Jan's Column 2023

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Past Columns

Well. I guess summer is semi-officially here. We have rolled past Memorial Day. The last day of school will soon be upon us. And the heat has also arrived – at least the forecast at this writing which had a high temperature struggling to hit 70 degrees – with daytime highs at or about 90 degrees. 90 degrees at the very beginning of June seems a little extreme to me. The Summer Reading Program has now been underway for the past week. All the signs point to the arrival of summer.  And my porch plants have been in their pots since the middle of May. I feel compelled to comment that, back in the day, I would never put plants in the garden until Memorial Day weekend. I would never plant until then because you couldn’t trust the weather not to suddenly turn frosty until then. These past few years I have planted with increasing confidence earlier and earlier in May. I am happy to report that my tomatoes already have fruit set on them and have passed the cherry-tomato size and are speeding past the grape-tomato size and heading towards full-size tomatoes. I hope you had a relaxing Memorial Day weekend and are ready to start reading for the Summer Reading Program community challenge.  Below you will find some of the books which recently arrived at the library. Check them out, and enjoy!

New Non-Fiction:

“Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon” by Melissa Sevigny. The story of two pioneering female botanists and their historic 1938 boat trip down the Colorado River which led them to be the first to survey and catalog the plant life of the Grand Canyon. 

“Power and Progress: Our Thousand-year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity” by Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson. Demonstrating that the path of technology was once—and may again be—brought under control, this bold interpretation of economics and history and manifesto for a better society provides the vision needed to reshape how we innovate and who really gains from technological advances.

“King: A Life” by Jonathan Eig. Mixes new research with accessible storytelling to offer a new biography of the legendary civil-rights leader.

“What It Takes to Save a Life: A Veterinarian’s Quest for Healing and Hope” by Dr. Kwane Stewart. This is the story of a now nine-year journey that has taken Dr. Kwane from Skid Row to San Francisco and beyond to care for pets and their humans who are living on the streets. Dr. Kwane shows how our four-legged, feathered, scaled, and swimming family members—these dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, and other animals that live side by side with us—provide more than companionship. They offer essential love, hope, and a sense of security.

New Fiction:

”The Lie Maker” by Linwood Barclay. This twisty, fast-paced thriller from the “New York Times” bestselling author of “Find You First “and “Take Your Breath Away”, a man desperately tries to track down his father—who was taken into witness protection years ago—before his enemies can get to him.

“Only the Dead” by Jack Carr. On a mission generations in the making, former Navy SEAL James Reece, as a secret cabal of global elites prepare to assume control of the U.S., picks up his tomahawk and sniper rifle, showing his enemies that no one is out of range as he blows a global conspiracy wide open

“The True Love Experiment” by Christina Lauren. A best-selling romance novelist who doesn’t practice what she preaches, Felicity “Fizzy” Chen agrees to star in a reality TV show to find her perfect match if documentary filmmaker and single father Connor Prince meets her list of demands, and soon realizes her happily-ever-after may be behind the camera.

“Old Lion: A Novel of Theodore Roosevelt” by Jeff Shaara. The “New York Times” best-selling author traces the remarkable life of one of the most consequential figures in the U.S. and the world at large, from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, revealing a man who shaped the foundations of the modern country and world.

 “Fractal Noise (Fractalverse)” by Chris Paolini. On the seemingly uninhabited planet Talos VII, there is a circular pit not of nature but design, and a small team must journey across the surface to learn who built it and why, followed by the ghosts of their past each step they take toward the mysterious abyss.

 “The Three of Us” by Ore Agbaje-Williams. Long-standing tensions between a husband, his wife, and her best friend finally come to a breaking point in this sharp domestic comedy of manners, told brilliantly over the course of one day.

 “The Guest” by Emma Cline. Summer is coming to a close on the East End of Long Island, and Alex is no longer welcome. .A misstep at a dinner party, and the older man she’s been staying with dismisses her with a ride to the train station and a ticket back to the city. With few resources and a waterlogged phone she spends the week leading up to Labor day drifting from one place to another leaving destruction in her wake.

“Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to Get Unstuck When It Matters Most” by Adam Alter. A groundbreaking guide explains how to break free from the thoughts, habits, jobs, relationships and even business models that prevent us from achieving our full potential.

“Rogue Justice: A Thriller (Avery Keene)” by Stacey Abrams The  “New York Times” bestselling author of “While Justice Sleeps” returns with another riveting and intricately plotted thriller, in which a blackmailed federal judge, a secret court and a brazen murder may lead to an unprecedented national crisis.

