216 N Marshall Ave
Litchfield MN 55355


Monday - Thursday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closed Sunday

Monday, December 10, 2018

Thanksgiving Movies at the Library

Library column for 11/21/18
by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

“Come, ye thankful people, come, Raise the song of harvest-home; All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin.”  This Thanksgiving hymn by Henry Alford was written in 1844, but here in rural Minnesota we still understand the importance of bringing in the harvest before winter begins.  My neighbors were working hard at that in the little bit of warm weather we had lately.

The Litchfield Library, along with all Pioneerland libraries, will be closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving.  We’ll be open normal hours the rest of the week.  As you gather with family and friends, or as you have a quiet day at home, perhaps you’d like to have a Thanksgiving movie on hand to watch after you’re done eating turkey.  There are a number of movies in the Litchfield Library collection that have some connection to the holiday.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is the obvious choice if you have children in the house.  Not as good as A Charlie Brown Christmas or It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, this 25-minute TV special from 1973 is still fun.  Charlie Brown has a predicament: what to do when his pushy friend Peppermint Patty invites herself and others to his house for Thanksgiving dinner, even though his family is going to be leaving for his grandmother’s house?  Snoopy saves the day with an assortment of snacks served on the ping-pong table.  To be like Charlie Brown, my family usually eats popcorn, pretzels, toast, and jelly beans on Thanksgiving night, a tradition we started when my kids were little.

Intended for a bit older audience than Charlie Brown, Pieces of April is a 2003 movie about a free-spirited 21-year-old attempting to make Thanksgiving dinner for her estranged family.  Her parents, siblings, and grandma drive to New York City from suburban Pennsylvania while April discovers her oven doesn’t work, and she turns to her eccentric neighbors for help.  Katie Holmes stars in this comedy about family dysfunction; critics say it’s endearing, if a little edgy.

Holiday Inn is one of those 1940s classics: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and music by Irving Berlin.  A couple of friends who have left show business run an inn that is open only on holidays – a perfect vehicle for a movie full of holiday-themed musical numbers.  There is a Thanksgiving holiday in the movie, and the Christmas scenes include the song “White Christmas,” so you can start to get in that holiday spirit, as well.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop isn’t a favorite of movie critics, but you might get some laughs out of it anyway.  Kevin James stars in a story about a New Jersey security guard who defends a mall from a group of organized criminals who take shoppers hostage on Black Friday.

Do you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning?  The movie Miracle on 34th Street begins with the parade, where the actor playing Santa is discovered to be drunk and is switched with a very popular replacement.  The replacement is then hired to work as Santa in the store, but things take a turn when he claims to be the real Santa Claus.  The 1947 version, starring Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood, won three Oscars.

I am thankful for all of the library users and supporters in our area who help make our library a hub of the community. I wish you and yours a peaceful and bountiful Thanksgiving Day. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Sometimes Books Go Viral Too!

By Jan Pease

Santa visited the library Thursday night for one of the best family events of the year.  He held babies, talked seriously to children about getting along with their siblings, and was kind to our kids who have a hard time talking to people outside of the family.  I have no idea how many people came, because I forgot to use my little clicker.  I estimate about 150 or so.   Children were able to choose a book, make a countdown paper chain, and decorate a wooden ornament with glitter glue. 

Thank you, Friends of the Litchfield Library, for sponsoring this fun event.

Beth wrote last week about the best of lists for adult books.  I watched an older children’s book suddenly “go viral” throughout the world thanks to social media.  A video of a Scottish grandmother laughing hysterically while reading “The Wonky Donkey,” by Craig Smith, a teacher in New Zealand,   went viral on YouTube and Facebook about 12 weeks ago.    

Suddenly everyone in the U.S. wanted to read “The Wonky Donkey.”    Used and new paper back copies of this little book were offered at ridiculous prices in the hundreds of dollars.    Scholastic Inc reprinted the book and offered it on their book order for around five dollars.  Miss Julie from Mighty Dragons Preschool was able to purchase several copies from Scholastic and she allowed me to get one while the excitement was still at a high level.  Now the book is offered at the more reasonable price of about $5.00. 

