Category Archives: books

Wandering Thoughts

I heard Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition last night, and a convoluted trail of thoughts led me to Baba Yaga,  Jack and Jill magazine, Lloyd Alexander, and the first time I tried to buy a book by myself.

My mother subscribed to Jack and Jill magazine for me when I was a child in the 1960’s.  I was fascinated by the stories in the magazine about Baba Yaga, the Russian witch who flew around in a mortar and pestle, and who lived in a hut on chicken legs. Mussorgsky portrays the witch sailing fiendishly through the air in her mortar, and  the hut walking around just like I imagine such a hut to walk.

There was no book store in my home town, and Sioux Falls didn’t get one until I was a teenager.  My mom always let me buy books at school from Scholastic, Services and I took out as many books as I was allowed  from the public and school libraries.  I discovered a wonderful book series by Lloyd Alexander called The Prydain Chronicles one summer in the public library when I was in Grade 4. The stories are based on Welsh myth, and I was disappointed to find that the library was missing one book in the series.  The librarian told  me that she had no intention purchasing  it, either.  Without telling my mom, I found the name and address of the publisher (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston) from inside one of the books in the series that the library had, hand wrote a letter in my horrible handwriting asking about the price of the book, addressed and stamped the envelope, and mailed it off.  A couple of weeks later I received a very nice reply kindly letting me know the price, which was more money than I had at the time, and thanking me for my inquiry.  I dropped my search, and finally found the missing book a couple of years later in the book store that opened up in the first mall in Sioux Falls.

My love for Jack and Jill magazine prompted me to subscribe to it as well as Cricket magazine  for my son and daughter. We found Baba Yaga stories in Cricket, too.  Imagine my delight when I saw that Lloyd Alexander was one of the editors of Cricket. Both children loved The Prydain Chronicles, as well as other stories by Lloyd Alexander. Funny where listening to Mussorgsky will take you.

What magazines did your family subscribe to?

Shelf Life

As most of you know, my library account and I are in a special relationship. I try to keep the number of books I have checked out at any given time to under 20. I’m usually at my max allowed on my waiting list. I know my 16-digit library number by heart, my library card is on a cell phone app so I don’t need a separate card and of course I know all the hours that my local library is open.

I only buy about five books a year so that means I usually try every avenue to find a book when it comes to my attention. In addition to my regular account I also have an active interlibrary loan account. I even have the phone number of the gal who runs the ILL section of the Hennepin County system and have unbelievably talked her into extending the 3-week only loan allowance for an interlibrary selection.  Twice.

Obsessive is probably the word that is popping into most of your minds right now, but the library and I are very happy together.

Last week I picked up two ILL books that had come in and as I looked them over I realized that one had not been checked out since 1999 and the other hadn’t been checked out since 1988. For some reason this makes me very happy – I like to think I’m giving these books a little vacation from their regular shelf life.

What book would you like to go on vacation with?

write good

Today’s post comes from tim

the suggestion that we sharpen up the pencil and write a blog by renae last week led me to think about writing untensils. i am a typist for the most part these days and the point of my finger has leaned to navigated the space allowed on the 4inch screen of an iphone as allowed in the world of steve jobs vision come true.

in a former life i wrote with pens and pencils. i still do on occasion and seldom think about the writing utensil in my hand but when i do i have an opinion.

remember the big black pencils in the 1st grade classroom? as big as a magic marker instead of a pencil. i wonder what the logic there was. give a little tiny hand a monster pencil to learn how to write? someone obviously thought it was a good idea. i graduated from the big black pencil in miss majeras’ first grade class to a fountain pen in the catholioc shcool i went to begining in second grade. there was a penmanship grade on our report cards and a portion of the week ( i dont think it was daily but it definately was a regular class) was dedicated to making sure we all did good when attempting to write a paper about our second grade observations on the world around us or penning stories about our understanding of the place of an 8 uear old in the universe.

the fountain pen was a magic implement. it made all ink it discharged seem important. a ballpoint pen was the way the rest of the world functioned in 1962 but at the nativity of the blessed virgin mary we were above all that. we needed to have our writing be special and so we used either a bottle of ink and an old fashion fountain pen with a bladder or as most in the class did we bought he shaffer pen with the little cartridges or we  could if we were rich do the wearever which was a fancy version with a better nib on the pen and a more flamboyant script was certainly bound to come out the tip.

