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Four Aunties and a Wedding: Summer Staff Picks

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

This may be the hottest day of the summer yet, so it’s a good day to curl up with a book at the library—or to catch a sweet story time with our Bookmobile staff on their travels all over Portland! 

Our staff shares a few titles for everyone from their summer stacks: we hope you’ll be inspired—and that you have lots of summer reading adventures ahead.  


Emily’s Picks 

This month, I wanted to feature two books that had me quite literally laughing out loud while reading.

The first is the goofy yet sweet picture book, Bathe the Cat, written by Alice B. McGinty and illustrated by David Roberts. It’s a book about a familiar scramble for any family — quick, clean the house before Grandma arrives! — but with hilarious results. The list of chores spelled out on the fridge is scrambled by a mischievous cat (who does NOT want a bath), and the dads and their kids go through sillier and sillier chores (“I’ll vacuum the lawn. Bobby, bathe the mat. Sarah, mop the baby, and Dad will mow the cat”) until finally all gets sorted out. It’s a book that I read to my kids once, we all cackled through it, and then we immediately had to re-read over and over!  

For teen and adult readers, I recommend Kings of B’more, written by Eric R. Thomas, a book that at one point had me crying, I was laughing so hard! Reader, beware, it’s absolutely hilarious, and also a sweet portrait of a close friendship between two queer Black boys growing up in Baltimore. When Harrison learns that his best friend Linus is moving away, and in mere DAYS, he decides to throw Linus a “Ferris day” inspired by the weird old movie his Dad had them watch on family movie night. The two have a day packed full of Pride festivities, a whirlwind trip to DC, new friends, and a surprising number of encounters with Harrison’s family. Not everything goes to plan, but they come out the other end with a deeper understanding of their friendship and themselves. We get both Harrison and Linus’s points of view, and they are each written distinctly with such clear voices that their personalities leap off the page. If you’re looking for more from Eric once you’ve finished Kings of B’more, I recommend his memoir, Here For It—another excellent, funny, and touching read.


Vicky’s Picks 

The people who work most closely with me have become accustomed to my pressing the occasional picture book into their hands with a “Read this. It’ll make your day better.” (When they finish, they are gracious enough to agree that it has.) Some of my perennial day-improvers are the Chirri & Chirra series by Japanese author/illustrator Kaya Doi 

In their first adventure, simply titled Chirri & Chirra, translated by Yuki Kaneko, the eponymous kids pedal into the forest, where they find a café set with “tables and chairs of all different size.” There Chirri and Chirra sip acorn coffee and clover blossom tea alongside honeybees (whose cheery wave accompanies a teeny speech-balloon “Hello!”). This begins a day of whimsy, in which tasty foods are served by friendly animals and the forest hotel is reached just at sunset, with a room “just right for them” from which they join other guests in an evening serenade.  

Chirri & Chirra in the Tall Grass takes the children to some bumblebees’ underground nest and a lizard’s cozy grotto; Chirri & Chirra: The Snowy Day finds them in fuzzy white hats, coats, mittens, and boots, cycling serenely through snowdrifts to a community center made of ice where they play marbles with forest animals before bathing in a hot spring. (Both of these titles are also translated by Kaneko.) In Chirri & Chirra: The Rainy Day, translated by David Boyd, the children happen upon a shop that’s “only open on rainy days” and are caught in an upside-down rain shower. 

The books are immediately charming in their size, an unusual 6.75 inches high by 9.5 inches long. When opened up, the spreads are tiny panoramas, appropriate for the adventures of two imperturbable children whose bicycle travels often shrink them to the size of insects. Doi’s colored pencils create softly smudged figures haloed in creamy negative space, giving them the look of mid-20th-century lithographs. 

Guarantee day-improvers in 40 pages. What could be better?


Julia’s Picks

One of my favorite new middle-grade books is Leonard (My Life as a Cat) by Carlie Sorosiak. It’s the wacky and surprisingly moving story of an alien who visits Earth and accidentally gets trapped in the body of a cat. He’s rescued by a human girl, Olive, who knows heaps of animal facts but worries about fitting in at her new school, just as Leonard struggles to fit into his new feline life. The problem: Leonard has to get to his pick-up point in Yellowstone National Park by the end of the month, or he’ll be stuck as a cat and, worse yet, become mortal! Narrated in Leonard’s unique voice, this is ultimately a funny and poignant story of two lonely souls finding each other and becoming a family.  

