The Lineup: Hannah

Hannah’s Lineup

YouTube: Good Mythical Morning

Is there anything better than watching two grown men who have been best friends literally their entire lives be creative, silly, and ridiculous together? Nope. Good Mythical Morning is one of the longest running YouTube channels and for good reason. Rhett & Link have created a brand that I love. Their show is feel-good, laughter-inducing, usually-wholesome good stuff.

Available here: https://www.youtube.com/goodmythicalmorning

Podcast: Ronstadt

I usually listen to podcasts about running or Rhett & Link’s podcast Ear Biscuits, so this was a new adventure for me. Ronstadt stars Rhett and Link. It is scripted and uses immersive audio. The story line is great for this time of year…action-packed, a little scary, with a touch of mystery. It reminded me of old books on tape that I used to listen to as a child. The immersive audio can be a bit intense. I was listening to it while doing yard work outside and got spooked and truly believed someone was right behind me!

Game: Pokemon Go

Yep…people still play this game. And to be honest, it’s better than it was in the beginning. During the school and work shut down last year, my family started playing it anew. We had a route around our neighborhood mapped out where we could hit up at least a dozen pokestops and 4 gyms. It got us outside and kept us sane together.

Check it out here: https://pokemongolive.com/en/

Book: Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer

I read these books shortly before the Netflix movie came out. In true librarian fashion, I believe the books to be superior. The story is a fun twist on the Sherlock Holmes universe with the addition of a much younger sister who shares the Holmes affinity for mystery and crime solving. There are seven books in total with more potentially on the horizon. The popularity of the movie invited Springer to write the seventh book after an 11-year hiatus from the series.

Available in our KanShare catalog, the Sunflower eLibrary or Libby app

Hobbies: Fall Running

Fall running has to be just about my favorite thing in the entire world. The cool mornings are perfect for picking up the pace and enjoying the peace and quiet before the start of a busy day. There are several free apps you can use to track runs. I typically wear a Garmin, but MapMyRun and Strava are good free options.

The Lineup: Tami

Tami’s Lineup

Podcast: The Villian was Right

My latest fun listen is a light-hearted romp. Comedians Craig and Rebecca take a look at movies and television from the villain’s perspective and dare to ask if they were really all that bad. The hosts go into detail about movie or series characters and their motivations, and theorize whether or not they deserve to be the hero or villain.

Was Ariel really innocent? Or was Ursula just trying to run a small business?

What I find especially fun is that Craig and Rebecca don’t just review the obvious movies. They look into Father of the Bride, Legally Blonde, Bridget Jones’ Diary, the Magic School Bus, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Friends, Mary Poppins and many, many more. I recommend you start with Ferris Buller’s Day Off, Jurassic Park or the Incredibles.

*Available on Spotify, Apple, or here: https://www.fromsuperheroes.com/the-villain-was-right

Book: Project Hail Mary

I whole-heartedly recommend this recent read. If you like science fiction with actual science, this is for you. If you like stories with interesting, well developed characters, this also has that. If you want excitement and a thrilling plot, here you go. If you want romance and sex, well, there you’re completely out of luck.

I challenge you to read the first five pages and NOT want to keep reading. What an opening! Ryland Grace wakes up alone with no clue where he is or how he got there. His body isn’t responding the way it should and he struggles with the fog that is keeping rational thoughts at bay. He slowly comes to the realization that he’s hurtling through space and his crew mates are dead. While that opening alone is enough to keep me turning pages, Weir infuses Ryland with unique wit and humor that elevates the story beyond the run of the mill science fiction thriller.

As Ryland’s memory returns, he flashes back to the past and slowly reveals how he ended up as the sole-survivor of this last-chance mission to save Earth. And as things seem hopeless, he finds glimmers of hope in unexpected places. He also just might be the perfect person for the job.

This well-written novel is a mix of things: science fiction, mystery, fantasy, thriller. There’s a diverse cast as the entire planet comes together to save humanity. And I can only hope Hollywood takes notice.

*Available as a physical book in the KanShare catalog or as an ebook via the Sunflower eLibrary/Libby app.

Music: Equals by Ed Sheeran

Okay, so this one hasn’t completely been released yet, but I am eagerly awaiting it. And fortunately, I have heard a couple early release tracks, so I think it’s fair to add to my line up list.

The album is set to drop October 29. It’s been 4 long years since we last heard songs featuring solo artist Ed Sheeran playing and singing all by himself (no collaborations). I have read interviews about this release and it appears the songs are all personal to him as a recently married man and father who has experienced loss. Sheeran says the album is a reflection of those experiences. For a man to state that this is a coming of age album, I feel it should be chocked full of nostalgia, eye awakening moments and experiences that make us who we are. Bad Habits, one of the early release titles is dance music story of late night bad choices while Visiting Hours is a heartfelt, personal sort of song you play in the bluest hours. It’s raw and emotional.

