It's not like she didn't have anything else to do. Minnesota writer Kate DiCamillo, the Library of Congress Ambassador for Young People's Literature, author of more than a dozen books (with a new novel coming out next year), and in-demand public speaker, has now signed on to be the first National Summer Reading Champion, working with the nonprofit Collaborative Summer Library Program.
DiCamillo will appear in a series of public service announcements, participate in a national media campaign, and appear at events across the country. The aim of the program is to encourage families and children to take part in library summer reading programs--and it dovetails nicely with her work as Ambassador, which is also to promote reading.
Reading--especially families reading together--has long been a passion of DiCamillo's, who grew up with a mother who read to her and indulged her love of books. (Once Kate checked a book out of the library so many times her mother finally went up the librarians and asked if they could buy it. They told her, "You know it doesn't work that way.")
DiCamillo, the author of "Because of Winn-Dixie," "Flora & Ulysses," and many other books, is one of the few writers to be honored twice with the Newbery Medal. She has also won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, the Christopher Medal, and many other honors. She lives and writes in Minneapolis and was honored last month by the Star Tribune, which named her the artist of the year.
The spring season of Club Book--the free writers series that brings nationally known writers to libraries and community centers all over the metro area, mainly outside of the core cities--kicks off on Feb. 12. This season's lineup is diverse and strong, including Quan Barry, Sonia Nazarrio, Jonathan Odell, and Garth Stein. March is particularly busy, with five of the nine events that month.
Here's the lineup:
Peter Heller. 7 p.m. Feb. 12, Stillwater Public Library, 224 3rd St. N., Stillwater. Heller is the author of "The Dog Stars" and "The Painter," and he has written extensively for National Geographic, Outside Magazine, Men's Journal and other magazines. The Star Tribune called "The Dog Stars" "a heart-wrenching and richly written story," comparable to the work of Cormac McCarthy.
Amy Quan Barry. 7 p.m. March 4, Northtown Library, 711 County Road 10 NE, Blaine. Barry is a poet and novelist, winner of the Donald Hall Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker and Ploughshares as well as other journals and magazines, and her new novel, "She Weeps Each Time You're Born," will be published this spring.
Nadia Hashimi. 7 p.m. March 11, Highland Park Community Center, 1974 Ford Parkway, St. Paul. Hashimi is the daughter of Afghan immigrants to the United States, and her novel, "The Pearl that Broke its Shell," is the story of two Afghan women. Hashimi, a pediatrician, is working on her second book, which is about Afghan refugees in Europe.
Jonathan Odell. 7 p.m. March 17, Prior Lake Library, 16210 Eagle Creek Av. SE, Prior Lake. Odell grew up in Mississippi and now lives in Minneapolis. His novel, "The Healing," published in 2012, was a local bestseller and named an Indies Next pick by the American Booksellers Association. His new novel, "Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League," about the relationship between a black woman and a white woman during the American civil rights movement, will be published this month. (It is a reimagining of his first novel, "The View from Delphi.")
Anthony Marra. 6:30 p.m. March 19, Chanhassen Public Library, 7711 Kerber Boulevard, Chanhassen. Marra, winner of a Whiting Writers Award and a Pushcart Prize, is the author of "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena." Set in Chechnya, the book was longlisted for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize for emerging authors.
Marisa de los Santos. 7 p.m. March 31, Roseville Public Library, 2180 Hamline Av. N., Roseville. De los Santos is a poet, young-adult writer, essayist, and the author of three New York Times best-selling novels, including "Falling Together." Her new novel is "The Precious One."
Jon Ronson. 6:30 p.m. April 13, R.H. Stafford Library, 8595 Central Park Place, Woodbury. Ronson is a journalist and the author of "The Men Who Stare at Goats," later made into a movie starring George Clooney. His most recent book is, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed."
Garth Stein. 7 p.m. April 20, Galaxie Library, 14955 Galaxie Av., Apple Valley. Stein is the author of the best-selling "The Art of Racing in the Rain," which was on the New York Times best-seller list for three years. His new novel is a ghost story, "A Sudden Light."
Sonia Nazario. 7 p.m. April 27, Southdale Library, 7001 York Av. S., Edina. Nazario is a reporter who has worked for the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. At the Times she won the Pulitzer Prize for her serial narrative "Enrique's Journey," the true story of a young Honduran boy who was attempting to cross the border into the United States to find his mother.
