Entries from blogs tagged with “Lawrence”

Get into PBS’ ‘Great American Read’

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never

reads lives only one.

—George R.R. Martin

I’m going to report this fact, though it hurts me to do so: In a recent Pew study, 24 percent of U.S. adults said they had not read a book in the last year. (OK, let’s look at the bright side … that means 76 percent of us have read a book in the past year.) However, not making or having time for reading is taking a toll on us beyond just missing out on the cultural zeitgeist — we’re robbing ourselves of some serious physical, social and emotional benefits as well.

There are several studies detailing how reading is good for humans. Not just reading nonfiction to educate yourself about a certain subject, but leisure reading. Yes, you heard me right — leisure reading. Romance, mystery, urban fantasy, literary fiction, westerns. All of the above and more. Leisure reading does a number of things for you that you may not realize. The act of reading decreases your stress and anxiety (okay, maybe a little less if it’s Stephen King) and can even reduce depression.

Reading increases your empathy and feelings of being able to relate to other humans. It helps keep your brain sharp as you age and may decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It increases your understanding of cultures and people that you might normally think of as “the other” and widens your horizons. Reading even improves thinking and communication skills, and goodness knows we could use more of that right now.

Libraries can enhance those benefits by connecting you to a larger local community of readers. We do that at the Lawrence Public Library through book clubs and other programming, but for the next several months, PBS’ "The Great American Read" is putting you in conversation about your best-loved books with the entire United States of America. That’s right, all the people, everywhere, talking about books.

I’ve always been a PBS fan, from my early years watching "Mr. Rogers" and "Sesame Street," all the way to the latest incarnation of "Sherlock. " But honestly, PBS has outdone itself with the creation of "The Great American Read, " which aired on May 22 and gave wings to this librarian’s heart.

Here’s the rundown: "The Great American Read" is a series that kicked off in May and will resume again in the fall for a total of eight episodes about books and reading. PBS conducted a study from a sample of Americans, weighted for age, gender and ethnicity. From this sample, they compiled the 100 best-loved-books in America. Over the course of the series, people will discuss the various books chosen and some themes in literature, all leading to the final episode, where the viewers will choose the No. 1 best-loved book. Libraries around the country will host viewing and discussion events (including the Lawrence Public Library — the dates will be available later this summer).

And discuss we shall! Already, there have been spirited conversations about the books chosen to be among the 100. Friends, people are shook! They are all at once thrilled to see their favorites, dismayed to see what they consider the worst book(s) of all time, or a mix of both. I’m telling you, it’s a librarian's dream come true, all this bookish banter. Recently, fellow library staffer Kate Gramlich and I sat down and talked it out on our Book Squad Podcast, and we had some feelings. Tune in to see what we’ve read and how we felt about it. (At this point, I’ve only read 33, and I am truly inspired after watching the kickoff episode to make my way through many more of the 100 books, starting with "The Invisible Man.")

Over the summer, the library will use our social media channels and in-house conversations to keep folks talking about "The Great American Read," and more importantly, keep people voting for their favorite of the 100. Catch us on social media and let us know who you’re voting for — make your arguments and convince us. We’ll be doing the same. Yours truly will be voting for "The Color Purple," "Beloved," "Outlander," "Ready Player One," "The Martian," "The Book Thief" and more. With this, vote early and often is actually a thing — you can vote once a day at the PBS website or on social media, from now until the final episode on October 23 that will reveal the best-loved book in America.

I don’t know if I can adequately express how it felt on May 22 to see people live-tweeting about books. Not TV, sports, movies or celebrities — about reading. About their favorites and whether or not the list of 100 was good and who they would be voting for and which one they thought could go all the way. I’m indebted to PBS for working to increase the health and well-being of our nation by encouraging folks to pick up a book, read for pleasure, and connect with fellow humans over our greatest human evolutionary achievement: the ability to create, record, and read stories across space and time. It’s a miracle, really, and it’s all right here at your fingertips.

— Polli Kenn is the reader services coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Sound+Vision Sessions: a conversation with Heidi Lynne Gluck

June 22 marks the second installment of the new Lawrence Public Library event series, Sound+Vision Sessions. The event showcases local music artists whose material we have in our catalog in a family-friendly, all-ages atmosphere.

This concert features the incredibly talented and esteemed singer/songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Heidi Lynne Gluck. Gluck's music blends elements of folk, rock and indie music, while often remaining united by a hauntingly beautiful, melancholic mood.

Heidi Lynne Gluck. Courtesy of the artist.

Heidi Lynne Gluck. Courtesy of the artist. by Lawrence Public Library Staff

To gear up for the event, I asked Gluck a few questions to gain perspective on the time she has spent in the Lawrence community, as well as what we can expect from her upcoming performance.

Q: How long have you been involved in the Lawrence music community?

A: Just a little over a decade. I appeared on my first Lawrence record (The Only Children's "Change of Living") in 2005. My first Lawrence show was before I lived here. I was on tour with my old band Some Girls in 2003. We played a fun show at the Bottleneck, and Lawrence left a great impression on me. Starting in 2006, I have been a side-man in a number of Lawrence bands, and also perform solo and with my own band.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the Lawrence community — both the music and at large?

A: Lawrence has always struck me as a great place to have a balanced life. I’m grateful to live in a place that is as great for my child to grow up as it is for me to grow as a musician. The coziest times for Lawrence music is when all the students go home and the townies take the Replay back for a little while.

Q: What is your favorite library moment?

A: Can’t choose one. In no particular order:

  • Taking my toddler to see Truckstop Honeymoon in the old library auditorium (this was right after we moved to town and it felt really special).

  • Walking into the beautiful new building a few years ago.

  • Hosting a recital for my young music students and watching them perform so confidently.

  • Driving by on Saturday mornings and seeing the line out the door before LPL opens. Warms my heart.

  • Using the highly functional Sound & Vision studio.

  • Anticipating the Mavis Staples interview.

Q: The Summer Reading theme at LPL is "Libraries Unplugged." What can your audience expect from your performance that reflects this theme?

A: I am going to do a rare acoustic performance, and a big unplugged treat for me is to get to use the fantastic grand piano in the auditorium. I can't wait.

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I have seen Gluck perform countless times over the last few years, and I can assure you this concert is not one you want to miss. Her talent and prowess command the attention of everyone in the room when she performs, and I have never left unimpressed.

To get ready for the event, be sure to check out Gluck's two most recent releases, "Pony Show" and "The Only Girl in the Room," from our catalog.

Gluck will perform in the auditorium of the Lawrence Public Library on June 22 at 7 p.m.

— Joel Bonner is a technology assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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5 new young adult books to read for Pride Month

There are a number of ways to celebrate Pride Month, but the bookworm in me insists there's nothing like a good read. The young adult publishing industry has come a long way since my own teenage years when it comes to diverse and #OwnVoices titles, books written by authors who share a marginalized identity with their main characters. This month, I encourage you to check out one — or more — of these great, recent young adult books that put LGBT characters in the lead:

"All Out"

This is a fantastic collection of short stories, spanning genres and time periods, written by many of today’s popular young adult authors, including Mackenzi Lee, Shaun David Hutchinson, and Tessa Gratton.

Fellow library staffer Kate Gramlich says, “The premise of writing fairy tale-esque stories from a young queer and/or trans perspective is really interesting, and I loved all of the different directions that the authors took.”

"The Beauty That Remains" by Ashley Woodfolk

This is a beautiful story about death, grief and moving on. Autumn blames herself for the death of her best friend who died in a car accident; Logan tries to figure out the circumstances that led to the death of his ex-boyfriend whom he still loves and Shay wonders how to continue the music review blog she managed with her twin sister who recently died of leukemia.

"Looking for Group" by Rory Harrison

My new favorite road trip novel. Dylan is in remission and addicted to medications and struggles to get along with a mother who only takes advantage of his situation. Arden lives with a father who refuses to accept her true gender. They've only met online playing World of Warcraft, but when Dylan shows up on Arden's doorstep, they decide to abscond across the country on their first real life mission. A fun, endearing read.

