Basics

216 N Marshall Ave
Litchfield MN 55355

(320)693-2483

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Spring books are warming up

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

I’m starting to see lists of the most-anticipated books coming out this spring.  Some of them you can request now; for others, you’ll have to wait a bit.  Here are a few of the highlights:

One sure bet is the new Erik Larson book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.  Larson is the author of Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, both bestselling nonfiction books that got stellar reviews.  This May marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania.  It’s a familiar story of World War I, but Larson is said to have brought his detailed research and thriller-style writing to once again bring a moment of history to life.  “Dead Wake” comes out March 10. 

Short story collections aren’t often popular in our library, but Western stories are.  The book Crow Fair: Stories by Thomas McGuane is a collection of Montana short stories.  Publishers Weekly describes them as “ironic echoes of the Old West.”  This book comes out March 3.

Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro moved to England from Japan when he was five.  His most famous works are The Remains of the Day, made into a movie starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, and Never Let Me Go.  He is known for writing fiction that varies widely in genre and subject.  His newest, Buried Giant, is fable-like and set in fifth century England.  The reviews are tremendously mixed, with some praising the novel as magical and unforgettable, and others panning it as tedious and lacking in subtlety.  This book was released March 3.

Toni Morrison has a new novel coming out April 21.  God Help the Child is a story about how childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the lives of adults.  Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1988. 

The reviews for The Fifth Gospel are fantastic.  Author Ian Caldwell had a bestseller ten years ago with The Rule of Four.  He has reportedly been researching for this new novel for the intervening ten years.  Although it sounds like The Da Vinci Code, The Fifth Gospel is supposed to be much smarter and just as difficult to put down.  The curator of a mysterious upcoming exhibit at the Vatican museums is murdered, and the reason seems to involve a controversial relic and the Diatesseron, a compilation of the four Gospels that was created in A.D. 150.  This book will drop March 3.

Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life was a bestseller and a staple of the best of 2013 book lists.  Her new companion novel is called A God in Ruins.  This time she follows the younger brother of Ursula Todd, the main character of Life After Life.  Teddy survives the war, something he never expected to do, and faces a future he didn’t expect to have.  No word on whether he lives his life over and over.  This book comes out May 5.

I know many of you are eagerly anticipating the sequel to the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  I can promise that we will be getting Go Set a Watchman even if it isn’t in the library catalog yet – and it might be listed by the time you read this in the paper.  That book will be published July 14.  What astonishing news in the world of books! 


Our adult winter reading program runs until the end of March.  If you read a great or awful book between now and then, sign up for our program, write a very short review, and let us all know whether you recommend a book or not. Winter is the perfect time to get away in a book!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Raechel's Review

 By Jan Pease

Raechel Kelly is a friend of mine.  I’ve known her for several years, and have watched her writing talents grow. Raechel has handed book reviews to me for four or five years.  She now reviews books for publishing houses such as Multnomah, Bethany House, and Revell, although at this time, her payment is free books, which Raechel loves.  Perhaps someday this will be a career?  Raechel brought in this review as part of the adult winter reading program, and I just had to share her review.  Remember, our requirement to participate in the reading program is that you give us a very short review of the book.  One or two sentences will suffice, but Raechel went above and beyond.  Here are her thoughts about “Dauntless,” byDina L. Sleiman. 


"Dauntless" by Dina L. Sleiman is #1 in the Valiant Hearts Series (releases February 24th 2015), published by Bethany House.  Raechel’s rating: Dauntless receives 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

 Amazon.com said of this book, “Born a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father's failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village-a group that becomes known as "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest." Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way. Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he's forced to reexamine everything he's known.”   

Raechel’s thoughts:  I was so pleasantly surprised by this book - it was so very good. Not that I didn't think it wouldn't be, but the depth that it had was so lovely to discover!
I read it on my Kindle, so it seems long at times (I had to listen to for the end half because my eyes grew tired, but I didn't want to stop!), but it was all really well written and carried through. Each character was marvelously strong, and yet vulnerable at the same time. I loved Merry - she was an inspiring character; strong, yet weak, and her realization at the end was perfect. I won't give away anything though. :)

I must say, though, I think my favorite character was Allen. Talk about a strong, spiritual leader kind of guy! He was so encouraging, and so faithful- and strong in his faith in the Lord. There was this one part towards the end that really touched me, amazed me, and brought me to tears through the demonstration of his faith, and the results! Wow! This author knows how to write. I was very impressed. :)

Between Timothy and Allen for Merry, I actually rooted for Timothy, because those two I thought were more suited for each other. I sure hope though, that as this series progresses, Allen gets his own story! The only thing I wished could've happened, was that Merry's belief in God could've returned stronger and that have been the main focal point of the end. The end was still handled well, it was just a bit on the 'mushy' side. ;) Nothing bad at all- it was sweet. I just was hoping for a more conclusive ending for her relationship with God.  But yes, this was a fantastic story, one I greatly enjoyed and would recommend! Very medieval-y and Robin-Hoodesque, which I loved! It was an adventure. :)

Jan adds, thanks, Raechel.  “Dauntless” is on the March book order. 


Friday, February 13, 2015

Have some Mandatory Fun and Let It Go: Grammy winners at the library

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Another Grammy Awards program has come and gone, with as much craziness as ever.  I’m not here to talk about Kanye’s rudeness or Annie Lennox’s powerful performance, although those were among the few moments I actually watched.  I’d like to tell you about the Grammy-winning music you can check out at the library.

At Litchfield we have just two of the Grammy-winning albums, plus a movie.  Did you know they award a Grammy for best music film?  This year it went to 20 Feet from Stardom, a movie about backup singers.  It won the Oscar for best documentary last year.

