Ode to an October Classic: The Pumpkin Smasher

Long, long ago, back in the October days of my youth, visits to my grade school library meant finding a secluded corner to hunker down with a stack of Halloween picture books and diving into illustrations of amazing autumn days and murky, monster-filled nights. I can’t really remember most of the book titles, just page after page of spooktacular images.

Except one. I do remember one book: The Pumpkin Smasher.

I count circling The Pumpkin Smasher on my Scholastic book order form as one of the very best decisions of my entire life. This book isn’t just my favorite Halloween book, it’s one of my favorite books, period.

The artwork? Fabulous. Smasher was written and illustrated by mixed media printmaker and handmade paper artist Anita Benarde, and published in 1972. I don’t know anything about Anita, but I’m confident history will recognize her as…just really awesome. The entire book is colored in only black and orange, with gorgeous illustrations of a small town called Cranberry.

Every year just before Halloween, someone (or something) appears in the dead of night to smash every pumpkin in Cranberry. The town almost cancels Halloween until some troublemaking twins take matters into their own hands.

© Anita Benarde

As an adult, you’ll get a strong ’60s or ’70s vibe from the book, which creates a much richer tone, as if the story, decades later, may have become a kind of urban legend.

Looking over the illustrations, I quickly realize how this book pretty much defined autumn and Halloween for me—it hardwired certain images into my head which became the gold standard for how this time of year is supposed to look. A creaky old wooden wagon stuffed with pumpkins and hay. Kids in warm coats climbing scraggly trees to hang up ghosts. A giant orange moon looming over a black town square.

Years ago, I tried to find my old copy of the book within the dusty boxes of childhood junk my parents keep in their basement. But it was gone. And it was also out of print. You could find used copies online, but they were pretty pricey. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see The Pumpkin Smasher again.

Until 2013. Because in the summer of 2013 the book was reissued (to much rejoicing), making it way more affordable (to much rejoicing). That year, my family surprised me with our very own copy (to much, much rejoicing).

So I beg you—go find a copy and make your autumn season that much better.

P.S. Our very own MORE catalog has a copy. (Thanks, Chetek!) There used to be more in circulation, including a handful of copies here in Eau Claire’s collection, but the quality of the reissue is unfortunately kind of flimsy, and it looks like most are gone.


Latinx at the Library

During this month and throughout the year, library staff are working to improve access and develop more inclusive and equitable collections. National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 through October 15 and I wanted to encourage folks to check out a book from one of the library’s Latinx booklists or a music title from the Latinx music list listed below.

Libraries need diversity in books and other library materials because they can expose us to the world and to people who are different from us. The Latinx lists bring together recent book titles concerning a Latinx experience from history, heritage, and accomplishments of Hispanic and Latino Americans of past and present. These selections are by or about the people, and shine a light on the rich cultural contributions we see in our modern lives. From memoirs to cooking to popular fiction, I sincerely hope you enjoy the range of topics and formats!

Celebrating National Friends of the Library Week

I’ve heard it said that true friendships last forever and I believe this is true. While October has always been my favorite month for many reasons, it wasn’t until I started working for The Friends of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Library that I added friendship to the list of reasons that I LOVE this month. You see, National Friends of the Library Week is celebrated every October and this year the dates are October 18 through 24. It’s not only a time to reflect on what the Friends’ relationship with their respective libraries are but also our friendship with our many members and volunteers as well as personal friendships.

Looking back to the Friends of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library Articles of Incorporation it appears that we are now in our 32nd year of friendship with the Library. That means 32 years of contributing to their success, whether by financial means, including special projects, or just something as simple as finding a volunteer for a library event. We are rewarded for our friendship by watching the library grow and evolve over the years and seeing first-hand how some of our contributions have made a difference in their success. How amazing is that “friendship”?

This is all made possible by our many members that have supported us through the years by their continued friendship and loyalty. That is true friendship! It’s always nice to meet our members and our wonderful volunteers who give so much of their free time to make our organization run smoothly. It would not be possible without their unwavering dedication and support.

