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March and April Staff Picks

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

April is National Poetry Month. We Heart cloudLibrary. And: National Library Workers Day is April 21. Libraries Work Because We Do.

Our Staff Picks today are posted from far, though for weeks we’ve tried so hard to stay close to each other and to our community.

After the library closed in March, we found our footing as soon as we could. All of our library workers—at the Main Library, Burbank, Peaks, Riverton, our Annex and our Bookmobile—are full of so much resourcefulness and creativity and dedication and  thoughtfulness and care. So many staff members talked about all the individuals and kids and families who come to the library who they were missing and thinking of, just wanting them to be okay.  Each week in the last month we reached out and created new ways to connect with our community and with each other at the same time that the world has utterly changed.

On a slow day at home in the heart of winter, months ago, I made a simple poster for National Library Workers Day, hoping to make a zillion copies of it for April 21 and hand it out to all of my colleagues: our incomparably hard-working shelving and substitute staff and all of the front-line-and-behind-the-scenes heroes. I didn’t know what lay ahead. The poster has one of the mottos of National Library Workers Day on it: Libraries Work Because We Do. And something held as dear to my heart, too,  a message I used to love seeing posted on a fellow worker’s office door: Libraries For the People.

I’m not sure what’s next for Staff Picks, with all that has changed. For now we look at poetry on the internet, new favorites from the cloudLibrary, and what you might add to your To-Be-Read and To-Be-Borrowed piles.

As ever, thank you (so much) for reading.


Videos from the Favorite Poem Project archive.


Poetry Picks & More

Nora’s Picks 

April is National Poetry Month, and I can’t think of a better time to be reminded of what a sense of solace and form of connection poetry can provide. It has always been a grounding force to start my day but feels like a necessary prescription now more than ever.  

Poets.org has always offered a Poem-of-the-Day, and they are now also doing a “Shelter in Poems” feature, asking users to share poems that give them solace and “actionable energy” during this time. I’ve been enjoying reading both the variety of poems and the commentary from people around the world. The Poetry Society of America also has a new daily feature, “Reading in the Dark,” in which poets share the poems to which they turn in difficult times. So as you shelter in place, shelter in poetry!  

I also recently discovered the Favorite Poem Project, which was started by Robert Pinsky in 1997 with an open call for Americans to share themselves reading and talking about their favorite poems. A Massachusetts construction worker reading “Song of Myself.”  The daughter of Cambodian refugees reading Langston Hughes. I first hit play on “Poem” by Frank O’Hara… “Lana Turner has collapsed! / I was trotting along and suddenly / it started raining and snowing…” Memories of laughingly repeating this poem with friends during middle-of-the-night poetry workshops in my early 20s, the words now in the voice of a glassblower from Seattle who knows them by heart. It took my breath a little, this lifeline of poetry amidst our new daily isolation. 



Elizabeth’s Picks 

Nora says it best. Poetry has been giving me life, too, all that’s being created even now, like Juan Felipe Herrera’s Social Distancing. In the first week of April Nora sent me a million wonderful ideas (and Sarah Mari weighed in with a great Sarah Kay spoken word performance) and we put together All Poems Considered: Poetry eResourcesCheck out Danez Smith and Franny Choi and their epic podcast VS, all the sweet and powerful readings and videos out there, and find a book and a marker and make your own erasure poem. Erasure poems resonate: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all that’s revealed when so much changes, the revelations that can be tender or that offer starker truths.



cloudLibrary Picks 

 Jerri’s Pick 

One of my favorite books to recommend for a family read aloud is Kathi Appelt’s The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, available through cloudLibrary as an audiobook. 

This National Book Award Finalist is a hilarious, mostly tall tale, with interweaving stories and an unlikely cast of characters. There’s 12yearold Chad Brayburn, on a mission to save his mom’s cafe (and her sugar pies) from a greedy developer and a world-class alligator wrestler, bent on turning the swamp into a theme park. And Bingo and J’miah, raccoon brothers and new scouts, headquartered in an abandoned 1940 DeSoto, recruited to protect the swamp. Not to mention feral hogs and an illusive bayou bigfoot. It’s a rollicking tale, but with themes of conservation, family and loss. 

If the story doesn’t sound intriguing enough, country singer/musician, Lyle Lovett gives a smooth, third person narration to create an even greater family listening experience.


