Summary: Acting MCPL Director Anita Vassallo and Outreach Associate Sarah Mecklenburg share their love of historical fiction and recommended books they've enjoyed.
Recording Date: July 11, 2018
Guests: Anita Vassallo is the Acting Director of MCPL. Sarah Mecklenburg is a member of MCPL's Outreach team. Both are enthusiastic readers of historical fiction.
Hosts: Julie Dina and David Payne
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Anita Vassallo: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett, third book in the Kingsbridge series. The first book in the series is Pillars of the Earth, the second is World Without End. Circe by Madeline Miller. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford.
Books, Movies, and Authors Mentioned During This Episode:
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters
American Girls series by various authors
Aubrey- Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian
Blackout by Connie Willis
Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters
Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Dear America series by various authors
Doomsday by Connie Willis
The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Jalna series by Mazo De La Roche
Killer Angels by Michael Sharra
Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear
March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Laurie R. King
Medicus mysteries by Ruth Downie
Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood
Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell
Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The Year of the Hangman by Gary Blackwood
Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks
Other Items of Interest:
The Dreamer by Laura Innes. A webcomic about a 17 year old high school student who has intense, realistic dreams about a Revolutionary War soldier.
"Game of Thrones Fandom Fun". An episode of the Library Matters podcast in which Game of Thrones fans Anita Vassallo Angelica Rengifo, and Susan Moritz share their love of the books and television series.
Lackadaisy Cats by Tracy J. Butler. A webcomic about anthropomorphic cats set in St. Louis during Prohibition.
Little House controversy. A division of the American Library Association voted to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder's name from a major children's literature award.
Julie Dina: Hi, I’m Julie Dina. In this episode of Library Matters, we are doing something a little different. For the past few months MCPL has invited children ages 10 through 14 to explore literature by recording a video about a book they’ve enjoyed. We’ve collected some of these book talks to share with our Library Matters’ listeners.
We hope you enjoy the enthusiasm these young readers have expressed for their books and for reading as much as we have. You can see these and more of MCPL’s literary explorer videos on our YouTube channel mcplmd. MCPL’s literary explorer program was made possible by grants from the NBC Universal Foundation and Washington’s NBC4.
Book Reviewer 1: Who knew forgotten letters stuck inside a book could change someone’s life. Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick, it’s heartwarming story about a girl named Truly Lovejoy who gets tangled in a mystery of a letter inside a copy of Charlotte’s Web. After Truly’s father gets injured by an IED overseas the Lovejoy’s move from Texas to a tiny town in New Hampshire called Pumpkin Falls.
When Truly finds a letter in an autographed edition of Charlotte’s Web, she follows the clues and is soon roped in a treasure hunt taking her all around Pumpkin Falls. I liked this book because it’s fun and its sweet mystery about friendship and family. I really enjoyed this book and I hope you do too.
Book Reviewer 2: With the Wrinkle in Time movie coming out hundreds of people were introduced to the characters of Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace but did you know that Madeleine L’Engle already wrote a sequel to it? Wind in the door also takes a sci-fi oriented trip but instead of going to the far reaches of space they go deep into Charles Wallace’s mitochondria, which is the body’s main energy producer.
With her companions, old and new, Meg was either prevail over darkness or loss her brother. Wind in the door gives you seven questions through the plot, such as – wait I shall not tell. It is a fast-paced book with several scientific facts that are mind bending. For instance, the microscopic scale from the mitochondria to you is about the same as the scale from you to out the galaxy, neat?
She also had a coming of age story about the creatures that were living in the mitochondria. With vivid characters, strange new creatures and an imagination that trumps all, Madeleine L’Engle has created a wonderful sequel that will thrill readers, young and old, with Wind in the door.
Book Reviewer 3: Some look like giant walking turtles, others are black with wings and look almost like armored ravens, “Shadow Titans!” Emily shouted. I’m Manisha and the book I will be reviewing is Pegasus The End of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn. The book I chose to discuss is about a girl named Emily and her best friend, the winged stallion Pegasus. Emily now has less powers and a different body so she feels as if she’s being judged. But she still has one more promise to fulfill, to rescue Agent B from the evil central research unit.
But while at the facility she finds a monster older than Olympus itself. I would recommend this book to someone else because it is action packed, filled with adventure and busting with excitement. Will Emily defeat the monsters? Will Olympus make peace with the Titans? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Book Reviewer 4: Right, let’s have fun. “Hallo Silver I didn’t see you there.” “I, a lowly Red am about to vanquish you, and if you survive, you should read this.” This is Red Queen. Red Queen is about the teenage girl named Mare Barrow in a world where the people are divided by their blood; Red or Silver. Mare is Red, [Indiscernible] [00:04:10] while Silvers are the nobles. Their Silver blood gives them superpowers.
One day Mare is called by the king to serve him but when she crushes the party, she realizes she has powers but she is a red. Mare latter joins the rebellion in order to give the reds their rights but the stakes are high, and when blood goes against blood, who will survive in the deadly of power. Red Queen is an amazing book about betrayal, loyalty, love. If you like bloodshed and epic battle scenes then you read the Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.
Book Reviewer 5: One second everything is normal, the next is not. In a blink of an eye everyone 15 years and older vanishes into thin air along with phone signals, internet, any way to get help. Gone by Michael Grant is a young adult dystopian series of seven books. In dystopia books somebody threatens the survival of the human race, creating a living nightmare. After an asteroid hits a nuclear power plant in California a radioactive monster is born.
It created an energy barrier that made everyone 15 and older vanish, living the kids to fend for themselves. Some of the kids even develop supernatural abilities, throughout the series the kids fight hunger, lies, plague, fear, and even each other. This series is full of unexpected twists and turns with mutations and monsters that will live your jaw hanging open.
I guarantee that you will be hooked into their world. Full of action, suspense, humor, mystery and fear, this is a series that teens will never forget.
Book Reviewer 6: Hi there, I was just reading this really cool book called Harry Potter and the Sorcery’s Stone by J. K. Rowling. In the beginning of the book, we find out how Harry lives a miserable life with his aunt and uncle, and spoil cousin. But all this is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail addressed to Harry.
He gets accepted into Hogwart’s school of witchcraft and wizardry. Along the way Harry finds out 11 years ago his parents were killed by the dark lord Voldemort and now he’s planning on coming to kill Harry. Will Harry survive his deadly encounter with Lord Voldemort? Will Harry and his friends be able to protect themselves? Find out in Harry Potter and the Sorcery’s Stone.
I recommend this book for all ages that’s it’s a wonderful introduction to Harry Potter’s life and the wizarding world.
Book Reviewer 7: How ever imagined walking eight hours twice, everyday just to get to the closest water source that’s not even 100% clean? Linda Sue Park describes Nya’s struggles to find water in a Long Walk to Water. Nya has to retrieve water for her family, walking for 16 hours total every day.
One day, Nya’s sister was extremely sick. Her parents went to their tribe’s chief and asked for help. He tells them that the nearest medical clinic is 90 miles away. In Sudan the cars are a rare sight. Nya’s sister walked with her dad for three whole days until they found a small medical clinic. A nurse cared for Nya’s sister and said that the cause of her sickness is because of dirty water. Will the family get clean water? Will Nya’s sister survive? Read a Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park to find out.
Book Reviewer 8: “Olivia?” A voice called out, “Olivia Grace Harrison?” It was the most amazing sight Olivia had ever seen in her life. It was her Royal Highness Princess Amelia Mignonette of Genovia. Until that moment, Olivia was a typical sixth grader who lived with her aunt and step uncle after her mom passed away.
But when the royal sister she never knew suddenly emerges onto the scene to pick her up from school, Olivia’s life changes dramatically. In an instance, she is transformed from an ordinary school girl to a real-life princess. Olivia is whisked away in a royal Genovian limousine and finally meets her dad and family. A dream that until now was unfulfilled.
When her step uncle finds out that she was with her true family, he becomes furious and takes her back to the place where she grew up. Olivia ponders her future. Will she remain with the only family she knew, and live the ordinary life she was used to? Or will she be drawn to her royal roots in Genovia to be with her dad’s family? Will Olivia be able to live in Genovia happily ever after?
There’s only one way to find out. Pick up and read Meg Cabot’s imaginative novel, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.
Book Reviewer 9: Do you like mystery? Then you should read one of the Hardy Boys books. This book by Franklin W. Dixon is called the Secret of the Caves. The Hardy boys are trying to find a missing person called Morgan Todd, but along the way people try to hurt the Hardy boys. One time in Honeycomb caves, very strange things happened. People who seem to be good are just criminals.
I like this book because at first the mystery can get really confusing, but finally the mystery is really interesting.
Book Reviewer 10: For English class, I’m writing a poem and I decided it’s going to be about sounds. Sounds of the wrinkled, squirm creatures that live in tide pools. The problem is my teacher thought it was terrible, she gave me an F. Then I showed it to my dad, a professor of literature, he changed my F into a Fabulous. My dad said not everyone can understand poetry. This is a passage from the book Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry.
This is about a ten-year-old girl who is confident, insightful, funny and stays on top of her world. She is a fourth grader dealing with all fourth-grade drama. Being ten years old is in deed confusing. Anastasia doesn’t know if she wants to be a ballerina or an ice skater. She hasn’t decided yet. She has an old grandmother who sometimes doesn’t remember her and makes her sad.
Anastasia has a lot to do with boys, baby brother on the way, friends, her gold fish, and school. Anastasia loves to make a list of what she likes, and what she hates. She is just writing to solve many problems but she will always hate eating liver.
I love this book because it motivated me to start a journal in which I can write in every day. Writing helps me work out difficult situations. I also try to solve my problems by looking at the pros and cons. This way I too, come up happier and wiser. This book will help you stay positive and help you deal with life’s drama, like it helps me.
Julie Dina: We hope you enjoyed these engaging book talks. We are so glad these young shared their enthusiasm for their books with us. You can find all these books in MCPL’s catalogue. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, on the Apple podcast app, Sticher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on Apple podcast, we’d love to know what you think.
Summary: In the last few months, kids ages 10-14 from throughout the county have come to MCPL branches to record video book talks about books they've enjoyed. We've collected the audio from 10 of these recordings to share with our Library Matters listeners.
Book talks are brief summaries/reviews designed to convince others to read the book being described. You can see the videos of these and other Literary Explorer book talks on our YouTube channel, mcplmd. The Literary Explorer program was made possible by a grant from the NBC Universal Foundation and Washington's NBC 4.
Check our Calendar of Events for upcoming opportunities for your 10-14 year old child to be a literary explorer.
Host: Julie Dina
Books Loved in this Episode:
(In order of appearance.)
Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle
The End of Olympus by Kate O'Hearn
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Gone by Michael Grant
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
From the Notebook of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot
The Secret of the Caves by Franklin W. Dixon
Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
Julie Dina: Welcome to Library Matters. I’m your host Julie Dina. Today’s topic is Reading Challenge 2018. And on this particular topic, I have two experts in that subject. First, I would like to introduce Lennea Bower, Digital Strategies Manager of Montgomery County Public Library.
Lennea Bower: Hi Julie. Thanks for having me.
Julie Dina: Thanks for coming. And also I have Candice Hixon who is also the Library Assistant Supervisor for Kensington Park Library.
Candice Hixon: Hi, Julie. It is great being here today.
Julie Dina: Welcome Candice. So let’s dive straight into the subject, but before we do that, I will like to mention the reason why you guys are the ones chosen to be on this episode. First, Lennea is, and including her team, they’re actually the ones who run the Reading Challenge for MCPL's 2018 Reading Challenge.
Lennea Bower: That is right.
Julie Dina: So, would you tell us a little bit of yourself and also how this got prompted and who actually started all of this.
Lennea Bower: So I’m the digital strategies manager for Montgomery County Public Libraries. I’ve been in this role since December of 2016. Before that, I was a member of our team, which was at that time called virtual services. And we started the Reading Challenge actually at the very end of 2015. Our first Reading Challenge was 2016 and it is an annual event.
And we started doing – the idea of Reading Challenges were getting really popular and we were hearing about them from the branches and some of us were participating in them, so the people who are on our social media team at that time, which was the members of the virtual services unit at that time, Mary Ellen Icaza, now our Assistant Director for Programming and Outreach, Susan Moritz, who is now our head of Children Services at Kensington Park, Mark Santoro from our podcast producers team, and Adrienne Miles Holderbaum also from our podcast producing team, and myself and we got together and started t the challenge then coming up with the first one for 2016.
Julie Dina: What a challenge that-
Lennea Bower: Yeah.
Julie Dina: And Candice, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the Reading Challenge as well?
Candice Hixon: Well, I have worked for Montgomery County Public Libraries for about 10 years now. I’ve enjoyed reading since I was very young, probably about kindergarten age. And my mom would bring home books for me when I was five, six years old. She also works for the library. She’d bring me home like 50 or 100 picture books and I would just devour them.
So this is actually the first Reading Challenge I participated in, where I was able to choose a book from different specific categories. I used to participate in the summer reading program when I was a kid though, and I just loved doing that. So I decided I would give this challenge a shot.
Julie Dina: And how has that been?
Candice Hixon: It has been going really well. I’m about half way through the challenge, and I’m hoping to finish it by November so I can read the bonus book as well. And I plan on doing it next year as well, so I really enjoy it.
Julie Dina: So for those of us who don’t know, can you tell us what exactly MCPL's Reading Challenges and what a reading challenge is in general.
Candice Hixon: So a reading challenge is meant to have yourself read books from other genres, different authors, books that you normally wouldn’t read, and to get yourself to read a book every month. I know sometimes we don’t have the time to do that with our busy lives, but this kind of gets you to go outside the box.
The goal is to read a book from each of 12 different categories throughout the year. If you finish a book from each category, there is a bonus challenge at the end. You can join the challenge for free online, through our website, or stop by, or call one of the braches for more information. You can either print out a copy of the challenge or create an account through Beanstalk to keep track of your progress.
Lennea Bower: So one of the things that I want to say about our challenge is that we decided to go with this format because we thought 12 books was going to be a challenge for a lot of people, but still very reasonable number. And we put in the bonus challenge both for us can decide if you want to do an extra one. But also if for some reason just one of the categories does not appeal to you or you don’t feel comfortable with it or, you know, this year most of them are kind of vague and you can go a lot of places with them, but sometimes you’ve had like doing audio book or do a graphic novel and there might be some people for whom that system of reading just doesn’t work, so we wanted to have the bonuses, the built-in option for them, so especially for those who are completing it online.
And we do have prizes every year and you do have to complete the online challenge to be eligible for the prizes. For people who do want to complete it for their prizes, they can complete any 12. You know, they could skip challenge one and complete, you know, two, three through 12 plus the bonus challenge and that would still count as completion for us when we’re looking at who has completed the challenge that are numbers for that. So that is something that we have done.
I’ve also seen other formats for reading challenges or seen some that are like 24 categories so, you know, that is a lot of books for some people.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Candice Hixon: That is a lot. It is ambitious.
Julie Dina: Right.
Lennea Bower: I’ve also seen some that are like bingo card format or like different fun things, so it is like, you know, complete a row of books, complete a column of books you know. So there are different formats to do it. Ours is, as Candice said, you know, kind of 12 plus the bonus challenge are one of the things we’ve used to talk about as 12 months, 12 books. Again, that idea that you’re reading at least one book every month, but I’ve seen the other formats as well that people I know do their own as well through – especially people who use like Goodreads and stuff like that. A lot of them will set their own annual challenge goal, which might just be a number and not speak to the types of books.
So I think a Reading Challenge is set up by someone else, that's what Candice was saying and it really challenges you to maybe step outside your genre or author preferences, not just read, you know, 15 Robert’s Books although you could do that for several years in a row. But, you know, it really kind of vary what you’re reading and gets some other things in there. And that is what I like, and that's where I started with.
Julie Dina: And she liked that, we expect you might be incorporating some of these other formats that you’ve noticed?
Lennea Bower: You know, I don’t know if we will. I think we’re still – so this is our third year, 2016, ‘17, ‘18, and I think the other formats are fun. I mean, I do think a lot of those are incorporated in like our Summer Read and Learn, which this year is Libraries Rock. And those kind of more creative formats is going to be incorporated in that because those are like do a certain number of activities or pick from different activities and win prizes at different levels, so we don’t have a version of that.
