Author Archives: wplblogger

Autumn Tool Kit

There’s a chill in the air most mornings now, and our regular activities have resumed after our summer break. Time is running out to finish that yard work and all that’s left to do is to batten down the hatches in preparation for the long winter ahead. Some people love autumn, and others find it difficult to get through. I’ve put together a little “Autumn Tool Kit” to help make it a little easier on those who struggle, and make it even better for those who love it.

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First Snow, Algoma. A.Y. Jackson

One of the things I like about autumn is getting our slow cooker down off the top shelf and coming home to the delicious smell of something that’s been cooking away all day. My favourite “go to” recipe is super easy. You just stick a boneless pork roast in there, cover it with a can of Coke, and cook it on low all day. About a half an hour before you eat, pull the pork apart and throw in some BBQ sauce. If you want to get REALLY fancy, you can chop up an onion in the morning and throw that in with the pork (but you don’t have to). Toast up a couple of buns, and bingo bango: you’ve got pulled pork for supper. Trust me, it’s easy and delicious, but if you’d like to venture out and try other slow cooker recipes this fall, why not check out one of our slow cooker cook books? One of our newer ones is “Adventures in Slow Cooking” by Sarah DiGregorio.

Another fall activity you can try is canning and jarring. We had a presentation on jam making and preserving basics at the Louis Riel Library last month. Judy, our presenter, talked about Fruit Share Manitoba, an organization where you can sign up if you have fruit bearing plants in your yard and you don’t think you’ll get around to picking them yourself. If you register your fruit trees or bushes on the website, then people interested in looking for fruit can connect with you. The idea is that the pickers get to keep a third of the fruit, you as the fruit tree owner get a third, and a third is donated to charity. Once you have the fruit (or vegetables for that matter), the next step is to preserve them for the winter ahead. America’s Test Kitchen has a new book out called “Foolproof preserving: a guide to small batch jams, jellies, pickles, condiments and more”.

Now that we’ve got food covered, you’ll need an activity to keep you occupied on these long nights. If you are interested in trying out knitting or crocheting, we’ve got you covered in one book called “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting and Crocheting” by Barbara Breiter and Gail Diven.

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Once you feel like you’ve got the basic hang of it, why not come out to Louis Riel’s Knit Night? We meet the first Tuesday of every month at 7 pm. (Our next meeting will be on November 7). Although it is not a knitting class, it is a chance for knitters of all experience levels and talent to come together, share projects, and work together on individual projects. Most months will include a presentation on a particular topic. Give us a call at 204-986-4573 to register. We even let crocheters come, but we draw the line at macramé.

 

-Trevor

 

 

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So very Camp

 

9780590431354[1]One of my favourite books growing up was Gordon Korman’s I want to go home. It’s a hilarious novel about this kid, Rudy Miller, who is sent to summer camp against his will. He spends the entire time trying to devise new and ingenious ways of escaping. One of his schemes is to write a letter home to his parents describing his camp life (filled with exaggerations and lies) with the hope that they will collect him early. Here’s an excerpt:

Dear Mom and Dad,

This place is terrible. Each day I’m subjected to countless atrocities. The food is spoiled and poisonous, and the drinking water is contaminated so there is an outbreak of typhoid. Our cabin collapsed last night in a typhoon, but don’t worry. Only one guy got killed.
It’s not all bad. I do have one friend, named Mike. He’s the one who pulled me out of the quicksand. I have to haul garbage every day, but there aren’t too many wild animals at the dump and I’ve only been bitten twice.
Tonight is really going to be fun. Our cabin hasn’t been fixed yet, so we get to sleep in trees. I sure hope the typhoon doesn’t start up again.
I’ll be safe and sound so long as Algonkian Island doesn’t sink any further.

Your son,
Rudy

P.S. If this letter looks messy it’s because I’m writing it while being chased by a bear.

It’s a little more difficult finding adult novels that deal with summer camp, but here are a few that you might enjoy. SPOILERS: things don’t go well.