For myself, I am proud to be working for a non-profit that benefits one of my favorite places as a child. While most will say a friendship cannot exist with an inanimate object I beg to differ. Books make wonderful friends for a lot of reasons! They can cheer you up when you are sad, take you to lands and universes far away, help you to learn new things, show you unique cultures and open your eyes to different ways of thinking and feeling, and teaching you many new things. As a child, I loved spending time in the library and picking out my next new adventure in the form of the printed page. Some of my personal favorites as a young reader were Bed-Knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton, Mary Poppins by P.L.Travers, One Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith, To Spoil the Sun by Joyce Rockwood,

Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck, Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White and anything Disney or written by Beverly Clearly, Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, or J.R.R. Tolkien to name a few. I know, quite the variety. To this day I enjoy reading anything and everything, fiction and non-fiction. I have the library, the wonderful librarians that worked at my grade school, and my mom to thank for my love of reading!

Covers of well-loved books


Onward to my position as Administrative Assistant for the Friends. I have to say one of my favorite projects in October is working with Youth Services for their Riddle Middle Readers program. Every year the Friends purchase seven prizes during National Friends Week for this program. Youth Services provides a riddle every day and each child that solves it correctly is entered into a drawing to receive a specific prize being offered that day. It’s always an exciting project to pick out the prizes for this event. While this year has been challenging for the Library in so many ways I am happy to report that Riddle Me Readers will still be offered to our young readers, just a little differently than in years past. Riddles will be posted on the kid’s website, https://www.ecpubliclibrary.info/kids/, with a web form to fill out to submit their answer and prize drawing form. Also be sure to check out the library’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ecpubliclibrary, which will feature a link to the website and possibly a picture of the day’s prize along with a teaser to the riddle. Make sure to spread the word, it’s always a fun event.

We look forward to many more years of friendship with both the Library and our members! Thanks for reading.

Books flying in the street

Book Festivals, 2020 Style

Two years ago, my sister invited me to go to the Twin Cities Book Festival with her. I’d never been to a book festival before, but I love books and festivals can be fun, so I decided to go.

The TCBF takes place in mid-October on the Minnesota State Fair grounds. In the Eco building, there was a gigantic used book sale and row upon row of exhibitors — authors, publishers, universities, librarians, all promoting books or services or programs. Many had small activities or free publications. A calligrapher was personalizing bookmarks.

The building was packed full of people who love books. It was like a Scholastic Book Fair, but with fewer sparkly pens and more people who want to geek out about literature. And that was just in the exhibit building.

Across the street in the Fine Arts building were the event stages. There, they had author readings, Q&A’s, panels, and activities. Unprepared as I was that first year, I didn’t have time to attend any of the events, though my sister stuck around for a discussion and book signing with YA authors Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.

Last year, I absolutely wanted to go again. I planned better and attended a discussion between William Kent Krueger and Leif Enger about the art of storytelling.

Attendee looking at books at book festivalThis year, like all other events, the Twin Cities Book Festival has had to adapt to the coronavirus. It’s their 20th year and, rather than cancelling, the TCBF is going virtual. They recently released the author lineup and there’s something for every age and interest.

Am I disappointed that I can’t physically attend? Yes. Are virtual events as exciting as in person events? Not at all. But I am glad that the festival wasn’t cancelled and I’m really looking forward to hearing from Kate DiCamillo.

There’s a silver lining, too. When I looked up the Twin Cities Book Festival, I discovered many other book festivals also transitioning to online platforms. This year, you can attend virtual literary events from all over the country. Have you ever wanted to attend New York Comic Con? They’ll be streaming four days of free panels live on YouTube. I also recommend checking out the Brooklyn Book Festival events this week. Plan ahead, though; while most book festivals are free, many are requiring pre-registration.

Like everyone, I’m tired of cancelling or adapting plans. I miss spontaneous weekend trips and seeing people’s faces. I hope that next year I can go back to the TCBF in person. In the meantime, though, I have lessons in pandemic cooking and Jedi mindfulness to attend.

Books Worth Re-Reading

Have you found yourself in a reading slump? If yes, you are not alone. When the quarantine first began, I initially thought that I would get so much reading accomplished. I was looking forward to all the books I was going to finish. But guess what? It didn’t happen. After talking to a co-worker about my reading slump, she let me in on a secret. I wasn’t alone. Finding the right book can be comforting so why not return to an old favorite? Here are a few books that I enjoy reading again and again. Share your favorites in the comments below.


ReferenceUSA Banner

Ref, White, and Blue

That’s right, your Eau Claire library card can now give you access to one of the best and most up-to-date business and consumer databases online. The best part about it, it’s free! ReferenceUSA is an amazing resource to help you do research for all sorts of great things. You can find it on our website under “Databases” on the “Explore” page!

