Posted in Fiction, Horror, Kids 5-12, Uncategorized

Chills in the Air

October is my favorite month of the year. I love the chill in the air and the spooky vibes that come along with Halloween. It’s the perfect time of year to curl up under a cozy blanket with a scary story! There are many horror stories written for middle grade readers ranging from the mildly creepy to downright terrifying! I have some recommendations below that can be found in our children’s collection. Click on the titles that interest you to request your copy straight from our catalog.

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

Ease young readers into horror stories with this ghostly murder mystery! 12 year-old Amy has an extended visit with her aunt who is cleaning out her deceased great-grandparents’ home. Their deaths happened many years before Amy was born and have always been a mystery to her. The mystery begins to unravel when she uncovers a beautiful dollhouse modeled after their house, stashed away in the attic. The dolls in the dollhouse seem to move on their own. Are they trying to tell her something? Any mention of the dollhouse or the great-grandparents upsets her aunt, so Amy has to do her own research to uncover what really happened to her family years ago. This story has a low level of supernatural creepiness that pairs well with its fascinating family mystery.

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Posted in Adult, Film, Staff Picks, Uncategorized

Loved This? Watch That!

When I finish watching an engaging, beloved movie or TV show I get a kind of emotional hangover. “Nothing will ever be as appealing and wonderful! Nothing will ever measure up to Cobra Kai. NOTHING! I will never watch television again so as to not break my heart thusly!” I cry while flinging myself onto the red velvet chaise longue we keep in the library employee break room (we do not, but I need it for some imaginary Victorian hysterics). And as always, after a few listless moments casting about on the various streaming services, I always manage to find something to watch that I love, rinse, repeat. Below, I listed several beloved movies and television shows along with media that will be similar in tone. The titles listed are all available on DVD in the Monarch catalog. 

If you liked Community (2009-2015) try Mystery Team (2009, rated R)

Although the final episode aired in 2015, Community remains one of the more imaginative and funny ensemble TV shows ever produced. It’s a personal favorite of mine and some episodes made me laugh so hard I cried. Community is a Dan Harmon joint, who is also the brains behind Rick and Morty, which is all well and good, but I would like to talk a little bit about the creative output of Community alum Donald Glover. Before Community there was “Derrick Comedy”; a comedy sketch group well-known for their YouTube skits. Check out their oeuvre HERE. (WARNING THEY ARE VERY SWEAR-Y).Their association culminated in the creation of the wonderful feature film Mystery Team (2009, rated R). The film explores what happens when a plucky bunch of Encyclopedia Brown-like mystery-solving grade schoolers reach high school and try to solve a grown-up crime. The Derrick Comedy crew wrote the script so expect campy surprises and funny twists. Be on the lookout for early screen appearances by Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan, John Lutz, and Ellie Kemper. Glover is also famous for writing on another beloved ensemble comedy, 30 Rock, so fans of this and Community would be well rewarded to give Mystery Team a go. Still need more Donald Glover action? You’re in luck; Glover wrote and starred in two seasons of Atlanta (2016-) which was just renewed for two additional seasons. Now’s the time to get caught up!

If you like Saturday Night Live (1975-present) try The Kids in the Hall (1989-1994)

Saturday Night Live has been a weekly comedy stalwart for 45 years, but what is one to do between Saturdays? You could watch cast compilations or holiday specials; Monarch has several in the catalog & the Chris Farley retrospective always cracks me up. But if you’re looking for something a little different, may I suggest legendary Canadian sketch show The Kids in the Hall? As founding member Dave Foley once said, if SNL is the Beatles of sketch comedy, then KITH is The Velvet Underground. Their surreal, fourth-wall-breaking comedy is often compared to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as well. Both troupes were famous for their absurdism and dressing in drag when the sketch called for women characters. While they had recurring characters like SNL, such as a man with a cabbage for a head, a flying pig, and catty secretaries named Kathy and Cathy, unlike SNL, celebrity impersonations were limited to Scott Thompson’s hysterical Queen Elizabeth. The Kids in the Hall is the epitome of gen x humor, and I was pleased to find they hold up after all this time. If you are easily offended by queer humor, I feel bad for you, but also, you might want to stear clear of this series. For everyone else: prepare to die of laughter. 