One of the Grammy-winning albums at Litchfield is Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic, which won Best Comedy Album.  Weird Al was in top form again this year, with parodies of “Royals,” “Fancy,” and other big hits that were so much better when he mocked them.  In fact, even if you despise the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, the parody “Word Crimes” by Weird Al is a highly entertaining grammar lesson, especially if you’re frustrated by the spelling and grammar you see online. 

The other Grammy-winning album in the Litchfield collection is the soundtrack from the movie Frozen.  It won awards for the best compilation soundtrack for visual media and for best song written for visual media, “Let It Go.”  If you haven’t heard that song, you’ve been living in a cave for the past year. 

The deluxe version of the soundtrack that our library owns includes songs that were written for the movie and recorded as demos by the songwriters, but that were discarded when the storyline changed.  Did you know there was going to be a prophecy about a ruler with a frozen heart, and that Elsa was going to be the bad guy? 

For some reason, most of the CDs I ordered that went on to win Grammys were for the Grove City library’s collection this year.  You can visit Grove City to check out Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour, or you can order it and pick it up at the Litchfield library.  This album won the Grammy for best pop vocal album, Sam Smith won the award for best new artist, and the song “Stay with Me” won Record of the Year and Song of the Year.  The young British singer-songwriter has a retro sound that has gotten him compared with Adele. 

Grove City also has the Beck album Morning Phase.  This album won awards for Best Rock Album and Album of the Year.  Beck is an experimental singer-songwriter who has been around for a couple of decades without ever becoming really mainstream, although he has had a hit or two and has won Grammy awards in the past.  Reviewers have described the album as a cohesive work of atmospheric folk-rock. 

The winner of the award for best traditional pop vocal album was Cheek to Cheek, a collaboration between Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.  Grove City has this album, as well.  The pair may seem like an odd one, but they sang “The Lady is a Tramp” together on one of Tony’s previous albums, and the result was fantastic.  She has the pipes to sing the old standards, and the two get along well.  The album includes Cole Porter and Irving Berlin standards that could appeal to any generation.


Even more Grammy-winning CDs are available to order from libraries in our system.  Remember that it is illegal to download borrowed CDs to your computer, iPod, or phone.  But if you borrow a music CD from the library, you can find out if you like it enough to buy the songs for yourself.  Look for Litchfield’s music CDs next to the audiobooks and movies and Grove City's near the audiobooks and inspirational paperbacks.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Phil, Jimmy, and the ALA Book Awards

By Jan Pease

Groundhog Day, 2015 was an exciting day.  Poor Punxsutawney Phil  looked puzzled, as usual, but in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Jimmy the Groundhog bit the mayor’s ear. This exciting event may have overshadowed the news release of the major book awards in children’s and young adult literature, announced at this year’s American Library Association Midwinter Conference.


                                               



I’m perhaps most interested in the book which won the John Newbery Medal, awarded for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature.  The Crossover, written by Kwame Alexander, is the 2015 Newbery Medal winner. The only area library that purchased this book is Willmar.  I passed it by because some of the reviews were mixed.  To be truthful, I don’t love  novels written in verse.  



  
El Deafo, by Cece Bell was one of the two 
Newbery honor books, which is like being in second place.    Hutchinson, Olivia, and Willmar already have this book, and it is on order for Litchfield.  I chose it a little late because it kept making “best of” lists, but wasn’t impressed with it at first. 


Brown Girl Dreaming, written by Jacqueline Woodson was the other honor book.  No one in Pioneerland Library System (PLS) added this book to their collection.  I passed on it because it is an autobiographical memoir told in verse.  I just can’t see it being read by most of the young people I know, unless assigned by a teacher.   However, it is on order.







Another award that interests me is the Randolph Caldecott Medal, given to the most distinguished American picture book for children.  The winner was The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat.   As I read reviews of this book, I came across this statement by a customer at amazon.com: “it feels almost like a picture book meant for adults who want to reflect about childhood, rather than for children.”   Hutchinson and Willmar own this book.
Six Caldecott Honor Books also were named, an unusually high number. One that only Dassel and Litchfield have is Nana in the City, which was written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus” illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant, can only be found in Dassel.  I purchased this for Dassel because I thought one of our Meeker County libraries should have it as it began to appear on the “best of” lists.
Sam and  Dave  Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett, is a popular title.   7 libraries in PLS, including Dassel and Litchfield, own this one.   I really would like to know why “Beekle” was the medal winner but this book was an honor book.

This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki, can be found in Litchfield and Olivia.  Professional reviewers were 
positive, but this book is not appropriate for 
younger readers.  It is an honest look at what happens as children leave childhood behind and try out language and activities that seem to be too much, too soon.  I thought it was an important book, but am surprised it was a Caldecott Honor Book.

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art,”illustrated by Mary GrandPr√© and written by Barb Rosenstock, was also an honor book.     No one in PLS purchased this one.  I passed it because again, I thought that it would only be checked out by art teachers, and I just don’t have enough budget to purchase every book. 
 Viva Frida, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is another book that no libraries in Pioneerland Library System purchased.  Why write a picture book about Frida Kahlo?  Publisher’s Weekly said of this book, “Frida is presented less as a historical figure than as an icon who represents the life Morales holds sacred;”  Really? Does this sound like a children’s book?


 So far, out of two “first place” medals and eight “second place” medals, Litchfield library has only four of the titles.  Last year I was right 73% of the time, but what happened?       It’s also odd that so few Pioneerland libraries have these titles.  Usually there would be many copies of award-winning titles in our system, but things are very different this year. 

A wonderful retired principal used to tell me that there hadn’t been a good book nominated for the Newbery Award since 1974.  I don’t think it’s quite that bad, but will this year’s award-winning books become instant classics?  Tell me what you think!


The Borrowers