Whether you’ve got a novel in you, or a short story, or a poem… or you like journaling, or you want to write your family history, or you’re curious about any other kind of writing… the library can help! Full disclosure, this blog post is going to have some good writing resources in it, but it’s also an excuse for me to plug the fact that we have some writing programming going on as well! The groups are meeting virtually, of course, but the Sheboygan County Writers Club has two meetings, a large-group meeting and a small-group workshop, every month! Here are the links to the meetings for March: large group here, small group here.
But even if you can’t make it (or aren’t interested in that), there’s plenty of other library resources that can help out with writing. For instance…
Poets & Writers Magazine is one of, if not the, best-known magazines about writing. In addition to having articles and essays about the craft of writing and interviews with all sorts of different writers, they also have an extensive Classifieds section at the end with information about upcoming writing contests, calls for submissions from literary magazines and agencies, people offering editing services, and all sorts of other resources for writing, editing, and publication.
Do you enjoy reading letters, emails, texts, or other people’s diary entries? Then epistolary novels are for you. Plainly explained, an epistolary novel is a story told through correspondence. Written in a series of epistles, meaning missives or journal entries, the reader gets an intimate view of the characters’ innermost thoughts and experiences as the story unfolds. As a reader, you cannot help but connect with these characters and think of them as acquaintances by the novel’s end.
Are you new to epistolary novels and don’t know what to choose? I recommend three of my all-time favorites: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Sleeping Giants, and Griffin and Sabine. The former is a heart-warming, post-war story of friendship, love, and resilience. The middle is a science fiction-mystery-thriller featuring extraterrestrial robot warriors. The latter is filled with exquisite illustrations, and you get to physically open some of the letters which are contained in envelopes between the pages.
Maybe you crave a good heartbreaking but empowering tale like Code Name Verity, the story of two friends caught in the snares of WWII espionage, or Speak, the recount of a teen’s high school struggles post-rape, or The Power, the speculative discussion between two authors on what might have happened when females became the physically dominant gender.
If humor is what you’d prefer, check out The Screwtape Letters, a satire on human foibles discussed through missives passed between a bureaucrat from Hell and his incompetent apprentice; or consider Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging, a Bridget Jones’-style tell-all journal of a year in the life of a British teen.
Fancy something a little more scandalous? Try the French epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. You might be familiar with the films it inspired: Dangerous Liaisons and Cruel Intentions. Of course, there is also The Diary of Anaïs Nin. Yes, THAT Anaïs Nin.
Whatever satisfies your prying inclinations, there is an epistolary novel calling your name, so don’t fight it. Indulge and enjoy it guilt-free. After all, it was written for you, reader.
The American Library Association recently announced the winners of the 2021 Youth Media Awards. High quality media for teens and children were awarded for their excellence under different categories. I’ve listed some of these remarkable award winners below and included links to our catalog so you can reserve your copies today!
John Newbery Medal
The John Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This year’s winner is When You Trap a Tiger, written by Tae Keller. In this story, a magical tiger from Korean folklore appears to Lily after she moves in with her dying grandmother. Something was stolen from the tiger long ago and an incredible deal is offered for its return.
If you haven’t already heard, Mead Library assembled a 2021 reading challenge in bingo form. We think it’s a fun way to push past your reading comfort zone while working towards a goal. Bookish Bingo Challenge bingo cards can be picked up in-house at the first floor desk, or click HERE to download and print at home. If you are interested in more community while working through the challenges, consider joining our Goodreads group HERE.
Check in on Mead’s blog periodically throughout the year for reading suggestions that focus on a particular square. I’m getting things rolling today with my personal favorite square, Make a new recipe from a cookbook. I LOVE cookbooks. Like, I’ll just read em like a magazine. What’s not appealing about the big, colorful photos, the possibilities, the kitchen anecdotes, the food history. Love it. Below, I list my recent favorite cookbooks and what it was like to cook a new (to me) recipe from each of them.
Yotam Ottolenghi might not be a household name in every home, but it should be. He and his business/cooking partner Sami Tamimi have been producing gorgeous cookbooks since 2008. The books tend to stick with a similar format but shift in focus. Jerusalem, for instance, explores the food eaten by the authors growing up as an Israeli and Palestinian, respectively, in the city of Jerusalem. Each recipe features a color photo of the dish as well as a diary-like entry contextualizing the food in relation to the authors’ memories.
I chose to make Mejadra which is considered comfort food in the Middle East. The recipe called for a ton of crispy crunchy onions which are then mixed with lentils, rice, and warming spices that have been bloomed in oil. It was deceptively simple and called for such humble ingredients that it verged on shocking how delicious it turned out. Simple ingredients can yield fabulous results. This is the versatile kind of recipe I could make for a week’s worth of lunches, or serve to a group along with dinner.
This delightful cookbook first passed through my hands back when I was a library page. One of the many perks of the job was seeing new material come through the building. I would usually have a little stack to take home with me at the end of shift, and Well Fed, Flat Broke caught my attention thusly. I liked the pretty photography of the finished recipes. I liked the chatty, familiar way blogger Emily Wight wrote introductions to chapters and recipes. I liked the concept of cooking great food with inexpensive ingredients. It just grabbed me, you know? I’m still not cool with some of Wight’s staple ingredients, such as SPAM. I just can’t do it. I just can’t. My apologies to the SPAM-stans among us, but it is a bridge too far.
