Category Archives: Books & Reading

The Harry Potter Series is 20 Years Old

It’s been 20 years since the British publisher Bloomsbury released J.K. Rowling’s debut novel. It’s unfathomable to recall that the initial print run was only 500 copies, contrasted with the more than 450 million copies sold after the series was complete. Rowling tweeted the following to mark the occasion:

The impact of the arrival of Harry, Ron, and Hermione into our lives not to mention on book publishing trends has been profound. The long duration of Rowling’s books on the New York Times Bestseller list caused the split into adult and children’s titles because of the need for ‘more room’ for other authors.  Despite this new sorting, readers of all ages waited in bookstore lines at midnight for their copies, Amazon promised home deliveries on publication dates, and many families had to purchase multiple copies because sharing would have been difficult. The impending arrival of the ‘next’ book in the series was the closest thing I felt to the Christmas Eve giddiness of my childhood. Twenty years later, we have a wildly successful film franchise, Oscar nominated soundtracks composed by John Williams,  a new film series called Fantastic Beasts, a Harry Potter Theme Park, video games, and a website devoted for fans called Pottermore. To mark this happy occasion, we asked how Nebraska Library Commission staff started reading the Harry Potter books and what Hogwarts House they would belong to according to the sorting hat. Here are our responses:

“It’s not exactly exciting, but my mom checked it out from the North Platte library around the time it came out. It was sitting on the table, I was bored, and I picked it up.” – Holli Duggan, Continuing Education Coordinator – Slytherin

“I apparently had been living under a rock and did not find out about Harry Potter until after the third movie had come out. After I watched that, my friends basically threw the book at my head. By the time I turned the last page of Sorcerer’s Stone I was hooked.” – Amanda Sweet, Reader Services Advisor -Gryffindor

“My mother wanted to review the book for age appropriateness before she would gift it to my younger cousin.  This was shortly after the third book had been released and the hype over the book series had come to a rolling boil.” – Anna Walter, Reader Services Advisor – Slytherin

“My daughter started reading them in 4th grade, and loved them so much I started listening to them on CD.” – Mary Sauers, Government Services Librarian -Hufflepuff

“I didn’t read Harry Potter until I started working in a library; the first book came out as I was finishing high school and I didn’t have time to read much fiction during college, so it wasn’t really on my radar until much later.  I picked up the audio version, narrated by Jim Dale, to listen to while I worked on a home renovation project several years ago, and was instantly hooked.  I listed to all 7 books back-to-back. That was the most fun I’ve ever had refinishing woodwork!” – Aimee Owen, Information Services Librarian – Gryffindor

“I came to Harry Potter by way of a co-worker who was reading the books to her kids. She loaned me the first two in the series and I bought the third and took it on vacation with me. I was transported. Rowling’s characters, setting, language, and story got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. Escaping to Hogwarts was literally a lifesaver. Then I discovered Jim Dale’s amazing narration and my family moved family holidays to coincide with movie release dates. In every format, I am grateful for Jo Rowling and Harry Potter.”  Lisa Kelly, Information Services Director – Ravenclaw

“I read the first Harry Potter book as part of a six-person book review event that happened twice a year live via satellite and recorded on videotapes – it was sponsored by the Library Commission.  I was rapidly reading lots of books and I remember my comments about Harry being “it’s a fun fantasy…kids will like it…magic is popular with this age group…” – a rather bland endorsement.  When the second title was released it was in another reviewer’s batch so I couldn’t read it until after the live review session.  By then the third book had just been released.  I took my car during my lunch break and drove directly to the book store and bought my copy of book three, starting to read it that evening.  For some reason, I didn’t get hooked until book 2, but I have been an enthusiastic fan ever since.”  Sally Snyder, Coordinator Children & YA Library Services – Hufflepuff

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Solar Eclipse Resources Part Two: 54 Days and Counting…

Nebraska Eclipse Path, 2017…or 7 weeks, 5 days, 23 hrs, and 14 mins, depending on when you read this of course!

Is your library ready for the celestial event of the century? In 54 days, on August 21, 2017, the shadow of the moon will sweep across the United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in a spectacle that hasn’t occurred in decades. In fact, the last total solar eclipse for the United States was nearly 40 years ago, and the next total eclipse that will be visible in the continental United States will be in 2024.  Did you know that Nebraska will be one of the BEST places in the country to view it?