The Summer is Ended and We are Not Yet Saved by Joey Comeau

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Okay, let me say right off the top that this book is not for everyone. It’s quite graphic (it’s a horror novel, essentially) about an 11 year old kid who goes to Bible camp. The first part of the novel sets up a lot of the 1980’s slasher tropes but they are interspersed with some lovely correspondence between the kid (Martin) and his mother back home. The second part of the novel devolves into a genre slasher story, albeit one with some creativity and dark humour. Not exactly an adult companion piece to I want to go home, but close.

How to Survive a Summer by Nick White

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This powerful debut tells the story of a film studies graduate student, Will Dillard, who spend a summer at a “gay conversion camp” as a teenager, and how now, almost 20 years later, he is confronted with what happened that summer and how it affected him. (And yes, there is a “slasher film” element to this story as well. It seems you can’t write a novel about summer camp without evoking the image of someone in a goalie mask).

The Mad Cook of Pymatuning by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt

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Maybe I’m just looking for slasher summer camp stuff at this point, but here’s a book recommended by Stephen King, He says: “Warm ’50s nostalgia gives way to cold chills in this tale of a summer camp gone bad. Very bad. Think Lake Lord-of-the-Flies.”  Are there no “feel good” summer camp books? I guess that wouldn’t be very interesting, would it? “Chapter 1: we all had a lovely time, made life-long friends and learned valuable survival and leadership skills. The End.”

All of these books reference the “Summer Camp Slasher” genre in one way or another, and none of it would have been possible without the original, Friday the 13th. If you are at all interested in that franchise and the impact it has had on our pop culture, you should check out Crystal Lake Memories. It’s 400 minutes long and takes you through every Friday the 13th movie. (I know, it’s a bit much, but it does a thorough job.)

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After reading through all these different “reinventions of the slasher novel”, it just made me want to rewatch The Cabin in the Woods, which is a great little take on the “teenagers go camping in the woods” kind of story…WITH A TWIST (of course).

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Enjoy the rest of your summer. Hopefully you make it through!

-Trevor

 

 

 

Summer Reads

Every year my uncle would take his kids (my cousins) on a family camping trip. He had a demanding job and these two weeks off were extra special to him. He would kick back, relax, spend some time with his family, and read. My  cousin remembers that every summer, for as long as she can remember, for all of her childhood, her Dad would be working on the SAME BOOK. Every year he would bring along his copy of Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War, and every summer he would read maybe 10 pages of it, and then it would go back on his shelf for the long cold winter. The next year, he would have forgotten what he read, so he’d start again and only get the first 10 pages read. This cycle repeated for 20 years.

I guess the moral of this story is: DON’T BE MY UNCLE. I encourage you to look over this list of popular books that are either coming out this summer or have recently been published, and pick something that interests you. Who knows? You might even get to page 11.

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

Al Franken, who was best known as a comedian with regular appearances on Saturday Night Live, won a United States Senate seat in 2008 and was re-elected in 2014. His latest book acts partly as a memoir and partly as an “insider’s look” at how the American Federal government works (or doesn’t).

 

Full Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child

If politics isn’t your thing, maybe you just want to read a story about a guy accosted by werewolves. Lincoln Child, partnered with Douglas Preston for the Agent Pendergast books, has now branched off to write a few on his own. His paranormal investigator, Jeremy Logan, travels to an isolated writer’s retreat in the Adirondacks to work on his book, but guess what? Yep, werewolves.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

This book is called Norse Mythology and that’s exactly what you get. Neil Gaiman took some of the stories of Odin, Loki, and Thor and reworked them for an audience who may only know these characters through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some early reviews were a bit negative, expressing disappointment that “it’s just a book of myths”. But that’s what it is, and well worth a look.

 

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

A lot of people decide to get married in the summer, and even more people like to read about weddings and watch them and talk about them. So in that spirit, you might enjoy Sarah Dessen’s latest, Once and for All. The main character, Louna, is a wedding planner who doesn’t believe that true love will ever happen to her. I’m not going to get all spoilery on you here, but let’s just say good things happen.

