What’s Ashley Reading?: Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

First line: Prince Christian Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst was hardly distinguishable in the swarm of obscure, penurious noblemen who cluttered the landscape and society of politically fragmented eighteenth-century Germany.

Summary: Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, reigned for over thirty years. She came to Russia as a fourteen-year-old German princess to marry the heir to the Russian throne. After years of marriage and her husband’s ascension to the throne she staged a coup and took over the country. During her time she implemented many new ideas of the Enlightenment on a country that had been living decades behind the rest of Europe.

My Thoughts: I became fascinated with Catherine the Great while watching the Hulu Original series, The Great. Even though it is not historically accurate it was a lot of fun! As I watched I looked up items about Catherine and her story is one that is made for television. She had power, lovers, and conflict. I knew that I needed to learn more about this woman who ruled such a vast empire. Luckily I was gifted the book for Christmas and I immediately started reading it.

I loved how the author wrote. It read like fiction. It was broken into short chapters dealing with different parts of her life and the people around her. I learned so much about the empress, the country and politics of the time. The book is 575 pages which is a time commitment but I broke it up by reading other books at the same time.

As I read I compared it to the TV show. Very little was the same but the show did include little details that gave it some peak into the history. The descriptions of her husband and the other members of Russian court are astounding. These people lived lives that are beyond what normal people can comprehend. It took me nearly a month to finish Catherine’s biography but I found it worth every minute. She did so much for her adoptive country. She bettered it and truly earned title of “Catherine the Great.”

FYI: The TV show is very adult. There are scenes of sex, violence, blood and vulgar language. But it has beautiful sets and costumes along with a great cast.

Courtney’s Book Chat: The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

First Line: My mother is a bird.

Summary: Coping with her mother’s suicide, Leigh is shocked when she learns her mother has transformed into a red bird. She and her dad set off to visit her grandparents for the first time in Taiwan and find the bird. There, Leigh unravels her family history and tries to reconcile having kissed her long-time best friend Axel the day her mother died.

My Thoughts: I love this book. Emily X. R. Pan crafts lyrical prose while also retaining a decidedly distinct teen voice for her protagonist, Leigh. This book gives a nuanced portrayal over grief, family dynamics, and mental health, all while encompassing it within Taiwanese cultural norms. It resonates deeply with rich emotion and themes, which are enhanced by the deftly incorporated fantasy elements. Leigh’s character and feelings are also elegantly rendered through the use of color and art pigment. Though the amount of flashbacks surprised me and almost felt like they could have been better balanced out at times rather than clustered together, these flashbacks added depth to each character and relationship. It is the relationships that pulse at the heart of the book, both deeply-felt yet authentic with its natural dialogue. This works both for the brewing romance between Leigh and long-time best friend Axel and the relationships within Leigh’s family.

Captivating with many layers, The Astonishing Color of After is a beautiful book about family and grief through the realistic lense of a sixteen-year-old girl. It resonates with poignance and hope.

Looking Ahead to Valentine’s Day!

After the rush of the winter holidays, mid-January starts to feel a little dreary. My instinct is to find something to look forward too. Thankfully a holiday filled with love is right around the corner!

My family doesn’t do anything fancy to celebrate this particular holiday. It typically falls in the middle of some serious school time chaos but I love to do a little baking, and if some extra energy reserves are available a little something to give away to friends. This year my daughter is getting into the game and helping motivate my efforts!

Since we are still social distancing, she decided to put together little gift buckets to drop off on her best pals porches. Because I’m determined to incorporate more math into her world, I saw this as the perfect opportunity. She has been given a budget per bucket as well as a total amount to spend. Now off to the internet for research!

We have plenty of fun cooked up at the Library as well. Craft kits for all kid age groups, a Family Fun Challenge and more! Need some details? Click here

The library has loads of holiday books perfect to help spark some ideas on how to celebrate! My favorites though are the ones that help us learn how to be more kind and loving to the people around us, friends and stranger alike. Each title below will link to the catalog, ready for you to place it on hold for checkout at the drive-thru! Happy Valentines Day!

By: Emily Pearson
By: Pat Miller
By: Carol McCloud
By: Mij Kelly and Gerry Turley
By: Nancy Rose
By: Ruth Owen
By: Megan Borgert
By: Mike Berenstein

Meet Grace, our newest Youth Services Assistant!

This blog post was written by Grace Cavin, our newest Youth Services Assistant.

Hello new friends! 

Grace and her dog!

My name is Grace, and I just started as a Youth Services Assistant here at the library! I thought I’d share a few of my favorite books with you so you can get to know me.