Now that the Summer Reading Program was officially launched last Saturday with a full day of programs ending with a campfire sing-along (a shout out to the Village of DeForest for the loan of a couple of fire pits and some really dry wood that burned very nicely!), we are suddenly  heading into the Memorial Day weekend.  With a long weekend to look forward to and the Summer Reading Program encouraging you to read and record your books, you couldn’t ask for a better time to sit back, kick off your shoes, and start reading through that TBR (To Be Read) pile of books or binging on the TBW (To Be Watched) pile of dvds, or putting together a new jigsaw puzzle, or gathering family and friends together to play a new board game (or video game). The library can help you with any of those endeavors. Stop by and stock up! Below you will find some of the new titles which recently arrived at the library which you can add to your TBR pile. Have a great holiday weekend. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction:

“The Last Secret of the Secret Annex: The Untold Story of Anne Frank, Her Silent Protector, and a Family Betrayal” by Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl and Jeroen De Bruyn. This is an historical investigation and family memoir that intertwines the iconic narrative of Anne Frank with the untold story of Bep Voskuijl, her protector and closest confidante in the Annex.

New Fiction:

“The Girl by the Bridge: A Detective Konrad Novel”  by Arnaldur Indridason. An elderly couple are worried about their granddaughter. They know she's been smuggling drugs, and now she's gone missing. Looking for help, they turn to Konrad, a former policeman whose reputation precedes him. 

“The Ballad of Lord Edward and Citizen Small” by Neil Jordan. An enslaved man escaping to his freedom saves the life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a British army officer and the younger son of one of Ireland's grandest families. The tale that unfolds is narrated by Tony Small, the formerly enslaved man who becomes Fitzgerald's companion—and best friend.

“The Midnight News” by Jo Baker. From the best-selling author of Longbourn, a gripping novel of one young woman’s unraveling during the Blitz—a story of World War II intrigue, love, and danger.

“The House on Prytania (A Royal Street Novel)” by Karen White. A woman is haunted—both literally and figuratively—by ghosts of the past in this second novel of the Royal Street series by the  “New York Times” bestselling author.

“Independence Square: Arkady Renko in Ukraine” by Martin Cruz Smith. This is the 10th book by the author  featuring the detective Arkady Renko.  These novels, beginning with 1981’s international sensation Gorky Park, have collectively traced Russia's evolution over the last half-century. This book focuses on the fraught and frenzied days leading up to Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.

“Pieces of Blue” by Holly Goldberg Slaon. When Paul Hill drowns in a surfing accident, his broken-hearted wife, Lindsey, and their three children are left in huge financial trouble.  She impulsively uses the life insurance  money to buy a motel in Hawaii, hoping for a fresh start. 

“The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece” by Tom Hanks & R. Sikoryak. The legendary actor and best-selling author present a story of a star-studded, multimillion-dollar superhero action film and the humble comic books that inspired it that captures the changes in America and American culture since World War II.

“Quantum Solution (Evan Ryder Book 4)” by Eric Van Lustbader. When an elite Russian scientist and the American Secretary of Defense die, at the same time half a world apart, of inexplicable sudden catastrophic brain damage, the world’s intelligence services realize that the quantum war has truly begun. Ryder and her long-time partner, Ben Butler, risk their lives to discover who the true combatants are, racing against the doomsday scenario of all-out war between America and Russia.

“The Little Flower Shop” by  Lori Foster. Since her divorce, Emily Lucretia—affectionately known as the flower lady to the people of Cemetery, Indiana—has been focused on her flower shop and taking care of her aging aunt and uncle. Her love life is hardly the centerpiece of her busy days until the matchmaking starts. 

“The Hearts Choice (The Jewels of Kalispell Book #1)” by Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse. After witnessing a wrongful conviction as a young girl, Rebecca Whitman--the first female court reporter in Montana--is now determined to defend the innocent. During a murder trial, something doesn't sit well with her about the case, but no one except the new Carnegie librarian will listen to her

“Counter Attack (Pearl River)” by Patricia Bradley. Just as  Alexis Stone been sworn in as the interim sheriff for Russell County, Tennessee, a serial killer dubbed the “Queen's Gambit Killer” strikes again in her hometown of Pearl Springs.  This interim job was only a  stop along the way to Alex's real dream of becoming the first female police chief of Chattanooga. But the killer's calling card--a white pawn and a note with a chess move printed on it--cannot be ignored.

“In the Shadow of the River” by Ann Gabhart. In 1881, Jacci Reed was five years old when a man attempted to kidnap her from the steamboat her mother, Irena, worked on. Badly wounded during the confrontation, Irena takes Jacci aboard the showboat, the  ”Kingston Floating Palace,”  where, Jacci gets a taste of the actor’s life she will come to lead.

If you are reading this on Friday, the publication date of the DeForest Times Tribune, then you are reading this on the eve of the Summer Reading Program kick-off. Even though the beginning of this week had overnight lows hovering near 40 degrees, warmer weather is on the way and will (eventually) arrive. On Saturday, there are three programs throughout the day to launch the Summer Reading Program. There is the Wild Rumpus Party (think Maurice Sendak and “Where the Wild Things Are” and prepare to roll your terrible eyes and gnash your terrible teeth) for youngsters. From 12 to 3 p.m. there is mini painting for all ages, 12 and younger may attend with a parent or guardian. And then, at 6 p.m. we have a campfire (think fire pits) singalong on the library patio.  Ken Lonquist will be providing the music and leading those assembled in song you might just know, or in some new songs he might just teach us. There will be marshmallows to roast and graham crackers and chocolate. Hmmmm. Sounds like we all might want S’more.  Make sure you sign up for the Summer Reading Program. You’re reading the books anyway so why not log them, add numbers to the community challenge totals, and earn Dragon Dollars which you can use (only) in the library’s store or which you can donate to the Dane County Humane Society, the DeForest Area Needs Network, or to the library to help fund the Story Hour room renovation. Below you will find some of the new books which recently arrived at the library. Put them on hold. Read them. Record them in your Summer Reading account. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction:

