Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lists for Every Reading Taste

To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee

leads the list of Books That Everyone Should Read At Least Once

Other books that you might recognize on this list are
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Kite Runner by

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

International Fiction Group discusses "The Reader" by Bernard Schlink

Hogwash! This was Gabe’s comment on a review he read online about the latest selection of the International Fiction Discussion Group, The Reader by Bernard Schlink.

This review claimed that the story of Michael and his involvement with Hanna can be read as an allegory. The German people’s romance with Hitler? Hanna’s seduction of Michael? A bit far fetched was the common sentiment among discussion group members. The books that Michael read to Hanna certainly were chosen for a reason. Perhaps they were meaningful in the author’s life. Perhaps they mirror, in some respects, the struggle for control that Hanna wins in the affair. To claim allegory is going too far. In an interview with the BBC’s World Book Club host, Schlink explains that he never searches for metaphor. So, we can assume he did not intentionally devise an allegory which is an extended metaphor. To do so would have compromised his intent which was to contemplate the Second Generation’s response to the horrors committed by their fathers, professors, political leaders and, in this case, lover. Schlink leaves his book open for interpretation and refuses to answer the question of whether Hanna represents a figure from his own adolescence.

Jan posed the key question succinctly. What do you do when you discover someone you love has done a horrible thing? She calls it a great book of secrets and questions of compassion. Which begs the question of the guilt of Hanna. Was she to be exonerated because of her inability to read and write? Not according to Schlink. Although the courts were overwhelmed and unable to successfully deal with all of the aspects of the Holocaust, a measure of justice was done in this case. Justice failed overall because the horrors were simply too great and widespread but Hanna was guilty of a crime. The main secret we discover is that Michael has the ability to perhaps lessen her sentence because he knew of her illiteracy. She could not have written the report that she was accused of writing. He sees the judge in his chambers but the visit turns into a talk about the judicial life and Michael does not mention Hanna.

Phil also commented on the love story angle as thought provoking. An unusual love story that cannot gain approval on any terms. Yet, it was still love. Or was it just passion? The bicycle trip and the extended reading sessions seem to suggest more than just a passionate relationship. Once again, Hanna’a secret and her age prevents this relationship from prospering. She is of the First Generation and a former prison guard.

The Reader is an excellent exploration of the moral issues of the Holocaust and the guilt as felt by Second Generation Germans according to Mike. The author explains that during the student uprisings of 1968 many well respected professors were discovered to have been involved with the Nazi regime. He explains how it was that he found out the professor who was responsible for his love of the English language was involved with horrible things during the war.

There are hints of Schlink’s sense of guilt all throughout the book. For example, when he, as the character of author, is thinking back on why he returned to Hanna’s apartment the first time to thank her for helping him when he was sick, he thinks, “often in my life I have done things I had not decided to do. Something -- whatever that may be -- goes into action.” This sentiment falls short as does Hanna’s repeated questioning of the judge, “what would you have done?”

Dita asked the question: How do you find words for experiences that seem to resist expression? Exactly! How do you? One writes a novel that asks more questions than it answers but tries to add some perspective to the equation. As Dita remarked, however, the narrator seems to tell the whole story from a “stunned” perspective. This was Michael’s reaction in the courtroom upon realizing his Hanna was on trial. He was stunned. Here is one case where the book differs from the movie. In the movie, at one point during the court proceedings, Michael burst out in tears. In the book this never happens. Michael remains stoic. Hollywood caters to sentimentality. To better show the author’s (as narrator) intent, let’s quote from a passage at the end of Part Two after it is apparent that Hanna will be convicted:

I wanted simultaneously to understand Hanna’s crime

and condemn it. But it was too terrible for that. When

I tried to understand it, I had the feeling I was failing

to condemn it as it must be condemned. When I con-

demned it as it must be condemned, there was no room

for understanding.

Dorothy noted that this book certainly is worth a second reading. Mike mentioned that it reminded him of a judicial brief in the clear straightforward manner in which it reads. One can see various uses of the title in both a positive and a negative way. Toward the end of the discussion there were a couple of unanswered questions that the group tried to answer. Why did Hanna leave town suddenly? She left because she was being offered the job of driver and for that one must read and write. Why did she commit suicide? When she learned to read she read Holocaust literature in her cell. When faced with the light of day, she simply could not cope. Also, Michael’s reception was forced and cold leaving her no choice. As for Michael, his refusal to respond to personal letters from Hanna shows that he did not want a personal relationship with someone who committed her crimes. His reading on tape was tantamount to the author writing the book. The only way to grieve for the victims and the perpetrators is to tell the truth. Hanna learned to read by looking at the books as she was listening to the tapes. In the end, it was the ability to read that made her crime unbearable.

