216 N Marshall Ave
Litchfield MN 55355


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Friday, October 13, 2017

New Young Adult Titles for You!

By Jan Pease

October 14 marks the end of Teen Read Week 2017, “Unleash Your Story.”  This week of encouraging teens to use their libraries began in 1998.  In honor of Teen Read Week, here are some interesting new books for young adults.

“Truthers” is a new novel by Geoffrey Girard.  Publishers Weekly said, “It’s a fast-paced nail-biter with a resourceful heroine, packed with surprises that force readers to question every revelation and take nothing at face value.”  The plot revolves around conspiracy theories about the attack on U.S. buildings on September 11, 2001. This book received 4.6 out of 5 stars at Amazon with no negative reviews, which is remarkable. I have a difficult time accepting that an event in my life time is considered history.

Libba Bray has a new book in her “Diviners” series, “Before the Devil Breaks You.”  “Booklist” says its “a gripping, unsettling read that peels back the shiny surface of the American Dream.  Like the ghosts facing the Diviners, Bray’s novel has teeth.” Most reviews at Amazon were positive, but one said, “I’m done with this series. Loved the first book.  Liked the second book. Hate this book.”  I may have to read this series yet. 

“The Arsonist,” by Stephenie Oaks, is another complicated thriller with “history, lies, humor, and grief” according to the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. I love that professional reviews are available at along with reviews by “everyday people.”   The plot of this book centers on events that occurred in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall fell.  Using the diary of a freedom fighter who died in 1989, the protagonists try to piece together events leading to the death of freedom fighter Ava Dreyman.  Again, it’s interesting to see an event that I remember portrayed as history.

With all of the talk about the border with Mexico in the news, “Disappeared,” by Francisco X. Stork, is a timely read.  Mr. Stork tackles the issues of sex trafficking, drugs, kidnapping, and poverty in Juarez, Mexico.  These issues seem to be a bit much for a children’s book, but I think “Disappeared” is written for an older audience.

“The Final Spark,” the seventh and final book in the “Michael Vey” series by Richard Paul Evans, has just been released.   Yes, Richard Paul Evans is THAT Richard Paul Evans, famous for “The Christmas Box.”  It’s been interesting to see his success with a crossover Young Adult Sci-Fi series.  Most of the reviewers who chimed in at Amazon liked the book and were sad the series is ending. 

Litchfield has teens who read!  I have often mentioned that right now is kind of a golden age of young adult novels.  Adults enjoy reading them, too.  Sometimes novels can get bogged down with too much character development, or too much sense of place.  I’m not afraid to say that I like to read young adult fiction!  These and many more exciting novels are waiting for you at Litchfield Public Library.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Don't Know Much About History

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Authors are always coming out with new books about history to teach us about the past, and our library has a number of recently-published choices.

Starting way back in 247 B.C., Patrick N. Hunt’s biography Hannibal gives readers an opportunity to learn about one of the great generals of the ancient world.  Hannibal Barca of Carthage (which is now Tunisia) crossed the Alps with war elephants to invade Italy.  It’s a little hard to imagine!  Hannibal’s tactics are still taught in military academies, and generals from Napoleon to Norman Schwarzkopf have studied and admired him. 

Moving ahead just over two thousand years, another recently-published book covers the experiences of the first American women in the Army.  The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman tells the story of the women who served in the Army’s Signal Corps in World War I.  General Pershing needed experts to run telephone switchboards to keep the commanders in touch with the troops under fire, and women were the experts in this new technology. The Hello Girls faced many kinds of challenges in the war zone, sometimes serving directly on battlefields.  When they were discharged after the war, they received no veterans’ benefits until a handful of survivors finally won those in 1979. 

The book Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities covers a massive range of history and prehistory, from 800,000 BC to the present.  British historian and TV documentary producer Bettany Hughes has written what some are calling a biography of the city that has been named Byzantium, Constantinople, and Istanbul.  It has been the capital city of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires and for a long time was the most important city in the world.  Hughes writes with an enthusiastic narrative style, full of details and drama.

Ken Burns is America’s favorite TV documentary-maker.  His new one is The Vietnam War, which we will be getting on DVD for the library.  The companion book is The Vietnam War: An Intimate History, co-authored with Geoffrey C. Ward.  Full of photographs, this book gives as comprehensive a look at this controversial war as you are likely to find, from its causes to its legacy.

