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Litchfield MN 55355

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Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
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Friday, July 31, 2015

Truth as interesting as fiction

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

While novels are always popular, many people like a fascinating true story.  Some nonfiction books can be read cover to cover just like a novel.  They could be true crime, memoir, history, or a host of other things.  Following are a few of our new books that you could lose yourself in this summer.

The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman tells the story of a Soviet engineer who handed over technological secrets to the U.S. in the late ‘70s.  Adolf Tolkachev was considered one of the most valuable spies to work for the U.S.  The Washington Post calls the book “one of the best spy stories to come out of the Cold War and all the more riveting…for being true.”

Smokejumper: A Memoir by One of America’s Most Select Airborne Firefighters by Jason A. Ramos and Julian Smith gives a glimpse into the work of wilderness firefighters who parachute into fire zones.  Ramos is an active-duty jumper with 26 years of experience.  He tells the history of smokejumping, explains why it needs to be done, and shares his personal adventures on the job.

Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? True Stories and Confessions is a collection of humorous essays by novelist Lisa Scottoline and her daughter Francesca Serritella.  The stories and reflections are all very short, so you don’t have to have a long stretch of time to get into this book.  Scottoline and Serritella have written several books like these, which have been compared to Erma Bombeck’s work (though not as good).

Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir by Wednesday Martin is an outsider’s perspective on upper class mothers in New York City.  Martin is a writer and social researcher with a background in anthropology. She struggled to fit in with the women in her new neighborhood and turned to primatology to make sense of the hierarchy and behavior.  The book has funny observations on how humans are like baboons in establishing dominance, engaging in display rituals, and mating.  It also has some surprisingly touching reflections on motherhood and female friendship. 

If you’d like some armchair travel, Peaks on the Horizon: Two Journeys in Tibet by Charlie Carroll could fit the bill.  Carroll became obsessed with Tibet in grade school when he checked out Seven Years in Tibet from the library.  He got to visit as an adult on sabbatical from his teaching job, and on the border between China and Tibet he met Lobsang, a Tibetan exile who’d had to flee through the Himalayas at the age of five.  The book tells Lobsang’s story, as well as Carroll’s story of visiting the country.  Reviewers say it’s suspenseful and enlightening.

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck is also a travelogue, but a very different one.  Buck traveled the 2000-mile Oregon Trail in a covered wagon with a team of mules, along with his brother and his dog.  It took them four months to go from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, contending with thunderstorms, runaway mules, vanished sections of the trail, the Rocky Mountains, and many broken wheels and axels.  Besides telling the story of their own journey, the book also tells the history of the trail and the 400,000 people who went west on it.  Being compared to Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and sounding somewhat similar to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, this one has gotten fantastic reviews.


Truth can be stranger than fiction, and just as entertaining.  Consider adding some nonfiction to your summer reading list.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Will You Still Love Me When I'm 78?

 By Jan Pease

Have you heard the news that a new Dr. Seuss book has been discovered?  It is being released July 28, 24 years after his death in 1991 at the age of 87.  The complete manuscript was found by Audrey Geisel, his widow (his full name was Theodor Seuss Geisel.)  The last original Dr. Seuss book “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” was released in 1990, and no one suspected that a box of odds and ends would hold a nearly finished manuscript.  The drawings needed to be colored, but his text was there.  I’m waiting impatiently for “What Pet Should I Get” and wonder if it will be popular in 78 years.  Why on earth would I wonder about that?



The first book Dr. Seuss published was “And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street,” which was published in 1937.  Twenty seven publishers had rejected it, he persevered, and children still enjoy it today. 




Of course, this made my little brain wonder what other books were popular in 1937 and if any of them are still as popular as the very first Dr. Seuss book. “The Travels of Babar” was published in September, 1937.  It is still very popular.




“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien has remained steadily popular, although with the movies that were recently released there has been a surge of interest in this sweet book about Bilbo Baggins and the Ring.




“Children Of China,” written by Stella M. Rudy. I don’t know this book, but it looks very dated.






“Three Little Ducks,” by Ruth Easthill, also looks dated but charming.  








“Fuzzy Wuzz Meets the Ranger,” by Allen Chaffee,  is a book I’ve never seen, but it’s available at amazon.com and on Ebay.







