WPL Youth Services Librarian visits language arts classes

Tricia Wehrenberg Winona Public Library

Tricia Wehrenberg, Youth Services Librarian at the Winona Public Library, speaks to sixth-graders in Lisa Palkowski's language arts class on Wednesday.

A mysterious event destroys a small city, forever changing reality within its borders. Young sports journalists discover a massive cheating scandal at the Final Four. A middle schooler enters a secret organization that trains superhero sidekicks.

Those are just a few of the plotlines of books that Tricia Wehrenberg, Youth Services Librarian at the Winona Public Library, shared with sixth-graders in Lisa Palkowski’s language arts classes on Wednesday afternoon at Winona Middle School. 

Wehrenberg, who organizes early literacy programming, orders materials for babies through teens and does youth community outreach for the library, energized the imagination of students with books available to check out at the library and tested their knowledge with “Banned Books Trivia.”

“Banned books are books that have been banned in some areas of the country at one time or another for some reason,” Wehrenberg told the fourth-hour class. “But never at our public library.”

Students who answered correctly got a prize — a coupon for a free cheeseburger at McDonald’s. 

Some of the books on the list were surprising, such as “Alice in Wonderland” and “Winnie the Pooh,” which were banned because people didn’t want children believing in talking animals. “The Wizard of Oz” was banned because it depicted a woman in a leadership role. “The Lorax” was banned because some thought it criminalized the foresting industry, Wehrenberg said, much to the surprise of the students. 

And while these bans happened decades ago, some were more recent. The “Scary Stories” series was banned in several areas in the 1990s because it was too terrifying for children. 

But not in Winona. You can still check it out today. 

“If you want to read it, we have all of them in the library,” Wehrenberg said, adding later that she never wants to ban books. “I care a lot about getting kids books to read. I never want to take books away from you.”

Between trivia questions, Wehrenberg went through a stack of a dozen or so books on a table next to her. 

The “Spill Zone,” a graphic novel by Scott Westerfeld, destroyed the city of Poughkeepsie. In “Last Shot” by famed sports journalist John Feinstein, two young reporters stumble upon the story of the century at the Final Four — one of the teams is planning on throwing the game. And in “Sidekicked” by John David Anderson, Andrew Bean is a part of H.E.R.O., an organization that trains superhero sidekicks, a secret that he hides from his parents and his fellow middle school students.

“These are all available at the library,” Wehrenberg said. 

Wehrenberg mentioned several others, including a romance novel that elicited groans from some in the class. 

“You guys are all groaning like you don’t want to read it,” Wehrenberg said. “But I bet there’s someone in the crowd, maybe two, who want to.”

The book is called “Fake It Till You Break It” by Jenn P. Nguyen and is about Mia and Jake, two enemies who are stuck together for life because of their mothers’ close friendship.

One of the books — “The Girl The Sea Gave Back” by Adrienne Young — was just received by the library and is so new it didn’t have the bar code on it yet.

“If you really want it, you can beat your classmates to the library today and I’ll get it ready for you,” Wehrenberg said. 

Wehrenberg also showed an Avengers book and a book about two friends trying to save the world from an alien invasion. 

She also showed off a graphic novel called “March” by U.S. Congressman John Lewis, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement in 1960. 

“This is a very important book if you want to understand more about what is going on in the world today,” Wehrenberg said. Wehrenberg also asked the students what they were reading, going around the room to make personal connections, encouraging them to visit her at the library. 

She also shared some of the exciting programming that’s coming at the library, such as Reel Bad Movies on Sept. 26, where students in Grades 5-12 can come and eat pizza and laugh at cheesy movies, or after-hours laser tag. 

For more events, follow the library on Facebook or visit winona.lib.mn.us.