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216 N Marshall Ave
Litchfield MN 55355

(320)693-2483

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What inspires you?

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

One thing I’ve learned from being in a book club and from being a librarian is that different stories inspire different people.  Some people like a very gentle, heartwarming story.  Some like a spiritual message, whether fiction or nonfiction.  Some like a story about overcoming adversity, which can come in many different forms.  Some like a true story.  And others are encouraged by a self-help book or something philosophical rather than a story.

I find it interesting that what is disturbing or boring or schmaltzy to one person can be inspiring to another. One person will have a miserable experience while reading or watching something, while another will find strength for facing their own difficulties by seeing how someone else has dealt with hardship.  And of course, some people just dislike self-help, philosophy, or theology.

I happen to love self-help books.  I like to pick them up and read just a little to see what insights someone else has come up with.  Recently a patron suggested to me that I’d like BrenĂ© Brown, so I checked out her book Daring Greatly, just because it was one that wasn’t checked out.  Her new and old books are currently bestsellers, and most of the copies in our library system are checked out. She has one of the top-five most-watched TED Talks online.

Brown isn’t really a feel-good self-help guru.  She’s a researcher at the University of Houston, so her books are a combination of her findings and how she and other people try to apply them to their lives.  Her work is about vulnerability, shame, and courage.  And the person who suggested her books to me was right: I found Daring Greatly to be inspiring.  Brown talks about how fear of shame at work holds people back from doing their best work, how a good approach to parenting is to be the kind of adult you want your child to grow up to be, and how connection and gratitude help you be more courageous.  I have a lot to think about after reading this one.

Another thing I’ve checked out lately that I thought was inspiring was the movie The Martian.  You might expect a story about an astronaut being left for dead on Mars to be depressing.  But even though he has no way to communicate with his crew or people on Earth, he doesn’t sit around dwelling on the hopelessness of his situation.  He gets to work, he solves problems, and, most importantly, he keeps his sense of humor.  His humor in the face of disaster was my favorite thing about the movie, which you’ll also find in the book that the movie is based on. 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of those novels that some find gloomy while other people find it uplifting.  I finally read it this past year and I thought it was remarkably moving and inspiring.  Liesel lives in Nazi Germany with foster parents after her brother dies and her Communist parents disappear.  Her new family lives in poverty and the fear of discovery because they’re hiding a Jewish man.  The book is narrated by Death, and Death comes to many of the characters in the book.  Despite all of this grimness, the power of love and the power of words shine like lights through the story.  And once again, there is humor in the midst of tragedy.  Incidentally, I was very disappointed in the movie version.

I think that the Hunger Games series are among the few examples of movie versions that are better than the books they're based on.  I loved the first two books in the series, but the first three movies get to me even more; they make me believe in the power of sacrifice, love, and freedom.  But then I tend to prefer the big truths of life to be told through fantasy stories.  The library has just gotten the last movie in the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, and there is a long waiting list on it at the moment.  We’d be glad to reserve it for you. 


Your reaction to a book or a movie is likely to be different than your neighbor’s, which is why the library offers such a wide variety of materials.  I hope you’ll stop in to find something that is inspirational to you.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Opposite of Boring is...... Fascinating!

 By Jan Pease

Today at story time we had fun with opposites.    We began story hour with the closing song, had a project about opposites, and read the book, “The Opposite Zoo.”  The preschool children are really very good with opposites.  I said “when I say up, you say_____ and they responded, “down,” with very firm voices.   We ended story time with an opening song, but did not walk backwards into the meeting room for our project.

 
Here are some new titles that are the opposite of boring.  They are bright, colorful, and sometimes even teach us how to do something amazing. 

How comfortable are you writing computer code?    Elsewhere in the world, all students learn how to code.  I think it should become one of the basic skills we teach our young people.  No matter your age, look for “Coding for Beginners using Scratch,” by Rosie Dickins, Jonathan Melmoth, and Louie Stowell.  Scratch is  a visual programming language, available free on the Internet.  This book is for “absolute beginners” and teaches step by step by step.   I like having the book in hand to refer to as each step is attempted.   I’ve done the “Hour of Code” available online, and enjoyed it, but I’m much happier with written instructions in front of me. I highly recommend this book. 


It’s no secret that I really like animals. I even like some rodents, like hamsters and gerbils.  But I’ve never had a guinea pig.  “Olga da Polga,” by Michael Bond may just be the next classic children’s book.  Mr. Bond is famous for creating Paddington Bear, and is now 90 years old.   He published “The Tales of Olga da Polga” in the 1970’s.  Olga’s stories may now be found in “Olga da Polga,” with beautiful illustrations by Catherine Rayner.    Olga is an imaginative guinea pig who tells tall tales to her friends in the garden.  My favorite tale is her story of the Surrey Puma.   


Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder are writers who just happen to be married to each other.   They have a new series that began with the book, “A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans.”  The second book in the series is “A Dragon’s Guide to Making Your Human Smarter.”    How could a dragon make her pet human smarter? Why, by sending your pet to school, of course, but only a very special school will do.  Spriggs Academy is for both magicals and naturals and sounds like it gives a wonderful education.  Mr. Yep and Ms. Ryder say that they were inspired by teachers who could still tap dance as they did on Broadway and who in chemistry class would flash-freeze goldfish in liquid nitrogen and then revive them in water.  It sounds even better than Hogwarts.

 
Finally, a couple of scary young adult books have also arrived.  “Feel the Fear,” by Lauren Child is the fourth novel starring Ruby Redfort, who thinks she is invincible, but can she catch a thief who seems to be a ghost?  Brandon Mull continues his “Five Kingdoms” series with “Death Weavers.”  Our young hero, Cole, finds himself in the Necronum, a haunting land of the dead.  This one sounds intense.   These fascinating books and 30,000 more are waiting for you at Litchfield Public Library! 





