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Litchfield MN 55355

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Longest Book You've Ever Seen

By Jan Pease

Have you ever read fairy tales as the Brothers Grimm wrote them?    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of Children’s and Household Tales 200 years ago.  Over the two hundred years, these fairy tales have been sanitized and Disneyized  into versions we love, but the brothers would hardly recognize.



  Philip Pullman retold them four years ago, in time for the 200th anniversary of Children’s and Household Tales   in the book, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm.  I missed this book when it was first published, but am happy to say that it is in the collection at Litchfield now.  Pullman’s introduction to the book provides a short lesson on the fairy tale.  These fifty stories are, as Mr. Pullman says, “the cream of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen.”

 




In 1964, I was eleven years old, with my nose in a book most of the time.  Iowa wasn’t a hot bed of civil rights strife, but I was aware that in the South brave college students had actually been killed because they tried to help black people vote.  In Melody: 1964,  Denise Lewis Patrick tackles the difficult problem of Civil Rights. These books are in the “Beforever” series published by American Girl.  Each book in the series is about 220 pages and takes the place of the six titles that were released at once in the old American Girl books.  The first book, Music in My Heart, is subtitled “My Journey with Melody.” It is an interactive book in which your decisions   determine the path of the story.  These “choose-your-own” books are really fun in a simple, low-tech way.  The second book, Never Stop Singing, also by Denise Lewis Patrick, tells Melody’s story in a more linear way.   She loves to sing, and puts life into her music 


Avi tackles the supernatural in School of the Dead.  I was curious about this one, but didn’t have time to read it.  So I jumped over to amazon.com and read reviews.  One reviewer said that Tony was too self-aware for a 12 year old boy.  Another reviewer said that “Our hero, Tony Gilbert, is not the most self-aware person on the planet. It takes him quite awhile to notice things are not what they seem and yet more time to puzzle out motives and loyalties, so the pacing of the book is quite slow.”  I say, “Well, which is it?”     I need to find a kid who will read this and report back to me.  Meanwhile, if you like ghost stories, try this one.




Dan Gutman, who writes the series, “My Weird School,” has published two weird nonfiction books.  They are titled, My Weird School: Fast Facts Geography and My Weird School: Fast Facts Sports.  These books are shelved in nonfiction in the sports area, but I predict they will never stay long on the shelf. Fictional characters explain interesting facts about real things.  It’s a bit confusing, but very entertaining.   
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One of the most unusual picture books I’ve ever seen has arrived. The title is Megalopolis: and the Visitor from Outer Space.    Cléa Dieudonné has designed a vertical book.  Just sit down on the floor with a child and start unfolding.  When expanded to its full height, it is 10 feet tall.  Really.  I know it’s kind of a fad book, and won’t last long on the shelves, but sometimes you just have to give in to the slightly crazy. 


Keep cool with some great books from Litchfield Library!



Friday, June 24, 2016

What will you read this summer?

What are you going to read this summer?  Summertime always brings lists of books recommended for bringing along on vacation or to the beach.  I’ve been looking through the lists that are out so far, looking for the ones the book reviewers agree on.  Following are several of the books we have at the Litchfield Library that are getting a lot of press.

Annie Proulx has a new novel out titled Barkskins.  Proulx is famous for writing The Shipping News, which won both a Pulitzer and a National Book Award, and Brokeback Mountain.  Barkskins is an epic story of a family working in the lumber business.  It begins in the 1600s with a Frenchman enduring great hardship as he takes down trees in the vast North American forests.  The story continues through the generations and across continents through more than 300 years of history as humanity levels forest after forest.  A wide range of reviewers are praising the fascinating characters and the beautiful and compelling writing in this one.

Emma Straub’s The Vacationers was one of the beach reads of 2014.  This year her novel Modern Lovers is getting a lot of attention.  It asks: what happens when you age out of being cool?  A group of college friends who used to have a band have hung onto being hip, but now their children are going off to college themselves.  Living now as neighbors, with the trappings of adulthood, these friends grapple with what being an adult truly means.  Despite the depth, this book is described by many reviewers as entertaining.

