Monday, December 21, 2009

Caroline by Willo Davis

Caroline Hoxie. I remember reading this book in high school and loving it. Fortunately, re-reading it in my thirties (early, but still) didn't ruin the memories. When I was a teenager, I was entranced by the romance and old west themes. (I'll admit that I was a huge Young Riders fan at the time as well.) As an adult, I appreciated Caroline's growth more.

Caroline starts off as a rather spoiled teen aged girl. Her older brothers have decided to work the gold fields in California, and she wants to go with them. They tell her no, that the journey would be too dangerous for a girl.

Caroline, believing that she can handle anything a boy can, decides to disguise herself as a boy and follow them. This was perhaps the most painful part of the book for me. Caroline knows that communication between California and Michigan is sporadic at best, and that she will likely never see her father or grandmothers again. But she just takes off, leaving them a note to be found in the morning. I would have loved to have seen their reaction. I'm honestly surprised that they didn't send someone after her.

Now Caroline might have been raised alongside her brothers, and she may be able to perform many of the same tasks as they, but we find that she has been somewhat sheltered in her upbringing. She took off on this trip with little planning, and no idea of the dangers her brothers referred to when they decided not to take her with them. Caroline had expected hard work, she had not expected the attitudes of others on the trail. She met some nice folks, but she also met some real creeps. Some criminally so. It's at this point she realizes the real dangers that her brothers warned about.

Caroline makes it to Independence, MO- the jumping off point, and realizes that it is going to be next to impossible to find her brothers. She has to remain in her disguise and try to find her own way to California.

It's at this point she meets Dan Riddle. Dan first saved Caroline when she was about to be beat up by a group of adolescent boys. Later they meet at a dance- Dan was there as Dan while Caroline had been convinced to dress up as a girl for the occasion. In essence she was a girl disguised as a boy, who was disguised as a girl- very Victor/Victoria. Later they met again (Caroline back in her boy clothes) when Dan hired her to help him keep inventory- the person previously hired had lied about his qualifications and needed to be let go.

So Dan and Caroline share a long, stressful trip on the wagon train. They share in the back breaking work, uncomfortable conditions, and close quarters from Missouri to California. I suppose during something like that, you either kill each other or fall in love. Caroline chose to fall in love, something a bit more complicated as she still needed to maintain her disguise as a boy- and alternative lifestyles were less accepted in 1850.

Eventually Dan figures out that something's up, but he doesn't say anything to Caroline. It honestly is safer for her to be a boy on the wagon train. I do wonder what was going through his head when he thought Caroline was male though. Was he in denial, questioning his sexual orientation, or what? It could have been a whole different story through his eyes.

It all comes to a head when Caroline discovers gold. She finally admits to being a girl, he tells her he's known for awhile, and they agree to get married. Other sub-plots are resolved about this time as well, but honestly all I cared about was that Caroline and Dan were getting their happily ever after.

My favorite thing about this book is Caroline's character growth. She caught some luck breaks and she knew it. The whole journey could have turned out a lot differently, and by differently I mean tragically. She left home with the expectation that the trip would be easy and that her brothers would take care of her. She arrived in California a lot more self-sufficient- but not anachronistically so. She still had the expectation that Dan would take care of her, but she also knew that she could take care of him. She was a lot more prepared for the realities of married life and the hardships that they could face and win.

All in all, it was a great read fifteen years ago, and remains a great read today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas at the Capitol

As you are aware, Operation Military Kids has a tree up at the Capitol Building this year. This Saturday was decorating day. I can't thank enough all the people that came out to help- I'm just sorry I don't remember everyone's name! For anyone that decorates a Capitol tree in the future, let me tell you that you really don't need a lot of people. In fact, you have room for maybe four or five to fit comfortably. There just isn't a lot of room- especially with other people trying to decorate at the same time.

With all the people, it really didn't take long at all to decorate- we were there for maybe 90 minutes. I even helped out with the lights (very little help) after I had sworn I wasn't going to. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be- for some reason it always looked like doing the lights was the most complicated part of tree decorating. Of course, having three people to do it, may have helped.

