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Here in the Night: September Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Seniors

Two book covers side by side. On the left is the cover of "Mexikid" a graphic memoir by Pedro Martín, and on the right is "Chlorine" a novel by Jade Song.

Hello readers! September brings fall, pumpkin spice, and the unstoppable urge to gather your cozy season stockpiles of books, movies, and more from the library. We’re here to help with some great picks from our staff.  

 An image of the book cover of "Buzzing," written by Samuel Smith and Illustrated by Rye Hickman.

Cindy’s Picks 

Buzzing (a new graphic novel by Samuel Sattin) is the story of Isaac Itkin, a lonely twelve-year-old kid with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Isaac struggles with a “swarm of unhelpful thoughts,” and his helicopter mother insists on a very strict therapy that doesn’t seem to be helping. A group of creative friends invites Isaac to join their role-playing game and he finds that his intrusive thoughts help him to feel a little better.  He develops a crush on one of the other kids, and things seem even better yet.  But Isaac’s therapist claims that exposure to games can have negative effects on kids with OCD, and when his grades slip, his mother won’t let him play anymore.  Now Isaac will need to find a way to prove to himself, his mother, and the world that it is okay to be himself! This beautiful graphic novel contains themes of LGBTQ+, OCD and growing up.

Picture Day by Sarah Sax is a tale of Viv, who never looks forward to picture day because her mother always forces her to wear a boring braid. Viv takes scissors in hand and creates a new hairstyle that becomes an overnight trend in her middle school!  Suddenly, everyone wants her help planning their next big moment—from makeovers to dance proposals, activist rallies to math-team celebrations!  She hardly has time for her own friend group anymore, but is this really how she wanted to reinvent herself?  Read on to find out!

Mexikid is a graphic novel memoir by Pedro Martín. Pedro was born in the U.S. to parents from Mexico and he is a kid who feels that he doesn’t quite belong to either place.  So he isn’t sure what to expect when his father announces that their entire family (all 11 of them) will be piling into their Winnebago to drive 2,000 miles down to Mexico with a mission: bring their mysterious Abuelito home to live with them!  But their grandfather has a mission of his own, and he won’t leave Mexico until it’s complete. 

 Book cover of "We Still Belong" by Christine Day.

Emily’s Picks 

 Christine Day (Upper Skagit) has become a favorite middle grade author of mine, so I was excited to jump right into her newest book, We Still Belong. Wesley Wilder is excited—and nervous—for Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year. She has a poem about the holiday getting published in her middle school’s newspaper, AND she’s going to ask her cute gamer club crush to the school dance. Readers follow her through her day’s highs and lows as things definitely don’t go according to plan—but will be heartened to hear Wesley finding her voice at the intertribal powwow that night. It’s a sweet and surprisingly funny story about belonging, new friendships, video games, and a cute cat. 

Readers looking for other new (and short!) middle grade novels should explore Christina Soontornvat’s magical and adventurous Legends of Lotus Island series, and Gail Donovan’s sweet story full of curious cats, Sparrow Being Sparrow. 

 Book cover of "The Deep" by Rivers Solomon

Fionna’s Picks 

 I’m a sucker for hyper realistic mermaids and tend to indulge in this microgenre in the summer. This year’s pick was the debut novel by Jade Song, Chlorine. The author starts with a content warning which is essential before you commit to this book. It dives deep (ha!) and can be upsetting, but I was glad to have continued. I was in awe of Song’s ability to capture the nightmare that is coming-of-age while dealing with generational trauma, body dysphoria, sexuality, and race. Chlorine is darkly funny and written in a beautiful spare style: a can’t miss for fans of sapphic horror. 

 While I’m on the subject (and really don’t get me going on this, we’ll be here a long time), in honor of the PPL Reading Challenge category “A book with a cryptid/mythological being as a character” I thought I’d share some of my all-time favorite mermaid stories. All haunting, all beautiful. 

I’d also recommend checking out the Water Legends zine kit from Downtown Teen. It’s got mermaids and more, including my absolute favorite: selkies. Really fun and a great opportunity to try out a new medium! 

 Cover of "More Than You Know" a novel by Beth Gutcheon

Elyse’s Pick 

 “I don’t suppose you have to believe in ghosts to know that we are all haunted, all of us, by things we can see and feel and guess at, and many more things that we can’t. 