If you liked Twin Peaks (1990-91, 2017) try Fargo (2014-2017)

Watching Twin Peaks as it first aired in 1990 was a foundational experience for me and shaped the way I now interact with media. As much as I loved it, I had to admit I had no idea what the hell was going on most of the time. It was visually stunning, the actors were compelling and watchable, and the comedy was black as pitch. For more of the same, but with a plot that makes sense, take a look at Fargo. Each season is a self-contained story, but the discerning viewer will notice that although time periods differ, each season’s plot relates to the others. The plot also relates to the 1996 film of the same name in clever ways. In addition to the stellar writing and gorgeous cinematography, get a load of the absurd cast list. Season one alone boasts Martin Freeman (an Englishman playing a Minnesotan; BRILLIANT!), Billy Bob Thorton, and Colin Hanks. Season two includes the best performance I have ever seen from the extremely talented Kirsten Dunst, as well as a fine turn by a top-notch Ted Danson. Season three features Ewan McGregor playing a set of feuding twins. Not compelled yet? Gosh, sorry you don’t like good television (winky face).

As stated earlier, all movies and television shows mentioned above can be found in the Monarch catalog on DVD. Need help searching the catalog or requesting materials? Call us at 920-459-3400 for troubleshooting help. Not too keen on the media I listed above? We can help with that too! Just give us a call and tell us what you like to watch. We can access literally thousands of different titles throughout the Monarch library system. Thanks for reading, and happy watching!

Posted in Fiction, Kids 0-5, Uncategorized

Shake This Book!

Interactive picture books provide an engaging reading experience. They are fun for young listeners/readers, and are an especially great option for those not ready to sit for a full story. These books require active participation in the story by encouraging readers to complete a small task before turning the page. The story may request for you to shake or tilt the book, blow on or trace a picture with your finger, spin the book or your body, clap your hands, or even count to a certain number to help move the story along. Once you’ve completed your task, turn the page to see the effect your action had on the story! There are many entertaining interactive children’s books available in our library. I’ve listed some of my favorites below!

The Cat Book by Silvia Borando

You will be busy taking care of your cat in this fun book. Once you’ve woken him up, you will have to pet him, squish some fleas, dry him off after he gets wet, try to scare away a bird so he doesn’t eat it, and then help him go to sleep. Readers of all ages will enjoy interacting with this cute kitty!

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Posted in Uncategorized


This week I spent some time working on Mead’s DVD collection. It’s hard to determine which titles are actually on the shelf and which may have grown legs and escaped the building via clandestine means, which got me thinking about library theft. We all love public libraries and the access to books, movies, music, and other resources they provide. All that and more for free, Free! FREE! Utilizing libraries can save anyone thousands of dollars a year when compared to the retail cost of books, etc, and these things are available to all. That’s why it totally blows my mind when I come to discover missing or stolen items in the collection. Lost and damaged items are part of the public library landscape and honest mistakes happen all the time. Maybe there’s a pattern to it all, one I cannot discern from the relative proximity to Mead’s catalog offerings. I decided to take a look at the things people commonly steal from libraries, bookstores, and archives across the country to try and extrapolate some reasons WHY. 