At this point, that is for adults. That program is for kids and teens. And the Reading Challenge is for all ages. So I don’t really know if we’ll look at those other formats, but I do think they’re fun and I think they’re kind of creative and at some point we could look at that, but that is not something we have on the horizon right now or kind of we like this format and we feel like it is working for us and it is growing as a format.
Julie Dina: And for those who are driven by rewards and prizes, can you give us a sneak peek as to some of the prizes that are out there.
Lennea Bower: Well, we don’t have the list of what they’ll be for this year yet. But a lot of times we do incorporate maybe some signed copies of authorized books from different programs, from different authors usually that have visited MCPL. We might also incorporate other prizes that have been available, you know, water bottles and bags or things that we often have – that have often have been included in the prizes. I don’t have any exact list of what it will be for 2018 yet, but those are some things that we’ve used in the past.
Julie Dina: Designer bags?
Lennea Bower: No. Sorry Julie.
Julie Dina: So Candice, can you tell us specifically about your own individual experience with MCPL's Reading Challenge?
Candice Hixon: So far I’ve had a great experience. I have found so many new authors and genres that I enjoy now that I’ve never even thought to read. So I’ve really brought in my horizons. I usually try to pick up crime or mystery novels, but now I’m kind of thinking I’m going to go outside the box even, you know, once this challenge is over, I’m still going to go forward with that and try other challenges. I’m a competitive person, so I knew if I signed up for this, I would finish it and hopefully learn something new about people in the world in general from it. And so far I’ve been doing that, so it has been a lot of fun.
Julie Dina: That is great. And Lennea?
Lennea Bower: Well, I think Reading Challenges background 2015 or so, I set some goals for myself to step outside of some of the genres that I have been reading a lot. I also like crime and mystery novels.
Candice Hixon: Oh, yeah.
Lennea Bower: I also – I read a lot of romance novels. I read a lot of fantasy. And I was really trying to kind of branch out a little bit and not just in other genres, but also maybe authors that I might not have been as familiar with, and reading more authors of color and different – think different other aspects of, you know, perspectives and cultures and stuff that I might not have been aware of. And so I kind of first came across the idea of Reading Challenges through that concept.
And then around the same time, I sort of came across that Adrienne Miles Holderbaum who is at Gaithersburg at that time mentioned that she have been helping a mother and daughter with the Reading Challenge from another, you know, just from an online one that they had found and they had come in, they were reading it together. I don’t know if the daughter was a teen or a tween. I’m not really sure, but they were reading it together and they were looking for books that they could enjoy together kind of as a family activity, and we just thought that that was so cool. So that was sort of where we came. And I found that that experience sort of carries forward.
I think if you’re reading a lot of different things already, sometimes you feel like, “Oh, it is kind of easy to slot things into these categories.” But even so there is always still some categories that are kind of a stretch.
Julie Dina: Yeah. So it sort of pushes you outside of your comfort zone.
Lennea Bower: Yes, definitely has for me.
Julie Dina: So Lennea, being that this is our third year, would you say that more people participate has each year progresses? And also would you say that more people prefer each year than the other?
Lennea Bower: I would definitely say more people have participated. I actually just run a number this morning, kind of looking at it. So the first year, we didn’t have the Beanstalk online component. So what we did was around October we open up like an online form for people to submit.
And we’ve been talking about the challenge all year and so we know there are people who participated all year. But we had a relatively low number that actually completed the form to say that they had completed it. So we don’t really have anyway to track who kind of sign up and maybe started but didn’t go anywhere with it.
So in 2017, we started to move it to Beanstalk, which is where we do to our Summer Read and Learn program and also where we do our 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program. I should say in 2016 we had a little piece of Beanstalk, but we only run it during the summer months, and so it was more limited and it was only adults. It wasn’t really set up to be a family program.
So last year we had almost 150 people who completed the program. And this year, I might sort of say that there were over 125 people who have already completed the program and we’re recording this in June.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Lennea Bower: Yeah. So – and that is the online program. And, of course, you know, some people aren’t doing it for the prize. They don’t really care. They’re just doing the printed version at home and that is perfectly fine too. And we also find – we get some people, like engaging when we talk about it online and making suggestions for the different categories for other readers like on our social media and so on.
In terms of other people who like the categories more, since we do only do 12 categories plus the bonus, we try to vary them up. And I would say the exception is I think we’ve done a book published this year – every year, because that is kind of different by default.
Julie Dina: Right.
Lennea Bower: But we try to vary the other categories. And so some people love them, some people are like, you know, “Bring back my favorite category from two years ago. You know, I want to do that again.” And I’m like, “Well, the point is kind of stretch yourself.” So, you know, I think we might at some point recycle some of the categories from the older ones, but we just don’t want it to be like every year you pick it up and it is the same because you could get into like a Reading Challenge reroute, which kind of depicts the purpose.
Candice Hixon: Right.
Julie Dina: Candice, could you tell us what resource within our library system would you say our customers use for book recommendations the most?
Candice Hixon: First and foremost from a customer service standpoint, I know there is a lot of customers enjoyed going up to the desk to ask information staff member what books they recommend. I also get a lot of positive feedback about the what do I check out next service. Library staff can give author and title recommendations based off of other books that you have really enjoyed. All you have to do is go on our website and fill out a simple form online and they get back to you with tons of great recommendations. I use it myself. I love it.
Julie Dina: Who best to tell you then are user of the product.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Julie Dina: All right. And Lennea, can you tell us what goes into creating the Reading Challenge and how do you decide what categories?
Lennea Bower: So we’ve used a couple of different models. I think the one we use this year for the 2018 was really successful. And we try to incorporate a lot of staff feedback, so there is only a few of us that are on the social media team or in the digital strategies unit and we don’t always have, you know, all the best ideas.
So this year, we did a model where we asked our digital strategies team, our social media team, and/or what do I check out next team to suggest a reader’s advisers to suggest categories and then we open up. I went through – I kind of eliminated some that were duplicates or were, you know, ones as I said that we try not to duplicate the past couple of years so they duplicated those or things that were really, really similar.
And then we open it up, actually, for all staff to vote on a category. So it was sort of an all staff option for people to vote. And then we went through that picked kind of the top vote getters from what all of our MCPL's staff who participated wanted the challenge topics to be. So that is our model we use this year and I think it worked pretty well.
And then we also kind of kept – I tend to keep the ones that lost in the previous years. It sort of like see topics for the next year so that I’m not offering people blanks, right? I can say, “Well, we’ve these topics suggested, but what else do you think?”
Candice Hixon: Right.
Lennea Bower: And kind of use that to start the discussion for the future years.
Julie Dina: Sounds wonderful. Now, how far along have either of you reach in the Reading Challenge? Have you just started? Are you half way there or are you still thinking about it?
Candice Hixon: I have read six books so far through the Reading Challenge. I have not been reading the books in number order or category order. I’m hoping to finish my list, again, by November so I can read the bonus challenge category and authors debut book.
I’ve heard a lot of positive reviews about Jane Harper’s “The Dry”. It is the first of a mystery series about a federal agent, Aaron Falk, whose best friend Luke passed away due to uncertain circumstances. The interesting part of this story is that Luke served as an alibi to agent Falk when he was accused of murder himself 20 years prior. So from what I hear, there a lot of plot twists, so I’m really looking forward to getting through November so I can read this book.
Julie Dina: I hope he has a good lawyer.
Candice Hixon: Yeah, right.
Female Speaker 1: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Female Speaker 2: Looking for a book to fit a tricky Reading Challenge category or just need something new to read? Talk to one of our enthusiastic well read information professionals at the information desk of any MCPL branch. They’re eager to help you find what you’re looking for. Check this episode show notes for a list of MCPL branch locations and phone numbers. Happy reading.
Female Speaker 1: Now, back to our program.
Julie Dina: Now, and just either of you can answer this. What is the biggest stretch you’ve made to make a book fit into a particular category?
Lennea Bower: I think the biggest stretch that I've made this year is probably for Not Your Princess, which is a collection of short stories and poetry and essays which is edited by Mary Beth Leatherdale and it is about Native American. It is a collection of essays, all these arts and essays and stuff are by Native Americans or First Nations people from Canada, mostly women or people who identify as women writing about their experiences.
And I use that for question six, which is a book fiction or non-fiction about our country or culture you’re not very familiar with. I wouldn’t say it's so much stretch in that – I mean I would love to know a lot more about native and First Nation culture than I do know, so it wasn’t stretch in that way. But it was a little bit of a stretch in that because it was such a kind of short book and such short collection of essays. I felt like, okay, I got like just a littlest window into what does culture are, but you know, it didn’t really open the door to kind of understand them more fully.
Candice Hixon: For me, I haven’t had to stretch too far yet in any particular category, but I guess I would say reading a young adult novel as my book from a different age level would probably be the further stretch because I read young adult novels anyway. So, I mean – but, you know, it still fit the category.
And I ended up reading “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green. It is his latest novel about a teenage girl, Aza, who suffers from an anxiety disorder. And so along with her best friend, she tries to become a detective and search for her like crush’s fugitive father who also happens to be a billionaire.
So if they’re able to locate him, they win like a hefty sum of money. I found that it was really funny and intelligent, and it gives a really to good viewpoint on teens living with mental illnesses. I have read all of John Green’s book so far and none of them disappoint me. So if you haven’t read any of his books, please read them. It doesn’t matter what age you are, they’re really good.
Lennea Bower: I kind of cheated in the same way for the different age level category, actually about a middle grade books, and I don’t read a lot of middle grade, but I read “Tempests and Slaughter” by Tamora Pierce. And I read her books when I was a middle grade reader and a young adult reader. So then “Tempests and Slaughter” is her newest books and it is like a new series about Numair Salmalin who is a character from her “Immortals” series and its his life as a child. So there is a little bit of stretch because I felt like as I was reading them I was like going back into like middle school stuff like I would have read this.
Lennea Bower: If this book had been around, I would have read it when I was, you know 12 or whatever, but it wasn’t around.
Candice Hixon: That is cool.
Julie Dina: Well, while we’re talking about our favorite books, which book would you say has been the most recommended in any categories so far this year?
Candice Hixon: From what I’ve read so far, I believe that “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly has been the most asked for and recommended book that I’ve read. This was actually my pick for the Librarian’s Choice display at the Kensington Park Library. I not only found this book on display, but it was recommended to me by several staff members and by customers. It is a historical fiction book about the lives of three different women from different European countries during World War II. They each play their own role during the war. One young woman is a German doctor who takes on a medical position with the government of Nazi Germany. Another is a young Polish woman who was a courier for the underground resistance movement. Finally there is a single New York socialite who does volunteer work for the French consulate aiding orphans. She ends up aiding women in the rehabilitation whose lives were impacted by Ravensbruck, which was a horrific concentration camp during the war.
Anyways, all of their very different lives end up intersecting and I learned a lot about human resilience during a very dark time in history. I highly recommend it. If you can’t find time to read it, the audio book version is also really, really good. I listen to that because I drive a lot. So I really recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.
Julie Dina: You heard that folks.
Lennea Bower: I don’t know if I – well, I’m not in the branches as much so I don’t have the opportunity to have as much on a daily bases interactions with customers as Candice does about what books are recommended.
One of the books that I read, which was my non-fiction book about history or biography over historical figure was “Prairie Fires” by Caroline Fraser, which is a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. And it is actually kind of a biography of her and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a writer. I would say journalist, but she definitely don’t have any kind of sense of journalistic ethics if we would think about them now. She was kind of like in the yellow journalism era.
And it was about both of them and their relationship in sort of where is the – where is the line between reality and fiction and the Little House books that Laura Ingalls Wilder published. And so that was really fascinating and it did win a Pulitzer Prize. So I don’t know if it is the most recommended, you know, like day to day in the library sense, but it is highly recommended in a critical sense.
Candice Hixon: I have to read that one.
Julie Dina: Yeah. That is good to know.
Candice Hixon: Sounds good.
Julie Dina: So what kinds of response are we receiving from – concerning the Reading Challenge, what kind of response are we getting from our customers, Candice?
Candice Hixon: I find that a lot of costumers don’t know about the Reading Challenge yet. I tell them about my experience with it and how I’ve found new authors and genres that I really enjoy from it. I show them how to register and they say that they’ll give it a go, so I’m hoping it will become even more popular as we continue to have it.
As Lennea said, it is a growing challenge and I think as customers know that it is there, they’re going to continue to try to complete it and have fun doing it.
Lennea Bower: We hope so. Well, I mean, we – most of the customers I interact with about it are on social media or they’re customers that sign for it because it is in Beanstalk and some of our customers sign up for Beanstalk to participate one of other programs, like a 1000 Books, or Summer Read and Learn. Some of them discover it that way.
I do find sometimes the customers aren’t even 100% aware of the differences between the different programs, although I guess they enjoy them, it doesn’t really matter whether or not they know which program is it.
But most of them, you know, the feedback that we get is really exciting and when we talk about it on our social media and stuff, I would say overwhelmingly we get a positive response from people and people are excited about it and they’re, you know offering suggestions for the different categories and they’re also, you know, telling other people about it.
So I think that overall we get a really positive response for it. As Candice said, I mean, it is still relatively new program. Well, it has been around for a few years. It is not something that we put sort of the resources and effort behind or something like a Summer Read and Learn program, it doesn’t have as many components, it is not in your face in the branches and big signs and stuff all the time.
Candice Hixon: Right, right.
Lennea Bower: So it is more of like for people who are looking for that extra challenge and, you know, what do I check out next team knows about it so they might suggest it to someone if they know that that person really seems to be going through a lot of books and looking for things to stretch their comfort level, you know, they might make some suggestions about it.
So I think that is kind of how – at least to day it has been growing. But now we’re talking about in the podcast, so I’m really looking forward seeing those members spike.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Let’s spike it up. Can you tell us, and both of you can answer this. Can you tell us something that is really fun or any particular on use your Reading Challenge category either of you have encountered?
Candice Hixon: The most fun reading challenge I’ve encountered will obviously be the laugh reader funny book category. I am reading “Naked” by David Sedaris. It is a memoir by him publisher [Phonetic] [0:25:14], hilarious and dysfunctional stories about his life, travels and family. I have heard of some of his book before, so I decided to give this one a try.
I’m really enjoying it and I expect to be done with it soon. I have been laughing hysterically through it. I even look my husband up accidentally while reading it because I couldn’t stop laughing. So, oh, I highly recommend it and now I’m going to read all of his other books too. So that is another new author that I came across that I never read any of his work before.
Julie Dina: Thank God for Reading Challenge.
Candice Hixon: Yes.
Lennea Bower: Yes it is. I think it is all fun. I think it is fun to be creative and read different things that you haven’t read before and – I mean as Candice said earlier, I mean I am competitive and so sometimes having a little extra incentive to be competitive and kind of have something that you’re aiming for can help sort of – if you’re struggling a little bit about a certain book.
So – I mean, I think it is all fun and – I mean, I think the categories we do anything that makes this kind of creative is there is a lot that you can do to kind of fit things into this category. You’re not going to be forced to read something you really have no interest in because the categories are so restrictive or something.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Lennea Bower: You should be able to find something that you’re interested in that fits the category. So hopefully you’re reading will still be fine. And if you want to use it to make yourself get through that, you know, 700 page biography that has been sitting on your shelf as, you know, challenge 11, you can do that, but we’re not saying you have to do that.
Candice Hixon: I’m not doing that.
Julie Dina: It is just a suggestion.
Lennea Bower: It is an option for you if you want to make it and have fun, you know, or less fun or if you want to make it fun, you know, and pick a shorter book or as soon as there is little more fast-paced, read one of – read “Assassination Vacation” or some other book by Sarah Vowell, “Lafayette in the Almost United States” and she is a history writer, historical writer, who writes really, really funny books and she – she is in “The Incredibles,” that is one of the stretchy people, right?.
Anyways, she is the mom I think in that movie and she has been in some other things and she gets a few of her, you know, her friends who read with her, you know, people you might have heard of like Jon Stewart and a lot of other people. So those are fun historical books. If you want to go more on the fun side with that, that is definitely a route you can go. You don’t have to work your way through “Grant” by Ron Chernow, although I read both of those books this year, but you know, you can pick your direction.
