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Litchfield MN 55355

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Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
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Friday, October 19, 2018

Reading about Laura Ingalls Wilder


by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Minnesotans love Laura Ingalls Wilder.  She was a Minnesotan for part of her childhood, so “On the Banks of Plum Creek” is set here.  Personally, I love the window into history that Laura’s well-written children’s books give us. 

 Pioneerland libraries are bringing in a Laura Ingalls Wilder interactive history performer between late October and Thanksgiving.  Historian Melanie Stringer acts the part of Laura in the mid-1890s, when she, Almanzo, and their young daughter Rose had settled on Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri.  Stringer has studied Wilder extensively, and she travels the country presenting Laura as she might have been after she had lived through the events in her books but before she became a writer.

The programs in Meeker County are happening in early November.  Our first “Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder” program will be in the community room behind the Grove City Library on Friday, November 2, at 6:00 p.m.  The event at the Litchfield Library will be on Wednesday, November 7, at 6:00 p.m.  Cosmos Library hosts its program in the community room next to the library on Thursday, November 8, at 10:00 a.m.  And Dassel Library’s program will be held upstairs at the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 10.  All are free to attend, funded with assistance from the Clean Water, Land, & Legacy Amendment, and there’s no need to sign up.

So what can you check out at the library if you want to learn more about Laura before or after the events?  We have many things to choose from.  We have the Little House series itself in the children’s department, including some in audiobook format – good for a family road trip.

The library has the recent adult novel “Caroline: Little House, Revisited” by Sarah Miller.  This popular book imagines the story of the Ingalls family from the perspective of Ma Ingalls.  If you’ve ever thought about what Caroline must have gone through every time Charles decided to move the family, this may be a book you’d enjoy.

The recent non-fiction book for adults, “The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired the Little House Books,” takes a nature-focused approach to understanding the series.  Author Marta McDowell deeply researched the locations featured in the novels, and she details the landscapes, wild plants, and gardens from each place.  The book is full of illustrations and maps. 

Caroline Fraser won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for her book “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder.”  This comprehensive historical biography of Wilder is based on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records.  Fraser demonstrates that Wilder’s life was even more difficult than her books show, despite the hardships they describe.

I just finished reading “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography,” the bestselling book that the South Dakota Historical Society published in 2014.  It was Wilder’s first crack at writing down her life story, and it demonstrated to me how good she was as a novelist.  As she revised the stories multiple times, Wilder fictionalized some characters and events, and she made her word choices more vivid, which made the novels suspenseful and moving.  This scholarly book also makes it clear that Laura wrote the books and had good instincts for them, and her daughter Rose did not.

If you are enthusiastic about Laura like I am, or if you just want to learn more about the realities of pioneer history, come to one of our programs.  If none of the dates in our county work for you, check out the whole Pioneerland schedule on our website, because Melanie will be performing in Hutchinson, Atwater, and in many other communities in the region. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Chick Lit or Women's Fiction?


by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Fiction written for and by women gets classified in interesting ways.  In the ‘90s, the term “chick lit” became popular, much like the movie term “chick flick.”  Books like “Bridget Jones’s Diary” defined the new genre, which was generally written for women and featured young adult female main characters in the present day, struggling with careers and relationships. 

After a while, people began to question the term: did it apply to every novel written by a woman with a female main character?  Did it apply if the focus of the novel was mainly about a woman’s relationships with other people? Or if it was about finding success in a career and romantic love? Or whether the book was produced mostly as lightweight entertainment?  I’ve noticed that the term has been used less and less in the past ten years.

There’s also the term “women’s fiction.”  This is a less flippant name, and it sometimes is used interchangeably with “chick lit,” but it tends to be a broader term meaning books written about women for an intended female audience, mostly by female authors.  The Women’s Fiction Writers Association defines women’s fiction as a story in which the plot is driven by the female main character’s emotional journey.  They say these are layered stories about one or several characters, often multiple generations; the adult character struggles with world issues, which results in emotional growth; and, while it can include romantic elements, the plot is not driven by romance. 

There are concerns about whether classifying a book as women’s fiction means that it’s taken less seriously, and whether most female-centered books get slotted into this category even though they may be high-quality literature that could appeal to men or women.  There’s no equivalent term for books geared to men.