For a fresh look at the Revolutionary War, check out Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth by Holger Hoock.  The publisher’s description of the book says, “The American Revolution is often portrayed as an orderly, restrained rebellion, with brave patriots defending their noble ideals against an oppressive empire.”  The author sets aside the usual nostalgia to examine the brutal violence that both sides engaged in, including the torture of Loyalists, the rape of colonial women, the starvation of prisoners, and the genocidal campaign against the Iroquois.   

Other new books about historical topics include Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary by Walter Stahr, Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign Against Joseph McCarthy by David A. Nichols, and The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek by Howard Markel.  Learn more about history by picking up a book about a time or topic that’s new to you.  

Adult Coloring - New Program at the Library

No need to sign up.  Supplies provided.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fall Books: a Little Science, a Little Fall Color, and a Whole Bunch of Big Words!

 By Jan Pease

As I was looking for information about 3D printing, I stumbled across the story of Jose Delgado Jr., who uses a prosthetic hand that cost $42,000.00.  Jeremy Simon of decided to make Mr. Delgado a hand using open source software and a 3D printer.  He calls the result the “Cyborg Beast” prosthetic hand, and Mr. Delgado reported that his printed prosthetic works better than his expensive myoelectric hand.  The Cyborg Beast hand can be made for about $50.00.  I think this exciting technology will literally change the world.  

So now we get to the reason I was interested in 3D printing.  One of the newest books in the children’s department is “Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle,” by Deborah Lee Rose.  Beauty is a bald eagle whose beak was shot off. Her life was saved by Birds of Prey Northwest director, Janie Veltkamp.   Janie, Nate Calvin, who is a mechanical
engineer, and volunteer dentists and veterinarians worked together to print Beauty a new prosthetic beak. Their website,, contains links to videos about their work, and other information about how discoveries in science are benefitting all kinds of birds.  An update to Beauty’s story is that her natural beak began to slowly regrow, pushing her prosthetic beak off.  Beauty can feed herself and they are evaluating her condition to see if a replacement for her replacement beak is a good idea.  She lives in her own large aviary, which is large enough for her to spread her wings and fly a bit.  This is an amazing story.

“Animal Heroes: The Wolves, Camels, Elephants, Dogs, Cats, Horses, Penguins, Dolphins, and Other Remarkable Animals that Proved They Are Man’s Best Friend,”  by Julia Moberg is a completely lighthearted look at the stories of 40 animals throughout history.
This is a book for animal lovers of all ages. 

Susan Patterson and her husband, James Patterson (yes, THAT James Patterson) have just published a unique alphabet book for older children, “Big Words for Little Geniuses”.  Each letter has a sophisticated word and definition that will enlarge vocabularies for everyone in the family.  For example, A is for Arachibutyrophobia, which is the alarming fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
If you love words, this is the book for you!

Finally, the perfect picture book for this time of year is “Full of Fall,” by April Pulley Sayre.  This lovely book combines science with full-colored illustrations.  Little scientists can learn about why the leaves change color and fall off the trees.   What! You mean it isn’t Jack Frost?

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That...

By Jan Pease

Fall children’s programs have begun in earnest.  One of the highlights from today was watching a group of very young children using paint dabbers to make colorful fall trees.  They worked so hard on their pictures, and every picture was unique.  One of the things I enjoy about fall is that leaves on each tree change color in their own way. 

Our September book is “In the Middle of Fall,” by Kevin Henke.    We “painted” leaves one week with markers on color diffusing paper, using water to make the colors run together.  I have to find one more leaf craft for next week.

Another highlight from our week came on
Thursday afternoon at Beginner Book club.  We read the book “Dog Diaries: Secret Writings of the WOOF Society,” by Betsy Byars and her daughters Betsy Duffy and Laurie Meyers.  These secret writings are short stories from the dogs’ point of view.  Some are very funny.  The kids especially enjoyed chapter four, “The Invisible Enemy,” which tells about the mysterious interloper in the kitchen sink, named “Disposer.”  One of the boys started reading out loud, without being asked, and we read an entire short story together.  Because no one had read all of the stories, we will continue our discussion next month about “Dog Diaries” and hand out books for November.

The children asked to read “Cat Diaries: Secret Writings of the MEOW Society.”  By the way, WOOF stands for “Words of Our Friends,” and MEOW stands for “Memories Expressed in Our Writing.” 

My goal for Beginner Book Club is for the members to read for enjoyment.  Yes, we have a few discussion questions and sometimes look at character development and plot.  But I want these children to enjoy reading for its own sake.  When they started spontaneously reading aloud, I almost wept.  Beginner Book Club meets once each month on the third Thursday, and is for students in grades 1-3.

Make it a point to look around the library at the fall decorations.  The staff who decorated switched things around.  I think some of the items that are usually in the children’s department are in the adult areas, and some of the adult decorations are in the children’s department.  Whatever was done, and whoever did it, I like it!  Books from the “Harry Potter” series appear here and there, and the effect is, dare I say it, magical!

Finally, be sure to look at the LEGO creations on display near the children’s desk.  This display will be up for one more week, and then everything will be broken up and put in the LEGO totes.  I especially like the flying hair salon.  It would be so much simpler if the beauty salon flew to the customers.  Also be sure to look at the red diamond shape.  The builder started at the point of the diamond and built outward.  It’s an interesting bit of engineering. Next week we will have challenges from the new Booster Bricks Box. It should be fun.  If you’re aged 4-14, come and join us!


Friday, September 15, 2017

Hot books for chillier days

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Fall is here, daylight is shorter, and the weather is bound to turn cooler soon.  Time to find a good novel to curl up with!  Look for these novels that are getting some buzz this fall.

John le CarrĂ© is a British master of the spy novel.  He is 85 years old, and for the first time in 25 years he has come out with a new George Smiley book, A Legacy of Spies.  This new installment connects back to his classic novels The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but is set in the current day.  Cold War novels had seemed to be a thing of the past, but everything old is new again.  You might expect that le CarrĂ© couldn’t effectively go back to storylines written in the 1960s and ‘70s, but reviewers say it’s fresh and brilliant.

For those who like science fiction, The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones offers a literary take on dystopia.  In this version of the future, deadly ticks have caused the remnant of the United States to retreat to a safe zone within a ring of scorched earth for protection, although the society within is tightly controlled and full of fear.  But people who pay enough and are brave enough can venture out to see more of the world on guided expeditions.  A group of these adventurers, strangers to each other, get captured by a community of outer-zone survivors, and they have to decide which side they’re on. 

In 2004, Lily Tuck won the National Book Award for fiction for The News from Paraguay even though she wasn’t a well-known author.  She’s still far from being a household name, but her new novella is getting some literary attention.  Sisters is a second-wife’s rumination on what her new husband’s first wife must be like.  The reader never learns the name of either woman.  The narrator becomes obsessed with all that her husband doesn’t tell her about her predecessor, whether she can ever equal her, and the way she betrayed her.
Jesmyn Ward is also a National Book Award winner for her novel Salvage the Bones, which won in 2011.  Her new novel is Sing, Unburied, Sing.  It’s a Southern road novel, and reviewers are so excited about it, comparing it to Homer’s Odyssey and the work of Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor.  A black woman and her two children drive from her parents’ farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to the state penitentiary to pick up the children’s white father, encountering dangers on the journey.  Incorporating drug addiction, the legacy of racial violence, and the long-term damage hurricanes can cause, this timely novel ventures into magical realism. 

If you’re looking for a thriller, The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream by Christina Dodd could fit the bill.  The fourth book in the Virtue Falls series features newly-elected sheriff Kateri and a case involving her old friend Merida, who is mute and has returned to town with a different name, a new look, and a plan for revenge after living as a long-suffering trophy wife.  Merida and Kateri are looking for the truth about something that happened nine years earlier and the identity of the person who’s murdering women in the small community. 

Some other novels released in September that you may want to seek out include Enemy of the State by Kyle Mills and the late Vince Flynn, Enigma by Catherine Coulter, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz, which is a continuation of the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series.  You can order these online through our catalog or stop in to ask a staff person to help you find a copy.  

Friday, September 8, 2017

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

 By Jan Pease
Those of you who have facebook can click on this link and see our favorite spot.

As many of you know, we like to get away “Up North” and spend some time looking at Lake Superior and reading a lot of books. So this is the annual “what I read on my vacation” article.

My husband Dave is working hard to get our house painted before the snow flies. This year our vacation turned into a staycation.

I read a lot.  Some of it was very good.  Some of it was truly embarrassing.  One of the best books I’m still reading is “The Benedict Option: a Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation,” by Rod Dreher.  Mr. Dreher calls attention to the way our culture erodes the family and the church.  He
foresees a coming  dark age nearly as bad as the one in Europe during and after the fall of the Roman Empire.  The  book is an interesting, controversial read, and definitely makes you think.  Reviews at range from “awful” to “vital.”

I discovered Ann Aguirre, a young adult author and her trilogy, “Razorland.”  The titles are “Enclave,” “Outpost,” and “Horde.” Ms. Aguirre does a good job of world-building her post-apocalyptic societies in and around   New York City, which is in ruins.  There are tunnel denizens, various races, and isolated communities who live in walled villages, all faced by an implacable cannibalistic enemy.

I also read “When the English Fall,” by David Williams.  This is another post-apocalyptic novel, told from the point of view of an Amish farmer. The world of the outsiders, called “The English” collapses after a massive solar storm.  The Amish aren’t affected at first by the loss of electricity and the internet and all of the amenities of modern life, but gradually their peaceful world is invaded by desperate people willing to kill just for the sake of killing.  I really enjoyed this book, and hope that Mr. Williams continues the story of a peaceful family surviving in a terrible world.
Because so many people read Charlaine Harris, and because I watched a summer  tv show called “Midnight, Texas” based on her books, I finally read Ms. Harris.  Four of her books! I read “Midnight Crossroad,” “Day Shift,” and “Night Shift,” as well as the first Sookie Stackhouse book, “Dead until Dark.” They are too silly, and have too much romance, and too many vampires, were-tigers, demons, and fallen angels for me. I hope this doesn’t offend any of her fans, but these four and no more.

Jo Nesbo is a Norwegian author who is very popular in our area.  He has been on my list of “to be read” also known as TBR for quite awhile.  I finished the first Harry Hole novel, “The Bat” and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though I’m not on vacation now, I’m looking forward to reading “Cockroaches,” the second Harry Hole book.

“The Girl in the Spider’s Web” continued the story of Lisbeth Salander that started with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by the late Stieg Larsson. 
David Lagercrantz  is writing the series, now renamed “Stieg Larsson’s  Millennium Series.”  The first time I tried reading “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” I just couldn’t deal with the difference in style, even though Mr. Lagercrantz writes a lot like Mr. Larsson.  But now it’s been long enough since I read the first books, and I’m enjoying getting reacquainted with this Swedish series.

 See you at the library!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Children's books still fun for adults

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

This fall is the 75th anniversary of Little Golden Books, those inexpensive, golden-spined classics of all of our childhoods.  On Tuesday, September 19, the Litchfield Library will be hosting a presentation on the history of Little Golden Books.  At 6 p.m., collector Ellen Radel will share her extensive knowledge of these special children’s books, show us her collection and read one of her favorite Little Golden Books.  She will have some books available for sale at the end. 

If this date doesn’t work for your schedule, you can catch Ellen at the Dassel History Center on Sunday, September 10, at 3 p.m., or at the Hutchinson Library at 6:30 p.m. on September 26, among other Pioneerland libraries that are hosting programs.

Even as adults, we can enjoy children’s books.  In the new book Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, author Bruce Handy examines classic children’s books.  Handy is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine and was nominated for an Emmy in the ‘90s for writing for Saturday Night Live.  He researched the classic children’s books he read to his kids, such as Goodnight Moon, Charlotte’s Web, and The Cat in the Hat.  In this book he shares perspectives on how we see these books differently as adults than we did when we were children ourselves.  Do you love the artwork of Beatrix Potter or Maurice Sendak?  Do you agree with Handy that Ramona the Pest is as iconic an American character as Tom Sawyer or Jay Gatsby? (I do.)  Reviewers say this book is a pleasure to read, with plenty of humor, and it’s an interesting look at the history and significance of our favorite children’s books. 