“Camera Girl: The Coming of Age of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy” by Carl Anthony. An illuminating new biography of the young Jackie Bouvier Kennedy that covers her formative adventures abroad in Paris; her life as a writer and photographer at a Washington, DC, newspaper; and her romance with a dashing, charismatic Massachusetts congressman who shared her intellectual passion.

“The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests can Save Us if We Let Them” by Peter Wohlleben and Jane Billinghurst. Sharing emerging scientific research about how forests shape climates both locally and across continents, the international bestselling author of “The Hidden Life of Trees” shows how ancient forests pass their wisdom through generations and why our future lies in protecting them.

 “Quantum Supremacy: How the Quantum Computer Revolution Will Change Everything” by Michio Kaku. This book gives a  tour of humanity's next great technological achievement—quantum computing—which may eventually illuminate the deepest mysteries of science and solve some of humanity's biggest problems, like global warming, world hunger, and incurable disease, by the bestselling author of “The God Equation”.

“The Well-lived Life: A 102-Year Old Doctor’s Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age” by Gladys McGarey. The author, a centenarian still-practicing doctor and the mother of holistic medicine, reveals her powerful and life-changing secrets for how to live with joy, vitality, and purpose at any age.

New Fiction:

“The Ferryman: A Novel” by Justin Cronin. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Passage comes a riveting standalone novel about a group of survivors on a hidden island utopia—where the truth isn't what it seems.

“The Libyan Diversion” by Joel Rosenberg.  From New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg comes the fifth military and international political thriller in the Marcus Ryker series. The world’s most wanted terrorist is dead. Ryker recommended the drone strike himself. The intelligence was rock-solid. But he might have been wrong.

“Hula: A Novel” by Jasmin Hakes. Set in Hilo, Hawai’i, a sweeping saga of tradition, culture, family, history, and connection that unfolds through the lives of three generations of women—a tale of mothers and daughters, dance and destiny.

“Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?” by Crystal Smith Paul. When Kitty Karr Tate, a White icon of the silver screen, dies and bequeaths her multimillion-dollar estate to the St. John sisters, three young, wealthy Black women, it prompts questions. Lots of questions. This multigenerational saga traverses the glamour of old Hollywood and the seductive draw of modern-day showbiz. It is the Reese’s Book Club May selection

“Swamp Story: A Novel” by Dave Barry. Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times bestselling author and actual Florida Man Dave Barry returns with a Florida caper full of oddballs and more twists and turns than a snake slithering away from a gator.

“The Wedding Planner” by Danielle Steel. In this captivating novel from the “New York Times” bestselling author, a wildly successful, unmarried wedding planner leads her clients to happily ever after and travels a winding road to love and joy while staying true to herself.

“All the Days of Summer: A Novel” by Nancy Thayer. When her marriage fizzles out, Heather decides what sort of life to live next. Ready to seek out her own happiness and discover herself again, leaves her husband and rents a cottage on Nantucket. Her plan is going perfectly—until her son, Ross, announces he’s moving there.

“Fourth Wing (The Empyrean Book 1)” by Rebecca Yarros. Twenty-year-old Violet was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general has ordered her to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders. This book describes the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders.

“The 23rd Midnight: If You Haven’t Read the Women’s Murder Club, Start Here( A Women’s Murder Club Thriller, No 3)” by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. An attention-seeking copycat is recreating murders by a famous killer from the Women’s Murder Club’s past—with devastating new twists.  

Okay. I’m going to start out by owing this right up front. If the weather takes a turn back towards winter -- which would be hard to believe after the eight-degree temperatures on Sunday—it might be because I took the winter gear out of my car. The snow shovel, the broom, the ice scrapers (many), my winter coat, ski mask, mittens, snowmobile boots, and winter coat went back into the house. Those items no longer occupy the back seat of my car. I know. This could be seen as thumbing one’s nose at winter. It could be interpreted as taunting. And, I must confess, I moved all the pots for my porch / patio garden outside including a rather large infestation of volunteer impatiens and Four O’clock plants. But with the kick-off of the Summer Reading Program on Saturday, May 20th only a week and a day away, I felt that I needed to get in the summer mood by getting the winter paraphernalia out of my car and acknowledging the ever-nearing start of the growing season by getting those pots ready to plant. The extended forecast does not appear to hold anything to indicate that winter is coming (back). 

The summer/ spring books continue to arrive in goodly numbers, Below you will find the titles of a few of the new books which recently arrived at the library. BTW, I did find that I had left the coffee can with candle in my car, so maybe that is still keeping the winter weather at bay.