Julie Dina: Now, have reading challenges changed your reading habits?
Lennea Bower: I think a little bit. I think my reading how it has kind of changed and I got involved in reading challenges sort of simultaneously, and I think those sort of things complemented each other. Trying to read a little more widely, especially when it came to MCPL was in a public library environment was being asked a lot more to talk about a wider range of books.
So I think that sort of changed my reading habits and then I found reading challenges as a way to make sure that I didn’t just form new slightly wider habits but kept you know, redirecting and expanding them.
Candice Hixon: I would say it has changed my reading habits. I’ve read so many different books now that I’ve never would even picked up had enough been for the Reading Challenge like George Saunders book, again, David Sedaris. I just find that if you don’t challenge yourself to try something new, you won’t do it, like you’ll just continue reading – I’ll continue reading my crime or mystery novels and, you know, James Patterson over and over again because he has a book every week that comes out, so with this challenge, I think I’m going to actually start participating in other reading challenges that aren’t part of Montgomery County Public Library's just to keep going with it, because some of the books that I've read during this challenge have become some of my favorite books that I’ve ever read, so there is that. Yeah.
Julie Dina: Now, I know Candice said she plans on getting into other Reading Challenges other than MCPL's, what about yourself, Lennea?
Lennea Bower: So I do – I have participated in some other Reading Challenges or sometimes I kind of like printout other Reading Challenges and sort to see what I read that fits into the categories or look for categories even if I don’t want to complete that challenge, just kind of look for categories that I haven’t really read anything that fits and say, “Oh, well, maybe I really need to expand my reading in that direction.” So I have the Book Riot’s 2018 challenge printed out to kind of look at. That is a website about books and reading.
The Ripped Bodice which is a romance store – a romance bookstore in LA is doing a summer romance bingo card. Actually I don’t think you have to read romances, but they are a romance bookstore primarily. And so I have that that I was going to printout and see. And that one is kind of fine because it is romance novel readers like to talk about the different tropes, and people who don’t read romance novels talk about them disparagingly. But people who like to read romance novels talk about Romance Novel Tropes, kind of like what their favorite ones are and what they like, and that is a lot of what the bingo cards are.
Candice Hixon: Oh, okay.
Lennea Bower: It is like, you know, fake relationship, secret baby, you know, stuff like that. So, you know, billionaire, you know.
Candice Hixon: Right.
Lennea Bower: It is just sort of like some fun things.
Candice Hixon: Some fun.
Lennea Bower: So that John Green could fit in there –.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Lennea Bower: – even though it is a romance novel but –.
Candice Hixon: Yeah, yeah. There is a little bit, you know, not a little bit of romance, but we’ll get too far into that.
Julie Dina: Ooh la la.
Lennea Bower: So those are some difference once that I look at. I don’t know if I actually complete them but just to, again, kind of like take a look out. And a lot of times what they – will come along with these recommendations of, you know, “If you’re looking to fill this category, what about these books?” And then I’ll prove those books and see if there is anything that hasn’t come to my awareness. I might not start to read it, but just kind of keep expanding.
Julie Dina: Thank you so much. Now, for our customers who would like to participate in the 2018 Reading Challenge, could you tell them exactly where they would find this on our website?
Lennea Bower: Yeah. So it is part of our Readers Cafe. And the fastest easiest way to get to our Readers Cafe is to go to the books, movies and music. Drop down on our menu and then look for suggested reading and then you’ll see Readers Cafe, and Reading Challenge is one of the options there. So that – because they’re also – they have children in their life that are participating in either 1000 Books or Summer Read and Learn. When they go to sign them up, they can sign themselves and their kids if they want up for the Reading Challenge at the same time because it is in the same Beanstalk program.
Julie Dina: Thank you so much, Lennea. And also before the show comes to an end, it is a tradition on Library Matters for us to find out what our guests are reading. Candice, can you tell us what is you’re reading right now?
Candice Hixon: I’m currently reading “Go Ask Alice” written by anonymous. I think I read this book when I was like 12 or something or at least I started it and I don’t think I finished it, so I decide to pick it up again. I don’t remember much of it. Anyhow, I know that this book was banned for a while for many libraries. It is very dark book about the nightmares of drug addiction from a teenager’s diary.
Some claim it is a real diary and others claim that it is a work of fiction written in the ‘70s as propaganda to scare kids into not using drugs. Either way, it is very interesting and gives a perspective from someone suffering from drugs addiction. I believe it was banned due to its language and content and not because it was about drug abuse. But it is a short book. It is a classic. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t read it as a young adult.
Lennea Bower: So the books that I’m reading right now – right now I’m reading “The Obelisk Gate” by N. K. Jemisin, which is a second book in her Broken Earth trilogy which one – I think all three of the books won a Hugo Award or definitely the first couple. And she was the first African-American woman to win that award or – I can’t remember. I think Octavia Butler won some kind of award but it was not that one.
And I’m also just finished “Not That Bad,” which is edited by Roxane Gay. And it is a collection of essays about sexual assaults and some various survivor stories. So it is very, very dark and hard to read. It is like one of those books – I did the audio book and all the essays are read by their authors, so they’re extra emotional. They’re not a great readers, but I mean, it is just this very emotional because they're all very personal essays. It is the kind of book that you want to keep reading, but then you’re like, “No, I have to stop,” right, and like I can only read one or two.
Julie Dina: You got to take a break.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Lennea Bower: Yeah, yeah. It is a kind of book that will sort of suck you in to read it but you don’t do that. I don’t think that is probably very good for your state of mental health. Some of the stories are very, you know, just traumatic, the things that people went through. But also, you know, I thought it was really informative. And I read Gay’s other memoirs as well.
And then I also just finished “Beneath a Ruthless Sun” by Gilbert King, which is his follow up to “Devil in the Grove.” And so that is about – both of those books are about racism and other types of prejudice in Florida in the ‘50s and ‘60s. So “Beneath a Ruthless Sun” is his new book that just came out a few months ago.
And I’m really excited which isn’t out yet, but will be when this podcast comes out, “A Reaper at the Gates” by Sabaa Tahir and then “Smoke in the Sun” by Renee Ahdieh, just came out but I haven’t got my hands on yet because – but hopefully by the time this podcast comes out, that would be what I’m reading.
Julie Dina: There is a lot coming out.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Lennea Bower: Yeah.
Candice Hixon: Oh, yeah.
Julie Dina: Well, I’ve got to say you guys were very informative and this was very fun, no challenge at all. Thank you so much Lennea and thank you Candice for joining us on this episode.
Let’s keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast. We would love to know what you think. Thank you again for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
[Audio Ends] [0:35:43]
Summary: Digital Strategies Manager Lennea Bower and Library Assistant Supervisor Candace Hixon discuss the history of the MCPL Reading Challenge; how the 2018 challenge is going; and what they get out of reading challenges with host Julie Dina.
Recording Date: June 6, 2018
Guests: Lennea Bower is the Digital Strategies Manager for Montgomery County Public Libraries. Her unit runs the Reading Challenge. Candace Hixon is the Library Assistant Supervisor at the Kensington Park branch. She is an enthusiastic Reading Challenge participant.
Hosts: Julie Dina, Outreach Associate.
Featured MCPL Resource: Librarians! We encourage customers to approach our trained information professionals at any MCPL branch with requests for reading recommendations, assistance with library resources, or other questions. Find your nearest branch.
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Candace Hixon: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.
Books, Movies, and Authors Mentioned During this Episode:
#NotYourPrincess edited by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Lisa Charleyboy
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
The Dry by Jane Harper
Grant by Ron Chernow
The Incredibles, animated movie
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Naked by David Sedaris
Prairie Fires by Carolyn Frasier
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
MCPL Resources Mentioned During this Episode:
Beanstack, online resource that provides book recommendations and is also the online home for some MCPL programs.
What Do I Check Out Next? online readers’ advisory service
Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters, I am Lauren Martino and I am here with my co-host David Payne.
David Payne: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And today we have a special episode on travel. I am here today with Assistant Director for Facilities and ADA Rita Gale.
Rita Gale: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And director of marketing for Visit Montgomery Cory Van Horn.
Cory Van Horn: Hi there, thank you for having me.
Lauren: So Rita is an avid traveler and has been to many places particularly national parks and soon she will be retiring and have lots and lots of time for new adventures. And Cory Van Horn is an authority on travel and particularly in our area and knows a lot about the tourism spots in Montgomery County that you really should know about, is that about accurate?
Cory: That’s pretty accurate, it is a choose your own adventure experience here at Montgomery County.
Lauren: Alright. So Rita, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and some of your traveling adventures?
Rita: Sure, I am a resident obviously of Maryland, Montgomery County, I live in Rockville. And I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. I got interested in actually traveling specifically to the national parks because I went to on a cruise to Alaska and visited Denali National Park which is one of the largest national parks in the country and that got me hooked on traveling in national parks. So I have visited many of the national parks. I will be taking a trip in September to the Utah parks which means that I will be visiting Bryce which is my favorite park in all the world. The Zion which I have only spent a day in and then Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef and will end in Monument Valley where we will see the Mittens and if we are there at the right time, we might see one reflected on the other.
David: Is that an organized tour or do you go individually and roam around?
Rita: No I go with my sister, she and I travel together and usually I plan the trips and we drive. So we don’t generally take tours.
Lauren: Is planning trips generally easier or harder than what you do from day to day, it sounds like you probably have a lot of skills that would transfer?
Rita: Well I would say that that is very true. Yes, actually planning is for me when I was working and am working, it is actually the hardest part is finding the time to do it, but I really enjoy planning and we obviously have great resources which we will be talking about shortly. And obviously the website, the national parks, service, etc., they are just great tools to use to actually plan trips to particularly national parks.
Lauren: What is it about National Parks that attracts you?
Rita: Well for me because I work long hours; going to a national park is partly just the serenity of being out in nature. And one of the great things for me for a national park, I don’t know that this is true for everybody is that once you go into a national park your cell phone doesn’t work, so literally you are sort of out there by yourself, you don’t hear what’s happening in the news, so literally you are disconnected and it is just great because nobody is walking around with their cell phones looking at things they are actually looking at nature, so.
Lauren: That’s amazing I didn’t know.
Rita: I find that very relaxing and I love seeing the variety of scenery that this country has in terms of the different kinds of national parks as well. So it’s a great experience to have with somebody else. I think it is great to travel with somebody when you are traveling to the national parks as well.
David: So it’s almost like a natural digital detox.
Rita: Yes, you are correct yes.
Lauren: Have you been to them all yet or are you trying to see them all?
Rita: No and there are more than gosh a 100 national parks. And I know that there are many people who actually make that their lives work to actually visit them all, I am just trying to get around to enough of them while I am still able to be mobile and everything to enjoy them. So I have visited mostly national parks on the west coast.
David: Well Cory from national parks to Visit Montgomery, you are making history today as our very first non-MCPL guest.
Cory: Wow, I feel so honored.
David: Representing Visit Montgomery, so tell us a bit about Visit Montgomery certainly the website is very well designed and informative. Do you have a tourism office, how are you set up, how do you work and basically what is --?
Cory: What is Visit Montgomery? Visit Montgomery is the official tourism office, tourism, it’ in the industry it’s known as a Destination Marketing Organization. So we are a non profit organization that our primary goal and mission is to bring visitors to Montgomery County and to celebrate all the amazing attractions and happenings that are going on around Montgomery County. We do have a tourism office we are actually co-sharing office suite with Economic Development and also Worksource Montgomery. So it is a lot of fun to have three different organizations, we all have some missions and our passion for Montgomery County, but have different you know audience per se. And it is just a lot of fun you know to kind of be creative with all them.
Lauren: So Cory there is a lot of small business owners in this area who kind of thrive off of individual restaurants and things, what would you be able to say to anybody with a business that would be of interest to tourists, some resources you have to promote what they do?
Cory: So small businesses have various opportunities, they can buy into a partnership program with us. And essentially what it does is it provides them with marketing expertise and promotional opportunities, networking events throughout the year. Hotels buy into the program as well because they want to connect with various groups and marketing efforts and it is a way to get listed in our website, be promoted through our social media channels and things like that. We find that particularly with small businesses, smaller attractions, restaurants of those types, they really find value in what we offer because not only are we providing support and services to a unique set of audience members, visitors, people who are not residents per se, but also because they have small to no marketing teams themselves and so they kind of view us as an extension of their marketing efforts.
David: So Rita as you head west to celebrate your retirement are there any particular resources that you are using to plan to journey and in addition to print travel guides are there any library resources that you might recommend for travel planning?
Rita: Well one of the things that I do for the national parks is I always visit the national park site. We also have travel guides in our collection and I usually check to see if the national park that I am interested has Informers guide, a Fodor’s guide, we also have Moon Handbooks as one of our guides or Lonely Planet. And there are standards for all of the national parks that I will look at for example Fodor’s is the complete guide to the national park of the west and there is also the geographic guide to national parks which has information about all of the parks in it.
In terms of electronics in addition to the website we have obviously electronic sources available through the Gale Virtual Reference Library. I found one this weekend when I was looking, when I was preparing for this that’s called DK Eyewitness Guides and Rough Guides which actually has information about various places to travel. And there are also e-Magazine is available on travel through RBdigital including Conde Nast Traveller, Lonely Planet Travel, and National Geographic Traveler; so we have tons of resources on travel.
David: There you have it, so lots of good resources on travel with MCPL.
Lauren: Do you have a favorite go to, for planning?
Rita: Well because we have a variety of different kinds of travel guides, I would probably mostly use the website, the national park website, but I do try to find at least one travel guide that focuses on a specific national park and Fodors, Informers, and Moon tend to do that more than the others. So I wouldn’t say I have one specific one because not all of those resources do all of the national parks.
David: And a sort of follow-up question for actually, possibly for you both, there are so many different publishers of travel guides and they all have their own style, what are the elements that would make up a perfect travel guide for you both?
Rita: Well for me usually I am going to a location that I haven’t been to before, so for me a travel guide that is all inclusive, that talks about okay what is the nearest airport that I fly into to get there, you know how do you get to the park, so is there rail travel or is it car travel. And then in national park what are the things to be seen there, is there lodging, some of the national parks have lodging within the park, some of them don’t. And quite a few the Frommers, Fodors do that do, but some of the guides that are out there are more about the experience of being in the park that they are about individuals who have been to a park and who talk about their experience. And I like to do that myself to actually have the experience so I am more about literally okay give me the facts so that I can plan the trip.
Lauren: You don’t want Bill Bryson’s take on it, before you go.
Cory: Which is interesting because I actually take an opposite stance on that where I look towards for planning and logistics more of the digital resources, because things change so quickly you know by the time a book gets printed, a restaurant could close or an attraction could be opened and things like that. I really look towards memoir as a way of being inspired by a location and it helps in terms of kind of seeing through their eyes and then being inspired to have similar, if not new experiences myself.
David: Great, thank you.
Lauren: So Cory I don’t know if there are a lot of memoirs about places in Montgomery County, but what are some of the most popular destinations right here that you would like to highlight?
Cory: In terms of attractions here at Montgomery County there are so many, I have mentioned this earlier in chatting that we really are a truly a choose your own adventure experience where you can have an downtown urban experience and then have a completely different up county, very country experience within 10 minutes, it’s really amazing. Our biggest attraction that locals don’t fully you know, know I think, but then also they know about it, but they don’t know is we have 93,000 acre Ag reserve. And not many people in the country can say that that we have that kind of resource and reserve. So people can go and go to Butler’s Orchard and pick your own fruits and they have various festivals throughout the year or go to Rocklands Farm and enjoy a wonderful glass of wine in the country or Waredaca and have a beautiful experience on a horse farm and drink some beer you know freshly brewed beer which is awesome, but then go down to Bethesda or the new Pike & Rose and have a very downtown urban experience all within the same day, so it’s amazing.