Club Book is funded through the state's 2008 Legacy Amendment. All events are free and open to the public, and since 2014 have been recorded and are available as podcasts on the Club Book website. Doors open 45 minutes before the event, and each event will be followed by book sales and signings by the authors.
It's a matchmaker program, of sorts, though instead of a lover you end up (hopefully) with a book you love. "Bookmatch," a joint venture of Friends of the Hennepin County Library and the Loft Literary Center, is a sort of literary speed-date between readers (you) and writers (six of them).
On Saturday night, Nov. 8, Will Alexander ("Ambassador"), Ray Gonzalez ("Soul Over Lightning"), Rachael Hanel ("We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down"), Geoff Herbach ("Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders"), Neal Karlen ("Augie's Secrets") and Julie Schumacher ("Dear Committee Members") will spend an hour chatting with Heather McElhatton, answering questions and reading from their books.
At the end of each author presentation, a reader will be selected (via a questionnaire filled out upon arrival) who bests fits each writer. The reader (you, maybe!) will get a free book. (There will also be books for sale, if you turn out not to be the perfect reader.)
The evening will also have music by Joe Hastings, door prizes, book signings and desserts.
The free event requires preregistration, which you can do by calling 612-543-8112 or by visiting the web page here. The whole thing begins at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Central Library on the Nicollet Mall.
Go ahead. Give it a whirl. Your other books will not get jealous.
Lately, I have taken to driving around with a paper sack full of books in my car--not review books, but old books of mine that have been read and loved but maybe not loved quite enough to keep forever. Over the last few years I've given hundreds of them away---to friends, family, neighbors, Goodwill, to a used-bookstore that puts the value of the books into a fund for teachers so they can come and shop the store for free.
More recently, though, I've been seeding Little Free Libraries.
You know the drill--take a book, leave a book, maybe return a book. My St. Paul neighborhood has these little libraries everywhere; I see them on my dog-walking route and on my way to work, and a couple of weeks ago I noticed one in front of the cafe where I took my mother for lunch. (She scored a David Maraniss book about the 1960 summer Olympics from that one.)
If you're unfamiliar with Little Free Libraries, here's a Strib story from three years ago telling you what they are.
If you're interested in starting a library of your own, here's a nice story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about 10 things to know beforehand.
And if you still want to know more, watch for my story--I think it will run on Saturday--about Eireann Lorsung, the Coffee House Press poet who is in residence at the Little Free Library on East Lake Street in Minneapolis.
For now, here's a little photo collection of the libraries I've been seeding. Try it! Once I started looking for them, I found more than I had ever noticed before. And I got to know the byways and backstreets of my neighborhood much better. (The library above is in the Churchill garden, which is tended by neighbors.)
This is the first one I noticed in our neighborhood, several years ago. It has a solar panel, which powers the interior light, and a park bench across from it so you can browse in comfort.
This one was built by Girl Scouts.
I love the little frog handle on this one.
You know you should get off of Facebook and go read a book. But what book? A person can get lost forever in the stacks. Well, you no longer have any excuses: On Monday, Facebook will spend two hours giving you book suggestions in real time. Not Facebook as in Mark Zuckerman (does he even read?), but Facebook as in three friendly librarians from the St. Paul Public Library, who will be standing by with thousands of book titles at the ready.
Every so often--the last time, I think, was last fall--the St. Paul librarians monitor a live chat on Facebook, answering your questions and offering suggestions for your next great read. All you have to do is leave a comment on the page (which is here), and within seconds a librarian will answer you. This is no automated Amazon-type "Readers who bought this book often bought this other book," algorithm. This is real librarians, all with tidy gray buns, glasses, and multiple cats, digging around in their card catalogs and brains, just for you.
OK, I'm kidding about the buns and glasses cliche. (That wasn't even true in 1975, when I worked in a public library.) The St. Paul Public Library has a pretty fun Facebook page, actually, with pictures of jazz musicians and Asian dancers and little kids building birdhouses, and, for some reason, pictures of people doing yoga, as well as far too many alerts as to bookmobile cancellations due to snow, but don’t get distracted! Stay on task!
Leave a comment on Monday between 4 and 6 p.m. telling them what books you’ve liked, or what you’re interested in reading about (yoga! birdhouses! jazz! snow!) and the librarians will consult their Magic 8 ball (that is, other librarians) and respond. After that, of course, it's up to you.
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