“On the Banks of Plum Creek” by Laura Ingalls Wilder was also published in 1937.  Of course, the “Little House” books are still read by children and adults today. 




 If you can find it, the original Nancy Drew #14, “The Whispering Statue” was published in 1937.  Later reprints were revised.  My advice is to read the original.  We have the version that was revised and printed in 1970.

Hardy Boys #16 was published in 1937.  “A Figure in Hiding” was ghost written by Leslie McFarlane, an interesting tidbit I wasn’t aware of.   Something else I suspected but didn’t know is that the original Hardy Boys books, 58 in all, published between 1927 and 1979, were written by 17 different men, all using the  pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon.  We do have a copy of “A Figure in Hiding,” but it was printed in 1965.

So, will “What Pet Will I Get” still be popular in 78 years?  Only time will tell.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Go Read a Sequel

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee has had the literary world in an uproar recently.  The sequel to the classic To Kill a Mockingbird was announced in February to tremendous public astonishment, and the story of its discovery has been a bit mysterious.  Lee wrote it first, before Mockingbird, and it was entirely reworked into her classic novel when the publisher wanted something different.  Then the manuscript was apparently lost for 55 years.
 
The book itself was released July 14, to considerable debate.  Many of the reviews are negative, with some saying that reading it will forever tarnish your view of the original classic and its hero.  Others say that it’s a complex look at racial relations at the time it was written, and at how adult perspective can change our childhood idealization of people we love.  At the least it’s an interesting look at how Lee came to create her classic.

 Several reviewers have expressed sadness that Lee never wrote other books with the talent it displays.  One comment I thought was particularly good came from Library Journal: there are now two Atticus Finches, because reworked characters are a natural part of the writing process, and what we’re reading now is source material.

All of this made me think about whether other sequels to classic novels have been published and whether they have had any success.  Of course, there are many that have been written by different authors, many of those decades or even a century or more later.  But how often do the authors themselves dare to publish a follow-up to a great, successful novel that is not conceived as a series?

One that comes to mind immediately is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, sequel to The Hobbit.  I would say that it’s a clearly better literary work than the original, with far greater complexity and depth, although I have read reviews that disagree.  In any case, it was written and edited to be a finished novel about fifteen years after The Hobbit, not at all the same situation as Go Set a Watchman.  Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings rank among the best-selling books of all time.

The Giver is a modern classic children’s book by Lois Lowry.  It won the Newbery Medal in 1994.  Many have read it, but the three sequels aren’t as well-known, although they are good books.  Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son are loosely-related sequels that tie together in the last book.  We have all of these books at the Litchfield library.

Little Women is another classic that is widely read, but you may not know that Louisa May Alcott wrote two sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys.  Some people enjoy them, but they don’t have the same spark as the first.  One essay I read on Little Men said that this is because Jo is really not the same character as in the first book.  We have a new volume at the Litchfield library that includes all three books.

There are several other more-obscure sequels available to check out in our library.  These include The Starlight Barking, Dodie Smith’s sequel to One Hundred and One Dalmatians; Closing Time, Joseph Heller’s sequel to Catch-22; Son of Rosemary, Ira Levin’s sequel to Rosemary’s Baby; and That Was Then, This Is Now, S.E. Hinton’s sequel to The Outsiders.  All of these have produced some mixed reviews, if not the media frenzy Watchman has.  But then none of these original novels were To Kill a Mockingbird.


Go Set a Watchman does have a waiting list, but copies were going out to our customers the day after it came out.  Since Pioneerland Library System has many copies, the waiting list will move quickly.  Let us know if you’d like to reserve a copy and see for yourself what all the commotion is about.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Answer to the Question, "What's in your Book Bag?"

Litchfield Independent Review
July 16, 2015 Edition
News from the Litchfield Library
By Jan Pease

Sometimes I like to peek into my book bag and share what is there, just in case anyone wonders what I’m reading in my spare time.  My book bag has gone digital, which is a good thing because I have entirely too many books in my “library.”
 
I’m reading “Seveneves,” by Neal  Stephenson.  This is an epic sci-fi story with excellent world-building.  Mr. Stephenson puts the entire human race to death except for a handful of survivors, who just happen to be able to tinker with genetics.  He jumps ahead to 5000 years in the future, when seven races each have their own distinct languages, customs, culture, and appearance.  I’m not done with this one yet, but I’m 600 some pages into it and still interested. 