Note: This book is on this year’s Maine Student Book Award list; kids who read three or more books from the list can vote for their favorite in the spring! 

Also on the MSBA list, Betty Culley’s Down to Earth is the story of Henry Bower, an inquisitive, homeschooled 10-year-old growing up in a small Maine town in a family of dowsers (people with a semi-magical ability to find water underground). After he sees a meteorite fall on his family’s land, strange things start happening to the local water, sowing division in the town. I loved the way Culley interweaves science, magical realism, and small-town life, as well as the sense of timelessness that suffuses the novel. Henry’s relationship with his younger sister, Birdie, is particularly lovely. This may not be an edge-of-your-seat read, but its gentle, uplifting tone stayed with me long after I had finished listening. 


Una’s Picks 

A picture book: Anatole and the Thirty Thieves, a charming picture book about a mouse that foils a cheese theft. The illustrations are absolutely adorable! 

A serious book: Dear Memory by Victoria Chang. I’ve been sitting on this recommendation for a while. Not because I have nothing to say about it, but because I don’t know where to begin with this rec. To describe Victoria Chang’s collection of letters and personal collages as “haunting” is both apt and woefully insufficient. Each letter, whether to a person, her past, her family, a memory, evokes a different set of emotions. Each collage opens a window into her grief and the sense of mystery and loss associated with it. You might expect that something so personal might be alienating, but it’s not. In her specifics, we find a universal. I’ll leave a quote from the book that I found particularly poignant: “I wonder whether memory is different for immigrants, for people who leave so much behind. Memory isn’t something that blooms but something that bleeds internally, something to be stopped. Memory hides because it isn’t useful. Not money, a car, a diploma, a job. I wonder if memory for you was a color.” 

A fun book: Dungeons & Dragons Player Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide. I will always happily chat about and advocate for D&D and other tabletop RPGs (roleplaying games)–it’s communal and cooperative storytelling, engages players’ imaginations, helps develop interpersonal communication skills, and, most importantly, is tremendously fun to play. If our copies of the D&D rulebooks are unavailable and you want to jump in to playing any tabletop RPG as soon as possible, check out the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, which uses a slightly different rule system but at its core still enables you to play fantasy adventures and create memorable stories with others.  

For teens interested in playing D&D, Megan and I are running a mini-campaign every other week online! 


Cindy’s Picks 

Three new books are high on my summer reading TBR list right now. My first pick is children’s novel from new shelf: The Ash House by Angharad Walker. “…They turned a corner and started down the long, winding driveway.  The main road disappeared behind a wall of evergreens. After a twist in the drive, he saw a dirty gold gate and a boy perched on top of it.” 

Calling Dr.  Laura by Nicole J. Georges is my second pick, a graphic novel from our collection for adult readers: “In the tradition of Fun Home, a charming debut memoir about the psychic reading that spurs a Portland ‘Zinester to uncover an old secret about the family she never knew.”  

And the last book that caught my eye is Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell. This book explores what makes cults so intriguing and frightening and delves into the psychology behind what makes them work. “It started with a prayer.  Tasha Samar was thirteen years old the first time she heard the bewitching buzz of their voices…” 


Becca’s Picks 

As I write this, I am preparing for a weeklong vacation. Part of the week will be spent camping, while I’ll spend the rest lounging around in Portland as much as possible. This means I have a mighty hefty (and, let’s face it, mostly aspirational) TBR pile on my kitchen table. Here’s what’s in that pile: 

The Immortal King Rao, by Vauhini Vara: The warming world is now governed by algorithm. The ambitious computer scientist-turned-mogul-turned-pariah who invented the algorithm has died. His only daughter, who has access to his memories, interweaves her father’s story and recollections of her childhood in isolation.  

