Duck Duck Book

48 – outcasts of 19 schuyler place
08.1.2007, 6:55 pm
Filed under: fiction

The outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place / E.L. Konigsburg.
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2004.
[MCL call number: y KONIGSBUR; 12 copies, no holds;
also in large type at: LGE-TYPE y KONIGSBUR; five copies, no holds]

Margaret Rose Kane has just been rescued from an unpleasant summer camp by her beloved great-uncle Alex — Margaret’s parents are in Peru for the summer working on an architectural dig to see if they still want to be married to each other, and Margaret wasn’t allowed to come.  Anyway, camp was horrible and Margaret is greatly relieved that she’ll spend the rest of her summer with Alex and his brother Morris, who live together in an old house in a neighborhood that has been unfashionable for a long time. 

But now their neighborhood is getting gentrified, and the upwardly mobile folks who are moving in have successfully petitioned the city to remove the beautiful handmade towers the two brothers spent 45 years building in their back yard.  Margaret learns about the towers’ fate shortly after her arrival at her uncles’ house — it’s completely decided; there has already been a hearing where all sides had a chance to argue their positions, and the city has determined that the towers are unsafe (there aren’t even any structural plans showing how they were built!) and a direct violation of the city’s zoning code. 

Margaret really has no idea exactly how she is going to do it, but she is going to save the towers. 


48 – growing roses organically
08.1.2007, 6:54 pm
Filed under: technology

Growing roses organically : your guide to creating an easy-care garden full of fragrance and beauty / Barbara Wilde.
Emmaus, Pa. : Rodale, Inc., c2002.
[MCL call number: 635.933734 W671g 2002; three copies, no  holds; one copy reference only at Central Library]

Portland is the city of roses.  The climate here is perfect for growing many kinds of plants, but our mild winters, cool rainy springs, and not-too-hot summers produce beautiful roses.  There are at least two species native to the Willamette Valley (the nootka rose, Rosa nutkana; and the baldhip rose, Rosa gymnocarpa), and Portlanders have been growing, breeding, and celebrating the rose for at least as long as there has been a city here.  The rose is our symbol and probably our favorite plant — the city has an annual rose festival complete with princesses and parades, and there are probably a dozen public rose gardens.  So, roses are familiar.

But when I began to learn about gardening and had to confront the task of pruning the roses that came with my yard, I found out how confusing rose care can be to a novice.  My first problem was figuring out what kind of roses I had.  Were they hybrid teas, species roses, rugosas, polyanthas, or perhaps one of the ancient heirloom types?  Each of these grows and blooms differently, so ideally they each have a specific pruning pattern.  But do gardening books explain how to determine what variety of rose you have in your yard?  Generally they do not.  And furthermore, when I began to look for rose information in books I found a lot of advice I didn’t want to take — garden authors told me to use pesticides and fungicides energetically, to follow specific watering practices, and to fertilize my roses according to a rigid and complex schedule.  Yuck.

Then I found Wilde’s book on organic rose gardening.  Not only does she outline a sensible plan for planting and tending low-maintenance rose plants, Wilde introduces readers to the history of rose culture, and explains the differences between the different types of roses.  The how-to-garden part of the book is followed by a helpful catalog of roses Wilde recommends for organic gardens.  All in all, Growing Roses Organically is practical, instructional, and clear. 

 * * *

Growing Roses Organically was also published in a 2003 edition which seems nearly identical:

Growing beautiful roses : your guide to creating an easy-care garden full of fragrance and color / Barbara Wilde.
Emmaus, PA : Rodale, c2003.
[MCL call number: 635.933734 W671g 2003; seven copies, no holds; one copy reference only at Central Library]

48 – african traditional architecture
08.1.2007, 6:53 pm
Filed under: art & entertainment

African traditional architecture : an historical and geographical perspective / Susan Denyer ; line drawings by Susan Denyer ; maps by Peter McClure.
New York : Africana Pub. Co., 1978.
[MCL call number: 720.967 D417a 1978: one copy, no holds]

If you ask a person in the United States what a traditional African building looks like, chances are you will get a cursory description of a generic small hut.  It might be round, with some sort of thatching on top, and perhaps there will be a goat nearby or a barely-clothed person leaning in the doorway.  Such a dim picture exposes an ignorance of the diversity of traditional structures in Africa (and of the cultures that might produce buildings).  This might be fine — you can’t expect everyone to have a detailed knowledge of the material folk traditions of all the peoples of the world — but it’s only fine if the person you’ve asked actually understands that their vague description is vague.  That is, the bigger problem is that people often don’t know how little they know.

Fortunately, finding out how little you know about African vernacular architecture is easy when you have access to a book offering an accessible survey of the subject.  Thank goodness for libraries, right?  African Traditional Architecture contains a structured discussion of traditional sub-Saharan African buildings, with sections devoted to rural settlements, cities and towns, sacred and ceremonial buildings, defense, the building process, decoration, house forms, and the impact modernization has had on traditional structures.  The book is liberally illustrated with black and white photographs, maps, diagrams, and drawings, and the main contents are followed by a rather scholarly bibliography and an index.