To help your library prepare for this historic event, the Nebraska Library Commission is doing a series of blog posts about resources you can access for your Eclipse programs:

Part 2: Educational Resources

Books & Articles:  This section has a great eclipse bibliography for libraries, plus some of the best eclipse related books and articles available for download or purchase: The “All-American” Eclipse: A Guide for Public Libraries and Their Communities, When The Sun Goes Dark: A New, Richly-illustrated Children’s Book on the Science and Fun of Eclipses are just two suggested books available.

Eclipse Videos:  In this section, you will find educational videos to educate your library patrons about the 2017 eclipse, courtesy of Exploratorium and Sky & Telescope (each of which has their own great resources).  Examples of some of the videos: What is a Solar Eclipse (in English and Spanish), Earth-Sun-Moon Scale Model, and Getting to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.

Solar Eclipse ImageEclipse Websites:  There are a wide variety of really cool websites in this section!  NASA, the National Science Teachers Association, the Fiske Planetarium, the Great American Eclipse, and STARnet to name just a few.

 

 

Have fun checking out all the resources available, and stay tuned next week for Solar Eclipse Resources Part Three!

Experience the 2017 Eclipse Across America Banner Image

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Nebraska Librarians Invited to Host Programs and Exhibits in Connection with New Ken Burns Film: The Vietnam War


Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten-part, eighteen-hour documentary series, The Vietnam War, airs Sunday, September 17 through Thursday, September 21 and Sunday, September 24 through  Thursday, September 28 at 7:00 p.m. CT on PBS. Nebraska librarians are invited to take advantage of opportunities to host programs and exhibits in connection with the documentary. In an immersive narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film, featuring testimony from nearly eighty witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. Learn more about the film at http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-vietnam-war/home/.

Check out these opportunities:

  • Public libraries are invited to apply by August 1 to receive a programming kit for The Vietnam War, a ten-part documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that will air on PBS stations. Fifty public libraries will be selected, through a competitive application process, to receive the kit, which will include a programming guide and a copy of the full 18-hour documentary series on DVD, with public performance rights. The kit will help libraries participate in a national conversation about one of the most consequential, divisive and controversial events in American history. Recipients will also receive promotional materials, online resources developed to support local programs, opportunities for partnership with local PBS station(s), and more. Participating libraries will be required to host at least one program related to the film before Jan. 1, 2018, along with other promotional and reporting requirements. View the full project guidelines: https://apply.ala.org/thevietnamwar/guidelines or begin your online application: https://apply.ala.org/TheVietnamWar. (ALA’s Public Programs Office and WETA Productions.) See http://www.programminglibrarian.org/articles/apply-now-vietnam-war-programming-kit-opportunity. Contact: Sarah Ostman, Communications Manager, Public Programs Office, American Library Association, 312-280-5061, sostman@ala.org.
  • Nebraska libraries are invited to host programs, local panel discussions and conversations, screenings of a short version of the documentary, and exhibits in connection with the New Ken Burns Film: The Vietnam War. Libraries are encouraged to reach out to local veteran’s organizations and other local groups to partner on activities leading up to the September 17 screening. Materials and resources will be available from the Nebraska NET website. See http://www.pbs.org/video/3001104790 for a highlight video and http://netnebraska.org/Vietnam for more information. NET is currently arranging for screenings (to be followed by a 45 minute panel discussion) in communities across Nebraska, see list at bottom of this message. Resources will soon be available to assist libraries in other communities in setting up local screenings and community conversations. Contact: Sandi Karstens, NET Communications Coordinator, 1800 N. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE 68503, 402-470-6578, skarstens@netnebraska.org.
  • If your book group hasn’t read the 2015 One Book One Nebraska selection, this is the perfect time to suggest it. Death Zones & Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting by Beverly Deepe Keever was Nebraska’s choice for the 2015 One Book One Nebraska statewide reading program and the Nebraska Library Commission has multiple copies for libraries across Nebraska to borrow. In this book, Beverly Deepe Keever describes what it was like for a farm girl from Nebraska to find herself halfway around the world, trying to make sense of one of the nation’s bloodiest and bitterest wars. Support materials to assist with local reading/discussion activities are available at http://onebook.nebraska.gov/2015/get-involved.aspx. Order book club kits from the Nebraska Library Commission at http://nlc.nebraska.gov/ref/bookclub/index.asp or from the Regional Library Systems.

Nebraska NET Screenings and Discussion Locations Confirmed: Lincoln, Omaha, Falls City, Ogallala, Hastings, Grand Island, North Platte, Fremont, Norfolk, and Scottsbluff.