This is a silly book, but it has become controversial.  This is another book that people either like or hate. Read the reviews at   The poor donkey has an artificial leg. Should we really call him wonky because of that?  Another disturbing image in the book is a bird that flies around carrying the eye lost by the donkey.  So he’s a winky wonky donkey.  Some people found Mr. Smith’s humor offensive, some didn’t.  I cringe while writing this, but even though I find the humor a bit off, I have read it aloud several times, and enjoyed it immensely.    It’s been interesting to watch the price skyrocket due to demand and then plummet when paperback copies flooded the market.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling. .  This series rocked the  world of children’s publishing and then it was discovered by adults. The books became with longer and longer and movies were made of each title.  

2018 also marked the 33rd Anniversary of The Polar Express, a favorite Christmas time book that  I’ve never successfully read at Story Time because it makes me cry.

2018 also was the 75th anniversary of the Boxcar Children. Even though new titles are issued each month, children seem to prefer the original books written by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Whether you choose a book at the top of the charts, or choose a time-honored book that has been read by generations of children, I hope you’ll give a gift of reading this Christmas. 

See you at the library!  

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

2018's Best Books

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

It’s that time of year when the lists of the best books of the year come out, most of them before December 1st.  I suppose they are published so early so that you can use them as guides for buying Christmas gifts.  As a person who orders books for four libraries all year long, I love to compare these lists to the choices I’ve made, as well as to each other; in the end, there’s not much consensus on what’s really the best.  It is fun to see which books end up on multiple lists, though – there must be something great about them!

The one book that I keep seeing on one list after another is Educated by Tara Westover.  Amazon named it the best book of 2018.  Most places don’t choose just one top book, but the memoir also ended up on the New York Times, Time Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Publishers Weekly, Reader’s Digest, Library Journal, and NPR lists of the best books of the year, often on their top ten.  I think I’m going to have to read this one with the adult book club once it isn’t being checked out constantly.  It has been one of our library system’s most popular books this year.

In her memoir, Westover tells the story of growing up in a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho.  She was so isolated that she didn’t get an education, but she taught herself enough math and grammar to be admitted to college, which was a path out of her dysfunctional family.  She eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge University, completely changing her life.

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border is another memoir that is appearing on multiple best-of lists.  Author Francisco Cantú is the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, the son of a park ranger in the American Southwest, and himself a former Border Patrol agent.  He found the Border Patrol work dehumanizing and left it, but when an immigrant friend disappeared after traveling to Mexico to visit family, he found himself needing to find out more about what happened.  Reviewers describe the writing as no-nonsense but beautiful. The subject of the book is certainly very timely.

There There by Tommy Orange is making the cut for many end-of-the-year lists.  This novel is about urban Native Americans attending the Big Oakland Powwow in Oakland, California.  Orange reveals the reasons each character is attending: to reconnect with family after getting sober, to honor a loved one’s memory, to watch a relative perform, and to perform for the first time after learning the dance on YouTube.  Reviews of the book include words like “masterful,” “groundbreaking,” and “devastating.”  Orange is a professor and an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma; this is his first novel.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup is a nonfiction book that’s appearing on many of the year-end lists.  Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou originally broke the story of the fraud that was being committed by the company Theranos.  He and the newspaper were threatened with lawsuits but they continued to investigate what turned out to be the biggest corporate fraud since Enron: founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was lying to investors and the FDA, raising billions of dollars of investment capital for a technology that didn’t work.  Carreyrou tells the whole story in this book.

These books are available at the Litchfield Library, along with many others you may see on gift guides and best-of-2018 lists. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town!

By Jan Pease

First, I have to tell you some great news.  Santa is visiting the library Thursday night, December 6th from 5:30-7:00.  He will read a story at 6:30 and lead us in singing his special song, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  We missed having him in 2017, so I’m extra-excited about his visit this year.  There will be plenty of time to take a great picture of your kids with Santa, and I guarantee that they will enjoy the story time. 

