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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

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Weightiest of Books

One of the largest books I own has drawn some attention as it sits on the children’s desk.  It weighs 6.7 pounds, and contains 2,941 pages.  The title is Children’s Core Collection, 21st edition.  It is exactly what it says. There are about 12,000 books listed in it, all recommended by professionals for school and public libraries.  I bought it used, because new copies cost 240.00.  (If you ask me, I’ll tell you how much it cost, but I won’t put it in print.)   The 22nd edition has been released, also 240.00.  If you want, a copy of the 22nd edition can be sent to you from Japan, costing 450.00 plus 3.99 shipping.


 I mention this because several patrons have commented on the copy on the desk.  The cover has a colorful illustration from Alice in Wonderland, which may be a comment on the vast rabbit hole that is children’s book publishing.  If you search for the number of children’s books published each year, it’s pretty much impossible to know the exact number of books. It’s safe to say there are many thousands of books published each year, somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000. Or more.  This book helps me fill in the gaps in the children’s collections at Litchfield, Dassel, and Grove City.
 
This giant tome shares the desk with some great new books.  Avi has published a book of short stories about sons, fathers, and grandfathers, titled The Most Important Thing.  This is a wonderful collection of seven stories that ask the question, “What is the most important thing a father can do for his son?”  Avi is one of the best known children’s writers of our time, and his short stories show the mastery that made him an award winning author.

I don’t know how to describe Slacker, by Gordon Korman.  This very funny book is the story of how a group of friends who like to hang around playing
video games in the basement end up with a group devoted to doing good called the PAG –Positive Action Group.  It doesn’t really exist, except as a title meant to fool family members and school staff into believing that these gamers are really devoted to doing good things for their community.  As the plot unfolds, the group really does get involved in doing something no one else could do as it stops bulldozers from destroying their highway exit and saves a beaver named Elvis.

 The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater, is book 4 of “The Raven Cycle.” Reviews at Amazon.com  show that  many of the reviewers are extremely  sad that the series is ending.  The library even  received a list of what to read now that Ms. Stiefvater has finished her quartet.  The four books in the series  are The Raven Boys, The Dream  Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King.  Again, I don’t know how to describe these books, except to invite you to read them.  They are full of dreams, magic, and suspense. 

Julie Kagawa has three series that are very popular right now.  They are The Iron Fey, The Blood of Eden, and The Talon Saga.  The library just added the three books of The Talon Saga: Talon, Rogue, and Soldier.  These books are about dragons that have the ability to change their form to blend in with humans.  Teenagers who are dragons,  teenagers who are dragon-slayers, a rogue dragon who is sort of a rogue teenager, romance, adventure, action, all wrapped up in a trilogy.  What more  could a fantasy-loving reader ask for?



                    
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      




Friday, April 22, 2016

Book award season

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Let’s talk book awards.  This past week brought us book awards big and small, with the Pulitzers and the Minnesota Book Awards, and our library has a number of them available for you to check out.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  Although this book has gotten great reviews and has been up for other literary awards, not many people have heard of it.  A mixture of thriller and satire, this novel is described as smart and perspective-changing.  The narrator is a Viet Cong secret agent who evacuates with the last of the South Vietnamese flying out of Saigon.  He then continues to spy on a general and others as they start a new life in Los Angeles in the ‘70s. 

The Pulitzer for history went to Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles.  This biography digs into who George Armstrong Custer was as a person, intense and full of contradictions.  The author focuses on how Custer lived on a frontier in a sense of the time period, uncomfortably navigating the major changes in society that came in the middle of the nineteenth century.  Expect to have your ideas about Custer challenged if you read this one.

The Minnesota Book Award for general nonfiction was awarded to No House to Call My Home: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions by Ryan Berg.  Berg was a caseworker in a group home for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) teens in New York.  Twenty to forty percent of homeless teens in the United States are LGBTQ, mostly because of family conflict and often because their parents have forced them out of the house.  Berg attempts to find patterns in the stories of the kids he worked with, trying to figure out what would help them build healthy relationships and successful lives once they aged out of the foster care system.

Erin Hart’s The Grave Soul won the Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction.  This is the 23rd book in her Jane Lawless mysteries series, which has been going since 1989.  Jane is a (fictional) Minneapolis restaurateur and private investigator.  In this installment, Jane is hired by a man who wonders if his girlfriend’s recurring nightmare about her mother being murdered is true, even though it doesn’t agree with her family’s account of how she died. 

