216 N Marshall Ave

Litchfield MN 55355


All Pioneerland

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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The end of an era

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Downton Abbey fans, can you believe the series is almost over?  The high-class BBC soap opera is just about to begin its sixth and final season.  Every year when a new season begins, I  see people discover it for the first time and come to the library to check out the previous seasons.  Our library has seasons one through five on DVD and will be getting season six when it’s released later in the month. 

For those who would like some more background on the show, we have the DVD The Manners of Downton Abbey, a PBS documentary on the customs of the British aristocracy in the early twentieth century.  We also have two books:  The World of Downton Abbey and The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, which give details about the characters as well as the time and place.  These books came out after the first and second seasons, and they have gorgeous photos. 

For the true stories that inspired the show, read Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle and Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ and ‘Downton Abbey’.  Lady Almina was written by the Countess of Carnarvon, the current lady of the house where Downton Abbey is filmed.  Lady Almina was an inspiration for the character Cora in the TV series, the daughter of an industrialist whose dowry saved the ancestral home and who opened the house to wounded soldiers during World War I. 

Below Stairs is a memoir written by Margaret Powell, who worked as a kitchen maid in a great house in 1920s England.  Downton creator Julian Fellowes credits the book, published in 1968, for introducing him to the world of the servants who worked hard from dawn to well after dark to maintain the perfect world of the upper class.  Powell also wrote Servants’ Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance.  This sequel tells the story of an under-parlormaid who eloped with the aristocratic family’s only son.

Many novels also cover this territory of titled, wealthy people in England in the Edwardian era.  The Love & Inheritance trilogy by Fay Weldon fits that mold.  The first book is Habits of the House, followed by Long Live the King and The New Countess.  Weldon wrote the pilot for the original Upstairs, Downstairs television series.  The series begins with the story of a family who must arrange a marriage for their son to a wealthy American socialite in order to save their estate.  There’s an orphaned niece, King Edward’s coronation, heirs to be produced and properly raised, the threat of a scandalous book by a family member, and all sorts of witty, frivolous goings-on. 

For a classic novel about Lady Cora’s situation in life, we have Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers. This was Wharton’s last novel, left unfinished at the time of her death and completed according to her plans by another author.  The novel tells the story of several new-money American girls who go to England in search of titled husbands, who need the girls’ money to support family estates.  Litchfield Library also has the BBC miniseries.

A few other good choices for staying in the Downton spirit: Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks; The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin; and The Last Summer by Judith Klinghorn.

All good things must end, and it seems better to me that Downton end now on a good note than descend into more and more preposterous storylines.  Enjoy the ending, my fellow fans!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Worldwide Cyber Domination??

By Jan Pease

I read in the Star Tribune that one of the presidential hopefuls thinks that the Internet should and could be shut down.  I don’t think this is a good idea, doubt if it could be done, and wonder if it’s even legal.  But this led me to the thought of worldwide cyber domination.  I’ve never typed that before!  James Dashner, the author of “The Maze Runner” series and “The 13th Reality” series, has released the conclusion to “The Mortality Doctrine” series, “The Game of Lives.”  This series explores the world of virtual reality games, which sometimes seem more real to the gamers than their real lives.  In this series, the difference between reality and virtual reality has become blurred and the virtual reality world is now dangerous.  If the villain succeeds, he will indeed achieve worldwide cyber domination.   Reviewers compare this book to the movies “The Matrix” and “Inception.” 

In 1863, Charles Kingsley wrote “The Water Babies,” a very odd little book about children who evolve into tiny undersea creatures that share a magical world of fairies, insects, and water nymphs.   Reverend Kingsley was a friend of Charles Darwin and supported Darwin’s ideas in his writing.  He also was very concerned about the necessity of adequate shelter and clean water, and the abuse of children made him furious.   The new version we purchased is a reprint from an abridged version from 1915, and the illustrations were made by Mabel Lucie Attwell.  Like “Alice in Wonderland,” this children’s classic deserves to be read by a new generation.

Andy Griffith was an actor known for playing congenial roles, but when he played a villain, he seemed especially deadly.  Eve Bunting is famous for her wonderful picture books, but when she writes a ghost story it’s a doozy.  “Forbidden” is great historical fiction, set in an area infamous for shipwrecks that never had survivors.  The ghost story is believable with just the right touch of forbidden love.  I would like to sit in a cozy chair and read this while the wind howls outside. 