New Non-Fiction:

“Eat Your Flowers: A Cookbook” by Loria Stern.  The author shows the reader ways to bring nature into the kitchen, to play with colors and flavors, and to make every dish beautiful. She incorporates natural plant dusts, pressed and fresh blooms, and vibrant herbs and veggies into her cooking for whimsical, gorgeous, and nourishing meals. 

“Great Kingdoms of Africa” by John Parker. This book offers an innovative and thought-provoking overview that takes us from ancient Egypt and Nubia to the Zulu Kingdom almost two thousand years later. It explores the kingdoms, dynasties, and city-states that have shaped cultures across the African continent.

“The Cat’s Meow: How Cats Evolved from the Savannah to Your Sofa” by Jonathan Losos. Writing as both a scientist and a cat lover, the author explores how researchers today are unraveling the secrets of the cat, past and present, using all the tools of modern technology, from GPS tracking (you’d be amazed where those backyard cats roam) and genomics (what is your so-called Siamese cat . . . really?) to forensic archaeology. 

New Fiction:

“The Rescue” by T. Jefferson Parker. Rescuing Felix, a Mexican street dog, from a Tijuana animal shelter, journalist Bettina Blazak discovers Felix is a former DEA drug-sniffing dog, who has led a very colorful, dangerous and profitable life, which draws her into a deadly criminal underworld from which she and Felix may not return.

“Murder on Bedford Street, No.26 (Gaslight Mysteries)” by Victoria Thompson. Agreeing to help Hugh Breedlove’s niece Julia, who has been wrongfully committed to an insane asylum by her cruel and unfaithful husband, PI Frank Malloy and his wife Sarah find their case turning into a murder investigation and must respond to expose a killer hiding in plain sight.

“Mastering the Art of French Murder, No.1 (An American in Paris Mysteries)” by Colleen Cambridge. A novel set in the City of Lights and starring Julia Child’s (fictional) best friend combines a fresh perspective on the iconic chef’s years in post-World War II Paris with a delicious mystery and a unique culinary twist.

“Murder of the Bride Murder, No. 29 (Lucy Stone Mysteries” by Leslie Meier.  When her daughter Elizabeth’s impending fairytale wedding in France to Jean-Luc Schoen-Rene is marred by murder, reporter and jet-lagged mother-of-the bride Lucy Stone, to protect her family, vows to expose a killer among a list of worldly jilted lovers and potential criminal masterminds.

“Seven Girls Gone, No.4 (Quinn & Costa Thrillers)” by Allison Brennan.  Arriving in St. Augustine, Louisiana, to quietly assist police detective Beau Hebert, who is investigating the disappearance and deaths of 7 women, LAPD detective Kara Quinn and team leader Matt Costa must not only solve multiple murders but expose deep-seated corruption that extends far beyond this small bayou town’s borders. 

“A History of Burning” by Janika Oza. This epic, sweeping historical novel spans continents and a century. 1898, Pirbhai, a teenage boy looking for work, is taken from his village in India to labor for the British on the East African Railway. Far from home, Pirbhai commits a brutal act in the name of survival that will haunt him and his family for years to come.

“Summer in Sag Harbor (Summer Beach No.2)” by Sunny Hostin  Following the  New York Times bestseller “Summer on the Bluffs”, The View cohost and three-time Emmy Award winner Sunny Hostin spirits readers away to the warm beaches of Sag Harbor for the compelling second novel in her acclaimed “Summer” series that takes place in an elite Black enclave in the Hamptons which welcomes its newest resident, hoping she’ll help preserve the integrity of the community.

“Covenant of Water” by Abraham Verghese.  Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, and set in 
Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, this breathtaking epic of love, faith and medicine follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning.
“Bad, Bad, Seymour Brown”
by Susan Isaacs. Corie Geller and her retired NYPD detective father investigate after the only surviving victim of a cold-case arson experiences another attempt on her life in the new novel by the author of “Takes One to Know One”.

“Meet Me at the Lake” by Carley Fortune. A random connection sends two strangers on a daylong adventure where they make a promise one keeps and the other breaks, with life-changing effects, in this breathtaking new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of “Every Summer After”.

It is hard to believe we are in the month of May already. It is especially hard given the run of weather we had this past weekend and at the beginning of this week. The “s” word was in the forecast for Monday and I would have to report that I did see a few flakes mixed in with the rain. It seems like those April showers have decided to persist into the month of May. Frankly, I’d rather see those May flowers that those April showers are purported to bring.  But, I digress.  Now that May is here, the countdown to the Summer Reading Program can begin!  The Summer Reading Program begins on Saturday, May 20th which is really only – Gasp!—a couple of weeks away.  The good news is that new books have continued to arrive at the library so you have lots of shiny, new books to choose from as you start training for the summer marathon of reading. As I write this, on a rainy Monday morning, I would say that the weather is totally conducive to staying in bed with a good book. Below you will find some of the books which recently arrived at the library. Enjoy!