Carrie’s Pick 

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan Glaser, the third book in The Vanderbeekers series, will not disappoint. Available in cloudLibrary, this book is sure to be a family read together favorite. The Vanderbeeker children have really made a mess of things this time and it looks nearly impossible that they will be able to save their mother’s baking business. But never fear, dear reader, Karina Yan Glaser has crafted yet another tale where working together and asking for help when necessary is always the right decision and family finds a way in the end.  

During this tumultuous time The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue is a lovely light story that has adventure, animals, delicious cookie ideas, and a ton of heart.

Sarah Mari’s Pick

I’m going to go with YA fiction pick In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton, a former Maine resident. The book tells the tale of Ruth Robba Jewish teenager who moves from New York City to Atlanta in 1958 after the unexpected death of her father. There Ruth quickly discovers that if she wants to be popular, she can’t be Jewish. She decides to hide her religion to stay friends with the A-list crowd and the handsome popular boy, David. Then a violent hate crime rocks the small communityRuth suddenly finds herself having to choose: between one of the two worlds she has cultivated for herself, and between what is easy and what is right. 

I heard Caplan speak about In The Neighborhood of True. Though the book is set more than sixty years in the past, there are stark comparisons to events that are happening today, wrapped up in a bit of history that not many know about and a teenage character who is frustratingly realistic. 


Emily’s Picks 

Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning was a National Book Award-winning work in 2016. He met Jason Reynolds at the ceremony — he was also nominated for his book, Ghost — and the two became friends. When Kendi later though about who should adapt his book for young readers, he immediately thought of Jason because of his ability to connect and engage younger readers.  

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You is Jason Reynolds’s remix that gives young readers an approachable and accessible way to examine the country’s legacy of racism, and how it impacts our lives today. Young readers already know and love Reynolds’s books, and now they have the author speaking directly to them about difficult and important concepts. He emphasizes that this is NOT a history book, or at least, not your typical history book. It’s aimed at middle schoolers and high schoolers, but I definitely encourage teachers, parents, and anyone interested in Kendi’s work to borrow a copy. If at all possible, give the audiobook a listen — Reynolds narrates himself and his rich voice and strong pacing make him the audiobook all the more compelling. He was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature this year, and knowing that he will be visiting and speaking with — and listening to — kids across the country gives me hope. 


Michele’s Pick 

I am always on the lookout for my next true crime fix and if you are too, look no further. You literally can’t make this stuff up! I had to keep checking while reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup to confirm it was indeed nonfiction and I had not accidentally stumbled into the crime fiction section when I picked this book out. 

For fans of Catch and Kill and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, here is the page-turner you’ve been craving: the scandalous, white-collar true crime story of the rise and downfall of Silicon Valley company Theranos, skillfully recounted by investigative journalist John Carrreyrou of the Wall Street Journal.  

Prepare to be shocked as you meet Elizabeth Holmes, Stanford dropout and privileged daughter of a wealthy, well-connected family, and discover how she was able to raise billions of dollars over several years to produce and market her amazing invention: a small, portable bloodtesting machine called the Edison that could run several blood tests on only a drop of blood. There was only one small problem that she didn’t share with investors: she could never actually get this invention to work.   

This best-selling book has been included by NPR, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal on their Best Books of the Year lists, and for good reason. Leave it all behind for a few hours as you are swept up in this outrageous true story of corruption and intrigue in Silicon Valley. 


A page from “Pokko and the Drum” by Matthew Forsythe.


 Picks For Your To-Be-Read & More Shelves

Jessie’s Picks  

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe 

In this deceptively simple-seeming picture book, we follow the adventures of Pokko, a young frog, and her parents, who make a big mistake when they give her a drum. After all, they’re just a quiet family who lives in a mushroom. And Pokko simply can NOT stay quiet with that drum. But is it a mistake after all? Deadpan humor, a beautiful color palette, and a story that works equally well for children and adults. For any parent who has ever realized the gift they just gave their child might have unintended consequences and for any child who’s ever marched to the beat of their own drum, this story is a winner. 

