Fort Polk summer reading program offers otherworldly vistas
Library technicians Lauren Santiago (left) and Mary Grange discuss selections from Allen Library’s youth and adult book clubs. The adult book club, Polk Page Turners, meets the second Tuesday of each month and the youth book club meets the last Tuesday of each month.

FORT POLK, La. " A group of Soldiers train as paratroopers and, during World War II, are deployed to Europe, where they drop into Normandy, dodging and eliminating the enemy as well as attempting to find the men of their company, their band of brothers.

Using discarded motor parts, PVC pipe and an old bicycle wheel, a boy builds a windmill to bring energy to his rural, poverty-stricken village.

During the 1942-43 Allied invasion of South Africa, Soldiers conquer and quibble, but establish America as a country and as a major world power.

These books " “Band of Brothers,” “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” and “An Army at Dawn,” respectively, are only a few of the books on Allen Memorial Library’s summer book club list.

The adult reading group, called Polk Page Turners 2011, began in January and continues through December with a wide spectrum of books both fiction and non-fiction.

“You don’t have to have been involved since the beginning,” said Mary Grange, library technician.

“People can join at any time. Anyone on post can participate.

“We chose a good number of Army-inspired works as a way to get Soldiers interested in the club,” said Grange. “Some of these choices on the list come directly from the U.S. Chief of Staff, and some choices just depended on how many copies we had available " we wanted to make sure we had plenty for people to check out.”

In addition to the old-fashioned medium of the written word, patrons and book club members can e-read: Some of the book club choices can be found electronically on the library’s online catalog.

The library also hosts a youth book club, with many of the selections (including June 28’s “Bridge to Terabithia” or “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”) following the library’s summer reading program “A Midsummer Knight’s Read.” Older children and preteens can chose between two selections each month depending on their interests.

The adult book group meets the second Tuesday of each month at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The club’s next selection is “America’s Prophet” by Bruce Feiler.

“We meet two times during the day for those who have time available to participate in the morning and for those who can’t come until after work,” said Linda Bringan, library director.

The youth book club meets the last Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. Its next selections, for the July 26 book club meeting, are “Robin Hood,” by Howard Pyle, or “Ella Enchanted,” by Gail Carson Levine.

“We’re eager to get youth to participate, especially during the summer when school’s out,” said Bringan.

“We really want to promote reading for youth; these groups do that, and keep their brains going,” added library technician Lauren Santiago.

The ultimate goal for the book clubs, according to Mary Grange, “is to start a literary community, share thoughts and have open discussions about literature. It’s a way of meeting new people and exercising your brain, all while having a good time.”

The library technicians welcome suggestions for future book club selections and invite patrons to hold their own book clubs at the library.

“It’s all about sharing common interests, about promoting a sense of community,” said Grange.

The July selection for Polk Page Turners, “America’s Prophet,” by Bruce Feiler, explores the idea that Moses is the real founding father. Bruce Feiler travels through touchstones in American history and traces the biblical prophet's influence from the Mayflower through today. He visits the island where the pilgrims spent their first Sabbath, climbs the bell tower where the Liberty Bell was inscribed with a quote from Moses, retraces the Underground Railroad where "Go Down, Moses" was the national anthem of slaves and dons the robe Charlton Heston wore in “The Ten Commandments.”

August’s selection, “The Big Burn,” by Timothy Egan, explores an important piece of American history that is largely forgotten today. When Theodore Roosevelt vacated the Oval Office, he left a vast legacy of public lands under the stewardship of the newly created Forest Service. Immediately, political enemies of the nascent conservation movement chipped away at the foundations of the untested agency, lobbying for a return of the land to private interests and development. Then, in 1910, several small wildfires in the Pacific Northwest merge into one massive, swift, and unstoppable blaze and the Forest Service is pressed into a futile effort to douse the flames. Over 100 firefighters died heroically, galvanizing public opinion in favor of the forests " with unexpected ramifications exposed in today's proliferation of destructive fires.

September’s selection, “The White Tiger,” by Aravind Adiga, is set in India. Balram, a chauffeur, murders his employer, justifying his crime as the act of a "social entrepreneur." In a series of letters to the Premier of China, in anticipation of the leader’s upcoming visit to Balram’s homeland, the chauffeur recounts his transformation from an honest, hardworking boy growing up in "the Darkness"" those areas of rural India where education and electricity are equally scarce, and where villagers banter about local elections "like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra" " to a determined killer.

The youth reading club’s July selections include two books. “Robin Hood,” by Howard Pyle, tells the story of the man who stole from the rich to give to the poor; the second selection, “Ella Enchanted,” by Gail Carson Levine, tells the story of a girl given the curse of obedience at birth. Ella's life and well-being seem in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery, trying to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves and falling in love with a prince along the way.

August’s selections include “The Tale of Despereaux,” by Kate DiCamillo, the epic story of a mouse: Despereaux Tilling, the new baby mouse, is different from all other mice. Sadly, the romantic, unmouselike spirit that leads the unusually tiny, large-eared mouse to the foot of the human king and the beautiful Princess Pea ultimately causes him to be banished by his own father to the foul, rat-filled dungeon; and “Hoot,” by Carl Hiaasen, is about Roy Eberhardt, the new boy at school, who, through a series of coincidences, discovers things are not always what they seem, and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

For more information about the Polk Page Turners or the youth book club, call Allen Memorial Library at 531-2665 or visit their website at http://fortpolkmwr.com/library.

Page last updated Tue July 5th, 2011 at 00:00