For more information contact Mary Jo Ryan, Nebraska Library Commission, maryjo.ryan@nebraska.gov.

 

 

 

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Friday Reads: The Women in the Castle

My favorite genre to read is historical fiction.  I really enjoy learning something about history at the same time that I’m enjoying fiction.  And occasionally, from within that genre, there comes along a book that makes the reader reconsider what they know about a certain period or event in history.   The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck, is an excellent example.  For all that we know and have heard about World War II and the Holocaust in Germany, there is much we haven’t heard about how the rest of the German population survived during and after the war.   The Women in the Castle tells us part of that story:

After Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns as a widow to the castle of her husband’s ancestors, now fallen into ruin after long years of war. Along the way, she follows through on a promise she made to her husband and others of the resistance:  to find and protect their wives, also widows like herself.

Marianne first rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of a resister, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together they make their way across war-torn Germany to Berlin, where they rescue Martin’s mother, Benita, from life as a prostitute to the Red Army. Then Marianne locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees in one of the many displacement camps around the country.

As Marianne tries to create a family from the survivors of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that their previous lives, plus events that continue to bombard them as the country recovers, have complicated their perceptions with dark secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually all three women must come to terms with the choices that they made before, during, and after the war – each with her own unique set of challenges.

If you enjoyed reading The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, or The Light Between Oceans, you will definitely enjoy The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck.

 

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Friday Reads: “Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill” by Candice Millard

Candice Millard, author of River of Doubt (2005) and Destiny of the Republic (2011), is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. Her latest book, Hero of the Empire, is about Winston Churchill and, like many previous biographies of the famous Prime Minister, it focuses on a specific period in his life—his participation in the Boer War (1899–1902) instead of on its entirety. Examples of other focused explorations include last year’s Masterpiece Theater premier, Churchill’s Secret. This drama is set during Churchill’s second term as Prime Minister, when the 78-year-old leader (played by Michael Gambon) struggled, with the help of his wife, to conceal a debilitating stroke and an incapacity to govern. The popular Netflix miniseries The Crown cast 6’4” actor John Lithgow for its version of 5’6” Churchill during the early reign of Queen Elizabeth, revealing the private relationship between a PM and  a young Sovereign. Yet another biography is a 2010 documentary entitled Walking with Destiny, in which historian John Lukacs explains that “Churchill may not have won the War in 1940, but without him, the War most certainly would have been lost.”

In Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Millard describes the bravado of a young man who both wants and needs to go to war in hopes of gaining medals and fame as capital for his future political career. Churchill agrees to be a war correspondent in South Africa’s Boer War, where the British were both overconfident and under prepared.  When the train Churchill is traveling in is ambushed and derailed by Boer troops, Churchill calmly rallied British troops under enemy fire to clear the track and let the engine get away with the wounded. Most of the remaining British, along with Churchill, were captured. This was the first time in his young life he was not in control of his own destiny. It is his spectacular escape, with the help of several kind strangers along the way that helps him to become a hero who rejoins the British troops both as an officer and a war correspondent.  In a 2003 PBS Documentary entitled Churchill, this entire story is recounted in one sentence.

With my interest in Churchill piqued by Millard’s book, and inspired to learn more, I ran across this intriguing quote from Pamela Plowden, the woman he was in love with before he married his beloved wife Clementine and with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. She described Winston this way:  “When you first meet Winston, you see all his faults. You spend the rest of your life discovering his virtues.”  This is where I find myself in the last pages of Millard’s text – having been introduced to a multitude of his shortcomings but also seeing glimmers of his many redemptive qualities. Certainly his charisma and masterful public speaking skills are shown throughout his life and his place in history is one to be both reckoned and respected.

What makes Millard one of my favorite authors is her ability to create a cinematic and fascinating description of events that ordinarily might not compel me and dialog that is on par with some of my favorite screen writers. One of her Amazon reviewers pleads for this text to be turned into a movie. As Hollywood frequently adapts books for cinematic creations, I would imagine Millard’s titles will most certainly be adapted and yet another actor will be cast to play this iconic man of history.

Millard, Candice. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill. New York: Doubleday, 2016

 

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Solar Eclipse Countdown: 71 Days and Counting…Part 1

Is your library ready for the celestial event of the century? In 10 weeks, on August 21, 2017, the shadow of the moon will sweep across the United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in a spectacle that hasn’t occurred in decades. In fact, the last total solar eclipse for the United States was nearly 40 years ago, and the next total eclipse that will be visible in the continental United States will be in 2024.