Photo credit: Vintage/Anchor Books via Twitter


The above photo was posted on a tweet about the most frequently stolen books in a particular bookstore. There’s a bunch of Bukowski, Murakami, Bret Easton Ellis. I see On the Road by Jack Kerouac in there and honestly, I would be upset if I paid money for that brick, too. Not to say that I endorse shoplifting, but that brings me to WHY if one has access to a copy via the library for free, does one insist on shoplifting? One could argue that some of the above authors produce salacious material and it would be an embarrassment to be seen purchasing such a thing, but I don’t think this is the reason. My undergraduate experience with college lads and their inability to shut up about Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk points away from embarrassment as a factor. Perhaps the shoplifter is a thrill-seeker and simply loves the rush. Again, not an endorsement of shoplifting, but I sure hope the thrill-seeking type is ripping off big box and chain stores as opposed to independently-owned bookshops.

That brings me to my next hypothesis: people shoplift books to circumvent supporting a bad actor. For instance, JK Rowling has been in the news of late for terrible reasons (read all about it HERE and then instead of clicking on the link to JKR’s “defense” see instead THIS amazing response by Daniel Radcliffe). So, if someone wanted to read her pseudonymous mystery series without adding to her already sizable wealth, one might shoplift. Again, why not just get a copy from the library? 

Source: Smithsonian Magazine

Archives/Special Collections

Have you ever heard the term “book mutilation”? Me either, until I took a course in art librarianship during grad school. The woman who led my class directed the Kohler Art Library at UW-Madison and had spent her entire professional life in rare book collections. This is the class that managed to teach me the most about libraries, as well as teach me that people get downright bold and sneaky (yes, both at the same time) if they think they can make some easy money. Our professor regaled and horrified us with tales of people cutting intaglio prints or other illustrated plates out of rare, early books and sneaking them out of the building to later sell. This is known as “book mutilation” and it makes the ghost of Johannes Gutenburg cry. The whole point of special collections is to preserve rarities for the posterity of all mankind, so it’s a real bummer when jerks who mutilate archival property make it harder for the rest of us to access the same material.

Sometimes, it’s not even some rando off the street doing the thieving. Behold: the bookseller and ex-librarian who, between the two of them, were able to steal upwards of $8,000,000 worth of rare books from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It’s a fascinating case, even more so due to how recently the crimes were discovered. Read about it in Smithsonian Magazine HERE. He’s an utter disgrace of a librarian, but the gentleman owns up to his greed. From a capitalist standpoint, book theft makes sense, especially if you have no soul or conscience. But that doesn’t wash with material stolen from public libraries, which tends to be mass-produced. 

Public Libraries

Here’s what I determined when I looked into book theft at public libraries: 1. Popular material vanishes 2. Controversial material vanishes.

Popular: What better title to hold a record for being stolen than the Guinness Book of World Records? This annual collection of world-record-breaking facts is a family favorite at home and for sticky-fingered library patrons, both, apparently. To be fair, books with similar popularity tend to go missing more often than books that attract less attention. Now, would it shock you to know that the most stolen book in the world is the bible? Imagine. I’m no theology major but I’m pretty sure it says “thou shall not steal” somewhere in there. 

Controversial: There is a noted phenomenon in public libraries everywhere in which misguided library patrons will steal books to “protect” the rest of us. This is antithetical to public libraries. We are committed to providing high-quality material on a wide array of topics which the public can decide to engage with, or not, by preference. The idea of someone removing materials according to their personal moral compass is reprehensible to me. Mead, and most public libraries, struggle to keep material about witchcraft and the occult on the shelf for this reason. And did you hear about the numpty Iowa who burned a bunch of LGBTQ+ children’s books in 2019? I don’t care what someone’s personal politics are, book burning is never a great look.

Thank you for joining me for my highly unscientific exploration of book theft. The truth of the matter is, we all live our lives in unique ways that will never be totally understood by everyone around us. Book theft is just another, albeit darker and troubling, facet of human expression. Remember: if you ever get the urge to steal a book, even if it’s Abby Hoffman’s Steal This Book, do your best to resist and come see us downtown for some honest reading. 

Posted in Fiction, Kids 5-12, Teen & Young Adult, Uncategorized

Was the Book Better?

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.