I think the tree came out very well. I've posted pictures to my flickr stream. You'll notice that we are right next to the Governor's office. I really like the decorations- a special shout out goes to the Sioux Falls MEPS, Mrs. Benz's class at JFK Elementary, and the Rapid City FRG. You guys rock!!! There were more people that made ornaments- but those happen to be the groups that I personally know about. I'd also like to thank the Pierre American Legion- they donated ornaments, the tree skirt, AND helped decorate!

Tonight is the grand tree lighting. I might go, might not. I have a feeling that I might enjoy the trees more without the crowds and speeches. But on the other hand, I would be able to tell my family that I've finally seen the Governor!

All in all, this was a good experience. Definitely something to try for again next year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shelf Discovery Challenge

The Shelf Discovery Challenge will run for six months (November 1, 2009 - April 30, 2010). To join me in this challenge, all you need to do is grab a copy of SHELF DISCOVERY and pick out what six books you want to read (of course, you can read more than six!) Then, after you read a book, just write a "book report" to share your thoughts with others!

I found this challenge on Booking Mama. It gives me the perfect excuse to find and re-read old favorites! (I was going to do this anyway, but the challenge makes it more purposeful.)

One of the reasons I want to do this: when I was reading some of the essays, Lizzie mentioned details and plot points that I just don't remember!

Anyway, my six books will be:

Caroline by Willo Davis Roberts
The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green

I've read all but the last two before. I was half-way tempted to put down Jacob Have I Loved or Bridge to Terebithia, but they came with cry warnings.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend Reading

I'm so excited! In the last two weekends I finished two books! I haven't been able to read like that in forever.

The best was Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics that We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick. I can't say that I had read every one of the books mentioned, but I will admit to a good portion.

Some of the books included were no-brainers. If you're going to write about young adult literature of the '70s- to late 80's time period, you're going to include Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Madeline L'Engle. However, there were some books mentioned that I was sure I was the only one that had ever read them. Caroline, The Great Brain, The Ghost Belonged to Me, and All of a Kind Family just to name a few.

There were other books that I felt could have been mentioned too. Anything by Gordon Korman, anything by Betty Miles, and Sport by Louise Fitzhugh (my favorite of all the Harriet the Spy books).

While not all of the essays were all that substantial, they did whet my appetite for more. Now that I've read this book, I'm going back to my youth. I've already got Caroline on interlibrary loan, and I'll be checking out The Cat Ate My Gymsuit shortly- along with every other Paula Danziger.

This is definitely the book to read- especially if you want to add about ten more titles to you list. Not only do I have to revisit old favorites, now I have to check out all the ones I missed the first time around!

The other book I read was Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts). Yet another in the long line of In Death books. It was definitely entertaining, and I did enjoy it. This book seemed to focus on Eve and Rourke- to some extent Peabody as well. I didn't notice as much interaction with the established secondary characters this time around. Not that that's a bad thing- in real life you don't see your best friend every day after all. I will admit to expecting more character development, and soon. I'm expecting that the next book will take us more into Eve's past- at some point we're going to have to learn more about her mother. I think the set up for that was in this book.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day and Capitol Christmas Trees

I'm a part of South Dakota's Operation Military Kids team. OMK is a group affiliated with the U.S. Army, dedicated to supporting children and youth affected by deployment. This year the OMK team has gotten a Christmas tree at the Capitol building. The project head will be in Surinam (very jealous, I love travel- especially international travel) during the decorating portion of this project. As one of the few team members in Pierre, I've agreed to coordinate the decorating.

This is pretty ambitious for someone that has gone YEARS without decorating for the holidays. Seriously, I have a Charlie Brown tree and I've never dealt with Christmas lights. Now, you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with Veteran's Day.

Because the tree needs to be decorated on November 21 and 22, we are working hard to gather enough ornaments. Based on the size of our tree, we'll need at least 200.