I was at a meeting of librarians recently and the book I heard about over lunch was The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.  It’s been showing up on many published summer book lists, too.  This novel is about four adult siblings who are waiting for their inheritance to be distributed once the youngest turns forty.  They have all made life decisions in anticipation of this windfall, but one brother causes an accident and ends up endangering that money for all of them.  The writing is described as warm and funny even though the family is highly dysfunctional. 

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice, the classic by Jane Austen.  Liz is a magazine writer and Jane is a yoga instructor, both living in New York City.  They return to their parents’ home when their father has a health scare, and they rejoin life with their directionless younger sisters and their mother who wants them all to get married before they get too old.  Of course, Dr. Bingley and his friend Dr. Darcy are new in town.  Reviewers say it’s clever and charming.

And finally, Stephen King has come out with the final book in his Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch.  The first two books are Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers.  Library Journal says that one would expect the prolific King to run out of ideas by now, but this is one of the most original crime thrillers to come out in years.  If you like Stephen King, you won’t be able to put this one down.


Whether you’d like to read some fluffy romance or some dense historical nonfiction this summer, we can set you up with what you need.  If you want the most popular book in our library system right now, A Man Called Ove, you may have a bit of a wait.  Leave it to a Swedish book about a curmudgeon and his neighbors to appeal to Minnesotans.  Take a look at our shelf of new books to pick up some of the newest fiction and nonfiction that’s available right now, or place an order for something popular or obscure.  Enjoy the summer days as you relax with a good book!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Books for a Hot Summer Day

By Jan Pease

These long days of June are my favorite part of summer.   The library feels like a busy, vibrant place.   More than 260 young people ages 2 through 16 are participating in summer reading, but there is still plenty of time to sign up and start playing the summer reading game. 

Several well-known authors have released new books in recent weeks.


Erin Hunter wrote the six books in Survivors, a series about dogs surviving the end of human civilization Hunter’s new series is called “Survivors: The Gathering Darkness.”  The first book is titled A Pack Divided and the title of the second book is Dead of Night.  Expect more tension and a lot of action in this one.   I don’t think my dogs would last long if we disappeared, but it’s nice to think they could join a pack and survive.   The back cover of Dead of Night states, “In a pack, loyalty is everything – but some dogs should never be trusted.”



Another book cover asks, “In a game of lies, who can you trust?”  The title of the book is The Long Game, by Jennifer  Lynn Barnes.   This is the second novel in the “Fixer” series.    The fixers are a family named Kendricks who help make the problems of the Washington elite disappear.  This thriller is written by a very qualified author.  Jennifer Lynn Barnes has advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science and writes a believable political thriller.


The Notorious Pagan Jones is a work of fiction that reads like headlines about some of the young self-destructing actresses in Hollywood. 

Nina Berry set her story in the 1960’s, with a young actress killing her entire family in a car accident.  She is released from jail and sent to Berlin to make a movie which is only a cover for herinvolvement with the CIA.  Interesting twists and turns make this a political thriller set in a turbulent time in Germany. 


Karen Cushman was a Newbery Medalist for The Midwife’s Apprentice and knows how to tell a good story.  In Grayling’s Song our heroine must free all of the magic makers in the kingdom from a powerful curse.  Ms. Cushman stated that while she enjoys writing historical fiction, she wanted to set a book in a place like medieval England, but with magic.




Finally, a noted nonfiction author, Sy Montgomery, brings us The Great White Shark Scientist.  The scientist profiled in this book is Greg Skomal, and he does what I could never do.  He is an expert on shark biology.  This book is filled with wonderful photographs both above and under the water.  Many children tell me that they want to be marine biologists, an odd vocation for someone from the Midwest.  This lovely book might just inspire some more would-be young scientists.

These books, and more, are waiting for you at Litchfield Public Library.