The Minnesota Book Award for memoir and creative nonfiction went to Karen Babine for Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life.  Babine’s essays explore how the land affects the people who live on it, and how water is a part of human stories.

Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury by Larry Millett won the Minnesota award given by the Minnesota Book Awards.  How’s that for enough uses of the name of our state?  Millett is known for books on Minnesota architecture, such as Lost Twin Cities and Once There Were Castles, as well as a series of novels about Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota.  “Minnesota Modern” explores houses and public buildings that were built between 1945 and the mid-1960s. 


The Litchfield Library has copies of all of these books, as well as There’s Something I Want You to Do by Charles Baxter, the winner of the Minnesota Book Award in the novel and short story category, and Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, the winner in children’s literature.  Other Pulitzer Prize and Minnesota Book Award winners are available to order in our catalog.  Enjoy some of the best writing our nation and our state have to offer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What Happened to all the Books!

By Jan Pease

If you have noticed some bare shelves in the children’s area, don’t despair.  We are shifting books to make it easier for patrons to locate what they want.  Juvenile nonfiction is now located near the picture book collection.  All juvenile chapter books, both hardcover and paperback, are now shelved together.  The books on CD are now on the north wall.  We no longer have audio books on cassette, because that technology has come and gone.  The manga (Japanese graphic novels) are now on the east wall.  The Spanish language books are also on the east wall.  Several staff members have been involved in the process, and I’m so grateful for their help.  Signs will eventually make all this clear. 



 One of the new books that people on the library staff have noticed is Animal Hospital: Rescuing Urban Wildlife, by Julia Coey.  This book was published in the United States and Canada by Firefly Books, and it centers on the work of the Toronto Wildlife Centre in Toronto, Ontario.  Like the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, and the Raptor Center in St. Paul, an amazing number of wild animals live and thrive in urban areas in Canada.  Gorgeous color photographs and interesting information  make this small book seem much larger.





Michael Hall was nominated for the Minnesota Book Award this year for Red: A Crayon’s Story .  He followed that crayon story with Frankencrayon, a truly funny story with great illustrations.  There is drama, there is mystery, and there is even a mad scientist.   Some of the jokes may require some explanation, but this story of very vocal crayons is simply hilarious. By the way, I called it as the winner!





Some interesting math makes Absolutely One Thing, by Lauren Child a potential hit.  She brings back Charlie and his little sister Lola for an adventure that is funny and enlightening.   After all, how many of us understand how many is a squillion?  And is it even a number?





Maggie and Michael Get Dressed is a book by Denise Fleming, whose books for preschoolers are marvelous.  Michael tries his outfit on his dog, Maggie, who is boisterously patient, before putting his clothes onhimself.   Their relationship reminds me of days when our daughter dressed her dog, Scruffy, and pushed him in her doll stroller. 







I have never seen a picture book about tattoos but Alison McGhee uses a daddy’s tattoos to give structure to Tell Me a Tattoo Story. The illustrations by Eliza Wheeler are perfect.  A boy loves to hear the stories behind each of his dad’s many tattoos and his dad gently tells each one.  One of the most beautiful tattoos commemorates the most difficult time in his life, when he was away during the war.  I love that the book opens with the dad doing dishes while wearing a tank top that gives glimpses of his colorful artwork.





Finally, Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat perfectly expresses the feelings of a child on a seemingly endless road trip to Grandma’s house.  Fortunately, our hero has an active imagination, which makes the time seem to fly by.   These wonderful picture books are waiting for you at the Litchfield Library!


Monday, April 11, 2016

National Library Week: Love and transformation

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

It’s National Library Week!  National Library Week was created in the 1950’s by the National Book Committee to encourage reading and library use to better Americans’ lives.  The American Library Association now sponsors this celebration.

This year’s theme is “Libraries Transform.”  This slogan refers to the ways libraries can transform lives by providing free access to books and other materials, computers and internet access, storyhours, and classes and programs for all ages. 

We’re joining in on the celebration by giving our customers a chance to say why they love the library.  All week we’ve got sheets of paper available with speech bubbles printed on them, like in a comic strip or graphic novel.  We invite you to write or draw the reasons why your library is important to you.  We’re hanging them up around the library, so take a look at other people’s reasons, too!

One sign of love for the library is the generosity of our patrons.  Just since the beginning of the year, one couple has given us a donation to use for the purchase of popular fiction, Mike Johnson has given us a donation to use for purchasing mysteries, and the family of Boyd Anderson has given us a donation for the purchase of history books.  We are so grateful to all of them.  The generosity of members of your community has increased the number of books that are available to you.