"All We Can Do Is Wait" by Richard Lawson

This book will pull you in and keep you turning the pages because you just have to know what happened. Set in Boston, a diverse group of teens wait at a hospital to find out whether their family or friends survived a bridge collapse. At the center are Jason and Alexa, who are waiting to find out what happened to their parents. Jason, who isn’t out, bears an even bigger secret that could tear the siblings apart. Heartbreaking and emotional, but not without hope.

"The Prince and the Dressmaker" by Jen Wang

A wonderfully creative graphic novel, this is the story of Frances, a young seamstress who creates dresses for Prince Sebastian, who leads a secret double life as the fabulous fashion icon, Lady Crystallia. But Frances, who must remain secret as well, dreams of more.

— William Ottens is the cataloging and collection development coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library

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Getting ready for summer reading with some oohs and aahs

Every year as schools wind down, the library winds up. Summer is just around the corner and the bulk of the Lawrence Public Library's Youth Services department went out into the wild — aka USD 497 — to promote the Summer Reading Program. (If you want to learn more about it, when it starts, how long it lasts, what even is it? Check this out.)

Getting to see kids in their natural habitats is one of my favorite things about working in Youth Services; you get to say hi to the kids you know well and maybe even make a new friend or two, but above all you are trying to wow the children of Lawrence into reading all summer long. We have a couple of different approaches to making the summer reading hype real, but by far the most enjoyment is still had by reading a good book. And oh boy did we find a winner this year.

Finding a book to delight elementary school kids can be a daunting task, especially if you think about the differences between kindergartners and third-graders. Now while you're flipping through possible book titles in your head that will please wiggly learning-to-readers and adept readers of chapter books, add this to your mental image: You are now standing at the front of a gym or cafeteria with roughly 300 kindergartners through fourth-graders sitting in front of you.

You still have a book that will hold up? Last year I used B.J. Novak's "The Book with No Pictures" and I am not going to lie to you: It killed. If you haven’t had the chance to pick up this gem, you will not be disappointed if you have a young person in your life. It is utterly ridiculous. It makes adults say silly things which kids find hysterical. You will at some point be reading the words: “Boo Boo Butt.” There were some school visits last year where "The Book with No Pictures" was read multiple times.

Not wanting to rest on my laurels and read the same book again (although I am sure they would love it), a quest was undertaken to find a new book that would be just as wonderful. I was skeptical that we would find something, but then my coworker and fellow lover of absurdity, Matt, found "I Say Ooh You Say Aah," and I knew we had struck school-visit gold.

Not only is this book laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it has a level of interaction that is rare in picture books. "Tap the Magic Tree," "Press Here" and "Abracadabra! It’s Spring!" all use this ploy, but there’s something so genuine and funny in the way this book engages its kid audience.

As the book asks kids to say "aah," or pat their heads, or yell "underpants," author John Kane weaves all of these points of engagement into an excellent punchline. The fourth-graders I read it to were definitely putting the pieces together but still laughing along, while the kindergarteners were caught by surprise and laughed out loud in the delight one feels in being absolutely bamboozled.

The bold, graphic illustrations and engaging text made "I Say Ooh You Say Aah" a school visit winner, but I have no doubt that it will inspire laughter in households all over Lawrence this summer. Plus, guess what? If you read it after May 23rd, you can put it on your Summer Reading Log and be well on your way to earning awesome prizes.

If you're ready for fun this summer, come down to the library, pick up your summer reading catalog and a copy of "I Say Ooh You Say Aah." Giggles and guffaws will be yours … well, until you have to return it. See you this summer for more reading fun!

-Lauren Taylor is a youth services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Frog and Toad’s laws of literary motion

In my years selecting children’s books for the library, I have often envied the mathematical certainty of the hard sciences. After all, when the Pythagorean theorem doesn’t work, it’s usually our own bad arithmetic at fault, and the Planck constant isn’t exactly wishy-washy.

It’s a little more difficult to make sense of children’s literature sometimes. Perhaps this arises from the fact that its consumers may go from laughing, to crying, to coloring the cat’s face blue with a magic marker, all during the time it takes to get through one book.

Since we live in a universe where a perennial bestseller can be made from a tale in which a boy reduces his favorite tree to a stump and the stump still loves him, we sorely need some clarifying principles. Here are a few I’ve been kicking around.

The "Muppet" Quotient

When I was a kid, everyone in my house looked forward to watching "The Muppet Show" at 6:30 on Saturday evenings. It may have been the only show my sister and I liked that my parents seemed to enjoy as much as we did. Only later did I understand that it contained just as many jokes written for them and was steeped in the post-vaudevillian humor that pervaded the pop culture of their own childhoods.

The "Muppet" Quotient is a measure of how humorous any given children’s book will be to the parents of its intended audience. Using myself as a guinea pig over the past year, the three picture books I’ve read with the highest "Muppet" Quotient were Roz Chast’s "Too Busy Marco," Kate Beaton’s "The Princess and the Pony," and Chris Monroe’s "Sneaky Sheep."

"The Yearling" Conundrum

Boy meets fawn. Fawn eats crops. Boy kills fawn. Boy flees, starves, and returns a haunted soul. Don’t get me wrong—I adore Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ "The Yearling," but it’s pretty strong stuff for kids. In fact, it was an adult bestseller when first published in 1938 and won the Pulitzer Prize, not the Newbery Medal. Somehow, possibly due to the popularity of the 1946 film version, the book’s audience morphed, and it became known as a children’s classic. In recent years, its readership has changed again somewhat; chances are these days, if you’re reading "The Yearling," you’re a grown-up (even if you’re crying like baby).

A lot of books, especially great ones, have experienced a similar evolution. "Watership Down" is another, with the opposite arc. Richard Adams said he based the book on stories he told to his children during long car rides, but it was most popular with adult readers during its heyday in the 1970’s, who may have been primed to delve into the psyches of talking rabbits after spending so much time doting on their pet rocks. Today, "Watership Down" is generally considered a work for children once again, and the upcoming BBC-Netflix re-animation of the series, featuring CGI animation by Pete Dodd (of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" fame), is marketed as such.

Then there is J.R.R. Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings," which everyone has always loved, perhaps because, as Tolkien himself said, “It was not written ‘for children,' or for any kind of person in particular, but for itself."

Wilbur’s Uncertainty Principle

“No such country child would have spent day after day beside the manure pile to which the pig was consigned ... Fern, the real center of the book, is never developed.” So wrote a 1952 reviewer of "Charlotte’s Web" in the pages of Horn Book, the most well-respected children’s book review journal in history.

"Charlotte’s Web" didn’t win the Newbery, either, but there is something irresistible about a book showing up curmudgeonly reviewers and reluctant publishers to prove itself over the course of time. Other oft-cited examples are the 26 rejections earned by Madeline L’Engle’s "A Wrinkle in Time" (“This is pleasantly done — but for me there isn’t quite enough story value,” one editor intoned), and the 27 received by Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book, "And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street."

The Porcupine Pigeonhole

When will authors and illustrators let a porcupine be a porcupine, and not just a convenient symbol for a book about how poor old Poky can’t find love? I’ve had it with the rampant pigeonholing of animals. Oops, I just did it myself (do pigeons even hang out in holes?). But really. Blobfish don’t find themselves ugly or lonely. And sloths aren't actually lazy.

What I like least about this phenomenon is that it’s more serious than it sounds. As we try to create a culture of children’s literature inclusive of our many diverse human voices, it would be wise for authors and illustrators to remember how reliance on clichés and the reinforcement of a totally human-centric view of animals teaches children not to question their own (possibly false) assumptions about the people in their own worlds.

— Dan Coleman is a collection development librarian at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Gifts from nature: creative inspiration and free art supplies

Now is the perfect time of year to spend time outdoors, and if you need an excuse to do so, gathering ideas and art supplies is a great one. It’s fun to keep your eyes open for treasures when you are on a hike, weeding your garden or just strolling through the neighborhood.

