January 31, 2004
A year ago, Leslie DeLooze just wanted to get people excited about picking up a good book.
But she had no idea that the selection for the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project would continue to be a popular selection with library patrons even months after author Leif Enger visited. Nor did she expect that the tome would prove more popular among library patrons than the latest Harry Potter story.
That success appears to be continuing with the second edition of “A Tale for Three Counties.” For the last several weeks, readers have been picking up this year’s book, Howard Frank Mosher’s Northern Borders.
“Many readers have already let us know how much they have enjoyed the book and that they want to read other books he’s written,” said DeLooze, the reference and community services librarian at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, who spearheaded the “Tale” project.
Beginning Monday, readers can share their thoughts about Mosher’s book at the first of a dozen book discussions scheduled in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties leading up to Mosher’s visit at the end of March.
Northern Borders is a nostalgic look at life in northern Vermont’s fictional Kingdom County in the dozen years after World War II, when Austen Kittredge III was raised by his Egypt-obsessed grandmother and outdoors-loving, secretive grandfather.
An adult Austen recalls the constant, often hilarious battles between his grandparents, escapades at the county fair and the goings on at the annual family reunion and Shakespeare performance.
The Adult Reading Group at Community Free Library, 86 Public Square, Holley, will open the discussions beginning at 7 p.m. Monday. Parking is available in the new lot directly behind the library.
The group, which has met regularly for many years, “jumped at the chance to participate in a discussion like this,” library director Claire Franek said.
“They’ve been really enthusiastic about this book,” she said. “It’s well written and easy to read.”
The goal of “A Tale for Three Counties” is to again connect people in the community to the shared experience of literature. This year’s “Tale” has expanded its program to include movie screenings and a review contest in which winners will have lunch with Mosher. The author visits March 25 to 27 for programs in all three counties.
“We have a core group of readers that recognize the project,” DeLooze said, “now we hope it can be expanded.”
Organizers would like to see more participation from teen-age readers.
“Teens often don’t choose reading because there are so many other activities trying to get their attention,” DeLooze said. “We hope they choose to do this because it’s fun to be able to discuss a book and get a younger person’s perspective. It’s an unknown era to most teens and they may think the story is about issues that they aren’t familiar with, but there are a lot of situations that they will recognize.”
Northern Borders appealed to “Tale” organizers because it covered such varied topics as small town living, family relationships, and generational differences, and included a touch of the outdoors.
“He writes interesting characters and explores universal themes,” DeLooze said. “Grandparents raising grandchildren is not something new. The situations may be different today, but the feelings are still the same.”
Local libraries are stocking extra copies of the book for loan or purchase. They will also have buttons that patrons can wear to identify their participation in the project, possibly prompting impromptu discussions in supermarket checkouts on post office lines.
“We want to get people excited about not only reading this book, but others by him,” said Sue Border, director of Woodward Memorial Library in Le Roy. “We’re introducing an author to our readers that they probably wouldn’t pick up on in any other way.”
Last year, more than a 1,000 people took part in some aspect of the project, based on book circulation numbers and attendance at discussions and author visits. More than 300 people attended Enger’s talks in Batavia, Medina and Perry.
Peace Like a River, Enger’s first novel, was checked out more than 400 times at Richmond Memorial Library — “an enormous number,” said DeLooze, noting that the blockbuster Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone went out 319 times.
There were other discoveries as well, DeLooze said.
“Several libraries instituted book discussion programs as a result of this and others gained new members because of the program,” she said. “The exciting thing was to see our expectations exceeded.”
Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation