216 N Marshall Ave

Litchfield MN 55355


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While all Pioneerland Library System buildings remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Curbside Pick-up of library items is available. You may place items on hold using the online catalog. Library staff will call you to schedule a pickup time once your hold is ready. Pickup days/times vary by location. Please contact your library if you have questions or need assistance in using this service.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Too busy to read? Try children's books.

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Do you love to read but feel like you don’t have enough time to finish a novel?  That’s usually how I am.  This fall I discovered a great way to read beautiful writing that gives you an engrossing experience without the time commitment: read quality children’s books.  This fall I’ve been taking a class on children’s materials for libraries, which has required me to read stacks of children’s books.  It has introduced me to wonderful books I would never have chosen on my own.  I’ll share the highlights with you.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead won a Newbery in 2010.  It reads like excellent realistic fiction, the main character a 12-year-old girl living in New York City with her single mother in the ‘70s.  She’s a fan of A Wrinkle in Time and makes many references to it, a clue that this book is actually science fiction, although it sneaks up on you.  I read it immediately after reading A Wrinkle in Time, which I recommend doing.

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi is a fantastic piece of historical fiction set in Korea during and immediately after World War II.  I was pitifully unaware of the history of Korea during that time, and this story of a young girl’s experience with Japanese and then Soviet occupation was enlightening to me – and impossible to put down.

A Year Down Yonder, another Newbery winner, is a lighthearted novel about a teenage girl who has to move from Chicago to her grandmother’s house in a little town when her father loses his job during the Depression.  Grandma Dowdel is a wacky character, the Christmas pageant rivals that in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and the author, Richard Peck, hits the right balance of sweetness and quirkiness.

Rules by Cynthia Lord is a masterfully written story of Catherine, a girl who struggles with having an autistic brother and with navigating new friendships with a paraplegic boy and with the new, popular girl next door.  Catherine’s social struggles are easy to relate to, and there are powerful but not preachy insights about relationships. 

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is told from the perspective of a brilliant girl with cerebral palsy who cannot speak.  The language is poetic, and her story is infuriating, heartbreaking, and inspiring. This is some fantastic writing.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is told from another unique perspective, that of a boy with apparent ADHD.  Author Jack Gantos manages to make the narrative feel like it’s inside a mind that’s racing at a hundred miles an hour, shifting suddenly from one thought to another in ways that seem logical to the boy making impulsive decisions – but the reader knows that he’s headed for trouble.  Gantos does this while creating empathy in the reader for this child who wants to do the right thing but is unable to control himself.

I encourage you to explore children’s books even if you aren’t choosing them for children.  This is not second-class literature just because it is written for kids. Try some from the Newbery winners list, or find something on a historical period you enjoy.  Jan chooses truly wonderful books for our juvenile collection, and she, Mary, or I would be glad to direct you to quality children’s books that appeal to people of all ages.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Quartet and a Duet Worth Reading

By Jan Pease

 In 1994, an unusual little book, “The Giver,” won the Newbery Medal, for most distinguished children’s book.  I remember talking to other librarians about the book, as I read it around the time I attended some meeting.  I don’t want to spoil the book for you if you haven’t read it, but the ending was left intentionally ambiguous.  It seemed to depend on the pessimism or optimism of the reader. 

  Somehow I missed “Gathering Blue” and “Messenger,” vaguely knowing that they were part of the trilogy, but I didn’t read them.  In October, Lois Lowry’s fourth book in the series, “Son,” was published, turning the trilogy into a quartet.  I read all four books over a recent weekend because Mary Hansen had the Middle School Book Club read “Messenger” and “Son.”    She does a fantastic job with the book club, but I sometimes like to read along with them.

 Reading the quartet simply blew my socks off.  I found several critical, even harsh reviews of Ms. Lowry and “The Giver” online. Most of the comments, however, praise the book, especially when taken in context with the rest of the series.  It foreshadowed the current trend of books about dystopic societies and tyrannical governments.  “The Giver” was published three years before the “Harry Potter” books, and nearly 15 years before “The Hunger Games.”   Now “Son” concludes the quartet, answering many questions, but raising others.   Read Lois Lowry’s biography on her website,, for insight into her life and her books.

“A Soldier’s Secret” by Marissa Moss is a new book about Sarah Edmonds.  It is historically accurate, with reproductions of photographs from the time, a time line, a bibliography, and brief biographies of the Union Army officers who knew Sarah as Frank Thompson.  Ms. Moss admits that the last scene of the book is what she thinks should have happened instead of the actual events; after all, this is a novel, not a biography. 

More than 400 women served in the Civil War, but most of them followed husbands, brothers, or boyfriends who helped them live in the camps.  The real Sarah Emma Edmonds is the only woman known to have lived as both a man and a woman.   As a teenager, Sarah Edmonds dressed as a boy, with short curly hair, calling herself Frank Thompson.  She passed as a young man for three years and then enlisted in the Union Army.  Sarah Edmonds wrote a bestselling book, “Unsexed, or the Female Soldier,” in 1864.  It was later reprinted as “Nurse and Spy in the Union Army: comprising the adventures and experiences of a woman in hospitals, camps, and battlefields.”   Her account is available for Kindle, Nook, and free at Project Gutenberg .  Sarah Edmonds died at the age of 56, and is the only woman of her time allowed to be buried in the Civil War section of a cemetery in Houston.  She is also the only woman who was mustered into the Grand Army of the Republic.  If you enjoy “A Soldier’s Secret,” look for Sarah’s own version of her adventures as a Union Army soldier, available through mnlink.

 Juvenile books can be exciting, thought-provoking, and heart-wrenching.  I enjoyed  reading “A Soldier’s Secret” and “The Giver Quartet” and would recommend them to anyone.    See you at the library!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lively groups at the library

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Our Friends of the Litchfield Library group is alive and reinvigorated.  I held an informational session about the Friends group on Tuesday, November 13th.  Six people attended and joined, and a seventh joined afterward.  They made plans to start working on book sale prep in weeks to come.

If you missed the meeting, or you just want to join without having to go to a meeting, ask one of the library staff for a Friends of the Library brochure.  You can fill out the application on the brochure and drop it off with your $5 dues (or $1 if you’re under 18).  We actually did gain two child members.  One was very excited to come to “library club”.  The other really wanted the membership card, and she loves the library. 

The next meeting of the Friends, an official member meeting, will be on the third Tuesday in January at 7 p.m.  According to the current bylaws, meetings are to be held only three times per year: January, May, and September.  It’s not a big commitment.  I hope more of you will join us.  It looks like a great group of people. 

Our new adult book club is going swimmingly.  We’ve had ten to twelve people per meeting this fall, with thoughtful, lively discussions.  I’m trying a variety of types of books, both to make it interesting and to find out what members of the group like and dislike reading.  We read a fantasy novel first, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.  Many in the group loved it, and a few hated it, but it certainly gave us a lot to talk about.  I loved the lush descriptions of the magical circus, but I found that the complicated timeline made it too difficult to listen to as an audiobook, which is my usual method for finding time to read for book club; I switched to reading the print. 

Our next title was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  This classic collection of mystery stories is familiar to everyone in some general way, or at least the characters are, but most of us in the group had not actually read the original books.  I’ve been enjoying the new BBC modern translation Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, which is one of the flurry of recent Sherlock Holmes variations on screen.  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of short stories, which makes it very easy to read one or two of the intriguing cases at a sitting.  Our book club found it remarkable that Doyle could create characters that are still fascinating to readers and viewers 125 years later.

For our November meeting we read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  This was a popular choice.  The dog Enzo narrates the story of his master, race car driver Denny, who goes through some terrible times with his family.  Enzo has a soul that’s ready to be human, and he looks forward to being reincarnated as a man like he learned about in a TV documentary on Mongolia.  He has a very philosophical outlook, applying lessons learned from auto racing to life: “The car goes where the eyes go.” 

Next month’s book is Bossypants by Tina Fey.  If you want to read a funny memoir or, even better, listen to it on audio, and then come to book club to talk about it, stop in to pick up a copy.  It was on every best-of-the-year list last year, which means I can get us enough copies to work with this year.  Our next meeting is Tuesday, December 11, at noon.

If you’ve been thinking about joining the Litchfield Friends or the new lunchtime book club, but you’ve wondered, “Is anyone going?” the answer is yes.  There are some neat new groups forming here that are worth coming to.  Hope to see you at the next meeting!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Closed for Veterans Day

Pioneerland libraries, including Litchfield, are closed today in observance of Veterans Day.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Books, Glorious Books!

By Jan Pease

New books!

It’s too late for Halloween, but a most disturbing book sits on my desk.  A protruding eyeball seems to stare directly at me from the clear cover of one of the more interesting anatomy books we’ve added to the children’s collection.  “Outside-In Human Body” answers the question, “What’s under the skin you’re in?” Author Clive Gifford and illustrator Mark Ruffle have produced a colorful, information-packed book that looks at the human body from the hair and skin to the muscles, bones, and internal organs. 

 Andrea Davis Pinkney is an author and Coretta Scott King Award-winner who strives to create books geared toward children that display pride in the African-American culture and its achievements.”  This description of Ms. Pinkney is from her author page. Ms. Pinkney is married to illustrator Brian Pinkney, who often illustrates her books. Their new collaboration, “Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America” is a beautiful book that gives
information with a poetic and personal touch.  The 10th person profiled in Ms. Pinkney’s book is President Barack Obama.   Some of the heroes chosen by Ms. Pinkney are well known, such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Others are not so well known, such as Benjamin Banneker, an astronomer in Colonial times.  This one is definitely worth reading.

 There are many ways to tell the Christmas story.  We have versions of the Nativity told from the point of view of animals, shepherds, and magi, to name a few.   Tomie de Paola has written and illustrated “The Birds of Bethlehem,” which tells the story from a “birds’- eye view.” Do birds really talk?   Tomie de Paola will make you believe that they might.  He has been designated a living treasure by the state of New Hampshire, where he makes his home. I agree with the state of NH, and hope that Mr. dePaola, who just turned 78, will continue to write and illustrate children’s books for years to come.  

 Doreen Rappaport is a recipient of the Washington Post-Children’s Book Guild lifetime achievement award for the writing of nonfiction.  Her newest book, “Beyond Courage, the Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust,” took more than six years to write.  She says of her book, “How Jews organized themselves in order to survive and defy their enemy is an important but still neglected piece of history.  I present a sampling of actions, efforts, and heroism with the hope that I can play a role in helping to correct the damaging and persistent belief that Jews ‘went like sheep to the slaughter.’”

Ms. Rappaport looks at the horrors of the Holocaust without flinching.  Knowing the truth of each story and that some of the individuals survived to build new lives after the war gives a sense of hope to this important book.  If it doesn’t win a book award, I think I’ll start a “Jan’s medal for extreme excellence in children’s literature” and nominate this book to be the first recipient.  

These wonderful books are waiting for you at Litchfield Library – I hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Will you be our Friend?

Informational meeting about the Friends of the Litchfield Public Library

Tuesday, November 13
7 p.m.
Library meeting room
Meet with head librarian Beth Cronk and find out more about our library’s Friends group.
Photo taken in Phoenix, AZ, by Ellen Forsyth.  Available under Creative Commons license.

Free storytelling workshops offered at Litchfield Public Library

Free Storytelling Workshops
Litchfield Public Library

Learn how to find, learn, remember, and retell folktales and family stories at these two free 3-hour workshops geared for adults and teens. CEU Credits available for educators. Registration is required.