As T.S. Eliot said, “April is the cruelest month (breeding lilacs out of the dead land/ mixing memory with desire/ stirring dull roots with spring rains. Winter kept us warm/covering earth in forgetful snow)." It certainly has been cruel so far, teasing us with early summer like days, reminding us of those lovely summer days, sending plants into growing frenzies, only to cover us all again with snow. I certainly would like to forget the snow that seems to keep appearing every few days.  Paraphrasing Chaucer’s homage to the April with its sweet showers, that have relieved the drought of March, I am very happy to report that the book drought we experienced during much of March and into the beginning of April, seems to have ended and the books are flowing again Below you will find a selection of the new books which recently arrived at the library. Enjoy!

A special invitation to you, Gentle Reader. Saturday, April 29th, we will be celebrating National Library Week with an open house from 10 a.m. to noon.  There will be things to do, demonstrations of some of the neat equipment that the library has for you to use on site or for check out, there will be refreshments. There will be a brief dedication ceremony of the Englesby Gallery of Local History at 10 a.m. in the Historical Society gallery. There will be cake. There is a rumor that the karaoke machine will be up and running. It will not be me demonstrating that particular piece of equipment. Please come and join us!

I still have the snow shovel and other winter paraphernalia in my car so the snow and blizzard-like winds last Sunday and Monday are not, I repeat, not my fault.  I have come across this list of the seasons that seems very apropos to the weather we’ve been experiencing. It goes like this:

  • Winter
  • Fool’s Spring
  • Second Winter
  • Spring of Deception
  • Third Winter (I believe this is where we were on Sunday and Monday)
  • The Pollenating
  • Mud Season: Actual Spring
  • Summer
  • Hell’s Front Porch
  • False Fall
  • Second Summer
  • Actual Fall
  • and back to Winter

Using this list helped me understand why the spring books have been slow in arriving. It was because we still had to get through the Third Winter. The 81-degree temperatures at the end of last week fooled the book delivery system into sending us a few boxes of books. Below you will find some of the new books which arrived during “the Spring of Deception”.  Enjoy!

I drove over to the east side of the state on Easter Sunday to have brunch with my kinfolk. There I heard an official proclamation that spring was finally here. (Admittedly, it was 72 degrees on some thermometers and sunny. Young children were gamboling and blowing soapy, rainbow-hued bubbles, dogs were chasing balls, and a corn hole game was on the lawn being played by folks in short-sleeves.) However, as soon as those words escaped the mouth of that relative, most of us knocked wood, some spit (they were outside), and others threw a pinch of salt over their left shoulders. No need to jinx a process that may be underway. Nature is certainly tying its best to advance the season we should be in. The will trees are crowned in yellow and if we squint when looking at a tree line there is a hint of green beginning to show. Flowers that bloom early, like crocus, grape hyacinth, daffodils, and tulips are already blooming or at least pushing up leaves. Many bird species have returned. Robins are singing in the dark, before dawn and well into the dusk. Motorcycles are everywhere you look, In fact, everything seems to be buzzing with life. And this week, I finally have enough new books to fill up a column. Maybe the trickle of spring book titles will get bigger in the upcoming weeks. Below are some of the new books which arrived last week at the library. Enjoy!

Just as we are all waiting for spring to arrive (and by spring I mean mild days with temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees with blue skies dotted with only a few white, puffy clouds, and gentle winds wafting the delicate scent of various pollens to our olfactory senses while the birds make a delightful chorus of song) so too am I waiting for the spring books to arrive. Right not we are experience a thaw in the drought of late winter.  But this thaw is releasing only a trickle of books. I have managed to scrap together only 8 titles this week. Usually there are at least a dozen and sometimes a baker’s dozen titles.  Going with the baker’s terminology from the previous sentence, I guess I’d have to say that half a loaf is better than none, or in this case two-thirds (do the math)  of a loaf is better than none.  

Since I have a little space left to fill, I’d like to recommend a book that, unfortunately, has 350 active holds on it, but is a charming, read. It is “Remarkably Bright Creatures” by Jenna Pick.  This is the story of Tova who cleans an aquarium at night where Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus who is a bit of an escape artist, very self-aware, is nearing the end of his life.  The two form a friendship, find a way to communicate, and end up helping each other. This is a sweet book and has a happy ending where coincidence puts a nice bow on things and people heal and move forward together. Marcellus “says” of our species—“Humans. For the most part, you are dull and blundering. But occasionally, you can be remarkably bright creatures.” 


Another Thursday, another snow storm. Another Saturday, another 10 inches of snow.  Winter can’t seem to get the hint that it should go away. Now!   The Winter Reading Program has been finished for enough time for us to have gathered the statistics.  Some of which are detailed below. During the 2021-2022 Winter Reading Program there were 138 participants. Those participants read 9,979 books. Donations of Dragon Dollars to the Dane County Humane Society, the National Eagle Center, the DeForest Area Needs Network (D.A.N.N.) and the DeForest Area Public Library’s Endowment totaled $925.  During this year’s 2022-2023 Winter Reading Program, There were 170 participants (a 23% increase) read an astonishing 12,043 books (a 21% increase).  Donations to the UW Urban Canid Project, the library’s Endowment, D.A.N.N., and the Humane Society totaled $1,109 (an increase of almost 20%).  All in all, this was a very successful program for a winter that has yet to end.