I graduated this past May with a degree in English, and during my studies, I read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It radicalized me in college. You may know Dostoyevsky as the author of Crime and Punishment, but The Brothers Karamazov is a 700+ page read written very densely and full of weepy moments of despair, redemption, and maybe murder. It completely changed me as a person.

When it comes to my interests, I enjoy reading, writing, and learning all I can about quantum physics. It all began when I was probably ten or so and first read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I don’t want to spoil it by over summarizing the plot for you, but space and time travel are definitely involved. Also, if you’ve seen either film adaptation without reading the book, I would say that the heart of the book is lost in both of the adaptations so please read it if you haven’t (or if you have, maybe it’s time to read it again)! 

Growing up, I moved every few years (I think I’ve moved about a dozen times so far) and often the first friends I made were the stray neighborhood cats and the local librarians. Books on animals, especially mice, always ended up in the ginormous stack I’d take home every week from my local library. 

A few I remember enjoying that you could check out are: 

As for the books I’m currently reading, they’re a mixture of classics, fantasy, and mystery, which is just how I like it: 

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke—a book that I currently have no clue what is happening in, but I am loving the journey and the way the story is told.   
Grace on a trip to Colorado!

Thanks for reading my first blog post! Come by the Youth Services Desk sometime, and let’s chat! I’m happy to help you find your next great book!  

Fond Farewell To Our Youth Services Coordinator

After 23 years of service, our Youth Services Coordinator, Carri Fry, is retiring. Carri has been a part of the Derby Public Library’s many metamorphoses from the facility’s humble iterations to its now grand and growing infrastructure.

When Carri first joined the library’s team, only two employees worked in Youth Services, and due to circumstance, Carri found herself as the head of the department within a few years of employment. Now Carri manages a team of four others on staff and has supervised that team through facilitation of programs for all ages. Carri has watched our library’s Summer Reading Program evolve from just a few hundred reading finishers to the massive institution that is our summer reading program today with thousands of sign-ups and finishers and a prize package rivaling some of the country’s top libraries.

I’ve been a part of her team for nearly ten years and can still recall the joy and compassion she exuberated in my job interview. She has been a sturdy foundation for me and the Youth Services team. She’s been a leader and mentor, a voice of encouragement, and of course, “the library lady” to so many of our community’s families and their children. Her contributions to the Derby Public Library have helped to evolve our services and resources into what they are today.

Before joining the Derby Public Library’s team, Carri believed she would be a teacher. In college, she participated in preschool lab sessions and instantly knew that early education was the field for her. She would go on to become the director of a child care facility and commit most of her twenties and thirties to both aiding in the upbringing of her local community’s children, and in the raising of her own two boys.

When she was hired as the Youth Services Assistant in 1997, the Derby Public Library was a much smaller organization with barely enough room for preschool storytimes, but Carri would call upon her directorial experience once more when she became the Youth Services Coordinator.

More changes were to come for the library. She says “It has grown substantially. I was fortunate to take part in the campaign, design, and move to our new facility in 2009. And with this new building, we are able to expand the number and scope of the programs we offer the community. By incorporating technology, we have truly become a community gathering space.”

First day at the new library!

Soon Carri was adding more part-time positions into her team which allotted for expanded programming. Derby as a city was also expanding, and summer reading program seasons required additional hires and teen volunteers. Carri also introduced school-aged programming for K-5th graders into the weekly schedule and built long-lasting partnerships with some of our well-known summer performers like Jim Cosgrove and Jay and Leslie’s Laughing Matters.

When Carri reflects upon some of her greatest achievements, many examples come to mind.

“I take great pride in the the Arlee Killion Early Literacy Area and StoryWalk Derby. The Early Literacy Area was made possible by a generous gift from Arlee’s children. I had the privilege to design and implement this addition to the library in 2016. It has proven to be a very popular destination for young families and grandparents. I also had the opportunity in collaboration with the Derby Health Collaborative, City of Derby, and other community sponsors to bring StoryWalk Derby to High Park in 2017. I took the lead on this project as well as designing and installing picture books displayed in signage around the pond and in Derby’s High Park.”

Carri and I also share an achievement that we worked on together in 2016. Carri and I applied for the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) Curiosity Creates Grant with funding provided to the ALSC by the Walt Disney Company. We were one of 79 recipients and the only recipient in Kansas to receive the grant! Using this funding, we adapted our popular Teen Moviecraft summer program into a 12-week spring program for tweens. Carri and I also published an academic paper entitled Chasing Disney: Tween Filmmakers Get Their Shot at Creativity in the ALSC’s professional journal. This was such a highlight for both of us, and we were surprised to have won the grant and had the chance to provide our program on a much bigger scale. You can even watch us in their documentary here!