So, we conclude the 16th meeting of the International Fiction Discussion Group. The next meeting will be on September 21st at 6:30 p.m. in the Blum House. We will be discussing A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Anyone is welcome to attend. We always meet the evening of the third Wednesday of the month. All you do is ask for a copy of that month’s selection at the front desk of the Collinsville Public Library and check it out. Then, show up at the meeting. Next month’s selection will be available shortly. Be seeing you,

Posted by
Jim Krapf
International Book Club moderator

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Following In Famous Footsteps

As part of our ongoing efforts to have the best possible understanding of our community, the entire Mississippi Valley Library District staff (even the President of our Board of Trustees) recently visited the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower and the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, both located in Hartford, Illinois, which is about twenty minutes north of Collinsville. At the Confluence Tower, almost all of the library’s employees took the journey up to the tower’s three observation decks – at 50 feet, 100 feet, and 150 feet above ground – and enjoyed the different views overlooking the rivers at each level. (To give some perspective, the Catsup Bottle is 170 feet high!) At the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, our staff had the opportunity to watch a short video about the beginnings of Lewis and Clark’s historic journey, follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark by walking through a replica of their fort, and then look around at the different displays in the museum. Check out the following photographs from our trip, and if you’re interested in following in our footsteps, check out and

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Your Child's First Library Card

We are quite often asked how old a child has to be to get their first library card. The answer is for you to decide. We have babies and toddlers with cards, and we also have older kids whose parents prefer to check out everything on one library card. Some parents like to wait until their child can write their own name until they sign up for a card. Whichever way you decide, you and your little one will find a wonderful selection of books and audio visual resources at the Collinsville Library. Please remember that you, as a parent or guardian, are responsible for your child’s library use. Here are some pointers to help you along the way:

Please return borrowed items on time. Fines are currently assessed at ten cents per item per day (with exceptions for equipment and Express books). If your overdue fines exceed $5, you will be blocked from any further checkouts until your balance is paid. It is so easy to avoid having to deal with fines. Make sure you keep your check-out slip; stick it on your fridge or another place you routinely use to post reminders. If your items are due and have not been used, feel free to call us to see if they can be extended for you. We are happy to renew items in most circumstances, unless an item is on hold for another patron or has been checked out for an extended period of time.

Make sure you sign up for a PIN number to check your Library account online. From our website you can renew and order your own items. It’s like shopping, except you don’t need a credit card!

We encourage you to check out a variety of items with your child. Staff is always available to give general advice on suitability, but no-one knows your child better than you, so keep an open mind and let them help you choose items. You may stumble across an unexpected jewel.

Many of our families keep a special place in their home for Library materials. You could designate a bag or a box to keep your items in, and encourage your children to put their Library books back in the bag to ensure that you are able to easily keep track of your check-outs. This is a great way to keep organized, and eliminates the possibility of a hungry dog eating a library book, or a toddler using a DVD as a plate.

We want your family to enjoy using the Library, and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact our Children’s Librarian, Alison Donnelly, at any time. You can call 618-344-1112 or email alisond(at)mvlibdist(dot)org

Friday, August 12, 2011

Little Ones in the Library

Do your children love coming to the Library? It was Karson’s last day of summer vacation today, and his mother told him he could choose anything he liked to do on his special day. Six Flags? The Zoo? Chuck E. Cheese? No! Our little bibliophile said “Let’s go to the Library, Mom.” There is something extra special about the glint in a child’s eye when he finds the perfect book about robots, ponies, detectives, racecars, bunnies, or dinosaurs, and we do our best everyday to make sure that the Children’s Library is a welcoming, comfortable, and downright fun place to share with your little ones. Worried about your baby being too noisy, or your toddler wanting all of the Thomas books? Don’t be! The staff in the Children’s Library has been chosen for their friendly, warm attitude, and will always endeavor to make your experience be everything you hoped it would. So for all of our library friends, here is a list of books all about libraries. If you’ve never visited us before, these are great titles to familiarize your child with libraries, and all of the wonderful things offered there. We look forward to seeing you soon.