And then also it’s a very historic area our proximity to DC there is a lot of history involved with that. The C&O Canal, the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center which is currently under renovation right now, the center itself isn’t, but the canal is. And so I actually visited recently and it was all tore up, so we will have to revisit that one when it is finished, but I am sure it is going to be amazing. And then interesting enough in terms of the canal, you can actually stay, I don’t know if you know this you can actually stay in a lockhouse which is really cool. So there are several lockhouses I believe, there is eight or nine along the canal that are renovated within the period when the lockhouse was built, so to speak. So some of them are fairly primitive where there isn’t running water so some of them there are running water in facilities. And so it’s just a great way to experience history in a different way.
Lauren: Do they still have those boats that are like drawn by the donkeys?
Cory: They do actually and the main one here in the county is actually at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, they are not running it this year because of the refurbishment of the canal, but it is a very popular experience. I spoke with a park ranger and they said that last year we had more visitors for the canal than the Grand Canyon, so it’s super popular.
David: So Cory, this is a two part question from your marketing work, what are the trends that you are seeing in terms of travel, holidaying, leisure time and so on that help direct your marketing efforts. And secondly, can you give us a brief snap shot of the visitors that come to Montgomery County whether they come from what sort of profile would you give to them?
Cory: Absolutely, I have worked in travel marketing my whole career and the first thing that you do is you want to look at what the destination offers. And in this particular case again our proximity to DC and the fact that we have a Metro system that runs right through the county and connects you right into DC that’s a big factor and people are choosing Montgomery County to come visit, but what we are finding is that people tend to plan a trip to Washington DC, look around, they are a little nervous about the high energy that DC has, the big city experience so to speak.
Lauren: That’s one way of putting it.
Cory: And they are looking for a place that’s comfortable. And all the research that we do in terms of understanding our visitors that’s what they look for is, they look for a comfortable experience. So we find that visitors come here, they feel comfortable, you know they see the value and what Montgomery County offers and then they do the day trips into DC, they do all the fun stuffs and then once the Smithsonian close at 5 or 5:30, they come back here and have a good time, so it’s great.
In terms of trends, it’s culinary experiences anything where an experience relates to the localness of the community, food is the ultimate local experience, because it ties to memory you know it’s very relatable, it’s almost the universal language if you will. And that’s the beauty of Montgomery County is we are so diverse, we have over 1000 different restaurants and it is a great way to get that experience along the way. Weekend getaways is very popular, particularly people who are located within a three to four hour driving radius of Montgomery County so that takes you as far out as Pittsburgh up to New York City down to Richmond and then there is the direct flights from the three major airports we are perfectly positioned between PWI, Dallas and Reagan and those direct flights are coming out from Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, so it is a great easy weekend getaway experience.
David: Great, thank you.
Lauren: Rita do you look for these foods, for these memory when you are out, choosing your destination or is there something else that allows you to choose one national park over another, one destination over another?
Rita: Well I will say that in terms of food in the national parks, it is a little limited, because usually the national parks have a lodge and it has a restaurant in it. So I will say that Bryce which we are going to visit in September is one of the lodge there and the restaurant that they have there had some of the best food that I ever ate in a national park.
Lauren: Where is Bryce?
Rita: So Bryce is probably about 3 hours from Las Vegas in Utah. And it’s a park that you go down into that has what they call hoodoos which are spires made out of red sandstones so they are spectacular in the sunlight. And obviously it is a walking park or hiking park, but some of the parks are more either looking up in the case of Bryce you are looking down. But in terms of other food experiences because I do the national parks mostly, I have to say I don’t remember too much about other food experiences with them so.
David: That might say a lot.
Lauren: But is there is a reason you would choose one park over another or what do you look for when you are choosing a destination?
Rita: Well because I am primarily, I have to say that most of my vacations have been to the national parks, because I really love the concept of the national parks and I have already talked about you know the solitude, the fact that you can enjoy nature that you can actually have an experience, you can enjoy with somebody else. In terms of the national parks, we have gone mostly to the ones on the West Coast because of the scenery, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore we have been to. And so I don’t necessarily have a specific criteria for the national parks other than I am usually looking for, I happen to like mountain, valleys, wild flowers, that sort of thing, so nothing against the everglades, but that is not a park that I actually decided to go to, but I have been to certainly to Charleston and Fort Sumter, so for me it’s just the variation also that the national parks bring. So I will probably see many of them, but not necessarily all of them.
Lauren: Cory you also specialize in culinary tourism, is that correct?
Cory: It’s true, believe it or not I actually have a master’s degree in that yeah, so for me eating is a research.
Lauren: Is that really a fun degree to get?
Cory: It was absolutely, most of my friends are in software or in accounting and we are all getting our graduate degrees kind of around the same time and you know I just remember having conversations with them about, “Oh I have to do all these projects and you know what project are you doing?” I am like, “Well I have to eat at four different barbeque restaurants and write a paper on it,” it was a lot of fun so. My master’s degree is from Chatham University based in Pittsburgh and its part of their Falk School of Sustainability. And so it is a Masters in Food Studies and my research focus was culinary Tourism and Sustainable Community Development is what I focused on. So I actually have the credentials to eat. A big part of that was tourism development really looking and understanding what a community has to offer and developed either tours around it or various tourist attractions, so it was a lot of fun along the way.
Lauren: And what, do you have any special culinary experiences in Montgomery County you would like to share or think our audience should know about?
Cory: Well I think the brewery and winery scene here is really starting to flourish and it’s a very unique way to experience, it’s more than just you know drinking a beer, it’s the whole experience like Waredaca Brewing Company being on a horse farm and gathering together. And what is really interesting to me is, it is not just for adults like these are family type areas where you can bring your kids and you can have a picnic and just have a good time and just hang out. Those are very memorable, my favorite restaurant so far is I am fan of you know after work having a beverage and having appetizers, so I tend to go like Clyde’s at Tower Oaks Lodge.
Lauren: I love Clyde’s.
Cory: Yeah it’s a lot of fun. I have a regular go to server that I always happen to sit in their section, I don’t know if his real name is Phil, but I call him Phil, so it’s a lot of fun.
Lauren: Shout out to Phil.
Cory: Philip you are going to make my martinis, oh it’s a lot of fun. And all the various festivals that happen in downtown Silver Spring, the various food festivals, the Taste of Wheaton is a great memorable experience, so it is a lot of fun.
Lauren: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Lisa Navidi: Looking for a way to use that new Kindle or to check out a book without having to leave the house, look no further than MCPL’s e-books. All you need is a library card and you can read on your e-Reader, tablet, smart phone or a computer; the latest bestsellers, old classics, kids books, how-to manuals, travel guides and much more are available at the touch of your finger tips. And after three weeks they return themselves without you having to lift a finger. If you need help getting started ask one of our helpful librarians. We guarantee you will be enormously elated, you can find a link to MCPL’s e-book collections in this episode’s show notes.
Lauren: And now back to our program.
David: So Rita back to MCPL, can you tell us about some of the resources MCPL has for the traveler who might want to learn a language?
Rita: Certainly, so I am going to tell you what I know from our website and what I have learned having worked here. So we have books in nine world languages that include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi, Amharic, Russian, French and Bengali. We have three online resources Mango Languages, Muzzy Online and Rosetta Stone. And we have Conversation Clubs that we offer in a variety of different libraries in English, French, and Spanish and we have language learning videos from annenbergfoundationlearner.org. So those are our resources that the library system offers.
Lauren: So you mentioned some of the food festivals around in the area, do you have any other events that take place in Montgomery County that you really feel everyone should know about?
Cory: So in terms of events, both residents and visitors actually end going to our website, visitmontgomery.com, it’s the events pages are by far our most popular pages on our website. So it has really become one of our top resources for those types of events. Some of the popular events that are going one throughout the county, throughout the summer, there is a farm tour and harvest sale that happens throughout the county.
Lauren: Farm tour; what does that entail? What do you get on a farm tour?
Cory: So it is a self-guided tour where there are various farms that participate throughout the Ag reserve and you can actually go to our website and check it out. We have a blog post about it where you can visit various farms and you know learn about the tour, you know learn about the farm itself and purchase our products and all that fun stuff, but really the ultimate goal is to learn a little bit more about the Ag reserve and what the offerings are there. As I mentioned, the Taste of Wheaton is another event that is happening in July and also in June the Tiger Woods Foundation is having the Quicken Loans National Golf Tournament here at the end of June. So that is actually a very popular event that is happening here in the county, it is a great opportunity for people that like golf. I am not a golfer myself, but I would certainly have a blast, just hanging out and watching other people golf.
Lauren: Can you explain to us a little bit, you have mentioned this Ag reserve a few times, I am not quite sure what an Ag reserve is, can you tell us a little more about that?
Cory: Absolutely, people, you can actually visit the Office of Agriculture their website, they do a great description and explanation of what the Ag reserve is. Essentially what it’s, is 93,000 acres that’s reserved solely for agricultural use. So there are parameters around the reserve that limit the amount of development that occurs, one parameter is that you can only have one house or structure per 25 acres. And so the whole goal of it was that back in the day development was happening so quickly that we were very concerned about having all of our land used up for development. And so the county decided to reserve pretty much most of up county for agricultural use, so that way we still have that open space.
Lauren: So that’s why we still have all that farm land there, that makes a lot of sense. So this is a question for both of you, do you have any more favorite vacation destinations, you haven’t already planned Rita, because I know you have got a lot planned, that are still on your Bucket List that you are dying to experience?
Cory: I am actually, I am an avid traveler, I mean I feel that I am the type of person that basically turns my passion for food and travel into a job and so that’s actually been a lot of fun. So I spent a lot of time in the country exploring, I haven’t been to as many national parks as I want to so I am actually going to visit those resources that you just recommended. So I actually am kind of putting my focus more towards the international ground in terms of visiting. So I have been to Africa and explored Africa, but I want to check out South America, Brazil, I want to go to Iceland, Ireland, those are the places that I want to visit, right now they are top of my list. And at some point I will probably end up visiting Australia, but that is a long haul, that’s quite the commitment.
Cory: But on a local level I recently moved to Montgomery County, so I moved from Pittsburgh to Montgomery County back in September. And so it’s actually been fun to visit the county as a tourist, even though I market it, it has been fun.
Lauren: Do you have any staycation ideas besides the ones you have mentioned for those of us who aren’t going anywhere?
Cory: So if you consider yourself a shopaholic you can spend the day up in Clarksburg Premium Outlets.
Lauren: Rita is not in.
Cory: Oh Clarksburg Premium Outlets.
David: Yes yes.
Lauren: I am thinking, I keep driving past it, but I never actually stopped, it’s always where we go like on the way to Sugarloaf or whatever it is out there.
David: You can’t miss it.
Cory: Yeah you can’t miss it. I am a fan of bike riding so riding along the Capital Crescent Trail is actually a lot of fun and it’s just believe it or not I know this is probably going to surprise you, but I actually enjoy riding the Metro.
Lauren: I do too.
Cory: And you can actually do a pretty cool staycation just by riding the Metro and that’s what is so interesting and even here where we are located, you know where we recording this in Rockville, there is a Metro station just a 10 minute walk away, you can hop down and just randomly get off at a stop and --.
David: And it is a great way of seeing the very diverse parts of the area I am thinking.
Cory: Absolutely it really is. And then I also love hoping on the Metro and going in to DC for the day it’s a lot of fun and then I come back out here.
Lauren: We visited when I was five and the Metro was like the standout part of the trip besides the heat and the fact that we didn’t get to see the White House, the train was definitely what sticks with me from when I was five.
Lauren: How about you Rita is there any place that’s not a national park that you were dying to go to?
Rita: Well I have had the good fortune to go to Hawaii and I would like to go back again. We went to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park at that point and of course that is currently closed and Kīlauea is erupting, so we will have to wait to go back for that to settle. I have never done a Fall Color Tour and I have always wanted to do that, I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how to time it so that you are actually seeing the colors. And years and years ago I went to Disney World and I would like to go back I mean --.
Lauren: Disney World.
Rita: I am just, I guess a kid at heart so, but Epcot Center that kind of peace of Disney World. One thing that I do want to mention in terms of travel when you mentioned the Metro, I think that one of the things that people here forget in terms of staycations is that the museums down in Washington DC are all free and when you go anyplace else in the country, usually if you go to a museum you have to pay to go to it. And I think that is one of the important things to remember about this area that you actually can stay in this area and you can do it fairly inexpensively because most of the museums around here don’t charge large amounts of money to get into them.
Lauren: Not even the zoo charges, that just -- my mind.
Rita: Yes, yes.
David: And even actually a lot of the museum in Montgomery County they are either free or very, very low cost. You know the only one that I am really familiar with the charges is the National Capital Trolley Museum and it’s what like $4 or something --, and it’s a cute museum.
Lauren: Well worth your $4.
David: It’s well worth your time.
Cory: It has some great value there.
Lauren: Okay so Rita as you head off into the sunset into the great west and national parks, what are you going to miss most about working at MCPL?
Rita: Well I would say there are several things that I have loved working with a variety of people that I have had a chance to work with in terms of our staff and the branches, our managers. I have had the good fortune to have done many different things in my life here in Montgomery County to have a wide variety of experiences. I would say that the last 10 years working facilities has been my greatest joy, I have really loved doing the work for on our full scale renovations which were Gaithersburg and Olney, on the new construction that we did was Silver Spring and now with Wheaton. And you know my personal passion it is the Refresh Projects that we have introduced where we have actually been able to refurbish, refresh branches much faster than had we put them into the normal renovation cycles. So that has given me an opportunity to not only learn about design and construction, but you know to do the fun things like picking out carpet colors and paint colors. And you know the satisfaction of also delivering buildings to the community where the community really appreciates our facilities. Montgomery County has got individuals of our communities really loves libraries and our refresh projects were meant to be six month closers and even for six months our customers are really, from the day we close to the day we open, they are wanting to know when are we going to open again. And I think that is terrific and we certainly appreciate it a lot and it has been a great joy to work with the community that loves libraries that much.
Lauren: So Rita you have been involved in a lot of refreshes, a lot of new libraries, is there something you want to tell Cory about something you have done that makes Montgomery Library a destination that he should be telling his customers about?
Rita: Well I would say that our libraries are destinations simply because each one of them is very individualistic and very different. Probably one of my favorite renovation facilities is the Olney Library which really calls to people from the road. When we built that facility the community said that nobody could find that library because it was set back from the road. And so when we did that renovation the architect actually pulled that building to the road. And so it has a glass front. So the question was okay what is going to activate that, what’s going to make people see that building and I said, “Put the children’s room there because there is always something happening in the children’s room” and I can say that about most of our libraries, you know I have often thought that we should have a standard design for our facilities just like grocery stores do, but that has never happened with any of our buildings each of them are individualistic and in that respect they are unique experiences. And you have a variety of resources that you can see and we have branches that have painting displays, you know other kinds of displays. So there is a great variety of things that you can see in any of our facilities.
Cory: Well it is actually true, I couldn’t agree more in terms of libraries. I mean when I travel 9 times out of 10 I end up going to even just a bookstore, right, just to check it out. And I feel libraries are so much more than just the book right, it’s a community space, it’s a third place, if you will where you have a chance. Especially people travelers who are looking for a local experience or they want to meet with the locals, the place to be is in the library you really get to experience what a local life is like.
David: So we usually close each episode by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are currently reading, perhaps something other than the travel guide, so I will start with you Rita.
Rita: Well as I have said I am retiring so I can’t read because literally I don’t have the time, but what I will tell you is I have a couple of books that I am anxious to read, one is Madeleine L'Engle' Wrinkle in Time because of the movie that just has come out which is a fabulous movie and as a result of that I want to go back to actually re-read that book, which I read when I was in high school. So I want to see whether or not it is still resonates with me. I just saw Camelot at the Shakespeare Theatre over the weekend and so T.H. White’s Once and Future King is a huge book, but I thought and I think I would like to go back and read that as well. And then years ago I saw Wicked at the National Theatre and Gregory Maguire has a series of books on that theme and so that’s one of the other ones that I want to read.
Lauren: Happy reading Rita, you have earned it.
David: How about you Cory?