Speaking of Goodnight Moon, we have a new biography of its author.  In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary shows that Brown was very different than the quiet classic she’s famous for.  She began writing children’s books for a school, with a mission to create stories that were more than fairy tales and that had gender equality in mind.  Brown prepared for her writing by doing things children would do: picking daisies, watching the clouds, and otherwise observing nature so that she could capture a child’s sense of wonder.  Her approach to writing changed the children’s publishing business.  She also lived an adventurous, bohemian life: as NPR put it, she was no old lady whispering hush.

The editor of the New York Times Book Review, Pamela Paul, has a new book out called My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.  Paul has kept a notebook all her life called her book of books, or “Bob” for short, which lists all of the books she has read.  The first chapter is called “Brave New World: You Shouldn’t Be Reading That.”  In it, Paul describes what it was like to be a bookworm when she was growing up, and she talks about her adventures in the library, checking out things she was proud of reading, like “Little Women,” and things she was embarrassed about, like Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume books.  She eventually realized the librarians weren’t judging her.  Paul’s memoir should appeal to people who love books and like to think about how the books we read are a part of our lives.

It can be really fun to revisit classic children’s books, whether you’re reading them to your children or grandchildren or just going back to enjoy something on your own.  Did you love The Poky Little Puppy or The Monster at the End of This Book?  Come to our program on the history of Little Golden Books at one of the local libraries and enjoy the nostalgia.  

Closed for Labor Day

Pioneerland libraries will be closed on Monday, September 4, for Labor Day.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Thank you to our sponsors for supporting a successful summer!

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Our summer reading program, Reading by Design, is coming to a close.  The last day to turn in reading game sheets for prizes is Thursday, August 31. 

This year 315 kids signed up for the program at Litchfield Library.  They spent the summer earning prizes for reading, being active, and trying out new books.

At Grove City Library, 45 kids participated in the summer reading program.  Dassel Library had 161 kids signed up this year, twenty more than last year.  Cosmos Library had the first summer reading program in the new building, with 29 kids signed up.
We’d like to give a big thank you to the local businesses that donated prizes for the kids.  For all four libraries, that included Pizza Hut, Pizza Ranch, McDonald’s, KLFD, and Taco John’s.

Litchfield Subway, Jimmy’s Pizza of Litchfield, and Dairy Queen of Litchfield all donated prizes for the Litchfield, Grove City, and Cosmos libraries.

The Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center and the Willmar YMCA donated prizes for the summer reading programs in Grove City and Cosmos. 

Casey’s donated prizes for the Cosmos and the Dassel programs.

For the Dassel summer reading program, Cokato Subway, Cokato Dairy Queen, Red Rooster Foods, and Jimmy’s Pizza of Dassel all donated prizes.

In addition to prizes such as gift certificates for food items or pool passes, some organizations gave monetary donations to the summer reading programs.  The Friends of the Litchfield Public Library sponsored the books that Litchfield kids could choose as prizes, plus some of the other prize choices.  Donations from the Dassel Community Chest and the Dassel Friends of the Library funded the books given to kids who signed up at the Dassel Library, and the Friends funded their fines read-down for kids.  The First State Bank of Grove City gave a donation that helped to fund summer reading prizes and programs at the Grove City Library. 

The kids were very excited to choose from all of the great prizes, and many pushed themselves to keep completing reading game sheets so they could earn more. 

Thank you to all of these businesses and organizations for supporting reading and kids in our communities!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thank you to our summer reading sponsors!

Thank you to the sponsors of prizes for the summer reading program:

Pizza Hut
Pizza Ranch
Taco John's
Jimmy's Pizza
Dairy Queen
Friends of the Litchfield Public Library

We couldn't have done it without you!  The kids and their parents were very grateful for such nice donations.  Thank you for supporting kids and reading in Litchfield!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Mark Your Calendars! Get Ready for Fall!

By Jan Pease

Mark your calendars!  It’s almost time to change to the library’s fall schedule. Summer reading records may be turned in through August 31.   Fall programming begins the week of September 11th and continues through December 23rd.  

On Mondays Mariah will offer Makerspace.  She will have a creative area set up with supplies and music, and invites students age 12 and older to come and create on the second Monday of each month.  There is no need to sign up, you’re free to create and all supplies are provided.