I have always been a gatherer ... bringing home “souvenirs” from summer vacations that I could use in my projects. In fact, I usually take a travel art kit containing supplies that I might use to create art on the fly if I become so inspired. My kids grew up thinking that art-making was an essential part of any family vacation.

Note: If you choose to gather natural materials, be sure to do so responsibly. Make sure you have permission; collect only materials that are not rare or special in some way; don’t take too much or damage remaining growth.

Since I started working at the Lawrence Public Library a few months ago, I’ve been having a great time exploring our collection in depth — especially my favorite nonfiction section, the 700s. Most particularly, the 745s and 746s. We have a nicely balanced selection of arts and crafts books — including quite a few really good resources for gathering and using natural materials. Here are a few of my favorites:

"Nature Inspired: Mixed-Media Techniques for Gathering, Sketching, Painting, Journaling, and Assemblage" by Tracie Lyn Huskamp I particularly enjoy this book because it covers the gathering and use of natural objects as well as techniques for sketching and painting elements from nature. It even includes a nice small section on flower-pounding. (If you haven't tried flower-pounding, let me tell you that it's really fun and easy to do.) The early part of the book provides detailed instructions for a variety of techniques and for preserving and using natural materials; the later part of the book focuses on specific projects.

"The Organic Artist" by Nick Neddo A fascinating book! The author shows how to create pens, paint brushes, and inkwells as well as natural charcoals, inks and paints — all from things found in the great outdoors. One aspect that I especially enjoyed was the author’s sharing of his philosophy for using materials from the natural world. He encourages us to be thoughtful about our needs and to be mindful of where and how we gather our natural supplies.

"Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes" by Jenny Dean The library has a good selection of books about making and using natural dyes, and I would suggest you browse them all if this is an interest for you. I chose this one to include here because it is a terrific basic resource. The introduction includes some fascinating historical information about all types of dyeing. Then, the author takes you step-by-step through the entire dyeing process with several variations. There is also a detailed section devoted to plants, complete with color swatches showing the variations that can be achieved with different parts of each plant, using varied mordants and dyeing processes.

"Natural Processes in Textile Art: From Rust-Dyeing to Found Objects" by Alice Fox This book is so wonderful I had to buy a copy for my personal library. The author has a lovely way of looking at the world and the detritus that could become art. I love the diverse techniques that are covered in detail including rust-dyeing, eco-dyeing, leaf-printing, and stitching of all kinds of natural materials and found objects. This is a beautiful book to simply leaf through and get ideas, but if you want to learn any of the techniques, you will find all the information you need to be successful.

"Gifts From the Herb Garden" by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead Chock-full of beautiful photos, this is a lovely book. The focus is on cultivated flowers and herbs, but you could apply many of the ideas to wild native plants as well. This book teaches good techniques for collecting and drying herbs and flowers, and it includes recipes and instructions for making wreaths, sachets, potpourri, and personal care products. After spending some time with this book, I’ve decided to plant more flowers and herbs this year so I can use them in new ways.

I enjoy these types of books because they encourage me to look at my surroundings through a slightly different lens and with a mind open to all sorts of possibilities. I hope you'll find a book that inspires you to create something new — or to take a walk on the wild side!

— Jill Mickel is an information services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Author J. Drew Lanham talks Kansas ahead of his visit to Lawrence

I’m not the only one who views J. Drew Lanham as a superhero of advocacy for the natural world — especially for greater participation among people of color as well as increased celebration of birds! Lawrence Public Library is partnering with community organizations for Lanham’s visit — including the Langston Hughes Center at KU — as part of our ongoing series, "Diverse Dialogues on Race and Culture." Join us to welcome Lanham to Kansas!

He'll talk on May 24 at Liberty Hall and lead a birding tour May 25 at the Baker Wetlands.

We had the opportunity to ask a few questions of the author of the award-winning book, "The Home Place: Memoirs of A Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature." Read on to find out about his passion for nature, birding, conservation ethics and the extra caution necessary for a black man to explore the rural American wilderness.

Q: What are you hoping to see, bird-wise or nature-wise, during your first time visiting Kansas?

A: Kansas is at the center of everything, which means it’s at the crossroads for bird flyways and byways. I’m looking for that essence that defines the place, to see the birds singing the praises of the heart of the country — birds like bobolinks, dicksisels and scissor-tail fly catchers that roll on those waves of the sea of grass.

I hope to see a representation ecologically of the place that defines the beginning of the West, where prairie used to dominate. I’m fascinated by the Konza Prairie and I hope to catch a glimpse of bison there. And to get a feel for the native cultures that once existed there. To understand the culture of how people connect and appreciate nature and take the ecological temperature or depth sounding of the place.

I want to begin to get a sense of the conservation challenges and how things are changing there, so that maybe what I do as a Southerner can ultimately have some impact on what happens in the Midwest, because we share some of the same birds and passions for them. I’m looking forward to all of that. It’s a short stay for me that hopefully will later turn into longer stays.

Birding with J. Drew Lanham. Credit: audubon.org.

Birding with J. Drew Lanham. Credit: audubon.org. by Lawrence Public Library Staff

Q: I would love to hear who your favorite writers about birds, larger nature topics or about connections to place and intersections of ecological and social justice are. Also, what do you read for relaxation?

A: As a writer, I am who I read. I always start with Aldo Leopold. I adopted him as a posthumous grandfather. His writings are central to who I am as a writer and as a conservationist. His writing expresses the heart of conservation and why caring for nature is our moral imperative.

And especially in the Midwest, I like to recommend George Washington Carver — any works by or about the black American conservationist are critical. He was pivotal in helping to save the soil of much of our landscape and helping farmers and agriculturalists to understand the importance of tilling on the contour and planting nitrogen-fixing cover crops. That’s as deep a conservation story as we can have.

Rachel Carson informed a new movement beyond conservation into environmentalism with "Silent Spring," but her lyrical writing in "Under the Sea Wind" is important. It’s about her love of the sea. When you can read about something people loved, that gives you fuel and motivation to love and express that love.

Note: Lanham shared more great reading recommendations; check them out here.

Q: Transitioning to that very powerful chapter, "Birding While Black” in "The Home Place" — how do you “stave off confrontation” when you’re "hunting while black"? Every day in America we hear of another unarmed black man shot, often fatally, in confrontation with police. How does this context shape your thoughts on "hunting while black”?

A: I’m still very wary when I’m out hunting. I have to be aware that I am both predator and prey. I’m always a part of some food chain of consumption — even when that consumption is hate, because I think hate is simply another fang in the predator’s jaw.

Although I am armed, I’m not mentally equipped to defend myself or kill another human being — that is unfathomable to me. If I have to defend myself, my first instinctual response is not to confront; it is to move away to hunt somewhere else. There’s never going to be a winner in that sort of a confrontation.

Q: You are a leader working with high-profile organizations to champion conservation and support greater diversity inclusion in environmental work. Your active board member participation is impressive, including the National Audubon Society, Audubon South Carolina, the Aldo Leopold Foundation, BirdNote and the American Birding Association, and you are a member of the advisory board for the North American Association of Environmental Education, and a fellow of Toyota TogetherGreen. Have you seen indications that you have made an impact — working toward greater participation and inclusion of people of color in environmental sciences?

A: I have seen it. I’m grateful to be out in the field speaking to large audiences and doing the mission of these organizations. I have seen deep, intentional thinking in these organizations — sometimes painful thoughts and beyond that to acts and doing ... Everything from climate change to conservation needs to be colored more deeply.

I hope these organizations would have been trending that way, but it’s great to be a part of helping move the work along, to make the impact. It’s better to be inclusive than not. Like my grandmother Mamatha used to say: “many hands make lighter work,” and I like to say more eyes make more birds. The more people you get to connect the better. Leopold talked about keeping all the cogs and wheels, and I think this includes components of inclusion and diversity.