The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians by Carla Morris (Grades K-3) (J E MOR)

The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer (Grades 2-6) (J FIC COL)

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen (Grades K-2) (J E KNU)

Miss Smith and the Haunted Library by Michael Garland (Grades 1-3) (J E GAR)

Mrs. Roopy is Loopy! ( by Dan Gutman (Grades 2-5) (J PBK GUT)

That Book Woman by Heather Henson (Grades PreK-3) (J E HEN)

It’s Library Day by Janet Morgan Stoeke (Grades PreK-1) (J E STO)

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn (Grades PreK-1) (J E MCQ)

Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf by Judy Sierra (Grades K-3) (J E SIE)

Our Library by Eve Bunting (Grades PreK-2) (J E BUN)

Read It, Don’t Eat It! by Ian Schoenherr (Grades PreK-1) (J E SCH)

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies (Grades PreK-2) (J E LIE)

Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk (Grades K-2) (J E KIR)

The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter (Grades K-3) (J E WIN)

Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter (Grades K-3) (J 020.92 WIN)

My Librarian is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs. (Grades K-2) (J 027.4 RUU)

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding the Children's Library, please let our Children's Librarian know.  You can call Alison Donnelly at 618 344 1112 or send an email to alisond(at)mvlibdist(dot)org

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A huge "thank you" to our community of helpers

As we get ready to send our children back to school, the Summer Reading Program at the Collinsville Library draws to an end, and Miss Alison and all of the staff of the Children's Library would like to gratefully thank our community sponsors for helping us this year with donations of excellent prizes for our readers this summer.  As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the city of Collinsville and our friends in the St. Louis Metro area to get on board with the Library to keep our kids reading all summer to stay ahead in school and grow to become the future leaders of our city.  We are so thankful to the following businesses and organizations for their support:

AAA Swing City Music
Collinsville Area Recreation District
The Friends of the Collinsville Library
Illinois State Library - Penny Severns Grant
Saint Louis Cardinals
Saint Louis Science Center
University of Illinois Extension Services
Turning Pointe Dance Academy

Enjoy the photos of some of our winners with their prizes.  If you would like to assist the Library with program sponsorship, please get in touch with Miss Alison by calling (618) 344 1112 or through email alisond(at)mvlibdist(dot)org

Monday, August 08, 2011

Meeting The Giver of "The Giver"

Two members of the Collinsville Library Children’s Library Staff – Alison Donnelly and Jed Robbins – recently had the pleasure of meeting children’s literature author Lois Lowry at the 2011 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture at the St. Louis County Library.
The lecture, which is sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association), is given annually by somebody who has made significant contributions to the field of children’s literature, which could mean anyone from an author to a librarian to a critic.
While Lowry has written over 30 children’s books, her most notable works are Number the Stars and The Giver, which have each won the Newbery Medal (in 1990 and 1994, respectively), as well as The Anastasia Series, The Sam Krupnik Series, The Gooney Bird Books, and stand alone titles like A Summer to Die. Through her writing, Lowry has addressed a vast array of complex topics, including things like illness, racism, bullying, murder, and the Holocaust.
During her address at the St. Louis County Library, Lowry noted that she has “always felt a happy kind of hungry for writing,” which has led her to continue her writing over the years. After the lecture, Alison and Jed had the opportunity to meet Lois, and she even autographed a copy of The Giver for the Collinsville Memorial Public Library. Be sure to check out her books next time you’re in the library, or find out more information on Lois by visiting

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Local business leaders say early learning programs are key to economic recovery.

Have you heard about "America's Edge"?  They are business owners and principals, CEOs, Presidents, COOs, CFOs, Executive Directors, Vice Presidents and other key members of senior management.  America's Edge is supported by tax-deductible contributons from foundations and individuals.  America's Edge accepts no funds from federal, state or local governments.

What are America's Edge concerns?
Young people entering the workforce without skills we need.
Spending billions in remedial education on our employees.
High school students not graduating on time.
Children unprepared to succeed in school and falling behind.

What are the goals and objectives?
Create a workforce with 21st century skills.
Increase productivity to support sustained economic growth.
Develop resources to attract good workers and new business.
Ensure investments in children have high rate of return.

The Edge urges policy-makers to support program proven to:
Strengthen the economy in the short and long-term.
Build a foundation for future economic security.
Create jobs.
Ensure a skilled workforce, while getting kids on the right track.


Posted by
Katie Heaton
Branch Manager
Mississippi Valley Library District