And while we’re waiting for winter to truly, completely, absolutely end, we are also waiting for the spring book titles to appear. Below are the paltry few titles that arrived this past week. Enjoy!

The first day of spring occurred this past Monday, March 20th at 4:24 p.m. The vernal equinox occurred when the sun crossed the celestial equator in a northerly direction. This is good news for those of us who have been cursing Booky – our prognosticating badger—who, on Ground Hogs Day predicted winter’s end was a long, long way in the future. While it is great to have such an accurate weather forecaster residing at the library, sometimes I wish he was wrong.  I’m going to knock on wood and opine that the ten-day forecast as of this writing, looks like spring might actually be paying attention to the calendar.  Birds have continued to arrive in migratory flocks. Killdeer, grackles, robins, and cedar waxwings have all been hanging out around the bird feeders lately. Until this past weekend, I was starting to see motorcycles beginning to take to the highways. That 10-degree wind chill last weekend curtailed the start of that season!  Speaking of seasons, the summer / beach book season will soon be upon us. Indeed, one of the titles listed below has been proclaimed as “the first beach book of the season” by reviewers. Below you will find some other books that, while not necessarily beach-worthy, are still good reads. Enjoy!

Even though that snow squall last Sunday night that put a nice, slushy layer of snow on everything might be counter indicative of winter’s end, I believe that spring is sneaking into Wisconsin on the wings of returning birds. This past Sunday – before the snow arrived—there were robins hopping around on the lawn. I haven’t heard them singing yet but some of them are back. Admittedly on Monday morning, they were sitting, huddled in a tree, glaring at the snow, but they were hanging in because in their wee birdy hearts and brains they believe that spring is coming. A friend who lives a few miles south of here saw kill deer and turkey vultures on Sunday as well. Now we all know that the buzzards (a.k.a turkey vultures) return of Hinckley, Ohio every spring on March 15, like clockwork. Having turkey vultures here almost 10 days before their scheduled arrival in Ohio must mean something. I also saw people riding around on motorcycles over the weekend which might be the strongest indicator of winter’s end. Speaking of ends, the Winter Reading Program ended on Saturday, March 4th. You have until 4 p.m. on March 12th to make purchases in our prize store or to donate your Dragon Dollars to one of the designated charities. The countdown to the Summer Reading Program will begin any minute now. In the meantime, below you will find the titles of some of the recently-arrived books at the library. Enjoy!

Last Friday, a friend of mine and I drove out to Kearney, Nebraska to see the start of the annual Sandhill Crane migration that see over half a million (yes, that’s more than 500,000) cranes passing through the area. The cranes take a break as they make their way from the Gulf coast states up to the Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and eastern Siberia where they will set up housekeeping for 5 or 6 months, raise a couple of chicks, teach them to fly, and head back to warmer climes. Seeing cranes in small numbers in Wisconsin lifts my spirits and fills me with joy. Seeing thousands and tens of thousands of cranes is enough to take one’s breath away and drop you to your knees in wonder. I saw a t-shirt in the gift shop at the Rowe Sanctuary which looks like a patent, medical tonic bottle and calls the crane migration “Mother Nature’s Miracle Medicine” – refreshing, rejuvenating, restorative. It goes on to claim it alleviates stress, melancholy, boredom … pallor, loss of vitality, tedium… and much more! I would have to say, I don’t believe any of their claims are bogus. Crane viewing should be used regularly and generously. If you’re interested in viewing some cranes and have time from before the crack of dawn until 7:30 a.m. you, too, could take part in the Annual Midwest Crane Count. (Info available at the International Crane Foundation website)

Now that the Winter Reading has ended and before the Summer Reading Program begins you could use all the time you are not reading to watch cranes in Wisconsin. In case you do want to read some of the new books that have arrived at the library recently instead of watching the skies for returning Sandhill Cranes, there are some titles listed below. Enjoy!

Time is running out. I’m not kidding. I have warned you for at least that past three weeks that the Winter Reading Program would be ending on March 4th. If you’ve looked at your calendar recently, you will see that date is a week – that’s 7 days, 168 hours, or 10,080 minutes—from tomorrow.  Now I know you didn’t make it through all the dark days of this past winter without reading (or listening to) a book. I know that you want to earn a few dragon dollars so you can buy yourself or your loved one a supper cool gift from our prize store. I know that if you’re not into gift/prize getting you would want to give those hard-earned dragon dollars to one  or all of our four deserving charities—The Urban Canid Project at the U.W. Madison, the DeForest Area Needs Network, the Dane County Humane Society, or the DeForest Area Public Library Endowment.  You have until 5 p.m. on March 4th to enter titles in the app. You have until March 12th to get those dollars and spend them.  

While I realize that you won’t have time to read any of the books listed below to include in the 2023 Winter Reading Program, you can still add them to your to-be-read list. Enjoy!