Regardless of this debate, women’s fiction remains a name for a general style of books.  If you like to read about women “on the brink of life change and personal growth,” which is part of the Romance Writers of America’s definition of women’s fiction, the library has some new books that may appeal to you.

Jodi Picoult is always a popular author.  Her new book “A Spark of Light” just came out in early October.  The novel is set during a hostage crisis at a women’s reproductive health services clinic, and it works backward in time to show the events that brought each of the characters to that place.  The hostage negotiator arrives at the scene and discovers that his teenage daughter is inside.  An undercover protester finds herself held at gunpoint by a man who shares her views on abortion.  Picoult is known for writing about the human side of controversial topics. 

“The Ensemble” by Aja Gabel is the story of four young musicians who form a string quartet and, because of the friendship that develops, become a family.  They experience success and failure, as well as heartbreak, marriage, and parenthood.  Reviewers have praised the way the characters seem so real.

“The Late Bloomers Club” by Louise Miller sounds like a perfect gentle small town novel.  The owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner and her free-spirited filmmaker sister have been left a beautiful farmhouse and land by a beloved resident of the community, but they find out their benefactor was in the process of selling her land to a big-box store developer before she died.  The sisters weigh out what would be best for the town as their neighbors freely share their opinions on the matter.  And then one sister starts to fall for the store’s rep when he comes to town.

Fiction is good for helping us have compassion for others, and women’s fiction is especially concerned with that.  May we all find ways to imagine the challenges that other people face and do some growing of our own as we read good books.

Friday, October 12, 2018

This 'n That!

By Jan Pease


I’m writing after story time on Friday.  More boys than girls came today, and they were so much fun.  Our story, “The Starry Giraffe,” featured an apple-picking giraffe who shares her apples with everyone, including a tiny green inch worm.  So we made apples by gluing tissue paper on an apple outline, and added little green pompoms and eyes to finish out the picture by adding an inchworm or caterpillar.  It was a fun book and project.








I’ve been buying nonfiction juvenile books again.  They tend to be bright and colorful, with not much text but wonderful pictures.  Watch for books about North American animals and birds, as well as some great math concept books. 








It’s almost Christmas, so the books that make great gifts are arriving.  One, by the famous author of  “The Book Thief,” Markus Zusak, is titled “Bridge of Clay.”  This book is long: 544 pages and the print isn’t large.  My first thought on skimming through the book was that this is pushing the YA label.  This story of five brothers raising themselves is receiving remarkable reviews.    I visited Mr. Zusak’s website and looked through the book, but I’ll have to read it to really understand it.





Cressida Cowell is known for her “How to Train Your Dragon” series, but she has started a new series that looks like a winner, “The Wizards of Once.”  Ms. Cowell writes and illustrates her books which many writers wish they could manage, but seldom do.   The second book in the series, “Twice Magic,” continues the story of a boy wizard named Xar and a fierce girl warrior named Wish who live in a world of danger and magic.  As I skimmed the book, I fell in love with the talking lynxes  and a spoon that pretends to be dead.





Kathryn Lasky became a New York Times bestselling author with her “Guardians of Ga’Hoole” series.  Now she’s writing an epic animal fantasy,  “Bears of the Ice.”   The first book was “Quest of the Cubs,” and now “The Den of Forever Frost” has been published.  Can Ms. Lasky do for polar bears what she did for owls, wolves, and horses? (She also wrote the “Wolves of Beyond” and “Horses of the Dawn” series.)







James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein have been friends for many years and have collaborated on several books, “Treasure Hunters,” “I Funny” and “House of Robots.  I suspect that Mr. Patterson comes up with plots and Mr. Grabenstein adds hilarious characters, dialogue, and action. “Max Einstein: The Genius Experiment,” reminds me of “The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee  Stewart, but with more humor.    A group of super intelligent kids is recruited to help a mysterious, but “good guy” organization  solve the world’s problems using science.    Of course, there also mysterious, evil bad guys to contend with.  What would Albert Einstein do?






Finally, I have to mention some of the cutest board books ever seen, the Rookie Toddler board books from Scholastic.  These colorful little books each have a theme, such as “Listen to the Rain,” or “Mixed Up Animal Sounds.”   Each book also has an animal or toy hidden on the sturdy pages, as well as story time tips for parents.  I love these little books!  See you at the library! 