“5-Minute Fancy Nancy Stories” by Jane O'Connor, is a different kind of cozy read.  Twelve stories about Fancy Nancy are included in this perfect-for-bedtime storybook.  Each story can be read aloud in about five minutes, although it wouldn’t surprise me if Nancy’s fans would demand an hour’s worth.   The book even includes a list of fancy words that are used in the book. 

The arrival of a new baby is a huge event in children’s lives.  My philosophy is that you can’t have too many books about bringing that new baby home.  “I Love You, Baby,” by Giles Andreas, is a sunny, joyful look at   family life. Sibling rivalry doesn’t show up in this one. 

Have a joyful new year!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Family movies for Christmas vacation

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Merry Christmas!  First things first: when is the library open during these coming weeks of holidays?  The library will be closed on December 24th and 25th. We will be open on Saturday, December 26th.  Next week, we will be open normal hours Monday through Wednesday.  On Thursday, December 31st, the library will close at 5 p.m. for New Year’s Eve instead of the usual 8 p.m.  We will be closed on New Year’s Day but will be open on Saturday, January 2nd.

Next question: what can you check out to watch with the family during Christmas vacation?  I have some ideas from among some of our new DVDs at the Litchfield Library.

Disney releases a movie from their “vault” every so often.  The most recent was Aladdin in October.  We didn’t have a copy of that movie at Litchfield, so now we have the new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  This funny animated film from 1992 features the voice talents of Robin Williams as the genie.  Aladdin is the kind of movie that can entertain the whole family, both kids and adults. 

Another movie for all ages is Inside Out, the new animated movie from Disney and Pixar.  Pixar is known for playing with the viewer’s emotions, and this time around emotions are the actual stars of the show.  Eleven-year-old Riley has a difficult time moving from Minnesota to California, and we get to see what goes on in her head.  The characters Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust run headquarters, driving Riley’s thoughts and feelings and storing her memories.  When Riley’s core memories get colored by Sadness, the characters have to find a way to save the day.

If you want a trip down memory lane, you can check out Little House on the Prairie.  Remastered DVDs of the show have been released over the last couple of years, and we have seasons one through seven.  The final season will be re-released early next year.  I have to say that when I read descriptions of the episodes recently, I found they’re even more melodramatic than I remember. 

Tomorrowland is a new Disney live-action movie named after a Disney Parks attraction, like Pirates of the Caribbean.  This movie is a sci-fi adventure about a jaded inventor and an enthusiastic, science-loving teenage girl who need to work together to discover the secrets of a mysterious place called "Tomorrowland" to help make our world a better place.  George Clooney stars.  While this movie didn’t get the glowing reviews Inside Out did, it is supposed to be reasonably entertaining for young and old.

Shaun the Sheep Movie, on the other hand, is a favorite of movie critics.  Shaun the Sheep is a stop-motion British television show that is a spin-off of Wallace & Grommit.  In the movie, Shaun takes a day off and ends up in the Big City with the whole crew from the farm, and it’s up to him to find a way to bring everyone safely home again.  Although it’s intended to be a children’s show, the humor also appeals to adults. 

Fitting right into this week is the Christmas special The Toy Story That Time Forgot.  This 2014 TV program shows Buzz, Woody, and the gang at an after-Christmas playdate with Bonnie from Toy Story 3.  Tom Hanks and Tim Allen provide the voice talent, as usual. 

These DVDs are all new and popular, so you may want to reserve them instead of taking your chances that they’ll be on the shelf.  We will get only two deliveries a week during these holiday weeks, so things will also take a little longer to arrive.  Let our staff know anytime you need help requesting something.  Enjoy your holidays and have a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When is the library open over the holidays?

Holiday schedule

Thursday, December 24: Closed
Friday, December 25: Closed
Saturday, December 26: Open

Monday - Wednesday, December 28-30: Open normal hours
Thursday, December 31: Closing at 5 p.m.
Friday, January 1: Closed
Saturday, January 2: Open

Friday, December 11, 2015

Let It GO!

By Jan Pease

Lately I’ve been a bit annoying when friends declare how stressed they are feeling.   I open my arms wide and sing, “Let it go!  Let it go!” This is from the movie “Frozen,” words and music by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.  It is so simple and yet profound.   Of course, turnabout is fair play, and a family member reminded me this week to “Let it Go!” when I was harboring some hurt feelings. It’s good advice. 

