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Give yourself a summer reading challenge

By Jenny Hubbard

Rowan Public Library

You may have heard about Great American Reads, the PBS-sponsored challenge to pin down America’s favorite book, which will be announced in November of this year. We of Book Bites, the reading club of Rowan Public Library, have chosen this opportunity to revisit, over the summer, three classic novels from our childhoods: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Little Women.”

All three of these semi-autobiographical stories feature spirited girls. Our June book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” introduces us to 1912 tenement living and Francie Nolan, age 11, a poor Catholic girl with big dreams. Coming of age in the shadow of her alcoholic father and over-burdened mother, Francie clings to education as a way out of a vicious cycle, though she loves her neighborhood and her family with a fierce and abiding love.

Many of today’s fiction writers cite Betty Smith’s 1943 book as inspiration, and I for one am delighted that it found its way on the PBS list.

For July, in the spirit of independence, we Book Biters wave our flag for a book that’s not on that list but should be: “Little House on the Prairie,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. If you donned a calico bonnet for the bus ride to school and carried your lunch in a tin pail, your geeky enthusiasm will be validated as soon as you reread “Little House.”

Nearly 100 years old now, Ingalls’s books for children stand up brilliantly to the test of time. And if you can’t get enough of them, follow up with this adult companion piece, “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” the recent Pulitzer-Prize winner by Caroline Fraser. It’s riveting.

In August, Book Bites moves from little houses to “Little Women.” I suppose we could slide into the dog days and watch the new and highly acclaimed PBS adaptation instead, but reading the actual words by Louisa May Alcott will afford us the opportunity to measure our skills as literary critics.

As a girl, I adored Jo March, Alcott’s alter ego, but I fear that I will now view the whole book as less than perfection. Will I be the only one who finds it overly sentimental? Are Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy fully-rounded characters or stereotypes? When the novel was published in 1869, was it a cry for women’s rights or did it merely affirm the patriarchal order?

I look forward to answering these questions with the other members of Book Bites. Come and return to your youth with us: we welcome you with open books and open arms. We will likely continue in the autumn to pull from Great American Reads, though rest assured we will not choose “Fifty Shades of Grey,” one of the 100 on list. If it wins that big prize in November, my English-teacher heart will surely die a tiny death.

Book Bites, free and open to all, meets the last Tuesday of the month from 6-7 p.m. at Frank T. Tadlock South Rowan Regional, 920 Kimball Road, in China Grove. Call 704-216-7727 for more information.

Summer Reading: Registration is open for all age groups, children, teen and adults. Consult your nearest branch for details. Headquarters, 704-216-8228; East, 704-216-7838; South 704-216-7727. Weekly programs will begin June 11.

School age Summer Reading: A Walk in the Woods Woods is an environmental education company dedicated to sparking curiosity in children through traveling, museum-based science programs. Programs include live animals, displays and hands-on artifacts that will teach children about different habitats. While the program is designed for rising first- through fifth-graders, all ages are welcome; an adult must accompany children under 9. Tuesday, South, 2 p.m.; Wednesday, East, 2 p.m.; Thursday, Cleveland Town Hall, 10 a.m.; Thursday, headquarters, 2 p.m.

Don’t forget the Lyrics! Teens will compete in a fast-paced, high-stakes music quiz show that combines “Jeopardy” with “The Singing Bee.” Monday, East, 3:30 p.m.; Tuesday, headquarters, 3:30 p.m.; Thursday, South, 3:30 p.m.

Adult line dancing: Join longtime dance instructor Donna Weinhold for a fun evening of line dancing. All experience levels are welcome – from first-timers to experts. Refreshments will be served. East, 6:30 p.m., Tuesday.

Ramble Through Rowan: On Tuesday mornings at 10, an episode of the “Ramble Through Rowan” films will be shown at Rufty-Holmes Senior Center, 1120 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. S. in Salisbury. There will be exhibit and discussion time after each screening. Series ends June 19. Open to the public.

Summer Reading Film Series: “Mary Poppins,”(G, 1964, 139 minutes) Monday, East, 5:30 p.m. In turn-of-the-century London, a magical nanny employs music and adventure with two neglected children.   All ages welcome, but an adult must accompany children under 9.

• “High School Musical,” (G, 2006, 98 minutes) Tuesday, headquarters, 6:30 p.m. Two teens who are worlds apart meet at a karaoke contest. All ages welcome, but an adult must accompany children under 9.

• “Coco,” (PG, 2016, 105 minutes) June 16, South, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Aspiring musician Miguel enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer. All ages welcome, but an adult must accompany children under 9.

Displays: Headquarters, PBS’ Great American Read by RPL; East, Summer Reading Promotional; South, Rowan Dolls Society.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

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