Every Wednesday we invite toddlers and their parents or caregivers to Toddler Time from 10:15-10:45. This is a very beginning story time with singing and movement. We read one fun book. 

Every Thursday, Brick Heads, our Lego building group, gets together in the large meeting room to build.  Sometimes we have challenges, such as building blindfolded.  Look at the Lego creations on display and marvel at the imaginations of our builders.  This group is for ages 4-14, moms, dads and grandparents welcome, and we meet from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Beginner Book Club gathers on the third Thursday of each month.  For September we are reading “Dog Diaries: Secret Writings of the WOOF Society.”  This is a collection of eleven short stories about dogs written by Betsy Byars and her daughters, Laurie Myers and Betsy Duffey.  Beginner book club is for students in grades 1-3. We begin as close as we can to 3:00 and end at about 4:15.

Friday has been story hour day longer than I’ve worked here, which is a long, long time.  It’s planned for children age 3 through entering Kindergarten.  We start shortly after 10, and pack a lot into the hour, including movement play, singing, a craft project, and a great book.  Older siblings are always welcome.

On Saturdays we’re upgrading our second Saturday story time to Saturday Fun @ the Library.  We will start just after 10:00 and we will be doing all kinds of activities and projects.   This library program is for all ages, but children under age seven need to have a caregiver or parent with them.
At Litchfield library, we aren’t participating in the 1000 Books before Kindergarten project. But I am involved in a program called Read  Our goal is encouraging every child, every parent to read aloud 15 minutes every day.   Be as diligent about reading to your children as you are about brushing their teeth.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every child in our area entered Kindergarten ready to learn, and without cavities?

See you at the library!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Revisit a classic

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

How many of the classics have you read?  We’ve all read some in school: Johnny Tremain and Lord of the Flies, anyone?  Some of us like to tackle a classic novel from time to time to see whether we think they’re one of the best, or as good as we remember.  The Litchfield Library has been replacing some old, worn-out copies of classic novels with new editions recently, because they still get checked out regularly.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway was published in 1940.  Robert Jordan is a young American teacher who goes to Spain to fight for the Loyalists in the Civil War.  He becomes disenchanted, but in the end he learns about the value of life.  This novel was chosen for the 1941 Pulitzer Prize, but the recommendation was reversed when the prize board was convinced that the novel was indecent; no award was granted that year.  I started reading this novel in an English class, but when none of the students were keeping up on it, the teacher said she couldn’t teach us about a book no one had read and she called it off in frustration!  My classmates might find it more interesting now.  A Spanish character in the novel asks Robert if there are not many fascists in his country, and he replies, “There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.”  Look for themes of superstition, irony, death, and the common people vs. the political-military complex.

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a Gothic novel published in 1851.  The grand house is built after Colonel Pyncheon covets the land and has the owner charged with witchcraft.  The man cries out on the gallows that the Pyncheons will forever be cursed.  The novel’s events mostly take place 160 years later, when the family and house are crumbling ruins, seemingly from the curse.  The house functions as a character in this novel, and themes of guilt, ghosts, and original sin are significant in the book.   Never as popular as Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, this novel still attracts readers a century and half after it was written.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens should attract local readers since the musical Oliver! was just performed in Litchfield last month.  Young Oliver is an orphan in a workhouse who is sold to an undertaker after his famous line, “Please, sir, I want some more.”  After Oliver runs away from the funeral parlor, he meets the Artful Dodger and innocently joins a gang of pickpockets in London.  This novel was originally published in installments in a magazine between 1837 and 1839.  Dickens believed the way the English dealt with poverty and homelessness led to more trouble, particularly crime, and in this novel the good and the evil people get their just rewards. 

One of my favorite novels of all time is Emma by Jane Austen.  I took a class on the history of the British novel in college, and the early ones were dreadfully boring.  Then I read Emma, expecting more of the same since I had not yet discovered Jane Austen, and partway through I thought, “Hang on… This is a romance novel!”  It is more than that, with wonderful character studies and sarcasm and witty observations.  But finally we had reached a point in the history of the novel (1815) where a coherent, suspenseful plot, character development, and smart dialogue actually happened.  I think one of the great things about this novel is that Emma grows as a person, realizing that she is selfish and that other people aren’t her playthings. 

