Monday, October 26, 2015

Will you be "guising" this Halloween?

A fellow reference librarian recently recommended the first book in the Scottish mystery series by A.D. Scott, A small death in the great glen (Atria Books, 2010). The story is set in the Scottish Highlands in the mid-1950s, and the main characters are the staff of a small weekly newspaper, the Highland Gazette. Unexpectedly, they have the death (possibly accidental) of a six-year-old local boy to deal with. I expected--and got--an absorbing mystery story, but I also got a glimpse into Scottish Halloween customs. 

The author uses several Scottish words and phrases; often their meaning can be deduced from the context. For example, it's October, and quite a few days are described as "dreich," which, according to the Caledonian Mercury Useful Scots Words website,"has several meanings when applied to weather, including wet, dull, gloomy, dismal, dreary, miserable or any combination of these."

As the month of October progresses, the townspeople, both young and old, devise costumes for the purpose of "guising," or dressing up in a disguise for party-going or trick-or-treating. Children carve faces into turnips rather than pumpkins and, at a party, treacle scones are suspended on strings from a clothesline and "hands behind backs, mouths open like baby cuckoos, the children would try to bite through a scone as it swayed in front of them. Invariably a passing prankster would jerk the rope, sending the treacle-soaked scones slap into someone's face or hair or down the back of a neck, to shrieks and taunts of "I got you, I got you!" (p. 206). 

Other volumes in A.D. Scott's Highland Gazette series are:

*Currently on order.

Turnip photo:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Local Legends: Franklin and Mark McMahon

Picture of Lake Forest Library
 by Mark McMahon, 1998,
hangs in Library's outer lobby.
The Lake Forest - Lake Bluff Historical Society's 2015 Local Legends benefit this Saturday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. at the Gorton Center will honor artists Mark McMahon and his late father Franklin.  Bill Kurtis will be interviewing Mark McMahon about his and his father's experience as artist-reporters. You can register for the program at the Historical Society's website.

Mark McMahon's picture of the Lake Forest Library (at left) and his picture of the Friends of Lake Forest Library's 2004 book sale hang in the library's outer lobby along with Franklin McMahon's painting of Hemingway's house in Key West, Florida, which was a gift to the library from the Friends of Lake Forest Library in 2010.  The library has compiled a Franklin and Mark McMahon Reading List with links to full text articles, including many from the library's subscription databases.  You will need a Lake Forest Library card number to access those articles from outside the library, but all of the articles can be accessed directly from any of the library's computers.  Books and articles from the list are also on display on the round table in the library's rotunda.  We invite you to come see the McMahon works we have here and to read about this year's Local Legends.

Monday, October 19, 2015

2015 Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Svetlana Alexievich

On October 8, 2015, the Swedish Academy announced that Svetlana Alexievich had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Alexievich (whose name is also transliterated as Aleksievich or Aleksiyevich) is a Belarusian writer of oral histories. She was born in 1948 in Ukraine and grew up in Belarus. After finishing school, she worked as a reporter for several local newspapers before graduating from Belarusian State University, where she studied journalism, in 1972. She later interviewed witnesses of the most dramatic events in her country, such as World War II, the Chernobyl disaster, and the Soviet-Afghan War, in order to write her books.

Alexievich may seem an unusual choice for the literature prize, which is often awarded to a novelist or poet. According to New Yorker staffer Philip Gourevitch,
Svetlana Alexievich is an investigative journalist, not a fiction writer, but she calls her books "novels in voices." It is a term that speaks to her method Рa "m̩lange of reportage and oral history" Рand also to her ambition, which is not to deliver the news, but to describe what it was like to live through and to live with some of the defining traumas of the Soviet Union.
Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, described Alexievich's work this way:
She’s conducted thousands and thousands of interviews with children, with women and with men, and in this way she’s offering us a history of human beings about whom we didn’t know that much ... and at the same time she’s offering us a history of emotions, a history of the soul.
Alexievich told an interviewer for The Guardian that she'd received her phone call from the Academy while she was at home "doing the ironing." She commented that the prize money (8 million Swedish krona, the equivalent of almost a million U.S. dollars) would buy her freedom. “It takes me a long time to write my books, from five to 10 years. I have two ideas for new books so I’m pleased that I will now have the freedom to work on them.”