Another sign of love for the library is participation in our adult winter reading program, which ended on the last day of March.  We had over 70 people sign up for it this year, turning in almost 300 book reviews.  The most popular authors were Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, Julie Garwood, Joanne Fluke, Gillian Flynn, Tess Gerritsen, Lois Lowry, and, surprisingly, Carolyn Keene.  This year James Patterson was not as popular as in the past.  Many people reviewed nonfiction history books on a wide range of subjects, and books on food and cooking were pretty popular, too.  The reviews will be available on our front desk this month if you’d like to browse through them for reading ideas.

An activity that I think the participants are loving this month is our watercolor class, taught by area artist Joyce Young.  This class is funded with money from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.  The three-session class is full and already underway, so I’m sorry to say we can’t accept any more sign-ups.  However, you can come to their art exhibit on Thursday, April 28, from 1-2 p.m. in the library meeting room.  The artists will be there to display their paintings, and we will serve light refreshments.  We plan to display the paintings in the library for two weeks afterward, too.  This would be an example of libraries possibly transforming some people into watercolor artists who haven’t tried this before.

And, finally, our library transformed a few late fees into food for local people in need this past month.  We held a Food for Fines program during the second half of March, which is Minnesota FoodShare Month.  During this time, patrons with late fees could have $1 of their late fees waived for each food shelf donation brought to the library, up to a maximum of $5 per card.  Litchfield, Grove City, and Dassel library users donated a total of 92 pounds of food to the Meeker County Emergency Food Shelf through this program. 


Stop in to look around the library during the rest of National Library Week to see what responses there are to the prompt “I love my library because ___.”  We look forward to seeing the results!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Creepy, Scary, and Not Exactly the Boy Next Door


By Jan Pease

Four new  novels show me that young adult literature continues to make money for the publishers, and that romance, with zombies, spirits and humans,  is still alive and well in 2016. 
   

Darren Shan’s last book in his “Zom-B” series, “Zom-B Goddess” has just been published in the United States.  His real name is Darren O'Shaughnessy, he lives in Ireland, and his series include “Cirque du Freak,” the “Demonata” series, the “Saga of Larten Crepsley,”  and many other books.  His website darrenshan.com includes the words “master of horror,” and he is an extremely popular writer for young adults.  His series have covered vampires, demons, and now zombies.  “Zom-B Goddess” concludes the story of B Smith, who has already been through more than a human can, or should, endure.  Oh wait. B is a zombie, so who knows what she could endure, or how long she could live.  Mr. Shan ties up some loose ends, kills off a lot of characters, and somehow leaves the story on a positive note.  What paranormal group will he write about next?  Witches?  Ghosts?  Shapeshifters?  His website gives no clues. 

 

Fascination with death and dying runs through “All the Bright Places,” by Jennifer Niven.   This is Ms. Niven’s first novel for young adults and it will be loved by fans of John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars.”  The novel begins with both protagonists stuck six stories up on a ledge; they save each other and begin a heart-breaking friendship.  My concern about this book is that young people might emulate Finch.  As the dust jacket says, Finch’s world begins to shrink even as Violet’s world begins to grow.  Do young people who take their own lives understand the awful finality of it and the desperation they leave behind?
 

 “Sisters of Blood and Spirit” is a ghost story written by Kady Cross, a Canadian-born author who also writes under the names of Kate Locke, Kate Cross, and Kathryn  Smith.  Her  (or their) website is www.alterkate.com  and each name has its own voice and genre.   Kady Cross writes steam punk.  The sisters in “Sisters of Blood and Spirit” are twins, one living and one dead, giving a new twist on the paranormal romance novel.  A second book in the series, “Sisters of Salt and Iron” was just published March 29. 


Harlequin has begun releasing books under its Harlequin Teen label.  We are trying them at Litchfield Library and have just received our first book,   “Nowhere But Here,” by Katie McGarry. This book is part of the “Thunder Road” novels.  According to Good Reads, this series is pitched as “West Side Story” meets “Sons of Anarchy.”   For some interesting reading, read customer reviews at both goodreads.com and amazon.com.  The characters and plot are pretty one-dimensional, but 52% of the reviews at Amazon gave “Nowhere but Here” 5 stars.   

Stop at the library and find a creepy, scary or  robustly  cheerful sort of book to enjoy during the spring rainy season.