So B. It by Sarah Weeks

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.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Audiobooks You Might Love (Which Means that I Love Them and You Should Too)

There’s some debate and snobbery surrounding the consumption of audio versus print books. “Audiobooks are CHEATING” shrieks my Facebook friend with lots of opinions. “It’s not the SUPERIOR way to read books” barks the Reddit random. Being a librarian, I am thrilled to pieces when people are reading books no matter what the format. Not all of us can absorb information the same way. Audiobooks are a godsend for those of us with poor eyesight, dyslexia, or other barriers that make reading print a struggle. Personally, I just enjoy listening to someone read. Below, I listed four audiobooks I listened to and loved in 2020. 

Someone we know by Shari Lapena (2019)

My favorite murder mysteries feature multiple points-of-view, unreliable narrators, and my complete inability to pinpoint the murderer in advance of the last chapter. The work of Shari Lapena fits those parameters to a T. Someone We Know is the fourth book of hers I’ve read. I borrowed it from Overdrive. There was a bit of a wait for the title because she is a fairly popular author and everyone plus their dog are looking for ways to beat COVID boredom. It doesn’t take a market analyst to guess that audiobook consumption skyrocketed over the past year, and that is sometimes reflected in Overdrive wait times. Not to fret, Mead also provides the community with access to Hoopla which offers audiobooks, ebooks, movies, TV, and NO wait time. Which leads me to the next book on my list…

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers (2014)

Are there any sweeter words than “space” and “opera” when paired together? The answer is: NO. By that token, Becky Chambers rules my heart. She is out here writing some of the best science fiction of the 21st century and y’all are missing out if you’re not on board the good ship Wayfarer. Chambers’ world-building is vivid and engaging. Her diverse cast of characters, human and otherwise, leap off the page, and I was sad to say goodbye at the end of the book. Fortunately, there are already three books in the Wayfarers series with another forthcoming in 2021. AND and and and the three already in print are all available on Hoopla in audio form. What’s so great about Hoopla? How is it different from Overdrive, for instance? Let me tell you the defining trait that makes Hoopla rad: no wait time. While you are limited to 10 check-outs per month, you will not spend a single second waiting for them to be available. 

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2015)

This is the steampunk California gold rush-era queer scifi/fantasy that you never knew you needed to read. Narrator Jennifer Grace imparts a soft, appealing twang to Karen’s voice as we watch her find and use her strength to save herself and her friends from the designs of evil men. I was pleased to find Karen Memory for check-out on RBDigital. This platform provides audiobooks in addition to a HUGE array of magazines. RBDigital is our least-utilized digital service behind Overdrive and Hoopla, but that means most titles will not have a wait-time and check-out periods are for 3 weeks! I have good luck finding genre fiction such as mysteries, scifi, and fantasy on RBDigital, so it’s really worth a look.

The Bad Seed by William March (1954)

I kept trying to get my colleagues to run this title for a book club, but to no avail. After listening to it recently, maybe that was for the best due to the less-than-hopeful ending and terrible acts within. Little Rhoda Penmark may only be in the 2nd grade but has gotten her criminal career well underway. The alternately tremulous and forceful narration provided by Elizabeth Wiley created a satisfying push/pull between the deeds of the sinister daughter and the hand-wringing of the hapless mother. Together with some fascinating ruminations on the nature of evil, The Bad Seed mostly stands up to the test of time. Available on Hoopla. 

Which audiobooks have you been listening to lately? What do you do when you listen? I like to go for walks or listen while I cook dinner. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are in need of assistance while you learn to use our digital services. We are also happy to provide reading recommendations, as well, if you’re in a rut. Happy listening!

Posted in Adult, Film, Uncategorized

The Best Movies Ever

…by the completely true and objective measure of me, a person who sometimes enjoys watching movies! More seriously, these really are my favorite movies ever – and I’ve noticed the theme seems to be that I like international/foreign films, that I enjoy comedy or dark comedy, and I don’t mind if a premise is a bit surreal (magical realism in film form, maybe?).