 

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

Okay, I can hear some of you saying that, politics, werewolves, myths and wedding planners are all well and good, but how about something with a little SUBSTANCE into which we can sink our teeth? I’ve got you covered, friend. Before the Fall is a suspense novel about a tragic plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Eleven people were on board, but only two survived. The two survivors, a down on his luck painter, and a four-year old boy (who also happens to be the last surviving member of a wealthy family) form a fragile and unlikely bond as the life stories of the rest of the passengers are told through flashbacks. Poignant!

-Trevor

 

Late Night Memories

It’s been almost two years since David Letterman retired from television, and I still miss him.

I remember sneaking out of bed when I was in elementary school to watch Dave toss pencils through a window with my parents. There was something about his goofy brand of humour that connected with me, and throughout jr high I would tape his show and use it as incentive to get through my homework when I got home the next day.

I know: I was a weird kid.

Throughout high school, university and beyond, I always looked forward to checking in with Dave. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, you could rely on laughing about something dumb in the monologue, or some  banter between him and his career-long band leader, Paul Shaffer. And if it wasn’t the banter, there was always something fun happening, whether they were dropping stuff off the roof of the Ed Sullivan theatre, or the classic bit about trying to see how many Spidermen they could fit into a Jamba Juice. You could always rely on the nightly “Top Ten Lists” or the more esoteric “Will it Float?” or “Is it Anything?” segments for a sure laugh. About 10 years ago I was on a trip in New York City, and even though we saw a bunch of cool stuff, the biggest highlight for me was getting to sit in on a taping of The Late Show.

I guess you can say I was a life-long fan.

So, you can guess I’m pretty excited to read this new biography on Dave called Letterman, The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman. It is touted to be “the definitive story of the life and artistic legacy of David Letterman”, so I can’t wait to get into it.

Letterman The Last Giant of Late Night

Paul Shaffer wrote a book a few years ago called We’ll be here for the rest of our lives, and I had high hopes for it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, exactly, but maybe some insight into the “behind the scenes” world of this television icon and the many guests he’s had on his shows over the years, starting at NBC in 1982 and moving to CBS in 1993. The result, however, was a little underwhelming. I had the feeling that Paul Shaffer didn’t want to offend anybody, and so his memoir came off as a luke-warm retread that never really said anything interesting.

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For those who want a little perspective on the so called “Late Night Wars” between Dave and Jay Leno over at The Tonight Show, Bill Carter’s book, The War for Late Night: When Leno went early and television went crazy is worth a look. It also covers Conan O’Brien’s short-lived stint as the host of The Tonight Show. Remember that?

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Even though I haven’t connected with anyone on “late night” the way I did with Dave, there are a couple of other “late night” hosts that have written books.

Trevor Noah, the new host of The Daily Show, has written an engaging memoir of growing up mixed race in the dying days of South Africa’s apartheid era. (Born in 1984, Noah was 6 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison). Even if you don’t watch The Daily Show, I think you’ll find Noah’s story riveting. It’s called Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

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Another late night host with connections to The Daily Show is Samantha Bee. She is the only Canadian in the late night world, and more importantly: the only woman. She began her career as a correspondent for The Daily Show and cites David Letterman as one of her comedic influences. In 2016, she launched her own late night satire show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which is now in its second season. She recently hosted an alternative “White House Correspondents Dinner” which attracted a crowd of 2600 people. In 2010 she published a book of humorous essays called I know I am, but what are you? which gives you a good overview of the unique way Samantha Bee sees the world.

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We may never see another late night host like David Letterman, but I’m sure that his legacy is secured in knowing that many up-and-coming comedians still hold Dave up as the gold standard for late night humour, and his presence will be felt for many years to come.

-Trevor

A SPRING in your step

Happy First Day of Spring, everybody! We made it! (Well, actually that was yesterday, but we’re librarians not climatologists).

I don’t know about you, but when the ol’ equinox rolls around, I like to start thinking about baseball.

The teams have been doing their spring training, uh, training for the past few weeks and we are just days away from the start of a new season.

There’s no better time than now to check out some of the newer baseball related items the library has to offer.

