Beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 3, Missoulians will have the chance to participate in our newly revamped reading challenge and writing contest.

The reading challenge — which is now known as Missoula Reads — offers patrons the chance to try to read 50 books in 2018. Here’s the skinny: You’ll read one book from each of the 50 challenge categories by Dec. 15, 2018, and record your progress in a book journal. Then you’ll bring the journal back to the Reference Desk for staff verification by Dec. 30, 2018, and you will receive a fabulous prize for your efforts.

As a bonus, the first 150 registrants of the challenge receive a free book journal, and everyone receives the 2018 Missoula Reads reading categories list.

Our reference staff also will be happy to suggest titles that fit into the categories, or you can browse our corresponding recommended reading lists. We understand that reading 50 books in a year is a big challenge, and we want to help you through it.

The library’s annual writing contest — now known as Missoula Writes — also begins Jan. 3 and gives local writers the chance to compete for cash prizes in the categories of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Submissions for contestants are in four age groups: 8-10, 11-14, 15-18 and 19 years and older. The submission deadline for the writing contest is Friday, Feb. 16.

For more information, call the Reference Desk at 721-BOOK (2665).

American Red Cross Blood Drive coming up

Help out a fellow citizen in need when the library hosts an American Red Cross Blood Drive on Tuesday, Jan. 23, from 2 to 6:15 p.m. in the library’s Large Meeting Room.

As an incentive for donating, MPL is offering two drawings to win a pair of Rocking L Alpacas socks made in Victor, Montana. Names will be entered into the drawing the day of the blood drive. Donors may register at and enter the sponsor code: missoulalibrary, or by contacting Christine at MPL’s Reference Desk.

Staff Reviews

“The Thing About Jellyfish” by Ali Benjamin (2015, Little, Brown and Company) Call Number: JMID BENJAMIN

I truly loved this book. The seventh grade narrator may win you over just as quickly: quiet, unassuming, but more poignantly curious about life than most middle graders and plenty of adults as well.

Suzy’s parents are divorced, and that’s troublesome, but the real trauma in her life is the drowning of her best friend — or the girl who was for years her best friend until she abandoned Suzy for the shallow popular crowd. Suzy is in agony simultaneously about her friend’s sudden death, the unknown exact cause of the drowning, their painful alienation, and Suzy’s behavior during their last encounters before they stopped seeing each other. And her response to all of this emotional distress is to stop talking — completely — and to pour her grief into a desperate effort to confirm that her friend was killed by a deadly Irukandji jellyfish (a species which ocean warming has allowed to expand its habitat).

The supporting characters are well fleshed out and intriguing: Suzy’s mom, dad, brother and brother’s boyfriend, science teacher, and tentative new friends. You’re going to discover a fascination for jellyfish, an appreciation for the psychological depth of some middle schoolers, and an admiration for an author who can weave this all together so compellingly.

Reviewed by Dana McMurray

Special MakerSpace Offerings

Wednesday Night Jewelry Workshop (meets in the library director’s office, upstairs near the Reference Desk)

Wednesday, Jan. 3, from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m.

Join local jewelry makers for this workshop, which meets twice a month. Participants will learn a new skill each workshop accompanied by a project.

Weekly MakerSpace Offerings:

Open Hours

Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m., Friday from 1 to 6 p.m.

Open Hours allows visitors to explore the resources of the MakerSpace, or to work on a project of their choice.

Computer Electronics

Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. 

Do you have an interest in the Arduino platform? Come in and try out this and other electronics platforms during the drop-in program Computer Electronics.

Watercolor Painting Class

Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. in the Large Meeting Room

Develop the skills and techniques necessary to enjoy and succeed at watercolor painting. This class is open to adults ages 18 and older. Participants should bring their own watercolor paper, paints, brushes and a palette. For questions, call Robert at 406-258-3867 and leave a message.

Computer Classes:

My iPad and My iPhone

Wednesday, Jan. 3, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

An introductory class for iPad and iPhone users who would like to become more comfortable with their devices; covers basic functions and navigation.

Registration is required to attend MPL’s computer classes. Please call 721-BOOK (2665) to register.

The Missoula Public Library will be closed on Sunday, Dec. 31, and Monday, Jan. 1, for the New Year’s holiday. It will reopen at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 2.