When Carri recalls some of her fondest memories, it really all goes back to the children.

“Working with children from a newborn infant’s first library experience to seeing preschool children have so much in storytime to watching them fall in love with books and reading to the teenagers who feel like they belong here…watching them grow and have families of their own and be a part of their children’s lives is the best.”

Of course, as with any position, Carri has been met with challenges over the years. From department changes and communicating with other partners to navigating and adapting our services during a global pandemic, Carri has learned so much about doing what is best for the community. When asked what are the more difficult aspects of the supervisory role, Carri says that “hiring” is one of the harder elements. “You only have a small glimpse into who this person is, and really, you have to go with your gut instinct to know if they will be the right fit.”

I’ve definitely benefited from how she’s modeled leadership over the years, and she suggests that a supervisor “should always consider the work that the team is doing and approach the team with as much understanding and empathy as possible.”

Carri and fellow employee, Linda

When looking to the future, Carri recommends to any new librarians to “find a specialization in the field, especially within Youth Services. Focus on a particular age group or demographic, and incorporate learning into your everyday life. Be a life-long learner.”

Carri will continue that learning even into her retirement. She plans to join the Friends of the Library and volunteer her support. She hopes to one day join the Library Board and also to act as a consultant for other libraries interested in developing early literacy elements or youth resources into their facilities. She also is looking forward to some quality time with her family.

Carri with her husband, Monte

“I’ll be spending time with my husband Monte and our sons Vaughn and Tyler and our extended family. Monte and I have been very fortunate to have been able to travel internationally a great deal in the past years and plan on more adventures once travel restrictions are lifted. In addition, we are planning on purchasing an RV to travel around the U.S.”

On my very first day at the library, Carri immediately encouraged me to jump in and give a program a try. She truly believes in the abilities of others, in their adaptability to work, and in their creativity to mold and match the needs of our patrons. Of all her talents as a leader and supervisor, one of her greatest is in her constant look towards a sustainable team. This has been most apparent now as we move into a new generation of Youth programming in an ever-evolving community and world.

Carri may be moving onto the next adventure of her life, but it’s a guarantee that she has made a lasting imprint on our library staff and on every family that she has supported. We here at the library, all of our patrons, and even our beloved books thank her for these years of service and will always remember her dedication and passion to the power of stories.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Clanlands

Clanlands by Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish

First line: Well, in The Beginning…there was a man in a kilt.

Summary: Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, stars of the widely popular TV show Outlander set out on a trip around the Highlands of Scotland exploring the history, culture and landscape of this beautiful countryside. In their camper van they traverse the roads, lochs and pubs while sampling whiskey and traditional foods of the Highlanders.

My Thoughts: I highly recommend checking out the audiobook on CloudLibrary because I feel that this is what made the book much more interesting. Sam and Graham narrate the book. They recount times on set and with fellow cast members. They goof around and make fun of each other. I could tell that they really enjoy each other’s company and are good friends.

I learned a lot about the history of Scotland while reading this. As I listened I looked up the locations and people mentioned. It is astounding that there are homes older than our country. I could tell how proud they are to be Scottish.

I have always wanted to visit Scotland but I want to go even more after reading/watching Outlander. The land is beautiful and wild. The culture is rich and enduring. Much of my genealogy comes from Scotland. I want to experience the world my ancestors knew.

FYI: Find the audio book on CloudLibrary.

Monica’s Musings: Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

“She had the feeling that the door was looking at her, which she knew was silly, and knew on a deeper level was somehow true.”

― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

            I, like most people, love the claymation movie, Coraline. When I first watched it back in 2009, I was young enough for it to sort of scare me! Now it is one of my favorites to watch during Halloween season. I chose to listen to the audiobook this year because I have always heard that books are better than movies, and I wanted to see if that was true for this one.

            Coraline is a young girl who has just moved into a new apartment with her mom and dad. Their new place is big, and they have a lot of odd neighbors. Coraline’s parents are workaholics who refuse to look up from their computers to give her any attention. So, she spends her time exploring, and one day she finds a tiny door in her apartment that leads to another world! It is an alternate universe of such, and it seems a little too perfect. In this world, her mother and father have all the time in the world to spend with her, which is what keeps her coming back. However, her excitement begins to disappear when she finds out the real motive of her “other” parents.

            I knew I would love this book because of how amazing the movie is. Honestly, I did not think that either one was superior to the other. Each allowed me to imagine a strange world that exists inside the mind of the author, Neil Gaiman. Not to mention, Gaiman reads the audiobook version, so it is told exactly how he imagined it to be read. I will listen to this story again, and I will watch the movie again! Overall, it is a great story in all formats.

