standing Westerly Library

Normally, I write about popular books. The new. The shiny. The ones that often have a waiting list due to high demand. Today, let’s talk about something different: the hidden gems in our collection. The incredibly charming, but seldom-borrowed. The overlooked. The ones that (lucky you!) are available for checkout right now.

The three of you that have been following my columns for a while probably know by now that I’m a fan of animals, particularly of the feline persuasion. Perhaps this is why my absolute favorite random title is “An Elephant Up a Tree” (1933) by Hendrik Willem van Loon, a delightful book that features a cat named Diogenes, a heroic whale, and, of course, an elephant. Full of clever and charming animal illustrations, the book appears at first to be for younger audiences; however, as the New York Times Book Review warned on Nov. 5, 1933: “This satire is not for children, [who] wouldn’t be amused by the scene where ‘Sir John, an elephant of great charm’, swings two gangsters around his head and dashes their brains out against a stone wall”. Ouch. The plot is generally more agreeable than that particular passage though, and has a valuable message at the end. If the book is not for you, which quite frankly, I completely understand, check it out for the pictures. To quote again from the New York Times: “Mr. Van Loon’s drawings are in this instance superior to his text”.

The author George Saunders is certainly not hidden or unknown; his 2017 book “Lincoln in the Bardo” won the Man Booker Prize and was in extremely high demand. Still, considerably fewer people have heard of his 2000 novel “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip”, a fable about a small seaside village with an economy based solely on goat’s milk, and the nasty “gappers” that endlessly terrorize said goats. Though the book was originally written for children and includes fantastic images by Lane Smith (best known for illustrating “James and the Giant Peach”), the whimsical story and wry humor is appreciated just as much by adults. We don’t have this title at our library, but you can easily place it on hold through our consortium!

Finally, a few books that have cult-like followings amongst librarians are “The Perfect Fruit” by Chip Brantley, and “The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady”, by Edith Holden. The first is a surprisingly intriguing account of a fruit many know little about: the marvelous pluot (yes, the pluot!). The second is an enchanting facsimile of Holden’s real diary from 1906, documenting the changing seasons in prose, verse, and beautiful paintings. Even if you’re not an agriculturalist, these won’t disappoint.

As I said before, these books are currently available for checkout, but don’t wait! This remarkably compelling column is sure to bring hordes of people running to check them out! Either way, you should visit the library and carefully browse the stacks for a hidden gem of your own.

Top requested books

1. “A Time for Mercy” by John Grisham

2. “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett

3. “Daylight” by David Baldacci

4. “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama

5. “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah

6. “The Law of Innocence” by Michael Connelly

7. “The Searcher” by Tana French

8. “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson

9. “The Sentinel” by Lee Child

10. “Troubles in Paradise” by Elin Hilderbrand

Top requested DVDs

1. “The Crown Season 3”

2. “Tenet”

3. “Honest Thief”

4. “The War with Grandpa”

5. “Yellowstone Season 3”

6. “Outlander: Season 5”

7. “The Irishman”

8. “Fatman”

9. “Vera. Set 10”

10. “Star Trek. Picard. Season 1”

This week

MONDAY — 3-3:45 p.m., Teen Live Trivia with Kahoot – Join us for some trivia fun! We’ll be meeting through Zoom and using Kahoot. Topics will vary. Contact to register.

TUESDAY — 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Kids Take & Make Crafts – Grab a bag of supplies from the ‘Kids’ tote outside the Library front door. 1 per child, please; 12-12:15 p.m., Folk Tales – Check out our newest series on our YouTube channel, where each week we will spotlight some of Westerly’s community leaders and their favorite kids and teens books; 1-2 p.m., Virtual Afternoon Book Discussion – New members are welcome! This month’s selection is “The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi. Contact Caroline at for meeting details; 1-4 p.m., Community Resource Advocate – Our volunteer Community Resource Advocate is available via email to help connect you with local services/resources. Email her at; 5:30-7:30 Virtual Knit and Crochet Club – We’re still meeting virtually! Email for details.

WEDNESDAY — 2-3 p.m., Virtual Film Club – We will discuss three movies we selected last month and choose three to watch for our February meeting. Contact Hannah at for meeting details; 4-4:15 p.m., STEAM: Building Challenge – Check out this month’s STEAM building challenge on our YouTube channel! Use whatever you have in your house to build with, and send us a photo or video of your creation; 6-7 p.m., Cookbook Club: Dine and Discuss – We’ll be preparing and (virtually) sharing recipes from Deb Perelman’s cookbooks! Contact to register.

THURSDAY — 3-3:45 p.m., Teen Involvement – Interested in making a change in your community? Join us in a discussion of what’s going on in the world and what you can do to help! Email to register; 6:30-8 p.m., Virtual Author Talk with Richard Webb – Join us for a virtual author talk on the lives of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald! Richard Webb will briefly discuss his book “Boats Against the Current: The Honeymoon Summer of Scott and Zelda” and do a multimedia presentation, followed by questions from viewers. Pre-registration is required. Please visit our website to register.

FRIDAY — 10-10:20 a.m., Kids Facebook Live Storytime – Join our Children’s Room staff, as each week, we do a short storytime through Facebook Live. Participants can go to our Facebook Page (Westerly Library & Wilcox Park) and click on the ‘Live’ tab at the top; 5:30-7, Reading of Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” – In preparation for Martin Luther King Day the Westerly Area Peace and Justice Group will present the 4th Annual Reading of Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. Register at

SATURDAY — 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Adult Writer’s Workshop via Zoom – Share and discuss your work in this group-led writing workshop. All experience levels and genre interests welcome. Contact Allynn at for Zoom information.

Cassie Skobrak is a reference librarian at the Westerly Library.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.