*I believe the library will be purchasing and adding this title to the catalog for checkout. I don’t see it there yet, but all the other Sheeran albums are, so it’s a good guess it’s coming soon.

Television: Below Deck Mediterranean

In another year, where I haven’t been able to travel abroad like I planned, I am “escaping” via my television and “reality” TV.

What I like? No dull waiting period–this is entertaining IMMEDIATELY.

This show has it all: attractive people, vastly different personalities, relatable protagonists, loathsome antagonists, money and a BIG yacht. It’s fun, interesting, and has changing locals (Greece, Croatia, Italy, South of France and Mallorca). The guests are interesting. There’s TIGHT quarters (GREAT for drama), a social element and very merit-based workplace element.

I think the two most important components of any reality show are the “characters” and the editing. The characters here are in spades, but the editing brings us the stories, and man do they make the stories POP! Hats off to the editing staff. I think we all like to see justice because we so rarely get it in real life, and the editors don’t let anyone get away with ANYTHING. When someone does something stupid, we get to see the consequences, which is a great little respite from real life. I also love the insight you get, to see all that goes on under the surface of a luxury yacht.

*Available on Bravo network or free on Peacock

Family Outing: Wild Lights at Sedgwick County Zoo

This one I am super excited to get out and see for myself. Recently, when I volunteered at the Zoo for Zoobilee and the new Asian Big Cat exhibit grand opening, I discovered that Sedgwick County Zoo has a new “Wild Lights” exhibit in the works.  Think Asian lantern sculptures illuminating paths throughout the zoo. 

The company who has provided and set up the exhibit brought in 13 semi-truck loads of giant animal lanterns.  These creatures are spread out throughout the zoo. They are everywhere! Installation began in early September.  The exhibit has filled the zoo with 47 glowing Asian lanterns, most of them larger than life.

They’re in the shapes of animals.  Guests will find pandas, elephants, turtles, rhinos as well as other displays in the shapes of flowers, bugs, fish, butterflies, and plants. Many of them are animated: A peacock’s plume of feathers goes up and down every five minutes. A baby panda spins with a ball on his head. A massive crocodile opens and closes his giant jaw. About six people accompanying the tour, which travels to zoos all over the world, spent a month erecting the wire frames that form each sculpture’s “bones” then covering them with translucent fabric and filling them with colorful lights. It will take visitors about an hour to walk the path where the sculptures are set up, which stretches from the zoo entrance to the gorilla exhibit and back to the exit.  Not only do they set up the lights, but they stay here in Wichita throughout the show to maintain the exhibit.

I plan to enjoy the zoo like never before with this larger-than-life Chinese lantern festival!

*Wild Lights will light up the zoo Wednesday through Sunday nights 6:00-9:00 p.m. through December 5, 2021. Tickets are on sale now at scz.org/event/wild-lights.

Food: Seasonal Soups and Stews

It’s that time of year – fall (or maybe the fringe of fall with our ever changing Kansas weather).  Maybe you’ve noticed the chill in the air, or that the leaves are starting to turn shades of orange and red. The first pumpkin spice lattes of the season have already been sipped, and perhaps you’ve taken out the sweaters that make you feel like Cameron Diaz courting Jude Law in a cozy cottage in the English countryside. But is it really sweater season without a pot of soup bubbling away? Or a hearty stew on the table, served with a fistful of crusty bread? A few veggies, possibly some beans, aromatics and broth are just about all you need for a satisfying meal.

So let this be my reminder to you. If you have yet to avail yourself of all the ways your local library can help you be a better, more inquisitive cook (or simply save you some money) there’s no better time than now. With many of us cooking at home more than ever, we could all use a little jolt of inspiration and novelty. Or just some escapist reading. Take a look at our KanShare catalog for in print cook books, Sunflower eLibrary (Libby app) for eCookbooks and magazines, Pinterest and the good ole internet for general browsing!  You are sure to find something new to try.

I’m sharing my easy-peasy Taco Soup recipe.  It’s a go to my family always loves.  Hope you will too!

Slow Cooking Taco Soup – 6 to 8 servings

1 lb ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

16 oz can Mexican-style tomatoes

16 oz can whole-kernel corn, undrained

16 oz can red beans, undrained

16 oz can black beans, undrained

16 oz can ranch beans

16 oz jar picante sauce (your choice on mild, medium or hot)

Optional additions when serving:

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese

Corn or tortilla chips

  1. Brown meat and onions in skillet. Drain.
  2. Combine with all other vegetables and picante sauce in slow cooker.
  3. Cover. Cook on low 4-6 hours
  4. Serve with corn or tortilla chips, sour cream and shredded cheese as toppings.