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Fall fiction


by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Fall can bring with it a desire to dive into a good book.  Maybe it’s because we got used to hitting the books again when the school year started, or maybe now that we’re past Labor Day life has settled down a little.  Then again, maybe you're like me and all of your meetings and activities and everything have started up again now that it’s September… That happens, too!  In any case, whenever you’re looking for a new novel, the library always has something new for you to read.  Here are a few highlights from our latest additions:

Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a debut novel by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, an award-winning essayist and short story writer; she is also a regular contributor for an NPR station in California. The novel is fiction inspired by real events in Contreras’ childhood in Columbia.  Set during the violent time in the ‘90s when drug lord Pablo Escobar was in power, this is the story of a 7-year-old girl who lives in a gated community in Bogotá, and of her family’s teenage maid from the slums, told from alternating perspectives.  When the author was a child, her mother received kidnapping threats, and a girl who worked for them was coerced into acting on that but didn’t go through with it.  This novel imagines what could have happened.

The tremendous popularity of the movie Crazy Rich Asians has gotten people reading the book by the same title that it’s based on.  Our library has had that book and its sequel, “China Rich Girlfriend” since they came out, but I’ve just added the third one in the trilogy, “Rich People Problems.”  Author Kevin Kwan has written a funny, soapy series that readers love to read for light entertainment.  In this installment, the whole Shang-Young family has arrived at the deathbed of the grandmother who owns a 64-acre estate in the middle of Singapore, in hopes of gaining a fortune for themselves.

Another book about rich families in China, “What We Were Promised” takes a serious tone with issues of loyalties, secrets, and ambition.  The Zhen family went from a rural Chinese village to the U.S. to chase the American dream.  Now they have returned to live in a luxurious Shanghai apartment among a community of Western-educated professionals, but a brother who chose a criminal path rejoins them and turns things upside-down.

“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” is an unusual, dark novel by Ottessa Moshfegh.  A privileged but unhappy young woman lives in New York City in the year 2000, and she decides to take a year off to sleep.  She doesn’t need money because she inherited all she needs from her parents, and she has relationships with only two people, a terrible Wall Street boyfriend and a toxic best friend.  Her quack psychiatrist prescribes all the drugs she needs to live in a state of near-hibernation.  The novel is described as an insightful internal monologue by a witty, self-destructive person. 

“The Shortest Way Home” is a feel-good novel by Miriam Parker.  Grad student Hannah is on the verge of her life after school, which will involve starting a high-paying job in New York and getting engaged to her boyfriend, when the two of them take a trip to Sonoma.  She is offered a marketing job at a family-run winery there, and she decides to change all of her life plans while she has the chance.  It’s a romance as well as a story about figuring out the difference between what you want and what others want for you.

Personally, I’ve been reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” for two book clubs lately, and I’ve been absorbed by both.  Those are both a little bit older, which works well for getting enough copies for a book club without a wait.  Whether you check out something old or new, I hope you find a book that you don’t want to put down.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Google Me This, Google Me That!

By Jan Pease

If you look something up on the Internet, which search engine do you use?  Over the years I’ve had several favorites.  Do you remember “fetching” things with “Dog Pile?”  It is still in use, as a metasearch engine.  It searches major search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and other popular search engines, as well as results from audio and video content providers.  I used AltaVista, which was once the dominant search engine, because it gave excellent, specific answers to searches.  It was the Google of its day.  It was purchased by Yahoo! in 2003 and eventually closed July 8, 2013.  What does this have to do with anything?




Well, Google and Harry Potter are now 20 years old.  Think about how much our world has changed since we met an 11-year-old boy who eventually became one of the most powerful wizards of his day. The Harry Potter books shook up the publishing world by introducing us to long, long novels for children.






And Google. What can I say about Google?  For 20 years it has transformed itself into one of the most-often used search engines of our day.  Read Anna Crowley Redding’s new book, “Google It,” for a very entertaining and informative book about the history of Google.  Also, on Google’s home page, dig around until you find their excellent article, “Searching for Tuva, before the Internet and Now,” written by Ralph Leighton.  Or google the title, “Searching for Tuva.”






“A Festival of Ghosts,” by William Alexander, is the sequel to “An Utterly Unhaunted Place.”   These books feature the daughter of a “ghost appeaser” rather than a “ghost hunter.”   The town renaissance festival is in jeopardy,and interesting characters, human and ghostly, make this a slightly creepy but fun read.









25 years ago, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker chewed up the scenery in “Hocus Pocus,” Disney’s homage to Salem, Massachusetts.  They played the Sanderson Sisters, witches from 1693.  Rumors still circulate about a potential sequel to the original movie.   A.W. Jantha has written a book that follows the original story , set in 1993, and adds a sequel set in the present day.  Fans of the movie will love this book, but it will stand alone if you haven’t seen the Disney movie. 




Many writers have offered   alternate historical fiction, usually centered around some war or other.  For example, what if the Allied Forces lost WWII?  Sometimes zombies and werewolves are mixed in with the usual characters.  Daniel José Older, author of the “Shadowshaper Cypher” series, treats alternative history in an entirely new way in “Dactyl Hill Squad.”  This book is set during the American Civil War, but has an interesting twist. The Southern forces ride raptors!  Dinosaurs roam Manhattan!   Historical places and events are sprinkled into the plot, like the New York Draft Riots and the Colored Orphan Asylum, which burned down during the draft riots.  Dactyl Hill is based on “Crow Hill,” an area now known as “Crown Heights.” 





These new books, and more, are waiting for you at Litchfield Library.

Celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter!


Friday, September 14, 2018

Rhetorical Questions and Happy Dances

By Jan Pease


I looked around the children’s department this morning and saw so many bright new picture books that I almost did a happy dance.  Speaking of happy, a little boy came to his first story time today.  He said, in surprising clear 2-year-old speech that he would come next time and we would be happy!  Loved it! 




One silly new book is the sixth Chicken Squad book by Doreen Cronin, “Bear Country.”  The chickens quickly solve their first case of the day, a missing hamster named Ziggy.  But more dangers loom.  A headless bear has been seen running around the neighborhood!  They haven’t had breakfast because their caretaker is missing!  Doreen Cronin asks, “Will this case be too much to bear?”






Grace Lin has just published “A Big Mooncake for Little Star,” a lovely story that explains the phases of the moon.    Her story sounds like a fable, but it’s original, and the illustrations are stunning.  Will this be the best picture book of 2018?  It is the #1 new release at Amazon.com.






“Can a Cat do That?” is a new book by Eric Carle, who is writing and illustrating books for children who are just beginning to read.   Mr. Carle uses repetition and rhyme, as well as a few sight words, to help children decipher the mysteries of reading.  Don’t let the one-star review at amazon.com put you off this book.  The reviewer completely missed the point.  She asked, “Are you too old to write more words?” 

I may have to add my own comment to this negative review, since Eric Carle seems to me to be forever young.  


 


Elli Woollard is a British author who is new on the picture book scene.  Her funny book, “The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight,” tells a story of mistaken identity.  A kind young knight takes his armor off to help a large injured bird.  The bird, really a dragon, doesn’t recognize that his helper is his enemy, a knight.  All of this is told in rhyme.  Did I mention that this is a funny, funny book?





Kate DiCamillo is famous for her wonderful fiction.  Her new book, “Good Rosie,” is a dog story for   Rosie is a little dog who needs to learn how to make friends.  Dogs, like children, have to learn how to become friends. Can an anxious little dog become friends with a massive St. Bernard?
children who are just beginning to read, really a graphic novel for beginners.









 
“Look,” by Fiona Woodcock, is a nearly wordless book with an interesting twist.  Every word in the book has double o which can have different, confusing sounds.  A brother and sister visit the zoo, see animals like kangaroos and baboons and look at a book.

How do non-English speakers learn the sound of oo?






 

Finally, Adam Rex, who is both an illustrator and a writer, has published “Are You Scared, Darth Vader?”  This is an unusual picture book with a “Star Wars” connection.  What is Darth Vader afraid of?  Of course, he says, “I fear nothing.”  But is that true? 







These books, along with other rhetorical questions and answers, are waiting for you at Litchfield Library.  Get ready to do your own happy dance!