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Friday, February 5, 2016


 The Minnesota Book Awards preliminary judging took place on Saturday, February 6.  Four titles were chosen for each of the eight categories.  Three judges are assigned to each category.
Preliminary judges read all entries for their category, sometimes reading as many as 30 or 40 books!
I will be a final judge for the Minnesota category.  I will read the four books in the Minnesota category, over the next month.  The final judging will take place on Saturday, March 5.
The Minnesota Book Awards event will be held on Saturday, April 16, at St. Paul's Union Depot.
The following finalist titles will be available through the Northfield Public Library.

Children’s Literature

  • Behold! A Baby by Stephanie Watson, illustrated by Joy Ang (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
  • Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure by Derek Anderson(Orchard Books/Scholastic)

General Nonfiction

  • Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture—and What We Can Do About It by Kate Harding (Da Capo Press/Perseus Books Group)
  • John H. Howe, Architect: From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Design by Jane King Hession and Tim Quigley (University of Minnesota Press)*
  • No House to Call My Home: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions by Ryan Berg (Nation Books/Perseus Books Group)
  • Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again by Traci Mann (HarperWave/HarperCollins Publishers)

Genre Fiction:

  • The Devereaux Decision by Steve McEllistrem (Calumet Editions)*
  • The Grave Soul by Ellen Hart (Minotaur Books)
  • He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul by D.B. Moon (Three Waters Publishing, LLC)*
  • Season of Fear by Brian Freeman (Quercus)

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction

  • In Winter’s Kitchen by Beth Dooley (Milkweed Editions)*
  • The War Came Home with Him: A Daughter’s Memoir by Catherine Madison (University of Minnesota Press)*
  • Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life by Karen Babine (University of Minnesota Press)*
  • We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying by Bruce Kramer, with Cathy Wurzer (University of Minnesota Press)*


  • Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury by Larry Millett, photographs by Denes Saari and Maria Forrai Saari (University of Minnesota Press)*
  • Minnesota State of Wonders by Brian Peterson, stories by Kerri Westenberg (Mark Hirsch Publishing)
  • North Shore: A Natural History of Minnesota’s Superior Coast by Chel Anderson and Adelheid Fischer (University of Minnesota Press)*
  • Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe by Anton Treuer (Minnesota Historical Society Press)*

Novel & Short Story

  • The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group)
  • The Patron Saint of Lost Comfort Lake by Rachel Coyne (New Rivers Press)*
  • Prudence by David Treuer (Riverhead Books/Penguin)
  • There’s Something I Want You to Do by Charles Baxter (Pantheon Books/Random House)


  • Beautiful Wall by Ray Gonzalez (BOA Editions, Ltd.)
  • Borrowed Wave by Rachel Moritz (Kore Press)
  • Home Studies by Julie Gard (New Rivers Press)*
  • Modern Love & Other Myths by Joyce Sutphen (Red Dragonfly Press)*

Young People’s Literature

  • The Bamboo Sword by Margi Preus (Amulet Books/Abrams)
  • The Firebug of Balrog County by David Oppegaard (Flux/Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.)*
  • Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony (University of Minnesota Press)*
  • See No Color by Shannon Gibney (Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner

Thursday, December 31, 2015


Hot Reads for Cold Nights returns to the Northfield Public Library this winter.  During the cold, snowy months of January and February, curl up and read some books and win prizes at the library!  Join the library Hot Reads program starting Saturday, January 2 , and read for prizes until Monday, February 29.

After reading a book, each patron will fill out a slip with their name and phone number and a few lines describing the book.  The name and phone number section of the paper will be cut off and put in a fishbowl.  The comment section of each slip will be included in a notebook.    Patrons will be able to browse each other comments for ideas of new books.  From the names in the fishbowl, three winners will be drawn each week.  Each winner will receive a $5.00 gift certificate to a downtown business. This year, patrons who use the Northfield Senior Center will be able to sign up and drop their book slips at the Senior Center.  The completed slips will be added to the notebook at the  library, and the participants will be included in the weekly drawings.

Remember that our library is temporarily located on the second floor of City Hall this year.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015


This well-told, appealing book  is the latest installment in Sullivan’s  Harvester novels (The Cape Ann, The Empress of One, and Gardenias).  Nell Stillman is a widow and third-grade schoolteacher living in the small, rural  town of Harvester, Minn., in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. She struggles to raise her son, Hilly.  They live in an  apartment over Rabel’s Meat Market. Her younger cousin Elvira moves in as a live-in housekeeper when Hilly is young.  Nell tutors her in reading and social graces.   When pregnant Elvira leaves in disgrace for Chicago, Nell must endure the wagging of the town gossips.   As the title suggests, the author establishes how Nell becomes a lifelong devotee to the works of the P.G. Wodehouse, starting with her finding  Love Among the Chickens in the town library, a bookcase kept at the Water and Power Company. She indulges her escapist daydreams through his books, and she even corresponds with him. After Hilly returns home tormented with PTSD from his World War I military service,  Nell increasingly turns to Wodehouse’s for her escape and enjoyment.   Nell is a resilient protagonist.  Although the reader doesn't know too much about her in earlier novels, we learn that she had a difficult life.  Her husband, Bert, was abusive to her.  When he died young, it was almost a relief to Nell,  although she needed to work and protect her son.  Although a married woman could not teach, when she became widowed
she was allowed to teach.   She was hired as a 3rd grade teacher.  Nell had a number of friends over the years, and also had to put up with town gossips  (Aunt Martha, Eudora, etc.)  She has a long time relationship with a man she met while playing cards.   One of the most poignant scenes in the novel is when Hilly comes home as a war hero, but he is suffering from PTSD, and is unable to get off the train and respond to the crowd cheering him.    He has to relearn how to talk, read, take care of himself.  He leads a tragic life.

Characters from The Cape Ann, The Empress of One, and Gardenias appear in this novel.  Lark and her mother Arlene, Sally and her mother Stella Wheeler, and Beverly.  The girls become friends of Nell’s as they grow up. 

I really enjoyed the novel.  Part of the charm is the historical details and the weaving of literature into this novel.  Nell becomes  a fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and Sullivan mentions many other pieces of literature.  She emphasizes the healing power of literature.   I tried to read hits novel slowly, so that I could read it longer.  If you haven't read Faith Sullivan's earlier books, pick up The Cape Ann and begin.  You won't be able to put her books down. 


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!