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Litchfield MN 55355

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Friday, October 30, 2015

What Will Your Hands Do Today?



By Jan Pease

On our infrequent trips to the North Shore, my husband and daughter like to hunt for agates,  and we see all sorts of people pulled up beside Highway 61, all looking down.  This year, my husband missed an eagle that was flying low toward Lake Superior, just feet above his head.  Imagine my surprise when Becca looked down in our gravel driveway and discovered a pretty nice little agate without driving all the way “up north.”    If you’re an amateur rock hound, look for a new picture book published by Minnesota Historical Press, “Rhoda’s Rock Hunt,’ by Molly Beth Griffin.  Rhoda loves to look for rocks, but she faces the dilemma all rock hunters must face:  too many rocks to haul home.  Her solution is memorable. 




“Out of the Woods,” by Rebecca Bond,  is a  north woods story based on the experience of Antonio Willie Giroux, who was the author’s grandfather.  In 1914, little Antonio lived in a huge hotel on the edge of Gowganda Lake  near Gowganda, Ontario, Canada.  He was interested in the wildlife that he knew lived in the nearby woods, but they stayed hidden until the day a horrific wildfire devastated the area.  All of the people of the town and their livestock went into the lake to take refuge from the fire, and then they were joined by the animals from the woods.   Bears, elk, moose, foxes, wolves, rabbits, people, all stood quietly together until it was safe to come out of the water. 


 
Rebecca Bender, a Canadian author and illustrator has written a sweet book that is not a north woods story.   Giraffe tries and tries, but he can’t reach the water to get a drink. His friends, Bird, a zebra, a hippo, and a flamingo, laugh hysterically at his predicament .  His goofy friend, Bird, finds a way to get everyone laughing together instead of at Giraffe.  “Don’t Laugh at Giraffe” might spark conversations about what is funny and what is hurtful.




“It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon” is another new book about the downs and ups of life.  The author, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, says “When life gets you down, look up, up, up!”  Each of the injustices faced by the children in his book has a happy ending.  For example, “It’s scary having a new babysitter, but you get to stay up late!” 





Kathryn Otoshi, who visited Litchfield schools about one year ago, has published a new book, “Beautiful Hands.” It was written with her friend Bret Baumgarten after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The illustrations are made with hand art, using the hand prints of more than 100 family members and friends.  Kathryn had a huge party, inviting the guests to use the stacks of paper and trays of paint to make handprints.  The handprints were then scanned and she used them to create wonderful illustrations that answer the question, “What will you do with your beautiful hands?”  This was the question Mr. Baumgarten asked his children, Noah and Sophie, every day until he passed away.  


Bret Baumgarten wrote: “My hope that this story empowers love, creativity, compassion, and a connection to you and yours, in the fulfilling and remarkable way it has for me.” 

~ Bret Baumgarten, 1970–2014  Information about the writing of “Beautiful Hands” is found in an article by Kiera Parrott   in  the August, 2015 edition of School Library Journal.

 
What will your beautiful hands do, today?






Friday, October 23, 2015

Haunt your library this Halloween

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

It’s Halloween time, and spooky and scary is the order of the day.  Here are some ideas from Litchfield’s new materials that fit the season:

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths is a Ruth Galloway mystery.  Ruth is a forensic archaeologist called in when a World War II plane with a body in the pilot’s seat is discovered by a construction crew in Norfolk, England.  Ruth ends up trapped in a crumbling English manor on a dark and stormy night. 

In a Dark, Dark Wood is a psychological thriller that is very popular right now.  This first novel by Ruth Ware is also set in the English countryside.  A reclusive author accepts an invitation to spend a weekend at a long-lost friend’s strange home, then wakes up two days later not remembering anything except that someone is dead.  This fast-paced story is being compared to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train.

For something gentler, pick up The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer, a Paws and Claws cozy mystery by Krista Davis.  The crew for a reality show about ghost hunters has arrived for the Halloween festivities in Wagtail, Virginia, described as “the top pet-friendly getaway in the United States.”  Holly Miller and her pets discover a young woman drowned in a supposedly-haunted bathhouse, and Holly works to solve the crime before someone else is killed. 

For a true story about a ghost (whether the ghost is real or not), check out American Ghost: A Family’s Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest by Hannah Nordhaus.  Nordhaus is the author of the 2011 bestseller The Beekeeper’s Lament.  For her new book, she researched the life and supposed afterlife of her great-great-grandmother Julia Schuster Staab, a Jewish immigrant who died in 1896.  Sightings of a dark-eyed woman in a long black gown were first reported in the 1970s in the Santa Fe hotel that used to be her home.  Nordhaus tells of her ancestor’s frontier history and examines how a true story becomes a ghost story. 

