Jun 142017
 

Over 25 years ago now (or a quarter of a century…which seems even a bit stranger), I started teaching Children’s Literature to Elementary Education majors at Southwest Missouri State University. At the time, Children’s Literature was becoming “real” literature–that is literature worth studying, poetry worth memorizing, stories worth reading.

At the time I started teaching, my more serious colleagues would smile and say “well…that’s nice…but it really isn’t the same as TS Eliot or Shakespeare or Byron.” If I tried talking about children’s literature in light of Cixous or Foucault, they would grimace and say “well…that really does not apply, now does it” and would turn to more serious topics than the cultural implications of Winnie the Pooh. Even my colleagues enamored with Science Fiction and Fantasy would grimace and note that the Wizard of Earthsea really wasn’t on par with The Left Hand of Darkness (both written by the same author) because, well, the Wizard was created for children after all.

Part of the problem was that Children’s Literature was relegated to the back of the academic line because it was defined as a requirement for Education majors rather than as an appropriate area of study for Literature majors–indeed, most of my students were Elementary Education majors who were far more interested in working with children rather than becoming serious scholars bound for graduate programs and the upper echelons of academia. The literature majors who enrolled in the class came in with the expectation that it would be an easy A because, after all, they were just reading “kids’ books.” The education majors came in, on the whole, as non-readers–indeed, most of them hated reading and tended to refer to the consumption of words as “language acquisition” rather than something one did for pleasure or studied as a serious pursuit. After seven years of fighting diminished views of children’s literature from my English colleagues and a diminished view of reading from the education majors, I gave up and became a county planner, albeit one who was and is far better versed in Quidditch than the eccentricities of transportation planning.

Even 25 years later, Children’s Literature is still fighting for a place in the literary canon.

The fact is Children’s Literature is serious stuff. Whether you are interested in new historicism or cultural dynamics or deconstruction, studying the multi-layered texts of J.K. Rowling is equally important as pealing apart the post-structural layers of Kathy Ackerman’s take on Don Quixote.  The difference? One will be enjoyed far longer by far more folks than the other.

So…here is to children’s literature.  Chase pirates. Play quidditch. Survive an unfortunate event. Slip down a rabbit hole.

Pick up a novel and enjoy…

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Feb 042017
 

February Special

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but from Christie and Cornwall to Patterson and Woods, we have way too many mysteries and suspense. We could triple the shelf space and still not have enough…so our overload is your benefit. Stop in during the month of February and we’ll give you 20% off your mysteries. We have British mysteries with quirky detectives, urban mysteries with hardboiled detectives, spies from World War II to present, and cozy mysteries with knitters, bakers, and nosy neighbors. If you are collecting a writer and missing the older works, check with us first…we may well have it and this month you get a discount on every one you buy.

Gunsmoke, The Virginian, and adding a new section…

Like most of my generation, I grew up with Roy Rogers and Fess Parker, although I probably lived in one of the few households where Westerns were banned.  My mother detested Gunsmoke because she grew in in Kansas. My father detested The Virginian because he grew up in Montana.  They were more inclined to watch Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers than anything sponsored by Twenty-Mule Team Borax or that involved ranch names like the Ponderosa. I finally understood why when we moved to Virginia in the late 1960s, and most of my classmates thought that being from Montana meant that I liked to ride horses, which I get along fine with as long as we are both on the ground with a fence inbetween, and meant that my father owned guns (he didn’t…they were on the list of things he detested, along with Westerns). It came as a surprise that my neighbor in Giles County had a cowboy hat (I’ve never actually owned one) and believed that the west was populated by people who still used wagons to get from point A to point B ( a fact I learned when she asked if I missed traveling in a buckboard).  It took me may years to understand that Westerns had absolutely nothing to do with western culture, and everything to do with the American myth.

Westerns (as well as everything written by James Fenimore Cooper) are the American myth, and while the popularity (both in readership and viewership) of westerns may have decline over the past 40 years. the myth still holds sway and shapes may of our views on individualism and the role of guns and grit in our culture. The cowboy is our archetype, although he has been relocated to urban areas and outerspace.

When we first opened Whistle Stop Books, we had very few Westerns. We had a lot of books about the West and a fair number of novels written by writers from the West (Ivan Doig, Wallace Stegner, Michael Dorris)–but none of the novels fit within the western genre of Louis L’Amour and Owen Wister (The Virginian). In the past couple of months, that has changed, so we are adding a section for Westerns. I should note that the writers from, like Jim Harrison and Richard Hugo, are still located in the General Fiction section, not the section on Westerns.