Friday, March 11, 2016

The luck o' the Irish

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you who are Irish or Irish at heart!  I’m not a bit Irish myself and I usually wear my green with purple for St. Urho’s Day the day before.  But anyone can enjoy a book or movie set in the lovely Irish countryside or populated with interesting Irish-American characters.  Following is a sample of the newer Irish-related titles we have available at the Litchfield Library.


A fascinating new biography, The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero tells the story of Thomas Francis Meagher in the 19th century.  Author Timothy Egan won the National Book Award in 2006 for “The Worst Hard Time,” a nonfiction account of the Dust Bowl.  Meagher was an orator during the Great Famine of the 1840s who led a failed rebellion against English rule.  He escaped from a prison colony in Australia and arrived in New York at the beginning of the Irish migration.  He led the Irish Brigade from New York in major battles of the Civil War, surviving improbable circumstances.  His dream was to bring seasoned Irish-American troops back to Ireland to win their freedom.

The movie Brooklyn was nominated for best picture, best actress, and best adapted screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards.  Eilis Lacey is a young woman in Ireland in the 1950s who goes to America to find work and also finds love, but she has to choose between the countries when circumstances change.  Our library also has the novel by Colm Toibin that is the basis of the movie. 

An Irish Doctor in Love and at Sea is part of the Irish Country series by Patrick Taylor.  These books are set in a small village called Ballybucklebo, where young doctor Barry Laverty and older doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly practice together.  In this latest installment, readers also get stories of Dr. O’Reilly’s World War II experiences in a naval hospital and aboard a warship.  These books are recommended for fans of James Herriot and Jan Karon.

Irish Meadows won a "Fiction from the Heartland" contest from a major romance writers’ association.  This faith-based novel by Susan Anne Mason tells the story of two sisters in 1911 who try to follow their hearts and their own ideas for their lives.  Meanwhile, their Irish immigrant father insists they must hurry up and marry well in order to save the family’s horse farm. 

The movie Song of the Sea was nominated for the Oscar for best animated film last year.  Siblings Saoirse and Ben go on a journey to find their mother who has disappeared, discovering the secrets of the selkies and the fairies.  Rated PG, this movie has been highly recommended by some of our young library patrons.

An Early Wake by Sheila Connolly provides some light entertainment for fans of cozy mysteries.  Part of the County Cork mystery series, American Maura Donovan continues to run her pub in Ireland and decides to bring in live music.  But when she finds a dead musician in her back room, her plan to keep her pub alive gets a bit complicated. 


Telling stories is an important part of Irish culture.  May the luck of the Irish be yours today and every day when you choose a story to read or to watch.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Diversity in Children's Books Revisited

 By Jan Pease

The world of children’s literature is still buzzing about “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” and the message it presented about happy slaves serving our first president.  Huffington Post posted an article in which the author of “A Birthday Cake for George Washington,” Ramin Ganeshram, explains her side of the issue; you can find it at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ramin-ganeshram/  I  also put a link to this article on the library Facebook page.    It is well worth reading.  The blog, “Reading While White” also continues the conversation about diversity in books.  Again, there is a link on the library Facebook page.


Meanwhile, back at the library, five interesting books came in just this week. 
 
 “Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor” is a graphic novel by Nathan Hale from Utah, who shares the name of Nathan Hale, the patriot executed in 1776 as a spy.   The patriot Nathan Hale somehow tells stories from the United States of the future to his British executioners before his death by hanging.    This book begins with the story of Araminta Ross as a child.  This strong woman   later changed her name to Harriet Tubman.  The humor is a little too comic-book style for my taste, but Mr. Hale packs a lot of history into these pages. 

Shane W. Evans has written and illustrated “Und
erground: Finding the Light to Freedom.”  This book uses very few words to express very big ideas.  It received the Coretta Scott King Award in 2012, but I missed it then.  I’m glad we added it now. 

Another Coretta Scott King Award winner, “Brick by Brick,” by Charles R. Smith Jr., tells about a part of history that I didn’t know about.     The original White House, built in 1792, was built by slave labor.  Owners were paid 5 dollars a month for the use of their slaves.  This White House was burned in 1814 but was rebuilt and restored.   Building the original White House allowed some of the slaves to earn enough money to purchase freedom.  Mr. Smith writes, “Slave hands count shillings with worn fingertips and purchase freedom brick by brick.” 


“Freedom in Congo Square” was written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie; each received the Coretta Scott King Award for other projects.  I didn’t know that in Louisiana slaves were allowed Sundays off, and were allowed to congregate on Sunday afternoons in Congo Square.  They preserved their language and music, rhythm and dancing, and this rich culture must be a factor in why New Orleans is called the birthplace of jazz.   


After all of the discussion about who can and should be writing books about ethnic issues, I be

gin to wonder if anyone is qualified to write about a culture not their own.   Cynthia Grady attempts this in “I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery.”  Illustrated by Michele Wood, this book is the perfect combination of text and art.  Ms. Grady is a former children’s librarian.  Her poems are powerful and Ms. Wood’s illustrations reflect that same power.   Ms. Grady is white; Ms. Wood is black.   Writing about a man and woman whose daughter is being sold away from them, Ms. Grady writes, “Her mama moaning low, long burying songs; greedy wheels groaning, drag my heart clean out of my chest, leaving only the grief.”

Children’s books can provide profound insight in unexpected places and ways.