Lake & Island Notes                                             May 2013

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Featured Selection


Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

This book was first published in 1968. It was tumultuous time and the neo-conservationist /environmental movement was just budding. Abbey left New York City and took up lonely residence as a part-time ranger in Utah’s Arches National Park. It is fierce writing (which many dismiss as arrogant) and it is poetic writing (which many find inspiring). The intimacy with which he describes the flora, fauna and landscape of the Moab area, and his experience living in it, is rich and detailed. He was before his time – Earth Day didn’t come until 1970 – and (in his way as a polemicist) is in the tradition of Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Sigurd Olson and others of an earlier wave of bold defenders of nature and the wild. He gives no quarter!

Featured Selection


orphan train cover image
Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline

This masterfully written, recently released work of fiction, is a hard one to put down. Kline takes us on a journey through the lives of two orphans tossed together in a twist of serendipity. Molly is a teenaged orphan with a Goth exterior and an attitude to match who is sentenced to do 50 community service hours helping 91 year old Vivian clean out the boxes in her attic. It turns out Vivian was an orphan as well and, as these two women open the old boxes in the attic, the story unfolds from Ireland, New York City, Minnesota and then Maine. What can these two learn from each other? 
At the turn of the 19th century thousands of east coast orphans were put on trains and sent to the Midwest. There the children were lined up for potential adoptive couples to take their pick. Kline has delved deeply into how this process worked and her level of detail paints pictures with words that leave you feeling like you are one of those orphans. Of course the train is a metaphor about each of our lives and our own ride and the thin line that often separates one possible outcome from another.

Featured Selection


winger cover image
Andrew Smith

It is sometimes difficult to find a good book in the Young Adult genre for young men that isn't a dystopic, science fiction, monster-type story. Not that there is anything wrong with those stories (we're huge fans of the Hunger Games here!). But, sometimes it's so nice to find an author who has created a humorous, yet emotional story for young men. Smith is being compared to the ever popular John Green (Fault in Our Stars), but some would say he's even a bit more like Salinger with his sharp dialogue, faulty authority figures and heartbreaking twists.
Our narrator is a 14-year-old named Ryan Dean West who attends the exclusive Pine Mountain boarding school. He plays wing for the rugby team — hence his nickname, Winger. He has a mildly rebellious streak, but he sees himself as nothing more than a loser. Filled with complex relationships, clever illustrations and even a touch of author commentary, this is a smart, successful read!
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Bayfield, Wisconsin
Island Notes Blog

Ah!  At last! It was the longest, snowiest winter in many years. Even the toughest of us began to weaken. Our macho pronouncements became shrill and then pathetic. And the snow fell well into May. And then – halfway through – the sun appeared and the snow quickly disappeared. The deer began to graze on our meadow. A large black sow with her fur-ball cubs rooted around our compost. Owls called and coyotes (even after our neighbor had dispatched nearly a dozen) raced through the woods with their blood-curdling clamor. It was Spring! And then the rain!
And with it all came the great Bayfield ReStruction 13! This long-awaited, long-feared event opened on schedule on the 14th of May. First there was signage – “Road Closed”, “Detour”, “Downtown This Way”, but most importantly “Bayfield Open!” Then came heavy equipment and concrete saws. The street light poles came down. The overhead wiring disappeared. The underlying brick road raised thoughts of an earlier day. Now it looks like you could land a Boeing 747 on Rittenhouse Avenue. Our town is getting a much-needed, much-welcomed facelift. It will be a few weeks of superficial discomfort for our early summer visitors and agony for us downtown merchants, but the end result will be glorious! Stick with us!
In a timely coincidence, the season is also bringing the launch of a fabulous new book on Bayfield and the Apostle Islands. Local author and former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Dennis McCann’s This Superior Place: Stories of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands has just been released by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press (see below). It joins the other volumes by Robert Nelson, Howard Paap, Craig Blacklock, Jeff Rennicke and others who have chronicled the life of this smallest, and perhaps most beautiful, of Wisconsin cities. Come see us and then take us with you in these marvelous books!