This made me think about other profound thoughts found in children’s literature.  Knowing this was probably not an original idea, I poked around on the Internet and found other lists of quotations from children’s books.  It would seem that many of us have read the same books.

 Beginner’s Book Club members loved “The BFG.”  The  Big Friendly Giant says, “The matter with human beans, is that they is absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles.”  Roald Dahl, of course, wrote “The BFG” and one could write a book just filled with quotable quotes from his writing.

Christopher Robin says to Winnie the Pooh,   “Promise me you'll always remember:  You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  This is usually attributed to A.A. Milne, but seems to actually be a quotation from the 1997 Disney movie  “Pooh’s Grand Adventure: the Search for Christopher Robin.”  It is still wonderful advice, especially for someone who is starting a new adventure.

In “The Cat in the Hat,” Dr. Seuss tells us, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”   Another entire book could be written full of the wisdom of Dr. Seuss.
This one reminds me of my husband, Dave. In “Charlotte's Web,” by   E.B. White, Charlotte the spider tells Wilbur, who is very worried, “Never hurry and never worry!”  Dave never worries, and he is never in a hurry. 

 Madeleine L’Engle wrote “A Wrinkle in Time,” again, another writer with deep ideas hidden in children’s stories.  She said, “Believing takes practice.”  How do you practice belief?

There is a wonderful book by Giles Andrea, “Giraffes Can’t Dance.”  Gerald the Giraffe is tall and slim, with long skinny legs, and he wants desperately to dance.  Mr. Andrea says, “We can all dance when we find music that we love.”  I firmly believe that he has something there.

And finally, “Remember, broken crayons still color.”   This saying turns up here and there, but I saw it in action when a tiny child held up a crayon and said, “Broken.”  I answered, “but it still colors.” A sad face broke into a smile.

That old crayon can also be made new.  One of my projects during our break from story hour is to melt our old, broken crayons into new shiny ones.  We’ll see if this works when Story Hour begins again January 9th at 10, when the Reading Therapy dogs will come for a visit at Second Saturday Story Time.  It’s almost time for a new year!  I can’t wait to see what it will bring.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Hygge: A way to feel better about winter

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

I keep seeing articles about trying to enjoy the winter instead of dreading it.  I have to admit I hate cold and dark, so finding ways to feel better during this time of year sounds like a great idea.  Many of these writings refer to the ways that Scandinavian countries embrace the season. The Danish word hygge loosely translates as “coziness,” but it’s one of those words that doesn’t really have an English equivalent, because togetherness and well-being are part of it as well.  It is associated with things like candles, fireplaces, hot beverages, blankets, friends, family, and food.  The Norwegians call it “koselig,” and they reportedly embrace the good things that come with winter instead of suffering through it.  I wonder if they have to drive on slippery roads as much as we do?  I should ask the people I know who used to live in Norway…

So what kind of hygge can the library offer you?  Well, the library itself is a pretty cozy place, especially now that the lighted Christmas trees are up.  To really add the social element, you could come to a book club. Talking about books with friendly, interesting people can give you a warm feeling of togetherness.  Our next book for Adult Book Club is A Christmas Blizzard by Garrision Keillor.  The title doesn’t sound warm and cozy, but it’s supposed to be heartwarming in the end.  The next meeting is on January 12th at noon.  Multiple copies are on hand at our front desk to check out.

The Mystery Book Club is reading Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke.  The murder part is not so snug and safe, but Fluke’s novels are considered cozy mysteries, which means the violence is downplayed, and the detective work happens in a small community.  This book club meets on the third Wednesday of the month, which will be December 16.

We normally offer a Fiber Arts Club on the fourth Thursday of the month at 4 p.m., but since that day will fall on Christmas Eve in December, you’ll have to wait until January to attend.  This group is a very informal way to gather with other people who are knitting, crocheting, or doing other handwork. 

If you’re looking for some recipes for comfort food, we have some new cookbooks that fit the bill: Brunch @ Bobby’s by Bobby Flay, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond, and Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff.  

To get some ideas for making your home more cozy, we have a couple of new decorating/design books on the way: Country Living American Style and Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere.  Don’t be alarmed by the title of the second book; it’s just a collection of photographs of cabins in beautiful places that inspire fantasies of moving to the woods. 