Smart Baseball by Keith Law

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book Moneyball, you’ll know that there is a tension in baseball between the traditional methods of evaluating players and the newer statistical methods collectively known as “sabermetrics”. In this book, veteran ESPN writer and statistical analyst Keith Law covers a lot of the same ground and demonstrates why the old ways don’t really yield meaningful results. Despite this, baseball is filled with superstition and many of the old criteria, like favouring a player who has “the good face” still pops up now and again. He also does a good job at explaining and demystifying some of the newer stats that have become such a big part of today’s game.

Offspeed: Baseball, Pitching and the Art of Deception by Terry McDermott

Baseball is complicated, but one thing is certain: you need solid pitching to win games, or at least to not lose games. Is that the same thing? Who’s to say? Terry McDermott frames his book around 9 chapters, with each one looking at the history of a different type of pitch. Mr. McDermott, like Keith Law, recognizes that baseball relies just as much on folk wisdom as it does on modern statistics, and he does a good job here in using both kinds of knowledge in his research. And even those this book may only really appeal to die-hard baseball fans, you gotta love a non-fiction baseball book that begins with a Field of Dreams reference.

Lou by Lou Piniella

It was only a matter of time before Lou Piniella wrote a book about baseball. The guy has been involved with the game for over 50 years, first as an outfielder in the 1970’s with the New York Yankees, then later as a manager of 5 major league teams. He’s even done some time in the broadcast booth. He’ll probably be best remembered as a guy who liked to yell and scream at umpires though, and I’m pretty sure his nickname, “Sweet Lou”, was ironic. I wonder if his memoir is written in ALL CAPS? If you don’t believe me, have a look at this short video clip highlighting some of the debates in which he took part over his illustrious career. Some of those debates were with a second base, apparently.

Baseball Life Advice by Stacey May Fowles

I think we need a palette cleanser after that, and luckily Stacey May Fowles provides the perfect alternative. Of all the baseball books coming out this Spring, I am most looking forward to reading hers. Currently a columnist with The Globe and Mail, Stacey May Fowles has also written a couple of novels Infidelity and Be Good. In Baseball Life Advice, Ms. Fowles writes from the perspective of a unabashed baseball fan, and all the thrills and simple joys that come with visiting a ballpark and following a favourite team. Already a fan of her prose, I have a feeling that her baseball book will be something special. Early reviews suggest that even if you are not a baseball fan, you’d do well to pick up this memoir. If your eyes glaze over with stats talk (like mine do), and if you can only take a little bit of yelling, (sorry Lou!), then I think Ms. Fowles will speak to that part of the fan that cannot be quantified: the baseball lover’s spirit.

 

The Queen of Crime

Very few of us are what we seem.” Agatha Christie

Before your James Pattersons and your Patricia Cornwells, your M.C. Beatons and your Gillian Flynns, there was Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie wrote what we would call today “Cozy Mysteries”. She wrote them before the term even existed. She pretty much invented and popularized the genre. The elements of a “cozy” mystery remain popular today: Not much “on page” violence or sex, the setting: a small quaint village, preferably seaside, or someplace exotic, like a train or Egypt, and the most important element: an amateur sleuth. Maybe we could call her books “proto-cozy”?

Agatha Christie is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling author of all time, and ranks third in the world for the most widely published books, behind The Bible and Shakespeare.

Agatha Christie, surrounded by some of her 80-plus crime novels.

Her 1926 novel, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” was voted “best crime novel ever” by the 600 members of the Crime Writers Association in 2013, and her novels “And Then There Were None” and “Murder on the Orient Express” remain favourites to this day.

There has been a sudden surge of interest in Ms. Christie’s writings again. As this recent Globe and Mail article points out, the BBC has greenlit seven new television productions over the next 4 years, Kenneth Branagh is remaking “Murder on the Orient Express” with himself as Poirot, “Twin Peaks” co-creator Mark Frost is developing a new Miss Marple series, and “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes is working on “Crooked House”. That’s a pretty decent resumé for someone who passed away over 40 years ago.