So, if you are a fan of Westerns, check out the bottom shelf under the paperback mysteries (at least for the time being until we can figure out how to shoehorn in another shelving unit.  We have books by the following authors (plus some others not listed):

  • Max Brand
  • Guy Brewer
  • Ralph Compton
  • Ralph Cotton
  • Zane Gray
  • Ernest Haycox
  • Joan Johnston
  • Terry Johnston
  • William W. Johnstone
  • Jake Logan
  • F.M. Parker
  • Jake Slade
  • Robert Vaughn
  • J. Washburn

Stop by and check our our full selection (or at least as much as we can shove on the available shelf)….

And Finally This…

I would like to take a moment to thank all of the folks (Paul, Lisa, Angie) who have been donating books to the cause down here in the past week. We have a wonderfully eclectic selection because we have some wonderfully eclectic donors. I thank you and the depot (if it could speak) thanks you.  I would also like to thank the Collegiate Times (Megan Maury Church, writer, and Tayo Oladele, photographer) for their wonderful article, although the headline was somewhat geographically challenged (we are located in the Cambria section of Christiansburg rather than in Blacksburg).

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Jan 222017
 

One of the joys of a used bookstore is discovering wonderful books you would never think to read or new genres you would never explore. While I have long been a fan of history (evidenced by the fact that we own a 149 year old train station), I have not generally picked up”history” books for pleasure reading. They are not the types of books that one grabs on a cold winter’s night, to be read while sipping hot chocolate or a hot buttered rum. This fall, however, I have discovered that a great many “history” books are as entertaining as a good Agatha Christie or as gripping as Robert Ludlum. Most are not about great people. Indeed, the most gripping are about the everyday sorts rather than Presidents or Kings or decorated Generals.  They tell a specific story rather than providing an overview of dates and times and places.

Some cases in point:

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  This one came not through the bookstore but from a friend’s recommendation. Set in the Dust Bowl of western Oklahoma, Southwestern Kansas, and Northwest Texas, The Worst Hard Time tells the story not of those who fled the Dust Bowl for opportunities in California, but those who stayed. Those who watched their family members choke on the black air of the dust storms and battle to hang on their farms and their dignity. It also tells the story of a place that should never have been plowed under and the follies and greed of men in thinking that they could control such a place.  Like many of the most readable histories, The Worst Hard Time was written not by an historian but by a journalist and is based on the memories of survivors.  Even if you are not a fan of history, this one is hard to put down. Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Non-Fiction. Good Reads Rating: 4.04

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Eric Larson. In 1893, Chicago hosted the Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World’s Fair), a fair designed by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmstead to celebrate American innovation and progress (as well as good taste); it also unknowingly hosted a serial killer who used the Fair to find his victims.  The meticulously researched book reads like a suspense novel.  International Horror Guild Award for Nonfiction (2003); National Book Award Finalist (2003); CWA Gold Dagger Award (2003), and the list goes on.

Author of the Week: Studs Terkel

Keeping with the historical theme, our author of the week is Studs Terkel (1912-2008). In 1985, Terkel, a oral historian and writer, won the Pulitzer Prize for The Good War, an oral history of World War II.  Over the course of a 50 year career, Terkel wrote 18 books, including Hard Times, a history of the Great Depression; Working, a study of what folks do for living and what they think about their jobs; and Will the Circle be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith. What set Terkel’s histories apart was his focus on the ordinary, on the every day. rather than the great voices and the famous faces. He learned about history by listening to the people who put one foot in front of the other and survived even the most difficult of times.

In Other News…

Mark your calendar now for the 611. The Roanoke Transportation Museum and the rail historical folks are sponsoring  Roanoke to Walton excursions on May 27, 28, and 29th–over Memorial Day Weekend. We are busy working on creating a community festival to coincide with this year’s excursion. Check back at this site or on the historiccambria.com site for updates as we get closer.

 

 

 

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Dec 272016
 

Tis the season of self-help books.

If you have wandered down the aisles of your local bookseller (at least the purveyors of new books, sheets, tires, and assorted other household items),  you have probably noticed that they carry three types of books: the New York Times Bestseller List, coffee table books (always marked at 30%+ off), and self-help books…books designed to help you organize your life, your pantry, our your spouse; books that help you erase the Christmas bulge so that it has sufficiently disappeared by the beginning of beach season; and books to address the various psychoses brought about by three months of winter, endless reruns, and the build-up to March Madness.

