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Books to take you away to a vacation retreat

They say April showers bring May flowers, but I am quite certain that March just brings the doldrums. I’ve collected an armful of books that will take you away to warmer climates and vacation retreats.

One of last year’s highly-lauded novels is “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan, about three generations of the Kelleher family that come together at their family’s beach front cottage one summer. There is swimming and frolicking, of course, but also regretting and reminiscing among the grandmother, mothers and daughters. Complex and moving, this book is for you if you like a bit of weight in your “beach read.”

“Canary Island Song” by Robin Jones Gunn takes place in the Spanish subtropical islands off of western Africa. Seven years after her beloved husband’s death, Carolyn is convinced by her grown daughter that she needs to move on with her own life, and takes the opportunity to escape to her mother’s home on the islands. As she begins to relax and recover, she meets the man who was her teenage summer romance. Carolyn must decide if she will take another chance with her heart after all these years.

The balmy summer of Texas is the setting for “Dandelion Summer” by Lisa Wingate. Sixteen-year-old Epiphany Salerno is hired to stay with widower Norman Alvord in the afternoons, much to Norman’s chagrin. An unexpected friendship blossoms between the two, which changes their outlook on life, and uncovers long-hidden family secrets.

For a bit of quirky storytelling and an unusual protagonist, check out “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell, another favorite from 2011. Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree’s family owns a gator-wrestling theme park on the edge of collapse. Her mother has just died, and her father has disappeared to suffer his loss alone. Ava’s older siblings have their own issues to distract them, so she is left to take care of 98 alligators in the Everglades while dealing with her own devastating grief. This adult novel deftly handles the inner thoughts of a girl on the edge of womanhood, while putting her in strange circumstances that are nevertheless believable.

Finally, if you would like an easy, breezy way of learning some intriguing history of the last state in the Union, you can’t miss “Unfamiliar Fishes” by Sarah Vowell. The author uses her signature dry wit and love of all things strangely American to tell the history of the Hawaiian Islands during the period from the first appearance of missionaries to the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani by the descendants of those missionaries. Vowell argues that one can understand the current state of the United States’ foreign policy if viewed through the lens of the events in Hawaii. She writes so beautifully of the lush landscapes and rocky shores, the reader can almost hear the tune of the classic song written by the last queen herself,” Aloha ‘Oe” in the warm breeze.

If you’d rather gaze longingly at photographs of delicate petals and lush greenery, perhaps one of our gardening magazines would be appropriate. We subscribe to “Birds and Blooms,” “Mother Earth News,” “Northern Gardener” and “Organic Gardening.” We also have a great collection of books on using the space you have to make a flower or vegetable garden that produces fragrant and delicious results.

We have had three new people sign up for the library’s customized At Home Service, so they will be receiving books and more right to their door by a friendly volunteer! If you would like to join this great program, just call Laurel at 829-5574.

Our spring schedule of programs has some wonderful options for adults and children alike. Tuesday, March 20, at 3:30 p.m., the library is hosting a Minnesota History Player portraying Virginia Mae Hope, a pilot in World War II and a member of the Women Air Force Service Pilots. This will be a fun and educational afternoon for the whole family.

If you and your grandchildren have Finnish ancestry, you’ll want to be sure to come to our event with Cheryl Sawyer, a Finnish storyteller, balloonist, and magician. She will share many stories, including the Three Bears in the Finnish language. The show begins at 3:30 p.m. on April 11 at the library.

Kids in grades five through eight have a great opportunity to learn from a teacher from the renowned Deep Portage Learning Center right here at the library on Tuesdays in April starting at 3:30 p.m. “Time Travel, Minnesota Style” will use interactive stories and games to engage students in the history of our great state, including fur trading, logging camps, and early settlers. They will also get a chance to think about what the future might hold for us. Call the library to sign up for any or all four classes.

The library’s major event of the season is the Crow Wing County Genealogy Conference, to be held May 5 from 1-4:30 p.m. at the Lodge at Brainerd Lakes in Baxter. Three family history experts will present on topics such as internet research techniques, collecting oral histories, and solving genealogical mysteries using indirect evidence. In addition, local non-profit groups involved in local and family history will have booths with information about the services and resources they provide. Genealogists of all skill levels will be sure to learn something new. Pre-registration is required for this free event; call the library at 829-5574 to sign up.

LAUREL M. HALL is the senior outreach coordinator for Kitchigami Regional Library System.