We have also recently replaced many well-worn copies of Zane Grey’s novels, ever popular among our customers, plus some of Agatha Christie’s and Erle Stanley Gardner’s.  Some we now have on audiobook, as well.  I hope that it will be more pleasant to read fresh new copies of some of these time-tested books that have been loved to pieces.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Wonderful Wednesday afternoons, 2017

By Jan Pease

This week brings our summer programs to an end.  I can’t believe it!  In some ways, June 5th, our start date, seems like ages ago. But the summer has gone so fast, that at times June 5th seems like yesterday.

On Wednesdays we offered a program for students in grades K-5.  We called it “Wonderful Wednesdays.”   We collaborated with Meeker County Extension Service so on four Wednesdays we had  “Fun with 4H.”.  Two young, energetic folks who work with 4H came and had two hours of fun with our young people.  The kids learned a lot and had a really good time. The extension workers presented four of these short day camps on Wednesdays in June and July.  On those Wednesdays that the Extension workers didn’t come, I filled in for them. 

 Since our summer theme is “Reading by Design,” and Michael Hall visited the library in June,  we used his books, “My Heart is a Zoo” and “It’s an Orange Aardvark” to explore using various shapes to make pictures.  It was interesting to create pictures using hearts, squares, rectangles and other shapes.

We also learned about Zen Doodling, in which small sections of a picture are filled in with different patterns and colors.  

Our next “unit” involved unfolding geometric shapes to make a “net,” and I’m happy to say I finally get it. Back in the day, I missed every single question on standardized tests that involved unfolding any kind of shape.  (I’ve always known I have absolutely no spatial sense.)  Anyway, we built shapes out of paper and then used translucent plastic magnetic shapes to make amazing buildings and structures. 

For the last two weeks we talked about what shapes are the strongest and built shapes out of card catalog cards that would hold up a small toy locomotive.  In case you’re curious, triangles seemed to hold the most weight.  We also used straws and connectors to construct large things like a wall with a tower taller than I can reach, a “thing” made up of curves fastened together, and a rocket that was several feet high. 

We also loved to play bingo.  I learned that bingo is great for developing concentration and number recognition.  It’s also a lot of fun.

It’s challenging for me to face a group of elementary students, since I concentrate more on children through age five.   But I’ve completely enjoyed this summer of “Wonderful Wednesdays.”

The final library program for young children will be Second Saturday Story Time, Saturday, August 12, at 10:00.  Beginner Book Club will meet at its usual time, Thursday, August 17, at 3:00.  Our book will be “The Adventures of Nanny Piggins,” by R.A. Splatt. Brick Heads will continue on Thursday nights at 6:30.

 Readers can turn in reading game sheets through August 31. It’s been a splendid summer, and we’re ready for a fantastic fall.   

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Horticultural society makes donation for gardening books

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

The Meeker County Horticultural Society has given a generous donation to the four libraries in Meeker County to purchase new gardening books. These books have been arriving recently, ready to be checked out.  Members of the horticultural society assisted in choosing the books. 

The titles added to the Cosmos Library collection are The Children’s Garden: Loads of Things to Make & Grow by Matthew Appleby, and Glorious Shade: Dazzling Plants, Design Ideas, and Proven Techniques for Your Shady Garden by Jenny Rose Carey.

These new books can be found on the libraries’ shelves of new arrivals.  All of these books are also available to be ordered by anyone in the library system, to be picked up at your nearest library.  Many other gardening books are available on the shelves in our local libraries, some donated in the past by the horticultural society. 

Thank you to the Meeker County Horticultural Society for making so many beautiful and practical books available to the gardeners in our area!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Teens, get your work published in the zine!

by Mariah Ralston Deragon, Litchfield library assistant

What is a zine? We’ve been getting this question a lot lately at the library! The short answer is that “zine” is short for “magazine”. That means a zine can potentially cover a very wide range of topics and genres.

This summer, the Litchfield Library has started making zines with kids ages 12-18. We call it our “Teen Zine”.  So far the zine has included pencil sketches, comic strips, short stories, doodles, and collaborative writing. I discovered the idea for zine making at the library after attending the Twin Cities Zine Fest in Minneapolis last summer. The Rochester Public Library was tabling there with some teens that had started a zine group at their library.