The Lineup: Chelsea

Chelsea’s Lineup

Music: Spotify playlist: ConfiDANCE (Song spotlight: Not 20 Anymore by Bebe Rexha; Okay Okay by Alessia Cara)

We all have our struggles. Two at the top of my list are mornings, and confidence. In an attempt to kill two birds with one stone, I created a Spotify playlist to start my mornings with a little pep. As soon as I turn off my alarm in the morning, I try to queue up this playlist, and keep it playing during my morning routine & trip to drop my oldest off at school. I sought out about half of the songs, knowing they already help me improve my mood on bad days. The other half Spotify suggested to me! A couple of my *new* favorites include Not 20 Anymore by Bebe Rexha, and Okay Okay by Alessia Cara.

  • Available on Spotify

Movies: He’s All That

I suppose I’m a shameless millennial. I was scrolling through the Netflix “coming soon” tab when I found this. She’s All That was one of my favorite movies for the years after it came out. I mean, Paul Walker you guys. Even as the jerk bad guy, he’s dreamy. Anyhow, it gave me all the teenage angst lovey-dovey vibes that I wanted. I had such high hopes for this movie. I watched it the day it launched onto Netflix. A little overzealous, I know. Anyway, they did a great job of giving the story line an update and making it current to today’s youth. The characters have the same personalities and attributes of attraction that the original actors did. Matthew Lillard and Rachel Leigh Cook even make an appearance! It didn’t live up to the original’s hype, for me, unfortunately. Perhaps that is just because those were my people, and I suppose that makes these ones my kids’ people. Whatever. Worth the watch—but maybe just once.

  • Available on Netflix

Television Show: Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

Some might say I’m a bit of an oddball. I would say I just really love Halloween, and spooky stuff, and all things weird. This Netflix series is all of those things and more. Christine is kind of a Martha Stewart of the…spooky variety. She shows the audience how to make beautifully creepy creations like cakes, tea services, and edible tree ornaments. She also has a host of strange Jim Henson-like creature friends who are always getting into mischief while she tries to teach us about her creations. It’s a strange show, but I suppose I’m a strange person.

  • Available on Netflix

Kid’s Television Show: Dug Days

My son is two, and I stay home with him during the daytime. It’s a fun age riding the line between constantly having to tell him, “no”, and staring at him with a big goofy grin on my face because he’s just SO wonderful. Watching him watch Dug Days does that second one to me. He just loves Dug. I’m not sure what it is—he’s not very verbal just yet—but the grin on his face when I turn it on just melts my heart. There’s only five or six shorts in the series, and they are short, but they are adorable and definitely worth the watch.

  • Available on Disney+

Audiobook: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, narrated by Amanda Leigh Cobb

I read this series a couple of years ago and truly enjoyed it. I must have talked about it quite a bit, because when my husband decided to start an audiobook series (and the book he was hoping to read was checked out), he started listening to this series. I became very excited to enjoy the story with him—a tiny book club for two. The story was just as good the second time around! I’m not a huge fan of the narration of this series, but I am glad they got the same narrator for all of the books (so far); it made it a consistent read. I’m a sucker for a few specific things in stories, and this series seems to check all of those boxes.*sigh*

Apps: Chirp Books

Are you a fan of free and inexpensive? I am a fan of free and inexpensive. Chirp is an audiobook application I learned about through their sister (e-book) company Bookbub (which you should also check out if you haven’t heard of them). After creating your account, you can select favorite genres, authors, and narrators. Based on these favorites, you will receive a daily e-mail with a list of books you can purchase at discounted prices! The only disadvantage is you have to listen to it through their app. It’s a free app and subscription, though, so I’d call that a win! All books suggested to me so far are $5 or less. You can also put audiobooks on a wish list, and the app will alert you if they ever go on sale! I, um, I’ve purchased more $5 audiobooks than I care to admit so far.

Hobbies: Spare Room Remodel

*NOT* my office but what it aspires to become

About two years ago we moved into a new place to make room for a new little addition to our family. It had everything we were searching for, if it was a little higher in the price range than we were hoping for. Anyhow, the basement was unfinished. This might be daunting for some (read me), but the benefit was worth it. I aspire to write– and when I’m not writing, I’m usually reading—so, one of the unfinished rooms in the basement has been reserved as an office/writing space for me sometime in the distant future. I guess I decided I wanted less distance, because I moved all my books back into storage and started working.