BTW, I mentioned last week that sandhill cranes generally start staging north on Valentine’s Day. I have to report on Wednesday, February 15th, there was a lone crane circling over Western Green Park (and my condo) at 5 p.m.  He was certainly doing a lot of shouting whether for his fellow cranes to catch up or for them to let him know where they were, I couldn’t tell. This is the earliest I have seen a sandhill crane in DeForest. And then we got four inches of snow the next day so I’m sure he reconsidered and headed south for a while.

Last week I mentioned that there were three weeks left in the Winter Reading Program. I opined that there was still plenty of time to read, read, read, and the titles of what you read to earn dragon dollars which you could use for purchasing cool stuff in our Fox’s Den store or for donations to one of our designated charities. So. Did you do it? I thought so. The good news is that as of this Friday you still have two weeks to read, record, and earn dragon dollars. If you are still putting this most pleasant task off, let me remind you that National Procrastination Week does not begin until March 6th. Actually, beginning to procrastinate before National Procrastination Week seems like a direct slap in the face to the spirit of that week, i.e you are celebrating the week before the week is even here. Take some time this week to read, record, and earn some dragon dollars before the Winter Reading Program ends.

Speaking of winter ending (wasn’t that a smooth segue?), it seems as if we get four or five days of spring-like weather and then a nice big snow storm. This seems more like March weather than mid-February weather. The birds are beginning to think it’s spring. Birds that start setting up housekeeping early – your blue jays, pigeons, mourning doves, hawks, owls, house sparrows, etc.-- seem to be dating already. The chickadee’s have added their “phoebe” song to their repertoire as the start getting ready to woo. And as we all know, the Sandhill cranes (usually) start heading north to that great join up on the Platte River on February 14th. Below are some of the new books which recently arrived at the library.


The Winter Reading Program ends on Saturday, March 4th. That means that you still have three (3) full weeks to read, record what you’ve read and earn dragon dollars to either 1) spend in our store or 2) donate it to one of my designated charities and I will convert those dragon dollars to U.S. dollars and make a donation in that amount. Three weeks is plenty of time to plow through any number of books Why if you read a paltry 4 hours a day for those 22 days until the end of the program that’s 88 hours. The average book is around 300 pages with approximately 300 words per page (ask Google, she’ll confirm these averages). Now if you read a page a minute – which is only 300 words (I know you can do it!)- you could read 60 pages per hour times the 88 hours you will read between now and the end of the Winter Reading Program. That’s 5,280 pages or (dividing by 300 pages in a book) 17.6 books. If memory serves, you can earn a dragon dollar for each book read. There’s still time to participate in the program and earn a few bucks for your own use or others (Valentine’s Day is coming).

The moderating weather has not only put hope in our hearts, but started the trickle of the spring book lists toward our doors. Below are some of the books which recently arrived at your library. Enjoy!

By the time you read this, Bookie, the library's prognosticating badger, shall have made a prediction about how much longer winter will be staying around in these parts. As you may or may not recall, Bookie has been making highly accurate predictions that, well, let's just say it, outshine and put to shame rival prognosticators such as our neighbor to the east in Sun Prairie, a.k.a, Jimmy the Groundhog and that other groundhog even further to the east, Punxsutawney Phil. Since I am writing this on the last Monday in January, I have no idea what Bookie my have foreseen. I do, however, know a couple of things about the weather in late January and early February. The weather lore says that as the days lengthen, the cold strengthens. This is certainly proven out by the beginning of this week. The days have noticeably gotten longer. The earliest sunset in our area occurs around the 2nd week of December when the sunsets at 4:22. The latest sunrise, 7:29. shows up on December 29th and persisted through the first week of January. Now we have started gaining time at both ends of the day and have 17 extra minutes in the morning and a whopping 49 minutes at the end of the day. The days have lengthen and we have definitely gotten a blast of arctic air. The good news is that the Old Farmer's Almanac kinda, sorta, predicted this for the Midwest and Ohio Valley. A fairly mild start to January, followed by a cold blast right about this time. The great news is that almanac foresees mild weather in February. So while you are waiting for the mild weather to arrive as well as the Superbowl, there are some books listed below for you to peruse. Enjoy!

A couple of weekends ago, during the time when we were still basking in the warmth of a January thaw that seemed like it would last the entire month, my friend and I headed south in search of sandhill cranes. Those of you who know me or are regular readers of this column know that I am what some refer to as a “craniac”. I really love cranes. I love seeing them. I love hearing them calling across the skies and marshes and cornfields. I love watching them dance in their excitement of being around other cranes with a joie de vivre I envy. Are you getting the feeling that I like cranes a whole lot? I like them so much that I want to see them every month of the year. Cranes are hanging out in this part of Wisconsin much longer than they used to and returning sooner too. I had November cranes this year. I had December cranes this year. But the cranes left during that second week of December which means a road trip for me and my fellow craniac. The Jasper Pulaski Wildlife Area near Kouts, Indiana is a staging area for sandhill cranes before they head further south. So off we went. The area where the cranes can usually be found has been taken over by two large solar farms. While there’s still grass to be found between the solar panels, there’s no corn to be gleaned. So we had to drive around looking for cranes a long time without seeing any. Suddenly, there were two in the air and five on the ground (I have pictures!) so we knew they had to be somewhere. Then I remembered that the year Covid struck my fellow craniac and I were on our way to Nashville to the Public Library Association Conference and had swung by this area to see if we could find our January cranes. We didn’t see any at the refuge area, but there were a few thousand cranes as we headed west towards I-65. We tried that and there they were. A few thousand cranes – dancing, calling, feeding on corn fields in the sunshine on snowless fields. Another successful January crane quest!

