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Books in a foxhole?

By Staff | Mar 27, 2018

The Friends of the Pine Island Library welcome speaker Rebecca Brunotte to the Elks Lodge on Tuesday, April 10, at noon, in recognition of National Library Week. Brunotte is an Air Force veteran and a passionate collector of the little World War II “pocket books,” called Armed Services Editions (ASEs). She learned of these books last year after her mother, a World war II nurse, gave a talk to a group in her community center about her time in the Army. An audience member approached these two veterans and asked them if they had ever heard of ASEs. Both responded “no,” but Rebecca’s curiosity was piqued and she went on to contact the author of “When Books Went to War” by Molly Guptill Manning and begin collecting ASE books.

“When Books Went to War” not only pays homage to books and to reading but also to librarians. This is from the back cover: “When American entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned 100 million books. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks for troops to carry in their pockets and rucksacks in every theater of war. These Armed Services Editions were beloved by the troops and are still fondly remembered today. Soldiers read them while waiting to land at Normandy, in hellish trenches in the midst of battles in the Pacific, in field hospitals, and on long bombing flights. They helped rescue ‘The Great Gatsby’ from obscurity and made Betty Smith, author of ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ into a national icon. ‘When Books Went to War’ is the inspiring story of the Armed Services Editions and is a treasure for history buffs and book lovers alike.”

“When Books Went to War” is available through the Pine Island Library in book form or through Overdrive.

Brunotte will talk about the fire that ignited an outraged passion among librarians: the burning of books in Germany in the late 193os. The story continues to the current day with ASE collecting with many stops in between. She will bring some of her collection and will pass around some of the ASEs so people can look and feel the actual book.

Brunotte has given presentations to veterans groups in Pennsylvania and Ohio and is an invited speaker this summer to the Chautauqua Institute in New York.

The Friends’ program will be of interest to veterans, library staff, book lovers and to those with an interest in history. An invitation has been extended to the director of the SWFL Military Museum in Cape Coral and to the librarian for the Military Heritage Museum in Punta Gorda.

Please make reservations and lunch selections by April 6 with Barb Riordan at 239-283-5643 or via email at briordan2312@gmail.com.