After the Zine fest, I started doing some research using MnLink at the library. I discovered that zines are considered to be a form of self-publishing. Self-published pamphlets and newsletters can be traced all the way back to Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, which was started in 1757. (From “Make a Zine!” by Bill Brent)

This popular “Almanack” was full of word-play, calendars, weather forecasts, poetry, puzzles…you name it.

Jumping to present times, self-published books and zines can be found at many bookstores world-wide, and in countless variations. Regarding zines in particular, I found this quote from Stolen Sharpie Revolution by Alex Wrekk to be helpful…

“A zine is an independently created publication. The contents are anything you want them to be like; personal experiences and stories…music related writing, gardening tips, travel stories, comics, photography... Zines can be put together by one person or a group of people and they are usually photocopied.”

After our teens finish their writing, drawing, sketching, etc., we make photo copies of their work in black and white, using our trusty copy machine, and then we staple it all together using a saddle stitch stapler.

It just so happens that zine-making also fits into the library’s summer reading theme “Reading by Design.” Now that the zine group has gained some more members, it’s becoming more and more interesting to figure out how all the artwork and writing can fit together. And after everything’s edited together, photocopied, and stapled…we put the zine out at the front desk of the library for Litchfield patrons to enjoy. The zines are free, and available to anyone that wants one (while supplies last).

We will be making zines at the library on the 3rd and 4th Monday for the rest of the summer! 

Teens ages 12-18 are welcome to join us on July 24, August 21st, and August 28th from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

And it’s okay if you still don’t understand what a zine is… Come on down to the library; we would love to show you!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Who did it? New true crime

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Books that tell the stories of real-life crimes are always popular.  Usually called “true crime,” these books can combine the suspense of a mystery with the chance to learn about something that really happened.  True crime can also give the reader insights into human nature: why do people do bad things, and how do people survive when bad things happen to them?  The Litchfield Library has some new books that are classified as true crime.

One brand-new book is Mrs. Sherlock Holmes:  The True Story of New York’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca.  Grace Humiston was the New York police department’s first female consulting detective, and the first female U.S. district attorney.  Despite her status as a legal pioneer and her family’s prominent social status, she has largely been ignored by history, even though she was famous in her time.  Humiston’s motto was “Justice for those of limited means.”  She solved strange cases all over the world, not only in New York City.  The book is being compared to Devil in the White City and In Cold Blood in the way it tells a gripping true story. 

Humiston was targeted by a secret organization called the Black Hand.  Another new book tells the story of a detective who took on this terrifying group: The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History. Author Stephan Talty tells the story of Joseph Petrosino, who was called the “Italian Sherlock Holmes” at the time.  Early twentieth century newspapers really liked to compare people with Sherlock Holmes, I guess!    Petrosino was known as an ingenious detective and a master of disguise, so maybe the comparison fits.  The Black Hand started by extorting money from fellow Italian immigrants but began threatening a wider range of people.  Petrosino worked to shut down the organization as anti-immigrant sentiment gripped the nation.  A movie version is in the works, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

 Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI is on the current bestseller lists.  Author David Grann also wrote The Lost City of Z, which has recently been adapted into a movie.  Killers of the Flower Moon tells a shocking story of corruption and murder.  In the 1920’s, the members of the Osage nation in Oklahoma were the richest people per capita in the world, because oil was discovered on their land.  Then one by one, members of the tribe were murdered.  People were poisoned or shot, or they died under mysterious circumstances.  Then the people investigating the murders started dying.  After more than two dozen of these deaths, the new Federal Bureau of Investigation got involved, but they didn’t know what they were doing and at first they failed.  Then an undercover team worked with the Osage to discover the truth.  If you’re looking for a real page-turner, check this one out.

For a more recent story, look for Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.  Steven A. Cohen was a pioneer in hedge funds in the ‘90s, rising from a middle class background to become a genius Wall Street trader and a billionaire.  But his hedge fund was ultimately fined and shut down after the largest SEC investigation in Wall Street history.  His employees were convicted of insider trading, but Cohen went free and is still trading his own money on Wall Street.  Author Sheelah Kolhatkar details the case and asks whether powerful men like Cohen are above the law. 

When you’re looking for books like these, you can search “true crime stories” as a subject in the library catalog.  History and a bit of psychology, mixed with a thriller – that’s true crime.