Blame it on years of working in libraries and bookstores, but I just realized that the books I want to tell you about can be alphabetized, A,B,C,D, and E, but only if you use their titles.

For A, we have “Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings,” by Francie Latour.  This colorful book tells the story of a young girl who visits her Auntie Luce every summer.  She discovers the wonders of painting and learns about her family and the history of Haiti through her aunt’s talent. 

For B, we have “Blue,” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.  This gorgeous book celebrates both the relationship of a boy and his dog and the many shades of blue. 

For C, we have “Carmela Full of Wishes,” by Matt de la Peña.  This sweet book gives a glimpse into the lives of family members who work hard and love deeply.   Mr. de la Peña also writes young adult novels.

For D, we have “Dragons in a Bag,” by Zetta Elliott.  This book introduces a new series, as we meet a boy named Jaxon who has a special errand to perform for the somewhat scary woman who raised his mom.  He has to deliver a bag full of baby dragons to a magical place, but he can’t let them out of the bag or feed them anything sweet.  Of course he does both. 

And for E, we have “Elbow Grease,” by John Cena.  He is best known for being a WWE wrestler.  He also acts, does voices in animated films, and now he’s written a book.  Elbow Grease is a small monster truck that wants to compete with the full-sized monster trucks in a Demolition Derby.  Will the little guy persevere and show the big trucks he can do it?  Is John Cena famous?

These children’s fiction books can be found at Litchfield library in alphabetical order by author’s last name.  If that seems confusing, just ask a staff member for a little help.  See you at the library!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Closed for Thanksgiving

Pioneerland libraries will be closed on Thursday, 11/22/18, for Thanksgiving.  We will be open regular hours the rest of the week.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Winter Is Here. Yes, It Is.

by  Jan Pease

“Winter is Here.”  Yes, it is.  Kevin Henkes’  new book is about a very timely topic. As we watch the snow arrive, the library gives a great vista facing east and west.  In “Winter is Here,” Mr. Henkes  writes,

“The dog is bounding.

The squirrels are scurrying.

The birds are huddling.

The children are slipping, digging, skating, building, sledding . . .
Why is this all happening?
It’s winter!

Winter is here!”

This sweet book might help you face the next 6 months with a cheerful attitude.

“A Parade of Elephants,” also by Kevin Henkes, is a book you can judge by its cover.  A parade of elephants marches up, down and around.  This is another cheerful picture that can help relieve winter doldrums.

Jim Arnosky is famous for writing and illustrating books about nature and animals.  He asks, “Why?” in his new book, “Look at Me.”  Why do some animals change color, grow huge horns or antlers, or stretch or puff up their skin.  One can imagine that looking fierce or protective might give an animal some defense if attacked, but what about a peacock’s enormous tail?

“We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga” pronounced (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is a book written by Traci Sorell.  She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in northeastern Oklahoma. This picture book gives a glimpse of Cherokee life in both ancient and modern times, but it is written on a level children can understand.   Ms. Sorell teaches us that the Cherokee people are grateful for all the elements of life throughout the year.  The Cherokee nation developed its own written language and Ms. Sorell   includes words in Cherokee and written in the Cherokee alphabet created by Sequoyah.                                          
Mo Willems has another series out, “Unlimited Squirrels.”  He reaches new heights of silliness, even including a corny (  I get it, a-corn y)  joke at the end.  “I Lost My Tooth” is the newest book in the “Unlimited Squirrels” series.   A squirrel loses one of his  teeth  and his friends try to help him.  Then they all chime in on the corny jokes.    Here is an example of one of Mr. Willems’  jokes; Question: “What do you call a bear with no  teeth?” Answer:  “A gummy bear!”

Finally, because the world needs more “Pete the Cat” books, I give you “Pete the Kitty and the Baby Animals.”   Pete the Kitty is about as cool as Pete the Cat, but he’s much shorter. 

I don’t know what else to say, except, “see you at the library!”