I hope you will give these movies a chance! I think they’re genuinely not just movies I enjoyed but movies that are very good and that more people should see.

Divided We Fall by Jan Hrebejk

I started off the introduction mentioning comedy, yet the first movie on my list is one set during the Holocaust? Yes, and not only that, it is also the greatest movie ever made about the Holocaust. It takes place in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, where childless couple Josef and Marie take in and hide a young Jewish man.

It is a comedy in two very particular senses: the darkest sense, that there is a terrifying absurdity to the Nazi occupation and bureaucracy that is made even worse by how deadly it is, and in the human sense, because the characters in this are beautifully realized and humor is a very human thing. It also has a truly remarkable ending that I could not have predicted in a million years.

Continue reading “The Best Movies Ever”
Posted in Fiction, Kids 5-12, Uncategorized

Series Chapter Books for New Readers

School is out and summer vacation is upon us! This is a great time for kids to read for pleasure and also to keep up with the reading skills they worked hard to develop during the school year. If you have a new reader transitioning into reading chapter books, I have some early chapter book series suggestions for you. Early chapter books are written for readers that are still building up their reading stamina, and include stories with illustrations and short chapters. Click on the links below if you are interested in reading more about the individual books in these series and would like to reserve a copy from our catalog.


Owl Diaries series by Rebecca Elliott

This series is written like a diary with chapters for each daily entry. The short text and colorful illustrations will appeal to beginning readers. A young owl named Eva records her daily experiences in her diary. Readers will enjoy following Eva’s life as she learns valuable lessons in these easy-to-ready books with high-interest stories.


The Bad Guys series by Aaron Blabey

The Bad Guys want to do good things in this funny series that flips the script on these normally bad characters. With short text and fun illustrations, even reluctant readers will enjoy the hilarious situations these bad guys get into as they set out on their missions to be heroes.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Anti-Racism and Activism for All Ages

For patrons looking for information on race, justice, and activism, we’ve collected a variety of resources that we hope will be useful. Below are resources for discussions and reflection at any age – children, teens, adults, or self-directed learning.

Books for Children

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Posted in Uncategorized

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Now that the weather is warming up, you may be looking for activities for the kids to do outside at home. If you haven’t already, give gardening a try! Gardening provides a relaxing outdoor activity while adding beauty to your space, or food for your tummy. Whether you have a large yard or no yard – there are plenty of ways to incorporate gardens into your life. You could plant a bunch of veggies in your yard, grow a small potted plant, create a fairy garden, plant a tree, or even paint some rocks to create a colorful rock garden. Aside from being a fun activity, kids will activate the creative side of their brain by planning their garden. They will also apply some math and science skills through measuring the spacing/depth when planting seeds, observing garden insects, and making observations on the growth of their plants. Gardening is a great stress reliever as well – listening to the sounds of nature and digging in the soil can feel quite soothing. And seeing the growth of whatever they decide to plant will provide a sense of accomplishment. Picky eaters may even be willing to try new foods if they grow them themselves! I have some picture book recommendations with garden themed stories that may inspire your kids to want to try planting their own gardens. An additional book recommendation has some fun garden experiments to try as well. Even if you decide not to plant a garden, these stories will encourage creative thoughts about gardens that will lead kids to imagine what they’d want to grow in their own garden. This may further inspire an enjoyable discussion and possibly motivate them to want to draw or create their own garden from other materials. Happy gardening!


Thank You, Garden by Liz Garton Scanlon

The simple, yet descriptive rhyming text of this story pairs with delightful illustrations to describe a community garden. Children will see how gardens take work, but also how rewarding they are. The people in this story put a lot of work into their garden, but find ways to enjoy themselves while they wait for their plants to grow. Then they all come together to celebrate the fruits of their labor with a garden feast.

Continue reading “How Does Your Garden Grow?”