For another nonfiction book that seems to fit the season, place a hold on The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff.  Schiff won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for the book Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) and had a number one best-seller with her book Cleopatra: A Life in 2010.  The buzz about this book is tremendous, with many people saying it’s the best book on the Salem witch trials that has ever been written.  We've got a waiting list on this one and it won't be published until October 27th, so put your name on the list if you’d like to read it soon. 

If you’d like to brush up on the Addams Family before the Litchfield high school’s production of the musical, we have some of their creepy and kooky DVDs and a music CD.  The Addams Family, Volume One is a three-DVD set of the original television episodes from 1964-65.  We also have the 1991 movie The Addams Family, starring Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia, and the cast album for The Addams Family: A New Musical, in case you’d like to hear the songs the local students will be performing in their show.  Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth starred in the original Broadway cast.


On the afternoon of Halloween, which falls on a Saturday this year, our library is hosting a Halloween murder mystery costume party for teens, ages 12-18.  Called “Get Away (with murder?) @ your library,” this is a Teen Read Week event.  The 2-hour party starts at 1:30 on the 31st.  The murder mystery will involve a live Clue-style game (not a board game) with prizes to win along the way.  Costumes are optional, and refreshments will be served.  Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Authors I Automatically Like!


By Jan Pease




Part of my job for the next month involves looking at books that we put on an automatic order last year to see if we should automatically order them again.   One that I’m definitely adding is Tim Green.  He was a star defensive end with the Atlanta Falcons, earned a law degree, and has worked as an NFL commentator for FOX Sports and NPR.  Mr. Green writes books for adults, including “The Dark Side of the Game,” and   “American Outrage.”  He also writes books for younger readers, “Football Genius,” “Football Hero,” “Rivals,” and others.  His newest book is “Kid Owner,” a kind of Cinderella story about football in which a boy named Ryan suddenly becomes the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.  As Tim Green says, not only is this a dream come true, it might just help Ryan survive middle school. 





Another author that I will keep on automatic order is Kenneth Oppel, well known for his “Silverwing Trilogy” and “Airborn,” among other great juvenile novels.  His new book, The Nest,”  is really unusual.  One reviewer at amazon.com said “If Stephen King were writing children’s books….”   Several reviewers mention “Coraline,” by Neil Gaiman, an equally haunting and creepy book.    Let me just say that “The Nest” is extremely well-written and will stay with you for a while.    If you don’t like wasps, stay away from “The Nest.” 




Lian Tanner is an author I’d like to see on automatic order.  Her new trilogy, “The Hidden,”  begins with the book, “Icebreaker,” which shows an outstanding bit of world-building.  The Oyster is an ice breaking ship that has been sailing for 300 years on a frozen ocean. The crew has forgotten its original mission, and is divided into tribes based on job function.  The heroine is a girl named Petrel whose only friends are two large, talking rats.  The secrets of this strange ship are revealed bit by bit. My favorite review at amazon.com was from a 10-year old named Tiaki, who wrote: “It was set very well. The way everything happened was very good.” 




I don’t know how three strong writers can work together to tell one story.  Scott Westerfield has teamed up with Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti to launch a new series, “Zeroes.”  The heroes of “Zeroes” (Sorry, I just had to write that) are six teenagers in California who have really unusual powers.  There is an immediate connection to the re-launched “Heroes” show on NBC.  But the superpowers in this diverse group of teens are unusual.  I found myself wondering which viewpoints were written by which author.                                                                   











I have to mention a couple of picture books.  Just in time for Halloween, “The Very fairy Princess: A Spooky, Sparkly Halloween,”  written by  Julie Andrews and  her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, is the perfect book for people who like to play dress up, who like Halloween, and who are princesses.  An epic costume failure lets Gerry, the very fairy princess, save the day. 

And, do you remember a teacher who was hard on everyone, especially you,  and never, ever  gave a student an A? But you learned more from that teacher than all the others?  Patricia Polacco’s new book, “An A from Miss Keller,” tells a story from her own life, about the teacher who taught her how to “give her words wings.”  It’s funny, but we often learn more from that teacher than all the others.

  I know that I did.   