Whistle Stop Books does have a section on “self-help,”  but we can’t guarantee that they will address any of the complaints listed above. We have books on how to create (and presumably then lose) lists; how to feng shui your home, office, spouse, dog, kids, and diet; and how to change your oil (although I forgot to check if there is specific advice for doing so in the dead of winter). The list goes on, but we decided to limit the range of “self-help” books to more those addressing more practical matters (how-to books) and leave the pop-psychology to the shelves at Walmart and Target.

So, check with us if you want to find a book on:

  • crocheting, knitting, needlework, and sewing;
  • redesigning the interior of your home;
  • building bookshelves (available after we figure out how to build more shelves in the bookstore…although we have some spare copies);
  • tiling your bathroom;
  • tuning up your car;
  • planning your garden;
  • figuring out what to do with the rose bushes the previous owner left behind;
  • learning how to paint like Da Vinci or Picasso or Norman Rockwell;
  • learning how to write the great American novel (based on the advice of some folks who have written the great American novel and some who sank into obscurity after publishing a book on how to write a book);
  • learning how to run, walk, skip, crawl, slither, and other examples of movements that result in a forward like motion;
  • learning how to make a million on the stock market, published in the fall of 2008 (we keep this one around for the element of irony);
  • and all sorts of other books that offer some interesting advice and instruction that at $4-$5 per book you can choose to ignore without feeling guilty.

Stop in today and check them out!

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Aug 222016
 

booksale

It’s that time of year…September 3, 4, and 5th

readersrock3For twenty years, we published The Scale Cabinetmaker.  Publishing a quarterly journal, or any journal, is a lesson in Sisyphus rolling the same rock up the same hill every three months. Most of the time, the process of developing a new issue, designing new projects, and working through the kinks in the next issue was enjoyable–that is until we put together the Winter issue with the Christmas cover…in August. While everyone else was still enjoying the heat and humidity of late summer, we were designing toy articles, decorating miniature trees, and wrapping very small presents (everything was in 1/12th scale). It has been 20 years since we wrapped the last issue of The Scale Cabinetmaker, but I still find myself humming “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” on August 1st and beginning to think about Christmas season.

This explains why we are gearing up for a Christmas on Labor Day Sale (September 3, 4, &5)  at Whistle Stop Books (also known as the “we really need to paint the roof” sale). I’m not sure we will go so far as to put up a tree (that does seem a bit excessive…even for a relatively quirky bookstore), but we’ll pull out the music, bake some cookies, brew some coffee, and haul out lots of books and stack them on tables.

If you are a book lover, this is a great time to pick up books to help you get through Football season, prepare for winter, and help us reach our $20,000 goal for painting the roof this fall.

Thursday Night & Friday Afternoon
Coffee Klatch & Readers Club.

It is that time of year.  Now that the end of summer is fast approaching, we are fast approaching “readers season.” The time of the year when the weather passes from hot and muggy to cooler and a bit more unpredictable. Kids are back in school,  Football takes over the television (whether you are a football fan or not). Political ads dominate the airways (whether you want to watch endless attack ads or not).

Reader’s Season is the part of the year, generally late September through the middle of April, when the weather may or may not cooperate with outdoor activities and television is dominated by things you do not particularly want to see (unless, of course, you have already switched over to Netflix or you have resigned yourself to watching a few months of reruns on TVLand).

If you are a reader, set aside some time on Thursday nights (7 to 8:30) of Friday afternoons (2 to 3:30) and join us for a cup of coffee (or tea) and some lively discussions about books. This isn’t a traditional “book club.” We don’t assign a book for each week. Rather, it is a chance to compare notes on writers, pick up some great suggestions, collect opinions on books, and generally chat about what you are reading.  You also get a chance to save on books (club participants get 25% off books from Whistle Stop Books with a membership card–free to participants).

World War II @ the Depot.

A special thank you to Henry Tieleman of Riner. A couple of weeks ago, Henry stopped by the shop. He arrived with a SUV full of books on World War II, thermal dynamics, and sundry engineering. For history fans, this is quite a collection. Be sure to stop by and peruse Henry’s collection.