Four Aunties and a Wedding, by Jesse Q. Sutanto: Have you read Dial A For Aunties yet? It’s the perfect beach read; it has family drama, hilarity, romance, and an absurdly enjoyable murder plot. The sequel, which has Meddy and her four adorably embarrassing aunties embarking on a mafia investigation on the eve of Meddy’s wedding, is just as laugh-out-loud fun as the first.  

Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, by Sarah Schulman: No vacation is complete without a nonfiction tome. ACT UP is a revolutionary HIV/AIDS activism organization. Sarah Schulman, who was active in ACT UP’s New York chapter in the 1980s, spent decades interviewing rank and file members for this people’s history, meticulously detailing what worked, what did not, and what could work for future activist movements in the United States.  

Burntcoat, by Sarah Hall: A virus is ravaging the UK, and an artist isolates in Burntcoat, her studio, with a new lover. Will reading a book in 2022 about a COVID-like pandemic be cathartic or anxiety-inducing? Ask me upon my return to the office! 

I hope you can find space and time for rest this summer. We’re here to help you build that TBR pile! 


Raminta’s Picks 

 After watching the trailer for this Everything, Everywhere All at Once earlier this year, I was really excited when my hold came up. Michelle Yeoh plays an immigrant who is thrown into an adventure that shows her how her life would have changed had she made other life decisions. Ke Huy Quan is masterful in his portrayal of Yeoh’s husband. A far cry from his childhood stint in the Goonies! Jamie Lee Curtis is the perfect, flawed “baddy” despite not being the main villain. After watching this movie, you’ll want to call your mom. Trust me. 

 If you are looking for an action comedy with fantastic acting chops, look no further than Nicolas Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Cage plays a version of himself in this film that is incredibly hilarious. Very few actors can actually play themselves well while at poking fun at their own implied eccentricities. Pedro Pascal is marvelous. There is a scene in the film somewhat bringing to mind the scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (film AND book), which I won’t spoil, but left me in tears of laughter. It was obvious that all involved loved making this film and it truly is one of the best comedies of the year!  

Mostly Dead Things was a book that was totally not on my radar but I’m glad I read it. As an actual Floridian (someone who was born there), I sometimes enjoy reading tales from the weird and wacky Sunshine State. Author Kristin Arnett paints a picture of Jessa-Lynn Morton, who takes over her family’s taxidermy shop in central Florida after her father’s death. Jessa-Lynn’s mother starts to use the taxidermy to create strange intimate scenes between the animals, while her younger brother and his teen children try to help Jessa-Lynn with the shop (sometimes through not-quite-legal means). This is a story of loss and self-discovery portrayed in the most Florida ways ever. Florida isn’t all sunshine, beaches, and Disney, and this story does a great job of highlighting Floridian uniqueness. 


Elizabeth’s Picks 

A secretive group—Loulie al-Nazari (Midnight Merchant and seller of astonishing relics), her jinn bodyguard, a prince in hiding, and a mysterious thief—sets out on a marvelous journey full of twists and turns in Chelsea Abdullah’s wonderful The Stardust Thief, the first in a trilogy. I curled up with it on a hot day and lost myself rooting for Loulie on her desert adventures.  Vaishnavi Patel’s debut fantasy Kaikeyi whisked me away, too: “I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.” Wait, you want more hot-off-the-press epic fantasy from our Adult Fiction collection? We hear you! Check out Saara El-Arifi’s The Final Strife. 

Congrats again to Ada Limón, author of The Hurting Kind and the next Poet Laureate of the United States! I love the opening poem of her collection (about groundhogs, tomatoes, and a summer-y, defiant joy) and so many others, especially the title poem “The Hurting Kind,” where stories of snakes and ancestors and the impossibility of summing up all a life means are beautifully wound together.  

A whole crew of library staff is looking forward to Lungfish, the debut novel of local author Meghan Gilliss. It’s out in September, so place your holds now! The starred Kirkus review offers a glowing glimpse into the stakes of this remarkable book (which is set on a tiny island in the Gulf of Maine). As the reviewer notes: “Gilliss is an extraordinary writer; passages of the novel read like poetry…the peril the family is in keeps the pages flying. As startling and intense as the windswept landscape the book depicts.” 