The recipe I decided to try was the underwhelming-sounding “Breakfast Beans”. I am a bean enthusiast. Beans are cheap, plentiful, tasty, versatile, and shelf-stable. Basically, I had to saute diced celery with garlic before adding a can of white beans, some rosemary, and the surprise ingredient of the day, fish sauce. After adding in a few more things, the whole concoction is served over toast and topped with a fried egg. And brother, I got to tell you, one sure-fire way to get me to eat a thing is just put a fried egg on top. The dish turned out great and I know I have another go-to recipe under my belt for when I don’t want to eat a fried egg all by itself.
Mexican food, or more accurately Tex-Mex, is my favorite food to cook. I love the big, bold flavor that comes from chilis and cumin and garlic. I love that the ingredients in Tex-Mex cooking tend to be inexpensive and readily at hand, which is a running theme in my cookbook consumption. I also love the family aspect of Tex-Mex cooking, since most recipes yield quantities meant to feed a crowd.
In the before-times, I would spend all day, literal hours, making elaborate trays of enchiladas from scratch to feed my loved ones around a big table. While a communal meal is off the (dinner) table for the time being, I found that during Safer-At-Home, cooking huge quantities of food was soothing, and hey, it freezes pretty well, too. The enchiladas in this cookbook are the best I’ve ever made, but I was also pleased to find the non-enchilada recipes to be more than solid. I made Sopa de Fideo, or vermicelli soup for the first time back in the depths of April 2020. It’s basically Tex-Mex Spaghettios but actually good to eat. It’s a really forgiving recipe and does not require the rigor that some of the other recipes call for. Sylvia Caseres’ The Enchilada Queen Cookbook helped take my cooking from tentative to confident, which is what any cookbook worth its salt and seasoning should do.
Here are some additional popular and beautiful cookbooks to get your culinary juices flowing:
The cookbooks listed above are all available in the Monarch catalog, often in multiple formats. If none of the selected titles are making your brain spark, please note Mead Library and the broader Monarch library system have access to literally THOUSANDS of cookbooks. We can help find the right cookbook for anyone based on regional cuisine, dietary needs, and complexity. As always, we are here to help connect people to the library materials they need, cookbook or not. Never hesitate to reach out for recommendations and troubleshooting, and enjoy your Bookish Bingo odyssey all of 2021.
Above: Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenge bingo card. Pick up a copy at the first floor desk or download and print your own HERE.
Returning to work or school after the holidays can be such a complete bummer. Pour some social distancing fatigue, light sedition, and general pandemic horror on top of that and welcome yourself to 2021, or The Year We Hope Won’t Totally Suck. What do we do, however, to get ourselves to look forward and not back? How do we make it through another freezing and drab Wisconsin winter after all that? It is with pleasure that I announce my new favorite distraction: Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenge. Here’s how it works:
List your title, used only once, and submit your completed Bingo – down, across or diagonal – to firstname.lastname@example.org or in-person at Mead Public Library to receive a small prize and an additional entry in the Summer Library Program drawing for your first Bingo. If you complete the Bingo card, and submit it by December 31, 2021, you will be entered into a drawing for a surprise gift.
The 2020 Hugo Awards were officially announced last week. 17 Hugo Awards are distributed (plus some extras) but one of my favorite categories is the Award for Best Graphic Story or Comic. Here are the 6 shortlisted titles for this year’s award.
You are likely familiar with the phrase “the movie was good, but the book was better”. But is that always true? Many movies are based on books, and oftentimes readers prefer the book over the movie. Sometimes as readers we may even feel like a movie ruined the story we had read and loved. Nothing beats reading a well-written story, and reading can feel like an intimate experience for the reader. We allow the words on the pages to guide us into envisioning the settings and characters to the extent that our imaginations take us. Movies on the other hand, can really bring these stories to life in a way that we, as readers, may not have even been able to imagine. I love watching movies based on books I’ve read and comparing their portrayal to how I’d imagined the story. There are many movies based on children’s literature. Your family may enjoy reading a book together and then watching the movie version of the story with a movie night! Have fun sharing your opinions with each other on which one you liked better, or maybe you’ll decide they were both well done. Take a look below for some great books that also have movies based on their stories.
Twelve-year-old Heidi has a lot of questions about where she came from, but it hasn’t been easy finding the answers. She lives in an adjoined apartment with her mother who has an intellectual disability, and Bernadette – her unofficial guardian who has agoraphobia. She doesn’t know who her father is, or how she and her mother came to live in their apartment. Her mother doesn’t have the ability to give her the answers to her questions. Bernadette doesn’t know where Heidi and her mother came from, but cares for Heidi as if she were her own daughter. A box of old photos of her mother is eventually discovered that provides clues to a location she’d lived. A determined Heidi sets out on an emotional adventure to that location to find out who she is. This is a touching story, and the movie can be requested here.
