Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie by O. E. Rolvaag 
submitted by Debbe

What makes a book memorable? Why can a reader clearly remember the plots, characters, themes and settings of some titles and others are gone ten minutes after closing their cover? I recently watched a documentary on To Kill a Mockingbird’s author, Harper Lee, where author after author discussed how that book influenced them as young readers but the documentary tied the book and the movie together to explain its influence.

That book certainly resonated with me when I read it in high school, but there is another book that I have thought about many times throughout my life. I read it over forty years ago, and there are no images from a movie to drive the memories.

When I was a fifteen year old high school sophomore, my American History teacher assigned the book Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie by O. E. Rolvaag to my class. After I read it I told my teacher “This is the best book I have ever read.” I often thought about the book and remembered the main characters, Norwegian immigrants attempting to make a new life in the United States.

Originally written in 1927 it tells the story of Per and Beret Hansa and their family, as they take advantage of the United States Homestead Act, which gave immigrants 160 acres of land in the Great Plains. Per and Beret settle in the Dakota Territory, attempting to farm on land that can be as harsh as their native Norway but without the family support they might have found back home. But Per had a vision for his family and America was the land of opportunity. This book taught me about the hardships that immigrants endured in their hope for a better life. I vividly remember learning about sod houses and to this day I can’t imagine living in one. But most of all it taught me the human stories that encompass American history.

Twenty-five years later I convinced my book group to read the book. I rarely reread books, but I wanted to discover what it was about this book that had stuck with me. To my surprise I loved this book again and still consider it “the best book I have ever read.” What resonated with me on the second reading was the story of Beret, the young mother, attempting to nurture and sustain her children. By that time I was a mother of young children so I was not surprised by my identification. Her loneliness and depression were heartbreaking.

What still amazes me is how this story gripped me at fifteen and has never left my consciousness. How lucky I was to have a teacher that recognized the power of literature to teach history in a way that highlighted the reality of people’s lives. Later that year she had us read the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and then she took us to see the movie. Thank you Sister Rene.

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Carnegie Medal Short List 2013 
submitted by Caren

For me, spring doesn’t mean basketball “madness”, or chicks and bunnies, but the arrival of the new short list for the Carnegie Medal. I spend the time from late March, when the list appears, until June, when the winner is announced, deliciously immersed in reading the best of the best in children’s literature. The CILIP Carnegie Medal is the British equivalent of our ALA Newbery Medal. The winner is chosen by a panel of twelve children’s librarians.

What sort of book wins? From their website, here is what they are looking for:
”The book that wins the Carnegie Medal should be a book of outstanding literary quality. The whole work should provide pleasure, not merely from the surface enjoyment of a good read, but also the deeper subconscious satisfaction of having gone through a vicarious, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards.”

I couldn’t have said it better! The short listed books are always varied but top-notch.

Here, then, is this year’s list. Please note that I have omitted only one book from the CILIP list as that book won’t be published in this country until July 2013.

The books I have read so far:

1. A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle - Irish writer, Roddy Doyle, has won a Booker prize for one of his adult novels. In this book, four generations of females (a twelve-year-old, her mother, her dying grandmother, and the ghost of her great-grandmother) take a midnight road trip to what was once their family farm.

2. Wonder by R. J. Palacio - August ("Auggie") was born with a rare genetic facial deformity that required many surgeries through his younger years. During that time, he was homeschooled. He is finally going to enter fifth grade at a private school, and this novel tells of his year there. I love the way his story is told through the eyes of different characters, and the ways in which the reader is given insights into each character's own personal struggles.

3. A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton - This has got to be one of the quirkiest books I have ever read. The title really says it all. Why is a boy traveling along in a boat rowed by a bear? Where are they headed? I don’t know. The adventures along the way are lots of fun though. Could their journey be a metaphor for life itself? Hmm….here’s a book to make you think.

4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - Two British young women from different social classes meet during World War II. One is an airplane pilot, the other a spy. They become best friends and are sent on an undercover mission into occupied France. To say much more could ruin it for you. Let’s just say, this is a real thriller that will keep you awake reading late at night, and which you will be thinking about for weeks after you close the book. Earlier this year, it won a Printz Honor (which is awarded by ALA for excellence in young adult literature).

Here are the books I will be reading in the coming weeks:

1. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

2. In Darkness by Nick Lake - This one won the Printz Award this year.

3. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Won’t you read along with me? As C. S. Lewis said,
“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”

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Mad About Basketball 
submitted by Tony

March Madness has begun!

When you’re not watching the game, you might try some of these great titles.

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The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life: What 35 Years of Running Have Taught Me About Winning, Losing, Happiness, Humility, and the Human Heart by Amby Burfoot 
submitted by Tommy

When I picked this up to read I didn’t notice the sub-title, but as it turns out I too have been running 35 years (with some interruptions because of injury or life.) For the most part I’m not into motivational books, but since Amby Burfoot seems like a really cool guy and was once a great runner, I thought I’d give it a try.

It is surprisingly good! At 150 pages it is a quick read but it is packed full of wisdom and fun. Yes, Fun! The book itself is fun, nothing too deep and depressing. He emphasizes that running should be fun. There will be some work and some obstacles at times, but isn’t that just what life is? But the pleasures as well as the health benefits (both mentally and physically) are tenfold.

Amby was in his mid-50’s when he wrote this, so it is from the wise perspective of a once great runner who is slowing down. He isn’t trying to teach us how to go out and run fast and hard, but instead he is instructing us to go out and ENJOY running to the best of our individual ability and we will learn much about life and ourselves in the process.

He also emphasizes that It is possible for all of us to take part. We may experience losing, failure, and probably injuries, but it helps us in everyday life when we are bound to experience the same challenges. Everyone who runs is a winner. The only opponent is yourself.

He has many quotes and one of his favorites is by Rudyard Kipling (the end of the poem, IF).
"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!"

I have always liked that poem, but I had never noticed the importance of these lines before in relation to running. Don’t worry about your running time too much is the lesson here. Just run! He also gives a list of his heroes and a list of essential reading. Both are nice.

My favorite chapter/lesson in the book is #7: LISTENING. Running is my meditation time. Walking can be the same, but to a lesser degree. He describes it well with his line, “...the sound of mindless thoughts flitting through my head.” Since Amby is a writer/editor he also notes how easy it is to write while running. He quotes Joyce Carol Oates,
“Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be…”

All runners should read this book and anyone who is trying to understand a runner should also read this. Read this book…and go for a run!

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Experience the Realm of Downton Abbey Through the Library 
submitted by Rob

Considering the ever-growing popularity that the television drama Downton Abbey has enjoyed over its three seasons, it would seem appropriate to provide readers with a list of books that would potentially appeal to those who are enamored with the story line, time period, and social changes that are chronicled in this incredibly-detailed series.




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