Man I underestimated the work that goes into a project like this. I was excited to paint, but forgot about the dry walling and mudding that had to occur first. I did a decent amount before deciding a garage sale to fund a professional to finish the work was probably the best idea. Now that is done, and I’m in the painting process. I love the gothic library look I’ve chosen, and I’m excited to decorate now. Again, I forgot how much work has to occur before that step can be taken, though. Baseboards, crown molding, door trim, window trim, carpeting, and installation of shelves ALL have to occur before I can decorate. Picking those items out is enjoyable, and the installation isn’t unenjoyable—but the bill that accompanies it? That’s is for the birds. So, my project is somewhere in the in-between now. Not exactly the distant future anymore, but further away from the now I was eager for. These things take time, I suppose.

ON MY RADAR: books on my “TBR” shelf, movies and television shows on my “Queue”, podcasts I’ve been eyeing but haven’t had the time to listen to yet. Things I haven’t bit the bullet and purchased, but really hope to sometime soon.

  • Books: Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul
  • Podcasts: The GIST of it; Ologies
  • TV Shows: Sexy Beasts; Tattoo Redo
  • Movies: The Fundamentals of Caring

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?: A Year in Review

This year has a been a strange one for everyone, myself included. I spent a lot of the year in a reading funk. I just couldn’t find books that appealed to me or that kept my interest. Even with my slump I read 106 books in 2020! Below is my top 10 books of 2020.

If you have a book that you loved during 2020 or that got you through this crazy year let us know in the comments! And I will be starting 2021 off with Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie.

Read-A-Thon to the Rescue

It’s a weird time right now. We’re cancelling plans and trying to stay informed, but we’re all unsure about what the future holds. What we do know is that staying home is one of the safest things we can do to minimize our exposure to this virus. If you’re someone who loves to read or has wanted to get back into reading, this time at home could be an opportunity for you to dive into that stack of stories sitting on your bedside.

But do you want to make it interesting? Perhaps try some reading challenges that could get you metaphorically one step closer to becoming a witch or wizard of the beloved Harry Potter world?

The 3rd Annual OWLS Read-a-thon is here, lasting from April 1st to April 30th. I previously covered this read-a-thon in another blog post that I’ll link here, but in essence, it’s a month-long challenge to read books that would align with Hogwarts school subjects. If you “pass” certain subjects, you’ll be able to work in specified wizarding world professions like an auror, a professor, a curse breaker, or Ministry of Magic member.  

The creator of this read-a-thon, TheBookRoast, has gone above and beyond this year for an even more interesting challenge. She’s added additional workshops and trainings and is also hosting a number of Harry Potter-related activities online.

So what are my professional goals this year as a Hogwarts student? When I saw the new Merpeople Linguistics course, I knew that I would definitely want to work in International Relations with Merpeople. I’ll be focusing on earning both a Magizoologist and a Herbologist career with a possible Ministry of Magic credit if I have time. I was definitely an overachiever in muggle school so of course I’d be Hermione-level studious at Hogwarts.

Here’s my tentative OWLS Exam Schedule:

  • Ancient Runes: Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia (getting this on Hoopla!)
  • Care of Magical Creatures: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • Herbology: A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore
  • Potions: Arthur and the Golden Rope by Joe Todd – Stanton
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  • Charms: The Crooked House by Agatha Christie (my edition has a white cover)
  • Divination: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Since the library will be closing its services until further notice, it may be difficult to find physical books to fit your challenges, but don’t forget that all of our online services including Sunflower E-Library and Hoopla will be available for you to use.

I hope you join in on the OWLS Read-a-thon this year and get to add a little magic to your life!

From Reader to Writer: World Building Resources

Both readers and writers can agree that one of the best parts of stepping into an imaginative story is the immersive world building. From Tolkien’s Middle Earth to Rowling’s Wizarding World, the intricacies of creating an entire world are addictive. For genres like fantasy and science fiction that rely on otherworldly elements, it’s a writer’s ability to engage the five senses which hooks us into a story even more than writing plot or characters.

But when it comes to world building, the pressures of playing god can sometimes get really overwhelming. How do you keep it all straight? How do you determine the origins of your world, the climate, the geography, not to mention the cultures, races, plants, and animals that make your world not only believable, but habitable? How do you even know what questions to ask or what information is most important in your story?

As I’m working through my own writing, I’ve found that world building can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s immensely enjoyable to get lost in a world so different from my own, but world building is also an excellent excuse to create and create without really writing anything. I want to be careful not to risk getting “world builder’s disease,” an affliction that plagued even Tolkien where a writer creates every tiny, little detail of a world, inevitably running themselves into the ground and burning out.