To help your library prepare for this historic event, the Nebraska Library Commission is doing a series of blog posts about resources you can access for your Eclipse programs:

Part 1:

Media Toolkits, where you will find a variety of resources to assist your library in developing educational and promotional materials.

In Images and Videos, you will find lots of pictures for viewing, downloading, and printing out for display. There are also a variety of short clip videos for viewing, downloading, and showing during a program or event.

 

 

 

 

2017 Solar Eclipse PosterIn Downloadables there are posters of various sizes that you can print out for displays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in Media Templates there are Word templates that your library can use to promote your eclipse event to your community: Press Release, Public Service Announcement, Community Letter, and Media Alert.

 

Just a few things to help get you started with planning library programs for Total Eclipse 2017!  Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Friday Reads: The Handmaid’s Tale

Many of the books I read are populated by strong female characters. Biography, science fiction, literature, mystery – all feature intelligent, feisty and powerful women. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is no exception.

Set at an unknown point in time, The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of a woman named Offred.  The story alternates between Offred’s current day-to-day existence and her memories of a past life. One with a daughter, a loving husband, and a fulfilling career. Now, Offred is valued more for her functioning ovaries than her intelligence.

Offred’s life shifted drastically because the United States no longer exists. In response to declining birth rates and civil unrest, a group of fundamental Christian militants overthrow the government. The Republic of Gilead, as this country is known, institutes a rigid social hierarchy and enacts laws inspired by the Old Testament.  Young and healthy women, like Offred, are classified as handmaids and assigned to the homes of childless high-ranking government officials and their wives. Their job is to bear these men’s children.

Although the Republic of Gilead has stripped Offred of her rights, she refuses to give up. She finds ways to assert her independence by swinging her hips while walking or through unsanctioned interactions with men.  Often, Offred risks her limited freedom by looking for people who may be able to help her escape from Gilead.  Offred reminds us that rebellion doesn’t have to be loud. It can be quiet and slow-burning and still succeed in the end.

The Handmaid’s Tale is currently airing as a series on Hulu.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York:  Anchor Books, 1986.

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NCompass Live: Library Innovation Studios – A Project Introduction and a Review of the Application Process

Join us for the next NCompass Live, ‘Library Innovation Studios – A Project Introduction and a Review of the Application Process’, on Wednesday, June 7, 10:00am – 11:00am CT.

Project staff and partners for Library Innovation Studios: Transforming Rural Communities project will provide an introduction to the upcoming project and discuss the impending application/selection process. Eligible Nebraska public libraries are those with a legal service area of less than 25,000 and are accredited. The deadline for the first application cycle—that will identify between twelve and twenty participating libraries—is scheduled for July 10, 2017. The balance of the participating libraries are expected to be selected in an application process that will take place sometime in 2018.

The Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) along with partners: University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Nebraska Innovation Studio, Nebraska Extension, and the Regional Library Systems, are excited about the project they were recently awarded a National Leadership Grant of $530,732 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The project will begin July 1, 2017 and conclude June 30, 2020.

The project uses Library Innovation Studios (makerspaces) hosted by libraries to support community engagement and participatory learning experiences by providing access to technological and innovative learning tools not readily accessible locally. This strengthening of the maker culture is expected to stimulate creativity, innovation and the exchange of ideas to facilitate entrepreneurship, skills development, and local economic development.

Presenters: JoAnn McManus, Rod Wagner, Mary Jo Ryan, Holly Woldt, and Connie Hancock.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • June 21 – Feelings are Messy: Building Emotional Intelligence in Libraryland
  • June 28 – The New NLA Intellectual Freedom Manual Comes to the Rescue
  • July 5 – PubMed, PubMed Central, MEDLINE, MedlinePlus…
  • July 12 – From Collections to Commons: How we turned stacks to student spaces at UNL
  • July 19 – Finding Your Focus: Tips for Early Career Success

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for May 2017.  Included are annual reports from various agencies, the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Clerk of the Legislature, and the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, to name a few.

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Friday Reads: The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

After watching I Am Not Your Negro, the Oscar-nominated documentary based on an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript, I finally tracked down and read Baldwin’s much-referenced 1963 book, The Fire Next Time. This book contains two essays: “My Dungeon Shook—Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation,” and “Down At The Cross—Letter from a Region of My Mind.”

