Literary Moments

Lopez Library

Summer time is here and the reading is easy. I just read through Oprah’s picks for her summer reads and ordered a few we don’t have for the library.

I’ve already read four this summer that will be hard to top. I count any day as a summer day when it is too warm to wear socks, meaning warmer than 80 degrees:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley – Flavia de Luce, the 11 year old sleuth in this adult novel, is a holy terror of a creation. Brilliant, gallingly observant, and a budding chemist/poison expert, she inhabits the dusty, once grand country estate of the de Luce family in 1950s England. A dead man in the cucumber patch sprouts long guilt tendrils that point to Flavia’s father and so begins the introduction of a wildly entertaining new heroine in the mystery genre. This is the first of the “Flavia” trilogy. I can’t wait for the other two! This is the debut novel of a 70 year-old first time novelist. He took his time and delivered a delicious story and one-of-a-kind character in Flavia.

Wesley the Owl, The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl: what I don’t know about barn owls used to be pretty much everything. Now thanks to Stacey O’Brien’s true-life tale about her 20-year relationship with Wesley, I’m much wiser in their ways and richer for reading about it. As a biologist, O’Brien was working at Caltech Owl Research Center when the injured young owlet was given into her care. Since he would never be able to return to the wild, she was taking on a lifetime responsibility but one that rewarded her and the scientific community many times over. Her up-close and personal observations revealed owls are much more intelligent and experience more genuine emotions than many people give them credit for.

Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears: a book guaranteed to halt all daily activities at least until you’ve finished it, Stone’s Fall is hefty tome but well worth the arm strain. This one is difficult to classify. Historical mystery? Check. Introduction to the 21st century arms race? Yep. Commentary on the interlocking nature of high finance and politics? It’s in there! Love story? Sure, why not? It jumps around in time from 1950’s Paris to 1909 London to 1860s Venice but story uses the death by falling of financial mastermind and billionaire John Stone as a starting point. A young London crime reporter is hired by the widow (the amazing Elizabeth) to uncover some information but the truths he discovers leads to another story and then another and another voice. Finish it first and then we’ll talk about it! I know you’ll want to!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith – Yes, the cast of characters is the same but they have been joined by an undead horde of “unmentionables” that make frequent and altogether unseemly annoyances of themselves at an evening party. This time round Mr. Darcy admires Lizzie less for her “fine eyes” and more for her excellent martial art skills in dispatching zombies. Ms. Austen must be tossing in her grave – or planning to rise from it!

The Summer Reading program starts June 17 and continues through Aug 12. Every time you read a book, write the title and author on your book log. Ask for a fun sticker to put on your log. Kids who read and keep track of at least 10 books get a goodie bag full of fun treats, plus “Book Bucks”, donated by the Friends of the Lopez Island Library, that can be redeemed at Islehaven Bookstore. Young ones can take part even if the books are being read to them or by listening to audio books. The book logs will be ready on June 17, says Rosie Sumner. The popular “Read to a Dog” event will take place on Tuesdays in July. Call the library to sign up for a reading to a sympathetic and furry ear. Let the reading begin and never stop.

Julie Foster Van Camp will talk about her new book, Searching for Ichabod: His 18th-Century diary leads me home. Part autobiography, part history, the talk will also include brief introduction to the tools used by local genealogists Linda Rose and Rita Larom. I’ll be on hand to show some local genealogy resources available through the library. The event will be held at the Community Center 7 p.m. on Jun 18 and the library will have a copy for circulation after the reading.

Mark your calendars for the July 4 Book Sale. The Friends of the Library organize a twice a year book sale to help support programs and resources at the Lopez Island Library. And not just books but films, music CDs and other merchandise such as library t-shirts, aprons, note cards, hats and more. Do a little early Chistmas shopping and help out your community library at the same time! It is not too late to donate books, CDs or films for the sale. Of particular value, would also be a donation of time. The Friends of the Library still need helpers at the sale to do setup and take down activities. Call Lou at 2265 for more information.

Orcas Island Public Library

I’d like to catch up on a few items since my last column way back in February, and then share some upcoming events.

Most readers probably know by now that due to decreased funding commitments for a possible building addition, the Library pulled back from a possible levy lid lift election. This would have been intended to increase revenues to operate a larger facility. We will continue to maintain basically steady-state funding, while we also look at alternatives for providing the best possible services and collections for the community.

We’ve created four surveys in order to gather people’s ideas about where best to focus our resources in the context of modest revenue increases and no increase in space. I’ve distributed surveys to local K-12 schools, and will be sending out a mail-in survey within a few weeks. Also this summer we will be surveying users of our building and website, as well as interviewing people around the island and at the August 8 Library Fair.

The Orcas Island Writers Festival ( continues to take registrations. This year, the Festival includes a Big Read component, funded in part by a grant awarded to the Library.

The 2008-09 Crossroads season ended on May 23 with a lecture by Russ Altman about personalized medicine using current research in genetics. The steering committee is now looking at the 2009-10 season, scheduled to start in September. If interested in helping with planning or fundraising, please get in touch with me at, or 376-4985.

The Washington State Library has now posted items from Orcas Island as part of the Rural Heritage Project, which includes scanned photos and documents that are of particular local or historical interest. We formed a partnership with the Orcas Island Historical Museum to apply for this successful grant. To look at our collection (and other local islands such as Lopez, Lummi, and San Juan), visit

Our Summer Reading Program, “Be Creative@Your Library,” runs from June 20 through August 22. Along with our popular incentive of offering “library dollars” towards free paperback books, we will have a series of activities on Wednesdays. Come to the Library for more information. Also, we invite children to come to a workshop to make a mask and then march with us in the July 4 parade.

The August 8 Orcas Island Library Fair is approaching quickly. As usual it will take place at the Eastsound Village Green. Anyone interested in organizing a booth can soon find applications on the Library website, or call 376-4985 for more information.

San Juan Library

June means the start of summer reading at public libraries across the nation. Here on San Juan we have planned a ton of great ways to get people of all ages reading all summer long.

An ‘extra’ thing we are doing this summer to help celebrate Friday Harbor’s Centennial is a 100 book challenge. We are encouraging people to form teams and read together to meet this goal. And what would a summer reading program be without prizes? The first team to finish and contact us will win a special prize. But other teams should not be discouraged. Every team that finishes will be entered into a drawing for a big grand prize! Teams are already forming!

Besides that we have all of our regular summer reading programming going on June 17 through August 5. This means reading logs for kids up through 5th grade to work through earning prizes and books as they read. A “Read 3, Get One Free” program for teens where they read three books and get to pick out a free book while entering themselves in for drawings for itunes cards and a flip video camera. Performers every Wednesday at 1:30 for all ages. Henna, manga, and duct tape crafts for teens. Weekly drawings for adults to win free books from the Friends of the Library store for each book they read.

Know that behind all the fun of summer reading programming is a serious commitment to keep kids reading all summer. Studies show over and over again how critical reading over the summer is to student success. They also show how important it is for kids to see adults in their lives and communities reading. I strongly encourage you to participate in summer reading on San Juan or whichever island you live on. We are ready to sign you up!