How To Tell A Story: Storytelling 101
Saturday, November 10, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.,
Litchfield Public Library,
216 N Marshall Ave, Litchfield MN 55355
To register, call (320)693-2483

How To Find, Craft, And Tell Amazing Stories: Storytelling 201
Saturday, November 10, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.,
Litchfield Public Library,
216 N Marshall Ave., Litchfield MN 55355
To register, call (320)693-2483


Workshop presenter Kevin Strauss, M.S. Ed. is a professional storyteller, and the award-winning author of six books and two storytelling CDs. You can learn about him at Workshop Questions? Call Kevin at 507-993-3411 or email him at For more storytelling resources like free videos, visit www.StoryLibrary.Org.  

This activity is made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the State’s arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

Friday, November 2, 2012

How to Read Minnesotan

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Come to the library to find some new books with Minnesota ties.

The Minnesota Book of Skills
The Minnesota Book of Skills: Your Guide to Smoking Whitefish, Sauna Etiquette, Tick Extraction, and More is a fun, brand-new book from the Minnesota Historical Society Press.  Author Chris Niskanen has put together a collection of short overviews of many topics, such as building your own backyard ice rink, portaging in the BWCA, finding agates, and backing up a trailer.  I was curious to read the sauna etiquette section, since my grandma had a wood-burning sauna I used often as a child.  I learned from the book that there’s a Finnish word for the combined smell of the steam, wood, and woodsmoke of a sauna: löyly.  Now I know that it’s löyly that makes me powerfully nostalgic for Saturday sauna nights.  This is a book I plan to read further and probably give for Christmas gifts, because I think it’s both useful and entertaining.

We Sinners
Another book I look forward to reading doesn’t take place in Minnesota, but it could have been set here because the same religious and ethnic group lives in our area.  We Sinners by Hanna Pylväinen is a novel about a Finnish Laestadian Lutheran family in Michigan.    Each chapter is told by a different person in the eleven-member Rovaniemi family.  Some of the children stay in the church, and others leave.  Some readers have told me that they loved it and learned so much more about Finnish Lutherans, while others have said they’ve been disappointed that it didn’t go deeper.  The final chapter, which takes place at the founding of the Laestadian church, tends to confuse most readers; it’s intended as historical perspective.    Amazon named this one of its best books of the month in August, and it has gotten good reviews elsewhere for Pylväinen's spare, nuanced writing.

Cooking With Pavarotti
A Litchfield writer praised for her nuanced writing, Nancy Paddock has a new book of poetry out this year that our library has added to the collection this fall.  Cooking with Pavarotti includes poems on the culinary arts and many other subjects.  This book is published by Red Dragonfly Press.  We do not yet have Joe Paddock’s new book, but I will find a copy for our library.

Mni Sota Makoce
Another new book from the Minnesota Historical Society Press is Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota.  According to the book, “The Dakota phrase Mni Sota Makoce, Land Where the Waters Reflect the Clouds, gives the state of Minnesota its name.” The book tells the story of the Dakota people in Minnesota: creation stories , archaeological history, interactions and treaties with European Americans, and modern efforts to reclaim traditional cultural places.

One Drop in a Sea of Blue
Yet another book from the MHS Press, One Drop in a Sea of Blue: The Liberators of the Ninth Minnesota, tells a little-known story of the Civil War.  In 1863, 38 men from the Ninth Minnesota Regiment held a train at gunpoint to free a fugitive slave and his family who had been captured and were being shipped out of state to be sold.  Because it happened in Missouri where the soldiers were not to interfere with Union loyalists who were slaveholders, the soldiers were charged with treason and imprisoned without trial for two months.  Their case was debated in the U.S. Senate.  The book follows these 38 after their release, as they rejoined their regiment to be defeated at Brice Crossroads.  Some were imprisoned at Andersonville stockade.  The Ninth suffered unusually high mortality rates at Andersonville, but those who continued to fight helped to win the western theater of the war.    Fourteen of the 38 liberators survived the war and left behind accounts of their wartime experiences.  Author John B. Lundstrom tells a carefully researched story that is being described as a microcosm of the entire Civil War experience.

A library should have books that cover local interests.  I hope you’ll find something that interests you among these new additions.

New acquisitions

A Winter Dream
Muck City: Winning & Losing in Football's Forgotten Town