The Little Women Cookbook: Novel Takes on Classic Recipes from Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Friends by Jenne Bergstrom and Miko Osada 

 Full disclosure—The two authors, librarians in San Diego County, are acquaintances of mine. But I don’t think that has influenced how much I adore this book (at least, not too much). Historical recipes are one of my favorite niche genres, and historical recipes from books? Even better. The authors have adapted the recipes from vintage cookbooks of the March family’s era and updated them for modern kitchens.  Combining quotes and illustrations from Little Women, helpful cooking tips, and lovely food photography, this is a must read for Little Women fans everywhere. And if you love food inspired literature as much as I do you can also check out Bergrstrom and Osada’s blog 36 eggs, in which they explore recipes from all kinds of works of food-filled fiction, like Anne of Green Gables and the Harry Potter series. 


 Will’s Pick

As Brooke Gladstone observes in her introduction to Presidential Campaign Posters, campaign posters are a tool to enlist voters, condensing complicated policies and issues. Like Japanese manga, if there are fewer details in an image we can identify with the candidates and their message more easily. At the same time, the most effective campaign poster of every era leaves as much as possible to the voter’s imagination.

In the coming months we’ll witness the Presidential Campaign Posters of the 2020 elections: you may enjoy this book as an interesting history compiled by the Library of Congress.


Joanna’s Pick

Back in February, in the midst of winter doldrums, I checked out Animal Crossing: New Leaf. As soon as I had the game in my hands I found myself completely hooked. My first focus was on stocking the museum with fossils. I honed in so acutely on this that the villagers began to complain that I wasn’t paying enough attention to them. I started to worry and overcompensated by visiting all of the people and bestowing them with all manner of gifts. Then the villagers began to complain that I wasn’t committed to the public works projects for the town. Eventually I had to do a routine update and I lost all of my progress just in the nick-of-time so that the game made its way back to the library before the due date. (Thank goodness.) The new version of Animal Crossing is set to release in April and the hype surrounding it has been real: I completely understand why. 


Click to read the rest of Brian Doyle’s “An Leabhariann.”


Eileen’s Pick

Recently, dear friend and former PPL reference librarian Paul D’Alessandro sent this link to me.  Like so many library workers he cannot, even in retirement, resist sharing with others what he finds in his own search for sustenance.

Brian Doyle’s essay hits every note with casual perfection.  It explains why we library workers do what we do, why we care as much as  we do.  Its tidy packaging and sprawling spirit also explains why I read, always hoping to find just this sort gem.  It requires little time (so short!) and I suspect I will read it  again and again for the pure joy and sense of recognition it brings.   I hope you like it too.

February Staff Picks

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


At the end of February, library workers are deep into the winter routine, hauling home the stacks of movies and books that see us through the days of sun and days of snow. We hope you are likewise finding plenty to keep you occupied! Here are our staff picks.


Cindy’s Picks

“I’m a jellyfish glowing in the dark sea, bright and brilliant, just waiting to be discovered. 

I’m reading The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm, a chapter book about 11-year-old Ellie, who doesn’t like change.  When her beloved pet goldfish dies, her best friend seems to be abandoning her, and then her scientist grandfather suddenly shows up at her house, miraculously de-aged to 14 years old, she is confronted with a lot of it all at once.  

The first line reads: “When I was in preschool, I had a teacher named Starlily.  She wore rainbow tye-dyed dresses and was always bringing in cookies that were made with granola and flax and had no taste.” The book is quirky and fun, but touches on a lot of hard subjects, from living with a family fractured by divorce, loss and middle-school friendship issues.  It is often very funny at the same time you really feel for Ellie and her grandfather, who are both struggling with issues of change.  I am listening to this as an audiobook and the reader is particularly good 

I also just finished listening to the inimitable voice of Jim Dale reading Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne.  Verne already has such an incredibly fresh and fun voice as an author, despite having written his books more than 100 years ago.  His sense of humor is genuinely of the laugh-out-loud variety and I was on the edge of my seat over and over, listening to this madcap voyage around the world that begins with a gentleman’s club bet on the part of the main character, Phileas Fogg.  The story is told from the perspective of his brand new French valet, Passepartout, a man who really only wants the quiet life of an English manservant, but gets much more than he bargained for.  

This book even holds a mystery: Is Phileas Fogg the notorious Gentleman Bank Robber who stole 50,000 pounds at a London bank?  Is his “bet” actually a ploy for escaping capture by the Police?  Join Police Inspector Fix as he follows Fogg around the world, trying to arrest him for the crime time and again and discover the truth! 