In addition to being a novelist, Agatha Christie wrote 19 plays, which may be one of the reasons she was chosen for the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s “Master Playwright Festival” in 2017. Running from February 8-26, there are a number of interesting productions and showings around the city related to Agatha Christie and her life and work.

You can see the whole line-up at RMTC’s website.

The Millennium Library is hosting three free movies related to Agatha Christie during the Festival.

You can start things off by watching the PBS documentary “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, hosted by David Suchet on February 14.

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Then you can check out a Miss Marple mystery, “Murder She Said” on Wednesday, February 15th.

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On the following Tuesday, February 21, you can see the late great Sir Peter Ustinov as Hercules Poirot in “Death on the Nile”.

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All movies start at 6:30 pm and are in the Carol Shields Auditorium of the Millennium Library downtown.

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Music to my (little) ears!

Many of us grew up singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” But how many times did you sing the song before you actually knew what a waterspout was?

When I was little, I thought a waterspout was the faucet in the bathtub. My mother could never understand why I didn’t want to get in the tub until the faucet was turned off–I was waiting for the spider to come tumbling out!

Singing songs with children provides a great opportunity to build vocabulary, and in many ways, music can act as a springboard to literacy. Singing can help children hear the smaller sounds that make up words — and this will help them sound out words when they start to read.

At the library, music and rhymes are a key component of our pre-school programming.  You can also borrow a huge stack of kids music CDs from any of our branches — or stream music directly to your phone, tablet or computer using Hoopla, a free online service available through WPL!

Here are some of the most popular CD’s for kids currently available on Hoopla!:

sing

moana

laurie
frozen

kidzbop

disney

Lindsay

 

 

Fair Isle Felonies

My wife and a friend get together for supper and knitting on a regular basis. I’m usually around too, but often get outvoted on what to stick on the TV when the knitting starts. I’m happy to report that we’ve found a series on which we can all agree. It’s called Shetland and is produced by the BBC.

The first 3 seasons are available through Netflix, and WPL has a DVD of Seasons 1 and 2, if you are interested.

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It is a police procedural centered on Detective Jimmy Perez, who works on the remote Shetland islands off the coast of Scotland. (His Spanish sounding surname is explained by the fact that his ancestor was a shipwrecked survivor of the Spanish Armada way back in 1588, although you’d be hard pressed to see the resemblance in actor Douglas Henshall’s blonde hair and fair complexion.)

Each story (in the first couple of seasons anyway) takes two full episodes to tell, so the writers really give the characters time to breathe and develop. There are many moody, atmospheric shots of the Shetland Islands throughout, and knitting enthusiasts will love to check out all the woolly knitwear sported by the locals (if you’re into that kind of thing).

The series is based on the award winning novels written by Ann Cleeves, and you can borrow many of them from WPL. Ann Cleeves never intended her Shetland books to be a series when she wrote her first one, Raven Black. After all, how many murders can you expect on these quiet peaceful islands? Well, the success of her first one meant that sequels were on the way, so she decided to write one for each season of the year and call them her “Shetland Quartet” and be done with it. The fact that her most recent Shetland novel, Cold Earth, is her 7th in the series, just shows that you might want to consider life insurance if you ever decide to take a trip there. So many murders!

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The latest Shetland novel.

 

If you are a knitter and want to attempt your own “Shetland cosplay”, WPL has a great looking book called Northern Knits: designs inspired by the knitting traditions of Scandinavia, Iceland and the Shetland Islands.

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If you are looking for a group of like-minded knitters who meet regularly and offer support to one another, why not consider joining WPL’s Knitting Book Club, which meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the Louis Riel Library? Call 204-986-4573 to register.

Trevor

Top Spooky Picks of 2016

“I could make you scared, if you want me to.” The Tragically Hip

Halloween is just around the corner, so maybe you’re in the mood for something a little creepy or spooky to curl up with this evening?

Here are some of the most popular HORROR novels published in 2016.

