Questions? Need guidance? Suggestions? Click above to chat, email, or call your librarians.

Monday, September 28, 2015



Banned Book Week, first held in 1982, and organized by the American Library Association, Office of Intellectual Freedom,  defends the freedom to read and protects reader’s rights.
Individuals and groups challenge books.  When a book is challenged, an individual or group attempts to remove or restrict a title, based upon the objections of that person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges concern librarians, because they are not simply a person expressing a point of view.  The person or group wants to remove the material from the library or school curriculum, therefore restricting access to others.  The Office of Intellectual Freedom supports libraries and schools faced with challenges to titles in their library of curriculum.
              You might be surprised by some of the titles banned.  The King James version of the Bible has been challenged!  A few of the many works that are common titles today include Harry Potter, Alice and Wonderland, Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, James and the Giant Peach, Black Beauty, Canterbury Tales,Frankenstein, Hamlet,Dr. Zhivago, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

            The top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014 are:
  1.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time India, by Sherman Alexie
  2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  3. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  5. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  6. Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  7. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  9. A Stolen Life by  Jaycee Dugard
  10. Drama by Raina Telgemeire
  For a list of Banned and Challenged Classics, click here:

 For the Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books Lists of the 21st century, click here:

There were 5,099 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom during 2000 – 2009.
Of those challenges:
1,577 were due to “sexually explicit” material. 
1,291 challenges were due to “offensive language.” 
989 challenges due to materials deemed “unsuited to age group.”
619 challenged due to “violence,” and 
361 challenges due to “homosexuality.”  Most of the challenges are for materials in public libraries and in school classrooms.  Most challenges are initiated by parents.

      This week is Banned Books Week.  Celebrate our ability to read the books we want and the protection of the American Library Association, Office of Intellectual Freedom to prevent censorship of books and other materials.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015




Written by one of the co-authors of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, this novel focuses on a small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, during the Depression era.  Layla, the daughter of a Senator, is sent to Macedonia to work on a history of Macedonia for the Federal Writer’s Project.  Her father has decided not to support her, and she is on relief and given an assignment.  She stays with the Romeyn family – Jottie and her divorced brother, Felix, and his children Willa and Bird.  Twin sisters Mae and Minerva also live with them during the week, and go to their husbands on the weekend.

Stories of the Romeyn family and Macedonia unfold as Layla meets different residents and hears their tales of the town.  Felix’s father created American Everlasting, a hosiery company, and Felix worked there.  The reader knows that something happened, and Felix no longer works at the company.  We learn that Vause Hamilton, Felix’s best friend and Jottie’s sweetheart, was found in the building when a fire had started, and he had money that he appeared to be stealing.  Throughout the book, the reader tries to figure out what really happened, and finds out at the end.  Willa is a strong 12 year old who adores her father and doesn’t understand why he is gone so much.

Jottie cares for the children and acts as their mother.  Sol, who works at the factory is interested in Jottie, but Jottie still feels her love for Vause, from twenty years earlier.  In the end, we find out not only who started the fire, but why.  The book is written from several points of view, often changing within a chapter.  The story is also told through letters, flashbacks, and through the writing Layla does of Macedonia.  In the end, Layla writes a real history of Macedonia containing the truth.   She changes from a spoiled wealthy girl to a woman who has some depth and has found some purpose, and people whom she likes and can relate to.  The book has a good story, although it strays at points.  The writer has several plot lines going, and the story line can be confusing at times but comes together in the end.    Although her first book was more tightly written, I really enjoy reading The Truth According to Us. 




We Never Asked for Wings  is the second novel by this author, and I really like her writing.  This novel is set in the present day in the S.F. Bay area.  Letty Espinosa had a baby, Alex,  when she was 17, and her parents took care of Alex, and then another child, Luna, who is 9 years younger.  Letty was in love with Wes in high school.  When she realized she was pregnant, she never told Wes, and he went off to college, and then medical school.  We never learn who Luna’s father is.  Letty worked jobs to help feed the family, and to send money to Mexico, to family members.