A Universe of Fun in the Children’s Department

Hello, Friends!

Its Chelsea again– Lala the Library Lady. Today I’m here to tell you about some new fun going on at the library.

Last semester I started a weekly blog post titled “Mom and Me Book Reviews”. It’s been fun sharing my nightly book choices with both my children AND each of you! For those of you who haven’t read one of these, the process goes a little something like this: My I read a book to my kids. A lot of nights this means just my oldest, because my 18 month old isn’t ready to cooperate for bedtime books yet. She tells me what she thinks of the book, and I tell you. I also tell you my “mommy” opinion of the book, because that matters too! I can like a book and not think it appropriate. I can also think something is a good book, but not enjoyable. All of that is explored in our book reviews.

Well, this month we are taking “Mommy and Me Book Reviews” a step further. Starting this semester (January 18th) there will be a scavenger hunt and wiggle walk matching the book review theme!

Don’t know what a wiggle walk is? Let me tell you! It’s exactly what it sounds like– a walk meant to make you wiggle and move! Better yet, this made-of-chalk wiggle-walk is OUTDOORS so you and your family can do it any time during the week– day, night, library open or library closed. Each week new themed directions will be drawn on the sidewalk on the west side of the building by the parking lot. A “swirl” might suggest that you twirl, and an “line” might be a balance beam. The next week, maybe you’ll jump on all the stars or dash down all of the lines. Whatever it is, its sure to keep you moving, and sure to be fun!

The scavenger hunt will also be indoor/outdoor as much as possible. Some items may only be seen inside, but others will be visible from outdoors, so keep your eyes open for items matching that weeks theme!

Speaking of themes, stay tuned because each theme will be announced here weekly!

This week’s theme, is THE UNIVERSE. Keep your eyes out for stars, planets, sunshine and moons!

See you Monday for our this week’s book review!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Wrong Family

The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher

First line: Juno was hungry.

Summary: Juno, a retired therapist is living with the seemingly perfect Crouch family. She wants to spend the rest of her days here but then one day she overhears Winnie and Nigel discussing a matter that is hard for her to ignore. She tries to remind herself that she should not get involved but the therapist in her wants to help fix the situation. As she digs deeper into the family secret she worries that she will have to reveal it. But Juno has her own secrets as well.

My Thoughts: Tarryn Fisher’s book, The Wives, was one of my favorite reads from last year. I loved the big reveal that completely changed how the beginning of the book was read. It was inventive. I think Fisher does it again in The Wrong Family. I love that the story is once again set in the Pacific Northwest, in a beautiful house in Seattle.

I liked Juno. Her history and life were sad but most likely common for many people in the world. Winnie was whiny. She had a lot going for her but she seemed entitled. This shows the differences in society and people’s views on life.

The ending of this book was wild. But first the beginning was a little predictable but with several plot twists that really derailed what I thought would happen. I love how the author created this dual story line which leaves the reader oblivious to what is revealed. I raced through the ending as everything came to a head. I was really worried for both our narrators but the last chapter was a perfect ending. I had to go back and reread a few pages to make sure I picked up the final twist. It was worth every minute!

FYI: Very violent at the end. Drug and alcohol use.

Terese’s Thoughts: Women Rowing North

Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age by Mary Pipher

First line: “There are many lifetimes in a lifetime.”

Summary

As the title suggests, Women Rowing North considers the issues women face as they cross into old age. Pipher approaches the subject as the clinical psychologist and cultural anthropologist she is, but also as an aging woman herself who knows intimately the waters she discusses. She illuminates the joys and struggles of being an older woman through the stories of other women’s lives. The women she has interviewed are from various walks of life and offer their experiences of ageism, sexism, and loss, but also of increased confidence, gratitude, and a changing perspective.

Pipher goes beyond simply reviewing the issues women face as they age; she also gives guidance on how to age, highlighting the importance of community, family, and of appreciating the good things in life despite the ever-present bad. One such chapter titled Building a Good Day begins with a quote from Iris Mudoch: “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.”

My thoughts

As a woman approaching middle-age faster than I’m comfortable with, I can say I’m terrified of getting old but actively trying not to be. You don’t have to be 80 or even 50 before you start to see invisibility slowly taking effect. Yet like the women in the book, with each passing year I gain confidence and lose concern with what others think of me. Getting older is also freeing. Reading this book helped me grab onto the real positives of aging and gave me an idea of how to cultivate a healthy approach to the process. It is fascinating to read the first-hand accounts of other women’s experiences with growing older and to see their strategies for coping with a shifting landscape.