If you’re searching for some new books, caste your eyes further down the page. Below are some of the new titles which recently arrived at the library. Enjoy!

A life-long member of the community, John Englesby died sometime on Thursday, January 5th. He was a long-time member of the library board. I feel I should note his passing since, in a way, it changes the landscape of the community. Finding the words to describe John Englesby is difficult, but “reliable” and “dependable” immediately leap to mind. I first knew something wasn’t right when he failed to respond to an email and when he failed to show up -- without explanation or excuse-- to the first library board meeting of 2023. He also failed to show up to play piano at the Senior Center that morning which sent people to his house. Not showing up was so unlike John. He always did what he said he would do.

John was deeply rooted in the community and a life long resident of Morrisonville. He was a teacher with a Phd from UW Madison. He loved local history and did all he could to collect and preserve it. He was on the library board since 1982. He was on the library board when I was hired. He was the president of the library board for many years including the years that saw the library being built. He and I attended so many construction meetings during the project. He took meticulous notes which I’m sure are preserved somewhere in the library. John was always part of the library landscape. It is hard to believe that I won’t be seeing him walk across the library today or tomorrow or ever again.

He oversaw the preservation of the Lyster House, the Depot, and the Hansen Newell Bennett House. He was tireless in his devotion to not losing any local history. He was at the gallery and DeForest Area Historical Society office in the library at least twice a week and often more. The last time I saw John was on Tuesday, the 3rd of January as he was talking to someone at the circulation desk. The last time I saw him to talk to was at Dick Emerson's funeral on the 13th of December. With both John and Dick gone, a gigantic piece of local history is gone forever. The loss of John’s presence and memories is immeasurable. His legacy is great. He was a kind soul and a gentleman -- in every sense of the word.

Below are some of the books which recently arrived at the library.

This past weekend, a friend of mine who is an avid bird watcher, texted me to say that there was a large, migratory flock of cowbirds and starlings hanging around at the edge of the marsh on their property. Birds flock up to head south, generally speaking, and return north in the spring in smaller bands. So was this a group of birds that had lingered during that cold snap we had a few weeks ago and are now confused about which season they're in? Hard to say. That flock left and a couple of days later there were about 1,000 red-winged blackbirds using that same marsh as a stop over. The weather has certainly been unseasonable. January looks to continue to be mild for the foreseeable forecast. There is a bush on the library grounds with a south facing that looks like it's seriously considering budding. I continue to point out to people that migration and plants beginning to wake from dormancy is a function of not only temperature (which can be a real fooler) but also length of daylight. And while the days have gotten noticeably longer at the sunset end of things -- that stopped way back at the beginning of December when the latest sunset was 4:22 and we have been slowly but steadily gaining minutes until at this publishing sunset is at 4:46-- we only just stopped have sunrise at a later time every day. Way back in December when sunset quit getting later and later --on the 11th or so-- sunrise was at 7:19. Today it is at 7:27 (actually a gain of two minutes of daylight since the 1st of the year). This is a long way of saying that although length of day is moving in the right direction (at last) it shouldn't be triggering early spring behavior -- except in humans who always have hope in their hearts. But I digress from the real reason you are here. Below are the new books which recently arrived at the library --not because of any urges to migrate north to our library brought on by mild temperatures and longer daylight hours, but by the UPS man. Enjoy!

I hope you had a wonderful New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration. What about those Packers, eh?! A great way to start a new year. Here’s hoping they can carry on as they have begun. Now that a great many of the winter holidays are past and the post-holiday sales have petered out, it is time to get serious about the Winter Reading Program. This year we are outfoxing winter by reading, so now is the time to dig in and read. Below you will find some new titles to whet your appetite. Pickings in the new book realm are a little slim these past few weeks due to shipping congestion undoubtedly brought on by the holidays and also by the fact that our major book jobber was hijacked and is still recovering from that incident. While waiting for the hottest bestsellers to arrive, why not read a classic? Isn’t there a book you’ve always been meaning to read? “War and Peace”, “Madame Bovary”, “ David Copperfield” , “ Les Miserable”, or “The Count of Monte Cristo” to name just a few rather large, rather cumbersome tomes. If you check out one of these books and it still seems too overwhelming, well, there’s a app for that. Serialreader.org offers over 600 classic book titles in bite-size chunks of about 20 minutes of the book each day for free (with ads). I made it through “War and Peace” on this app (My there was a lot of riding back and forth in that war). You can count any books you read on whatever platform or format you read it on for the Winter Reading Program. Below are some of the most recent arrivals. Enjoy!