Eileen’s Pick 

Just a quick vote in favor of your picking up and spending time with Stuart McLean this summer.  Mr. McLean was a writer and host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show “The Vinyl Café” until his death in 2017.   My latest happy dose of McLean’s work is The Vinyl Café Notebooks from 2010.   The essays contained therein will both calm you and make you think, all the while sharing in his love of his native Canada.  

His way with a story is beguiling and perfect for a hot day with a sweating iced glass of something that makes you happy close by.   That means I am further suggesting that you snag Revenge of the Vinyl Café and find your joy with Morley, Dave, Sam and Stephanie, McLean’s endearing and hilarious characters from his now defunct radio show.  I can hear his voice’s distinct delivery in his writing, so if you know the old show this will be the next best thing to having Stuart talk you through another day at the Vinyl Café. 

However you choose to vacate (mentally, physically or both), I wish you your best summer ever.  As for me, wherever I am, I will be sure to have a book with me.




As ever, thanks for reading. If you’re looking for more reading ideas, that is our very favorite thing! Check out our Your Next Great Read service for readers of all ages, or simply reach out to our staff at for your own personalized booklist of reading suggestions.

Messy Roots and Heartstoppers: June Staff Picks!

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

Welcome to our June Staff Picks!

“Romance is having a moment. It brings me so much joy to see how mainstream romance has blossomed from a small garden of hydrangeas into acres upon acres of sweet and juicy crops of all kinds.” from Becca’s Picks

This month we swoon over queer romances, pick up picture books, dive into nonfiction depths and pile on the love for two titles: our top picks were Messy Roots by Laura Gao and Heartstopper by Alice Osemon, both chosen by more than one staff person. Read on to discover all the gems of June…

Emily’s Picks 

Jacqueline Woodson’s The World Belonged To Us is a gorgeous new picture book and conveys all the joys of school letting out and spending summertime in the city. Unsurprisingly, it is beautifully written, and we loved Leo Espinosa’s fun, bright illustrations of all the kids playing outside in 1970s Brooklyn. 

Kyle Lukoff’s Different Kinds of Fruit is a standout for me this month, and I especially recommend listening to Cassandara Morris’s lively audiobook narration via cloudLibrary. It’s the story of Annabelle, a curious and charming sixth grader growing up in a small town expecting her new school year to be the same as every other — and how everything changes for her after she meets a new classmate. Annabelle quickly becomes close with the new student Bailey, who is nonbinary, and they open up Annabelle’s world to different ideas about gender, and they inadvertently encourage Annabelle’s parents to share more of their own family history. Narrator Morris captures the bold personalities of Annabelle, Bailey, and their classmates who fight back when faced with prejudice, and Lukoff’s writing feels immediate and very real. Excellent reading for kids (and adults!) who love contemporary fiction and stories of family, friendship, and standing up for yourself and others.  

Young readers who are longing for magical worlds to delve into this month also have a wealth of new titles to explore! Our household has been abuzz with talk of Witchlings, Claribel A. Ortega’s story of witchcraft and impossible tasks—and competitive toad races. (And once kids finish Witchlings, definitely seek out Ghost Squad, Ortega’s charming debut!) Readers who love books that combine the best of science fiction, fantasy, mythology, and videogames will adore Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao. It’s a fast-paced story that features a 2,000 year old Chinese emperor possessing an AR headset, launching Zachary from Maine to China on a supernatural quest to save the world! And our family’s current read-aloud is the incredibly engrossing The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton, with a mysterious international school of magic in the sky that every reader will long to attend.

Vicky’s Pick 

Originally published in Ukraine in 2015 following Russia’s seizure of Crimea and invasion of the Donbas region, the picture book How War Changed Rondo gave Ukrainian children a way to process what it means to experience and survive war. Published in the United States in 2021 in Oksana Lushchevska’s translation, this tragically timely and poignant fable is now accessible to English-speaking readers. Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv, a couple, collaborated on both text and illustrations to tell the story of the peaceful, happy town of Rondo via three main characters: Danko, a walking lightbulb; Fabian, a balloon dog, and Zirka, an origami bird. War is depicted as a terrifying, unreasoning force that wreaks destruction—yet the impossibly fragile protagonists fight back. The fantastic setting and surreal treatment allow young readers to understand without being overwhelmed. In the end, each character bears scars, but their community survives to thrive again. Here’s hoping.

Una’s Picks 

Kids’ book rec: I Am The Subway—Ever been on public transit, look around, and wonder what goes on in other passengers’ lives? This book explores that with all the whimsy and wonder of a picture book, reminding us that a community is a living mural of unique stories and lives. 

Graphic novel: Messy Roots—While there is no “one size fits all” narrative for anyone’s life stories, the broader strokes of experiences– growing up as an outsider, struggling to untangle your roots to find yourself, and finally coming to realize and revel in the messiness of it– are certainly relatable to many. For me, some of the smaller details, such as having your home language slip away with time and feeling the linguistic divide between yourself and your family grow, are where Laura Gao’s story truly resonated and made me feel less alone in my experiences. I highly recommend it for anyone, especially those who have felt similarly.

Jay’s Picks 

I have two Pride Month picks: And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts and Heartstopper by Alice Oseman. These picks are LGBTQIA+ themed, but the similarities stop there.  

In And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts’ timeline interweaves devastating personal accounts of HIV/AIDS diagnoses alongside public health bureaucracy. For those who did not live through the height of the epidemic or were more insulated from its impact, the book provides a much needed political and cultural contextualization. During Pride, it reminds me of the queer community’s history of protest and struggle for change. I’ll stop myself there to avoid editorializing, but I found the book tragically eye-opening.  

I haven’t read the graphic novel Heartstopper *yet*, but I’m patiently waiting my turn on the library’s holds list. It’s currently drawing even more popularity after the premier of its TV series adaptation that was written and co-executive produced by the author, Alice Oseman. Heartstopper is an adorably sweet story of queer teen romance. It’s written for and about teens, but its feel-good vibe also appeals to broader LGBTQIA+ audiences who didn’t have many depictions of healthy and supportive queer relationships in media when they were growing up. It’s a book that fills me with joy and hope for the future.

A beautiful book display for Pride Month created by Burbank staff.

Cindy’s Pick 

I recently read the most wonderful LGBTQIA+ romance graphic novel called Heartstopper.  It takes place in an English all-boys high school. Charlie and Nick couldn’t be more different: Charlie is a drummer, a runner and has been bullied in the past year when he came out as gay, and Nick is a rugby player who’s a year older. The two boys form an unlikely but adorable friendship. They are so supportive of each other, and Nick quickly realizes that he has more fun with Charlie than he has ever had with any other friends. Charlie develops a crush on Nick very quickly. 

What follows in the first volume is Nick slowly realizing that he may have just as big of a crush on Charlie as their friendship deepens. It is the sweetest friendship and romance, absolutely a treasure. You can find all four volumes at PPL. I cannot wait to read the next volume!

Carly’s Picks 

Yes, it’s true: Heartstopper  is wonderful. Through Alice Oseman’s expressive art, readers follow high schoolers Charlie and Nick as they become fast friends before falling for each other. The series is sweet and charming, and it also addresses sensitive teen topics with thoughtfulness and care. If you’ve already read the books and watched the show, you may be looking for graphic novels to tide you over until Volume 5 comes out next year. I recommend Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, Blue Flag by Kaito, Girl from the Sea by Molly Ostertag, Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganuchea, and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki.

And while school may nearly be out for the summer, I love campus novels in any season. In fact, I regularly reread Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, which follows main character Selin during her freshman year at Harvard in 1995. Selin’s dry observations of adulthood and academia make me cackle, and the chronicle of her first love—forged primarily by way of this new thing called email—will leave you reminiscing about the early internet. Given how much I love The Idiot (along with Batuman’s essay collection, The Possessed), I’ve come to the conclusion that I would even read a phonebook if Batuman wrote it. Most luckily for me, the sequel to The Idiot, Either/Or, comes out this week. 

Julia’s Picks 

For Pride Month, I would like to recommend a few recent books on asexuality for readers of all ages! Whether you’re an ace-spectrum reader looking for representation, or you’ve never heard of this orientation and want to learn more, these four reads are a great place to start. 