The Lake Forest Library recently purchased two of Alexievich's books, Voices from Chernobyl : the oral history of a nuclear disaster and Zinky boys : Soviet voices from the Afghanistan War. They are currently shelved in the New Nonfiction area of the library and are ready for checkout.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Conversation with Rebecca Makkai

Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale - Fall 2015
The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

Wednesday 10/21/15 7:00 pm – A Conversation with Rebecca Makkai, Moderator Professor Davis Schneiderman, Associate Dean of the Faculty, Lily Reid Holt Memorial Chapel, Lake Forest College (Reservations required). Visit

Join your friends and neighbors for the third annual Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale, a one book/one community program that fosters a culture of reading and a sense of community in our city. Each year a title is selected from the works of writers affiliated with Ragdale, the artists’ residency which has supported authors and their creative process for over 35 years.

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai is this year’s Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale title.  The story is set in an artists' colony on the North Shore and, while not Ragdale, it is unarguably influenced by its architecture and legacy.  Copies of The Hundred-Year House are available to borrow at Lake Forest Library and to purchase from Lake Forest Book Store.  

Friday, October 9, 2015


Long, long ago, from a  galaxy far, far away, George Lucas brought to us the epic saga  of STAR WARS, which continues today.  The movies have become part of our culture, including children’s books.  Saturday, October 10th is STAR WARS READS DAY.  If you have a Star Wars fan, stop by the Children’s Library and select from our wide collection of Star Wars chapter books, easy readers, and non-fiction visual guides. 

NEW !!  In conjunction with this year’s Star Wars Read Day, 3 popular children’s writers with a special love of Star Wars,  have published illustrated novels set in the Star Wars universe

THE PRINCESS, THE SCOUNDREL AND THE FARM BOY  Alexandra Bracken, who normally writes sci fi for teens (The Darkest Minds series) Presents an illustrated retelling of the original film, Star Wars, in which the galaxy's fate lies in the hands of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A JEDI ?  Adam Gidwitz, known for his Tales Dark & Grimm, reimagines the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back,  in which Luke Skywalker trains with Yoda to become a Jedi after a rebel defeat on the ice planet Hoth and battles Darth Vader, who reveals a startling secret to Luke during their duel.

BEWARE THE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE!  Tom Angleberger, whose Origami Yoda series (see below) has been a favorite with middle schoolers, now presents a retelling of the third Star Wars movie, The Return of the Jedi,  featuring Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia as they battle the Empire.

In addition:  

THE ORIGAMI YODA series.  Sixth-grader Tommy and his friends tell about their interactions with a paper finger puppet of Yoda, worn by their weird classmate Dwight, as they try to figure out whether or not the puppet can really predict the future.

 JEDI ACADEMY is a graphic novel series for younger readers.  The story of Roan Novachez, Jedi Academy student, is told through comics, journal entries, letters, doodles, and newspaper clippings.  Author/illustrator Jeffrey Brown captures all of the humor, awkwardness, fun, and frustrations of middle school ... in a galaxy far, far away.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Path Re-traveled

Booklist magazine recently released its 2015 list of  Top 10 Literary Travel Booksand among them is Nick Hunt's, Walking the Woods and the Water: In Patrick Leigh Fermor's Footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn.  Fermor was the great British travel writer who set off across Europe in 1933 at age eighteen "like a tramp, a pilgrim or a wandering scholar."  His books about that journey are: A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water and The Broken Road (published posthumously in the U.S. in 2014).  Another title from the Top 10 list was also inspired by Patrick Leigh Fermor: Drink Time! In the Company of Patrick Leigh Fermor by Dolores Payas.  As translator of his books into Spanish, Paya knew Fermor in his later years and writes of their friendship.  In addition to the books pictured here, other books on Fermor can be found in our collection at this link:  Fermor books.

Keeping with Nick Hunt's writing of a famous journey retraveled is Rinker Buck's Oregon Trail: A New American Journey  (Simon & Schuster, 2015) about his and his brother's 2000 mile journey from St. Joseph, Missouri to Baker City, Oregon in a mule-drawn covered wagon.

Chasing Schackleton by Tim Jarvis (William Morrow, 2013) is another telling of a risky recreation of a historic journey, Ernest Schackleton's Antarctic expedition.  The library also has the Chasing Schackleton DVD (PBS 2014).

Whether you want to travel a great historic route or experience it through literature, here are two titles that may help you identify journeys that interest you:  100 Great Journeys: Exciting Voyages through History and Literature (Hammond, 2008) and The Seventy Great Journeys in History (Thames & Hudson, 2006).