 
“Why I don’t Write Children’s Literature,” by Gary Soto, is a collection of his essays on life in general.  The essay mentioned in the title is darkly funny, and shows that Mr. Soto could and probably should write for younger readers.

“Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,” by Susannah Clarke, is another long, long fantasy novel.  800 some pages, in fact, but I want to read it because I’ve been watching a series based on this book on BBC.   Two magicians begin as teacher and apprentice, and become rivals as they use magic to help England win the war against France. 

“Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint,” by Nadia Bolz-Weber, is an interesting read.  I don’t see eye to eye with everything the author writes, but she intrigues me because she was raised in the same conservative denomination in which I was raised.  Now a Lutheran pastor and founder of a church, her faith is profound; so is her profanity.  

The book I should be reading is “Letters to a Spiritual Seeker,” by Henry David Thoreau.  My book club is meeting on July 19th at Main Street CafĂ©, so I have to do some fast reading.  This is a collection of letters written by Mr. Thoreau to Harrison Blake about 100 years ago.  I would have found it interesting to read Mr. Blake’s letters in response, as it's been like experiencing one half of a conversation.  I’m finding it slow-going, but I’m sure that I need to read this collection of Mr. Blake’s mail.    



A friend recommended “Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body,” by Martin Pistorius. Mr. Pistorius was mentally completely alert and trapped in his own completely unresponsive body.  His parents never gave up on him and his world opened up when he was able to communicate by using a computer.  He is now married, living in the UK, and owns his own business.   Let me never, ever complain about my life after reading this memoir. 

 What’s in your book bag this summer?  

 

 





Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Watercade!

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Happy Watercade!  Litchfield’s most exciting time of year is here, and the library will be joining in on Saturday. 

The Friends of the Litchfield Library hold their biggest book sale on the Saturday of Watercade every year.  This year that is July 11.  They do hold a book sale on the third Saturday of each month other than July, but the Watercade sale is the most well-known, with the most traffic.

The Watercade sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  This year some of the books will be outside in front of the library, but most will be in the air conditioned comfort of the library meeting room.  The selection will be much bigger than it is during the regular monthly book sales.

Proceeds from the sale go to the Friends of the Litchfield Public Library, which helps to fund library programs and resources.  Recently the Friends sponsored a program for kids and teens to read down their library fines.  They help pay for craft supplies for story time, books for Beginners’ Book Club, supplies and prizes for the summer reading program, and prizes for the adult winter reading program.  Sometimes they fund special additions to the library collection, such as a boost to our children’s DVD collection in recent years.

The Friends have recently decided to provide a new resource for our library called Book Page.  If you’ve visited the Hutchinson library, you may have seen it there.  It’s a monthly book review magazine that tells readers about the best new and upcoming books.  If you’re always looking for something new and wonderful to read, you’ll want to pick up a copy; we will be getting many because they’re intended to be taken and kept by library patrons and book store customers.  We should start receiving Book Page by the beginning of August.  In the meantime, you can read the whole thing by going to their website, bookpage.com, where it’s available for free.  It looks fun and useful!

The other exciting thing we have going on at the library during Watercade Saturday is our teen programming for ages 12-18.  We’ve gotten something really fun called a Makey-Makey kit. In fact, between the Grove City and Litchfield libraries, we have four of them, purchased in part with teen programming grant money for our region.  Makey-Makeys are called “invention for everyone science kits.”  Electronic components in the kit hook up to a computer and just about anything else that can be turned into controllers or keyboards: bananas, Play Dough, pencils, coins… anything that can conduct electricity.  To see this in action, visit the Litchfield Public Library Facebook page, where our teen programming librarian Margaret posted some pictures and video from the last session on June 15.  The preteens and teens who have worked with this have had so much fun.  Come to the children’s department at 1:30 to do some inventing and plan to be done around 3:15. In fact, if you can’t make it by 1:30, drop in later.  You don’t need to sign up ahead of time.


The library will be a very busy place all day on Saturday.  We will not, however, have our Saturday story hour that day since the Kiddie Parade is happening at that same time.  Walk over from Art in the Park any time after 10 a.m. and join in the Watercade fun at the library.