Cory: For me my go to a book as I said before I tend to lean on the memoir particular food memoir is Blood Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, it is by far my favorite go to book, she is such a beautiful writer based in New York. And so that right now actually what I am reading is David Sedaris’s new book Calypso, it is really good, a little different than what he has written in the past, but that’s the top of my list. And believe it or not you will actually probably see me more in the periodical section than you would in the book section actually. I read a lot of magazines, Afar Magazine is high on my list, I read Bethesda Magazine actually quite a bit, because it’s a great way to just know what is happening in the area. You know the Condé Nast Traveller all those type, you know Saveur, got to get my recipes. So that’s probably where you will see me the most.
David: Well Rita and Cory thank you very much for sharing your travel interest with us, it has been great having you. And we have certainly learnt a lot today and wish you happy travels.
Rita: Thank you very much.
Cory: Thank you so much.
David: Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also please review and rate us on our Apple podcast, we love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Summary: Retiring MCPL Assistant Director Rita Gale and Visit Montgomery Marketing Director Cory Van Horn talk about travel and tourism. Rita shares her enthusiasm for America's National Parks and highlights MCPL's travel resources. Cory discusses the incredibly diverse array things to do and see right here in Montgomery County, from the vibrant energy and restaurants of urban centers like Silver Spring and Bethesda Row, to the history and beauty of the C & O Canal. Looking for a brewery on a horse farm? Yeah, we've got one of those. You'll find years worth of local and national travel ideas in this episode.
Recording Date: June 6, 2018
Guests: Rita Gale is MCPL's Assistant Director for Facilities and ADA. She has been with MCPL for over 30 years and will soon be retiring. Cory Van Horn is the Director of Marketing for Visit Montgomery, the official Conference and Visitors bureau of Montgomery County, MD.
Featured MCPL Resource: E-books. Customer can download popular fiction and non-fiction titles from two e-book collections, cloudLibrary and Maryland's Digital eLibrary Consortium (Overdrive). Our Gale Virtual Reference Library includes DK Eyewitness Travel and Pocket Rough Guides that you can read in your browser. See our E-Library Page for a complete list of MCPL e-book collections.
What Our Guests Are Reading (or Will Be Once Their Retire!):
Cory Van Horn: Calypso by David Sedaris. Cory also loves the book Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. He can often be found among the magazines reading Afar, Bethesda, Conde Nast Traveler (available through the RBDigital e-magazine collection), and Saveur.
MCPL Resources Mentioned During this Episode:
Fodor's The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West by Shelley Arenas, et al.
Guide to the National Parks of the United States (various editions)
RBDigital: Travel magazines available through this online e-magazine collection include Backpacker, Conde Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet Traveler, and National Geographic Traveler.
Destinations Near and Far Mentioned During This Episode:
(Destinations in or near Montgomery County are marked local)
Bethesda Row (local)
Butler's Orchard (local)
C & O Canal (local)
Canal Quarters (local) - Spend a night in a C & O Canal lockhouse.
Capital Crescent Trail (local)
Clarksburg Premium Outlets (local)
Clydes at Tower Oaks Lodge (local)
Metrorail, AKA the Metro (local)
Montgomery County Farm Tour (local): Saturday, 7/28 - 7/29
National Trolley Museum (local)
Pike and Rose (local)
Taste of Wheaton (local)
Waredaca Brewing Company (local)
Other Items of Interest:
Bill Bryson: Well regarded humorous travel writer.
Lauren Martino: Hello. Welcome to Library Matters. My name is Lauren Martino and I’m here with a wonderful group of library staff who are crazy about audiobooks. With me today is Vincent Mui – hi, Vincent.
Vincent Mui: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And Barbara Shansby. Welcome to the show, Barbara.
Barbara Shansby: Thank you
Lauren Martino: And Maranda Schoppert.
Maranda Schoppert: Hi, guys.
Lauren Martino: Thank you so much for coming. So I’m going to start with Barbara. Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start listening to audiobooks and like how frequent an audiobook listener are you.
Barbara Shansby: Well, I figured I’ve probably been listening to audiobooks for close to 30 years. I started when they were books on tape, literal cassette tapes that you put in the machine and push the play button, and rewind, and the whole thing. I got kind of hooked because a friend had suggested to me when I needed dental work to listen to music and I thought, “Well, I’m not so much a music person, but I love reading, so maybe if I listen to a book on tape that would distract me enough from the dental torture that I would be okay, and it was great. And I was completely hooked. And now, I always have a book in my car to listen to. I probably listen to about four or five, six a year or something like that. It takes me a long time because I don’t drive that much, and that’s the primary time I listened to but –
Lauren Martino: Or go to the dentist that much.
Barbara Shansby: Right. I’m thinking this. I’m finished with that for now. But I really do enjoy them. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to read more and to do it in a kind of a different way.
Lauren Martino: Thanks, Barbara. How about you, Vincent, what gets you into audiobooks?
Vincent Mui: So, at one of my previous jobs, I had a long commute, it was maybe an hour and a half in the afternoons, 45 minutes in the morning, and I was going a bit crazy listening to the radio because you can only handle so much of the same personality day in and day out.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: So, I started listening and then I go through phases between podcast, audiobooks, music, but more recently when I started at the library in June this year, I admittedly did not have a library card until I started because I didn’t see a reason to at the time, but now I see all the resources available to me. And my wife being a librarian gave me a really hard time about not having a library card to the –
Lauren Martino: As she should, yes.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: So I regret my decision, but I’ve been listening to many, many books over the past year and I’ve – it’s been incorporated into my routine actually. Besides my driving, I listen to it while I’m cooking or doing yard work or at the gym as well.
Lauren Martino: Just to clarify a little bit, Vincent’s a graphic designer so that’s why he can be excused for not having a library card; although, being married to a librarian, Vincent, really?
Vincent Mui: I found it very ironic.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, yeah, but we’re glad you have one now.
Vincent Mui: Yes.
Lauren Martino: You’ve discovered the lovely audiobooks available to you now. How about you, Maranda?
Maranda Schoppert: Well, I’m a little bit like Barbara. I don’t listen to music. I only listen to my audiobooks in the car, like you said, cooking, Vincent. I probably go for go through about 1 a week, depending on how long they are. I’m in the middle of a 32-hour one right now and that’s not going to be done in a week.
Vincent Mui: Goodness.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: But just like you guys, I sort of started with listening to audiobooks when I started commuting and that was it, I’m involved. Audiobooks and me, we’re involved now.
Lauren Martino: Where you’re a thing.
Maranda Schoppert: Yup.
Lauren Martino: So, Maranda, what are qualities that you look for in an audiobook? What makes it something you’re going to choose even if, oh, it’s 32 hours? Wow. Apparently, length is not a – not a matter to turn –
Maranda Schoppert: Nope. Life doesn’t deter me. I listen to the whole Outlander series on audio. And, goodness, that is a long one. For me, the performer is definitely the most important. They need to be able to bring the book to life without trying too hard.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: You know, there’s been a couple of audiobooks where you just, you know, that voice isn’t working. It isn’t working for you. But one of the important things also for me is sound quality. I have a really hard time when the volume in the audiobooks go up and down. The one I’m current currently listening to right now, I have to – depending on the narrator – I have to turn the volume up or turn the volume down. All of a sudden, someone’s screaming at me so –
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s no good.
Maranda Schoppert: No.
Lauren Martino: So, Vincent, what do you look for when choosing an audiobook?
Vincent Mui: When looking for an audiobook, the story is really important to me. In the beginning of the year – I’m sorry, the beginning of when I first started here, I was more focused on self-improvement, self-help books, but then I decided to change towards more sequential books where – oh, well, I’m sorry, like young adult novels. For example, I guess, the Percy Jackson series, I was listening to that because the storyline is more of very, I guess, kind of viscerally primal, like I have to save the world. It’s a lot of action base so it makes me feel good when the heroes finally saved the day at the end. And then the narrator will be kind of second there.
Lauren Martino: So the plot really drives before you.
Vincent Mui: Yes, the plot is the – that’s that – I guess, that’s how I describe it.
Lauren Martino: Would you say like go on kicks like, you know, okay, it’s time to read all the Percy Jackson books and then.
Vincent Mui: Preferably, I would like to listen to all the books in order. However, if a particular series is a bit heavy, I will have to switch back and forth. I like more lighthearted tone stuff. I was listening to also Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I’m on the fourth book now but I can’t listen to them in order because I’m pretty sure in every book so far, he’s gotten really close to death or beaten up horribly and –
Lauren Martino: And Percy Jackson doesn’t?
Vincent Mui: Well, not the way it’s – since it’s a young adult, it’s not as bad Jim Butcher –
Lauren Martino: Yeah, it’s lighter.
Vincent Mui: Yeah, it’s more adult-oriented, so there’s a lot more. He describes getting beat up very well and there’s a lot of it involved.
Lauren Martino: Realistically?
Vincent Mui: Yes. He’s constantly bruised, bleeding. But Percy Jackson, it’s more he got cut, he’s not doing really well. So there’s less, I guess, detail there but it’s just –
Lauren Martino: He’s making stupid comments about it.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. Yeah, I need to switch between a bit more lighthearted or I guess maybe because young adult stuff is – it doesn’t really go into describing rather just pacing and narrating the action going on and more action – yeah, there’s – they are doing more rather than describing what they are thinking what they are doing.
Lauren Martino: How about you, Barbara? What’s the deciding factor for you in choosing an audiobook?
Barbara Shansby: Well, I do try to – when I was thinking about the question I was like, “Oh, it’s a good writing. That’s what I’m really looking for,” but, you know, that’s – is that true? Probably not. And I didn’t realize until I heard you talking, Vincent, that I do the same thing. I switch around. So I really don’t like to read two mysteries in a row or two biographies in a row. So I guess that drives me a lot. And the other thing, which is I’m not entirely sure why I’m so obsessed about this, but I really only want new books to listen to.
Lauren Martino: New books?
Barbara Shansby: Yeah, new. I don’t know.
Lauren Martino: Like what you haven’t listened to before or like new –
Barbara Shansby: No. I mean, new after 2016 or something.
Lauren Martino: Really?
Barbara Shansby: When I pick it up, it says 2013, no, I can’t read it. I don’t know. I just – I feel like I have to know the hot new things even though, like, it doesn’t really matter but I do –
Lauren Martino: Like librarian pressure?
Barbara Shansby: Library – yes. You know, that’s it.
Lauren Martino: After ending up on the latest stuff?
Barbara Shansby: Exactly, exactly. If I don’t know the new things, I am just – it’s just this serious problem, so.
Lauren Martino: You know, I won’t tell anybody if you happen to find something from 2009 that you – really strikes your fancy.
Barbara Shansby: I worry.
Lauren Martino: Do any of you find yourself choosing audiobooks that you wouldn’t read in print or vice versa?
Barbara Shansby: Yeah, absolutely. I read – I listened to a lot of nonfiction. I hardly ever read it. I also listen to a lot more mysteries than I read. Again, I agree with Vincent that it’s easier to listen to something that’s a little bit lighter. It’s – I love a good thick book where that’s a bit heavy, although, I don’t read them all the time but I’ll sit down and read it. But to sit and listen, I’m not as willing to do that. And I have to say, I admire you, Maranda, because I also am not willing to take on those big fat ones. It just intimidates me. I’m just like, “No, I can’t do it.”
Maranda Schoppert: I generally don’t realize there that long until after I’ve already started and then it’s too late.
Lauren Martino: You’re already into it?
Maranda Schoppert: I’m a little bit different though. I normally – well, I’m a big fiction girl. For me, listening to the audiobooks, it’s mostly a matter of availability. If the book I want to read is not on the shelf but I can get it in audio or vice versa, that’s what I’ll do. If I’ve started a series in audio, I must finish it in audio. But the one genre that I don’t read that I will occasionally listen to is biographies.
Lauren Martino: Well, what is it about listening biography that makes it okay?
Maranda Schoppert: I actually will only listen to the biographies that are narrated by the person.
Lauren Martino: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: So, Anna Kendrick’s “Scrappy Little Nobody”. She narrated that one. Felicia Day, she narrated “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)”. Those were really entertaining and I don’t think they would have been done as well by an outside narrator.
Vincent Mui: I’ve only listened to one biography so far narrated by the author which is “Crazy is My Superpower” by A.J. Lee. I’m a wrestling –
Maranda Schoppert: What a great title.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. I’m a wrestling fan and her life is – she used to be a wrestler but she had to retire. However, just hearing it from them is much more personable and you can understand – you can understand the intricacies of it but you pick up on more intricacies on how they’re telling you. And there’s one part where I think she got very emotional and it kind of – you will not get that necessary from a narrator because it did not go through her life. So that’s why if I were to listen to more biographies, it would probably – I would prefer books narrated by the author.
Lauren Martino: So aside from biographies, do you guys prefer books narrated by the author or does it make a difference to you or –
Vincent Mui: I think you have to have a good voice because if it – there is another book I listened to called “The Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a great book but her voice I’m not fond of and I feel bad now that I’m saying it out loud. But it’s a great book so I was able to listen through it.
Maranda Schoppert: I don’t want an author to narrate my fiction.
Lauren Martino: No?
Maranda Schoppert: I’m not going to lie. I want the professionals to do it. I hate to say that but –
Barbara Shansby: Right. Yeah. I kind of agree. I think they’re usually better if an actor does them but I – just a month or two ago, I listened to Elizabeth Berg, The Story of Arthur Truluv and she narrated it herself, and I don’t know that she has any acting experience, and it was really lovely. She wasn’t the best narrator that I’ve ever listened to but it absolutely worked and it was really wonderful book.
Lauren Martino: I tend to exclude Neil Gaiman from any kind of – like Neil Gaiman can narrate anything, I’m sorry.
Barbara Shansby: Right, right. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: He’s got the duo tap [Phonetic] [0:12:33].
Maranda Schoppert: All right, she’s the exception.
Lauren Martino: He is the exception. He can –
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. What was that The Graveyard Book? Oh, my God, that was wonderful. Oh, that was so wonderful.
Lauren Martino: And Coraline, did you listen to Coraline?
Barbara Shansby: No. Coraline, I read and I really, really did not like it.
Lauren Martino: Really?
Barbara Shansby: So I bet if I had listened to it, it would have been a lot better.
Lauren Martino: The rat’s singing, it’s the scariest thing ever.
Barbara Shansby: I thought it was a pretty disturbing book.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Also Jason Reynolds, I think, did really well. Like he did – one of his – I think he did Ghost, which was – sorry – children’s librarian. But, yeah, that was a good one. Do you tend to prefer famous actors or do you think, you know, your standard, you know, “I’m a voice actor and that’s what I do” is better or adequate?
Maranda Schoppert: You know what? I will say it’s not 100% true because I love Edward Herrmann who – the grandfather on Gilmore Girls for –
Lauren Martino: Right, right, he – yeah. He’s very good.
Maranda Schoppert: He’s an actor and, yet, he did pass away late 2014 but he narrated The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken and he’s done a bunch of other non-fiction that’s really great.
Barbara Shansby: Yes, I’ve heard him too.
Maranda Schoppert: So I think it depends on the actor. There are some voice actors out there. My personal –
Barbara Shansby: Brendan Fraser.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Sorry
Maranda Schoppert: – that can’t do – you can’t, you know, just you need that body, you need that interaction between, you know, someone else. And then there are some actors that can do both.
Barbara Shansby: Well, I have to make a comment, which is that when I thought about this question, I realized how many times I love a narrator and then I look on the back of the CD case to see who it was and I’ve never heard of this person. And I read their credits and I would say about 90% of the time that person was in Law & Order. Why is that?
Maranda Schoppert: Everyone Law in Order.
Barbara Shansby: I just –
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Barbara Shansby: I don’t know why. It’s like is that a requirement for reading a book or I don’t know.
Maranda Schoppert: Writing a passage.
Vincent Mui: I –
Lauren Martino: That’s wild.
Barbara Shansby: Isn’t that funny?
Vincent Mui: Listening to the Dresden Files, I didn’t know James Marsters was on Buffy until I looked him up.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Vincent Mui: He’s played Spike. And then I looked up his age and then it made me realize how old I am because Buffy still feels new to me but it was over 10 years ago at this point.
Lauren Martino: I hate to tell you.