In the first essay, Baldwin endeavors to impart to his 15-year-old nephew the wisdom and advice he’ll need to survive growing up as a black man in America. Despite being “born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being,” Baldwin urges his nephew to trust his own experience, to resist internalizing messages of inferiority, and to continue to love. And in a more sophisticated exhortation than our contemporary “Make America Great Again” slogan, Baldwin writes: “Great men have done great things here and will again and we can make America what America must become.” This essay actually served as inspiration for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 book, Between the World and Me, which took the form of a letter to his own teenage son. The tragedy, of course, is that such letters are still necessary.

The second essay, “Down At The Cross—Letter from a Region of My Mind,” is quite a bit longer than the first. In it Baldwin recounts his experiences with the Christian church during his youth and the Nation of Islam as an adult, seeing in neither a solution to the racial problems that infect America. Throughout, he offers an unsparing analysis of the problematic role race has played in the development of American civilization, “which compromises, when it does not corrupt, all the American efforts to build a better world…”

This essay is a demoralizing read because of how applicable Baldwin’s criticisms remain. “People are not, for example,” Baldwin writes, “terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior.” And also: “It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.”

Baldwin’s writing is not without hope, but his is a bleak optimism–more philosophical choice than true faith. This perspective is powerfully captured in a 1963 television interview (“The Negro and The American Promise,” WGBH), in his response to a question about whether he is a pessimist or optimist: “I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter, so I’m forced to be an optimist. I’m forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive.” As he did in his letter to his nephew, in this essay he holds out love as the only way forward. But he makes clear that when he uses the word “love” he is referring to “a state of being, or a state of grace—not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. Ashland, Oregon: Blackstone Audio, 2008.

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NCompass Live: Two Mystics, One Book: Neihardt State Historic Site in 2017

Join us for the next NCompass Live, ‘Two Mystics, One Book: Neihardt State Historic Site in 2017’, on Wednesday, May 31, 10:00am – 11:00am CT.

From the renaming of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak to the installation of larger-than-life size sculptures on the grounds of the Neihardt State Historic Site, the celebration of the life and legacy of Nebraska’s Poet Laureate in Perpetuity also includes reading the incredible story that became Neihardt’s internationally-acclaimed book, Black Elk Speaks as One Book One Nebraska 2017. While partnering with a number of organizations (Nebraska Library Commission, Nebraska Center for the Book, Nebraska State Historical Society, Humanities Nebraska, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission), the Neihardt Foundation and State Historic Site hosts special programs, events, and visitors – including a visit by legendary television personality Dick Cavett – to promote Nebraska’s literary heritage during the statehood sesquicentennial year.

Presenter: Amy Kucera, Executive Director, John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft, NE

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • June 21 – Feelings are Messy: Building Emotional Intelligence in Libraryland
  • June 28 – The New NLA Intellectual Freedom Manual Comes to the Rescue

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: “The Dinner” by Herman Koch

The Dinner, published in 2009, involves the relationships among two brothers, their wives, and teenage children. The story centers on a dinner at an upscale Amsterdam restaurant. This dark and disturbing book unfolds steadily with unpredictable twists, pivots, and surprises. Paul Lohman, the narrator and one of the two brothers, offers caustic observations throughout the dinner. Here’s a sample:

“So when the bartender at the café put our beers down in front of us, Claire and I smiled at each other in the knowledge that we would soon be spending an entire evening in the company of the Lohmans – in the knowledge that this was the finest moment of that evening, that from here on it would all be downhill.”

The meal and conversation are frequented with disruptions and flashbacks. It is eventually realized that the purpose of the dinner is to discuss the two couples’ teenage boys and their involvement in a brutal and criminal act. The parents’ dilemma is the moral choices that must be made. The tragic incident has special consequences for one of the brothers, a popular and powerful politician with ambitions for higher political office.

Herman Koch, the author, is a Dutch writer and actor. His writing includes short stories, novels, and columns. His most recent book is Dear Mr. M: A Novel.

A movie based on the book was released in May 2017 with starring roles by Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, and Laura Linney.

Koch, Herman (2017). The Dinner. New York: Hogarth.