Of course, just curling up with a book or a movie can make for a cozy evening (or day) anytime, as long as it’s something you enjoy.  Some of our very newest books include House of the Rising Sun by James Lee Burke, Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason, and Texas Hills by Ralph Compton.  Our latest DVDs include Jerusalem from National Geographic, Dope, and Bears from the Disneynature series. 

This winter, I’m going to look for opportunities for hygge.  I hope the library can help boost your well-being, togetherness, and coziness this season.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

Manage Your Daily Intake of Cute

Sometimes I go a little overboard when purchasing books or gifts.  My great-nephew received two giant floor puzzles yesterday because they both (the puzzles) looked so cute I couldn’t decide which one he would enjoy.
When I looked at a series of books about baby animals by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland,   I just couldn’t stop.  The first book I found was “ZooBorns,” and it contains adorable pictures of baby animals born in zoos all over the world.  There also is no space between the word zoo and borns in the title, which I find confusing.   Information about each species is included.  Some are very rare, and one species of pygmy rabbit that used to live in Washington State is now extinct.  A few remaining pygmy rabbits were crossbred with  similar pygmy rabbits found in Idaho, so now there are a few of these tiny bunnies alive in zoos. 

Then I found “1-2-3 ZooBorns,”  and “A-B-C ZooBorns,”  larger picture books by the same authors,  share the same cuteness.  I couldn’t resist them.   But then I found “Snuggle Up, ZooBorns,” which is a level one reading book.  Cutebaby animals are paired with simple text.  So being of sound mind,  I bought all four at once.  It reminded me of the sales going on during the end of November.
Then I found a book with an unlikely hero, a tapir.  How could I resist a book about a heroic tapir?  “Tiptoe Tapirs,” by Hanmin Kim, is a most unusual book.  Mr. Kim regards tapirs as his favorite animal, but theyalways look like they were created out of leftover pieces of elephants, pigs, and pandas. 

“Counting Lions,” written by Katie Cotton and illustrated by Stephen Walton is simply a gorgeous picture book.  The animal portraits are stunning, done in charcoal but looking like photographs.  Mr. Walton says he often works from his own photographs or those taken by other photographers.  This book is an incredible example of why picture books are so necessary, even in a digital world.

If you could be any of these animals, either as a zoo resident or living wild and free, which would you choose to be?  Jonathan Bentley has written and illustrated a sweet book about a small, frustrated boy who wants to be big, appropriately titled, “Big.”  As he imagines the things he could do if he was as tall as a giraffe or as strong as a gorilla, he realizes that each of these big changes would also have a big drawback.  For example, if he was as strong as a gorilla and able to open the cookie jar, he wouldn’t be able to take his cookies into his playhouse to eat them.  

 How do you say I love you?  I sometimes say, “I love you to the moon and back!”   My great-nephew spreads his arms wide and says, “I love you this much!”    “Animally, by Lynn Parrish Sutton, provides us with a wonderful new vocabulary.     Ms. Sutton says, “I love you bravely like an eagle.”  Or “I love you exceedingly like a giraffe.”  And “I love you birdily, bugily, animally.  I love you so, for you’re my family.”


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


The library will be open until 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25.  We will be closed for Thanksgiving.  We will be open normal hours on Friday, November 27, with storyhour at 10:00 a.m. as usual.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

This year's best

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

The lists of the best books of 2015 have been coming out this month.  I love to compare the lists to our library’s collection, and this year we seem to have most of them.  I think it’s especially important to notice those books that are included on more than one list, because it’s all so subjective.  Following are some of the books that have made more than one best-of-2015 list that we have in the Litchfield Library collection.

The novel Did You Ever Have a Family was included on Library Journal’s and Amazon’s lists of the best books of the year.  This is the first novel from author Bill Clegg, although he has published two memoirs previously.   This book about a horrible family tragedy on the day of a wedding, and the aftermath, was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and widely praised.  It was also criticized by a few reviewers.  It appears that whether you appreciate the book depends on whether you want much of a plot, and whether you find the writing style profound or clich├ęd.  It is certainly a very dark and sad novel about loss. 

Between the World and Me is a memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates, written as a letter to his teenage son.  It was included on at least four major lists of this year’s best, and it won the National Book Award for nonfiction.  It has also been a number one bestseller and in demand in our library system.  Coates writes about what it means to be black in America.  He addresses the legacy of slavery, tells stories about his growing-up years, and shares the development of his opinion that race is an artificial construct. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff has been chosen by Amazon as its book of the year.  It was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, and it is on other lists of the best of 2015.  This novel is a complex portrait of a marriage gone wrong, told by both parties.  The pair are glamorous, talented, and passionately in love, but not everything is as it appears. 