 My staff pick for September is More Than You Know by Beth Gutcheon. I read this book almost 20 years ago and just reread it. It was still a great book! 

Cover of "Track of the Cat" a mystery by Nevada Barr

Becca’s Pick 

In Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr, Anna Pigeon is sent to Texas for her first assignment as a park ranger with the National Park Service. A ranger dies in the desert, and the cause of death is determined to be by mountain lion…or is it? The first book in the Anna Pigeon series has so much to love: interesting nature facts, edge-of-your-seat danger, and an excellent twist ending. Anna is a quirky and smart main character, and I’m looking forward to continuing to read this series throughout the Fall. If you’re craving a good mystery and you love nature documentaries, this is the series for you! 

Cover of "Mushrooming: The joy of the quiet hunt" written by Diane Borsato with illustrations by Kelsey Oseid
Eileen’s Picks

As the humidity peaks and wanes, the rainfall comes and goes, and the temperature flirts with fall and retreats to high summer, the world of mushrooms is indulging in whatever verb applies to these mysterious not-plant-nor-animal-nor-mineral wonders of creation. Bare ground one day, undeniably phallic protuberances and multi-chromatic viscous-capped berets the next; ambrosia to slugs, mice and, if only they can get there first, humans. 

No mother of mine ever encouraged eating wild foraged ’shrooms, with or without positive identification, but that never dampened my curiosity about what in tarnation these puzzling things are about. Last year, our woodsy, mossy, fern-strewn little lot yielded a veritable festival of fungus, including (my disbelieving research confirmed, over and over again) the dreaded Destroying Angel. 

And that’s where iNaturalist’s free app Seek comes in. My amiable companion introduced me to Seek and I fear that my cardiac health has suffered as a result. No more brisk walks for me. I cannot resist stopping to smell the flora, scan the fauna, and— most fun of all— wave my phone’s camera amidst the plethora of mushrooms appearing everywhere in the late summer damp. A quick pan with my phone, or more often a contortionist’s delight of finding the right angle and focus for a positive ID, gives a pretty reliable informed opinion, progressing on-screen through the Linnaean classification levels, from Kingdom to Species. With the app’s occasional understandable (if slightly unnerving) misinterpretation of tree roots as examples of “Snakes and Lizards”, I take any identification not as gospel, but as a prompt to investigate further when I turn toward home. And I have been rewarded by such positive IDs as Chicken Lips mushrooms and Viscid Violet Cort, not to mention much sought after Golden Chanterelles lazing about the base of our mailbox and Black Trumpets meandering along the otherwise unremarkable path to the seasonal stream behind our house. Don’t worry, Mom, not a single one has passed my timid lips, but maybe someday. 

Maine Mycological Association may come in handy, too.  Lots of good information on offer there. There are countless terrific books on mushrooms and fungi in general, whether you are looking for edibles or simply sating your curiosity. Maybe start your search at the library with “mushrooms. 

No need to fixate on mushrooms, though. Seek will help identify plants of all kinds, animals, insects, moss, algae…the list goes on. I’d also put my money on PPL’s reference staff to point you in the right direction, and…I am happy to say, no money need change hands! They, and lots of other free resources, are waiting to help. 

Happy days are always ahead for anyone with a little time, a pocket big enough for a guide book and a nine-year-old’s sense of wonder.  Let’s see what we can find. 

 Two book covers side by side. On the left is "Roman Stories" written by Jhumpa Lahiri; on the right is "Here in the Night" by Rebecca Turkewitz

Elizabeth’s Picks 

 This fall brings a heap of new books from a few of my favorite authors. Ross Gay returns with The Book of More Delights; Jhumpa Lahiri spins Roman Stories, Teju Cole offers Tremor, a new novel. I’m a big fan of Paul Yoon’s short stories, and I’m looking forward to The Hive and the Honey, too.

But what’s that you say? There are so many new spooky October reads that you need to start prepping for them in September? You’re in luck! Like the pumpkin spice that is already on your donut, the library is here for you. For haunted houses and sinister sites (in a wide spectrum from terrifying to for-mystery-lovers to merely dreamy), place your holds on these new books:   

 For more thrills and chills, stay tuned for our October Staff Picks! 