She has never really been a parent.  Her mother, Mary Elena, and father, Enrique have raised her children.  They now want to go back to Mexico.  Letty leaves her children alone in her apartment and drives to Mexico, to try and bring them back.  After a few days, she calls her friend, Sara, and asks her to watch the kids.  When she returns, the children are scared and angry, mainly because their grandparents are gone, and also because they have never seen Letty act like a mother.  She doesn’t know how to cook, or take care of her children.  Alex is 15 and Luna is 6.  In the past, Letty has been drunk many times, and now works at a barmaid at the airport
Alex is not happy going to his local high school.  He is very bright, bored 9th grader who needs to be with other students who want to learn.    Letty falsifies some papers to get him into a better high school with honors classes, and eventually  moves near the school.  Meanwhile, a romance develops between Alex and a girl in his original neighborhood, who is also very bright.  A crisis arises when Alex tries to enroll her in the school he now attends.   
The plot thickens when Alex figures out who is father is, and meets him.   A realistic story develops about undocumented immigrants who live in terror of being deported.   This novel is a good follow-up to the spring 2015  Northfield Reads book, Enrique’s Journey.  The nonfiction book describes the difficulty of entering the country illegally.  This novel describes the fear and terror that stay with undocumented immigrants, while they are trying to better their lives and obtain and an education.

Monday, August 24, 2015



The Contemporary Women Writers Book Group began in January 2005 and has been meeting monthly for over 10 years.   The book group is led by me,  Joan Ennis, Reference Librarian,  at the Northfield Public Library.  We meet the third Tuesday of the month, at 7:00 pm  We usually meet in the library meeting room, but we are temporarily meeting at All Saints Church on the corner of Washington and 5th Street until the library is reopens after construction.  About ten members were the first members of the group, many of whom are still vital members.  Over the years, many new members have joined.  We usually have eight to ten people at a meeting.  Some members come very regularly and some attend sporadically, depending on other events in their busy schedule.
We select books with enough copies in the SELCO system for the group.  I will request copies for members if they ask me, or members can request their own copies.

How do we select titles?  Everyone is encouraged to suggest titles.  For each suggestion, I check the number of copies available.  I email a list of suggestions to all members and ask for feedback, and then we discuss titles at a meeting.
We begin each meeting with  background material on the author and the book, and begin the discussion.  Everyone contributes to the discussion. 
We meet every month, and in December, we have a holiday gathering at a member's home.
A few years ago we began a fun activity.  For each book we read, we think of what the main characters would want for a holiday gift!  It's a fun way to review the books for the year.

Last week we choose titles for the next twelve months.  The titles are:

September 2015   The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit
October 2015       A Man Called Ove  by Fredrik Backman
November 2015   All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
December 2015   Holiday gathering
January 2016       The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
February 2016     The Children Act by Ian McEwan
March 2016         A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
April 2016           Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
May 2016            To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
June 2016            The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi
July 2016             The Turtle Warriors by Mary Relindes Ellis
August 2016        The Arsonist by Sue Miller.

The group is ALWAYS open to new members.  If you have questions about the group or want to be on the email list, please contact me at 645-1802, or

