Reading Bingo 2019
By Rita Maisel
Reading Bingo is a winter chance for readers over 18 to step outside their comfort zone and read something different. Some of us look forward to this project each winter for the fun of the challenge but, yes, there are also prizes if you read from five different categories that form a bingo on the sheet. If you want to join in the activity the bingo sheets are ready and can be picked up at the library.
Some years I study the bingo sheet and am frustrated by the categories, but this year the central square on my sheet says to read a book you have chosen because of its cover. The first book that came to mind was a children’s book I picked up as a Christmas gift because the cover was simply delightful. The design showed ten animals, all native to Canada, on a toboggan wearing an assortment of winter wear for a ride down the mountainside. Besides their normal winter fur coats the animals are wearing hats, scarves, sweaters and possibly mittens created by yarn graffiti artists. The walrus has his bushy moustache topped off by hot pink earmuffs – a combination to make any reader smile. No, this book will probably not count on my list when the librarian checks over to see if my bingo is legal, but “Ten on a Sled” was the first book that the category reminded me of enjoying.
Favorite stories are often remembered because of the covers on the book. As children a lot of us started out with a light green book whose cover showed Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor in a garden while Floppsy, Moppsy, and Cottontail hid behind heads of cabbage or lettuce. We did not know how to read, but we quickly recognized all the characters when asking someone to read to us. Later it seems like there was a purple book showing an upstairs bedroom with children jumping on the bed and a big dog nearby with an open window and a boy in green flying into the room. That memory is older than the Disney dressed Peter Pan we know today. The original book never actually told how Peter was dressed, but when the story became a play in 1904 some of the people playing the part had a costume that looked like it was made from leaves so the familiar green tights and jacket were a natural transition. In case you are wondering, the Disney movie did not come out until 1953.
Outside of children’s books most of the volumes we checked out from the long ago library did not have pictures on their covers. New books often had “dust jackets” with a picture, but until the invention of plastic covering many books were hardcover and a solid color. Laura Lee Hope books had a light green cover, many of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books were blue or brown, and there were whole series of books that had tan covers with red or black title information and sometimes a decorative design which was not an actual picture. Paperback books had existed from early in the 1900s and were called Dime novels – their actual price. The few of those that I have seen often had some type of illustration on the cover, often featuring a villain dressed in black with slit-like eyes and an elaborate moustache in the background.
A series I remember being drawn to because of the cover pictures is the ‘Murder She Baked’ series by Joanne Fluke. One of the first was either Strawberry Shortcake or Blueberry Muffins with each berry on the cover a reminder of the crime that would be solved before you got to end of the book. Her books contain recipes between the chapters so if tempted to try them you can gain weight by reading her novels which are also heavy on humor and the entertaining characters to be found in a small town in Minnesota. Fluke went south one winter and now lives in Arizona, but the story lines are in Minnesota. A new book comes out this month featuring Chocolate Cream Pie.
Other squares on the bingo sheet suggest you read a book by a North Dakota or Minnesota author. Some of these books can be found in the North Dakota Room and others in the regular fiction or non-fiction areas. If it has been a long time since you read one of the Lucy books, written by Lucy Johnston Sypher and set in Wales, North Dakota, you might want to pick up one of that series. Another North Dakota writer whose books are fun to read would be Erling Nicolai Rolfsrud. There is almost a shelf of his books in the North Dakota Room. One of his very first books was titled “Gopher Tails for Papa” and could also fit the true story category. In the Depression of the 1930s Rolfsrud’s father was a preacher at a small and struggling church so his son set out to find a way to earn some money to help out. Gophers were plentiful, and for each gopher tail brought in to the county agent you could collect a penny. The young boy spent his summer hunting gophers. That boy grew up to be a teacher who wrote about teaching in country schools and eventually wrote textbooks for schools on North Dakota history. Along the way he listened to many stories and wrote books about interesting people he knew. After a serious illness he went to live in a nursing home and while there spent time writing a book about life in that setting called “Close the Door Gently” which turned out to be not quite finished when he died. His daughter finished the book for him. It might also count as a biographical book.
From time to time people ask me about author Lauraine Snelling who has set many of her books in North Dakota. With Norwegian ancestry she began the Red River Series initially while doing family history. Her family had homesteaded near Drayton, and not wanting to offend people who might not want the story to misrepresent their town she renamed the town and the family. Drayton residents loved her books so she has returned for community celebrations that used the characters from her books in telling community history. She also did a series set in the Bismarck-Medora area about the time the railroad reached that part of our state. Several of her books were printed by Thornberg Press so if the girls on the cover look familiar – they might be someone you know.
Two series of books in the North Dakota Room that readers might miss are non-fiction books written by former teachers (Elsie Schrader contributed to some of those volumes) and by Homemaker’s clubs across the state. Mildred Rutledge helped collect some of the stories on Homemaker’s, and there are chapters written by the late Mary Hodgins- both ladies from Cavalier County. You might find others you know whose stories are included in these anthology type books.
A category I do not often read is fantasy, and since we have a fantasy writer living in Langdon I hope to read one of Michelle Bredeson’s novels while the winter project is on. The idea is to read something different.
Reading a banned book is always a challenge so often included in the bingo listings which change from year to year. The library has a listing of books others did not like and wanted banned if that category would interest you. There is a memory of Harry Potter being on that list in years past. The early books in the Potter series are a good place to start as they will introduce you to the characters and might also count as reading a junior or teen book. Some of these books have been made into movies, and in my mind the very first Harry Potter movie was the best. There is just something about walking into Hogwarts Express (a magical train that takes you to Hogwarts Academy) or watching Harry ride his Nimbus 2000 in a quidditch match that truly brings the stories to life.
Other books that are enhanced by movie versions would include “To Kill a Mockingbird” (screenplay by Horton Foote and Gregory Peck in the role of Atticus raised the popularity of the novel to a higher standard), “East of Eden” (the movie starred James Dean and a host of other notables), and even “Dr. Zhivago” (the movie and the book were both long, but the movie condensed the number of characters and the endless winter days on the Russian steppes that made the book seem longer).
On these cold days curling up with a good book sounds like a good activity. And then, if you read the discussion book as well, you get to hear about the books read by other members of the community.