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— Shirley Braunlich is a reader's services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Lawrence Public Library field report: World Voices Festival 2018

The mission of our library presses forward only with some careful study and reflection along the way. To keep making the right decisions for our collections and services, librarians can never stop learning about our world and our community; it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that we have no qualms with this. More knowledge, please.

To do my part, I was so fortunate to attend the PEN America World Voices Festival last month in New York, seeking insights from a myriad of authors and experts from across the globe that can enrich and help the Lawrence Public Library thrive.

Standing “at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide,” PEN America shares the same spirit as any library. This year, the festival theme “Resist and Reimagine” centered the dialogues on the need for clarity, diversity, and liberty in a sociopolitical landscape with no shortage of conflict.

Writers from a far-reaching slate of countries spoke on the challenges they find at home, both as citizens and artists. Novelist Trifonia Melibea Obono, from Equatorial Guinea, illuminated her state’s suppression of ethnic languages and the resulting difficulties of finding common ground among these groups, especially through works of fiction.

Another panel featured authors Hwang Sok-yong of Korea, Petra Hulova of the Czech Republic and Georgi Gospodinov from Bulgaria; they each shared their stories of struggle in a world that can overlook — or cast aside — the voices of marginalized people and marginalized geographies.

Other programs featured our own country, and the literature we may not see in our very midst, writers and stories that may be sadly missing even from the stacks of the library. The PEN Prison Writing Program offered readings of some incredibly emotional and human work, with poetry and memoir from inmates seeking to express themselves and all that they have been through.

A writing workshop of DACA Dreamers presented their stories, as well, refusing to have their unique and bittersweet American stories go unheard. It could not have been made more clear that writing — and art as a whole — is not just an avenue for entertainment or recreation. It is a necessity of life, a human right, an irreplaceable aspect of freedom. Without writing, our own and that of our peers, we languish as with any oppression.

This all might sound rather austere, but the weekend at the World Voices Festival was actually unforgettably vivid and inspiring. Lauded Irish author Colm Toibin is hilarious, it turns out, as he opted to tell knee-slapping jokes during his session. Later, a panel consisting of New York writers — Paul Auster, Salman Rushdie, and Sergio De La Pava — provided an hour and a half of reminiscing, good-natured ribbing, and adoration for their city. Other literary stars like Jhumpa Lahiri did not fail to impress.

To cap it all off, Hillary Clinton (with "Americanah" author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) gave the final remarks for the festival, vigorously reiterating the call for unhindered expression. She even called on libraries specifically, giving us the onus of cultivating communities of “thoughtful readers” equipped with sound media literacy.

That’s precisely what we try to do every day. As we offer a portal to all the different voices within our own community and those from afar, there is always more to explore and more to learn; as the stories of the world carry on, so too does our work.

— Eli Hoelscher is a reader's services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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YA Backlist: “The Great American Whatever” by Tim Federle

As the library's selector for the teen collection, I read a lot of young adult novels. As much as I love reading and sharing what's brand new, I also like shining a spotlight on some of the titles that have been hanging out on our shelves for a while. This month, I'm taking a a look back at Tim Federle's debut young adult novel, "The Great American Whatever."

I really enjoyed Tim Federle’s two middle-grade novels, "Better Nate than Ever" and "Five Six Seven Nate!" and I was happy to hear that he was trying his hand at young adult fiction. After reading "The Great American Whatever," I wasn't disappointed.

I’ve never experienced a loss of a sibling, but Tim’s characters illustrate exactly how I’d imagine it would feel. Protagonist Quinn and his mother pretty much give up on everything after Quinn's sister, Annabeth, dies in a car accident. Quinn sticks to his room and gives up on writing; his mother sleeps on the sofa and overeats. Her death has affected them deeply.

The novel starts with Geoff, Quinn’s charming best friend, encouraging him to go a college party where not much happens, other than Quinn meeting this hot guy, Amir. I really appreciated that Geoff and Quinn’s relationship is a positive example of a straight guy being friends with a gay guy. Quinn isn’t quite out of the closet — he hasn’t told his mother — but the story isn’t centered on that.

Quinn’s developing relationship with Amir, his dealing with the events that surround his sister’s death, and his finding his way back to his passion is then the focus of the story. Quinn and Amir’s relationship starts out healthy, but it’s evident that they both have different ideas of what they want out of it and its direction. I’m not sure I’m happy with where it did go, but not all relationships go the way we want them, do they?

Overall, this is a great story about coming to terms with loss, believing in friendship and discovering oneself. Quinn may come off as smart aleck, but he warms up quickly and you'll care about his journey.

— William Ottens is the cataloging and collection development coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library.

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“Letters to a Young Farmer”: On food, farming, and our future

Not emails. Nor tweets. Nor texts. Letters. The kind you thought people didn't write anymore. And not to friends or family, either, but to that steadfast and necessary minority that will save the world, if given the chance. I'm speaking, of course, of young farmers.

Most of these young farmers haven't grown up in farming communities, and certainly not within a farming culture. Here in Kansas, farm numbers decline steadily as farm size and farm debt grow, trends that reverberate throughout the land. What is a young farmer searching for inspiration and advice to do?

I know one answer to that question, and I'm happy to report that some beginning farmers and farmers-to-be also know it: attending the annual Prairie Festival at the Land Institute in Salina. There, farmers, cooks, thinkers, writers, policy-makers and all manner of like-minded individuals and organizations gather every fall for a weekend of agrarian conversation. For those few September days, the collective level of knowledge and inspiration surely rises above any other gathering in the state.

If you're a regular, you've heard and met a great many of the writers who appear in "Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future," a collection by the esteemed Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. And if you're not familiar with the Land Institute, well, you're in luck, because this book is like a Prairie Festival in your living room, without the wind. Dozens of well-known yet down-to-earth agrarians are gathered in one place, and they're talking to you.

I was drawn to "Letters to a Young Farmer" by its brief appearance in "Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry," shown recently at Liberty Hall. Berry naturally has a piece in the book, and it's remarkable, yet altogether understandable, how many co-contributors mention him as inspiration.

The letters take many forms, from short and heartfelt notes to how-to lists, historical surveys, political manifestos, economic primers, ecological cogitations, advice columns and reminiscences. Some are serious, some are funny, some are a little overwhelming. All are sincere. No matter the tenor, I was glad to get a chance to read what many of my heroes and heroines have to say, as well as get acquainted with some new names.

Gary Nabhan, an amazing farmer/teacher/writer, feels bad for previously neglecting farmers, though I detect a hint of false modesty. "May you plow in peas," he concludes. Mas Masumoto, a California peach grower, says that pruning his trees taught him a valuable lesson: "When you farm, you have to learn how to see the future."

Michael Pollan bows to Berry, placing the new generation of farmers along the line that runs from Sir Albert Howard to the present, reminding me of the talk Berry gave in the Land Institute's then-new greenhouse some thirty years ago. Chef Alice Waters, drawing tasty connections from farm to fork, reminds us that farming is 85 percent of cooking.

Some new heroes and heroines include Dan Barber, a writerly gourmand who I've somehow missed. His letter proves that an award-winning chef can also be a master storyteller. Raj Patel is an activist and writer who has taught "Edible Education" with Michael Pollan, which sounds like my kind of class. Patel quotes Rilke, author of Letters to a Young Poet, and urges young farmers to look to the source of life.

Almost as if they realized that many of the missives in Letters to a Young Farmer included serious strings of (well-meaning) imperatives, the editors close the collection with Berry’s best-known poem, the lighthearted and cantankerous “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” One imperative leads to another for 57 lines, ending in “Practice resurrection.” My favorite advice to any young farmer, or anyone else, can be found on line 38:

"Be joyful though you have considered all the facts."

-Jake Vail is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

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Verse novels to help you celebrate national poetry month

Like many people, I spent a fair amount of time in my teenage years writing poetry. Some of it was quite good (I even won some state-wide awards for it!), but most of it was pretty average. Eventually I stopped feeling the urge to write, and gradually poetry went from being a daily part of my life to something I thought about rarely, if at all.

