by Beth Cronk, County Librarian
During this week of Presidents Day and George Washington’s birthday, it can be interesting to learn about the history of the American presidents. Litchfield Library has many books that share information about their lives and legacies.
One brand-new book about the presidents is Life After Power: Seven Presidents and Their Search for Purpose Beyond the White House by Jared Cohen. The presidents profiled are Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush. Each made a unique decision about what to do for the rest of their lives after leaving the presidency.
Patti Davis, the daughter of Ronald Reagan, has a new book out about her family. Dear Mom and Dad: A Letter About Family, Memory, and the America We Once Knew is a memoir written in the form of a letter to Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Davis’s beautiful writing has been praised by reviewers, as has the candid but kind way she depicts her complicated family and her role within it.
James Garfield isn’t a president most of us know much about. A recent biography by C.W. Goodyear has tried to change that. President Garfield: From Radical to Unifier has been called “the most comprehensive Garfield biography in almost fifty years” by the Wall Street Journal. Although he was president only 200 days before he was assassinated, he had a long and important political career. The last president to be born in a log cabin, Garfield rose from poverty to become a professor, a college president, and a state senator, before fighting for the Union as a general in the Civil War. He went on to become the leading Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving for nearly two decades in a polarized era. As time went on, he became a peacemaker, and he was elected president because of his ability to overcome divisions.
Another short-term president, Gerald Ford, is the subject of another recent biography: Ordinary Man: The Surprising Life and Historic Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. Author Richard Norton Smith is an award-winning biographer of presidents and other significant historical figures. In this biography, Smith starts with Ford’s difficult childhood, then moves on to his early anti-establishment political views and his relationship with his wife Betty. Most of the book is about the events of his presidency, something often overshadowed by the way he became president. Smith adds context by looking at the legacies of the decisions Ford made in office. The Wall Street Journal included this new biography on its list of the top ten books of 2023.
For an interesting look at the culinary side of the presidency, pick up Dinner with the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House by Alex Prud’homme. Prud’homme was Julia Child’s co-author of her memoir My Life in France. In his new book, he examines the importance of the president’s dining table to issues such as diplomacy, race, class, and food trends. Did you know that Thomas Jefferson loved eggplant, or that every day Richard Nixon ate cottage cheese with barbecue sauce? One chapter is titled “Dwight D. Eisenhower: The President who cooked.”
If you prefer your history as historical fiction, look for the recent novel The General and Julia by Jon Clinch. In it, Ulysses S. Grant is writing his memoirs as he’s dying from cancer. To do so, he looks back on his life as the Civil War-winning general, a president fighting for the rights of Black Americans, a farmer turned businessman who lost all of his money to a swindler, and a devoted husband and father.
So many books are available to read about the American presidents. If you’re looking for Lincoln, check out the current display of books about him on the end of one of the adult paperback shelves. If you’re looking for any other president, you can check the catalog for the subject “presidents” or the name of the one you’re seeking. Many but not all of these books are in the U.S. history section: 973 in the Dewey Decimal system. Learning about past presidents is a great way to understand more about American history.
by Beth Cronk, County Librarian
The finalists for the Minnesota Book Awards were announced on January 27. These annual awards celebrate outstanding books written or illustrated by Minnesotans. The Litchfield Library has some of the finalists in a variety of categories, and it’s likely that more will join the collection now that they’ve been honored in this way.
Smoke on the Waterfront: The Northern Waters Smokehaus Cookbook was written by Ned Netzel, Nic Peloquin, Mary K. Tennis, Greg Conley, and Eric Goerdt. The Northern Waters Smokehaus is a restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota, that has been in business since 1998. This cookbook is an entertaining look at the work these restauranteurs do and the recipes they have created. If you’d like to learn to smoke fish or meat, make pickles or a salad, or create a tasty sandwich, this book has something for you. If you’ve enjoyed eating at Northern Waters, you may find your favorite menu item! Smoke on the Waterfront is a finalist in the category of General Nonfiction.
The fantasy novel Ink Blood Sister Scribe was chosen by the Good Morning America Book Club in June of last year. NPR chose it for their 2023 “Books We Love” list, and the New York Times included it on their notable books list for 2023. Minnesota author and Macalester professor Emma Törzs wrote this novel about two estranged half-sisters and a family library of magical books that contains a deadly secret. Ink Blood Sister Scribe is a finalist in the category of Genre Fiction.