As a way of gathering more ornaments, OMK had a table at the recent Veteran's Day Family Fun Fair at Riggs High School. The ornament themes for our tree is patriotic/stars. Since I didn't see anyone else planning any craft projects, I went ahead and decided to do God's Eyes with the kids. This project was chosen on the basis that the supplies were fairly cheap and easy to get, construction doesn't take more than 15-20 minutes, and there's no paint, glue, or glitter- things that would make the results messy and hard to transport. (Things that would make clean-up harder than it needed to be too.)

There were a few lessons learned from this activity

  • Don't believe the organizers when they predict 300 people. I brought far too many supplies.
  • Don't get caught up in the details. The kids are there to have fun, not make a perfect project for the tree. I had to work hard at letting things go.
  • God's Eyes are definitely a project for the 4th grade and over set. Younger kids don't have the patience or the manual dexterity.
  • Let the kids take the project home if they want to. I may want to display it, but they worked hard on something and they want to keep it.

All in all, I probably netted about fifteen of the things. I truly appreciate the adults that sat with their kids, and created with them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lake Oahe on Highway 20

Lake Oahe on Highway 20, originally uploaded by smcgourt78.

I took this picture during my whirlwind tour of west river libraries. It was so pretty, and I was ready to walk around a little bit, that I pulled into the scenic overview and took this picture. Finally I have something worth sharing on Flickr!

Monday, August 10, 2009


I've been a member of Facebook for awhile now. For me use comes in phases- I can check it every day for a week, then go two months without looking at it.

For me, the best thing about Facebook is reconnecting with people. My dad was in the army until I was a junior in high school. Facebook has allowed me to find my best friend when I was ten, a group of people I went to school with in Germany, plus it's a fun way to keep in touch with family- none of mine lives in Pierre, and most don't live in South Dakota.

One of my favorite parts is the chat feature. Facebook will notify you if you're online at the same time one of your friends is and you can message each other. There are also a lot of quizzes, which I can't seem to stop taking, and games. I haven't started playing the games yet- they can be addictive and I don't need another way to lose time on the internet.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sooo Behind

RSS Feeds-

You've all seen how well I keep up this blog! :) Without RSS feeds I'd miss reading all of my favorites. Who has time to check for new posts?

While I do use blogs to keep up professionally- I also use the RSS feature to keep up with my favorite comics and family news.

The following is a short list of my must reads:

Unshelved- It's a library comic- you know you've all read it!

Sheldon- A ten year old boy billionaire and his grandfather live with Arthur the talking duck, Arthur's adopted son Flaco, and their pug Oso. Hilarious!

Awful Library Books- This blog shows why weeding is so important.

Another Stupid Blog- This is Laurie Notaro's blog- it's either called Another Stupid Blog or Against My Better Judgement, I honestly don't know. She updates like I do, infrequently, but she's my favorite author.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Living at the Library

I didn't even know this was possible. Apparently Rondo Community Outreach Library has apartments and townhouses available over the library. The link can be found here. I'm so jealous, a library totally beats having your own washer and dryer!

Monday, July 20, 2009


I'm not sure how I would do with Twitter. I have a hard enough time updating this blog- note that it has been nearly two weeks since my last post. However, as Twitter works with very short posts, I may find that it works better for me. After all, I don't always have a lot to say.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Seven and a Half Habits of Life Long Learners

Easiest Habit: Use Technology to Your Advantage.

This was kind of a no brainer for me. The internet has been very, very good to me. I would not have been able to complete my MLIS without the convenience of online classes. My ipod makes travel bearable- seriously- 1500 songs on on a a device smaller, thinner, and lighter than my keys and it provides the in-flight movie!

Hardest Habit: View Problems as Challenges

I admit that problems tend to discourage me- not a great characteristic for a life long learner. I see the stress more than the learning opportunity. I honestly prefer to appear competent, which makes it difficult for me to try new things. I have to make a concerted effort to break out of my rut.

I am looking forward to the challenge though! I hope to learn more about the use and creation of Library 2.0 tools.