As ever, thanks for reading! You can find all of our staff picks in the Here in the Night: September Staff Picks booklist.

Looking for more reading ideas? That is our very favorite thing! Check out our Your Next Great Read service for kids and adults. We’ll make you your own booklist of ideas tailored to your interests. Or email

Summer Reading 2023: A Shining Success for Young Readers

posted: , by Heather Wasklewicz
tags: Adults | Teens | Teen Reads | Teen Events | Parents & Teachers | Kids & Families | Kids Programs | Early Literacy | Kids Reading Lists | Fun & Games | English Language Literacy | News | Readers Writers
PPL Summer Reading 2023 kicked off with a party at the Riverton Branch Library.

Rain, fog, and more rain could not dampen the start to our 2023 Summer Reading Program @ PPL. This year we truly shined, nearly tripling the number of sign-ups of children and teen participants totaling 1,360 sign-ups!

“Our numbers nearly tripled across the board from last year, which is amazing! It’s great to reach as many young readers as we can.  We were able to give out about 350 books and 20 bikes to finishers across our system.“ – Sarah Mari Cropley | Children’s Librarian, Downtown Library

Youth Services credits a strong partnership with local school librarians and teachers who helped us spread the word to parents and students, encouraging students to participate in summer programming with a chance to win a brand-new bicycle at the end! This excitement brought in a fresh new wave of young readers excited to dive in and be part of our community of readers.

“Participating in Summer Reading at public libraries is a fun, engaging way for children and teenagers to maintain and even boost their reading skills during the long school break. With many schools considering options like lengthening the school year to make up for pandemic learning loss, encouraging young people to read or listen to books of their choice just for fun is what we are all about at PPL.” – Kelley Blue | Director of Youth Services  

(In other words, Summer Reading is like secret vegetables snuck into brownies 🙂)

PPL kicked it all off with a party at the Rivertown Branch followed by specific programming throughout the summer including a visit from the Center for Wildlife (where we met ambassador Maeve the magnificent Merlin), a book launch celebration with kittens, and teen photography workshops. Our community Story Time attracted upwards of 50 attendees at each session eager to meet special guests like Slugger The Sea Dog and the crew from Engine #5 who brought their firetruck and ambulance for kids to explore. We rocked out with Kindie Climate Rocker Esther Crow and the Crow Family Band and wrapped up the season in the Rines Auditorium where the winners of the bike raffle  picked up their new bikes generously donated by our friends at the Triangle Lodge No. 1.

This year’s slogan, All Together Now, served to bring us all together “no matter the age, socio-economic status, political affiliation or location” and centered around “kindness, friendship, and unity.” The theme invited libraries endless opportunities to share and connect with community and this year, we accomplished this mission made possible by all of you who generously support the Portland Public Library. Thank you to PPL staff, community partners, patrons, visitors, and of course SUMMER READERS who made this year’s programming so fun, sunny, and festive! Shine on, readers! 

Portland Public Library supports reading throughout the year and offers an array of resources for Kids & Families, Teens, and Adults.

To see more photos from our celebrations check out our Summer Reading 2023 Facebook album



A representative from the Center for Wildlife holds a Peregrin Falcon to show to a group of children in the Children Library.     Slugger the Portland Seadogs mascot poses for a photo in the Children's Library with Director of Youth Services, Kelley Blue.


A young girl holds a black cat in the children's library during a Summer Reading event.     Two young girls with hold books during a Summer Reading event with author Gail Donovan.


A Portland Fire Department firefighter shows two young children a bright yellow fire hose     A young girl stands with a new bicycle—her prize from participating in PPL Summer Reading


A family band plays a concert about climate change on stage in the Rines Auditorium at the Downtown Library




PPL Downtown’s Roof-Top Gulls Take Flight

posted: , by Heather Wasklewicz
tags: About the Library | Adults | Teens | Discover Portland

As summer transitions and prepares to take flight into fall, so do our winged rooftop friends, the roof-top nesting Herring Gulls.

a screenshot of a social media post that shows an adolescent herring gull perched on the roof of the Downtown Library with the caption "the bb I held as a little cotton ball is now going on excursions and I feel very emotional about it!"We are filled with a tinge of sadness and fond memories, forever archived in our Instagram grids and camera rolls.