For kids: Rick, by Alex Gino, is a gentle middle-grade novel about finding community and true friendship. Sixth-grader Rick discovers a home in the Rainbow Spectrum Club at his new middle school and a new word to describe himself: asexual. But can he keep his new friends a secret from his bullying best friend, Jeff? And what might Rick’s (surprisingly cool) Grandpa Ray have to teach him about being his authentic self? 

For teens: Alice Oseman’s Loveless tells the story of Georgia, a rom-com-obsessed university student who has never had a real crush. As she navigates her first year of uni with her two best friends and a bubbly new roommate, she learns more about her own identity and discovers that friendships can be as rich and fulfilling as any romance. Shakespearean hijinks and an enemies-to-lovers side plot round out this breezy YA novel. My favorite line: “There’s nothing you have to do except be.” 

For adults: Ace, by Angela Chen, is part memoir, part nuanced inquiry into the many facets of asexual identity. This is not simply a primer on asexuality; Chen is less interested in definitions and labels than in the lived experiences of people on the asexual spectrum (aces). She reflects on her own personal journey as an ace woman as well as those of a wide variety of aces, paying welcome attention to the intersection of asexuality with race, gender, and disability. 

Also recommended for both adults and teens: The humorous and informative graphic novel, How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual, by Rebecca Burgess.

Megan’s Picks 

Goodbye, My Rose Garden is a romance between women set in England in the early 1900s. Hanako is an aspiring writer who travels to England from Japan, hoping that the difference in culture will make it easier for her to publish her own novels. Alice is a noblewoman with a sunny exterior and a hidden secret. Their paths cross when Alice hires the stranded Hanako as staff for her estate. The two women grow close, but when Alice makes an outrageous—and dangerous—request of her new maid, Hanako must decide what she is truly willing to do for her new companion.

In the graphic memoir Messy Roots, Laura struggles with her family bonds near and far. She clashes with her parents, whose standards and priorities are hard for the teen to understand, and fights against the growing distance between herself and the relatives she had to leave behind in Wuhan as a child. Her journey to find her own place to call home leads her to her college art degree and a new queer community.

Stone Fruit chronicles the slow crumble of Bron and Ray’s relationship. The two have their best moments when babysitting Ray’s niece, Nessie, romping through woods and fields as joyous monsters. Outside of those times, their connection wears thin. Everything falls apart when Bron leaves to reconnect with her disapproving family, but Nessie’s mother, Amanda, becomes a surprising source of stability for Ray, who is lost without Bron.

In Coming Back, Preet longs to have a child, but the village’s customs (in which children are granted to couples in the form of seeds that wash ashore) prohibit her from motherhood without a co-parent. Valissa, Preet’s partner, must delve into the depths of the island’s library catacombs to find the source of a magical ailment plaguing the community and cannot stay to help raise a child. Torn apart by their conflicting duties and desires, the two women must travel through a world of dreamlike landscapes and fantastical residents to find their way back to one another.

Lu and Fassen met by chance on war-torn planet as children in Across a Field of Starlight. From then on, the two secretly kept in touch using a device of Lu’s own making, despite the danger it put them both in. Now adults, Fassen—a medic in the fight against the expanding empire—and Lu—who lives peacefully with their family in a hidden, peaceful commune—defy the odds and meet again, with grave consequences.

In The Greatest Thing, Winifred’s two best friends have started attending a new school without her, and she’s feeling left behind and friendless. Her time as a teacher’s assistant in the photography class leads her to new friends, but though they connect over making zines and going thrifting, each teen is scared to reveal their secrets to the others—Winifred included.

As a bonus, here are two books I’m looking forward to: Mamo and The Well.

Raminta’s Picks 

An Answer for Everything: 200 Infographics to Explain the World: I am a sucker for fun graphic design and infographics are right up there for me. While this book is more UK focused, it has a lot of interesting factoids to get you through your day. One of the better UK facts has to do with a government website where citizens can put up e-petitions on all sorts of topics. For example: “Change the plural of sheep to sheeps. If the letter ‘s’ is good enough for other words it’s good enough for sheeps.” There’s also an entire section dedicated to what was left on the moon. Apparently, among other things, there are 44 American spacecraft, one stack of two-dollar bills, seven hammers, and seven hammocks. Also, if you have an extra $6 million, you can hire Ariana Grande for a personal concert. However, with that same amount of money, one can have 150 personal Vanilla Ice concerts ($39,999 each). If you like weird facts with great graphics, this is for you! 

The Memory Librarian: I can honestly state that I had been waiting for this title since it was announced last year. I’m a fan of Janelle Monae’s music and acting and I knew that this book would be something special. The short stories in this book are more like novellas, taking you deep into the world of the Dirty Computers. One doesn’t necessarily need to be aware of Monae’s Dirty Computer album in order to enjoy this book. Each story takes place within that universe but can definitely stand alone. I highly recommend listening to this book as Monae’s narration, in my humble opinion, takes the reader deeper into each story she reads. Take the plunge if you want to explore speculative fiction.

Eileen’s pick: 

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristen Neff & Christopher Germer 

Yes, yes, I’m going the self-improvement/self-compassion route. I don’t mean to belabor the point, except to say that each of us is worth the work and will required to be comfortable in our own skin. 

Neff and Germer’s approach may be too touchy-feely for some (in which case there are likely a zillion other books and resources to sample that may get you where you want to go), but I like it. I return to it when I feel myself backsliding into the deep grooves of self-defeating habit. Exercises, informal practices and meditations form the backbone of the process, and there is a list of audio files to support the work. 

If you are not subject to a steady stream of self-criticism and assumptions that you are defective in irreparable ways, major and minor, you have my awestruck admiration seasoned with a soupçon of disbelief and a generous dollop of envy. But if you are feeling stuck in that swamp and you’d like to disengage from the mire, the better to slide into your own bespoke birthday suit, maybe The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook can help you on your way. 

I am not perfect, you are not perfect, nor is anyone else and that is just fine. Really.

Elizabeth’s Picks 

Nicole Taylor draws on years of gathering with friends and family on Juneteenth to talk history, culture, recipes and togetherness in Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations 

I arrived late in life to the Whodunit party but I’m now hooked on all the plot twists, red herrings and marvels of a good mystery—especially a genre-expansive, queer literary mystery mashup like Jane Pek’s The Verifiers. Something alarming is going on in the very weird world of dating apps and big tech, and Claudia Lin—20-something, New Yorker, amateur sleuth/bike-commuter, lover of old romances, Inspector Yuan mysteries, and pancakes—is on the case! Can she beat the algorithm??? 

While I wait impatiently for the final season of Derry Girls (Sister Michael!), I’m also on hold for Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? A Memoir by Séamas O’Reilly, described as “both cheery and heartbreaking.”   

Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne is an EPIC high fantasy—it’s full of magic, drama, desire (will Priya and Princess Malini fall in love or betray each other?) and rich worldbuilding. Bring this tome to the beach! Or to the mossy, magical woods. I’m also looking forward to another epic-first-in-a-trilogy, this one starring: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah. 

And if you’ve read Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s stellar short stories, you’ll want to check out her debut novel in June—the luminous Woman of Light.

Becca’s Picks 

Romance is having a moment. It brings me so much joy to see how mainstream romance has blossomed from a small garden of hydrangeas into acres upon acres of sweet and juicy crops of all kinds. Here are some recent and upcoming romance releases that will keep you swooning* all summer long.  

  • The Romance Recipe, by Ruby Barrett: I love the diverse array of LGBTQ+ romances published by Carina Adores, and The Romance Recipe is no exception. The proprietor of a failing restaurant hires a reality TV star turned chef to help save the business. Naturally, the restaurant isn’t recovering, and our protagonists love/hate each other. Will an appearance on a popular television show for foodies help turn things around?  
  • By the Book, by Jasmine Guillory: The queen of “enemies to lovers” strikes again! Izzy, a book editor looking for her big break, is assigned to mind a reclusive former child star as he writes his memoir in his big empty castle. They’re both not feeling great about the situation. Will he finish his book? Will it catapult Izzy’s career? Is it all a spinoff of Beauty and the Beast? Time to find out! 
  • The Accidental Pinup, by Danielle Jackson: The world of romance publishing is (slowly) starting to publish books that feature and praise all types of bodies. A boudoir photographer steps out from behind the camera to model her best friend’s new lingerie line. Things take a turn when she realizes her biggest competitor will be photographing her. Can they survive the shoot? Will the subject matter heat things up?  