Vincent Mui: But his voice is perfect for the main character and people actually complained when he switched one of the books he did not narrate and people were very – kind of angry about him not being, because you need that consistent voice and did a great job.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: I was also pleasantly surprised when I was reading – listening to Ready Player One and Will Wheaton is the narrator, and that made perfect sense.
Lauren Martino: Oh yeah.
Vincent Mui: On top of that, there’s a joke in there about Will Wheaton and I’m just chuckling to myself. I’m thinking, “What?” I wonder what he’s feeling right now reading that part.
Barbara Shansby: Now, I have to listen to that one. I read it but now I have to listen to it.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. He did Redshirts too. Are you familiar with Redshirts?
Vincent Mui: No, I’m not.
Lauren Martino: It’s basically – it’s this book long, like, making fun of Star Trek.
Maranda Schoppert: Oh, wow.
Vincent Mui: That’s great.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. And it – but it’s like Will Wheaton was the perfect, perfect choice. I mean, he’s got this kind of second career. It’s like he’s not really an actor anymore, he’s kind of a personality and – but I think audiobook narration works well.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. He’s really had a second resurgence in terms of fame with his board gaming stuff and also his podcasting as well.
Lauren Martino: Have you ever had to give up a book entirely after listening to some of it because the narrator was so grating.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: I definitely have.
Barbara Shansby: I am very picky. I mean, I think I’m really picky about reading in general. I pick up a book or read a chapter, I’m like, “No, I don’t – it doesn’t – it’s not doing it for me.” But audiobooks I think it’s even harder because you have to like the voice, you have to like – you have to find it captivating. I will sometimes listen to like three minutes of something and just pop it out and take it back, start over.
Maranda Schoppert: Not me. No.
Lauren Martino: No?
Maranda Schoppert: If I start a book, if I start an audiobook, as torturous as it is, I will finish it.
Barbara Shansby: Really?
Maranda Schoppert: The only book I have ever not finished after I started was Moby Dick.
Barbara Shansby: Wow.
Maranda Schoppert: And, yes, it gets painful.
Lauren Martino: You’re stuck with it that long, huh.
Maranda Schoppert: You are, especially if you’re not into – if it’s a boring audiobook and you have a boring narrator, I mean –
Barbara Shansby: There’s no saving to that.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. I kind of just find myself spacing out in the car a little bit while I’m listening.
Vincent Mui: I had one book. The only time I had to stop was because the narrator was narrating an evil character. His voice got so creepy. I personally got very uncomfortable and I had to stop and I’m not going to name the book just because I was so crept out by his voice.
Maranda Schoppert: Will you tell me later?
Vincent Mui: Yes, I can tell you that later.
Lauren Martino: Can we put it on the show notes?
Vincent Mui: I don’t remember – I don’t know if the library actually has it.
Lauren Martino: Okay, I mean –
Vincent Mui: Yeah, that’s why I didn’t want to bring it up.
Lauren Martino: Oh, okay. But, yeah, that one is too good.
Maranda Schoppert: I love creepy.
Lauren Martino: She had you on for a horror episode. So, Barbara, can you tell us a little bit about MCPL’s resources for audiobooks. What do we have available for just ways of delivering audiobooks to people?
Barbara Shansby: You can get CD books. We have a lot available from many years past. We have them in – we have adult books, fiction and nonfiction, as we said. We have children’s books. We have books for young adults. We also have a series that I wanted to mention, The Teaching Company does courses that are on CD that you can check out and those are really interesting to listen to. We also have a lot of ebook – e-audiobooks available through a few of our – excuse me, digital subscriptions. You can get them through OverDrive, The Maryland Library Consortium. You can get them from a new subscription that we have called RBdigital. They can be downloaded or listen to remotely. All right, and also they do have, again, fiction, nonfiction, adult, children, teen books, all kinds of resources.
Maranda Schoppert: Other resources that the library has for audio or different resources like Project Gutenberg. You can listen to free audiobooks on there. They have a collection. There’s also a couple of different ones on there. Tumble Books for kids. You can listen to different languages.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, I forgot about that. That’s a great resource.
Lauren Martino: So you mentioned Tumble Books. Can you tell us a little bit more about that resource?
Maranda Schoppert: Tumble Books is geared toward the kids. Basically, they’re – it’s animated ebooks that you can check out on the computers that kids can, you know, follow along with the story as well as listen to it. Plus, you might see a little bunny jumping on the screen depending on the book. So it’s really a way to get at the kids in all different directions. You can – they’re reading, they’re watching, they’re doing the screen time, they’re also listening. So you’re sort of helping them get with their literacy, you know, get that early literacy in there in a way that this generation of children can really relate to, I think.
Barbara Shansby: It’s kind of like Reading Rainbow for today’s kids.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah, definitely. That’s a good – that’s a good one.
Lauren Martino: And my daughter suddenly got into Reading Rainbow, it makes me so happy. I got the old episodes on Amazon. She’s like, “Can we read it again?” I’m like, “Yes. Yes, we can, darling.”
Narrator: And now a brief message about MCPL Services and Resources.
Female Narrator: Hey, if you’re not doing anything Saturday night, June 9th, come and listen to an award-winning author talk about his inspiring work. Ethiopian American author, Dinaw Mengestu will speak about his novel “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears”, about an Ethiopian immigrant who runs a failing convenience store in Washington D.C. This book is the pick for the 2018 Big Read Montgomery sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts. The event will be held Saturday June 9th at 7:30 at the Silver Spring Library. You must register online. You can find more information about this event in this episode’s show notes.
Narrator: Now back to our program.
Lauren Martino: So we all agree audiobooks are amazing. Are there any downsides to listening to something on audiobook or any reason you’d avoid audiobook versus like the print version of something?
Vincent Mui: So, my main disadvantage with audiobooks is that I would get into them too much. I was listening to – I don’t remember what portion it was but it was something funny and I was at the gym and there was a heavyweight over me and it almost – I could have hurt myself seriously because I started laughing in the gym and I had to really put the weight down. And when you’re lifting higher weights, it’s a little bit dangerous. And I – actually, I had two incidents where the weight fell on me. I rolled it off when I was bench pressing.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, no.
Vincent Mui: I was fine. It just I had to be more aware. Maybe I should not listen to something funny while I’m lifting something heavy over my head.
Lauren Martino: Do you think there’s – I’m sorry. That’s not funny. You’re –
Vincent Mui: No, no it is funny. I love telling the story. Audiobooks can seriously injure you.
Barbara Shansby: Right. Beware.
Lauren Martino: Is there anything you wanted to talk about the evils and dangers of audiobooks, Barbara?
Barbara Shansby: Well, it can’t match –
Lauren Martino: Corrupted youth.
Barbara Shansby: Absolutely, it can’t match Vincent’s story, but I was just going to say that I realized that when you’re listening to a book, you’re listening to every word; whereas, when you read a book, you can just skip over certain things. So, sometimes they’ll have a list of whatever. And in an audiobook, they have to read every single thing on the list.
Lauren Martino: Oh, gosh.
Barbara Shansby: Right? If you were sitting there in your chair at home with the actual book, you would just turn the pages. About two weeks ago, I was listening to a book called Seven Days of Us, which was really fun and it was written as a series of letters and emails and notes and – so, every email that was in the book she read – the narrator read out the entire address. Mary underscore Wilson at, you know, Maryland dot Library dot U.S. dot – like, I’m like what?
Lauren Martino: Just glance at it and not even paying that much attention, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: So that was kind of annoying but it was a good enough book that I kept listening.
Maranda Schoppert: You do sometimes miss out on certain things unless you look at the accompanying material. A lot of audiobooks will have, check out this PDF afterwards. So like Dan Brown’s Origin, same thing, you’re missing all these kind of like symbol images and whatnot, part of the symbolism of the story that you either have to go back and look in the book or see if they have that, you know, PDF copy in – with it.
Lauren Martino: That’s kind of like the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” audios, I’ve never actually listened to one but I’m like, “Why? Why?” Or, yeah, I think I listen to a Stephen Hawking book once like the Brief History of Time and it’s like, “I need a diagram for this. I do not understand what’s going on.”
Barbara Shansby: Well, I don’t know. I listen to Curious Incident of a Dog which apparently had a lot of illustrations and I thought it was fantastic, amazing on audio, and I loved it. And I didn’t miss those illustrations or whatever or diagrams that they included in the book but I didn’t care, you know. I had a different experience.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, sometimes a narrator is good enough to make up for it. All right, so here’s your chance, gush about any favorite audiobooks, any favorite narrators, anything that sticks out in your mind as memorable.
Maranda Schoppert: Well, I’m going to gush about a book for a second. But first, I will say that one of my favorite narrators is Fiona Hardingham. She does a lot of Y.A. Sometimes I don’t even know it’s her until the end and I’m like, “That’s why I love this book. It’s Fiona Hardingham.”
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: She narrates some Maggie Stiefvater, Sabaa Tahir “An Ember in the Ashes”, Sophie Kingsley, Kiersten White. And she just had such a diverse voice. I mean, you go to – you go and look at her bio, she’s got pages and pages of audiobooks that she does. Primarily Y.A., so she does a really good job with that. But I’m going to gush over Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It’s one of my favorite books and I think it’s more for the plot rather than the narrator. The narrator has a very thick accent that was really hard to get over in the beginning, but then I’m like – I probably listened to this audiobook like three times already, so – and I’ve read the book twice. So, there are definitely are some that you can just, “It’s different every time you listen to it.”
Lauren Martino: Sometimes the plot just takes over and you don’t care what the – right – what the narrator sounds like.
Maranda Schoppert: Yup. Absolutely.
Lauren Martino: How about you, Vincent?
Vincent Mui: I just want to give a shout out to the narrator of the Percy Jackson series only because there’s a Pegasus in the book and he tries to talk like a horse.
Lauren Martino: That’s awesome.
Vincent Mui: I think that’s what caused me to almost hurt myself at the gym now that I think about it, because he talked like Mister Ed and I had to give him props, like the effort. He actually went to create a new character voice for him. I was very – that was a great moment for me.
Lauren Martino: So you’re not discriminating against the horse characters?
Vincent Mui: Nope.
Lauren Martino: I love it.
Barbara Shansby: Okay. So I have to say when I started listening to audiobooks, there were probably about 20 actors who read – who consistently read books, and so everybody have their favorites, and now it’s wonderful because I don’t even know who I like. I just listen to the book. There are so many different readers but I do have a weakness for British accents, so any –
Vincent Mui: I think everybody does.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. Any book that’s takes place in England or whatever, that’s a good book. And I guess three that I really, really enjoyed were among my most memorable. I listen to the sequel to Peter Pan called Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean and it was so much fun on audio. I really loved it. And then I went back and listened to the original Peter Pan just to –
Lauren Martino: Jim Dale?
Barbara Shansby: And that’s Jim Dale.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Which, I mean, he was amazing on Harry Potter but I think I got a little tired of him somehow but it was totally different. Peter Pan was terrific. And then the other audiobook that I really want to mention because it was just so much fun was Martin Short did an autobiography called I Must Say and he sang on it and he tells his stories that are so funny. Actually, I started listening to it and then I decided it was too funny I have to save it for a trip so my husband can listen to it too.
Lauren Martino: Oh, for when you’re weightlifting.
Barbara Shansby: And then for my weightlifting, so I get it. I just loved it. And that’s – also Steve Martin did an autobiography.
Lauren Martino: Oh, boy.
Barbara Shansby: Right. Which again so funny, with another one that I listen to with my husband on a long trip.
Lauren Martino: Was he playing the banjo.
Barbara Shansby: I don’t think he did.
Lauren Martino: No?
Barbara Shansby: Maybe at the beginning, maybe the entrance. So, and now I’m listening to a book, although that’s going to be your last question what book are you listening to, right? I’m listening to a book about a lady’s choir, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and they have some choir singing for a few of the hymns that they talk about, so that’s pretty neat.
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s cool.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. I remember listening to a book about Marian Anderson and I’m just like, “You got to put –” like, it’s probably in the public domain, Marian Anderson. You could probably have stuck her in there.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: So I know some people feel very, very strongly about a single narrator versus full cast. Where do you guys stand on that?
Maranda Schoppert: I prefer a single narrator. It’s not the end of the world if there are multiple narrators but I just think a good narrator can achieve the same thing by doing it by themselves rather than having a cast of narrators. I don’t know. That’s just me. I’m also not a big fan of having sound effects in my audiobooks.
Vincent Mui: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: For children’s books, yes, because I think that helps.
Barbara Shansby: Sure, why not.
Maranda Schoppert: But I want the narrator to be entirely on the narrator, but that’s just – that’s just me.
Lauren Martino: It can be distracting.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah. It can be a little distracting and I almost find – sometimes find it a little cheesy. Like, you know, the drums are beating and then you hear drums in the background and you’re like, “Really? Like, okay.”
Lauren Martino: I could have inferred that.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: I don’t think I’ve listened to any audiobooks with more than one narrator. However, I do like narrators that have a lot of range, particularly if it’s – if they’re narrating the main character and then women, if there’s – some of them can do a good female voice, some of them can’t.
Barbara Shansby: Not so much.
Vincent Mui: And I do actually appreciate some music in the background but very subtle. I think I was listening to the Thrawn novel and he would have ambient space noise, which really suited the – oh, actually, now that I think about it, there were laser blasts but it’s a Star Wars novel, so I was okay with it. But his range was really good in terms of engrossing me into the book.
Barbara Shansby: Yes. So, I was thinking that that’s another thing that maybe has changed somewhat over time. Seems to me when I started listening to audiobooks, it was more likely to be a full cast kind of thing with different narrators. And I think it just depends on the book for me, sometimes that’s – that enriches the experience. I listened to, what’s it called, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and they had different readers for the different characters and it was really good. And then I was just thinking that I have listened to a book like that in a long time and this one that I’m – this Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a cast and it has different characters narrated by different actors and it’s great. So, but I think the trend is much, much more to a single narrator. And I kind of agree with Maranda on the whole, if you asked me which I prefer, usually that’s kind of makes it more like the reading experience, it’s a little bit more seamless.
Lauren Martino: So we’ve heard what Barbara’s reading. Vincent What are you reading right now or listening to that you’d like to talk to us about.
Vincent Mui: I am actually listening to the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and it’s very different because it’s – the target demographic for the Divergent series is young women. So the writing style is different and there’s a lot more description about physical closeness.
Maranda Schoppert: Huh.
Vincent Mui: And –
Lauren Martino: That’s a teen book for you.
Vincent Mui: Yes. It’s a teen book but gears toward young women. So I’m having a bit of trouble because I feel awkward listening to her describe a kiss or her physical closeness to the male character that she is attracted to and I get a little uncomfortable a bit. I was with my wife in the car on our way back from New York City. I drive back and forth occasionally and I like to listen to audiobooks. I started – she – I don’t think she tolerated me very well because of my reactions to listening to the scenes of, yeah, I don’t – yeah, that’s –
Barbara Shansby: Were you giggling?
Vincent Mui: No, I was – I was more like, “Are you serious?” How many times do I have to listen to her describe, like, feeling electric or shivering or her heart beating, pounding through her ears, and it’s just – I got uncomfortable because the protagonist is 16.
Lauren Martino: Oh, God.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Like, hon, you’re too young.
Vincent Mui: I am twice her age and a guy and married and it’s just – I can’t relate. I just wanted more of the action but –
Lauren Martino: You should probably not listen to Twilight.
Vincent Mui: Oh, no, no, not even going to – hmm.
Maranda Schoppert: Well, Vincent, you might like listening to what the series I’m currently listening to. I’m listening to the fourth and I will say hopefully final book in the Red Rising series, Iron Gold, by Pierce Brown. The first three books are fantastic and the third book actually I was completely like the ending ended perfectly, there should not be a fourth book but there is a fourth book and so far it’s okay. It’s one of those 23 plus hour ones though.
Vincent Mui: Oh, goodness.
Barbara Shansby: Wow.
Maranda Schoppert: But it’s definitely got a lot of action. There are some, you know, basically like lightsabers type of fighting with these – yeah.
Vincent Mui: Oh, okay, I’m down for this.
Maranda Schoppert: And it takes place through space and everything like that, so that one’s got a lot of action and it’s actually an example of one with multiple narrators that, like, I’m kind of like, “Hmm,” because the first three books only had one narrator.