Erik Larson’s newest book is Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.  It has been included on a couple of the major best-of lists this year, which is no surprise for a book by Larson, the bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts.  This one is narrative nonfiction like the other two, telling a piece of history like a dramatic story instead of like a textbook.  You probably remember that the Lusitania was a passenger ship sunk by the Germans during World War I, but you probably don’t know the story like it is told in this book. 

H is for Hawk is a book that blends memoir and nature writing in a way that has reviewers lavishing praise on it, calling it “breathtaking,” “captivating,” and “dazzling.”  It has been included on a number of those year-end lists of the best books.  British author Helen MacDonald lost her father suddenly and turned to her love of falconry to deal with her grief.  She decided to train a dangerous type of bird, a goshawk, using The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s book The Goshawk to guide her.   National Geographic says it is “one of the most riveting encounters between a human being and an animal ever written.” 

When you’re trying to find something wonderful among the hundreds of thousands of traditional print books published each year (not counting self-published and e-books), these best-books lists can be a helpful way of finding something of quality.  So many books, so little time!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hail the new, ye Lads and Lasses! New Books!

By Jan Pease

New books brighten up the cloudiest days, and here are some new books that really shine. 

“How to Hug an elephant,” by Henry Winkler, is the sixth book in the “Here’s Hank” series.  Hank is the kind of kid that’s known for being the class clown.  His jokes hide his struggles with dyslexia, and he has a hard time with school, especially subjects like reading, math, and spelling.  One of the interesting things about this series is that the books are set in a font called Dyslexie that makes it easier for people with Dyslexia to read.  Minor changes in the letters make them more distinct from each other.    For information about this interesting adaptation, go to

Cornelia Funke has a new book that is very distinct from her other novels.   “Ruffleclaw” tells the story of a boy named Tommy who wants to keep the furry red monster he finds in his bed one night.  Unfortunately, Ruffleclaw drinks shampoo, eats everything in the fridge, and spits, which makes him a very unsuitable pet.  Ms. Funke usually writes for an older audience, so it will be interesting to see how her books for younger readers are received. 

Sometimes we are able to add books that are requested by our young patrons.  The “Park Service Trilogy,” by Ryan Winfield, is a series published by Birch Paper Press.  I don’t know much about this publishing company, but it seems to be closely connected to author Ryan Winfield.  We were able to order these through Pioneerland Library and we’ll have to see.   Libraries usually don’t add privately published books to their collections, but since different patrons have asked about it, we’ll give the series a try.     This is a “dystopian” series, with teens placed in dangerous situations.  “Park Service” sounds benign, but it isn’t, and the cut off age for human life is only 35, bringing an element of “Blade Runner” or "Logan's Run" to the series.
Mike Lupica delivers great sports action for both teens and older folks.  His new book, “Fast Break” offers a basketball story with heart.  Jayson is a boy who ends up trying to stay out of the foster care system, so he is living on his own after his mom dies.  Caught stealing some basketball shoes, he finds himself in a foster home, a new part of the city, a different school, and a different kind of game.   

Erin Hunter is the pen name for a group of writers who keep the series coming.   Some of their fans call them “the Erins.”   Their main series are “Warriors” and “Explore the World of Warriors”  “Seekers,” and “Survivors.”  Their new book in the “Warriors Super Edition series”  is titled  “Moth Flight’s Vision.”    Moth Flight is a medicine cat and this is her story.  The structure and mythology of the warrior cats is getting more and more anthropomorphic, one of my favorite words.  Read a book or two, especially one of the later ones in the series, and you will know what my favorite word means. 

 Finally, here is a bit of information for everyone.    Santa will visit the library on Thursday, December 3 for a fun late afternoon and evening.  Our Lego building group will meet only once in December, on the 12th at 6:30 p.m., and Beginner Book Club will meet as usual on December 19th at about 3 p.m.  The last Saturday Story Time of the year will be December 14th at 10:00 a.m., and then we will take a break from Toddler Time and Preschool Story Time the last two weeks of December.  What does that song say?  “Fast away the old year passes!”  

Friday, November 6, 2015

The library has an iPad!