Sick of spaceships? Toured pseudo-medieval Europe too often? Try these 6 science fiction & fantasy stories from black authors. You’ll find yourself anywhere from a magical version of modern Nigeria to a post-apocalyptic Brazil. With expansive worlds and fresh perspectives, these books can freshen up any sci-fi or fantasy reader’s bookshelf.
If N.K. Jemisin’s deluge of accolades and unprecedented three consecutive Hugos aren’t enough to persuade you to pick up The Fifth Season, perhaps a violent world of regular nigh-apocalyptic cataclysms and a earth-shattering mage on a far-ranging quest of vengeance to save her kidnapped daughter will entice you.
Most years, we’d be approaching E3 season. That may be canceled, but there are a few games that I’m looking forward to that have already been announced. I’m sure as announcements trickle in that there will be more games that I’ll look forward to, but we’ll start with these.
As much as I love a good story, I’m a sucker for an open-world RPG. This one has piqued my interest because it’s not the usual shooter or fantasy RPG. It’s tough to say from the gameplay they’ve shown how much variety there will be for what you can do. So far, it’s eating things and swimming through beautiful aquatic scenery. I suspect that’s why the game is cheaper than most games upon release, but I still want to try it.
People often assume I love books more than anything given my field and profession, and they aren’t wrong! I love books, so, so much. I love books like they’re alive. But my go-to vehicle for escapism has always been the warm embrace of film. If you haven’t sought out Mead’s video-streaming service, Kanopy yet, now is the time. Mead Library card holders get 10 credits a month and access to a staggering array of film across all genres. In addition to that, the “no-credit” viewing list has risen to 60 titles to meet our needs during the most leisurely pandemic ever. Below, I listed four movies to keep you entertained while we ride this stuff out.
A Town Called Panic (2009; 76 minutes; PG) Sometimes I get envious of people when I find out they haven’t consumed my personal favorite movies. They get to have the experience of seeing it for the first time, and I can never feel that feeling again. Please watch this movie, I implore you. Y’all are in for a treat. Not only is it beautiful to look at and very charming, but it is outright hilarious and wildly creative. This is stop-motion animation at its most absurd and watchable. I’m so confident in its appeal that I am not even going to go into any sort of plot summary. It’s a French production, so make sure to watch with original French subtitles. Kids will dig on it, too! With or without subtitles.
Black Christmas (1974; 1h 38m; R) Why yes, this was recently remade and no, you absolutely should not watch the remake. For those of you who do not dig on horror, by all means skip right the heck over this entry. Not only is Black Christmas an early prototypic slasher movie often copied in tone a decade later in the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th but it is genuinely creepy! Originally released under the title “Silent Night Deadly Night”, we watch as one by one, members of a sorority succumb to the creep living in the attic. You may be surprised to learn that Bob Clark, the film’s director, would go on to direct A Christmas Story so he really had all the Christmas-themed genre films locked down by the early 1980s. This is a great pick for someone who is curious about horror but can’t handle too much gore. Also, it’s a good idea to wait until the wee ones are elsewhere before giving it a look.
The Harder They Come (1972; 2h; R) The plot is convoluted, the acting is terrible, the cinematography is eh, so why bother? This is the king of 1970s exploitation films and warrants a peek. And have I mentioned the soundtrack? Talk about escapism, it’s like sitting by the beach, you just need to stick a tiny umbrella in your drink. The film’s protagonist, played by Jimmy Cliff, is trying his best to get a recording contract while running afoul of drug dealers and corrupt record producers. Naturally, the soundtrack is peppered with the best reggae music and artists of the time. Only one other exploitation film comes close in musical quality and that is the immortal soundtrack to Superfly (also 1972), by Curtis Mayfield. I would not necessarily call The Harder They Come “lighthearted” but it is so far afield in location and time that one will be transported, if only briefly, to a place far from the realities of COVID.
Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015; 80m; PG-13) While the film was released in 2015, it is based on a series of interviews conducted by Truffaut over the course of a week in 1962 at Hitchcock’s studios at Universal. The interview series would go on to be published in 1966 as a book of the same name, and is still considered one of the most important books on film published in the 20th century. Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959) and Vertigo (1958) had already reached the big screen at the time of the interviews, and Rebecca won for Best Picture in 1940, but Hitchcock was still not regarded as the important auteur we know him as today. Truffaut, himself a young filmmaker, idolized Hitch’s work and used the interview time to go through all of his more than 50 films to date in chronological order with almost fetishistic zeal. The addition of interjected commentary by contemporary filmmakers fleshes out the scope and gravity of what Truffaut accomplished. WARNING! This documentary will make you want to watch Hitchcock’s entire filmography so be prepared. It might also make one curious about the work of Francois Truffaut. If this is the case, I have good news. My next Kanopy-centric blog post will focus on Criterion Collection titles available, which includes but is not limited to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Stay tuned!
I would love to hear which films people have found appealing, and which…not so much. Let me know! Email me at email@example.com. I would truly love to hear some opinions and suggestions. We’re happy to help with any Kanopy-related questions, as well. Until next time, happy watching!