ReferenceUSA is a great resource for job seekers, allowing you to search by skills, location, and industry. Especially in these trying times, it’s nice to be able to have a resource like this in your back pocket. Small business owners or those possibly hoping to become one can also tap into ReferenceUSA’s data about consumers so they can plan how to advertise or where to open up shop. For the everyday user, it can be a great resource to try and find contact information on an old friend. Maybe a friend gave you a gift and you loved it so much you wanted to order more; ReferenceUSA makes it easy to search for companies nationwide.

Upon rereading, I really sound like a corny salesperson for ReferenceUSA. But that’s the thing, it really is an awesome research tool and it’s completely free for you to use. We’re really excited to have it available not only for you, but it’s also a great tool for us to answer questions as well.

Check Out Our Anti-Racist Resource Page

The concept of “anti-racism” has rested near the center of national discussion over the past three months as significant protests and demonstrations have sprawled across the country, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. We’ve entered one of this country’s most divisive periods, greatly intensified by a global pandemic and an upcoming presidential election. This isn’t the only time our country has faced such personal and cultural divisions, but it’s a stark reminder of how much work we’ve left undone to create true racial equality.

As a predominantly white community, these past few months have caused many in Eau Claire to reexamine the concept racism, as well as the role it plays in their lives. More importantly, the concept of anti-racism has gained significant traction. New to many of us, the term “anti-racism” refers to an active and engaged mindset designed to work against systemic racism in our everyday lives and within our trusted institutions. That’s a simplified way to put things, but it represents a significant shift in how we approach and work for racial equality. It’s not enough to acknowledge racism. You must fight it.

In this spirit, the library has created a webpage filled with resources focused on the concept of anti-racism. While we know you can’t end massive societal problems with book lists alone, reading and education are a crucial part of the puzzle. It’s the library’s mission to promote lifelong learning and support open access to diverse materials and resources enhancing the quality of life in this community. This means addressing the issues of racism and inequity through our services.

So on our Anti-Racism Resources page, you’ll find anti-racist book suggestions (fiction and nonfiction), helpful websites, and important multimedia organized by topic and age. We’ve also included info on community organizations, upcoming library events, and more. Please check it out and see what you think.



Quote: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."~Audre Lorde

Self-Care as Radical Action

I see you. You are tired. You do not see an end to the exhaustion. You are feeling and doing everything you can to make it from one day to the next. You are fighting battles that some do not see. You are giving and giving and feel like you might break any day now.

I see you.

This is not a fluffy and cute blog post about how you “should” do this or that to take care of yourself. Nope. Today is a radical call to action. Today you are not choosing “me time”, but simply choosing yourself. Here are some things that you can do to radically accept yourself as deserving and needing of self-care:

  • Say no! Stop saying yes or maybe when you really mean, or really need to be saying no.Quote: "Don't say yes to others if it means saying no to your wellness"
  • Savor your actions. Take deep breaths. Take a little longer shower. Slow down and enjoy your meals instead of rushing to take care of others. Savor it, and be present.
  • Stop apologizing so much! Obviously we need to be nice to others, but don’t apologize for taking time for yourself! Don’t apologize for your existence. Don’t apologize for taking up space. Be here, and fill the room with your presence.
  • Accept things as they are. Stop swimming upstream. Blow up your metaphorical inner tube, grab your favorite beverage, and ride out what is happening. Radical acceptance is allowing ourselves to accept the things that we cannot change and making peace with that.
  • Forgive. Not for other people’s benefit, but because you deserve to not carry that weight around. Choose love over fear, anger, and sadness.
  • End the war within yourself. Are you constantly struggling with thoughts that are blaming or mean towards yourself? Try this exercise: draw the strong warrior that is within you. Illustrate the epic scene of the inner you attacking and ending the war with the blaming and mean thoughts that are always trying to beat you up. Alternatively, you could write a short story about yourself taking control of your personal self-talk. At a minimum, fight back, you deserve to be kind to yourself.
  • Celebrate the little accomplishments. Cross those items proudly off your to-do list. Feeling unaccomplished? Put items on your to-do list that you have already accomplished then happily appreciate that moment and cross those items off of your list.
  • Put yourself on your to-do list every day. For everyone, this looks different. Maybe it is meditation, exercise, yoga, a bubble bath, doing meal prep for the week, time with a book, etc. Doing these actions once does not make us well, practicing them daily enhances our wellbeing.
  • Love yourself and accept the complexities that make you unique. Choose this empowering narrative rather than attacking yourself for who you are.
  • Make conscious choices. We rarely have to make fast decisions so slow down. Others can wait while we get the best understanding of what we need for ourselves.