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This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon to Represent Nebraska at National Book Festival

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                     
May 24, 2017

FOR MORE INFORMATION:                                                              
Mary Jo Ryan
402-471-3434
800-307-2665

This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon to Represent Nebraska at National Book Festival

The Nebraska Center for the Book selected This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain (University of Nebraska Press, 2015) to represent Nebraska at the 2017 National Book Festival. The book is the state’s selection for the National Book Festival’s “Discover Great Places through Reading” brochure and map. Each state selects one book about the state, or by an author from the state, that is a good read for children or young adults. The brochure and map will be distributed at the Festival on September 2 and featured in the “Great Reads about Great Places” links on the websites of both the National and Nebraska Centers for the Book.This Strange Wilderness - Book Cover

This book brings together the amazing story of the career of John James Audubon (1785–1851), founder of modern ornithology and one of the world’s greatest bird painters, and the beautiful images that are his legacy. It details his art and writing, transporting the reader back to the frontiers of early nineteenth-century America. Nebraska’s “Great Reads about Great Places” book is chosen from the previous year’s Nebraska Book Award winners and this book was awarded the 2016 Nebraska Book Award in the Children/Young Adult category. Entries for the 2017 Nebraska Book Awards will be accepted until June 30—see http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/awards/nebookawards.html.

The National Book Festival will feature presentations by award-winning authors, poets, and illustrators at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. Festival attendees can meet their favorite authors, get books signed, have photos taken with mascots and storybook characters, and participate in a variety of learning activities. States will staff exhibit booths to promote reading, library programs, and literary events. Find out more about the 2017 National Book Festival (including a list of featured authors) at http://www.loc.gov/bookfest.

The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission. As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, bringing together people and information.
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The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission Website, http://nlc.nebraska.gov/publications/newsreleases.

 

 

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Friday Reads: “The Excellent Lombards” by Jane Hamilton

Every time I think about this book, I have to smile. That must be why I decided to review it for this edition of Friday Reads. It certainly wasn’t because everyone I know that read it loved it. Quite the contrary, most of my book group was indifferent or somewhat negative. But it’s a book that really got a lot of conversation going. And since I’m not the writer of the book, I prefer that to overwhelming acclaim.

The story is told in the voice of Mary Frances Lombard, who at the beginning of the book is twelve years old and growing up on a family apple orchard. As the narrator, her voice rings loud and true for a precocious teen growing up in an increasingly endangered, changing rural area. Since she speaks in the voice of a teenage girl—not an adult looking back on her teenage self—she isn’t always the most pleasant character. But what teenager is? Mary Frances is full of ideas and plans. And for a young person, she is inordinately concerned about her future. Will she be able to stay on the farm? Will her brother be her business partner? Will a host of relatives and interlopers take over and push them out? And in the short term, will she win the Geography Bee and travel to Washington, DC to represent the state and bring glory to her family and her beloved teacher?

Since Mary Frances’ mom is the town librarian, librarian readers of this book will find that some of it is quite familiar. There’s plenty of realistic library customers, circulation desk kibitzing, and even a library book cart drill team drama in the story.

The land is a real character in this book—beautifully drawn and complicated, described as stunning and romantic yet brutally conflicted. In this book, the characters take center stage. I loved watching them grow and change over time. If you want a hard-driving storyline and plot, this might not be the book for you. If you can sit in a foreign film and just watch the visual beauty unfold on the screen, forgetting to read the subtitles, then you might like this book. One thing is certain, the writing is so good that you might just be stopped in the middle of the page to ponder what you just read (e.g., p. 46: “Time, we could see, was beginning to run as if it were leading somewhere, as it had not exactly done when we were very small, time occurring back then only in bursts.”). I highly recommend this book, especially if you want lots of discussion at your book club.

The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton, Grand Central Publishing, 2016

Review by Mary Jo Ryan

#FridayReads

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NCompass Live: Binge Boxes, Boovie Bags, Book box binge, Makerspace Kits and more

Join us for the next NCompass Live, ‘Binge Boxes, Boovie Bags, Book box binge, Makerspace Kits and more’, on Wednesday, May 17, 10:00am – 11:00am CT.

When space is at a premium but you want to be on the cutting edge… boxes, bags and totes can be used to create a whole new world of unique collections that serve our populations. Are we there yet kits, Binge Boxes, Boovie Bags, and much more have connected our programs to our collections and turned on new library patrons to what we offer!

Presenter: Natalie Bazan, Former Director, Hopkins District and Dorr Township Libraries, Hopkins, MI

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • May 24 – Ad Filters -The Case For and Against Installation on Public Computers
  • May 31 – Two Mystics, One Book: Neihardt State Historic Site in 2017

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: Call if You Need Me

My original intention was to write about a big wave surfing book I recently picked up from my local library. This likely would have been more exciting than Raymond Carver. However, as I trekked successfully through 3/4’s of the big wave surf book (for me, this is an accomplishment), it soured. Maybe another day or another surfer. I’ve been looking for something on Kelly Slater, not only the most dominant surfer to date, but arguably the most dominant athlete ever. For those of you who like infographics, ahem, I mean data visualizations, check this one out – it’s among the best.

