Montgomery County

Events aim to foster book dialogue between Fort Plain, Canajoharie

Reading is usually a solitary pursuit, but with two upcoming book discussions, Canajoharie and Fort

Reading is usually a solitary pursuit, but with two upcoming book discussions, Canajoharie and Fort Plain librarians will attempt to bring area readers out of their living rooms.

The novel of choice is Markus Zusak’s young adult work “The Book Thief,” a story of a young girl in World War II Germany coping with the Holocaust through stolen literature.

The first of the Two Towns-One Book discussions takes place at 6 p.m. today at the Canajoharie Library, the second at the Fort Plain Library at 2 p.m. Sept. 23.

“We’re just a few miles apart,” said Canajoharie librarian Leah LaFera, “but we have our own school districts, our own governments, our own libraries, so people don’t often mingle. This is an opportunity to bring the communities together.”

The event is part of a larger Mohawk Valley Library System program called Books a la Carte, funded by the New York State Council for the Arts.

The program allows many area libraries to bring in literary professionals to lead book discussions.

While LaFera doesn’t expect more than a dozen readers, MVLS Outreach Specialist Lois Gordon, who runs the program, said some events draw more than 100 locals.

“The program is definitely gaining popularity,” she said.

Every year, a few more people come out for the 24 discussions Gordon organizes at 14 area libraries. Based upon the written comment cards collected at each one, reader enthusiasm is as strong as ever, she said, citing the example of a young mother she met who recently named her child after the protagonist of one of her discussion books.

“People are thrilled to get out and exchange ideas,” she said.

This year, both libraries wanted to bring in the same writer, local poet Mary Cuffe-Perez, to lead discussions on the same book at the same time,

“So why not just build the event together?” LaFera said.

She hopes people from each place will attend both discussions, but it’s not just distance she hopes to cover: “The Book Thief” was chosen for its cross-generational appeal.

According to LaFera, the most popular young adult books — “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” to name a few — are successful because both kids and their parents like them. She said “The Book Thief” has that sort of potential.

“It has great characters,” she said, “and even though it’s about the Holocaust, it’s quirky, even uplifting.”

Attendees don’t actually have to read the book before going to the discussion.

“If you haven’t read it, that’s fine,” she said. “By the end of the discussion, you’ll really want to.”

Copies of “The Book Thief” are available at both libraries. No registration is required.

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