Tuesday, May 20
One of the comments had a pointer to the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program (click on Reading Lists in the right-hand column), the latest version of a tradition that's been around since the 19th century. Fascinating!
Here's the 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man's Library on Amazon.com. The blog post has great photos of vintage books, but the Amazon list is much faster, so you might prefer it if you have a slow Internet connection.
My grandpa Wenzel had a wonderful truck equipped with a Dairy Queen sensor. Whenever we passed a Dairy Queen, the truck would veer out of his control and turn in at the DQ for ice cream for his grandkids. Grandpa was a big, strong, gentle man, but he could never escape the gravitational pull of a DQ--at least when we were with him. It was fantastic! We begged Mom and Dad to get a DQ sensor too, but we never succeeded.
There's another DQ story about Grandma and Grandpa Wenzel: when the Minnesota Twins won, Grandma and Grandpa would celebrate with a bowl of Dairy Queen soft serve ice cream. When the Twins lost? They would console themselves with a bowl of Dairy Queen soft serve ice cream.
Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen, is not about that kind of Dairy Queen. Nor is it about a beauty pageant, which you might guess from the cover. It's about D. J.'s 15th summer on her family's dairy farm in Wisconsin, and about cows, football, hard work and not much talk.
D. J.'s family reminds me of the legendary Burkstaller family who farmed next to the Wenzels. The Wenzels would compete with the Burkstallers to see who could get the hay in first. The Wenzels, legendary workers, tipped their hats to the Burkstallers as "real workers." Both families, like D. J.'s, worked from "Can do to can't do," from dawn to dusk.
D.J. Schwenk, while not really happy, never complains or questions her life on the family's small dairy farm in Wisconsin. After her father injures himself, the 15-year-old girl must do the farm work almost single-handedly, including milking the cows. She never really noticed the similarities between her life and the lives of the cows. D.J. is a jock, so on top of all her farm chores, she takes on training Brian, the quarterback on a rival school's football team. The summer they spend together changes everything as D.J. discovers that she has lots to say about her life and what she wants out of it. Not to be missed. Stephanie A. Squicciarini, Fairport Public Library, NY in School Library Journal
Monday, May 12
May is chock-a-block with events and celebrations. Here are a few I've observed:
Minnesota became a state on May 11, 1858. One of the many aspects of our state-wide celebration is this slide show, Shines for All to See, commissioned by Roseville Visitors Association and MN150. I have lived in many places in Minnesota: Elmore, a tiny town on the Iowa border where as a small child I saw a tree shimmering with movement, completely covered by migrating Monarch butterflies; Plainview, a rural town near Rochester and the great Mississippi River bluffs, where my best friend's family had a dairy farm and where a brief walk out of town led one directly into the country. Hermantown, outside of Duluth, near beautiful Lake Superior, has a completely different northern Minnesota culture. My dad grew up in Park Rapids, in the heart of Minnesota vacationland, where family reunions are held every two years, and as an adult my family went to a resort near tiny Nevis, MN, for 13 years. And now for many years I've lived in the city of Minneapolis, and I love it here too.
I've created a Minnesota book list of some of my personal favorite books about, set in, or written by authors in Minnesota. Check it out!
Last Saturday night was prom night for beautiful South High School in Minneapolis, Home of the Gallant Tigers, "where the administrators are strong, the staff is good looking, and the students are above average!" Or so Zee, our extraordinary parent liaison tells us, thanking Garrison Keillor.
Here's my Prom book list.
Thank whatever merciful powers have brought us spring at last. Glory be! The best book about spring is found in walking outside on a spring morning, listening to bird song and if you are lucky, frog song.
I'm reading John Bates' A Northwoods Companion; Spring and Summer, edited from over seven years of newspaper columns describing the phenology of the north woods, from his home near Minocqua, Wisconsin. This is a companion volume to A Northwoods Companion; Fall and Winter.
Phenology is the orderly timing and progression of natural events. For instance, in Minneapolis, the peak bloom for lilacs, flowering crabs, and dandelions is typically Mother's Day weekend. This year, with Mother's Day just yesterday, the lilacs display small leaves but the blooms are still tightly budded.
In Duluth, however, the lilacs bloom for graduation in early June. Similarly, since trillium bloom before the leaf canopy fills in, they bloom in Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden (Minneapolis) in April, but at Spirit Mountain Ski Resort (Duluth) for Memorial Day. And if you go far to the north, to Flin Flon, Manitoba, as I did one summer, you can welcome spring in June, and go to drive-in movies which start at 11:00, when it finally gets dark.
I enjoy the Fall and Winter volume of Bates' book more; the Spring and Summer version has a lot more birding information than I need. Both describe the progression of plant and flower life, animal mating and birth, bird migration, nesting, and hatching, the commencement of frog song, weather patterns, canoeing, snowshoeing, maple sugaring, and hiking rxpeditions, and particularly in the Fall and Winter volume, stars and the night sky. These would be wonderful books to have on hand if you lived north of Hinckley, but even for this city dweller they are a way to stay tuned into nature's rhythms. Spring moves north at a rate of about 17 miles per day, says Bates, so events unfold here about a week ahead of his timeline.
Here's a quotation Bates uses in his Fall and Winter volume:
"I go Up North as often as I can but it never seems to be often enough. My soul resides there. . . There is there a sacredness, a wholly otherness that I've found nowhere else. Those who know Up North know we take life from the depths of its water and breath from the far reaches of its open skies and peace from the quaking serenity of its birches."
-- Susan Wendorf
Another Minnesota phenology book is Through Minnesota's seasons with Jim Gilbert.
All three books can be found at urban and suburban Hennepin County Libraries.