If you have put off reading Jules Verne, thinking it may be dry and boring, rush to the library today and disabuse yourself of that notion immediately, and be prepared for a laugh fest that is both touching and exciting. 


Emily’s Pick 

Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed have co-written a sweet teen romance and inspiring call to action all in one. Yes No Maybe So introduces readers to Jamie, an anxious but charming 17-year-old whose cousin roped him into helping out on a local election campaign, and whose mom is pushing him to give a speech at his sister’s upcoming bat mitzvah. When he goes to the local mosque for an interfaith Iftar and campaign event, he bumps into his outgoing childhood friend Maya—and also bumps into a wobbly table, knocking the whole thing over. Their parents encourage the two to start canvassing, and while both are reluctant at first, they discover a new understanding of why local politics matter, and how important even seemingly small elections can be to protect individual rights and freedoms. Albertalli and Saeed have not only written a book that will inspire readers to take action in local politics, but they’ve also written a charming friendship between Jamie and Maya, which so sweetly develops into a romance. Readers will be drawn in, rooting for both Jamie and Maya as they grow over the course of the book — and will be anxious to see how this fictional Senate race will turn out!   

For readers who are following along with the library’s 2020 Reading Challenge — this one has a potential for checking off so many boxes. Written by two authors, an #OwnVoices book, a book that teaches a skill (canvassing!), or the category I’ve fit the book into — a book I wish I could have given my teenage self. Of course, you can also now use it as a book that is recommended on Staff Picks! 




Kerry’s Pick 

I am excited to read Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Uniona historical romance and spy novel that takes place during the US Civil War. I devoured Alyssa’s Reluctant Royals series and have no doubt this book will be just as spectacular. 


Sarah’s Pick 

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry follows a high school field hockey team from Danvers, Massachusetts (formerly Salem Village) in the 1980’s. After a depressing defeat, and thinking of the women who were tried for witchcraft three centuries earlier, the members pledge allegiance to a notebook bearing the image of Emilio Estevez. When the official season starts and the Falcons start winning games, the girls feel Emilio pushing them toward their more devilish impulses. As they cause increasing mayhem around Danvers, the team can feel Emilio demanding more from them, and they worry they won’t be able to keep the magic going long enough to win the state championship.  

Barry (also the author of She Weeps Each Time You’re Born) is deeply witty, writing the narrator as a sort of omniscient group-think, the team speaking as one wry voice. Barry spends time with each of the team members and examines their struggles with the gender norms of the late 1980s as well as with race, identity, family, and friendship. Three of the characters are women of color who have complex relationships to being surrounded mostly by white people; a few of the girls discover budding nuance in their sexuality; and they all start to wonder if witchcraft is really about taking up space in a world that wants to keep you small. As Emilio pushes them further down the path of darkness, readers will cheer them on because what they’re really doing is learning to be fully and authentically themselves. Touching, hilarious, and deeply satisfying. 



Elizabeth’s Picks 

Technology. Magic. Folklore. Friendship, history, revenge, revelation: time for new books! There’s a heap from favorite and new authors coming out this springDanez Smith’s new poetry collection, Homie, is out, and Louise Erdrich has a new novel in March—The Night Watchmanbased on the life of her grandfather.  I’m also looking forward to a bunch of great-looking fiction debuts, including New Waves by Kevin Nguyen, Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn, These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy CardConjure Women by Afia Atakora, and Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang. 




Becca’s Pick 

I spent New Year’s in the company of friends who are graphic novel connoisseurs. While browsing their shelves, I discovered the first volume of Crowdedwhich collects the first six issues of the comic and poses a horrifying idea: what if the most coveted paycheck in the gig economy were a human life?  

Charlie wakes up one morning to discover a campaign was created on Reapra legal assassination appin her name. The campaign has thousands of backers, and the first person to assassinate her stands to make over a million dollars. Charlie hires Vita, a bodyguard with low online ratings, to keep her safe until the campaign ends in one month.  

I began reading Crowded as New Year’s Eve crested into New Year’s Day, and I didn’t stop until it was finished. The story is fast-paced, the characters are delightful, and the premise is just familiar enough on the cusp of this new decade to leave you wanting more (and please let “more” be an ending that isn’t global catastrophe!). If you like character-driven stories with a sinister undertone that still make you spontaneously guffaw, I suggest checking Crowded out. 