* If you find yourself really swooning, you may be experiencing heat stroke. Know the signs!


As ever, thanks for reading. You can find our full booklist of reading recommendations in Messy Roots and Heartstoppers: June Staff Picks

If you’re looking for more reading ideas, that is our very favorite thing! Check out our Your Next Great Read service for readers of all ages, or simply reach out to our staff at for your own personalized booklist of reading suggestions.


Meet Ella, Teen Curator of Lewis Gallery Exhibit

posted: , by Heather Wasklewicz
tags: Adults | Teens | Teen Events | Parents & Teachers | Kids & Families | Discover Portland | Seniors | Art & Culture | News

High school senior, Ella Burdin, organized, promoted, funded, and executed a Portland Public School district-wide exhibit of student and faculty artwork.

When we first introduced high school senior Ella Burdin in November 2021, she was interning in the Lewis Gallery under the guidance of Gallery Manager Rachael Harkness, learning the process of how the fall exhibit, ILLUSTRATED MONSTERS BY MONSTER ILLUSTRATORS , was curated, hung, and promoted. This spring, Ella has returned to the Lewis Gallery as the curator of  Art Class, a new exhibit highlighting the art of students and teachers from Portland-area high schools. This fresh work gives visitors the opportunity to browse the work of emerging young artists, including Ella.


Ella’s artistic talents and interest in the field were shaped by her early exposure to the arts. She grew up in galleries and recalls spending many rainy days at the Portland Museum of Art with her family, exploring their collections. She vividly remembers pieces that made an impression,  specifically Dahlov Ipcar’s Blue Savannah. This stunning painting has remained a favorite. As a teenager, a Fellowship opportunity at the PMA solidified her desire to work in a museum as a curator. Today, PMA continues to have an impact and remains one of her favorite places to visit.


Art Class: Exhibit of Student & Teacher work from the Portland Public High Schools on display in the Lewis Gallery.

At PPL, her hands-on experience curating and hanging Art Class energized her post-high school goal of pursuing a career in the arts and presented a fresh appreciation for the details required in creating a dynamic exhibit: from selecting the work to the detail-oriented tasks of measuring and leveling, running mathematical calculations to creative improvising when specific tools were unavailable.  

“The Lewis Gallery internship has been an amazing experience and I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity. Seeing the gallery all finished and watching the artists see their work in a professional gallery was amazing!” – Ella

Under the guidance of Rachael, Ella (along with friends and fellow artists who helped with the hanging process) created a thoughtful presentation with a wide range of work.


As a gifted artist, it is the materials that often inspire her dynamic work. She delights in experimenting with mixed media and incorporating as many possible materials into her pieces. This past year, she enjoyed melting wax and oil pastels creating beautiful pools of color.

In the Fall, Ella will be heading to Tufts University to pursue a dual degree program in art history at the college of arts and sciences and mixed media art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) where she plans to focus on her long-term goals of being becoming a museum gallery curator while continuing to create her art. 

Ella, with Lewis Gallery Manager, Rachael Harkness, poses under one of Ella’s pieces.

“I really enjoyed working with Ella on her internship.  She’s incredibly smart and hardworking and because of that, we were able to work together to make her internship interesting and a great learning experience for both of us.  With just a little guidance from me, she organized, promoted, funded, and executed a Portland Public School district-wide exhibit of student and faculty artwork.  She is the true definition of a self-starter and I am excited to see what her bright future holds.” – Rachael Harkness, Portland Public Library, Programming & Lewis Gallery Manager

Thank you, Ella, for being part of the Library’s art gallery programming and creating a beautiful show spotlighting the talent of our schools for all to enjoy!

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