Vincent Mui: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: And now this fourth one has three.
Vincent Mui: Yeah, that’s a bit jarring when the narrator changes in the middle of a series because they say things slightly different.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: So, the Percy Jackson series had one narrator then the Heroes of Olympus, which came afterwards, was a different narrator and he was saying their names differently.
Maranda Schoppert: Oh, gosh, drives me crazy.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: And I was – and I was screaming in my mind saying, “You’re not seeing it right. The other guy didn’t say it this way. Why are you saying it that way?” I got over it eventually.
Maranda Schoppert: Or like sometimes when you read a book and then it’s so good you decide you listen to it but the way you said the characters names in your head is not the way the narrator says it and you’re like, “Oh, man. Either you’re like I’m wrong or you’re mad because it should be a different way.”
Barbara Shansby: Right, right. That happened to me with that Alexander McCall Smith, his #1 Ladies which I read as a book and then I listened to one of them, the mysteries and I wasn’t even close to getting the names of any of these African people. But I really was glad to hear how they’re supposed to sound.
Lauren Martino: Well, thank you so much for joining us, Barbara, Vincent, and Maranda. And thank you for listening to our podcast and taking time out of your busy audiobook’ listening schedule to listen to our podcast. Make sure to put whatever you like on hold because people will be asking for it all summer long as they are getting ready for vacation, so we wish you a very happy listening on any drive or – you may be taking or while mowing the lawn. And please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please rate us on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Summary: Audiobook enthusiasts and MCPL staff members Vincent Mui, Maranda Schoppert, and Barbara Shansby share their love for audiobooks; talk about the advantages, disadvantages, and hazards of audiobooks; and recommend titles that will be music to your ears.
Recording Date: May 9, 2018
Host: Lauren Martino
Featured MCPL Resource: Award-winning author and MacArthur Foundation Fellow Dinaw Mengestu will speak about the inspiration for his book The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears and his experiences as an Ethiopian immigrant. Silver Spring Library, Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 7:30 PM. Registration required.
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Books Mentioned During this Episode:
#1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Narrated by Lisette Lecat.
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. Narrated by Steve Martin.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. Narrated by Michael Jackson.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Narrated by Neil Gaiman.
Crazy Is My Superpower by A.J. Mendez. Narrated by A.J. Mendez.
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon. Narrated by Jeff Woodman.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo.
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. Narrated by Gretchen Rubin.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Narrated by Guy Lockard.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Narrated by Neil Gaiman.
I Must Say by Martin Short. Narrated by Martin Short.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Narrated by Rob Inglis.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Narrators vary.
My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Narrated by an ensemble cast.
Origin by Dan Brown. Narrated by Paul Michael.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series) by Rick Riordan. Narrated by Jesse Bernstein.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Narrators vary.
Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean. Narrated by Tim Curry.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Narrated by Will Wheaton.
Redshirts by John Scalzi. Narrated by Will Wheaton.
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick. Narrated by Anna Kendrick.
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak. Narrated by Jilly Bond.
Thrawn by Timothy Zahn. Narrated by Marc Thompson.
Uprooted by Naomi Novak. Narrated by Julia Emelin.
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. Narrated by Felicia Day.
Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Popular American supernatural television series which featured noted audiobook narrator James Marsters as Spike.
The Great Courses by The Teaching Company: A popular series of academic lectures in audio or video format covering a vast array of topics, from Victorian Britain to Cybersecurity.
Law & Order: Popular American police procedural that anecdotally has featured many people who have also narrated audiobooks.
Project Gutenberg: A vast collection of free ebooks and audiobooks. The audiobooks are mostly out-of-copyright titles read by volunteers.
Reading Rainbow: A PBS educational television series that ran from 1983 to 2006. Each episode focused on a topic from a book or children's literature and included reading recommendations.
Tumblebooks: An online collection of animated, talking picture books. Includes story books, chapter books, nonfiction, videos, and more.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I’m Julie Dina.
David Payne: And in today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about Summer Read and Learn 2018. The summer period is, for those of us who work in public libraries, without a doubt, the busiest time of the year. And while summer reading has changed in the way it’s organized, the way it’s done over the years, the overall aim is still very much the same of stimulating and encouraging reading. And talking about MCPL’s upcoming Summer Read and Learn Program, we have two guests today, first of all, Christine Freeman. Welcome, Christine.
Christine Freeman: Hi, thank you.
David Payne: Christine is the Manager of the Noyes branch as well as the Early Literacy and Children Services Manager as well. So thank you for taking time in your undoubtedly busy schedule to be with us.
Christine Freeman: I’m glad to be here.
David Payne: And joining us today as well, we have a voice you may well recognize if you’re a regular listener, that of Lauren Martino, our head of Children’s Services at the Silver Spring Branch.
Lauren Martino: Hi, David. Thanks for having me.
David Payne: And if you’re confused, don’t be. Lauren is, as you may well know, usually found in the hosts chair. She’s now in the guest chair. I will know if you’re really confused if you start asking me questions about something. Anyway, welcome, Lauren.
Lauren Martino: Thanks David.
David Payne: So let’s start with our first question and let me start with Christine. Tell us about yourself, your role as MCPL’s Early Literacy and Children’s Services Manager.
Christine Freeman: So my name is Christine Freeman. I was previously the – I’m head of Services and Children Services at Noyes Library and I’m the Branch Manager of Noyes Library. As the Early Literacy and Children’s Services Program Manager, my responsibilities include all of our reading programs, which include Summer Read and Learn and 1000 Books before Kindergarten. And don’t forget you can sign up for both of them at the same time if your children are under fives. Summer Read and Learn is going to be a lot of fun this year. The theme is Libraries Rock because we do.
And we have lots of fun programs that feature actual rocks and rock music. So there’s something for everyone. We have game boards for the kids. You can log things online. It’s just fantastic. We also have game boards for even little kids for zero to five. We have early literacy and game, so we won’t need the little ones out this year. And children’s, we have six to 12, and then of course our teens, we don’t want to forget them, they are 13 to 17.
David Payne: And Lauren, and your role as Head of Children’s at Silver Spring, tell us a bit about your department how you’re preparing for summer reading.
Lauren Martino: Oh, gosh. We’re doing what we can. Right now we are contacting all of the schools and, well, I’ve contacted them and now I’m following them, getting back to the ones that haven’t gotten back into me just to make sure we visit all the schools and get the word out. We are coordinating volunteers to help us out because this is a big undertaking. I know a lot of people, I guess you come to the library and you see all of these faces but so many – we’ve got so many volunteers that help out every year, teens that come out of the woodwork ready to help. We are just getting our materials organized.
I feel like I’ve got like battle plans drawn up in my office, kind of my organizational software out there, it’s color coded. Yeah. So this is – and just getting everybody on board, just making sure all the staff members know like this is what you do. And we have so many like subs that come through Silver Springs. So it’s like not only the people that are here all the time, the people that, you know, may not be here all the time.
David Payne: Do you find with each year that you do it, you have more of it nailed down?
Lauren Martino: I do. I do. This has been – let’s see, this is year number – this is the fourth year I’ve been doing this as the person in charge of a branch or a – not a branch but a department, so, yeah, slowly, I’m getting, you know, the first year I was like, “You want me to do what? What? We never did this. What are you doing?” But, yeah, we’re getting better and just as, you know, we have a place to put everything now. That first year, we were open at Silver Spring. It was like we’re carrying all our summer reading materials around in bags, like, it was just, you know, anytime you open a new branch, it’s like you can figure out what you’re doing. But, yeah, we got that all down this year. I think it’s going to be a good year.
David Payne: Great.
Julie Dina: Yay.
Christine Freeman: I do think too that since the last past couple of years, we’re trying to make it easier for customers and more simple of a program for staff so that is more fun and easier too.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. And I think it has gotten a lot better. Yeah, I think we’re getting in the groove of it.
Julie Dina: So with all of this excitement, you know, and I – not only staff is excited but I bet the kids who are going to be participating are also excited, when exactly does the summer reading program begin and end?
Christine Freeman: It begins on June 9th and we will go all through the summer up until September 9th, so there’s plenty of time to get it finished. So everybody should complete their summer reading challenge this year.
Lauren Martino: Yes, don’t just start, complete everybody. You can do it.
Julie Dina: Is there anyone who doesn’t?
Christine Freeman: Just a few. We’re working on that this year. We’re working on that this year.
Julie Dina: Now, another question that I wanted to ask is why exactly is it important for kids to read over the summer.
Lauren Martino: Well, there’s been a lot of talk about this phenomenon called the Summer Slide where some research suggests that kids that don’t read over the summer especially lower-income kids, kids that are kind of disadvantaged in general can actually start the next school year a month behind where they stopped. So imagine going to school in September and you’re, you know, a seventh grader who’s, you know, gotten through school in April instead of May and some people suggest that this is actually cumulative so, you know, you lose one month one year and then you lose another month the next year and, you know, you can see how you’d go through and be almost a year behind at the end of your schooling.
This has come under some scrutiny there are people that suggest that, you know, studies say different things. I’ve seen a lot of people that suggest too. It’s like, “Well, if you’re forgetting it or if you’ve really learned it –” like library programs in general and just reading for fun in general really focuses kids on doing stuff that’s fun, it’s learning but it’s fun and that fun is going to make whatever they learn stick in their brains that much better. So anything that they would have learned that, you know, is just going to slide off of them because they’ve learned it for the test because, gosh, I know that was like for college career, you know, but you’ve read it. It’s like, you know, what you get from reading the entire Captain Underpants series? You know, seriously, you know, it’s, you know, and the parents will come in and it’s like, “I don’t want my kids reading that trash.” And, you know, there’s, you know, something going to be said for expanding horizons and –
David Payne: They’re reading, that’s the main point, yeah, yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, but, you know, it’s like the quantity really makes a difference. When you’re reading a lot of stuff, and kids read a lot of stuff and they’re reading stuff that’s fun, so we’re really just out to get kids to look at that and to try some of this stuff out. And we’ve got other activities that we’re going – that we’re encouraging kids to do through this program, things like make a pet rock or, let’s see, read a book that takes place in another country. They’re going to, you know, ask them to expand those horizons a little bit. But we will count any book in place of any of these activities. So if you want to read all the Captain Underpants, you know, you can – that’s your program, you know. We will count that. Do you have anything to add, Christine?
Christine Freeman: I just said a lot of the activities that we have on our boards are not only to keep the kids engaged but also to have families and kids engaged together. So like one of them is listen to a grown-up favorite song. So you have to ask your grown-up what is your favorite song and then you can listen to it together, then you can talk about it, maybe do a little dance. So just –
Lauren Martino: Karaoke.
Christine Freeman: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Christine Freeman: Just mashed potatoes twist, I’m not sure.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Christine Freeman: So it’s just getting parents and kids to do things together instead of just sitting on the couch watching TV but actually doing activities together, I think.
Julie Dina: I like the sound of that.
David Payne: Sounds good.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
David Payne: Yeah. So each summer reading program every year has a different theme. And perhaps, you can tell us, Christine, a bit about this year’s Summer Read and Learn theme and what kinds of events that we have lined up that tie-in with that theme.
Christine Freeman: So this year’s theme is Libraries Rock and that’s for all of our age groups. And I think the most exciting program we’re going to have is going to be our dance parties and we’re going to have them all across the county and libraries throughout the system. And those dance parties, we have a bubble machine, we have some colored lights to fastened on the ceiling.
Lauren Martino: I’m so excited when I read about that. It’s going to be awesome.
Christine Freeman: We have some day-glow bracelets for the kids. We’re going to have a photo op so the kids will could then become just as the favorite rock star or music musician or they can just come with some crazy hair, and we’re going to have photo opportunities for them to take pictures and hopefully tag us on Instagram or Facebook. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun this year. I’m excited for our theme.
David Payne: That’s great. And, Lauren, how are you preparing for Libraries Rock?
Lauren Martino: Libraries Rock. Oh, I got this one program that we’re really excited about called Video Games at the Symphony. We actually have this group called The Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra coming and presenting this event where they’re going to, you know, talk about video game music a little bit, which is, you know, a thing. This is a thing. People create this gorgeous music for video games. And then, you know, they’re going to perform and then the kids get to play with the instruments, which I’ve kind of been wanting to do something like that forever and then, you know, this kind of fell into our laps like, yeah, yeah, we’ll do this.
Somebody that actually listened to the CD that came with my Wii that’s like nothing but Zelda Music. And, yeah, my daughter like just starts dancing to it. I’m like, “Yeah, this is good music.” So we’re really excited about that. Let’s see, we’ve got a clown coming for our kickoff June 9th. Everybody, I think just about all the libraries are doing some sort of kickoff event or some sort of open house event, so we’re really hoping people will come out for that.
David Payne: Sounds exciting.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Christine Freeman: Yeah. That should be good. We also have that program at Rockville as well.
Lauren Martino: Oh, the gamer program, yes.
David Payne: So, Christine, did you come up with a theme? How do you arrive at with this theme?
Christine Freeman: So the theme was selected by the CSLP, which is a Collaborative Summer Library Program, that’s a nationwide program that libraries use for themes. And they have graphics that we can use. They have activities we can use, booklist, that type of thing. But this year I think it’s going to be really fun to incorporate music and rocks into our program.
Lauren Martino: I love the summer reading theme where it’s like, you know, dig into reading or it’s like, archeology or construction or you get someone to play with it.
Christine Freeman: Yeah, archeology.
David Payne: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
David Payne: Great, thank you. And so do they come up with the theme sort of year by year or do they have a sort of five-year plan of –
Christine Freeman: They do you think ahead and next year will be type of a space theme. It’s being blogged at the moment.
Lauren Martino: I’m excited with that.
David Payne: Interesting. Okay.
Christine Freeman: I think that’ll be a lot of fun.
David Payne: Correct.
Christine Freeman: But they do think ahead of time. They actually will get this I think from the moment it stops, they start up again. Basically, the same as we do here at Montgomery County.
David Payne: Great.
Christine Freeman: We take like a two-week break and then start up again for next year.
David Payne: Right, it never ends, yeah, yeah.
Christine Freeman: It’s ongoing.
Julie Dina: I know you mentioned the dance parties earlier, will that be at all of MCPL branches or only specific ones?
Christine Freeman: It won’t be at all of them but it will be at the majority of them. So you can check our ongoing calendar on our website and that will tell you all the dance parties will be located or you can check your branch specifically and look for the dance parties or ask your librarian and they’ll be happy to tell you.
Julie Dina: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Lisa Navidi: Summer may mean vacations, beaches, travel, and sunscreen. But at MCPL, it also means summer reading. Whether you and your family are on the beach, on your porch or in a plane, we have a reading list tailored to your child’s age and grade, and a special list just for adults. You can find a link to our reading lists in this episodes show notes.
Julie Dina: Now back to our program.
David Payne: So one of the important parts important, important elements of summer readings are always the programming that goes along with it. And I think animal programs are probably some of the most popular ones that we find. As in past years, can we expect animal programs throughout the MCPL system? And how can we find out when and where?
Christine Freeman: Yes. We will actually have Glen Echo Park Aquarium. They do Touch the Sea Programs throughout and we have different themes. Like one of them will be sharks, so they’ll probably have a baby shark, love it. They bring live animals out in an aquarium and they had this really cool microscope that they can project that up to the wall so everybody gets to see even if they’re a little bit in the back. And then at the end, usually less people walk by and they can get a close-up look of the animals. But he breaks it down and makes it very interactive with the children and the adults and it’s learning as well as having fun.
Lauren Martino: See, we’ve got a number of other programs going on around the system as a – see, we’ve got Nature on Wheels presenting “Raptors!” on June 7th at Rockville. We’ve got a program called Reptile Rangers going on in the Maggie Nightingale Library on Saturday June 23rd. And the Maryland Zoo is presenting a number of programs as well. They’re going to Kensington on July 28th and they’ll also be at Germantown on August 22nd, presenting amazing adaptations.
Julie Dina: So it’s to no surprise that the Montgomery County Public Library runs a great summer reading program. However, I will like for you, either of you, to tell us some of the challenges that you actually come across in running a great program.