Bottom line: Preserve yourself, make choices that take care of your mind and body, and make these choices ongoing and sustainable. Choose this act of liberation, and stop putting yourself last.

Friday, the Australian Shepherd Puppy

Puppy Love

It has been twenty-three weeks (yes, I am counting) since the state’s initial stay-at-home order. By day three, I wanted a puppy.

Now I know what you are thinking: “Ah, yes, yet another pandemic puppy,” and maybe you are right. But what better way to get through this pandemic than to bring home a lovable furball who is (mostly) oblivious to the high-stress environment surrounding her. Another creature to bring joy to our family; something to focus on other than the latest news and our lack of normalcy. And I’m not the only one! Four other staff members at LEPMPL have adopted puppies this summer!

In celebration of all these new library pups, here are some top picks from our catalog featuring some fabulous canines.

  1. Dog Man: Grime and Punishment by Dav Pilkey (Author, Illustrator) From the creator of “Captain Underpants” comes #9 in the “Dog Man” series, release date September 1, 2020, so place your hold today! What type of dog is dog man? A hound.
  2. Think Like a Dog (DVD) Oliver is a middle-school tech prodigy whose science fair experiment has a furry twist that gives him a telepathic connection to his dog, Henry. If you are wondering Cover Art of Where the Red Fern Growswhat kind of dog Henry is, he is a Labradoodle.
  3. Muzzled by David Rosenfelt Reluctant lawyer Andy Carpenter and his beloved golden retriever are back on the case in this 2020 release about a missing owner.
  4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls A list of titles featuring dogs would be incomplete without this classic tale of a young boy and his adventures in the Ozarks with two redbone hounds.
  5. The Call of the Wild (DVD) If you want to see Harrison Ford take on the role of Jack London’s John Thornton, the final owner of Buck, a Saint Bernard/Scotch Collie mix, check out this 2020 title.

If your household has recently been blessed, (or the other, depending upon how sleep-deprived you are right now), and you are looking for some training guidelines, wondering why your puppy seems to have a witching hour at 7 p.m. every evening, or need some advice on crate training, check out this list of puppy training titles available in our system.

Happy training and enjoy those puppy snuggles!

Time Warp

Time is weird. Let’s just acknowledge that.

We experience the passing of time in odd and inconsistent ways and it shows in the way we describe it. Time flies, it crawls, it slips by, it stands still. Some months always seem to drag on (February, I’m looking at you) while others are gone in the blink of an eye (July, where’d you go?). Time seems to move slower when we’re stressed, bored, or sad and faster when we’re busy or happy. After all, time flies when you’re having fun and a watched pot never boils.

Here in 2020, time is even weirder than normal. Most of the routines, events, and traditions we use to mark time are either altered or completely gone (except bills, those are still like clockwork). The added stress combined with often monotonous days makes time slow and lethargic, but when we look back there are few stand-out events to show that time really is passing. As a result, most of us have noticed that our sense of time is a bit wonky. I sometimes struggle to remember not just the day of the week, but the month as well.

Maybe it’s the weird time dilation of this year (and maybe it’s the fact that I recently finished binging the second season of The Umbrella Academy), but I’ve recently gotten (back) into time travel fiction.

I was nine years old when I first encountered time travel in a book – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry and Hermione only travel a few hours back in time, but Merlin’s beard do they change a lot (somehow without actually changing anything at all). It was complex and mind-bending and I fell in love immediately.

Since then, I’ve read and watched all kinds of time travel books, movies, and shows. From classics like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, to the quirky long-running BBC show Doctor Who, to blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame, there are so many different theories on what time travel would look like if it were actually possible.

Time travel has a lot of appeal. Since it’s not possible (that we know of), time travel stories are all about speculation. What do we think the world will be like in the future? What would the world be like now if we could change the past? What would the past look like from a modern perspective? Time travel offers not only an escape from our current reality but a way to imagine our reality differently or to view it in a different light.

So if you’re reminiscing about how things were last summer or worrying about how things will be in the future, I recommend escaping into a time travel story for a while. The world will still be here when you get back.