smoke. 

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Burned: Seventeen-year-old Pattyn, the eldest daughter in a large Mormon family, is sent to her aunt’s Nevada ranch for the summer, where she temporarily escapes her alcoholic, abusive father and finds love and acceptance, only to lose everything when she returns home.

Smoke: After the death of her abusive father and loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn runs away, desperately seeking peace, as her younger sister, a sophomore in high school, also tries to put the pieces of her life back together.

Another great novel with a sequel comes from E. K  Johnston.

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The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim: In an alternate world where industrialization has caused many species of carbon-eating dragons to thrive, Owen, a slayer being trained by his famous father and aunt, and Siobahn, his bard, face a dragon infestation near their small town in Canada.

Prairie Fire: Every dragon slayer owes the Oil Watch a period of service, and young Owen was no exception. What made him different was that he did not enlist alone; his two closest friends stood with him shoulder to shoulder. Steeled by success and hope, the three were confident in their plan. But the arc of history is long and hardened by dragon fire… and try as they might, Owen and his friends could not twist it to their will. At least, not all the way…

The air in Portland smells a little less smokey this morning and the air should be clear sometime tomorrow. Fortunately, even after the smoke has cleared, we’ll still have these great books.

 

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