To keep my thoughts organized, I’ve discovered this incredible resource. WorldAnvil is a free website that lets a writer, artist, or role-playing gamemaster organize an entire world in an encyclopedia format. The website has an article for various types of entries, and the articles prompt a range of questions that guide you through construction. WorldAnvil also has paid subscription options that offer access to more resources and functions in the website, but you can use the website without having to pay a thing.

I also found WorldAnvil’s YouTube channel and this video on tips for worldbuilding helpful. Beyond WorldAnvil, there are some great videos featuring advice from both seasoned writers and RPG game developers. This video on fantasy map construction is awesome!

Another amazing resource is best-selling author Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on writing. Many of his classes are available on YouTube including this one on worldbuilding.

When writing a story or even developing a world for a role-playing game, there are many elements and decisions to make. It’s intense and rewarding. Use this phase of your creative journey as an outlet to be eccentric and try things. When the real plotting begins, you’ll be so immersed in your story that much of the work will already be done.

The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings

I have a miniature dachshund named Winston.  He HATES fireworks.  In the last few years, I have learned some tricks to help him deal with the holiday.  One of my favorite traditions now is a movie marathon with lots of action to drown out the booms.  This year we watched The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogies.  Watching these movies took me back to childhood.

One of my earliest memories is being read to every night by my dad.  One of the books that stands out the most is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I remember him checking out an illustrated copy from our local library.  It felt so special having him read when we knew he was tired.  He worked in Wichita and had an hour commute every day to and from work with a 4 a.m. alarm.  I loved the story of Bilbo Baggins and the company of Thorin Oakenshield.  My favorite scene is and always will be the chapter, Riddles in the Dark, where Bilbo meets and outwits Gollum.  I was always a little worried for Bilbo.  Answer the riddle or be eaten?!  How scary.  Followed by giant spiders in the forest of Mirkwood.  (Why is there always giant spiders?)  Then when they reach the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo has to face the dragon, Smaug.  This book gets better and better.  But I still remember being saddened at the end with the death of Thorin.  I still am sad about it actually.

When I was in high school, my dad and I went to see the first of the Lord of the Rings movies.  I was blown away by the sheer magnitude of this movie.  It was visually stunning with an amazing cast and a great story.  I had never read the LOTR books but I did remember the story, The Hobbit.  I immediately had to buy the trilogy and start reading.  I LOVED them.  The detail that Tolkien puts in his books is beautiful and complex.  The following years, I went to see The Two Towers and The Return of the King and was so happy to see that Peter Jackson followed the source material so well.

Then several years later Jackson announced they were adapting The Hobbit!  I was stoked.  They were bringing back some of the original cast and adding new talent.  Going to the theater to see the first movie was like being a kid again.  Once again, the casting was amazing.  Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Richard Armitage as Thorin were both exactly what I wanted.  Even though the movies veered off the story line, I felt that Jackson still gave us the feel of Tolkien.

When I happened upon an exact copy of The Hobbit that my dad read to us in a used bookstore I snatched it up immediately.  I placed it in a spot of honor next to my illustrated copies of Harry Potter!  There is nothing like a special book that makes us feel young again.  What is your favorite book from childhood?  We’d love to hear your comments!

Book Review: The Librarian of Auschwitz

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

First line: The Nazi officers are dressed in black.

Summary: Based on the true life events of Dita Kraus we see the courage and strength of the prisoners of Auschwitz. The story follows Dita, a fourteen-year-old girl, and her parents as they are transported to the death camp. Upon arriving, they are assigned to the family camp. Dita is made to work in the “school” where she meets Freddy Hirsch, the Jewish leader in charge of the children of Auschwitz. Hirsch gives Dita that responsibility of hiding and taking care of the contraband books, becoming the librarian of Auschwitz.

Highlights: I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I do. And this one is beautiful. I absolutely love it. The story is so rich and detailed but heartbreaking at the same time. I have read many accounts of the Holocaust. The strength of the people who lived and endured these hardships is hard to read but they need to be. No one should be allowed to forget these stories and atrocities have happened. I cannot imagine having the courage that Dita has. She was fourteen and risked her life for the love of books and reading. She kept her humanity in the worst possible situation. I loved how the author intermixed the stories that she read into the narrative. We, as the reader, get to experience what kept her going during the dark days.

Lowlights: Several other narratives of fellow prisoners at Auschwitz are woven into Dita’s story. I was confused at times when the story changed narrators.

FYI: Great as an audiobook!