Lauren Martino: Wrapping your head around everything that is to happen? Yeah, it’s a lot. I found having really good volunteers on-hand helps a lot. Let’s see, just making sure everybody knows what’s going on. I work at a very, very big branch. I don’t know, this is probably a different challenge than maybe what Noyes, for example, faces with, you know, three people. But just making sure everybody knows what’s going on and what to do and where everything is located and things like that. Just also that in the libraries, which is super busy during the summer anyway.
Julie Dina: I imagine.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, I just – I always forget just how exhausting summer is but it’s all worth it, it’s all worth it. You see kids that you don’t see as much during the year and they’ve got big smiles on their faces and they’re just so excited. And when they come in and they’ve gotten their prize, you know, it’s like, yeah, that makes it all worth it.
Christine Freeman: I think for me in planning the program, the challenge I find is finding prizes that everybody will like. So this year, this year –
Lauren Martino: This year.
Christine Freeman: – we have a big treasure chest and it’s going to have all kinds of prizes in it. So I’m sure that you can find something you like. And some of those things will be recorders. There’ll be mustache whistles. They’ll be, for the little ones, Play-Doh. There’ll go charts for the little ones. I’m trying to think of all the cool stuff that’s in there. But lots of music type things, blow-up guitars, everybody wants a blow-up guitar.
Lauren Martino: I really want to see those book parts at our dance parties. I’ve seen them.
Christine Freeman: Yeah. We have bandanas -- bandanas that are decorated for our theme, Libraries Rock. So I think the good thing is the kids can choose a prize that they like, and hopefully that will encourage them to keep it over the summer because the more they read, the more prizes they get.
Lauren Martino: I’m also digging these like Rockstar themed rubber duckies. Yeah.
David Payne: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Oh gosh. And these are ribbons to dance with.
Christine Freeman: The dance ribbons are fun.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Christine Freeman: And we have the sticks.
Lauren Martino: The didgeridoo type of sticks?
Christine Freeman: The groan sticks.
Lauren Martino: Oh, so the groan.
Christine Freeman: So you turn them upside down and they go, "Rrrawn!" and then you put all handful of them together.
Lauren Martino: Hey, kids, take this down to the fourth floor where the grownups are all studying.
Christine Freeman: You can use the kazoos to wake up your parents in the morning.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Christine Freeman: Lots of fun stuff in the treasure chest.
David Payne: Yeah. Yeah.
Christine Freeman: And for the teens, we have cool stuff too and they live in a teen prize bag, not a treasure chest, a teen prize bag.
Lauren Martino: Oh.
David Payne: Oh.
Christine Freeman: And in there, we have like fidgets, we have some coloring pencils and color books. We have PopSockets for phones, we have ear buds that type of things.
Julie Dina: Teens always love that.
Christine Freeman: Yeah. They get to pick something cool also.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. We felt really old around them just like, “What does this PopSockets thing we’re giving out?” No, it’s cute. And I noticed them on every teen’s phone, like, cool, you guys are way ahead of us.
David Payne: Some great prizes there. So, now, I’m going to put you on the spot a bit and ask both of you, if you had a choice, who would be your dream Summer Read and Learn performer?
Lauren Martino: We can choose anybody?
David Payne: Yes, absolutely anyone.
Lauren Martino: Oh, gosh. I love Laurie Berkner or Jim Gill. We just went to a workshop with him.
Julie Dina: Jim Gill.
Lauren Martino: Oh, my gosh, I want Jim Gill. Jim Gill, if you’re listening, I love your workshop the other day.
Christine Freeman: Do you want to see librarians fan girl?
Lauren Martino: Oh, my God. Oh, yeah, yeah, no, we saw it. We saw it. Some girl brought her ukulele to be signed at this workshop and I’m like, “Oh, I should have brought mine” Oh, my goodness. I should have brought my banjo.
Julie Dina: Should have brought everything.
Lauren Martino: I should have brought – oh, gosh, I could have him signed everything.
Christine Freeman: He is amazing.
Lauren Martino: He is amazing. Just somebody who really – it started off like in special – he was doing like family playtime like in college, just working with kids with special needs and then he got a Master’s in Education. You know, he is a fun musician. But he just gets kids and he gets what’s he needs to do. He gets it, so, okay.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Christine Freeman: And everything he does so looks so well with every child ready to read because he is all about play and he is all about seeing, he is all about reading, he is all about writing. So it’s just – it works so well.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Although you know –
Christine Freeman: We'll stop fan girling, really.
Lauren Martino: And fan girl. Oh, I don’t know. So Damascus is having milkshake, I think that would be pretty awesome too you know. And Jacks Are Wild, you know, you know, some of these dream programs that I would like to have at my branch or happening at other branches this year. So, go out and take advantage, guys. It’s like, yeah, I feel like – I had a co-worker the other day who was like, “Jacks Are Wild. Let’s get them, let’s get them.” And we can get them for our branch. But Gaithersburg has them June 16th, so.
David Payne: Maybe next year.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Oh, gosh.
Julie Dina: It’ll be your turn.
Lauren Martino: Christine, if you’re scheduling. That’s what we want.
Christine Freeman: And we have some other great performers. We have Eric Energy. We have Groovy Nate. We’re going to have just many, many performers, too many to name, all over the system. And if you miss them at One Library, check out calendar because more than likely, they will be in another library during the summer. You can always ask our librarians, they can help you. Look at all calendar and see if they’re available at the library.
Julie Dina: So while we’re on that same topic, is there a specific picture book or chapter book you wish every kid could read over the summer?
Lauren Martino: I was thinking about this last night. Picture book, I have to go with Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. I’m sorry if I’m slaughtering her name. But, yeah, it’s about this little boy and it’s just he goes up, climbs that – he gets to that diving board and he’s in front of the line and then he’s next in line and then he’s, you know, a couple of people back in line because he’s perfecting his technique. He is, you know, thinking really hard about the way he wants to jump down this diving board and, you know, basically, you know, he’s conquering his fear of going up on the diving board.
and his dad and his sister there and they’re cheering him on and they’re, you know, walking him through this whole process of fear and, you know, it’s like, “Okay, you don’t need to be afraid, that’s all right, you know, this is how you deal with it,” and it just was really moving to me especially since as a kid during the summer I had an experience like that. Like, I got to the top of the diving board and like stopped and, you know, waited like for five minutes, I couldn’t jump while the rest of the people are like – so this happens. And, I mean, gosh, this is about like a seven-year old. I think I was like 13 at the time, you know, so it happens. And it was just – it’s just – it’s surreal and just something that we all face and just beautifully drawn and just, you know, sun-washed. It’s like this is what a pool, you know, this is the color, this is the pool midsummer.
Julie Dina: Christine?
Christine Freeman: For textbooks, I’m going to go old school and go with Watson’s Go To Birmingham. It’s one of my favorites, it’s just classic. I love it because it’s about a real family. And even here’s tragedy in the book, there’s like laughter and there’s just a family being a family. And I think everybody can relate to some parts of this book. And it’s historical fiction, which I think kids don’t normally go to unless to do an assignment. But once they start reading this book, they’ll forget that it’s historical fiction book because they’ll just relate so much to the family, I believe.
Lauren Martino: Well, you just have to start that first chapter where he’s got his tongue stuck to the mirror of the car. I think that’s enough to sell it.
Christine Freeman: So in his books, his – Christopher Paul Curtis’s books are so great for listening to on audio. I know I listen to Bud, Not Buddy on audio. And the people in the car had listened to it because I was listening to it and I could hear my kids laughing in the back, like they were getting into it even though I thought they were sleeping, so it’s –
Lauren Martino: Isn’t it nice?
Christine Freeman: Yeah. It was – it was great to listen to it aloud.
Lauren Martino: I got to have those audio books for car trips.
Christine Freeman: Yes, for sure.
Lauren Martino: Also put down Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Garcia Williams. And I had to think about this. I feel like, “Oh, yeah, it’s the third book in the series. That’s my favorite.”
Christine Freeman: Oh, yeah, it’s the third book. I only have the first book.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, I feel like they get better because I enjoyed the first one and then I enjoyed the second one even more. And by the third one, I’m like, “This is the best one.” But, yeah, so, like, three girls and I – it gets – it’s sort of, you know, like Watsons Go to Birmingham. They’re in the Deep South for the summer. They’re from up north, they’re Black, it’s, you know, but they’re with their family. And, you know, kind of gradually realize their family, you know, goes back a ways to the fact that, you know, you got the family, the Black family over here. And, you know, they’ve got family that was like plantation owners. You got this guy over here, he’s a member the Ku Klux Klan and he’s still a part of their family.
you know, it’s like it’s really complicated, like look into family relationships and, you know, what does it mean to be family. But, yeah, and – but the three sisters are just so real, like, they love each other, they’re going to be there for each other but they are going to annoy the heck out of each other on the way. And something happens in the middle of the book, I don’t want to spoil it or anything but, like, just blindsides you, like to the point where it’s like, I don’t know how this book’s going to end, you know, nothing – I can’t take, you know, I’m not taking anything for granted at this point. So, yeah, I think it’s the best, you know, read the whole series, please. But if you don’t read any of the other ones, read Gone Crazy in Alabama.
Christine Freeman: You’ve convinced me. I’m going to go get it.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Yeah. You know –
Christine Freeman: I’ll try – I got the first one. I know there’s a second and third, so I’m going to go check them out today.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, PSPL love it and it’s good. Yes. And the audiobooks are quite good.
Julie Dina: How many books are there in this series?
Lauren Martino: There are three.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. And the first one is like, “We spend the summer with mom who’s in California and she’s a Black Panther.”
Christine Freeman: Which is in Oakland, close to my hometown.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah, okay.
Christine Freeman: So, that’s why I was interested in the first one but –
Lauren Martino: But, yeah, it’s, you know, all the historical stuff and also, you know, I’m going to annoy the heck out of my sisters because they’re annoying me back. Oh, yeah.
David Payne: Well, reading this is always very helpful in terms of connecting readers to books. Will MCPL be providing reading lists for all ages? And how can parents find new books for their kids to read?
Lauren Martino: Well, when you’re signing up for summer reading, you’re also signing up for something called Beanstack. And, so, automatically, you’ve got something built in right there. You can – there’s a box that you check or leave unchecked that will send recommendations right to your email for kids that are your kids’ age. So that’s a good way. We’ve also got lists on our website. And I think most of the branches have lists available of just lists that our librarians have put together for each grade because I know parents come in and they’re like, “Oh, where are the first grade books?” or “Where the fifth grade books?”
it’s hard if you don’t know, you know, how to choose a book for, you know, how old your child is, and we get that. And for, you know, fairness reasons, we don’t categorize stuff by age. You know, I’ve seen libraries that did this and I actually was – had a pile of books with these ages written on them and had a group full of kids and they’re like, “I can’t read this book. It’s a fifth grade book, I’m a 6th grader,” you know, and that’s what, you know, you’re trying to avoid because, you know, there’s plenty of books that work for fifth graders and sixth graders and fourth graders. You know, the lists are kind of good that way because there’s a range.
So for each grade, there are some that are easier and some that are harder. So there’s something on it that’s going to work for your kid. And, also, you know, ask your librarian. People don’t think about it. But, you know, and they always act like they’re bothering us, you’re not bothering us. Just ask us, we are happy, we are – I’m shelving books there or, you know, putting stuff on display just waiting for you to ask me a question. So, please, ask me and I’m happy to find a book that’s going to be great for your child.
Christine Freeman: Yeah. And we do have to restate that parents can print them from home, they’re available in our website. If you’re interested, you can print them at home also. We can go to our library and ask the librarians to print them out for you.
David Payne: So, listen, just ask a librarian.
Julie Dina: And I’ll be asking you this question. What would be your favorite summer reading memory from childhood or with your own kids?
Lauren Martino: I have to say I don’t think we’ve participated much with summer reading as a kid. I do remember being a volunteer in signing people up and I just felt so important and, like, this weigh of this responsibility they were trusting me with all the stuff. And, you know, they just, you know, they put me in my place and they just kind of went off and did their thing and, you know, here I am, signing kids up for summer reading. You know, I didn’t realize that then that I’d be, you know, doing this my whole life.
But, yeah, I’ve got a four-year old at home and, you know, we’ve been working on some of them but – and I want to encourage people to consider this, you know, like, your summer is busy, you may not always have time to do all these stuff, but if you have parents that get to take your kids for any length of time, grandparents love to do this stuff with the kids. So, you know, we want you to spend time with your kids and we want you to have these experiences, these enriching experience. But, you know, you can share them with grandma, you can share them with uncles and aunts and cousins. Yeah, you can share the wealth, and it’s a really great experience for everybody.
Christine Freeman: And I think for me, I remember my son, I was a library page, so I’m responsible for putting books on the shelf, and I would take my son to work with me and I would make him put the picture books away because they were the easiest and that way I didn’t have to do it. And then afterwards, he would –
Lauren Martino: Nice. Smart.
Christine Freeman: Afterwards, he would go and he would do the summer reading game, and he loved it because they had, like, a little spinner. So if you completed so many, you got to do the spinner and get a price. So he really enjoyed doing that when he go to the library with me.
Lauren Martino: Great memories.
David Payne: So we always close our episodes by asking the guests what they’re reading now. So let me ask, let’s start with you, Christine, what’s in your bookshelf right now?
Christine Freeman: Right now, I’m reading travel guides to England because I’ve been traveling there and I’m trying to make a plan. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. So lots of travel guides live on my shelf right now. I’m also reading Matt de la Pena’s We Were Here. I’m a bit halfway through it. I picked it up because the setup was done in Stockton and I relocated from Stockton so that’s why I went and had picked that up. So that’s what I’m reading right now. Nonfiction and fiction, which is unusual for me because I usually don’t read nonfiction.
Lauren Martino: I am slugging my way through this book in French. I actually read it in English and I saw the movie and I really liked it in English and then the – and the movie. It’s called the Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It is, I believe, the only book I know of that’s been dictated entirely with eye blinks because –
David Payne: Right. It was very, very unusual.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. The author, he was like chief editor, I believe, of Elle in France for a while and he had, like, a stroke or something and ended up, like, with locked-in syndrome. So he basically can’t move –
David Payne: Couldn’t communicate.
Lauren Martino: Couldn’t move, he can winked one eye because his other eyes is closed. He can wink one eye, he can’t talk, he can’t sign, he can’t do anything but he can blink one eye. So, they developed this system of, like, they’d read the alphabet out and in an order in which, you know, just by the frequency they occur in French and he would blink an eye when he got to the right letter. So it’s spell out word by word what he wanted to say. And, yeah, and he wrote a book this way.
Christine Freeman: That amazing.
Lauren Martino: I know. It’s incredible.
David Payne: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: And he’s also super well-educated and as you know, you know, French is not my first language, you know. I’m just like, “Vocabulary, vocabulary.” Yeah. I had the same problem with the Elegance of the Hedgehog and, like, so, you know, it’s taking me awhile. But the book in the English was very good. And the movie – there’s a movie too that’s incredible that they made on the same subject, so.
David Payne: I can see you’ll be busy with that for a while.
Lauren Martino: Yes. I’m almost to the end, you know. So, you know, I keep thinking like, you know, it’s taking me awhile to read, you know, how long did it take him to write? I can’t complain.
Christine Freeman: Right.
Julie Dina: So many blinks until you finish?
Lauren Martino: Okay. Luckily, I don’t have to blink. Yeah. But it’s just about, you know, he’s talking a little bit about the hospital, you know, and you just, you know, the intricacies of, you know, people coming to visit him and how they feel and how he feels and just –
David Payne: Incredible story. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, it’s an incredible story. And he told them little snippets and, like, he composed this, he memorized everything like he, you know, spend hours, you know, alone in his room, in his bed like memorizing what he wanted to say until he could get somebody that would dictate for him and then he would just let it all out. So it’s in like little chapters, like little bits at a time, but just fascinating.
Julie Dina: You’ve guys have wowed us.
David Payne: You sold us on summer reading.
Julie Dina: Yes. You really have been. I want to thank you, Christine and Lauren, for all the wonderful information you’ve given us this afternoon. Let’s keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple Podcast app. Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast. We love to know what you think. Thank you for listening for our conversation today and see you next time.