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

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You know you’ve made it as a horror novelist when Stephen King says your book “scared the living hell” out of him. Even though this book’s title sounds like it belongs in the Hardy Boys series, it is a dark tale about the disappearance of 13 year old Tommy Sanderson and the ensuing search to find him. Steeped in the history and lore of New England, this book would satisfy those of us who binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix over the summer and tide us over until season 2 of that series is released.

the-fireman[1]The Fireman by Joe Hill

I already wrote a separate blog post about this great thriller back in June, so I won’t say too much more here. If a post-apocalyptic world resulting from an epidemic of spontaneous combustion is your thing, I highly recommend this read. Also, it’s written by Stephen King’s son, who is rapidly emerging as a force of nature in his own right.

 

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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This is the English language debut of the best-selling Dutch novelist, Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Here’s the premise: a picturesque town in the Hudson Valley, Black Spring, is ACTUALLY HAUNTED by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman who has her eyes and mouth sewn shut. The witch moves among the townspeople, and has become almost accepted as a part of life there. The power of the hex is that no one is ever allowed to leave the town, and legend has it if the stitches are ever cut open, everyone in the town will die. The town elders have quarantined the town to prevent the spread of the hex, but some teens are starting to question the legend. It’s a great mix of the supernatural intermingled with every day small town life.

End of Watch by Stephen King

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Okay, so technically this one isn’t a HORROR novel, but it’s Stephen King so I felt like I should include it. It’s actually the third book in a trilogy with retired police detective Bill Hodges, so if I were you I’d go back and read the first two, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, before tackling this one. And yes, elements of the supernatural weave their way into this third book so I feel okay recommending it.

Happy reading and Happy Halloween, everybody!

Trevor

Helping Kids Affected by Incarceration

Children whose lives have been impacted by crime within their family may not know how to deal with the stress of the situation — and that’s why Winnipeg Public Library, in partnership with Canadian Families and Corrections Network, is hosting ‘Strengthening Families Affected by Incarceration Day’ at Millennium Library on October 22 from 2-4 p.m.

Meet Sesame Street friends and support families in our community who are affected by incarceration.  Play in Big Bird’s reading corner, read a book with Elmo, share a cookie with Cookie Monster, watch Sesame Street’s Little Children Big Challenges and learn about community resources.

There will also be a special presentation of Canadian Families and Corrections Network and Sesame Street resources to the Winnipeg Public Library and the community.

The event is free of charge, and open to all families.

Reading together as a family can also provide the opportunity to explore and discuss hardships that may arise for children.  Check out these titles as one way to support children who are dealing with these issues:

amberAmber Was brave, Essie Was Smart: The Story of Amber and Essie Told Here in Poems and Pictures by Vera B. Williams
Times are hard for Essie and Amber – their mother works long hours, leaving them with sitters or cousins or often on their own, and their father is in jail.  While the girls share their heartache, they also share their special talents-Essie teaches Amber to write her name in script, and Amber convinces the grocer to trust them with milk until payday. The good times are good, but the bad times are really hard. The shadow of their father’s mistake is always there.

rubyRuby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes has a real best friend for the first time ever, but agonizes over whether or not to tell her a secret she has never shared with anyone–that her mother has been in prison since Ruby was five–and over whether to express her anger to her mother.

secretSecret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado
Sean is Justin’s best friend – or at least Justin thought he was. But lately Sean has been acting differently. He’s been telling lies, getting into trouble at school, hanging out with a tougher crowd, even getting into fights. When Justin finally discovers that Sean’s been secretly going to visit his father in prison, and struggling with the stress of that, Justin wants to do something to help before his friend spirals further out of control.

everyoneEveryone Makes Mistakes: Living With My Daddy In Jail by Madison Strempek
10-year-old author Madison Strempek candidly depicts her life experience of living with a father in jail. Through her eyes, you will feel the heartbreak of that life-changing news, discover how she survives with her secret, and ultimately finds resolution and strength in the understanding that everyone makes mistakes.

nightThe Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail by Melissa Higgins
When someone you love goes to jail, you might feel lost, scared, and even mad. What do you do? No matter who your loved one is, this story can help you through the tough times.

— Lindsay