In the past couple of years, though, I’ve found myself reaching for poetry more regularly. From classics like Langston Hughes’s "The Weary Blues" to recent collections like Yrsa Daley-Ward’s "Bone," when I’m in the mood to just immerse myself in what language can do, there’s nothing else like poetry.

The single biggest driver in getting me back to poetry, though, has been discovering verse novels. Verse novels are books that use poems — usually, but not always, short poems of less than a page or two each — to tell a sustained narrative. Generally speaking, I'm not particularly plot-driven in my reading tastes, but I love seeing how verse novels tell a story while still retaining the focus on form.

In honor of National Poetry Month, here are a few verse novels I've enjoyed.

"Brown Girl Dreaming" — This is actually a verse memoir by prolific children's author Jacqueline Woodson about her life growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, splitting time between family in the Northeast and the South. It's beautiful and thoughtful, all about how we create ourselves and are created by our families, and I've pressed it on many a reader since I picked it up in 2015. (Woodson also wrote my favorite book of 2016, "Another Brooklyn," which reads somewhat like a verse novel itself.)

"The Poet X" — This novel is the fiction debut of National Poetry Slam Champion Elizabeth Acevedo, and it's absolutely fantastic — moving, fast-paced and funny. You'll fall in love with 15-year-old Xiomara Batista, a blossoming poet discovering her talent with words while falling in love for the first time and trying to cope with her strict, religious parents. Acevedo performs the audiobook herself (available on Hoopla), and it's easy to understand why she's a champion performance poet; I kept delaying going to sleep so I could listen to just a little bit more.

"The Crossover," "Booked," "Solo," and "Rebound" - When world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni spoke at KU last year, she said that she'd taught many very good poets over the years, and one truly great poet: Kwame Alexander. I'm a huge fan of Alexander's work, so it was thrilling to hear him name-checked by such a legend. You can't go wrong with any of Alexander's verse novels, but my personal favorite is "The Crossover," about basketball and family and friendship and loss. I'm especially excited to get my hands on "Rebound," the newly released prequel to "The Crossover."

I'm excited to read more in this form, so help me out, readers — what are your favorite verse novels?

— Meredith Wiggins is a reader's services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Lawrence author Lynn Burlingham talks about her new memoir, “Jewels that Speak”

Lynn Burlingham has had quite the journey, with New York, London, and even stops in Norway all in the mix before finding herself here in Lawrence. Her latest book, "Jewels that Speak," recounts her life while offering a look into two storied families of her heritage: the psychoanalytical Freuds and the glass forging Tiffanys, each replete with their own fascinating legacies and conflicts.

The book is emotional, charged, and raw. There is no softening of drama and loss; likewise, moments of clarity and beauty are vivid and fully formed. "Jewels that Speak" is a fascinating family saga, and a memoir that can be, at times, stranger than fiction. I was lucky enough to chat with Lynn, who offered some further insights into her work.

She will also read from her book and sign copies at The Raven Book Store on Friday, April 27th, at 7:00 PM.

Q: Can you say more about what drew you to the idea of using jewels as a frame for your story and how you developed the theme?

A: Thinking about my life and how to tell my story, I saw a thread that would serve to connect and to frame it. My great-grandfather was the American artist and designer Lewis Comfort Tiffany, and my twice-great-grandfather was the jeweler Charles Lewis Tiffany. Within the family, jewels and beautiful objects carried associations beyond the merely aesthetic.

With that in mind, I began to consider the jewels given to me by the most important people in my life, beginning with the antique birthstone pendant my father, who would soon after disappear from my life, had given me for my sixteenth birthday.

Q: What was it like writing your memoir, especially given how personal—and at times, heart-wrenching—it can be?

A: Writing "Jewels That Speak" called up every ounce of courage and resolve that I could manage. I had to pull out buried memories, dust them off, and try to understand what I could not understand when they occurred. I relived the fraught tangle of connections between the Tiffanys, Freuds, and Burlinghams, as expressed in the struggle for the soul of my grandmother, Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, and my father, Robert Burlingham.

To the Tiffanys’ and Burlinghams’ horror, Dorothy left her husband in New York to undergo Freudian analysis in Vienna, then moved with Anna Freud to London, remaining there, with Anna, for the rest of her life, while her young son, Robert, became Anna’s first patient. These thorny relationships set the course for my own life, with its dark underpasses and shaky bridges, its unnamed demons that had to be dealt with along the way. I wanted to confront both the brilliance and the darkness that lurked beneath the glitter, to understand where I fit into the story and then be free to move on.

Q: How long did it take to put all the pieces of this sprawling family story together, and what was your process like?

A: I worked on the memoir for ten years, writing draft after draft, wrestling with the story I had to tell. It was a start-and-stop process: write what I can say now and come back later to what I can’t say yet. I would put it away from time to time, to germinate, in effect, then take it up again with renewed energy and focus.

The hardest struggles had to do with trying to convey the turmoil generated by mental illnesses in the family, with separating out the cross-currents of love and abandonment, and with having to revisit my three broken marriages and their consequences.

Q: Were there any memoirs — or other works — that inspired you while creating Jewels That Speak?

A: Yes, there were many. But a few I’m thinking of right now are: "The Road from Coorain" and "True North" by Jill Ker Conway, "The Diary of Virginia Woolf," "The Liars’ Club" by Mary Karr, "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls, the novels of Marilynne Robinson. All these books ring out with voices that speak harsh but believable truths. Reading them led me to hope that, just as I benefited from their truths, readers would benefit from mine.

Lynn Burlingham. Photo via the author.

Lynn Burlingham. Photo via the author. by Lawrence Public Library Staff

Q: I can’t help but wonder: what do you think Anna Freud, hypothetically, might make of "Jewels That Speak"?

A: I do not think that Anna Freud, hypothetically, would have liked it. In spite of her profession as a well-known child psychoanalyst, I never thought she wanted to know the truth.

Q: Having experienced life in so many different locations, how does Lawrence compare? Does it have anything on Sørenhus in Norway?

A: The happy ending, not a fairy-tale ending but an ending in which the heroine finds peace and her true home, for me is here, because my husband is here. I would have followed him anywhere. Sørenhus is where we go to reconnect with the best parts of my past. It’s filled with memories of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and children enjoying Norway’s brief summer by the sea. But Lawrence is where we’ve made our family, and it’s the place where I belong.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: I’m working on a little book about marriage. Little book, big subject.

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-Eli Hoelscher is a readers’ services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Making illustration look like a cinch: a few questions with Chris Monroe

Of all the picture books I’ve read to my kids, Chris Monroe’s have been some of the most fun, so I was pleased to hear a new Netflix streaming series based on her "Monkey with a Tool Belt" books is in the works. Monroe’s versatility rivals that of her plucky primate protagonist, Chico Bon Bon.

She’s written and illustrated books about a pair of sneaky sheep, a bike-riding ladybug and a dog who can walk on two legs, not to mention titles she has illustrated for others. In the meantime, she cranked out a weekly comic strip, "Violet Days," which ran in Minnesota newspapers for over two decades. Monroe was gracious enough to answer a few questions recently about her life and work.

Q: Your "Violet Days" strips really capture the essence of being a kid in the 1970s and ‘80s. I see a lot written lately about how much childhood has changed since then. What do you think?

A: I think certain things about being a kid are always going to be the same. Having fun hanging out with your friends, listening to music, making each other laugh.

One big change, of course — I've definitely seen groups of kids hanging out and they are actually all checking their phones and basically ignoring each other. You hate to see this great hang time be wasted for no reason. It seems so alienating. Obviously not all kids are like that, but I feel sorry for kids who are addicted to their phones. I hope that has a backlash and kids move away from that someday, and honestly, I think they will. Because kids are cool. Kids are free thinkers. They'll rebel.