New to the Stacks

We have so many new books, it is hard to tell where to start. We are especially excited about a couple of large collections we have received in the few couple of weeks–one included some terrific books on Archaeology, Art,  and ancient antiquities and another included almost a complete set of Stuart Woods mystery-suspense novels (thank you, Caroline and ARG). If your are a mystery fan and enjoy James Patterson, you will love Stuart Woods.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jul 222016
 

This week’s newsletter centers, it seems, on a central theme–Be Nice!  Every four years I watch two series of events: the Olympics (as a Montana native, I tend to be fonder of the winter version rather than the summer…but that is neither here nor there) and the political conventions–the latter not because of politics but because they are usually an interesting affair. I love the whole cheesy state-by-state roll call, and I would hard pressed to say which group is cornier–the Republicans or the Democrats. It is always fun to find out what each state is going to emphasize. This year, however, the tone is distinctly different: far less enjoyable, far harsher, and really not nice.

Turning out the lights at the Side Track Tap.

This month marked a sad point in American cultural life–the closing of the saga of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota (“Where all the women were strong, all the men were good looking, and all the children were above average”). Lake Wobegon was one of those quintessential upper mid-western and western towns settle by Scandinavian and German immigrants during the homestead years of the 1800s and early 1900s. They defined the culture from Lake Michigan (at least above the Wisconsin/Illinois border) westward to the Rockies. Norwegians and Danes, Swedes and Finns, came west, settled, and created a small town culture defined by hot dishes and rhubarb pie and, once refrigeration reached the high plains, jello salads with assorted additions. Quiet, gentle small towns built by quiet, gentle people.

It seems ironic that Mr. Keillor turned out the lights on Lake Wobegon a couple of weekends before the political conventions and in the midst of what has, thus far, be one of the most vitriolic presidential campaigns in recent history. Ironic that the inhabitants of the Side Track Tap and the Chatterbox Cafe have gone silent at a time when we could all use their reminders of simple humanity.

I started college in Minneapolis (@MCAD) in 1975, a year after the start of Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul. Going over and listening to the show while it was being taped was cheap entertainment for starving art students. Since then, the show has defined my Saturday nights and/or Sunday mornings for 41 years.

The show will continue this Fall with a new host, Chris Thile, but the tone and the stories will shift to a new story teller with a new voice. Thank you, Mr. Keillor, for forty-two years.

A Sale of Sorts. July 20th to July 28th.

Convention Sale

Why a book sale?

When I was a kid (not quite in the Jurassic period, but close), my grandmother would threaten to wash all of our mouths out will Fels-Naptha soap for verbal transgressions. One did not say “damn” in public, much less in polite society. It just wasn’t done.

A violation of one of her basic tenets (bearing false witness, lying (slightly different from the bearing thing), cursing, being unkind, being thoughtless, being ungracious. All ended with a quick swat and banishment to weed the gardens, to polish the silver, to dust every available flat surface, or to mow the lawn with a non-powered push mower (sage brush is not easily cut with a reel lawnmower).

For anyone who has turned on the television recently, it is hard to miss the level of hatred, anger, and waist deep vitriol. It is hard not to miss the violation of the rules of conduct my father spoke of from the pulpit. It spills over into  places like Facebook and Twitter and assorted other media outlets. It floods the streets, the airways, even over the white picket fences separating neighbors. I hear it from customers, from folks in grocery store lines, and from folks who listen to sermons on Sundays and Wednesdays, but think nothing of repeating rumors and bearing false witness in the hours between services.

So, I go back to “why a book sale?”  Perhaps because the act of reading is tranquil, and we are, given current passions, desperately in need of domestic tranquility. A book sale is our response to a culture being torn apart by hate.

One final side note: The cartoon in the ad was chosen because Mr. Trump is easier to draw and his hair is a lot more fun. He doesn’t, however, have a corner on the anger market, but he does have a much more expressive face.

 

 

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Jul 072016
 

July’s Writers Challenge : Have some fun and win a free book.

This month, something slightly different. Your contest entry must contain the following words or terms:

  • nail polish
  • a VHS tape
  • a book of spells

Have fun!

Each month, we publish a Writing Prompt and invite folks to submit a story, short essay, poem in response to the prompt. The winner gets their story published on the Whistle Stop Books website (see below) and wins a free book (their choice) from Whistle Stop Books. There are very few rules, other than keep it short (500 word limit)–our volunteer judges love reading, but are hesitant to tackle anything the length of War and Peace–and keep it relatively clean (we share a website with a toy store). Other than that, have fun and have at it. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on the last day of the month.