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Our library has gotten an iPad that you can check out to use in the library.  If you’d like an option for using a computer that’s even more comfortable to use than a laptop, consider checking this out and sitting down with it in one of the library’s easy chairs.  You can browse the internet the same as on a PC, although it’s all done with a touchscreen instead of a keyboard and mouse. 

We have a number of apps installed on the iPad that will appeal to kids and adults. One that I know will be a hit is Minecraft.  If you know a child or teenager, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  It’s a sandbox game, which means game play is freeform and determined by the player’s creativity.  There isn’t a set storyline or progression of levels.  In Minecraft, players build and craft things in a blocky world, much like Legos.  If they choose to, players can fight monsters, or they can turn those off and just do things necessary to survival – or they can even turn that requirement off and simply design a world.  We don’t have this popular game on the library computers, so I love that we can offer it now on the iPad.  Unfortunately, it can’t be connected with others using our wifi the way people do to play together in their homes, so it is a solo operation on our iPad.

Another app for kids and older is Toca Band.  Toca Boca games in general are acclaimed for open-ended creativity, as well.  Their website says, “We design digital toys not just for kids, but with kids.”  My teenagers and some adults I know have had fun playing with Toca Band.  To play it, you drag your choice of characters onto a stage, where they play rhythms or notes together like an orchestra.  You change the sound of the song by choosing different characters and placing them in different spots on the stage. 

For adults, the iPad has a number of news apps.  These include Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, CNN, NPR News, and MPR News.  One nice feature in the NPR News app is a button at the bottom of the screen that will play the most recent hourly newscast for you at any time.  The app also offers quick access to podcasts and programs.  With three taps, I could get to the most recent episode of Radiolab or the most recently broadcast episode of Car Talk.  Of course, on all of these apps you can also read stories much as you can read the newspaper.

The iPad also offers a TED app.  This is an easy way to access videos of the popular, educational TED Talks.  For example, neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret presents an eleven-minute speech on how to grow new brain cells in the area of the brain involved in memory and mood, based on current research.  (Hint: learning increases neurogenesis, sleep deprivation decreases it.) Career coach Emilie Wapnick gives a presentation on “Why some of us don’t have one true calling,” which addresses people who never really figure out what they want to be when they grow up. 

If it seems like many of these apps involve sound, you’re right.  I recommend that you also borrow a set of headphones from us while you use the iPad, or bring along your own earbuds.  We want you to enjoy the things the iPad can do, but we don’t want to bother other people in the library.

To use the iPad, you will need to have your library card with you and it will need to be up-to-date and not blocked by fines.  You will need to stay in the library while you use it and return it to the desk when you’re done.  It does have a nice sturdy case on it, so kids can use it as well as adults.  If you’re curious to try out a tablet or you’d just like to get away from the bank of computers and curl up on a couch instead, give our iPad a try.

Friday, October 30, 2015

What Will Your Hands Do Today?

By Jan Pease

On our infrequent trips to the North Shore, my husband and daughter like to hunt for agates,  and we see all sorts of people pulled up beside Highway 61, all looking down.  This year, my husband missed an eagle that was flying low toward Lake Superior, just feet above his head.  Imagine my surprise when Becca looked down in our gravel driveway and discovered a pretty nice little agate without driving all the way “up north.”    If you’re an amateur rock hound, look for a new picture book published by Minnesota Historical Press, “Rhoda’s Rock Hunt,’ by Molly Beth Griffin.  Rhoda loves to look for rocks, but she faces the dilemma all rock hunters must face:  too many rocks to haul home.  Her solution is memorable. 

“Out of the Woods,” by Rebecca Bond,  is a  north woods story based on the experience of Antonio Willie Giroux, who was the author’s grandfather.  In 1914, little Antonio lived in a huge hotel on the edge of Gowganda Lake  near Gowganda, Ontario, Canada.  He was interested in the wildlife that he knew lived in the nearby woods, but they stayed hidden until the day a horrific wildfire devastated the area.  All of the people of the town and their livestock went into the lake to take refuge from the fire, and then they were joined by the animals from the woods.   Bears, elk, moose, foxes, wolves, rabbits, people, all stood quietly together until it was safe to come out of the water. 