But their departure means the birds have made it through their most vulnerable stages. And now, standing strong on tracking-banded legs, they have a chance of living their best Maine lives as sandwich-scavenging-fries-stealing-lobster-boat-swarming self-sufficient adults! 

Well, not exactly. Although anecdotal data collected from citizen scientists reports that these gulls favor Burger King fries over McDonalds, and they enjoy chicken nuggets the most, our Herring Gulls actually prefer fresh marine diets, and fast food parking lots are not their first dining choice.

3 herring gull chicks huddle in a nest in the corner of the Downtown Library's roof

But Let’s Back Up: Herring Gulls are the only species to nest on rooftops and every spring, around mid-May, the Downtown Library becomes a chosen nesting spot. With decent west-facing views from the 3rd floor, staff follow the fate of one or two delicate eggs in a corner-nook nest located on the solar-paneled roof, incubated by a dedicated adult. Here we are treated to front-row seats to witness the hatchlings grow and become mobile – a real-time drama series unfolds, chapter-by-chapter! 

an adult herring gull on the roof of the Downtown Library approaches the camera with its wings spread in a defensive position protecting its chick (behind)There are conditions that threaten their survival! From searing heat to torrential downpours and passing storms, watchful winged predators, and the unpredictability of city life…just to name a few. However, the rooftops are actually pretty safe spaces compared to island nesting spots. And the parents know what is best for their young – a nutritious marine diet of crabs, shells, fish, and also insects for added protein. The human flock has also protected and nurtured them in small ways by covering the high-foot traffic hallway windows to offer privacy during nesting, refilling bowls with fresh water, and we can’t help but wonder if hanging out at the library may have contributed to their good energy?

Researcher, Dr. Purlin, holds a herring gull chick on the roof of the Downtown Library. Dr. Purlin wears a backpack with tagging equipment, binoculars, and a scope can be seen on a tripod behind him.

The Experts Know Best:  Dr. Noah Perlut, who studies and tracks these urban gull colonies, is an excellent local resource. We were thrilled when Dr. Perlut contacted us about accessing our rooftop babies for banding! To study the health of the colonies, Dr. Perlut must carefully tag the hatchlings with uniquely coded leg bands. Thanks to his efforts (and the citizen scientists who see the birds and report back on them*) we have an informed understanding of their behavior (aside from how cute they are!). To our surprise, we learned that gull colonies are actually declining.  According to a 2020 article in Yankee Magazine, they have experienced a 40% decline over the last decade and “scientists like Dr. Perlut are trying to find out how and why…”  

The Library & Beyond: Downtown Portland rooftops are home to over 300 colonies of herring gulls raising their hatchlings in this adopted man-made environment until the hatchlings fledge. Banding all those little legs is a lot of work! Lucky for us, Dr. Perlut allowed a few library helpers to observe and offer extra hands when he visited in mid-June. While it is always best not to handle baby birds and other wildlife, our staff was able to do so under Dr. Perlut’s guidance. The id’s help professional biologists and birdwatchers report sightings of these particular birds throughout their lives and their travels. Mature Gulls seen resting on our roof one week might be tracked to Cony Island, NY a few weeks later! 

It is an honor for us to come together and witness the nesting of the rooftop Herring Gulls.  Although their time with us is short, they bring something of a special joy to our library. And wherever their wings take them, we’ll all be here, eagerly anticipating their return or delighting in new arrivals. Everyone is welcome here! Even those crab-dropping-insect-ingesting-fish-finding-occasional-chicken-nugget-scavenging-self-sufficient Herring Gulls!

A series of images of PPL staff members holding herring gull chicks on the roofs of the Downtown Library

* The Perlut Lab primarily uses orange bands with black letters (but did deploy a few blue bands with white letters)–please report any banded gulls to


To learn more about Dr. Noah Perlut’s work, check out Sustainability Series: Portland’s Rooftop Nesting Herring Gulls, in partnership with Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, with a dynamic Q & A at the end.

To learn more about birds in Maine and beyond, check out our digital resource Birds of the World.

Learn how to be a citizen scientist and identify birds with our Family Science Backpacks.

Our Birding kit includes binoculars, bird call, bird call identification CD, clipboard case, and magnifying glass and is available at the Children’s Desk in the Downtown Library.





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