Dog Days of Summer Start in July

readersrock2Have you looked at the weather forecast recently. Ninety (+) temperatures; humidity levels approaching the indoor quality at the aquatic center. In short, hot and muggy. The perfect weather for sitting in a porch swing and listening to the mourning doves (perhaps this is only a Kansas “thing”) or camping in front to the air conditioner with a nice cool drink and a good suspense.

Baldacci1We have a wide variety of suspense novels from some terrific writers from Clive Cussler and David Baldacci to Kevin O’Brien and Stuart Woods. Looking for a good spy novel? Try Len Deighton, Forrest DeVoe Jr., or Steven Hartov.

A recent donation added some great young adult novels, including a terrific selection of Newbery Award Honor and Winners, including a number that are not available on things like Kindles and Nooks.  The Newbery Awards are given out each year by the Association for Library Services for Children (a division of the American Library Association) for the best of the best children’s books in Children’s novels. Actually, it is given to an author who has made “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

WatsonsGoFor the critter lover, there is Sterling North’s Rascal, a Newbery Honor book from 1964 (Rascal is a raccoon) and Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo (Newbery Honor Book, 2001). In historical fiction, we have Katie Seredy’s The Good Master (Newbery Honor, 1936) and The Singing Tree (Newbery Honor, 1940); Chrisopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 (Newbery Honor, 1996); Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira-Kira (Newbery Metal, 2006); and an old favorite, especially for folks who love dolls, Rachel Field’s Hitty, The First Hundred Years (Newbery Metal, 1930).

For fantasy lovers, we have some terrific novels for kids, including Melissa de la Cruz’s The Isle of the Lost  (2015); Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy (Newbery Honor, 2006); and CS Lewis’s  The Magician’s Nephew (1970), among others.

Come by Whistle Stop Books and explore the shelves. We are certain we have something for every age and nearly every taste.

 

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Jun 162016
 

contestYou Have a Body in a Hot Tub!

A not-so-serious monthly contest for readers,  writers, quasi-writers, and occasional writers. At the beginning of each month, we will publish a “prompt”–a story idea, a character suggestion, a first line, or some other random bit of information–for a bit of writing fun.  The rules, as with Bulwer-Lytton, are fairly straight forward.

  • Take the prompt and go with it. The choice of genres is yours.
  • Submissions should be no longer than 500 words (roughly two pages) and should be submitted in the text of an email no later than the last day of each month. Email should be sent to whistlestopbooks@gmail.com
  • Folks are welcome to submit as many stories as they wish, thus improving their chances at an odd and somewhat random Grand Prize handed out on December 31st,

On the first of each month, we will announce the winner and runner(s)-up on our Facebook page and on the website. The winner gets a free novel (the choice of genres is yours) from Whistle Stop Books (stop in and pick up). As extra incentive, we’ll publish the winning entry (and a few of the runners-up) on the Whistle Stop Books website.

The monthly winners are chosen by our “distinguished” panel of judges who we’ve bribed into doing this.

The Grand Prize, a somewhat random item, is awarded on December 31st.

JUNE-JULY 2016 prompt: A dead body in a hot tub.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

In 1830, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “It was a dark and storm night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies, rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Bulwer-Lytton’s phrase remains both far better known than the author himself and the one phrase guaranteed to drive creative writing teachers to near distraction. As an old friend often noted, “it was a dark and story night” is the literary equivalent to “moon behind trees” for art teachers–an image so over used that it self-parodies the artist’s intent.

In 1982, the English Department at San Jose State decided to start a literary competition for the opening line to the worst novel never written and named the contest in Bulwer-Lytton’s honor. The rules are fairly simple:

  • Write one sentence (aim at no more than 60 words) in what ever genre you like and submit you entry either an index card (sentence on the front and contact information on the back) or in an email (no attached files, please) to the Grand Panjandrum at San Jose State.
  • The “official” deadline is April 15; the actual deadline is June 30th, so there is still a bit of time if you wish to try your hand at writing the worst opening line to the worst novel never written.

For more information on the Fiction Contest, to become a bulwarian, or just to waste a bit of time while you are at your computer, check out the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (Where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome).

Weekly Calendar:

  • June 16: Pick-a-Book — Reading, Art, and Storytelling Activities for kids ages 6 to 9. 1:00-3:00 p.m. (activities and stories vary per week).
  • June 19: Paper Modeling for Grandparents. Learn basic paper modeling techniques you can pass on to your grandkids. 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. (Adults) Part of our ongoing “Grandparents 101” Series.
  • June 21: Read Anything Good Lately?  Our weekly Tuesday Afternoon Book Chat. (Adults)
  • June 21: Mysteries @ The Depot…a Book Chat for Mystery Lovers. 7 to 8:30 p.m. Includes a very cool challenge for the intrepid sleuth. This week’s challenge: the perfect villain.
  • June 22: Construct This–Paper Building Projects for Kids ages 9 and up. 2:00-4:00 p.m.