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Free test prep resources online for Minnesotans

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Do you know a high school junior who is getting ready to take the ACT?  Or someone who is preparing for the ASVAB, the nursing school entrance exam, or even their citizenship test?  The Electronic Library for Minnesota has a new free resource available online to help with all of these tests.

The LearningExpress Library is a test prep database available as part of the Electronic Library for Minnesota, or ELM, which you can access at www.elm4you.org.  ELM is a vast resource for Minnesota residents, made available by the State Library Services agency and Minitex, the resource-sharing network that brings you materials borrowed from libraries throughout the state. 

ELM includes many, many databases that you otherwise could not access for free on the internet.  Now and then you have to enter your library card number to use it, but most of the time the system can detect that you’re accessing it from within the state of Minnesota and will not ask for that. 

On ELM, you can search the Star Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports, and many other publications.  You can search academic journals that you can use to write a college paper.  Miss those encyclopedia sets?  You can search Encyclopedia Britannica, even choosing the age range of the person using it: from Britannica Learning Zone for second grade and younger, all the way to Britannica Academic for college. 

Speaking of college, the college entrance exam resources in the LearningExpress Library are great free resources for your high school student.  There are sample tests and preparation modules for the ACT, SAT, and PSAT.  I made my high schooler go through some of the short lessons and exercises each time before he took the ACT, and we really think it made a difference.  Taking a practice test can be somewhat painful, but the modules on individual topics are short and manageable.  It’s far, far easier than using a test prep book, and did I mention it’s free?

Some of our customers will be happy to learn that there are test prep resources on the LearningExpress site for the Accuplacer test, the GRE, and the GED.  And like I mentioned earlier, there are modules for the nursing school entrance exam, the ASVAB, and many other tests.

If you need some guided practice using a computer, the internet, or Microsoft programs, the site has tutorials on those things, as well.  You might need someone who is more familiar with computers to get you started on the site, but then you can watch videos and do some guided practice.  They even have training on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. 


We are very lucky to have a state library organization that makes these high-quality databases available to all of us.  I encourage you to try out ELM and explore the resources available to you.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Book Review? Gossip?

By Jan Pease

Sometimes an author can become wildly popular and still be unknown, especially if he or she uses a pen name.  Daniel Handler is a great example of this.  Do you recognize his name? No?   If I say Lemony Snicket, you probably think of two series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and “All the Wrong Questions.”  The fourth book in the “All the Wrong Questions,” “Why is this Night Different from All Other Nights?” has just been published. The title, words that are spoken at the Passover Meal, reflects Mr. Handler’s background.  He is Jewish, although he describes himself as a secular humanist.    He describes the “All the Wrong Questions” as prequels to “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”


Mr. Handler’s odd sense of humor created a scandal at the National Book Awards in 2014.   He stated that Jacqueline Woodson, author of “Brown Girl Dreaming” and a very famous black author, is allergic to watermelon.  This reference to the racist stereotype created a furor. Mr. Handler apologized and donated $10,000 to the “We Need Diverse Books” project. 


“A Shiloh Christmas,” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, is the final book in the Shiloh Quartet.  It completes the story of Marty Preston, his family, and his dog Shiloh.  I just had to peek ahead to be sure Shiloh is still alive at the end of the book, because he has been such an important character in all four books.  And I just hate it when the dog dies.  Spoilers: Shiloh has a great Christmas!


Michael Grant’s “Gone” series was full of suspense.  I think his “Messenger of Fear” series leans more toward horror.   The main character, Mara, finds out after her death that she is apprenticed to the Messenger of Fear, a being who visits the wicked and offers them a chance for redemption if they play his cruel game.  If they win, they go free.  If they lose, they have to live out their greatest fear.  In “The Tattooed Heart,” the second book in this series,  Mara and Messenger each wear a tattoo that symbolizes the heart of the crime after offering their brand of justice to a criminal, 



I don’t think Donna Napoli is Swedish, Norwegian, or even Danish.  But she is Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.  Her new book, “Treasury of Norse Mythology,” is a collection of stories from the Norse tradition, with gorgeous illustrations by Christina Balit.  The front cover of the book calls the collection “Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge.”


I don’t usually mention board books, but we have received a sweet one. A+ for Big Ben, by Sarah Ellis, gives a glimpse of a youngest child who longs for a report card, with comments.  His wise older sister and brother solve the problem by making him a report card of his own, with subjects such as feeding the cat, shoe tying, tooth brushing, whistling, and making us laugh.  A+ for Big Ben reminds us to focus on the things we can do, instead of what we can’t.  


See you at the library!