Q: Critters of various species, ready to tell it like it is, are ever present in your work — monkeys, ducks, sheep, squirrels, dogs, even the pickle and nickel in "Bug on a Bike." Have you been a prolific pet owner, or are you more comfortable just drawing twitchy, bushy-tailed wise guys?

A: I've pretty much had pets on and off for my entire life. Lots of cats when we were kids. Lots of tragic cat deaths. A misunderstood peekapoo named Max. Siberian huskies when I was in college in Minneapolis and that was just stupid. They were awesome pets, but south Minneapolis was not their ideal habitat for working off stress. A dog named Red Dog who dug so many craters in the lawn and buried food in the furniture. More beloved cat tragedies. Lots of years as a renter when I moved back to Duluth, so no pets. Now I have a min pin named Riley and my life is complete.

Q: When I visited La Jolla, Calif., where Dr. Seuss spent much of his life, I saw what looked like real-life truffula trees growing everywhere, and his work made a different kind of sense to me. You’ve spent most of your life in Minnesota, and continue to live in Duluth. Do you think the Midwest environment has influenced your visual style or the content of your stories?

A: My visual style is definitely affected by living and growing up in northern Minnesota. Particularly in my oil pastel drawings and watercolors. I like to try to draw trees, water, dark forests, night skies, moonlight, animals, and so yes, I am shaped by it.

I think my comic is certainly a reflection of where I am from; I mean, definitely the childhood stories, they'd have to be by their very nature. But I hope it taps into universal themes.

Q: How does your process differ between creating comics and children’s books? Do you prefer one medium over another?

A: I have a very similar process for both children's books and comics. I tend to brainstorm, write a lot of things down in my notebooks. Sift through that, edit, expand on ideas. I always put together a rough outline. For the "Violet Days" comic, I break the idea into five points. Picture books have to fit into 32 pages. So it's a tight space for both. I think about how the art can tell part of the story for both books and comics.

I wrote the first monkey book the exact way I would approach writing a comic. I didn't know how to do it another way. I was basically winging it.

In a way, children's books are easier because there's more time involved, and it is all baby steps. With the comic, the deadline is looming. With both, I write to myself. If I like it, I trust it. I try to, anyway! It can be really anxiety-producing if you have doubts. I've at times been overwhelmed by illustrating and the reality of how many different ways there are to depict a character. It's hard to know when to stop, pick one, move ahead. You could literally draw a walking dog a million ways. You have to choose. Dial it in. The comic is much less involved. Decisions are made quickly. It's scrawly. It's funny. It cracks me up sometimes.

I don't really prefer one over the other if I have the time and space to do them. Right now I am enjoying illustrating a picture book. It's fun to not think about the writing.

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— Dan Coleman is a collection development librarian at Lawrence Public Library.

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The library isn’t just for books anymore —Nintendo edition

When I think of the Lawrence Public Library, I think video games. Some people won’t like that, but I can’t help it. At the library, we have a killer game collection. And it just got killer-er with the addition of Nintendo Switch games.

Nintendo’s little system that could is off to a great start. In just over a year, the handheld/home console hybrid has moved more systems than its predecessor, the (underrated) Wii U. But the sales wouldn’t have come without some great software to back it up.

Nintendo celebrated the 31st birthday of "The Legend of Zelda" by releasing one of the series’ most ambitious (and critically acclaimed) games yet. "Breath of the Wild" (Wii U, Switch) takes place a century after a catastrophic event wreaked havoc on the kingdom of Hyrule. I immediately fell for the beautiful Studio Ghibli-esque world, but even more praiseworthy than the art direction is the amount of freedom "Breath of the Wild" gives its player.

After an expertly crafted introduction, you’re free to climb, run, ride, and glide anywhere you see. People have sprinted through the game in less than an hour, while others have taken their time and played for hundreds. The game’s not perfect; I miss classic "Zelda" dungeons and tools, but for me that small complaint pales in comparison to the game’s living, breathing and incredibly fun world that’s stuffed to the gills with puzzles, challenges and lovable weirdos.

If you love fantasy, but want something a little less joyous, put a hold on "Dark Souls Remastered," out this May. The series is known for its punishing difficulty, but the "Souls" games are more than exercises in masochism; their intricately designed, nightmarish fantasy landscapes are populated by wildly inventive monsters that can now ruthlessly kill you on the go.

Prefer something with a little more futuristic bent? Dust off the old Nintendo Wii (or Wii U) and step into Samus Aran’s space boots. It’s been over 30 years since the original "Metroid" blew the gaming community’s collective mind by revealing that the blocky orange robot that just saved the universe was actually a woman (very progressive for a video game in 1986). The "Metroid Prime Trilogy" (Wii/Wii U) is a collection of atmospheric, first-person, exploration-focused shooters and a great warm up for when "Metroid Prime 4" finally comes out on Switch (not soon enough).

If you need a sci-fi shooter for your Switch right now, things don’t get much more intense than "DOOM." It’s a reboot of the classic demons on Mars — you read that right — first person shooter. Its frenetic, propulsive gameplay rewards you for attacking aggressively. If you’re squeamish, this may not be the game for you; it is very violent.

And there are just so many other great games. "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe" — probably the best go-kart-racing game since its predecessor "Mario Kart Double Dash." "Arms" — Nintendo’s newest and screwiest franchise, which has you boxing with elastic, you guessed it, arms.

"Splatoon 2" remains one of the most creative and unique shooters I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Instead of racking up kills, your goal is to spray ink wherever you can. At the end of the match, a cat named Judd tallies everything up and whichever team has inked more turf wins. If you prefer a series that’s a little longer in the tooth, "Kirby Star Allies" takes the power-sucking pink puffball and pairs him with three partners. Whether those are controlled by the computer or your friends is up to you.

And last but certainly not least, I’d be crazy not to mention "Super Mario Odyssey," one of the best Mario games to be released yet. Taking pages from "Super Mario 64" and "Super Mario Sunshine," you’re dropped into wacky digital playgrounds brimming with things to do. Woo a monster. Do some 8-bit platforming in a poncho and sombrero. Escape a rampaging T. rex ... on a scooter. And much much much more. In addition to classic Mario running and jumping, "Odyssey" introduces Cappy, a ghostly hat that allows you to possess dozens of the game's inhabitants, which opens up brand new styles of play that never disappoint. Except for maybe the pine tree. The pine tree just moves very slowly.

You still want more games? We’ve got them, but you’ll have to check them out yourself. What are you waiting for?

— Ian Stepp is an information services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Distinguished “black birdwatcher” J. Drew Lanham to speak in Lawrence

The Lawrence Public Library is proud to announce that J. Drew Lanham is coming to speak in Lawrence on May 24. Lanham connects storytelling, wit and land ethics to advocate for greater participation in the natural world — especially among people of color. His presentation, "Range-Mapping: Connecting the Conservation Dots for the Human Animal" will be held at 7 p.m. May 24 at Liberty Hall.

He is a conservation ornithologist, naturalist, and hunter-conservationist; Drew is also an Alumni Distinguished Professor and Alumni Master Teacher at Clemson University in South Carolina.

J. Drew Lanham. Photo via the author; background photo via Shirley Braunlich.

J. Drew Lanham. Photo via the author; background photo via Shirley Braunlich. by Lawrence Public Library Staff

Reading his award-winning book, "The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair With Nature," has heightened my awareness that most other people out on the nature trails have white skin like me. Lanham poetically describes the phenomenon of the uncommon black or brown companion birders. He shares lyrically written stories of deep connections to family, his strong sense of place, a passion for nature, optimism and humor, along with the frustration of being the uncommon African-American ornithologist in a predominantly white field.

Lanham is a terrific ambassador who inspires more people to enjoy the natural world, yet he also recognizes the empowerment shared by people with similar cultural experiences.

“Birding While Black” is a poignant chapter in his book reflecting fears similar to the negative experiences expressed by the phrase “driving while black”. A black man risks being accused of suspicious activity simply for being out in a remote environment.