 

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Jun 092016
 

thisweek

The Depot summer season kicks off this next week with the introduction of a number of new weekly & monthly events:

  • The Cook’s Garden (1 -2:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Sundays of each month). Come talk gardening and cooking, trade recipes and tips, and swap produce (effective during over abundant zucchini season). A “reader’s group” for cooks who love to garden (or the versa).
  • Mysteries @the Depot (7-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month). Come join the mystery fray. Mysteries @the Depot is a readers’ group (come and compare notes, talk mysteries, get suggestions, et al.) with a twist. . Each meeting has a different activity. Pour a cup of coffee (or tea) and figure out how to stump even the most intrepid investigator. Create the perfect detective. Figure out who dumped the body in the hot tub.
  • Read Anything Good Lately? (1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons). A different type of readers’ group. Come spend some time talking to other readers. Learn about new authors or authors new to you. Pour a cup of coffee (or tea); compare notes on character development, settings, genres; and explore why folks read what they read. Each meeting revolves around a different question or topic.
  • Construct This! (2-4:00 p.m, Wednesdays). Paper modeling and construction for kids (and adults) ages 9 and up. A different project every week.
  • Pick-a-Book. (1-3:00 p.m., Thursdays). Reading, art, and storytelling activities for kids ages 6 to 9 (activities and stories vary per week).

Tea & Scones: Celebrating Dorothy L. Sayers

Come by the depot on June 11 for tea and scones and help us celebrate Peter Wimsey’s creator in thoroughly English fashion.  Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) created the Lord Peter  mysteries during the period between the two World Wars.

New to the Shelves

We have had some amazing donations this week (thank you to the Lazars, Stephanie Gilmore, Marvi Stine and Greg Duncan, Paul Poff, and others), which means we have some really cool new books. Our personal favorite is the Hogwarts pop-up book (who doesn’t like Harry Potter). We also have a great collection of Robert Parker (Spenser) mysteries and Stuart Woods thrillers. For romance enthusiasts, we have all three volumes of Nora Roberts’ In the Garden series (Blue Dahlia, Black Rose, and Red Lily).

Book of the Week:

radioMy mother used to listen to the television but very rarely watched it. She used to say she got bored staring at the screen, so she would reach for one of her projects, glancing up only occasionally. One of the reasons had to do with radio. As a child of the 1930s, she learned early on how to multi-task from her father, Sam. He would go out to his shop, turn on the Cubs, and spend the evening woodworking and groaning (the Cubs had a fairly poor decade).

Raised on Radio. Gerald Nachman (1998) is part memoir, part social history, and goes a long way in explaining why folks from the radio generation managed to get a whole lot more stuff done in the evenings than those glued to the television set. A fascinating and very entertaining look at vintage radio and how it impacted the Depression, WWII, and 50s generations.  As Carol Alessio of the Chicago Trib put it, “Raised on Radio is a compelling guide to an era.”

Wrestling with Air Conditioning

While old buildings, including old depots, have their charm, air conditioning is not on the list. Despite the abundance of windows, half of which have been painted shut for roughly a century, the temperature inside is always going to mirror (or at least closely parallel) the temperature and relative mugginess beyond the exterior walls. So, every year, we do battle with the window air conditioner. Unlike other types of technology (computers, phones, even books–much to our dismay), air conditioners have not gotten lighter with technological advances. They are still bulky, rectangular, and abnormally heavy. They are also not designed for the width of windows built when folks waved pieces of cardboard attached to popsicle sticks and pretended to be cool while drenching in talcum powder.

The annual match starts with unearthing the air conditioner from the void under one of the freight wagon–a nice, out-of-the-way location that prevents painful toe stubbing for seven months of the year. Unfortunately, it also prevents easy access when time comes for re-installation. As the crow flies, the air conditioner only needs to travel about 30 feet, but (as with all old buildings) there is no such thing as a straight line or a simple route in the depot.

This year’s annual air conditioning wrestling match turned out to be much easier because a long-time friend with younger back muscles arrived (with his two young sons in tow) and managed to wrestle and weather strip the air conditioner in place.

 

 

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