Rebecca Bender, a Canadian author and illustrator has written a sweet book that is not a north woods story.   Giraffe tries and tries, but he can’t reach the water to get a drink. His friends, Bird, a zebra, a hippo, and a flamingo, laugh hysterically at his predicament .  His goofy friend, Bird, finds a way to get everyone laughing together instead of at Giraffe.  “Don’t Laugh at Giraffe” might spark conversations about what is funny and what is hurtful.

“It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon” is another new book about the downs and ups of life.  The author, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, says “When life gets you down, look up, up, up!”  Each of the injustices faced by the children in his book has a happy ending.  For example, “It’s scary having a new babysitter, but you get to stay up late!” 

Kathryn Otoshi, who visited Litchfield schools about one year ago, has published a new book, “Beautiful Hands.” It was written with her friend Bret Baumgarten after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The illustrations are made with hand art, using the hand prints of more than 100 family members and friends.  Kathryn had a huge party, inviting the guests to use the stacks of paper and trays of paint to make handprints.  The handprints were then scanned and she used them to create wonderful illustrations that answer the question, “What will you do with your beautiful hands?”  This was the question Mr. Baumgarten asked his children, Noah and Sophie, every day until he passed away.  

Bret Baumgarten wrote: “My hope that this story empowers love, creativity, compassion, and a connection to you and yours, in the fulfilling and remarkable way it has for me.” 

~ Bret Baumgarten, 1970–2014  Information about the writing of “Beautiful Hands” is found in an article by Kiera Parrott   in  the August, 2015 edition of School Library Journal.

What will your beautiful hands do, today?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Haunt your library this Halloween

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

It’s Halloween time, and spooky and scary is the order of the day.  Here are some ideas from Litchfield’s new materials that fit the season:

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths is a Ruth Galloway mystery.  Ruth is a forensic archaeologist called in when a World War II plane with a body in the pilot’s seat is discovered by a construction crew in Norfolk, England.  Ruth ends up trapped in a crumbling English manor on a dark and stormy night. 

In a Dark, Dark Wood is a psychological thriller that is very popular right now.  This first novel by Ruth Ware is also set in the English countryside.  A reclusive author accepts an invitation to spend a weekend at a long-lost friend’s strange home, then wakes up two days later not remembering anything except that someone is dead.  This fast-paced story is being compared to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train.

For something gentler, pick up The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer, a Paws and Claws cozy mystery by Krista Davis.  The crew for a reality show about ghost hunters has arrived for the Halloween festivities in Wagtail, Virginia, described as “the top pet-friendly getaway in the United States.”  Holly Miller and her pets discover a young woman drowned in a supposedly-haunted bathhouse, and Holly works to solve the crime before someone else is killed. 

For a true story about a ghost (whether the ghost is real or not), check out American Ghost: A Family’s Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest by Hannah Nordhaus.  Nordhaus is the author of the 2011 bestseller The Beekeeper’s Lament.  For her new book, she researched the life and supposed afterlife of her great-great-grandmother Julia Schuster Staab, a Jewish immigrant who died in 1896.  Sightings of a dark-eyed woman in a long black gown were first reported in the 1970s in the Santa Fe hotel that used to be her home.  Nordhaus tells of her ancestor’s frontier history and examines how a true story becomes a ghost story. 

For another nonfiction book that seems to fit the season, place a hold on The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff.  Schiff won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for the book Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) and had a number one best-seller with her book Cleopatra: A Life in 2010.  The buzz about this book is tremendous, with many people saying it’s the best book on the Salem witch trials that has ever been written.  We've got a waiting list on this one and it won't be published until October 27th, so put your name on the list if you’d like to read it soon. 

If you’d like to brush up on the Addams Family before the Litchfield high school’s production of the musical, we have some of their creepy and kooky DVDs and a music CD.  The Addams Family, Volume One is a three-DVD set of the original television episodes from 1964-65.  We also have the 1991 movie The Addams Family, starring Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia, and the cast album for The Addams Family: A New Musical, in case you’d like to hear the songs the local students will be performing in their show.  Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth starred in the original Broadway cast.

On the afternoon of Halloween, which falls on a Saturday this year, our library is hosting a Halloween murder mystery costume party for teens, ages 12-18.  Called “Get Away (with murder?) @ your library,” this is a Teen Read Week event.  The 2-hour party starts at 1:30 on the 31st.  The murder mystery will involve a live Clue-style game (not a board game) with prizes to win along the way.  Costumes are optional, and refreshments will be served.  Happy Halloween!