Lanham writes:

The wild things and places belong to all of us. So while I can’t fix the bigger problems of race in the United States—can’t suggest a means by which I, and others like me, will always feel safe—I can prescribe a solution in my own small corner. Get more people of color ‘out there.’ Turn oddities into commonplace. The presence of more black birders, wildlife biologists, hunters, hikers, and fisher-folk will say to others that we, too appreciate the warble of a summer tanager, the incredible instincts of a whitetale buck, and the sound of wind in the tall pines. Our responsibility is to pass something on to those coming after.

As young people of color reconnect with what so many of their ancestors knew—that our connections to the land run deep, like the taproots of mighty oaks, that the land renews and sustains us—maybe things will begin to change.

This is a rallying cry to help more people connect to the outdoors, and I am inspired by his message. I will be reaching out to be more inclusive in planning future nature-related events. As a board member and volunteer with the Kansas Native Plant Society, I have organized and attended many outings over the last 18 years; almost all the folks who have joined me have been white. We need to be ambassadors to bring more kids and adults together from diverse communities to explore and connect with natural places.

I crave being outside in nature, but I was well into my 30s before I first enjoyed a wild environment. I wish someone had taken me under their wing to share wild places when I was a kid. I will be following Lanham’s lead; when I visit a natural area I will respectfully invite old and new friends of different ages, varied hues and diverse origins to go along. I hope you will join me in this effort, and together we will exponentially increase the advocates for the natural world.

Learn more about Lanham’s talk on May 24 here.

— Shirley Braunlich is a readers’ services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Getting “hygge”

Late in 2016 I came across an article touting hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah”, as the newest happiness trend that could help everyone make sense of a tough year. After reading about the candle-lit, warm-blanket, fuzzy-socked Danish tradition of getting cozy, I deemed myself a hygge natural and moved on.

Yet, that funny little word stuck with me. Nearly a year later, at the last Friends of the Library book sale of the year, I came across two books that would send by life spiraling towards a quest for supreme hygge. I learned that hygge is so much more than just getting cozy — it’s a mindset, a way to relate to others, and even a life goal.

I’ll freely admit that I plucked "The Year of Living Danishly" off the shelf because the beautiful blue cover caught my eye. As soon as I opened the book, that funny little “hygge” word jumped off the page and into my life again. Russell is a Brit who expatriates to Denmark for a year after her husband receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for Lego.

She decides to use her year abroad figuring out why the Danes are so notoriously happy, but spends the first chapter of her book trying to figure out where the heck all the Danes are hiding. They are at home, she finds, getting hygge with friends and family.

Russell illustrates the material side of hygge — buy more blankets — but the best parts of this book come out of her hilarious life experiences as she adopts the Danish way of life. I finished this book with a better understanding of what makes a nation happy despite ridiculously high taxes and “soul-destroying” winter darkness.

"The Little Book of Hygge"

Written by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (talk about street cred!), this book showed that hygge is so much more than a blanket or a warm fireside drink with friends. Hygge is really more of a feeling that you can experience anywhere.

Thanks to hygge, Danes can pass on that snooty, over-starched restaurant because a hyggelig noodle shop is preferred, and they can avoid that loud, boisterous party, because the small, informal gathering with close friends is so much more hygge. Wiking goes so far as to call hygge socializing for introverts. Where do I sign up and how do I get started?

After reading about the chapter “Light,” I found myself precariously perched on top of a ladder replacing all the “alien autopsy” LED lights in my home with warmer LED lights. It was a bit dangerous, but worth it to mimic the color temperature of candlelight and sunsets, which clock in at a very hygge 1,800-2,500 Kelvin.

The chapter “Home” compelled me to rearrange the house to accommodate a hyggekrog, or nook, perfect for curling up with a book and a drink. Speaking of drinks, in the name of science I took it upon myself to try Wiking’s recipe for glogg, a.k.a. mulled wine, to which I give the ultimate hygge seal of approval.

I was overjoyed to hear that you can hygge all year round. That cozy summer picnic? Super hygge. Taking a springtime stroll with a good friend? Hygge-rific! Curling up on the couch to watch a thunderstorm? That’s probably the most hygge of all, because all that danger outside makes you realize how safe and comfy you are inside.

Thanks to the library and the Friends of the Library book sale, my three month obsession with all things Danish and hygge led me to some interesting places. Here are some of my favorite gems:

Eat: " Cook Yourself Happy" — I dare you to try Fleming’s Kartoffelfad med Bonner, a.k.a. Bean and Potato Casserole, and not want to instantly slap on a pair of cozy socks. Her Hot Chocolate with Orange Syrup recipe isn’t too shabby either.

"The Year of Cozy" — While not written by a Dane, this book is the perfect intersection of DIY and hygge. The book, broken up by month, will have you cooking and crafting your way to hygge in no time.

Watch: Danish dramas are so dark! Make sure you watch these in the dead of winter with no ambient light or you won’t see a thing.

"The Bridge" — This dark drama about about a body found directly on the border between Sweden and Denmark will suck you in from the first scene. Wrap yourself in an extra cozy blanket for this one.

"The Killing" — AMC’s adaptation of a wildly popular Danish show is just as dark as The Bridge, but pulls much more adrenaline from the start.

Read: "The Book of Hygge" — An introduction to the philosophy behind hygge through quotes, proverbs, and deep explanation.

"The Almost Nearly Perfect People" by Michael Booth — For an examination on the dark side of all this happiness, Booth’s book provides just enough researched cynicism to get your head out of the clouds.

-Angela Thompson is the Friends of the Library program coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library.

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What am I waiting for? Books on my to-read shelf

I have been a terrible reader lately, and it is all because of the vile temptress of Netflix. For literal years, I’ve prided myself on being that pretentious person: not watching television, certainly not owning a television (goodness, no), not using the letters “T” and “V” in the same sentence, blah blah blah. My very patient friends have put up with this for a long time, and I’d like to publicly thank you. You were right, and I am now a huge, TV-addicted weenie.

In the last month, I’ve binged several shows, the most recent of which has been the American version of "Shameless" (which you can check out here). I’m having a great time, but I also have been majorly neglecting my to-read pile. Here’s what I have not been reading, but will maybe someday read when the latest season is over and also my laptop dies and maybe my internet gets disconnected:

"Bluebird, Bluebird" by Attica Locke

Hilariously enough, this has just been announced as a TV series, but that’s not my reason for wanting to read it. I listened to Locke’s earlier novel, "The Cutting Season," finding her writing to be captivating and realistic. She takes complicated characters and throws them a slow-burn thrillers while incorporating issues of racial discrimination, class inequality and other thoughtful topics.

"An Extraordinary Destiny" by Shekhar Paleja

This is a layered, literary family saga focused on three generations of Indian men and how their lives are impacted both by “fate” and by the decisions of their elders. It’s also the author’s debut novel, and folks who have read it have been raving about his writing style.

"The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore" by Kim Fu

According to my Bibliocommons account, it was almost exactly two years ago when I read Fu’s other novel, "For Today I Am a Boy," which is fascinating and lonely and, if not “enjoyable,” then definitely worthwhile. When I heard she had new novel about girls stranded in a disastrous summer camp, I was intrigued. Fu’s prose is sharp and not overly sentimental, so I’m eager to see what she does with this premise.

"Home Fire" by Kamila Shamsie

I’m not solely judging this book by its cover, but holy moley, is it gorgeous. Fellow Book Squad member Meredith highly recommended this one at our last staff meeting, and it would be wonderful for someone who wants to be deeply emotionally impacted by a story. If you click the catalog link above, you’ll see that it’s received high praise all over the place.

So, when will I get to these books? Who knows. I’d like to think I have more willpower to fight against the fierce embrace of streaming television, but that’s turning out not to be the case. With the weather getting nicer, however, it may be a perfect time to shut down the laptop, grab a book and tackle my to-read shelf outside.

— Kate Gramlich is a readers' services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Choose kind at your library

February and March are Read Across Lawrence months at the Lawrence Public Library. The goal is to get everyone in the community on the same page by reading the same book at the same time. This year, we tried a grand experiment: one book for all ages.