I picked up Call if You Need Me, a collection of short stories, essays, and book reviews by Raymond Carver, published posthumously, and finished the bulk of it on a rain suffused weekend, reading mostly while simultaneously standing and hopped up because of a neck injury. I skipped the book reviews within Call if you Need Me. Reading Carver is a lot like watching an episode of Mad Men. On the surface things seem quite normal and ordinary, but in reality that is far from the truth. Having read a few of Carver’s other works in the past, this is familiar territory, and the short stories in Call if You Need Me were interesting and easy to read. If anything, I’d say they were a little less miserable (and slightly less humorous) than Carver’s other works. The short stories are flooded with the imperfect, often despair ridden world we live in; a world many of us have experienced firsthand one way or another. There is a prevalence of alcoholism, divorce, and depression, but also humor, hope, and a sense of contentedness that we often lack. I enjoyed reading about the timeline of Carver’s life — writing short stories late at night out of necessity because he had two kids at a young age, being poor, his literary influences, childhood, and the eventual successful sales of his work. If you haven’t read any Carver, I recommend you give him a try. The fact that these are short stories (as most of Carver’s other works are) means that there is little investment on your part.

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2018 One Book One Nebraska Book Nominations Sought

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 5, 2017

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Mary Jo Ryan
402-471-3434
800-307-2665

2018 One Book One Nebraska Book Nominations Sought

What book would you suggest that all Nebraskans read next year? Nebraska readers are invited to make recommendations for the 2018 One Book One Nebraska book selection. The Nebraska Center for the Book will consider books written by a Nebraska author (living or dead/with current or former residence in the state) or books that have a Nebraska theme or setting. Books should have a broad appeal to readers across Nebraska and lend well to group book discussion. Books may be fiction, non-fiction, biography, memoir, or poetry. They must be in print and readily available.

The deadline for nominations is June 15, 2017. Book recommendations can be sent via e-mail at nlc.ask@nebraska.gov or via the U.S. Postal Service to The Nebraska Center for the Book One Book One Nebraska, c/o Nebraska Library Commission Reference Services, 1200 N Street, Suite 120, Lincoln, NE, 68508-2023. Nominations can also be submitted online at http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/obon-nomination.asp.

The Nebraska Center for the Book will announce the 2018 One Book One Nebraska choice at the Fall Celebration of Nebraska Books. The Celebration will include a 2017 One Book One Nebraska program, Jane Pope Geske Award and Mildred Bennett Award presentations, and the Nebraska Book Awards Ceremony, with author readings and signings. The Celebration will be preceded by the Nebraska Center for the Book Annual Meeting.

The One Book One Nebraska reading program is enjoying its thirteenth year. Nebraskans across the state are reading and discussing Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt (1881-1973), the story of the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863–1950) and his people. The Nebraska Center for the Book sponsors One Book One Nebraska to demonstrate how books and reading connect people across time and place. The 2017 One Book One Nebraska program is co-sponsored by Nebraska Center for the Book, Humanities Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, The John G. Neihardt Foundation, and Nebraska Library Commission. For information about One Book One Nebraska, including current and previous book selections, see http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/programs/onebook.html or join us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OneBookOneNebraska.

The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission. As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, bringing together people and information.

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The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission Website, http://nlc.nebraska.gov/publications/newsreleases.

 

 

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Friday Reads: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

I recently re-read The Grapes of Wrath, and it felt so appropriate for today’s current events. My more experienced eyes were able to read the novel on more levels, as well. You know the story: Dust Bowl farm family sets off to California for the American Dream, but something has happened to the American Dream. There’s a wide cast of characters with realistic strengths and honest flaws, and we get the perspective of all of them over the course of the book—and they’re so frankly written, their desires so plainly stated, that we can easily identify with them—we’ve all been some part of some of these characters, at some points in our lives.

This time around, I was much more able to appreciate the unusual structure of the novel—the narrative chapters alternating with the more lyrical, prose-poem chapters. (Try reading any of the lyrical chapters aloud—you’ll be stunned by Steinbeck’s mastery of language when you feel yourself convey the words.) Steinbeck’s use of the form reinforces the timelessness of the tale—the narrative goes on in a familiar linear fashion, but it exists in a shifting, multi-dimensional framework outside of time, which is just as authentic as the narrative it contains, or the narrative that contains it.