Trauma Sponges: Dispatches from the Scarred Heart of Emergency Response is a memoir published by University of Minnesota Press. Author Jeremy Norton has been a firefighter and EMT with the Minneapolis Fire Department since 2000, and he has a master’s degree in creative writing. Norton shares his decades of experience as a first responder, interacting with sick, injured, dying, and devastated people. Norton and his crew were responders at the scene of George Floyd’s murder, and they faced all of the aftermath, as well. His book is described as having a rare insider perspective on the machismo in the profession, as well as the toll the constant trauma takes on individuals. Trauma Sponges is nominated in the category of Memoir & Creative Nonfiction.
Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence is a book by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Ellison gives his account of the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd, explaining the route that the prosecutors in his office took when pursuing the case. Ellison also sat down with police officers, historians, judges, activists, and legislators to discuss solutions to the larger issues. Break the Wheel is a finalist for the Emilie Buchwald Award for Minnesota Nonfiction.
Also a finalist in the Minnesota Nonfiction category is Minescapes: Reclaiming Minnesota’s Mined Lands. Author Pete Kero is an environmental engineer who co-created Redhead Mountain Bike Park in Chisolm, MN, built on former minelands. In the book, Kero shares how the mining industry, local residents, and tourists coexist on the Mesabi Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota. In the 1950s, residents started turning formerly mined areas into newly useful spaces. In the 1980s, the Mine Reclamation Rules began requiring mining companies to care for the land as they were extracting ore from it. Then in the 2000s, the Laurentian Vision Project brought together landscape architects, engineers, and local residents to guide the area’s development of these spaces.
The novel A Council of Dolls is by Mona Susan Power, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. This work of historical fiction tells the stories of three women and their dolls. Sissy is a Chicago girl born in 1961 to a volatile and dangerous mother. Lillian, born in 1925 on her ancestral lands, is sent with her sister to an Indian boarding school where they are abused by nuns. Cora, born in 1888 on the Standing Rock Reservation, is also sent to a residential school where they burn her beloved doll. A Council of Dolls was longlisted for the National Book Award, and it is now a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award in the category of Novel & Short Story.
To see the complete list of finalists, visit the website of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, the organization that runs the Minnesota Book Awards. There are categories for children’s literature, middle grade literature, young adult literature, and poetry, as well. Winners will be announced May 7. Enjoy the excellent books that Minnesota authors and illustrators have created!
February 14, 2024
By Miss Rachel
I admit it. I’m a millennial who will occasionally spend some time scrolling through social media. Normally, I look for animals doing goofy things. But not so long ago, I heard a song that caught my attention. The song “If I Were A Fish” was written by singer/songwriters corook and Olivia Barton in response to some incredibly hateful comments they received on the internet. The lyrics speak for themselves:
“Why’s everybody on the internet so mean? Why’s everybody so afraid of what they’ve never seen? . . . How lucky are we? Of all the fish in the sea? You get to be you, and I get to be me.”
Embracing their differences, the duo decided to spread the message that different is great no matter what other people say. They even went a step farther and turned the song into an adorable picture book of the same name that you can check out from our library.
We have lots of books that encourage kids to be their own unique selves. We also have books to encourage kindness, which can be checked out to celebrate Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday, February 28th. Pink Shirt Day is a day to raise awareness around the issue of bullying. While the day started in Nova Scotia, it is now celebrated in many different countries around the world. If you’re looking for more reading options to celebrate Pink Shirt Day, take a look at our new shelf!
“Mina Belongs Here” by Sandra Niebuhr-Siebert and Lars Baus
Books like this one are a great way to teach kids how to empathize with others. In “Mina Belongs Here,” main character Mina is very nervous about starting kindergarten at a new school. Not only does she not know anyone at this new school, she also doesn’t speak the same language. As Mina learns more words and meets new friends, she figures out where she belongs.
If you’ve ever had braces, headgear, or any kind of orthodontal device, you might be able to relate to the main character in this book, Max. With Class II malocclusion (severe overbite), she’s doomed to wear orthodontic headgear. The school bullies take the opportunity to tease her while she deals with drama at home.
Picture books and chapter books alike can help kids to see the importance of kindness to everyone regardless of looks, teeth, language, or whatever sets someone apart. Celebrate Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday, February 28th by reading some books about kindness and respecting differences (all while wearing a pink shirt perhaps). As corook and Olivia sing, “We’re as free as can be to be the you-est of you and the me-ist of me.”
Here are the most checked-out titles in the Pioneerland Library System in 2023:
Storm watch / C.J. Box.
Dark angel / John Sandford.
Fox Creek / William Kent Krueger
Simply lies / David Baldacci.
Someone else’s shoes / Jojo Moyes.
3 days to live / James Patterson.
Heart bones / Colleen Hoover.
