• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Sharing their favorite books from today, yesterday

WRITTEN BY MARGUERITE HENRY and illustrated by Wesley Dennis, Album of Horses inspired Cindy Alvarado-Yeary to pursue a passion for art. She shares her love for creativity by teaching a variety of art classes at the Midway Branch Library. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

It has been more than a decade since John Crawford read Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters, and yet he vividly remembers Mark Dunn's story as "quite clever and funny." This easy-to-read story about a girl living on a fictional island, where certain letters are banned from use, gets into some serious issues, including freedom of expression and censorship, while also being described as a linguistic delight for word lovers. "Letters are the tools that create our words, and the words are the expression of our thoughts - and so when we lose these . letters and our ability to create words it does impact our ability to really live in a thoughtful world," says Crawford, assistant director of the Woodford County Public Library. He and some of his coworkers talked about their favorite books in the days leading up to the Summer Reading Kickoff Party at both library branches on Saturday afternoon, May 20, at 4. Library Director Karen Kasacavage says she began to explore other stories written by author J.D. Salinger after reading The Catcher in the Rye in high school. A collection of his short stories - Nine Stories - soon became her go-to favorite. "Read them, love them and I actually keep a copy in my home," where she'll occasionally read a short story to reacquaint herself with Salinger's writing and his perspective on the world, which continue to fascinate her. "Style of writing is very important to me," says Kasacavage, "and I just think his sarcasm and wittiness is . just below the surface. You've got to dig a little, but it's good." The Poisonwood Bible remains Stacy Thurman's favorite read. The Midway branch manager describes this novel by Kentucky author Barbara Kingsolver as "a very powerful book in an almost haunting way. And it's told from different perspectives," which she says makes this suspenseful tale "very dynamic, interesting." Like many other prolific readers, library assistant Anne Van Willigen says, "My favorite book is whichever book I can't put down at the moment." So she already knows Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic "won't be my favorite book forever." But she enjoyed this fascinating work of nonfiction by journalist Sam Quinones because of her appreciation for popular nonfiction. "If I'm learning something I enjoy it," says Van Willigen. "But it has to be light enough to pull me in so I can pick it up, put it down - read a chapter at a time when I've got a moment." Cindy Alvarado-Yeary, a library assistant at the Midway Branch Library, says Album of Horses became her favorite book after she received a hardbound copy of a book from her mom when she was a third-grader. Written by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Wesley Dennis, Album of Horses inspired her to pursue a passion for art. Dennis and other illustrators, including C. W. Anderson, became her childhood heroes "and I always wanted to be like them when I grew up," remembers Alvardo-Yeary. "So I have continued that love of drawing animals and painting them (especially horses and dogs) all of my life." She now shares that passion for creativity by teaching a variety of art classes at the Midway branch Library. Gone with the Wind has been Naomi Laufenburger's all-time favorite story since the library assistant first read Margaret Mitchell's novel in sixth-grade. It's still the only book this Midway University graduate has ever read twice. "I love historical fiction. I love period pieces. And that is one that just grabs me," says Laufenburger. "I think it's a classic. It's amazingly well done." Jen Dunham also gets into historical fiction. She's currently immersed in book five of the Outlander series - listening to the audio book version of those stories while doing her Zen Doodle artwork for an upcoming show at the main branch of the Woodford County Library. The library assistant will also teach a Zen Doodle class this summer. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has always resonated with library assistant Geri Isaacs. She and her son read the story together on their back porch a few summers ago. As always happens, there were things that Isaacs discovered in Mark Twain's literary classic that didn't stay with her from previous adventures with Huck Finn. Crawford doesn't know if he would - or could - appreciate The Catcher in the Rye like he did as a teenager, but in high school he remembers relating to Holden Caulfield and his "dismissive-ness of everybody else and everything else. For some reason that (attitude) struck a chord and I don't think I'm alone in that," Crawford says. The Catcher in the Rye was one of the first books that he really enjoyed reading in high school "so it impacted me in that way too," he says. Youth Services Librarian Becky Munoz and Assistant Youth Services Librarian Bookie Wilson cannot remember a time in their lives when they did not love reading books. Dozens of books have been meaningful to Munoz, but Little House in the Big Woods was especially relatable to her as a young child. She - like Laura Ingalls Wilder - grew up in a log cabin in the woods. So she read all of Laura's stories "over and over again." She watched the television version, too, but says "the books are much better." Looking back on her childhood, Wilson always loved reading A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. "It was the first book that really took me out of my life," she says. Reading that fairytale about a child who was banished to a cold room in the attic was sometimes frightening, but Wilson always knew she could "close the book" and eat dinner with her mom and dad in room warmed by their fireplace. B.J. Novak's The Book with No Pictures has become one of Wilson's favorite children's books. Because there are no pictures, she says, "words can be really funny . It is very, very funny." Another "laugh out loud" children's story - actually a series of books - delves into the friendship of Elephant & Piggie. Thurman appreciates these stories by Mo Willems because each one explores important life lessons. With a young son under 2, Crawford has rediscovered children's stories and picture books, including two new favorites: The Day the Crayons Quit and Dragons Love Tacos. The library's assistant director says he can't stop laughing whenever he reads one of those stories to his son, Sam. Kasacavage still appreciates children's books too, particularly Rollo Bones: Canine Hypnotist, which she says will "remind you of every dog you've ever owned . You should read it. Come check it out."

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