There is no space between the author and what the author wants to convey to the reader—Steinbeck is not holding back, or affecting disaffection, in an effort to entice you. He does not play it cool for one second in this book. You will never doubt where his head is at. This earnestness could come off as preachy or strident in less capable hands, but I never had that experience with this book.

And Steinbeck’s earnestness, about the Joad family and what they are going through, about their moderate dreams, and about why they can’t achieve them, struck me as very relevant to today. The novel is set at the crossroads of economic, political and technologic times that resonate soundly today. Stuff you thought we’d have figured out almost a hundred years later, you know. The idea that farming and food production had become so successful, so advanced, and that people still didn’t have enough to eat—it was shocking then, and it’s shocking today. Today it’s not mechanized farming that we are trying to absorb and normalize, but other scientific advances—like GMOs, and the question of who owns the machines farmers use in their fields, and who gets to decide what to plant, to name just a few.

The novel also addresses the dynamic nature of populism, and how it can be used for the power of the people, and how it can be used to divide people and keep them down. The parallels between political leadership and religious leadership are easy to see in the character of the doubting preacher. And we read how religion can be used to bring comfort and encourage love and acceptance—and also how it can be used as a tool to control others, or even to our own disadvantage.

You can see why the book won a Pulitzer Prize. (The Pulitzer is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, by the way.) Also by the way: we have this book in our book club kits, so if you’re in Nebraska, your library can check this book out for your book club. You’ll have some good discussions, I promise. Definitely last, but definitely not least in your discussions—what is up with that ending? There are a lot of ways to interpret it. It would be interesting to hear what different people in the group think about it.

I’ll sign off with an audio clip from YouTube of Woody Guthrie singing “Tom Joad,” because why not.

(There are a few other musicians with songs about Tom Joad—the character seems to have really struck a chord with pop culture. It’s a fun search to try and find all the songs.)

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin, 2002. Print.
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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for April 2017.  Included are annual reports from various agencies, the Nebraska Capitol Commission, the Nebraska Investment Council, the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and the Nebraska Information Technology Commission, to name a few.

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Librarians and Teachers to Host Letter Writing Clinics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                              
May 2, 2017

FOR MORE INFORMATION:  
Mary Jo Ryan
402-471-3434
800-307-2665

Librarians and Teachers to Host Letter Writing Clinics   

What could motivate Nebraska young people to write letters? A great story and the opportunity to tell an author about how a book made a difference in their own life can provide just the right encouragement. Teachers and librarians across Nebraska were recently awarded grants to host pilot Letter Writing Clinics for students in their area. The clinics will introduce students to the Letters About Literature contest and letter writing techniques. Students will get ideas for selecting books and learn how to craft letters that can be submitted to the Letters About Literature contest, a national reading and writing promotion program that engages nearly 50,000 adolescent and young readers nationwide in grades four through twelve. The competition encourages young people to read, be inspired, and write back to the author (living or dead) who had an impact on their lives.

The Letter Writing Clinic grants were sponsored by Humanities Nebraska, Nebraska Center for the Book, Nebraska Cultural Endowment, and Nebraska Library Commission. The winning applicants are:

  • Lisa Guenther, Norfolk Catholic Elementary School Director of Reading, Norfolk
  • Jennifer Van Winkle, Lux Middle School Teacher, Lincoln
  • Lori Springer, Valparaiso Public Library Director, Valparaiso
  • Noelle Thompson, Lied Scottsbluff Public Library Director, Scottsbluff Library Foundation, Scottsbluff
  • Denise Ketchens, Oshkosh Public Library Director, Oshkosh

This annual writing competition is sponsored nationally by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, with funding from Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The Center for the Book was established in 1977 as a public-private partnership to use the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading. The Nebraska competition is coordinated and sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, Nebraska Library Commission, Houchen Bindery Ltd., and Chapters Bookstore in Seward.

For more information about Letters About Literature, see http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/programs/LAL.html. To learn more about Letter Writing Clinics, see http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/LALwritingclinics.

The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book—supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission. As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services—bringing together people and information. Humanities Nebraska inspires and enriches personal and public life by offering opportunities to thoughtfully engage with history and culture. Humanities Nebraska was established as a state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1973.

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The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission Website, http://nlc.nebraska.gov/publications/newsreleases.

2017_LAL_header_clinic

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