Identity / Nora Roberts.
The five-star weekend / Elin Hilderbrand.
I will find you / Harlan Coben.
Spare / Prince Harry.
Killers of the Flower Moon : the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI / David Grann.
Dear Jacob : a mother’s journey of hope / Patty Wetterling with Joy Baker.
Walk the blue line / James Patterson with Matt Eversmann with Chris Mooney.
The light we carry : overcoming in uncertain times / Michelle Obama.
The Wager : a tale of shipwreck, mutiny and murder / David Grann.
Friends, lovers, and the big terrible thing : a memoir / Matthew Perry.
I’m glad my mom died / Jennette McCurdy.
Atomic habits : tiny changes, remarkable results : an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones / James Clear.
Never give up : a prairie family’s story / by Tom Brokaw.
The pigeon has to go to school! / words and pictures by Mo Willems.
The pigeon will ride the roller coaster! / words and pictures by Mo Willems.
Creepy crayon! / Aaron Reynolds ; illustrated by Peter Brown.
Sour Grape / Jory John ; illustrated by Pete Oswald.
Little Blue Truck makes a friend / Alice Schertle ; illustrated in the style of Jill McElmurry by John Joseph.
The duckling gets a cookie!? / words and picture by Mo Willems.
The smart cookie / written by Jory John ; illustrated by Pete Oswald.
Creepy pair of underwear! / words, Aaron Reynolds ; pictures, Peter Brown.
Itty-bitty kitty-corn / Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham.
Should I share my ice cream? / by Mo Willems.
Dog Man. Vol. 11 : Twenty thousand fleas under the sea / written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey.
Cat kid comic club. Vol. 4 : Collaborations / words, illustrations, and artwork by Dav Pilkey.
Dog man. Mothering heights / written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey.
Dog man : grime and punishment / written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey.
Dog man : Lord of the fleas / written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey.
Dog Man : brawl of the wild / written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey.
Diary of a wimpy kid : diper överlöde / by Jeff Kinney.
Cat Kid comic club. Vol. 2 : Perspectives / written, illustrated, and colored by Dav Pilkey.
Cat Kid comic club. Vol. 3 : On purpose / words, illustrations, and artwork by Dav Pilkey.
Dog Man unleashed / written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey.
Young Adult Fiction
Bleach / story and art by Tite Kubo.
The ballad of songbirds and snakes / Suzanne Collins.
A court of thorns and roses / Sarah J. Maas.
One piece / story and art by Eiichiro Oda.
One of us is lying / Karen M. McManus.
A good girl’s guide to murder / Holly Jackson.
Attack on Titan / Hajime Isayama.
We’ll always have summer : a summer novel / Jenny Han.
The summer I turned pretty / Jenny Han.
Hunter x hunter / story & art by Yoshihiro Togashi.
Top Juvenile Nonfiction
Guts / Raina Telgemeier ; with color by Braden Lamb
Smile / Raina Telgemeier
Sisters / Raina Telgemeier ; with color by Braden Lamb
Lego awesome ideas / Daniel Lipkowitz
Minecraft. Guide to combat / written by Craig Jelley ; illustrations by Ryan Marsh
Minecraft : guide to survival / written by Thomas McBrien ; additional illustrations by Kate Bieriezjanczuk
Bomb : graphic novel : the race to build–and steal–the world’s most dangerous weapon / written by Steve Sheinkin
The big book of LEGO facts / written by Simon Hugo
Eyewitness shark / written by Miranda MacQuitty
National Geographic kids almanac 2023
A man called Otto
Top gun. Maverick
The Super Mario Bros. movie
Avatar: the way of water
80 for Brady
Paw patrol : the movie
Black Panther, Wakanda forever
Shazam! : fury of the gods
Where the crawdads sing
It’s okay to sign up any time, even as late as early March, if you don’t get to the library until then. The books you read count toward the program beginning the day you sign up; the earlier you register, the more weeks you have to meet the goals.
When you sign up, you’ll get a free book bag (while supplies last) and a reading log to keep track of the books you read. You can read fiction or nonfiction, old or new, library books or your own, print, e-books, or audiobooks – it’s all your choice!
Once you have read and rated three books, bring your reading log back to the library so that you can choose a small prize. If you read three more by March 16, bring it back in to choose an additional prize. Completed reading logs will also be entered into a prize drawing for local business gift certificates, sponsored by the Friends of the Litchfield Public Library. The program can’t be repeated this year once completed.
Prize choices this year are mugs, booklights, pizza cutters, extra-large candy bars, notepads, and can coolers. The range of options will be available while supplies last.