Monday, August 17, 2015



Two weeks ago I wrote that I was glad that Go Set A Watchman was published, although I had not yet read the book.  I had read a number of reviews stating that maybe the book by Harper Lee should not have been published, and To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic published 55 years ago, should stand as her only published work.
I just finished reading Go Set a Watchman and I feel strongly that the book should have been published.  It is an excellent book on its own.  Go Set a Watchman is set in 1955, at the time  it was written.  Jean Louise returns to Maycomb, Alabama from New York to visit her family.  She has always flown, but this year she takes the train, partly because she doesn't want her father to drive to the airport.  It will be much easier for her father to pick her up at the train station, instead of the airport. Atticus has rheumatoid arthritis and it is hard for him to drive and get around.  We see Atticus' physical frailty at the beginning of the book, and by the end, we see his emotional and spiritual frailties.
Jean Louise has a difficult time when she returns home.  The South has changed.  More importantly, she sees the flaws in the family and friends she grew up with and thought she knew well.  She sees prejudice in the South that she didn't understand before.  Jean Louise deals with her discomfort by remembering times and events in her past when she felt happy and safe.  Thus, the novel gives flashbacks to Jean Louise' childhood.
Harper Lee wrote this novel in the mid 1950's, at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.
I think her novel was ahead of its time for the South.  The author, and therefore Jean Louise,  understand the discrimination of and prejudice against the black population that many southerners consider the norm.  When the book was accepted by a publisher in 1957, Harper Lee was told to rewrite it in Scout's past, from her point of view.  Thus, To Kill a Mockingbird was written, which became a bestseller and has become a classic.  To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930's.
I am speculating that a book set in the South during the 1930's was easier for the public to accept in the 1950's  than a book set in the current turbulent times in the South. 
Why did Harper Lee chose to publish Go Set A Watchman after all these years?  We will probably never know the answer to that question.  Why did she not publish it sooner?  Perhaps she felt that this book could never reach the popularity and acclaim of To Kill a Mockingbird, especially after it was made into a Academy Award winning movie.  Perhaps she didn't want to change the image of Atticus Finch who became a classic American icon, especially after he was played by Gregory Peck in the movie.  Go Set a Watchman shows Atticus as a complete human being with strengths and faults.
I am glad the it was published this year.  It will change the teaching of To Kill a Mockingbird and the understanding of Jean Louise and Atticus.
Read the book and let me know what you think!


Thursday, August 6, 2015


By now, most of you are aware that the library is temporarily located on the second floor of City Hall, 801 Washington St.  After a long planning process, remodeling of our Northfield Carnegie Library should begin soon.  During the week of July 6, the library staff moved over 10,000 items to our interim location at City Hall.  How did we decide what to take?  What happened to all the other books, dvd's, cd;s, etc?

Librarians responsible for each area of the library looked at how often materials went out and how accessible the books, etc. were at other libraries.  We moved most of the new materials we had on the shelves.  We picked a variety of materials to appeal to a wide variety of patron interests.  We were not able to take very many titles by specific authors.  Hopefully, a title by an author will remind you that you can interlibrary loan other titles by that author.  It was difficult to leave so many books and other materials behind, but they will be welcomed by patrons when we reopen the library next spring!

What happened to all the other materials?  They were carefully packed by staff and volunteers, and being stored in Dundas in a climate controlled environment.

Our small library at City Hall has been very busy since opening on July 13.  We are continuing to buy new books, so our collection at City Hall will be growing.  We have six public computers, which are busy during most of the day.  Wifi is available.    We have some chairs for sitting and reading newspapers, magazines, or a book.   We have juvenile and adult materials. You can return materials by dropping them in the large return box in front of City Hall, or returning them upstairs.   If you don't find what you want, please ask.   Our staff is available to help and we will request materials from other libraries.


     Harper Lee’s newest release, Go Set a Watchman, is the most talked about book this summer. Go Set a Watchman, the first book Harper Lee wrote, was rejected when she submitted it to her               publisher in 1957.   The publisher asked that Lee rewrite her book and focus on Scout’s childhood. 

     She then wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960 which has become  an American classic.  She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the novel in 1961.                                                                               
I have not yet read Go Set a Watchman, and am waiting eagerly for when my name comes up on the library request list!  However, I have read a number of articles since its release on July 14.  While To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930’s, Go Set a Watchman is set in 1955, which was the beginning of the Civil Rights movement and awareness of the Jim Crow laws.  In 1954, with Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court unanimously voted to mandate integrated schools.  Jean Louise (Scout) returns to her hometown of Maycomb after living in New York.  Her father, Atticus, is now 72 years old.  She is shocked to find out that her father is not supportive of the black community integrating the schools and the community.  The book shows that Atticus is not simply the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird.  He is a more complex character, and some critics say he is a disappointment, compared to the original book.