"Wonder" by RJ Palacio was the perfect choice. Its central lesson resonates with all ages: “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”

In the spirit of “Wonder,” we’ve put together this short list of inspirational reads that focus on the universal themes of kindness and the power of friendship. All are available at the library.

Dare to Be Kind” by Lizzie Velasquez

In “Dare to Be Kind,” Velasquez shares her remarkable personal story. Born with a rare genetic condition, Velasquez came across a viral video when she was 17 years old labeling her as “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” Instead of retreating, she decided to stand up and become an advocate for victims of bullying the world over.

“Dare to Be Kind” chronicles Velasquez’s personal experiences of being bullied and reveals her own battles with anxiety and disappointment. She shares uplifting advice on how we all have the power to overcome obstacles and move forward with greater positivity.

Velasquez will deliver the 2018 Read Across Lawrence keynote address at 3:30 p.m. today at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive. The event is open to the public, and no tickets are required.

Born to Be Good” by Dacher Keltner

For readers interested in the science of kindness, Keltner’s “Born to Be Good” delves into the science of psychology to explain the evolutionary origins of human emotions. Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he directs the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab. His book is based on his postgraduate research examining the science of facial expressions.

Keltner proposes that perhaps survival is not a matter of who is the fittest, but rather of who is the kindest. “Born to Be Good” is a thought-provoking book about how positive emotions like love, compassion and awe lie at the core of human nature and shape our everyday behavior.

Kindness Boomerang” by Orly Wahba

Wahba’s “Kindness Boomerang” will help you put kindness into action. Her premise: “When kindness is shared, it grows. And every bit of kindness we put into the world comes back in some way. That is the kindness boomerang.”

Wahba began her career in as a middle school educator, where she taught her students to build their self-esteem and to use the power they have to influence the world for good. In 2011, she founded Life Vest Inside, an organization that encourages people to embrace the incredible power of giving and recognize that in times of hardship, kindness, like a life vest, keeps the world afloat.

The book challenges readers to practice kindness in relationships, kindness with themselves, kindness with nature and kindness in many other forms. It recommends specific daily acts of kindness and also provides inspirational quotes and things to reflect on. Wahba’s book is a call to action for anyone who wants to live a more connected and fulfilling life.

-Kathleen Morgan is Lawrence Public Library’s Director of Development and Community Partnerships.

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Another year, another Newbery Medal winner

The American Library Association's Youth Media Awards season is a heady time for librarians in youth services. We’re all trying to figure out what the best book will be while waging our own mental campaigns for our favorites by thinking very compelling arguments at the selection committee. Like the Oscars, we wait all year to find out which books will gain top honors. The big-name awards are the Printz, the Newbery, and the Caldecott awards.

The Printz is the top honor for literature written for teens, and the Newbery is the equivalent for children’s literature. The Caldecott is awarded to children's books (usually picture books) with the best illustrations. You’re probably asking, "Well, this is great, but why should I care?" Because they are all great books! And especially this year, I think they signal a shift in the library and publishing community. Almost all of the books awarded top honors this year represented diverse voices and stories, clearly peeling away from representation of only those in the majority. No place is this more apparent than in the medalist and honorees for the Newbery for 2018.

Before we get into the joy that was the Newbery this year, a few notes on how books are judged: they have to be written in English by authors who spend the majority of time in the United States; there is one truly distinguished book but honor books can be named; it must be original, and it must be “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” published in the preceding year.

Now that we have that out the way, the winner of this year’s Newbery Medal is "Hello, Universe," written by Erin Entrada Kelly. The runners-up are: "Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut," written by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James; "Long Way Down," written by Jason Reynolds; and "Piecing Me Together," written by Renée Watson. Look at these beautiful books, celebrating stories that haven’t traditionally been part of the “distinguished literature” canon.

"Hello, Universe" follows Virgil Salinas as he consults his friend Kaori, a bona fide psychic, for advice on how to make friends with the coolest girl at school, Valencia. Through a thoroughly believable, well woven plot and some “help” from a bully, Virgil and his guinea pig, Gulliver, end up at the bottom of a well. Convinced she can feel something wrong, Kaori sets out to rescue him with Valencia's help.

These four characters — the bully, the psychic, the brave girl and the shy boy at the bottom of a well — are propelled towards each other. It culminates in a finale that I definitely saw coming, but couldn’t help grinning like an idiot over anyway. I cannot wait to put this book into the hands of everyone I meet. Well done, Newbery Medal committee, and well done, Kelly Erin Entrada, for producing a book to fall in love with.

-Lauren Taylor is a youth services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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TV killed the literary star

The sophomore season of Donald Glover’s cult-favorite TV show "Atlanta" kicked off yesterday, continuing the story of Earnest “Earn” Marks and his struggle to make money (and sense) in an often absurd world. It’s likely one of Glover’s lesser-known works among his renaissance-man slate of music and acting—such as playing Lando Calrissian in an upcoming "Star Wars" spin off.

Though the comedy doesn’t have the clout of a celebrated galactic saga, it’s nonetheless a complex and enjoyable piece of storytelling. Television has earned increasing recognition as a true art medium— going beyond its reputation as just entertainment— and Glover’s layered vision of modern city life convincingly furthers this trend.

With the new season underway, I’ve found some analogs in the fiction stacks that backlight the somewhat familiar literary underpinnings of "Atlanta."

The show could be described, in part, as a Gothic family drama; Earn and his girlfriend Vanessa are in a precarious on-again-off-again relationship while attempting to raise a child together. Their romantic posturing and conflicts, while sometimes darkly funny, never let the audience forget that a young life hangs in the balance. Earn’s mix of money problems and interpersonal shortcomings result in a family fighting the urge to crumble, not unlike Emily Brontё’s "Wuthering Heights" or Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "The House of Seven Gables." The streets of Atlanta are certainly a big, but very welcome, shift from the estates and manors of the classics.

Atlanta Season 2, via FX.

Atlanta Season 2, via FX. by Lawrence Public Library Staff

In a similar fashion, the ambitions of Earn and his cousin, up-and-coming rapper Paper Boi, recall the archetypes of celebrated Western literature. Their urban surroundings are a harsh and unforgiving landscape, and life is simply not easy. As the pair tries to make it big, they run up against underhanded promoters, rival rappers, and the quagmire that is modern public relations and social marketing. There isn’t a lot of violence, but it’s demonstrated as a necessary part of rugged life. The epic cattle drive of Larry McMurtry’s "Lonesome Dove" is a surprisingly apt comparison in many ways.

Going beyond plot themes, a dash of magical realism is one of the most refreshing facets of the production. In one episode, local celebrity Marcus Miles — who is otherwise a totally unimportant character — has an invisible car. It doesn’t affect the plot in a meaningful way, and its impossible existence isn’t confronted at any point. For me, this immediately brought to mind Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the master of the genre, in particular his short story, “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.”

"Atlanta" breaks from conventional TV standards in more ways, too, sprinkling in moments of post-modern weirdness and surrealism. The episode “B.A.N.” upends the typical narrative style, transforming it into thirty minutes of a talk show within the show’s universe — with hilarious results. The writing shines when it turns to social satire; T. Geronimo Johnson’s excellent and challenging "Welcome to Braggsville" comes to mind whenever issues of race are engaged. I can’t help but imagine Kurt Vonnegut would be a fan of the show as well.

To be clear, Glover isn’t standing on the shoulders of giants, by any means. Though there are surely some direct literary influences at play, the artistic rendering of "Atlanta" is its own thing.

Personally, I can’t wait to see where we’re taken this season. The team wasn’t afraid of taking risks to begin with, and I hope that innovation continues as they seamlessly join humor and drama, questioning whether this world is as rationale as it appears. Books are definitely my favorite, don’t worry, but television of this caliber proves that a nuanced introspection on life can go beyond the pages.

-Eli Hoelscher is a Readers’ Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

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