Happy Reading!
All of us at AIB

This Superior Place Book Launch

Sunday, May 26,
3:00pm - 5:00pm

Where: Bayfield Maritime Museum
131 S. 1st St.

Join us at the Bayfield Maritime Museum to celebrate the release of Dennis McCann's latest book, This Superior Place.

Picturesque little Bayfield on Lake Superior is Wisconsin's smallest city by population but one of its most popular visitor destinations. Because Bayfield serves as "the gateway to the Apostle Islands," the book also includes chapters on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Madeline Island, Cornucopia, and the nearby Red Cliff Ojibwe community. It also covers the significant eras in the city's history: lumbering, quarrying, commercial fishing, and the advent of the orchards visitors see today. It is not a guidebook as such but more of a visual and written tour of the city and the major elements that came together to make it what it is. Colorful stories from the past, written in Dennis McCann's casual, humorous style, give a sense of the unique characters and events that have shaped this charming city on the lake.

What we're reading...

maya's notebook cover imageMaya's Notebook
by Isabel Allende

Maya ranges from the street life around Berkeley High to rehab in Oregon to the sordid drug trade in Las Vegas and winds up a fugitive hiding out on a small, remote island off the coast of southern Chile’s Chiloe Island. It’s something like being exiled to one of the smaller inhabited Aleutians off the Alaska Peninsula. Allende cycles the story back and forth between the two lives of this twenty-year-old jaded ingénue carefully weaving them together. There is a subtle backstory of the Pinochet dictatorship and elements of a straightforward thriller. The descriptions of the Berkeley scene as contrasted with the hardscrabble lives of the islanders are rich and memorable. This nineteenth book of Allende’s represents an interesting departure from her previous work. It seemed to end a bit abruptly, but the prelude is great.

Country Girl: A Memoir
Edna O'Brien

Edna O’Brien has long been recognized as among the greatest Irish writers of the 20th century. Her daring frankness in her early novels about women’s inner feelings, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole, caused them to be banned and burned when they first came out in Ireland in the 1960’s. Since then, readers worldwide have come to appreciate the beauty and poetry in her writing and her provocative insights into the hearts and minds of her characters and the world of human interaction. Of course, much grist for her writing mill came from her own outsized life which was filled, as she writes, with “the extremities of joy and sorrow, love, crossed love and unrequited love, success and failure, fame and slaughter.” We highly recommend O’Brien’s memoir and any of her many works. She is a literary treasure!

How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers
by Mordicai Gerstein

A boy with spiky red hair and glasses shares his 24-step plan for planting sunflowers on the moon to cheer it up. His intricate 24 step plan includes inner tubes to make a sling shot, 238,900 miles worth of garden hoses so he can water the seeds, and of course a bicycle to get him there. Through his adventure this young man expresses a variety of emotions, and you can't  help but keep turning the pages to see how it all turns out! A great story for 4-8 year old children with a sense of adventure.

Closing Thoughts...

From Dennis McCann,
author of This Superior Place:

One of the pleasures of researching my new book, This Superior Place: Stories of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands, was the time spent looking through historic photographs of the city. The pretty little hillside community with its New England look that so many first-time visitors find so beguiling today wasn’t always a haven for fancy sailboats and power craft, nor were the orderly marinas and open space that make up today’s lakeshore anywhere in evidence when that meeting of land and water was used for work instead of play. Some old photos show a city bereft of trees, back when trees were more valued as lumber than adornment. Images of the lakefront often highlighted stacks of rough-cut lumber and mountains of sawdust, in one era, or humble fish sheds and squat and timeworn tugs in another. As each era in the city’s economic timeline boomed and eventually faded, the face of the city changed as well. Today change is afoot again in the form of a downtown street project that will, at least for a while, be an inconvenience to visitors, a nuisance to residents and on its worst days a hair-pulling nightmare for merchants. Then it will be over and Bayfield will wear a new look once again, one that will blend the lighting of old with a cleaner look and conveniences of the new, the perfect combination for a city that honors the past while looking ever ahead. So patience is the word. It will be fun to see the first photographs of our new downtown. 

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Offer expires May 31, 2013
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