i am a fan of the roller ball pen today but by today i mean 1970/80 technology. form what i can tell anything gel pen is the same thing today. the smooth writing that flows out of the tip of a rollerball/gelpen is a feeling i apprecaite.

my friend the organized former landscape architect likes a .05 not .07 lead pencil. always a quality point and always a good tool to write with.i never know where i put that darn little pack of lead inserts to keep it writin .   the old bic with the clear body and the bic blue top is a classic design that makes my jaw hurt looking at it remembering all the blue caps i have chewed on until the no longer went back on to cover the business part of the pen to keep it from blue spotting the pocket i am going to put it in.

my new cell phone has a feature that allows me to write either with a stylus on the screen or even with my fingertip. it is a feeling of being from the future to have the tip of yur finger be a writing utensil that works.

black pencil, yellow pencil, mechanical pencil, ball point pen, roller ball, fountain pen, keyboard, touchscreen, dictation pop ups on the screen that transform what i meant to what the spellchecker translator thought i said…

usually the way i get the meat of the idea i am trying to form onto a transferable  format is a non thought but as i have started using the franklin planner for my business notes and charting the day it find it is great to start journaling the day. the thoughts and ambitions of the day get lined up and forgotten unless there is a way of keeping track. so paper is good. i am sure the notes of my internet life will go unnoticed with me to the great beyond in the year i depart. no one will ever want to look at my emails and files other than the pictures and some of the special chosen few snippets of the deep and profound thoughts i have on occasion.

what makes you write good?


I come from a family of readers.  My paternal grandfather was a farmer who read voraciously, and had shelves of books in his house. He had an entire set of Dickens, all of Shakespeare’s plays, and many, many history books and novels, which he picked up at farm sales during the Depression. When he died, I took the books, and my librarian cousin took the shelves, which were the kind used by lawyers that had glass fronts that opened up from the bottom.  I think they are called Barrister’s bookcases

Grandpa’s grandfather was a reader, too. He was named Martin Cornelius Freerks, and was born in Rysum, Ostfriesland Germany in 1827. He was a laborer there, and immigrated to the US in about 1851. He lived first in Pekin, Illinois, and worked as a drayman, which meant he was responsible for meeting passengers at the train station to haul them and their goods where they needed to go.  Family history indicates that he was often absorbed in a book when the train came in and would arrive late or not at all. “Ganz in boeken besiet” (completely lost in books) friends and family would say.  He eventually moved to Iowa and lived the last part of his life with my grandpa and his family. Grandpa said that Martin had “a whole roomful’ of books accumulated over the years.

I used to read all the time, but for some reason, perhaps due to life stress with my parents’ deaths, children’s transitions, work issues, etc., I stopped reading for pleasure about five years ago and filled my spare time with crossword puzzles.  I am trying to start reading again. Husband visits our local libraries regularly, and we have scores of books in our house. I just have to pick up something and start and apply myself. I typically like traditional murder mysteries, but I find them hard to appreciate now. I am impatient waiting for the plots to resolve. I don’t like suspense these days.  Perhaps I need to start with non-fiction and work my way back to previously unread novels.  I think it will be good self care if I do.

Daughter says she is going to join a book club when she graduates from college, and admits she has a book addiction problem.  Great Great Grandpa Martin would be pleased.

What are the pleasures and pains of reading for you? What is hard/easy for you to read? What do you want done with your books when you die?

National Library Week

Today’s post comes to us from Barbara in Rivertown

This week, April 9 through 15, is National Library Week. Because Husband and I will be on the road, I have already celebrated our wonderful Winona Public Library by returning three books and renewing two others, and writing this piece. We have here in Winona a beautiful old 1890s vintage library built by a donation from William H. Laird and furnished by the library association; it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (For more info: )

I have been impressed for months at all the many programs this small town library offers. And now, in the spirit of National Library Week, there is even more:

– Food for Fines – you can have $1 removed from your library fine for every food shelf item you bring in.

– Library Resource class will be held on Thursday at 6 p.m.

– Staff will be dressed to the nines or, on some days, in crazy outfits (Wacky Wednesday) as part of various games.

– The first movie of The Librarian Trilogy featuring “everyone’s favorite librarian, Noah Wyle” will be shown on Friday.

– Monthly Book Bingo will yield prizes of books about libraries, librarians, or books: “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger, “The World’s Strongest Librarian: A book Lover’s Adventures” by Josh Hanagarne, “The Ice Queen” by Alice Hoffman, and “This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybararians Can Save Us All” by Marilyn Johnson.

How will you celebrate National Library Week?