March 2017 Wyoming Book Reviews



The Small-Town Midwest: resilience and hope in the twenty-first century
By Julianne Couch
Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2016

Resilience and hope is the key to survival in Julianne Couch’s The Small-Town Midwest. A joy to read and ponder, this heartfelt narrative of nine FAR 3 and 4 (“Very far-from….”) small towns stretching from Wyoming through Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa to Missouri, is an engaging mix of local anecdotes, discussions of economic, demographic and geographical pressures, researched statistics, and history. Couch makes the reader care and even want to visit, move to, or return to these unique, yet similar spots of Americana where town survival depends on those who actively support and are involved in their ‘family” communities. Hope prevails as Couch gives us “a hint of a trend that to young people, rural is becoming cool.”

Julianne Couch, author of Traveling the Power Line, taught English at the University of Wyoming until moving to Bellevue, Iowa in 2011. She continues to teach for UW as well as now teaching for Upper Iowa University, both via distance education. Couch begins her driving journey with the question: “Why are the Iowa caucuses still politically important?” Is rural Midwest America in decline? This is a story of resilience in the face of depopulation pressures and distance.

Nancy Miller, Librarian
Northwest College, Powell

Brave and Loyal: An illustrated celebration of livestock guardian dogs
By Cat Urbigkit
New York, NY : Skyhorse Publishing, [2016]

Anatolian, Africanis, Kangal, Karakachan, Turkish Lion, Spanish Mastiffs, Asian Ovcharkas — this isn’t your normal AKC lineup. These are the working dogs protecting sheep and cattle around the world. Shepherds have learned the value of keeping tough, protective dogs with their herds to combat the losses brought on by wolves, bears, coyotes, and the occasional human miscreant. Cat Urbigkit, a writer, photographer, and rancher has made a study of guardian dogs.

This fascinating book caught my attention from page one. The enthralling stories and bountiful pictures kept the pages turning. Urbigkit mixes amusing personal anecdotes, scientific studies, and interviews with dog owners from around the world to create a thoughtful picture of the role of guardian dogs. Descriptions of breeds, training programs, and the pros and cons of each breed are presented in a straightforward approach that encourages the reader to want to learn more.

Ranchers and dog lovers are a natural audience for this book, but others will pick it up for the photos alone and be drawn into learning about these incredible dogs.

Joan Brinkley, Director
Goshen County Library, Torrington

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