Carrie’s Pick 

Minestrone, Beluga Lentils with Kale, and all the timings for beans, grains, and vegetables! I love my Instant Pot and The Essential Vegan Instant Pot: Fresh and Foolproof Plant-based Recipes for your Electric Pressure Cooker by Coco Morante has become my go to for ideas. And the minestrone is now a weekly favorite at our house. 




Eileen’s Pick   

Hearts and flowers and love.  That’s what you get when you sit down with the 2000 movie Return to Me  

Grace Briggs, played by Minnie Driver, tends an urban garden behind Grandpa’s Irish-Italian restaurant, her plants thriving as she accustoms herself to a post-heart transplant life of promise and possibility.  Color celebrates this simultaneously lucky and tragic gift of a future in her fanciful watercolors painted in the garden, but her hopes reach beyond the garden fence and close circle of dear family. Life awaits even as she is drowning in their love. 

The cast is an absolute dream, and the relationships they create on screen feel right and natural.  In his last film, Carroll O’Connor, as Grace’s grandpa Marty, reminds me of Irish Catholic gentlemen in my own life, with his devoutly clutched beads and earnest faith that prayers are always heard.  Bonnie Hunt, multitasking as co-writer and director, also plays Megan, Grace’s confidante, with hopeful realism and a sense of the absurd that finds honesty in any circumstances.  It doesn’t hurt that her foil is James Belushi as Joe, Megan’s husband and dad to their several unruly children; Joe is a master of unintended silliness, especially when life is at its most chaotic.  David Duchovny is Bob, a young widower just allowing light to penetrate his enormous grief, both baffled and bolstered by the possibility of joy after a chance encounter with Grace.  Good friend Charlie (David Alan Grier), who has tried his best to cajole Bob back into life with offers of unpromising blind dates, is bemused to find that Bob has been adopted by his new silver-haired widowed friends (O’Connor, Robert Loggia, William Bronder, Eddie Jones) and is now happily bowling, begad!, albeit badly, with Grace’s extended family.  The scene of Bob’s induction into the after-hours poker game at O’Reilly’s Italian Restaurant wins my heart every time I see it; and accompanying them all to the bowling alley is a sure-fire antidote for what ails me, even in February, which sometimes feels like an ailment all on its own. 

The film is more confection than perfection, I suppose, with its predictably improbable bumps in the road.  The plot may be far-fetched, but so is life, as often as not.  As with life, it goes down better because of the small delights along the way, and Return to Me is chock full of small delights and scenes of everyday love.  

Every time I see it, it makes me happy.  




As ever, thank you for reading! We share our staff picks of favorite library materials here at the Life of the Library blog each month. If you are looking for more reading ideas, try filling out a Your Next (Great!) Read form to get a personalized list of reading suggestions from our Reader’s Advisory Staff, or check out our booklists.

2019 Tax Help

posted: , by Williams Bandoma
tags: Recommended Reads | Adults | Business | Government

Volunteers from AARP will be at the Main Library to help patrons file their taxes (free of charge!). Beginning, February 5th through April 15th every Wednesday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm, in Meeting Room #5.

Making an appointment is recommended, call (207) 518 8579 (leave your name & number)  Click here to see other AARP tax assistance sites in Maine.

CA$H Maine, a division of the United Way, also offers tax assistance with some income stipulations – learn more here.

The IRS has redesigned Form 1040 and now introducing Form 1040-SR for use by taxpayers age 65 or older. Portland Public Library would be giving free Form 1040 & 1040-SR booklet which includes schedules 1 through 3 & instruction booklet and Form 1099 A.

Forms will be available at the main library and its branches beginning February 2nd, 2020.

You can download and print any forms, instructions or publications by visiting IRS.gov. 

Free file; do your federal taxes for FREE here

Please click on this link for a video on free file

You can obtain the State of Maine tax form  by requesting online or calling (207)-624-7894 (leave your name and mailing address) or printing forms at https://www.maine.gov/revenue/forms/homepage.html

The Maine Library would be issuing free Portland Senior Tax Equity Program application instruction and form for Portland seniors, must be 62 years or older with a homestead in Portland.

If you have any questions, please contact the Reference Desk at 207-871-1700 X 725 or email; reference@portlib.org

We are happy to help!


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