I have read articles that suggest that Go Set a Watchman should not have been published.  There was an inquiry this year concerning Harper Lee’s mental fitness to decide on the publication.  The author is now 88 years old and lives in an assisted living home in Monroeville, Alabama.  She was determined to be mentally able to decide for herself that the novel should be published.  Some critics feel that the new novel changes our understanding of Atticus and the value of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a standard required read in most American high schools.  Atticus Finch confronted race in the 1930’s setting, in a book published in 1960.  In 1960, the nation was ready to look at the treatment of Blacks.     In Go Set a Watchman, finished in 1957, and set in 1955, Harper Lee wrote about race relations as they really were at the time.  The South was having a difficult time with integration.  Atticus Finch is not flawless, as he was in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Some critics believe that publishing Go Set a Watchman  tarnishes the image of Atticus Finch, and lessens To Kill a Mockingbird.  Some believe that future students will not be able to read and understand the classic in the same way.  Although I have not yet read Go Set a Watchman, I think publishing the novel is a positive decision.  It would have been a loss to the literary community if the manuscript had disappeared and never been available to readers and critics.  The novel reveals the author’s process as a writer, and her understanding of the 1950’s, as a time of trial and change in the South.  Hopefully the novel will not ruin future readers of To Kill a Mockingbird, but will give them more background information to consider and discuss. 




Friday, February 6, 2015


On Saturday, January 31, 2015, preliminary judges met at the Loft Literary Center to decide on four finalists for each book category.  Some judges needed to read 40 books for their category.
Each group had 3 judges and one facilitator.  I was a facilitator for the Minnesota category.
The finalist books will be sent to final judges, who will read them and meet at the Loft on Saturday, March 7.  The winning books will be announced at the Minnesota Book Awards gala event on Saturday, April 18.  Minnesota has many good authors.  It is an honor to have a book be chosen as a finalist.
The finalists are:

Children’s Literature




  • It’s an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers
  • Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster by Mike Wohnoutka (Holiday House)
  • Water Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija (Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

General Nonfiction


  • Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life by Nancy Koester (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
  • My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation by Brenda J. Child (Minnesota Historical Society Press)
  • New Scenic Café: The Cookbook by Scott Graden with Arlene Anderson (New Scenic Café, Inc.)
  • Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism by R.W. Holmen (The Pilgrim Press)

Genre Fiction

  • Fallen Angel by Chuck Logan (Conquill Press)
  • The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (Seventh Street Books/Prometheus Books)
  • The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen (Bethany House Publishers)
  • Strongwood: A Crime Dossier by Larry Millett (University of Minnesota Press)

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction

  • Love Imagined: A Mixed Race Memoir by Sherry Quan Lee (Modern History Press/Loving Healing Press)
  • Northern Orchards: Places Near the Dead by James Silas Rogers (North Star Press of St. Cloud)
  • Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain by James P. Lenfestey (Milkweed Editions)
  • Tailings: A Memoir by Kaethe Schwehn (Cascade Books/Wipf and Stock Publishers)


  • Amphibians and Reptiles in Minnesota by John J. Moriarty and Carol D. Hall (University of Minnesota Press)
  • Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement by Lori Sturdevant (Minnesota Historical Society Press)
  • Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook: A Guide to Selecting and Preparing the Best Local Produce with Seasonal Recipes from Local Chefs and Farmers by Tricia Cornell (Voyageur Press)
  • Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes by Larry Millett, photography by Matt Schmitt (Minnesota Historical Society Press)

Novel & Short Story


  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House)
  • In Reach by Pamela Carter Joern (University of Nebraska Press)
  • The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons by Heather A. Slomski (University of Iowa Press)
  • Stillwater by Nicole Helget (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)



  • Albedo by Kathleen Jesme (Ahsahta Press)
  • Dangerous Goods by Sean Hill (Milkweed Editions)
  • Soul Over Lightning by Ray Gonzalez (The University of Arizona Press)
  • This Way to the Sugar by Hieu Minh Nguyen (Write Bloody Publishing)

Young People’s Literature


  • Ambassador by William Alexander (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster)
  • Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick Press)
  • West of the Moon by Margi Preus (Amulet Books/Abrams)
  • The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers/Algonquin
- See more at: